Innisville Scribe -Elsie Kilfoyle

Some called her ‘Ma’, the kids who bought candy at her general store called her Mrs. Kilfoyle, and everyone in Innisville knew that Elsie was the official village scribe. For many decades she kept careful notes on all of the local activities, the weather events, the fishing conditions, who was visiting, anniversaries, marriages, births, and deaths.

Elsie (McLaren) Kilfoyle was a regular columnist for a total of 4 newspapers, three of them for over 40 years spanning from 1936 until 1976, the year of her death.

On July 26, 1962, one of the newspapers, “The Perth Courier”, published an article on Elsie, transcribed below:

“Twenty-five years have not dulled Mrs. W.P. Kilfoyle’s enthusiasm as the Courier’s Innisville correspondent.

As she says herself, “I enjoy it very much. If I didn’t enjoy it then I would quit.”

Although Mrs. Kilfoyle, now 67 years old, cannot remember the exact date she began to write for the Courier, she estimates that she has been on the job since 1935 or 1936.

At the turn of the century the Kilfoyle’s purchased the Innisville General Store which they have operated for 63 years. Mrs. Kilfoyle, whose husband died two years ago, has four sons, Stan 41, Jerry 39, Wallace 37, and Murray, 35.

Long History

Mrs. Kilfoyle is Innisville’s true hometown girl, having been born there in 1881.  She has resided there all her life except for a span of 15 years when she “went away to Franktown to live after her marriage in 1919.” In 1933, however, she and her husband returned to own and operate the Innisville General Store which she had inherited after the death of her mother.

In the Village

The Kilfoyle’s have a long history in Innisville dating back to that area’s first settler John Morris, Mrs. Kilfoyle’s great great grandfather. He is reported to have lived under the protection of a large overhanging rock for many months until he completed a flimsy shack near the river.

Mrs. Kilfoyle’s parents, (James McLaren and Elizabeth Morris), now deceased, lived on a farm about one mile from Innisville which they homesteaded in the early 1880s.

Strange Stories

Having been a lifetime resident of Innisville she remembers some unusual occurrences in that village.

Over 50 years ago, she reports, when a great many suckers inhabited the Mississippi, every spring a man built a big 4-ft. high stone pond in the river.  In this enclosure he used to trap as many as 1,000 suckers a day.  People came with wagons, bought the fish by the bagfuls and took them away to be salted.

Twelve years ago, Mrs. Kilfoyle was involved in a rather strange event.  “Mr. Wm. Cavanagh from Pakenham, had just parked his truck in front of the store.  He came in and asked to buy something, so I went to the kitchen to get it.  As I looked through the kitchen window I saw a truck rolling toward the river.  I told Mr. Cavanagh and we rushed outside.  It was his truck and the brake had apparently failed.  Fortunately the truck struck a rock pile on the river bank or it would have rolled into the Mississippi which was at that time much higher and swifter than it is today.

The old bridge through the village, when a part of the main highway, brought many visitors to Innisville and many customers to our store, says Mrs. Kilfoyle.  “Although the new bridge is not the traffic hazard of the old one, since it went in too many people don’t know Innisville even exists.”

Digs for News

She estimates the population of the village is about 80 persons, although in the summer many more people live in the immediate area.  It is easy to see the difficult task Mrs. Kilfoyle has in digging up news every week with so few people in the area.

“There are some weeks that I think, ‘Why should I write?’ “, says Mrs. Kilfoyle. “But then I think of the people in other places such as British Columbia, who have interests here. When they receive the Courier the first thing they do is look for the Innisville news.  When I think of this I try to think something up.”

The method by which Mrs. Kilfoyle gathers news for the Courier has remained the same for the past 25 years.  “I just listen to somebody talking and I jot it down so I won’t forget.  A few people also bring in some information each week.”

Although Mrs. Kilfoyle admits that being on a party line should add to her quantity of news, she refrains from listening to conversation because of the embarrassing situation that would arise if a customer walked into the store while she was listening on the telephone.

“Sometimes I wish I didn’t have the store”, she says.

As a sideline to her activities as a store owner and a correspondent for three weekly newspapers, Mrs. Kilfoyle raises flowers in her “spare time”.

She has over 75 house plants decorating her windows, the most beautiful of which is an African Violet given to her ten years ago.  It has bloomed consistently each year and as many visitors to the Kilfoyle home have commented, “grows a bigger leaf and more beautiful flower each year.”

So enthused is Mrs. Kilfoyle about her hobby that she states that she would go into the greenhouse business if she were 40 years younger.

The Courier congratulates Mrs. Kilfoyle on her 25 years as one of their most able correspondents.

(transcribed from “The Perth Courier” article titled, “25 Years as a Courier Correspondent”, published July 26, 1962)

Old Innisville Bridge

Old Bridge, Innisville – photo: Perth Remembered

Old Innisville Bridge, built 1820s – ladies below, doing their laundry, photo: Middleville Museum

W.P. Kilfoyle, Elsie’s husband

Elsie’s husband – Willard Preston Kilfoyle (1888-1958), photo: when he worked as a Cheese Maker

Willard Preston Kilfoyle

Marriage Certificate – Elsie’s marriage to Willard in May 1919, in Carleton Place

Married in Carleton Place, Ontario, May 7, 1919

Elsie and Willard had four sons:

Stanley (1920-2007) (married Ernestine M. Rathwell)

Gerald (1921-1968) (married Mary Catherine ‘Casey’ Stafford)

Wallace (1924-2019) (married Audrey Ida Cooke)

Murray (1926-1987) (married Verna Sutherland)

Innisville Anglican Church

Innisville School –

S.S. # 17, Drummond Township

Innisville School -1888


Elsie Kilfoyle passed away in Carleton Place, on March 16, 1976 at the age of 81.

March 17, 1976, “The Ottawa Journal”

“The welcome mat was always at her door and she was widely known for having kept the store in Innisville for years, and had cottages and boats which attracted many American tourists.”

Elsie and Willard Kilfoyle, Franktown Cemetery

The End of an Era

And so…….Elsie Kilfoyle, social columnist, gathered, assembled, and reported the Innisville news for over 40 years, recording every event, every gathering, every visit, special trips and vacations taken by residents, births, engagements, marriages, deaths, and funerals. She knew that there might be someone out there, someone maybe as far as British Columbia, as she told the reporter in 1962, someone who might be waiting patiently for their weekly copy of one of her papers, like “The Perth Courier”, who would turn first to the news of Innisville. It might be someone who grew up there, a former member of their local Anglican church, or someone who went to the old S.S. # 17 school. For four decades Elsie made sure that her readers would not be disappointed when they looked in their papers for the goings-on in the area. After all, her column might even be the highlight of that reader’s week – a little dash of current events, some snippets from that pretty little village along the mighty Mississippi, some tidbits from across the miles, some precious news connecting the reader back home, to Innisville.

Arlene Stafford-Wilson

(In 1946, Ivan Gerald ‘Gerry’ Kilfoyle, Elsie’s son, married my father’s older sister, Mary Catherine ‘Casey’ Stafford)

2 comments on “Innisville Scribe -Elsie Kilfoyle

  1. says:

    Thank you very much. What an amazing story. Is there a collection of her columns anywhere? My father-in-law’s family would spend every summer in Innisville way back in the early 1900’s.

    Sharon Swanson (way out west in Kelowna)

    • Hello Sharon, and thank-you for your comment. I imagine that Elsie was thinking of families like yours (in B.C.) when she spoke about the importance of her column. It would definitely be very interesting to have a collection of her columns, but I’m not aware that there is such a thing. Perhaps the folks at Archives Lanark would know.

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