Of ghost towns, and Elzevir (or Johnson’s Corners), and Queensborough

Ron Brown has written quite a few excellent books about the ghost towns of Ontario, and I believe this one is the most recent. Listed in the table of contents are Hastings County places like Eldorado, Corbyville and Millbridge – but not Queensborough (he's got that right) and not Elzevir – or, as it seems it used to be called, Johnson's Corners.

Ron Brown has written quite a few fascinating books about the ghost towns of Ontario (his publisher is the excellent Boston Mills Press), and I believe this one is the most recent. Listed in the table of contents are Hastings County places like Eldorado, Corbyville and Millbridge – but not Queensborough (he’s got that right) and not Elzevir – or, as it seems it used to be called, Johnson’s Corners.

Thanks to Jim Kammer of Belleville, who came upon my blog post wondering whether the Manse-area hamlet called Elzevir really exists, I now know a whole lot more about that place. Jim pointed me in the direction of a chapter of my treasured copy of the history book Times to Remember in Elzevir Township (the township where Queensborough is located) that is about the community of Johnson’s Corners, described in the book’s entry as being on the eastern side of the township (and just west of the village of Flinton in neighbouring Lennox and Addington County. I wrote about Flinton here). The entry has quite a bit of information about the community’s early settlement in the mid-19th century (when it may have been known as Breault’s Corners), about the stores and taverns that once existed there, about farms that were still prospering (and winning awards for cattle at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair) when Times to Remember was published in 1984, and about such things as long-ago community events and the cheese factories to which the Johnson’s Corners dairy farmers used to supply milk.

While I had seen that chapter in the book before, I had not put two and two together as far as realizing that it was the community that now shows up as “Elzevir” on maps. But Jim did, and for very good reason: his forebears were among the earliest settlers of that little community (his great-great grandmother, born in Australia, ran a general store there), and Jim has done a lot of research into family history. If you read his very helpful comments on my Elzevir post, you’ll see he explains that when his own father (who grew up on a farm there) referred to the place, he always called it Elzevir. And he was doubtless not the only native to do so. So you see? Everything’s falling into place, and I think The Great Elzevir Map Mystery is close to being solved. Now all that remains is for Raymond and me to visit next spring or summer and see what kind of community is still there. You can be sure I’ll take pictures!

But meantime, the whole exercise has got me thinking about ghost towns, particularly since my Queensborough friend Graham, in trying to get to the bottom of the Elzevir mystery, found and posted (in a comment here) some links to sites that are about Ontario ghost towns. He was rather horrified – as am I – that Queensborough was listed in them. Let me quote Graham: “HELLO! We’re still here! News of our demise has been greatly exaggerated.”

Food, fun and a crowd at a  community pig roast in Queensborough last September. Does this look like a ghost town, people?

Food, fun and a crowd at a community pig roast in Queensborough last September. Does this look like a ghost town, people? (Photo by Elaine Kapusta)

And that is, I suspect, what residents of some of the other Hastings County communities that tend to get named in “ghost town” lists would say. I’m thinking of Eldorado, and Corbyville, and Millbridge, and Marlbank – all of which are nice little places that I know and like, and where people still live.

Ghost town schmost town, I say. You calling us a ghost town? We’ll be the judge of that. Boo!

6 thoughts on “Of ghost towns, and Elzevir (or Johnson’s Corners), and Queensborough

  1. great how folks pool knowledge. Sure enough, all of us are smarter than any of us!! Side bar: The log school at O’Hara homestead came from the area in question. Also, information about cheese factories and other community facts are to be found in the “Tweedsmuir Books.” These are community fact books about farms and homes in the areas served by local WIs. Gayle is the curator of the one for Hart’s-Riggs’ WI. As we relax by the ocean this month, we have been trying to update the book and have found lots of interesting facts.

    • Oh, there you go again, reminding us of how you’re relaxing by the ocean while we here in Montreal are having yet another snowstorm! But yes, Tweedsmuir Histories: for sure I will be writing about that remarkable phenomenon in the not-too-distant future. What an amazing treasure trove they are of local knowledge (combined with reports of visits to the homestead of Adelaide Hoodless, the founder of Women’s Institutes). I will have to compare notes with Gayle. I’d be interested to know too how many WIs are still active. (Queensborough’s, sadly, is not.) I think it’s wonderful that the Harts-Riggs group is still going strong.

      And about the log school from Johnson’s Corners (or Elzevir) that’s at O’Hara’s Mill – my apologies for not mentioning that! I’d read it in Times to Remember in Elzevir Township, but neglected to include that living connection to an old, old settlement when I did the post.

    • That is a VERY interesting video – thank you! I’d never heard of Jelly’s Rapids before, though in the video one learns that it’s at (or near) what once was the village of Glanmire. (Raymond and I have driven up the Old Hastings Road and I can say for sure that one would never know that people once lived at Glanmire.) It certainly is beautiful wild country, isn’t it? And what interesting rocks!

  2. I’ve just taken a trip down memory lane with my father and youngest son to Flinton, where my dad and his family all grew up. I have been doing some research on our family history and my father took me there to unravel some family mysteries thst have been looming over us for a long time. We found a news paper article stating my fathers grandfather John David Wood was shot suspiciously at Johnstons Corners in 1917 which involved his wife Hattie Sedore and her brother. The Tweed news paper had done an article on it as well as an follow up coroner’s inquest. So we took the trip to the historical archives building in Tweed to do more research and discovered even more than we expected and as well drove through Elzevir township to see a few of the homesteads and farms left behind from my fathers past. It really was magical and mystical. We still have lots of research to and are looking for any help we can get. I found your article and wanted to share our story. Thanks!

    • This is an AMAZING story, Shawna! I would love to know more about what you discovered about that mysterious shooting. I’m not surprised that you were able to find lots of information at the Tweed and Area Heritage Centre; the volunteers there, led by the tireless Evan Morton, do an incredible job of compiling local history and making it available to people with inquiries, like you. Perhaps some readers will see your comment and be able to supply more information; I certainly hope so. In the meantime, please do keep me posted about what you discover regarding this Johnston’s Corners mystery. You can email me privately at sedgwick.katherine@gmail.com. Good luck with your research!

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