Q. What do grandfather clocks and bees have in common?
A. Virgil Garrett
This past summer there was a construction project on Road 38 at the northern edge of the village of Sharbot Lake. For a time there was a stoplight for southbound traffic in front of Virgil and Beryl Garrett's house. One afternoon while a half dozen cars were waiting for the light to change (an unwelcome novelty in this part of the world) Virgil Garrett was standing on the sidewalk, waiting for all the cars to clear the scene before slowly and serenely walking across the road to get his mail, just as he has done since 1949.
In the rear view mirror driving away, Virgil was in the foreground and the sun lit up the landscaped north end of the Garrett property, where Virgil has spent hours trimming, mowing and planting for so many years. Whether on his own property, or in groups such as the Masons, the Sharbot Lake 39ers, the farmers’ market or the school, Virgil and Beryl have been fixtures in the community for longer than anyone, other than Virgil, can remember.
Virgil Garrett was born on April 3, 1922, on a farm on the Zealand Road in what is now Central Frontenac Township. The Zealand cemetery is located on the Garrett farm.
He was the “center” child as he puts it, between older brother Roscoe and younger sister Billie.
Virgil’s grandfather was in the British military and was offered a land grant in Bathurst Township in Lanark County in the 1840s. He eventually moved to Zealand, which was a community at that time, later in the 19th Century. Since that part of Frontenac County was settled up to 50 years later than nearby communities and farms in western Lanark County, the Garrett homestead, which is in the former Oso Township, is one of the oldest in Central Frontenac.
Virgil's father was raised on the farm, did some work in the lumber trade in his youth, and eventually settled down to farming. His mother was a Drew from Long Lake, one of a long line of teachers, a profession that was eventually taken up by Virgil and his wife Beryl.
As a child, Virgil helped out on the farm as much as he could, and attended school at SS #3 Oso Township, about a half mile from his house.
Not only was there no electricity in the school, there was no well on site either, and students had to go to a nearby farm to ferry back pails of water. The school had a woodshed and two back houses, which were stocked with Eaton's catalogues for student use (there was no Frontenac News in those days).
The only light in the school was provided by three small windows on each side of the building, and coal oil lamps. Virgil was a small boy, which came in handy on occasions when the school was accidentally locked by the teacher. A couple of bigger boys hoisted him up and he climbed through the small window on the side of the school porch. He then unlocked the door from the inside.
One of Virgil's first jobs was as the school's caretaker, for which he was paid $11 a year. His responsibilities included daily routines such as cleaning blackboards, sweeping the floor, filling ink bottles on students' desks, and keeping wood available for the stove, as well as keeping the fire burning throughout the day when needed.
In 1937 Virgil was sent off for a summer to Napanee to help out a beekeeper, and that got him started on keeping bees at the farm in Zealand, which he continued even after moving to Sharbot Lake in 1949. At one time he was producing as much as 1,000 pounds of honey in a season, “But at a price of ten cents a pound I never became that rich from it. I don't think I know a single wealthy beekeeper,” he said. Although he only keeps a small operation going now, he has kept bees almost continuously for about 78 years. Virgil has supplied honey to local stores and markets for most of those years, and has apprenticed many beekeepers over that time. When the Sharbot Lake Farmers Market started up a few years ago, he was one of the first to sign up, and although he does not sell a lot of honey any more, he still frequents the market. This past summer he served as a celebrity judge at the first ever Great Butter Tart Challenge at the market.
When the Second World War came along, Virgil was the Garrett who stayed home on the farm because his parents were quite elderly. His brother Roscoe and sister Billie both joined the armed forces. After the war he worked for the railroad in Toronto and elsewhere, coming home on the weekends.
He married Beryl and they built their house in 1949, but Virgil kept working on the railroad for a few years, and Beryl began teaching. In the mid-1950s Virgil went back to high school at the new school in Sharbot Lake near his house, and then took a teaching course in Toronto. In 1959 he took on a job that combined his love of wood-working with his interest and training in education. He became the Industrial Arts teacher at Sharbot Lake High School, a position he would keep for 25 years until he retired in 1984, partly because the dust in the shop had begun to affect his lungs after so many years.
