“Historic Queensborough Day – what a smash!”

Crowded King Street by Shelly Bonter

You don’t see this much activity on the streets of Queensborough very often! Crowds stroll around the village and peek into the under-refurbishment former Orange Hall (the large white building) while others enjoy a guided tour on a wagon pulled by Blaine Way’s team of horses. (Photo courtesy of Shelley Bonter)

The reviews for Historic Queensborough Day 2017 are in, and they are unanimous. “What a smash!” my brother John texted me when he’d returned home from our special day on Sunday, Sept.10, and his visit to the hamlet where we both grew up.

“Wasn’t that a party! Great sense of community was evident everywhere!” Belleville-area musician Johnny Pecek, who kindly volunteered his services for the day, wrote in an email to me.

“Everyone involved should be so very proud of what was accomplished,” Gary Pattison, co-proprietor (with his wife, Lillian) of the Old Hastings Mercantile and Gallery in beautiful little Ormsby, wrote in a Facebook post after his visit. “The streets, houses, historical buildings, and public spaces were looking picture-perfect beautiful … This day was not only a look into where Queensborough has been, but also a look into what Queensborough has become and how it can continue to grow into the future. A fine example of a community working together to create something to be very proud of.”

And there’s more:

“All of you who worked to put together such a wonderful day deserve a toast, if not a medal: you seem to have thought of everything to make it enjoyable for people.”
– Doris Pearce, a visitor from Belleville who has deep roots in the Hart’s/Hazzard’s Corners area near Queensborough

“We were totally thrilled with the day and what has been done as a Queensborough village family. You should be very proud with what has been accomplished. Thank you for helping to preserve our heritage.”
– Grant and Gayle Ketcheson of Madoc Township, whose family roots in this area run as deep as anyone’s

Railway plaque unveiling

Something very cool that happened the day before Historic Queensborough Day, so that visitors on Sept. 10 could appreciate it: a plaque commemorating the history of the Bay of Quinte Railway line that ran through Queensborough was erected. The plaque, the brainchild of Jos (centre, in red shirt) and Marykay (far left) Pronk of Pronk Canada Machine Shop in Queensborough, was made right here by Jos. The location of the plaque and re-created railway-crossing sign (also made by Jos) is significant: it stands in front of the building (now a private home) that was Queensborough’s railway station. Also taking part in the informal ceremony were (from left) Jill Cameron and Don Huff of the Queensborough Beautification Committee, and the members of the Marskell-Lyon family who live in the home: Dave Marskell and Jessica Lyon, and children Allie, Abby, Louis and Lilly. Oh, and Diablo the dog took part too!

Top headline in last week’s Tweed News: “Queensborough community welcomes large crowd for historic celebration.” The story went on to recount all the activities of the day, and concluded: “It was apparent that countless volunteer hours were devoted, both in preparation and during the event, to make Historic Queensborough Day such a tremendous success. The impressive variety of events offered something for all interests, and fun for the whole family.”

To all of which I can only add: You can say that again.

People came by the hundreds. The weather was perfect. The displays – from historic memorabilia, to an A.Y. Jackson painting of Queensborough, to open doors at several historic buildings and two beautiful gardens, to an amazing variety of classic and vintage cars – were fantastic. Everybody enjoyed the horse-and-wagon rides. Canada’s first prime minister showed up. The food was great. And little touches, from baskets of fresh apples placed around the village for people to help themselves, to friendly smiles all round, made a big impact.

“This is wonderful!” “Queensborough is so beautiful!” I heard that over and over and over, all day long.

But enough with the words; let me show you Historic Queensborough Day in pictures, and you’ll really see what I mean. I was busy being tour guide for the horse-and-wagon rides most of the day so was unable to take a lot of photos myself – and thus am hugely grateful to many people who sent me photos or posted them on Facebook. (I’m sure they won’t mind if I borrow them to show you here – they’re beautiful!) Thanks especially to Shelley Bonter, the Queensborough Beauty Facebook page, Gary Pattison, Andrea Ellis, Darlyne Pennycook, Ashley Espinoza, Clayton Ibey and Terry Mandzy for many of these images, which I think perfectly convey what a happy, beautiful and memorable day it was for our little hamlet.

Special banners proclaimed what the day was all about. (Photo courtesy of Gary Pattison)

Lovely Daisy Cottage – which is being lovingly restored by new owner Julie Hiscock, left – was once the home of Nancy Foley’s (right) aunt, Evelyn Lynn. Nancy brought a member of the newest generation of her family to visit, and Julie welcomed them in period costume. (Photo courtesy of Ashley Espinoza)

A star attraction at the Queensborough Community Centre was a painting of a mid-20th-century scene at the corner of King Street and Queensborough Road done by the Group of Seven’s A.Y. Jackson. We are profoundly thankful to the painting’s owner (who wishes to remain anonymous) for the one-day loan. (Photo courtesy of Shelley Bonter)

Closeup of the A.Y. Jackson painting of Queensborough. (Photo courtesy of Clayton Ibey)

A session on Indigenous history with Anne Taylor, cultural archivist of the Curve Lake First Nation, was well-attended, and Taylor held the crowd spellbound with her storytelling skills. The event, the first ever of its kind in Queensborough, took place in the hall at St. Andrew’s United Church. (Photo courtesy of Terry Mandzy)

A very important visitor: Barbara Martin (née Sager) of Peterborough in front of the former general store that was owned for many years by her parents, Bob and Elsie, and then by her older sister, Roberta (Bobbie) Sager Ramsay. The building is now the home and business of Jos and Marykay Pronk, and they have done marvellous work restoring and renovating it. Barb is an invaluable source of information about Queensborough history, and we always love having her come visit! (Photo courtesy of Queensborough Beauty)

The vintage and classic car show drew way more participants than organizers had expected, which was absolutely fantastic. The crowds had a ball checking out the cars, and the owners enjoyed their visit to Queensborough. (Photo courtesy of Terry Mandzy)

