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Family Histories

380  Years  of “The  Crosses

360 Years of “The Crosses”

Preface #1

Ancestry is of interest to many people and I am one of those people. Husband Gerry and I travelled to the counties of Somerset and Devon in England and spent from August 14 to 19, 2010 exploring the area where the Crosses lived.

Isaac Cross was my great-great-grandfather. What kind of a personality did he poses to want to emigrate to the colonies in the early 1830’s? Why did a bachelor, in his early 30’s, leave his kin and the cozy, southern English countryside where generations of Crosses before him had been born, raised, toiled, married and died, to come to a hostile, new land? We don’t know what occupations the Crosses pursued but given the mild climate of southern England and the fertile soil, we might assume they were people of the land or were affiliated with farming in some way. Was it because his parents had died in the 1820’s and he did not have a family of his own or was he simply looking for adventure? Perhaps he wasn’t a bachelor. Maybe he had married and his wife had died causing him to want to start a fresh, new life? We do know, at that time, poverty and unemployment was dire as a result of the economic depression. Perhaps the large, private farms with fewer overhead costs were the demise of the small farmer. The hand processing of wool to finished garment took far longer than knitting machines. Maybe the introduction of cotton to England reduced the market for wool. Perhaps high taxes to pay for Britain’s wars were crippling the common folk or returning veterans from the Napoleonic Wars were scrambling for the meagre employment opportunities. Maybe corruption, which accompanies poverty, influenced people to leave or perhaps disease and plague, which also comes with hard times, was a factor. Could it be that self-serving British royalty and dysfunctional government practices made life unbearable?

The Sullys, and other families of Somerset and Devon, were planning to or had already emigrated. Robert Sully had married Isaac’s sister, Mary. They immigrated to Canada with seven children. An eighth child was born in Canada in 1832. Could it be that Isaac’s brother-in-law, Robert Sully, encouraged him to come? Was Isaac reluctant or eager and anxious? Did Isaac come with the Sully family or did he come alone? What would it be like crossing the Atlantic Ocean in the early 1830’s in a wooden-sailing ship? How would he get to Bytown from Quebec City? Would he remain in Bytown or would he move on? What would conditions be like in the colony, perhaps worse than in England? Did he hope to find a wife and be able to give his descendents a prosperous life, better than the one he was presently experiencing? Did he feel that England had nothing to offer him?

The perils of emigrating were many but Isaac must have felt the gamble to be worth it. Maybe the lour of a fresh start in a new, young and rich country held promise for the able bodied and motivated. Perhaps emigration offered boundless opportunity for a prosperous life. Was Isaac looking at emigration “through rose coloured glasses” or did he feel he was physically skilled and had the abilities required to be a pioneer in a hostile frontier? Perhaps he was desperate to leave!

Preface #2

Early Days of the Cross Family

The 1770’s marked the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in Britain. Textile and steam engine inventions, iron industry, factories, railroad and free markets (capitalism) were contributing factors to cause people to consider emigrating. The British government encouraged and supported emigration. Their economy was in dire straights and also they were anxious to secure a foothold of British citizens in the new land as France was endeavouring to do the same. The Americans to the south were also a threat.

Isaac Cross was born in 1799 in Somerset, England. His older sister, Mary, had married Robert Sully in 1815. They emigrated in the first part of the 1830’s and at some point settled in the Meech Creek valley. Sometime after, Isaac emigrated and became employed as a gardener for Thomas McKay. He would have been in his early to mid 20’s.

Sarah Harmer Earle was born in London, England in 1813. She married John Hull in 1830. Sarah, John and their baby, Sarah’s older brother, Robert, and his wife (maiden name Trowsse) and their children and her brother and his family sailed from England in the early 1830’s. Legend has it that it was a rough crossing. Food and water became scarce and during the voyage the sailors mutinied. Then cholera broke out. John and the baby died. Sarah was a childless widow of about 18 years of age. She and the Earle and Trowsse families travelled to Wright’s Settlement, now Gatineau, where her late husband’s family had settled some years before. She worked as a seamstress. The Earles and Trowsses settled in the Wakefield, Lower Canada (now Quebec) area.

In Wakefield Revisited by Norma Geggie, she writes:

The long, uncomfortable, and hazardous voyage by sailing ship from England to Canada in the 1830s must have been undertaken with considerable trepidation by young and old alike. Moreover, this was coupled with separation from family and friends. There was perhaps some consolation in the fact that more than one member of a family came, if not on the same ship, at least shortly afterwards. Such was the case with Robert Earle, Erasmus Trowsse, Robert Sully, and Isaac Cross. They were all related by marriage, and these four families have remained in the immediate area of Wakefield since those early days.

Isaac Cross and Sarah Harmer Earle Hull both had family or friends who had settled in the Meech Creek valley or Wakefield, Lower Canada (now Quebec). Isaac and Sarah met and married about 1838 in Wright’s Settlement in Lower Canada.

Chapter 1 – Before the 1830’s

We travelled to Taunton which is the capital and largest city in the county of Somerset and is situated close to the border of the county of Devon. In 2001, the population was 61,400. A portion of the British Ministry of Defense has its office there. Manufacturing and the production of apple cider are major industries.

360  Years  of “The  Crosses
South western England

Agriculture was and is a big industry in Somerset and Devon. Beautiful fields, all divided, not by fences, but by hedgerows, can be seen for miles and miles over the rolling hills. A hedgerow is a line of closely spaced shrubs and trees, planted and trained in such a way as to form a barrier or to mark the boundary of an area. The checkerboard effect is beautified by the colours of the various crops. Some are green pasture occupied by numerous sheep and cattle of different varieties and also horses. There was a great deal of wheat and barley being harvested, seemingly more than the animals would ever consume. Upon asking a local person why such a large quantity of wheat and barley, the reply was that much was used in brewing ale. With the blue sky and the odd, white cloud and the bright sun, it was a beautiful site.

Community churches were of great importance to the residents of little English towns. Alison Sim writes in her book titled The Tudor Housewife: The church was the bedrock of sixteenth-century society. The various festivals marked the seasons; its ceremonies blessed the stages of everyday life at christenings, weddings and funerals. At a time when death was never very far away, it provided comfort in the hope that there was a better life to follow. Its physical presence was also a part of the landscape. In most towns there were not only churches, but abbeys and various other institutions such as hospitals which had church backing.

The Crosses can be traced back to 1652 in the towns of Crowcombe and Lydeard-St. Lawrence in Somerset and in Clayhanger, which is just across the county line in Devon. Present day local telephone directories attest to the fact that many Crosses and Sullys still reside there.

Crowcombe is situated 8 miles north of Taunton and at the base of the Quantock Hills which look very much like the Gatineau Hills. Present day population is about 500. Crowcombe has a little post office where the postmistress and her husband were glad to chat. There is also a pub which served us a great lunch. The first documented evidence of the village dates to 854 AD. The Domesday Book of 1086 lists the village as “Crawcombe”, “craw” being Old English for “crow” and “combe” for “valley”. It’s Church of the Holy Ghost is a typical, old English church. The cemetery’s headstones are weathered and lean in various directions. Their inscriptions are totally illegible.

380  Years  of “The  Crosses
380  Years  of “The  Crosses
Crowcombe’s Church of the Holy Ghost
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380  Years  of “The  Crosses
380  Years  of “The  Crosses
Typical Somerset home
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380  Years  of “The  Crosses
380  Years  of “The  Crosses
380  Years  of “The  Crosses
380  Years  of “The  Crosses

Lydeard-St. Lawrence is a village situated about 7 miles north-west of Taunton. The present day population is about 416. Lydeard-St. Lawrence has a public school. The Lydeard portion of the name is believed to be Celtic for “ridge” and “led” being Old English or “grey”. The Church of St. Lawrence is the village church. Its name is taken from the family dedicating the church and dates to 1350.

