The York Pioneer and Historical Society (YPHS) is composed of volunteers with a common love of local history. For over 150 years, we have steadfastly carried our history forward for current and future generations to appreciate, to enjoy, and from which to learn. We invite you to join us on this multi-generational experience as we carry on this legacy through the 21st century.
2022-2023 Board of Directors
President: Angus Palmer
Elected President of the York Pioneer and Historical Society in April 2023, Angus is a Life Member of the YPHS, and served on the Board since 2019 as a member-at-large, Membership Chair, and CNE Association Representative.
Graduating from the University of Toronto in 1981, he has worked for over 40 years in the non-profit housing sector, first as a Development Consultant in Northern and Central Ontario, where he assisted in the development of over 800 non-profit and co-operative housing units, and for over 25 years as the General Manager of Wigwamen Incorporated, Ontario’s oldest and largest urban Indigenous non-profit
housing provider. His roles there include affordable housing development, human resource management, long-range financial planning, and government relations.
His volunteer experience includes having served on the Board of Directors of the Sudbury District Housing Authority, Agincourt Community Services Association, Access Housing Connections Inc., and more recently, Circle Community LandTrust Inc. In his spare time, he enjoys exploring Manitoulin Island with his family, reading, and listening to classical music.
Vice-President: Beth Alaksa
Beth Alaksa was born and raised in Toronto. Growing up she did not learn much about Toronto's past and then one day she heard about Elizabeth Simcoe and the rest, as they say, is history! Beth has done her best to spread the word about the Simcoes and Toronto history ever since. She was excited to find the York Pioneer and Historical Society in 2017 and begin volunteering at the Scadding Cabin. She joined the Board in 2020 and has enjoyed getting to know people with similar interests and much more knowledge and bringing Toronto history to more people.
Past-President: Fred Robbins
Biography coming soon.
Recording Secretary: Alexander Coomes
Biography coming soon.
Corresponding Secretary (Website & Social Media): Edward Fenner
Edward Fenner is a communications professional with experience as a publisher, editor, writer, webmaster, continuing education faculty member, independent researcher, learning consultant, corporate trainer, communications strategist, project manager, science historian, and rabologist.
Edward has an interest in history in many forms. For his Master's degree, his research focused on pioneering American experimental physicist and atom-smasher Robert J. Van de Graaff (1901-1967), his eponymous particle accelerator, and how he and his business partner created one of the first physics-based factories in history.
You can read his research paper,"Smashing Atoms and Expectations - Entrepreneurial Science and the Dawn of Publicly-Funded High-Tech Venture Capital at Robert J. Van de Graaff's High Voltage Engineering Corporation", at ResearchGate. Visit Edward's website.
Interested in becoming our Treasurer? Send your résumé to firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible.
Archivist: Erin Baxter
Erin Baxter is a heritage specialist working in Toronto with a BA in Archaeology and a certificate in Museum Management and Curatorship. Growing up in a 100+ year old house and regularly taken on visits to the ROM and AGO by her parents, the history bug bit Erin early and deeply.
After learning that she was NOT enough of an outdoors person for field archaeology, Erin has had the honour of working with artefact collections belonging to several Toronto institutions, such as the Bata Shoe Museum, the Royal Canadian Military Institute, the Ontario Science Centre, the Queen's York Rangers Regimental Museum, and the 7th Toronto Regiment, RCA, as well as promoting the work of the Ontario Archaeological Society. She loves learning about history and enjoying all of the multicultural experiences that Toronto offers, as well as cooking, reading, and learning how to knit.
