Give me more of that old-time entertainment

Queensborough Orange Lodge

The former Orange Lodge is one of the oldest buildings in Queensborough. It’s not exactly in the greatest repair at the moment, but wouldn’t it be something if it could be restored to one of its past uses: as an arts centre for residents of the area?

One of the most striking and historic buildings in Queensborough is the tall old wooden barn of a place that for many, many years served as the Loyal Orange Lodge – the L.O.L., as the fading green paint atop of the building’s facade still says. It stands unused except for storage, and has definitely seen better days. An unfortunate renovation some years back made a bit of a mess of the original front doorways. But it’s loaded with history, and, as a column in one of the local papers reminded me rather indirectly the other day, was an important spot for entertainment in our little village back in the days when entertainment was hard to come by.

Queensborough L.O.L. showing windows

The unusual windows in the building, 16 panes of wavy old glass over 16.

As you can read in the walking-tour guide to the hamlet’s history produced by the Queensborough Community Centre, the Orange Hall (as everyone calls it) is one of the earliest buildings in Queensborough, erected in 1862. It served not only as the lodge for local members of the ultra-Protestant Orange order until the 1980s (yes, you read that correctly), but as the first place of worship in the village. Anglicans, Methodists and Presbyterians (though presumably not the Roman Catholics) all gathered there for Sunday services and Sunday School before their own churches were built, starting with St. Peter’s Anglican in 1871.

I have also been told, though have not been able to confirm this, that it served as a hospital during the deadly Spanish Flu epidemic that swept North America in 1918.

Back in the days of my childhood here in Queensborough, the Orange Hall was the local polling place; I believe I remember my parents going there to vote in the federal election that brought Pierre Trudeau to power in 1968, and also (dimly) them going to the hall to vote in a referendum on whether Elzevir Township (where Queensborough is located) should stay “dry” (that is, no selling of alcohol permitted) or go “wet.” (I assume this vote was brought on by a restaurateur, possibly the owner of a German place called Mother’s that opened back in the early 1970s, wanting to get a liquor licence. And I’m not sure how the vote went, to be honest.)

But the other thing the Orange Hall was used for back in the day was entertainment: dances and musical performances and travelling shows, including medicine shows. Those were the days before television and even radio, when people worked long hours and had to make their own fun; that is doubtless why every town and village had super-competitive hockey and baseball teams. Christmas pageants and church socials and card parties and quilting bees were where people gathered for a bit of respite from work and the often-hard realities of day-to-day life. The Orange Hall, which I have been inside once since Raymond and I bought the Manse, still has the stage from which performers would have entertained people of the village with songs, readings, plays and declamations on the virtues of some quack medicine or other.

The stage in the old Orange Hall

The stairs lead up to the stage at the front of the old Orange Hall, which is now used for storage.

The newspaper piece that got me thinking about all this was the Heritage Herald in the Tweed News, a column produced weekly by the tireless Evan Morton, curator of the Tweed and Area Heritage Centre. Evan was writing about an old photo that had been donated to the centre, showing a group of young men in uniform at what seems to be a First World War recruiting event at the Hungerford Township Hall in the village of Tweed. Also in the photo is a poster advertising a coming appearance at the hall by a Tom Marks. Being the diligent historian that he is, Evan had looked into this and reported that Tom Marks was a member of a vaudeville troupe that was once hugely popular in Canada and the U.S., the Marks Brothers, known as “The Canadian Kings of Repertoire.”

The Marks Bros.

A poster for “The Canadian Kings of Repertoire,” the Marks Brothers of Perth, Ont. You can find this and more photos related to this once-famous vaudeville troupe at this excellent Flickr page.

The brothers – Joseph, Thomas, Robert, Alex, Ernest, John and  McIntyre – “left the farm and took to the boards and the footlights throughout the latter part of the 19th century and into the 1920s. The brothers from Christie Lake, near Perth in Eastern Ontario, played to an estimated eight million Canadians, as well as to sizeable audiences in the United States. Their road shows, largely melodramas and comedy, kept audiences crying, booing, laughing and cheering until movies sounded the death knell for touring repertory companies,” according to a blurb about a book about them, which you can find more about here.

To all of which, I can only say: Who knew?

But also, intrigued by the fact that one of the brothers was to appear in wee Tweed around the time of the Great War, I got to wondering: might the Marks Brothers ever have performed at Queensborough’s Orange Hall? It seems at least possible, given this information provided on this page by a former curator of the Perth Museum:

“They delighted audiences in many remote towns and villages, most of them starved for entertainment, with their flamboyant performances and lavish scenery.”

Would Queensborough have been one of those “remote villages starved for entertainment” that the Marks lads visited? I’d love to know.