380  Years  of “The  Crosses
380  Years  of “The  Crosses
Lydeard-St. Lawrence’s Church of St. Lawrence
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380  Years  of “The  Crosses
380  Years  of “The  Crosses
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Just over the western border of Somerset in Devon is a little town called Clayhanger. It is about 10 miles due west of Taunton and has one main street and about 15 very neat and tidy homes. Like the other towns, it is a very quiet, little place. The church is called Church of St. Peter and dates to before 1264.

380  Years  of “The  Crosses
380  Years  of “The  Crosses
Clayhanger’s Church of St. Peter
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It appeared as though present day residents of Crowcombe, Lydeard-St. Lawrence and Clayhanger commuted to Taunton to work as, with the exception of farming, there isn’t significant employment in the little hamlets but are lovely places in which to live.

Edmond Cross was born in about 1652 in Crowcombe. On August 2, 1677, he married Elizabeth Hiles from a nearby town. They had several children, one being Laurence.

Laurence Cross was christened in Crowcombe on November 7, 1685. On April 2, 1714, he married Thomasin Curry from the nearby town of Lydeard-St. Lawrence where the family lived. Several children where born, one being John.

John Cross was born on September 2, 1714 in Lydeard. On September 22, 1748, he married Joan Davis of Lydeard-St. Lawrence. One of their children was Laurence.

Laurence Cross was christened on February 13, 1758 in Lydeard. On May 16, 1785, he married Keziah Hosegood from the neighbouring village of Brompton Regis in Somerset. Laurence died on November 12, 1825 in Lydeard. Their seven children were:

  • Mary, born May 21, 1788 in Clayhanger. She married Robert Sully on June 29, 1815 in the neighbouring town of Wiveliscombe, Somerset. They emigrated to the Meech Creek Valley, Lower Canada (now Quebec) and later to Wakefield, Lower Canada (now Quebec). Mary died December 23, 1873 and was buried in Old Chelsea Protestant Cemetery, Old Chelsea, Lower Canada (now Quebec).
  • James was christened June 4, 1790 in Clatworthy, Somerset.
  • Ann was born about 1790 and was christened March 16, 1792 in Clatworthy. She married William Hayes in 1811 in Lydeard-St. Lawrence.
  • George was christened on April 17, 1794 in Clatworthy.
  • Rebecca was christened December 27, 1799 in Lydeard-St.
  • Isaac was christened December 27, 1799 in Lydeard-St Lawrence. He married Sarah Harmer Earle Hull about 1838 in Wright’s Settlement, Lower Canada now Quebec). He died February 19, 1859 and was buried February 21, 1859 in Old Chelsea Protestant Cemetery, Old Chelsea, Lower Canada (now Quebec).
  • William was christened July 11, 1802 in Lydeard-St.

The hamlet of Clatworthy and Lydeard-St. Lawrence are very near to each other. There could have been any number of reasons for the children to be born in different towns.

It is probable that the Crosses were members of the church society, the bedrock of the community, celebrating Easter and Christmas and the like with family and neighbours. Their babies would have been christened, their loved ones married and their deceased buried in these close knit, little hamlets. The Crosses would have toiled in the fields and walked the roads of Crowcombe, Lydeard-St. Lawrence and Clayhanger. Most probably, during undoubtedly hard times, they gained strength and courage from the community.

Please note, throughout the document, that names in bold are direct line ancestors or descendants.

Chapter 2 – Isaac Emigrates

Isaac, sixth child of Laurence Cross and Keziah Hosegood, had an older sister, Mary, who had married Robert Sully in 1815 in Wiveliscombe, Somerset. Their seventh child was born in Somerset in January 1830 and their eighth child was born in Canada in September 1832 leading us to believe that they emigrated in the spring to fall of 1830 or 1831 or in 1832 prior to September. Legend has it that Robert provided funds for Isaac’s passage.

In Wakefield Revisited by Norma Geggie, she writes:

The long, uncomfortable, and hazardous voyage by sailing ship from England to Canada in the 1830s must have been undertaken with considerable trepidation by young and old alike. Moreover, this was coupled with separation from family and friends. There was perhaps some consolation in the fact that more than one member of a family came, if not on the same ship, at least shortly afterwards. Such was the case with Robert Earle, Erasmus Trowsse, Robert Sully, and Isaac Cross. They were all related by marriage, and these four families have remained in the immediate area of Wakefield since those early days.

380  Years  of “The  Crosses
Clovelly Port – typical of 1830’s emigration port

South western England had the larger ports of Plymouth and Bristol. Smaller ports were Appledore, Bideford, Dartmouth, Exeter, Teignmouth and others. Brigs and schooners were tied up at the stone quays. Thousands of relatives and locals would turn out to watch as the wooden sailing ships hoisted their sails and pulled out for the long and treacherous voyage to the unknown of the colonies. It would probably take these vessels an average of five to six weeks before reaching land, depending on the wind and weather. Passengers, with heavy hearts, would line the decks and wave goodbye to loved ones, most likely to never see them again, and to England, their beloved homeland, probably to never see its shores again. During the voyage, passengers experienced doubts, fears of the unknown, melancholy and sadness.

Creaking timbers, captains bellowing orders, waves slapping against the hull, the whip of rigging and sails in the wind would have been almost constant. A source of infrequent entertainment might have been to watch the sailors chinning up and down the rigging. Boredom would have been prevalent. It was known for men, during a time of calm, to launch a rowboat from which they could fish, only to be abandoned when the ship’s sails finally caught a wind. Those not accustomed to the constant motion of the ship would have had to deal with the retched woes of seasickness. Sometimes the wooden ships would catch fire, be shipwrecked or be driven off course by a raging storm. Passengers would have worried about contracting measles, typhoid, cholera or fever and of dying on board or of loved ones dying and being buried at sea. Dense fog on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland was the demise of ships running into each other or becoming lost. Sometimes munity of the sailors occurred, as legend has it of Sarah Harmer Earle and John Hull’s crossing. It was a time of great distress. But yet, they gained confidence and took hope as sailing conditions improved and renewed their faith by reading the Bible.

380  Years  of “The  Crosses

Cabin or first-class passengers usually enjoyed more comfortable conditions. They might have an iron tub in which to do their laundry on deck and they often ate with the captain, therefore not having to conserve or prepare food. They might be served hard biscuits, ham, corned beef, fresh eggs, fowl, cabbage and potatoes and drank ale rather than the increasingly rank “fresh” water or stewed black tea. Most vessels carried a few hens, kept penned up in the longboat, to provide fresh eggs in the early weeks and fresh chicken as the voyage drew to an end. Some ships even carried a cow on deck to provide fresh milk. Occasionally fish were caught, particularly cod, when they reached the coast of Newfoundland.

Steerage class passengers, usually significantly outnumbering cabin class people, had much to contend with. They were probably poor people to begin with. They would be packed into small spaces below deck and with a ceiling height of perhaps five to five and a half feet. On the eastward passage across the Atlantic, timber would plug this space and on the westward voyage, it would be filled with rows of berths made of rough planks hastily nailed together. Baggage, utensils and food supplies would jam the aisle and there would be little ventilation. Children would play in the darkness. Dirty bilge water would slop across the floor and rats would swarm up from the hold. On storm plagued voyages, the smell of unwashed bodies, rotting food and vomit would be suffocating. Often, captains didn’t load sufficient food and fresh water to last the whole voyage. When supplies run out, people would end up starving, particularly if the trip took over two months due to bad weather. In the event of a shipwreck, steerage class passengers usually drowned as lifeboats would be provided for cabin class passengers. No doubt tempers would frequently flare up. People had to endure the best way they could. Sir Samuel Johnson wrote: “A ship is worse than jail. There is, in jail, better air, better company, better conveniences of every kind, and a ship has the additional disadvantage of being in danger.”

