Maggie Wilson Author

Historical Non-Fiction in Northern Ontario

Ulterior Motive


Apologies for not writing Sooner

Greetings, my online friends!

[awkward pause: what to talk about? I know! The good old standby, the weather!]

This is from yesterday. Glorious, Northern Ontario, cobalt blue skies over the town.

This is from the day before yesterday. Yes, that yesterday. The one that starts with April and ends with 09, 2019. As in the winter that refuses to quit. Winters in these parts are long, cold, and snowy, well into the “normal” spring months.

I have finally lost my patience with winter. It took a while, but now I’m getting cranky.

Back in November, as we headed into the season, I actually looked forward to the long months, with the woodstove fired up, raisin bread in the oven, and several historical research projects to occupy my time.

For one, I have just finished proofreading a book by Debra North. Sterling Women is about women in Cobalt in the early 1900s. This has been an incredible learning experience for me. I feel somewhat sheepish lounging by the fire, gorging on fresh-baked goodies, and struggling to fill my idle time when I consider the lives of these women. So what if I am housebound for a day or three? These gals had no choice but to haul wood and water, to bake bread, and tend to hearth and home. I am humbled.

Besides the revelations in the book, however, I learned a lot more about writing and editing. And research and genealogy. I’ve joined Ancestry and a couple of newspaper archive sites.

A second project started simply enough with an email from Terry Grace from the UK. The Cobalt Historical Society receives, on average, one query a week from people who want to know if we can help them with research. Nothing pleases me more than finding a nugget of information that helps a descendant fill in a branch on their family tree.

This request, however, has been meatier than most and has occupied both Terry and me for months. Together, we’ve uncovered the trail of Horatio Claude Barber, a Victorian-age stockbroker of “base guile and unrighteous shrewdness” as he travelled to new frontiers in Australia, British Columbia, and California, setting up swindles and running from the law. In 1904 he got himself into hot water with the United States Attorney General. We don’t know the precise outcome of that dust-up, but we do know that in 1906 he set up shop in Cobalt to sell shares in “wildcat” or fake mines.

There is much more to this guy’s story, and it needs to be told. And that’s exactly what I intend to do this coming June at our Speaker’s Symposium. So that’s exciting.

The main reason I’ve come back to the blogs, though, is that I want social media to be part of my next project.

Last November, we received a donation from Jim Detenbeck of the Cramahe Heritage Board: two large boxes of ephemera belonging to Albert Norton Morgan, a lawyer from New Liskeard in the early 1900s. The papers are mostly letters from his family—wife, siblings, father— as well as household and business documents spanning his school days, early lawyer days in Fergus, and his time in New Liskeard. He was always involved in some capacity with the military. He died in World War I when he was 38 and left behind his wife Beatrice and three children.

The papers are in marvellous shape, considering their age, and the fact they had been sitting in storage in a garage before they found their way to us. Some of the letters pertain to his dealings with Cobalt mines and businesses, but the bulk is related to New Liskeard and the work Morgan did there as a lawyer, Mason, board member, councilman, military leader, and of course, family man.

I want to curate the collection and to write about the experience. I’m not sure what the end result will be – perhaps a web page, perhaps a book – maybe both. Definitely a separate blog from TZAMB, though. Because, appearances matter, you know. Hence my new avatar. Must look presentable, right?

Time for another plunge into the blogging pool. I’m not sure what to expect. Do people still blog anymore?  Has technology changed? Have bloggers changed? Have I changed?

I suppose I shall find out and I suppose that the answer is both yes and no.

Meanwhile, the forecast is for freezing rain overnight. I’ll be housebound on Friday. Answering your comments, I hope!

Categories: In Other News

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39 replies

  1. What a wonderful surprise to see this in my inbox, Maggie! People do still blog, at least some of us.

    Your next project sounds like quite an undertaking. I look forward to learning more about it as you progress. Your winter scene, on the other hand, does not look good to me. I hope I am correct in saying that we are firmly in the hands of spring down here in New England.

    Welcome back, and let us know where we can follow you on your new adventure.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Maggie, so great to see you back! I second everything Dan mentioned in his comment and would really enjoy hearing about this new project, plus hope you keep going here more often with updates on life around Cobalt.
    We are in our spring rainy season, so I will admit that the snow is a nice look back to winter which for us came in February for 2 weeks then disappeared.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. So pleased you are back Maggie!!!! I look forward to your new incarnation. Love the new avatar.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I have wondered what you’re doing. How are your cats?