But anyway, the photo that Evan featured, and his findings about the Marks Brothers of Perth, Ont., got me thinking about those long-ago days when shows would come to the Orange Hall. And I’d like to share with you a delightful reminiscence of them that is included in the late Jean Holmes’s wonderful history of Queensborough and Elzevir Township, a book called Times to Remember in Elzevir Township. This story comes from the late Ed Alexander, whom I remember from my childhood days here. Thinking back on his youth, Ed told Jean and her history-gathering assistants

about the travelling plays that came to the Orange Hall. The fee was 35¢ to see the show. When he was young, if he did not have enough money to pay his admission, he walked around the block on the wooden sidewalks, with a long stick with chewing gum stuck on the end. He would put the stick between the boards and collect enough coins to pay his admission. The shows were usually medicine shows. The owners were trying to con the public into buying their medicine. It was usually described as a “cure-all.” It was a type of tonic, basically useless. 

And then it gets to the part I just love, referring to a part of those shows that apparently was especially popular with the men who worked in the small mines – gold, silver, marble, iron, lime, pyrite, copper, lead and actinolite – that once dotted this part of central Hastings County:

Along with the sales pitch, there would be songs and skits, and prizes for the most popular female. Sometimes, Mabel Chase, from the Chase Boarding-house in Actinolite, won. All the miners would come to buy the medicine and they voted for Mabel.

Ah, Mabel. Mabel, Mabel, Mabel. What I wouldn’t give to travel back in time to see her beaming and blushing with pride as she was chosen “most popular female” – once again – by the miners and others gathered for the medicine show in the Queensborough Orange Lodge.

Times to remember indeed!

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?

The rusty old pump beside the road, and the story behind it

Cedar School pump

Have you ever wondered why the remains of an old water pump (see bottom right of photo) are beside Queensborough Road? Read on and you will find out.

If you have ever driven into Queensborough from the west, along Queensborough Road – or, for that matter, driven out of Queensborough heading west – you might have noticed the remains of an old rusty pump on the north side of the road just east of the intersection with Cedar School Road. Have you ever wondered why it’s there?

If you’re a relative newcomer to the area, you probably have. But if you’re a longtime resident, you will know – from your own memories, or from the stories your parents or grandparents have told you – that the pump is on the site where a one-room schoolhouse once stood. And you won’t be surprised to know (given the name of the nearby road) that it was called the Cedar School.

Cedar School

Cedar School, which for many years stood at the corner of what are now called Queensborough Road and Cedar School Road. Here you are looking west; the school faced Queensborough Road, and the pump would have been in front of it. (Photo courtesy of Doris Pearce)

Nothing at all remains of the old building now, save for that pump. But when I pass by it, in my mind’s eye I can see long-ago students pumping water into a bucket to take into the building, where a dipper would be placed into the bucket and it would serve as the communal source of drinking water. And I can also imagine students playing around with the pump, with no buckets in hand, just splashing the water on each other and drinking it out of cupped hands. (That’s exactly what we Queensborough kids, back when I was growing up here, used to do at the pump up at the still-extant old schoolhouse here in the village. That pump also served as the source of my family’s drinking water for all 11 years that we lived at the Manse.)

Queensborough Community Centre

The old one-room schoolhouse in Queensborough, now the Queensborough Community Centre.

Cedar School was one of several one-room schoolhouses that existed in and around Queensborough, back in the days when there were no buses and so schools had to be within walking distance of their pupils.  I’ve already mentioned the one that was right in the village (and that now serves as the Queensborough Community Centre, site of the hugely popular annual Pancake Breakfast and many other social functions), but there was also a school at Moore’s Corners (east of Queensborough, still standing but now a private home); one way back in the small community that was (and still is) known as “the Rockies” northeast of Queensborough; and then there was the one known as the Red School, southeast of the village on what is now called Bosley Road.

But Cedar School was, according to Times to Remember in Elzevir Township (the book that is the definitive history of this neck of the woods), the earliest of them.

“The first recorded education for Elzevir Township children was provided by Madoc Township [whose eastern boundary is just to the west of Queensborough] when Elzevir was under its jurisdiction for all municipal purposes,” Times to Remember tells us.

“Queensborough children attended the Union School known as the Cedar School during the 1840s, and possibly as early as 1837 by which time the Cedar School was built … In 1850 … the subjects taught … were surprisingly varied, grammar, geography, history, writing, bookkeeping, measurement, algebra, geometry, elements of natural history, vocal music and linear drawing.”

Later the other schools were built in and near Queensborough, but Cedar School continued in operation a long time into the 20th century, serving children whose families lived in the area west of Queensborough, east of Hazzard’s Corners, and on Hart’s Road southeast of Hazzard’s.

