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?

Big news: the return of Historic Queensborough Day!

HQD Orange Lodge

The former Orange Lodge, one of Queensborough’s oldest structures and one that has lots of fascinating stories to tell, will be among the buildings open for a peek during Historic Queensborough Day. The historic building has just been purchased by a couple who have very exciting plans for its future. This is wonderful news for Queensborough!

One fine September Sunday three years ago, the biggest and most successful event in recent Queensborough history took place: the first-ever Historic Queensborough Day. One of the comments heard over and over from the hundreds of people who showed up that day was: “You have to do it again!”

Well, folks, I am very glad to report that we are doing it again.

Please mark Sunday, Sept. 10, on your calendar and plan to be in Queensborough that day to learn about and celebrate Queensborough’s history, enjoy a great meal, and meet a whole bunch of old friends and new. Historic Queensborough Day 2017 is going to be bigger and better than ever!

A large group of hard-working volunteers – members of the Queensborough Community Centre Committee plus lots of other interested residents – has been working for some time on the logistics of the day. We’re very much still in the fine-tuning phase, but at this point we have a full lineup of of events, and that’s what I want to share with you right now.

HQD QCC with Buddy Table

The Queensborough Community Centre (the village’s former one-room schoolhouse) will house a raft of displays on Historic Queensborough Day. Outside, barbecued hot dogs and hamburgers will be served, and homemade sweets will also be for sale. Diners will be welcome to sit at the newly installed “buddy table” (at left in photo), a giant picnic table installed by members of the community in memory of indefatigable Queensborough supporter the late John Barry.

The focus of the day, as in 2014, will be the Queensborough Community Centre, where there will be all kinds of displays about Queensborough’s history: the schools, the businesses (stores, hotels, blacksmith’s shops, etc.), military history, the churches, the cheese factories (did you know that wee Queensborough had two cheese factories?), the mines that once dotted the area around us, the railway that had a station here, women’s groups (including, of course, the Women’s Institute), the Orange Lodge (which was as much a community centre as the home of a fraternal organization), the families and genealogies, the “nursing home” (essentially an early hospital), and more. But the highlight will certainly be one of the most famous things ever to come out of Queensborough: a folk-art quilt featuring images of the buildings of the village, made by hand in the middle of the last century by Queensborough’s Quilt Lady, Goldie Holmes. You can real all about Goldie, her fame and her quilts here and here; and here is a photo of the quilt you will be able to see in person on Sept. 10:

The famous “Queensborough quilt” by the late Goldie Holmes that is usually displayed at the Tweed and Area Heritage Centre but for one day only – Historic Queensborough Day – will be back in Queensborough. Can you identify the buildings on it? (Hint: one of them is featured in the photo at the top of this post; another one is the Manse!)

What else is on for the day? Well, I’m glad you asked. A lot!

In no particular order, events include:

HQD The Kincaid House

The Kincaid House, one of the oldest (and most photographed/painted) in the village. This will be the spot to get a family photo taken and at the same time share with our eager history-recorders your family’s history in, and connections to, Queensborough.

  • A presentation, including a documentary video, on the latest available research on the Indigenous peoples who once moved through and camped in the Queensborough area.
  • The ever-popular horse and wagon tours of the village’s historic sites and buildings; here’s a photo of yours truly (the one waving) doing the tour-guide routine on Historic Queensborough Day 2014 as volunteers Bruce and Barb Gordon lead their team, Don and Barney, through the village:
Historic Queensborough Day

Photo by Ruth Steele

  • A visit from none other than Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald – or at least, a most remarkable facsimile. Sir John A. and his wife, Lady Agnes Macdonald, will be on hand to greet visitors and talk about their connection to Queensborough (hint: it has to do with a property deal that didn’t end up all that well), and the great man will make a brief speech to the assembled crowd at 1 p.m. Now how about that?
  • And a new event that I’m pretty sure will be very popular: open doors and a chance to peek into some of Queensborough’s most significant buildings. It’s not a fancy house tour; you’ll get a look inside, but you won’t tromp through every room. And some of these buildings are very much in the “before” stage of the before-and-after restoration process. But it’s a rare chance to get a glimpse of these buildings’ past, present and possibilities, as I like to say. One stop on the open-doors tour is the former Orange Hall, featured at the top of this post and a critical part of Queensborough’s history; we’ll have information about its past, and perhaps some ideas for its future from its enthusiastic brand-new owners, Jamie and Tory. Another is the Kincaid House. Other stops include:
HQD former Anglican Church

The beautiful former St. Peter’s Anglican Church (Queensborough’s first church), now a private residence.

