If South Frontenac Museum Society secretary Al Boyce had his way, there would be museum buildings all over the Township, and the County, each focusing on a different aspect of Frontenac history.

“But that’s just me dreaming and rambling,” he said Saturday as the South Frontenac Museum in Hartington opened its doors Saturday for the summer season, which runs through Labour Day Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Group visits can also be arranged email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Boyce said its been a “busy and dynamic year” for the society focusing on making the Hartington site more accessible.

“We’ve been working on the displays to reduce the crowded feeling,” he said. “So, we picked a theme and topic and you can get a wheelchair around it now.”

The theme, he said, is South Frontenac 1900-1930.

“We chose Doug Lovegrove’s work on the 146th regiment (a First World War unit recruited from the area) as an anchor, including the displays on nursing sisters and women on the homefront,” Boyce said. “It’s kind of a before, during and after the war, with at home and on the farm.

“It’s like this is what Ma was doing while the boys were away, and this is what Pa was doing on the farm, including the tools he used without electricity.”

Boyce said this is only the beginning. They’d like to have more space to display items as well as storage space so they can accept some of the donations they’ve been offered.

“We’re no what we’re going to be in five years,” he said. “We’re hugely indebted to the Township and all they’ve done for us (but) we’re not going to turn somebody away just because their stuff comes from North of Hwy 7.”

Boyce said there’s no way to know just what the museum system will turn into but he sees a great opportunity to preserve parts of history that the Royal Ontario Museum or the seven national museums in Ottawa can’t do.

“Don’t get me wrong, I love the ROM, but I think museums like this one provide a local service you don’t get at the ROM,” he said. “Saws for example.

“I we don’t preserve these things . . .”

He said their mission is to share and catalogue the history of the area, whatever that might be.

“Who knows, in five to 10 years, we might have the world’s best collection of fishing rods,” he said.

Boyce said their biggest challenge is finding people with the skills they think they need.

“The people we’ve got are really keen but we need computer people, graphic arts people and carpenters,” he said. “If you let it go away to the dump, it will be gone.

“But if you take the providence of it, it can be shared.”


There was a time, not so very long ago, when horses and hand saws were the tools of the trade in the logging industry. Arden’s Matson family was very involved in all that.

So it probably comes as no surprise that they decided to do some demonstrations and displays as part of the Frontenac Heritage Festival this year.

“I worked in the bush and I’m the fourth or fifth generation,” said Glen Matson, current patriarch of the clan. “We’re all interested in the history and we’ve all worked with horses in the bush.”

And, it almost seems there’s more than nostalgia at work here. Matson makes a case for horse-power actually doing a better job than modern machinery.

“Dad did a lot of forestry work for the Ministry,” he said. “They gave you a lot of small plots to clear.

“The horses did it a lot quicker as it was easier to hitch a log to a chain and lift it up to make it easier on the horses.

“And, they didn’t make such a mess, tearing up the forest and all.”

Matson said this year’s new addition to the Heritage Festival was actually the brainchild of son Duane, said the elder Matson.

“We did wagon rides last year,” said Duane. “But being part of the historical society, we all like the old stuff and we wanted to show people how to attach chain to stuff.

“We wanted to show some of the logging history and even with the sleigh rides, the top parts where people sit are all new but the bottom parts (the skis and struts) are all old.”

And so they did, with all sorts of demonstrations of log cutting and hauling and axe throwing.


It was 20 years ago today . . . when the skies turned an eerie gray . . .

With apologies to John Lennon and Paul McCartney, it was 20 years ago that Eastern Ontario was hit with a devastating weather phenomenon — the Ice Storm of 1998.

Beginning in the evening of Jan. 4, 1998, low pressure, warm air currents from the Gulf of Mexico met high-pressure, cold currents from the Arctic. When the two systems collided, the warm air rose above the cold. Precipitation fell as rain, but as it reached lower altitudes or hit the ground — it froze.

And it continued for six days.

Coincidentally, January 1998 was significant for another reason. Most of the municipalities in Eastern Ontario had just gone through a restructuring process. Everything was new, the power was out and all hell was breaking loose.