One of those children was my new friend Doris (Broad) Pearce, to whom I owe a big debt of gratitude for showing me the wonderful photos of Cedar School and its students that are reproduced here. When I visited Doris a few months ago, she shared her fond memories of the school and the fine teachers she had there.

Doris’s family lived on Hart’s Road, about two miles from the school. So the children walked four miles a day to and from school, along country roads (perhaps cutting across fields sometimes?) in all kinds of weather, both fine and foul. Did they think anything of having to make such a the trek? Not at all, Doris assured me. Her memories of the walk are good ones – especially the beauty of the arbour of maple trees that once (even into the days of my own Queensborough childhood) covered much of that section of Queensborough Road.

Cedar School students

The student body of Cedar School in 1931. I love this image of the students in the sun-dappled shade of the big old trees. (Photo courtesy of Doris Pearce)

And speaking of trees: do you see all the lovely big trees in both of the photos that Doris shared with me? Now compare those images with what you see in the present day, in the photo at the top of this post.

What have we done to our trees?

The Rock Acres Peace Festival: hippies invade Queensborough

Rock Acres Peace Festival, Queensborough, Ont., 1971

Thanks to the marvellous Facebook page Vintage Belleville, Trenton & Quinte Region, I have access to this great photo of Queensborough’s one and only (to date, anyway) rock festival: the Rock Acres Peace Festival, held at the Quinlan farm on Quinlan Road just west of the village from Aug. 6 to 8, 1971. This photo came from Dennis Weir, and the comment he posted with it was: “My wife actually took the picture and we didn’t meet until a year later.” (Photo from Vintage Belleville, Trenton & Quinte Region)

It is quite within the realm of possibility that nothing so big as the Rock Acres Peace Festival has ever happened, or ever will happen again, to little Queensborough, Ont. Our very own rock festival started 42 years ago today, on Aug. 6, 1971.

Do you remember the Rock Acres Peace Festival? Did you attend it, or (like me) experience it by living nearby? I would love to hear from you! Please post your comments and share your memories, and perhaps we can build up a bit of an archive about this rather amazing (and now half-forgotten) mid-century event in Queensborough’s history.

And if this is all new to you, well: read on. I have details.

Rock Acres Peace Festival site in 2012

The bucolic site on what it now known as Quinlan Road where thousands of young people once, for one brief moment in August 1971, came and listened to music and did whatever else they felt like doing, at the Rock Acres Peace Festival.

Let’s begin with a note about the name, “Rock Acres Peace Festival.” I happen to think it was rather inspired. It got the word “rock” unsubtly in there, but not to describe the festival itself; the festival was apparently one of “peace.” Meanwhile, given the terrain of the Queensborough area – right on the edge of the Canadian Shield – “Rock Acres” is a pretty apt description for the Quinlan farm where the festival was held. I imagine it was one of the two Quinlan sons who organized the event – Leon, then 28, and James Jr., 24 – who had the brainwave about the name. And to this day I don’t have a clue what their parents, farmers James and Margaret Quinlan, thought about this whole project their sons were putting together. I don’t suppose there’s a chance James and Margaret are still alive, given that (according to the Elzevir Township history book Times to Remember in Elzevir Township) they marked their 40th wedding anniversary the same month as the rock festival was held. But it would be so interesting to talk to them – or Leon or James Jr. – about it. Leon or James Jr., if you’re out there…

Anyway. Perhaps first I’ll share my own memories of the rock festival, which you must understand come from someone who was only 11 years old at the time – and the time in question was quite some time ago.

I remember discussing the festival that was to take place at the Quinlan farm just west of Queensborough – and across the township line, so it was in Madoc Township rather than Elzevir Township, where Queensborough is – with classmates at Madoc Township Public School. Since school let out at the end of June, it must have been common knowledge that the August festival was coming at least a couple of months before it happened.

I remember my father, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick (minister of the Queensborough-Eldorado pastoral charge of the United Church of Canada), working together with ministers from other local churches to have a helpful Christian presence on the festival grounds when all those kids arrived.

I remember my dad recounting having seen (or maybe having spoken to someone who had seen) a poster for the festival that had the words JOHN LENNON in huge letters, and above that the words “HOPING FOR” in very tiny letters. Hope sprang eternal! (John Lennon did not, by the way, show up.)

I remember our peaceful little village being absolutely thronged with young people, who gravitated to the two general stores for food and soft drinks, and to the nearby swimming hole at the dam on the Black River, for cooling off. I remember one of them having a rather alarmingly large pet snake curled around his arm.

