The Exchange Hotel and Wilno Tavern
Over a hundred years ago the Wilno Hills rang with the sound of loggers and cross-cut saws harvesting square timber from vast pine forests. Soon the hearty Irish, Wendish, German, Kashubian and Polish pioneers followed attempting to tame the rugged land.
In 1894 the railroad snaked its way through the Madawaska Valley creating a link to the growing Prairies and opening the beauty of our lakes and hills to the outside world.
Ignacy Slominski left Kashubia ( West Prussia Germany) at the age of 23 and arrived in Canada in 1881. He married Rosalia Skiba in 1883 and settled in Renfrew. While working on the railroad construction, In the early 1900’s, Ignacy Slominsczi decided to settle his young family in Wilno. He bought the “Stopping Place” opposite the new Wilno train station. A dining room and more bedrooms were added. The establishment was named “The Exchange Hotel”.
The village grew quickly serving food to farmers and a booming logging industry. As many as twenty trains a day passed through Wilno in the heyday of steam railroading.
On April 30, 1913, Wilno blacksmith Frank Shulist and his wife Catherine Prince bought the Exchange Hotel. The hotel offered room and board for their clients. Frank’s wife passed on and he married Eva Sulphur. For seven decades, Frank Shulist and his son Tom and their families developed a spirit of warm hospitality which they shared with travellers, neighbors and friends through times of prosperity, prohibition and change. In 1945, the hotel was passed down to their son Tom and his wife Claire Luckasavitch.
Tom and Claire sold the business in 1979 to new owners Wilbert and Lise Woito of Pembroke and changed the name to the Wilno Tavern. They operated the business strickly as a bar.
The building itself has changed somewhat since 1894, but the legacy of hospitality has been inherited by today’s Wilno Tavern and is combined with pride in the tradition of Wilno’s founding pioneers.
Today the Tavern is owned and operated by Corinne Higgins under the name Wilno Tavern Restaurant, and is an 85 seat licensed restaurant. The Tavern is 200km west of Ottawa and 60 km east of Algonquin Park. Their menu features traditional Kashubian and Polish foods as well as such Canadian fare as homemade soup, salad, burgers, pizza and decadent desserts.
The Tavern also features local entertainment. Local musicians are available to entertain visitors with original songs reflecting the culture and uniqueness of the Madawaska Valley.
Princetown at Princes Corner
The community of Wilno as it is known today, has two very important land marks dating back to the 1800’s when Kashubian immigrates from Kashubia Europe and Polish immigrates from Poland Europe came to settle the hills of the Madawaska Highlands. The first is the site of the first chapel and church and rectory, where the early Kashubians and the Polish settlers built St. Stanislaus Kostka Church. The church burnt down in 1936, but the rectory exists as a restored residence and the cemetery is visited by many.
The second is the site of the very first general store and post office in Canada’s First Kashubian and Polish settlements located at the corner of Hwy 60 and Church Street. The store was established and operated by Adam Prince (1855-1933), a Kashub who immigrated from a small European Kashubian village of Kalisz, Kashubia in the year 1868 at the age of 13.
Adam Prince came to Canada highly educated and spent some time in the town of Renfrew before he settled in the Madawaska Highlands. While in Renfrew, he learnt to read and write in the English language. This language came in very handy when he was appointed the community’s first postmaster in 1885.
It was at that time when the community was named “Wilno” after the home town of their spiritual leader Fr. Ladislaus Demski who was born in Wilno / Vilnius Lithuania. Before Wilno got its name, it has been said that the people called the village “Princetown” because of the admiration for Adam Prince. There is no written mention of this, but just hear say. One fact is for sure, is that the site of Prince’s General Store was located at Prince’s Corner (Hwy 60 and Church st.) and is still called that today. His Grandson, Maxie Prince at the age of 94 tells me that he does not remember the name “Prince Town” but remembers it being called Prince’s Corner by the folks from the community. Maxie also remembers some of the item you would find in the store such as tea, coffee, sugar, flour, spices, seeds, provender and tools such as hammers, nails, screws, hand saws, chisels, axes etc. Very seldom, would you find items such as milk, butter, eggs, meat because everyone had cows and chickens on the farms. It is also important to note is that this store and post office was central to the community. Not only was it the post office and store, but council meetings for the United Township of Hagarty, Sherwood, Richards, Jones and Burns, were also held at Prince’s house on Princes Corner. The first meeting on the premises was on Feb 11, 1887. By 1888, the council minute book refers to “the Council Rooms at Adam’s Prince’s” and council met their regularly.
