EDEN MILLS – About a hundred people of all ages filled the community hall here on April 16 to explore local history.
There were 18 exhibitors, including the Eden Mills Writers Festival, the Eden Mills Eramosa River Conservation Association, the Toronto Suburban Railway, and the Eramosa Eden Retreat Centre.
Organizer Barbara Marshall said there hasn’t been an event showcasing Eden Mills history since before the COVID-19 pandemic, during which time many new families have moved to the village and expressed interest in learning about local history.
The community cemetery
Kathie MacDonald, secretary and treasurer for the Eden Mills Community Cemetery, was one of the exhibitors. The cemetery is a volunteer-run registered charity that was established in the 1840s. To date there are 1,172 people buried in the cemetery.
MacDonald said the first person buried there was a baby girl named Barbara Argo in 1849. The baby’s father, James Argo, sold the land to the cemetery.
Though Barbara Argo’s exact age and cause of death is unknown, MacDonald noted many of the tombstones in the cemetery list childrens’ age of death down to the months, weeks and days.
She said though some of the stones from the 19th century are crumbling, many are still legible, noting the volunteers “take great pride” in the condition of the cemetery and conduct regular repairs.
The Argo family has a monument that will be repaired this summer.
The family still uses the space as a final resting place, with the most recent Argo cremation burial added to the plot in the summer of 2022.
“For a lot of families, Eden Mills is home,” MacDonald said. “And they come back to the Eden Mills cemetery for their final resting place.”
For MacDonald, the cemetery has personal significance.
“My husband grew up here and has been here for 78 years,” she said. “His parents are buried here and we will be buried here.
“We got married in this hall,” she added, and they raised two children in Eden Mills, who will also be buried in the community cemetery.
Eden Mills School
Most children in Eden Mills have travelled to Rockwood for school for the last half century, but from 1954 to 1970 the village had its own two-room school house.
Dan Marshall attended Eden Mills School from 1965 to 1969.
He said he has “a lot of great memories” from his time at the school, including “all the great friends” he made, some who are still his friends to this day.
He also remembers his teacher Mrs. Tubman, who taught him for Grades 1 to 3. Marshall describes her as “very fair, but strict.”
He said his sister Barb, who was also at the event on Sunday, has been “doing this for a number of years,” regarding the exhibit.
This year, she invited Marshall to help out, so he reached out to lots of former students from the school to put together a compilation of class photos.
The exhibit also included Marshall’s green Grade 1 workbook.
Those were “simpler times,” he said.
Dan Marshall’s grandfather, Norm Marshall, was a postmaster and storekeeper in Eden Mills from 1925 to 1967. Another exhibit showcased newspaper articles, photos, and other records of Norm’s time at the village general store.
Eden Mills Going Carbon Neutral
Les Zawabzki, one of the founders of the Eden Mills Going Carbon Neutral project, had an exhibit highlighting the initiative, which has been active since 2007.
Zawabzki said the “main project” was making the community hall carbon neutral. The group spearheaded building renovations, updated insolation, changed the heating system, and installed solar panels on the roof.
He said thanks to these changes the community hall is now “using less energy than it’s producing.”
Originally four people started the Eden Mills Going Carbon Neutral initiative, Zawabski noted, but then “the whole community pitched in.”
He said going carbon neutral is important because “we all worry about the future, and the future for our kids,” and projects like this help ensure the next generation can have “as good a life as us.
“We don’t have to wait for the government to tell us what to do,” Zawabzki added.
“We can get together and make changes at the grassroots level.”
Guelph/Eramosa Mayor Chris White and councillor Corey Woods were also exhibitors at Eden Mills History Day, showcasing records from the township’s heritage committee.
White praised the village of Eden Mills for its strong and active community, which he said consistently takes a wide range of projects and events.