Day 34 – July 10 – Ottawa, ON

We had a really nice day today. The weather was awesome; nice and warm. We drove over to the Garden of the Provinces and Territories, but it looked like a nice green space with lots of big trees. We did not see any flower gardens so headed off to our chosen second place of the day.

The Billings Estate Historic Site is the home of the first settlers in Glouchester Township. They came north from the USA based on the promise of free land in Upper Canada. Braddish & Lamira were newly married when they arrived in 1813. He was 30. She was 17.

With hard work and determination they raised seven children and built a prosperous farming enterprise. Five generations of the family lived here and when the last of the Billings moved away local heritage groups and the City of Ottawa saved the house and the remaining land. Over the years they had built the property until it encompassed 1200 acres.

They had nine children but Cynthia died after a lengthy painful illness at age 3. They still have the letter Lamira wrote to Braddish telling him of the death of his daughter. They also had a son who died at ten months.

As they increased their holdings they had a sawmill and the farm raised produce which was sold at Byword market as well as eggs, cream, butter, and cheese. Many of their children pursued careers and interests outside of the family farm but the Billings estate would remain in the family for almost 150 years.

The family was very philanthropic. They donated land for a school, and a hospital, and financed the building of them. They contributed to the construction of a bridge that enable the growing community to easily get their produce and products to the market. Lamira built a church and two of her daughters also financed the construction of churches. Braddish acted as an unofficial banker and supplied land and financing for the first post office and general store. He leased land and loaned money to other area residents. Between 1825 and 1850 Braddish filled a number of leadership roles in the community, including warden. town clerk, assessor, collector, pound-keeper, overseer of highways, councilor and justice of the peace.

A very industrious, community minded family that included a son who was Canada’s first paleantologist, a proflific scientific writer, who discovered 60 new genera and over 1000 new species of fossils – which made him world famous. Two of his sons were architects and amateur paleantologists as well and one of them donated his fossils to the British Museum. Braddish II founded the Botanical Society of Canada and was vice-president of the Entomological Society of Canada. He identified 2000 species of plants in the Prescott area alone. Some of his collections went to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington. Another son was a geologist and enginner. Even the females in the family had careers. It was two of the daughters that continued to run the farm and businesses after Braddish and Lamira died. Of the 14 women in the family generations only three of them ever married.

The estate contains the oldest cemetery in Ottawa. The original gravestones deteriorated over time and were replaced in the 1930s with these white marble ones. Most of them have a weeping willow at the top as a symbol of sorrow and eternal life. Some are cracked and have been repaired so they have all been brought to this building to preserve them and small markers are now in the cemetery.

On the window at the ticket counter at the Billings Estate was poster for a Vintage car show at the Cumberland Heritage Village. All pre-1940 vehicles. We had lots of time before we had to be at John’s cousin’s so we got directions from Google and off we went.

It was a large park with many buildings that have been moved to the site from the surrounding area since the mid-1970s. The cars were all in a large grassy area at the park entrance. The car owners would take turns pulling out of their display spot and drive the big loop road in the park. And they often would offer rides to children or adults. Very cool.

We wandered past a few cars, then checked out a few buildings, then a few cars, then a few buildings until we had seen them all.

The cars were displayed clockwise around the lawn with the oldest being the REO on the left of the photo above. I did not take note of models, makes or year of any of the cars. Nor did I photograph every one of them.

Knox Church of Vars. It was a Presbyterian Church from 1904 until union with the Methodist Church in 1925 to become the United Church. The church, complete with furnishings and stained glass windows was decommissioned and moved to the village museum in 1977.

I loved this gorgeous Mercedes-Benz.

This is the most modern house in the museum. It is the Foubert house of 1915 and was a kit house ordered from a catalogue.

The Grier-Spratt House of 1857 and the Cumberland School. The house was originally owned by Anabel Foubert, one of the first settlers in the Village of Cumberland and later the home of the Griers and then the Spratts. For a brief time in the 1860s the house was the home of Dr. James Ferguson, the community’s first medical practitioner. It was disassembled and moved here in 1977.

The French Hill school built in 1900. Nearly 40 students, French and English speaking, in one room, grades 1-8, received a very British education with French taught as a subject. When a French school was built all the French-speaking children moved to that school. Throughout its use it was never equipped with electricity or plumbing. There were two outhouses, one for the boys and one for the girls. The school was closed in 1936 and remained empty until it was moved to the museum.

The front of the Grier-Spratt house.

This tiny little house sat on St. Joseph Boulevard in the center of Orleans until the owner willed it to the museum in 1984. It is a one and a half story house with one room on the main floor that served as kitchen, dining and sitting room and a bedroom in the half attic. The house never had electricity or running water or plumbing. Built in 1820 it was originally located on 200 acres of land owned by Francois Dupuis, a former member of the Regiment des Voyageurs and one of the first settlers in the area. The house served four generations of the Dupuis family.

As we were walking back to our truck we stopped to chat to a fellow at the gate and during our conversation he suddenly stopped and looked to the sky and said, “Here’s our bi-plane.” Apparently someone at the village knew some who knew someone who had a 1938 bi-plane and was attending some function nearby. He agreed to do a couple of flying loops over the car show area. The era of his plane fit right in with the vintage cars.

We drove back to our room at the University of Ottawa and I sorted and edited photos until it was ready to head over to John’s counsin’s for another dinner and visit. We had a great day.

Tomorrow we leave Ottawa and drive down to Cornwall before crossing the St. Lawrence River and heading to Sherbrooke, Quebec for the night. We have really enjoyed our four days in Ottawa. There are still sites to see here so we may have to come back.

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