And I think I maybe remember being kept at home at the Manse a bit more than usual. In general in my Queensborough childhood we kids in summer wandered whenever and wherever we wanted; those were simpler times. But I suspect we were quietly kept close to home that rock-festival weekend, for fear we might come into contact with behaviour we perhaps should not have been exposed to. (Which might not have been a bad idea. Not long ago my Queensborough friend Elaine, reminiscing about the rock festival, shared the fact that at the swimming hole at the dam – which is at her family’s property – there was quite a bit of public fornicating going on.)

But whatever: it was all so very exciting! Queensborough found itself in the news, big-time, thanks to the rock festival and the attendant issues and controversies it stirred up.

My father preached a sermon in advance of the festival suggesting that we not condemn these kids (the festival attendees) before we’d even had a chance to meet them, and that we reach out to them and show them Christian kindness and goodness. That didn’t sit well with everyone; there were quite a few people in the area who were more than ready to condemn the event, and its participants, sight unseen. I recall my dad being interviewed about his somewhat controversial stand by one of the big Toronto newspapers (whether it was the Star or the Globe and Mail or the Telegram I’m not sure, and I’ve so far failed to find the article that was subsequently published), and it was quite something to see him featured in the reporter’s news story. (This of course being long before I got into the newspaper business and got more used to such things.)

As for putting into practice that Christian kindness, I recently had a very pleasant chat with Don McEwen of the Eldorado area, who was, with my dad, a member of the local ministerial association that had worked on having a presence at the festival. (A tent, maybe? I’m not sure.) Don and my dad may well have been the most present on site of the local ministers, and without going into detail, Don suggested that it was quite something to behold. Apparently the words “This is Sodom and Gomorrah” escaped my father’s lips. But there those young ministers were, on the ground and trying to do the right thing, and God bless them (as I am sure S/He did) for it.

The last memory I have of the rock festival is that it ended before it was supposed to, with a police bust-up. Some motorcycle-gang members showed up and things got ugly, at which point the Ontario Provincial Police moved in and that was the end of that.

And Queensborough’s day in sun (at least the sun that shone on rock festivals in that brief shining moment between Woodstock in August 1969 and when mass gatherings at outdoor music festivals kind of trickled out a few years later) was over.

So those are my memories of the Rock Acres Peace Festival. Now let’s see what we can find out there in the wilds of the internet!

Okay, here is a contemporary (Aug. 11, 1971) report (of sorts) in the Renfrew Mercury-Advance (now the Renfrew Mercury, a Metroland paper):

Column in the Renfrew Mercury-Advance on the Rock Acres Peace Festival in Queensborough, Ont.

How charming that a little local newspaper a hundred miles northeast of Queensborough off in the Ottawa Valley considered our rock festival newsworthy! The columnist is Bruce Paton – who, I think, later became a photojournalist and photojournalism instructor. But in August 1971 he was very young, and (no disrespect intended, Bruce) writing some pretty awful small-town-newspaper prose. The column, in fact, makes no sense at all (judge for yourself by reading the full thing here), but we have to remember that it was 1971, and free-form everything, including writing, was all the rage.

Next: a Canadian Press report published in – of all places! – the Montreal Gazette, where Raymond and I now work. It tells of the rather disastrous and abrupt end of the festival, and you can see the full thing for yourself here:

Queensborough rock festival in The Gazette

And here is a totally wonderful period piece that the internet turned up, the first page of the typewritten minutes of the first meeting of Hastings County council after the festival (the biggest thing to hit sleepy Hastings County for quite some time, back in 1971) had come and gone. There is mention of the rock festival – and a bus excursion!

Hastings County Council minutes, September 1971, including mention of the Rock Acres Peace Festival, Queensborough

I also discovered some small bits of information about the bands that played at the festival. For whatever reason, the details of the musical entertainment do not seem to loom large in anyone’s accounts or memories – including mine. The Manse in downtown Queensborough is only a mile and a half or so from Quinlan Road and the scene of the action, but it might as well have been a light year. I had no idea who might actually be performing at our rock festival. But multiple sources – here is one – tell us that the Stampeders were there; you remember the Stampeders, right? (Sweet City Woman, people.) That posting on a Stampeders-concert-history site also lists other bands (Lighthouse, most notably) that might or might not (you can’t tell from the entry) have been there at Rock Acres. And one source – in a forum for musicians, on the topic of “Your First Show” ; go here, and scroll down to the entry by “snowdragon” – intriguingly suggests that Steppenwolf was there too, though I’m not sure I entirely believe it. Could snowdragon have got Steppenwolf (which would have been monstrously famous at the time, thanks to Magic Carpet Ride and Born to be Wild) mixed up with the somewhat-less-huge Stampeders?

