| Aug 28, 2008

Feature Article - August 28, 2008

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Feature Article - August 28, 2008 Plevna loses a landmarkBy Katie Ohlke Herb and Grace Tooley, who live across the road from the old store.

One hundred years of history came crashing down two weeks ago, by order of North Frontenac Township. A few minutes before the destruction, the store sat quietly, the old cash registers still on the old plank counter. The shelves sat empty behind that and the old posts resonated with history. One can imagine the old store in its heyday, local people sitting around the stove, catching up on local news; horses tied up out front, and penny candy in a glass jar by the till.

Watching the demolition were Herb and Grace Tooley, who moved to their current house in 1956, right across the road from the old store. “My grandfather, Luther Tooley, used to run this store,” Herb said, reminiscing across decades. “I spent Christmas there with my grandparents when I was four.” That was 79 years ago. Herb remembered one incident in particular of the store under Luther’s ownership. “One night around 3am, a gentleman [who will remain anonymous] woke up my grandfather for 25 cents of gas. It was the old kind of pump that was pumped by hand. My grandfather got him his gas, a half gallon, but warned him never to come back at that hour of the night again!”

Young Jackie (Brouse) Jackson and cousin in 1928 in front of what was then Brouse's General Store

The store was established in 1911 by William Davey, and later run by Alan Card, John Flake and then Joseph Brouse before Luther bought it from him. Local resident Jackie Jackson was born in the house, 80 years ago this December (Joseph was her father). The store has changed hands a few times, since Luther Tooley; Adolph Lemke, William Kellar, Dave & Jean Summers and Donna Blaine (Millar) have all run the store. Arnold Millar recalled that he bought the store at auction. “I left for the auction, not intending to buy anything and came home with a store!” His daughter ran the store for a few years. Arnold of course, ran the Fernleigh store for several years.

Bernice Gunsinger, a lifetime resident of Plevna, remembers the store as being very nice, “You could get anything you needed there. From overalls to tea, the local general stores carried dry goods and also hardware.’

Records are unclear as to what the store was prior to 1911, perhaps a house. The property was registered to Elisha Playfair on July 25, 1865 from the Crown, and later Playfair severed many lots which in turn became sites for Ostler’s General Store, Elkington’s Boarding House, a mill and the Riverside Hotel [known as Riverside House]. Unfortunately the Land Registry Office records in Kingston did not require property uses to be listed.

In recent years, the store and the small adjoining store had fallen into severe disrepair. The outdated gas pumps have been cause for recent concern as the gasoline has been leaching into the soil and contaminating local wells. The Ministry of the Environment stepped in a few years ago and assisted those with contaminated wells. The tanks should be removed from the site by next spring. In the old store, the cellar had flooded, lifting and tipping the oil tank, which was not empty at the time. This was also causing considerable environmental concern. Earlier this year, the township stepped in and declared it an unsafe building that needed to be demolished.

The demolition was quite exciting to witness, for the local residents who gathered to see a piece of history come down. Old timbers and the big 100-year-old windows – clearly visible in the old photographs, crumbled and snapped like match sticks under the experienced hands of the back hoe operator. Thunderous blows of the machine dismantled and took bites out of the old building, taking a little over four hours to demolish. Some of the old store fixtures were salvaged before the demolition began and will have a second chance at life in new building projects. Jackie Jackson commented, “It will be strange not seeing it [the old store] there anymore. It was quite a landmark.”

If you have more information on this topic, have an idea/information on another local topic, or old photographs that you think should be scanned for the Clar-Mill archives, please contact Katie, 613-479-2797. It is important to tell these stories before they are lost.

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