During his years as a teacher, one of his major goals was to find projects for his more advanced students that would motivate them to develop more wood-working skills.
One year he decided to spend the spring break building a small grandmother clock.
“When the students came back to school after the holiday there was the clock, standing on the floor. They asked me where that came from and I said 'when you were on vacation I was doing some work'. About six of them asked if they could learn to make one, and that's what they spent the fall doing when they were in grade 12.”
Virgil and his students became known for the grandfather clocks that were made in the shop, and he has a number of them in his house to this day. Other advanced cabinetry projects followed, and thanks to Virgil the school developed a reputation for craftsmanship.
“Once a student got the idea that they were capable of making something and they wanted to get it made, nothing was going to stop them,” Virgil said of the students he taught in the 1960s and 1970s.
He takes pride in the fact that a number of the best carpenters in the region got their start in his class.
After he retired in 1984, Virgil carried on with his beekeeping and his activities with community groups and the local Masonic lodge, where he has served in a number of leadership roles.
He also, almost accidentally, acquired a 1916 Canadian-made Ford Model T in the 1990s. It tweaked his memory of packing into Model Ts to get to ball games and other events when he was young and he was compelled to get this one on the road. He spent years finding parts in “old barns, flea markets, garage sales” and got the Model T in running order. Although it hasn't been driven recently it still sits, intact, in Virgil's garage.
With some support from family and home help, Virgil is still a fixture in the local community, and, as always, he is as quick with a joke as anyone else.
In 1973, Winston Cosgrove published a 60-page book on the history of Wolfe Island. Wolfe Island Past and Present outlines how the island came to be settled, how it remained in use by indigenous peoples as fall and winter fishing and hunting grounds until the middle of the 19th Century, and how the population peaked in the late 19th Century before beginning a long decline that has only recently been reversed. The book is written in a kind of discreet manner that suggests its focus was more in the past than on what was then the present, and of course 40 years have passed since it was published. It contains, however, much information about how the island community developed from the late 17th until the 20th centuries. In 1685, Robert Cavallier, Sieur de Lasalle, having been granted the Signeury of Fort Frontenac by King Louis the 14th ten years earlier, conferred ownership of what would become known as Wolfe Island on James Cauchois. It was the “first conveyance of any part of Ontario from one subject to another”. The land remained in the Cauchois family for over 100 years, until it was sold in the early 1800s to David Alexander Grant and Patrick Langan for one shilling an acre. Grant had married the Baroness of Longeuil in 1785, and although the sale of the island to Grant and Langan severed all ties to the French monarchy it did establish the Baron of Longeuil as a major force on Wolfe Island. In 1823, David Alexander's son, C.W. Grant, the 4th Baron of Longeuil, owned about 11,000 acres on the island. A similar amount was split among the three daughters of Patrick Langan. Two-sevenths of the land had been turned over to England's King George when the British overturned French rule in the entire region. Grant sold off 100 acre lots starting in 1823, and settlement began in earnest. He also had a large house constructed near Marysville. The house, which was called Ardath Chateau, was known locally as the “The Old Castle”. It had 25 rooms, a dungeon, a carriage house and servants' quarters and was the “focal point for many years of life on the island”. In 1929 the house, which had been unoccupied for at least 15 years, was razed in a fire. “Being a native born Islander, this writer recognises the staunch loyalty among the Islanders for one another and out of respect for this tradition, would prefer 'to let sleeping dogs lie' rather than delve further into the matter.” This suggests that Winston Cosgrove knew more about the fire than he was willing to say, and in all likelihood further information about what happened that dark night in 1929 is still carried by any number of Wolfe “Islanders”. Although “The Old Castle” was certainly grand, the housing situation for Wolfe Island settlers in the early to mid 19th Century was more modest. Fifteen