Demorestville’s Strange History (and more)

Yesterday I was messing around on Wikimapia, adding stuff in the area I grew up in, and to my great surprise the small village of Demorestville, the closest collection of people beyond farms that existed in my childhood, does not exist in Wikipedia. Demorestville may only be a small village of less than two hundred people these days, but if you rewind a hundred and fifty years, it was a thriving metropolis bigger than Toronto (which at the time was just Muddy York), a sin-city known as “Sodom” due to the plethora of brothels and taverns servicing both smugglers and loggers. Here’s part of what I added (and I even did my best to cite it):

In 1973 1783 explorer Guillaume Demorest crossed the Bay of Quinte where he followed a stream flowing from an inland lake. Finding it full of fish, he gave it the name “Fish Lake”, the name it has retained since. Heading back downstream he built his home near the site of a small waterfall, which became the first building in what would become Demorestville. This home also served as the town’s first church under Wesleyan Methodist minister Thomas Madden, who also preached in the mill founded by Demorest. The town grew quickly, adding a grist mill, a sawmill, an ashery, a plow shop, a tannery, a carding and fulling mill, six general stores, three blacksmiths, furniture factories, clothing and show manufacturers, blacksmiths, and even a carriage shop building buggies. It also boasted the County’s first grammar school, a newspaper, The Criticizer, and the first canning factory in Ontario to process tomatoes (founded by magnate Willington Boulter). This canning factory is now the location of Sophiasburgh Central School. In the early part of the century Demorestville was considered the most prominent city west of Kingston and was at the time larger than both York (now Toronto) and Meyer’s Creek (now Belleville).[2] In 1898 a phone line was built between the Grant Sprague’s farm on neighboring Big Island three kilometers away which drew people “wanting to see this modern marvel”.[3]

However, in addition to three churches, the town had a less “Christian” side as well[4]. In the 19th Century, Demorestville became known as “Sodom” or as the twin towns of “Sodom and Gommorah”, a name still retained by Gommorah Road which circles the north west border of the village. This name was earned due to its reputation as a sin city of ill-repute[5] with many taverns, brothels, and hotels servicing both the smugglers and the thriving lumber industry. Much like the Biblical story, “Sodom” was all but destroyed in a massive fire near the turn of the 20th century, and with the mills gone and local businesses decimated, few chose to remain and the town was never rebuilt. Since then it has overgrown with forest and only a tiny population remains in this tiny village that was once one of Canada’s largest metropolises.

It’s funny because you’d never know it by looking at the place now, other than little hints like streetnames saying “Gommorah Road”, and I’ll bet that other than for senior locals, this bit of Canadian history is all but forgotten.

Edit/Update: I just had to update this entry with this picture of my brother for the story below… snagged this picture from my sister-in-law’s Facebook page since I don’t have a good recent photo of my own… There are all sorts of different kinds of body modification in this family, aren’t there?

Speaking of where I grew up, I got to see my monster of a brother yesterday (about 6’6″ and 260 pounds of solid muscle — we’re talking about putting Conan to shame!) at this year’s “Mike Gould Classic”, an arm wrestling tournament that draws the best in the area. He didn’t think he’d be able to make it to the area (it was here in Toronto) so he didn’t even train for it and was a little unsure about his chances, but I shouldn’t be surprised that he destroyed his competition, including an aging but still inhuman looking 360 pound Incredible Hulk freak of pharmaceutical nature ball of muscle, and went home with the championship in the unlimited class (243 pounds and up I think) in both arms. My muscles keep getting weaker and his keep getting stronger, and maybe I should think that is terribly unfair, but I am incredibly proud of him and his achievements… and it was very nice for Caitlin and I both to see him and his wife again as it’s been a while.

We’ll actually probably see them again this upcoming weekend — Easter — since Nefarious is going to be meeting up with her cousins for an Easter Egg hunt. While I’m there I have some exploring I want to do. While adding stuff to Wikimapia, I noticed something strange:

In the middle of some scrubby forest in a nice beach that I like (Point Petre), there is a perfectly round circle of road or path about 150 feet across where the trees/bushes have been cleared. I don’t think it’s a UFO landing site or anything (although… there is a strangle HAARP style Department of Defense communications facility across the street) but I am curious as to what exactly it is. Any excuse to go to the beach, right?


  1. anon wrote:

    Tuesday, April 3, 2012 at 2:19 am | Permalink
  2. Sean wrote:

    You sure about that 1973 date?

    Tuesday, April 3, 2012 at 10:00 am | Permalink
  3. Shannon wrote:

    Hahahaha oops, it’s supposed to be 1783! Thanks!

    Tuesday, April 3, 2012 at 10:16 am | Permalink
  4. starbadger wrote:

    ThanX for that post. I can remember when you were bigger and stronger than Devon and he was a better Chess Player. He’s probably still a strong player but what he did to his body via cross-training you did to your mind via computers is world-class awesome in both your cases. You both had great teachers, Troy Eaton for Devon; Garry Morris for you. Of course there were more.

    You both worked hard – it was not a gift. May your “walk” moreso than your “talk” inspire others to be all they can be.


    In closing – thanks for bringing the history lesson home.

    I wonder how many people understand that you wrote unvarnished truth.

    Tuesday, April 3, 2012 at 11:53 am | Permalink
  5. quinnnchick wrote:

    It looks like there is the remnants of another circle above and just to the right of the obvious one.

    Friday, April 6, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Permalink
  6. Greg wrote:

    Coming to this late, but I only read your blog every few months.

    That circle is the remnants of a pretty interesting part of Canadian military history.

    There was an artillery school in Prince Edward County after WWII, and Point Petre was the firing range. They would fire their anti-aircraft guns over Lake Ontario. Of course, there’s not much point in firing anti-aircraft guns if you’ve got no aircraft to fire them at… which is what that circular track was for. That track (plus the big center pole) was used as a rotary launcher to fling model aircraft over Lake Ontario, which would then be shot at by training artillerymen! I remember my grandfather telling me about this, back when I was a kid.

    I couldn’t find much online about the Point Petre installation, but here’s some links pointing to similar facilities in the United States and United Kingdom:

    Hope you’re well, and say hi to your brother and sister-in-law for me.

    Monday, April 30, 2012 at 9:43 pm | Permalink
  7. Shannon wrote:

    Ah yes, that’s where they tested the Avro Arrow as well!

    Wednesday, May 2, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Permalink
  8. alien 1982 wrote:

    I think that circle is an alien artifact.

    Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Permalink
  9. Zevehoibe wrote:

    Dogs, cats, hamsters, fish, parrots – who do you prefer? Or perchance what that odd animals – snakes, crocodiles, lizards, monkeys?

    Sunday, July 15, 2012 at 2:14 am | Permalink
  10. james wrote:

    the big circle is for a giant satellite dish rotation road, theirs a big steel anchor in the middle. and a wheel would be on the road.

    Monday, January 14, 2013 at 3:12 pm | Permalink
  11. james wrote:

    i, go

    Monday, January 14, 2013 at 3:13 pm | Permalink
Wow Shannon, that's really annoying! What is it, 1997 on Geocities? Retroweb is NOT cool!

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