WHERE THE HECK WAS RIVERSIDE, THE HOUSE OF THE FAIRCHILD FAMILY?

 

            In 1903, Sir James McPherson LeMoine, wrote an essay “A July Outing in the Laurentides” (published as part of a collection in the book Maple Leaves by Lemoine,  in 1906, Frank Carrel, publisher).  In this particular essay, he describes a trip he took with George Moore Fairchild, Jr. through Valcartier on Dominion Day, 1903.  Of interest to me is discovering the location of the house, named Riverside, that belonged to the Fairchild family.

 

            LeMoine starts out his trip by saying “As we approached what is known as the settlement (the village proper), we passed the site of the Wolff homestead, which is only indicated now by a clump of lilacs…The settlement can yet hardly be called a village.  It straggles along a mile of wide road.  We were much pleased with the appearance of the little Episcopal Church…On a commanding hillock is the Presbyterian church…Some little distance further on we came to the Roman Catholic Church…”  From this description, we can tell the direction of travel – from southeast to northwest.

 

            He continues “Bidding good-bye to the Colonel, a sweep of the road brought us within sight of the Jacques Cartier river, far famed for its beautiful scenes, large trout, and goodly salmon near its mouth…Below wound the Jacques Cartier through many channels among dozens of green islands covered with great elms, and the background, mountains and more mountains for miles and miles.  On a well cleared point nestled the old time great house of the late William Neilson…A fine steel bridge spans the river here, and on a commanding wooded terrace above the river

 we come to the lovely summer home of Mr. G.M. Fairchild, senior.  It is our humble opinion, one of the most picturesque homesteads about Quebec.  It is appropriately named Riverside, for the river almost encircles it, and along the latter’s wooded shores are well trimmed paths, rustic seats, log camps and summer houses large enough to be lived in, a boat house and camping grounds and picnic spots, for the owner is never so happy as when others are enjoying the fruits of his well-planned property…Alas! The lengthening shadows round the green Tsononthuan mountain in rear of Riverside, bid me prepare to leave…”

 

            In his book From My Quebec Scrapbook, written by George Moore Fairchild, Jr. in 1907, there is the following picture on page 36.  No mention of the house occurs in the text of the book.

 

           

 

 

 

 

 

 

And this is a picture from the LeMoine book:

 

 

It appears to me that the first picture may be a sketch and the second picture may be a photograph.  Notice though the different types of roofs.

 

 

 

This picture belongs to Sylvia Fairchild – her husband is a descendant of the Fairchilds.

 

 

On the back it says, “Riverside, residence of GM Fairchild, your great grandfather (this was written to Stuart Fairchild II) and before him of your great-great-grandfather William Neilson.”

 

This implies that the house first belonged to William Neilson and then was sold to George Moore Fairchild, Sr.  The following reference may support this:

 

            In a report from the Public Archives of Canada, Ottawa, School Report of Trustees to John Neilson, Sr. – the end of the report is signed “Mr. William Neilson, Riverside, Valcartier; November 21, 1833”.  (from Bernie Monaghan’s Writings, 1980s, Section 3, p. 72).

 

A current local resident told me that he thinks this picture could have been taken from the steel bridge (looking towards the now Marist Brothers’ property).  He remembers seeing this view as a youngster – the Jacques Cartier, the embankment going up to the Main Valcartier Road, the road itsel and the hedge of Spruce trees.  He does not remember seeing this house though.  Notice that there is another house right along the river, on the left side of the photo.  Could this be Riverside?  Or could it be the house that is now on the Marist property (the house with the yellow window trim on the next page).  It would be interesting to know when that house was built.

 

            It is fairly well-known that William Neilson owned two houses – both houses still stand.  One is located on the current property of the Marist Brothers (I would describe this as being on the southside of the River, before you cross the Iron Bridge when leaving the Village of Valcartier). 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a picture of that house –

 

 

           

The other house is on the opposite side of the river, after crossing the Iron Bridge and making a right turn onto Chemin Lewis.  Interestingly, as you enter this property, there is a sign that says “Riverside Farms”.  The house is currently in a state of deterioration.  It is known locally as the Clark/Montgomery House (as they were later owners).  It is possible that it was built by John Neilson around 1830 but there is some evidence to suggest that his son, William, built in closer to 1850.  I think the houses look very similar – same type of roofs, same window and chimney placements – possibly indicating they may have been built by the same person.

 

This is a view from the roadside of the house (back of the house) that was taken about 2008.

