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Farm Lane

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The people who lived in Mulgrave during the 1900s would probably agree that this was the most commonly known farm in the township, owned by the Cameron and Edwards Co. of Thurso, QC.  The one-mile section of the current Highway 315 splits “The Farm” in half.  From the early 1800s through the early 1900s one of the largest industries in and around Mulgrave and Derry was the logging industry.  The large pine trees were being cut down and floated to Thurso via the Inlet and Blanche rivers.  To support this industry, the logging companies set-up farms that would provide lodging for horses and their teamsters at intervals of a day’s drive, by horse.  As men and horses were moved to the logging camps, these farms became stopovers.  They were also used by the people taking supplies to the logging camps in the winter.  Some of the farms served as local offices for the logging companies.

 

The original house and farm buildings were situated on and around the current house and barn. The original farm was known as “The Edwards Farm” and housed a manager or agent, a post office and a store where settlers could buy staples and sell some of their produce. In the late 1800s, a new house was built and was known as the Castle.  Unfortunately, in 1926, the Castle was completely destroyed by fire. A smaller house was built and is still being used as a home.

   

The Farm provided employment for men to farm the land.  Cattle and pigs were raised to provide meat to the logging camps.  Women worked as cooks and housemaids to support the guests and managers of the farm.  Eventually, the need for this type of farm and accommodation dwindled, and in 1928 the logging company decided to plant pine trees on the farm.

When the several hundred acres of farmland was planted into trees, many of the local people were upset at the disappearance of the oats and hay fields. Over time the pine trees grew and the “Farm Lane” became a picturesque drive.  In the early 1970s, Johnny French harvested the first trees, enough to build a house located at number 5360 Highway 315. In the last 40 years or so, some areas of the plantation were thinned out by local loggers such as the Miller Bros. (Carl, Alvin and Johnnie) to allow the larger trees to mature faster. Also small sections were clear cut and replanted. Again, there were disgruntled people saying how bad it looked. But it only takes about 15 years for the new pine trees to fill in the landscape. This winter 2018/2019, all the remaining original trees which are 90 years old and mature will be clear cut to make way for a new plantation. Once again, there will be people, myself included, who will lament the loss of this picturesque drive through the pines.  However, as the trees disappear it is nice to see the mountains on the opposite side Blanche Lake and we will have several years to see how the farm looked back in 1928.

     

My aunt and uncle, Mary and Archie Teske were living on the farm at the time the trees were planted. Archie worked as a warden for the logging company, which at that time was owned by the Singer Manufacturing Company.  Among other tasks, Archie’s job required him to trek several days a week through the land limits of the logging company, looking for illegal activity and for forest fires.  To support the fire watch, there was a lookout tower on a mountain about 1.5 miles from their house.  Another employee manned the tower eight months of the year.  Over the years Frank Teske, Archie Teske, Donald Teske, Orville Teske, Russel Berndt, Larry Miller, Marquis Rogers, Carl Miller and Neil Teske manned the tower.  The tower was eventually bought by another municipality, disassembled and moved to another site with the intention of using it as a tourist attraction.  However, the tower was never reassembled.

 

When Archie died as a young man, his son Donald at age 17 took over his responsibilities.  Donald eventually bought 2 acres of the farm and the house and lived there until he passed away in 2016. Donald was and still is admired by family and friends for taking on and excelling in a “man’s” job at such a young age.  Donald’s son Gary still lives at the family home.

 

The Farm was the first house in the area to have a telephone.  This Company phone was connected to the fire tower and to the public telephone system.  It took another 20 to 30 years before the telephone was installed throughout the rest of Mulgrave. The Farm’s phone was often used when there was an emergency in Mulgrave.

 

There were numerous fire towers situated strategically throughout Quebec. If the person in a tower saw smoke in the distance, he would telephone other towers.  If two or more towers could see the smoke then they could plot the coordinates on a map and determine the exact location of the fire. This information would be relayed to the Fire Warden closest to the fire who would gather a number of local men to proceed to the fire and attempt to put it out. The Fire Warden had the authority to order anyone in the vicinity to help fight a fire.  This could include locals or sportsmen (fishermen and club members etc.) or people just passing through the area.

 

The older people in Mulgrave still refer to the “Farm Bridge” now named the Blanche Bridge, which crosses the exit of the Blanche Lake. The mountain situated west of the Blanche Lake and the part of “Highway 315” that runs along the face of the mountain are both locally referred to as the “Farm Mountain”.  Travelling south from the bridge, the first hill that you climb was locally known as Simpson’s Hill. At the time of the Castle fire, Robert Simpson was Manager of the Farm for the new owner, the Singer Manufacturing Company. After 20 years or so, Mr. Simpson built a cottage on the Blanche Lake. The driveway exits off the Simpson Hill, and the Simpson family still own and use the cottage.

  

At the north end of the Farm Lane, there were two churches, Mulgrave Baptist Church and Our Lady of Light Catholic Church on land that was at least partially donated by the logging company. The Catholic Church building remains, along with the cemeteries for each denomination.  However, the Catholic Church is now being used as a cultural centre.

 

Across the road from Our Lady of Light Catholic Church (now called Our Lady of Light Cultural Centre), Mulgrave & Derry had a town hall that was built around 1900 and torn down in the 1960s.  The location of the town hall was almost directly across from the current entrance to the church. One corner of the town hall rested on the ground. The remainder of the building was sitting on 10 inch wooden pilings extending as far as 6 feet above the ground. The Municipal council eventually rented space in Buckingham to hold their monthly meetings.  I often wonder if the municipal council was concerned that if there was a “raucous” meeting, they might all end up in the Blanche River.

 

There was also a school house located behind the Baptist Church on the northeast corner of Highway 315. In the early 1960s, it was moved to the Gull Lake Road and became a new home for Engwer and Mildred Hansen and their son Edward.  In 2019, the original location of the school will become the site of the new Municipal garage. 

  

In the 1950s The Union Nationale Party of Quebec made an election promise to provide money to build a “community” hall in Mulgrave. This grant was eventually given to the Catholic Church and Jack Roos was hired to build the hall on church property.  It was situated alongside the Inlet road and the Catholic Church controlled access, renting it out to celebrate engagements, weddings, anniversaries, retirements and fund raisers etc.  Eventually, the building began to deteriorate and was torn down in the 1980s. The newly erected Hill and Gully Riders Snowmobile clubhouse became the new venue for large parties and gatherings.

    

The Farm Lane ends at the 3-way stop near the church making it the “hub” of Mulgrave.  Turning left onto Smallian Road and travelling north for 12 kilometers takes one to the southern limit of the Papineau Labelle Park.  The area west and somewhat east of the Smallian Road is known as the “Blanche” with the Blanche River following the road. Turning right at the 3-way stop and continuing 1.5 kilometers on Highway 315 one will reach another 3-way stop.  At this point if one turns right, Highway 315 continues around Blanche Lake and eventually east towards Ripon. This southeastern area is known as “Jarnac”.  At the same 3-way stop if one travels straight, one will be on the Inlet Road, travelling north east and the road comes to a dead end. This area is known as the “Inlet” with the Inlet River running through it.  Most people visiting or living in Mulgrave travel through this hub.

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