Something’s happening here.

One of Queensborough’s great historic buildings – originally the Diamond Hotel, then for many years McMurray’s General Store – now boasts an art installation that changes every few months. The idea and execution are courtesy of Jamie Grant of the Queensborough Arts Centre (the historic Orange Hall). The current show features photos by Marykay York-Pronk of the Queensborough Beauty group. Lovely! An indication that interesting things are going on in Queensborough…

Drive into Queensborough on any given day, and you’re likely to come away with the impression that it’s a beautiful little place, but a rather sleepy one. You won’t find many other vehicles, and you won’t see too many people. Maybe a cluster of kids riding their bikes around if it’s a weekend, or late afternoon when school’s out on a weekday. Very possibly someone splitting firewood in a driveway. If it’s a weekday, you’ll find Jos Pronk in his machine shop “downtown” (the former Sager’s General Store, which Jos and his wife, Marykay, have beautifully restored), either getting a broken piece of local farm machinery back in business or doing some incredibly high-tech work for a large company in a big city. Also, except for wintertime, there’s almost always someone mowing a lawn somewhere. But that’ll probably be it. You’ll think, “Guess not a lot happens here.”

And you’ll be wrong.

Art in Q: crowds at the show Huge crowds came out for the recent Art in Queensborough/Queensborough in Art day.

Over the years that I’ve been writing Meanwhile, at the Manse, I’ve told you about a ton of community events in Queensborough: church suppers, dances, skating parties, kids’ events like Halloween parties, and maybe most notably the Historic Queensborough Day that we held in 2014 and again in 2017. (The next one is coming in 2020, so look out.) And then there was our most recent grand event, Art in Queensborough/Queensborough in Art (which I told you all about here), which attracted hundreds of people to our tiny hamlet one memorable sunny day last month.

Before I get to the end of today’s post, I’m going to tell you about several more events that are about to happen in Queensborough – and these after a year that has probably been one of the busiest, event-wise, that our community has ever seen. But when I affixed the headline “Something’s happening here” to this post, it wasn’t just because I have a bunch of special Queensborough events to tell you about and Invite you to.

No, it was because I was reflecting one recent day (while mowing the lawn, as it happens) about the fact that people are starting to sit up and take notice of Queensborough.

Queensborough walking tour Our Queensborough Walking Tour booklet has been flying off the shelves recently – to the point where we’ve had to order a third printing.

I’ve already mentioned the hundreds of people – we estimate 600 at least – who came from all over Ontario to enjoy Art in Queensborough/Queensborough in Art. Well, since that event a couple of weeks ago, more people have been showing up – people who didn’t make it to the art show, but who heard about it, and by extension our village, either through the publicity the show garnered (very positive publicity, I might add), or from friends who did visit on that memorable day. They’ve showed up out the blue, on weekdays and weekends, stopping to chat with people they run into, take some photos, buy copies of our walking-tour booklet and then actually do the walking tour. They want to see this special place that they’ve been hearing about.

And I think that is a really good thing – and a sign of good things to come.

You could say, I guess, that Queensborough is making its way onto the map. Not the geographical map – we were, of course, already there (if you looked hard enough). The map I’m talking about is not a physical one but more the map of public consciousness and interest. People are starting to hear about Queensborough, and coming to visit, because of its beauty, its heritage, its sense of community and, frankly, its magic – the word I heard over and over on Art in Queensborough day.

Buffalo-Soringfield-For-What-Its-Worth“Something’s happening here” is the opening line of a classic mid-1960s song by Stephen Stills, recorded by the band Stills had with Neil Young and a few others, Buffalo Springfield. The song is called For What It’s Worth, and even if you think you don’t know, it, you absolutely do. Click here to watch Stills, Young and the rest of the band perform it – and enjoy the ’60s outfits while you’re at it.

Anyway, that opening line is what came into my head as I was reflecting on the recent visitors-to-Queensborough phenomenon. The line makes you think about what that “something” is – and while in Stills’s case he says that the “something” “ain’t exactly clear,” I think we have a slightly better handle on what’s happening in Queensborough. We may not know what the end result will be – but we do know that people from elsewhere are starting to take a real interest in our little community.

Barbecue on Historic Queensborough Day 2014 The barbecue on Historic Queensborough Day 2014: sunshine, good food, and lots of people from near and far. The next Historic Queensborough Day, in 2017, attracted even more people.

