When we bought our house, which was built by the town’s founder Hiram Capron in the 1850s for his nephew Walter, we inherited a folder filled full of references to its historical significance. There were biographies of its residents over the years, old maps with original property lines, and we noticed in some photographs of the train station back when it stopped at Market Street and Capron that you could see our house in the distance.
Looking back, this was just the beginning. Mark soon became obsessed with Paris’ unique plethora of Cobblestone architecture and he checked out books on local history from the library. His favourite eccentric story from At the Forks of the Grand was about Fred “Peaches” Ellis, a notorious Paris drunkard who fell in love with a fellow inmate, Ida, in jail for blackmail. The town elite apparently thought their love story was hilarious.
It wasn’t long before Mark became involved in the Paris Museum Archives and Historical Society. After a few visits to the museum, which is situated within the Syl Apps community centre, he quickly realized their treasure trove of materials was hardly represented online. So unless you physically went to the museum and trawled through their archives, you likely couldn’t appreciate the depth and breadth of their collection.
Although there is lots to be done yet, last winter (almost exactly a year ago) Mark embarked upon a mad sprint of design and development. With the Board’s support he launched a newly redesigned and rebuilt Paris Museum website with an elegant new interface that better represents the sophistication of the town’s history.
As a testament to the great content housed within the museum, we also both had the pleasure of attending the “Wickson, Whales and More” exhibition last December, featuring the well-known rural paintings of Paul Giovanni Wickson and Burford-based Robert Whale. It’s cool to see the history of the area being celebrated and preserved, and it is especially meaningful for us knowing these will be our daughters’ roots.
This past Sunday the museum held its Annual General Meeting for members. The event was particularly moving as the group honoured the well-loved local historian Fred Bemrose, founding member of the historical society who passed away last summer, with a dedication of their archives. John Bemrose, Fred’s son and successful author of the locally-set novel, The Island Walkers, unveiled the plaque.
The Annual General Meeting hosted a room full of people as rich as the artifacts they care for, full of their own colourful history and interesting stories. Mark is so honoured to join their company at the museum, and it was a moment of pride as he was sworn in at the meeting as a Director on the Paris Museum’s Board of Directors. This will be his first Board appointment here in town and he’s incredibly excited to see how he can help this important institution thrive.