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Local author Robin Hilborn launches new book

November 22, 2015
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Local author, Robin Hilborn, launches new book



(L) Brucedale Publisher Anne Judd and Audrey Underwood each get a copy of Hilborn's new book

On November 21st, the Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre hosted the launch of a book that was five years in the making.

 Titled 'Heart of the Great Lakes: Lake Huron and the Saugeen to 1850', the book covers the time before Southampton was founded ... how mapmakers defined the shape of Lake Huron, how Métis fur traders fought the Hudson's Bay Company at the mouth of the Saugeen, how the Saugeen Ojibway welcomed Methodist missionaries and how they struggled with commercial fishermen at the Fishing Islands.  

 It's a follow-up book for Southampton author Robin Hilborn, who published the local history Southampton Vignettes in 2010.

 Hilborn says he is happy he has finally finished it. "It's personally satisfying, not only to see the culmination of five years' work, but also because I think I've made a real contribution to local history." 

The part on the fur trade describes the nine posts of the Hudson's Bay Company on Lake Huron and the competition of the Saugeen post with the "lone-wolf" free traders from Goderich.   After telling the story of the fur traders, missionaries and fishermen, Hilborn said he "had to conclude that, while we appreciate the efforts of our ancestors, 150 years ago, in carving homesteads out of the forests of the Queen's Bush, the cost was dear. As settlers cleared land for farms, habitats disappeared for beaver and deer. The trees of the Bruce Peninsula fell to the lumber companies. Commercial fishing at the Fishing Islands destroyed the fish stocks. And the Ojibway, who had managed these resources for centuries, found their land and resources largely gone, with precious little recompense."  

Hilborn said the most fun was unearthing the untold story of Alexander McGregor of Goderich, who started commercial exploitation of the Fishing Islands fishery in 1831 and managed to acquire four wives.  The Dictionary of Canadian Biography interestingly qualifies Alexander McGregor as "a respected trader and fisherman".

In fact, as Hilborn tells it, in the 1830s McGregor squatted on Ojibway land and illegally fished in Ojibway waters, all the while ignoring government warnings that he was breaking the law. He left his wife in Goderich and took three Ojibway wives, each one the daughter of a chief.   Hilborn said he wondered if the DCB would accept a revised description of McGregor: "squatter, poacher and polygamist".  

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Author signs a copy of his book for Ryan Griffin who purchased it for a friend

Heart of the Great Lakes is a hardcover book 214 pages in length and is available from the Bruce County Museum gift shop or from Robin Hilborn at www.familyhelper.net/huron at a cost of $40. The book includes an index and a bibliography of 230 entries.


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