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stackhouse_mills_peveril_quebec [Glengarry Life Submissions]

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These are the documents supporting the presentation on Stackhouse MIlls, given by Mackie Robertson, December 2, 2021.

Stackhouse Mills Peveril, Quebec

The Story of the McCuaig and Stackhouse Family that built it

The Stackhouses of Peveril
Peveril, Vaudreuil County, Quebec Monday, New Year's Day, 1912

My Dear Grandchildren:

I, Charles Franklin Stackhouse am within a few days of my seventieth birthday. It is le jour de l'an, a day when a man my age not only has thoughts of the year to come but also thinks of the years that have passed.
Today my wife of some fifty years, ably assisted by our unmarried twin daughters, Eva and Adie prepared the usual good dinner to usher in the new year. There was little to mar our happiness. It is true that our three married daughters and their husbands and children were not with us but they have happy and well established homes of their own. Annie is married to John J. McIntosh a successful building contractor in Alexandria, Ont. Sarah Louise is married to Rev. John McKinnon who was our minister at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church at Dalhousie Mills from 1896 to 1902 and is now away with him at his present charge in Cape Breton Island. Mary Maria, who we all call Minnie is married to Alex Gray and they live in Woodstock, Ontario. We have no sons but at 70 one has learned to accept one's fate.
I am writing this in the office of our big stone mill. After our dinner I took a walk over to the mills and for a few minutes before I came in, I stood on the bridge over the DeLisle just west of what everyone has called Stackhouse's Mills for many years now. To my right as I looked down stream was the little frame building I have used for many years as a store. To it people from 30 miles away in every direction come to exchange their raw wool for yarn, blankets, cloth, socks, mitts and other finished woollen goods. In this building I also keep a few things for sale in the grocery and hardware line that people will be buying at a store anyway and they might as well buy from me as from anyone else. This building also houses the postoffice.
Just in front of me, on the right bank of the river as I stood on the bridge is the boilerhouse and engine room of the stone mill. Some 30 years ago when I built the stone mill and put in the steam engine I had my millwright run a line shaft across to the little building that houses my carding mill. A rope drive connects this shaft to the machinery in le Moulin a card as my French customers call it. The steam engine was necessary as water power from the DeLisle could no longer be depended upon as the river no longer has the long, steady flow it had when I first saw it 50 odd years ago - the bush is being cut off and the swamps drained and most of the water runs off in a couple of weeks in the spring.
In my mind's eye I can see the same scene as I first saw it a bit more than 50 years ago when I first came to these parts. The present wooden bridge supported by two wooden cribs filled with stones is much the same as the first one but in those days the only building in sight was Duncan McCuaig's little sawmill on the left bank of the river run by waterpower from the mill pond formed by the wooden dam under the bridge. The sawmill has been enlarged a bit since those days but it still runs on waterpower from the same dam, which I have repaired several times. As the sawmill only operates for a few weeks in the spring there is enough water then to operate it.
How was I to know when Duncan McCuaig gave me a job around his mill that in a very few years I would marry his daughter Katherine and in time take over the mill and then build greater?
