IMAGINE YOU AND YOUR SPOUSE ARE NEWLYWEDS IN YOUR EARLY TWENTIES. You have a young child, maybe an infant, certainly no older than two years old, and you decide to move to a new country, an ocean away.
Would you have the guts to do that today? Imagine the guts it would have taken to do that 165 years ago.
That’s what Richard Flewellyn and his wife Margaret did back in the early 1860s. They sailed across the Atlantic from Ireland with their young son John, with a plan to settle in Canada.
They ended up in a place called Goulbourn Township, probably renting land at first from John Kemp, and then buying 195 acres of land in December 1869 at Concession X, Lot 26, at what’s now 5897 Fernbank Road at the corner of Shea Road in Stittsville. It’s where they would raise 10 kids: five girls, five boys.
The family and their descendants became community leaders, involved in the founding of what’s now Stittsville United Church, and active in the local school board as trustees. They were probably involved in establishing SS #14, a pioneer schoolhouse on the other side of Fernbank that was demolished a few years ago.
In 1886, the family built a stone house that still stands on the property today. It’s now being recommended for heritage designation.
RICHARD FLEWELLYN WAS BORN IN 1835 IN IRELAND, and married Margaret Boyle of Kilkenny, Ireland, born 1839. Their first son John was born in 1860. They arrived in Canada sometime between 1860 and 1863. (One source suggests there was another son, Robert, who died in Ireland.)
Nine children were born in Ontario: William (1863), Richard Henry (1965), George (1866), James (“Jim”) (1868), Emily (1870), Margaret Elizabeth (“Lizzie”) (1876), Harriet (1879), Beatrice (“Bertha”) (1882), and Mabel (1884).
In 1870, a four-acre portion of their land was severed and purchased by the Canada Central Railway Company for a new rail line. In August, less than a year after Richard and Margaret bought their land, the Great Fire destroyed just about everything in the region. It would have likely destroyed whatever home and barns the Flewellyn’s had, along with any crop that managed to grow in the summer drought.
But the pioneers didn’t give up. By 1877 the family had 20 acres cleared on the land, with 9 cattle, 8 sheep, 2 hogs and 4 horses according to the assessment roll. By 1884, 155 acres of their 195 acres of land were cleared, with a propsering farm of 13 cattle, 20 sheep, 3 hogs, and 5 horses.
The family had their share of tragedy and hardship. Son William died in 1885 at the age of 22. No cause of death is listed on the certificate. Then less than a year after the stone house was built – probably the family’s “dream home” – Margaret Flewellyn, matriarch and mom to ten children, died in 1887 of Bright’s Disease (a kidney disorder). She had just turned 48.
That left Richard a single dad with five daughters to look after, ranging in age from 3 to 17.
By 1911, John, Henry and Jim had moved off the farm, and George had taken over as head of household. Richard still lived there along with four of the daughters. Jim ended up moving a concession line south to what’s now known as Flewellyn Road. (That line of the family still owns the land, although they live in West Carleton.)
By around 1900, George had established a large herd of 40 cattle on the farm, which would have provided plenty of milk for the nearby Farmer’s Independent Cheese Factory, where he served as Secretary.
Richard hung on until 1918, passing away at age 83. Both he and Margaret are buried at the United Church Cemetery in Stittsville, along with many of their descendents.
From a 2006 article provided by Bernard Shaw:
“George continued to farm until his death in August 1945. Bare facts likely hide must what have been a very traumatic time for George’s surviving sisters. By quit claim deed executrix Margaret transferred the property to Harriet for $1 in 1946. The following year it was sold to George A. Jamieson for $8,000 and the Flewellyn name disappeared from [the land]. George Jamieson fell behind in his taxes and Alvin Jamieson seized the opportunity to buy the property for back taxes of $729 in 1954. George A. Jamieson and wife sold the property to William Paul in 1957 for $14,000. Dorothy and Bill Jones, the current owners, purchased a sub-divided ten acres including the house in 1962. The remaining 185 acres await a decision on current controversy regarding a large housing development.”
“Dorothy, a war bride, recalls that the house was in ‘a pretty good-sized mess’ when they moved in, but the couple restored it and happily raised their daughter in the peaceful countryside. She also pursued a life-time love of pigs, initiated during a farm visit when she was only four years old: the farm boasts a huge cut-out pig on the gate and a superb pig wind vane on the barn. Inside are some 200 stuffed and china pigs surrounded by pig calendars and pig ornaments.”
THIS WEEK, THE CITY OF OTTAWA’S BUILT HERITAGE SUB-COMMITTEE will consider a motion to add heritage designation to the Flewellyn-Jones house. The land has been up for sale for over a year now (yours for only $1.55-million) and is slated for development as part of the new Fernbank community.
According to a report from City heritage planners:
“The Flewellyn/Jones House has design value as a good example of a late 19th century Gothic Revival farmhouse. Built in 1886, the house features decorative bargeboard, a steeply pitched gable roof, segmental arched windows and a veranda with decorative brackets… The house has associative or historical value for its long term association with the Flewellyn family who constructed the house and farmed this land until the late 1950s. The Flewellyn/Jones House also demonstrates the theme of the early settlement of Goulbourn Township by Irish and Scottish immigrants in the 19th century and the agricultural history of the area.”
Besides the house, staff are also recommending that the setback of the house (in other words, the open space in front of the house) including an apple orchard be included in the designation. (An 1889 assessment role notes a ½ acre orchard or garden on the property.)
The house is one of several stone buildings in the Stittsville/Goulbourn area that were built in late 19th century in the years following the Great Fire of 1870, that I call “The Stone Cousins”. Flewellyn-Jones is very similar in style and design to Boyd House and Patrick Hartin House, both located almost directly north near Huntmar and Maple Grove.
Councillor Shad Qadri says he supports the designation, and that the current owner is interested in incorporating the house into future development plans.
Heritage designation would be a nice tribute to Richard and Margaret Flewellyn. The house is symbolic of their sacrifice, determination and success in establishing a family in Canada.
(Thanks to Bernard Shaw of Bells Corners for providing access to his assessment roll research files on the Flewellyns.)
SUPPORT LOCAL STITTSVILLE