“I had yet to be sworn into office,” said Bill MacDonald, who had been elected Mayor of the newly-created Central Frontenac Township. “I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of tree limbs cracking throughout the sugar bush behind my house.

“I had a tough time just getting out of my driveway.”

Arriving at the Township office, MacDonald learned communications were sketchy at best.

“Not knowing the extent of it all, I told (clerk) Heather Fox and (roads superintendent) Ivan Duffy ‘I think we’ve got something we can’t handle,’” MacDonald said. “I declared a state of emergency.”

Further south, in the newly-formed South Frontenac Township, new Mayor Phil Leonard was in a similar boat. For Leonard though, things were even worse because as Warden (actually Chair of the new Frontenac Management Board), he was responsible for the entire County.

“When it started, we had the trucks out right away,” Leonard said. “But it just kept coming and coming.

“We didn’t have an emergency plan for the Township yet, but Portland Township (Leonard had been Reeve when Portland merged with Loughborough, Bedford and Storrington) was the only one of the four previous townships that did have one.

“I read the first page and immediately declared a state of emergency — which gave me more authority than I wanted.”

The Canadian military put a helicopter at Leonard’s disposal.

“They picked me up at the Keeley Road offices,” Leonard said. “(CBC reporter) Adrienne Arsenault was already on board.”

Their first destination was Camden East to see the western end of the devastation, Leonard said. The second stop was Tichborne, then Plevna, then back to South Frontenac where they landed at the Burridge Firehall.

“While we were there, a 911 call came in,” Leonard said. “An elderly gentleman had had a heart attack and they used the helicopter to airlift him to KGH.

“He survived but I had to hitch a ride back to Sydenham.”

Meanwhile, back in Central Frontenac, things were going from bad to worse.

“It seemed like all the roads were impassible,” MacDonald said. “You’d get a road cleared and next thing you’d know, it would be blocked by fallen branches again.”

But, Central did have a few things going for it.

First of all, like South, one of the former townships (Oso) did have an emergency plan and they wasted no time putting that into action.

Second, the Road 38 corridor still had power.

“It went from three-phase to two-phase but at least the high school had power and served as a shelter,” MacDonald said. “And we had the Township Hall as a command centre and the gas stations.

“That was a Godsend.”

And they had another resource to draw on — the people.

“I know it’s a bit of a cliché but we do have the pioneer spirit here,” MacDonald said. “I always thank the service clubs, the high school, the fire department — everybody.”

By way of example, MacDonald used this anecdote.

“Lindsay Burke lived at the end of Burke Settlement Road,” MacDonald said. “He needed medicine so Vern Crawford set off to get it to him.

“Vern was only able to drive partway down the road, so he walked the rest of the way to get Lindsay his medicine.”

Leonard echoed MacDonald’s sentiments.

“Ten minutes after I declared the state of emergency, the OPP came through the door saying ‘whatever you need, just tell us,’” Leonard said. “I can’t say enough good things about those people and especially Dave Willis.”

And even though South was up to its neck in ice, they still managed to send help to their neighbours.

“We had more big trucks than Central and we sent what we could spare up there,” he said. “We also arranged for help for Frontenac Islands and Kingston stood up to help there.

“Luckily, North Frontenac wasn’t hit as hard (essentially just the Snow Road area was hit bad) but keep in mind, when the power went out, everybody lost the electric pumps for the wells and so had no water.”

Luckily, Leonard knew Loblaw’s chief Galen Weston, having worked for him in the past.

“He delivered whatever I asked for.”

Leonard had praise for his constituents as well.

“Everybody helped out,” he said. “We created a system whereby if you needed help, you put something hanging out of your mailbox and we patrolled the roads with snowmobiles,” he said. “John Shabot of Hydro One was excellent, those people didn’t walk, they ran.

“Gary Davison was the fire chief in Loughborough and worked 24/7, Kingston helped out and Dupont gave us 20 5,500 watt generators that ended up all over the County.

“I can’t say enough about how everybody came together.”

It took a good month before things were returning to normal and the damage could be assessed.

“We did $5.3 million in repairs, most of which was paid by provincial and federal help,” said MacDonald.

