The Grant Cemetery©Copyright: Jeri Danyleyko
Grant was a small farming community that got its start in the mid nineteenth century. Located in a heavily wooded area, the new settlers endured years of back breaking labour to clear their lands and establish farms. Finally, in 1869, James Edmonstone opened the first post office and Grant gained official community status.
The first item on the new community's agenda was a school. The simple one-room schoolhouse, completed in 1872, taught grades one through eight. At the time that was considered perfectly adequate. Following grade eight, children normally stayed home and took their place working on the family farm.
Next up was the church built in 1892 and known locally as South Indian Baptist church. Grant also had a store and later a cheese factory. In 1895, the Grand Tronc Railway began purchasing land and proceeded to cut their way through the surrounding area. Things were beginning to look very promising for Grant. Little did the townsfolk know that within three years everything would come crashing to an abrupt end.
On October 5, 1897, railway crews in nearby Casselman and South Indian (now Limoges) were clearing brush and debris from the tracks. The easiest and most effective way was simply to burn everything. It was extremely windy on that particular fall day and before anyone realized what was happening both fires had quickly blown out of control. Fanned by high winds, they spread along the tracks striking Casselman, Cheney, South Indian and Grant. All three communities sustained serious damage. Three people in Grant lost their lives. When the final tally was taken, the fire had destroyed almost everything between Limoges and Casselman.
Mr. Stenhouse, a local Grant farmer, was one of Grant's most active and prolific community boosters as well as the driving force behind many of Grant's projects. It was Mr. Stenhouse who had sold property rights to the Grand Tronc back in 1895, granting the railway right-of-way access directly through his farm. Ironically, his was only house in Grant that was completely destroyed. Stenhouse had in his possession all of Grant's early legal records. Tragically they were all lost. Since the railway was also a major employer in the area, they offered help and relief to all who were affected.
By the dawn of the twentieth century, it was becoming obvious that Grant's residents had far more serious concerns than simply rebuilding their village. Although Grant was ostensibly a farming community, it was not built on prime agricultural land. The soil had been steadily deteriorating and was displaying serious erosion problems as evidenced by increasingly poor crops. It was becoming quite apparent that farming in Grant was no longer sustainable.
Another major concern for Grant's residents was schooling. Grant's school only went as far as grade eight and since the farms were becoming less and less viable, Grant's children would need sufficient education to search for jobs elsewhere. Eventually families began to sell their farms and move, mostly to Ottawa, Pembroke, Prescott, Carleton Place and Moorewood.
Ongoing soil erosion escalated far more quickly than ever predicted. The soil was rapidly turning to sand and dust and had begun to drift creating an area of dunes that came to be know known as the Bourget Desert. In 1919, Ferdinand Larose, an agricultural representative for the joint counties of Prescott & Russell decided to try and reverse the damage. He persuaded the county authorities to buy up farms that were adjacent to the Bourget Desert and embarked on an extensive reforestation plan in an attempt to stabilize the soil. In 1921 they began by hiring local residents to replant the forest. The 128 000 acre Larose Forest still stands as a testament to Ferdinand Larose's foresight. The forest is now the second largest planted forest in the world.
One of the traditional events of Grant's heyday was the annual family picnic. When the big day arrived, residents would gather together after church and have a huge communal pot luck picnic. Along with the socializing, there would be plenty of games and entertainment for the children. Afterwards, people would go to the cemetery and tend the family plots. In the 2001, Alexandra de Quimper decided to revive that tradition. Picnics continue to be held annually during early to mid August. They are a place where old friends and acquaintances can gather together and share memories and artefacts.
All in all there have been several events which have helped bring former residents together and kept the memory of Grant alive. On October 5, 1997, former residents and people from neighbouring villages gathered for a Commemorative service on the 100th Anniversary of the "Great Fire." The first Remembrance Day ceremony took place on November 11, 2000 at the four military tombstones in Grant cemetery. This ceremony has taken place every year since.
Grant lasted until the 1950s. Today the foundations of the schoolhouse and church can still be the seen. The cemetery is well tended and still sees the occasional burial.