Photography by Lindi Pierce
A perfect motorcycle road – sweeping curves, blind hills, country air perfumed by fresh hayfields and damp woods – leads to the hamlet of Moira in Hastings County. The Phillipston Road ends at a T-junction, stopping for east-west traffic along equally hilly Moira Road connecting highways 62 and 37. Let’s not confuse this spot with Moira Lake or the Moira River, as it doesn’t sit on either. Moira’s namesake is a town in County Down, Ireland, birthplace of Francis Rawdon, scion of an aristocratic family which graced us with several local names (Huntington, Hungerford, Hastings) but never its presence.
There is an outcropping of fine stone houses in the area, demonstrating the ‘make do with what you have’ ethic of the early settlers, who put the glacial eskers to good use. First arrivals were of United Kingdom or United Empire Loyalist stock. Hugh Daly (settled 1827), Daniel Wood (1828), Henry Ketcheson (1829), Shubael Foster (1829) and many others cleared farmland, constructed stone homes, raised families, started businesses – and built community. The 1954 Women’s Institute history of the village contains an astonishing 50 pages of Moira family history.
Moira was self-sufficient like most mid-1800s hamlets and villages. At one time the McTaggart fanning mill, Dean furniture factory, Utman boots and shoes, F.M. Brenton General Store, Wm. Donnan harness factory and Sam Ketcheson butcher shop met local needs.
A home at the crossroads dates from 1851; the stone building served as town hall, a church, and finally a blacksmith shop. Across the road sits an early stone farmhouse on a beautifully maintained property. Near the barn flows a year-round spring which provided ample water for the Moira Cheese Factory operating down the hill from 1868 to about 1934.
The commercial and civic heart of the village has ceased to beat. The two-storey brick schoolhouse (1929), the post office and general store, and the church have succumbed to progress.
Although folks may not ‘neighbour’ as in the old days, community spirit thrives at the stone Methodist church. Renovated by Amish neighbours, reincarnated as the Community Hall, the 1854 stone church hosts private functions, and is home to the Milkweed Art Group and People Helping People, a 20-year old local organization (with some energetic junior members) raising funds to help out Centre Hastings folks.
Respectful of their rich history, Moira citizens still honour their ancestors at old-time Decoration Days at the lovingly restored Moira Cemetery.