settler families lived on the island in 1823, and this increased to 261 persons by 1826. The population grew steadily, peaking at 3,600 by 1861. When the island was being settled in the 1820s and 30s “the typical house was a log cabin, 20 feet long by 16 feet wide, 6 logs high, with a shanty or sloping roof. Some had glass but most often the windows were only holes in the wall, which could be covered in the winter.” During the 1850s, demand for lumber for D. D. Calvin's shipbuilding operation on nearby Garden Island led to a lumbering boom on Wolfe Island, and the boom ended when the trees were gone. The population began to dwindle at that point, and by the time Cosgrove's book was published in 1973, it was down to 1,200. It had dropped to 1142 by 2001, and the 2011 population survey lists Frontenac Islands (including Wolfe and Howe Island) at 1864. The current permanent resident population of Wolfe Islands, according to Wikipedia, is 1,400, although it is twice that or more in the summer (perhaps excluding this past summer due to the Ferry Fiasco of 2015). Wolfe Island Past and Present contains a wealth of information about landmarks and renowned island residents. It explains how Marysville was named after Mary Hitchcock, who lived all of her 92 years on the island and was its first postmistress between 1845 and her death in 1877. The General Wolfe Hotel, originally known as the Wolfe Island Hotel, was built in 1860. It was renamed the General Wolfe by the Greenwood brothers in 1955, and benefited from the results of a liquor referendum in 1957, which was won by “the wets”. The hotel remains an island landmark and a major part of the hospitality industry. It's 130-seat restaurant has won a number of provincial awards. The final chapter of the book deals with a crucial subject, one that has been top of mind on the island this summer and was also the subject of a discussion and slide show on Wednesday, December 2, “Ice Travel” with Kaye Fawcett and Ken White, which was organised by the Wolfe Island Historical Society. Throughout Frontenac County the history of road and railway construction is full of colour, hardship and a fair taint of corruption and scandal. On Wolfe Island there is an added dimension - the water that separates the island from the mainland and the City of Kingston. It was 50 years ago, in 1965, that a year-round ferry service financed by the Province of Ontario was established on Wolfe Island. Until then the ferry service ran only until freeze up, and during the winter an ice road was the way across. In 1954 the winter was so warm that the ferry was only inactive for 2 days, but between 1955 and the onset of the year-round ferry in 1965, the range was 60 to 110 days, with an average of about 80 inactive days each winter. Over the years, tragedies and near tragedies occurred on the ice on many occasions. One of the more famous events was the near drowning of entire families on Christmas Day in 1955. The ferry was out of commission because of an early winter, but a tug boat, the Salvage Prince, waited at the edge of the ice at Barrett's Bay for families who had come to the island for Christmas Day and were returning to Kingston late in the afternoon. They were being drawn across the ice in a sleigh, but just before reaching the boat, the sleigh went through a wet spot in the ice, forcing a hurried and dangerous rescue, as children, adults and seniors, were luckily all pulled out of the freezing water back to the tug and a boat ride to Kingston. Some were taken to the hospital for observation. An account of the trip by Brian Johnson is available at thousandislandslife.com. In the concluding pages of his book, Winston Cosgrove makes the argument that the economy of Wolfe Island will be doomed unless a bridge is built. “In the past the economy of the island has been purely an agricultural one, with hunting and fishing and summer residents as minor items. Under this system the population has dwindled. The key to the problem is transportation. There is much beautiful undeveloped shoreline and land that is is well-suited for permanent homes but better ways are needed to get to and from the mainland if the community is to develop and grow. A ferry service is not efficient enough ... Meanwhile the Islanders who want a bridge must be content to await future developments while acting as guardians of a great land developed by pioneers, to whom all are indebted.” Although Cosgrove's views may have had a lot of currency this past summer while the Wolfe Islander ferry was in dry dock, Wolfe Island has reversed the population slide over the past 10 years and a number of tourism-related businesses are thriving.