What that interest may result in is anybody’s guess. I personally am not keen on Queensborough becoming a crowded, tour-bus-filled, overpriced-snooty-restaurant tourist mecca like Prince Edward County not far to the south of us. I do not want the traditions and the lifestyle of our quiet rural place to be lost. I want those with family roots that run deep in the Queensborough area to still, and always, feel at home here.

From the bridge, August 2019 The view from the bridge in “downtown” Queensborough one day last month. With views and tranquillity like this, who wouldn’t want to live here?

But as I’ve written several times before (like here and here), I’d also be delighted to see someone interested in operating a commercial venture such as a coffee shop, an art gallery, an antiques store, a bookstore or even an old-fashioned general store (ah, those were the days in Queensborough) coming here to our village. Something that would attract (and hopefully feed) visitors without disrupting our quiet way of life. I’d also be delighted to see some of the historic homes and farmhouses in our area that could use a bit of restoration and care get that attention from people interested in moving to a dynamic rural community and contributing to the life of that community.

Something is happening here. We shall just have to wait and see what exactly it translates into over the next few years. But while we’re waiting – hey, we have more special events for you to take part in! Coming very soon! And here they are, in the order they’re happening:

Harvest Dance Q'boro The poster for the Queensborough Community Centre’s Harvest Dance, designed by Orange Hall co-owner and artist extraordinaire Jamie Grant. Click to enlarge.
  • This coming Saturday, Sept. 14, there’s a Harvest Dance featuring Cathy Whalen and the Land O’Lakes Cruisers, a country band that’s hugely popular in the local area, at the historic Orange Hall in Queensborough. Regular readers will know that the Orange Hall was also the venue for last year’s Black Fly Shuffle, and of course for the recent Art in Queensborough show. At both events, the restoration work that the building’s owners, Jamie and Tory, have done was almost as much the star of the show as the art and the music. People were wowed. And you’ll be wowed if you come Saturday to dance the night away. It runs from 7 to 11 p.m., and tickets (advance only) are available at Kelly’s Flowers and Gifts in Madoc and the Unconventional Moose gift shop on Highway 7 in nearby Actinolite, or by calling Elaine Kapusta at 613-473-1458. A good old-fashioned time is guaranteed for all – and all proceeds go to the work of the Queensborough Community Centre.
  • Turkey Supper poster 2019A week and a half later, on Wednesday, Sept. 25, it’s the annual and ever-popular Turkey Supper at St. Andrew’s United Church in Queensborough. I’ve told you all about that event in previous posts, but I’ll tell you now that just thinking about the Turkey Supper makes my mouth water. Church members and all the volunteers who help out are getting ready to roast turkeys, peel and mash potatoes, make delicious homemade dressing, bake some beans, and of course make the pies that Queensborough is famous for. All you have to do is come and enjoy it! The supper runs from 4:30 to 7 p.m., and the cost is a very reasonable $14 for adults, $6 for kids from six to 12 years old, and free to kids under six.
Making pie at Table 1 Learning the ropes of making pie crust at last year’s Master Class in Pie Making. A full house of participants at the Queensborough Community Centre got to learn from the best: three veteran Queensborough pie-makers.
  • And then, just a week and a half after that, it’s How to Make an Apple Pie at the Queensborough Community Centre. This first-ever event is a followup to last year’s sold-out Master Pie-Making Class, when three of Queensborough’s master pie-makers taught a bunch of rookies (including me) the mysteries and secrets of making pie crust. On Saturday, Oct. 5, participants will be able to add to their pie knowledge by learning how to transform a basket of fresh apples (and of course their own homemade pie crust) into a freshly made apple pie. Yum! Spaces for this session are limited; you need to register by Saturday, Sept. 28, and you can do that by calling Elaine Kapusta at 613-473-1458 or emailing elainekapusta@hotmail.com. Last year’s session got rave reviews and was also a whole lot of fun; if you want to be a great pie-maker, you won’t want to miss this one.

Believe it not, there’s still more to come after that: a family Halloween party, and a community Christmas event. But let’s leave those till later. So much is happening in Queensborough that it can be difficult to keep track of it all.

But you know what? It’s all good. What a happening little place!

Coming soon! A day to celebrate Queensborough in the art world

Q in Art logo

The logo for Art in Queensborough/Queensborough in Art, designed by the hugely talented Jamie Grant. Jamie and his wife, Tory, own the Queensborough Arts Centre (the historic former Orange Hall) that will host an extraordinary show of Queensborough-themed artwork on Saturday, Aug. 24. You’re invited!

