A trip to Flinton: back of beyond, or a place showing the way?

Flinton may be small, but it does have a cute little restaurant/café/shop, the River Cottage Café. Which means there’s a place for locals and visitors who may pass through to get a cup of coffee and a bite to eat – and that’s a welcome thing in a tiny village.

Flinton is a small village just across the county line from Hastings, in neighbouring Lennox and Addington County. My mother used to use phrases like “the back of beyond” and “the end of the world” when she referred to it, and when Raymond and I went for an afternoon drive there one recent Saturday I could kind of see why. Queensborough (where the Manse is) may be a little off the beaten path and not really on the road to anywhere, but it’s still only 15 minutes in different directions from two busy little towns, Madoc and Tweed. Flinton, on the other hand, is a good long drive along a county road that seems to go on and on and on once you turn north off Highway 7 (the Trans Canada) a little east of Actinolite. (Both Actinolite and Flinton were founded by Billa Flint – hence Flinton’s name – who was an early entrepreneur in the area, eventually mayor of Belleville, a member of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada before Confederation, and a Canadian senator. And a temperance man. So there.) Its nearest “towns” are Northbrook and Kaladar; Northbrook has some commerce and a regional school, but Kaladar is not too much more than a crossroads.

Flinton’s old Methodist Church, which is what I assume must have become the United Church that I have the vaguest of memories of visiting in the late 1960s. It seems to be a private home now.

My family used to visit Flinton fairly regularly back in the late 1960s because my father, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, was for a while the supervising minister of the Flinton-Cloyne Pastoral Charge of the United Church of Canada. That is, the charge had its own minister, but he was not fully ordained; I guess he was a diaconal minister or some such. So an ordained minister was needed to perform certain services, such as baptisms and weddings, and that was Dad. I guess the reason why the whole kit and caboodle of the Sedgwick clan went along when Dad visited the Flinton-Cloyne charge was that the Flinton minister and his wife (whose names I’m afraid I cannot remember) had several children – five, if memory serves – who were not far removed from our ages. (I recall playing my very first game of Twister in the Flinton manse.)

So I was curious to see what Flinton looked like all these years later. It was bigger than I expected, with quite a few houses, a recreational centre (that’s what they call arenas these days) which that day was bustling because a community turkey supper was being served, and several actual streets. And there were two churches that seemed to still be operational, though the United Church was, sadly, not one of them. While it does seem remote, Flinton is quite an attractive little place.

This is what I find welcoming when I visit a small rural community: a sign that says “Café (or store, or restaurant) Open.” Bravo to Flinton for that!

But best of all was this: there was a commercial enterprise! Actually, there were two; one seemed to be some kind of bare-bones antiques-and-collectibles place, though as far as we could see the materials on offer were old tools, which don’t interest us too much. But the other was a little restaurant/café, with tables out front and some young people (local, I think) enjoying them. While we were a little pressed for time and so couldn’t pop in, I have to say that just seeing the “Open” sign at the little River Cottage Café made my heart leap. A village with a place where you can get a cup of coffee and some information about the local area just seems so much more alive than a village where you can’t. At the risk of sounding like a diehard consumer, there’s just something welcoming about a place that gives you the opportunity to spend money.

(My favourite examples of this, by the way, are all the tiny places in New England where there are just a cluster of homes but some great old general stores, selling all manner of stuff and freshly brewed Green Mountain Coffee and sandwiches to boot – and the stories and information you can pick up from the denizens are of course free of charge.)

So while Flinton may be remoter than Queensborough, I applaud the entrepreneurs behind its River Cottage Café for giving it some commercial life. And, without wanting to give away too many Queensborough secrets, I will say that I eagerly await the day when a similar kind of enterprise will be extending a warm welcome to visitors to our pretty little neck of the woods.

21 thoughts on “A trip to Flinton: back of beyond, or a place showing the way?

  1. My wife and I recently purchased the Riverside Church to use as a family cottage. Sort of surprised to see a picture of it on the net.

  2. Hi Katherine ! We just bought the church this past summer. We have been working on interior renovations only so far. We are using it as a cottage get away for now. I am employed at Trent. My wife and I both ride motorcycles and hope to find time when the warmer weather returns to visit. At the same time we hope that you might drop in for a visit to our sanctuary.

    • I promise we will do that, Paul! I know I have been in that church for a service more than once, but I don’t seem to have any memories of the interior; it was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. (Well, maybe not that far, given that I’m writing this at the Manse in Queensborough.) It would be very interesting to see how you folks are converting it to a residence. Boy, on a nice day Flinton would be a lovely ride on a motorcycle from the Peterborough area! As would the shorter ride from Flinton to Queensborough. Raymond and I look forward to meeting you one of these times!

