Queensborough: Where History and Community Collide
Story & Photos submitted by: Ardith Racey
Google “Queensborough, Ontario” and Wikipedia provides a brief summary of the history of the hamlet: it was first settled by Ojibwe First Nations and called “Cooksoskie”. In 1830, Miles Riggs built a sawmill and flour mill and later sold this to Daniel Thompson in 1850, who named the place “Queensborough.”
On “Historic Queensborough Day” – September 10, 2017 - my sister and I toured this same mill.
It’s still owned by Thompsons (unrelated to the original owners) and it was like walking straight into the past. The structure is post and beam, and the original mill works are still intact.
The Grist and Saw Mill also housed the first post office.
The Thompson House is now owned by Lud & Elaine Kapusta, who are dedicated to preserving its architectural integrity.
Inside the mill. So much tangible history.
I’ve driven through Queensborough hundreds of times. In my lifetime, it hasn’t changed a great deal. “Rustic” best describes it, as these photos attest.
The Kincaid House- probably one of the oldest homes in the hamlet.
Formerly McMurray's General Store, this was once a store, hotel and tavern.
However, my 92 year old father, Don McKinnon, who still lives a few kilometers away, and who attended the event, says that the hamlet has changed far more than I can imagine since he was young. It was once a very busy place - the social and mercantile hub of the community.
Former Sager General Store, now the site of Pronk Canada Inc’s Machine Shop and a private home, this was once the heart of the community.
It sold all kinds of items and people would gather on the benches outside and share news with each other.
And on “Historic Queensborough Day” this small hamlet, nestled on the very edge of the Canadian Shield, was once again a hub of social activity. The people, of course, have changed; many of the residents who live here today hail from cities like Toronto or Montreal, but what was most impressive was the enthusiasm of every resident – whether connected through family or not – for the history of their homes and businesses. In fact, as impressive as the day itself, was the pride in community evident everywhere. The streets had been swept. There were signs everywhere. And the weather cooperated beautifully. There were bales of hay and buckets of apples designed for visitors to enjoy the serenity of the hamlet and the gentle roar of the falls in the background.
Our first stop was Billy Wilson’s Blacksmith Shop, before moving down the street to the former Sager General Store. Both owners were effusive about the histories of these places.
Billy Wilson's Blacksmith Shop. At one time, there were four blacksmiths in Queensborough.
Queensborough may be a rustic hamlet, but the people who live there put on a show, as in classic car show.
There were two horse-drawn tours throughout the day.
The Community Centre, originally Queensborough’s one-room schoolhouse, functioned as the hub of the event. There was a day long barbecue, a cake-cutting ceremony, and fascinating historical displays, including a Goldie Holmes’ quilt.
Barbecue at the Community Centre.
Goldie Holmes’ Queensborough Quilt. Her work has been shown in galleries in Toronto, and she was once the subject of a CBC-TV documentary.
Sir John A. MacDonald even showed up, along with several local ‘living’ dignitaries. In fact, MacDonald once owned several lots in the hamlet.
L to R: Elaine Kapusta (one of the organizers of the event and owner of the Thompson House), Sir John A. MacDonald and his wife, Todd Smith (MPP for Prince Edward and Hastings), Tom Deline (Mayor of Centre Hastings), Robert Sager (Reeve or Madoc Township), Jack Robinson (last reeve of Elzevir Township) and on the steps, Katherine Sedgwick (one of the event organizers, owner of the Manse, and author of the blog “Meanwhile, At the Manse: Retrieving and Renovating a Childhood Home”).
And there was lots of history on display inside the Community Centre, too.
But most impressive of all, A.Y Jackson once painted in Queensborough! The anonymous owner of this painting of Queensborough donated it for display.
A.Y.Jackson painting on display.
In fact, we were hard pressed to take in all that Queensborough had to offer in just one day. In the morning, there was a presentation on Queensborough’s Indigenous history by Anne Taylor (a cultural archivist of the Curve Lake First Nation), morning worship at St. Andrew’s United Church, and the opportunity to peek inside several of the historic homes and churches. This small hamlet once had four churches!
St. Andrew's United Church still holds Sunday services.
The United Church Manse, now owned by Raymond Brassard & Katherine Sedgwick (Katherine is the daughter of a former minister at St. Andrews. She grew up in this house, and later purchased it.)
St. Peter's Anglican Church is now a private home.
We peeked Inside the Anglican Church. Gorgeous. The owners were there to tell us the history of the church and the renovations completed to date.
St. Henry's Roman Catholic Church, now a private home.
The steps of the former Methodist Church.
There were signs and decorations everywhere.
People drifted along the sidewalks to view the buildings, and antique cars, part of the vintage car show, frequently rolled through the streets. Queensborough’s Orange Hall was also open for viewing, and is in the process of being restored by its new owners.
The LOL once served as a site for church services before the actual churches were erected, although probably not for Catholics.
After lunch and stops at a few of the other sites open for viewing, we made our way south to where the main line of the Bay of Quinte Railway once ran. It’s hard to imagine a train running through Queensborough, but my father clearly remembers being there when he was a child with his father, who took pigs to be shipped to Tweed. Given that it closed in 1935, he would have been no more than ten years old. The closing of the rail line also meant change for local cheese production at the nearby cheese factories, as well as the closing of local mines.
Newly erected sign by Jos Pronk and the Queensborough beautification crew.
Our day in Queensborough concluded with a few more stops at private homes.
The Daisy Cottage
Leaving Queensborough on “Historic Queensborough Day” took some effort. It’s an idyllic place – a place that has weathered time and change, and which now embraces its past with zeal. The organizers – Katherine Sedgwick and Elaine Kapusta – together with so many other community members who worked hard to showcase the hamlet – deserve applause.
Next year, I expect it will be an even bigger show! Best to mark your calendar, now.
Story and photographs by Ardith Racey
As one of our six Local Wanderers exploring Hastings County, Ardith enjoys arts and cultural experiences, agri-tourism adventures, small towns, and paddling the local lakes and river systems.
Learn more about Ardith through her bio, as well as the other adventures she has shared with us. You can also read about our other five Local Wanderers and the excursions they've experienced across the County.