The land encompassing the Cargill Park has always taken centre stage in the story of Cargill. From the early years of Henry Cargill’s rise to prominence in the political and business affairs of The Bruce to the present day this veritable field of dreams has been the heart of the village.
Before we look at the history of this storied park we must look at what came before...
Sports always played an important role in the lives of Cargillians. In the late 1800s lawn bowling was a popular sport. Cargill was blessed with two top notch greens, one on the grounds of the White House and the other along the banks of the mill race behind the main street business section. Besides a regular schedule each year for villagers, tournaments and jitneys were held on special occasions. These would draw entries from Hanover, Walkerton, Chesley, Paisley, Pinkerton and other locales.
Hockey was a major winter pursuit in Cargill. Pond hockey was a tradition that carried through the generations and in the 1930s the village had its own rink as well as a league with three teams, the Businessmen, Hanmore’s Taxis and the Silverwood squad. The boys also competed against Walkerton teams, giving as good as it gets. The advent of the Second World War ended this league. It was never resurrected. In the 1950s, Don Porter, Cargill scout leader, was instrumental in creating a rink in the public school yard. Here the village youth had a league that played nightly. Teams changed in the basement of the school. In 1973, an outdoor rink was built at the park.
(More on this later.)
Ball entered the Cargill story early in the Twentieth Century. W.D. Cargill recruited some workers who excelled on the diamond. Men such as Bill and Sandy Thompson, Fred and Jack Anderson, Bill Wagner, and Ben Neil, among others. These boys of summer represented the village honourably during the years they played in the Saugeen Baseball circuit. Ball was played on the Cargill Farm on the west end of the village. The diamond was located in the field across from Alf Taibinger’s residence.
No one knows for certain the exact year the diamond was moved to the other Cargill farm, now owned by Alan Anstett. It was in the field just north of the house that the diamond was located. Here the Cargill men played softball against teams from Narva, Chepstow, Riversdale, Teeswater, Hanover and Walkerton. Some games, especially against Chepstow, often drew crowds in the range of 600. Most games were contested on Sunday afternoons.
After the war a Pee Wee team was created and the men’s team of that year won the league title but lost the final series. In 1948, a bantam hardball squad was formed and this group of Cargillians acquitted themselves well.
After the 1954 season, George Dales, owner of the farm that housed the diamond, told the Recreation Committee that he was expanding his operations and needed the field on which the diamond stood. This called for immediate action. That autumn a committee was struck which consisted of Ross Sandlos, W.T. “Trimble” Baillie, Clem Spitzig, Pete Lehman, Jerome Cassidy, Bob Angel, Lorne Weber, Cliff McNoll, and Gerry Raper. A joint meeting of the councils of Brant and Greenock and the Recreation Committee was held at the Masonic Hall. The old mill yard, by the pond, was purchased from Wes Sparling. In the spring of 1955, Brant and Greenock supplied graders and trucks under the supervision of Reeves Ed Tanner and Roy Atkinson. The field was skimmed. Local ball team members, committee personnel and village volunteers picked stones, erected a fence, backstop and rudimentary bleachers. In the spring of 1955 a Pee Wee and Intermediate squad were formed.
Clem Spitzig erected two beautiful gate posts to adorn the park entrance. They are standing to this day. As well, the Saugeen Valley Conversation Authority planted maple trees along the lane way into the park and evergreens throughout the grounds. In this year, Glen Wells, Ed Williamson and Bob Schultz joined the committee.
In 1956, a girl’s team was formed. In 1958, they won the championship. The men’s team was coached by Gerry Raper, Lorne Weber and Ivan Parker. This trio coached Intermediate ball in Cargill for years. Gerry did so for two generations. Also, hydro was put into the park in 1958. All minor ball was now sponsored by the Recreation Committee which raised money from draws, gate receipts and grants from the two local councils.
Red Henry was instrumental in forming a boy’s hard ball team that operated from 1965 -1968.