380  Years  of “The  Crosses
Boats waiting in line on the St. Lawrence River at Grosse Île. © Parks Canada / Illustration B. Duchesne / 1996

Eventually, ships would sail into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Passengers would be overjoyed to see Lower Canada’s wild, rocky shores and the splendour of the mountains behind. Close to Quebec City, there were small, whitewashed houses on the riverbank and neat churches with silver, tin roofs and slender spires against dense, green forest. Soon they would be able to put their feet on dry land. There would have been great jubilation, except for the weak and sick, knowing that all ships had to stop at Grosse Ile quarantine station for the strict medical check.

Around this time, several thousand English, Scots and Irish immigrants arrived in Quebec City, the country’s main port of entry. Smallpox, measles, scarlet fever, cholera and other diseases were being brought into the colony from Europe. Colonial authorities quickly passed health control measures for immigrants. On February 25, 1832, the House of Assembly of Lower Canada passed a law establishing the quarantine station at Grosse Île, which held a strategic position due to its location in the St. Lawrence River 48 km downstream of Quebec. It became a mandatory stopping point for medical inspection. Any ship which did not stop would be fired on by the quarantine station's guns.

A medical inspector boarded the ship. The doctor checked the passenger manifest and the ship's log which contained information about illnesses and deaths during the crossing. He would assemble the passengers and crew on deck to look for any symptoms which might indicate disease, such as fever or rash. He then examined any sick people confined to the steerage area. Based on his findings, the medical inspector decided whether to issue the captain the necessary certificate to enter the Port of Québec or place it under quarantine.

Once a ship had been quarantined, the ill passengers were taken to the station hospitals. Passengers who had been in contact with the sick were made to disembark and were placed in observation sheds. Quarantine lasted from three to 15 days on average, based on the incubation period for each disease. However, the quarantine was extended as cases broke out. On the island, patients and passengers under observation were separated from each other and all contact between them was prohibited.

The Quarantine Act stated that ships which had experienced disease had to be disinfected at Grosse Île before being allowed to continue to Québec. Disinfection meant airing the ship and using powerful substances such as sulphur to eliminate the offensive odors associated with contagious diseases. Passengers were made to wash themselves and their belongings in the river.

380  Years  of “The  Crosses
Family of immigrants. © National Archives of Canada / Illustrated London

Since exact immigration dates of Isaac, the Sullys, the Earles and the Trowsses are not known, we can’t say if they were subjected to the Quarantine Act. Library and Archives Canada’s data base does not include their names which would imply that they came prior to February 25, 1832 or that the records did not survive.

People who had been placed in quarantine and who were subsequently released then had to find their family or companions who had perhaps travelled on to the Port of Quebec. They would then continue their journey by boat to Montreal, Kingston, York or Bytown.

Bytown, Upper Canada (now Ontario) in the early 1830’s, was a rough and unrefined town. In the downtown area, the west side of the canal became known as "Upper town" where the Parliament Buildings now stand. The east side of the canal was known as "Lower town" which was then a crowded, boisterous, shanty town frequently receiving the worst of disease epidemics, such as the cholera outbreak of 1832. Lumbering was the main industry. At this time, most supplies were brought up or down river, to or from Montreal, by boat, as roads were hopeless. The Shiners, mainly of English, Irish and Scotch descent and the Chenoirs, largely of French descent, were rival groups. Brawls were commonplace. In 1867, Ottawa became the capital city of the new Confederation of Canada. Its population was about 1,800 at the time but quickly grew due to government employment. In 1875, Wright’s Settlement, Lower Canada (now Quebec) sprung up just across the Ottawa River. It became known as Hull and later Gatineau. The Rideau Canal opened in 1832.

380  Years  of “The  Crosses
McKay and McKinnon cloth mill, Rideau Falls near Ottawa. Source: Library and Archives Canada, C-003853

Isaac became employed as a gardener for Thomas McKay and the Sullys settled in Meech Creek valley in the Municipality of Wakefield, Lower Canada (now Quebec). Meech Creek is on the west side of the Gatineau River north of Wright’s Settlement and about 5 miles south of the village of Wakefield. Meech Creek flows out of Meech Lake at its south end and pursues a course through a beautiful valley and empties into the Gatineau River just south of Farm Point. It is not wide, nor deep, but legend has it that in pioneer days, some wonderful pine logs made their way to the river via this creek. Asa Meech settled in the area in 1822 and died in 1849.

Thomas McKay was skilled at building bridges, locks and luxurious residences. He purchased the land where New Edinburgh and Rockcliffe Park, Upper Canada (now Quebec) now exist, built sawmills, gristmills and laid out roads. He owned the first railway from Prescott to Bytown. McKay served on Bytown's city council and then the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada and later the Legislative Council of the United Provinces of Canada.

One wonders what Isaac thought of Bytown and his new life and if he thought he had made the correct decision. We will never know.

Chapter 3 – Sarah Harmer Earle Hull Cross

Sarah Harmer Earle, daughter of John and Mary Earle, was born in London, England and christened on October 14, 1813 in Holy Trinity Church, Kingston Upon Hull, York, England. Sarah married John Hull, born about 1810 in England, in about 1831 or 1833. He was the son of Sarah Wright, a half sister to Philemon Wright, the founder of Wright’s Settlement, Lower Canada, later called Hull and then Quebec.

Sarah, John and their baby, Sarah’s older brother, Robert Earle, and his wife, Elizabeth Trowsse and their children and Elizabeth’s brother, Erasmus Trowsse and his family sailed from England in the early 1830’s. Probably the Earles, Trowsses, Sullys and Crosses had known each other in England.

Legend has it that it was a rough crossing. Food and water became scarce and during the voyage the sailors mutinied. Then cholera broke out. Three versions exist regarding deaths due to cholera: (1) Robert and Elizabeth Earle’s eldest daughter, also named Sarah, died and was buried at sea, (2) Sarah and John Hull and their baby survived until they reached Quebec City where John and their baby both died, (3) Sarah and John’s baby died and was buried at sea and John died shortly after landing in the Port of Quebec.

Sarah was a childless widow of about 18 years of age. She and the Earle and Trowsse families travelled to Wright’s Settlement, where her late husband’s family had settled some years before. She worked as a seamstress. The Earles, Trowsses and Sullys settled in Wakefield, Lower Canada (now Quebec).

After having endured so much, young Sarah must have felt depression, was homesick and frightened. Perhaps she wanted to return to England but didn’t due to dread of the long trip back or maybe she didn’t have the financial means to return. In those days, it just wasn’t the thing to do, as it would be today. She was either a very emotionally strong, young woman who, despite everything, had the will to survive or she learned that to survive, she had to face obstacles and deal with them the best way she could.

Chapter 4 – Isaac and Sarah

Isaac worked in Bytown but would probably have occasionally visited his sister, Mary Sully and his brother-in-law, Robert Sully and their family in the Meech Creek valley. They later moved to the village of Wakefield. After all, legend tells us that Robert Sully sponsored Isaac’s passage to Canada.

Sarah, already an 18 year old widow and having buried her first child at sea, worked in Wright’s Settlement but would probably have visited her brother, Robert and his family, in Wakefield. It is not known how Isaac and Sarah met but there probably was an immediate kinship between them due to their similar backgrounds.

