The Way We Were

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the October 27, 2010 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Thomas Brown's will attests to values of times

foreword by Louise Schwartz

Last wills and testaments can provide a revealing look into the values of earlier generations. They illustrate how individuals looked after their family members, particularly men who left behind a widow or unmarried sons and daughters. A copy of the 1900 will of Thomas Brown, housed in the archives of the Gatineau Valley Historical Society, demonstrates this well. Of interest, too, Brown named two executors. One was farmer George Hall, whose family was known for donating the land for Hall's Cemetery on Rockhurst Road in Wakefield. The other executor was Thomas Philip Trowsse, whose son, Philip, became Wakefield's village blacksmith. Brown signed his will with what was known as his mark, an "+", a common practice at the time for the many who had not learned to write. Thomas Brown died in February 1901, three months after drawing up this will. He is buried at Hall's Cemetery.

This is the last will and Testament of Thomas Brown of the township of Masham, in the County of Ottawa, Province of Quebec and Dominion of Canada.

The Way We Were
Headstone of Thomas Brown at Hall's Cemetery in Wakefield. This Is the earliest community burial ground in the area, containing the headstones of many of the original Protestant settlers. Photo courtesy Geoffrey Ferguson.

I, Thomas Brown, above name, being of sound mind and memory, and considering the uncertainty of human life, do make and publish this my last Will and Testament, hereby revoking all former wills or dispositions.

I hereby appoint George Hall, of the township of Wakefield, above named, and Thomas Philip Trowsse of the township of Masham, above named, the executors of this my will.

I hereby direct my said executors to pay all my first debts, funeral and testamentary expenses as soon as possible after my decease.

I hereby give to my son, Luke Brown, fifty acres of land on which I at present reside in the township of Masham, with the stock, implements and machinery, thereon, also one hundred and six acres, being lot four in the thirteenth range of the township of Eardley, in the said county of Ottawa.

I direct further that my son Luke Brown pay the following out of this bequest:

  1. He shall, within one year from my decease pay to my son Benjamin Brown one hundred dollars, and raise him a span of colts till they are at least six months old, and the said Benjamin to have the privilege of living in the homestead as at present while he remains single.
  2. My son Luke Brown shall further pay my son David Brown within one year of my decease one hundred dollars, and further that the said David Brown is to enjoy the privilege of attending school for at least one year, and to remain in the homestead as at present as long as he wishes to remain peaceably.
  3. My daughter Lizzie is to have a living in the homestead as long as she remains single; and when she marries my son Luke is to give her a cow and a sheep.
  4. My four sons George, Thomas James, Robert and William having previously received their portions are to be paid one dollar each by my son Luke out of the estate.
  5. My daughter Jane Ann Brown has already received what I desire her to have.
  6. My daughter Mary Howard is to receive from the estate after my decease a cow if she so desires.
  7. My wife Rachel Brown is to occupy and enjoy full control of my present residence with the conditions above named, during her natural life, and to receive a comfortable living and at least fifteen dollars yearly from my son Luke, as long as she remains my widow.

Signed and delivered this 28th of November 1900.

(Here the will is marked with an "+" denoting Thomas Brown's signature)


Brown's will refers to a "span of colts." A span consists of two horses of nearly the same colour, and otherwise nearly alike.

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