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!

A Queensborough link to Canada’s first prime minister

Sir John A. MacdonaldAs some readers will doubtless know, preparations are being made to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of the most famous Father of Confederation and Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald. He was born on Jan. 11, 1815, in Glasgow; emigrated to Kingston in Upper Canada with his family five years later; became a lawyer in that city; and went on to great political success and a permanent place in history by being one of driving forces behind the creation of our country in 1867 and prime minister for a total of 19 years.

I was reminded of the upcoming anniversary and attendant celebrations (see this link to some special events in Kingston and elsewhere) thanks to an excellent article by my friend Roseann Trudeau in this week’s issue of the Tweed News. Roseann’s article also reminded me that I should write here at Meanwhile, at the Manse about Sir John A.’s Queensborough connection. Yes, you heard (or at least read) that right: the Queensborough connection to Canada’s first prime minister. You see, Sir John A. was once a property-owner in Queensborough! So there.

I first learned of the Sir John A. connection from Times to Remember in Elzevir Township, the invaluable history of our area written back in 1984 by the late Jean Holmes, the longtime clerk of Elzevir and a woman I remember fondly from my childhood days here. Here’s what Jean’s book says:

Billa Flint

Billa Flint: Elzevir Township politician, entrepreneur, temperance man and all-round interesting character.

“Sir John A. Macdonald owned eleven lots in Queensborough between 1868 and 1870, and some again in 1886. It is reasonable to assume that he would have known the Hon. Billa Flint very well, even though Flint was a Liberal and Macdonald a Conservative. [Note from Katherine: Billa Flint (for whom the village of Flinton is named) was a prominent and wealthy Elzevir Township entrepreneur and politician; he was the local member of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada before Confederation, and a senator after Confederation. The suggestion that Times to Remember seems to be making is that since Flint moved in those Ottawa circles, he might well have suggested to Sir John A. that he make an investment in property his neck of the woods, i.e. Queensborough. Flint was also, by the way, a vehement temperance man, which means that he and Sir John, the latter well-known for enjoying his drink, might have had some interesting conversations. Anyway, back to Times to Remember:] For some unknown reason, Macdonald purchased lots in Queensborough. Later he sold (or lost) all of them to the Merchants’ Bank for the large sum of $6,600.”

Isn’t that just a most intriguing tidbit? Though I will confess I wasn’t sure whether to actually believe it, and indeed I infused some doubt about the veracity of this tale when I made mention of it in the text of the booklet about Queensborough’s history that I helped put together for the Queensborough Community Centre Committee. (The booklet is a fundraiser for the committee’s work, and if you’d like a copy, it can be yours for a mere $3 [plus postage]. Just let me know.)

However, prior to our committee’s wildly successful Historic Queensborough Day last September (which you can read about here; that was a wonderful day!), I saw the proof of the matter. It came in the form of a copy of a legal document that seems to be the turning over of the property to the Merchants’ Bank by Sir John A. and his wife, Agnes, who apparently was co-owner. It is dated Feb. 1, 1870, and all the details are there, including mention of “Lots Numbered Eighteen and Nineteen in the First Range and Forty and Forty One in the Second Range of the Village Plot of Queensboro“:

Sir John deed Page 1

And it is signed by both Sir John (who is listed at the start as “The Honourable Sir John Alexander Macdonald, of the City of Kingston, in the County of Frontenac and Province of Ontario, Knight Commander of the Bath“) and Agnes (“Dame Susan Agnes Macdonald, his wife”):

Sir John deed Page 5

Now, legal documents tend to give me hives because, as a journalist and editor, my life’s mission is to see that information is conveyed in language that anyone can understand, whereas legal documents tend to be written in language that no one can understand. So I wasn’t really sure exactly what this document between the Macdonalds and the Merchants’ Bank is, but since it cites the same amount that Jean Holmes mentions, $6,600, it seems like it is the turnover of the property for default of payment that she refers to. That is confirmed in a note I have from the person who is owed enormous thanks for finding (back in the 1970s) and making a photocopy of this precious document, local lawyer and Queensborough property-owner André Philpot. As André explained in sharing the document with the Queensborough Community Centre Committee: “The copies aren’t perfect but they do show that for whatever reason Sir John bought land in (Queensborough), mortgaged it to ‘The Merchants’ Bank’ and seems to have signed it off to them – presumably because he couldn’t keep up the payments … Sir John was a better nation builder than investor and it looks like this may just have been a speculation that didn’t work out.”

Anyway, since we’ll all be hearing a fair bit about Sir John in the next while because of the bicentennial of his birth, I thought it timely and important to share his Queensborough connection. Really, doesn’t our little hamlet and its history just never cease to amaze you?

A kindred spirit

What a find! A wonderful blog about heritage architecture, history, and Hastings County. Note at top right the Building of the Week: Bobbie Sager’s general store in Queensborough! The blog is at ancestralroofs.blogspot.com.

Thanks to our Queensborough pal Elaine Kapusta, we have discovered a wonderful blog about heritage architecture, with a special focus on Hastings County. It’s called Ancestral Roofs, and you can look at it here – and please do. The photos are gorgeous, and the writing is informed and lively.

In the main panel at left are posts about the writer’s travels and discoveries in Hastings County and elsewhere; down the right hand side are many more photos. It is one of the handsomest and best-written blogs I know. (Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the subject matter is dear to my heart.) Also provided are links to other good heritage and architecture sites (the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, Heritage Canada, Archives of Ontario, Ontario Heritage Trust, etc.) and some well-chosen suggested books.

Ancestral Roofs’ post about a trip to Queensborough, featuring a lovely photo of the 1845 Thompson house

Two of the most recent posts, here and here, are about Queensborough. One is about the grand style of the building that was McMurray’s store, and the other is more about the community generally and Elaine’s family’s historic property specifically. There’s a beautiful photo of the 1845 home owned by Elaine and her husband, Lud, and one of the mill building and the dam in the river. And it contains the very intriguing tidbit that Sir John A. Macdonald is supposed to have briefly owned 11 lots in the area. Now that’s worth investigating!

Of Queensborough, Ancestral Roofs says: “The village calls me back.”

I know what that feels like.