Elaine Kapusta, a driving force behind Historic Queensborough Day, was zipping all over the village on her trusty chariot all day long, making sure everything was running smoothly. (Photo courtesy of Andrea Ellis)

Heritage-themed decorations that beautify the property where the very first store in Queensborough (Job Lingham General Merchant) was located in the 19th century, then much later Sager’s General Store. Now it’s a private home and the Pronk Canada machine shop. (Photo courtesy of Darlyne Pennycook)

I was delighted that among the visitors to Historic Queensborough Day were my long-ago high-school friend Clayton Ibey and his wife, Brenda Weirdsma Ibey, from Peterborough. This is Clayton with me, looking happy at how well everything is going. (Photo by Anna Henderson)

There was so much to examine and enjoy among the clippings, photos, documents and artifacts on display at the Queensborough Community Centre. This one was a happy surprise for me: a report from the Peterborough Examiner, October 1967, about a service celebrating the 60th anniversary of Eldorado United Church. That’s my father, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, at right in the photo; he was the minister at Eldorado and St. Andrew’s United Church in Queensborough at the time. With him and the the minister who was the guest preacher for the occasion, The Rev. Alfred Poulter, are two members of the congregation whom I remember well and fondly: Lottie Blair and George Ketcheson.

Wagon ride by Terry Mandzy

Bruce Gordon guides horses Barney and Don on a wagon ride through the village. (Photo courtesy of Terry Mandzy)

My very own Manse as depicted on Goldie Holmes’s famous folk-art Queensborough quilt, which was on display at the Queensborough Community Centre. (Photo courtesy of Clayton Ibey)

The beautiful interior of the former St. Peter’s Anglican Church, now a private home. The church was closed in 1950s, so it’s been a long time since the public has been able to look inside. A lot of visitors were interested in taking a peek and learning about the restoration work done by the owners, Glen and Andrea Ellis. (Photo courtesy of Terry Mandzy)

The very old building that once housed Billy Wilson’s blacksmith shop was open to visitors, with volunteers from O’Hara Mill loaning some blacksmith tools and answering questions. (Photo courtesy of Terry Mandzy)

Visitors were blown away to see the interior of the former Loyal Orange Lodge, closed and used for storage for many years. Its new owners have cleared and cleaned it out, applied paint, stained the beautiful wooden floor, and used their artistic talents to produce stunning posters featuring Queensborough that adorned the walls. Wow! (Photo courtesy of Terry Mandzy)

The new owners of the Orange Hall, who are having buckets of fun with the place: Jamie Grant (note the orange hat) and Tory Byers. Visitors were excited about meeting them and talking to them about their plans for this important Queensborough building. (Photo courtesy of Gary Pattison)

Jos Pronk, owner of the building that began life as the first general store in Queensborough, goes through his display on the history of the building with some of the hundreds of people who stopped to see it. (Photo courtesy of Queensborough Beauty)

The steps that once led to Queensborough’s Methodist Church were made attractive with a display of flowers, table and chairs, and a photograph of the church that once stood on the spot. Thanks to Stephanie Sims for making everything look so nice! (Photo courtesy of Terry Mandzy)

Sir John A. speaks, Historic Queensborough Day

Sir John A. Macdonald (Brockville actor Brian Porter) gives a spirited stump speech to the crowd in front of the Queensborough Community Centre. Looking on are his wife, Lady Agnes Macdonald (Renee Porter) as well as local dignitaries Jack Robinson (left), the final reeve of Elzevir Township (where Queensborough is located) before it became amalgamated into the larger Municipality of Tweed, and Prince Edward-Hastings MPP Todd Smith. Hidden behind Sir John are the other dignitaries who were kind enough to attend and take part in Historic Queensborough Day: Centre Hastings Mayor Tom Deline, Madoc Township Reeve Bob Sager and Tweed Deputy Mayor Brian Treanor. (Several other members of Tweed council, including Mayor Jo-Anne Albert, also stopped in at various points of the day, and Hastings-Lennox and Addington MP Mike Bossio, who was unable to attend, sent his congratulations.)

“Old reflects new”: a beautiful photo taken by Queensborough photographer extraordinaire Dave deLang at the barn adjoining the historic Kincaid House.

Outside Billy WIlson’s blacksmith shop. (Photo courtesy of Terry Mandzy)

Beautiful phlox grown in the garden of DeClair Road resident Judith Best, who some years ago transplanted a few of the plants from the old and lovely bushes that blossomed each year in the garden of the late Evelyn Lynn’s home, now Daisy Cottage. They made for a perfect heritage plant display at the Queensborough Community Centre.

Enjoying the barbecue, Historic Queensborough Day

There were lineups for barbecued peameal bacon on a bun, hot dogs and hamburgers all day long at the Queensborough Community Centre. People enjoyed their food while sitting under the trees and chatting with old and new friends.

Visitors could explore the lovely grounds and gardens at St. Mary of Egypt Refuge on Barry Road. (Photo courtesy of Shelley Bonter)

Sir John A. with the crowds by Shelley Bonter

Sir John A. and Lady Agnes chat with appreciative crowds – perhaps about his not-terribly-successful bit of land speculation right here in Queensborough (true story!) – after his speech. (Photo courtesy of Shelley Bonter)

Sign at King Street and Bosley Road by Terry Mandzy

Signs steered visitors to the many things to see and do. (Photo courtesy of Terry Mandzy)

St. Andrew's by Clayton

A pretty view inside St. Andrew’s United Church, where the day began with the morning worship service. (Photo courtesy of Clayton Ibey)

Vintage car at Historic Queensborough Day by Queensborough Beauty

Several of the vintage-car owners came in vintage costume! (Photo courtesy of Queensborough Beauty)

Thompson House by Shelley Bonter

For many people, a highlight of the day was the chance to visit the elegant and historic Thompson House and the Thompson Mill. (Photo courtesy of Shelley Bonter)

Visitors to the Kincaid House by Shelley Bonter

The Kincaid House, one of the oldest in Queensborough and one that artists have always loved to paint, was a popular spot on the open-doors circuit. (Photo courtesy of Shelley Bonter)

Wagon ride by McMurray's by Shelley Bonter

See you next time! As the wagonload of people drawn by Bruce and Barb Gordon’s team Barney and Don draws away (past the landmark building erected in the 19th century as the Diamond Hotel, later to become McMurray’s General Store), it seems a fitting time to say: See you on our next Historic Queensborough Day!