360  Years  of “The  Crosses

Isaac and Sarah married in about 1838 in either Wright’s Settlement or New Edinburgh , just east of Bytown and made their home there. Their first child, Rebecca Earle Cross, was born on March 5, 1838 or 39 and legend has it that she was christened by an Indian Chief from Buckingham who was also a missionary. There were no regular ministers in the area. Isaac displayed sentiment for Rebecca when she turned 10 years old, as he gave her a hymn book in which he had written:

Isaac Cross is my name,
Gentleman my station.
Clayhanger is my dwelling place
And heaven my destination.

Isaac describes himself as a “gentleman” which in England referred to “a man of good family”.

In later years, Isaac’s grandchildren loved verse and wrote many pieces, some of which were published. They wrote it for local and family audiences to mark special occasions, their foibles and their history. It was a form of entertainment when entertainment was scarce. It is interesting that the family’s love of verse is evident as far back as 1850.

On December 18, 1842, Isaac and Sarah’s second child, William, was born.

380  Years  of “The  Crosses

In about 1843, Isaac acquired a small farm, which included a little cabin, on the west side of Meech Creek. Isaac would take up farming. Legend has it that the vendor was a shoemaker but in Isaac’s son, William’s obituary (see Chapter 5), it states that the family were “squatters” but later attained the dignity of a deed or “Patent from the Crown”. The property was designated as Range 13, Lot 24. The land is presently owned by the National Capital Commission. To get to where the cabin was, one would turn left from Valley Road at Pine Road and proceed to the junction of Cross Loop, Cowden and Pine Roads where National Capital Commission parking lot P15 is situated. From there, the spot of the Cross’s second, third and forth home can be seen a short distance to the north. To get to the first home, one would proceed, on foot, to NCC trail 50, cross Meech Creek and up the hill, about 1/4 mile, to a small stream on the right. Here one would turn right into a jungle of junipers, brambles, rocks and a healthy colony of mosquitoes. The remains of the old cellar (just a hole in the ground) are only about 100 feet ahead, with a cleared area close behind. A small stream, still flowing today, meanders through the property and empties into the Meech Creek. It supplied the family with ample and essential water. An alternate route would be to take highway 105 to Farm Point and turn west onto Cross Loop Road. Follow along several kilometers, over the covered bridge which Isaac’s grandson, Wyman, later built, until you come to the three-way stop of Cross Loop, Pine and Cowden Roads and to NCC parking lot P15 and follow instructions as per above.

380  Years  of “The  Crosses
Cousin Linda Payne Bardell in foreground and me where the cabin was.
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Area behind where cabin was which has been cleared of stones, possibly where the garden was. Englishmen were noted for their gardens.
380  Years  of “The  Crosses
Other remains of a foundation.
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Other remains, possibly a road.

On moving day, in the winter of 1843, Isaac and Sarah, with their two young children and all their belongings, set out by horse and sleigh. People preferred to travel in winter as roads and bridges were poor or nonexistent and travelling by sleigh over snow and ice was by far the easiest. Perhaps they crossed the Ottawa River on the ice, from New Edinburgh to the Gatineau River and proceeded north. The Chaudiere Bridge, the first bridge to span the Ottawa River, was completed in 1828. Maybe they travelled from New Edinburgh, through Lower Town and on through Upper Town to Barrack’s Hill, now Parliament Hill, to the developing flat area, now called Lebreton Flats and to the new bridge and over to Wright’s Settlement. They would have travelled north-east to the Gatineau River. From here they probably travelled on the ice of the Gatineau River to the little area known as Cascades, named due to rapids, or cascades, in the river, but lost when the river was damned at Chelsea and flooded in 1928. The terrain to reach the Meech Creek valley would have been heavily treed and very rough. Perhaps this portion of the trip was the most arduous.

360  Years  of “The  Crosses
Bytown & Wright’s Settlement, c. 1860

Lillian (Wilson) Walton was the daughter of Alice (Cross) Wilson who was the daughter of William and May Ann Cross. In the 1978 edition of Up the Gatineau produced by the Gatineau Historical Society on page 3, writes:

It was a cold and windy day. The snow was deep. They were cramped in a small sleigh with their belongings, hauled by a slow horse. Sarah, having been brought up in a suburb of London, had never seen such a densely wooded country as on that all-day trip to the Meech Creek. Legend has it that her nerves were at breaking point when they arrived at their destination. The “new” home was a one-room cabin formerly occupied by a shoemaker who had suddenly died. Sarah stood in the midst of dirt and shoe leather and in a very defiant tone said to Isaac, “A fine place to bring a lady!” and she broke into tears. She turned out to be one tough lady.

How would Isaac have known about this property and why did he choose to settle there? Perhaps the Sullys, Robert and Mary (Isaac’s sister), were instrumental in advising him of its existence and hoped to have the Crosses as neighbours. Families stayed together and supported each other in times of hardship and danger. They would have had a comradeship between them since the difficult crossing of the Atlantic Ocean together. By the 1840’s, the flat land had all been taken. Where Isaac settled, the hills protected the crops from early frosts and also, the soil was very fertile.

Besides Isaac and Sarah and the Sullys, other early settlers were the McKelveys, Carsons, Dalys and Browns. Free land was given to military veterans. There is no evidence that Isaac was a veteran hence he must have purchased the land from the estate of the shoemaker.

380  Years  of “The  Crosses
The Robert and Mary Sully farm and later the Brown farm, circ. 1940.

The photo shows the land where Robert and Mary Sully and their six children had settled in Meech Creek valley sometime between 1830 and 1842. The top right-hand corner shows where the Cross brothers, Stan, Leslie, Bill and Milton, (Isaac’s great grandsons) had built a sawmill sometime in the 1940’s. Just outside the right-hand side of the photo is the site of the original cabin.

The family lived in this small cabin from about 1843 to about 1874. Additional living cabins ere probably constructed. Eight more children, five or six living to adulthood, were born. They were:

  • Sarah Ann was born on April 4, 1844 and died September 29, 1927. She married Hugh McFadden.
  • Robert was born May 1845 or 52 and died 1926 or 28. He married Elizabeth Wills.
  • Maria was born December 1, 1846 and died December 2, 1910. She married Sam Kennedy.
  • George was born in 1848.
  • Alice was born 1853 and died at a young age.
  • Kezia was born 1854 and died about 1858.
  • Isaac was born 1855, 56 or 57 and died May 24, 1913. He married either Agnes or Elizabeth Margaret Thompson.
  • John was born 1857, 58 or 59 and died January 19, 1914. He married Elizabeth Margaret Thompson.

As previously written, the two older children, born in New Edinburgh, were:

  • Rebecca Earle was born March 5, 1836 and died February 15 or 16, 1934 (98 years). She married Edward James Johnston and
  • William was born December 18, 1841 and died January 27, 1922. He married Mary Ann McKelvey born 1846 and died May 26, 1933.

It is interesting to note that many of the names which Isaac and Sarah gave to their children were names of Isaac's ancestors, leading us to again think of them as sentimentalists and lonesome for his homeland as many immigrants were.

There is a Cross family burial plot on the top of a hill on the east side of the Meech Creek. Perhaps George, Alice and Kezia are buried there.

The 1851 census tells us that in about 1843 or 44, Isaac began farming with only 60 acres of rocky ground, useless for growing crops. However, he and the family worked hard at clearing and soon acquired more land. They would have cut down the pine, with handsaw and axe, and hauled them by horse pull to a place of storage to be later used or sold for a profit. Stumps would have been pulled and burned and swamp areas drained to the creek. Hay would have been cut with a scythe and raked manually. Grain would have been cut and stooked by hand. A stook being a bundle of grain tied with a few strands of straw and placed up against two other bundles so as to remain vertical to dry. Gathering hay and grain would have been done with a horse drawn wagon. Ploughing would be done with a horse and plough. Firewood, enough for the long winter, would have been first cut into short lengths and then manually split with an axe and wedge and piled to dry. It would have been backbreaking and tedious work.

