Sleuthing out some Queensborough history

Queensborough Anglican Church sketch

A sketch from 1974 showing one historic Queensborough building that still stands – St. Peter’s Anglican Church – and two that no longer do. A great find by someone with a strong interest in Queensborough history! (Photo courtesy of Bob and Charlene McKeown)

Regular readers will know that for the past several posts I’ve been focusing on various aspects of the history of Queensborough, the pretty little hamlet where the Manse is and that Raymond and I now call home. This focus is because of the big event that’s happening here this Sunday (Sept. 7, 2014), Historic Queensborough Day. (All details on that grand event are here and here and here. You won’t want to miss it!)

Anway, tonight I want to share with you the story of a superb bit of sleuthing work carried out on behalf of the general cause of Queensborough historical knowledge. The sleuth in question is reader Bob McKeown, who lives in not-far-away Stirling (a very nice village here in central Hastings County) and whom Raymond and I have had the pleasure to meet at a couple of local events. Bob has an interest in Queensborough’s history because his wife, Charlene, is a descendant of one of the very early and prominent families here, the Wiggins family.

Okay, I’ll let Bob tell the story of his discovery in his own words:

I was recently in the Belleville hospital and see this drawing in the hall on the fifth floor. It is in a dilapidated frame, not matching anything else on the walls. I looked at it and thought, “Hey! That looks just like the Anglican Church in Queensboro – what???”

Then on further study I see the house and barn that I believe were built, owned and occupied by my wife’s great-great grandparents, William Wiggins and his wife, Nancy Cooper.

The drawing is dated 1974, by Jerry Stapley, Stirling, died about five years ago.

I have seen a blurred photo of this house when it belonged to someone in the ’60s, I think – photo was in [Times to Remember in Elzevir Township], or something similar. I think the same Elzevir book (or info I got somewhere else) states that William Wiggins donated land for the Anglican Church (then built the church), donated land for the Presbyterian Church (did not have lowest builder’s bid, so did not build), and did build the Methodist Church on their land. He was a farmer and carpenter, so it is very probable he built his home and barns. These buildings must have burned or fallen down?

Not certain of copyright of pictures etc., but hospital staff allowed my wife to take the pics you see attached.

Okay, Bob, just to say: you and Charlene are brilliant for spotting that sketch off in an obscure corner of Belleville General Hospital, recognizing it for what it is, getting some photos of it, and sharing it with fellow Queensborough history buffs. Thank you!

(And in case readers are interested: Bob’s further sleuthing – that is, checking out the back of the picture – uncovered that the drawing seems to have been sold at an auction, or maybe silent auction, that was perhaps a fundraiser for the Belleville hospital. And then maybe donated back to the hospital? Here’s the evidence:

Queensborough sketch artist

Sketch sold

The Anglican Church – St. Peter’s Anglican, Queensborough’s first church, built in 1871 – is still standing and is (in my humble opinion) one of the prettiest buildings in town. The house in the sketch was still standing, and lived in, during my 1960s and ’70s childhood here, at the time by the Leslie family. It was a really nice house that, sadly, was destroyed in a fire, I think in the 1980s. (I did a post a while back – it’s here – about my reminiscences of that part of town, brought on by walking along the old cracked sidewalk that runs in front of where that house used to be.) But yes, as Bob says, it was in the 19th century the home of the Wiggins family, and William Wiggins was absolutely instrumental in getting Queensborough’s Protestant churches – the Anglican (actually “Church of England” at the time), Methodist and Presbyterian – erected. (The one that was the Presbyterian church is now St. Andrew’s United Church, still going. The service there on Historic Queensborough Day is at 11 a.m. – and all are welcome!)

The barn in the background was clearly part of the Wiggins farm originally. In my childhood, it was part of the farm operation of John Thompson, who also owned and operated the old grist mill around which the village of Queensborough grew up a century before. The barn is, again, gone – though every time I walk by where it used to be I still picture it in my mind’s eye.

