Restoring history and faith 12 years later

ROCKINGHAM – It has become a pilgrimage of sorts. Year after year, people young and old make their way to the small hamlet of Rockingham. They park their cars along the road and climb up a steep hill to take part in an event that commemorates the restoration of St. Leonard’s Church.

During the afternoon of August 12, around 75 people came out to the 12th anniversary celebration, which was organized by the Friends of Rockingham Church. David Kelley is the president of the group and he welcomed everyone who gathered in the small parish.
He began by acknowledging the contribution of the late Barney McCaffrey, who passed away on January 5, 2012.
“Starting in 1971, thanks to Barney’s effort, along with the members of the Madawaska Association for Developmental Ecology, the church remained standing until the mid 1900’s when a group of concerned citizens from the community came together to prevent its demolition by order of the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa,” Kelley explained.
The building was saved and underwent renovations 12 years ago. While there is no longer regular mass held, an annual celebration happens to honour the historic church, which dates back to the mid 1800’s.
Barney’s son, Gabriel, was in attendance and played a song written by his father.
Afterwards, John Anderson approached the podium and entertained the congregation with some of his many songs.
Anderson is a native of Ireland who now lives in London, Ontario. His daughter lives in Combermere and through his
many visits to the area, Anderson has become fascinated with the area’s history.
He wrote a poem about Sarah Dawson, who is buried on the church grounds. He turned that poem, along with one
he wrote about Combermere, into songs and played them for those in attendance.
Kelley then introduced guest speaker Keith Kinder, who is the great-grandson of Dr. Joseph Kinder, a pioneer physician and veterinarian of Rockingham.
Keith said his ancestor hailed from England. He immigrated to Canada in 1857.
Dr. Kinder originally set out to be a priest, but was expelled during the process. With no official medical training under his belt, it is unclear why Dr. Kinder entered into the medical profession. But it was obviously a good fit. He was well known and sought-after in the Rockingham area.
He practiced homeopathy and acquired many books on the subject that his descendants have to this day. Dr. Kinder also grew medicinal plants on the farm, some of which continue to grow on the family property.
Keith speculates that his great-grandfather had a particular interest in mental illness. He owned a machine which produced electrical currents that would supposedly treat hysteria. Keith said mental illness was a common problem, particularly in rural, isolated areas.
In 1910, Dr. Kinder’s wife and youngest son died of arsenic poisoning. According to records, the two thought they were taking a dose of Epsom salts. The label on the bottle was wrong, and the two actually took the poison instead.
Story continues in the August 15 issue of The Valley Gazette.