The burgeoning town of Hespeler, late nineteenth, early twentieth century, is the frame of reference for Winfield Brewster’s book of historical sketches, “The Floodgate : Random Writings of Our Ain Folk” and, not surprisingly, the cast includes characters from western Puslinch Township.  Brewster’s writing style, distinctly reflective of an era and a community, grows in stature throughout the work as it unobtrusively presents, within an accommodating philosophical perspective, a lifetime of observation.   Among the memories are the brief and historically unique recollections of Frances Collins, the most indelible being the image of a young girl dancing at the long vanished hotel on the main island of Puslinch Lake.






Puslinch Lake Recollections by Frances Collins



And on the distaff side, who ever knew a brighter mind than Frances Collins?  A better memory?


On the second day of August 1929, she came to see me on some bit of busi­ness and when we had finished I got her talking of The Lake, and after she had gone I wrote down a minute of what she told me.  From this I quote.


She was born on November 13th, 1846.  She said her father bought the farm in Puslinch in the year 1837 and that he helped haul the stone for the church on the island. This was done with oxen in winter across the ice.  A Father Cassidy owned the land around the Lake on the north side near where the ruins of the old barn is, back of McArthur’s cottage and she thinks he also owned the Island and was perhaps instrumental in getting the church under way.  However, she is not sure of this, but she does know that after the year 1837 it was built and that her Grandfather attended Mass there before his death and he died in the year 1841 and was buried at Guelph.


The priest who seems to have had charge of the church in building and after­wards, was a priest from Guelph named, she thinks, Father Sandelin, a foreigner of some sort.  He carried on for some years. . . . He took a trip to Jerusalem and was gone a long time and on his return he held an auction sale of his chattels.  At this auction, Frances’ father, Thomas Collins, bought the first buck saw she had ever seen and a pan with a long handle which was left in the cellar of their house when she left the farm.  The pan, resembling a frying pan but with a long handle was used latterly in their home for making Balm of Gilead Salve and they always called it the Jerusalem Kettle.


On the mainland, owned by Rev. Father Cassidy, his brother, Lawrence Cassidy, lived near where McArthur’s Cottage now stands.  They had a scow at Lawrence Cassidy’s place used for transporting churchgoers over to the Island.  This scow was built by Mr. Holm and he got forty dollars for building it.  The money was raised by subscription among the Roman Catholics who attended church on the Island.  The Boat was very wide and very long and with flat bottom.  It carried twenty people.  Frances never saw the boat in use but when a little girl she used to go to Cassidy’s to play with their little girl and they played around the old Boat, “the bones of the boat” as she says, which was turned up on its side and looked like a long wide wagon box.


While this Priest, Father Sandelin, was in charge, he lived at Guelph and there was a monk living on the Island, to the south of the church, in a sort of dugout place near the old pump.  He lived there permanently and was a dark skinned, dark haired man.  Frances thinks, an Italian.


After Father Sandelin went away permanently, the church was turned into a hotel by a man named Arnold, from Galt, and Frances, as a girl, has danced in this hotel.  Arnold had a stroke or heart failure or something and died in a row boat between the Island and the Mainland.







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