The following article first appeared in The Echo of Cantley Volume 24 no 10, May 2013. This article is made available for the enjoyment of others with the express permission of the Echo of Cantley.
The building of the power dams along the Gatineau River in the early 1900's changed the lives of many families from Maniwaki to Hull, including those who owned land along the river in the area of Low, Quebec prior to the construction of the Paugan Dam. Cantley's Barton family was one family that was significantly affected
Reta Barton Milks
George Barton came to Canada from Dumbarton, Scotland, as a child with his family who settled in the Hawkesbury area of Prescott County in Eastern Ontario. George married Isabella Wilson of Denholm in 1849. They eventually settled in Wakefield. Like many families of the times, George and Isabella had a large family of nine sons and one daughter, Samuel, Thomas, George, Gustave, Oliver and Atcheson (twins), James, Mary, John and William.
In 1873 they sold the property they had acquired in Wakefield Township to William Fairbairn and moved to Low. George Barton purchased a property of 680 acres with house and buildings from lumber barons Hamilton and Lowe. As time went on, the Bartons bought more property until they owned about 1,000 acres of land along both sides of the Gatineau River at Low. They carried on the business of farming and lumbering. They built homes as well as housing for hired workers and provided material and, with the help of their neighbours, built a school for the local children. They were hard workers, very selfsufficient and proud of their families. Of course the women in the families worked just as hard as the men, cooking for their own families as well as hired help, cleaning, spinning their own yarn, sewing, gardening, caring for the sick and looking after children all without the benefit of automatic washers, dryers, microwaves, supermarkets and pharmacies.
Apparently sons Thomas and Gustave moved to British Columbia, Oliver remained single and lived in Low, Mary married Oliver Holmes and lived in Aylwin, Que., Atcheson married Jane Stewart and lived in the Kazabazua area, and George married Sarah Maxwell and moved to Michigan.
Four sons, Samuel, James, John and William remained on the farm and most likely bought their siblings' interest in the property. The land was then divided so each had their own farm. Then came the devastating news that the Power Company was going to dam the river at Low and much of the land in the area would be flooded including the Barton farms, homes and buildings. This meant they all had to leave the homes and farms they loved and worked so hard to build and maintain. In 1919, Samuel and James moved to Cantley, and William moved to Wilson's Corners. They all bought farms but none of the brothers bought land along the river. John decided to give up farming and moved to Ottawa to be a carpenter.
William and his wife, Martha Wilson, bought a farm from John and Jane Stevenson at Wilson's Corners, present site of the sandpits on the road to Edelweiss. Their two daughters married local men and lived in the Wakefield area. Two of their sons Norman and George joined the army and served in WW II . While they were stationed overseas a brother Percy, along with a neighbour Darcy Lawliss, were killed in a tragic car/train accident in downtown Hull. What a difficult time for their mother Martha! Three of Norman's sons served in the Korean War and one of his grandsons was also a career serviceman. After being discharged from the army, Norman worked in Ottawa as a carpenter. George along with another brother, Cortis, remained residents of Wilson's Corners.
James and his wife Emily Wilson had a family of nine. One daughter and two of their sons died young. One daughter married and moved to Danville, Que., one married and lived in Low, one lived in Vermont, one lived in Ottawa and retired to Alberta and lived to be 99, the other two sons farmed in Cantley. James and Emily bought a farm from George Young on Story Road presently owned and occupied by their granddaughter Alice and her husband Lloyd Story. Son William (Bill) bought the farm next door. When James and Emily retired, they left their property to their son, Gilchrist. He and his wife lived there until they retired and moved to Low.
Bill Barton told stories of working at the site while the Paugan dam was under construction. Since he was too young to do most jobs, he was employed as a teamster. It was very common that many of the young men went to work in the shanties in winter, perhaps not returning until spring. In 1918, when he was just a lad of about fifteen or sixteen Bill went with his older brother Hugh to the shanty probably in Blind River, Ontario. Hugh became ill, apparently with flu, and the boys returned home by train. Unfortunately Hugh passed away on the train and his young brother had to accompany his body home.
In later years, Bill and his wife Mary Cheslock bought the farm on Barton Road currently owned by their grandson. For many years, they farmed and logged from 1945 to 1979. Bill Barton and his son Jim operated a PMU (pregnant mare urine) farm and kept up to 50 horses on the production line. This was very labour intensive work since the animals had to be fed only the best of hay and grain and had to drink a certain amount of water daily depending on their weight. The product was shipped to labs in Montreal for processing. The foals were sold in the fall to buyers in Canada and the U.S. After Bill passed away, Jim carried on farming and raising cattle but always kept some beloved horses competing in local horse shows and drawing competitions. James and Emily have many descendants living in the area including two granddaughters Alice Story and Elsie Woodburn and several great grandchildren.
Samuel and his wife Ellen Cox moved with their son Archie to Cantley where they purchased a farm from the widow of David Milks on what is now St. Andrew Road. In the early 1900's, it was customary for a father to donate his property to one of his sons, usually the oldest. However in the case of Sam Barton, his two daughters died young and four of his sons moved to western Canada leaving son, Archie, to care for the farm and his parents. In 1915, Samuel transferred all of his holdings, including livestock, buildings and machinery to his son Archie with the reservation that Samuel and his wife Ellen have the use of one furnished room on the main floor of the house and three on the second floor, also the use of organ and sewing machine as required. Some further conditions were to provide proper board, clothing, heat and light for the apartment, wash and iron their clothing and provide medical care when needed. They also had to be supplied with a horse properly harnessed and a vehicle suited for the season. Another condition was to provide Sam and Ellen with $150.00 pocket money each year and pay for their funerals.
In 1922, Archie took a trip to Wapella, Saskatchewan and on February 1, 1922, married his sweetheart, Ethel Thompson, who had moved from the Masham area to Wapella with her family. Archie and Ethel continued to farm in Cantley until 1949, when his health forced them to give became a much decorated war hero. He piloted a Lancaster bomber on many dangerous missions in Europe. However, like so many war veterans, he did not like to talk about his experiences. Their memories died with them. After WW II ended, he remained in the Air Force until retirement and was stationed in various places including North Bay, Frobisher Bay and Bagotville, Que.
Reta Barton Milks is a Board member of Cantley 1889. She is the daughter of Archie Barton and Ethel Thompson. Special thanks to her cousin, Elsie Barton Woodburn, daughter of Bill Barton and Mary Cheslock, for much of the research and information for this article.