 

This is the same house viewed from the riverside (front of house).  Much of this façade side has fallen away.

 

Neither the house on the Marist Brothers property or the Neilson/Clark House appears to me to look architecturally like the house that was called Riverside and owned by G. M. Fairchild – thus the mystery.  The rooflines and window placement do not match the pictures of “Riverside”.  No one seems to remember another large house, such as Riverside, being located near the river.  It would seem likely that someone would remember it if it was still standing in 1903 when LeMoine took his trip.

 

 

For location purposes, here is a current-day map of the area.  I have inserted a # 1 where the first house (belonging to the Brothers) is approximately located and a # 2 where the second house (the Clark/Montgomery House) is on the other side of the Iron Bridge.

 

 

 

So reviewing the clues that LeMoine gave us while on his trip in 1903 –

 

1.       …on a commanding wooded terrace above the river

2.       … for the river almost encircles it

3.       … the green Tsononthuan mountain in rear of Riverside

 

From the map, we can see that there are two curves in the river, that might mean the “river almost encircles it” – the curve above where the #1 is, and the curve below where the #2 is.  However, I think that “above the river” could mean on the far side of the river after crossing the bridge or it could mean on the northside of the river.  Remember that when he was describing it, he was located approximately on the road just by the current “Ecole du Joli-Bois” on the map.  I wouldn’t think that from that location, one would say a house was above the river if it was located where the #1 is situated.

 

 

            If all my suppositions are correct, then that still leaves the question – If the house was located by the Clark/Montgomery House, where was it located?  Since the pictures of that house do not resemble the pictures of the Riverside House, it does not seem likely that they were the same house.

 

 

This is a map that I found indicating Lot numbers in the area I have labelled #1 on the colored map presented earlier (map and article can be found at http://www.freresmaristes.qc.ca/maison_formation/scolasticat_valcartier/levis_1945-1990-1.pdf  )   The Neilson house (the picture above of the house with the yellow paint around the windows) is located on the map marked “Maison Neilson” at the end of the dead-end road.  This is a summary of the history of the different lots from that article:  (I have translated it from the French and my comments are in italics).  Local residents today remember that the property now owned by the Marist Brothers used to be known as “Fairchild Hill”.

 

 

 

Lot 131

1.       In a notary act of 1874, it stated that William Neilson had purchased for $200, part of Lot 131 on August 22, 1857, for his daughter, Isabel, born 1830, and married to Charles Stuart Wolff. (actually she was born in 1831 and she had married Wollf in January of 1857).

2.      The wife of William, Margaret (Cassin), gave the church, part of Lot 131 on July 26, 1877.

3.      It is known that the “Maison Neilson” house was built on the land that William had purchased in 1857.  The building of the house is thought to have occurred about 1860 and over the years has been known by the different names – Maison Neilson, Club House and Villa St. Leon.  (it is pictured above – the house with the yellow paint around the windows and is marked on the map as Maison Neilson).

4.       On the 10th August 1888, William, at the age of 84 stated in his Will:  “give and bequeath to his said wife Elizabeth MacAdams a part of the land one hundred and thirty one of the cadastral plan of the Parish of St. Gabriel of Valcartier, County of Quebec, in the Third Concession North East of the River Jacques Cartier, containing two acres in superficies, bounded as follows: on the North East and North West by the said lot one hundred and thirty one occupied by Mrs. K. Temple Fairchild, and on the South East and South West by the lot one hundred and thirty two occupied by Charles Stuart Wolff with the buildings thereon erected, circumstances and dependencies, together with the household furniture, goods, moveable effects, instruments of agriculture, horses, cows, sheep, and poultry, and all and everything appertaining and belonging to the said Testator by her freely to be possessed and enjoyed  en pleine et entière propriété from the day of his decease and forever.”

5.      In 1911, Cornelius Neilson (son of William and Margaret) inherited part of Lot 131 when, Elizabeth McAdams died.  He had moved to the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area and so sold it to Norman R. Neilson (who was his first cousin, son of John Neilson and Laura Moorhead).

6.      In 1924, Norman Neilson sold to Constance Fairchild, that part of Lot 131 that he owned for $3000.

7.      In 1929, John Herbert Price bought Lot 131-4 from Constance Fairchild.

8.      In 1945, the Marist Brothers bought the property and named in Villa St. Leon in honor of one of the first Brothers who lived there.

 

Lot 132

1.      In 1885, William Neilson sold to Mrs. George Fairchild, lot 132.  Later, this lot was exchanged for lot 131-4, and more recently was known by the owner Bigman.

