Wilma Graham, at 93, is the oldest person living on the Aragon Road and she is a walking history book. Her memories about the road go back to 1953 when it was not more than a rough right of way. We are happy to share with you the anecdotes collected by one of our neighbors several years ago.
Cecil and Wilma lived on the Aragon Road, where Wilma moved in 1953. Their beautiful brick farm house is surrounded by century old maple trees and prime agricultural land all around. The farmhouse looks out over the fields that border Esther Bay part of Colonel By Lake. The land between the house and the lake has been donated in 1994 as parkland to the then Kingston Township, now part of the City of Kingston.
The Graham farm house. Photo credit Henk Wevers, 2009.
Wilma Graham’s Memories of Aragon Rd.
The Grahams came from Ireland during the potato famine between 1845 and 1852 and first settled in Prince Edward County, if you get off the ferry at Adolphus Town to Picton, the first road to the left is where they stayed.
The government offered land along the Rideau Canal, about 20 to 40 acres, to settlers and a few took them up on it, that is the land along the Aragon Road and Colonel By Lake all the way to the canal. It was supposed to be enough to build a house and grow your own food. Some sold soon afterwards and moved on. The ones that stayed bought it and expanded their land.
One day in the spring or summer, Cecil introduced me to his family. His grandparents who lived by then in the red brick house that was built in 1905, had moved the “ cottage” that had stood in the front of the current house, to where the barns are and had made it into a hen-house. I had a small lapdog with me and we all went over to the island across the road for tea. The darn dog ran loose and went after the chickens. Cecil’s grandmother was furious and admonished me to keep that dog away from her chickens. That was the only time, I remember, I saw Cecil’s grandmother.
Several years later, when I came to live on this road at the end of Sept 1953 it was a dirt road. It was called a “forced road”. [i] Cecil Graham and I had just married that year and that winter we stayed in our farm house but the stove was not the best and it was bitterly cold.
The next winter we stayed at Cecil’s parents’ farm just south of the Aragon Road on Battersea Road and Maple Lawn Drive. Cecil commuted the short distance to his farm to take care of the cattle. I would come along on occasion and one day we got stuck in the deep snow, just at the limestone house west from us where. We had cows in the barn that had to be fed and watered every day, so Cecil had to walk on to our place and also check the fire in the stove in the house as we were staying that winter with Cecil’s Mom & Dad as it was a cold one. Now we call it “the other farm” and keep sheep there. The address on this road was Mt. Chesney. [ii] The only traffic was the mailman once a day. He also delivered the Whig Standard.
There were only 8 houses on the Aragon Road then. The first was the big white house on the north side where the Locketts lived. He owned Lockett Shoe store in Kingston. Way back that house was a red brick house with exactly the same layout as our house, it must have been built before or after 1905. They stuccoed it and in the late 1980-s they built onto it. There are two stairs going up and when you come on the landing the one staircase has a nice banister and there are two doors, one for the master bedroom and the other for a smaller bedroom, then there are two smaller kind of walk-in cabinets. Then towards the rear is a door that gives access to the space for the hired hands.
Next on the north side of the road was Drapers’ farm, two sisters lived there with their brother.
Next was the stone house that Drs. Wolfe and Duffin live in now. Dr. & Mrs. McCuaig (Peter Milliken’s Grandparents) lived there then in 1953. He was a doctor at the Rockwood Psychiatric Hospital off King Street beside Ontario Park.
Next came the Shortell farm with a big red barn and large windmill. Across the road, on the land which is now part of the Dept. of Lands & Forest, was a frame house that later burned down. The road off Aragon Road to the Shortell farm house is called Fitzpatrick Road after the farmhand who worked on the Shortell farm. The Shortell farm was left to Brendan Fitzpatrick, the hired man, and nothing left to his daughter, Marian Shortell. [iii] Is this really true? Who knows, that was the story I heard. Marian took Fitzpatrick to court and got 2 fields east of Fitzpatrick Rd. on the north and south side of the Aragon Rd. Mr. Edward Graham (Cecil’s dad) bought both of them and they are now called Marian’s Big field and Marian’s little field. The little field on the south side now belongs to the city as well as the field in front of our house on the south side of the road except for the boathouse and the island on Esther Bay.[iv] There is a right of way from our property over the donated land to the island and the boathouse.We had so many good times there. Having a picnic every Sunday, plus swimming, barbecuing lunch and quite often supper. Henry suggested that we called the island Paradise Island.
Brendan Fitzpatrick died and his wife sold the farm and moved to town. Bob Chippier , a Tim Horton owner, bought the farm and turned the house into apartments. He also turned the barn into apartments and tore down the windmill. The barn didn’t last long as it burned down shortly after someone moved in. He built the big brick house across the road. Jack & Carol Colden bought it and stayed in it for about 10 years. Now the owners of St. Lawrence Pools live there.
