Written By: Matthew Wilkinson
Walking into The Grange today, I have the distinct feeling of walking in the footsteps of past occupants.
If only these walls could talk!
Decorating for Christmas leads me to reflect and wonder about Christmases past. What must Christmas at The Grange have been like for young Harriet, Richard and Wolston Dixie?
Were stockings hung with glee on the mantle, while they gathered around the roaring fire to listen to their father’s Christmas tales of St. Nicholas?
It seems most likely that the first family to observe Christmas here at The Grange was that of Dr. Beaumont Wilson Bowen Dixie, who owned the building between 1843 and 1850. Standing in our Discovery Centre Gallery today, you can almost imagine Dr. Dixie, together with his wife Anna and their young children, gathered in the parlour in 1850 with their Victorian Christmas tree on the parlour table, homespun decorations, and the glowing in the hearth, oblivious to the tragedy that would strike this young family in 1854.
You can also imagine John and Bridget McConnell, Irish Catholic immigrants from Armagh, Ireland, settling here at The Grange in 1870, and observing their first Christmas in their new home. Their older children may all have been on their own by 1870, but the Christmas gathering in 1870 likely still included the younger children: James, John, Patrick, Francis, and their youngest, 13 year-old Margaret.
One can also imagine the family Christmas of the Adamson family, with Henry Harvie and Olive Adamson, together with their daughter Dorothy. One delightful family picture from the Adamsons shows young Dorothy, in 1914, sitting with a teddy bear outside of The Grange. Perhaps it is fanciful, but I like to imagine that the little beloved bear was a Christmas present for baby Dorothy.
As I write this at my desk here at The Grange, the world seems quiet for a moment. No fire warms the hearth, but there are deep memories here. You can feel them.
Perhaps images only in my mind; echoes from the not-so-distant past. But I cannot help but send a Merry Christmas wish to all of the past owners and their families, who have gathered here at The Grange over the past 185 years, and yes, even to “Sam”.
Lastly, from us at Heritage Mississauga and The Grange today, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year wishes to all of our members, readers, families and friends, and to the city we call home today: may the childhood wonder, magic, and optimism of the Christmas Season be yours!