Jean-Simon Bédard, whose parents own a property between Knowlton and Sutton, east of Brome Village, is in the process of trying to rebuild a stone foundation ruin on the property discovered when they bought the land in 2000. Bédard has found various artifacts that suggests that the foundation dates back to the first half of the 19th century and has links to a family of Scottish descent and he hopes to eventually dive into his research to discover more about the property and the people who lived there.
“When my parents bought the land in 2000, they bought 21 acres of land in the mountains, and as soon as we arrived, we knew that there were former properties in the ruins. There were two houses in ruin, but my parents made their house on one of them which was the most recent.”
Bédard was 15 at the time and only became interested in the history of the property when he came back to live there last summer. “I realized that there could be a potential for historical research and giving back pride to the settlers who would have had a hard time to build this.”
The foundation in question was built without mortar, which makes it easier to rebuild as the rocks aren’t all stuck together, and measures 24 feet by 24 feet. “You have beams to hold the floor that are 12 feet, you divide 24 by two, and that was architecture basics back then.”
He has finished digging around the foundation and found various artifacts that gave him clues about the property. “In-between these two houses is a chalet now, but back then I think it was a stables for horses. My father found a few artifacts between the two houses to suggest that. He found two pedals for the horse carriage and he found a horse shoe or two. He also identified that there was like a corner back then for horses and a building between the two houses. When you look at the shape of the property, there is a hill behind me, and then there is a little plateau between the two houses and the stable for horses. They needed that plateau for agriculture because it was the only way to survive.”
A metal wheel belonging to a horse carriage was also found, a nail, a pocket watch, a jingle bell for animals, a silver bottle cap in pristine condition, medicine bottles, a cutting edge, and an old astray that Bédard referred to as a spittoon.
“Back then, people did not smoke cigarettes they used to chew the tobacco and spit on the ground. When they wanted it to be cleaner after 1850, they invented the spittoon. People were spitting in a big astray.”
After digging up the foundation, he was also able to see an outline of a small door. “We see a little door on the east side where they could put all of the veggies in the cellar. They had a trap door to get food in the winter time.”
It is the spittoon that suggested to Bédard that the property once belonged to a family of Scottish decent. “I found a few things that relate to Scottish allegiance. Their header, it’s like a flower, it’s the symbol of the Scottish. There is a header on my spittoon and also on a piece of one of my dishes. They might be Scottish and loyalists; or of Scottish origin, but Americans who came to Canada; or just Scottish leaving Scotland for here.”
While he would like to dive into archives and documents to find out more concrete information about the property, right now his focus lies on the rebuilding of the foundation. “Obviously it would be something to have their names, to see if there are some descendants, and pictures would be really interesting for me. It’s not something I have done yet. The harder part is the work on the house. It’s a really huge project, but all the materials are free except for the windows and the door. I really want it to be as it was.”
He started digging the foundation in Aug. 2020, but is at a standstill with the project because the rocks are too heavy to lift on his own. The European technique requires lifting each rock one by one and placing them in a specific way and he needs more manpower, he hopes to have his family’s collaboration, or some sort of equipment.
“It could be something to give back to the community and they could help me do this, but I don’t know how to do this. It has a different value. We are restoring a historical house in its pure environment and that’s the goal. I need people passionate about this and who have the time.”