Rightly so, Frontenac Park is considered the hidden jewel of Frontenac County. It is located in the midst of an array of communities and cottage lakes within a stone's throw of Sydenham and is a short drive from Kingston; and yet it is a backwoods park in a unique geological and climactic location. It features the best canoeing, camping and hiking this side of Bon Echo Park, which is also a jewel but one that is less hidden and is also shared between Frontenac and Lennox and Addington. In his definitive book on the back story about the land where Frontenac Park is located, “Their Enduring Spirit: the History of Frontenac Park 1783-1990”, Christian Barber extensively researched all of the development that took place in and around the park before the idea of a park was floated and eventually acted upon in the 1960s. Their Enduring Spirit is not only a valuable resource in terms of how the park was developed; it is also an account of the difficulties posed by the Frontenac Spur of the Canadian Shield on those who were unlucky enough to attempt homesteading in its rocky terrain. The park is located in what were then Loughborough and Bedford Townships, now both part of the Municipality of South Frontenac. Many of the settlers who attempted to make a life in that region did so in the mid-to-late 1800s. There were some Loyalists among them, but there were also a number of Irish immigrants who made their way first to St. Patrick's Church in Railton, and then headed into the wilderness north of Sydenham in search of a new life. What greeted them was brutal and difficult. The history of a number of homesteading families forms the core of Their Enduring Spirit. Based on historic records, interviews with descendants who lived on or visited those who lived on the farms, and by walking the land and examining the remnants that are being reclaimed as wilderness lands, a picture of life in the back townships during the first 100 years of Frontenac County emerges. (An account of the life and times of the Kemp family can be found at Frontenacnews.ca under the “50 Stories/150 Years” tab) The level of poverty among late 19th Century settlers is reflected in some of the minutes of meetings of both Hinchinbrooke and Loughbrough Townships. In the minutes there are accounts of grants for as little as $1 for families in need after the death of a partner or a debilitating illness. Families who had settled on the worst pieces of land, who suffered from any kind of ill health, or for some reason were not able to keep up with the demands of clearing land, building shelter, keeping warm in winter and raising enough food, ended up in desperate straits. That is why settlers would take over abandoned fields and houses and only settle the ownership later on, if they decided to stay. Far from disputing this practice, as long as the property taxes were paid the local townships did not question the ownership of the properties. Mining was one of the few means of getting money for labour, and was also a major impetus for the establishment of the K&P Railroad. The village of Godfrey, to the west of Frontenac Park, was originally called Deniston after the name of the post office but it was known as Iron Ore Junction by the local population. The Glendower company mined 12,000 tons of iron ore between 1873 and 1880, and later the Zanesville company took over and a spur line was constructed between the mine and the Bedford Station (renamed Godfrey in 1901) of the K&P. A large deposit of Feldspar was found between Desert and Thirteen Island Lakes, and it was mined, on and off, between 1901 and 1951, producing a total of 230,000 tons in that time. In and right around the park, it was mica that was the most commonly mined mineral, in small mines as a kind of cottage industry and on an industrial scale as well. There is an account of how a mica mine operated in one of the issues of “The Frontenac News” (not this newspaper but the newsletter of the Friends of Frontenac Park) Below is an excerpt: 1905 - early in the morning Tom Gorsline, the foreman at the Tett mine, is checking the steam piping as a worker starts a wood fire in the boiler that will provide the steam that runs the drill and the water pumps. The miners had been following a vein of amber mica (phlogopite) since 1899 - the main pit now plunged close to 80 feet into the rocks and water sometimes was a problem. Fortunately, the price for mica is on the rise again and the main vein is still good. The hand drillers are already at work. Their job is to make holes in the rock to receive the explosives. The drillers are working in teams of two using a method called "double-jacking". One person, the holder, manually holds a steel drill against the rock. The other, the striker, swings an eight-pound sledgehammer hitting the end of the drill. In between the blow, the holder twists the drill to loosen the rock chips so it does not get stuck in the rock. Then the next blow comes with a sharp