Up the Gatineau! Selected Articles

Town Site Farm

Volume 19, page 12

Janet Benedict

Samuel Ezra Benedict III‘s forbears came to the Outaouais Region from New York, U.S.A. in the early 1800s. He purchased, and quite likely cleared, 150 acres in Wright County, in range 5, lots 6B, 6C. and 7A on Iron Mine Road. This road is now boulevard Cite des Jeunes. and part of Hull.

The southern frontage of Samuel's property marked the boundary between South Hull and Hull at that time. The farm extended north to Cameron Road, now boulevard Mont Bleu, the boundary then with West Hull (now Chelsea).

Samuel married Fanny Maxwell in 1848, and they had a family of eight children. Fanny had come from Ireland at the age of 16; the trip took 13 weeks under sail. Samuel and Fanny first lived in a log house, but in the 1860s they built a substantial two-storey, ten-room house of trimmed limestone. This was one of the earliest stone houses to be built in South Hull, and was built entirely of stone quarried on their property. With its grey limestone walls and white trim, it was a very attractive and striking house. The walls were two feet thick, the ceilings 9 feet in height, and there were two stone chimneys. Their 25 acres of mixed bush lot provided the square white pine stringers and the wood used throughout the house, which was nearly all traditional white pine.

Town Site farm
Town Site farm: 1954

The house actually had two faces: the front faced the Iron Mine Road, while the farm view on the west looked out on the Gatineau hills. Samuel planted a row of spruce trees on either side of the long laneway from the house to the road. There was a trimmed stone doorstep at the front door, which had a unique doorbell. The doorknob was of hardwood. There was a fanlight above the door and ruby glass coloured sidelights on either side. From the hallway, a pine staircase with its ornamental newel post and carved bannister led to the upstairs bedrooms. Under the stairs was a glory hole.1 Each room on the first floor had three large windows. A large, bright parlour on the south-west had a 6-inch pine chair rail around the room. The baseboards were quite high. The dining-room on the south side was also large and bright, and had a narrow archway close to the centre of the room. Each room had a door leading into the hall.

The kitchen was built onto the north end of the house, with a trimmed stone step between. Although the house was plastered throughout, the kitchen walls were of v-jointed wainscotting for the lower 3 feet. The floor was quarter-inch cut oak. A dish cupboard with glass doors was built into the wall. There was a hand-pump to bring water up from the basement cistern; water was heated in a 4-foot high galvanized tank behind the cast-iron kitchen range. From it, a closed-in stairway led to the second floor.

Underneath, the basement with its 6 1/2 foot ceilings was divided into two large rooms, one equipped for winter provisions, and the other with a coal-and-wood furnace and the large water cistern. There were cast-iron heat registers in the floors and ceilings.

Benedict house
Benedict house: 1940

Upstairs over the kitchen were two large bedrooms and a two-piece bathroom with hot and cold water. The tub and sink were lined with galvanized iron and set into frame encasements.

A narrow passage led into the large hall, with its huge window, over the main house part. There were four good-sized bedrooms, with heat holes in the walls between the two bedrooms on the east, and the two on the west sides of the house.

Candles were used throughout the house at first, but there was a hanging kerosene lamp in each of the rooms; the kerosene lamps were used extensively until 1944, when electricity was installed.

At the time the house was built, and for nearly 90 years afterwards, an attractive wide verandah wrapped around the three sides of the house, while at the front entrance there was a closed-in sunporch, all quite decorative. When the house was just about completed, the great fire of August 1870 started. The Benedicts buried everything they could to save it; however the fire just missed their new home, and so it remains one of the few in the area to have survived from that period.

The entrance to the farm had two large square trimmed stone gateposts with dome tops. It was one of the largest and finest dairy farms in the vicinity. There were two never-failing springs, and two wells, one of which had a windmill. A large orchard had numerous varieties of apples, and a number of cherry and plum trees. There were also numerous lilac hedges.

The farm was well supplied with various farm buildings, providing adequate stabling, feed storage and machine sheds. One barn I remember had posts and beams of ash, with braces of 4-inch square birds-eye maple. Timbers were joined together with ash or oak pins, roofed with hand-made wooden shingles and hand-made nails of soft iron.

Benedict kitchen
Benedict kitchen: 1951

Samuel first started to farm with oxen, then later he had horses. The first cattle and oxen/horse stables each held seven head. In addition to farming, Samuel was a carpenter and also did some tanning, especially of sheep skin. Fanny carded, and dyed this wool with the sumac berries, then knit it into mitts and socks for the family.

In the early 1900s the farm was sold to their son George.2 George delivered and sold milk in Hull with a horse and milk wagon, which bore his name "G.F. Benedict". Early in 1917 George sold the farm to his younger brother Walter, and moved with his family to south-western Ontario. Walter and his wife Annie3 had eight children, and the eldest son Clayton helped run the farm until Walter was injured by a horse, and died shortly afterwards. The farm was then sold by public auction, to Clayton who with his wife Nancy operated a dairy farm. In the ensuing years they were noted for having one of the finest herds, over 30 head of registered purebred Holstetn cattle. Clayton was a member of the Holstein Frisian Association of Canada from 1933 until he stopped farming.

In 1939 the Holstein Frisian Association registered Clayton and Nancy's farm under the name “Town Site Farm“; all their cattle registered after that had the "Town Site" name as a prefix. They also raised Percheron horses, some of the best in the country, of which they usually kept five head. Their cattle and horses carried off many of the top prizes and championship ribbons at the Gatineau County Agricultural Fairs.

Total taxes for 1953 for the 150-acre farm were $175: $133 for school taxes and $42 for municipal taxes. Five generations of the Benedict family resided there and operated the farm. The last Benedict owners were Clayton and Nancy, who with a little help from their daughters continued to farm until 1954, when the farm was sold for a housing project and annexed to Hull. At this time some of the original century-old original farm buildings were still standing, though they were then torn down. The house remains, on a city-sized lot 100 by 113 feet, at 34 Frechette Street in Hull.

Benedict Street, commemorating the family, is located on the eastern outskirts of what was once the farm. A bronze plaque in memory of the Benedict family was erected nearby in 1972.

  1. privy toilet
  2. George, married to Dora Dunning, was their third son, sixth of their eight children.
  3. Annie Leppard, 1871-1974. Walter was born in 1865 and died in 1926.

List of articles - Volume 19