To celebrate Centennial year in 1967, a large elebration was planned. The parade consisted of over 70 floats. As well, there was a chicken barbecue, plane rides, parachute jumps and rides for children. There was a beard growing contest and a celebrity ball game. Johnny Bower, then goaltender of the Toronto Maple Leafs was in attendance signing autographs. A successful Street Dance was held on Main Street.
The Walkerton District Softball League was formed in 1969. Cargill had an entry in this leagure coached by Gerry Raper and Len Kunkel. Cargill reached the finals or semi finals almost every year of their existence in the league. Chepstow and Carbon were also league powerhouses. The league disbanded in 1974. By then, Slow Pitch had made a big splash in the area. The Cassidy’s of Cargill entered the Chepstow Slow Pitch League in its inaugural 1972 season and competed valiantly year after year. The Cargill Bullets entered the league in the 1990s and were contenders each year of their existence.
In 1973, an open air rink and adjoining change rooms were built. One anecdote is worth telling. One day during the construction, shots rang out from the nearby hill. The workers ducked for cover. One of the chaps made it to his vehicle and headed for Raper’s store. He phoned the police who soon arrived on the scene and confiscated a firearm form Alex McMyler, a local home owner who felt the structure ruined his view of the dam. Opening ceremonies for the rink were rained out but a successful smorgasbord was held at the Village Inn.
Lights were install on the diamond in 1975. A ladies team was formed and it won the first Ladies Softball tourney ever held in the park in 1076. In this same year the rink surface was paved and an outdoor dance became an annual affair beginning that year. As well, a new chain link fence was built around the diamond. In 1977, Ernie Donnelly was instrumental in setting up the first Pinkerton Slow Pitch Tourney which is now dedicated to the memory of Rob Cook (Rob Cook Memorial). This was also the first year of T Ball and new bleaches replaced the original “liver-givers”.
In 1978, the roadway into the park was paved and a skate-athon was held which raised $700 which went to buy caps and sweaters for the girls’ teams. The 1979 skate-athon raised $1525. $4,000 was spent on playground equipment. In 1973, the Park and Recreation Committee changed its name to the Cargill and District Community Fund and this non profit organization drew up its first constitution in 1977. Members of the 1979 CDCF were Jim Abel, Ken Anstett, Roland Anstett (Grreenock Rep), Ray Bester, Roberta Butchart, Harold Cassidy, Pat Cassidy, Tim Cassidy, John Craddock, Paul Dales (Chairman), Ron Fischer, Albin Hauck, Ann Lang, Roy Mayhew (Past Chairman), Don Muegge, Roy Mullen, Bruce Parker (Brant Rep), Don Porter, Richard Porter, Gerry Raper, Derwyn Taylor, Bob Schultz (Vice- Chairmman), John Van Roode, Peter Witherspoon (Secretary), Audrey Webb (Secretary), Paul Weber and Rodger Williamson.
In 1981, a monument was erected near rge entrance to commemorate Henry Cargill. In 1985, Gord Bester constructed a beautiful flower bed to accentuate this monument.
By 1984, it was decided a park building was needed. It was decided at the meeting of December 10, 1984, to construct a one-storey edifice measuring 50' by 30'. The CDCF met with Brant Twp in February of 1985, telling council it already had $25,000 set aside for a building. Delegates told council the new structure would end the era of “smoky hamburgers and flies.” Reeve Dave Thomson decided to meet with Greenock and in the end each council donated $10 000 towards the project. Roly Anstett, Audrey Webb, Marybelle Schumacher and Mike Regier formed the fundraising committee. Events included a St. Patrick’s Day Dance and a Share the Wealth draw, along with a Buy a Brick campaign. The official sod turning took place on April 28. Construction began immediately and the official opening of the building took place on July 6, followed by a beef barbecue and a Ladies Slow Pitch Tourney. Legacy played for the open air dance that evening.
Due to the popularity of slow pitch and minor ball it was decided by the CDCF in 10995 that a new diamond was needed. For this project to come to fruition more land was needed. Seven acres were purchased from Brian Wilhelm for $25 000. It was paid in full by March 1997.