My dad, Martin Shulist, Uncle Adam Shulist and their father Vincent Shulist remembered Adam Prince very well and told me that Adam Prince was a very well respected gentleman by all and was revered as a community leader. He became the postmaster because of his knowledge of the English language and his knowledge of world affairs. There were many Kashubs and Poles who came to him about advise on letters they received from either Canadian and Ontario governments officials which was written in the English language. Everyone trusted him to help them with translation. It is very unfortunate that the name Prince’s Corner did not stay as the name of their community. It would make more sense than Wilno, which had nothing to do with either the Kashubian immigration of 1858 or the Polish immigration of 1864. Prince’s Corner, Ontario would have been a very fitting name for the village. Today, Wilno Ontario is very well known throughout the world because of it cultural ties to the two Slavic nations in Europe. These two nations are Kashubia and Poland. It is also well known for its famous phrase “What you don’t know, you will know, when you visit Wilno where we tell our unique Slavic story. Prince’s Corner and Wilno are yours to discover.
Flora’s Store by Theresa Prince
Flora’s Store had its humble beginnings in the top of a roll-up office desk. In 1933, Florence Blank (1904-1989) found herself a young widow with three little girls to raise. Her husband, Frank Blank (1895-1933), local Crown Land Agent, had met an untimely death at the age of 37. Being an industrious individual, Flora set up a store in her late husband's office, using his desk as storage space. At first, she sold ice-cream, chocolate bars and cigarettes. Gradually she added other products which included sugar, tea and coffee. As time went on, she got a deep freeze and sold meat as well. The business soon developed into a successful general store.
In 1937 Flora married Felix Lazinskie (1908-1968). A few years later the Lazinskie family suffered a great financial loss, when Flora's general store burned to the ground. On Tuesday evening, November 26, 1940, fire, believed to have been caused by a faulty chimney, broke out in the apartment above the store. The entire grocery store, as well as a blacksmith shop next door, owned by Victor Cybulski, was destroyed. The Wilno Exchange Hotel, owned by Eva Shulist (widow of Frank Shulist), located on the west side of the store, was also damaged in the blaze.
Undaunted by the loss, and being a very determined, hardworking and astute business woman, Flora immediately went about building a new store. Meanwhile, she operated her business out of one of the storage sheds, until John J. Glofcheskie of Barry's Bay constructed the new store, which still exists today in down town Wilno. She continued to expand until her little store developed into F. Lazinskie General Store, which specialized in dry goods, groceries, footwear, along with hardware and drug sundries. The store sold gas, offered general delivery, taxi service and included a pulpwood dealership.
In 1956 the store was taken over by Flora's youngest daughter, Frances, and her husband Don Ellis. In 1963 they sold the business to Martin and Theresa Shulist, who changed the name to Sklep Towarowy I Spozywczy Wilno (Wilno General & Grocery Store). The next owners were Eric and Linda Jamsa, who took over ownership in the spring of 1978. With the resignation of Vincent Borutski as postmaster in 1982, the post office relocated to Jamsa’s General Store. After 5 years, the Jamsas sold the business to Raymond and Rose Sernoskie in 1983.The last owners to operate Flora’s Store as a general store were Mike and Diane Whitehead. They renamed the store Sklep Spozywczy - Poczta Wilno (Wilno Grocery Store & Post Office) and stayed in business from 1987 until the summer of 2006.
After extensive renovations, the store reopened on April 28, 2007 as a European Deli and Quilt Shop known as Pickles & Quilts. After several years of operation, the owners, Kirk and Helene Mandy, closed the business in 2015.
Waiting for stories on Wilno business:
Alex Prince’s Store
Wilno Building Supply
Borutskie’s (Borutskie and Shulist)
Katie’s Restaurant (Belzers, Lorbetskie’s and Roche’s)
STORY of TWO QUEENS
Saint Mary Catholic Church and the Community of Wilno are home to, two Blessed Mother Icons. The Blessed Mother of Czestochowa which is the Queen of Poland and also the Blessed Mother of Sianowo, Queen of Kashubia. They represent the Kashub immigration to Wilno dating back to 1858 and the Polish immigration to Wilno dating back to 1864.
