Leslie T. Richardson, Memories & Other Stories
There is a beautiful musical play called Brigadoon." For those who have never seen the play, it is set somewhere in the Highlands of Scotland. It is a fantasy land, which comes to life every 100 years and then disappears into the mists and is heard no more. Such is Caledonia, on the Grand River. We are the modern version of Brigadoon, a true copy of that in Scotland.
Over 100 years ago there was no Caledonia, just clearings in the bush at the site of the two dams. These clearing were called North and South Seneca, Oneida Village and Sunnyside. Then, one day Caledonia appeared as if by magic under the wand of Ranald McKinnon, the first Reeve. He set the example for the modern Regional Government, by wiping out the four original communities mentioned above and labeling the new community 'Caledonia" after the Roman word for Scotland.
Caledonia prospered and became a very important unit in a series of villages along the river and also on the old Plank Road (Highway 6) to Port Dover. Today it is no more; its fate sealed by a larger community called "Haldimand." It is completely obliterated. In my latest edition of the 'Atlas of Canada' published by that prestigious publisher the Readers Digest of Canada and sponsored by the Canadian Automobile Association there is no Caledonia marked on any of the maps, nor i it referred to in the index. It has completely vanished along with some familiar names as Sims' Locks, York, Deans or Indiana, Cayuga, Willow Grove, Hagersville, Jarvis, Selkirk, Nelles' Corners etc. Even Garnet got left out as all of these are replaced by just one word, Haldimand. So a tourist, for whom the Canadian Automobile Association sponsored the book, may travel, using it as a guide, from Mount Hope through to Lake Erie without finding any communities. They have all vanished. All, like Cinderella, have had their night of glory and have disappeared at midnight leaving only a slipper called, "Haldimand."
Some day a practical Prince Charming will come along, rediscover these communities and they will carry on as if nothing happened to them, just like in Brigadoon.
Meanwhile such places as Glanford Station, Tyneside, Empire Corners, Caistorville, Abingdon, Attercliffe, and Winslow are clearly marked, as well as Beaver's Corners, Tom Longboat's Corners, St. John's, Six Nation's Corners, Ohsweken, Sixty-nine Corner and even Little Buffalo on the Six Nations Reserve.
Big places like Middleport and Onondaga are shown but no Caledonia, Hagersville, Jarvis, nor Cayuga. It is amazing what our politicians can do today. With one swipe of the pen whole communities disappear, and yet at tax time, by the same magic pen, they find us again.
There is no sense appealing to the Chambers of Commerce in these several communities to correct these omissions because, they too do not exist in this fantasy land of Brigadoon. How can they stand up and develop a sense of civic pride, when their very communities have been taken away from them?
Our scientists can send a man to the moon and can land him precisely on a designated spot there, but the same man, using the latest guide on Planet Earth would be lost trying to find Caledonia. It is the town that isn't. It has disappeared, right off the map!
We have all dreamed of a fairyland, away out there somewhere. It was a shock to find that we are living in fairyland.
All these years I have been writing about my native town, trying to preserve some of it's history and colour. Now I find it does not exist and like Brigadoon, may, never, have existed. Perhaps I am dreaming all this!
People used to ask me, 'Where is Caledonia?" and I could reply in confidence. In my mind's eye there was a real place called Caledonia. I remember it vividly, but I must have been dreaming all these years, as today there is no Caledonia. There is nothing on the map to show that it ever existed. Hagersville, Jarvis, and Cayuga must exist somewhere too.
Surely our local politicians, who no doubt, supplied the tourist map with the latest correct information, can't be wrong. They only recognize one place "Haldimand". All the other names have disappeared into the mists of time.
In Brigadoon there is a bridge. Those who cross it are lost forever. Caledonia too, has its bridge. One crosses it and finds himself in a community that does not exist. It is the town that isn't.