Greenwood History

Ready for some Greenwood history? Over the course of this "history lesson", you will learn a bit about the five generations of people who lived in Greenwood.

Here's an abridged, 30-second version of the Greenwood story to pique your curiosity... 

Jean-Baptiste Sabourin first settled the Greenwood property in 1732. The original Sabourin homestead still stands and forms part of the house. The property remained in Sabourin hands until 1820. At that time, John Mark Crank Delesderniers purchased it. He intended it to be both a residence for his son, Peter Francis Christian, and a general store and trading post. In the 1840's, it served as the first post office in the area. Greenwood was extended eastward on two occasions, in the 1820's and again after 1860. 

Greenwood remained in the Delesderniers family until Phoebe Nobbs Hyde passed away in 1994. Some notable family ancestors include R.W. Shepherd, the co-founder of the Ottawa River Navigation Company, Dr. Francis Shepherd, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University for many years, and Percy Nobbs, one of Canada's foremost architects. A number of Delesderniers-Shepherd descendents still live in the Hudson area and continue to be involved with Greenwood.

The Sabourin Family Homestead

Greenwood's story starts during the French Regime, around 1732. Pierre de RigaudMarquis de Vaudreuil, the second seigneur of the Vaudreuil seigneury, granted lot 16 to Jean-Baptiste Sabourin, a censitaire (or habitant) from Pointe Claire.

This land was approximately two fields wide and it extended from the shoreline of Lake of Two Mountains to what is today Route 342 (Harwood). 

In return for his land, and protection by the seigneur, Jean-Baptiste Sabourin, as a censitaire, owed the seigneur a substantial fee. Jean-Baptiste had to provide a corvee (three or four days a year of unpaid work, such as land clearing, building, or helping with the harvest), plus annual rent. On top of those dues, he had to share a certain portion of both wood from his land, and fish caught off his shoreline. 

Jean-Baptiste's ledger was not clear yet, however. His seigneur was also entitled to a "milling right." This meant that 1/14th of the grain Jean-Baptiste milled at the seigneur's Vaudreuil mill would remain there. 

With the above obligations probably weighing on their minds, Jean-Baptiste and his wife, Sarah Hanson, would have cleared some land and set up their homestead. As their farm progressed, they would have kept a few animals for food and clothing purposes. Their principal crops would have been corn, wheat, barley, buckwheat and oats. 

Before we move on to details about the family home, there are some interesting side notes to slip into the story at this point...

Jean-Baptiste juggled two other demanding occupations during his lifetime. He was Captain of the Militia, second in command after the seigneur, for the Vaudreuil seigneury. Jean-Baptiste was also a trader. Over the winter months, as a coureur-de-bois, he would have secured several different types of animal pelts. The beaver pelt was especially lucrative as it was very popular with the Europeans during that period. 

The Ottawa River, once known as "La riviere des Algonquins" and the major thoroughfare for the canoes of Nipissings, Algonquins, Hurons and Mohawks, became the trade route for the fur trade. In fact, not far from Jean-Baptiste's lot, further up the river near Carillon, the French explorer Samuel de Champlain would have spent the night on shore. He was searching not only for beaver pelts but also an access route to China!

Hudson is fortunate to have a reminder of an old tradition started by another one of Canada's most well-know explorers, Jacques Cartier. When Cartier sailed to Canada, he planted five crosses, in the name of the King of France, between Gaspe (1534) and Trois-Rivieres (1536). French Canadian lumberjacks similarly put up crosses along their routes. For them, the crosses served a religious purpose, along with marking possession of a territory. 

The wayside cross, located opposite of Greenwood, is a replicate of the original from the 1870's (which is now part of the Centre's collection). It used to be located further east, near the current Willow Place Inn. Watch for it the next time, you drive past Greenwood on your way to or from Hudson's commercial centre. 

Okay, now let's go back to where we left off... the Sabourin homestead. 

