Crab apple tree leads archeologists to a lost farm near Tanger

This tree south of Tanger Outlets led archeologists to a 19th century farm site. Photo by Glen Gower / September 2015

(Above: This old crab apple tree just south of Tanger Outlets led archeologists to the site of a the 19th century Burroughs Farm. Photo by Glen Gower / September 2015.)

It’s hard to imagine Kanata/Stittsville without an NHL arena, without big box stores, without the Queensway. But every once in a while, we get a little reminder of what this area used to be like when it was known as one of the finest farming communities in Eastern Ontario.

Within the next couple of years, pending development approvals, the second phase of Tanger Outlets will be built, including a hotel and restaurants.  Phase two will be built between the Queensway and Feedmill Creek, the waterway that flows from west to east across the property.

According to the development plan, archeological features next to the creek will be preserved and incorporated into the landscaping of a park on the site.

Fotenn, the consulting company that’s developing plans for the site, couldn’t tell me exactly what that park would look like, or what  those foundations are, but they appear to be remains from one of two farmsteads that operated on the site.

In 2009, as part of an archeological assessment of the site, a team of researchers led by archaeologist Nicholas Adams uncovered the remains of the George Burroughs farmstead, a farming operation from the early 1840’s until the 1870’s.

They also found the remains of structures from a later farm that operated on the land until at least the early 1990s.

What’s interesting is how they came across the old farm:  It was all thanks to a crab apple tree.

Burroughs tree and fencepost
Fencepost with crab apple tree in the background. September 2015.

 

The archeological team first noticed the tree while surveying the site in early spring 2009, and recognized right away that there was something different about it.

“A large sunken feature surrounding an old crab apple tree was the first indication that an historic archaeological site was present between Feedmill Creek and Highway 417 in the southeastern quadrant of the property.”

“Although this feature lay in close proximity to the remains of the more modern farm, it was evidently of some antiquity since the tree growing from its centre was clearly old.”

Further excavation of the area uncovered artifacts and evidence of a farm that operated in the mid-19th century.

Based on old maps, census data and other historical references, we can get a pretty good idea of who owned the land over the years, and what was on it.

1863 Walling Map, showing the land that George Burroughs owned in Huntley.
The 1863 Walling Map, showing the land that George Burroughs owned in Huntley. The dark line at across the bottom left is what’s now known as Maple Grove. The diagonal black line from top to bottom was the line between Huntley and March townships, now known as Huntmar Drive. The Carp River squiggles just east of the line.

 

Detail from  the 1879 Belden Atlas showing the study area.
Detail from the 1879 Belden Atlas showing the study area. Huntmar Drive is the road along the bottom, and what’s now known as  Maple Grove would be on the left.

 

Burroughs and Black farm, 1976 GeoOttawa Maps
Here’s what the land looked like in 1976. Huntmar runs diagonally across the right side of the photo. The Black Farm is at the top, and the “newer” Burroughs farm is in the middle. Back then, the Queensway ended at Eagleson/March. Construction on the Highway 7 interchange just west of here had already started, and the Queensway would open in 1978.  Aerial photo via geoOttawa / click for full size.

 

Aerial photo from 1991. Both the Black and Burroughs farms are still there.
Same location, aerial photo from 1991. Both the Black and Burroughs farms are still visible. Map via geoOttawa / click for full size.  The buildings on both farms were torn down sometime between 1991-1999.

 

This maps shows areas with high and potential of pre-contact archeological artificats on the Tanger Outlet site.
This maps shows the location of the two Burroughs Farms, as well as areas along Feedmill Creek where there’s a high potential of finding pre-contact archaeological evidence.  The earlier Burroughs Farm is close to Feedmill Creek; the newer farm is closer to Huntmar Road. There was a third farm nearby to the north known as Black Farm.

 

Adams outlines the likely ownership of the property and farm in the report:

The 1851 Personal Census shows George, his wife Anne and their several children, all of whom were born in Upper Canada beginning about 1831. The family lived near John Burroughs. A John Burroughs, who emigrated from Mothell, Kilkenny … appears on the 1822 Census for Huntley, so the presence of other Burroughs families may represent chain immigration of a large family group.

In 1851, George Burroughs had fifty acres cleared, of which twenty were in crop, and thirty in pasture. He was present in the township through to his death in 1879. The 1871 Census records him as having one house, 1 storehouse, four barns and stables, and a large number of agricultural implements.

It also records that 80 acres of his total of 250 acres were cleared. We know that the Burroughs family owned other farms in the area, but it is not clear how much of the farm on Lot 3 was cleared at the time.

His wife, Ann Booth Burroughs, appears on the 1881 Census, living next to her son, Benjamin. Ann died in 1882, and in 1885/6, Benjamin Burroughs is listed in a local directory as the owner of part of Concession 1, Lot 3. The Burroughs family also owned Lot 1, Concession 1, and Lot 2, Concession 2, at this time.

Walling’s Map of 1863 shows a structure on the property, close to the southern boundary of the lot, with a significant setback from the township line. A map of 1878 suggests that in the intervening years the house location had changed. On this map, in Belden’s Historical Atlas, the house is shown closer to the township line, and near the northerly property boundary, in close proximity to the Black Farm.

