Anne Langton 1837-2012
Raised in a wealthy mercantile Lancashire family, as a child Anne Langton would never have expected to live in the backwoods of the Upper Canadian colony. But when her family’s fortune disappeared she soon found herself on the rugged frontier of a new settlement. The backwoods was a difficult place for a British gentlewoman, a world where almost everything was laboriously produced by hand with makeshift tools. Though manual labour would have been below a woman of her class back home, in her new home at Blythe, on Sturgeon Lake near Fenelon Falls, Anne developed many skills and worked hard to maintain her family's home and produce their daily needs.
Though it was not much preparation for the privations she would face in the new settlement, the skills that she had developed for a life in the English elite allowed her to record living conditions in the backwoods. In the age before photography, art was the means of creating a visual record and almost as soon as she arrived in 1837, Anne began to sketch the nascent communities, friends, family, pioneer farms and the waterway. Moving beyond European artistic conventions that dictated what constituted a beautiful or picturesque landscape, Anne drew the Kawarthas that she knew: stumps, stones, shanties and all. Few of her contemporaries had the time or skill to depict pioneer life, so her art remains one of the best records of the early days in Upper Canada.
Anne chronicled the early history of the community, through letters home to her brother William, who remained in England, and a history that she wrote later in life. Like her art, her writings vividly depict pioneers’ struggles to create farms and homes in the bush. Anne also wanted to ensure that children in her neighbourhood could enjoy some of the benefits that came with education, and used what little money she had to purchase the property for a school. She volunteered to teach children their ABCs, manners, numbers, and was hopeful that they would learn how to read and write.
This year is the 175th Anniversary of Anne Langton’s migration to the Kawarthas. To celebrate, volunteers from Fenelon Falls and area have planned numerous events, includiing a pioneer school program for the newly renovated Langton Schoolhouse. Volunteers have improved Old St. James Park at the site of the first Anglican Church in Fenelon Falls, which the Langtons were instrumental in establishing and continued to patronize during their sojourn in the district. The newly constructed Langton Gallery at the Fenelon Museum will open with an exhibit of Anne’s art curated by Barbara Williams. We hope to see you at the numerous events and that you will enjoy the many improvements made in memory of Anne.