“Our entire construction budget that year was ice-storm related,” said Leonard. “In one sense, it was a great time because of how everybody helped one another but it was the worst time in my 24 years in government.”

“I was a baptism under fire,” said MacDonald. “But I still believe from the bottom of my heart that because people in rural communities are used to doing for themselves, that set us up well.”

Published in General Interest
Wednesday, 04 October 2017 19:41

Displayed in a human zoo

The true story of how eight Inuit from Labrador were enticed to travel to Europe in 1880 to become part of a “cultural exhibit,” or human zoo, is nothing short of remarkable. Researcher France Rivet has brought this tragic tale to life in her book entitled In The Footsteps of Abraham Ulrikab, based on the diary of one of the Inuit men and extensive other sources.

Europe’s fascination with global exploration in the 19th century was fueled by traveling zoos established by men like Carl Hagenbeck, a German merchant who captured animals in nearly every continent for exhibition. To highlight the relationships between these exotic animals and human societies, scouts were sent around the world looking for examples of rare cultures. It is estimated that some 35,000 Africans, Asians, Inuit and other indigenous peoples were deceived into accepting a free trip to Europe, where they were put on display in traveling exhibitions so that spectators could view them in their "natural setting.”
Abraham Ulrikab was a well-educated Inuk from Hebron, Labrador, who was curious to see the world. He brought his and another family, eight in all, to Europe for what they thought would be a financially rewarding, one-year adventure. Unfortunately, they did not receive the vaccinations for smallpox that were legally required for new arrivals, and the entire group succumbed to the disease – the first three in Germany and the other five during a stop in Paris. Abraham’s diary of their brief time in Europe was sent home to Labrador shortly after his death.

Years later France Rivet encountered this forgotten diary and was moved to learn more about the fate of the eight Inuit. She was amazed to discover that the skeletons of Abraham and four other Inuit were in storage in a Paris museum, more than 125 years after their deaths. In conjunction with Inuit leaders in Labrador, she is trying to repatriate the skeletons, finally bringing them home to rest. 

Come and hear Ms. Rivet recount this tale on Monday October 16th at the Perth Royal Canadian Legion (26 Beckwith St E, Perth, ON K7H 1B5), starting promptly at 7:00 pm. The talk is free, presented by the Perth & District Chapter of the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW). Copies of Ms. Rivet’s book (printed in both English and French) will be on sale for $30.


One of the more pleasant surprises at this year’s Parham Fair, its 125th edition, was tucked away into a back corner of The Palace. There, among the prize string beans, slices of pie and various craft goods, Wendy Parliament was premiering her documentary series On the Farm, Looking to the Past — Looking to the Future.
At 2 ½ hours plus, the 3-disk documentary covers a lot of history, not only of the Parham Fair, but of the Parham area, and farming in general, as told by several generations of farmers along Wagarville and Long Lake Roads (augmented by a short trip north of Hwy 7 to Conboy’s Maple Syrup).

Parliament lucked out a bit in that the Benn and the Goodfellow families had quite a number of home movies. That got her thinking . . .
“About two years ago, the Benns (Roy and Joanne) showed me some footage from the ’30s to the ’60s,” she said. “I was going to put in some titles for them but as we were talking, I realized — there’s a story there.”
The next thing you know, Parliament, her camera and her tripod were off on an adventure that included 25 interviews, 20 of which were on-camera.
“As I was talking to people, I realized that for many of the older generation, farming was very much a lifestyle choice,” she said. “Their kids ate good food and while they may not have had a lot of things, they had a good life.
“With the younger generations of farmers, it turns out it’s the same thing.

“They may have a little more environmental aspect to it, but they wanted to know what was in the food their children were eating and again, there are things they may miss out on, but they have a good life.”
Parham’s own Shawn McCullough wrote the opening music for the documentary — a song called We Had Everything, and it kinda says it all.
“In just this one little area, you can get beef, lamb, pork, goat, rabbits and several kinds of poultry,” she said. “There are vegetables that literally will serve you all year round as well as wool, maple syrup, honey, lumber, and even goats for pets. “And horses, lots of horses.”

