Houses of the Gatineau Hills
The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the October 25, 2017 issue. Reprinted with permission.
Landmark property steeped in history
by Randy Sorenson
Claude Dufour reflected on his most memorable moment after buying the Stevenson homestead on Edelweiss Road ten years ago: "Sitting on the front porch, the warmth of the setting sun on my face, and suddenly deer venture out and meander through my field, lawn, and gardens."
The farm, three kilometres east of Wakefield, was settled in 1830 by Irish pioneer Thomas Stevenson. Hall and MacLaren cemeteries list Thomas as the second settler to Wakefield Township.
Thomas married another Irish settler, Ann Prichard, and raised nine children on the farm. The original 100 acres encompassed the homes currently on Geggie, des Sources, and Stevenson Roads, and part of the property across Edelweiss Road. By 1877, Thomas and his sons extended the farm to 500 acres.
Their daughter, who lived to 100, remembered finding Algonquin arrowheads on the land, with many First Nations visitors bringing gifts, camping on the farm, and trading goods.
The way to Wakefield was via a narrow dirt road by buggy - now Hwy 366 - then veering southwest on a trail leading to the river, and finally crossing to Copeland's Point: a full-day venture to get to church on Sunday.
The farm included two orchards with hundreds of apple and plum trees, and rows of tame raspberries; many still grow today. By 1900, the Stevensons were pioneering vendors at Ottawa's ByWard Market, leaving at midnight to sell their butter and meat.
After a fire, the log home was re-built in 1870.
Books by the Geggie family - Harold, Norma, and Stuart - demonstrate the Stevenson families' devotion and leadership in the Wakefield community. Thomas was considered "eldership" of the Presbyterian Church, the "local arbiter in disputes over fencing and boundaries, the counsellor in family troubles." Although not a nurse by trade, Ann filled the role of midwife and nurse to numerous neighbours. Wakefield No. 1 Stevenson School was founded in 1885 on their land; it's now a private home.
With the well-established farm and Ann's welcoming spirit, the homestead became an unofficial stopping place for travellers on the way to Wakefield's gristmill. "The kitchen table was 12 feet long... faring strangers stopping for a night's lodging... German farmers from the Poltimore district [came] once each winter to have their wheat ground into flour," wrote Elizabeth Stevenson Rutledge.
Anita Rutledge of Wakefield recalled that, "Later generations made their contributions, creating local fare-related industries, and serving on municipal councils, school boards, road committees, church boards, woman's aid, and other social betterment groups."
Their son, Hans Stevenson, became the third doctor in Wakefield, building the village's impressive property in 1896, The Maples (now Les Trois Erables). With Isaie Brazeau from Masham, he initiated the area's first telephone line in 1906. Phones saved doctors countless travel hours. The first line of 35 miles ran from Wakefield to Lac-des-Loups and East Aldfield. The first switch from Wakefield to Farm Point was in Hans' house.
Another son, Tom Andy Stevenson, was mayor of Wakefield from 1881 to 1891. He was also a proprietor of the Wakefield Cheese Manufacturing Company, located just east of the farm.
In 1939, competing for a school prize and using a match to search for starling eggs in the barn, nine-year-old Lindsay Stevenson accidently set a fire. He tried to put it out, but his mother dragged him out to safety. The home and livestock were saved, but the barns and other sheds were destroyed.
Six generations of Stevensons raised their families on the farm. In 1974 it was sold to a developer. Controversy occurred in 1994 when the municipality named a new road, running through the centre of the farm, as Geggie Road.
Today, the homestead is 1.5 acres of gardens and 3.5 acres of farmland. "Perhaps the most unforgettable moment occurred on my first night here from Toronto," said Dufour. "Crap. What have I done? But now, when I gaze around at the 10 years' of meticulous work to revive this heritage homestead to a more authentic charm, I feel proud that my footprint will remain."
The following photos are courtesy Century 21 Macintyre:
Additional images supplied by author:
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