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The Way We Were

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the October 20, 2010 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Patriarch of the Gatineau was a hale centenarian

foreword by Louise Schwartz

This story, titled "Patriarch of the Gatineau," was written by an unidentified newspaper reporter in 1911, and may never have been published. It was about 104-year-old James McKelvey of Cascades, who died that same year. His name was incorrectly cited as McElvey. A number of present-day Gatineau Valley denizens can trace their roots back to McKelvey. The story has been edited for length.

There lives on the shore of the Gatineau River, at Cascades, Quebec, one of the popular Gatineau resorts, 17 miles from the City, a hale old Centarian, James McElvey by name, who has left behind him 104 years of life. A reunion of his direct descendants would be a gathering of no less than 75 persons, for Mr. McElvey can boast of 7 children. The eldest is Mrs. Wm. Cross of Cascades, aged 64- 36 grandchildren, and at least 33 great-grandchildren.

The Way We Were
THE MATRIARCHS OF THE GATINEAU: four generations of descendants of James McKelvey. From left to right, his daughter Mary Ann (McKelvey) Cross, her daughter Alice (Cross) Wilson, granddaughter Dora (Wilson) McCarthy and great-granddaughter Sheila Ann. Circa 1930. Photo courtesy Gatineau Valley Historical Society.

The patriarch of the Gatineau is still in possession of most of his faculties. He can see clearly, hear distinctly, understand to a degree, which is astonishing for his years. He is still able, without over-exertion, to walk from the, home of Mrs. S.E. Wilson, Cascades postmistress, and a grand-daughter, with whom he now resides, to the tollgate and back, a distance of not less than half a mile.

Mr. McElvey still respects the adage "early to bed and early to rise" etc. and retires about 7 o'clock. He is always up in the morning, stumping around with his hickory stick, by 4:30 o'clock. In fact, he rather regrets the fact that Mr. and Mrs. Wilson miss the trade in the early morning hours, by not arising with him in the grey of the dawn.

Up to a short time ago he was able clearly to remember and talk in an interesting way of incidents that occurred in the old country. His memory for these events has now died a natural death but he can still stir from the recesses of his memory incidents that took place anywhere from 30 to 60 years ago, and has a penchant for recalling things borrowed from him, by persons, in many cases long since dead, for which return was never made.

Mr. McElvey was born in Ireland and at the age of 35 years came to Canada, bringing with him a young wife of 20 years.

He came straight through to Ottawa, which he says was then a little settlement, with a number of houses that could be counted off on one's fingers and from there drove... the Gatineau Railway was not even a dream of the future then... to a place a few miles north of Cascades, which men of the present generation have named Farm Point.

There he got work on the farm of the grandfather of Newton Sully, at present a well-to-do lumberman and farmer, with a farm in Cascades.

After some years he was able, with his accumulated earning to purchase a farm a couple of miles back from the Gatineau River at Cascades which he lived on and worked till about thirty years ago.

His wife has been dead about thirty years now, and his life since has been occupied partly with spending lengthy visits at the residences of his relatives... for he is never contented to stay in one place for long... besides, which, however he has spent close to twenty years in the Capital.

He was for a shortn time in the old Men's Home, but an Ottawa woman, whom his relatives claim was eager to get a hand in a fortune she supposed was his, went to the Home claiming to his wife.

He was perfectly willing to acknowledge her claim, an went and lived with her for some years, until through bickering they had to be separated, and she, having found that his reported possessions were rather magnified by her informant, was content to lay no more claim on him. Mr. McElvey has never smoked and eats three square meals a day.


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