Ghislaine Sincennes was a busy farmer, mother of five, craftswoman, and volunteer, but she always made room in her life for more—more people at her kitchen table and more community causes to support.

During the summer, you could always find her on her International tractor, raking hay in the fields with her husband, Gérard. Spring would find her at the couple’s sugar shack, la Sucrerie Sincennes. Following a request to allow school children to visit, the Sincennes opened the sugar shack to the public, who delighted in learning about the process of producing some of Quebec’s most famous maple syrup. At both the farm and the sugar shack, Ghislaine and Gérard were wonderful hosts. Over the years, they welcomed countless young people from the Katimavik program, who loved being on their farm so much they sometimes chose to live there instead of returning to the group accommodations at Camp Gatineau. During the summer, Ghislaine often cooked for over a dozen people, including family, friends, neighbours, and Katimavik participants, who kept in close touch long after their stay on the farm was over.

When her husband’s illness prompted a move from the farm to the village, Ghislaine threw herself into work at her church, the Paroisse Ste-Cécile de Masham, where she sang in the church choir and helped organize the church’s 150th anniversary celebrations. She participated on countless committees, including the Cercle des fermières du Quebec, where she worked at the local and provincial levels. She was also a talented craftswomen, particularly skilled at knitting and quilting. An active member of the parents’ school committee, she was instrumental in lobbying to establish Masham’s high school, École secondaire des Lacs. In 2001, during the International Year of Volunteers, she was honoured as Volunteer of the Year for La Pêche. [PHOTO: COURTESY OF ANDRÉ SINCENNES]

<back to top>

Mary McConnell (1816-1887)

Mary McConnell

Mary McConnell (1816-1887)

This extraordinary pioneer was one of the builders of the Outaouais region. Mary was born in 1816 and was a McConnell, a prominent family involved in the logging industry. In 1837, she married Robert Conroy, an ambitious merchant with whom she had 10 children.

The couple settled in Aylmer and built the British Hotel. Later, the McConnell-Conroys invested primarily in the development of transportation services, such as wood slides, embarkation docks, paving the Aylmer Road, and bridges, as well as stagecoach services.

In 1857, Mary bought the Deschênes Rapids farm, which became one of the most successful dairy farms in the Outaouais region. After her husband died in 1868, she took over the family businesses and modernized their sawmill. Later, she built a second sawmill with railway tracks running through it. Her mills produced up to 30 million feet of board in one season and employed 200 workers. This economic boom helped to establish the beginnings of the village of Deschênes Mills along the banks of the Ottawa River.

When she retired, she left her businesses to her children. Her sons, Robert and William Conroy, built a hydroelectric generating station on the Deschênes Rapids to power the surrounding neighbourhoods, factories and the streetcar linking Hull and Ottawa to Aylmer. The foundations of the hydroelectric dam are still visible today.

Mary’s acute business sense could have made her a ‘lumber baron’, a title reserved only for the men of that time. (Portrait ca 1875-80, artist unknown)

Lucy Faris (1855-1924)

Lucy Faris

Lucy Faris (1855-1924)

Lucy Faris was born in Aylmer in 1855 to one of the first families to settle in the village. Her father, John Faris, was probably a farmer; her mother was called Mary Benedict. They had eleven children.

From a young age, Lucy enjoyed reading, listening to music, playing games, embroidery, crocheting, drawing, and so on. She had a lifelong dream of creating an educational and cultural facility for the good of all Aylmer residents, large and small, so they would have the chance to learn and play.

This benefactress, who lived her entire life in Aylmer, made her mark upon her death in 1924 by bequeathing the assets of a fund bearing her name, “Lucy Faris”, to open a library. She also donated her entire personal collection, which included 220 books, as well as periodicals, games, works of art and records. Her vision and community spirit led to the opening of Aylmer’s first library in 1938.

In May 2004, the town named a new library to honour her memory, which occupies two floors in Place des Pionniers. We should never forget the name Lucy Faris, a visionary who emphasized the importance of education for all, according to their interests, in a community space that will always be called the Lucy Faris Library, situated in the Old Aylmer neighbourhood of Gatineau.  (Photo courtesy of Robert Ferris)

Marjorie Davison (1915 – 1967)

Marjorie Davison

Marjorie Davison (1915-67)

Marjorie Davison was born in Aylmer in 1915. She was a member of one of the pioneering families. Her great-grandfather, James Finlayson Taylor, was one of Aylmer’s first inhabitants and a contemporary of Charles Symmes, the city’s founder.

In 1921, when she was only six years old, Marjorie was deeply affected by the great fire that ravaged much of the city. Perhaps this explains her fascination with the fires that marked her professional life! Marjorie documented many fires. A talented photographer, she was one of the first women in the country to join the national press in the 1940s, at a time when the world of journalism was still fiercely male. As part of her journalistic duties, she interviewed and photographed numerous political figures, as well as several dignitaries from varied backgrounds.

Marjorie quickly gained prominence as her photos appeared in prestigious magazines and newspapers such as Time, Mayfair, Life, Saturday Night and The Globe and Mail. The success and toughness of this determined woman in a male-dominated environment would go on to inspire many stories about her career. She eventually realized her dream by creating and running her own Ottawa news agency, the Capital Press Service, which employed six people.

Marjorie was passionate about history and antiques and went on to write a book on Canadian furniture with her husband, Philip Shackleton. Her archives are held by the Aylmer Heritage Association. They are a valuable resource for knowing and appreciating our regional history and heritage. (Photo: Aylmer Achives)