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The history of Riverest Regency Cottage

A Story To Celebrate L’Orignal’s Past And Future

Riverest Regency Style Cottage, L’Orignal. Built 1833. To open in May 2021 as Riverest Marina & Restaurant. (photo 2012)

As always when reviewing history, particularly local history, everything is open to further research.
In May 2021, the 1833 heritage site Riverest Regency Cottage on Wharf Street in L’Orignal plans to open as the Riverest Marina and Restaurant. To mark this endeavour, we present this brief history of the first two families to live in this beautiful home.
The Regency style cottage Riverest was first occupied by John Wurtele Marston in 1833. His father Jacob Marston Jr. was one of the earliest settlers in L’Orignal. John W. Marston lived at Riverest from 1833 to his death in 1880.
The next owner was Edward Alexander Hall from 1881 to 1912, and he was head of the Ottawa Forwarding Company.

Background:

The L’Orignal Seigneury was formed in 1674 and owned by François Prevost. Next it came into the hands of the Chevalier de Longueuil. With the 1791 passing of the Constitutional Act, the seigneury became part of the new province of Upper Canada. The Chevalier’s son, J-D Emmanuel de Longueuil, put the lands up for sale. In 1796, American Nathaniel Treadwell purchased the defunct seigneury for 1000 guineas. (More detailed history of the community is available in the publication L’Orignal-Longueuil: Au fil du temps / Through the Years published in 2011.)
Some settlement had already taken place. Notably, Jacob Marston Jr. arrived in the 1790s, and there was also Joseph la Rocque-Brun and Joseph Pomeroy Cass. Treadwell got busy and encouraged wider settlement.
By 1825 the village had 12 houses, the McIntyre store, William Waite’s tannery, John O’Brien’s public house, and a schoolhouse. Formal discussion of building a court house is on the official records in 1816. The new court house would open in 1825. Today it is recognized as the oldest court house in Ontario.

County Court House for Prescott and Russell, L’Orignal ON. Opened in 1825, it is designated as the oldest court house in Ontario. To the left is the jail that is now a heritage interpretation centre, l’Ancienne Prison/ Old Jail. The court continues to be active. (Photo: Michelle Landriault)

Plans for a court house firmed in 1823 when Jacob Marston Jr. gave two acres from his holdings in trust to George Hamilton, Alexander Grant and Donald MacDonald. The court appointed John Chesfer (Chesser), Alexander Grant (Duldraeggan Hall) and Donald MacDonald as an oversight committee for the construction of the court house. Once fundraising ‘subscriptions’ began, Charles Waters was added to the committee, and Alexander Grant became the treasurer.
Heritage historians suggest the brownstone court house was completed in 1825 when not only benches were procured for the court room, but there was also the appropriation of thirty shillings to Almstead Gates, Deputy Sheriff, for the construction of a pair of stocks adjacent to the court house.
As to who designed the court house, there are two threads of thought. In the records of the Quarter Sessions of April 24, 1824, the order was given to pay William Moody “ten shillings for drawing plans for the gaol and court house under direction of the court.” Heritage historians question whether Moody actually designed the building, or if he was hired to draft the plans.
The other theory as to designer, is that the plans were drawn-up by either Charles or William Lundrum, engineers who lived in Riceville. Certainly, when extensive additions were made to the court house in 1861, William Lundrum was the architect and a Mr. Matthews was the contractor.

