Hiram Smith Home in 1887
Hiram built this 3 bay Georgian style home in 1865. It has a typical floor plan of the Georgian style with a wide centre hall from front to back with equal size rooms on each size. The rooms 16 ' by 20' and has an original kitchen in a south wing that is 20' by 30'. The upper floor is the exact same floor plan but the rooms are 16' by 16' with 4' by 8' closets. The front door is flanked by side lights and a arched transom light. The original smoke house and brick bake oven lie to the west of the house. The photo features Hiram's wife Mary Ann, and three of their children, Charles, Hiram Jr., Geogianna and Emma on the horse. Hiram senior died in 1874. It has remained in the family to the present day and is currently the home of Hiram's great granddaughter.
View of Sparta Line in 1820s, Sparta Mile Maple, View of Sparta Line in the 1930s
The mile maple was saved when the road was put through in the early days of the settlement. It was such a magnificent specimen and was almost exactly one mile west of the village. The stage stopped here. The view of the early road gives you an excellent idea of the difficulty the earliest settlers faced to get here. Many parts of it were inlaid with logs (corderoy road) as it traversed many marshy areas. The street view is Sparta Line looking east from just west of this banner, back in the 1930s. The trees disappeared in the 1950s when the county widened and paved the road.
Baptist Church and Smith Tailor Shop
The Sparta Baptist Church was built in 1869 as a clapboard building but was raised, had a basement installed and the walls covered in bricks in 1896. This photo is likely from around 1900. Today it is a home. The Hiram Smith Tailor Shop was built in 1846 of small hand-made strawberry bricks. Hiram was a tailor and after his death his son Hiram Jr. took over until 1904. It then became a general store and passed through many hands. It is fully designated on the exterior as well as the main room downstairs which includes the pressed tin ceiling, the counters, the shelves and the floor. Hiram's brass yard stick is still embedded in the counter.
Hiram and Mary Ann Smith
Hiram came to Sparta as a Quaker in 1830 at the age of 19. He set up his tailoring business and married Sarah Mills a fellow Quaker in 1832. She bore three sons but died young in 1848. He then married Mary Ann Spurr who came up from Nova Scotia to stay with her uncle. She bore him 11 children. Hiram died when the youngest was 6 months old and she raised them by herself. Hiram had done well financially and left each of his 14 children with 100 acres or a business. The side street was named after this prosperous businessman.
Forge and Anvil Museum and stove inside
The Forge was one of 4 blacksmith establishments in the early village and outlasted all the others. It closed as a shop in 1944 and became a meeting hall for the Women's Institute. Hiram Smith's son Edgar A. Smith purchased it from the last blacksmith and gave it to the Women's Institute to preserve this unique structure. The building was constructed in 1827 of clay, straw and water. It is a common material used in England but not in Canada. The photo is from the early 1900s. The stove in the photo is from the Cole House two miles north of Sparta and was used to heat this large Italianate yellow brick home. When it cracked it was donated to the Forge Museum and has been fully lined with steel to keep it safe to use. This photo was taken in the 1950s.
Sparta Line Views
These are two views of Sparta Line when it was called Main Street looking east showing the south side of the street and before the street was paved. The photos were taken in the late 1800s. You can see the Ontario House (Temperance House) in the background as well as their livery stable in one and the early tinsmith shop, later the butcher shop in the other.
This banner features two views of the Abbey which was the early home of the Moedingers and was originally built beside the current tearoom also in the 1840s. It housed a finishing school for girls and the briefly published newspaper, The Truth Teller was printed here. The house was moved further west in the early part of the twentieth century and a machinery dealership was set up between the house and the store. A Moedinger descendant rented the house out to tenants and ran the hardware for many years.. Peter Robson, the artist purchased the home and store in the 1970s and renovated the home adding the front portico and back addition.
These are views of the Sparta Public House Co. Building which was formed after the Temperance Society closed the last bar in Sparta housed in this building. The building was originally called the Elgin House and then the Ontario House before being closed. The Baptist Minister, the Methodist minister and the local doctor formed a Temperance Society as the community had 3 bars and real problems with alcoholism. This bar was the only one not to close voluntarily. The night it was finally closed, the men at the bar lit torches and marched down this street towards the Baptist minister's house to burn it down, in retaliation. The doctor caught wind of what was happening and met them at the Baptist ministers house, sitting on the front porch with a shotgun on his lap. The men changed their minds and went home. The building has seen many uses over the years including a dance hall, ice cream parlour, reading room, apartments, and currently a spa and shop.
Sparta House Tearoom and Moedinger Undertakers Parlour
The tearoom was built about 1840 by David Mills, a Quaker and served as a hotel with a bar. It closed near the end of the nineteenth century and became a hardware store for many years. In the 1970s the hardware closed and the new owner, Michael Roberts renovated this much neglected structure and turned it into a tearoom. For a brief time, one owner turned it into a bar and club for men but then it quickly returned to a tearoom.