Two committees were struck to oversee the diamond project., the Land and the Fundraising Committees. Members of the Land group were Randy Diebold and Dennis Thompson (co-chairs), Jim Bester, Corrine and Brian Dayman, Rick Cassidy, Roland Anstett, Neil Cook, Brian Raper and Audrey Webb. Permission was given by the SCVA to build the diamond. Issues dealt with by the Land Committee included tiling, fencing, landscaping, screening, stone dust, dugouts, diamond layout and the slope of the land. Diamond expenses amounted to $15,097.00, bringing total costs for the diamond to about $40,000 By June 28, 1997, $37,092.50 had been raised. Members of the Fundraising Committee responsible for quickly raising the cash were Tracey Cassidy (Chair), Cathy Cormack, Patti Alexander, Roland Anstett, Dave Thomson, Jim Leask, Stehpanie Zettler, Ray Zettler, Hulkster Zister, Randy Diebold, Audrey Webb, Pennie Wilhelm, Brian Raper, N.J. Lahn, Cyndy Abell and J.D. Elphick.
The local townships donated equipment and Rob Bester, Bill Bester and Brian Dayman logged 145 hours constructing the diamond , tiling and sloping the land.. Generous donations of $5,000 each by the Wilfred Pegelo and Neil Cook families paid for the dugouts for each diamond.
Shortly after the diamond was built it was necessary to finish two soccer fields adjacent to it to help accommodate the increasing number of soccer teams. Until this time, soccer was played on the grounds behind Diamond “A.” The turf here was unsuitable for soccer. The new pitches were a testament to the spirit of Cargill volunteerism. Soccer continues to be the primary summer sport of many area youth and the two pitches are a godsend.
As the 1990s played out it became blatantly obvious that they was a need for a community centre in the area. Cargill was the ideal spot for such a centre. Once again Land, Building and Fundraising committees were struck, and the project was begun. The sod turning was held in early 1999 and the construction of the new Community Centre followed. The entire building was built by volunteers under the expert supervision of Gord Lang and Dieter Diebold. The Fundraising Committee under co-chairs Michelle Wilhelm and Bonnie Thompson raised the entire capital within a year of the construction.
The special and spacious Cargill Community Centre (CCC) was officially opened in August of 1999, with the cornerstone proudly announcing “Built by volunteers in 1999. More on the construction of the CCC and the fundraising efforts will follow.
Since 1999, the parking lot has been expanded and the bowling league has grown. Lawn bowling had died out in Cargill during WWII and did not appear again until the formation of a new league in 1981. Original members of this club were Howard Chesney (Chair), Sadie Fitzsimmons (Vice-Chair), Helen Bester (Treasurer), Florence Gibson (Secretary), Gerry Raper (Membership), Gordon Leask, Art and Mildred Lehman, Wilfred Bester and Ivan Parker (Directors). Other members present at the opening meeting of April 8, 1981 were Don Porter, Carl Elphick, John Meyer, Pat Cassidy, Bruce Parker, Joe Fitzsimmons, Charlotte and Bill Weddig, Bob Cassidy, Gordon Leask, Ed Gibson, Dorothy Chesney, Wilfred Pegelo and Mildred Lehman. Roland Anstett, Don Porter and Ed Williamson represented the CDCF.
Tom Chisholm donated the topsoil for the greens and the “Colonial Bent Grass” was purchased for $619.71. Official sod turning took place on August 8, 198. Lighting for the greens cost 2335.21 and fencing cost $3958.71. The official opening took place on June 26, 1983. Ivan Parker pitched the first ball. A game was held between the Recreation Committee and the Brant-Greenock Councils. Howard Chesney pitched the first ball for the first official game of lawn bowling. Groundskeepers over the years have been Wilfred Bester, Don Porter, Ed Bester and Marilyn Thompson. All of these persons were expert keepers of the greens.