"Built in 1877 as the Wellington County House of Industry and Refuge, this institution was the fourth of nine rural 'Poorhouses' built in Southern Ontario and maintained by individual counties. Constructed as an Industrial Farm, the site included a 60-bed house, 30 acres of crops and a barn for livestock. The facility was built on 58 acres of land purchased by the County in order to provide relief to the 'deserving poor' and maintained and operated as a working farm." -- from the Doors Open 2016 Site Interpretation Flyer
The award winning permanent exhibit "If These Walls Could Talk" tells the story of the 'inmates' who lived here with moving period photos and first-hand accounts.
"Of the 1500 inmates who lived here from 1877 to 1947, 600 died. Of those, 271 were buried in the House of Industry cemetery"
which is now a beautifully treed area with informative and touching placards telling the story of those who died here.
These two photos are of the large model of the Poor House located in the Museum. The model is situated before a mural-like photo of inmates, overshadowing the model. Spooky and moving!
This small scene on the far right of the model shows a body being carted away to the cemetery.
There are also changing exhibits, and smaller exhibits focused on local history: Natives who lived in this area, Victorian funeral customs and a World War I exhibit called "Far from Home: A Soldier's Life at the Front 1914 - 1918".
It was the rats (you may know I love rats) that made me return to photograph them and do some further research on what was endured.
This is the entrance to the trench...
and then you're inside this brilliantly constructed 3-D illusion of trench warfare, including sound effects. (These boys are lucky, this trench has a wooden floor.)
And what do you see up on the ledge? A rat! Yes, rats took full advantage of warfare:
The rats would taut sleeping soldiers, creeping over them at night. There were long bouts of boredom and rat hunting became a sport. To preserve ammunition, shooting at rats was banned but piercing them with a bayonne became a pastime for some soldiers."
One such splattered rat is even included in the exhibit.
"If you left your food the rats would soon grab it. Those rats were fearless. Sometimes we would shoot the filthy swines. But you would be put on a charge for wasting ammo, if the sergeant caught you." -- Richard Beasley, interviewed in 1993