How many places with a population of around 75 can you think of that could round up more than 100 pieces of art – including one by a member of the Group of Seven – featuring or inspired by that place? I mean, maybe over yonder in England where they have all those quaint villages and dazzling pastoral views. But here in Canada? In Eastern Ontario? Not too many, I don’t think.

Q in Art card

Rack cards that have been widely distributed in local businesses and offices, also designed by Jamie Grant. The folk art shown on the bottom is a detail from Goldie Holmes’s famous Queensborough quilt, showing the Orange Hall (site of our event) and the home beside it. Click on the image if you’d like the see a bigger version.

But (to no one’s surprise, I’m sure) I’m here to tell you that Queensborough can proudly, and truthfully, make that claim.

And what’s more to the point, we’re going to show those works of art, on a very special day this month to which you are invited, and that is going to knock your socks off. I mean it.

On Saturday, Aug. 24, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Queensborough is the place to be for an event called Art in Queensborough/Queensborough in Art. Did I mention that there will be more than 100 works of art on display? Given that submissions and loans of art pieces for the show keep pouring in, the final number may well be considerably higher. Every piece features a Queensborough scene, was inspired by Queensborough, or was done by a Queensborough-area artist. I trust you will agree with me that this is pretty fantastic.

Oh, also fantastic? Admission to this splendid show is free! And some of the works will be for sale!

But there is so much more about Art in Queensborough/Queensborough in Art day. So much so that it’s going to take me more than a single post here at Meanwhile, at the Manse to get to it all and do it all justice. (Stay tuned, for example, for a post about a theme song composed just for this event, along with its video! Not to mention one about the thrilling [and, obviously, delicious – not to mention classic Queensborough] food options that will be on offer during the day.)

But let me try here to give you an overview of the day, which is being organized by the hard-working volunteers of the Queensborough Community Centre Committee. I assume you have already marked Aug. 24 in your appointment calendar. If you haven’t, better hustle off and do that now.

Perhaps first I should give you a bit of background on why Queensborough has been such a magnet for the visual-arts world for as long as anyone can remember. Mainly, it’s because it is such a beautiful place.

Queensborough_in_ summer_credit_Elaine_Kapusta

Looking across the Black River from the historic Thompson House and Mill to the former St. Peter’s Anglican Church. With views like this, how could Queensborough not attract artists? (Photo by Elaine Kapusta)

(I’ll never forget the time a few years back when a city couple came by the Manse to pick up a couple of vintage kitchen chairs that I was helping the Hart’s-Riggs Women’s Institute sell off. [The ladies were surprised to learn that people would pay good money for those classic midcentury kitchen chairs, which they had been prepared to toss into the dump. It was fun!] Anyway, it was a glorious summer day, and as the city couple’s SUV pulled up in front of the Manse the wife hopped out and exclaimed, “I have no idea where I am, but it is gorgeous!” She was right, of course.)

Thompson House

Thompson House, by Queensborough’s Dave deLang. This is one of the beautiful buildings in our village that keep artists coming back.

Queensborough’s location on the Black River, with a dam and waterfall right in the heart of the hamlet, make it an area of “outstanding natural beauty” (as the hosts often say about places in the rural U.K. in a BBC program that Raymond and I have become addicted to, Escape to the Country). In addition, our hamlet contains a number of lovely historic homes and buildings – some beautifully restored and kept up, others quaintly fading. (The latter category is a magnet for artists.)

Queensborough in autumn

The dam and waterfall at the heart, which powered the mills that the village grew up around. (Photo by Elaine Kapusta)

But there is another reason why Queensborough has a special place in the Canadian art world – and this is what brings us to the Group of Seven angle. Back somewhere in the middle of the last century (early 1950s or thereabouts), the Madoc Art Centre was established on a stretch of Highway 7 just a bit south of Queensborough.

