[‘Geraldine’s’ Letter to the British Whig]
He was a pompous old gentleman and he walked into the general store at Adolphustown with the air of one who had seen much of the world but who had no idea of passing by anything worthy of notice if he could possibly help it. Addressing himself to a village maiden, who stood waiting for the distribution of the afternoon mail, he said: “Can you tell me, my girl, of anything interesting to be found here besides the Memorial church?” And the modest answer was: “No, sir; I don’t think that there is anything else.” Whether the girl was flurried by the unexpected question from a stranger or whether she actually found nothing else of interest in her own village I cannot say, but her answer was misleading, for her interlocutor returned to his yacht under the impression that the church, the two stores and a few houses were all that could be found at Adolphustown. I spent the last two weeks of August in that neighborhood at a charming old homestead where the quaint “Longwood Cottage” is situated on a two hundred acre farm whose boundaries extend from the shore of the Bay of Quinte back to the bay formed between Young’s and Ruttan’s points. A more picturesque spot would be hard to find and we luxuriated in idleness on the vine-covered verandah at “Longwood” facing the richly wooded bluffs of Prince Edward County across the bay.
Some people have a fondness for “beating about the bush,” but there is no excuse for such blundering at Adolphustown. Nowhere is it easier to reach a point, indeed such a climax seems inevitable, direct your course as you may. The farm house below Longwood is on Poole’s point, but should it be deemed advisable not to reach the point too soon the by-path may be retraced which, if not the “primrose path of dalliance,” is in August the goldenrod path of cycling; for that brilliant autumn flower grows thickly on either side of the road which we spin along. Soon the main road curves down close to the bay and the view is even more delightful than before. The brick church, set high upon the hill at Glenora, stands out so distinctly as to seem even nearer than it really is. A short distance more and a halt must be called for one need not be Young to see the next point, that is obvious, and as we stand on the shore and look to the right another point juts out across the bay, and beyond it is another, and yet again another, the land lying like a giant’s hand, the index finger being turned towards that popular summer resort Glen Island, which Mr. Dingman has succeeded in making so attractive as to draw tourists from New York and Toronto year after year.
From each of the other fingers on the giant’s hand, the view is equally fine and ought to turn the thoughts of the least imaginative to the great First Cause who planned such wonderful beauty. We may visit great cities and admire vast cathedrals or world renowned paintings, but by neither will the soul be stirred so deeply as by the rugged beauty of nature. The massive strength and power suggested by the jutting rocks; the mutability of the waters; no lapping lazily against the pebbly shore, or, again, so still that every tree along the high bank is reflected as in a mirror; or yet again roaring and foaming in obedience to the command of the boisterous wind, which, not content with ruffling the erstwhile placid bay, plays high pranks among the branches of the trees until the leaves flap in gentle chorus, a dismal accompaniment to the turmoil made by wind and wave.
On the road to Hay Bay, are at least two points of interest that might have been cited in reply to the query of the pompous man. One is the ruin of the house where Sir John Macdonald lived as a boy. I am not sure whether it was his birth place or not, but at any rate he lived there and the people in the neighborhood point proudly to the ruins of the old homestead of that honored Canadian statesman. The other interesting relic on that road is in too good repair to be classed amongst the “ruins.” Its walls and roof are still intact although the building has long fallen into disuse. It is the old Methodist church and the chief point of interest about it is that it was the first Methodist church built in Canada, the Adolphustown Methodists claiming to be the pioneers of their faith in the matter of Canadian church building.
St. Alban’s the Memorial Church of the United Empire Loyalists, has too often been described to need more than passing comment; suffice it to say that it is one of the prettiest little churches in Canada. It is built of limestone, in Gothic style and its memorial character is denoted by the number of brass tablets, stained windows, etc., place there by the relatives of staunch U.E.L.’s who were wont to worship in earlier days within the precincts of what is called “the old church,” which now serves as a church hall and Sunday school. An additional beauty to the outer surroundings of St. Alban’s is that it was built directly behind two immense poplar trees, mounted like twin giants on guard over the sacred edifice. Straight and strong and uncompromising they stand; firmly rooted in the good soil and growing ever upwards until they attain heights above the reach of man. They are indeed a symbol of the deeper life of those who have come and gone, whose resting place is marked by stone or cross in the old graveyard adjoining the church.
The service at St. Alban’s is bright and hearty. The congregation joining reverently in the responses and the singing is surprisingly lusty. Mr. Forneri, the pastor for the past fifteen years, if beloved by his people, and he has an efficient help-meet in Mrs. Forneri, who presides at the organ and leads the choir, her voice having lost none of its former sweetness since she sang in Kingston as Miss Jessie Phippen.
There are three schools in the near neighbourhood of Adolphustown in which we were specially interested as we met the bright girls who are in charge of those little halls of learning. Very “little” halls they are, but out of these small beginnings have gone forth students who afterwards graduated with high honors from Queen’s, from Trinity, from Toronto University, and at least one from the Royal Military College. Also from these little buildings have been sent boys and girls who knew no later schooling than the great discipline of life, but who, as men and women, look back gratefully to the lessons learned at the little brown school house on the hill. Miss Bertie Dorland has charge of the village school, while Miss Addie Chinneck, a clever little graduate of the Napanee high school, presides over the school at Dorland; and a little further on, at Gosport, is one in charge of Miss Buchanan, of Picton.
At one of these schools, the membership roll numbered eight, but no two children were of the same grade so there were eight classes. The child in the lowest class knew “A” and “B” when she began school, but it took the patient teacher one week before “C” was mastered. Another class insisted that “and” spelt cat, and burst out crying when she was told that she was mistaken. The higher classes are more interesting. In one case the teacher was telling all the children about animals and vegetables. After saying that animals were always found in larger numbers where vegetables were plentiful, she asked the children where they would find the most animals, and a little girl promptly replied: “In Picton, ‘cause they have a whole market full of vegetables.”
There are many styles of conveyances to be found in Adolphustown. One of the prettiest is a Mikado that belongs to a young man living on the little finger of the giant’s hand, as we called the five points of the neighborhood. Everyone knows that Mikado when it comes along, but everyone is not so familiar with its name, and one girl – not having seen Gilbert and Sullivan’s play – found it almost impossible to remember the word and amused her hearers by saying she saw “H” out for a drive in his “Kodak.” Since then the Mikado has been known as the Kodak.
The Whig is the most widely read paper in that part of the country, some taking the daily and others the weekly. One woman said, “That weekly Whig is a fine paper for a dollar a year. We’d be real lonesome without it now.” More than one spoke in high terms of our venerable friend “Old Saw;” my hostess said he was a bright, smart fellow who would make his mark in the world, but she had an idea that he was not so old an old saw as he passed himself off to be. Several other complimentary remarks were made about the Whig, but I am afraid this letter is too long already although I have not yet touched upon all the points of interest in the neighborhood of Adolphustown.