clank when steel meets steel. They are drilling at a rate of 1.5 to 2 feet per hour. After a half-hour, the holder and striker exchange places so the striker can have a rest. As you can imagine, accuracy is crucial. If the striker misses, the holder could be maimed for life. This is dangerous enough when they are drilling on the floor of the mine, but often the veins are at the roof of a drift or on the wall of the pit. As soon as the steam from the boiler reaches the right pressure, a miner starts the steam drill. It is faster and easier than hand drilling but the steam drill is enormous, unreliable and unwieldy because of connections with the steam pipes that come down from the surface. As a result, the steam driller is assigned fairly open spaces while the hand drillers work in tight quarters. Drilling is hard and dangerous - there are no hard hats, goggles, or electrical lights - but the dollar a day they are earning helps to feed their families. Now that the holes are in place, Tom calls the blasters. They make sure the holes are dry, otherwise the charges may not go off. They put the black powder in waterproof covers, attach a proper length fuse, and place it down in the hole. They pack the rest of the hole with clay. The length of the fuse is important or they could meet their maker faster than expected. After a few minutes, all charges are ready. The head blaster gives a signal to Tom Gorsline who orders all miners and equipment out of from the mine. When all is clear, the blaster lights up the fuse and moves quickly out of the way. The explosion rumbles and the ground shakes. After the smoke and dust settle, Tom sends in the muckers. They have a hazardous job. Everyone knew of George Amey, a mucker at the Birch Lake mine, who lost an eye when his pick hit a charge that did not fully explode. Some muckers sort the ore from the waste while others, with picks and shovels, load the waste rock in a large bucket until it is full. Then one of them yells: "BUCKET." Upon hearing the signal, a man at the surface gets the horse moving on a circular track so that the winch can hoist the bucket up to the top. The bucket is dumped on the tailings pile. As soon as the muckers are finished clearing the debris from the last blast, the drillers begin to make new holes. Cleaning the mica is the job of cobblers who work on the surface. Some cobblers "thumb trim" the mica by the pit while others are working at the cleaning shop attached to the main mine building, "knife trimming" the mica to remove all traces of unwanted material. They store the clean mica in barrels. The mica is shipped down the Hardwood Bay Road to Perth Road then north to Bedford Mills. There, the mica will be shipped to a buyer in Ottawa via the Rideau Canal. The Tett mine operated from 1899 till 1924. It produced 99 tons of mica for a value of $27,279.00. For a few months, it was the largest mica producer in Ontario. By the 1940s the mica mining boom had passed and most of the homesteads in the area had been abandoned or were on their last legs. It was then that the idea of establishing a wilderness park on the lands in Loughborough and Bedford township that had resisted settlement, and whose lakes (Devil, Big Clear, Otter, and Buck) were not already cut up into cottage lots, was first floated. In 1954 a Parks Division was created within the Department of Lands and Forests of Ontario (the precursor to the Ministry of Natural Resources. In 1957, the Kingston Rod and Gun Club submitted a proposal for a new park to serve the growing numbers of people in Kingston and southern Frontenac County wanting to experience the great outdoors, hiking, camping, fishing and the enjoyment of a sandy beach. The proposal included twenty-seven 200 acre lots in Bedford and twenty-five 200 acre lots in Lougborough, a total of 16.2 square miles, with an option to increase it to 23.7 square miles if the area below Otter Lake was added. That effort was not successful, and seemed to be dead when Murphy's Point Park on Big Rideau Lake near Perth was established instead. Five years later, in 1962, another group, the Kingston Nature Club, put forward a similar proposal. This time, even though the cost of purchasing private land for the park had ballooned to $200,000, the proposal was successful. It eventually cost over $1 million to create Frontenac Park, which opened in the late 1960s. The park's first superintendent, Bruce Page, was the great grandson of Jeremiah, one of the first settlers on the land in the vicinity of what became Frontenac Park. Among the features of the park, and on the nearby Gould Lake Conservation Area, are hiking trails that pass by and over mica mine sites. In the Park, the 10 km Tettsmine Loop passes by remnants of a log slide from the lumbering days, abandoned mica mines and the remains of McNally Homestead. At Gould Lake, the Mica Loop passes over several small mine sites and mica minerals can still be seen sparkling in the rock faces.
