The Darlingside site is located on the St. Lawrence River just east of the Thousand
Islands Bridge. Thomas Darling (1813-1882) and his wife Janet Findlay (1825-1906)
came to the area from Berwick, Scotland in 1837. Mr. Darling began a cordwood business
in 1837. At that time, trade in cordwood figured significantly in the economy of the
Township. Local residents from as far north as Blue Mountain would bring wood to
Darling's depot. In turn, Mr. Darling would supply wood to steamers traveling along the
St. Lawrence River.
As his business flourished, Darling recognized the need for a general store. His situation
was ideal to serve both those in the Township and the steamers. The store was opened in
1845. It was closely associated in a barter-and-credit system of trade with the wood
business. This type of trade was very common in early Canada. Little cash would change
hands, but products, both raw and finished, would.
In 1851, Thomas Darling purchased Lot 24, Concession 1 of what was then Lansdowne
Township. He paid 125 Pounds for the property. Later that same year, Darling purchases
Lot 1 Broken Front of Escott Township for 200 Pounds. This property was comprised of
200 acres. Darling was also granted Commons Lot A Broken Front of Escott Township
from the Crown in 1856. This land was comprised of 7.5 acres. Thus, the larger property
known as Darlingside was assembled. During the later half of the nineteenth century and
into the twentieth century, members of the Darling family purchased a substantial amount
From the 1845 census, it is evident that at that time the Darling family only consisted of
Thomas and Janet Darling. Eventually, they had ten children. Two of the eldest boys
died at very young ages. The majority of the family is buried in Lansdowne Cemetery.
Excellent records remain of this important family. Early Census Records are with the
Leeds and Grenville Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society. In addition, the wills of
the Darling family are recorded on microfilm and can be found at the Land Registry Office
Each of the Darling children was unique and, to some, eccentric. The Darling
girls were well educated. Each boy, with the exception of Arthur Darling, was also
extensively involved in the community. The family exercised considerable power in the
community because of its economic status. Some of the Darling men held public offices.
For example, Thomas Darling was Reeve of Lansdowne Township during the 1860-70's.
His son, Thomas J. Darling, was Reeve in the 1880-90's. J.D.W. Darling was Township
Clerk during the 1880's, a Justice of the Peace in Lansdowne during the early part of this
century, and also operated an insurance company in the village.
One of the girls, Margaret, provided mortgage funds for many of the farmers starting up
in the area. George was a tea merchant who sold tea throughout eastern Ontario and New
York State. The family were staunch Presbyterians and active in the support of the church
in Lansdowne. Much of this information is available at Queen's University Archives as
well as the Provincial Archives in Toronto.
The architecture of the Darlingside buildings is also of significance. On Lot 24,
Concession 1, there are four buildings: the Darling General Store, the house, a barn and
a boar house. The house and store are of the greatest importance. The store was operated
from the 1840's to the 1890's. Its architecture provides a good representation of the
American Classical/Georgian style. Considering its age, the store is in amazing condition,
virtually unaltered from its original state. The store records and ledgers are very well
preserved in the archives mentioned above. They provide great insight into the lives of a
middle class mercantile family in Upper Canada. There is also preserved original
merchandise dated to the 1800's.
The Darling family
made an important contribution to the history of the Thousand Islands Region. They were
pioneers in Upper Canada. They continued their mercantile business into the Railway Era.
The family was also prominent politically in township and country government. Since the
1940's, the Darling family have used Darlingside as a summer home.*
* Information compiled by Lisa Thompson and first published in the January 1994 newsletter.
Darlingside - The Last of an Era...
In 1991, Darlingside was advertised for sale. A small group of locals was concerned that another piece of
history would disappear with no record. That was the beginning of this society.
Over the last four years, Mr. Robert Wallace and his sister, Louise Hockey, have been generous in allowing
us to tour, photograph and record the premises. This property, became one of four Lisa Thompson
researched in our first summer program. In June, the final parcel of Darlingside, containing the four
buildings, was sold.
Diane Hall, Township Clerk, immediately arranged for us to tour the property again. This was done early
on Friday morning June 16, 1995. We asked for permission to remove all remaining paper from the store
for later sorting. Permission was granted provided we finished before noon on Monday June 19, one step
ahead of the auctioneers.
Mrs. Hall provided three men and a truck from the road department and three of the office staff, as well as
going herself. We removed many boxes and trunks of papers from the store as well as books and papers
from the house. We were also allowed to remove several small items of historical interest. Among these
were a primitive treadle sewing machine and a hand operated vacuum cleaner.
On a recent visit to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn Michigan, I discovered an exact mate of our vacuum
cleaner. It is the oldest in their Home Arts section, listed as "Suction Cleaner. New Home Vacuum
Cleaner. R. Armstrong Manufacturing Co. Cincinnati, Ohio. 1910-1915."
We have made only a small dent in sorting this material. It is a long, slow, dirty job. At some later date we
will attempt to publish a list of the material. Of interest so far are voters lists for 1863 & 1868, blueprints
for the Presbyterian Church and the Drill Hall and a file of invoices from Alan Earl, Merchant,
Lansdowne Tilley Post Office.
The Historical Society would like to thank Mrs. Hall and the Township Staff for their assistance in obtaining,
removing and storage space for this material until we can sort it.
Especially we would like to thank
Mr. Robert Wallace for allowing us access to the property and permission to remove the material. As I left
that Monday afternoon, Mr. Wallace, great grandson of the founder Thomas Darling, sadly said, "Well, I
guess this is the end of an era". After 150 years of continuous use by the Darling family, I believe he is
* Article prepared by Bill Boulton, February 1996 Newsletter
Darlingside Honoured with National Recognition ...
The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada designated Darlingside as a National Historic Site in
a plaque-unveiling ceremony on Saturday September 20, 2000. Three plaques have been placed in the
parkette above the Darlingside property, just east of the Thousand Islands Bridge. They picture the
Darling store and the Thousand Islands area, and outline the importance of this business to the early St.
Lawrence shipping business.
The event was chaired by Dr. Jacques Monet of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.
Reeve Harold Grier brought greetings from the Township; and Alan Lindsay, President of the Historical
Society, spoke of the Darling family and their business interests. Guest speaker was Joe Jordon, Member
of Parliament, Leeds-Grenville.
Spring 2008 - LTI Historical Society and community members were saddened to hear that the Darling house had been dismantled; only the store remains. The loss of this gem leaves a large hole in our heritage. Thankfully, we have several artifacts and photos to document it's importance in our area.
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