HQD The Thompson House

The outstanding Thompson House, built in 1845.

HQD The Thompson Mill

The grist (flour and feed) mill and sawmill on the Black River that the village of Queensborough grew up around. Queensborough’s first post office was inside the mill, and vestiges of it remain.

HQD Ice Locker at McMurray's Store

The ice locker at the former McMurray’s General Store (and before that, Diamond Hotel). Here ice that was cut from the frozen Black River in wintertime was stored through the year to keep food cool and fresh.

HQD Billy Wilson's Blacksmith Shop

The former shop of blacksmith Billy Wilson, the only one of several blacksmith’s shops that once served Queensborough that is still standing.

HQD Daisy Cottage

The lovely (and in the process of being lovingly restored) Daisy Cottage, the home of Evelyn Lynn when I was a kid growing up at the Manse.

And of course there will be food! The barbecues at the Queensborough Community Centre will be fired up in the morning to serve peameal bacon on a bun for those who’d like to grab breakfast; a little later the volunteer chefs will switch over to hamburgers and hot dogs. You’ll also be able to buy hot and cold drinks and homemade goodies. Hey, it wouldn’t be Queensborough if there weren’t good food!

Barbecue on Historic Queensborough Day 2014

The barbecue on Historic Queensborough Day 2014: sunshine, good food, and Queensborough memories to share.

Those of us who have been working hard to organize Historic Queensborough Day 2017 are feeling pretty excited about it all. The turnout at our first event, in 2014, exceeded all expectations, and we’re hoping for even greater things this time around. If you have any questions about the day, or have artifacts, photos, historical documents etc. that you’d like to contribute to our displays (we’ll take good care of them and get them back to you!), please contact either Elaine Kapusta (613-473-1458, elainekapusta@hotmail.com) or me (613-473-2110, sedgwick.katherine@gmail.com).

Queensborough looks forward to welcoming you on Sunday, Sept. 10!

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

Hey, 2014 was a great year!

Historic Queensborough Day

This photo shows my happiest memory of 2014: Historic Queensborough Day. (You can see that I’m happy by the smile on my face as I wave to my neighbour Ruth.) I was the designated tour guide for horse-and-wagon rides looking at the historic highlights of Queensborough. Bruce and Barb Gordon and horses Don and Barney did a terrific job of getting us all around. (Photo courtesy of Ruth Steele)

As this evening we bid farewell to 2014, I was trying to think of what photo would best sum up the year that’s been here at Meanwhile, at the Manse. Suddenly I thought of one that our friend and neighbour Ruth was kind enough to send me a while back, and voilà: here it is.

It’s a photo of Historic Queensborough Day, a celebration of past history and present community – and beautiful gardens to boot – in our little village. And as you’ll know if you joined us that day, or read my post about it here (or saw the videos of the day done by Terry Pigden of Centre Hastings TV and posted here), it was an absolutely smashing success. The weather was perfect, the crowds turned out, everyone was in a happy mood, the hordes got well fed at the community barbecue, and an absolutely terrific time was had by all. While we might not repeat the event in 2015 (we think we need a year to recover from all the excitement!), it is very possible that there will be a followup Historic Queensborough Day in 2016. To which you are all invited, of course.

Ruth snapped this photo from her front porch as a wagonload of visitors took advantage of the horse-and-wagon rides offered by Bruce and Barb Gordon. (As it happens, Bruce grew up in the very home that Ruth and her husband Chuck now live in and took the picture from!) Those wagon rides were really popular, though I felt sorry for Bruce and Barb, and maybe horses Don and Barney too, having to listen to yours truly give the historic-Queensborough-tour spiel over and over and over. (That’s me waving at Ruth, by the way.)

Anyway, as I look back on this year – which of course has had its ups and downs, its joys and sorrows and happy surprises and unexpected worries, just like any year – that sunny day in September is what I remember best. Our lovely little Queensborough was full of life and good humour that day, and I think there was a general sense that with all of us working together, things can only get better here in our little community.

So on that hopeful and happy Queensborough note, may I wish you all, from Raymond and me here at the Manse: Happy New Year!