Cornstock 2006

For many years now, the Meens family, proprietors of the Rednersville Country Store, have welcomed hundreds of friends and family for an annual cornroast on the shores of the Bay of Quinte down Rednersville Road. Photographs taken, and a firsthand account by one of the guests, are posted here.

No word yet whether collectible memorabilia will be sold on eBay.

Biscotasing: Hudson's Bay Company Store

We collect historic photographic postcards, because every picture tells a story. This is one of them.

Biscotasing, better known as Bisco, was one of those instant towns that jumped out of nowhere during construction of the CPR Railway in the early 1880s. Bisco started out as a large railway camp that grew into a CPR construction town, where nearly 500 men lived, drank and caroused and womanized. Bisco was filled with brothels and saloons and quickly developed a reputation for being rough, wild and raucous.

From 1882-1886, Bisco effectively became a divisional point. The settlement included freight sheds, a telegraph office, where as many as three telegraphers were on duty at different intervals, boarding houses, a wye, coal chutes and water tank, all contained within an area of about 470 acres. A huge siding was managed by J.B. Jones and housed shops for 19 locomotives.

In addition to the telegraphers, there were also 15 engineers and 15 firemen working twelve-hour days. Daily pay for the engineers ranged from $2.50 to $2.75 and for the firemen, $1.10 to $1.50. Railway ties were produced in a portable mill operated by Mr. Leech and Mr. Rowan. The CPR contacted jobbers for tie production whenever the need arose. Things slowed down after 1886 when the divisional point was moved to Chapleau. The village was left with a small population that included a few rail workers, lumbermen and trappers, who were serviced by a small Hudson Bay post.

After the railway moved out the sawmills moved in. Around 1894, two groups, Barnath & McNeil, and Joiffe & Beatty each set up mills. A third firm, O'Neil & Simpson, began producing squared timber primarily for the CPR. The latter company eventually changed their name to Sudlen & O'Neil, and only produced sporadically until shutting down entirely in 1898, leaving four million board feet of unsold lumber. Booth and Shannon went on to purchase the mill and quickly built it up to become the dominant mill in the area.

Bisco sprang to life following the success of the sawmill. After making extensive enlargements to the mill in 1903, Booth & Shannon were able to produce an average of 10 million board feet. Production peaked at 14.5 million board feet and four million laths in 1911. There were so many workers the company found it necessary to add new sleep camps, boarding houses, a cookhouse and company store.

Major improvements to the Bisco were visible everywhere. In addition to the company store, there was a Hudson's Bay store and a combination general store and post office, owned by J.A. Wright. A school was added in 1906 and a hospital in 1909. There was a new two-storey railway station and a Catholic church. An Anglican church was opened in 1908 with Rev. Banting officiating as the first minister. In 1907 the government set up an Ontario Forestry station that would figure more prominently in Bisco's later years. Thirty brand new homes were built. By 1911, Bisco's population had jumped to 271 from 102, ten years earlier.

Unfortunately Bisco's new found prosperity was short lived.
Continue reading this history of Biscotasing here and another at Ontario Ghost Towns, where there are more photographs of Biscotasing.

What's really interesting about this postcard is that it was signed: "Good luck, K.G. Ross." and was sent to H.J.E. Keys, Esq. 84 Avenue Road, Toronto. Mr. Kenneth G. Ross was the chief forest ranger for the district including Biscotasing and figured in the negotiations of the James Bay Treaty, Treaty No 9 with the Indians in 1906, as described in this story of the journey through Biscotasing at the time.

The next photograph from the Ontario Government Archives is of Chief Espagnol (Sahquakegick) before the Hudson's Bay Company store at Biscotasing, Ontario, taken on the 20th of July, 1906, by Duncan Campbell Scott,1862-1947. He was a civil servant in the department of Indian affairs (1879-1932). He became a clerk at the age of seventeen. He was Deputy Superintendent from 1913, until 1923, when he became Deputy Superintendent General for the Federal Government. His responsibilities included representing the Federal Government in intergovernmental negotiations with the aboriginal peoples in landholding agreements and establishing treaty settlements. As Commissioner in the first of two Commissioners’ visit in 1905-1906 (the other in 1929-1930) to Northern Ontario, Scott was instrumental in submitting Treaty No.9 to the Governor General for ratification in January, 1907. Scott was also an amateur photographer and during the Commissioners’ visit in 1905-1906, to James Bay area he photographed the native population and scenery.