Okay, that’s the sum total of what I know, or can find out, about the music at our rock festival. Now here’s one last quirky thing before I get to what is probably the definitive (for now – until you people share your knowledge and memories) accounting of the Rock Acres Peace Festival. Believe it it not, the obscure rock festival on the outskirts of Queensborough is cited in a 1987 article in the McGill (University) Law Journal, headlined “From Delegatus to the Duty to Make Law.” (Boy, that sounds like a real page-turner. Read it here!) I’m afraid life is too short for me to actually absorb the article (which looks to be brutally dull) and find out what it’s about, but I can tell you that our rock festival and the legal case it entailed (Madoc v. Quinlan) is cited on Page 62.

All right, on to some actual rock-festival reportage!

At one point during my research the internet coughed up this text…

Rock Acres Peace Festival chapter in Way Back When …

…which I immediately recognized as pages from the excellent history of Madoc Village and Madoc Township called Way Back When…, a book written as a summer-job project by two of my contemporaries at Centre Hastings Secondary School in Madoc, Ardith McKinnon and Garnet Pigden. The book, published in 1975 and an invaluable resource for local history, is long out of print and desperately hard to find. (Copies start at $60 on used-book site abebooks.com, and go up to $100. So you can imagine why I almost went into hysterics of joy when I found a copy for a dollar a few months ago at a Madoc yard sale.)

Way Back When… has a lengthy report on the festival – 11 pages’ worth. It really seems like Ardith and Garnet did their homework. There is so much interesting detail! Obviously there’s way too much text for me to reproduce it all here, but let me give you some highlights in point form:

  • The municipal authorities learned by accident – literally – of the plan by the Quinlan boys to hold the festival. In February 1971 posters and tickets for the event were found by the OPP in a car Leon Quinlan had been driving that was involved in a minor crash.
  • Once the secret was out, the Quinlans reported that they had been advertising the festival across North America since September 1970. “They said that they were prepared to spend $3,600.00 to hire thirty off-duty police to patrol the farm in three shifts daily…They were supposed to have planned four tenting areas, a service area for police, and for medical facilities, plus two sound stages, water and sanitary facilities,” Way Back When… says.
  • Madoc Township council immediately started looking into what it could do to put the kibosh on the Quinlans’ plans, at the behest of the populace: “Angry and terrified township residents began besieging the council members to try and stop the event.”
  • The township and county councils and the medical officer of health subsequently passed various bylaws and established regulations setting out strict rules for extra policing, insurance, sanitation, etc. They were doubtless aimed at making it impossible for the Quinlans to comply, and sure enough, they did not meet the various deadlines and whatnot. The township then tried to get an injunction to ban the festival – and won its case.
  • The Quinlans promptly rescheduled the festival from its original dates of July 3, 4 and 5 to Aug. 6, 7 and 8, a Friday, Saturday and Sunday. They said “that the festival would go on ‘come Hell or high water,’ in spite of the injunction.” And they reported that they’d sold 5,000 advance tickets at $10 a pop.
  • The council tried for a new injunction to ban the rescheduled event. The hearing was held in Toronto. The township lost. It sued the Quinlans “for violation of its Land Use By-law.” And it tried for yet another injunction. The hearing was July 30. The township lost again. At this point, it seems everybody resigned themselves to the fact that this sucker was actually going to happen.
  • Harts-Riggs Women's Institute

    The former schoolhouse on Harts Road (now, as at the time of the rock festival, the home of the Harts-Riggs Women’s Institute), where the OPP set up an emergency command post to deal with whatever might arise from the festival.

    “The Emergency Health Services Division of the Ontario Hospital Service Commission set up a field hospital on the site. It had an operating room with two tables equipped to handle major surgery,” Way Back When… reports. The St. John Ambulance, the Addiction Research Foundation, and the Madoc Fire Department prepared to deploy people. The OPP “set up a command post at the Hart’s-Riggs’ Women’s Institute Hall” (about four miles away from the farm, I’d guess). The Quinlans apparently had no telephone(!), so “the Bell Telephone Co. ran a line down the mile-long dirt road to install two pay telephones.”

  • One of the most colourful parts of the book’s reportage is about the outdoor toilets: “The impressive ‘holers’ were thirty feet long and eight feet wide, divided down the middle thus making two sides each thirty feet long. Each side was sectioned into compartments with each section having four circular, roughly hewn holes. The most magnificent of these mammoth ‘outhouses’ was a ‘forty-holer’ complete with all the modern styling such as a natural barn-board look in unisex compartments. Users could sit in these stylish structures fighting the termites and slivers, as they did their daily duty.”

