THE EVOLUTION OF A CULTURAL LANDSCAPE
Introduction to Prince Edward County: the natural/cultural mix, linked with pastoral, coastal and rural settlement vistas
Prince Edward County, famous as a part of United Empire Loyalist settlement, is an island community encompassing less than 700 square kilometres, which boasts of over 800 kms of shoreline with varying geological features. The relative isolation of the island has nurtured a special rural culture, with overlays back through time as this culture evolved according to the natural setting and proximity to various markets. Within the County are to be found a remarkable mixture of heritage features (natural, architectural, archeological, historical), each meeting defined criteria for heritage significance.
Yet, to suggest that the County simply holds a collection of heritage assets is to sell it short. What makes the County unique, are the "webs of life" that link these assets to each other through time. These include the pastoral vistas, the historic allure of streetscapes with designated heritage buildings, the quiet harbours nestled into the geological features, and the natural shoreline as seen from the south which is the haven sought by migrating birds every spring. These examples identify only a few of the key links that bring the heritage of the County to life and make it the fascinating landscape that it is, rather than just an outdoor museum containing a variety of different artifacts. It is this combination of special places and events and their interwoven connections with the life of the County that sets Prince Edward apart as a potential National Cultural Landscape.
The notion of a "Sunday drive" perhaps explains this best. It is not so much the idea of rushing from one "artifact" site to another that makes a drive interesting, but the overall impression of seeing the mixture of places and what links them. Prince Edward County is not an outdoor museum with a scattering of artifacts, but a place that presents its heritage assets in a setting that brings them to life through an evolving economy and culture having long term respect and human involvement within a vibrant ecosystem.
The story of this island community begins with the land itself. Some 500 million years ago, during the Ordovician period of the Palaeozoic era, this area was inundated, and creatures living at the time became fossils as the limestone which now underlies much of the island was formed. About a million years ago, glaciers ground over the county and modified the surface of both the island and the shoreline. Sand deposited in areas resulted in the formation of the Sandbanks, deposits of glacial till introduced new soil types but also the boulders that make farming more interesting and landscaping options more varied. Streams flowing under the glaciers formed eskers, which are sources of gravel as well as holding basins for water retention.
These geological events provided the setting for the gradual evolution of the island to the way it is today, with areas of deep rich soils, unused or pasture lands on high limestone bedrock, and extensive swamp and marsh ecosystems.
The combination of these features with its location in Lake Ontario has resulted in The County being blessed with some rather unusual natural features and events:
Early History as portrayed by Archeological Sites
Although it is difficult to conceive now, The County had a tundra ecology after the glaciers receded. The earliest residents were Paleo-Indians who hunted in the area and left behind evidence of their presence in the form of fluted chert spear points, which date back some 12,000 years.
As the earth warmed following the ice age, trees began to grow in the County, and three cultures followed one another: the ARCHAIC, hunter gatherers; MOUNDBUILDERS, who were larger groups with some agricultural activities; and EARLY IROQUOIS, who formed small villages with some farming; followed by LATER IROQUOIS with larger villages and more extensive farming in the Devils Punch Bowl area.
During the latter half of the 1700s and 1800s, however, the Mississauga Indians (Waupoos Island was named after Chief Waupoos) of Prince Edward were decimated by diseases brought from Europe.
Cultural Heritage as influenced by Natural Heritage
With over 800 kilometres of shoreline, it is no surprise that Prince Edward County can trace water transportation back to its early days. Carrying Place portage was used by Indian people long before European explorers arrived.
The shores and offshore areas to the south of the island, known as "the Graveyard of Lake Ontario", are littered with the wrecks of ships from the earliest of time to the present, far more numerous than those in the Fathom Five area. The shoals of scraped underwater table rock in this area are extensions of the limestone rock carved by glaciers.
The French Connection
Champlain crossed The County in 1615, beginning at the False Ducks Islands. French fur traders passed through the area on their trade route up the Trent to Lake Huron. In 1668 Sulpician Priests established a Mission in the Lake Consecon area called Kente. It served the Iriquois villages on the north shore of Lake Ontario. It was abandoned in 1680. A 1757 French map named Prince Edward "Presquille de Quintee". British, French and Dutch trade wars erupted from time to time. Finally under British rule in 1763, Prince Edward and beyond was declared "Indian Country" and no formal settlement by Europeans was allowed.
The United Empire Loyalists
This changed with the arrival of some 500 Loyalists (plus disbanded British and German allied troops) subsequent to the American Revolution. Captain Justine Sherwood carried out a reconnaisance survey of Prince Edward in 1783, and the following year, surveyor Collins came ashore at Prinyers Cove, erected a log cabin and began to survey the "5th township", now Marysburg, the first to be done in the County. The first Loyalist settlers, led by Lieutenant Archibald MacDonnell, arrived in the fall of 1784 at MacDonnells Cove, later named Prinyers Cove after his son-in-law, and began to build their cabins and clear the land.
This early settlement was followed by similar activity in the area up the shores of Picton Bay, then called Grand Bay, across the old portage to East and West Lakes and to Wellington. The Daniel Reynolds Loyalist house was finished and he and his new bride moved there in 1792. It has been carefully restored and still functions as a residence. Interestingly, both these areas, although not tilled until the early 1800s, reflected the influence of nature: they are easily accessible by water, and have good soils.
