Roblins Mills (now Ameliasburgh), as Al Purdy knew it in the early days of the A-frame (1957 on) is a very different place today. The village which Purdy explored looking for voices of those gone before, is itself changed, and much reduced, but with a glowing heart of volunteerism and heritage dedication and scholarship. And it's a destination for a growing number of Canlit pilgrims.
"In the midst of my own despair and failure
I wrote it all down on paper
everything I learned about Roblin's Mills
and the 19th-century village now called Ameliasburg
in a kind of fevered elation at knowing
the privilege of finding a small opening
in the past..."
"When the house was half-built and the money ran out
Ameliasburgh village became the big city for me
I discovered the old ruined grist mill
built by Owen Roblin in 1842
four storeys high with a wrecked mill wheel
cumbered by stones and time
containing the legend of the Roblin family..."
Owen Roblin built this fine house across the street from his mill complex, and built a rare octagonal house for his son. Both are gone.
"In 1829 Owen took up land in Ameliasburg
ten years later traded lots with one John Way
to build his mill and stone house
then an octagonal one for his children's children
But the mill was torn down last year"...
|Roblin octagonal house|
photo courtesy PEC Library and Archives
Today it's difficult to find even the footprints of these lost structures.
|All that remains of the once proud Roblins Mill|
|the curve where the mill complex once stood|
|the millpond below the escarpment, outlet of the mill creek|
|the spot across from the mill site, where Own Roblin's house|
stood in 1842
As Purdy wrote in another evocative poem about looking for the past in its places:
"But it's been a long time since
and we must enquire the way
of strangers - "
(The Country North of Belleville, The Cariboo Horses, 1965)
(All archival photos courtesy of Prince Edward County Library and Archives, thanks to Krista Richardson, archivist)