One family’s story told, and local history comes alive

The Kincaid Chronicles

Today I want to tell you about a family-history project that has an extremely close connection to the Queensborough area, and that I consider not only an example but an inspiration.

It is the work of Keith Kincaid, now of of Toronto, though he grew up in Aurora, Ont., and before that the area of Unionville, Ont. “Hold on!” you’re doubtless saying to yourself. “What does a chap from Aurora and Unionville and Toronto have to do with the history of the Queensborough area?” Well, I’ll tell you – and if you’re from the Queensborough-Hazzards Corners-Madoc area yourself, you might have already guessed, thanks to Keith’s last name. For about as long as there has been settlement in our area, you see, there has been the name Kincaid.

That is because one Patrick Kincaid, Keith’s great-great grandfather, chose back in 1843 to leave a hardscrabble existence in Donegal, Ireland (his own ancestors having moved there from their native Scotland) and settled first in Hungerford Township (south of what is now the village of Tweed) and then permanently near Hazzards Corners, in Madoc Township. Which is just down the road from Queensborough.

In putting together the story of his family in a book called The Kincaid Chronicles: Beyond the Back Fence, Keith has used his training and experience as a journalist – the culmination of his impressive career in that field was his long service as president of The Canadian Press – to dig up the full story. And what a story! Why, there’s even a murder mystery! But I’ll get to that in a minute.

I won’t even attempt to retell the full story of Patrick Kincaid and his two brothers, all of whom came to this country in the late 1830s and early 1840s. For that, you need to get a copy of Keith’s great book; and if you’re interested in doing so, let me know and I’ll be happy to put you in touch with him. (Keith and I met through Meanwhile, at the Manse and through our shared interest in local history. My treasured copy of The Kincaid Chronicles was a gift when he attended Historic Queensborough Day last September.)

The short version of the story is that Patrick Kincaid, a widower with eight children, arrived in Hungerford Township in 1843 by way of the Atlantic Ocean, Quebec City, the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario and Belleville. He sold his Hungerford Township farm in 1850 and bought land in Madoc Township, at a well-known sharp bend in what is now Queensborough Road, the road west of our hamlet that runs to Hazzards Corners. The brick farmhouse that the family eventually built still stands and is still lived in; when I was a kid growing up in the Manse here in Queensborough, it was the home of farmers Gordon and Earl Sager. “The Sager Brothers,” my dad always used to call them. Good people.

Archie and the Shoe Wars, The Kincaid Chronicles

Archie and the Shoe Wars, just one of the may colourful chapters in Keith Kincaid’s book. It sheds a wonderful (and often humorous) light on early life and times – including retailing times – in the village of Madoc.

Keith does a fantastic job of telling the story of Patrick (who remarried and had two more children) and his descendants, some of whom stayed in the Madoc area even as others spread out to new adventures in other parts of Ontario. Along the way we learn about the family’s connection to historic Hazzards Corners Church (where services [which Keith often attends] are still held once every summer and once every Dec. 23); about the gold and mineral rush that struck central Hastings County in the second half of the 19th century, raising pretty much every farmer’s hopes that great riches would be discovered underneath his land; about the rough-around-the-edges life in early Madoc, which was “town” for everybody in the area in those days (and still pretty much is) – ordinances against public brawling and whatnot; about what the branches of the family (including those of Keith’s own immediate forebears) who moved away ended up doing; about some interesting and even famous members of the extended family, including a world-renowned entomologist, a would-be inventor, and John Weir Foote, winner of the Victoria Cross for bravery at the Dieppe Raid, where he was a chaplain; about colourful Archie Kincaid, retailer extraordinaire in Madoc; and about descendants through the years, who included Kel Kincaid, co-owner of Kincaid Bros. IGA in Madoc when I was a kid, and Kate Kincaid (a member of the family by marriage), who was the much-loved operator of the cafeteria when I was a student at Centre Hastings Secondary School back in the day. (She fed us well, and that cafeteria’s French fries were the best!)