All spruced up for Historic Queensborough Day

Welcome to Queensborough September 2017

Autumn-themed decorations adorn the Welcome to Queensborough signs, thanks to the work of the Queensborough Beautification Committee.

We are getting ready to welcome you to Queensborough! It’s just a few days until Historic Queensborough Day 2017 – this coming Sunday, Sept.10 – and let me tell you, a lot of people have been putting a lot of hours into making it a splendid event for everyone who comes.

Many good things have been happening in our little hamlet recently, and I thought I’d highlight some of them for your enjoyment before sharing with you the schedule of events for what is going to be a very busy day this Sunday.

Roofing at the LOL

What an amazing sight greeted me one early morning last week: a team of roofers replacing the very tired roof on the Orange Lodge building. It’s so encouraging to see the brand-new owners immediately undertake this much-needed work!

Probably the biggest news of recent times in Queensborough is that the former Orange Hall, the LOL (Loyal Orange Lodge) Branch 437, has been purchased and renovations are under way.

Jamie's truck at the LOL

Jamie Grant’s pickup truck playfully displays his new acquisition in Queensborough.

As you can read in the little guidebook to Queensborough produced a few years back (copies will be available Sunday for a mere $3; all proceeds go to the work of the Queensborough Community Centre Committee), the Orange Hall is one of the earliest buildings in the village, used for many community functions over the years (wedding dances, shows by travelling entertainers, a polling station at election time, and church services prior to any of the churches being built) in addition to its official LOL functions. The building has sat unused save for storage for some years, looking ever more decrepit.

What a delight it is to see new owners Jamie and Tory clearing it out, installing a new roof and electricity, painting and just generally having fun fixing it up and making plans for the place. Why, Jamie even has a pickup truck bearing a big decal celebrating his new/old purchase using the more modern connotation (“laughing out loud”) of the initials LOL.

LOL front

Suddenly the front entrance to the former LOL looks pretty welcoming, thanks to pretty paint colours, some vintage artifacts, and some orange highlights – an attractive nod to the building’s past. And speaking of attractive, we have LOL owner Jamie, a designer, to thank for our brilliant Historic Queensborough Day poster! (Check it out at the bottom of this post.)

The LOL is one of the buildings that will be open for you to take a peek inside on Sunday. I think you’re going to like what you see!

Historic home under renovation

Another historic home that is undergoing a major renovation and restoration. It’s looking fantastic!

Just around the corner from the lodge is another historic home that had been, shall we say, let go for many years but that also has recently been purchased by enthusiastic new owners.

Major gutting and renovations are under way, and everyone in the village is admiring the hard work that Jamie and Leslie are putting into the project, and looking forward to welcoming them and their young family when they move in before very much longer.

And then there are the historic plaques, another new feature of the village. There are two so far, the brainchild and creation of Jos and Marykay Pronk of the Pronk Canada Machine Shop. This shop is located in the building that was for many years (including during my childhood in Queensborough) Bobbie Sager Ramsay’s general store, but long before that, in the mid-19th century, was the site of the operation of the village’s very first general merchant, Job Lingham. The newly installed plaque there tells that story.

Jos and the Lingham Store plaque

Jos Pronk, metalworker extraordinaire, with the plaque he created providing information about the building where he lives and works – an extremely important one in Queensborough’s history.

I think you’ll just have to come to Queensborough yourself – whether on Historic Queensborough Day or another time – to read the exact text. (That’s my way of luring you here.) But one thing I love about this idea is that people who happen to discover Queensborough when they’re out for an afternoon drive or bike ride or hike will be able to learn something about its buildings even if they don’t have a copy of the Queensborough guidebook and even if they don’t happen to run into anyone who can answer their questions. If enough of these handsome plaques are erected, they will in themselves provide a self-guided tour and history lesson for visitors.

Following Jos and Marykay’s lead for their building, another Queensborough resident, my childhood friend and schoolmate Graham Gough, commissioned from Jos a plaque for his own historic home, listing its owners from the time it was built in 1871 until the present day. The plaque just went up a few days ago; doesn’t it look great?

Gough House and plaque

The new plaque listing all the owners of the attractive brick home built as the Jeffs Manor in 1871.

All over Queensborough, people who’ve kindly (or should I say bravely?) volunteered to open the doors of their buildings so visitors to Historic Queensborough Day can peek inside have been clearing stuff out, tidying things up, and just generally trying to make everything look as good as possible. Gardens and flowerpots are looking great; renovation projects are making a major difference to the overall look of the village. Here are a few more photos to show you the kind of thing I’m talking about:

Flowers on the Methodist Church steps

Flowerpots make for a pretty scene at the old steps that once led to the village’s Methodist Church.

Work on garage at Daisy Cottage

A vintage shed being newly reframed, part of major restoration and landscaping work at pretty Daisy Cottage. It’s one of the homes that will be open for a peek on Historic Queensborough Day.

Flower box at the river

Flowers spill over the planter at the base of a plaque beside the Black River “downtown” giving visitors information about Queensborough’s history. The plaque was unveiled on the first Historic Queensborough Day, held in September 2014.

So yeah: we’re getting ready for your visit! We hope you will join us Sunday for:

(Can you tell I’m getting excited?)

All this plus the opportunity to spend a day, or part of a day, with other people who have Queensborough connections, or who just appreciate our beautiful little village.

