The following article first appeared in The Echo of Cantley Volume 22 no 7, February 2011. This article is made available for the enjoyment of others with the express permission of the Echo of Cantley.
Originally published in Le Regional, Novembre 1971
The first settler in Cantley, in the late 1820s, was Andrew Blackburn, soon followed by two families from Ireland in the 1830s: James Brown and Dominic Fleming. James Brown's oldest son, Thomas, born Oct. 11th, 1831 is reported to be the first white child born in the township. Thomas' son, Howard, inherited the homestead and lived there until he sold it in 1950 to the late Rene Prud'homme. Dominic Fleming, the first of four brothers to arrive with his wife and family, was a stone mason who laid the foundation of St. Elizabeth's church in the 1860s, and built a great many homes in Cantley.
The 1840s saw an influx of migration, and these are the families whose names live on in Cantley's lore: From Ireland came the families of Barrett, Birt, Blanchfield, Boone, Burke, Cashman, Dean, Easy, Foley, Fraser, Gardiner, Holmes, Hogan, Kherney, Langford, Lynott, Maloney, McDermott, McClelland, McNeil, McAlinden, Milks, O'Keefe, Shea, Shields, Smith, Storey, Sullivan, Thompson and others.
From Scotland came the Blackburns, Clarks, Elders, Gows, James Patterson who was a school teacher, and Wm. Strachan who crossed the Gatineau river on a log, from Cascades, to seek a home in the hills near Mr. Casquette. There were also United Empire Loyalists who had lived near Cumberland, the families of Cassidy, and O'Boyle who was a stone mason who worked on the Parliament Buildings.
Some of the earliest French families were Larose, Laurin, Brunet, Losier, Marengere, Thibert and Prud'homme. The only Norvegian we know of was John Oliver Romberg, a carpenter.
With such a population explosion in the 1840s schools were needed. One of the first was on the Thomas Brown farm where Mrs. Blackburn, whose earlier life had not prepared her for the rigours of her new country, taught the neighbours' children in exchange for help in planting her garden in the spring. A few miles farther north, Paddy Holmes gave a piece of land for another school. In 1857, a new Roman Catholic chapel doubled as a school.
In 1881 the Protestants formed their own school board and one teacher who taught part of the year in each of two schools. The original buildings were probably destroyed by fire and a later school was built on a corner of land Wm. Thompson gave around 1855 for a Protestant cemetery. This school served as a place of worship for Anglican and Methodist ministers. The building was mysteriously burned on the morning school was to reopen in September 1899 and a new school was built in 1900 on land donated by the Brown family.
By 1868, Rev. Patrick McGoey was appointed the first Roman Catholic priest for Cantley. He built and lived in the house later owned by Hector Milks. On 12 acres of land given by Thomas Shields, St. Elizabeth's church was built. The first wardens were John Fleming, John Morris, and Maurice Foley. Several small schools for the parish served until a larger school was built near the church in the late 1950s.
In 1876 James McClelland (son of the emigrant James) gave a corner of his farm for a Presbyterian church. The Rev. Wm. Findlay was its first minister and the first elders were David Blackburn, John Storey, John Patterson and John Stevenson. In 1925 with the consummation of Church Union, the congregation joined and became St. Andrew's United Church.
In the early days, church and municipal affairs for Cantley were handled from Chelsea and all payments for land had to be made on the west side of the river. Residents found it hard to cross the Gatineau River in all sorts of weather, when the makeshift ferry often looked rather precarious.
Small industries grew up in Cantley. In 1859 there was a sawmill on Lot lb, Range 11, valued at $1,200.00 which employed two men and cut 80,000 bd. ft. of inch lumber each year. The Blackburn mill was powered by the force of the Blackburn Creek and later became a combined saw and grist mill. For several years there were log drives on the Blackburn Creek.
From 1885, there were many small mica, phosphate and white lead mines. The Dacey and Blackburn mica mines were the biggest and employed more than 20 men.
Stores were few and far between. At the ferry at "Little Ironsides" Mrs. Laurin operated a store; Robert Brown, second son of James Brown, had a blacksmith shop, carriage shop, general store and post office for many years; farther on there was a store at John Smith's; then one at James Cooper's, and at Wilson' Corners Peter McGlashan had a general store and the post office.
Robert Kerr, who had moved in from West Templeton, and Thomas E. Barrett were close neighbours and they, along with many others, worked hard to form their own municipal council. They finally succeeded. The year was 1889.