Isaac again demonstrated his keen work ethic by holding a job at the legendary and successful Gilmour’s sawmill situated in Chelsea on the Gatineau River but moved when the damn was built in 1928. It is thought that he walked through the bush to get there. Gilmour’s offered bunkhouses for their employees, so he might have stayed there for a time before walking home. Sarah and the children would have taken care of the farm in Isaac’s absence. It is said that the trail still exists today.

The census of 1851 tells us that Isaac’s farm had grown to 100 acres, 20 under cultivation of which 12 was in crops and 8 in pasture, as well as 80 in wild wood. Of the 12 acres in crops, 3 were in wheat yielding 24 bushels, 3 in peas yielding 50 bushels, ½ acre in Indian corn and 5 in potatoes. Indian corn might have been ground into meal or flour to make bread and other baked goods. It also could have been used as animal feed. He had 9 tons of hay, 12 lbs. of wool, 40 yards of flannel, 2 milch cows (milch meaning cows reared for their milk), 4 calves and heifers, 3 horses, 8 sheep and 2 pigs. He had 100 lbs. of butter and 2 pork barrels.

380  Years  of “The  Crosses
Sarah Harmer (Earle) Cross painted by a great-great-granddaughter.

In England, in the first few decades of the 1800’s, it was important and fashionable for women to be educated. If Sarah was an educated lady, what was it like for her, born and raised in a civilized manner, to live in a small, crude cabin in the bush for 35 years and have ten children, two or three having died at a young age? She had already been widowed and lost her first child during the Atlantic crossing and she was 18 years old at the time. She had a large family to feed with perhaps only an open fireplace to do all the food preparation and preserving for winter. She would have had to collect water from the natural spring close to the cabin. Perhaps this spring is the reason the cabin was built there in the first place. Sarah’s hand sewing skills would have been well utilized in the making of sturdy clothing for the heavy toil required by pioneers. From their sheep’s wool, she must have spun and knit the required warm clothing. Isaac was an English gardener and provided his family with abundant vegetables, but they would have to be preserved and stored to supply food until spring. Probably Sarah was the mastermind of this chore. Bread would have to be baked. Laundry would have to be done in a tub using Sarah’s homemade soap. The water would have to be rung out of the cloths by hand and hung on a line or even draped over a bush to dry. It is quite common to see bear wondering around today and no doubt was in Sarah’s day as well. Perhaps she became a good shot. Maybe the silence, monotony and dangers of life in the bush, particularly during the long winters, were overridden by the hard work required just to survive. She must have been a woman of great courage, stamina, strength and fortitude.

The first school in the area was built in about 1858 at Cascades Station on what is now called River Road and was approximately four miles from the cabin. The little white building was also used for church services on Sunday. Many Crosses were christened there, including me. It still stands and is now a private residence. It is not known if the children attended school or if the family attended church but likely they did. Perhaps Sarah taught her own children at home. Children were expected to work long and hard on the farm, particularly in the summer months.

Their land was fertile, and it was possible for Isaac, again displaying his entrepreneurial skills, to after keeping enough hay for his own stock, sell the surplus in winter when the price was high. Lumbering companies around Maniwaki were good customers. The hay had to be loaded onto his sleigh, tied tightly with rope and swiffer (some thing like a winch) so if upset, the load could be pushed back again on the runners without unbinding.

Lillian (Wilson) Walton was the daughter of Alice (Cross) Wilson who was the daughter of William and Mary Ann Cross who will be featured in Chapter 5. She writes: “These trips to Maniwaki covered about one hundred miles. The load was hauled by a team of horses. It was freezing winter weather and Isaac froze his toes many times. The last time was disastrous for him when gangrene developed in his big toe. He died on February 19, 1859 at the age of 59. He was buried at Old Chelsea Protestant Cemetery, Old Chelsea, Quebec.”

Isaac was a true Canadian pioneer and displayed a remarkable work ethic to bequeath to his children.

Sarah, a widow for the second time at the age 44, and their eldest son, William, age 18, along with all the children, worked the farm for a time. Eventually, Sarah, with some of the younger children, moved to Wakefield to be close to her brother, Robert Earle, and his family.

Sarah’s brother, Robert, sometime in the 1880’s, built a fine home on the south corner of what is now Valley Road, where River Road enters the highway, known as The Earle House. On the opposite corner, sometime in the 1870’s, Earle's Agricultural Implement and Furniture Shop was built. The second floor of this building comprised a large room with a stage. This was the meeting place for municipal council. Elections and plays took place here and a movie theatre existed until the 1940’s. Both buildings are still standing.

Legend has it that Sarah prospered as a seamstress. With her creative mind and nimble fingers, she designed and manufactured wedding suits for most of the young men in the district. As well, wedding dresses of that era were very fashionable and elaborate in detail and perhaps she had a clientele there as well.

380  Years  of “The  Crosses
Maria (Cross) (1846 – 1910) and husband Sam Kennedy, c. 1885.

Sarah and her youngest daughter, Maria, moved to Wakefield. Maria was born December 1, 1846 and would have been 13 when Isaac died. Sarah and Maria lived in a house, built by Sarah’s brother, Robert, in the 1860’s or 70’s, on River Road. The house still stands. It is located next to the Wakefield Anglican Church between Valley Road and Rockhurst Hill Road. It is pink/peach in colour. There have been many changes, but many of the original features remain. Legend has it that one condition for William keeping the homestead farm on the Meech Creek was that he supply his mother with firewood for the remainder of her life. Maria later became the second wife of Samuel Kennedy. They had one son named William. The deed to the house shows its transfer to Maria in 1883. Maria died on December 2, 1910.

Sarah died on March 22, 1881, at age 66, after having had a turbulent and labour-intensive pioneering life. She had eleven children in a 22 year period. She truly must have been a woman of great strength, courage, stamina and fortitude. Sarah is buried beside Isaac in the Old Chelsea Protestant Cemetery at Old Chelsea, Quebec.

Ottawa Citizen - 1934 - Mrs. E.J. Johnston Was In 98th Year - Another Link With Early Bytown Days Broken In Passing Of Aged Lady At Rupert, Quebec.

A link with early Bytown days was broken today in the death at Rupert, Quebec, in her 98th year, of Rebecca Earle Cross, wife of the late Edward James Johnston and a daughter of the late John Cross (Isaac) and Sarah Earle Harmer, who were among the first residents of what is now the district of New Edinburgh.

