Posts Tagged ‘Spencerville’


The Spencerville Fair was held this weekend. It is our local fair, the event closest to our home, and was well attended. When we visited on Saturday, the streets were lined with cars and we had to park on the outskirts of town and walk back, although there was also a parking lot with a shuttle bus available a bit farther away. We hadn’t planned it that way, but we happened to arrive just as the Fair Parade was getting underway.


As we reached the parade route, a tractor pulling a mini-zoo of farm animals was just passing by.


Tagged on at the end of the float was a cage with a cat and her kittens. While the kittens were paying no attention to the parade and getting on with their own games, their Mom was watching out the back screen. It wasn’t clear if she was enjoying some people-watching or looking for a way to escape this craziness.


The Shriners were well-represented in the parade. Musical skill level didn’t seem to be a big factor in choosing participants.


An assortment of farm equipment, new and antique, was included in the parade.


This beautiful little pony and its young rider represented the equine division of the Fair.


I loved this pair of regal llamas, dressed for fall.


What would a parade be without a Pipe Band?


The Scouts had a colourful float with many enthusiastic participants.


Including a Zamboni in the Fall Fair Parade seemed like an especially Canadian act.


Historical content was provided by this float reconstruction of the Cardinal swing bridge. Being a relatively new resident in the area, I’m not aware of the story of the bridge.


The Fair’s Queen of Culinary Arts had a seat of honour in this antique car.


Bringing up the rear, was a truck representing the Spencerville Fire Department. Many of the parade participants were tossing out wrapped candy, bubblegum and rockets, to the crowd along the route. I had to out-dash a couple of little kids to snatch up a piece of green bubblegum, which I took with me as the parade ended and we headed into the Fair.


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The Spencerville Mill Foundation has produced an excellent guide to a walking tour of Spencerville. Many town buildings have an interesting history. I found the background behind two former hotels of particular note. The building above, now a private home, was once the Victoria Hotel. The guide offers this entry about the Victoria Hotel:

Originally constructed by David Spencer in 1837 the Victoria Hotel provided accommodation, food and drink to travelers. The hotel boasted an upstairs ballroom and a secret passageway to a store of liquor in defiance of the 1878 Temperance Act. In the late 1800s it became a private home and the ballroom was converted into seven bedrooms. The home has changed hands several times and undergone many interior renovations to modernize and enhance the oldest stone building in the village.

Secret passageway! Cool! The temperance movement in Upper Canada began in the first half of the 19th-century. By 1851, the region had a large membership in the Sons of Temperance organization. On June 21, 1854, there was a public excursion on the new Prescott-Bytown (Ottawa) railroad from Prescott to Spencerville by the Sons of Temperance. This archival report of the outing and other details of the local temperance movement was reprinted in the Prescott Journal.

The following is from a report in the Prescott Telegraph: “At 9 am many Prescott and Ogdensburg people left Prescott on a train hauled by the Oxford, of which R.C. Graves was conductor and John Lufkin engineer. The ladies had busied themselves the previous day with the result that the Oxford was almost hidden under wreaths of flowers. On the forward part of the engine was a particularly handsome wreath with the words ‘Ladies’ Interest’.

“In the centre and directly above it was a pair of antlers, highly ornamental and surmounted by a crown. The Union Jack, Stars and Stripes, Temperance banners and bunting floated from the different cars. After a run of about 30 minutes Spencerville was reached… At five o’clock (after a day of celebration under the Sons of Temperance banners) the whistle of the Oxford sounded for the return trip, and Prescott was reached in satisfactory time.”


The Canada Temperance Act of 1878 gave local governments the right to prohibit the retail sales of alcohol. It wasn’t until World War I that the temperance movement reached its peak. In 1915 and 1916, all provinces of Canada except Quebec banned the retail sale of alcohol (Quebec banned the sale of distilled liquor briefly from 1919). Most provincial legislation was abandoned during the 1920s. As prohibition continued in the U.S. into the 1930s, Canadian liquor interests found a large, illegal market for their product.

Prohibition must have been a sticky issue in the region as the town of Prescott was home to the J. P. Wiser distillery, which contributed significantly to the town’s economic well-being. In fact, in 1858-59, there were 4 distilleries in Prescott, as well as beer brewers.

Just down the street from the Victoria Hotel was the Exchange Hotel, of which the guide notes:

In the mid 1800s the Exchange Hotel and Stagehouse for Bytown (Ottawa) and Prescott was considered a comfortable house with livery service. Ten years later, under new ownership, it was renamed The Temperance Hotel. Prior to the 1960s, the post office was located here.

Presumably, the Exchange Hotel offered alternative accomodations to those sympathetic to prohibition who might not have wished to stay at the Victoria Hotel. The old Exchange Hotel building is pictured below.


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On the road to Kemptville, I was amazed to see a near-life size elephant standing outside an art studio a few weeks ago. I have driven by a few times since, and finally stopped in this weekend. Dave Leonard, owner of Homestead Gallery and an artist himself, introduced me to Gracie. She was even more impressive close-up, with a size and bulk that brought the experience of standing by a real live elephant thrillingly to mind. Gracie is the creation of Spencerville sculptor Rob Turnbull, who works with paper pulp, burlap, mixed media, concrete and plaster.

Homestead Gallery features the work of a number of local artists. The walls of the gallery display an interesting collection of paintings that cover a range of subjects from sailboats and cattle to still lifes and landscapes. Sculptures are displayed along with an array of artisan creations from pottery to jewelry to handbags. You can learn more about the artists and see a selection of works at the Homestead website.

Dave Leonard kindly took a photograph of Gracie and me. As an art object, I felt constrained from touching Gracie, but my hand kept drifting out, wanting to stroke her fine trunk.


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