A Magical Story – a man who made a difference

Dear Editor,

I enjoyed being at the Special Council meeting yesterday, January 6. Undoubtedly, “Truth and Reconciliation” is very much alive in Saugeen Shores.

In the after-meeting reception, I got to chat and tell stories with Shirley John for a few minutes. That is always a real pleasure for me.

There is one story that I want to share. It is a story about a very kind and thoughtful schoolteacher who served the Saugeen First Nation community (SFN) at the French Bay/Scotch Settlement school for many decades before it closed a little more than 60 years ago.

His name was Stewart Wells and he lived in Southampton with his mother and his brother Sherwood, in the back of her small grocery store on High Street on the north side just west of what is now 797 restaurant. I remember Stewart well from the years in the 50s when my family lived on the main street. He was very soft-spoken and was pleasant to everyone.

About seven or eight years ago when we were doing the Commemorative Banners, I worked with Gayle Mason Stark, who was on SFN council, regarding the SFN men that we got banners for. Gayle grew up in the Scotch Settlement/French Bay community and had Stewart as a teacher. She told me about how wonderful a person Stewart was and that when it snowed, he always came early and shovelled a path for them out to the road. He would have the wood stove going and everything ready to start the school day.

Well, yesterday Shirley John added to the story about Stewart. She lived where she lives now along HWY 21 just past the French Bay Road. She was a student at the Scotch Settlement/French Bay School and had the long 3 km plus walk to get there. She remembers Stewart arriving at the HWY 21 corner and the road not being plowed. He would leave his car at one of the homes close by and he would walk ahead, breaking the trail for the children who would follow along as the number would grow as they passed each home along the route. By the time they reached the school, there would be a large group walking in line in his footsteps.

For both ladies, Stewart provided them with a lot of thoughtfulness and kindness, while in his mind he was just doing his job.

Stewart died in Southampton in 1963 at age 60.

May he rest in peace. He made a “difference” along his chosen path.

Happy New Year to All
G. William Streeter