Rock Acres Peace Festival, Queensborough, 1971

“Males with long hair…most needing a wash”: the masses ready for peace, love and music in a photo (which I believe is from the Kingston Whig-Standard originally) that appears with the entry about the Rock Acres Peace Festival in the definitive history of Elzevir Township, Times to Remember in Elzevir Township. (I should maybe note for the record, though, that the book gives incorrect dates for the festival, saying it was Aug. 9-11, 1971. In fact it was Aug. 6-8.)

  • And the throngs started arriving, “many in their bare feet, males with long hair, many with beards, and most needing a wash.” As seemed to happen at most rock festivals of the era, a lot of people got in without a ticket by climbing over fences. The kids slept in tents or the open air.
  • The Children of God and the robed Hare Krishnas showed up to add to the festivities. “Drug peddlers were in full operation,” the book reports.
  • The magnificent outhouses didn’t hold up too well. “By the third day of the festival, the backs were off most of the privies, openly exposing the thrones. Seeking a little more privacy…most festival-goers took to the bush.”
  • There was music! The bands started playing on Friday, Aug. 6, and continued till 1:30 a.m. They played again the afternoon and evening of Saturday the 7th. “It was said that at times the loud rock music could be heard almost a mile away” from the Quinlan farm. (My brother John remembers hearing the music from the Manse, which he says he considered the coolest thing ever at the time.)
  • Late Saturday afternoon, the bikers started to show up: “By late in the evening about fifty members of the motorcycle club ‘Satan’s Choice’ and ‘Para-Dice Riders’ were on the grounds…They terrorized the fans and took over the stage area, creating a ‘no-man’s land’ between themselves and the fans, as the latter took flight before danger could reach them.” The police moved in and arrested a bunch of people on drug and liquor charges.
  • “By noon on Sunday, in the sweltering heat, the fans drifted away. Many went to Queensborough’s Mill Pond to cool off and bathe, a few of them were in need to say the least. Seven hours earlier than anticipated, the rock festival came to an abrupt close.” The book says it was “reliably stated” that peak attendance was 7,000.
  • Okay, so you’re thinking it’s over. Ha! Things continue to get interesting. I totally could not make up this next paragraph from Way Back When…: “About twenty-five young people, recruited by Leon and James Jr. to construct privies, park cars, and collect tickets, as well as try to keep non-paying guests from swarming over the fences, were not paid in full. Boys were given verbal promises of $2.00 per hour and girls $1.50 per hour [note from Katherine here: do not even get me started at this disparity – but those were the days, my friend] for wages. The promoters claimed that $1,000.00 of gate receipts was stolen during the festival. Actually, the money had been hidden in a second-storey bedroom over the kitchen in the Quinlin [sic] farm house, which could be reached by a back stairway.” Hello? I wonder how the authors of the book knew this. Were there charges laid? Was there court testimony? Was it reported in the newspapers? Those allegations strike me as dicey unless they were proven somewhere. A wild story, if true – but is it?

Anyway. After all of this, I think we have to give the last word to the late Clayt McMurray. Clayt was co-proprietor (with his wife, Blanche – and I remember them both very fondly) of McMurray’s General Store, which was overrun with young, long-haired, free-lovin’ customers in those three days in August 1971. This comes directly from an interview with Clayt recorded in Times to Remember in Elzevir Township:

Clayton recalled the Rock Festival in 1971. He had a man helping him and the customers kept him busy putting out chocolate milk and soft drinks. He put them in the deep freeze to cool them off fast and then in the pop cooler. There would be a policeman in front of the store all the time. He was on a motorcycle, and he would be around all day long. Festival visitors swam in the mill pond. They would jump right in, clothes and all, or, in some cases with no clothes at all. It was about 90 degrees for those two or three days. The ones that had jumped into the water with their clothes on would sit on the sidewalk and their clothes would dry in about an hour. A motorcycle gang came in and the festival was closed down. It was a wild week-end, and put Queensborough on the map.

That pretty much sums it up: It was a wild weekend, and put Queensborough on the map.

Let’s conclude this report on the Rock Acres Peace Festival with some music. I think we owe it to our younger selves to hear the Stampeders do Sweet City Woman one more time, don’t you? Here we go:

What once was: photographs from Elzevir’s German Settlement

Historic photo from Elzevir Township, of unknown members of the Kleinsteuber family, probably in the Skootamatta River.