Madoc Summer Art School, 1957. This would have been before the school’s move to nearby Actinolite and change of name to the Schneider School of Fine Arts. (Photo from the Ontario Archives via the Madoc and Area Local History Facebook page)

Students at the Madoc Summer Art School, 1957

Students at the Madoc Summer Art School, 1957 Standing at right (in white trousers) is instructor Donald Fraser, a renowned Canadian artist who later moved permanently to Queensborough and painted many scenes here. You’ll be able to see work by Fraser in the Art in Queensborough/Queensborough in Art show on Aug. 24. (Photo via the Madoc and Area Local History Facebook page)

In 1963, the centre moved a bit east and south to the Elzevir Township hamlet of Actinolite and became the Schneider School of Fine Arts, run by a husband-and-wife team of respected artists, Roman and Mary Schneider. (You can read a previous post by me that includes photos from the site of the art school here.)

Cabins at the former Schneider School of Fine Arts

Cabins where the summer art students would have stayed – when they weren’t painting in Queensborough – at the Schneider School of Fine Arts in the hamlet of Actinolite.

One of the instructors for students who came each summer from near and far to learn and to hone their technique was none other than A.Y. Jackson of the Group of Seven, Canada’s most famous artists. (Talk about learning from the best! You can watch a nifty National Film Board video about Jackson here.) Another well-known Canadian painter who taught at the school was Donald Fraser, a scenic painter for the CBC. And both A.Y. Jackson and Don Fraser came to Queensborough and painted!

A huge highlight of Art in Queensborough/Queensborough in Art will be your chance to see an original A.Y. Jackson painting of Queensborough. It shows a 19th-century home (still standing, and still lived in) and a blacksmith’s shop that once stood on the southeast corner of the small “block” that constitutes “downtown” Queensborough. I remember that blacksmith’s building from my childhood here, though it was no longer in operation. (I’m not that old!) What a thrill it was when this painting by a Canadian master suddenly came to light before our Historic Queensborough Day in 2017. The owner graciously lent it for display on that day, and visitors crowded around to get a glimpse. That same owner has once again kindly lent the picture for Art in Queensborough/Queensborough in Art, and it is sure to be the main attraction.

A.Y. Jackson painting at the QCC

A painting by A.Y. Jackson of Queensborough on display at Historic Queensborough Day 2017. (Photo by Shelley Bonter)

Don Fraser, meanwhile, ended up moving permanently to Queensborough and remained inspired to paint local scenes – “the rocky bush and crumbling barns of the Laurentian Shield,” as his online biography puts it – to the end of his life. There will be several Donald Fraser canvases on show on Aug. 24, and some of them will be for sale – your chance to have a piece of Canadian and Queensborough art history of your very own.

Don Fraser painting

One of the Donald Fraser works featuring “the rocky bush” around his Queensborough home that will be on display during Art in Queensborough/Queensborough in Art.

But it wasn’t just the famous artists who taught at the art school who came here to paint; their students did too. I wrote here about my happy childhood memories of the art students invading our hamlet en masse on pleasant summer days, setting up their easels at various spots and working away. We kids loved to look over their shoulders, fascinated to watch them mix their paints and magically re-create on canvas the scenes that surrounded us every day.

As a result of all this artistic activity, Queensborough became something of a destination in the art world. While the Schneider School of Fine Arts closed quite some time ago, painters, photographers and other artists still come to Queensborough very regularly to be inspired by the views in our hamlet. Here’s Nicole Amyot of Ottawa, who stopped in one day a couple of years ago (I wrote about that here) and single-handedly brought back for me those childhood memories of the artists behind their easels in Queensborough:

Artist at work close up

Nicole Amyot of Ottawa working on a painting of the Queensborough mill and waterfall.

As well, the Queensborough area can boast a remarkable number of artists who actually live here: painters, fabric artists, sculptors, photographers, woodcarvers and more. Their work, too, will be on show on Aug. 24, and trust me: you will be impressed.

One of the most famous of Queensborough’s artists is, of course, Goldie Holmes, a renaissance woman who wrote songs and poems and was a pillar of her church and community in addition to being an outstanding folk artist. (I wrote about Goldie and her work here, and in that post is a link to an interview that she did with Sylvia Tyson for CBC television. Her comments in it about life in Queensborough are absolutely splendid.) We are thrilled that Goldie’s famous Queensborough quilt (much admired by Tyson in that video) will be on display as part of Art in Queensborough/Queensborough in Art, thanks to a generous loan from the Tweed and Area Heritage Centre. I suspect it’ll be at least as big an attraction as the A.Y. Jackson painting – because Goldie was our very own artistic superstar.

Goldie Holmes's Queensborough quilt

Goldie Holmes’s famous Queensborough quilt, featuring homes and prominent buildings in the village, will be on display at the former Orange Hall (left-hand panel, bottom row) on Aug. 24.

