Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Pleasant Tour

Communities are like quilts: they are stitched together one piece at a time.

With maps in hand, I ventured out once again onto the province's back roads for a second tour of barn quilts, today with a focus on the hamlet of Mount Pleasant. There are five quilts in the area and their theme seems to be summed up in "Our Mount Pleasant Home" quilt block that stands proudly at the town's main crossroads. Founded in 1801 by a handful of families on Six Nations land, the hamlet became home to so many.

The "Double Wedding Ring" quilt motif is appropriate for the "Bryning Manse". This was the home of the hamlet's first resident minister, Rev. John Bryning, who officiated countless marriages upon settling here in c. 1838.

The "Crossroads" quilt block marks the centre of town on the old general store and post office building, built in 1834. As is custom with this type of building, the upper floor was a residence and here Ontario's fourth premier (1896-1899), Arthur Sturgis Hardy, was born in 1837.

"Village lore is that at 1:00 a.m. on December 14, 1837 troops commanded by Col. Allan McNab marched through Mount Pleasant en route from Brantford to Scotland in pursuit of rebels led by Dr. Charles Duncombe from Burford who had gathered there. When McNab's company got to Mount Pleasant there was a light in a bedroom over the Hardy store so a suspicious McNab detailed a party to search the premises for conspirators. Russell Hardy answered the knock and invited the Colonel in to meet a newly-born son, Arthur Sturgis Hardy. Hardy seemed literally to have been born into the ranks of Liberalism, destined to enter the Ontario Legislature on the Reform (Liberal) ticket in 1873, again meeting Col. McNab who was there as a Tory member." (from Devlin's Country Bistro and Catering website)

Most of the town's pioneers were farmers, but Thomas Perrin established a gristmill on the Mount Pleasant Creek in 1801. Unfortunately, his hard work was destroyed only a few years later during the War of 1812. American General Duncan McArthur set out from Detroit in the fall of 1814 with a plan to attack the British at Burlington Heights (aka my hometown). His strategy called for pillage and destruction on route and Mount Pleasant was among the communities heavily damaged in the last days of the war. The Water Wheel quilt block commemorates the ghost of Perrin's mill.

"Our Mount Pleasant Home" quilt block is sited within the cemetery where many of the town's pioneers are buried. The graves of those who fought in the War of 1812 are marked with flags as part of this year's bicentennial commemoration of the war. A surprising number of the early tombstones bear a weeping willow as a symbol of mourning. This decoration was a popular in the early 1800s across Ontario and the U.S. I'm unsure of the carving beneath the tree. It appears to be a series of forward and backward 3's. hmmmm.

Preceding today's "pleasant" tour was a stop in the nearby town of Waterford at its former train station, which just happens to be the home of a lovely quilt store. The Canada Southern Railway station first opened here in 1871. It was a busy hub with over a hundred trains a day passing by this elegant wood edifice. Here Canadian passengers could connect with trains run by the New York Central company traveling to Buffalo and Chicago. Those busy tracks are long gone and now the Quilt Junction makes for really appropriate adaptive reuse of the historic building. I spent an enjoyable hour browsing their fabrics and books and came away with some "King Tut" Egyptian cotton thread that is perfect for my current project. I just wish I had brought a cup of coffee with me in order to sit at one of their tables on the station's platform to enjoy the setting and its views over the river. Next time!


John said...

I wonder if there is any Irish (the Republic - not N.I.) connection to your Waterford ?
That's the name of my father's home town

Shari said...

Good question! "Scotland" is just up the road from Waterford and Mount Pleasant was named in memory of the old Welsh homeland (must be a translation of the original- unpronounceable - name) so it is quite plausible to have an Irish connection.

Waterford was settled by Jacob Slaght in 1812, and he was soon followed by a number of United Empire Loyalists who left the US at the outbreak of the War of 1812. The settlement's first name was "Avery's Mills" after its miller, Paul Averill. There were a couple of other names as, it seems, the mill changed ownership. The establishment of a post office in the settlement in 1826, caused it to be officially named "Waterford" after a town in New York State from which some of the settlers had come.

Thanks for your question. I learned a lot in the search!