Historical tour of Clarendon
As part of the celebrations for Clarendons 150th anniversary, there was a bus tour on July 5, 2005. The tour leader was Jo-Anne Brownlee, author of the new historical guide to Clarendon, who welcomed additional information from some of the passengers. The route covered much of Clarendon, about two hours driving time, but took four hours including several stops along the way.
Starting in Shawville we saw the original school bell from Knoxs School No 4, in Memorial Park. Someone innocently asked Does it ring? and an intrepid bus passenger ran out in the rain and demonstrated that the school bell does ring.
The tour took us on a zigzag down Zion Line to Front road, then west along Front road to Austin, on to Starks Corners, Radford, Moorhead, Charteris, Yarm and back to Shawville.
We saw 14 cemeteries and burial plots, some on privately owned land, marked only with white posts put up the day before by the municipality. Many of these cemeteries are beautifully maintained. Visitors looked for names of departed family and friends here.
One-room schoolhouses and churches served every small community in the past, with eleven school buildings and eleven churches on the route. Starks Corners United Church and Holy Trinity Anglican Church at Radford are now the only two Clarendon churches still holding regular Sunday services. All of the six former Methodist churches (now United) and three of the four Anglican churches closed due to declining membership, but have special memorial services once a year. Some were open specially for the bus tour, such as the Norman Methodist Church (1904) at 11th Line and Towell Road, shown in the photo, and St Matthews Anglican Church (1901) at Charteris. Many of the school buildings and one former Anglican church are now privately owned and used as farm storage sheds or summer cottages.
The booklet lists fourteen 150-year-old family farms, where descendants of the original settlers are still living and farming. Some of these were visible along the tour, as well as places of historical interest for Clarendon, such as the farm owned by James Prendergast, where settlers landed from the Ottawa River and took the bridle path that became Heath Road. As the first Crown Land Agent, arriving in 1825, within two years Prendergast built a sawmill, a gristmill and three houses, and cleared 30 acres, making Clarendon Mills the centre of activity in the new township.
Other historical homesteads in Clarendon are the farms of Thomas Corrigan and Alexander Smart, the first and second mayors; the house where John Alexander Sturgeon lived, who was the first medical doctor; the Armstrong house, and the Stark house.
The Clarendon Roller Mills began operation in 1888 on the old Campbells Bay road. This was a water-powered gristmill, converting grain into flour until 1944. Apparently this monument to the past is still in good condition but is in private ownership and not visible from the road. Initiatives such as the bus tour and guidebook increase awareness of the value of old buildings and may increase the chances of this wonderful heritage being maintained and preserved for future generations.
The guide A Self-Guided Historical Tour of Clarendon is available for $5 from the Clarendon Municipal Hall at C427, highway 148, near Shawville. The book is also available in French: Une tournée historique de Clarendon.
Photo: Mo Laidlaw
Norman Methodist Church, Clarendon.