Okay, for those of you planning your visit, here’s the official schedule of events:

Schedule of events for Historic Queensborough Day

Volunteers will be handing out copies to everyone who arrives in the village, and on the back will be a map showing the locations of all events (plus important things like washrooms). We’ve got you covered!

But if you’d like any more information ahead of your visit, don’t hesitate to post your query as a comment here, or email me or chief organizer Elaine Kapusta: sedgwick.katherine@gmail.com or elainekapusta@hotmail.com.

It’s going to be a smashing day!

Historic Queensborough Day 2017 poster

The First People of Queensborough

Black River running through Queensborough

The Black River that runs through Queensborough, eventually meeting up with the larger Moira River that empties into the Bay of Quinte, was almost certainly a route used by Indigenous peoples in the days prior to European settlement.

Until relatively recently, the history of most North American places has generally been presented as what happened once the Europeans got here. Think about it: how much time did you spend in elementary- and high-school history classes learning about the Indigenous peoples who lived here for many thousands of years before people like John Cabot and Christopher Columbus turned up to “discover” North America, and people like Jacques Cartier and Samuel de Champlain showed up to explore and claim what they found for their own monarchs? (If you’re a current or recent elementary- or high-school student, this probably doesn’t pertain to you; we live in more enlightened times now, history-teaching-wise. I’m thinking more of people of my own vintage who had their schooling in the middle part of the 20th century.)

The book that is the definitive (not to mention only) history of the Queensborough area is typical in this regard. Published in 1984, Times to Remember in Elzevir Township devotes about half a page (of a total of almost 300) to “The First People,” as the first chapter is called. After telling the reader about a few local finds of artifacts such as “rocks with pot holes, believed to have been used by Indians for grinding grain,” beads, arrowheads, a spear point and an earthen vessel, it immediately (on Page 2) moves on to European “first people” such as Upper Canada Lt.-Gov John Graves Simcoe, and the first land surveyors and timber-cutters of this area.

First page of Times to Remember

The first page of Times to Remember in Elzevir Township, containing pretty much all the information that the authors were able to gather about the presence of Indigenous peoples in this area before European settlement.

Now, please don’t think that I’m criticizing the authors of Times to Remember. I am quite certain that they would have included more information about the people who may have lived, or at least moved through, the Queensborough area prior to European settlement if they had had access to that information. The problem is that there is basically nothing in the way of written records of that time. There seems to have been an oral tradition, reported very briefly in Times to Remember‘s chapter on Queensborough, that there was a “little Indian village – then called ‘Cooksokie’ – by the (Black) River” in what is now Queensborough at the time the first “white man,” one Miles Riggs, arrived and built a sawmill and grist mill on the river. But to date, to my knowledge, not a shred of evidence has been turned up to support the existence of a permanent settlement here by Indigenous people, or of “Cooksokie” being an Indigenous name or word.

Historic Queensborough Day 2017 poster

The gorgeous poster for Historic Queensborough Day 2017, designed by Jamie Grant, the brand-new owner of one of Queensborough’s most interesting buildings, the former Orange Hall. Click on the photo to enlarge it and read all about this very exciting day!

So a few months ago, as a group of us Queensborough people started talking about holding a followup to our wildly successful Historic Queensborough Day in 2014, one person among us decided that some time and effort needed to be spent on finding out more about the people to whom this place was known long before anyone from “the old country” came here.

That person was (and is) my husband, Raymond Brassard. As plans have come together for Historic Queensborough Day 2017 – which will be on Sunday, Sept. 10, and believe you me, you don’t want to miss it; read more about it here and here, and follow updates on the Queensborough Community Centre’s Facebook page – Raymond has been busy researching, visiting archives, contacting experts in the field, and generally trying to piece together any information he can about the Indigenous history of this beautiful area.

The result is that on Historic Queensborough Day, there will be a presentation about this accumulated research. We’re excited to announce that the event will feature a special guest speaker and a video presentation. Anne Taylor, the cultural archivist at the Curve Lake Mississauga First Nation in the nearby Peterborough area, will present and discuss a film she co-produced, called Oshkigmong: A Place Where I Belong. The film is the story of the people of Curve Lake but also the larger story of the Mississaugas and the nation they are a part of, the Anishinaabeg. It was the Mississaugas who were using the lands and waters in the Queensborough region at the time that the British crown obtained it in a series of treaties in the early 19th century. The story of the Mississaugas of this entire region is, sadly, also a story of their unfair treatment following the signing of those treaties.

But the Mississaugas are not the only part of the Indigenous history of this region; the Huron Wendat people and the Mohawks are also known to have been here. All would have been attracted by its woodlands and waters, offering plentiful hunting and fishing.

What were these people like? What were their traditions, their lifestyles? What did they pass down through the many generations to their successors, the people of Curve Lake, Tyendinaga, Alderville and other First Nations territories?

Those are the kinds of questions that will be discussed at the Historic Queensborough Day presentation, most certainly the first ever of its kind in Queensborough. We hope you can join us for it!

The session will take place in the hall of St. Andrew’s United Church, 812 Bosley Rd., at 10:30 a.m., following the 9:30 morning worship service at St. Andrew’s. It’s expected to last an hour to an hour and a half, leaving you lots of time afterward to enjoy all the other activities of Historic Queensborough Day.

I am very proud of Raymond for undertaking this research project. There is much still to be done and learned, but it feels like this is a very good first step toward us being able to have a more complete understanding of all the peoples who have known and been touched by this beautiful and still unspoiled place.

The Group of Seven painter, and his link to Queensborough

A.Y. Jackson, one of Canada’s foremost landscape painters and a leading member of the Group of Seven – the group that changed the face of Canadian art.

The message was a bolt out of the blue: “Stop the press! Get ready for fantastic news. A donor is letting us display their A.Y. JACKSON painting of Queensborough for Historic Queensborough Day.”

I was stunned.