But there’s going to be so much more to see and do on Aug 24! In addition to the art show itself, you can:

  • Watch artists at work throughout the village. They’ll answer your questions and be glad to show you what they’re doing.
  • Enjoy lovely, quiet music by strolling minstrels (two young professional singers who have kindly agreed to take part in the day)
  • Take a self-guided walking tour of historic Queensborough
  • Steer your kids to children’s art activities
Actinolite, Black River in Spring by Bob Hudson

Actinolite, Black River in Spring by Bob Hudson – a gorgeous work that the artist (a former resident of our area) has super-generously donated for a fundraising draw.

  • Enter a draw to win a painting of the Black River by Grimsby, Ont. (formerly Madoc) artist Bob Hudson, very generously donated by the artist himself
  • Listen in on an interview with Tweed-area artist Audrey Ross, who’ll share her memories of attending the art school as a student
  • And here’s almost the best part: amazing food! (This being Queensborough, of course you knew there’d be amazing food.) At the Queensborough Community Centre (our historic former one-room schoolhouse), there’ll be a barbecue featuring the ever-popular peameal bacon on a bun and (a first for Queensborough), veggie burgers for the non-meat-eaters among our visitors.
Orange Garden, Queensborough

The beautiful Orange Garden, right beside the Orange Hall (Queensborough Arts Centre) is where you’ll be able to enjoy classic small-town sandwiches (or a picnic that you bring yourself) in lovely surroundings.

  • Meanwhile, in the absolutely stunning Orange Garden created beside the Orange Hall by Jamie Grant and Tory Byers, you’ll be able to get those amazing church-basement (as I like to call them) sandwiches that only church ladies know how to make: egg salad, tuna salad and so on, cut into cute little triangles and so delicious that you can eat about a hundred of them and still want more. It was the brainwave of tireless Queensborough Community Centre Committee volunteer Elaine Kapusta to serve up those sandwiches for sale, and I just know they are going to be a major, major hit. (I know at least one person who is coming to Art in Queensborough/Queensborough in Art just for the sandwiches.)
Queensboro by Robert Huffman

Queensboro (note the old-fashioned spelling) by Kingston artist Robert Huffman. Can you tell which part of our village this depicts? The painting will be one of more than 100 on display Aug. 24 at the Queensborough Arts Centre.

Really, it’s going to be an incredible – and dare I say it, historic – day. If you love art, Queensborough, local history, food, rural communities that are doing cool things – or, as is very likely, all of the above – then please join us!

This spring it’s a social whirl in Queensborough

A social whirl indeed! This video shows Elaine and Betty of the Queeensborough Community Centre Committee reminding themselves of some square-dancing moves at a recent planning meeting for the Black Fly Shuffle in Queensborough. Why are they doing this, you ask? Because we are going to be square dancing next month – and you’ll be wanting to join us!

People, there is so much happening in Queensborough in the next three months that I’m having trouble keeping track of it all. And I have an advantage over many of you, in that I’m involved in planning most of these events. So if I can hardly keep track, gracious, you must be all at sixes and sevens in planning your Queensborough social calendar. Which is why this blog post is here: to fill you in on all the social events of the season. Get out those planning agendas and let’s go.

Kayakers going over the dam, Queensborough

Unfortunately we probably won’t be seeing this amazing sight in Queensborough this spring, but there are a lot of other events happening. (Photo by Charlene McKeown)

My first bit of news is that one of the highlights of early spring in Queensborough probably won’t be happening this year. The annual Marmora Area Canoe and Kayak Festival, which had been scheduled for this coming weekend (Saturday, April 7, and Sunday, April 8) has been postponed and may well be cancelled altogether because of low water levels in the local rivers that the daring paddlers go down – including the Black River, which is where the most popular run of the festival concludes in “downtown” Queensborough. This means that we won’t be able to enjoy the colourful spectacle of kayakers going over the dam, and the social time and good food that happen as volunteers with the Queensborough Community Centre Committee barbecue hamburgers and hot dogs and serve up slices of homemade Queensborough pie to chilly participants and interested spectators. There is a tentative new date of Saturday, April 21, and Sunday, April 22, but that’s only if there’s enough rainfall to increase water levels sufficiently.

