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RAWCLIFFE AND THE OLD RAINEY FARM | Laurentian Heritage WebMagazine
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RAWCLIFFE AND THE OLD RAINEY FARM

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Rawcliffe.Looking northward from Grenville, about three miles, one sees the Laurentians rising sharply a few hundred feet, presenting a formidable barrier. To the northeast, a stream called the Kingham River cuts through, draining a small valley which reaches back into the hills at the eastern edge of Grenville Township. The original pioneers in this area moved up into this valley to settle and called their settlement Rawcliffe, because a prominent bare granite cliff protruded at that point (i.e., a “raw cliff”) along the otherwise tree covered mountain face.

Gordon Rainey in 1965, near the foothills of the Laurentians, just north of Grenville Bay. Off to the right (east), along the mountain face, is the way to Rawcliffe.A century and a half ago, Rawcliffe was a busier place, with more than twenty families working farms. Now there is no farming at all. The hill farms have all been abandoned and have largely returned to the wild. Scotch / Irish names like Gauley, Loughren, Shannon, Lowe, MacIntyre, Stone, MacGillvary, Kennedy, Boyd, Mott, Cousins, Trineer, Dodd and Rainey, once quite prevalent, are now scarce, except on the gravestones of a few scattered cemeteries. Most have moved out, some to nearby towns and cities, some far away.

The old Rainey placelies east of Rawcliffe, in Chatham Township. The farm hugs the boundary between Grenville and Chatham townships, on the north side of the Concession #6 Road. For geographic reasons, the Raineys developed a greater community of interest with Grenville, to the south, rather than with other, less easily accessible towns in Chatham Township, like Brownsburg, St. Philippe or Lachute, further east.

Map.This c.1933 map shows the southern part of Grenville Township and a thin slice of Chatham Township, on the right. The little black squares show where some of the farmhouses stood, but most of the mountain farmsteads are now reduced to foundation ruins.
The picture below shows the old Rainey farmhouse at its best, circa 1911, about six months after John Rainey had died and his wife, Laura, and her younger daughters, had moved to Grenville. The man standing on the veranda and wearing a big hat is Rainey homestead, c.1911.my grandfather Sam Rainey. Beside him is his wife, Kate, and her sister, Sarah Alice Loughren. Holding the team of horses is Sam’s brother-in-law, Ed Loughren, while in the buggy is another brother-in-law, Bill Loughren. The two other gentlemen in the background, partly obscured by the horse, could not be identified.

On January 22, 1911, about two months after their father John Rainey had died, Birdie wrote from the McNeil farm in Crysler, Ontario, to her sister, Maude, in Manitoba:

“My, I feel lonely sometimes when I sit down and think of poor father, the way him and I used to work together when Sam was away. Both times drawing hay and picking stones. My, but he was foolish to ever settle down in that stony place, when there was such fine land over here.”

In December of that same year, my father, Russell Rainey, was born, the eldest son of Kate and Sam.

Rainey homestead, 1957.The picture to the right, taken in 1957, shows Russell Rainey at the by-then abandoned Rainey farmhouse. He seems to be reminiscing about growing up in the place. Note the rolled down tops of the steel toed “muckers” he often wore, even when not at work in the Kilmar mine.

Today, all is abandoned and desolate. There is no castle, no chateau, nor any other monument to affluence. Just a few overgrown foundation ruins. This is nonetheless “Ground 0” -- a place to be revered. Four generations of Rawcliffe Raineys toiled here.Gordon, Russell, Johnny and Jimmy Rainey on a pilgrimage to the Old Rainey Place on Christmas Day, 1987. Russell died 3 years later, in 1990.On the rocks of the stone walls which still trace the boundaries of the family’s humble domain, blood stains from their calloused hands have long ago faded. The encroaching forest has overcrowded the meadows that were once maintained by their sweat and sustained by their salty tears.

Indeed, so wild hasthis placebecome that a black bear is known to have recently hibernated in the old root cellar of the foundation ruins.(Photos courtesy of Gordon Rainey)