2.      In 1912, Mrs. George Fairchild gave lots 132, 273 and part of 131 to her younger daughter, Constance.

3.      In 1923, the Quebec Investment Company bought lots 132, 273 and part of 131 from Constance Fairchild.

4.      In 1924, Norman Neilson, sold to Constance, part of Lot 131.

5.      On December 20, 1927, John Herbert Price bought part of Lot 131 and the house that had belonged to William Neilson for $18,607.  Two months later, in February, 1828, he bought from Carl Nathaniel Wolff a large lot by Lake Ferre and the Jacques Cartier River for $8,000.  He built the Manoir situated up the hill in 1829 and 1830.  He also built a chalet situated by the river in 1935.

 

This is a picture of the Manoir that Price built and that is now owned by the Marists.

 

 

 

Of special note:  In this extensive history of the lots that now belong to the Marist Brothers, there is never any mention of a “Riverside” house.

 

Some additional information that may be relevant:

 

·         These two Clark obituaries reference “Riverside” or “Riverview”.

 

 

 

The first obituary is referencing “James Clark”.  According to a local resident, James lived about 200 feet from the Northwest end of the iron bridge and on the opposite side of the entrance road going into the Neilson/Clark/Montgomery house (on my colored map n page 6, this would be on Chemin Murphy to the west of Chemin Redmond).

 

The second obituary is referencing Janet Jack Clark (not the wife of James Clark above but wife of a different James Clark).  She lived in the Neilson/Clark/Montgomery house (reference #2 on the map on page 6 and pictured on pages 3 & 4).

 

So now we have seen that both of these houses were named “Riverside” at some point.

 

·         From a writing by Clark McIntosh in the 1990s (I do not know where the information for this document originated) : 

     “John Neilson owned the land on the west side of the road, centering around Lake Ferre to the Jacques Cartier River, and also a piece of land on the other side of the river – which he divided amongst his two sons, Samuel and William Neilson. The property on the south side of the river became known as “Riverside”.  John had a summer home built and spent time there as a place of solitude and he and his friends used this home for a base for hunting and fishing excursions.  This area was well known for its plentiful game and great fishing!  Andrew Stuart owned a large tract of land on the east side of the road, mostly to the south of the 5th range road. 

        John Neilson employed several people to maintain his property and clearing his land for farming.  John McCartney was employed on September 5th, 1818 to manage his farm.  It is believed that Samuel Clark worked under his supervision.  Ritchie Coughtrie, a servant to the Neilson’s, lived across the street from the Neilson property.  I am not sure if he died in the community, or moved to one of the Neilson’s other properties, as there is no mention of him in the 1825 or 1831 censuses.

        ….By this time, William Neilson, John’s oldest son, was living at Riverside and…”   (my comment – it’s not clear what timeframe is being referred to here – although there is a document signed on November 21st, 1833 where William Neilson signs it “William Neilson, Riverside, Valcartier”).  From this writing, it sounds as if Riverside was located on the side of the river where the current Marist Brothers own property.

·         I found these references to Fairchild properties in the minutes of St. Gabriel Council meetings. 

1.      September 6, 1866 (St. Gabriel East minutes)

“…and resolved that this Council do order the Sec. to give Public Notice and sell to the lowest bidder the contract of building a stone culvert across the road at the foot of the hill on Mr. Fairchild's property and to fill up the place where the bridge is and make it level with the road on both sides The stone culvert to be eighteen inches high and eighteen inches wide and twenty feet long the road to be covered with sods where the fresh sand is put to keep it from running away.”

2.      June 7, 1897

“…Moved by Councilor Jno. Hornby, seconded by Councilor Henry Hicks and resolved that this Council orders the Sec. Treas. to pay Jas. Hamilton, Road Inspector, the sum of $1.25 for the winter keeping of Mr. Geo. Fairchild's front road (on the Ten Lot Road) and collect the same from him immediately.”

3.      July 5, 1897

“…Moved by Councilor Henry Hicks, seconded by Councilor Curtis Brown and resolved that this Council orders the Sec. Treas., to draw up an agree­ment between Mrs. G. M. Fairchild and this Corporation giving her the making and maintaining of her front road from the Iron Bridge to her own gate; in­stead of the share that was allotted to her on the Ten Lot Road, also the keeping of the fence on the East side of the road as far as the line between the Third & Fourth Concessions of this Municipality.”

