The Backus-Page House Museum is located within the grounds of the John E. Pearce Provincial Park, situated within a restored Georgian style house which was constructed in 1850. It is one of the first brick homes built in what would eventually become Dunwich Township.
The house was commissioned by Andrew and Mary Jane Backus. The Backus family was one of several families that had obtained land from Colonel Thomas Talbot and settled in the area which quickly came to be known as Little Ireland (a namesake due to the Irish ancestry of the settlers). The property that Andrew built his house on was given to him by his grandmother, Mary Storey, who received her original land grant in 1809.
Upon the death of Andrew Backus in 1865 the estate along with what remained of the original land grant allotted to Mary Storey was bequeathed to his son, Andrew Storey Backus. Andrew Storey Backus sold the northern portion of that bequest, where in the house was located, to Robert Kennedy of Leskinfere Gorey, Co. Wexford, Ireland. Mr. Kennedy only owned the property 2 or 3 years before he returned to Ireland.
The Backus-Page House and property was obtained by Jonas Page in 1925. The Page family had settled in the area in 1845 and maintained property further up Lakeview Line. Members of the Page family resided on the estate and farmed the property for over 50 years. The house underwent a number of physical changes as it aged, moving it away from its original 1850’s state. Morley and Grace Page were the last of the Pages to live on the farm and they sold it to the Ministry of Natural Resources in 1968, but stayed until the summer of 1976 when they moved into the nearby town of Dutton.
The Ministry of Natural Resources currently retains ownership of the Backus-Page House. The Ministry entered into a lease agreement with the Tyrconnell Heritage Society. The society was incorporated in 1994 with the express purpose of restoring the house and property to its 1850’s condition. In 1998 the society undertook a restoration of the property, renamed the house in tribute to both its longtime owners and undertook a mandate of preservation and historical education regarding the estate and the Talbot Settlement in general.
The Honey House
1828-1831: Built on William Pearce Farm at Wallacetown by a traveling carpenter
1967: Honey House willed to Elgin County Pioneer Museum by Stewart Pearce
January 1968: Honey House moved to new Home at Elgin County Pioneer Museum at 32 Talbot St. St. Thomas
April 1, 1978: Vandals burn the Honey House to the grounds. Students at Parkside Collegiate Institute under instruction of teacher Mr. Thomas then Mr. Hatherall build an exact replica of the Honey House. They used old weathered boards.
June 1984: a “Bee Social” held to welcome Honey House back to museum
1998: Moorhouse Family donated a sign that stood beside the Honey House
December 2006: Honey House moved to Backus-Page House Museum at Tyrconnell from former Elgin County Pioneer Museum site at 32 Talbot St. St. Thomas. The Elgin County Museum moved to the Elgin County Administration Building at 450 Sunset Road, St. Thomas. They opened on the Fourth Floor of the building in September 2006. Elgin County Museum gave the Honey House as a gift to Backus-Page House Museum in December 2006.
The Honey House Memories
There has been some discussion as to the purpose of the Honey House.
The late Rebecca (Pearce) Waite (1909-1994), a niece of the late Stewart Pearce recalled that her mother told her that the Bee House was built by the late Samuel Hockridge of Yarmouth Centre.
She told the Times Journal reporter this in 1968:
While this building is known as a honey house, that it was actually a bee house. Pioneers attracted bees to the Bee House by dropping honey on hot stones around the building. In early years the homesteaders filled it with large empty boxes. Wild swarms of bees from the woods flew to the bee house and produced honey in the boxes placed inside. Later the honey was cut from the boxes with knives.
Later years a large building was built that held as many as 130 hives. This was also where the honey was extracted. At that time the Honey House was used as a tool shed.
It was understood that the 138 year old Honey House was only one of two left in Ontario in 1968. Upper Canada Village and Fairfield Village near Dearborn MI both showed interest in this building. The Hon. Mr. Justice Eric Moorhouse of the Supreme Court of Ontario contributed to the cost of moving the Honey House form Wallacetown to St. Thomas in 1968.
Memories by Muriel A. Moorhouse Neice
Muriel Neice (Born 1915) remembers as a child going to visit cousins Stewart, Eva and Frances Pearce, each summer in the 1920’s at Wallacetown, with her parents. When she first saw the Honey House she thought
“Oh my, oh my, a perfect doll house. I was made aware of the danger of going near so only could stand and admire or watch all the action. It was of natural wood, no stain, wide boards, no wide cracks, a perfect structure on the outside. Size approximately 10’ x 12’, with a heavy clear shingle roof. Delicate lattice trim going up both sides of the roof, ending or meeting in a turned pole, a hole appears on the front wall at the very peak. I never knew what the back side was like (was it a door?). Never once did I peek into the interior! There were little half moons, carved out of wood placed half way up the front of the building at intervals with a small opening.
The bee was supposed to land on the half moons, stagger up to the opening and enter the Bee House. The bees could entertain me for hours. Arriving heavily laden with pollen never once missing the landing field, up about 2 inches to the opening and inside to the busy factory. I never once tried to see where they were exiting. They never seemed to push or bump one another-simply a continuous flow of movement. A busy organized world.”
“How excited I was when I visited Jenny Phillip’s Art Studio in Dutton and saw the painting of the Bee House in 2002!”
The Backus-Page House Museum is proud to be a member in good standing of the following organisations.
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