Ghosts

The presence of Trousdale merchants in Sydenham has unfolded as naturally as fiddleheads in Spring.

The original settler, Matthew, arrived from England in the late 1820s. Though his early career is foggy, his eldest son, John, busied himself building cabins, teaching school and operating a butcher store. 

John’s son, John Wesley, carried on the merchant trade by starting a bakery, carting goods around town for sale and barter. Later, when Sydenham was thriving, with a sawmill, three hotels and nearby mica mines, he erected a small General Store adjacent to the large family home on Mill Street. Townspeople called this “the matchbox store” because of its small size. 

Having four sons, John Wesley’s oldest, Tom, took over the matchbox store (eventually replacing it with a larger, cement block structure), Bill had a store and bakery on Brewery Street, and Frank operated a small store down Mill Street, where the present store sits. Percy, the youngest, donned a straw boater hat and made deliveries to other communities and the mica mine. When Frank died, Percy took over the Mill Street store and built a new, two story building, completed in 1929. It became a centre of the community, complete with mahogany ice cream counter. On Saturday night, the store stayed open until 11:00 pm for shopping and socializing. Percy never retired and died at 91 in 1966.

Noble, like his father Percy, had storekeeping in his blood. In 1945, after the war, he lived with his wife Margaret and four children in the old homestead and worked full-time with his father. Although nothing was ever thrown away — stored in barns if need be — he “modernized” the store in the 1960s with gleaming aluminum shelving and Margaret took over the books. It was said that “Nobe’ had a database in his head and if he didn’t have what a customer wanted, he could get it by Tuesday.   

John, third child of Noble, grew up in the store. He obtained a degree in Commerce from Queens and, after bringing his new bride, Ginny, to Sydenham in 1976, he joined his father in business. Ready and eager to grow, the food business was moved from the General Store to a new store, Trousdale’s IGA (now Trousdale’s Foodland), near Sydenham Lake, in 1987. Trousdale’s Home Hardware followed two years later. 

With John busy at the new stores and four children off to university, Ginny has taken up the torch. Expressing her creative side and interest in history, she has recreated the old General Store by reinstating original fixtures, artifacts and memorabilia that had been squirreled away for decades. She fills the shelves with new, hand-picked merchandise as varied as the history of Canada. The store is ready and welcoming the next generation of shoppers and Trousdales.

A tale

In the early part of the nineteenth century, Brigham Young came to Sydenham to preach and recruit Mormons. Some of the converts understood that they needed to be baptized by immersion and, as Young had already left town, a local Baptist minister agreed to do it. This was in February when it was necessary to cut through the ice on Sydenham Lake in order to perform the baptisms. Nobody knows how thick the ice was that winter but many of the observers agreed that, shortly after the ceremony, several of the converts were speaking in tongues.

A 1927 receipt book from brother Thomas’ store shows sugar 25¢, eggs 32$, a pumpkin 15¢, and butter $1.16.