Jean-Baptiste and Sarah built a simple frame building. The main floor had a large fireplace as its focal point. This hearth would have been the center of activity for the household, from heating to cooking to washing. A steep stairway led to the sleeping quarters, with an attic above it. This was home for a family of ten children: Paul, Jean-Baptiste, Marie-Anne, Catherine, Catherine Laurette, Marie Elizabeth, Charlotte, Pierre, Elisabeth and Therese Amable.

By the time all the children were married, the Sabourins were considered "people of consequence." Jean-Baptiste's position as Captain added to their status in the community. The Sabourins and their descendants would live in Greenwood for almost a century.

The Fireplace Kitchen

In the last section, we learned a bit about Jean-Baptiste Sabourin and his wife, Sarah Hanson. Together they cleared "Lot 16" and built a homestead for their family of eight. Their modest frame building is the oldest remaining structure from the former Vaudreuil seigniory and the original section of Greenwood. It is also the focus of this part of the story. So step inside. We'll go directly to the room known as the "Fireplace Kitchen."

In Jean-Baptiste's time, this would have been the main room of his home. The wide pine flooring, the slate hearth slabs, the rough ceiling beams and the impressive stone foundation are all the originals.

Through the doorway to the basement, you can see the thickness of the uneven floorboards. (The basement also shows the original post and beam construction style.) A steep narrow staircase leads up to the second story, which was probably used as sleeping quarters. Windows on the north side face Lake of Two Mountains, while the south ones face what is now Main Road of Hudson.

Close your eyes and picture a family of eight going about their daily business in this relatively small space. Are you thinking "organized chaos"?

A large stone fireplace is the focal point of the room. The iron arms now sit idle but at one point, they would have supported a range of utensils. The hearth would have been a bustling household centre. Activities would have ranged from the preparation and cooking of meals, to the washing and drying of clothes, to the family's sole source of heat. On frigid winter evenings, I imagine that the Sabourins must have sat as close as possible to the hearth. 

A cast iron heating stove was inserted into the fireplace by Phoebe at one point. This stove, c. 1810-25, was probably made at Forgerie St. Maurice. It originally heated another part of Greenwood and dates back to the time of the Delesderniers family (c. 1850).

Near the front of the fireplace is a rocking chair. Phoebe, a professional actress, would sit in this chair when she was performing her Sarah Hanson monologue. How easy it must have been for her to slip into this role. After all, this was Sarah's fireplace, where she spent much of her waking hours!

Standing in the centre of this room, you are struck by the variety of artifacts surrounding you. Unlike many other historic homes, Greenwood does not organize its rooms by dates. Greenwood reflects its many transformations over five generations... a homestead, a trading post/general store, a post office, a summer home, a year-round residence and now a "family museum."

As your eyes wander around the room, so many beautiful articles make you pause... the pine wall-mounted cupboard, the armless red rocking chair of Amelia Delesderniers (nee Rice), the pine armoire, the butter paddles, the iron cauldron, the flat irons, the blue and white Wedgewood tureen, the bear paw snowshoes, the arrowhead sash, the water colour paintings of Greenwood, the sleigh bells, the nautical copper lantern, the gold-upholstered regency sofa with horse-hair stuffing and the list goes on! No wonder the Fireplace Kitchen is a favorite spot for so many visitors!

During the summer months, Greenwood hosts house tours that include tea and goodies on the screened-in porch. The Fireplace Kitchen always ignites some interesting discussions about the who/what/why/where of its different artifacts. During December, this room takes its natural warmth and beauty to a higher level during Greenwood's annual "Old Fashion Christmas" event. Put a spectacular Christmas tree, lovely decorations, hot mulled cider, music, reading performances, and friendly people altogether in the Fireplace Kitchen and you have something magical! 

At this point, we will move our time machine to 1821. John Mark Crank Delesderniers acquired the property from the Sabourins. He sold it to his son, Peter Francis Christian, to house the family trading post. Next we will find out the reason why Peter's wife, Amelia Rice, named the house "Greenwood Cottage" when they moved in 1824. 

Click ahead to Greenwood History 2 - The Delesderniers 

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