Is this not a marvellous photo, people? It comes to us courtesy of Keith Millard, a descendant of the Kleinsteubers who created the (now long-gone) German Settlement in Elzevir Township [also home to Queensborough, and the Manse] back in the middle of the 19th century. Of this photo, Keith says: “This wonderful photo was in one of the many old groups of photos we have digitized. We don’t know who the buggy occupants were or exactly where, but likely along the Skootamatta [River] not far from home.” (Photo courtesy of Keith Millard)

I have something a little different for you this evening, dear readers. This extremely funky (surely you agree!) old photograph came to me from Keith Millard, who lives all the way out in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island. Keith is a descendant of the Kleinsteuber family that came to Elzevir Township from their native Germany in the early 1850s and pretty much single-handedly created what was known as the German Settlement on the banks of the Skootamatta River, just north of Highway 7 not far from the present-day Log Cabin Restaurant (where the buses stop – read all about it here) and off the road to Flinton. Keith stumbled onto Meanwhile, at the Manse because of my frequent references to Elzevir’s history, and wondered if I might know anything about the German Settlement that he doesn’t. Since it turns out that he is a veritable mine of information about his ancestors, and all I have is the (excellent) history book Times to Remember in Elzevir Township to refer to (which Keith also has) – well, let’s just say that I couldn’t help him out much.

But: perhaps some readers can! Does anyone reading this know anything about Elzevir’s German Settlement? Any memories of Kleinsteuber descendants? Keith has a Facebook page called “My Last Name is Kleinsteuber” here that you might find interesting (and be able to contribute to), and I can provide his email address if you’d like to contact him directly.

He has one question that someone might be able to answer right away (and I can probably answer myself the next time I have time to go poking around where the German Settlement used to be, but that could be awhile): Is anything still there? Are there any remains of the old barns or houses?

And speaking of those barns and houses, here are a couple more great historic photos that Keith sent. What an amazing peek into Elzevir’s past!

The Kleinsteuber family homestead and farm at the German Settlement in about 1910. The question descendant Keith Millard (who lives way out in Vancouver Island) has is: does any of it still stand? If not, how amazing to think a good stury farm like this could just disappear within a century. (Photo courtesy of Keith Millard)

The Kleinsteuber family homestead and farm at the German Settlement in about 1910. The question descendant Keith Millard (who lives way out in Vancouver Island) has is: Does any of it still stand? If not, how amazing to think a good sturdy farm like this could just disappear within a century. (Photo courtesy of Keith Millard)

Of this amazing (and quite delightful) very old Kleinsteuber family photo at the German Settlement, Keith Millard tells me it shows: "John Henry Lorenz Kleinsteuber's [one of the original German Settlement settlers] daughter Amanda, his daughter-in-law Lela (she and John David [Kleinsteuber] lived for many years in Tweed), and Lela's and John David's daughter Lucy Anna Mildred Kleinsteuber, who married Arthur Robinson. (I believe [nearby] Robinson Road was named after his father or grandfather.)  Amanda was married to Oran Greatrix, who owned the General Store in Actinolite …" – and a bit of a long-ago family scandal follows, quite entertaining, but I don't think I should be spilling another family's secrets! (Photo courtesy of Keith Millard)

Of this amazing (and quite delightful) very old Kleinsteuber family photo at the German Settlement, Keith Millard tells me it shows: “John Henry Lorenz Kleinsteuber’s [one of the original German Settlement settlers] daughter Amanda, his daughter-in-law Lela (she and John David [Kleinsteuber] lived for many years in Tweed), and Lela’s and John David’s daughter Lucy Anna Mildred Kleinsteuber, who married Arthur Robinson. (I believe [nearby] Robinson Road was named after his father or grandfather.) Amanda was married to Oran Greatrix, who owned the General Store in Actinolite …” – and a bit of a long-ago family scandal follows, quite entertaining, but I don’t think I should be spilling another family’s secrets! (Photo courtesy of Keith Millard)

A little history for a rainy day

Grey skies over the Manse early this morning – which meant it would have been a great day for staying inside and doing some historical research on Queensborough.

Grey skies over the Manse early this morning – which meant it would have been a great day for staying inside and doing some historical research on Queensborough.

As you can see from my photo, it was an overcast (with gusts to drizzly) morning at the Manse today. And with more rain in the forecast, it would have been a perfect day to curl up in front of our cranberry-red electric fireplace with my treasured copy of the history book Times to Remember in Elzevir Township and do some research for a project I have volunteered to help with: the creation of a flyer outlining a walking tour that will give visitors to Queensborough information about its history and some of its buildings.

Instead, more than a little regretful that our week’s vacation at the Manse had come to an end, Raymond and I loaded up the car and headed back to Montreal, work, and non-Manse life. (But at least there were two cats at the end of the road! As I have mentioned before, the one thing the Manse is sorely in need of – aside from a large renovation, that is – is cats.)

