With all of the recent activity at my Canadian house (Did I mention that the garden has been completely dug up? That pesky oil contamination from the recent flood managed to leach its way out of the house and taint the earth all around it...) I have been reminded of the generations past who inhabited it. With nothing but an old photograph to go by, I did a little research and managed to piece together a bit of history that I find rather fascinating.
Years ago a friend had given me a photocopy of a photo that appeared in a local historical periodical, telling me that the house in the article was mine. I thought it was interesting and put it away in a binder, never thinking much more about it. Well, during the past two weeks there has been a lot of excavation around the house, and I guess maybe some memories have been dug up along with the oil-saturated soil, because something led me to do a bit of internet research into the man named Charles Henderson who called the house his own long before I was ever born.
Rev Charles Henderson b Dec 11, 1839, d June 11, 1908
Sarah J. Wiseley Henderson d Dec 9, 1892
After a bit of online digging I was delighted to discover that Charles Henderson was in fact a Baptist Minister, and he is buried in the old Baptist cemetary just up the street from the house. I took a walk, spent half an hour searching through the gravestones, and finally located Charles and his wife Sarah. So amazing to think that I have walked past that cemetary for years and never once realized that the former owners of my house were resting just twenty feet from the street.
Further online genealogical research uncovered the 1881 census
, which shed more light on the history of the house and the Hendersons. At that time, 42 year old Chas Henderson and his 46 year old wife Sarah lived with their two children, 11 year old Gertrude and 10 year old Chas, both of whom were attending school. The household also consisted of an astonishing FIVE extra people--a Blacksmith
, a Milkman
, a Station Agent
, a Labourer
, and a Servant
. At that time, there would only have been three upstairs bedrooms, so it is anyone's guess where the extra five people were housed.
This week's destruction--removing oil-contaminated soil.
The poor old house is looking very tired and sad at the moment--one of her decks has been cut up and removed, her lacy latticework skirt has been torn away to reveal her spindly porch legs, her old-fashioned ornamental side flowerbeds have been hauled away, and the beautiful lush grass all around her has been stripped away and hauled off in trucks. To stand watching the destruction is heartbreaking, especially when I think of how many generations she has seen come and go, and how many changes she has withstood in her long life.
We don't know yet if this will be the end for the old girl... but I am thankful to have had the priviledge to spend time within her walls, and make memories of my own there, carving out my own little piece of her history.
Growth after destruction--happy little faces in the front garden.
Baby--the neighbour's kitty, and the best little garden helper ever.
The front garden remains intact, and out of respect I spent a few hours yesterday cleaning it out, making the front yard presentable. There is something soothing in the monotony of tasks that have been repeated a hundred times, without conscious thought or planning. The normalcy of raking, weeding, and pruning--those were prescious hours that may never be repeated, and I enjoyed every second of them, for they may be the last of their kind.
Rest easy old girl, and always be a lady.