Welcome kayakers

We probably won’t be able to welcome the paddlers and kayakers this year; low-water conditions (seriously?) mean their annual voyage down the Black River to Queensborough won’t happen.

(Now, if you’re like me, you’re scratching your head and wondering, “How the heck can water levels be low when we got so much snow this past winter?” I sure wish I had the answer to that question. It makes no sense to me.)

But on to all the great events that are happening! Here they are, in chronological order:

Wednesday, April 25: It’s the annual, ever-popular Ham Supper at St. Andrew’s United Church in Queensborough. You know about this one, people; I’ve written many times before (like here, for instance) about our fantastic old-fashioned church suppers (ham in the spring and turkey in the fall) at St. Andrew’s, so you know the drill. It’s a great meal, complete with our famous homemade pie; it’s a chance to socialize with old friends and meet new ones; it’s a delightful rural tradition; and it’s all in aid of a good cause: the ongoing work of St. Andrew’s in the Queensborough community and beyond. Here’s a poster with everything you need to know:

Ham Supper poster 2018Sunday, May 6: Speaking of annual and ever-popular events: it’s the Pancake Breakfast at the Queensborough Community Centre. People come from near and far to enjoy pancakes with fresh local maple syrup, sausages, bacon, eggs, toast and of course good conversation. The food is made and served up by the men of the community, and they do a great job. The place is always packed, and the breakfast and conviviality are second to none. The essentials: 8 a.m. to noon, 1853 Queensborough Rd. For more information, like and follow the QCC’s Facebook page (Queensborough Community Centre) or call chief organizer Ann at 613-473-4550.

QCC pancake breakfast

The men of our community do the heavy lifting at the hugely popular Pancake Breakfast – though the women do lots in the background!

Wine, Cheese and ChatSaturday, May 12: This one is the direct opposite of the previous tried-and-true favourites. It’s something brand new! Wine, Cheese and Chat is a chance for Queensborough and area residents to gather and talk about what we’d like to see happen in our community, and how we can make those things happen. (All the while enjoying wine and cheese, of course.) When you think about it, the people who live in our tiny hamlet and immediate area have achieved an amazing number of things in the past half-dozen or so years: beautification projects, a walking-tour booklet, an increasingly popular Summer Drop-In program for kids, plaques in front of historic buildings, new made-in-Queensborough street signs and a new welcome sign, family events including barbecues, corn roasts, skating parties, potluck suppers, Christmas parties and Halloween parties, a sold-out master class in pie-making, and two extraordinarily successful Historic Queensborough Days. Wow! So: what’s next? What does our community need in the way of services, or events, or attractions, or businesses? Bring your ideas, big and small, and join in friendly discussion and planning with the other people who are fortunate enough to call this beautiful little place home. It’s at the Queensborough Community Centre (1453 Queensborough Rd.), starting at 4 p.m.

LOL by Jamie

One of the many gorgeous images of the Queensborough Orange Hall that its new owner, Jamie Grant (a graphic designer by profession) has made and shared. The hall is going to host a humdinger of an event on Saturday, May 26.

Saturday, May 26: Oh man, this is a good one! A few years back, the Queensborough Community Centre Committee hosted springtime dances, called – appropriately for what happens in Queensborough in springtime – the Black Fly Shuffle. They were always filled to capacity and then some. But for one reason or another, the annual dance is one Queensborough event that fell by the wayside. Well, people, the Black Fly Shuffle is back – in spades!

Jamie and Tory at LOL by Gary Pattison

Jamie Grant and Tory Byers, new owners of the Historic former Orange Hall, are turning it into a great arts space that can be used for community events, such as the Black Fly Shuffle next month. (Photo courtesy of Gary Pattison)

First: It’s going to be held at the former Orange Lodge, one of the oldest and most important buildings in Queensborough’s history. The hall has served over the years as church and Sunday School (before any of Queensborough’s four churches were built), entertainment venue, dance hall, voting place, and maybe even hospital during the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic, in addition to being home to the Loyal Orange Lodge Branch 437. Every longtime Queensborough resident (or former Queensborough resident) over a certain age can remember going to dances there, and judging by the tales, there were some lively times – and also some wild and woolly ones. (Let’s just say that some of the attendees may have brought along liquid sustenance in brown paper bags.) Now, our Black Fly Shuffle is going to be family friendly – no alcohol served – but that’s not going to stop it being lively! And I’ll get to that in a second. First I want to say that Queensborough is so fortunate that husband-and-wife team Jamie Grant and Tory Byers have bought the Orange Hall, which had been long unused and was falling into deep disrepair, and are not only restoring it but happily opening it up to the community for special events. Last Halloween, for instance, Jamie and Tory put on a spooktacular multimedia musical extravaganza for local kids (and their parents) at the hall. Thanks to them, we’re going to have our first Orange Hall dance in Queensborough for nigh on half a century.