4.      Feb 7, 1898

“…Moved by Councilor Henry Hicks, seconded by Councilor Jno. Hornby and resolved that this Council agrees to follow the old by-law No. 12, concern­ing the Ten Lot Road and build the share of fence allotted to Mr. G. M. Fa1r­child, by said by-law on account of giving Mr. Fairchild his share of road at the river.”

5.      May 6, 1907

“…Moved by Councillor Pat Gough, seconded by Councillor Thomas Knox and resolved that this Council orders the Sec. Treas. to notify Mrs. F. McClory and Mrs. Fairchild, not to pay taxes for the islands they own in the River Jacques Cartier to the Sec. Treas. of St. Gabriel West, until a boundary line is established in said River.”

6.      May 16, 1910

“…Moved by Councillor Jas. McCartney, seconded by Councillor Graham McBain and resolved that this Council orders John Billing, Road Inspector, to have Mrs. Fairchild's Hill put in proper repair immediately.”

 

·         A note from Wayne Fairchild who sent the picture of the Fairchild house (the one that was labelled on the back of the picture as a Fairchild property) – “I was always told that after the Fairchild's (G.M. Fairchild Sr.) gave up their big property, My Great Aunt Connie lived, likely on the property marked Fairchild on the map, for a number of years, and that this property had originally been the "Gate House" to the big Fairchild property. I was also told that the original Fairchild property later became the Price Polo Club, which is consistent with the history of the current Marist property. I was also taken to one or more of the Neilson properties when I was young, and told they were old family places, but I could never find them again. Now that I see they are actually on the south side of the river, I think at least one of them is the "Maison Neilson" marked on the map.”

 

And this article appeared in the Quebec Chronicle newspaper on July 4, 1919, page 12:

 

The Road to Valcartier

 

            On the long white, winding road, the road to Valcartier, there is a tale of something grand, if one will tune the car to listen to the tramp of silent feet, the myriad silent feet, that have borne the khaki lads to that great rallying centre underneath the shaggy Mountain,  -from whence came to many, so very many, the stupendous ultimate, “over there.”

            But now, beside that long, white, winding road, the road to Valcartier, the daisies and the buttercups are flinging drifts of gold, and clouds of white, a summer tangle, waist-high upon the boy wading through the meadow, with a pole and fish-basket to the bank of this favorite stream.

Out through Les Saules, where the silvery rapids all day make music through the trees, a curve here, a hill there, a glorious expanse of field and pasture and wood, then through the historic streets of Loretteville and the long, cool road between the great dense forests, deep and green as though fresh from the hands of creation. The white-washed cottages of Valcartier are before you.  Once past, you plunge into a narrow roadway, carven marvelously through the overhanging woods.  If a bend in the road is the breathless thing the poetess claims it is, then here is the story of all mystery and all surprise.  Curving through the woods, the road skirts the sands of Lake Faerie, while yonder rises vast and terrible the mountain, beyond which lies the old Valcartier camp.  But he who seeks the way where the world is always young will turn from this and pushing through the woods will emerge upon the bank of the Jacques Cartier river.

            Along the bank stretches “Riverside”, the famous estate of the late Mr. G. M. Fairchild, author and artist. Here the public are welcome, whether to sojourn for an afternoon, a week-end, or a fortnight.  And nowhere better could the wearied man of our dusty cities throw down his knapsack, and play the gypsy, --revert to nature.

            Here you are, less than a score of miles from Quebec, on a vast estate the centre of which is that indescribable old seigneury, that strange old house, with its vast verandah, its rambling raftered rooms, every nook suggestive of the story and romance of French Canada in the long ago, from that ancient officer’s uniform of the Old Sixtieth Battalion, in a glass case, to the old Canadian tallow molds upon the mantle. From the window, from the verandah, wherever one may look there is the great clear river,  (letters missing) stant only by the sloping bank of elms and (letters missing) h down which a woodland path, skirted by (letters missing) green lace of many a delicate fern, leads to the water’s edge, whence, scattered like emerald gems through onyx waters, may be seen a group of wondrous isles.  And there behind loom the inscrutable mountains.  Far away the horizon is purple with their   colossal backe.    In the depths of the wood I heard a hidden waterfall.

 

This article implies that Riverside was on the same side of the River as Lac Ferre and not on the other side of the Iron Bridge. 

 

I am hoping that someone who reads this may be able to solve the mystery either through local knowledge or a search possibly of the deeds that might mention the name “Riverside”.

 

Patricia Balkcom

[email protected]

April 20, 2016