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

November 22, 2015
www.saugeentimes.com

Heritage

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.

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


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