The Moedinger family owned the building for many years, running the hardware as well as serving as the local undertaker. His coffin making shop was on the west end of the hardware and his early home was right next to the store. His hearse is in another banner as is his home.
Eakin's Store and the Stirling Bank of Canada
The rear section of this store was built in 1837 as the first post office in the village of Sparta. The village had been called The Corners until this time but as a post office was to open, a more distinct name was required. Sparta seems a strange name for a Quaker community but Greek names were very popular at that time as there is a Corinth nearby and Aylmer was called Troy at that time. Henry Yarwood who built the post office had come up from a Sparta in the United States. The front of the store was built in 1846 at the same time as the Smith tailor shop and is very similar in style.
The Stirling Bank of Canada was originally a frame building with a boomtown front as seen in this photo. The bank went bankrupt in 1904 but opened again and the current brick structure on this south west corner of Quaker and Sparta Line replaced the former structure. It closed as a bank in the 1920s.
Stage, Hearse and Sawmill
This banner features three early photos. The Sparta stage ran from Sparta to St. Thomas daily as some residents worked in the city. It stopped running in the 1920s as cars became available. There were stops along the way to change or rest the horses and pick up passengers. The hearse pictured was Louis Moedingers and was considered a very fancy one for the region. The original brass plaque from this hearse is in the Forge and Anvil Museum. The picture of the sawmill which sat on the north side of the pond behind the tearoom is taken from a painting of the mill which hangs in the Forge and Anvil Museum. By the 1870s the water in Mill Creek has declined greatly in volume once the lands around were cleared of trees for farming and so both the grist mill and the sawmill closed. Remnants of the dam can still be seen behind the tearoom especially in the months when the trees are bare.
This banner features three photos in connection with the Quakers. The woman pictured is Serenna Minnard who was the second Quaker minister for Sparta. Sarah Haight was the first. The Quakers often had female ministers as their job was to minister to the needs of the people by settling disputes, finding help for those who were in need, or caring for the sick and making sure others did their chores. They are not ordained and no one preaches in a Quaker worship. The second photo is that of the meeting house which is just at the north edge of the village on Quaker Road. This meeting house was built in 1865 and is the third meeting house. The first two were to the west of the village where the cemetery sits.
The photo on the reverse is of Joshua Doan's grave in the Quaker Cemetery. The Doans were the first settlers in Sparta and had fled the United States after the American Revolution, originally settling in the Niagara region but fleeing here during the War of 1812 due to American invasions in the region. Jonathan Doan, Joshua's father began this settlement in 1813. During the MacKenzie Rebellion of 1837, a local branch became involved and Joshua Doan was one of their leaders. He was captured near Windsor during an American invasion and hanged for treason in London. After a month of struggle the Quakers were able to bring his body home to be buried here in their Sparta Cemetery as well as Amos Perley an African American also hanged for treason in London.
Sparta Band and Baseball Team
Sparta had its own brass band that were well known in the area in the late 1800s. Many communities had their own bands. Sparta's band was organized in 1884 and the uniforms pictured here were their first uniforms. Later they wore scarlet jackets with gold braid trim and navy trousers.
Baseball was an important sport for small towns. Sparta was renowned for its strong teams. They played communities like Union, Belmont, Port Stanley, St. Thomas etc. There are photos of our teams from as early as 1910. This is a photo of a team that won the championship in 1948.
Santa Clause Parades
Sparta was known for its great Santa Claus parades throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Five to ten thousand spectators came each year to view the parades and the men of the village spent all their free time constructing these floats in the Mills' barns. Many featured nursery rhyme themes. The Fish family were well known for having the whole family involved. In about 1960, the whole family living at home took part wearing rabbit costume cages they made themselves. The father, Max and his five youngest children wore these cages and walked the whole route from the north end of the village to west of the current dragstrip.
Methodist Church and Manse
The Sparta Methodist church was originally a frame building but in 1886 the current yellow brick structure was erected as well as the manse (minister's home) next door. The photos on this banner feature the front of the church in about 1890 when it still had a steeple and there was a picket fence around both properties. The church became a United Church in 1925 and closed in 2012. the Sparta Historical Society purchased it and set it up as a museum. The manse from that same photo is on the opposite side of the banner. The manse is all part of the same property.
Two Santa Claus Parade floats
The little Dutch Boy who put his finger in the dike is one of the floats and on the reverse is a historical young lady making butter with a churn. These photo are from the 1956 parade. Scrap books with all the floats from newspaper articles is to be found at the Sparta Church Museum. Only one of the original floats still exists and can be found on a beam in the Forge and Anvil Museum. It features Santa's Sparta Special train.