Next: We’re going to do old-fashioned square dancing. Square dancing, people! Remember flouncy gingham skirts and do-si-do and allemande left and allemande right and swing your partner and all that stuff? Okay, I admit my own memory of this phenomenon – which I viewed through a little kid’s eyes when I was growing up here in Queensborough – is a bit hazy, but judging by the near-ecstatic reaction we’ve had from local folks who fondly recall the days of square dances, this is going to be quite the thing – and a night to remember. We have a caller from the Canadian Olde Tyme Square Dance Callers’ Association, music by the local band The Country Travellers, who know the deal when it comes to square dancing, and some square-dance veterans who are happy to help us rookies learn the steps. And speaking of learning the steps, here’s another video from our recent planning meeting in which Elaine Kapusta and Betty Sexsmith, both of whom were part of the square-dance era in Queensborough, explain the moves to fellow QCC volunteers Joan and Stephanie Sims (while other QCC volunteers, including my husband, Raymond, watch, learn and smile):

But: that’s only Part 1 of the Black Fly Shuffle! The first half of the evening will end with a lunch served at 10 p.m., just the way it used to be back in the day. The food – sandwiches (the church-basement type that I’m so fond of), cheese, pickles, coffee and tea – will be provided by the attendees; it’s basically a “Ladies Please Bring Lunch” (read about that old tradition here) event, but with the understanding that anyone in the family – not just the “ladies” – can (and should) put together those yummy egg-salad or salmon sandwiches, or slice up that extra-old local cheddar. And then after lunch, it’s Part 2 of the dance, this time with a band playing more recent music that should appeal to both the younger set (though we hope they’ll be square-dancing in Part 1 like these kids) and the older crowd too. And I am thrilled to report that the band will be The ToneKats from Kingston, whose bassist and lead singer is none other than my brother, John Sedgwick. Who is delighted at the prospect of performing at the Orange Hall around the corner from the Manse where he, like me, grew up. The ToneKats’ repertoire is very dance-friendly: CCR, Tom Petty, Blue Rodeo, Elvis, Foo Fighters, the Hip. People, we are going to be rocking (as well as square dancing) at the LOL in Queensborough that night!

The ToneKats

The ToneKats, the band from Kingston, Ont., that will be rocking the LOL in the second half of the Black Fly Shuffle on Saturday, May 26. That’s my little brother John on the right, playing bass. (Photo from The ToneKats’ Facebook page)

Details such as where and how to buy tickets for the Black Fly Shuffle – there will be a limited number based on the hall’s capacity, and we expect them to go very quickly – will be posted on the QCC Facebook page (and here at Meanwhile, at the Manse) as soon as they’re available. Stay tuned, and get ready for a night to remember.

And finally: on Sunday, June 10, St. Andrew’s United Church will hold its second annual Music Night to raise money to send two Queensborough kids to Camp Quin-Mo-Lac this summer. Regular readers may recall that our first such effort, last May, was a huge success, with the church packed, some great musical entertainment, and the money to send two kids to camp easily raised. We’re looking forward to a similar success this year, and we’ll feature a fresh array of local musical talent. The music will start at 7 p.m. and will last for exactly an hour and a half, and then there’ll be a time of fellowship (complete with excellent snacks) in the church hall afterward.

Packed church for music night

The sanctuary at St. Andrew’s United was overflowing for our first Music Night last year. We have high hopes that the same will be true this June 10, as we bring you some great local musical entertainment to raise money to send two children to Camp Quin-Mo-Lac.

So I think you’re getting the picture here. And I should add that I’ve only included the confirmed events; there are a couple of other exciting possibilities in the pipeline that I’ll share with you if details are firmed up.

All in all, I think I’m safe in saying that when it comes to good things going on, the hamlet of Queensborough (population approximately 75, though we go up to a mighty 300 or so when the Greater Queensborough Area is – as it should be – included) punches way, way above its weight. And also: knows how to have a good time!