The historical footage is quite captivating, and locals will probably recognize family, friends and ancestors (where else can you see footage of horseman Bill Lee as a 10-year-old?). And the interviews contain both historical anecdotes as well as contemporary farming insight.
“Fred Lloyd told me about raising horses that people ate, and for dog food,” she said. “I had no idea.”
On the Farm (DVD format) is available at the Parham General Store, $10, with proceeds going to the Fair Board.

As if to underline the theme of renewal in Parliament’s film, the fair itself flourished this year under a new board that came on in January. Although they faced the inevitable challenges, including a much diminished midway due to a mishap faced by Gable brothers, the midway provider, and threats of rain on Saturday, Fair Board Chair Sharon Shepherd said afterwards that the board and volunteers came out of the fair enthused and ready to start planning Parham Fair number 126 on August 18 and 19, 2018.

“The rain held off on Saturday and the children so enjoyed the old fashioned fair games, the animals, and the show by Magoo that the midway was not missed at all. And the stands were full for the horse pull. Attendance was up by over 50 over last year on Saturday, and the Demolition Derby drew over 500 adults on Sunday and was extremely well run by Mitch Cox. It was a great fair this year,” she said.
The 125 year old fair is still embracing its past as it takes on its future.
Imagine the driverless demolition derby in 2046, when the fair will be run by the kids who were playing egg toss and winning the three legged race last Saturday.

Wednesday, 02 August 2017 14:51

150 years, 150 women, 150 words compels

It was rather quiet in the meeting room of the United Church in Sharbot Lake Saturday, despite there being quite a number of people there.
The reason for the silence is that everyone seemed to be reading.

They were reading stories about area women, 150 of them to be exact, stories that were written by local people who either knew the women or were descendants of them, and this was the brainchild of Dianne Lake for a Canada 150 project — 150 years, 150 women, 150 stories.

There is a book (a few copies are still available) but the quests on Saturday were reading from recipe cards.
“This is a trip down memory lane,” said Ann Walsh. “We’ve (the MacPherson clan) been here for eight generations and this is amazing.
“I’m learning so much about people I knew as a child.”

Lake set the process of gathering the stories and then it sort of took on a life of its own.
In the end, she had 114 people submit stories about grandmothers, mothers, aunts, you name it.
“I enjoyed almost every minute of this,” Lake said.

The first story in the book is Myrtle Law, Lake’s mother-in-law and the last (150th) is Susannah Minerva Wagar, who was born on Oct. 5, 1867.
“It took me eight cemeteries to find someone born 150 years ago but we found one,” Lake said.
Along the way, they collected stories about five midwives, one chiropractor, several nurses and teachers.
When they had collected 150 stories, they stopped.

Lake said the focus on women seemed appropriate.

“I could find a lot of information about the men in the area,” she said. “But not so much about their wives — and I knew all the wives had stories.”


It was a dream of trail proponents to use the old K&P rail line to create a trail that would connect the east-west trans Canada Trail with the Cataraqui and Rideau Trails and ensure that the trans-Canada Trail takes a detour through the Frontenac County trail system. In order to make that happen the K&P trail needed to be complated between the junctions in Sharbot Lake and Harrowsmith, and Frontenac County has been working on that for 10 years.
The alternative would have been for the Trans Canada to flow along Hwy 7 directly between Ottawa and Peterborough, bypassing the Rideau and Cat Trails, Frontenac Park and the varied landscape of the Frontenac Spur and the Frontenac Arch Biosphere.

The dream is about to become a reality and that reality will be celebrated on August 26, Canada 150 trail day, which is being sponsored by the Federal government to the tune of $1 million.
Unfortunately, the K&P trail between Sharbot Lake and Harrowsmith will not be finished by August. The complicated northern section between Tichborne and Sharbot Lake is underway, and sections are done, but it is not going to be complete by August 26.

In a way, the trail being officially launched without actually being in place fits well with the history of the K&P Railroad itself. It was an idea that had its supporters, even if the money was not in place and the details were not worked out back in the 1875 when it opened. And of course, while the trail top Sharbot Lake will not be complete on opening day, it will be completed soon, while the K&P (which stands for Kingston to Pembroke) never did make it that far. It only ever extended as far as Renfrew.