OUR LADY of CZESTOCHOWA, QUEEN of POLAND
The year 1382 begins the remarkable recorded history of this miraculous painting. It figured in the heroic successful defense of the Polish homeland against invaders who were enemies of the Catholic Church.
Over time, the monastery at Jasna Gora (Bright Mount) became a monastic fortress and focal point of Polish Nationalism.
In 1655 the Monastery held out against a mighty Swedish Army. In 1683 it was the Turks and in 1920 the Bolsheviks. As a result, The Lady of Czestochowa was crowned Queen of Poland. The Queen is also known as the Black Madonna.
During all these stirring historical events, the painting did not escape desecration and mutilation. In 1430 Hussites sacked the Monastery Pillaging they loaded all the treasures of Jasna Gora into wagons. The horses pulling the wagons with the painting would not move. The Hussites, threw the painting off the wagon and the horses moved. One of the raiders seeing the jewels and gold covering the painting slashed at it with a saber, cutting twice into the right cheek of Mary.
When he went to strike it a third time, he fell dead. The other raiders fled for fear of Divine Retribution. Repeated efforts by skilled artist to patch the scars failed. Each time the facial cuts reappeared. It is believed to be the will of Mary that the scars should remain as a sign to any who would desecrate Her Shrine.
In 1909, vandals tore off the gold crown and overdress of pearl. This sacrilege was repaired with the help of Pope St. Pious X, who finished a new crown. Pope after Pope have granted spiritual favors to pilgrims visiting the Shrine enriching it with many privileges. At present a painting of the Blessed Mother of Czestochowa adorns the altar of the Pope’s private chapel at Costal Gondolfo.
Many pilgrimages are made to this very famous religious place. People from all over the world visit the Shrine of Czestochowa. Many of our local people have made the journey to Jasna Gora.
Locally, the Black Madonna hangs high above the altar at Saint Mary’s. After the original church burnt in 1936, the parish decided to honor the Blessed Mothers name and named the Church, Saint Mary- Our Lady of Czestochowa. According to Sylvester Recoskie, and Adolf Burchat, the picture of the Madonna was donated to our church sometime in the forties from the Parish and community of Czestochowa.
OUR LADY of SIANOWO, QUEEN of KASHUBIA
Sianowo is a village situated in the Leba and Debnica proglacial valley 12 km from Kartuzy. In the small chapel on the hill is the Miraculous Figure of the Queen of Kashubia, and over the centuries Marian pilgrims have flocked here. As many as 20,000 worshippers visit Sianowo at one time for the festivals that take place annually on the Sunday following July 16 and September 8. According to legend, the Miraculous Figure was found by a pair of lovers one Midsummer’s Night in a fern brake on the spot where the shrine now stands. It brought the young couple happiness, giving rise to the widespread belief that today that to ensure a happy conjugal life it is necessary to make a pilgrimage three times on foot to Our Lady of Sianowo.
The Miraculous Figure dates from the early 15th century, when it appeared in Sianowo. In 1480 the Bishop of Wloclawek granted absolution for the first time to pilgrims to Sianowo. The first church was built at this time, but this burnt down soon afterwards. The Second church which was also consumed by fire, survived until 1811. In both these catastrophes the Miraculous Figure was spared. The present chapel was consecrated in 1816.
In 1965 Bishop Kazimierz Josef Kowalski, who had taken an interest in the cult of Our Lady of Sianowo, made a request to Pope Paul VI for permission for the figure to receive a papal coronation, and this took place on September 4th 1966.
The 1980’s saw a growth in parish pilgrimages on foot, following the lead taken by the Parish of St. James, Lebork. Of these the largest is the company from Sierakowice, numbering up to 1,500 pilgrims. As a result, the area surrounding the church has been extended. The Pilgrim House has appeared to the east and on the green behind it there is a large pilgrimage assembly area with a field chapel and the stations on the Way of the Cross. The festivals have taken on a Kashubian character. The Kashubian language heard not only among the congregation, but also in the pulpit during the Mass, and folk costumes and the Kashubian Flags. The name of their Church is called “The Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Many of our local Kashubs have visited this Shrine in Sianowo. Brother Edward has been there on his first visit to the Kashub homeland. Father Mervin Kulas was part of bilingual mass where he said part in English and their parish priest said it in Kashubian. Brother Richard and his son Brother Johnny where there with our local Kashubian Griffins Hockey Team where they were invited by the parish to partake in the Way of he Cross the week before Easter. Parishioners from St. Casimir of Round Lake Centre received a picture of the Lady of Sianowo from the Parish which now hangs proud at St. Casimir’s today. Fr. Chris Shalla and the parish of St. Hedwigs also received a picture of this Kashubian Icon from the Sianowo parish.