This year, Queensborough is Halloween Central

The Grim Reaper

Boo! The Grim Reaper welcomes you to Ghost Crossing. He’s just one of many Halloween-themed decorations to be found around Queensborough as we gear up for the big night.

You know, before Raymond and I moved to Queensborough (or in my case, moved back to Queensborough), I found Halloween a large annoyance. Our house in Montreal was not in an area where we could expect little kids in costume to knock at the door in search of treats; instead, Halloween seemed to be all about adults who (in my view) should have known better showing up for work on the weekday closest to Oct. 31 in silly getups. “Since when did Halloween become a thing for adults?” I used to grumble, curmudgeon cap firmly jammed onto my head. In retrospect I realize that I was unfavourably comparing Adult Halloween In The Big City to the sweet Kid Halloween In Queensborough of my midcentury childhood.

And really, no Halloween could compete with Kid Halloween in Queensborough in about 1968. Or wait – maybe it could! In fact, I think this Halloween – that would be Halloween 2017 – in Queensborough will very possibly be the best ever!

Which is why I’m writing what should be next week’s instalment of Meanwhile, at the Manse a few days early: so you have time to rearrange your schedule so as to be in Halloween Central – Queensborough – this Halloween.

First: this coming Saturday (Oct. 28) will be the second annual Queensborough Halloween Family Party at the Queensborough Community Centre:

Halloween flyer 2017

As regular readers may recall, I attended and wrote about our first such Halloween Party venture last year (that post is here): it was an old-fashioned, apple-bobbing, musical-chairs, fun-and-games-and-treats event, and everyone (including me) had a splendid time. When we put the flyer for this year’s event up on the Queensborough Community Centre Facebook page, it immediately got a ton of likes and shares, which suggests to me there’s going to be a good turnout on Saturday. That turnout should include you!

Next: the big night itself!

Manse Halloween candy

Halloween candy ready to be put into treat bags and given out here at the Manse. Do you think Raymond and I are ready?

As I’ve written before, Queensborough is kind of the perfect place for Halloween. The village is just big enough that 1) kids should get enough candy to make them happy and give them a suitable sugar fix, without having to trudge up and down many suburban streets, or be driven to a larger nearby town; and 2) we pretty much all know each other here, so we can greet the little trick-or-treaters by name and they (and their parents) know and trust the folks who are doling out the candy. Plus it’s such a pretty little village, and with the dried fallen leaves blowing about in the wind on a bright moonlit night, it has just the right feel for a friendly Halloween experience.

As you can see from my photo at the top of this post, people are getting into the Halloween spirit with decorations outside their homes. Here are a few more bits of evidence:

Grinchy pumpkin

A rather grinchy-looking Pumpkin-Head.


Pretty pumpkin display, top o' town

A pretty pumpkin display at the top of the village.


Spooky motorcycle

Ghost rider?


Spooky stuff on King Street

There’s some spooky stuff going on in this front yard.


Pretty pumpkins at Goldie's house

A welcoming doorway.


Skeleton in chains

I wouldn’t want to run into this chap in a dark alley…


Halloween bear

The delightful chainsaw-carved bear that adorns the front of the house of our friends Ed and Jen now has a special seasonal touch.

But this year is going to be something special! Why? Because the new owners of the historic Orange Hall, just around the corner from the Manse, are promising a Halloween spook-tacular in their newly renovated interior space.

The LOL

The former home of the Loyal Orange Lodge Branch 437 is one of the oldest and most important buildings in Queensborough. Over the years it has been used as a concert and entertainment venue, for church services (before any of Queensborough’s four churches were built), as a polling place in elections, and for many a wedding dance, in addition to its official lodge service. It had been unused and left to decay for some years, but brand-new owners Jamie and Tory have been doing big renovations and repairs and have already turned it into a spectacular space. On Halloween, that “spectacular” becomes – spook-tacular!

I promised I wouldn’t give out the details ahead of time, but I happen to know that Jamie and Tory, who are artistic, inventive and whimsical (as you can tell from the Happy Orange symbol that Jamie has made the emblem of the building, and that adorns the west side of it), will have that old hall decked out in stunning Halloween style. Visitors to it on our recent Historic Queensborough Day were blown away by the work the couple have done; the hall’s Halloween getup is going to be just as much of a blast, for parents as well as kids.

All in all, people, here’s the thing about Halloween in Queensborough: you don’t want to miss it!

“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!

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?