There were a number of distinguished Frontenac County wardens from the Township of Wolfe Island during the first 133 years of Frontenac County history, and since municipal amalgamation there have been two more from the Township of Frontenac Islands: Jim Vanden Hoek for two years, and the current warden, Denis Doyle. Although Tim O'Shea was only county warden for a single year, the centennial year in 1967, he was a member of the council for 33 consecutive years as the long-serving reeve of Wolfe Island. He retired from politics in 1991 and died in 1996 at the age of 78. His son, Terry, who served as the clerk of Wolfe Island and Frontenac Islands for over 20 years, starting in 1986, described his father as someone who enjoyed people and was able to remain calm in tense situations, which might explain why he was able to win election after election. He worked for most of his life as a hunting and a fishing guide on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, and in the evenings he tended to township matters. As well as presiding over Council, he was the welfare officer for the islands as well as the manager of the ferry, all part of the functions of the reeve. Perhaps his most lasting accomplishment was convincing the provincial government to take over the ferry service from Wolfe Island and make it a free service. He also presided over the construction of the first library, medical clinic, ambulance base and fire department on the island. Because of all his accomplishments and longevity, he is still considered to have been the dean of Frontenac County councilors. One hundred and two years before Tim O'Shea served as county warden, another Wolfe Island politician held the post. The first ever Frontenac County warden was Dileno (Dexter) Calvin, the proverbial self-made man. He was orphaned at the age of eight in Rutland, Vermont. When he was 20 he moved to the State of New York where he worked as a labourer until he entered into the lumbering business when he was in his mid-20s. He started in 1825, squaring some timber with a neighbour and transporting it by raft to Quebec City. Slowly, he built up the business, and in 1835 he moved to Clayton, NY, and established a lumber transport business. Soon after, he became involved in a company based on Garden Islands, the Kingston Stave Forwarding Company, which was later renamed Calvin, Cook and Counter, and then Calvin and Cook after the men who owned it. In 1844, Dexter Calvin moved to rented land on Garden Island and took control of the company, taking advantage of the island's location, its sheltered port, and the fact that it was within the British rather than the American trading system. Out of its base on Garden Island, the company maintained agencies in Sault St. Marie, Quebec City, Liverpool and Glasgow, operated 12 -15 ships and employed as many as 700 people in its peak years. It became a generalized shipping company, and also operated a large tugboat service. The move to Garden Island took place soon after the death of Calvin's first wife, Harriet Webb, in Clayton, New York, in 1843. the couple had been married for 12 years and had six children. He remarried Marion Breck in 1844. They also had six children between 1844 and her death in 1861. His third wife, Catherine Wilkinson, whom he married in 1861 when he was 63, had two children, and lived until 1911. Of his 14 children, only six lived to adulthood. During the last 40 years of his long life (he died in 1884 at the age of 86) Calvin was a sort of patriarch to the inhabitants of Garden Island. He bought 15 acres of land on the island in 1848 with his partner Hiram Cook, and by 1862 they owned the entire island. Calvin bought Cook’s share in 1880. Garden Island became a model company town, with its own school, library, and post office. Although it was made up of people from different national origins and religions, it was reportedly remarkably peaceful and well managed. It was also a dry community, under the express orders of Calvin himself, who became a prohibitionist at the same time as his conversion to the Baptist Faith about a year before the death of his first wife. Since most of the inhabitants of Garden Island worked for Calvin, he was able to shield them from economic turbulence in two ways. For one thing, since he was more involved in lumber transport than buying and selling, the fluctuations in the price of lumber did not affect the business in a substantial way. He also chose to use the company's reserves to shield his employees during serious downturns, such as one that took place in 1873. At that time he cut wages but did not lay any one off, which was as unusual then as it is now. He was strongly opposed to organized labour, however, and when sailors on his ships started a union drive, he hired replacement workers from Glasgow and eventually sold some of his schooners and bought great lake barges to cut down on the need for labour. His political life, which began when he was in his early 60s, was quite distinguished. He had become a naturalized Canadian within a year of moving to Garden Island. By the time Frontenac County was established in 1865 after the amalgamated County of Frontenac, Lennox and Addington had been disbanded, Calvin was already ensconced as reeve of Wolfe Island and the surrounding islands. He became the first warden of the County, a position he also held the following year and in 1868 as well. He then took a turn at provincial politics, as a Conservative MPP for the riding of Frontenac. He served from 1868 until 1883, with the exception of the years between 1875 and 1877, when he lost favour with the party. In those days, becoming the Conservative candidate in Frontenac was more difficult than winning the election against opposing party candidates. He was also one of the first directors of the K&P Railroad. He was a man who was known for his eccentricities, such as a dislike for short men “for no other reason than that they were short” according to his grandson, as well as men who bit their fingernails (author's note – I'm sure we would have gotten on famously) as well as dogs and people who own them. “When a man's poor,” he said, “he gets a dog. If he's very poor, he gets two.” Dileno Dexter Calvin died in 1884, and despite his great success in Canada, he was buried next to his mother and his first wife in Clayton, NY.