Murder mystery, The Kincaid ChroniclesOh yes, and there’s that murder mystery I mentioned. It was quite the cause célèbre in Ottawa, back in the summer of 1959, when Joan Kincaid de Marcy, a beautiful young wife, model and owner of modelling agencies, was found dead in her home. Her husband, a dashing Frenchman, was something of a suspect, but there were other intriguing characters in her complicated story too. (Not to mention some dubious police work.) Eventually Joan’s death was found to be accidental, but as Keith’s excellent retelling notes, not everyone believes that.

At any rate, the whole project is a tribute to how much historical treasure can be unearthed (never mind those never-realized mineral riches underneath the old Hastings County farms) by one person’s interest, persistence and hard work at researching, interviewing, sleuthing, and travelling to the scenes of past chapters in the story.

If you’re interested in the history of Kincaid family and/or the history of our part of Hastings County, I highly recommend The Kincaid Chronicles to you!

KIncaid Chronicles back cover

11 thoughts on “One family’s story told, and local history comes alive

  1. Thanks so much Katherine for your very generous review of The Kincaid Chronicles. Before I set out on this research and writing adventure I knew virtually nothing about the Kincaids of Madoc because my father, a Unionville farmer, died when I was seven years old and I was raised surrounded by my mother’s family in Aurora. But having searched out all those Kincaids I am indeed proud of how they made a go of it in a new land.

    • Keith, it was a huge pleasure to read The Kincaid Chronicles; thanks to it I learned so much about this area that I grew up in! Your research work is absolutely formidable, and the story is told in such an engaging way. It is wonderful that, through your hard work delving into the Kincaid family history, you have formed friendships and connections here in our area, and have contributed so much to it. I hope to see you at Hazzards Church this summer, if not before!

    • Hello Keith, Your book sounds like a must-read. I have to say that the part about your family being Irish settlers, who had previously come from Scotland is fascinating to me. My husband’s (and our children’s) ancestors also arrived in Ontario about the same time and had the same ethnic background. As someone who can’t trace my ancestry back very far, I often tell our children that they should be very proud of being 7th generation Essex County residents!
      There are probably many parallels in the stories!

      • Hi Jane. Yes there are many Canadian families who share a Scotch-Irish background. During the 1600s thousands of Scots (mainly from the Lowlands) moved over to Ireland for various economic and religious reasons. Then in the 1800s they moved on to North America because of terrible economic conditions, over-crowding and, of course, the great Irish Famine starting in 1845.

  2. Katherine and Keith…
    First off, so good to see you last Sunday in Queensborough, albeit just a brief stop at School House, a.k.a. the Community Hall!…
    Second, and on point, I would very much LOVE to get my hands on a copy of The Kincaid Chronicles…. sounds like such a wonderful connection to a well-known and loved local family!!
    Please advise the details… how, where, how much, etc., etc., …. to procure the book… It and the information within, will be a welcome addition to my ever-growing library and genealogical search, connected to my childhood home, and surrounds…. Thanks in advance!
    Until next we meet… A bientot!…

    • Hi Ruthanne. I’ll be glad to send you a copy, although it will be some time in September before I can do it because I am at my cottage on Lake Huron and the few copies of the book I have left are at my home in Toronto. Please send me your mailing address to keithkincaid@gmail.com

      cheers
      Keith

    • Ruthanne, it was a great pleasure (as always) to see you folks at the Hazzard’s service and at the corn roast at the Queensborough Community Centre. I understand that by now you and Keith have been in touch and you’ll be getting a copy of his excellent family/regional history. I know you will enjoy it!

  3. Keith: It was indeed a pleasure to meet up with you for lunch last week and to ‘catch-up’ on old times and to remember former school mates from Aurora. After reading about your professional life following school just now, I am truly humbled and honored to be able to say that we spent good times together at church and Sunday School as well as Elementary and Secondary School in Aurora. I too, would love to be able to get a copy of THE KINCAID CHRONICLES. Ted.

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