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Log book found in ceiling of Markdale store — an artefact story

log book found in markdale store

Inside cover of McFarland's day book dated 1862.


BY ROBERT IANTORNO — I love uncovering old things and exploring old places — and yes, I did watch too much Indiana Jones growing up.

Last week, I was humbled to gain entry into the old WJ McFarland store on the South West corner of Main St and Toronto St. in Markdale. The building’s current owner, Mr. Henry Ho, graciously donated the logbook of prolific importer and square dealing businessman WJ McFarland for South Grey Museum’s collection, along with several other artefacts.

The logbook dates from November 25, 1862 to November 26, 1863, and is written in fine script. It was hidden in the ceiling and recovered during renovations. Why was it in the ceiling? My guess is that WJ felt it was important and should be preserved.

log book showing script writing of the time

An inside page of the log book, a record of sales at the store. 


WJ McFarland’s Store was basically, the Amazon of the burgeoning village — remember, there were no cars or even trains running in the 1860s, so if you needed something, the general store was the place. The book records sales of goods like candied lemon (delicious, and great for preventing scurvy!), “painkiller”, nails by the pound, sugar and other sundries.

Transactions recorded in the book record names such as Mark Armstrong, after whom Markdale is named, and George Walker, one of the earliest settlers in the area. I’m combing through the pages, trying to decipher more.

Perhaps the most tantalizing aspect of the logbook is that it was there, on the corner, in the ceiling this whole time — it never left. What else is still here?

W.J. McFarland proprietor, photo supplied by South Grey Museum.


Drawing of W.J. McFarland store as it was in it's early days, image supplied by South Grey Museum.


Robert Iantorno is the Curator of South Grey Museum, located in Flesherton. Photos Robert Iantorno.


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Updated March 12, 2020.

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