Trail of Tales

Whilst enjoying fine beaches (and wines) around Sandbanks Provincial Park this summer, I cycled along a section of the Millennium Trail in the nearby town of Wellington. I documented the traversal in spiral form, but my mind also circled back to wonder:

Why is it called “A Linear Park for all the County“?
The trail spans nearly 50 kilometres of former railway: a branch line connecting Picton to Trenton and the Grand Trunk Railway. The line is visible in this map from 1887.

Why was the railway dismantled?
It eventually stopped being economically useful. Its abandonment was ordered by the Canadian Transportation Agency in 1994.

Who originally built the railway, it and how much they were paid?
I discovered that the railway was built around 1879 and involved a loan for $60,000, in the Illustrated historical atlas of the counties of Hastings and Prince Edward, Ont, via UBC’s Open Collections. 60k seems like a small sum by today’s standards, but money does change value drastically over time. It’s hard to find any stories about the labourers. The atlas, published by H. Belden & co, featured some remarkable period prose, but is also shockingly racist. I had to put it away.

Why is Wellington (and the region as well) known as “Loyalist”?
It was largely settled by United Empire Loyalists (faithful to the British crown) who were given land allowances in “Ontario” along with their native allies after the American War of Independence.

How did they acquire the land?
Through an agreement known as the Crawford Purchase, the Mississaugas are said to have given the crown a stretch of land from the St. Lawrence to the Bay of Quinte.

Did they acquire the land justly?
It is said that the land was given in exchange for clothing and guns. There does not appear to be any surviving document detailing the agreement. It is not listed on the Government of Canada site. I don’t think the Mississaugas got a good deal here.

What other stories might be uncovered here?
While a few tales of powerful people are recorded in relation to the Prince Edward County Railway, I suspect that there are many more untold stories of individuals and even nations that seem hidden from view, either intentionally, or incidentally. I wonder if the trees could talk – as perhaps they do when the wind passes through – whether we might tap into a further understanding of the vitality of the place and its many pasts. People come to Prince Edward County now for the peace and quiet, as did first nations artist Kent Monkman. I too am enjoying the sounds of wind and birds, and the perhaps the best I can do in 2019 is to express a kind of gratitude, for those who have come before, for those who came before them; to those who presently maintain a multi-use trail for residents, visitors, and and owners alike. and to Schwinn Bicycles for making this place the site of a subtler clickety-clack than the one that carried barley over these fields more than a century ago.

This post complements the Millennium Trail spiral artwork.

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