Stories Beyond the Mist

blog ramble brightened 6x4

A Collection of Foggy Day Rambles

The Road to Palatine Hill

The only route to Palatine Hill from the town of Niagara on the Lake was via Four Mile Creek Rd. until the mid 1800s when the Lake Rd. bridge was built. Four Mile Creek Road swerved west ( across from Enns Battery and Tire ) and crossed on the dry side of the creek below an earthen dam which had been constructed in the 1780’s. When we moved here in 1997 the old growth trees still lined the original Four Mile Creek Rd. as it followed the curve of the steep banks down to the crossing.

Before the road descended to the creek it passed through a little cluster of 5 dilapidated cottages known as little “Russia” to locals. They were built in the 40’s by Mr. Schmidt and his two sons Wally and Steven who had big dreams of cashing in on the tourist trade. The plans were originally for a motel but ended up as very modest cabins. When they failed to attract tourists they rented them out to Mennonite families who had fled Russia during the second world war. After their father passed away the brothers had little interest in being landlords. Steven would show up every New Years day to collect a years worth of rent ( about $200 monthly ) and leave the maintenance up to the tenants. As the tenants aged the cabins declined as well and only 2 were occupied by the time we arrived in the neighbourhood. Karl White, originally from Newfoundland, raised his family of 5 in their tiny cottage. Often we would hear sounds of the guitar and accordion wafting through the trees on a summer’s night.

When the property was sold in 2004 the tenants were evicted and the cabins remained vacant for several years, slowly disintegrating back into the landscape. Now there are three families with new hopes and dreams living within the sounds of the creek singing below.

Looking east from the original creek crossing.

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Auggie’s last walk, her favourite spot.

The original road continued  down the slope to cross the creek on the “dry” side of the dam.  With the sluice gates and pond on the left it curved north following the mill race, past the original help house and barns to the crest of the hill where the three story mill towered over the landscape.

 

Original drive followed the ridge on the left above the present tractor path. Lakeshore Rd. is obscured by fog in the distance.

The long driveway between Lakeshore Rd. and the settlement followed the top of the ridge, lined with ancient oaks and old growth pines towering overhead. Two imposing drystone pillars and a decorative iron grate created an impressive entrance at Lakeshore Rd. until the 1940’s when they were demolished.

There’s a stack of logs at the base of the tree that was one of our favourite places to rest at sunset. We loved to watching the rays of the setting sun reflect off of the orchard and trees of Palatine Hill. In the summer the sound of our Jamaican friends on the farm would fill the air with laughter and the rise and fall of patois as they returned home from a day of harvesting.