  3. My father’s family were strong devotees of the United church in flinton as we’re my mother’s family of the Roman Catholic Church in town, upon marrying they both left their original faith based families and we’re married in the local anglican church in which we children were raised along with several aunts, uncles and cousins who had made the same transition, but it was not unusual for us children to attend a different church every Sunday with our extended families,, we were lucky to be exposed to all 3 different faiths with equal acceptance of all,

    • Hi Greta! So great to hear from someone who grew up in Flinton and whose extended family was very involved in all the churches there. I agree with you that you were so fortunate to be exposed to those different faith traditions – and all in the same little village. I wish to goodness I could remember the name of the lay or diaconal minister who served Flinton United Church when I was a kid and my dad was the supervising minister – you might well remember the family. The only thing I can remember is that the name of one of the daughters was Mary Alice.

      • Hi Katherine, I do emember the minister and his family from an incident at lunchtime as a few friends and myself had ventured to the play area (consisting of a slide and teeter totter that rotated) near the library and conotaph, I was about 6 or 7 and fell from the slide, (likely about 1950/51), a friend was walking me back to school with my bloody nose and im sure much sobbing when a nice man came out from the manse by the United church to insure I was ok, assuming he was the minister at the time and from what I recall had 2 or 3 boys but I can’t recall their names,, i still have relatives in the area and all 3 cemetary especially keep me busy for a day or 2 3ach summer,, my mother’s maiden name was Renaud, my father’s were the Sedores ,

      • Greta, that is a nice memory (well, except the part where you were injured on the old-fashioned playground equipment!) of a minister’s kind help in your Flinton childhood. If it was in 1950 or ’51, though, it wouldn’t be the minister (and his family) that my family knew; our connections with Flinton were about 15 years after that, maybe 1966-67-68. I gather from your comment that you no longer live in the area, but it’s wonderful that you still maintain ties. Maybe I could get a guided tour of Flinton when you are back visiting in the summer!

      • Lol, it would be my pleasure katherine but i need help from family members, there are so many new homes and changes to the streets etc, I grew up on what is now The Pheasant Farm Rd between rhe village and #41, first house on the right, was white and visible from the main road before the trees and brush took over,,

      • Greta, I am sure you would be a mine of information about Flinton past and, yes, present. We should try to arrange something – if not this summer (I have a busy one), then next!

    • Thank you so much for the kind words! There are so many interesting places and people in Hastings and Lennox and Addington counties, and so much beauty, and so much history. And the area isn’t nearly as well-known as it deserves to be, though there’s a good deal to be said for living in a place that’s a well-kept secret. But – there are indeed many stories to be told!

  4. Hi I have been reading through your blog and find it very interesting. A lot of my relatives are from there and the surrounding area. My grandmother Mary Mosher (Lilly) who was married to Durwood Mosher owned a house on what is now Edward Street when I was a little boy. I am now over the age of 60 so this would be going back at least 55 years. I can shed a fair bit of information or at least as much as I can remember form those days if you are interested. Feel free to contact me any time.

    • Hi Leo! Hey, are you by any chance a Johnson of the Johnson’s Corner’s Johnsons? (Johnson’s Corners/Elzevir being a place so small that it makes Flinton look like the big city.) I would love to have a chat with you about your memories of our corner of the world, and I promise I will contact you by email sometime soon when I am not overwhelmed with my day job. Cheers, and thank you for making contact!

      • Hi Katherine
        Yes I am part of that family. My grandfather is the Johnson in question I believe. My sister and I have been doing a fair bit of research lately on our roots (her mostly) in order to build a comprehensive family tree. We have documentation back to the 1500’s but the trails are getting tougher to find. This is how we stumbled upon your blog. The internet a wonderful tool. I look forward to talking to you at your convenience as this has been a fun eye opening experience.

      • Leo, you sure have it right that the internet is a wonderful tool – not only for genealogical research but also for making connections! I am very excited about the prospect of learning more about the life and times of Johnson’s Corners. There is so little there now, and it will be fascinating to put that up against what I’m sure you and your sister have learned about its days as a thriving little community.

  5. Hi, My name is Tracey (Wood) Fifield, and I grew up in Flinton. My father Gordon R. Wood still lives in Flinton beside the Cenotaph. My parents were married in the United Church, (60 years) and my sister and I attend church and Sunday school there. My mother Wilma Wood was principal at the school in Flinton when I was very young. Flinton was a great place to grow up!

    • So lovely to hear from you, Tracey! Wow – a Flinton United Church connection! I absolutely believe you when you say that Flinton was a great place to grow up; I bet if you and I compared Flinton-Queensborough childhood memories, we’d have a lot in common. If you’re ever back for a visit, I’d be most interested in getting a tour of Flinton guided by you and your father.

    • Hi Tracy, I suspect you’re quite a bit younger than me but I remember your mom and dad,, i still see your dad on his motorized scooter each summer when we’re in the area or just passing through,, good memories of another place, another time but still the same,,

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