It was maybe because of all those memories I have that it was so nice to see the sketch that Bob and Charlene found, showing all three buildings as they once were. I expect that seeing it here in my post will bring back similar good memories to other Queensborough people.

But let me give the last word to Bob again, who at the end of his email to me about his find, and the history of the scene it shows, asks a great question for anyone interested in history – because we always know there’s more history out there to share:

Anyone have anything to add?

21 thoughts on “Sleuthing out some Queensborough history

  1. Hi Katherine. It’s wonderful to find this drawing, and I’m sure it will be of great interest to people who will visit during this weekend’s festivities. I’ve found another drawing by Mr. Stapley and, in the description, there is mention of other historic drawings that he had created, including the Hazzard’s Church. You will see this at this link, and then scroll down to page 4.

    I’m wondering if this Mr. Stapley was related to the Mr. Stapley who taught Auto Mechanics at CHSS, or possibly the same person?

  2. In 1974, Jerry and another young person worked for the Hastings County Historical Society to travel through the county and research a variety of interesting and historic buildings. Their notes are housed at the Hastings Heritage Centre in Cannifton – the former Thurlow Township Hall. The society has copies of some of the pictures and a few are still for sale. If interested in any of the sketches, the archives can be contacted at 613-962-1110.

    • Oh wow, Gerry, this is great to know! (I should have guessed that you would know the background of this picture.) I think Raymond and I will be paying (another) visit to the archives sometime soon…

  3. Wow Katherine, what a nice story you have made regarding this drawing I happened upon in the Belleville Hospital….I was surprised to find such a drawing there, and look forward to all comments….hope the Queensborough History Day is a success….thanks for your daily work on this blog, I know it takes much more effort to put it together and post it, than it takes to relax and read it each evening…..thanks again, Bob

    • Bob, it was my pleasure to tell the story, and it’s I who thank you for sharing the great story of that unexpected Queensborough-related find! And thank you for your kind words about Meanwhile, at the Manse. Yes, it is a lot of work and takes a lot of time – but the response from readers like you makes it all worthwhile.

  4. Comment 2….this is a plug for the Queensboro History Day being held on Sept 7….. I just dropped off the Wiggins family history of Queensboro and the Cooper family history of Cooper for all to read, to Elaine Kapusta’s home, they will be on display with many other interesting bits of Queensboro and area history, at the Community Centre on this Sunday Sept 7……it is my understanding that all histories, old pictures, etc are most welcome at this event……..Bob

    • Hey, Bob, thanks for that plug for Historic Queensborough Day! I for one am looking forward to going through the Wiggins and Cooper family histories that you have so generously lent for the occasion, and I hope others with historical information will follow your lead in sharing it with the larger community. Cheers!

  5. Hello, my father is Jack Downey an artist and friend and teacher of Jerry Stapely’s. Wonderful to see this very early drawing of Jerry’s. They both did the local art show circuit in the 1970’s. Lovely to see.

    • Hi riveranglican – great to hear from you! Does your dad live in our area (i.e. Hastings County)? I wonder if he was among the artists who sometimes came to sketch and paint in Queensborough.

  6. I have a pen and ink by Jerry Stapley of the St. Thomas United Church in Belleville — as it was BEFORE the fire of 1975, so perhaps it was done in that same 1974 period. It’s a nice piece — detailed but still with a simplicity that makes it quite pleasant to view.

  7. Hi Katherine –

    I enjoyed stumbling upon and reading this story! I’m a distant Queensborough Wiggins cousin it would seem – would love it if you were able to connect me with Charlene and Bob.


    • Hi Arie! I’m so glad a “Queensborough Wiggins” found Meanwhile, at the Manse. I will send an email to Bob and Charlene and give them your email (which I and not my readers can see), and I’m sure theu would be delighted to hear from you. Hey, come to Queensborough and visit your roots one of these times – and let me know when you’re coming!

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