“Good God!” I responded. “Did you even know this painting existed?”

“Nope!” was the response.

Sometimes, people, amazing things just fall out of the sky. This was one of those times.

The message exchange was between me and my friend Elaine Kapusta. We’re two of the large group of volunteers working to put together Queensborough’s second Historic Queensborough Day, following up on the huge success of our first such event in 2014. This year’s edition takes place on Sunday, Sept. 10, and you can read a lot more about it in my post from last week, which is here. But let’s get right back to the amazing surprise of a painting of Queensborough by A.Y. Jackson, and the fact that it will be on display on Sept. 10.

As many of you will know, A.Y. Jackson is one of the most famous and highly regarded painters in Canadian history. He was a member of the Group of Seven, painters who basically changed Canadian art – and the way we look at the Canadian landscape – forever. Think Lawren Harris‘s paintings from north of Lake Superior and his mountainscapes (one of which sold at auction last year for $11.2 million, a Canadian record). Think Tom Thomson‘s scenes of ragged and hardy pine trees, notably his seminal work The Jack Pine. (Thomson was not a member of the Group of Seven, but was closely associated with them.) And yes, think A.Y. Jackson’s scenes of rural Quebec…

jacksonbaiesainttpaul

Baie-Saint-Paul by A.Y. Jackson

jacksonwebhouseatbaitstpaul-1

House at Baie-Saint-Paul by A.Y. Jackson

…and of the Canadian wilderness, particularly in Ontario’s near north:

jackson-a-y-red-maple_large

The Red Maple, A.Y. Jackson

AY-Jackson-Frozen-Lake-Early-Spring-Algonquin-Park-1914

Frozen Lake, Early Spring, Algonquin Park by A.Y. Jackson

“A.Y. Jackson was a leading member of the Group of Seven and helped to remake the visual image of Canada,” says the Canadian Encyclopedia in its entry about him here.

The painters in the Group of Seven “spoke with a new voice – the voice of Canada,” says a fascinating National Film Board of Canada documentary about Jackson from 1941, which you can watch here. “A foundation member of the group, and foremost among those who spoke in this new way, is Alexander Young Jackson. Born in Montreal in 1882, he is today the leading Canadian landscape painter. He has travelled from the whaleback rocks of Georgian Bay to Baffinland and up to the Arctic. He has sketched in Halifax, and in the fishing villages of the Gaspé along the Gulf of St. Lawrence where houses cling to the steep cliffs. In doing so, he has produced his own essence of Canada – vast, rhythmic, vigorous.”

A.Y. Jackson working in rural Quebec

This picture of A.Y. Jackson sketching in rural Quebec comes from a National Film Board of Canada documentary featuring him and his work, called Canadian Landscape. You can watch it, and see Jackson sketching in the Canadian wilderness, here.

And now think about this: on Historic Queensborough Day, you will have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to view a painting of Queensborough by A.Y. Jackson!

I can hardly find the words to express how excited I am about this. Nor can I find sufficient words of thanks to the person (who wishes to remain anonymous) who has offered to make this one-day loan of such an important work of art.

Queensborough has long been known as a favourite destination, and subject, for artists. I wrote here about the days when students at the Schneider School of Fine Arts in the nearby Elzeviir Township hamlet of Actinolite would regularly pile into our little village, plunk themselves and their easels down at various street corners, and work on sketches of homes, sheds, barns and landscapes. When I close my eyes and think back to those days of my childhood, I can still remember the interesting and rather exotic scent of their oil paints that would waft up when you timidly looked over their shoulders to see their works in progress.

But to think that a member of the world-famous Group of Seven visited, and painted, here in Queensborough!

Goldie Holmes's Queensborough quilt

Goldie Holmes’s Queensborough Quilt.

The painting will be on display at the Queensborough Community Centre, which is headquarters for Historic Queensborough Day. Also at the centre – itself an important historic building in our hamlet, since it was our one-room schoolhouse from the time it was built in 1900 until the mid-1960s – will be a raft of displays of photos, documents and artifacts on many aspects of Queensborough’s history. Another highlight will be the display of Queensborough Quilt Lady Goldie Holmes‘s famous quilt featuring homes and buildings in the village. It too will be on show at the community centre (1853 Queensborough Rd.), thanks to a one-day-only loan from the Tweed and Area Heritage Centre where it usually resides.

But a painting of Queensborough by A.Y. Jackson of the Group of Seven – holy smokes! Surely you need no further inducement to come join us on Sunday, Sept. 10. Though in case you do, let me remind you that the day will also include:

  • Horse-drawn wagon tours of the village
  • A visit from Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald (a onetime Queensborough property-owner)
  • A presentation on the latest available research on Queensborough’s Indigenous history
  • A vintage and classic car show
  • A peek into some of the hamlet’s most interesting buildings
  • The opportunity to have your family’s portrait taken at the historic Kincaid house, and share for our records your connections to Queensborough
  • A visit to the amazing grounds and gardens at St. Mary of Egypt Refuge
  • Sunday worship in historic St. Andrew’s United Church
  • And food! There’ll be an all-day barbecue at the Queensborough Community Centre, and goodies and sweets also for sale there.

All this and a Group of Seven painting of our lovely little village: what more could you ask for?

Big news: the return of Historic Queensborough Day!

HQD Orange Lodge

The former Orange Lodge, one of Queensborough’s oldest structures and one that has lots of fascinating stories to tell, will be among the buildings open for a peek during Historic Queensborough Day. The historic building has just been purchased by a couple who have very exciting plans for its future. This is wonderful news for Queensborough!

One fine September Sunday three years ago, the biggest and most successful event in recent Queensborough history took place: the first-ever Historic Queensborough Day. One of the comments heard over and over from the hundreds of people who showed up that day was: “You have to do it again!”

Well, folks, I am very glad to report that we are doing it again.