Rightly so, Frontenac Park is considered the hidden jewel of Frontenac County. It is located in the midst of an array of communities and cottage lakes, within a stone's throw of Sydenham and is a short drive from Kingston; and yet it is a backwoods park in a unique geological and climactic location. It features the best canoeing, camping and hiking this side of Bon Echo Park, which is also a jewel but one that is less hidden and is also shared between Frontenac and Lennox and Addington. In his definitive book on the back story about the land where Frontenac Park is located, “Their Enduring Spirit: the History of Frontenac Park 1783-1990”, Christian Barber extensively researched all of the development that took place in and around the park before the idea of a park was floated and eventually acted upon in the 1960s. In doing so, Their Enduring Spirit is not only a valuable resource in terms of how the park was developed; it is also an account of the difficulties posed by the Frontenac Spur of the Canadian Shield on those who were unlucky enough to attempt homesteading in its rocky terrain. The park is located in what were then Loughborough and Bedford Townships, now both part of the Municipality of South Frontenac. Many of the settlers who attempted to make a life in that region did so in the mid-to-late 1800s. There were some Loyalists among them, but there were also a number of Irish immigrants who made their way first to St. Patrick's Church in Railton, and then headed into the wilderness north of Sydenham in search of a new life. What greeted them was brutal and difficult. The history of a number of homesteading families forms the core of Their Enduring Spirit. Based on historic records, interviews with descendants who lived on or visited those who lived on the farms, and by walking the land and examining the remnants that are being reclaimed as wilderness lands, a picture of life in the back townships during the first 100 years of Frontenac County emerges. The first family to be profiled in the book is the Kemp family, who arrived at their farm at Otter Lake, near the west gate of the park, sometime in the 1860s. By the time of the 1871 census, William and Jane Kemp, both 47, had six children living with them. The land they laid claim to, in addition to other properties taken on by their son George, was very good by local standards. Over two decades of work, making use of the efforts of the entire family, 30 acres of the 95 acre property had been cleared. “That might not sound like much to show for 20 years of labour, but in that district most farms worked 15 or 20 cleared acres. In fact the clearing was usually completed in relatively short order. But it was back-breaking work, without mechanical means. It involved cutting down the trees and clearing the brush, then burning the stumps that could not be wrenched from the ground by a team of horses or oxen and hauled away to form a first fence row. In the meantime the job of raising a crop to feed the family over the winter had to go on, and the first seeds were usually sown among the stumps ... it was no wonder that among the first settlers it was axiomatic to hate trees,” wrote Christian Barber in Their Enduring Spirit. The Kemp family prospered, and by 1900 the original log cabin that was built in the early 1870s had disappeared beneath white, painted clapboard, and numerous outbuildings had been constructed as well. There was a root cellar below, and fields that extended right to the front doorway. Still, cash was not easy to come by. A ledger from M.A. Hogan's General Store in Sydenham illustrates this. In late 1912, Mary Shales Kemp, George's wife, who managed the family finances among numerous other tasks, purchased dishes, a pair of overalls for a dollar, and the indulgences of walnuts and a vase, for a total cost of $7.32. Her custom was to pay for her purchases with butter and eggs from the farm. However on this occasion, after the eggs and butter were factored in there was a shortfall of $1.45. Back went the overalls and the extra 45 cents was paid in cash. During the mica mining year in the first decade of the 20th century, George Kemp found a number of small deposits on his farm, and even took on investors to pay the $70 that was needed for drills and blasting powder at one site. However, enough mica was never found to make a profit on the venture. To the extent that there were roads in the area, they