In his new book, The First Spike, Steven Manders has provided some new information about the building and management of the K&P line, and it’s relation to an over-estimation of the value of iron mines at Iron Junction, present day Godfrey. Manders did some traditional research. and he also interviewed elders such as Don Lee and Les McGowan and got into is canoe to look for signs of the old mines on 13 Island and other local lakes.
As he says in his book, you would never know from looking now at what appears to be an entrenched rural cottage region, that there dozens of small mines, kilns, canals, barges, and much more in the region as recently as 100 years ago. Manders has found remnants, bits of metal, old spikes, wheels, etc in his many trips to the area looking for evidence of past history.

In the early days of the K&P, spur lines were built to bring iron ore, feldspar and other minerals to Bedford Station at what was then known as Iron Junction where the heavy loads were transferred to trains on the K&P for transport to Kingston and the US. It was this resource that was the impetus for the construction of the K&P, and US based industrialists were among the early investors in the railroad. In 1884 the K&P had its best year. turning a profit of over $20,000. Within ten years, with the iron ore proving harder to access the K&P had become a money loser, to the tune of $100,000 or more per year (about $2.7 million in 2017 dollars). The railroad went into receivership until 1899, and then began to be swallowed by by Canadian Pacific Railroad, a process that was completed in 1913 when the CPR took on a 999 year lease on the line and acquired all the assets. The book also includes information about the K&P iron mining company, which was unrelated to the railroad but shared some Directors and investors, suggesting that stock manipulation, or ‘mining the market’ as it is sometimes called, took place on a large scale, in the 1890’s and into the new century, and a man named Henry Siebert continued to sell certificates for the K&P mining company long after he had received reports that there was no viable iron resource left in the ground. Between 1896 and 1903, about $2.5 million in shares were sold (over $500 million in today’s dollars) in a company that was never destined to deliver anything to market.

The First Spike also looks in depth at some of the communities and stations as the line moved north, and images of villages such as Clarendon Station and others that show how active and populated they were when the rail line was a going concern.

The railroad was never sustainable as a passenger line, and indeed according to Steven Manders, the CPR was never really interested in the section of the line north of Tichborne, where the K&P and the main CPR line, which still exists as travellers along Road 38 are well aware.

As we all know, the K&P ceased operations entirely eventually and will soon be entirely transformed into an operational trail, ensuring a strong presence of the Trans-Canada Trail in Frontenac County, by the time the 2018 tourist season rolls around.

The K&P railroad cost about $3.5 million to build in the 1870’s, the equivalent of about $100 million in current dollars, and the cost to build the trail remains a bit of a mystery. It has taken years to build, and has been funded in part by Federal and Provincial trail grants as well as some municipal gas tax rebate money in the early years.

As even a cursory look at the First Spike reveals, the issues surrounding the development of the K&P trail, some of which have been revealed over the years in this paper, are nothing new to the K&P. It has always been an expensive proposition. As a trail, all it needs to do is attract a reasonable number of people to enjoy walking, riding, cycling, and sledding over it in order to be a success. The stakes are lower than they were back when investors expected to make their fortunes out of a doomed rail line. Still the expectation that the trail, combined with the opportunities for outdoor recreation and the efforts of some of the newer and more established entrepreneurs seeking to build a tourist economy, will bring benefits to Frontenac County residents over time.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017 13:20

Sydenham Walking Tour

An historical walking tour of Sydenham Village was part of the program at Saturday’s Lakes and Trails Festival. It offered a quiet but fascinating change of pace from the variety of paddling and cycling-related events, which drew the majority of the day’s participants.

Like several of its neighbours, Sydenham village had been an important and busy centre from the mid-1800’s all the way into the 1930s and ’40s. But over the years, many of the one-time landmark buildings have burned, been torn down, or, like the high school, lost the features that once distinguished them. The stories, however, remain; passed down, retold, some in danger of being forgotten, others still just whispers, too fresh to be told yet.

The tour was based on an illustrated booklet published several years ago by Ginny Trousdale and Wilma Kenny, written by Kenny.

