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Free tours offer up Bloomfield’s colourful and sometimes shocking history

Prince Edward County residents and visitors are invited to explore Bloomfield’s colourful, entertaining and sometimes shocking history during free walking tours of the village this summer.

County resident Maria Stacey has taken her fresh McGill University degree in history and has applied her skills to researching and leading the tours Wednesdays to Sundays.

Participants will hear stories about village characters, their homes, businesses and industry, and also tales of murder and helicopter-stashing mayhem.

Sponsored by the Bloomfield United Church and the business association BABA, Stacey awaits her tour groups outside the church, directly across from where her great-grandfather ran Butch Stacey’s Meat Market (now Diva Adornments) which was sold to DeMille’s Meat Market in the 1960s.

The butcher shop shared the building with the also long-loved Moore’s Grocery (1931-1991). Stacey notes the proprietors were remembered, and loved, for opening up shop at around 5:30 a.m.

“The entire tour is 200 years of history,” says Stacey, covering religious life in the village; the history of its many historical brick homes and village characters who lived there and continuing with the industrial interests including the canning factory, mills and cheese factory.

“It’s all periods of history and many interesting things,” said Stacey. “There’s a long version of the tour in the morning (starting at 10:30 a.m. for about an hour and a half) and shorter 45-minute tours in the afternoon (beginning at 1:30 and 3 p.m.).

The tours start and end at Bloomfield United Church moving through the triangle of downtown, along Stanley Street, up Mill Street and back to the church.

Highlights include the William DeGroffe home. He was a contractor responsible for building many of the brick homes on Main in the 1880s. Downtown’s Corey’s Hotel and Temperance House are also featured. Stacey notes they were central to the village as farmers would stay while they waited for their grain to be done at the mills on Mill Street just around the corner.

Tim Cole memorialized the event by working with local artist Johnny Miller on a T-shirt to commemorate the event

Also noted is the Bloomfield ‘Air Farce’ helicopter caper in 1997, where two Americans and a Canadian businessman were arrested by the RCMP and FBI on charges of conspiracy to sell 34 vintage helicopters stashed in Bloomfield’s former Cobi Foods warehouse. Most of the locals knew they were there, but it took some time, and global news coverage, for the story to unravel. Stacey notes Santa Claus traded in his sleigh for a chopper at Bloomfield’s Christmas parade.

At the corner of Mill and Stanley, Stacey points out that further down the road were where the rail lines ran through with passengers and precious cargo from canning factories. The line was removed in 1995 and now forms a large part of the Millennium Trail.

With that, she also touches on the shooting of Peter Lazier in 1882 during an attempted robbery at a Bloomfield farmhouse (outside of the triangle) owned by a Quaker couple. It is said men came to rob home owner Jones of the $555 he had been paid earlier that day at the train station for a load of hops. Lazier, a relative, was to be staying overnight.

The truth about the guilt or innocence of two men hanged in a double execution at Picton 130 years ago has been explored extensively over the years, but will never be known.

The Lazier murder trial of 1884 – did they get the right men?

Tour times are Wednesdays to Sundays 10:30 a.m.; 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. Meet outside the Bloomfield United Church. There is no charge for the tours, but donations are welcome. For more information, contact Maria Stacey at bloomfieldpechistory@gmail.com

 

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