Just before crossing the North River Causeway heading east was Roy Bruce’s blacksmith shop. Roy was very well known and liked within the community. He was married to a woman named Helen, they had no children and later built the North River Motel. Roy was born in Bothwell, P.E.I. on April 4, 1909 and died May 1, 1989.7 Roy and Helen were married in 1937; they moved to North River shortly thereafter, where Roy opened his blacksmith shop. It was not long afterwards that the Bruce’s moved to Ontario while Roy served with the R.C.A.F. It was said that Roy flew up North in the Arctic during the war.8 They lived in St. Thomas and Hamilton from 1940-45 and then returned to North River where Roy re-opened his shop.9
At some point Bruce’s shop burnt down and he re-built in a different place. The second shop was located where the Cornwall Community Events sign is now located at the intersection just off the North River Causeway.
Roy did not only shoe horses, but he was also a bit of a mechanic and woodworker. As blacksmithing was becoming obsolete with the growing popularity of automobiles, business began to slow down after the war. It was during those years that Roy worked more with steal and began welding. A name often associated with Roy Bruce was Pierce “Purce” Roper, who worked with Roy at the shop. Like Robert Frizzell’s shop, Roy’s forge was a common place for the men to gather. The large shop was full of belts and pullies, along with other vital blacksmithing tools. Roy was known to make sleighs, truck boxes, dump carts, conveyors, etc.
The Bruce’s opened the North River Motel in 196010, and Roy continued to work both the motel and the shop for a number of years.11 Roy sold his shop in 1967 due to ill health and continued to run the motel until 1970, when he and Helen moved to Sherwood.12 Roy and Helen celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1987, and Roy passed away two years later.
Photo courtesy of Margaret & Buddy MacKinley
Memories and Stories of Roy Bruce and his forge
“When I was a kid there was a forge in North River, where the sign is. Roy Bruce’s shop. Have lots of memories there. Spent lot of time there. Big exciting place when you were 10 years old. Roy Bruce and Pierce Roper … used to work for him for years. He was quite fascinating for a young fellow. He had all the belts and pullies. You know, they had a woodworking shop there. They built wood boxes for sleighs and stuff. They had all these belts that pulled the levers that switched the belt over to different pullies. They would buy their slab of wood and cut it to suit their specifications. And they had the first electric welder in Cornwall, I’m sure of it.”13 – Shared by Don Lowther
Working with Roy
The Honorable Ron MacKinley used to work for Roy when he was young. It was in Roy Bruce’s shop that he learned to weld. Ron used to go down to Roy’s shop on Saturdays when he finished his work on the farm and on days when he finished school early. Roy would allow him to sweep around the shop, and it was after he cleaned that he was allowed to use the welder. Ron also remembers that Purce Roper used to run the big black anvil. Many of people would gather at the shop, and it was the place where people would get their truck boxes made.14