Today Biscotasing is a partial ghost town. Lumbering is still carried out in the area and the most recent records indicate that Bisco supports a year-round population of 22. During the summer, the population swells to around 300 as the area springs to life with tourism and fishing. A provincial park is located nearby. One of the churches still functions and the general store and post office remain open to this very day.

Directions to the village of Biscotasing.

Storytelling in Prince Edward County

Like the country storekeepers at the Rednersville Country Store in the good old days, we love to swap stories about the history of Prince Edward County, and yes, we still gossip about the neighbours if you stop by the store for a visit. Many of the folks around the County, and most of our neighbours up and down Rednersville Road, have access to the internet now. So they sometimes visit our online antiques gallery, which is now filled with antiques and memorabilia.

Local folks and visitors from around the world read this Rednersville Loyalist news rag, or blog as the younger folks call it, where we post stories of interest to those who know Prince Edward County, or might like to. On this blog, we've posted stories about the loyalist history of the County and, closer to home, a story about the night this store was struck by lightning, an excerpt from a book by local author, photographer and storyteller, Janet Kellough, The Legendary Guide to Prince Edward County.

But there's something about the spoken word that makes storytelling so interesting. So it's our pleasure to spread the word about the County's own weekly podcast, featuring Janet Kellough and Don Edwards, The Prince Edward County Podcast. To listen to a "podcast" you don't need to have one of those iPod mp3 players the kids all want for Christmas, because you can listen to the stories on your computer by just clicking on a link. It's easy, and well worth a listen.

We really enjoyed Prince Edward County Podcast #4 -- Rum-Runners Edition, which features the voice of author C.W. Hunt describing where the booze came from, and one smuggler's hair-raising encounter with the U.S. Coast Guard. Then, Janet tells the tale of Main Duck Island and how one Milford family indirectly benefited from rum-running. The storytelling is captivating, and the production of the podcasts is very professional. We'll be listening to their podcasts every week, here in the comfort of our store, surrounded by antiques and memorabillia that evoke memories to complement these stories of Prince Edward County.

We should probably get together with Don and Janet to talk about some of the stories heard and told over the years in the Rednersville Country Store.

Jim Crow Collectibles & Black Memorabilia

As Rosa Parks is honored today, many Americans remember the fight for racial equality in their time, and the Jim Crow era is still part of their personal memories, or family histories. Increasingly, black memorabilia is in high demand among serious collectors.
Black Enterprise magazine and the Wall Street Journal have touted Black memorabilia as worthwhile investments. Essence, a leading Black magazine, even gave a short tutorial on how to shop for these items. Blacks are now as likely as Whites to collect Black memorabilia -- including racist memorabilia -- and celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Spike Lee are avid collectors. Although some Blacks collect racist items as "investments," many Blacks, including Winfrey and Lee, collect the material to remind themselves and others of America's racist past. These collectors, regardless of their motivations, are exhausting the available supply of original Black-related items. The price of authentic Black-related memorabilia has escalated as fewer older pieces remain on the market. This escalation in prices has significant consequences: Jim Crow era artifacts are increasingly found in the elite collections of wealthy individuals or organizations, and the demand for cheaper Jim Crow styled items has spurred a flourishing reproductions market.
The Jim Crow era in the United States extended from the mid-1870s to the mid-1960s; consequently, most of the racist artifacts in the Ferris State University Jim Crow Museum were produced and distributed during that period.

Loyalist communities in Canada were safe havens for refugee slaves in the black history of the United States and Canada.
The Underground Railroad was not actually a train but rather a name given to a loosely organized system which helped fugitive slaves and free Blacks find freedom in Canada. On August 1, 1834, the British Imperial Act abolishing slavery went into effect in British controlled areas worldwide, including Canada. Since slavery continued in the United States, both Black and white abolitionists assisted Black people through providing them with financial support, directions, shelter, food or transportation. Later, the American Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 forced freedom-seeking African Americans, and often those who helped them, to leave the United States and enter Canada. The Underground Railroad ended after the American Civil War and the end of American slavery.

Our collections include excellent examples of rare Jim Crow collectibles and black memorabilia.

Red Indian Service Station

The oldest photograph we have of the Rednersville Country Store is a postcard that shows the late 19th century streetscape of Rednersville Road. Though the road itself is a narrow dirt trail, there is evidence of the coming technological revolution.

Near the store in this picture is a telegraph pole (later known as a telephone pole) which carried the communications wires that are typically underground today.

