Ghosts of Renfrew County

Posted on May 26, 2011

I took a recent trip to beautiful, economically devastated Renfrew County and have much to report.  My pal and I decided to visit the area and tour some local cemeteries, searching for the tombs of his distant and not-so-distant relatives.  Renfrew County is replete with minor wonders, and I will share some of them with you here.  Before we get started you can refer to this map to orient you during our tour:

A tour of Renfrew County

Those helpful blobs are the places we visited.  First we’ll start with Denbigh.  Once upon a time, probably fifteen years ago, I passed through Denbigh and saw confirmation of a place my friend had sighted years previously:  The Circular Saw Museum, which appeared to be located in someone’s house.  Ever since we have wanted to go check it out and learn all about saws.  So we finally pulled into town, passed the church, and promptly exited town.  No Circular Saw Museum!  Our best theory is that it burned down.  Strike one.

Next we visited maybe the best place in Ontario…  Khartum!  Pause for a moment.  Canada is littered with little towns named after places from whence immigrants came.  Around Kingston one can find Warsaw, Odessa, Moscow, Verona, and so on.  This makes sense, since people from these places settled there and wanted a little touch of home.  Cool.  So how on earth did it come to pass that there exists a “town” named after the capital of the Sudan?  Maybe Canada’s only 19th century Sudanese immigrant settled there.  Maybe.  But in fact, no one settled there.  Behold, the bustling centre of Khartum:

Welcome to Khartum!

Downtown Khartum, site of the Santa Claus Parade, the Khartum Fair, and the annual Porcupine Chase

Exiting Khartum in the midst of a rush hour traffic jam

For as long as I have known about Khartum there have been precisely zero dwellings located within the town.  In fact there is nothing within the town except one creepy road heading into the bush.  Uh oh…  But!  Progress sweeps over everything, and now Khartum has two dwellings.  While we were pulled over taking exciting pictures some dude came out of his house with his trusty dog.  I think it was the mayor.  I reckon he was wondering what we were up to.  So now you know about Khartum, and you too can visit.  If you do please take a picture with the sign and send it in.  It can become the internet’s lamest, most labour intensive meme.

Next we visited Eganville.  I bought a hot dog.  The end.

After that we prowled around some graveyards.  Rather eerily there were several graves from long ago that looked as though they had been freshly dug – dirt unsettled, no grass, but the fellow died thirty plus years ago.  Nonetheless we spotted no undead creatures.  I did spot this extremely crude headstone, that appears to have been created lovingly, with a stick and some concrete.

Even in death he is so ostentatious

I trust that FREd is resting in peace.  Old, crummy tombstones are irresistibly captivating aren’t they?  If you have pictures of some please send them in.  There was another little one that simply said “Father” on it.  No dates, no name, no nothing else.  It got me thinking that it would be funny to buy a few graves and make some fake headstones for future cemetery stalkers to find.  Say for the muppets, or something.  That’s the kind of thing I would do if I were obscenely rich.  Forget you, charity.

Our journey next took us to Wilno, Canada’s oldest Polish settlement.  It is home to the famous Wilno Tavern, where one can get a really big perogy.  There is a new store there called Pickles & Quilts which improbably lives up to its name.  I bought a pie there which turned out to be excellent.  Now you know.

Finally, the showstopper, my man Godo took us to visit lovely Foymount.  Holy hell!!  Foymount is a legitimate ghost town and then some.  Actually it’s weirder than that, since it’s half a ghost town.  Some history:  Foymount is Ontario’s highest populated point, at a whopping 500 metres above sea level.  For this reason the Royal Canadian Air Force elected to establish a radar station at the site in 1952, which became part of the Pinetree Line, there to save us from nuclear annihilation by letting us know about our impending deaths several minutes in advance.  Nice!  Check out the system:

You are safe. Go back to sleep.

Now I’m no expert, but somehow I think the Pintree Line is maybe not the most effective line of defence.  If attacking Soviet planes manage to make it that far without being detected all of Canada’s populated centres are already smoking piles of radioactive ash and the US has a few minutes to say its prayers.  I guess the real warning system was:  if Canada explodes scramble fighters!  I imagine working on the Pinetree line was less than motivating, though it was probably better than freezing one’s ass off in Resolute or some godforsaken place.  Anyways, Foymount was the site of one of these stations, until it was shuttered (owing to its utter uselessness) in 1974.  Apparently they just boarded up the buildings, cleared out the sad apartments, and fled town in the night.  Now there is the town proper, with a few inhabited houses, and the ghost town on the hill, which consists of candy coloured tenements gone to seed:

Soviet bombers: you are free to attack!

Local youths have gone to considerable lengths to smoke dope on the roof

Ghost hotel

The whole scene was extremely eerie.  Clouds rolled in.  Birds settled.  The breeze teased the flora.  Nothing happened.  To truly get the effect I suggest you watch the following video.  The houses in the distance are inhabited; everything else is abandoned.

And there you have it, a glimpse into the strange and mysterious Renfrew County.  But don’t let this little article suffice – go there your bad self, eat a sausage in Wilno, get the Golden Lake itch (yes it’s a real phenomenon), and see if you can find the elusive Circular Saw Museum.

Posted in: The Obscure