Marston Family

This introduction to early settlers and the construction of the court house informs investigation into Riverest. The presence of engineers Charles and William Lundrum providing services in L’Orignal suggests the possibility that the Riverest regency design arose from their expertise.
With Jacob Marston Jr. providing land for the court house, and his son John Wurtele Marston as the first resident of Riverest, we now look back to when the Marston Family arrived from the United States.
Jacob Marston Sr. was born in New Hampshire in 1750, and he married Hannah Post in 1773. Their son Jacob Marston Jr. was born in Fairlee, New Hampshire in 1774, and he was the first of nine children.
In 1784, Jacob Marston Sr. and Hannah left New Hampshire to live in the Montréal area where he held the position of High Constable – le grand Constable.
There is evidence that Marston Sr. was acquainted with Nathaniel Hazard Treadwell, an American living in Canada who had large holdings in L’Orignal and Longueuil Township. Treadwell and his wife are buried in the Cassburn Cemetery.
In the February 1796 ledger of Québec Notary John Garbrand Beek is the following entry which indicates Jacob Marston Sr. acquired land in the Seigneury Jouet on the Rivière l’Assomption. These lands were purchased by Treadwell just days before.

Excerpt from February 1796 ledger of Québec Notary John Garbrand Beek which indicates Jacob Marston Sr. acquired land in the Seigneury Jouet on the Rivière l’Assomption from Nathanial Hazard Treadwell.

Then in 1802 a land grant in Lower Canada is issued. Jacob Marston Sr. “high Constable” along with his oldest sons Elihu and Jeremiah had applied for 1200 acres. Jacob and his sons are recognized in this grant as arriving in Lower Canada in 1784, and they were granted a “warrant of survey” in Portland Township Lower Canada in 1792. Portland Township at that time was bordered by Wakefield and Buckingham. Note that in 1784, Elihu and Jeremiah were ages 8 and 4 so it is clear Jacob Sr. had their future interests at heart. In this 1802 land grant, all three are described as “deserving Loyalists.”

Page from 1802 land grant in Portland Township, Lower Canada awarded to Jacob Marston Sr. and his two sons Elihu and Jeremiah. Jacob Marston Sr. had extensive communications about land grants. Portland Township was located in the Gatineau Hills between Wakefield and Buckingham QC.

At age 75, according to the 1825 Census of Lower Canada, Jacob Marston Sr. was living in the Paroisse de Montréal. His wife Hannah Post, 70, died that same year, and the funeral service was held at Christ Church Cathedral in Montréal. Marston Sr. died in 1830 at age 80, and his funeral service was also held at the Christ Church Cathedral in Montréal.

Jacob Marston Jr.

Jacob Marston Jr. came to L’Orignal in the 1790s in his 20s, and in 1806 he married Mary Cass, a member of the United Empire Loyalist Cass Family of Cassburn. They had seven children. Mary died in 1835.
Jacob Jr. is credited with being civic minded in donating lands to further the advancement of the village of L’Orignal, including land for the courthouse.
A population shift was about to start. There was no standing army in Lower and Upper Canada until after Confederation in 1867. Military activity relied on volunteer militias. The 1st Regiment of the Prescott Militia was formed as early as 1812, and Longueuil Township residents such as Ensign Charles Waters of L’Orignal served 1812-1814.
Historically, it was service in the War of 1812 that brought many French Canadians to take up their Longueuil Township land grants awarded for their militia services defending Lower Canada at the U.S. border.
In 1842, Jacob Marston Jr. married Sarah Chamberlain of East Hawkesbury in L’Orignal. His son Josiah was a witness for this second marriage. The couple had two children. In the 1851 Census, we find Jacob Jr., age 75 and widowed a second time, visiting his son George Marston at his farm in the Township of Hull, Quebec. Perhaps this Gatineau Hills Quebec location is linked to the 1802 land grant given to Jacob Marston Sr.
In the 1861 Census, Jacob Jr. was 87 and living with son Josiah C. Marston and his family, in a 2-storey wood frame home on Josiah’s farm in Cassburn.

18th Prescott Militia payroll, 3rd Company, L’Orignal. Coming back to the local militia – Richard Henry Marston, son of Josiah and Hanna, and grandson of Jacob Marston Jr., was an active member of the 3rd Company, 18th Prescott Militia, L’Orignal. He is found present and signed-in to be paid $8 for attending drill exercises in 1865, and here again in 1873.

