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History of Ironwoods

Ironwoods is located on the Big Rideau Lake near Portland Ontario. During the 1800’s the property changed hands many times. The first recorded owner was Basil Rorison a Captain in the British Army who received a patent from the crown for lot twenty in Bastard Township.

In 1904 Marie Degez Eisner purchased part of the property from William Bolton for $200. In 1905 she purchased another lot for $300. During her ownership the main house was built.

Mrs. Anna Falding bought the house and land in 1909 and opened it as a hotel in 1910. She was an American from Massachusetts. She ran the property as a fishing and recreational camp. At the time there was no kitchen, back bedroom, laundry room or sun porch. These would be added later. The tennis court was then across from the kitchen. There were five cabins an icehouse, a barn and a chicken house. Mrs. Falding called it the Portland club. She lived in what is now the pantry and half of the dining room.

Gordon Edwards spent many weekends fishing with his friends on the Big Rideau. One weekend he ran his houseboat onto a shoal and was unable to return to Ottawa. He and his guests stayed with Mrs. Falding’s overnight. He became a regular guest at her establishment and eventually purchased the property in 1911 with partners Harry Southam, George Murphy and Ernest Linton.

The partnership was eventually dissolved and he became sole owner. There are very few records that refer to the original size of the property. The property was fifty six acres when it was purchased by Gordon Cameron Edwards. He was affectionately known as Danding by his granddaughters, who were unable to say “Grand Daddy”.

The Edwards were Canadian lumber barons situated in the Ottawa Valley and were prominent in every aspect of civic life and Liberal politics in Ottawa. Danding eventually inherited the prime minister’s residence at 24 Sussex Drive from his brother, William Cameron Edwards who had no children. He was an excentric and willful character who loved life and lived it to its fullest.

He married Edna Meaghan in 1893. The Meaghan’s were an established family in Perth who owned the general store. Danding’s son and daughter, Maxwell and Edna Edwards were born in 1898 and 1908.

The Edwards changed the name of the property from The Portland Club to Ironwoods. The name came from the abundance of Ironwoods growing on the property. Ironwoods became the Edwards summer residence.

A number of changes were made to the property at this time. What is now the back bedroom was built for staff, the kitchen, sun porch upstairs and the screened in porch downstairs were added. The tennis court was taken down and moved to the top of the property.

The barn and chicken house were among the original structures. The year they were built is not known. This small farm remained a part of the property and was used well into the 1970’s. Cows and chickens provided the family with milk cream and eggs. The chicken house and ice house came down in 2008.

In 1926, Danding built a permanent house on the hill overlooking the lake. There were five guest houses behind Danding’s new home, The Shirley, The Annex, The Rose, The Oriel and The Langley. These were the cabins originally used by Mrs. Falding to house guests, except for the Annex which was Danding’s restored house boat and the Langley which was built for Dandings butler and named after him.

Ounce he was established in his new home, he handed ownership of the cottage to his son Maxwell and his family (Mary Elizabeth Edwards, nee Currie, and their four daughters Mary, Elizabeth, Janet and Ann).

In 1933 Danding hired Mr. Harold and Emillia McKinney to run the farm. They came from Nova Scotia. They lived in a small white house on the property; the house was eventually moved closer to the lake during the 1970’s. Harold was an excellent farmer and grew to have close relationships with the Edwards, their children and grand children.

Danding died in 1946 and his son Maxwell Edwards and Daughter Edna Bogue jointly inherited the property. Maxwell graduated from McGill with a degree in mining engineering and then took an executive position with WC Edwards. He was an expert fisherman with an intimate knowledge of all the activities that went on, on the lake. He was especially concerned with the health of the Rideau waterway.

Maxwell and Mary Edwards were happiest at Ironwoods. They spent many weekends fishing and enjoying the country before they had children. After their four daughters were born, Ironwoods became a place for summer fun, adventures sailing, swimming and riding ponies.

Mary was daughter to Dugalad Currie and Eliza Cross. Dugald Currie was a Presbyterian minister from Perth (Minister at St Andrews Prespeterian Church) Eliza Cross was from Montreal. The Cross family would eventually own substantial ranches in Western Canada. Eliza Cross was in the first graduating class of women from McGill University. There has subsequently been five generations of Edwards’s women to graduate from McGill.

Only eleven years after his father died, Maxwell was struck by throat cancer and died in 1957. The property was then divided between his wife Mary Elizabeth Edwards and his sister Edna Bogue. In 1973, the twelve acres owned by Edna Bogue, was inherited by her son Campbell. In 2010, John McDougall of Ottawa, purchased the property and restored the buildings.

At Ironwoods Mary Edwards applied her understanding of all aspects of the natural world to maintain the property. She was always busy, making jam, ironing, folding laundry, tending to her vegetable and perennial gardens and cooking for her family and many guests. The cottage at this time was quite grand with its manicured lawns and pristine rose gardens.

Mary had two degrees, an undergraduate degree in Botany from McGill University and a Master in Botany from The University of Toronto. She did pioneering work with Myxomycetes and was one course away from receiving her PHD. This was an outstanding accomplishment for a woman of her generation. She was an intelligent and sensitive person with a keen sense of humor and deep love for her family. She touched many people’s lives in the Ottawa Valley.

During her life, Ironwoods was not only a home for her daughters, it became an idyllic summer residence for her grandchildren. A morning could be spent sitting with a baby calf in the barn or running barefoot in a field. Days were passed in the water, diving into the cool lake, learning how to sail or rowing into the swamp to look for turtles. Many lively meals took place on the screened in porch with family and friends.

A number of changes were made to the property during Mary’s ownership. The icehouse was converted into a sleeping cabin and a boat house was built on her side of the property. She took it upon herself to ensure the successful breeding of Holstein cows that were bought, sold and cared for by Harold McKinney. Sadly Harold died in 1983 and the upkeep of the property was passed to Jim McCormick of Perth.

At the age of one hundred, Mary Edwards died in 1996. She left her portion of the property, forty-four acres to Janet Cameron White and Elizabeth Gordon Edwards.

Janet and Elizabeth oversaw the property for sixteen years, delegating all maintenance duties to Jim McCormick. In 2009 a burst pipe in the pantry caused extensive damage to the house, it has since been renovated and restored to its original appearance.

In February of 2009 the ownership of the property was passed to Janet Cameron White’s five children, Mary Cameron Pochobradsky, Jocelyn Cameron Rose, Lucy Cameron Spalding, Ann Cameron White and Gordon Cameron White. It remains under their ownership today.

Escape. Rent Ironwoods Now

Escape. Rent Ironwoods Now

 

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