Years ago, while fishing on Ice Lake on Manitoulin Island in Canada, my family and I discovered the ruins of a huge, mysterious-looking stone house overlooking the lake. There wasn’t much left standing except a few portions of the old stone walls.
Later, we met a man in Michigan who had grown up in that house. He had a photo of it hanging on his nursing home wall and he told us stories of how their family had built the house with rocks that they dragged from the earth with horses.
Soon after that we heard the good news that the house, which the islanders called ‘Stoney Castle’ had been purchased by an outsider who was having it rebuilt. The difficult restoration project was tackled by Sheppard Bros. Construction, a company known on the island for the quality of their work.
The next time we went, the house had been restored to its former glory. The new owner was kind enough to allow us to make a video to take home to show our nursing home friend.
In showing us the house, the new owner said that master stone masons were rare, and he had worried about finding one expert enough to take on the complicated task. Fortunately, one of the best lived on Manitoulin Island, and Sheppard Bros. Construction was able to hire him to do the stone work. The owner proudly pointed out how well the old walls had been blended in perfectly with the new.
Ultimately, that experience inspired the thread in my latest book series. Love’s Journey On Manitoulin Island. Which is a story about a master stone mason who takes on the job of restoring a derelict lighthouse and the granddaughter of the family who once lived there.
While researching stone masonry for the story, I read a book written by a stone mason. My favorite portion was a passage in which he explained that the human eye craves variety, and that is why stone walls are so much more appealing than those built with concrete blocks. He described the value of each stone being unique and said the stones he worked with often seemed to take on personalities. Sometimes he found a stone that was such an odd shape he thought he’d have to throw it away. Then there would come a moment when that “grumpy old rock” turned out to be the perfect fit for some portion of the wall which would be stronger because of it.
I thought back to how many times my husband, during his years of ministry, would deal with an individual church member who just didn’t seem to fit in. Then suddenly, there would be this unique niche only that “grumpy old rock” could fill, and the church would be stronger because of it.
To my delight, a reader who lives on Manitoulin Island, Wanda Whittington, recently sent me photos of some of the men who rebuilt Stoney Castle. So many readers have contacted me since the first book came out, telling me about their own good memories of Manitoulin Island and their first glimpse of Stoney Castle that, with Wanda’s permission, I’m including these photos for their enjoyment.
Love’s Journey on Manitoulin: Moriah’s Fortress (Book 2) was released Friday (September 1st) and I’m really excited about this new series and I hope everyone really enjoys it too! I can’t wait to hear what people think about it!