Smiths Falls History & Mystery: Message in a door frame

John Perrin
Photo credit: Ted Outerbridge
Posted on: October 15, 2021

When we visited the Keyhole House for the first time in 2018, entering through the Moorish arch was almost like crossing a threshold into another world. We touched the ornate moulding surrounding the doorway to the parlor. We stood back to admire the breathtaking and unusual stained-glass panels highlighting the front hall. It felt like a dream. The architecture and craftsmanship was incredible.

We have been living here for almost three years now. Our gratitude for the privilege of living in this eclectic mix of architectural movements has not faded. We love the Romanesque architecture, the Italianate brackets on the frieze above the second story windows, the Queen Anne Revival style porch and the Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie Style inspired stained glass. The house creaks and groans and lulls us to sleep every night.

Some of the creators who built this grand Victorian home left us a note wedged in a door jamb. It fell on the floor while I was removing the door frame in Marion’s sewing room. The brittle scrap of paper is dated June 1892 and reads “This day for God & Queen have we pledged ourselves to live a life of soberness & love.” The note is signed by three people, Benj Byram, Joe Boynton, and Bill Rogers.

I pounced upon the opportunity to research these craftsmen. Benjamin Glover Byram was a joiner and wheelwright from England. He was married with two children when he was working as a carpenter in this house. Joseph Herbert Boynton was a carpenter, born in Aurora, Ontario and would have been 30 years old at the time. He was married with three children. William Ernest Rogers was an 18-year-old liveryman who made deliveries with a horse and buggy.

John Leslie Perrin was another Smiths Falls carpenter who left his mark in the form of a signature on the back of a door frame in 1892. We visited his grave at Hillcrest Cemetery and were shocked to discover that he had died the following year at the age of only 27. John married Annie Weeks on May 9, 1893, and sadly, John died seven months later.

One of these carpenters left us a souvenir but we are not sure who. As part of our restoration efforts, we had the house rewired. Some floorboards in the attic were lifted for the first time in over 100 years.  A screwdriver with a well-worn wooden handle was discovered.  From time to time I like to hold it in awe. It was used to build the Keyhole House 129 years ago.

Ted & Marion Outerbridge are currently restoring a Smiths Falls heritage home built in 1893. They are also being swept away by local history & mystery. You can follow them at The Keyhole House on Instagram & Facebook.

Column by Ted Outerbridge

Hometown News
Author: Hometown News