John Wurtele Marston, Riverest

John Wurtele Marston, son of Jacob Marston Jr. and Mary Cass, was born in L’Orignal in 1806 and christened at Christ Church Cathedral in Montréal where his sponsors were Wurtele family members who had immigrated from the U.S. and had early business dealings with his grandfather, Jacob Marston Sr.

Bio of John Wurtele Marston from the Canadian Biographical Dictionary and Portrait Gallery, Ontario Volume, 1880.

According to the Biography, John Wurtele Marston started his mercantile business in 1828. He then married Mary Ann Davis in 1836. In a 1973 Ottawa Journal feature article about Riverest, the author reports that Riverest Cottage was constructed by John Wurtele Marston in 1833. As can be seen by both his business interest and the impending marriage, this construction date makes sense.

In 1838, John Wurtele Marston was a member of the 1st Regiment, Prescott Militia. In his 1895 publication History of the Counties Argenteuil, Quebec / Prescott, Ontario, author Cyrus Thomas reports that in 1838 the Prescott Militia was “well officered”, as this was following the 1837 Rebellion. The payroll table indicates John Wurtele Marston is an Ensign who received his first appointment in 1832.

The 1st Regiment of the Prescott Militia became the 18th Battalion of the Prescott Militia at the time of the 1860s Fenian Raids. The 18th Battalion volunteers met at least twice a year to practice drilling and to have marksmen competitions. To sharpen their skills, there were competitions with their Quebec counterpart, the Argenteuil Rangers. In planning these events, they chose the farm of a member where they came together with their militia accoutrements and horses. The Vankleek Hill Museum has several 18th Battalion red military jackets.
In the 1851 Census, John W. Marston is a merchant in L’Orignal. He is 46, already a widower, and living with him are his children: Sarah, 15; Mary Ann, 13; John J., 11, Caroline, 8. The household includes their cousin Ann McLeod, 19; plus, two servants: Ann Jane Fulton, 18 born in Ireland, and Peter –? 18, a French Canadian – likely day workers who returned home at night. John W. Marston does not remarry.
The 1851 Census reports that the family lives in a stone house that is 1.5 storeys, Riverest, and there is a separate stone building which is a store.
In 1856, William Lundrum who had designed the courthouse, designed the L’Orignal quay located on the Ottawa River just north of Riverest. Wharves were largely responsible for bringing early prosperity to L’Orignal, a principal stopover for loading and unloading merchandise long before Hawkesbury took over that role.

Detail from 1862 Walling Map of the five counties, SDG & Prescott and Russell, indicating the quay or wharf located north of Riverest. Also, in the lower centre of the map is the location of the farm of J. C. Marston (Josiah), John Wurtele Marston’s brother. At the time of the mapping, their widowed father Jacob Marston Jr. lived with Josiah’s family in Cassburn.

In the 1861 Census, John Wurtele Marson is now identified as the County Treasurer. He continues to live in the stone house on two acres of land.
His one horse and one cow have a livestock value of $55. His carriage is valued at $110. Daughter Mary Ann, 22, continues to live at home. John J. Marston, 20, is a medical student. Daughter Caroline is 17. There is one servant, Alexis Boneau, age 15.
In 1863, John’s father Jacob Marston Jr. died at age 89. He had arrived in L’Orignal and Longueuil Township at the outset of settlement. He was a key contributor to the construction of the courthouse and gaol, and to lasting improvements to the village. His children were successful.
Author Cyrus Thomas provided a bio of John Wurtele Marston, undated and written while John was still living by someone who knew him. It has the tonality of a tribute for a life event, perhaps when he turned 70. It focused on his career with no mention of his militia service.

