The Municipal Heritage Committee has again brought a little bit of history into the public’s eye with another interpretive sign at the Rail Trail ‘head’ on River Street in Port Elgin.
The signage reminds people of a bygone era when Port Elgin was an industrial hub and the importance that the railroad played in its history.
There were industries such as a sawmill, gristmill, coal yard and the major industry, the Hepner brush and broom factory that opened in 1883 and was a major employer in the town of Port Elgin. It became the major producer of curling brooms that were shipped around the world until 1983 when the American Bissell company bought the business and later closed the doors.
Port Elgin’s Councilor, Neil Menage, recounted a little bit of the history behind the town’s industry and the railway’s connection. “When the Great Western Railway came to Port Elgin and, because it was a time when shipping was the main source of transportation for freight, the Railway ran a spur line down to the Port Elgin harbour in order for product to be shipped out. It is not known if that is how River Street got its name but, up until that time, there was no River Street.”
“Heritage is about finding out through research what happened in the past,” added Menage, “and then telling stories about it. We are trying to honour that with this plaque.”
Committee member, Joyce Johnston, also pointed out that it is through the Bruce County Museum & Cultural Centre Archives that much of the research is done.
The Municipal Heritage Committee has established several interpretive signs/plaques throughout the community and is working on initiating more to create awareness of the history of the community and area.