Thick Forests and Mineral Waters
April 2022 article by: Line Labrecque
featured image: L'autre rive, by Sylvie Pilon
Bloggers usually try to answer questions. We research and share what we find. Sometimes though, research reaps more questions than answers. Researching the general history and heritage of Prescott-Russell is one of those times. A few books, and some Google pages brought me to some interesting bits of information.
Looking at the agricultural landscape we could be tempted to assume that the natural heritage here has always been the same. This is not the case. I can now imagine the thick forest (late 18th century) and its transformation. Colonization and agriculture have totally transformed this area.
One of my interests was the rise and fall of the region’s industries. First came lumber. The thick forest was a perfect resource. Wood was used in everything from building and heating homes, furniture, and roads. Non-existent roads and the need to engage in commerce with others gave the lumber industry the perfect incentive. At the time, rivers were the thoroughfares that led to travel and commerce. Sawmills were everywhere. When the trees were gone, agriculture became the main industry of the counties.
*Fun fact: The Government of Ontario passed a decree obligating landowners to each build the road adjacent to their properties.
The land itself reacted to these efforts. By the end of the 19th century, deforestation had stripped the soil, leaving limestone and sand. Still, settlers worked and established cheese factories, churches, stores, and schools. They faced setbacks like pests, droughts, floods, fire, and political changes. Some communities disappeared while others survived and thrived.
Mineral Waters — Source of Good Health
Another interest are mineral water sources found in certain areas like Caledonia, Plantagenet, and Carlsbad Springs. Caledonia Springs became quite famous, acquiring international renown from the wealthy and religious leaders. Plantagenet had a bottling plant of their mineral waters for many years.
*Fun Fact: Legend says that an Indigenous chief named Rolling Thunder had a daughter, Night Star, who was sick and dying. Crow’s Feather, a young man looking to marry her, made a deal with the chief that if he cured Night Star the chief would agree to the marriage. Crow’s Feather knew of curing waters in this region. At the mineral water source (Caledonia Springs) he built a bed of cedar branches, laid Night Star down on them and gave her water alternatively from the 4 sources for one day. Her fever broke the next day and within a few days she was cured.
For all you armchair historians, researchers of the past, possessing knowledge, I ask these questions: What happened to the mineral water sources after the hotels closed? Or after the bottling plants shut down? Do the mineral water sources still exist?
As promised, this is a blog post that is asking you questions instead of answering them. I invite you to continue this conversation about the history of our region and the natural resources of this territory.
Line Labrecque's main goal is to find meaning in the world around her. She uses polymer clay, words, and fibres as a medium to do so. Her ultimate goal is to create connections between artistic expression and the world.