Once Upon a Time
'A Quiet Place Formosa'
by Bob Johnston

November 22, 2015


Once Upon a Time

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photo credit: Bruce County Museum & Cultural Centre, A2014,008.0261.Krug Family Fonds

I grew up in Alberta hearing of a mystical land far to the east, where houses were built of brick and a watermill stood on a pond that was full of huge trout, and great trees called oak and maple gave shelter against both sun and storm.

 I first went looking for the birthplace of my father and grandfather when I was twenty- two: the reality, somehow, measured up to the dream. Now I go back often to Ontario`s Bruce County.

Sometimes, I stay at the handsome old Commercial Hotel in Mildmay, where the rooms are cheap, and old-fashioned, and free of TV, where Mrs. Shmalz`s spareribs and sauerkraut are nothing less than perfect. The liveliest industry in Mildmay seems to be turnip-waxing; outside of that it`s a place where farmers come to shop on Saturday.

More often, I stay in the nearby town of Formosa. When the Germans came up here from Waterloo County during the “Saugeen Rush” of the 1850s, they built a thriving settlement around a watermill on a stream in a beautiful (Formosa, from the Latin means “beautiful”) valley. The two old hotels still hint of Victorian Ontario.

On a weekend, the local citizens picnic in the park around an artesian well. (The local investors were drilling for oil when they struck flowing water.)

Our Lady of Immaculate today (2015)

On a hilltop overlooking the valley stands a large old Catholic Church built in Bavarian style. Many of the farms around Formosa have been in the same family for over a century.

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Loafing along deserted country roads, I relax into a new concept of time.

Admiring the beautiful brick farmhouses, stealing apples from an abandoned orchard, finding a lost millpond, eating pickled pig`s tails and drinking good draught---I begin to understand why my father, homesteading on the prairies, always thought of Bruce County as home.


 Adapted from an article written by Robert Kroetsch For the 1974 Bruce County Historical Society Yearbook

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Saturday, November 21, 2015