Saturday, September 17, 2011

Colligite Fragmenta Ne Pereant

We've pretty much ascertained that our house was built around 1850.  We don't know much about the history, although Eric has spent some time at the local museum and the land registry office making inquiries.  We have a few pieces of the puzzle, but not enough to make a complete picture.

Imagine our surprise this past weekend, when a complete stranger pulled into our driveway and brought us two photos from the late 20's or early 30's.  His great-grandmother lived in our house, and sadly passed away on August 21, 1929, having hung herself in one of the out buildings.  (I give the date because it happens to be my birthday).  Mélina Ménard (née Léger) was just 55 years old and the mother of 10 children, 6 girls and 4 boys.  Two of her sons predeceased her, one at the age of two years, and another at the age of 18 months.  Her husband Avila died in 1927 at the age of 65.  From the land registry information, her son-in-law, Amédée Ménard, who was married to her daughter Emeline Ménard, took possession of the house on January 14, 1930, only to sell it 10 days later.

It must've been a long, hard winter.

Emeline would have been 29 years old at that time, and married for 7 years.  Emeline and Amédée were cousins many times removed; they shared the same great, great, great-grandfather, Jean-Baptiste Ménard, who was born in France in 1732.  Ahhh, the wonders of on-line genealogy.

Rural legend has it that Mélina was sad that none of her children expressed interest in the farm.  Considering her son-in-law and daughter had possession of the farm for only 10 days, this legend might have some credence.  We will probably never know the truth, since the cause of her death had remained a mystery to even her family members. Our late neighbour's father purchased our farm in 1933, and I'm sure the rumour mill was still churning at that point.

We had a lot of conversations with Mr. Lefebure about the history of our house, considering his father lived here for a period of 40 years.  The land Mr. Lefebure's house stood on was carved out of a corner of our property, and the house that stands there now was moved there from Ile Perrot at an undetermined time, probably some time during the 60's.  While it looks old, (and is old), it wasn't originally built on-site.   When Mr. Lefebure died in 2002 at the age of 77, he'd spent his entire life in two houses:  ours, and the one that was moved onto our property.

I wish I had a better understanding about the subdivisions and different obligations on the land registry certificate.  The certificate is hard to follow, considering the old script it's written in, and the fact the original property was subdivided at least 4 times.  Also, the house numbers changed as cadastral reforms happened; this just adds to the confusion in trying to back-track the various transactions.   We have a friend who is a notary; when he has some spare time, I'll have to get his professional take on things.

This is a view of our barn.  Happily, it's still standing, sans windmill and silo, however.  We thought that the addition for the cows was added in the 1930's, but this photo refutes that theory.  I'd say it was added much earlier.  This might also mean the barn was build much earlier.  Considering the Ménard family had been farming in the Soulanges parish for 5 generations when this photo was taken, we'll have to dig a bit more.

Photos like this bring a tear to my eye.  Not just for the work that still lies ahead of us, nor for the blood, sweat and tears we've already put into this place.  When I look at photos like this, I see generations of work, back-breaking, callous-inducing, physical labour of the greatest magnitude.  The respect for the people who built this place runs deep through my veins.

Something tells me that somewhere, Mélina approves of us.

Colligite fragmenta ne pereant - it means "collect the fragments so they do not perish".

That pretty much sums things up.


Robin said...

Wow, what interesting back stories you have collected about your place.
History like that is just fascinating. We don't know much about our house other then we are the third owner.

Shepherd's Loft said...

It's so wonderful that you are gathering the info about your farm. Without your work, that history would disappear.

Shim Farm said...

Robin and Linda, thanks to you both for your encouragement. I'm not sure why I'm so fascinated with the history of this house, but I feel there's a story here that needs to be told. Our house has a vibe to it; everyone who crosses the threshold mentions it. While that might sound like it's verging on the paranormal, it's not my intention, rather I feel good things have happened here, and it's our hope to perpetuate those feelings.

Certainly, when you tear your house apart and look at the adze marks on the logs, you're directly connected to the past. We've spent a lot of time ruminating on the whys of many things, and whenever we find a few answers, we're reminded we're on the right track.

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