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THE STONES OF RAWCLIFFE | Laurentian Heritage WebMagazine
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THE STONES OF RAWCLIFFE

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In May 2008, I got a call from Heather (Stone) Foley, who lives in Rawcliffe, Quebec. She told me James Stone was visiting from BC. I had been a classmate of Heather’s throughout grade school in Grenville and a good friend of her younger brother, James. But I had only seen him two or three times in the intervening fifty years.

Abandoned in 1984, the Stone homestead never had electricty, running water or telephone. (Photo - Gordon Rainey)We had been buddies and shared many adventures at school and in sports, including hunting and fishing in the mountains north of Grenville. I wanted to meet James again and to reminisce about old times. I also wanted to ask him about Rawcliffe history and family ties, to feed my recent appetite for things genealogical. I eagerly made the trip to Rawcliffe from my home in Kanata, west of Ottawa, on May 16, 2008.

The Stones were originally Irish Catholics, while the Raineys were Scottish planters of staunch Presbyterian stock. By our generation, our families were both Anglican so we attended the same school. The rival persuasions of our ancestors were muted over time in Canada, where there was more freedom for successive generations to mix. James Stone’s father, Alton Stone, had converted to his mother Enid MacIntyre’s religion. My great grandfather, John Rainey, had converted to his wife, Laura Hewson’s, religion. My mother, born a Catholic, became an Anglican when she married my father. Usually the groom adapted, but sometimes it was the bride.

After 25 years of abandonment, the stable and barn are also slowly falling into ruin. (Photo - Gordon Rainey)The Raineys and Stones had been neighbours on adjoining farms for several generations (1850-1945) northeast of Rawcliffe, in the lower Laurentians. My great grandfather John Rainey was born in 1847 during the crossing from Ulster, at the peak of the potato famine. John Rainey homesteaded on lot R7-L28 of Chatham Township. James’ great grandfather, John Stone (b. 1826), immigrated in 1850. He bought and farmed the north half of the adjacent lot R6-L1, on the Grenville side of the township boundary.

By 1901, Patrick Stone (b. 1863) had taken over the farm from his father, John. Samuel Rainey (b. 1880) took over the family farm when his father, John Rainey, died in 1910. The old Rainey farm was sold in the mid-1940s and effectively abandoned as a place to live in the early 1950s. Patrick Stones’ two bachelor sons, Jack (1898-1983) and Gordon (1905-1886), continued to farm the old Stone homestead until they died in the 1980s. They are buried together in the Calumet Catholic cemetery.

James had not been back to the old Stone homestead since the mid-1980s, so it topped his list for things to do when we met. The homestead was over a kilometre from the Rawcliffe Road and the trail is now used only by ATVs and snowmobiles. We took a shortcut through a gravel pit and gingerly proceeded in my mini-van, through overhanging brush and wash-outs. We were able to approach to within 100 metres of the old buildings.

Stove pipe hole. (Photo - Gordon Rainey)While we explored the old farmhouse, James told me a story about his grandfather, Patrick Stone (b. 1864), and his Alzheimer’s affliction. This was during the Depression, before the disease was understood. There was no treatment, nor support system. Isolated families had to fend for themselves. Eventually Patrick Stone had to be confined to a room in the family home, especially when there were visitors. That was certainly the case when his wife, Mary Alice, died. Desforges, the undertaker from Grenville, had come to the isolated log house to tend to her body. Nobody had told Desforges that Patrick Stone was locked in the next room. While Desforges was busy by lamplight, Patrick stuck his arm out through a stovepipe hole and began groaning and clawing at the wall of the living room. That was enough to spook even a seasoned undertaker. Desforges bolted into the kitchen where other family members were gathered. He was white as a sheet and demanded in broken English, “Wat da hell is dat?”
James Stone in the door of the old milk house. Built over an ice-cold mountain spring fed stream, the milk house played a critical role in preserving food. (Photo - Gordon Rainey)The original settlers from Ireland and Scotland were happy just to have title to their land, an impossibility for most back home. Within a few generations, however, many of the bush farms in the Lower Laurentians were either sold for a pittance to land barons with the means to aggregate large tracts on speculation, or simply abandoned, in which case the land barons snapped them up for back taxes. For the dwindling numbers who persisted for several generations, the isolation and rocky terrain almost guaranteed that most of them would remain poor and illiterate subsistence farmers.

Perhaps the completion of the nearby Maurice Richard Autoroute (the A-50, scheduled to open in 2009-2010), will improve the fortunes of the area.