John Wurtele Marston, Treasurer of the United Counties of Prescott and Russell for the last quarter of a century was born in L’Orignal on the first day of May 1806 and has always been a resident of the place. His father, Jacob Marston, a native of New Hampshire followed his grandfather [John Wurtele’s grandfather Jacob Marston Sr.] into Canada a little before the close of the last century and visited the spot where L’Orignal now stands, in 1796, coming here with Nathaniel Treadwell, the proprietor of the township and being, it is claimed, the first Anglo-Saxon to fell a tree in this township; and two or three years later, made a permanent settlement here. The mother of our subject before her marriage was Mary Cass, whose father was a United Empire Loyalist.
Mr. Marston received an ordinary English education; clerked for some years for Silas P. Huntington and in 1828 commenced the mercantile business for himself continuing until 1851 with fair success. During a part of this period, he held office in the Ottawa District. He became clerk of the District Court and Registrar of the Surrogate Court in 1846; Deputy Clerk of the Crown in 1853; and, since 1855, has been Treasurer of the United Counties of Prescott and Russell. He has proved a very faithful county officer, is a model accountant, and a man of the highest integrity, and has unlimited confidence and greatest respect of the people. Mr. Marston has had much concern for the educational and other interests of his native village, and served for some time as Trustee of the High School. He is an adherent of the Presbyterian Church; has been a trustee of the Canada Presbyterian Church since it was organized in 1832, and is the only one of the five charter trustees now living. He is most emphatically the oldest landmark of L’Orignal. Born and reared here, the fourth season of his life already seemingly far spent, he has seen the Ottawa Valley in this vicinity converted from a wilderness into a well improved country with all the marks of thrift as well as civilization. He is a remarkably well-preserved man, and a stranger would hardly place his age as high as seventy. His life has been remarkably exemplary, worthy of being copied by young men. In 1836, Mr. Marston married Miss Mary Ann Davis of Milton Vermont, and she died in 1844 leaving four children – one son and three daughters. The son, John J. Marston, M.D. has been assistant surgeon in the American Army since 1864; Sarah, the eldest daughter, married Eden P. Johnson of L’Orignal, and died in 1867; Mary Adelia is the wife of John Millar, merchant, L’Orignal; and Caroline I. is the wife of Sturgis M. Johnson of Almonte, Ontario.

(History of the Counties Argenteuil, Quebec / Prescott, Ontario by Cyrus Thomas, John Lovell & Son, Montreal, 1896 – pp. 521-522)

John Wurtele Marston died on October 17th, 1880 at age 74. The death register entry states he is County Treasurer. No reason is provided for his death. Dr. James McIntosh of Vankleek Hill signs the entry.
With his death, the Marston Family connection with Riverest ended.

Edward Alexander Hall, Ottawa Forwarding Company

In the 1881 Census for L’Orignal, Edward Hall, 27 and Irish, is identified as a ‘Commercant’ – a merchant. He is married to Julie Soulière, 30. Their children are: Alice, 6; Frank, 4, and William 2. We know they purchased Riverest because their youngest daughter Eva was born at the house in 1881.
In 1891, their family home is identified as “Pierre 1½” with 9 rooms. Edward’s trade is listed as “merchant grain.” Knowing that Edward Alexander Hall owns the Ottawa Forwarding Company, it is interesting to see in the same census that his two brothers, James Hall and William Hall of L’Orignal, are each identified as a “Capitaine de navire”. The census stops short of identifying if they work for the Ottawa Forwarding Company; however, it does seem likely. Each had a family to support.

Ad from Ontario Gazeteer & Directory 1898-1899

In the 1901 Census, Edward, 47, is again “commercant de grain”. He and Julie, 54, lived at Riverest with their children: Maude, 24; Frank, 23 – a “Capitaine de bateau”; Walter, 22 – a “clerk”; and Eva is now 17. Edward’s earning for 12 months is $1,200. Frank earns $600 over eight months of the year. Walter earns $500 over 12 months.

In the 1903 issue of The Canadian Engineer, we find that the Ottawa Forwarding Company has commissioned the construction of a new boat by J. & R. Weir of Montreal: 107 feet in length with a capacity of 150 tons. $25,000. in cost – about $500,000 today.