Please mark Sunday, Sept. 10, on your calendar and plan to be in Queensborough that day to learn about and celebrate Queensborough’s history, enjoy a great meal, and meet a whole bunch of old friends and new. Historic Queensborough Day 2017 is going to be bigger and better than ever!

A large group of hard-working volunteers – members of the Queensborough Community Centre Committee plus lots of other interested residents – has been working for some time on the logistics of the day. We’re very much still in the fine-tuning phase, but at this point we have a full lineup of of events, and that’s what I want to share with you right now.

HQD QCC with Buddy Table

The Queensborough Community Centre (the village’s former one-room schoolhouse) will house a raft of displays on Historic Queensborough Day. Outside, barbecued hot dogs and hamburgers will be served, and homemade sweets will also be for sale. Diners will be welcome to sit at the newly installed “buddy table” (at left in photo), a giant picnic table installed by members of the community in memory of indefatigable Queensborough supporter the late John Barry.

The focus of the day, as in 2014, will be the Queensborough Community Centre, where there will be all kinds of displays about Queensborough’s history: the schools, the businesses (stores, hotels, blacksmith’s shops, etc.), military history, the churches, the cheese factories (did you know that wee Queensborough had two cheese factories?), the mines that once dotted the area around us, the railway that had a station here, women’s groups (including, of course, the Women’s Institute), the Orange Lodge (which was as much a community centre as the home of a fraternal organization), the families and genealogies, the “nursing home” (essentially an early hospital), and more. But the highlight will certainly be one of the most famous things ever to come out of Queensborough: a folk-art quilt featuring images of the buildings of the village, made by hand in the middle of the last century by Queensborough’s Quilt Lady, Goldie Holmes. You can real all about Goldie, her fame and her quilts here and here; and here is a photo of the quilt you will be able to see in person on Sept. 10:

The famous “Queensborough quilt” by the late Goldie Holmes that is usually displayed at the Tweed and Area Heritage Centre but for one day only – Historic Queensborough Day – will be back in Queensborough. Can you identify the buildings on it? (Hint: one of them is featured in the photo at the top of this post; another one is the Manse!)

What else is on for the day? Well, I’m glad you asked. A lot!

In no particular order, events include:

HQD The Kincaid House

The Kincaid House, one of the oldest (and most photographed/painted) in the village. This will be the spot to get a family photo taken and at the same time share with our eager history-recorders your family’s history in, and connections to, Queensborough.

  • A presentation, including a documentary video, on the latest available research on the Indigenous peoples who once moved through and camped in the Queensborough area.
  • The ever-popular horse and wagon tours of the village’s historic sites and buildings; here’s a photo of yours truly (the one waving) doing the tour-guide routine on Historic Queensborough Day 2014 as volunteers Bruce and Barb Gordon lead their team, Don and Barney, through the village:
Historic Queensborough Day

Photo by Ruth Steele

  • A visit from none other than Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald – or at least, a most remarkable facsimile. Sir John A. and his wife, Lady Agnes Macdonald, will be on hand to greet visitors and talk about their connection to Queensborough (hint: it has to do with a property deal that didn’t end up all that well), and the great man will make a brief speech to the assembled crowd at 1 p.m. Now how about that?
  • And a new event that I’m pretty sure will be very popular: open doors and a chance to peek into some of Queensborough’s most significant buildings. It’s not a fancy house tour; you’ll get a look inside, but you won’t tromp through every room. And some of these buildings are very much in the “before” stage of the before-and-after restoration process. But it’s a rare chance to get a glimpse of these buildings’ past, present and possibilities, as I like to say. One stop on the open-doors tour is the former Orange Hall, featured at the top of this post and a critical part of Queensborough’s history; we’ll have information about its past, and perhaps some ideas for its future from its enthusiastic brand-new owners, Jamie and Tory. Another is the Kincaid House. Other stops include:
HQD former Anglican Church

The beautiful former St. Peter’s Anglican Church (Queensborough’s first church), now a private residence.

HQD The Thompson House

The outstanding Thompson House, built in 1845.

HQD The Thompson Mill

The grist (flour and feed) mill and sawmill on the Black River that the village of Queensborough grew up around. Queensborough’s first post office was inside the mill, and vestiges of it remain.

HQD Ice Locker at McMurray's Store

The ice locker at the former McMurray’s General Store (and before that, Diamond Hotel). Here ice that was cut from the frozen Black River in wintertime was stored through the year to keep food cool and fresh.

HQD Billy Wilson's Blacksmith Shop

The former shop of blacksmith Billy Wilson, the only one of several blacksmith’s shops that once served Queensborough that is still standing.

HQD Daisy Cottage

The lovely (and in the process of being lovingly restored) Daisy Cottage, the home of Evelyn Lynn when I was a kid growing up at the Manse.

And of course there will be food! The barbecues at the Queensborough Community Centre will be fired up in the morning to serve peameal bacon on a bun for those who’d like to grab breakfast; a little later the volunteer chefs will switch over to hamburgers and hot dogs. You’ll also be able to buy hot and cold drinks and homemade goodies. Hey, it wouldn’t be Queensborough if there weren’t good food!

Barbecue on Historic Queensborough Day 2014

The barbecue on Historic Queensborough Day 2014: sunshine, good food, and Queensborough memories to share.

Those of us who have been working hard to organize Historic Queensborough Day 2017 are feeling pretty excited about it all. The turnout at our first event, in 2014, exceeded all expectations, and we’re hoping for even greater things this time around. If you have any questions about the day, or have artifacts, photos, historical documents etc. that you’d like to contribute to our displays (we’ll take good care of them and get them back to you!), please contact either Elaine Kapusta (613-473-1458, elainekapusta@hotmail.com) or me (613-473-2110, sedgwick.katherine@gmail.com).

Queensborough looks forward to welcoming you on Sunday, Sept. 10!

Welcomed home from afar by bunnies and bats

Home from Scotland

The Saltire (Scotland’s national flag, showing the cross of St. Andrew) flew outside the Manse for a day as we celebrated our return home from a wonderful trip.