Throughout the 1800s, Prinyers Cove was used by commercial schooners as a safe haven. There were several docks, where local products could be loaded onto the ships. Many other safe harbours in The County received similar use throughout that Century, including Picton Bay, Wellers Bay, Bay of Quinte, Smiths Bay and South Bay.
The Realities of Island Life
Although most access to The County is now by bridge, a variety of ferries served over two centuries. The Glenora ferry, in different forms, has operated from the Adolphustown area to Glenora for over 200 years. Initially operated by oars for passengers only, it evolved to its present form. The Glenora mill was built by Peter Van Alstine in the early 1800s. The flour and carding mill were operated by Hugh Macdonald, Sir John As father, between 1829 and 1836. The current fisheries research station was originally constructed in 1870 by James C. Wilson to manufacture water turbines. The machinery in both buildings was powered by the overflow water from the Lake on the Mountain 200 feet above.
Newly arrived settlers from Europe and the US had to have their needs met locally, as transportation of the day was sporadic. Consequently, in addition to food, manufactured goods had to be produced nearby, thus setting off The Countys very own "industrial revolution". The head of Picton Bay became a manufacturing and distribution town. Hallowell Township had the second highest assessment in the Midland District, about half of that of Kingston. The first settlers in Bloomfield, Abraham and James Barker, established a grist mill and a general merchandise business. Abrahams son David started a foundry. Stewart Wilson set up a business making harness, wagons, ploughs, other agricultural machinery, stoves and castings. Hallowell produced everything required: furniture, leather boots, hats, clothing, books, beer and whiskey. Predictably, demand for locally manufactured products tapered off as transportation matured, the limited market became saturated and new sales were replacements only.
Although the current site of Picton was granted to Lieutenant Moore Hovendon following the American Revolution, it was purchased at a Sheriffs sale in 1790 by Robert Macaulay, who passed it on to his son in 1800. William Macaulay had it laid out as a village in 1815, naming it Picton after General Sir Thomas Picton who had been killed that year in the Battle of Waterloo. Street names (Portland, York and Pitt) were all heroes of the day. In 1837, the adjacent village of Hallowell on the north side of the Bay was amalgamated with Picton. The industrial activities in Picton, combined with the settlement there of families of means, resulted in the rich architectural heritage now so valued in the County.
Milford is near the upper end of the Black River, the largest river in The County. In 1826, the Royal Navys Crown Reserve on Pine was released, resulting in a boom period there. During the "schooner days", vessels were built in Milford and floated down the river to the lake. The bridge, near the present Black River Cheese Factory, was a swing bridge at that time, and the river was dredged.
Agriculture has played an important role in The County since the early 1800s. Initially, the main cash crop was wheat exported to Great Britain. The USA became a major customer during the Civil War, and these trade links were retained until near the end of the century. A saying of the times was "wheat bought the farm and barley paid the mortgage". The Picton Fair Grounds played roles complementary to the agricultural industry of the times. The Prince Edward Agricultural Society, formed in 1831, held its first Fair in 1836, and purchased the present grounds from the Picton Driving Park Association in 1886. Initially, the Grandstand became the focus for trotting horse racing, symbolic of the export of trotting horses to the USA. In 1890, passage of the McKinley Tariff put a stop to all agricultural and fisheries exports to the US.
When the Tariff killed their market, farmers switched to dairying and growing canning crops. As many as 30 butter and cheese manufacturing plants operated at one time. By 1902, it is estimated that one third of all Canadas canned fruits and vegetables came from "The Garden County". Apples continue to be a significant crop, with County cider and maple syrup even being sold in gourmet food stores in Toronto such as Shay Gourmet.
Schools and churches became the social hubs of the communities, which were small in area due to the nature of transportation of the day (horse and buggy). A lasting tribute to these times is the historic Bethesda United Church and its "drive sheds".
1920 to 1940
Economic growth elsewhere and the role of the automobile brought the recreational assets of The County to the fore in the "Twenties". This was somewhat short-lived as the Depression caused widespread unemployment. Somewhat of an economic bridge from the Roaring Twenties into the Depression years was provided by rum running. Farmers lived off the land as best they could, but others had no choice but to leave. The population of the County dropped to 16,700. World War 11 changed that in a hurry. The Hasty Pees were mobilized for active service in September, 1939. The establishment of the British Commonwealth Air Training Program, as an old doctor reported to Dave Taylor, "brought in a welcomed addition to the gene pool".
The natural resources of The County continue to provide an economic base. Agriculture flourishes. Mineral extraction and processing continues. Tourism is again becoming a major industry, with B & B facilities providing many full and part time jobs. Moreover, the tranquil setting provided by The County is found attractive by self employed and retiring "Baby Boomers". The reputation of The County in terms of beauty, culture and serenity continues to attract many persons planning to live and retire in The County. Modern communication technology makes it possible for many persons to live where they choose, rather than this being dictated by "where" they work. These residents make considerable investments in real estate and bring their cultural wealth and well as their financial capacity and business acumen to The County, contributing to the business and cultural wealth and helping to perpetuate the evolution of this island cultural landscape.
PEC continues to evolve as people interact with the natural resource base: the webs that bring it all together.
Prince Edward County continues to evolve as a cultural landscape.
Jim Collinson, with research material from David Taylor