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Signposts Milford

Photography by Daniel Vaughan

“There is positively no case of Malaria, Miasmatic Poisoning, Intermittent Fever, or Fever and Ague, that one bottle of Ague Conqueror will not permanently cure…” reads the claim on an early advertising postcard. This potion and other wonders were once advertised by McKibbon and Knox, Milford, Ontario. McKibbon’s store was just one of the flourishing businesses in the 19th century in this hamlet in South Marysburgh, Prince Edward County.

Milford was once a bustling commercial and municipal centre, the big city for rural folks along Royal Street, old Milford Road, and South Bay. The wheels of commerce may have slowed, but life is still full, as a browse through the South Marysburgh Mirror online newspaper will attest.

Today’s migration of urbanites to the area’s quiet charm represents another season in the life of this historic place. A barn mural of early Milford, and an online walking tour recount its story. Brick homes on a leafy back street maintain their heritage character, while aging commercial structures show how things were – and might be again. A remodelled historic village hall, modern fire hall, post office, library and a bakery/variety store serve the Milford community.

Milford has a great future, but Milford also has a past.

Milford is named for the mills which once straddled Black River. Only the vestigial Scott’s mill remains, near the bucolic millpond. The sawmills served the logging industry which harvested the south part of the county. Tall pines were felled for ship masts, dragged along the Mast Road to Black Creek, and floated to Montreal for export. Fishing boats and schooners built in the village were hauled down Black River, deeper then.

These were the days when temperance forces had to rise up to combat drunkenness and rowdiness among loggers and shipbuilders.

The rich farmlands of South Marysburgh created wealth during the Barley Days, growing large homes, flourishing hotels, and stores. Their few descendants are the Hicks General Store, closed in recent years, and the Minaker Garage, still hard at work.

Milford is beloved locally for its traditional Fall Fair, one of very few still operating in Ontario. The Italianate brick church on the hill, the 1867 Wesleyan-Methodist Church, has evolved since 1985 into a dynamic community theatre venue. Mount Tabor Community Playhouse and the nearby Port Milford music camp represent Milford’s new direction as a tourism destination and arts and culture hub.

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