Hello, people! It’s been a long time since my last post. There’s a reason for that: I took a vacation! Raymond and I tore ourselves away from beautiful Queensborough for a few weeks and made a long-hoped-for visit to Scotland. It was absolutely marvellous, and at the risk of being one of those people who bores you to death with their travel photos, I’m going to share a few before I tell you my welcome-home-to Queensborough story. Here’s how we spent much of July:

Champagne cocktails, Grand Central Hotel

A good start to the adventure: champagne cocktails as we look out onto the main hall at Glasgow’s Central Station.

Eilean Donan

Eilean Donan, pretty much your classic Scottish castle – one of lots of castles we visited.

Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn

The statue of Robert the Bruce at the site of the Battle of Bannockburn, where he famously defeated the English in 1314. Of course we had to visit, especially since we live close to the Hastings County hamlet named for it.

Raymond and Greyfriars Bobby

Raymond with the statue of Greyfriars Bobby in Edinburgh. We were both touched by the story of the wee terrier who stood guard over his master’s grave for 14 years, until his own death.

Portree, Skye

The harbour of Portree, Isle of Skye.

Stairway inside the broch at Dun Carloway

The stairway inside a 2,000-year old broch (high-walled fortification) at Dun Carloway on the Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides.

Gardens, Balmoral

In the gardens at Balmoral Castle, where the Queen stays every August.

Raymond at the wheel of the Discovery

Raymond at the wheel of the Discovery, the ship used by Capt. Robert Scott (“Scott of the Antarctic”) on his 1901 expedition to Antarctica. The ship spent two years trapped in the ice there, but eventually made it home and is now moored in Dundee, where it was built.

Sheep in Barra

Sharing the single-lane roads with sheep on Barra, Outer Hebrides.

Drawing room, Royal Yacht Britannia

The state drawing room aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia, permanently docked in Leith, Edinburgh’s port. Love the midcentury furniture!

Isle of Harris, on the way to Lewis

The stunningly beautiful Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides.

William Wallace monument

The gothic monument to William Wallace, better known (thanks to Mel Gibson) as Braveheart.

Breakfast menu, Ardhasaig House

Breakfast menu at the charming Ardhasaig House Hotel, Isle of Harris.

Raymond and the printing press

Raymond the journalist revisits his professional roots thanks to an 1860 printing press at the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh.

Cuillin, Skye

The Cuillin peaks, Isle of Skye.

Edinburgh Castle from Princes Street

Edinburgh Castle from Princes Street on a very wet day indeed. We both bought raincoats.

Drummond Castle Gardens

Drummond Castle Gardens, Muthill, Perthshire.

The Lewis Chessmen, National Museum of Scotland

The Lewis Chessmen, carved in the 12th century and discovered in the 19th on a beach in Uig, Isle of Lewis. Their amazing story is told here.

Oban, Scotland

The pretty town of Oban, from which we set sail on a five-hour ferry ride to the Outer Hebrides.

As you can see, we had a pretty great time, learned a lot of Scottish history, and saw some of the most beautiful scenery imaginable. It was a wonderful trip.

And now, as promised, here’s my story about what happened when we got home to the Manse.

We pulled into the driveway just under 24 hours after we’d got up that morning in Edinburgh. Exhausted but hungry, we were sitting down to a plate of spaghetti topped with Raymond’s Famous homemade spaghetti sauce (always on hand in the freezer) when I happened to look out a front window.

“Look! A bunny!” I called out in delight. A wee brown bunny with storybook white cottontail had hoped into the front yard for a nibble on our grass.

A second later, it was joined by another one.

And then another one.

And then another one!

Four little bunnies! They only stayed a minute, then hopped away in a southerly direction. We’ve never before seen bunny visitors on our lawn. It felt like they’d come just to say welcome back to Queensborough.

(Though I did learn the next day that it’s a banner year for bunnies – I believe Eastern Cottontail is the proper name – in Ontario. Well, so much the better!)

A little later, as we were putting away dinner’s residue and outside darkness was beginning to fall (along with our eyelids), I glanced out the kitchen window. To my astonishment, I saw a bird that I am fairly sure was a bat zoom in the jerky way that bats do over the south section of the Manse yard. And then there was another. And another. Wow!

When I was growing up in this house, bats were part of every summer evening. As my siblings and I and the neighbourhood kids played softball or tag or hide and seek in the Manse’s front yard, there would always be bats swooping overhead. Aside from the scary (false) stories that some of the big kids would tell about them getting caught in your hair, we never gave them any mind. But ever since Raymond and I bought the Manse, I’ve been struck by the utter absence of the bats. Of course, it’s not just in Queensborough; thanks largely to something called white nose syndrome, brown bats are considered an at-risk species in Ontario. Which is bad news not just for the bats, but for humans who live in places (like Queensborough) where summertime means mosquitoes. Did you know that a single brown bat can eat up to a thousand mosquitoes an hour? (More amazing facts on bats here.)

For years I’ve been hoping for a bat sighting at the Manse. Unless my eyes deceived me, we got it on the very evening we returned from three astounding weeks away.

The bunnies and the bats are a long way from the castles, lochs and mountains of beautiful Scotland. But there couldn’t have been a better welcome-home gift.

Now it’s on us – to celebrate our school, and to work for it

Thanking the trustees

Some of the people who have worked so hard to save Madoc Township Public School (at left, from left, Margaret Heard, Wendy Spence and Amy Beaton) offer handshakes and heartfelt thanks to school-board trustees (in foreground is Dwayne Inch; behind him is Jim Patterson, and half-hidden while shaking Amy’s hand is Mary Hall) this evening for their unanimous support of keeping MTPS open and returning to it students in Grades 7 and 8.

Call it a victory for rural education. Call it the best-case scenario for the children of Madoc, Elzevir and Tudor and Cashel townships. Call it a huge shot in the arm for our local economy and way of life. Call it whatever you like. We have something to celebrate.