Editorial: D. Bruce McCowan
As a kid, Bruce McCowan rather enjoyed looking through his grandmother McCowan’s stash of Scarborough history – an old scrapbook, a family photograph album and so on. But he only took a history course up to grade 10. Sporting a Canadian flag on his back-pack and hitchhiking in the UK in 1974, he told a “lorry” driver, “my family came to Canada from a place called Lesmahagow in Scotland”. The lorry driver said – “we’ll be going past it in a couple of minutes”. “That’s nice” Bruce thought at the time. And on they went to Glasgow. “Well, now that I’m here in Scotland, I might as well take some time to look into the family background and their circumstances.” Since then, off and on, he has done a good deal of research and writing on various themes in connection with the lives of ordinary Scots and their descendants in Canada. One of his recent books (as Editor) is We're Not Here to Put in Time: Ramblings on a Scottish-Canadian Work Ethic, With William David "Bill" McCowan (his late father). Bruce particularly enjoys digging so deep as to reveal and discuss historical myths, such as “it was the wealthy landlords who launched Scotland’s agricultural revolution” and “the landlords had always curled right alongside the common folk”. As the new Editor of the York Pioneer, he will encourage potential contributors to be on the look-out for previously unquestioned “statements of fact” that may, indeed, need a fresh perspective and a more critical examination.
Membership: Angus Palmer
See President above.
Publicity: Brent Cunningham
Biography coming soon.
Scadding Cabin: Kayoko Smith
I have been privileged to serve on the Board of the YPHS for over 9 years. Being the Scadding Cabin committee chair is a great pleasure in my life. From 2019-2021, I also had the opportunity to serve as a director of the board for the Toronto Field Naturalists (TFN) and am currently volunteering as an outing committee member, involved with the TFN’s outings program.
While a volunteer at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), in early spring 2012, I met another volunteer, Edna Rigby, who was also the Cabin’s chair. Edna invited me to become a member of the YPHS. (This year I was awarded 20 years of volunteer service from the AGO). The Society was looking for a volunteer for the historical garden. As a professional floral designer, I was also interested in the natural world which was a perfect prelude to studying pioneer gardens for the Scadding Cabin. In return, I was rewarded by learning about the hidden life of resilient plants which the pioneers brought with them. Moreover, it has been a pleasure to share this interest with like-minded passers-by, while working at the Cabin.
“Preserving the past for the future” makes perfect sense to me. We have a story to tell, many, our members from far gone made a definite mark to build Canada. The Scadding Cabin is one of such milestones to be studied for many years, as the wealth of research material in recent years continues to give us new perspectives.
Representative to the Board of the Sharon Temple: Glenn Bonnetta
Glenn Bonnetta is a retired Librarian. He has always been interested in Canadian history and joined the York Pioneers in the 1980s in order to find out more about the history of Toronto and environs. He hasvolunteered at the Scadding Cabin for 20 years.
Representative to the CNEA: Angus Palmer
See President above.
Programme: Matthew Campbell
Biography coming soon.
2022-2023 Members at Large
Lionel Collier was born and raised in Oshawa Ontario. After attending O’Neill C.V.I. for five years he moved to Toronto to study accounting and economics at University of Toronto and graduated in 1983. Lionel received his CA designation in September 1985 and worked as an accountant until 2019. He became a member of the York Pioneers after a visit to the Scadding Cabin in 1974. He became a life member in 2017. Lionel’s Board experience includes the Foundation for Ontario Craft, MTCC 600, TSCC 1524 and the Governor Simcoe branch of United Empire Loyalists.
Cindy Ewins has served on the York Pioneers Board since 2011, most often and most recently as Treasurer. Staying on the Board as a Member at Large, this year, will allow the Society to benefit from her excellent memory of Society activities. She has a strong interest in her family history, the history of Toronto, and the past in general, but she never seems to find the time to do much research or reading. Being a life member of the YPHS and being on the Board have allowed her to at least keep dipping her toes into historical waters, and to support the efforts of others who do all kinds of good work “preserving the past for the future”. Cindy comes from long lines of night owls but somehow did not manage to pass this trait along to any of her children. She is mostly sure that she will do the right thing even when no one is watching.
See Representative to the Board of the Sharon Temple above.