Rednersville Country Store served as the local post office and would have been the first place in the farming community where folks could send or receive a telegraph message or pick up their mail. Mail came by stagecoach, so there would typically be a stable and blacksmith not far from the hotel or general store that served as the post office and communications hub for the community. Behind the telegraph pole in the postcard, we see what was probably a stable at the Rednersville way station.

By the early 20th century, horses gave way to the motor car and these way stations were gradually converted to filling stations serving gasoline and motor oil. In a later photograph can be seen the gas pumps in front of the original stable, which by then had lost its porch to accommodate the new pumps.

Those who collect petroliana might recognize the trademarks of the Red Indian Service Station, and the antique gas pumps with the glass globes that fueled the tanks of the motor cars by a gravity feed. Red Indian motor oil signs, pumps, advertising and other memorabilia are quite collectible now.

Later, the filling station became a "full service" station, offering mechanical repairs to cars and trucks and even tractors which farmers would drive down Rednersville Road to the country store and what had become Ward's Garage. The Red Indian gas pumps had been upgraded, including a Clearvision 700 double visible pump. Beside the garage was the shop owner's new home.

The "corner gas" property that has long been derelict across the street from the Rednersville Country Store is now getting a bit of a makeover, and the small clapboard house is being completely restored. Interestingly, it was during the renovation of the little house beside the abandoned gas station that we found in the attic the original negative of the earliest known photograph of these Red Indian gas pumps.

Look What We Found Online

This is a collage of photographs from Flickr, which uses selected photos of letters to spell the name of our hamlet.

rE, SeattleN, SeattleESe\S, with some guy in the background.Rusty BlueLE version 1

Still the Lowest Prices in Town

We get some really interesting email. Last year, we got an email from an antique dealer in the United States who wanted to know about our inventory of stoneware and crockery. Apparently, it's quite hard to find such large quantities of quality goods. She said our prices were far lower than she would be charging in her antique shop in the States, so she wanted to know if we'd sell her everything—lock, stock and barrel. In the end, we decided it didn't make sense for us to empty the shop for one customer.

So now we're still in business, trying to sell antiques, one at a time, at unbelievably low prices. Speaking of prices, we just got another email asking about the prices of stuff you'd find in an historic general store like the Rednersville Country Store in the 1800s.
Hello! I just came across your website and I am almost inspired to make the long trek up to Prince Edward County! It looks absolutely beautiful and tranquil.

I am the Education Coordinator for a small 'living history' museum just outside of Cincinnati, OH USA. Our Heritage Village is a collection of 19th century buildings and artifacts from around the Greater Cincinnati region during our pioneer days, beginning in the late 1700s to early 1800s and on.

We are currently revamping our 'general store' from being the gift shop to becoming part of the museum as the olde country general store.

We already have the items inside the store. What I am looking for are historical prices. For my educational programs, I want to be able to compare prices of then and now. Thus, I found your store with its history and background. I was wondering if you have any records of pricing, say during the 1870s. Looking at the basic things that one would have found when they went into town to buy their goods: soaps, canned goods, articles of clothing, tools, farm tools, household items, anything of that nature.

If you could help me, it would be greatly appreciated.
We don't have an historic catalogue with prices; most general stores in those days used to just mark up the prices on small handmade signs in the store. I've seen old newspaper ads, ephemera, that are interesting not only for the low prices back in the day, but just to see some of the old implements that aren't used anymore.
Printed and manuscript advertisements have existed ever since craftsmen, storekeepers, and other business people realized that is was advantageous to promote themselves and their merchandise. In the world of eighteenth-century artisans, a furniture maker would paste a rudimentary label on one of his tables or chests to show the public the kind of work they could expect from him. Broadening the range of promotions further, a craftsman regularly placed advertisements in newspapers or city directories, noting his address, detailing his products, and frequently including illustrations. Sometimes these ads were also circulated on their own. Likewise, a general store proprietor would distribute small-scale ads to announce the arrival of new products or to proclaim special sales. By associating his name with his product or place of business in an advertisement, the craftsman and businessman hoped to enhance their reputations, and they at least implied to buyers that they would stand behind their work and goods.
But all I know is, the Rednersville Country Store still has the lowest prices in town. That's what they tell me, anyway.

The Belleville Volcano

It's not uncommon to hear old tales of weird happenings around these parts. You might remember the story about the guys who were struck by lightning right upstairs here in the Rednersville Country Store. That's a true story, they say.

