"In Praise of Older Buildings"
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
The Mill...if we build it they will come
Friends Judith and George likely knew I would. Love the place. Judith's enthusiasm showed when she loaned me her precious copy of the township history.
Judith tells me there is a band of good farming land here, which would have sustained this settlement longer than some which collapsed as soon as the loggers' clear-cutting revealed the bedrock underneath. Some large and somewhat grand farm-houses line the road in from Highway 7.
'Times to Remember in Elzevir Township' tells of the first settler, Miles Riggs and his wife Hannah. Riggs built a sawmill and flouring mill in this location. In 1850 Daniel Thompson purchased the flour mill and set up a Post Office for the newly named Queensborough, the name chosen to honour the last place he saw as he sailed away from Irish coast (how often place-names conjure up the new immigrants' homesickness and longing for the country left behind). The mill was the beginning - settlers could count on somewhere to grind grain, to produce lumber for a home.
Things sped up. A survey was done, Job Lingham built a store, A.F.Woods another...each successive Hastings County Directory catalogues new businesses and growing optimism. One hundred and fifty years later, the village is less than it was, but holding its own. There's an attractive community centre; I hear of efforts to restore the mill. Until recently Sager's Store survived; its prettily maintained building is now home to an enterprising machinist.
This village calls me back. I'll pick a warm day, with flowers and spring sun softening the worn places. I'll revisit the Neo-classical Thompson House (1845) beside the mill and listen to the water sliding over the dam. I'll find out more about the weathered clapboard Greek Revival 'Queensborough Hotel' at the corner, and learn what life is like here, in the fine old houses adorning the hilly streets. I'll spend more time at the fine Carpenter Gothic church near the bridge, have another look at Billy Wilson's blacksmith shop and Wallace Kincaid's dignified "oldest house in the village". I'll revisit the haughty Orange Hall (1862) and look for some of the other structures mentioned in this great book. I may even find out where Sir John A. is reported to have owned (briefly) some eleven lots.
An old story. Rise and fall. Everything respects the cycle of life. Water. Snow. Prosperity. Humans. Communities.