Fragments from the Forks by Dan Brock

Fragments From The Forks: London Ontario's Legacy, by Daniel J. Brock (2011)

Fragments from the Forks is a chronology of events in London dating from the ice age to 2010. Author and local historian, Daniel J. Brock says, “the genesis of this work occurred over forty years ago. I got tired of having to go to the Central Library to look up information about London, so I started recording info into workbooks, reserving two pages for every year.” One of Brocks favourite sources was a series called Echoes, which ran regularly in the London Free Press from 1971 to the early 1990’s.

It wasn’t until 2005, after Brock had retired from teaching, that a more formal version of the chronology was undertaken. Funding was made available through a grant from The Ontario Genealogical Society, as well as support from The London Heritage Council and The London Community Foundation. The London and Middlesex Historical Society, of which Brock is past-president, published this massive, detailed reference guide to London’s past.

Brock strongly credits three women for bringing Fragments from the Forks to fruition – his wife, Loretta, Jennifer Grainger for completion of the index and editor, Catharine B. McEwen, to whom the book is dedicated.

Fragments from the Forks is divided into five parts – the chronology, illustrations, tables, abbreviations and index. The book contains more than 4,500 entries, including twenty pages devoted to maps and photos. Inside the back cover is a two page fold-out map of London as it appeared in the Tackabury’s Atlas in 1875.

I have selected the following few entries to demonstrate to wide range of topics covered in the chronology:

March 29, 1794 – Gov. Simcoe and his party reach the “site intended for New London.”

January 4, 1819 – The first town meeting in London Township is held in Joshua Applegarth’s home, which was near the intersection of modern Wharncliffe Road and Riverside Drive.

May 24, 1851 – The first display of fireworks in London, including balloons, rockets, etc., is set off at The Court House Square to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Birthday.

June 11, 1916 – Daylight Savings Time is first introduced in London.

September 1967 – Fanshawe College, formerly the Ontario Vocational Centre, opens as a community college.

December 17, 2010 – The city’s first major traffic round-about opens at Hale and Trafalgar Streets, after ten years of planning.

According to Brock, “the intention of the book is to uncover, preserve and disseminate the legacy of our corner of Southwestern Ontario.”

The official launch for Fragments from the Forks, will be held at Attic Books (240 Dundas Street, London) on Saturday, October 15, 2011 from 1-4 pm. All are welcome!

Victoria Purcell is a freelance researcher, writer and photographer with a passion for local history and heritage.

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