Snapshots of Our Past ~ Cantley Winters

Cantley 1889 Articles

<em>Echo</em> Cantley <em>Echo</em>

The following article first appeared in The Echo of Cantley Volume 34 no 6, December 2022. This article is made available for the enjoyment of others with the express permission of the Echo of Cantley.

Snapshots of Our Past ~ Cantley Winters

By Margaret Phillips

with best wishes for a happy, healthy holiday from Cantley 1889 volunteers

From 1829 until the early 1960s, Cantley was predominantly a farming community. Farming was not easy here on the edge of the rocky Canadian Shield, but our farmers managed to survive with hard work, ingenuity and the help of family and neighbours. Winter was, of course, the most difficult season, especially since most Cantley farms had no electricity or running water until the late 1950s.

We hope these photos of Cantley’s winters will help you to imagine and appreciate life in Cantley – then and now. Enjoy!


1939 - Cantley’s Russel Blackburn (left) obtained a contract to plow the roads in Cantley. He rented this RD8 bulldozer from L.T. Martin in Ottawa. Photo courtesy Gary Blackburn.

Circa 1956 - Ray Foley “plowing” the road to Brian and Selma Barkham’s house. The Foley farmhouse is seen in the distance. The Foleys had two work horses to pull their buggy, sleigh or snow roller. The snow was not actually ploughed but packed down by the sleigh or “rolled” by a heavy iron roller attached to the horses. Lola Foley’s father, George Burke, once had the contract to roll the roads in winter, as far south as Pointe Gatineau. Photo courtesy Oriana Barkham.

St Andrew’s United Church, built 1877, was of the one of the oldest remaining buildings in Cantley until its demolition in 2020. This simple yet beautiful church was the hub of the Cantley Protestant community for 140 years until its de-consecration in 2016. Eirene McClelland, church organist for almost 35 years, wrote its 100-year history in 1976. Photo Bob McClelland.

April 10, 1971 – the year of “The Big Snow”! John (left) and Stephen Holmes are in the laneway of their family farm. In earlier years, Cantley farms located far from the main road were often totally snowed-in for long periods. Families prepared to be self-sufficient for times of winter isolation. Photo courtesy Mary Holmes.

McGoey-Milks House (694 montée de la Source) was built for the first priest of St. Elizabeth’s Church circa 1870. Cantley carpenter Anthony Milks purchased the house in 1885. The house remained in the Milks family until it was sold in 2008. In 2013, the verandah roof with its exquisite gingerbread trim was destroyed by ice. Photo Bob McClelland.

1940 – The “Old Cantley Road” (montée de la Source) at chemin Saint-Andrew - view towards St. Andrew’s United Church (right). The deep trench indicates a bulldozer ploughed the road. “The Big Elm’, as it was known, had a diameter of 5 feet, crown of 85 feet. In 1960 it was cut to widen the road. The telephone pole and line, owned by the East Wakefield Telephone Cooperative, provided rural telephone service to Cantley and the Wakefield area. Mme Déziel was the telephone operator. Photo courtesy Hubert McClelland.

To supplement family income, most Cantley farmers left home in winter to work elsewhere, leaving their wives to manage the farm and family. Many worked in logging camps north of Cantley like the one in this photo showing Cantley’s Joseph B. Holmes (left) with his co-workers. Photo courtesy Theresa Lynott Holmes.

Ann and Russel Blackburn are returning home from St. Andrew’s Church to their farm on River Road, late 1930s. Ann’s beloved horse Molly is pulling their sleigh. Photo courtesy Gary Blackburn.

December 1978 – Ruggie Holmes and his son John scouting for Christmas trees on their farm. Photo courtesy Mary Holmes.

Winter 1976 - Bob and Mary Anne Phillips moved into their retirement home, La Grange. Built in 1819, this gigantic Ontario barn was slated for demolition in 1972. Determined to save it, they dismantled each log then transported them to Cantley when the ground froze. They spent four more years reconstructing and adapting it as their home. Today La Grange de la Gatineau hosts public events, concerts and weddings. Photo M. Phillips.

1970 – Cantley’s Phillips family rescued this small 1835 barn from demolition. They dismantled it log by log then reconstructed it on their Cantley property. Photo M. Phillips.

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