History: Where Would We be Without It?
Obviously the focus of the Canal Fulton Heritage Society is on the history of Canal Fulton and our members, staff and trustees recognize how important this history is. Thus, let us first say that the study of history is - or should be - a vital part of our lives. Let us briefly explain why:
History entertains and inspires us. It is the stage on which our ancestors - like a Shakespearean caricature - play out their joys and sorrows, fears and strengths, failures and triumphs. Through the pages of that manuscript, journal, home-movie and (in today's parlance) photo "selfie"; we get to re-live over and over the jokes, quirks, pranks, acts of love, kindness and every other cherished moment that makes this life worth living. Retelling that time-worn anecdote, that "remember when...," can help brighten our darkest of days. To be sure, knowing and relating our own histories adds a spark of life to what can sometimes turn into a dull existence.
From history we learn morals and truths - if from nothing else than the mistakes of the past. Even many myths and legends, whose truths may be only a kernel, can continue to teach us valuable lessons. Through history, we see (at least in part) the experience of the ages. Hind-sight doesn't help to correct yesterday; but, it can and SHOULD help us to live today and know how to anticipate a better tomorrow.
History provides a sense of legitimacy, identity and belonging. It shows us where we came from and what we faced along the way. Knowing our past and studying our ancestors helps reveal to OURSELVES who we ARE and thus who we CAN BE. In a world of fractured politics, faiths and beliefs, history can show us how to relate to one another - it can be the commonality that draws us closer together.
However, for as much as the study of history has brought all the benefits mentioned above it can and has been used for just the opposite. Examining our past can sometimes make us feel that we are stuck in a rut. Staying hung up on the mistakes of yesterday can reinforce a negative outlook on our today and tomorrow. And unfortunately, there is no doubt that history has been used to divide peoples against their neighbors. The disparity between history being used positively or negatively has everything to do with human perspective.
History is, after all, simply the combination of information and perspective. While the actual events that occurred yesterday (the 'HISTORY' [note the upper-case]) are obviously true, how all of those events were perceived and recorded (as 'history' [note the lower-case]) are subject to the various limitations of us human-beings. As we are all merely mortal, the 'lower-case' kind of history is the best we will ever be able to pass on. Historical accounts, even from eye-witnesses, might not be 100% accurate in every case (while they may be really close no one is perfect - at least not all the time). Records of events may not be complete; after-all, no eye-witness is omnipresent and there isn't any type of record that is impervious to loss or destruction. Finally, despite the best efforts of the historian, sometimes their own bias, misunderstanding or lack of information may cloud interpretation of the facts.
Without a doubt, the student of history finds a complex, fascinating and - if they stick with it - EXTREMELY REWARDING subject.
The above attributes apply to history at every level; but, it is the local level that most concerns us here at the Canal Fulton Heritage Society. Sometimes regional and national history is given priority to the neglect of local history. While it is essential to see ourselves in light of a larger backdrop, having a sense of local identity is no less important. If we don't work to preserve our own history who will?
Whether your family has lived in town for years or you are a recent resident, we hope you will take an active interest in Canal Fulton's history.
Over the years, many individuals, businesses and organizations have worked to help preserve the history of the Canal Fulton community. We hope you will take the opportunity to learn more about the history of the Canal Fulton Heritage Society and get involved as well.