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Visiting the Old Stone Jail in Ontario's Beaverton: memories of rugged incarcerations
19th century criminals beware (overnight, at least)
One of the historic structures at Beaverton, in Brock Township, Ontario, is the Old Stone Jail. This old structure is situated in Centennial Park, near the Beaver River museum.
It is known that the first Clerk of Thorah was John McKay, who emigrated from Scotland in 1833. He served in that capacity until 1858 and is reckoned to have been responsible for the building of the Old Stone Jail prior to that date, originally further along Main Street, but moved to its present location in 1995.
A number of historical plaques — two of which are depicted here — exist in the vicinity of the Old Stone Jail. One of them, sponsored by the Beaverton Thorah Eldon Historical Society, is not without humour. Included among the statements made is the sentiment that 'the jail coexisted with nearby hotels'. Another plaque is describes this structure as a 'lock-up'. The oblique suggestion I get from these sources is that there may have been some kind of arrangement, tacit or not, whereby local drinkers would be made drunk by hoteliers, while the jailer supplied the accommodation. (I hope this is not merely my over fertile imagination.) But I understand also that the notion exists that early settlers to the area may have sometimes been accommodated in the jail, should the accommodation options at the hotels have been, for whatever reason, unavailable.
In any case, metal window bars may still be seen in the jail structure. At these apertures the great thickness of the stone walls is readily evident, clearly rendering the building ideal for the primary purpose of securely denying freedom to local criminals.
One of the plaques, unveiled in 1981 by The Honourable John Baird, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, bears the intriguing comment:
'Like a rock, the story of the past will endure'.
Also worth seeing
In Beaverton itself, adjacent to the Alexander Muir Park , named for the author of The Maple Leaf Forever, are the Library and the former Town Hall, which are both of architectural merit, dating from the early 20th century. On Lake Simcoe, Beaverton Harbour is in a picturesque location.
Orillia (distance: 38.5 kilometres) is located in a picturesque setting on Lakes Simcoe and Couchicing. Orillia has some structures of note; these include the Samuel de Champlain monument by Vernon March (who also designed Canada's National War Memorial in Ottawa), commemorating the 17th century explorer, a visitor to the area. In addition, Orillia is known for its Stephen Leacock Museum , which is a National Historic Site.
Leaskdale (distance: 29.1 kilometres), the home of writer Lucy Maud Montgomery. This is where many of the author's books were written; the Leaskdale Manse Museum is now situated at her former residence.
How to get there: Air Canada, flies to Toronto Pearson Airport, with wide North American and other connections, from where car rental is available. (Distance from Toronto Pearson Airport to Beaverton: approx. 120.3 kilometres). Beaverton is also served by a GO Bus route. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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