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Phil Jenkins

How I got here

Stories on how people found your way to the Gatineau Hills written by Chelsea writer Phil Jenkins.

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the September 05, 2018 issue. Reprinted with permission.

They say at full moon you can still hear the whistle

By Phil Jenkins

There's a cemetery up in Rupert that holds several tombstones bearing the name Wallace. Further down the Gatineau, on a stretch of the 105 in Chelsea, south of the junction with the Old Chelsea Road, there's a side street running towards Chelsea Creek that carries the name Wallace as well.

Richard Wallace
Richard Wallace is lucky enough to have his own keepsake of Chelsea's railway tracks; a small portion of them was left alongside his property, with a cement barrier at either end. Photo courtesy R. Wallace.

Sometime in the 19th century, the Wallaces came into the Gatineau from Ireland, or perhaps Scotland, Richard Wallace, a Chelsea member of that Wallace clan, can't say for certain, though he prefers it be a Scottish story. They farmed near Rupert, and then Richard's grandfather and Uncle Bill made the move downriver, and bought two farms. Meanwhile, Richard's father, Austin, returned from the factories of Flint Michigan following World War One and took over one of the farms. Richard was born on that farm, and his home remains on that farm's now developed acreage. (What was once Uncle Bill's farm on the river side of Hwy 105 still has some acres growing food and sheep). So, Richard, an only child, got here over 75 years ago, back when the Alonzo Wright bridge was one lane, and now resides within a bale hook's throw of where he was born.

Growing up on a farm is something that would make the world a better place if we all did it, and Richard cherishes the rural Chelsea of his youth. He went to school on Mill Road in a two-storey school house with two teachers who fought constantly. Then off to Ottawa Tech in the big city, followed by 35 years of working for Gatineau Power and Hydro Quebec at the three local stations, Chelsea, Farmers Rapids and Chaudière Falls, until retirement. Somewhere in there he got together with a few friends, and they built, from a kit sent over from B.C., a cedar square-log home on the farm, near the train tracks. When the tracks were eviscerated, a small portion of them was left alongside his property, with a cement barrier at either end. It crosses a gully considered unsafe for trail people, although the trains made it safely across for quite a while. Now, it serves as a memento, as proof that yes, a train once ran here. They say at full moon you can still hear the whistle.

For 30 years, Richard has been on the Chelsea planning committee, and is its senior member. He can, therefore, bring a unique historical perspective to the avalanche of important decisions that have beset council recently, including the great railway disappearing act. "I do it now for the sake of history," he says. As Chelsea steams full ahead from its rural past into a Gatineau-esque future, he will continue to check the rear view mirror. Richard Wallace got here when this was farmland, and now he is witness and council to the future Chelsea as it has a growth spurt. Never a dull moment.


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