The following article first appeared in The Echo of Cantley Volume 33 no 11, May 2022. This article is made available for the enjoyment of others with the express permission of the Echo of Cantley.
The house at 39 River Road was once the home of the James Albert Wilson family. Its land, the north half of Lot 10 in Range 11, was originally owned by Robert Allen.
Henry Wilson was originally from Fitzroy Township, Ontario. He joined other already established pioneers at what was later called Wilson’s Corners around 1864. He and his wife, Frances Mulligan from Huntley Township, Ontario, raised a large family and undertook many businesses to serve the needs of the surrounding community.
James Albert was their first born in 1862. He married Catherine Cooper, daughter of James Cooper and Martha Maxwell of Cantley, in 1884. They settled and farmed on the 39 River Road property where they raised their family of 14 children.
Dolores Allen, a granddaughter of James Albert and Catherine, generously shared some of her childhood memories with us, as follows:
James Albert was a rather short, almost bald, spare man. He was very interested in mining, an interest possibly inherited since his great-great grandfather was once in the iron mining business in Scotland. James Albert had a few mica mines across the road from the farmhouse for some years that were abandoned after his death. In October 1919, James Albert died of injuries suffered when a tree fell on him.
His wife Catherine was a quiet woman, not given to displays of affection. She knew sadness. One of her children, Edgar Albert died at the age of two. Another son, Roy Orville drowned in the Eaton Chute, located at the end of River Road in the Gatineau River, at the age of 17, just two years after his father died. When her husband died, Catherine still had four children under 20. She took on running the farm with some of her older sons.
In 1915, Dolores’ father, then 15-year-old Harvey, decided to join the Army. He arrived home in uniform, complete with spurs. His true age was soon discovered so he was quickly discharged without ever leaving Canada.
As a family man, Harvey took Dolores and her brother, Donald, to the homestead on summer Sunday afternoons. There were usually many aunts, uncles and cousins present. The aunts would be inside chatting to “Mother” while the men stood around outside visiting or admiring her Uncle Neil’s latest automobile, always polished and cleaned to perfection. For the children, the highlight of the visit was when their Uncle Tom took all the young cousins into the machine shed and weighed them on the large platform scale using its removable weights. Her Uncle Tom was a gentle fellow and used to like to sit in the field of his property by the river at the end of River Road just to watch the sunsets.
The road from the “Interprovincial” Alexandra Bridge to the Alonzo Wright Bridge was paved. Once across the narrow iron Wright bridge it was all gravel which could get quite rough and “washboard-y” by the end of a dry summer. There were two or three steep gullies on the road then. The family’s1928 Oldsmobile picked up quite a speed on the way down these hills, prompting the cry, “Hey, Dad, a door just fell off!” and his reply, “Don’t worry, we’ll pick it up on the way home, and if either of you fall out, stay where you are.”
Their old home is now in other hands but the many happy and sad memories are forever in the hearts and minds of the Wilson family descendants.