You have seen Tillsonburg’s Pioneers floating about town a few times over the last year. The popular graveyard ghost metamorphosed into our ‘Pioneers’ leaving their eternal resting place to meet the public around town at various events to tell their stories.
Not wanting to be on the outside in modern times, we have joined forces with a complimentary group, also all about history, the Tillsonburg and District Historical Society, and will now be known as the THS Pioneers.
Our original purpose was to raise funds to restore the Pioneer Graveyard, in which our Pioneers were buried. With that project complete we are now honouring later Pioneers, who may not have been our first settlers, but those who took our tiny village into a bustling town and consequently are buried in the big Tillsonburg Cemetery. We have E.D. and Mary Ann Tillson of Annandale House and eclectic Tillsonburg physician Dr. Sylvanus Joy!
Dr. Joy was many things besides a good doctor for our town. He was a coroner for Oxford County; railroad surgeon; and farmer of apples and grapes - his winery won awards at the 1889 Paris Worlds Fair! He was involved in sorghum farming and ran a health spa. He also built a magnificent mausoleum with granite pillars, bronze door, stain glass window and marble walls. It is his final resting place that the other Pioneers are now raising funds to restore.
First off, the Pioneers would like to invite all ages of the public to join us.
We are all volunteers and we have many fascinating true stories of how our pioneering families came to Tillsonburg, how they lived once here, and how they died. You would get an approximately five minute script of a real pioneer and we will help you put together an appropriate costume for your character, so you can become that person, and at various events you tell the public about yourself. Live history or first person history is amazing to do as you bring the people in the present, into your past.
Cynthia Adamson Hayes needs a body to tell about her family being shipwrecked in Newfoundland. A couple are needed for the Boiler Explosion, where a local minister must tell a woman how her husband and son died in a monstrous explosion. I would love to have a 15-17 year old girl to be Myrtle the Maid, who lived in Annandale House as a maid from 1907-11 and a 20-year-old young woman to be Tamsen Tillson, daughter of the founder.
There are many other marvellous people who gave their lives to our town that we can do stories for... we just need you to come out and play with us! If you are interested, please call me at 519-842-9416 and come to our Sept. 18, 1 p.m. meeting at the museum where you can meet the other Pioneers and we can help with your costume! Groupies (those who want to dress up, but not tell a story) are also welcome. This works well if one of a couple wants to act and the other doesn’t want to miss out on the fun. The groupies can help with set up and organization if they wish.
We are also looking for various groups to invite us to their meetings, or suppers, for a donation to the cause, and allow us to tell you our stories. You pick the length of time you would like us to entertain you and we bring the appropriate number of Pioneers. As we get gigs, the Pioneers sign up for the dates they are available. Please call the above number is you would like to experience Tillsonburg’s History Live; it truly is amazing to hear.
Our first date is the Sept. 25 Classic Car Show at Annandale National Historic Site. While you are checking out the fantastic old cars you can visit with the Pioneers as well. They are pretty excited about this, as many have never seen a horseless carriage before!
Our big event is the October night-time Pioneer Graveyard Tombstone Tour. This year we hope to run simultaneous tours on one night on Oct. 8 at 7 p.m. ($15 - all proceeds to Dr. Joy’s mausoleum). It is earlier as we almost froze last year. You can call the museum at 519-842-2294 to sign up and pay (cash or cheque) for the tour.
THS Pioneers will also be involved in the Mayor’s Levee in January with special guest Sir John A. MacDonald and in May with Sir John and Queen Victoria for our Sesquicentennial Anniversary of Confederation. We also hope to once more be part of Turtlefest!
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