380  Years  of “The  Crosses
Rebecca Earle (Cross) (1836 – 1934) and husband Edward James Johnston. Rebecca was the eldest child of Isaac and Sarah, William’s older sister.
The oldest and the last surviving member of a family of eleven, she was born on her parents homestead in New Edinburgh on March 5, 1836 and baptized by an Indian chief from Buckingham. The indian chief (this name is forgotten) was a sort of native Christian missionary in this district, and many children born at that time were baptized by him.
Mrs. Johnston had lived in the Ottawa Valley all her life and was one of the most widely known old-timers of the district. Although she had been confined to her bed for the past three years, by sheer old age, her faculties were unimpaired up to the end, and she delighted many of her relatives and friends with stories of this district three-quarters of a century ago.
Her husband, whom she married 75 years ago in Ottawa, was a well-known lumberman and farmer of the Ottawa Valley. He was born on the ocean while his parents were coming to Canada from Ireland to settle at Bell's Corners. Mr. Johnston predeceased her 12 years ago. Had he survived, he would have been 99 years of age.
When Mrs. Johnston was about five years of age, her parents purchased some land in the Cascades, Quebec district and took up residence there. She clearly remembered living in Ottawa and her parent's pioneer life at Cascades.
Following her marriage to Mr. Johnston, she lived for about ten years in Ottawa, then moved to Fort Coulonge, and later to Mattawa, Ontario. For the past 30 years she had been living at Rupert, Quebec. Before church union she was a Methodist in faith and latterly had been a member of the United Church at Rupert. At one time she worshipped at what is now Western United Church in Ottawa.
Mrs. Johnston is survived by one son, William H. Johnston of Rupert, a grandson, George Frank Johnston of Amos, Quebec and two granddaughters, Mrs. Joseph Steele of Quyon, Quebec and Mrs. Harry Dodds of Ottawa. There are also six great-grandchildren, Merritt, Sadie and Warren Steele and Henry, David and Pansy Dodds. There are also many nieces, nephews and cousins throughout the Ottawa Valley surviving.
The funeral is being held on Saturday from her late residence in Rupert to Rupert Union Cemetery. The time has not yet been arranged.

Note that Isaac is named John in Rebecca’s obituary.

380  Years  of “The  Crosses
Rockhurst Station, c. 1905.
380  Years  of “The  Crosses
Village of Wakefield, c. 1910.

Chapter 5 – William and Mary Ann Cross

380  Years  of “The  Crosses
William (1841 – 1922) and wife Mary Ann (McKelvey) Cross (1846 - 1933).

William was the second child of Isaac and Sarah. William married Mary Ann McKelvey, born 1846 and died May 26, 1933. They married July 26, 1865. William was 24 and Mary Ann was 19. The McKelveys and Crosses were neighbours so William and Mary Ann would have grown up knowing each other. William acquired the homestead farm some time after 1859. William’s mother, Sarah, along with her younger children, might have moved to Wakefield by this time. William and Mary Ann and perhaps his older siblings continued to live in the little cabin on the hill.

  • Isaac Edward or Erasmus born April 13, 1867 and died June 22, 1957. He married Edy Annie Stewart and after her death, married Hope Miller.
  • William John born September 14, 1868 and died October 16, 1949 married Ellen Jane or Elinor Brown.
  • Alice born December 7 or 17, 1870 and died May 1, 1948 married Samuel Ernest Wilson.
  • Didema born June 21, 1872 and died January 15, 1925 married Thomas Jamieson
  • George Laurence born June 9 or 19, 1874 or 75 and died May 13, 1962 married Mary Ellen Kennedy.
  • Annie born May 30, 1876 and died July 29, 1876.
  • Freeman Thomas born September of November 11, 1877 or 8 and died March 26, 1952 married Minnie Grace.
  • Stephen Hugh born April 30, 1880 and died March 26, 1952 married Minnie Margaret Louisa Ellen Birtch.
  • Wyman Ernest born August 11, 1882 and died February 28, 1977 married Lena Agnes Shouldice born September 11, 1893 and died April 20, 1973.
  • Jason Earle born September 23, 1884 and died May 13, 1952 married Lucy Janet Smith.
  • Walter Carson born June 16, 1887 and died May 12, 1965 married Jessie Balharrie on June 3, 1914.
  • Sarah Elizabeth born July 12, 1889 and died January 14, 1894.
360  Years  of “The  Crosses

The McKelveys

380  Years  of “The  Crosses
James McKelvey (1807 – 1911).

Another nearby pioneer family was that of James McKelvey, father of Mary Ann McKelvey who married William Cross. James was a Methodist born in Ireland on August 8, 1807. He married Margaret Carson, born 1825, in County Down, Northern Ireland. Margaret was 18 years his junior. They emigrated in 1842 and lived in Farm Point for a time where James obtained work. The 1851 census tells us that they had moved to a 100 acre farm, Range 13, Lot 21, on what is now the Cowden Road, very close to the Meech Creek, making the McKelveys and Crosses neighbours. There were other Carsons in the area, perhaps a relation to Margaret, James’s wife. Their children, all born in Canada, were John, Mary Ann, Isabella, William, Margaret, Hugh, Thomas and Elizabeth.

The census of 1851 indicates that James and Margaret had 8 acres of land under cultivation, six with crops and 2 in pasture and 92 in wild wood. He had a half acre in wheat yielding 4 bushels, 1½ in oats, ½ in potatoes yielding 15 bushels, 1½ tons of hay and that James was a tavern keeper, which explains why his farm was small as he had another source of income. Lower Canada Land Sales, dated June 13, 1862, tells us that the McKelveys bought the north half of Lot 21, Range 13, that being 100 acres. In 1867, they purchased the north ½ of Lot 21, Range 12, also 100 acres. This suggests that the McKelveys rented the land until financially able to purchase it.

Margaret died in about 1881. James McKelvey died July 5, 1911. He was 103 years and 11 months old. His death made the front page of the Ottawa Evening Journal, along with news of the 15th anniversary of Wilfred Laurier becoming Prime Minister. An excerpt from his obituary reads:

“He has spent close to twenty years in the Capital. He was for a short time in the old Men’s Home, but an Ottawa woman, whom his relatives claim was eager to get a hand on his fortune, which she supposed he had, went to the home claiming to be his wife. He was perfectly willing to acknowledge her claim and went and lived with her for some years until through bickering they had to be separated and she found that his reported wealth was rather magnified by her informant. He was content to lay no more claime on him. Mr. McKelvey has never smoked and eats three square meals a day.”

Back to the Crosses

The census of 1871 states that William and Mary Ann’s religion was Wesleyan Methodist which is today’s United church. It also informs us that William was a farmer and that he could not read or write and that Mary Ann could read and write but the census of 1881 states that William could read and write. Living with them in 1871 was Emma Lock, age 9, who might have been a border. They had 2 carriages or sleighs, 100 acres of land of which 10 acres was improved, 3 acres was in pasture, ½ acre was in garden and orchards, they raised 6 bushels of oats, 1 acre of potatoes yielding 40 bushels, 7 acres in hay yielding 5 tons. They had 1 horse older than 3 years, 1 milking cow and 1 other horned animal. They sold 1 cow and 2 swine for slaughter and made 100 lb. butter and 50 lb. honey and 50 cords of firewood.

380  Years  of “The  Crosses
First Cross house built about 1874.

William was noted for having the same work ethic as his father. In about 1874, he built or bought a fine two-story brick home on the same Cross homestead property but the location was on the east side of Meech Creek from the original little cabin which Isaac had homesteaded to in 1843. There is ambiguity here. He could have purchased the Daly farm, which comprised 300 acres and a fine two-story brick home. Regardless, the house is about twelve hundred feet north of the National Capital Commission parking lot P16 close to the junction of Cross Loop, Pine and Cowden Roads. His oldest sons, Isaac and William John were perhaps eight to ten years old. There is no doubt that the boys worked long and hard alongside their father.

The family had lived on the hill from 1843 to 1874 or 32 years. Isaac and Sarah raised nine children there and William and Mary Ann had seven children there and five more in the new house. It is astonishing to think that so many lived in such harsh conditions for this length of time. The hardships must have been enormous. What a joyous day it must have been when they moved into the new and “ultramodern” home.

380  Years  of “The  Crosses
Standing from left to right: Ellen Brown Cross?, Wyman, Thomas Jamieson, William John, Jason, Stephen, Samuel Wilson, Alice Cross Wilson. Seated from left to right: Didama, William, child?, child?, Billy Wilson, Mary Ann, child?, Delmer Wilson, Walter c. 1896.