The Ottawa Forwarding Company navigated goods back and forth between Montreal – Ottawa – Kingston using tugboats, barges and steamboats, and they also provided some passenger service.
Although Edward Alexander Hall maintained ownership of Riverest until his death in 1912, it appears he also had an Ottawa residence which makes sense given the nature of his business.
Edward Alexander Hall died at age 58 on April 17, 1912 in Ottawa from heart disease. His address is given as 65 Delaware Avenue, Ottawa. He is identified as a “Forwarder”. His son Frank Edward Hall came from Montreal to look after the estate. Edward is buried in Beechwood Cemetery.
Riverest was sold and has had a number of owners over the century since. According to current owners Alexandra Quester and André Chabot some of the past owners are Frank J. Pattee, Ernest Johnson, Hilda M. Elliott, Donald and Ann Mclean. Paule Doucet was the most recent owner and she was active in promoting local heritage.
According to a 1973 Ottawa Journal article, Riverest was purchased in 1959 by Douglas D. Stewart, who was still the owner in 1973 when the house was featured.

Looking across the Ottawa River to the Lower Laurentians from the Riverest Marina, April 2021. In the summer the hills are variations of verdant greens, and in the fall the famous colours of the Laurentians are thrilling.
(Photo: Michelle Landriault)

Riverest, architectural details

In their 1963 book published by Clarke Irwin: The Ancestral Roof : Domestic Architecture of Upper Canada, Marion MacRae and Anthony Adamson state that Riverest is “the finest example of Regency in Ontario”.
A 1973 Ottawa Journal feature by Audrey Blair provides us with a valuable informal inventory of Riverest. The interest Ms. Blair had in writing the feature was sparked by her familial ties with Eva Hall Blair born at Riverest in 1881. The owner, Douglas D. Stewart, who Blair states purchased Riverest in 1959, provided Blair with the interview.
Here is information provided in the feature article:

Site: The storey-and-a-half stone cottage is built on the length. The site location is “congruent to the site” as Regency architecture demanded, and is both aesthetically perfect and extremely practical. Surrounded by magnificent trees and gardens and contemplating the lovely Laurentians across the Ottawa River.

Construction:

Porches: Originally there were two matching porches – on the north and south sides – the north porch was already removed by 1973. The porches are latticed with delicate supporting columns.

Front door: The front door originally opened to the river view. It is more elaborate with elliptical fanlight and moulded trim arched over the fan that sweeps out to frame the sidelights.

Central hall: This hall runs from front to back with entrance doors that have eight panels each. The hall has views of the river. The hall may have been reduced in size prior to 1973. From the hall there is a staircase with a nested newel, slim stair rails and wide steps. Originally, the staircase may have had matching newels.

Dining room: This room is now enclosed (1973). The dining room retains a Regency fireplace with two china cupboards on either side of a wall niche. There is a sideboard of rosewood or mahogany original to John Wurtele Marston.

Kitchen: Kitchen wing is at far east end. It once had a fireplace (blocked-in); huge bake oven still exists (1973) lined in brick, and large enough for an adult to stand upright inside. Over the kitchen is a small room with dormer windows; an extremely narrow staircase leads up to this room from the north end of the kitchen. Originally, this staircase rose from a library-den that became an office. By 1959, alterations had changed the kitchen wing (1973).

Drawing Room: This is on the west side. It has an elegant Regency fireplace flanked by an open china cupboard with corner-boxed corners. This matches the woodwork downstairs which is bullnose with centre trim, corner-boxed doorways, and doorways all have double-cross panels. There are two large French windows at either end of this lovely room. There is a ‘heat-hole’ between it and the hall that has removeable cover panel – open in the winter and closed in the summer.

Bedrooms: The downstairs west wing has a bedroom that opens off the drawing room and has three French windows. There are three bedrooms upstairs with a central bathroom. There are ample clothes cupboards.

Other features: French windows; decorative chimneys with dentelled trim at the top; fanlights and sidelights on entrance doors and all windows — by 1959 the fanlights had been covered (1973).