The History of Dunwich Township Lives on at the Backus-Page House Museum

Backus-Page House Museum

Mary Storey, the original landowner of where the Backus Page House now stands, would have no idea of the legacy she would leave behind one day. In 1809, Mary received a land grant for this property from Colonel Thomas Talbot, the Irish born settler of what we now refer to as the Municipality of Dutton Dunwich.

Mary Storey gifted this land to her grandson Andrew Backus, and in 1850, he and his wife, Mary Jane, built one of the first brick homes in the area. Andrew Backus died in 1885, leaving the house to his son, Andrew Storey Backus and wife Eliza Potticary.

After a few changes in ownership over the years, Jonas Page obtained the house and property in 1925, with his son Morley and wife Grace moving in the following year.

It wasn’t until 1968 that the land was sold to its current owners, Ontario Parks. The area surrounding the Museum was developed into the John E Pearce Provincial Park, while the land and house are currently leased to the Tyrconnell Heritage Society, a group that has incorporated 25 years ago. This Heritage Society formed in 1994 due to rumours that the Backus Page House was going to be sold, or even worse, potentially torn down.

Over the years, the Tyrconnell Heritage Society has restored the house and property back to its (almost original) 1850’s state. The house was renamed as a tribute to both of its long-time owners, the Backus and Page families. The Society has made it their mandate to preserve and educate the public about the estate and the Talbot Settlement era.

Today, the Backus Page House Museum invites the public to tour the grounds and Museum on Tuesdays through Sundays and Holiday Mondays, from May to Thanksgiving. Private tours can be arranged outside of the Museum’s regular hours for individuals looking for more information or for school tours.

The current Museum exhibit “Anniversaries and Ancestors,” pays tribute to the 25th anniversary of the Tyrconnell Heritage Society forming and the 200th anniversary of Scottish ancestors who settled in Aldborough and Dunwich Townships.

For Angela Bobier, Cultural Manager of the Museum, one of her favourite exhibit pieces is the family Bible that once belonged to the Backus Family. Back in the day, family trees were documented in Bibles, otherwise known as the of the olden days. Births, deaths, and marriages were recorded in the blank pages of Bibles to keep records that could be passed down through generations. Guests of the Museum can look at many local family Bibles, including the Backus’ to understand a piece of the community’s history.

The Museum and its grounds see hundreds of people attend events that relate back to the time periods and ancestry of the Backus and Page families. There are still a few events including a couple of breakfasts and A Very Victorian Christmas, where the decorated museum will be open on weekends in December.  Although the signature Museum events are done for 2019, you’ll want to mark these historical happenings into your calendar for 2020.

The Museum’s event season kicks off on Family Day, with activities geared towards children and families. This event is the only time that the Backus Page House offers free admission, but donations are always welcome.

History comes to life in the summer months at the Backus Page House. On Victoria Day weekend, The Road to Culloden event draws reenactors from all over to the Museum’s grounds. This event revolves around Bonnie Prince Charlie of Scotland and his quest to reclaim the throne.

In June, the annual Living History Weekend event focuses on an era specific to the Dutton area, although this event changes every year.  In 2020, the event will be based on the War of 1812, a war that saw some of its action in the Tyrconnell and Port Talbot area.

As summer begins to wind down, and harvest draws near, the Museum hosts its annual Heritage Farm Show on Labour Day weekend. This event acknowledges the farming community that was and still is present in the area.

The Backus Page House Museum is currently awaiting its approval to begin building an agricultural centre. This centre will become home to historic farming equipment and artifacts related to farming in western Elgin County, a key industry in the area.

Follow the Backus Page House Museum on Facebook and Instagram to stay up to date with their events and exhibits.