But this one about the Belleville Volcano is news to me, and there's no one alive today who might remember that night, if it really happened. Maybe you've heard the story before.
During the evening of Saturday, January 28, 1899, people near Belleville, in a place known as Rednersville, were having trouble getting to sleep. They were being kept awake by horrible sounds resembling, as one irate listener claimed, the whinnying of a thousand dogs, mingled with the heavy boom of cannons. At midnight the disturbance reached its peak with a terrific explosion. The ground shook slighty, terrifying many people. Then there was silence. After a while, the citizens settled down and went to sleep.

In the morning, a search was made of the area. The searchers found a large piece of ice near Anderson's Landing on the Bay of Quinte that had apparently been thrown out of the water onto the land. They also found about half an acre of pulverized ice which looked as if a great weight had fallen upon it grinding it to powder. The searchers also found something else very strange. Even though the weather the previous week had been very cold, the bay still remained open where the ice was found broken up. The water there was quite clear of ice. They found, upon testing, that its temperature was a few degrees above freezing. Occasionally, the open area of water bubbled up with a hissing sound. On its surface floated a number of dead fish.

What had caused the strange noises, the earthquake and the shattered ice? No one knows for sure. Some amateur scientists in the Belleville area visited the site and ventured that a meteorite had fallen into the bay and had completely cooled. This would account for the explosion, the open, warm water and possibly the pulverized ice. But it does not explain the strange noise that lasted for hours or the big block of ice that was thrown up on the shore.

What would make a noise for hours-as if building up pressure-then explode, causing the earth to shake and water in the middle of winter to heat up and possibly throw a large chunk of ice out on the shore and pulverize the ice around the hole? Maybe a small volcanic eruption?

There are no known active volcanoes in this area now. But maybe there were once. Mont Tremblant in Quebec is thought to have once been an active volcano. In Ontario, Lake on the Mountain in Prince Edward County was believed by Indians to have once been a "smoking mountain", that is, a volcano!

And one last point for you to consider. In July of 1902, People living near Lake on the Mountain were worried that there was going to be a volcanic eruption under the lake. Why? Because the lake water was heating up abnormally for the time of the year. Was an old volcano under Lake on the Mountain coming to life?
If you've heard this tall tale before, please leave a note in the comments below.

High Speed Internet News

For a small hamlet that is found by Google Maps but is not yet named on that map, it was big news around here when Rednersville got a high speed cable internet connection.

It makes me think about the olden days, when the Rednersville Country Store used to be the central hub of communications for the surrounding community. Then, folks would stop by the store to pick up supplies and send or pick up their mail since the store served as the local post office.

And, in the days before everyone around here had a phone, neighbours could make a telephone call from the store when they came to buy supplies. One way or another, the country store has always been the first in the neighbourhood to get the latest communications technologies, and the place where local people would go to get in touch with people in the big cities.

So it is today, when we got our high speed Cogeco cable internet service. (Download speed : 4740076 bps, or 4628 kbps. A 578.6 KB/sec transfer rate. Upload speed : 629921 bps, or 615 kbps.)

We've been really busy around here these past few months, getting ready to re-open the antique shop for regular hours by mid-April, alongside a new concept we'll be opening in the retail space at the rear of the building that will need all that new bandwidth. We can't be more specific about our plans for the new concept yet, but our regular readers here will be the first to know when we announce the news of yet another reason to come by way of Rednersville.

Google Maps Rednersville

Wow, isn't Google Maps really cool? Now, you can find your way to Rednersville Country Store using this map of the area. We're located in the middle of the map, right on the Bay of Quinte at the intersection of County Road 3, which the locals call Rednersville Road, and County Road 23, on the way to Ameliasburgh in Prince Edward County.

These Google Maps are just in beta development at this time, so really small towns aren't yet marked on the maps—like the name of the hamlet of Rednersville, for example. But we're working on it.

The really neat thing about these maps is that you can use your computer mouse to "grab and drag" the map around in the viewer window to show the surrounding areas and roads throughout the County. This is really helpful if you're looking for directions to get to the Rednersville Country Store from Belleville, Trenton, or even routes from the USA via the bridge to Canada from Highway 81 near Gananoque or by crossing at Ogdensburg NY.

Rednersville Country Store should be shown at the intersection of yellow brick roads on this map that shows many places where you can "find antiques" around Belleville, Ontario, Canada.