Farming in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s was very manual. Tax records tell us that William had 300 acres of land in 1875 and 1,634 acres in 1914. This was a huge track of land considering that horse drawn equipment and machinery would have been heavily relied on. The whole family work from dawn to dusk seven days per week especially during the busy summer season.

Lillian (Cross) Wilson advises that George and Wyman attended school in the little white schoolhouse in Cascades Station. A new, brick schoolhouse was built in 1919 on what is now Pine Road.

About 1912, when son Wyman took over the homestead farm, William, age 71, and Mary Ann, age 66, left and moved into a three-story, brick house owned by William or Walter in Cascades village. It was just north of Coughlan's toll gate on the original road from Hull to Maniwaki. Remains of the house are presently underwater as per the flooding of the Gatineau River in 1926 which is described farther along.

In the 1920’s, large corporations became involved in the development of the electrical power potential of the Gatineau River. The Gatineau Power Company was formed. Dams were required and three were built: Farmer’s Rapids just north of Hull, Chelsea and Paugan Dam at Low. In the summer of 1926, once the Chelsea and Paugan Dams were completed, the portion of the river between the two was flooded, effectively creating a reservoir between the two and resulting in the raising of the river levels. Due to the flooding, Cascades village residents were expropriated.

380  Years  of “The  Crosses
Left to right: Mary Ann (McKelvey) Cross, her daughter Alice (Cross) Wilson, granddaughter Dora (Wilson) McCarthy and great-granddaughter Sheila Ann, c. 1930.

Prior to 1926, Mary Ann left the brick house and moved in with her daughter, Alice Wilson, who with her husband, Samuel, owned and operated the popular Peerless Hotel on what is now known as the River Road. It was situated just south of the little, white schoolhouse/church. The Peerless was also expropriated, although it remained above the high-water mark and was quite habitable. Alice fought the expropriation, right to the Supreme Court of Canada, until at least 1940. The Peerless never opened as a hotel again.

Samuel died in 1927. At some point, Alice and Mary Ann moved into a house called Lakeview, which was situated across the road and up the hill from The Peerless. Lakeview is still standing.  On May 26, 1933, Mary Ann died at Lakeview, age 87, seven years after the flooding. She had twelve children over a 27 year period. She was the matriarch of a successful and respected family. Mary Ann is also buried in Hall's Cemetery in Wakefield.

360  Years  of “The  Crosses

360  Years  of “The  Crosses

380  Years  of “The  Crosses

William died on January 25, 1922. He was 81 years old, the patriarch of a thriving family and a prominent member in the community. To summarize his land holdings, he started with 300 acres in 1875 which grew to 1,634 acres in 1914 and decreased to 1,000 acres in 1922 – a sizeable amount to be sure. He saw the Meech Valley cleared and cultivated. In his later years, he gave land to his sons to see them established. He was, for many years, a member of the municipal counsel and advocated for good roads. Legend has it that it was a bitterly cold day as the slow funeral procession proceeded to Hall’s Cemetery in Wakefield. In those days, one measured the esteem in which a person was held by the number of vehicles following the hearse. His had one hundred. It was the largest funeral ever held in the valley. Stanley Cross, his grandson and my father, always credited him with having established his eight sons in business. Isaac enlisted in the Canadian military in 1916 and gave his occupation as millwright, William John, George, Wyman and Jason were set up in farming, Freeman in saw mills and a power plant, Stephen in a store and saw mills and Walter in a mica company and building contractor. William is buried in Hall’s Cemetery in Wakefield.

On May 26, 1933, Mary Ann died at Lakeview, age 87, seven years after the flooding. She had twelve children over a 27 year period. She was the matriarch of a successful and respected family. Mary Ann is also buried in Hall's Cemetery in Wakefield.

380  Years  of “The  Crosses
Left to right: Walter, Jason, Wyman, Steven, Freeman, George, Isaac Absent are: William John deceased 1949, Alice deceased 1948, Didema deceased 1925, Annie deceased 1876, Sarah deceased 1894 c. 1950.

Chapter 6 – Wyman and Lena

Wyman was the ninth child of William and Mary Ann and the second to be born in the new house. He married Lena Agnes Shouldice of Rupert, Quebec on January 10, 1912. She was the daughter of Foster Shouldice and Jane (Johnston) Shouldice. Wyman was a short, wiry man with strength, agility and fortitude. He took over William’s farm.

360  Years  of “The  Crosses
Lena and Wyman Cross, January, 1912.

360  Years  of “The  Crosses

They had six children, all born on the homestead farm:

  • Hazel Agnes was born April 1913 and died October 30, 2001. She married Clarence Erwin Smith
  • Nora Mary was born 1915 and died 1969. She married Arthur Thomas Broom
  • Stanley Ernest was born March 18, 1916 and died August 27, 2003. He married Marjorie Jane Whelen
  • Leslie Borden was born 1918 and died 1974. He married Dorothy Lapierre,
  • Hector William was born 1921 and died 2009. He married Margaret Ethel Wright
  • Milton Thomas was born 1922 and died September 2, 2008. He married Helen Florence Whelen

Early in their marriage, Lena had been oiling the farmhouse floors and when finished put the oily rags in a pail. Spontaneous combustion occurred, the rags exploded and the house burned down. It is not know if any injuries. Wyman rebuilt it on the original foundation and no doubt the bride was more careful the next time she oiled the floors.

380  Years  of “The  Crosses
Second Cross house built about 1913.

It was June, 1916 and the new house was long since rebuilt. Wyman knew that to be a successful farmer, he needed a large barn for the animals, the storage of hay and the like. He knew he certainly couldn’t build it alone and his three children, at that time, were ages 3 years, 1 year and 3 months old, far too young to help. He organized a “barn raising bee” with the hope that a few neighbours might show up to help to at least get started.

The “bee” is an actual fact but I have fabricated a few details for the benefit of a descriptive story.

Wyman began the preparation. He chose a location just down the hill, perhaps 200 feet, from the house and levelled it off. This location would be handy from the house, from the pastures and grain fields and to water from Meech Creek farther on down the hill. A horse stable and other buildings already existed close by. Such an undertaking took long range planning. Wood was required to make the 10" x 10" supporting frame and to make sheeting boards. The previous winter, Wyman cut hemlock trees in the farm bush lot immediately to the west of the homestead and sleighed them on the ice of Meech Creek to his brother, Freeman's, sawmill at Farm Point and returned them the same way. Tin was required for the roof and which carried a bigger cash outlay. It would likely have come from McFarlane & Douglas roofers in Ottawa. To build the concrete basement, Wyman scraped sand and gravel with his team of horses and scraper, from sandbars in Meech Creek, and hauled it to the work site. Cement was mixed by hand on a sweat board, seven parts sand, one of cement, and mixed with water. No doubt Wyman had help with this task. The concrete basement was built and left to cure for a few weeks.

Wyman had worked hard in preparation of the “bee”. Communication, without telephone, was difficult in the rural area so Wyman wasn’t sure how many would come to the “bee” particularly if the weather was uncooperative. Farmers were busy with their own animals and land, particularly at this time of the year. No doubt this caused anxiety.

Lena, with the three young children in tow, worked without rest to make sure there would be enough food to feed the men, but how many men? It was impossible to know how much food would be required. There was no local grocery store to run to. Baked beans were a staple along with homemade bread and butter. Their own pig, cow and chickens were butchered, cleaned and cooked and pies, cakes and cookies baked. Lena was a wonderful baker which always delighted Wyman’s notorious sweet tooth. She was a high energy and focused women, so took the task in stride, but like Wyman, with anxiety.

June 16, 1916 arrived. The weather was good and people began arriving in their horse and wagons, after having done their own farm chores. Some came on foot. Fifty-two friends, neighbours and relatives arrive. Wyman and Lena were overwhelmed and honoured.

