Throughout the years, members of the Calder family have met over lunch after family funerals. Each time, the conversation came around to the sadness of the event. Sadness not only for the loss of the dear departed but also sadness for the loss of family history and connections. The words, “One of these days we should have a family get- together around a happy time…”
In the spring of 2000, after a funeral, a few family members decided to change the pattern. A date, one month hence, was set to have a family meeting to discuss and to plan an event that would help, not only to pass on information, but to also learn how people in our community were connected to one another, as well as to the past. Word of mouth spread news of the meeting. Five people showed up.
A discussion of a family wish list was pursued. One issue that the wish list focused on was a letter dated August 13, 1998, written by the Mayor of the Town of Fort Frances. He responded to a written request from Pat George, on behalf of her mother Agnes George. Pat stated that her mother’s 90th birthday was approaching. Her mother’s wish was that before she dies she wanted to see a street in Fort Frances named after the Calder Family to commemorate the contributions that the family has historically made to the community. The response letter supported the idea but also stated that at the present time there were no streets available to be named or renamed.
The second point of discussion was a letter written by Joe Biddeson (1875-1950). In his letter, Mr. Biddeson stated, “For a long period ‘Gramma’ Calder, wife of James Calder, and Prudence Biddeson (Joe’s mother) cared for the new born infants and their mothers. Under the kindly and watchful care of these courageous women, not a single mother, child or father was lost. They were considered the first practical nurses in the district. It seems a pity that some lasting recognition has not been given these two heroic women who traveled many miles on their Samaritan duties. They were often absent for periods of two or three weeks at a time and seldom received any payment for their services. Needless to say these two women became great friends in their ‘labour of love’. They were loved and respected by all the families of the District”.
Last, but certainly not least, was the fact that there were three women in the Calder family who dreamed of family events that would draw the extended family together. They relished their own childhood memories of family fun times with extended family. They wanted the younger generations to know their ancestral roots and family connections. Those women were Agnes George, Cecelia Armit and Margerite Woods. Agnes George, the survivor of this group, has lived to see dreams come true.
THE FIRST STEP OF THE JOURNEY
A date for a family gathering was set for the fall 2000. Three Loutit sisters in Winnipeg, who are second cousins of Agnes George, were interested in coming to Fort Frances to meet newly found relatives. These women were in their late 80’s and early 90’s. Their grandfather, Peter Loutit, was a brother to Nancy Loutit, grandmother of Agnes and wife of William Calder who was the first Calder to arrive in Fort Frances in 1868. The visit of the Loutit sisters became the initial focal starting point of the working group.
At the same time, the Mayor and Council were approached about naming
the road that goes around and through the point park – CALDER DRIVE. There
were skeptical comments that to name a street involved lots of red tape
and time. To the surprise of the family, community and the Working Group,
when the family gathering took place, Oct 23, 2000, Calder Drive was posted
and dedicated by the Mayor. Two of the Loutit sisters were unable to travel.
Ruth Loutit, however, did make it to this special event. About 100 people
participated. Family pictures and treasures were displayed and shared.
The air was filled with electricity. It was the start for healing the losses
of the past. Agnes George realized her dream – a street was christened
in recognition of her family roots and ties.
Basking in the joy of family spirit and accomplishment, family meetings
continued. The working group needed a name to identify with. After a brief
discussion, the identity of the CALDER CLAN came into being. The second
wish became a goal – a plaque to commemorate the family history. A variety
of possibilities were researched. A completion date was set for the end
of June 2001 – the group had to work fast. The family group had no working
budget, a fuzzy idea of what the goal would look like and no idea of the
wording for the plaque or the cost. Obstacles were viewed as challenges
to be solved. In April, a fun(d) raising family social was held, $1,700.00
was raised – this amount turned out to be the cost of the plaque. Wording
was bounced back and forth among members of the working group and family.
The plaque was ordered and arrived the day before the dedication ceremony.
Around 300 people attended. Festivities included a family social, a Calder
Clan Classic Fun Golf Tournament, a potluck family picnic, the dedication
ceremony, a family float in the July 1st parade and watching the fireworks
together. Once again the air was filled with electrical excitement – family
togetherness and accomplishment.
The third wish was to have gatherings of the extended family that would allow the younger generation to gain an appreciation for their roots as well as to become acquainted with their family connections. The Calder Clan has realized that every time there is a family get-together, this dream is also realized. Ancestral Angels seem to clear the roadblocks that could get in the way. The Calder Clan is grateful that Agnes George, who is considered to be our family matriarch, has realized her dream come true.
THE JOURNEY CONTINUES…
After the first family gathering October 2000, family data started to be gathered in hopes of creating a family book. Family meetings take place each month. An average of 20 people participate and share a lot of laughs as they plan together. As of March 28, 2002, there are 1620 direct descendents of James and Maria (Gibson) Calder (not including spouses) in the family database – most of them have lived or continue to live in the Fort Frances area. There are numerous people who are not yet included in that number. Some family stories have also been added – many more stories are waiting to be heard.
The Calder Clan Website is an opportunity for modern technology to enrich the historical story and to aid in the family connections. It will be whatever the cyber Calder Clan family wants it to be.
The Discussion Group page is an opportunity for family members, or other interested people, to exchange information with one another. Feel free to pass on childhood memories, intergenerational stories, current events, changes in the family (ie: births, marriages, deaths, graduations awards, etc.). This page is not to be used for political purposes.