Photo of cemetery
The Grant Cemetery
©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. There was little need for high school at that time. Following grade eight, children normally stayed home and took their place working on the family farm.

Next up was the church, constructed 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. Although Grant was untouched by the fire, two people from Grant, who were in a house just beyond the settlement, lost their lives. After authorities took the final tally, they discovered 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 (later CN) back in 1895, granting the railway right-of-way access directly through his farm. Ironically the fire destroyed only one house in Grant, that belonging to Stenhouse. The far bigger loss were all Grant’s early legal records which were all in Stehouse’s possession. Since the railway was also a major employer in the area, they offered help and relief to all those 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. As the soil rapidly turned to sand and dust, it started to drift. This created an area of dunes later 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.

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.” Pot luck picnics were held annually for a number of years. The first Remembrance Day ceremony took place on November 11, 2000 at the four military tombstones in Grant cemetery. This ceremony is still held regularly.

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.

Special thanks to Alexandra de Quimper for providing the information on Grant. Alexandra also offers walking tours, history talks in classroom, etc. to anyone who is interested in Grant’s history. She can be reached by phone. Her number can be found on the cemetery gate.

Scroll to Top