One of the most visited crossroads in the history of North Simcoe has to be the four-corner stop in Perkinsfield. It was for this reason that travellers would fill up their gas tank… or at least they did, up until the gas pumps were removed.
The building at 1 County Road 6 North in Tiny, Ontario, resides on the northern corner of Lot 13, Concession 10, at the intersection of County Road 6 and Balm Beach.
Originally established as the village of St. Patrick around the 1870s and centred around the iconic church at the intersection, a twenty-year migration of Irish immigrants poured into the area to escape famine in their homeland. When the rail station was built in 1879 on lands owned by Augustus Perkins, the village was formally renamed as Perkinsfield years later in 1909.
However, it was Franco-Ontarians Father George-Antoine Belcourt and senator Louis-Ferdinand-Napoléon-Antoine Belcourt who are most prominently associated with North Simcoe, and Perkinsfield in particular.
As it was recorded by Guillaume Belcourt, S.J., in the “Famille Belcourt” tricentennial of 1946:
“La famille compte des représentants dans presque toutes les provinces canadiennes ainsi que dans les États américains de Connecticut, de Massachusetts, de New-York et quelques autres. Le groupement le plus compact est celui de la Baie Géorgienne. Louis Belcourt, établi à Perkinsfield en 1870, compte une famille de 12 enfants, 110 petits-enfants et 600 arrière-petits-enfants. Hommage à nos familles vigoureuses, saines et nombreuses.”
“You don’t see families like that anymore, God bless them all,” said Anthony Lancia, who acquired the property along with his wife Alicia Liesje in 1996. Currently, it is the location of the printing business Standlith Design, and former location of The Observer newspaper by the same company.
“I knew the Belcourt family had originally built it and owned it. If you look beneath this flower-box,” said Lancia as he pointed to the planter along the southeast point facing the four corners, “you’ll see the cornerstone from 1924; that’s when it was built.
Seen in the foreground of the historic black-and-white photo is Arthur Belcourt, standing beside the gas pumps of the general store.
“I don’t know where that photo came from,” said Lancia, rightfully guessing Belcourt’s identity. “The gas pumps that were there, which I believe were on the road — at the time they were built, there were pretty lax rules with the township.
“(The Belcourt family) kept (this building) for a number of years — I think there was a small appliance business in here — then there was somebody who was just living in here, renting it. But it was vacant for a few years before I bought it.”
Lancia and Liesje renovated much of the two-storey structure’s interior, and also replacing the exterior bricks after having to remove urea formaldehyde foam insulation along its outer walls.
The modern photo was taken from the sidewalk adjacent to St. Patrick’s Church at 10 County Road 6 South, directly opposite from the historic Belcourt building.
(With assistance from the Midland Public Library and the Tiny Township Heritage Committee)