I can well remember the day I asked old Duncan McCuaig if he would let Katherine marry me. “Marry is it?” said he “and wha would you be keeping a wife and bairns on? You ken weel she's thi (two) years or more older than you are and a driving woman as weel. An' you ken she's versa pruid of her blood whateffer - you ken the McCuaigs and her mither's people the McLeods have been here since folk of any sort have been settling on the land back from the Front. Aye, oor Katie wull mak' you or break you Charlie an' gin she make you you'll find yourself a quid Scot in spite of yourself - you'll be in church twice on every Sabbath and you ken there's talk of building a new church over at Roebuck's Mills, Dalhousie Mills as they call it now. That will cost you money Charlie - best you leave Katie be.”
But old Duncan hadn't said “NO” and Katie said “YES” so the Rev. John Anderson married us in the parlor of the old McCuaig home on lot 314, Cote St. Patrick, Parish of St. Telesphore and then we went to work to make a home and living for ourselves and the family we both wanted.
I had always liked to work with wool and on a spit of land on the south bank of the river I built a little frame carding mill and our neighbors, both French and Scots from Glengarry, Vaudreuil, and Soulanges brought their wool to Stackhouse. In time I bought old Duncan McCuaig out and what with hard work and frugal living I prospered. Times were hard in the years around Confederation time and by 1871 we had five more mouths to feed and ten more feet to keep shoes on. But Katie, even with a new baby every couple of years was a wonder, a real mortgage lifter. Thanks to her needle clothes never wore out and her garden and hens kept us well fed. If today I am the best off man in Peveril and live in the best house, no small share of it is the result of Katie's work and management. No matter how long a day I put in, and some of them were mighty long, Katie was up before me and to bed after me. A driving woman she was and is, but a good wife and mother and a good grandmother too. Our grandchildren love her and it is grand when they come for their long visits in the summer. I too like to have them come and I enjoy seeing them grow both in numbers and size. After all when I had Annie's husband, John McIntosh build our present big house overlooking the river and the mills I hoped it would always be full of grandchildren - it's far too big for just Katie and I and our two unmarried daughters, Eva and Adie.
Indeed fortune has been good to Katie and I and our family. The land around here got all settled up by about 1858 and it seemed as if everyone had work for us. In season the sawmill and woollen mill could hardly keep up with the work and the grist and flour mill is always busy and always was.
For a time I had another woollen mill over at South Lancaster in partnership with a man called Heminway, and for a good long time it was a busy place. That mill burned back in '98. As sheep were getting scarce in Southern Glengarry it didn't seem worthwhile to rebuild it and then I wasn't as young in '98 as I had been in '73 when we built that mill. I thought I had better slow down a bit. And then back in '98 I was getting so deaf I had a job hearing people even with my ear trumpet. A lot of my business is done by barter and it is hard to make a good bargain with people who have to yell at you to make themselves understood. So back then at the turn of the century I made up my mind I'd stay in business here in Peveril for the years that are left to me, among the folk along the Ontario - Quebec border who.I have known for all of my working life.
But I can well remember how proud I was when the mill at Lancaster was started up in '73 and the business was going nicely in '81 when a man named McNeil started up a newspaper there called The Glengarry Times. The paper didn't last long, only a couple of years but I felt very important when Mr. McNeil called on me and sold me an ad. I suppose there is a copy of the ad in my day book for '81 - yes, here it is:

Stackhouse and Heminway; carding, spinning, fulling and dressing.
Lower Village, Lancaster.

I was proud of that ad. Then in the '90's when newspapers started in Alexandria I thought it worthwhile to run ads in the Glengarrian and the Glengarry News, at the time of the year when folks had sheared their sheep and were wondering what to do with their wool. After all there was no reason why I should let Tombs Mill at Alexandria get all the wool clip from Kenyon and Lochiel and around North Lancaster. My work was just as good as theirs and maybe better. So my ad in the Glengarry paper ran each spring and on into the summer and still does. Here it is:

Wool carded or exchanged for yarn for any purpose, a stock of which will always 
be on hand in two different sizes in both single and double twisted so that 
a fine quality will be supplied when desired and business transacted 
immediately on arrival. All yarns guaranteed pure wool, also cloths tweeds, 
flannels, blankets.
Will also pay cash for wool.
C.F. Stackhouse, Peveril, Quebec.

That ad has run for years; Stackhouse's Mills were and still are a very important part of this community along the Ontario-Quebec border.
Along about 10 or 12 years ago a fellow named Donovan from Alexandria came along and took a picture of my mills from down the river a piece. It turned out pretty good and I suppose 50 years or so from now you grandchildren will be showing this picture to your grandchildren so I had better tell you what was in those buildings in the picture.
I have already mentioned the little frame building where I trade wool and sell a few things - you can see it at the left side of the pciture, sort of behind the stone mill. The smoke stack for the boiler is plain to see and the boiler operates a steam -engine that turns the wheels of the grist and flour mills on the ground floor of the stone mill. Upstairs in the stone mill are the looms on which we weave our cloth and blankets. The little building to the right of the stone mill and looking like it is built in the river is le moulin a card, where we wash the wool, pick it, card it and spin it into yarn. The building in the right of the picture is the sawmill. As I said before it runs on waterpower as most of our sawing is done in the spring when there is lots of water.
In the picture everything looks quiet but at busy times there are 20 men at work around the mills and sometimes more. Yes, the business is good enough and there is even a corner in le moulin a card where my brother Archie makes chairs. Archie is and independent beggar and prefers to set his own pace and go his own gait - says I'm crazy to work 16 hours a day, 6 days a week. Well, it shows in the credit ratings which Bradstreet the Credit Rating people have given us. Since back in the '80's they haVe rated me as worth $10,000 with credit up to a quarter of a million. Archie's rating is a net worth of $500. and take your chances on his credit.
But I had better be getting back to the house now or Katie and the girls will be fretting, but for those who come after me the above will give an idea of how things were with Charlie Stack-house on January 1, 1912.

Peveril, Quebec, Thursday, Jan. 1, 1914

Today I've come down to the mill again to sit and think a bit. As I sat I recalled this letter to my grandchildren that I wrote two years ago and has been in my desk drawer ever since. I will update it.
Things have changed in the last two years. Our Eva died in 1912 and Katie and I bought a burial plot in the cemetery by St. Andrew's church at Dalhousie Mills, where winter and summer for some fifty years Katie and I and our children have attended church, and I have served in various capacities on the church boards. Though parting with Eva was hard, each Sunday when we are at church we can feel that we are together at the same place, for a time.
Then I lost my Katie, the wife who made me what I am and the mother of my children. Along about November of 1912 she began to feel poorly; she took Eva's death pretty hard. Though the doctor did his best Katie died on April 5, 1913, aged 73 years and 5 months. Her too I buried brthe,church at Dalhousie Mills and after the funeral Adie and I went home to the big house at Peveril, now just the two of us to live in it, where once there had been seven - and I am an old man and feel older - and everything in the house reminded me of Katie and our long life together - and the home it once had been for our children and our grandchildren.
So I made a sale of all the things in the house that Adie and I didn't need. On July 16, 1913 D.D. McCuaig the auctioneer from Bainsville and a relative of Katie's sold at auction our surrey with the fringe on top, our two seated express wagon, our double dexter buggy, our tombreau and harness, the Massey - Harris cream seperator, the piano our bedroom suite, the three spring bedsteads where the girls used to sleep, all the spare bedding and pillows, the two wardrobes, the parlor stove and furniture, the big box stove in the dining room and all the thousand and one things around the house that were giving us memories and that we now really had no use for.
And now I must find a buyer for the mills; the heart is gone out of me; I am 72 and surely haven't much longer to live and what have I to live for?
Three of my girls have long established homes of their own and there will be enough to provide for Adie. She's been a good daughter to me - and - to her mother.


Montreal, Quebec Tuesday, Sept. 1, 1964 To Whom It May Concern:

I am a grandchild of Charles Franklin Stackhouse and Katherine McCuaig and it matters little which one, as the name Stackhouse is extinct; there are no more males to carry it on. Yet the blood of Charlie Stackhouse and Katie McCuaig runs in the veins of many alive today, children of the children of the Stackhouses of Peveril who were in turn the children of Charles Stackhouse and Samantha Munson on one side of the house and of Duncan McCuaig and Flora McLeod on the other. And let it be remembered that Samantha Munson was of United Empire Loyalist descent and proud of it.
So for the benefit of you who come after me, even though you have McIntosh, McKinnon or Gray blood in your veins as well as Stackhouse, I will try to finish the story where grandfather left off, 50 years and 8 months ago.
He sold the mills at Peveril in the late winter of 1914 to Monsieur D. Bertrand and Grandfather died on August 25 of that year, aged 71 years and 8 months. His daughters, their husbands and their families gathered in Peveril in the old family home to bid farewell to him. He looked very much the patriarch that he was as we looked at him for the last time, calm and dignified as always with his snowy white beard spread over his chest. One of the girl's remarked that he didn't look natural without his ear trumpet but our uncle, Rev. John McKinnon said he had heard Gabriel's trumpet without it and as we all knew he had run the straight race that was set before him, he had finished his course and had kept the faith.
We were sad yet proud to be descended from such a man.
We buried him beside grandmother and aunt Eva at Dalhousie Mills and the minister there, the Rev. John Matheson was joined for the burial service on August 29 by our former minister and great friend of the family, Rev. W.A. Morrision then minister at Dunvegan, Ontario.
Maybe because there is something special about 50th anniversaries some of we granchildren of Charlie Stackhouse went back to the Peveril - Dalhousie Mills area on this anniversary of our grandfather's death. We ourselves no longer young wanted to see again the places we had such fond memories of as children on holidays and perhaps talk to people who had known our grandparents.
So we came from east and west and met at the old “round church” at Dalhousie Mills. It still looked much as we had remembered it - and the long, long sermons. As we sat on the church steps talking of the long ago one of the cousins produced a scrapbook from a briefcase. I made copies of some of the items in it. One was an ad from the Glengarry News of January 3, 1913, the last Stack-house ad and it read exactly like the one in grandfather's letter to us, which has already been quoted. Another item was also from the same paper dated June 12, 1914 and it read thus:

Peveril Mills: Beginning on June 1st the mills of C.F. Stackhouse at Peveril,
which are in first class condition will be open for business. Wools bought or
exchanged, wools for cloths, flannels, blankets, bed sheeting etc. 
Satisfaction guaranteed.
D. Bertrand

Then there was an item in the scrapbook saying that just after World War I M. Bertrand had done considerable rearranging.
John McCosham, his engineer had convinced M. Bertrand that some changes were necessary. The old steam engine was scrapped and a diesel engine installed in the basement of the old stone mill. The old wooden building in the river, Stackhouse's moulin a card was torn down, and all the wool working machinery was moved into the stone mill. The sawmill was moved from the north bank of the river to the south one and re-erected east of the stone mill where it could be run by the big diesel in the basement.
Another item dated 1917 gave M. Bertrand's credit rating with Dun and Bradstreet as a net worth of $3 to 5,000 and a credit rating of up to $125,000 - about half of what grandfather's had been, but one of the cousins with a good local knowledge said that at that time sheep were going out of style and timber was getting scarce. Maybe it was just as well that grandfather hadn't lived to see the day when demand for his skills and products would begin to diminish. Also in 1917 there was a clipping about our uncle John McIntosh's fall from a ladder in a church he was taking down and his death within a few hours as a result of the fall.
Then there was a short story from the Glengarry News of June 17, 1921. “Word was received in Alexandria on Wednesday, June 15 that the grist, carding and lumber mills at one time the property of the late Mr. Stackhouse of Peveril have been destroyed by fire. Loss is in the neighborhood of $60,000. Fire started in the carding mill and spread rapidly and the limited resources of the firefighters could not cope with it.”
Below the story of the fire was a note by Aunt Annie McIntosh who lived a few miles away in Alexandria which said that it was believed that there were some matches in a fleece that was put into the wool picking machine and the greasy machinery had literally exploded. As all the mills were now in one place everything had burned and on the day after the fire only some of the stone walls and some grotesquely bent machinery remained. Aunt Annie had noted in her hand, “The Stackhouses are all gone from Peveril, now their mill have gone too.”
Then there were the obituaries of the Stackhouse girls. Annie (Mrs. John McIntosh) whose husband was a building contractor died in 1943. Sarah (Mrs. McKinnon) whose husband was a minister died in 1938. Mary Maria, who the family always called Minnie, (Mrs. Gray) whose husband had been an executive with Oxford Knitting and Dominion Textiles died in 1950. Eva had died in 1912 and her twin, Adie, like Eva also unmarried, died in Ottawa in 1941. After her father's death Adie had moved to Vankleek Hill where she lived on Hamil Street near the Steels who had become friends of the family when the girls were going to high school there. Adie lived there until 1926 when she moved to Ottawa.
As we perused the family statistics one of the cousins remarked that Charlie and Katie Stackhouse had been as methodical and had done as well in producing their children as they had done in the other parts of their lives, as the oldest was born in 1863 and the youngest in 1871; four births with five live children in 8 years.
Then we drove over to Peveril to see the scenes of our pleasant holidays and maybe to talk with people who had known our grandparents. We found most of the people in the hamlet now spoke French and had French names but we found three homes, Morrisons', MacLeods', and Dewars' where Charlie Stackhouse the millowner,

