The following article first appeared in The Echo of Cantley Volume 25 no 1, July 2013. This article is made available for the enjoyment of others with the express permission of the Echo of Cantley.
Given the opportunity, what items would you preserve to provide future generations with a glimpse of your daily life?
What may have been common in 1900, may now provide a fascinating insight into the life of our ancestors. The Blackburns have many family treasures which have been tucked away during the 184 years they have lived in Cantley.
In 1829, Andrew Blackburn and his two sons, David and Andrew Jr. arrived in Cantley from Scotland. Philemon Wright founded Hull in 1800, and in 1829 the Blackburns became Cantley's first permanent settlers, the most northerly family on the Gatineau River.
Now, six generations later, the farmland settled by Andrew Blackburn, is owned by Garry and Carmelle Blackburn. Recently they showed us a few of the old artifacts and documents the family has collected over the years.
One of the oldest items was a surveyor's chain dating to the 1800s and used by Andrew Blackburn. A traditional surveyor's chain was 66 feet long and was the basis for how our lots were laid out. An area 10 chains long by 1 chain wide equals one acre (43,560 square feet), 80 chains long equals one mile. The chain was made up of 100 links and had to be made sturdy enough to be dragged across the ground all day long, but still be accurate and able to be calibrated daily by use of an adjustable screw on the end handle.
Two more recent items which show us times have changed are 1940 tax bills for the Blackburn Farm which then belonged to Garry's parents, Russell and Toots Blackburn. The tax bill for their 98 acre farm was $16.00 and paid to James Birt, the Secretary-Treasurer of the Municipality of the East Part of the Township of Hull. The school taxes for the same year were $8.00.
While taxes were low, so was the income generated by the mixed farm of cows, pigs, chickens and horses to do the work on the farm. The Blackburns milked cows and shipped the cream to the Laiterie Fleur-de-Lis in Hull. Two weeks of cream production in July 1940 generated an income of $22.35.
Finally, for those of you who believe the government is too controlling of our daily activities, a little souvenir of life in the 1940s reminds us that in that period even daily pleasures were limited. Garry showed us a small brown "booklet" entitled Permit to Purchase Alcohol and Spirits for 1945-46 belonging to his uncle Herbert Moran. The permit stated that the bearer had to be 20-years old and contained a ticket for each purchase of liquor. The permit holder was "limited to 40 ounces of liquor per fortnight" (two weeks). Yes, times have changed.
Bob and Sue McClelland are Board members of Cantley 1889 - Cantley's volunteer organization established to "discover, catalogue, protect and promote Cantley's heritage". Bob was inspired to write this article after he and Sue visited the Blackburn Farm this spring.