Cantley 1889 Articles

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The following article first appeared in The Echo of Cantley Volume 22 no 11, June 2011. This article is made available for the enjoyment of others with the express permission of the Echo of Cantley.

The Value of History

by Brigid Janssen

At the end of Blackburn Road sits the Gow House, a rustic white and green farmhouse that stands today as a landmark of Cantley's thriving industry of yesteryear, and a reminder of the families that were Cantley's pioneers.

The house derives its name from Donald Gow who came to Canada from Perthshire Scotland and his Irish wife Jane Parkinson. They settled on a farm on what is now Blackburn Road in 1850. The Gows had seven children, and, to supplement their farming income, in 1878, they began ining for apatite or phosphate on their land. Mica soon became an important mineral and their mine, which was known as The Gow, became known as the Blackburn Mine when, in the early 1900s, the Blackburn Brothers Limited took over the operation of the mine as part of its regional mining empire.

Records indicate that from 1878 to 1880, they produced 3000 tons of apatite. It was "perhaps the most significant producer of raw and finished phlogopite mica in the Western Hemisphere during the period 1878 to 1964", according to Jerry Van Velthuizen, in his 1998 book The Gow, (Blackburn Mine). To meet the demand for mica, the mine frequently operated two shifts and employed more than 40 workers.

The Gow House, built in 1906, one of Cantley's few remaining heritage homes.

Their son Bruce took over the Gow farm and was also a foreman for the mine. In 1906 he built the Gow House and married Mabel Fetherston-Haugh. In this home, they raised their two children, Donald and Doris, as well as a young niece, Dorothy.

For many years Mabel took in boarders and was a renowned cook, preparing big breakfasts of flapjacks for the hungry mineworkers.She cultivated a large garden of vegetables and fruits such as currants and raspberries. Mabel died in 1975 and many in the community still remember her exceptional flower gardens. One of the legacies of the Gow family is a collection of exceptional photographs which ôl the story of the early 1900s farm family and their community.

With the passing of Doris Gow-Faraday in 2006 at age 96, the house and adjoining properties were sold.

Today, we can only admire and cherish the house, as trim as ever in its tranquil setting, with its groomed lawns and a backdrop of the Gatineau Valley forest. And inevitably we ask what will become of the house that played such an important role in Cantley's history? It was a question that was posed at a Council meeting on May 10, and the unanimous response of Cantley Councillors was to consider this a serious question that deserves a considered discussion. The Mayor asked Cantley 1889 to help in the reflection, as Council develops some practical proposals for preserving our collective heritage.


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