Unfortunately the next page appears to be missing. We will update this as soon as it is found.


The Stackhouse Mill, buildings and homestead were owned by my father Denancy Bertrand. He bought it from Charlie Stackhouse in the summer of 1913 and it was destroyed by fire on the first Friday of June 1921.
It was situated at Peveril, Quebec, in the Parish of Saint-Justine de Newton, Vaudreuil County on the River Delisle southeast of Dalhousie Mills, Ontario. My parents were both natives of Saint Polycarpe, Que. where they operated a farm there. Besides farming Mr. Bertrand was a representative for Frost and Wood Farm Machinery Co. and White Sewing Machine Co. His district was Terrebonne Que. In winter he would leave for a week at a time by train to sell these products. He was a burse for his merit for being the most successful agent with Frost and Wood Farm Machinery Co. Mrs. Bertrand was a 'haute couture' seamstress and specialized in men's clothing. In the fall of 1913, they moved to Peveril to start operating their new career at Stackhouse Mill with their large family of 12 children consisting of nine sons and three daughters. Their names are Theophile, Henri, Eli, Ovide, Albany, Denancy Jr., Paul, Felix, Leopold, Annette, (Mrs. Henri Brunet) Imelda ( Mrs. Rene Cusick) and Marie-Blanche (Mrs. Martin Maloney)
At the time the carding building was in the middle of the river and the saw mill on the other side of the river. In 1914, to make it more compact, Mr. Bertrand decide to move the carding machinery inside the stone mill and the saw mill right beside it.
The inside consisted of two steam engines - 120 hp, a diesel 50 hp., three large grindstones, and two flour grinders. The water wheel was in the basement. In the spring when the water level was high they would use water-power, otherwise they would use the diesel engine. On the top floor was a wide spinning machine which operated on a track driven by a wheel, back and forth. They spun 50 pounds of wool a day. At the end of the mill was the boiler room.
At the back of the mill was the Exchange Store where customers would trade their wool for grpceries. tobacco. blankets, etc. It also housed the Post Office for a couple of years. In the winter they were very busy sawing the farmer's logs into building lumber. In summer was the carding rush and flour grinding was done all year round. At times they were overloaded with raw wool and Mr. Bertrand would send some by train to Watchorn Woolen Mills, Merrickville, Ontario to be spun (one full box car)
My father was a talented businessman and he worked mainly in the Exchange Store supervising the mill at the same time. Nearly all the sons worked at the firm including two daughters who worked at the spinning section. Henri and Ovide were in charge of the mill.
We had a permanent employee by the name of John McCosham who now lives at 50 Pontiac St., Eganville, Ontario. He started working for us as a young boy and stayed until after the fire. He worked mostly in the carding section. Everybody worked hard for the firm. The hours were from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. and when necessary until nine or ten at night.
Other buildings surrounding the mill were one large house, a former hotel converted to our summer home, which we demolished a couple of years later, two stables, a barn, a pig pen, hen house and a large storage shed.
The homestead which is still in existence was a private living quarters and was situated at the top of the hill. This was a large beautiful family home with nine bedrooms built especially for Charlie Stackhouse by architect John McIntosh from Alexandria. It had many attractions inside it. Mrs. Bertrand cooked and sewed for the entire family, washed raw wool at the river, dyed some of it for trimmings, and made many woolen mattresses As we had wool in abundance, everybody in the family was knitting for themselves at night, such as sweaters, stockings and mittens etc. This business was very successful and it was really great living at Stackhouse Mill.
In 1921, the fire destroyed the mill and all machinery. Unfortunately Mr. Bertrand was not covered with insurance. Therefore he lost his business. At the time he was 61 and decided that he was too old to rebuild. He had some savings, the interest of which kept him for 20 years after until he died in 1942. After his death there was still money to be divided amongst the family. Mother survived until 1959.