It’s possible the original house on the 1863 map burned in the great fire of 1870.  Most homes and buildings in the area were obliterated by the fire.

(The Burroughs would eventually sell Lot 1, Concession 1 to James and Jane Boyd, who I’ve written about previously.)

George Burroughs died in 1879 and is buried in the United cemetery in Carp.
George Burroughs died in 1879 and Ann (Booth) Burroughs died in 1882.  They are buried together at the United cemetery in Carp.

 

Field work being conducted on the site. Photo via the archaeological report prepared by Adams Heritage.
Field work being conducted on the site. Photo via the archaeological report prepared by Adams Heritage.
The report notes: "A large sunken feature surrounding an old crab apple tree was the first indication that an historic archaeological site was present between Feedmill Creek and Highway 417 in the southeastern quadrant of the property." Photo via the archaeological report prepared by Adams Heritage.
The crab apple tree as it looked in 2009. Photo via the archaeological report prepared by Adams Heritage.

***

A number of artifacts were found that are believed to date from between 1840-1879, including hand-painted dishes, window glass, a cast iron kettle and a green glass bottle. The also found what they believed to be an old fence line, marked by a lilac bush and a line of maple trees.

A toy pistol found in what was probably once a garbage pile on the site. Photo via the archaeological report prepared by Adams Heritage.
A toy pistol found in what was probably once a garbage pile on the site. Photo via the archaeological report prepared by Adams Heritage.
Some of the artifacts excavated from the site. Photo via the archaeological report prepared by Adams Heritage.
Some of the artifacts excavated from the site. Photo via the archaeological report prepared by Adams Heritage.

 

A plate found on the site. Photo via the archaeological report prepared by Adams Heritage.
A plate found on the site. Photo via the archaeological report prepared by Adams Heritage.
A map showing possible locations of farm buildings.  From the archaeological report prepared by Adams Heritage.
A map showing possible locations of old farm buildings. From the archaeological report prepared by Adams Heritage.  The location of the crab apple tree is the box in the top middle.   The Queensway would be to the left of this map, and Huntmar Drive on the bottom.

 

The Burroughs tree as it looked in September 2015.
The Burroughs tree as it looked in September 2015.

 

The items found are useful for establishing a date of the farm that was there, but don’t have any special significance themselves.

“Toy guns (are) not so common, but typical of the kind of twentieth century trash one can anticipate from a farmyard that has been in active use well into the twentieth century,” says Adams.

“Same with the pottery.  Usually we find smaller bits, but people create garbage and since a broken plate is no longer useful, it gets thrown out to wherever garbage is thrown.  The same materials could be found around old farmsteads on every single 100 acre piece of property in Carleton County (or the whole of eastern Ontario, for that matter).  So no, not rare, not unusual and not particularly interesting,” he says.

The Burroughs tree, as seen from the south side of Tanger Outlets. September 2015
The Burroughs tree, as seen from the south side of Tanger Outlets. September 2015.
Looking east from the tree location. Fenceposts in the foreground, Canadian Tire Centre in the distance. September 2015.
Looking east from near the crab apple tree. Fenceposts in the foreground, Canadian Tire Centre in the distance. September 2015.

 

The site has been registered as “BhFx-40”, and notes that it should be preserved and protected from any development activities.

It’s not entirely clear what will happen to the tree or the archeological remains when Tanger’s phase two is built.

The tree itself is visible from the road south of the current Tanger mall, near the children’s playground.  It’s surrounded by protective fencing, as are two other large trees nearby.  The area is grown over with weeds, and there are a few newly-planted trees, but the crab apple tree still stands out.

Earlier this year I asked Fotenn, the company that developed the plan for the site, about what will happen to the trees and the remains of the farm.

“At this point, RioCan and Tanger are considering the options for the site. The site plan that was submitted to the City is still very much in flux and is subject to change based on lease deals, revisions responding to city comments, etc. We continue to work with the City and the Province regarding the archaeology present on the site,” replied planner Paul Black.

***

I wonder if George and Ann Burroughs could ever have imagined what Concession 1, Lot 3 of Huntley would eventually become, with outlet stores across the creek and a highway next door?  What would they think, what would they say if they could see their farm today?

(This article was based on research contained in an archaeological assessment written by Nicholas R. Adams for Adams Heritage, June 30, 2009.)


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4 thoughts on “Crab apple tree leads archeologists to a lost farm near Tanger”

  1. A friend forwarded this article to me, interestingly enough I had told her over the summer about my husband’s genealogy and how are families over 5 generations back were connected through to the Burroughs. Some of the Burroughs (and Scharf) family cemetery remains on Hazeldean Road across from Farm Boy. I hope they continue to preserve the land.

  2. C’est bien connu lorsqu’on trouve un vieux pommier dans un endroit isolé c’est assurément qu’il y a eu une habitation tout près.Il faut aussi faire attention parce qu’il y a de fortes chances qu’il y ait des anciennes latrines aussi où une personne pourrait tomber et se blesser.

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