Participants were provided with a map outlining a walk through the village with storytelling stations where four local storytellers, Peter Hamilton, Joanne Ankers, Christine Kennedy and Ginny Trousdale, entertained the walkers with stories and pictures about the village’s past.

Joanne and Ginny both wore dresses made by Lorraine Lobb of Sydenham in the style of 150 years ago. Christine was in period costume of her own creation, including her grandmother’s apron and a splendidly decorated hat. All four have real theatrical talent and distinctive personalities: their performances were funny, individual and polished. Approximately 40 people of all ages took the tour, and from their comments, had fun and felt they had learned a lot, too.


(A continuing series of articles to be used as part of the build-out of the Villages pages on Frontenac-live.ca, this look at the history of Harrowsmith and Verona is based on the book, Portland - My Home by Wiliam J. Patterson)

In 1802 Micajah Purdy registered the lots in what was later (1807) called Portland Township. In 1804, John Shibley, where this story really begins, bought the south-west corner of the township (what is now essentially Harrowsmith) for £175. He split up his land in three, giving a piece to each of his sons Jacob and Henry. Portland Township then had a population of at least six because each Shibley man was married at the time.

From that point forward the township began to grow in population. Between 1810 and 1830 land was being sold at bargain prices in the township because the government of Upper-Canada had more land than money and they would often use land in places like Portland as a reward for loyal service, military pensions, civil servant wages etc. In 1819, there were nineteen households in the township. By 1826, the population was recorded at 279, and by 1829 had risen to 343. In the 1830’s the population had even more growth due to the high number of immigrants from the United Kingdom. In the 1840’s the population of Portland spiked yet again, creating a township that was two thirds full with the majority of vacant lots being in the north. Verona and Harrowsmith contained little vacant area at that time.

Now that there was a full community, Jacob Shibley went to work ensuring it was a well governed and just place. He became justice of the peace and was one of the first two councillors along with Clark Nicholls. Shibley has served in the War of 1812 as a regiment commander and later became a captain. He even became the county’s first member of Parliament. He was “undoubtedly the most important man in Portland” according to local historian William J. Patterson, who wrote the book, Portland my home.  

In the 1840’s with a relatively stabilized population and a growing government, there was a movement away from pioneer subsistence farming practices (mainly growing wheat) and on to mixed farming. The number of farm animals dramatically increased during this period as did the average acreage of cleared land per farm. Because of this change in farming practices, there was a higher annual salary per household than ever before. By the 1840’s the populations of Verona and Harrowsmith had significantly improved their quality of life.

In the early years, education was limited. Parents needed their children to help on their farms. Upper Canada eventually established a public elementary school system in 1846 although less than half of the township’s child population attended. Small school houses started popping up in Portland Township and were used for worship on weekends because it was too expensive to build both a church and a school house.  

A number of new occupations were possible from the 1840’s and afterwards because of schools, government, and the building of the Kingston & Pembroke railroad. The prosperity in Portland over the second half of the 19th Century funded the building of the K&P, the establishment of a Board of Health, and providing limited support to low-income members of society. By the 1880’s Verona and Harrowsmith provided such opportunities to their populations that there are records of railway workers, undertakers, bakers, miners, plasterers, photographers, nurses, store clerks and seamstresses in addition to farmers.

By 1848 Joshua Hicks had opened the first tavern in Verona. And by 1849 the first Methodist church was built in Harrowsmith (Wesleyan Methodist Church). As William Peterson points out in Portland My Home, the two events are related and had implications for a very long time. Patterson wrote that  “Methodism taught that salvation came from separating oneself from the temptations of the world. It was a denomination with a strong social conscience that believed in one’s duty to one’s neighbour”.

Because of this strong community oriented conscience during the 1870’s there was a movement by the Methodists to stamp out drunkenness. This movement led to the establishment of temperance organizations and the building of temperance houses such as the Verona Temperance House which was completed in 1910. The Verona organization had over 100 members. Religion was also linked at this time to a political identity.  Methodists were Reformers and Anglicans were Tories. Jacob Shibley was a Reformer.