Sincerely Mrs. Martin Maloney (Marie-Blanche Bertrand)


Charlie Stackhouse was a native of Grenville Quebec and his mother, Samantha was of United Empire Loyalist descent. His wife Katherine McCuaig was a daughter of Duncan McCuaig and Flora McLeod.
While still a teenager, Charlie Stackhouse worked for the McCuaigs as sawmill on the Delisle River about a mile and a half east of the Ontario border.
At the age of twenty, in 1862, he married his boss's daughter. With her help, he began a business career that lasted some 52 years. When he first came to the country around Peveril it was being settled. There was lumber to be sawn and Stackhouse had a mill to do it. Most of the settlers' kept sheep and their wool clip went to the woolen mills at Alexandria and St. Telesphore. Charlie seized such an opportunity and built a small carding mill in the centre of the river in which he transformed his neighbour's wool into yarn.
Grain was being grown in some quantity, everybody needed flour and the nearest grist mills were miles away. The Delisle wouldn't furnish enough power the year round to run a grist and flour mill, but as soon as he could finance it, around 1875, he built a large stone grist mill, installed a steam engine and went into the milling and gristing business.
On the top floor of the stone mill, he set up looms. Now he could make cloth as well as yarn for his neighbours.
At the south end of the bridge and in front of his stone mill, he set up a general store and a wool exchange where people could trade their raw wool for finished woolen products or sell it for cash. In this little frame building was located the post office.
The Stackhouse Mills were a very important part of this community along the Quebec- Ontario border. Charlie was the local entrepreneur employing some twenty men in season. His brother Archie also worked there, making chairs in a spare corner of the Moulin a card. Indeed, fortune was good to Katie and Charlie and their 5 daughters. It may be of interest to note that in the great days of the Stackhouse Mills, the credit reference people gave Charlie Stackhouse a net worth of $10,000.00 and a credit rating of up to half a million, probably due to his working 16 hours a day, 6 days a week. After the death of his 72 year old wife, April 5, 1913, he put the mills up for sale.
In the summer of 1913, Mr. Denancy Bertrand bought the mills. In June 1914, Bertrand announced that the mills were in good enough condition to be operated and that the same services would be rendered to the public as before.
August 25, 1914, during his 71st year, Charlie died at his residence. After the First World War, Mr. Bertrand rearranged the mills and replaced the steam engine by a diesel engine putting an end to the need for the old mill dam. This was just as well, as the fiver's flow was now only reliable for a few weeks in the spring.
On June 15th, 1921, the mills burned to the ground. The loss was put at $60,000.00. It would seem that Charlie had lived at the right time to make money from his know-how and enrgy at Peveril and he died at the right time so he wouldn't see his machinery and skills become obsolete.
Dalhousie Mills or Roebuck Mills as it was called at one time, was built by the late Farquhar Morrison. After his death, this sawmill was owned by his son Donald Morrison who sold it to Pete Rose. Mr. Rose sold it to Bertrand's sons Ovide and Henri. It is now on the verge of falling down.
The first sawmill was built by John D. McCuaig, John the Sawyer as he was called. This sawmill was located on Beauchamp's creek in the 6th concession of Newton on the farm owned by Kenzie McCuaig today. This was an upright saw driven by water power. John K. McCuaig used to take lumber to Quebec City by the River Delisle and the St. Lawrence River.

stackhouse_mills_peveril_quebec.txt · Last modified: by johnw41