Anyway, back to the historical research and the flyer, a project that I am quite excited about. So many people come through our pretty little hamlet – whether by car, bicycle, kayak, motorcycle, ATV or snowmobile – and stop and admire it, but at the moment there is no source of printed information for them to get answers to questions they surely have, like: How old is this place? Why do I see so many church steeples? What are those two big rambling buildings in the centre of town? (They are the former general stores, one of them also a former tavern and hostelry.) What’s the story on the old wooden building practically overhanging the river and waterfall? (It was a grist mill, and there used to be a very busy sawmill right beside it, both once owned by the man considered to be the founder of Queensborough.) Am I the first person to be struck by what great material there is around here for paintings and photographs? (Far from it. Queensborough has long been an inspiration for artists.)

It could also answer questions that people would never think of, such as: Did Sir John A. Macdonald (Canada’s first prime minister) once own several pieces of land in Queensborough? (Why, yes! Yes he did. Glad you asked.)

A related project that I also think is a splendid idea, and for which I have also volunteered to help with the text, is a marker at the centre of town, down by the picturesque Black River, outlining a little bit of Queensborough’s history. That way all those who stop to admire (and often photograph) the village will get some sense of the past and present of what they are seeing. The need for something like this was reinforced in my mind this past week, when Raymond and I did some touring around rural Hastings County. There are many interesting-looking little hamlets and villages (though none, in my very biased opinion, as pretty as Queensborough), but by and large there is nothing in them to tell the visitor a single thing about them. What’s the story on Thomasburg? Moira? Millbridge? Gilmour? Sulphide? Cooper? Stoco? Bannockburn? You go through them and you’d never know, and I think that’s too bad.

So I hope we will get these projects off the ground. And if I can just get some rainy-day time at the Manse to do my part, well – I will be very glad to do so.

Of ghost towns, and Elzevir (or Johnson’s Corners), and Queensborough

Ron Brown has written quite a few excellent books about the ghost towns of Ontario, and I believe this one is the most recent. Listed in the table of contents are Hastings County places like Eldorado, Corbyville and Millbridge – but not Queensborough (he's got that right) and not Elzevir – or, as it seems it used to be called, Johnson's Corners.

Ron Brown has written quite a few fascinating books about the ghost towns of Ontario (his publisher is the excellent Boston Mills Press), and I believe this one is the most recent. Listed in the table of contents are Hastings County places like Eldorado, Corbyville and Millbridge – but not Queensborough (he’s got that right) and not Elzevir – or, as it seems it used to be called, Johnson’s Corners.

Thanks to Jim Kammer of Belleville, who came upon my blog post wondering whether the Manse-area hamlet called Elzevir really exists, I now know a whole lot more about that place. Jim pointed me in the direction of a chapter of my treasured copy of the history book Times to Remember in Elzevir Township (the township where Queensborough is located) that is about the community of Johnson’s Corners, described in the book’s entry as being on the eastern side of the township (and just west of the village of Flinton in neighbouring Lennox and Addington County. I wrote about Flinton here). The entry has quite a bit of information about the community’s early settlement in the mid-19th century (when it may have been known as Breault’s Corners), about the stores and taverns that once existed there, about farms that were still prospering (and winning awards for cattle at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair) when Times to Remember was published in 1984, and about such things as long-ago community events and the cheese factories to which the Johnson’s Corners dairy farmers used to supply milk.

While I had seen that chapter in the book before, I had not put two and two together as far as realizing that it was the community that now shows up as “Elzevir” on maps. But Jim did, and for very good reason: his forebears were among the earliest settlers of that little community (his great-great grandmother, born in Australia, ran a general store there), and Jim has done a lot of research into family history. If you read his very helpful comments on my Elzevir post, you’ll see he explains that when his own father (who grew up on a farm there) referred to the place, he always called it Elzevir. And he was doubtless not the only native to do so. So you see? Everything’s falling into place, and I think The Great Elzevir Map Mystery is close to being solved. Now all that remains is for Raymond and me to visit next spring or summer and see what kind of community is still there. You can be sure I’ll take pictures!

But meantime, the whole exercise has got me thinking about ghost towns, particularly since my Queensborough friend Graham, in trying to get to the bottom of the Elzevir mystery, found and posted (in a comment here) some links to sites that are about Ontario ghost towns. He was rather horrified – as am I – that Queensborough was listed in them. Let me quote Graham: “HELLO! We’re still here! News of our demise has been greatly exaggerated.”

Food, fun and a crowd at a  community pig roast in Queensborough last September. Does this look like a ghost town, people?

Food, fun and a crowd at a community pig roast in Queensborough last September. Does this look like a ghost town, people? (Photo by Elaine Kapusta)

And that is, I suspect, what residents of some of the other Hastings County communities that tend to get named in “ghost town” lists would say. I’m thinking of Eldorado, and Corbyville, and Millbridge, and Marlbank – all of which are nice little places that I know and like, and where people still live.

Ghost town schmost town, I say. You calling us a ghost town? We’ll be the judge of that. Boo!