There is a place just north of Rosseau that has a remarkable history. Built originally by lumber interests in the 1890’s, lived in and run by a family that gave the village its name and then, for the last 80 years, it has been the beloved home of three generations of the Lawson family. This post is just a taste of things to come…
With most of the landmarks gone, what gives the village of Swords life are the people that still surround it and the memories still being made. The Swords General Store building is still active and in a time warp, in spite of the store being closed for over 40 years. My tour guide of the old Swords General Store and the attached house was Donna Haslehurst (pronounced Hazelhust). In honour of her grandmother, Donna took her grandmother’s name. It is easy to understand why there is such reverence for Harriet Haslehurst and Wilson Lawson when I hear her stories of visits to Grandma and Grandpa’s house.
I arrived in Swords to meet Donna in the mid-afternoon. The day was crisp and sunny without a cloud in the sky. I had the rare privilege of getting to see inside this grand old building. Everywhere, there was evidence of her brother’s recent visit. “Boys”…. LOL!
Immediately inside the back door, the space opened up toward the stairs that went up to the second floor and into a massive kitchen to the left. In it was a stone fireplace next to where Donna’s Grandfather, Wilson, loved to have his chair. A wood stove used to sit in front of the hearth and it has long since been removed. The stone hearth itself was never used in Donna’s memory.
We walked through the building from one room to another and each place had a particular memory. We climbed the wide stairwell to the second floor. The sun shone into the back bedroom and filled it with a rich golden light that made the teal walls look like the ocean beside a Carribean beach. On each side of the front room there is an old bed and in the center, a stove pipe runs through the floor and ceiling. There were a couple of exposed layers of wallpaper and an unusual floor covering that covered only a portion of the wood boards, likely laid in the 1920’s. The room was comfortable and we lingered. Donna shared a particular story of a lesson learned courtesy of her grandparents.
One Sunday morning a young Donna decided she was not going to church with her Grandmother. Prepared to dig in her heels, to her surprise, her grandparents agreed immediately. Harriet went off to church and Donna started to think about the great things she was going to do with her new found freedom. However, Wilson had other plans. He brought a big tub outside to the back of the house by his window next to the fireplace, a bucket of potatoes and handed Donna the peeler.
Now we’ll be ready for dinner when Grandma gets back!”
At that, he went back inside where he could watch Donna peel those potatoes from his favourite chair.
Donna shared memories of climbing around the old Maple Lake Hotel, of a wooden desk that sat by the entrance to the store, the ringing of the bell and about a cowboy hat and harnesses on the stairwell. In a future post, we will revisit Swords through the eyes of Donna’s mother and I will share the photographs of the old house.