This evening, the trustees who make up the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board voted unanimously to keep Madoc Township Public School open, and to expand it by bringing back students in Grades 7 and 8 as of this coming September. Here’s the video of the vote that put paid to the whole thing:

Big crowd at the school-board meeting

The boardroom was filled to capacity for this evening’s final votes by the school board on the future of quite a few schools in Hastings and Prince Edward counties. Many supporters of Madoc Township Public School were among the crowd.

After a campaign that lasted more than six months – beginning in November 2016, when administrators with the board announced their recommendation to close MTPS and bus its students to Madoc Public School in the village of Madoc as of this September – our community emerged stronger than when the whole thing started. Madoc Township’s only school will not only be able to carry on its long tradition of excellence in education, but students from our rural area will be able to attend it through Grade 8 rather than (as has been the case for about 45 years) be bused into “town.”

This is an astounding outcome, and one that even the most optimistic among us campaigners for MTPS barely dared think about, let alone hope for, during these past six months.

(If anyone reading this is unaware of the whole saga, which I freely admit I’ve covered in perhaps more detail than anyone wanted, just click on the “Madoc Township Public School” category on the right side of this blog’s home page. It’s all there – every step of the way.)

Thanks to Trustee Danes from MTPS supporters

Centre Hastings Trustee Bonnie Danes (left) was all smiles after this evening’s board meeting, as supporters of Madoc Township Public School, including recent MTPS grad Brooklyn Gylyktiuk (right foreground) and her mum, Wendy Spence, thanked her for her tireless work.

Every single one of the trustees on the board gets my huge thanks – and I hope yours too – for this vote of confidence in our school and our community. But I’d really like to single out Centre Hastings Trustee Bonnie Danes, who I think I’m safe in saying spearheaded the work behind the scenes at the board level in pushing for MTPS’s continued existence. I am sure that Southeast Hastings Trustee Justin Bray worked really hard on this one too. Trustees Danes and Bray: thank you so much!

As for the core of volunteers who have championed the cause of our local school on behalf of the community as a whole – who attended what seems like endless meetings, and put hundreds of hours into researching, planning, lobbying, networking, worrying (hey, I have to be honest) and strategizing – really, there are no words. Here they are, and it is one of the greatest honours of my life that they asked me to be in the photo with them:

The MTPS crew

Some of the core group of Madoc Township Public School supporters and activists who made it happen: from left, honorary member Brooklyn Gylyktiuk (an MTPS grad), plus some of the main crew: Wendy Spence, Margaret Heard, Randy Gray, Denise Gray, Holly Kormann, Amy Beaton – and, I feel shy to say and very honoured because they asked me to be in the photo, me.

So what happens next?

Well, we know that MTPS will be open for business this coming September, welcoming students from junior kindergarten to Grade 8. That is just amazing. And wonderful. And I think we should have a party! Maybe now; maybe in September. Whenever: a time for kids, parents and the community at large to gather on the five-plus acres at Madoc Township Public School for an afternoon or evening of kids running and jumping and exploring and playing soccer or softball or tag or hide and seek, parents taking photos and refereeing and chatting and enjoying the outdoors, and community members sharing their memories (old or new) of happy times at MTPS. With hot dogs and lemonade and conversation and smiles and tears of joy. Wouldn’t that be fun?

But in the longer term (and by that I mean only the very slightly longer term, i.e. starting pretty much now), I think it behooves all of us – parents, community members and MTPS students and supporters – to step up and show our ongoing support. I’m speaking only for myself here, but maybe I’m not alone in having realized that until six months ago, I took Madoc Township Public School for granted. It was there, it was a great school and a great asset to our community, and I assumed it would continue to be all of that.

And then we almost lost it. As Joni Mitchell says: “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?” Now, I think we did know what we had; but maybe we weren’t doing everything we could to ensure our community would continue to have it.

In the note of thanks that I sent to the 10 trustees last week after they passed their first (though not final) vote in favour of keeping MTPS open, I wrote this:

The confidence the trustees have shown in our school inspires me to do everything I can to ensure the community in turn does everything it can to support MTPS. Ways we can help that come to mind immediately are fundraising for playground, library and other school equipment and resources; assistance in establishing after-school care to help working parents; and support for outdoor-education programs that take full advantage of our school’s unparalleled green space. But I’m sure there are many other ways we can continue and expand our support.

I really mean that, and I hope others in the community will feel the same. If we want to continue to have this splendid school in our community, we can’t take it for granted; we have to work for it! And the more we do to help and improve our school, the greater its success will be – and the more assured will be its continued existence.

Madoc Township Public School, June 12, 2017

This is our school – and I am so proud of it!

One area that I feel strongly about is support for the school library. When I was a kid attending that brand-new school back in the 1960s and ’70s, it had a wonderful library – lots of books, comfy chairs, a welcoming ambience; it made you want to just curl up and read and read and read. Among my happiest memories of MTPS days are exploring all the books on the shelves, learning how they were categorized and shelved, and taking advantage of the newfangled (hey, it was the ’60s) audio-visual equipment. When I returned to MTPS for its fantastic 50th-anniversary celebration in 2011 (even before Raymond and I had bought the Manse and I resumed my childhood Queensborough connection), I was a little sad to see that the beautiful library space had been chopped up and turned largely into a computer lab, with a much-reduced library parked in a former classroom. If someone asked me tomorrow to head up a fundraising campaign to support and improve that library and the experience it offers the kids of MTPS, I would accept in a heartbeat. And this from someone (me) who is seriously lacking in free time – but aren’t we all? Hey, what can you do to support our school? Please think about it.

Our community has just received a priceless gift: our school, saved and supported. Let’s pay it forward by doing everything we can to make Madoc Township Public School even better, and in the process ensure a brilliant future for it, our kids and the rural place we are so proud to call home.