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Relieved you are back, Maggie. One worries about bloggy friends when they disappear. Great to hear you’ve been busy and engaged with the world, making bread and helping people with history. I shall follow your new blog forthwith.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Hi Maggie! Have fun with Ancestry!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Isn’t this great?! Everyone missed you! And you got all spiffed up for us, too. Welcome back, my friend. It was so wonderful to see your name in my email.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Well, we two blogging backsliders returned to the fold can hang out together. Yo, Maggie!

    As a snow-deprived Aussie who gets squealy at the mildest encounter with real snow, I feel unqualified to comment on your snow-exhaustion.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Well I’ve answered my own question. You are back to blogging. You ask how it’s changed? Not much really. Those who have something to say and want to connect with people do so, and the other less sincere people… we don’t talk about them.

    Your new project sounds interesting. I look forward to seeing how you put it together. I have an idea along the same lines as yours, truth be told.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Well HI THERE! So cool to see your comment on my blog and to find you here again! Your project sounds interesting. You remind me a bit of another friend of mine who used to blog and is a big historian. She lives in northern Michigan and seems to have disappeared too. I hope she, like you, is just busy and involved with a juicy project.

    Let us know more about this project of your! And of course about the cats.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Glad to see you back, Maggie.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi Maggie! I’ve missed you. It sounds like you are swamped with interesting projects. Blogging remains the same but technology ‘evolves’ to keep us frustrated and wondering why we actually do this. Thanks for visiting my place. I look forward to updates on your work. I’m dreaming you a brilliant Spring. But for constant weekend clouds our s has arrived with vigor! Hugs!


  13. Maggie, you will NOT believe who I found in my inbox! LOL
    Sounds great, we’re always glad to have you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Welcome back! It was such a thrill to see your name in my inbox. I always am a bit concerned when a blogging buddy disappears into the ether, but it sounds like you’ve been happily busy. Looking forward to more updates from Cobalt.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Sounds like you at least spent your winter months on worthwhile pursuits of knowledge. I wish I could say as much. But I did up my reading game, so there are happy memories of not productive ones.

    Now, if only the weather would switch permanently to the spring setting, we could look forward to gardening!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hiya! Great to see you.

      For the first time EVER I looked forward to winter, and a long one, too because I was excited about my project. I have plenty of “pastimes” but I tend to think of them as not legit. Which is kinda bogus, right? Downtime is just as important as busy time. Too much downtime, on the other hand… that’s where I get into trouble.

      I was out working on my tan today! Got freckles on my nose – spring is making inroads!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Wow, Maggie, you’ve been busy. I’ve slacked off on posting to finish a book, close to a first draft. I still comment on blogs though to keep connected. History has taken over my life writing a historical fiction book. It’s about my famous grandfather who came to the US from Germany at age 24. He played first trumpet for major symphonies on the east coast. Researching his life (1879-1933) in Germany & the US took me 2 years with the help of a professional researcher. Your project sounds exciting. Look forward to follow your progress! Way back somewhere, I was your 500th follower (I think 500). Always loved your Zombie guy and your posts! 📚🎶 Christine

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Welcome back! You always attract such amazing stories into your life. Just adore the name Horatio Claude Barber!! I can imagine this could be the impetus for a wonderful novel, Maggie. I do hope so.
    Then you have the large box from the early 1900s, you won’t have time to think about the weather. Though I do love seeing your part of the world with your photos and the cartoon is so apt!! You’re a clever woman and I hope you’ll keep me on the list to see what transpires. Your own family history fitted into this amazing mix, so much data, you’ll not have time to blink. Hope the snow is the last for the season, though it is perfect weather for a writer. Exciting things lie ahead and I wish to follow your successes!!
    Blogging is a thing of the past for me, but I do have a couple of people I still follow. ❤ Barbara

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barbara! WONDERFUL to hear from you! Glad to see that I’m on your “follow” list. ❤
      So interesting to read your comment about attracting stories – because that’s exactly how it happened. If I had gone looking for a project, I would never have chosen Mr. Barber. It’s is an astonishing story – with a chapter from Kalgoorlie, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. I lived in Minnesota long enough to remember that when the winter sky’s a heartbreakingly gorgeous blue, you’re in trouble. I hope your winter’s ended by now.



  1. No more Distractions – Maggie Wilson Author

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