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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Roblin's Mill too

Valley Road - now Purdy Street...which should be 'Lane'
Michele Lintern-Mole, she of the fine old Dr. Fine house in Ameliasburgh has been for years the keeper of the keys at the Al and Eurithe Purdy A-frame. Michele tells me that the brick and stone foundation below has nothing at all to do with the former Roblin's Mill, which was captured by an architectural history do-gooder in 1963 and housed in a zoo in Toronto.

But it made goosebumps last fall when I saw it among the newly bare trees on the escarpment above Purdy Lane, which itself has some multilayered history.
Not Roblin's, but whose?

On Purdy Day, Denis and I hiked the Harry Smith Conservation Area trails which border the old mill pond in A'burg. You enter the trail half-way down Purdy Lane (some 911 bureaucrat changed it to Purdy Street, and it's time to take back the name), a branch off to the left (north). The first part of the trail leads under trees below the edge of the escarpment where the mill sat, and crosses a tiny creek which was once the outflow from the mill (inflow was channelled from Roblin Lake).

A guide to the Harry Smith Conservation Area can be found on the Nature Stuff website of Quinte's indomitable naturalist Terry Sprague. The walk leads around the millpond immortalized in Al's work. I'm sure he walked the shoreline path often, in his days discovering the stories of A'burg, its UEL pioneers, and Owen Roblin.

"The black millpond
                               holds them
movings and reachings and fragments
the gear and tackle of living
under the water eye
all things laid aside
but they had their being once
and left a place to stand on."
(In Search of Owen Roblin, final page)

Above, in the village, the 7th Town plaque stands solitary vigil to the lost mill. On April 21, the underbrush had not yet burst into life, so I struggled down over the edge, interrupting sunning friendly snakes, and found the remains of the limestone foundation, and a hint of the timber frame near a modern culvert. Tingles.

If you are interested in Ways Mills/Roblin's Mills/Ameliasburgh history I warmly recommend two publications by the 7th Town Historical Society - '7th Town/Ameliasburgh Past and Present' and '7th Town Remembers.' (A note on the name: when land was surveyed in 1784 to accommodate the desperate waves of UEL refugees from republican fervour in the new United States, the numbering of the Lake Ontario township, or towns as they were called, began with 'first town' at Kingston, then Ernestown, Fredericksburg, and Tyendinaga. The first town surveyed in the place later named Prince Edward County was at the eastern tip (and a tough one it was to survey, given its erratic shoreline) was Marysburgh, the Fifth Town. Later townships surveyed included Ameliasburgh, the Seventh town.

But don't believe me, read Al's telling of the story in 'In Search of Owen Roblin.'

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