History: Where Would We be Without It?

Obviously the focus of the Canal Fulton Heritage Society is on the history of Canal Fulton and each of 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 as well as inspires us. It is the stage on which our ancestors - sometimes even 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, at times, otherwise become a dull existence.

From history we learn morals and truths - if nothing else than from 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 necessarily help to correct yesterday, but it can and SHOULD help us to live today and teach us 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 full 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 opposites. Examining our past can sometimes elicit more pain than it does joy; and staying hung up on the mistakes or heartaches of yesterday can reinforce a negative outlook on our today and tomorrow. Unfortunately, it is also true that misinterpreting the events of yesteryear can confuse any teachings which might be available to us today. And sadly, there is no doubt that history can be - and even has been - used to divide peoples against their neighbors. The disparity between history being used positively or negatively has everything to do with our own perspective.

Our 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 by us human beings as well as how they were recorded (as "history" [note the lower-case]) are subject to the various limitations of the individual. For us mere-mortals, the "lower-case" kind of history - despite how precise it may be - is the best we can ever pass on. Historical accounts, even those witnessed first-hand, might not be 100% accurate in every case (while they may be really close, no one gets it perfect all the time every time). Such records, even from eye-witnesses, might not tell the whole story; after-all, none of us human beings are omnipresent nor without flaws.* Indeed, not every detail (whether it is deemed pertinent or not at the time) is always documented; nor for that matter is there any type of record (be it ancient oral tradition or modern day electronic media) that is impervious to loss or destruction. Finally, despite the very best effort of the historian themself their own bias, misunderstanding or lack of information (good info, bad info or otherwise) may cloud interpretation of those facts which they endeavor to preserve.*

Without a doubt, the student of history finds a complex, fascinating and - if they stick with it - EXTREMELY REWARDING subject.

Local History

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 and if we do not 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 story 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.