Some will remember the cemetery and church at Rockdale, in Belmont Township, because their ancestors are buried there, but few know that its history included a post office, a saw mill, a school built in 1869 and the reputable "Belmont House".
The 1906 Lovell's Canada Gazetteer notes that "its port is on Belmont Lake, a favorite summer resort and in the vicinity are Deer, Round and Crow Lakes. It has 2 churches (Methodist and Presbyterian), one saw mill and one cheese factory, with printing and newspaper office facilities at Havelock. "
While William E. Young ran the post office from 1888 to 1901, the office itself lasted until 1912. During that time, around 1904, Mr. E.J. Cashamore built Belmont House, which was considered a hot spot on Belmont lake with tennis courts, bowling green and quoits beds.
BELMONT HOUSE - THE REST OF THE STORY
The lodge was constructed by Edwin James Cashmore on property that he purchased from Mrs. Ada Young. The mortgage for the lodge was held by Robert Crawford Baillie, the grandfather of Jamie Medcof, the current owner. Elizabeth Cashmore, wife of Edwin, came up with the "lodge idea" to isolate her husband from his drinking buddies in Toronto.
There are 21.25 acres and 1980 feet of shoreline included at the Belmont Lake location. A lime kiln was constructed and plaster was made from materials found on the property. Sand was obtained from the beach, local limestone crushed, and horse hair added to make the plaster.
During the time of its operation, there were 17 outbuildings on the property including: a dance hall with a 40x40 foot hardwood floor and band platform, gun shop, woodworking shop, boathouse and a pigpen. Cashmore was apparently a gunsmith by trade. There were two military muskets, 1812 and 1815 vintage. The original lodge had 10 bedrooms on the second floor and a 40x40 foot kitchen. There was also a back kitchen 25x25 feet that housed the well. On the back of this was a woodshed. The lodge reportedly operated for about 10 years. The grounds had a tennis court, bowling green, quoits beds, trap shooting facility and walking trails. Fresh vegetables were provided bya garden on the grounds.
Liveries in Havelock would deliver guests to the lodge from the C.P.R. train station. The Cordova stage also passed quite close to the gate leading to the grounds.
Unknown to Robert Baillie, Cashmore was an alcoholic. Cashmore's wife moved out in 1908 and his drinking buddies moved in. Cashmore abandoned the place circa 1911. When Robert finally made the trip to check on the place in 1913, he discovered that many of the furnishings had been removed. A local resident came forward and offered to disclose the location of the missing items for a sum of $50. Robert refused to pay and threatened to have the informant charged as an accomplice if he didn't disclose the thief's name. He did so and the items were recovered.
Robert put the property up for sale and his wife purchased it through a lawyer without her husband's knowledge. She had decided that the family should retain ownership and she apparently had the financial means to do so. When Jamie's grandmother died his grandfather decided to keep the property in the family.
Robert Baillie was reported to have hired a detective to find Cashmore. According to Jamie Medcof he was supposedly traced to Pittsburgh. Cashmore, his wife Elizabeth and daughter Hilda are found in Vancouver on the 1911 Census. Death records can be found in the Vancouver area for most of his family.
From 1913 to 1916, Robert and his wife, Jane Trevorrow Baillie, would come to the lodge by train during the summer months. Several times during the summer, Robert would row a boat to Ashbee's mill at the end of the lake and walk to town for supplies. He would also arrange for the postman to bring them small quantities of goods. In 1917 Robert purchased a Model T Ford which was used for future trips. The road at that time passed by closer to the lodge and the bridge over the Crowe River was upstream from the present location.
Jamie was told by his ancestors that during the first three or four years that his grandfather was at the lodge (1913-1917) native people knocked on their door and asked permission to cross their property to visit native gravesites. No one presently knows the location of there burial sites.
In the 1940's there were still several buildings in place. In 1950 Jamie's family removed the back part of the main lodge. There were two bedrooms left on the ground floor, off the kitchen.
The remaining part of the lodge was used as a cottage until 1978. Because it was repeatedly vandalized, Jamie removed the remaining contents (70% of the original amount) and put them in storage. Unfortunately some valuable antiques had been destroyed. Some of the material from the old dance hall were used in the construction of the present boathouse. In the summer of 2014 the remainder of the old lodge was demolished. The only remaining evidence is the old hand pump. Apparently the old kiln site can still be located.
A summary of information obtained from Jamie Medcof on June 27, and November 15, 2014. Other information found in the Canadian Census records and death records for British Columbia.
WALTER AND AGNES VAN STEENBURGH - LOT 17, CONCESSION 3, BELMONT TWP.
Across the road from the Rockdale Cemetery lies the abandoned farm of Walter and Agnes Van Steenburgh acquired about 1926. They later built cottages on the Belmont Lake waterfront part of their property. Other parts of the farm waterfront were sold or given to their relatives. Most of the descendants of these families still own the properties. Some of the unused cottages still stand, waiting to be demolished. (Walter’s surname was Steenburgh he made a trip to Holland and learned of his origins.
As an aside, it is interesting to know that this property was part of the original parcel of land granted to Charles Hayes, the owner of the 1820 Blast Furnace in Marmora. Click here for more on Charles Hayes.
Lot 17, Conc. 3, Twp of Belmont first passes from the Crown to Charles Hayes, (1824) to Anthony Manahan and Peter McGill, then to Thomas Hetherington, all major players in Upper Canada's business world.