LEWIS BRIGGS /ALICE VANVOLKENBURG - HOME AND HISTORY 2405 Cordova Road - Lot 20, Concession 1, Marmora Twp
Submitted by Wayne VanVolkenburg
Lewis Briggs and Alice VanVolkenburg lived at the “Airhart Settlement,” a lumber camp north of Twin Sisters Lake. Alice was a cook and 'Lew' the blacksmith. Alice and Lew were married at the VanVolkenburg farm north of Cordova on September 1, 1915.
Lew, being a carpenter, probably built the house which they later occupied for most of their lives. It was located at 2405 Cordova Rd, on about three acres of land (Lot 20, Concession 1, Marmora Township), and built around 1924. (Early land records list the first owner of the west half of the lot (100 ac.) as John Simson. He received a patent from the Crown 31 March, 1837.)
The house was divided in the center allowing for two households under the same roof that shared a common basement. After a tornado accompanied by massive hailstones destroyed the farm where Alice grew up c.1922, her parents, John and Sarah VanVolkenburg, moved into the west side of the Brigg’s house, where they lived until their deaths in the 1950s.
Lew also owned a home at 64 Alfred Street, in Cordova, built in 1900, that was rented to John and Bernice Anderson for many years. When he acquired this property is not known, but it is possible that he and Alice lived there before their home on Cordova Road was constructed.
Morley Chard grew up further down the road and, as a child, knew Lew and Alice. As he remembered it, Lew kept some Jersey cattle on rented land behind the house, 150-200 leghorn hens in the two-story barn, and 11 beehives on the hill. The honey extractor was located at the back of the car garage.
The concrete floor of the barn is still visible today, as is a slab of concrete with a circular hole in the center behind the barn. It was there that Lew made wagon wheel rims, which were placed in the hole. A fire was built there and the wagon wheel rim was heated. It was then installed on the wheel and cooled with water to shrink it and attach it to the wheel. In addition to wagon wheels, Lew did carpentry work and made doors for houses. He even modified the back bumper of his 1931 Model A Coupe to carry milk cans and sold milk, honey, and eggs to the residents of Cordova.
Morley Chard remembers as a child visiting Lew and Lew taking him to see the bees. He wasn’t keen on the bees but Lew told him they wouldn't hurt him. The bees had other ideas, and Lew laughed as the bees chased him to the next farm.
Also excitable were the chickens, but Lew was very particular about who could approach them. Elwood Hamilton grew up nearby, and it was his father’s land that Lew rented for his cattle. He remembers riding his bike over to those fields across Lew’s land and intentionally upsetting the chickens, which resulted in Lew coming out to yell at him. Theirs was a strained relationship.
A number of memories portray Lew as being cantankerous. I remember going to visit my grandparents and aunt Alice at the Brigg’s home in the 1950s and seeing signs around the house Lew had put up saying “No Smoking” and “No Profanity.” While Morley Chard thought that he was all right once you got to know him, Elwood Hamilton remembers Lew doing things to annoy people.
Elwood once had a small car when he was young that he would drive to the bus stop by the school in Cordova to go to Havelock. Sometimes it wouldn’t start so once he hooked up a horse to it to get it going. When Lew saw this, he reported to the police in Peterborough County that he was abusing the animal. They were waiting at the bus stop when Elwood came home from school the next day but didn’t think the car was too much of a strain for a horse. They told him to pull it in the other direction next time so Lew would have to call Hastings County police.
After the death of Alice’s parents, she and Lew rented out the other side of the house, an enterprise Alice oversaw alone after the death of Lew in 1959. Morley and Molly Chard lived there after they were first married in the late 1950s, as did Elwood and Pat Hamilton years later.
The Hamiltons and Chards remember Alice well, and said that, unlike her husband, she was well regarded locally. Alice could enter their side of the house through the basement and would remove their laundry from the clothes line, iron and fold it, and return it to their home. She also went down to Alec and Josephine’s a lot and did cooking and cleaning. Pat remembers driving with Alice which could be scary – she remembers going around bends in the road on the wrong side. She never did get around to obtaining a drivers licence.
Alice, born Dec. 11, 1893 died on Oct. 8, 1980 . Over time the house deteriorated to a sad state of repair. Fortunately, Jane Bonney purchased the property and has restored it and furnished it with period furnishings. A recent tour of the home was like stepping back in time sixty five years. The property is currently (2018) listed for sale.