Henry is the second youngest of the Lach family we took in as foster parents, five kids age six to fourteen; that was in about 1958. We have no children of our own and we have fostered other children as well, nine in total. Michael one of the Lach family sadly died at age 40, the middle boy went west and got a job there, the oldest went into the army and later got a job in Kingston in computing. Mary and Henry stayed on the farm, but Mary now lives in town and Henry is here. Our youngest foster kid was only 11 month, he was adorable and we would have loved to adopt him, the father could not take care of him and he had a sister in south-western Ontario and she took him in later. He is still in contact with me and sends me nice cards and best wishes on my birthday, mother’s day and other special occasions.
At the end of the road is the limestone stone house that John Hogan built, must be before 1878, as it is shown on the atlas of that time. Mr. and Mrs. Hill lived there when I came. Shortly after 1953, Mrs. Hill died and a niece, Barbara Stather, from the UK came over and helped out on the farm. Mr. Hill and Barbara would go to market on Tuesdays and sometimes on Saturday to sell eggs as they had hens.[v]
At the point on the water overlooking the canal and Colonel By Lake was the cottage of Col. Boutilier. There was a right of way from the end of the road to the water’s edge. Later Herb Leach and his wife owned the place, and now Herb Leach Jr. lives there.
Each of our fields has the name of the ones who sold out and moved on, like the field to the west of our house, it was owned by Jas Kennedy, twenty three acres when he sold it. There was a barn on the south side of the road across from the field we call Kennedy’s. The barn was moved up beside our driveway and is now called our Hay Barn. Cecil and some men and several horses dragged it across the field on large beams, like a sled, then across the Aragon Road and into the location where it is now.
Col. Fair bought a lot of land at each end of the road. He had Hemlock Dairy in town and owned and lived in what is now Fairmount (where I might end up). Col Fair sold to a group of farmers from western Ontario in 1953 or 1954, (Cliff Allen was one of these men as were Morley Mills & Jim Little). They built houses at the beginning of the road for themselves and some of their workers.[vi]
By now stone was put on the road in some places.
Col. Boutillier had passed away in the mid-nineteen fifties and left his place to his niece Mrs. Herb Leach. They moved in a year or so later. That, and the ones farming on the land made more traffic. The fields at this end were used for pasture and the Co-op farmers requested a gate be put on the road at the end of our place to keep the cattle in, but it was refused.[vii]
The red brick part of my house was built in 1905. The brick was brought down the Rideau by barge from Seeley’s Bay and unloaded at a wharf at the end of our road onto wagons pulled by horses to their lot where the Grahams lived in a cottage on the lawn. The foundation stones are now the foundation for the Hay barn that was moved up from the south side of the road across from Kennedy’s field.[viii]
The first residential house was built in the late 1950’s on the south side of the Aragon Road to the east of our farm, by the Morrisons and Perkins. Hilda & Harry Perkins and their two children lived in one room while they built the rest of the house. He worked at the weather station at the airport and was moved to Sault St. Marie. There Hilda left him and took the two children, Rolfe & Nicolette. Hilda now lives in Sweden and Rolfe and Nicolette live in California and both are married. The Morrisons built on the first lot east of our place. We met their 2 kids first. Mr. Morrison had brought wood and other things and a lawn mower to their lot and left the 2 kids to cut the grass. We heard someone calling for help and saw the boy running toward our house with the lawn mower. He told us that the wood his Dad had left was on fire. We went down and put it out, then came back and phoned his father.
In 1969 Dr. Reese, from Pennsylvania came and wanted to buy a lot from Cecil. He said that he had fished in this bay for 25 years all the time staying at Jones Falls, but he wanted to live closer. Cecil said “NO” but to try the Co-op farmers. He did get a lot and built. He also bought a lot next-door for his son. Dr. Reese lived only 2 years more and in his last summer he was flown up so that he could spend some of the last time he had here. The pilot flew him low over the bay and his house. We were all out waving. His wife, Bobbie, and I drove him home to Stroudsburg later in the summer. It was my first and only time riding in a Cadillac. His family stayed for about 10 years. His son also sold his lot.[ix]
Cecil’s Dad and his brother Michael were born in the house where I live. Cecil’s Dad said two Indians lived on the back corner of the Graham farm. On papers I have, the north line of our property says Ordnance Reserve, so it is likely they did. Henry says, “Mr. Graham said one was Joe Cole,” and I can’t remember the other one’s name.
What follows is a continuation of Wilma’s story written down on February 12, 2011 at the house of Dr. Patey.
The far end of the property, which is like a peninsula, is owned by the Lands & Forest Department and is called Casey’s Point, it is across from Fitzpatrick Road.
