The Country Christmas show on Dec. 15 will be moved to the Youth Centre behind Russell High School due to ongoing construction of a wheelchair ramp at Keith Boyd Community Museum. Van Dusen photo

RUSSELL – The Russell & District Historical Society held the final regular meeting of its 30th anniversary year in the heritage stone home of member Dorothy Kinkaid; not in its Church Museum which remains closed at least until the end of the year.

Ongoing closure has forced relocation of the museum’s Country Christmas show this Sun., Dec. 15 to the Youth Centre behind Russell High School. The event features Osgoode’s Gallagher Family of singers and musicians, beginning at 2 p.m., with admission by donation. Several members volunteered to help decorate the hall for the occasion.

Other Gallagher shows held at the museum have filled all seats. While there’s a space advantage at the larger Youth Centre; relocation could cause confusion. The change will be announced on social media and a sign will be placed at the church, said chairman Harry Baker.  

Access to what’s formally known as Keith Boyd Community Museum was restricted several weeks ago when a contractor began installing a wheelchair ramp in front of the former 1856 Baptist church. While the ramp looks finished, there’s still no safety railing on it. The second museum building, the former firehall next door, has remained open to Sunday visitors.

Installation of the ramp caused consternation among members after it was directed south – many believed it would go north into the parking lot—taking out a substantial portion of the root structure of a shade tree at the corner of Church and Concession streets. Society member Cindy Saucier, also a Russell Township councillor, raised concerns with the municipal office and is hoping the tree will rebound this spring.

At the meeting, further concern was expressed that the steps at the front of the ramp facing Concession appear to be at an angle, not just the ramp itself. One member suggested it could be an “optical illusion.”

In other business, Baker read a letter from Mayor Pierre Leroux thanking the society for launching a historic plaque program which the township has since adopted. Baker said two more plaques are expected to be added next year to the four already unveiled.

Members agreed to mount a Russell brick display during the annual Living Locally Fair on Jan. 18 at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic High School. Bricks made here and stamped “Russell” have recently regained prominence with the Russell Kin Club trying to track down enough of them to build into two planned village welcome signs.

A social time followed the business part of the meeting, with members admiring Kinkaid’s immaculately restored 1860s home; a rare example of stone construction is this area. Original owner Alex MacGregor hired Isaac Johnson, an American slave who had escaped to Canada, to cut and lay the stones which, along with the timber, were taken off the farm.

At least one book has been written about Johnson’s voyage from slavery to respected stonemason in Ontario and New York.

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