Innisville, Ontario is located in the Township of Drummond/North Elmsley about 12-15 miles east of Perth on Highway #7 (Trans Canada Highway) and spans both sides of the Mississippi River. The bridge connects the north and south parts of the village. Innisville was first settled by immigrants as early as 1814 and was originally known as Freer’s Falls or Rapids, then Ennisville and later Innisville. The original bridge is believed to have been built sometime in the late 1820’s. At one point in the mid 1800’s, this mill community had flour, grist, woollen, saw and shingle mills. It had two taverns, a hotel, a store, a church, a school and even its own doctor. There were also wagon, blacksmith, cooper and shoe shops. At this time, Innisville had a population of about one hundred and fifty people. That number was reported to be three hundred in 1881.
The bridge in Innisville would have been essential to the community as it connected settlement on both sides of the river. Sometime probably between the late 1890’s and early 1900’s, a group of young women can be seen in the shallow water under the Innisville Bridge. They were probably cooling off from the summer’s heat as they did their laundry. In one photo, they even have a washing machine perched on the rocks. The moving water under the bridge would have made a satisfactory place to launder their clothes. The gentle current would provide a natural rinse. This photograph provides a great example of how people integrated the natural elements around them into their everyday lives.
The woman on the left of the pictures was Lizzie Dial. Sarah Elizabeth Dial Crampton (1872 – 1951) was born in Innisville, Ontario on the Mississippi River to Jeremiah McMoran Dial and Elizabeth (Bessie) Code. Lizzie married Samuel Charles Crampton in 1924. People familiar with Innisville area history will recognize these family names from the community.
The Middleville and District Museum has a good display of washing machines used through the decades. The oldest one is a simple trough that sits on a base and can be rocked back and forth to slosh the cloth against a wooden ‘agitator’ in the middle. The Museum’s collection represents laundry machines from this primitive model through early barrel models and up to wringer washers that many people will recall their mothers and grandmothers using. A brief timeline includes an early manual washer with a lever being patented in 1846, a rotary version with revolving paddles was in use in 1858, followed by a wringer washer to squeeze water from the cloth in 1861, and the first ‘automatic’ machine in 1937. Machines with a ‘spin dry’ feature were introduced in the 1950’s, replacing wringers. Many children and adults experienced a dangerous encounter with a wringer and needed medical attention. There was always a stern reminder to ‘stay away’ from the wringer. Visitors to the Museum can take a trip through time as they view the progression of various washing machine models.
This journal is written, researched, and maintained by the volunteers of the Middleville Museum.