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The Way We Were

This article first appeared in the "The Way We Were" column in the July 7, 2010 issue of the The Low Down to Hull and Back News. External Link Reprinted with permission. See complete list of The Way We Were articles or search Low Down Articles.

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Brown's farm yields two centuries of history

by Louise Schwartz

Travellers passing through Chelsea on Hwy 105 can view a reminder of its farming heritage at a Kirk's Ferry landmark. The aging barns and outbuildings, sitting next to a modernized homestead, represent what was one of the area's last working farms.

The Way We Were
Ferguson Brown with future bride Maud Reid at the Reid homestead, now the Browns'. (circa 1904) Photo courtesy of the GVHS.

Known as Browns' Farm, this historic property overlooks a panorama of the Gatineau River and rolling hills. Few know that the Browns' farm tale starts with an Irish immigrant named Reid, or that the Browns gained possession through necessity and the luck of marriage. In 1827, Thomas Reid successfully petitioned land agent Philemon Wright for a land grant of 200 acres. Wright just happened to be Reid's wife Lucy's uncle.

As working farmers, the Reids cultivated a variety of crops, including wheat, barley, oats, peas, corn and potatoes. They owned cattle, sheep, horses, and hogs, and produced maple syrup each spring: They even kept bees.

The youngest of their seven sons, Norman Reid, would inherit the main property as well as the livestock and farm implements. Normand and his wife in turn produced five children. It was the marriages of daughter Maud and son Charlie that ensured the lives of the Reids and Browns were forever intertwined. Maud and Charlie both married siblings in the Brown family, who farmed in Cantley. Charlie married Ada Brown on March 22, 1905, and Maud married Ferguson Brown exactly one year later.

The Way We Were
Cousins representing three generations of Reid descendents at the former horse stable of Charlie Reid, on the shore of Kirk's Ferry Bay (2010) (l to r - Harold Reid, Jimmy Reid with sons Jacob and Mitchell, Carol Martin). Photo courtesy of Mike Beedell.

The 1906 ceremony, held at the senior Reid's home, was a dual celebration, with the nuptials preceding the baptism of Charlie and Ada's firstborn. With her Reid siblings pursuing other interests, Maud and Ferguson moved into the Reid homestead to live with Maud's mother, by then a widow. Five years later, in June 1911, when the Canadian census enumerator checked in, Charlie and Ada Reid already had four children (a fifth would arrive later), and Ada's own widowed mother was living with them.

Maud and Ferguson still lived with Maud's mother, but the census reported no children. Maud and Ferguson eventually inherited the Reid farm, and it became known as Browns' Farm. Charlie Reid took up farming farther north and in the mid-1920s established Reid's Store on the newly constructed Hwy 11 (now Hwy 105).

The Way We Were
Harold Reid on the verandah of his grandfather Charlie Reid's former house at the bottom of Kirk's Ferry Road (2010) Photo courtesy of Mike Beedell.

Ferguson and Maud Brown never had children, raising the questions of inhetitance and who would assist them in old age. That was solved when Ferguson's nephew, Arthur Brown, began working with his uncle on the farm in 1941. A year later Arthur and his new bride, Musie Ditchfield, moved to the farm, for a while alternating their summer stays at a cottage across the road.

Ferguson's will stipulated that the property was to pass to his nephew Arthur after Maud's death, which it did in 1970. By the 1950s, farming was no longer economically feasible and many farmers were only producing crops or raising livestock for immediate family use. Charlie Reid, by now a significant landowner, began selling off lots for new homes or cottages. In the 1960s, Arthur Brown also started dividing and selling lots, with widowed Aunt-Maud's approval. Atthur died in 1993. His widow Musie still lives at Browns' farm, her home for almost 70 years.

Their son Jim, who now lives out of the country, became the youngest mayor of Chelsea in 1973 at the age of 27. Daughter Shirley-Anne owns the Jamboree Gift Shop in Wakefield. Some of Charlie and Ada Reid's descendants - Harold Reid (grandson) and Jim Reid and Brent Martin (great-grandsons, with their families adding another generation to the list) - have homes on lots within the original 200 acres settled by Thomas Reid.

The Way We Were
Young Carol Martin with her parents Dorothy (nee Reid) and James Craig on the same verandah of Charlie Reid's house, 75 years earlier (1935) Photo courtesy of Carol Martin.

Granddaughter Carol Martin lives just north of there, on land she purchased from grandfather Charlie in 1954. Charlie and Ada Reid's pre-Gatineau River flood home was re-located at the nearby Kirk's Ferry point one winter and converted into a summer cottage.

Their great-grandson, Jeffrey Reid, later upgraded it for year-round use. It still stands, as does the nearby concrete foundation of the former Reid horse stable, on the shore in Kirk's Ferry Bay. It would satisfy Thomas Reid, the first-generation Canadian, to know the land he settled is still the home to fifth-, sixth-, and seventh-generation descendants.

Information for this story was obtained from Musie Brown, Carol Martin, Harold Reid, Volume 20 of Up the Gatineau!, a publication of the Gatineau Valley Historical Society (GVHS).