GHISLAINE (KINGSBERRY) SINCENNES (1948-2015)
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]
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CATHERINE (TIMLIN) O’BOYLE HOLMES (1825-1911)
Catherine, known as Ketty, was born in County Mayo, Ireland, to tenant farmers. She experienced the horrors of the Great Irish Hunger of 1847 and the death of a husband and two children before immigrating to Canada. She embarked on the perilous Atlantic crossing with her sister, brother-in-law, and their children. One by one, the family died, and Catherine, always a religious woman, bribed the sailors with biscuits to ensure they were allowed a small wake before being thrown into the sea. After making her way to Kingston, where she was quarantined, she joined a group of people walking the nearly 200 kilometres to Bytown (Ottawa), where she found work as a maid.
Through friends in Cantley, Catherine met and married another Irish immigrant, William Holmes. Thus began the second phase of Catherine’s life as a busy farm wife and mother of nine on an isolated farm in Wilson’s Corners. She worked the land, raised a large family, smoked a clay pipe, and never missed saying the rosary at night. Her faith saw her tramping through the bush with her two-week-old daughter, ferrying across the Gatineau River, and continuing the journey to St. Stephen’s Church in Chelsea on foot to have her baby baptized.
Catherine and William worked their piece of farm land for 14 years before receiving their land grant, and the farm has remained in the family ever since. Although Catherine received letters from Ireland, she never returned to her homeland.
To view video of Catherine’s life click HERE
[PHOTO: COURTESY OF AGATHA HOLMES DALY]
ALICE (CROSS) WILSON (1870-1948)
Alice Cross Wilson led a busy life, as lively as the powerful set of rapids beside which she made her home.
Alice and her husband, Samuel Wilson, ran the Peerless Hotel, a four-story, 30-room brick hotel at the heart of the community of Cascades. In addition to guests, which included workers from the log drive and the Chelsea dam, the hotel housed the town’s post office, telephone exchange, and general store. It was also home to Alice’s ten children, her mother, and her grandfather, who lived to be 104.
In addition to the task of raising a large family, running a hotel, and hosting a variety of social activities, including fundraising events during the First World War, Alice played organ at Anglican and United services for over forty years. Her children remember her practicing hymns at night, after she had put them to bed, the music wafting up through a stove-pipe hole in the large dining-room ceiling. One of their favourites was “Shall we gather at the river, the beautiful, beautiful river,” which they always assumed was about their beautiful Gatineau River and the unusual, bustling home their mother had built for them, and many others, there.
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ADA ALMIRA (BROWN) REID (1874-1948)
Female writers were not commonplace at the turn of the century, and young girls had even fewer opportunities to have their voices heard. And yet, at the age of fourteen, Ada Almira Brown became the valley correspondent for the Ottawa Evening Citizen.
Ada was the third generation to work the land on her family’s Cantley farm. Well versed in farm life, she was also a prize-winning student at Cantley’s one-room school, where, after completing the curriculum, she spent her final year studying the dictionary.
For several years between 1895 and 1907, Ada was paid for her writings with a subscription to the Citizen, a pad of yellow paper on which she wrote her notes, and an honorarium of $30 a year. She wrote in a cheerful, down-to-earth manner about country life, informing her readers of the climate and soil of Quebec, the seasons (spring being her favourite), and the types of crops sown and animals raised on local farms. She also offered her observations on the larger world, giving us a glimpse of Ottawa as a booming capital of 40,000 with policemen constantly patrolling the streets to keep order.
In 1905, Ada married Charles Howard Reid of Kirk’s Ferry, where she spent the rest of her life as a busy farm wife and mother of five children. Her descendants still live in Chelsea. [PHOTO: GVHS 00834]
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ALICE (POWERS) MCGLASHAN (1902-1987)
Alice Powers came to Cantley as a teacher in 1924. After marrying Maynard McGlashan in 1925, she devoted herself to raising a family and running the McGlashan General Store at Wilson’s Corner. At the heart of the community, the two-story wooden building was home to a general store, post office, and the McGlashan family residence.
Alice had her hands full raising a family and running a business with none of the modern conveniences we rely on today. The store, for example, did not receive electricity until 1948. Then, on a dark morning in late January of 1938, her strength was truly tested. At 5:00 a.m. while snow was falling, the roads were blocked solid, and Alice’s husband and two-year-old son, both very ill, were staying with family in Ottawa, the building caught fire. Despite the community’s best efforts with a bucket brigade, it burnt to the ground. Everything was lost.
Alice took her eight-year-old son across the road to stay at Mrs. Lawlis’s boarding house, where a broken window pane allowed snow in onto the bed as they slept. Within days of the fire, Alice had set up a temporary general store and post office in the boarding house living room. Soon, she moved the operation to a small house on the store property, where she carried on until a new store was built. There was barely a pause in service as, supported by her neighbours, Alice showed tremendous strength and determination in the face of a disaster that could easily have robbed Wilson’s Corner of an important community hub.
Video: In January 1928, a devastative fire destroyed the McGlashan General Store in Wilson’s Corner. Alice sets out to reopen a temporary store in a neighbour’s home. To view video of Alice’s life click HERE [PHOTO: COURTESY OF PETER McGLASHAN]
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