Unlike the religious affiliations in the rest of Upper Canada in the second half of the 19th Century, favouring the Church of England and Presbyterian Church, in Portland 52% of the population was Methodist. At the end of the 19th Century a new wave of Methodism arrived in Portland, called Free Methodism. In 1889 Rev. A.H. Norrington tried to bring Free Methodism to Harrowsmith and received rotten vegetables in return – lots of them, thrown at him and his followers. Norrington moved on to Verona with greater success and by 1891 they had built a church. The Verona circuit became the strongest Free Methodist community in Canada by 1895 – producing 23 Methodist ministers, and gaining popularity due to the mass baptism of converts in Rock Lake. Eventually Free Methodism made its way back to Harrowsmith and in 1919 the Presbyterian church was bought and converted into a Free Methodist church. The Harrowsmith congregation continued to grow throughout the 20th Century and at one point even published a newspaper, called The Harrowsmith Banner.

Harrowsmith and Verona have a long history of industry and resource extraction as well. In Verona, the mills and factories of the 19th Century were mostly in service of the local population but some of the produce was destined for export – cheese most notably. Today, there are few remnants remaining to tell us how many mills there were or what they were producing. We do know that in Verona there was a saw mill and a flouring mill in the 1870’s around the same time that Verona was supplied with a source of power. In 1912 Davy Well Drilling was established by Charles Davy and his son William. This is the third oldest well drilling firm in Ontario and still in business today. It is currently run by the 5th generation and services over three hundred homes a year, a far cry from the 1940’s when they were drilling at most 40 wells a year. The first saw-mill in Portland township was in Harrowsmith opened in 1826. Many more saw-mills were opened later in the century as well as nearby associated industries such as barrel factories, tanneries (using tan bark), and carriage factories. Eventually all of these wood-associated businesses closed down and in the 1930’s only Harrowsmith’s cheese box factory was still running. Eventually the resource industries in Verona and Harrowsmith died out and their economies relied on small shops and stores.

What is really special about Harrowsmith and Verona is their social and community development. In the first half of the 20th Century the township hall in Harowsmith was used for visiting troops of actors and in 1927 - under sponsorship from the Women’s Institute – for local amateur productions. Verona had a local group of entertainers called The Dumbells from the 1920’s on. The Women’s Institute was an original Canadian organization for rural women, the Harrowsmith branch opened in 1924 and the Verona branch in 1927. These organizations provided a social focus for women outside of church circles and involved work for the betterment of the community. Thanks to the Harrowsmith Women’s Institute, the library was built in 1926. Both the Verona and Harrowsmith branches provided aid to less fortunate families during the depression and made countless contributions to charities such as the Red Cross during WW1. In the second half of the century the focus of their work was in education, scholarships for local students at Sydenham High School, public speech competitions, etc. The Verona Women’s Institute has since closed but the Harrowsmith branch is still going strong. Just last month they celebrated their 92nd anniversary.

Verona and Harrowsmith share much of their rich history. Both hamlets are today home to thriving communities and the beautiful countryside. In the 1900’s there was a natural rivalry between the two township centres in the form of hockey matches and baseball games. Organizations and clubs that were founded in one were immediately duplicated in the other. Thankfully that rivalry has been put to rest and we can appreciate the positive impact that these twin hamlets have had on our local rural history.


In 1934, the Olden Pioneer’s Monument commemorating the 80th anniversary of the actual settlement in Olden was located next to the Mountain Grove four crossings. Relocation for the second time came in the early 1950’s with a road change. The plaque was moved to the top of a high rock at the four crossings. After receiving permission from the Central Frontenac Township, there has now been a third relocation. The Plaque is at the base of the rock, rather than being at the top, in order to create an accessible viewing place.

There were many volunteers who made this possible. One volunteer was Dale Meeks who donated his time, heavy lifting, and an antique iron wheel. Bill Wolf donated his time and his John Deere for site preparation. Bill Uens and Nic Smith gave their time and heavy lifting as well. Lyn and Arlene Uens designed and fabricated a frame for the plaque as well as a concrete base to hold the wheel design. Curtis Trailers Kaladar donated the steel. A big thank you goes out to all the volunteers. Please come out to the site to see it for yourself!

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