380  Years  of “The  Crosses
Levi Reid’s Scow, c. 1930.

Some people came from the east side of the Gatineau River at Farm Point. They would have had to cross the river with their horses and buggies on Levi Reid’s “scow”, or ferry, which landed just north of where the Meech Creek empties into the Gatineau River, and then journey the three or four miles to the homestead. Levi’s “scow” was flat-bottomed and operated by oars and possibly had a rudder. At one time, there were 18 scows between Kirk’s Ferry and Low, all of which rendered obsolete with the construction of roads and bridges. It transported children from the east shore to the Farm Point School and families to the Protestant Church.

The sound of hand sawing, hammering, a squeaky hoist to haul up timbers and sheets of tin lasted the whole day with shouts of humorous teasing going back and forth between the men.

Wives came to help Lena and they also brought food. A method of heating water for tea, dishwashing and cooking vegetables was required. The wood stove blazing on a June day would have made the kitchen unbearably hot so a stove in the summer kitchen was used. The women chattered as wonderful aromas swirled in all directions.

380  Years  of “The  Crosses
This is a photo of the barn taken on the actual day of the “bee” – June 16, 1916. It has since been demolished by the National Capital Commission.

Everyone brought their children. The older ones helped in some capacity and the younger ones raced around playing tag, hide-and-go-seek and the like, with sounds of glee coming from each. Babies wailed when it was time for them to be fed.

Close to mealtimes, enamel basins of warm water and homemade soap were put out for people to wash. Long outdoor tables with benches on both sides were erected in the yard and laden with wonderful food lovingly prepared by the excellent cooks. Cold water from the well to drink, homemade pickles and preserves from last season’s garden and rhubarb relish from this season was all laid out. It surely was a sight to behold.

The long daylight of mid June eventually turned to dusk. The main part of the barn was raised and the roof and walls nearly completed. Dishes were washed and put away. Everyone, exhausted, was delighted to have shared in the hard work and excitement of the day. Social events were not a common occurrence. The life of a farmer and his family in rural areas was a lonely one, so this was an opportunity to catch up on the local news and to share a few laughs. Legend has it that Lena packed sandwiches for people to enjoy on their trip home. Wyman and Lena had great admiration for the fifty-two workers and gratitude for them increased with the passing of time.

The successful barn raising bee did happen in basically the way described in the last several paragraphs. The tiny details are fabricated.

380  Years  of “The  Crosses
George Ishmael Roland Shouldice (1882 – 1916).

Along with the good, comes the bad. World War I was raging on in Europe and it was later learned that Lena's older brother, George Ishmael Roland Shouldice, born August 9, 1882, was killed in action on June 27, 1916. He was lost without trace during the defence of the Ypres Salient in the First World War. His grave reference is panel 24-28-30 in the Menin Gate, Ypres Memorial in the town of Ypres in the Province of West Flanders, Belgium. An inscription there reads: Here are recorded names of officers and men who fell in Ypres Salient but to whom the fortune of war denied the known and honoured burial given to their comrades in death.

380  Years  of “The  Crosses
Stanley with six-legged sheep c. 1918.

Wyman raised sheep and one of his lambs was born with six legs. Legend has it that a circus, performing in Ottawa, bought it.

Legend has it that in 1924, when Wyman was 42, he ran in a five mile race from Cascades to Wakefield on one of the annual Gala Days. Low and behold, he came in second, first place being won by a 20 year old. The prize was a jackknife which he treasured but unfortunately lost one day while bringing in the cows. No doubt he searched diligently for it but without success.

Wyman and Lena’s children attended the brick schoolhouse built in 1919 on Pine Road. It should not be forgotten that the children worked the farm and with diligence.

380  Years  of “The  Crosses

Another legend exists that Wyman had bought a horse and was leading it home when he stopped to chat with another farmer. Time went by and Wyman eventually arrived home, without the horse. In his own shrewd way, he had sold his new horse to the farmer, and at a worthwhile profit.

380  Years  of “The  Crosses
Covered bridge built 1932.

On July 11, 1932, Wyman, perhaps his sons and brother, George, whose farm was at the top of the hill as per the picture on the next page, began the building of the new Meech Creek covered bridge, just beside the original bridge. The location was about a half mile north of the homestead farm and was built with timber from the same land. The “cover”, or shingled roof, was installed to keep the timbers dry so as not subjected to dampness, resulting in rot. On July 28, the bridge was complete. It was painted red and green and remains today and is depicted in Chelsea's municipal logo as well as many works of art.

380  Years  of “The  Crosses
Copy of a painting of the Avion Fox Farm, courtesy of the Gatineau Valley Historical Society, which was quite near the NCC’s Herridge Lodge on the Fox Farm Road and past where Isaac and Sarah first settled. The painting is the work of Margaret Pink. The farm was initiated in the 1930’s and owned by Colonel C.M. Edwards and operated by Harvey and Jean Doraty.
380  Years  of “The  Crosses

On February 24, 1946, the second farmhouse burned down due to a chimney fire. The three youngest Cross children, although almost adults, were still living at home. Leslie opened a door to the attic and burned his face and hands very badly. While the house was again being rebuilt, the boys moved to what they called “the camp” which was up on the hill close to where Isaac had first homesteaded. Lena and Wyman were able to live in the basement of their burned out home.

In the summer of 1946, Wyman and Lena's son, Hector William (Bill), took over the farm and the building of the third farmhouse on William’s original foundation. Bill and Margaret (Margo) Wright married in 1947 and farmed until, in 1974, the National Capital Commission identified as many as 1,000 acres of land, in the Meech Creek Valley, four miles south of Wakefield, as the future home of the National Capital Zoological Park. The Cross homestead farm was part of this land and was expropriated. The Cross family farmed the land and prospered for about 150 years. The zoo was never built. Some people think it was a ploy to remove English speaking residents. The buildings were demolished excepting for the third farmhouse built by Bill. The house and the land was rented out by the National Capital Commission. Bill and Margo moved to their new home at 1610 Highway 105. Bill died in 2007 and Margo remained in the house.

380  Years  of “The  Crosses
Third Cross house built in 1946.
380  Years  of “The  Crosses
Third Cross house burns to the ground and is not rebuilt.
380  Years  of “The  Crosses

In 1946, Wyman and Lena purchased a farm, with a little house, on the River Road. Wyman continued to farm but on a much smaller scale. Even in his later years, he cared for the wellbeing of his livestock. On one of their few holidays, Wyman and Lena were driving to Florida with another couple. When it was time to leave, Wyman had disappeared. They found him, all dressed in his “Sunday best”, tossing hay down to the cattle just to satisfy himself that they would be well fed before he left.

In 1954, a terrible electrical storm developed. Wyman's cattle were in the field and sought shelter under some tall elm trees. Lightning struck the trees and followed the trunk down to the massive roots where the cattle were standing. All died.

380  Years  of “The  Crosses
Lena and Wyman’s family including spouses and three grandchildren c. 1949.

 
380  Years  of “The  Crosses
Wyman’s birthday party c. August 1956 or 7.

 
380  Years  of “The  Crosses
Wyman and Lena 50th Wedding Anniversary, January 10, 1962.

Lena died on April 20, 1973 at the age of 79. She had six children in a nine year period. She was a diligent mother, always aware of the perils of cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption and was adamant to steer her children away from such evils.

Wyman died on February 28, 1977 at the age 95. Wyman enjoyed good health all his life. He lived with his daughter, Hazel, in his final years. Lena and Wyman are buried at Hall's Cemetery, Wakefield.

 

Written by Trudy (Cross) Stephen
Descendent of Isaac, William, Wyman Cross
November 2020