Letter found in chimney of Rockburn residence composed in 1952.
Driving through Rockburn on any given day, one’s first impression of the tiny county usually has much to do with its considerable beauty and picturesque landmarks.
The Rockburn Presbyterian Church still stands in the center of Rockburn, while, with the exception of the Rockburn Pub, the rest of the territory is made up of well-maintained residences. Unless one was familiar with the history of the area, one would never guess that it was once a burgeoning center of commerce for the residents that occupied the area in the 1800s.
Stumbling upon a document penned by William G. Gibson in 1939 reflecting on Rockburn as it existed in 1860, it was shocking to read that the Mitchell Brook, which still runs through the county, was actually a larger body of water back then, powering five mills (six are on record, but no evidence can be found of the last). Included amongst these was the Stuart Grist Mill, Craig Carding Mill and the Macintosh Saw Mill. Also in business were two local blacksmiths, one of which set up shop next to the well-known bridge that straddles the brook today.
South of the church lay a tin shop, owned by W.A. Farqhuar and James Olivier—a business that relocated to New York’s Fort Covington, while a foundry was operated by the Steels and the Hendersons. A butter and cheese factory was also in operation, as well as two wheelwright shops, the first owned by James Meikle and the second by Alexander Rennie. The latter was later purchased by harness maker W.S. Jamieson.
There was, of course, a country store that operated using the bartering system and a talented stonemason (John Pollock) available to the residents, along with a tailor and a shoe shop. Rockburn, in all its tiny glory, had the components needed to make up a bustling town scene. These days, motor vehicles and the Internet have spread residents out a little further from one another, but this history gives you something to imagine as you drive through Rockburn’s little gulley. It might even make you wish that the world was a little smaller after all.