were built and maintained by all of the farmers living in there, sometimes as part of their taxation responsibilities, which, in the late 19th century, included putting in some time improving the local roads. While the Kemp family were able to establish a successful farm in what is now Frontenac Park, it was ultimately unsustainable. Mary Kemp lived on the farm after George died, but moved away in 1928 and sold the property in 1941. The last people to occupy it were a family from Wyoming in the late 1940s. By the time Mary Kemp died in Sydenham in 1952 at the age of 93, the property where she had made her life had been abandoned and the house and barns had burned down. When Christian Barber went to the property in the late 1980s as he was preparing his book, it was mostly overgrown with vegetation, and it required effort on his part to find the remnants of what had been a going concern for 60 or 70 years. He notes this at the end of his chapter on the Kemp family of Kemp Road : “... the fields, so painstakingly cleared and planted and harvested by generations of settlers, are overgrown with sumac and birch, locust and juniper. Rusted barbed wire – embedded by years in the centre of the trees that it was originally stapled to the bark of – is stretched to the breaking point by fallen trees, and there is no one to cut them away; no farmer in overalls, with strong, knuckly, barked, and sun-tanned hands to walk the line on a summer day between haying and harvest and maintain a fence.” The Kemp family's story is similar in outcome to others told in the book - struggle and some success followed by a move to better farmland elsewhere in the region or to work off the farm in Sydenham or beyond. Mining and logging were also prevalent in the park. Logging started in the early 19th century and mining later on, with the logging having the greatest impact on the land, as it did elsewhere in the region generally. In the interesting chapter on mining, Barber touches on the story of Antoine Point on Devil Lake. Francis Edward Antoine and his wife, Letitia Whiteduck, built a log cabin on the Point in the mid 19th century and they are buried there. One of their sons, John Antoine, is listed, along with the government, as the owner of Antoine Point in the 1883 Meacham map, one of the best source materials for information about land ownership in those years. John, with his wife Elizabeth Hollywood, had 11 children. According to Antoine family lore, it was John who found mica deposits at Antoine Point, although there are competing accounts about who found the ore at that location, and it seems that the Point became of interest to mining interests in the early 1890s. There is an entry in the land registry indicating that John Antoine sold his interest in the land to William Jones for $50 in 1897, and the Antoines moved to Godfrey, and eventually back to Sharbot Lake, where another branch of the family was already located. The idea of establishing a wilderness park on the lands in Loughborough and Bedford township that had resisted settlement, and whose lakes (Devil, Big Clear, Otter, and Buck) were not already cut up into cottage lots, was first floated in the 1940s. In 1954 a Parks Division was created within the Department of Lands and Forests of Ontario (the precursor to the Ministry of Natural Resources. In 1957, the Kingston Rod and Gun Club submitted a proposal for a new park to serve the growing numbers of people in Kingston and southern Frontenac County wanting to experience the great outdoors, hiking, camping, fishing and the enjoyment of a sandy beach. The proposal included twenty seven 200 acre lots in Bedford and twenty five 200 acre lots in Lougborough, a total of 16.2 square miles, with an option to increase it to 23.7 square miles if the area below Otter lake was added. That effort was not successful, and seemed to be dead when Murphy's Point Park on Big Rideau Lake near Perth was established instead. Five years later, in 1962, another group, the Kingston Nature Club, put forward a similar proposal. This time, even though the cost of purchasing private land for the park had ballooned to $200,000, the proposal was successful. It eventually cost over $1 million to create Frontenac Park, which opened in the late 1960s. The park's first superintendent, Bruce Page, was the great grandson of Jeremiah, one of the first settlers on the land in the vicinity of what became Frontenac Park.