We had so many good times there. Having a picnic every Sunday, plus swimming, barbecuing lunch and quite often supper. Henry suggested that we called the island Paradise Island.
Henry is the second youngest of the Lach family we took in as foster parents, five kids age six to fourteen; that was in about 1958. We have no children of our own and we have fostered other children as well, nine in total. Michael one of the Lach family sadly died at age 40, the middle boy went west and got a job there, the oldest went into the army and later got a job in Kingston in computing. Mary and Henry stayed on the farm, but Mary now lives in town and Henry is here. Our youngest foster kid was only 11 month, he was adorable and we would have loved to adopt him, the father could not take care of him and he had a sister in south-western Ontario and she took him in later. He is still in contact and sends me nice cards and best wishes.
The far end of the property, which is like a peninsula, is owned by the Lands & Forest Department and is called Casey’s Point, it is across from Fitzpatrick Road.
We used to keep young cattle on the other Graham farm all summer and each spring drove the young cattle down at 5 or 6 a.m. and in the fall back up to the other farm. I drove a truck and the men of the family walked behind them to keep them moving along and no stops on the way. With no traffic then, it was easy. There was a right of way off the road across from the north farm and I drove to where it came on the Aragon Rd. and then on to the Graham farm behind the cattle.[x]
Years ago, I was told Cecil`s grandparents would put the young cattle on the island driving them on the ice in late winter or early spring and leaving them there for the summer, then drive them over to the land in the fall when it froze up.
Along the right land side of our driveway is a big rock and near the bottom is a larger area making it a good place to sit. Cecil’s grandmother would sit there and milk their cows in the summer.
In the late 50’s Cecil had the fence line cleared between the two fields west of our barns. The big stones & whatever was also along our fence was put at the shore to make a road to the island. When it was done we had a few years of every summer spending Sundays away from everything having picnics on the island. With all the trees around we couldn’t see the road or our house and barns. We built a stone fireplace and took things with us to have dinner and supper. We swam, napped and enjoyed the day and then loaded up the truck and came “back to earth”.
A while ago Mary, Henry and I were talking about those days and I said we should name the island. Henry came up with the name “Paradise Island” and every Sunday we felt like we were there in paradise.
Cecil wanted other families to enjoy that feeling and he gave the land for a park.[xi]
[i] Allowance used by the public historically; a road that deviates from the surveyed road.
[ii] The “other farm” is located on west side of Battersea Road at the corner with Maple Lawn Drive.
[iii] Marian Shortell inherited the estate from her father except the farm itself. The farmland and buildings where left to Brendan Fitzpatrick who had helped Shortell for more than a quarter century according to Dollie Fitzpatrick his wife.
[iv] The Grahams donated about 30 acres of land to the City of Kingston in 1994 this is now called the Cecil and Wilma Graham Park, see photo. It is a significant environmental protection area since it is adjacent to Esther Bay and the Crown land on the peninsula, the east end of which is called Casey’s Island.
[v] According to Marjory Allan, Barbara Stather would buy eggs at the Hemco Farm egg store, possibly to augment her supply from her own hens.
[vi] Fairmount Home, a 128-bed long-term care home owned and operated by the County of Frontenac. Cliff Allen built an estate house on a large piece of land on the edge of the canal and Colonel By Lake and lived there until about 2000; his family still farms the fields along he Aragon Road and along Battersea Road. The unique and very large farm buildings opposite of Fairmont Home were part of the cooperative farm that Cliff Allen and his partners managed after Colonel Fair had sold the farm to them.
[vii] Cecil Graham was in favor of maintaining the rural characteristics of his beloved Aragon Road. In the mid 1980-s Ontario Hydro upgraded the electrical transmission line along the Aragon Road and tried to get their right of way changed at the Graham farm to extend it along the road. Cecil refused and the road has its most historic look and feeling where it passes the Graham property.
[viii] This location on the canal from the River Styx to Colonel By Lake was a well-used loading and off-loading area in the mid-1800-s for farm produce and goods that would be ferried by boat to Kingston Mills and then via the Montreal-Kingston road, now the Kingston Mills Road just north of the HW 401, to Kingston.
[ix] This is another occasion where Cecil tried to preserve the integrity of the existing farm lots. The fishing in Colonel By Lake is still attractive and it is not uncommon for people to return year after year from the US and Ontario to fish here.
[x] The other Graham farm is Cecil’s parents farm south on the Battersea Road from Aragon Road on Maple Lawn Drive which was the right-of-way Wilma refers to.
[xi] The park is a gem of mixed meadow, wetland and dense bush and trees. It is adjacent to a conservation area administered by the Ministry of Natural Resources and between these two areas is an almost pristine bay called Esther Bay that opens up to Colonel By Lake at Allan Point Drive. The Graham and Wilma Graham Park was established in 1994 by donating the land to the Township of Kingston.