\On Sunday May 8th- The Parish of Saint Mary’s will be receiving a replica of a statue of Our Lady of Sianowo, Queen of Kashubia. Twenty Kashubs from the parish of Sianowo will make the presentation. This is the first step of strengthening the bridge of friendship between a parish in the Kashub homeland and here in the heart of Canada’s Kashubia.
STORIES AROUND WILNO
A story about the Wicked Wilno Moonshine
Eganville Leader Reflections (reprint from one of our local papers)
75 years ago January 20, 1922
W.H. Williams, KC, of Pembroke showed up at the special session of the police court Wednesday night in Renfrew, a certain sign that there was something unusual on the docket.
Messrs. E.A. Wright and T.M. Costello represented the local bar and every seat was occupied by a crowd whose curiosity had been aroused by the advance notice of the hearing. Standing room was at a premium and the audience overflowed the capacity of the little room and half filled the corridor. The crowd received an object lesson in modern methods of manufacturing moonshine whiskey. The result of indulgence in that brand of beverage was, however, so disastrous that the man possessed of a modicum of caution will abstain from a venture in that line of manufacture. One of the witnesses describing how he had made whiskey stated that when he sampled the product of his still the whole world became a blank at once.
The first case disposed of by Magistrate Devine was the charge against Albert Tomchick for having liquor in an unlawful place. Frank Yantha, arrested last week on a similar charge, pleaded guilty and paid a fine of $200. Tomchick, through his attorney, Mr. Costello, pleaded guilty and was given the minimum fine, $100, on account of his youth.
Frank Stamplecoskie, also from near Wilno, was then placed on trial on a charge of having in his possession material for the making of whiskey. Mr. Williams defended him and E.A. Wright appeared for Excise Officer W.E. Rowan of Arnprior and Provincial Officer Sylvester who had seized a crock of "mash" at the defendant's home gave testimony. The "mash", a mixture of grain, potatoes and sugar in a high state of fermentation, was all that the officers found as they were unable to locate a still. The contents of the crocks emitted an odor like that of a wash house in a brewery.
Frank Yantha was taken from his cell in the police station to give evidence, the most of which was translated by an interpreter. He admitted that he had made whiskey and described the process. The method of manufacture was fearful and wonderful, the ingredients many, consisting of grain, sugar, yeast cakes and the like. The results were deadly. The amateur distiller tasted the brew and immediately lapsed into a condition of coma. At least he was unable to give any account of what happened after his indulgence. He swore that on a visit to the home of the defendant he had seen a large tin can simmering on the stove and swore that the young man had told him that the outfit was designed for the manufacture of liquor. When the crock of "mash" was submitted to the inspection of the witness he stated that it differed from what he had used, lacking some ingredient, yet he could not imagine no other use to which it could be put than in the preparation of home brew.
Taking the stand the defendant swore that the can that Yantha saw was a gasoline receptacle and that he was clearing it of ice when it was on the stove. He denied that he used it for making whiskey or that any liquor had ever been made at his home.
After Messrs. Williams and Wright had presented their respective sides of the case, Magistrate Devine found the defendant guilty. The minimum fine, $200, was imposed, the limit being $500. The defendant paid the fine but Mr. Williams gave notice that the case will be appealed.
Antoine Burchat, also of Wilno, in whose house another crock of "mash" had been found by Officers Rowan and Sylvester, went to Arnprior Tuesday and delivered himself up to Officer Rowan. He was taken before Magistrate Craig of that town and on his plea of guilty was fined $200. Yantha and Tomchick have still to stand trial on the charge of attempting to wreck a Grand Trunk train at Wilno.
The hearing of the charges against Yantha and Tomchick has been adjourned by Magistrate Devine until January 19 at the request of Mr. J.A. Champine of Ottawa, attorney for the GrandTrunk.
Mr. T.M. Costello appeared for the defendants and consented to the arrangements.