The History of Fairknowe Home

Quarriers Canadian Family Logo

George Crawford, born in Leitrim, Ireland about 1792, came to Upper Canada in 1824 as a contractor to work on the Rideau Canal. He moved with his wife, formerly a Miss Brown of Killishandra, Ireland, and their five children to north of York. The family consisted on James (b. 1815), John W. (b. 1817), Anne, Margaret, and Isabella. He carried out contracts on the Rideau Canal from the beginning. Subsequent to that, he successfully bid on canal work on the proposed St. Lawrence canals, and completed work on the Cornwall and Beauharnois canals. His first wife died while the family was living near York.

While visiting the eastern part of the province and in Brockville, he became acquainted with the family of the Sheriff, Adiel Sherwood, and in particular, their daughter, Caroline Sherwood. They were married on February 18, 1830. The Crawford family settled in Brockville about 1835.

He was a success in business and also engaged in politics, first on the local level, being elected member of the Board of Police, the early name for the Town Council, in 1845, and then as President of the Board in 1846-47. Earlier during the Rebellion and Patriot War of 1838-39, he commanded a company of militia volunteers, the Brockville Light Dragoons.

Quarriers Canadian Family Logo

Between 1852 and 1855 he was elected and represented Brockville in the Upper Canada Assembly. He was then appointed to the U.C. Legislative Council for the St. Lawrence Division where he served until appointed to the Canadian Senate on October 23, 1867.

In 1845 George Crawford purchased an estate of 150 acres (most of lot 8) in the east end of the Town of Brockville called "Woodlawn" from Judge Jonas Jones. This contained the home also called Woodlawn. This presently still stands, and is located at the end of Woodlawn Place.

The parcel of land purchased was on the north side of the King's Highway and ran from North Augusta Rd. easterly well beyond First Avenue. On the corner of First Ave. he had built a large stucco-surfaced square home which became known as "Fairknowe."This was finished about 1847. At this point he sold Woodlawn House and 50 acres to his second son James for $5000, and handed over two undeveloped lots to his daughters, Anne (married to Samuel Keefer, C.E.) and Isabella (married to George Easton). The other daughter from his first marriage, Margaret was married to the Hon. John Ross.

Crawford's eldest son John W. was educated in Toronto, called to the Bar in 1839 and named at QC in 1867. His political and business career is a story in itself rising through the political ranks to become Lt.-Gov. Of Ontario in 1873. James Crawford who stayed in Brockville was Lt. Col. of the local militia and served for a short time as Member of the Dominion Parliament.

George and Caroline had several younger children, namely, Edward Patrick (b. 1846), Julia Sophia, Victoria Elizabeth, George, Samuel and Charles.

George Crawford died in 1870 and is buried in the old St. Peter's section of the Brockville Cemetery.

Following the death of George Crawford in 1879, his estate sold the Fairknowe property to Harry Braithwaite Abbott in 1871. Abbott (1829-1918) had become vice president and managing director of the Brockville & Ottawa Railway in 1868. He and his wife, Margaret Amelie Sicotte (the widow of Cornelius Freer) were married on February 18, 1868, and lived for a time in the Morris House on Court House Ave. (now the Brockville Club). He was a notable railway engineer, and the brother of John Abbott, Conservative politician and later Prime Minister of Canada in 1891.

The Abbotts then moved into Fairknowe, At that time the estate was surrounded by sixteen acres of land. Their family of three Freer children was augmented by three more, as Hamilton, James and Beatrice Abbott were born during their stay in Brockville. When Harry was later offered the appointment of General Superintendent of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1886, they left Brockville, and took up residence in Vancouver.

The Fairknowe property was purchased then by William A. & James Gilmour, and George T. Fulford. These local businessmen in turn sold this house in 1888 to the National Orphan Homes of Scotland. This began the period of involvement with the work of William Quarrier (1829-1903).

William Quarrier was a young man who rose from poverty himself and made his life work the betterment of the homeless and orphaned children of his city and country. He began as an apprentice cobbler and shoemaker trying to support his mother and siblings. he worked hard and succeeded to the point where he operated a number of shoe stores.

His first efforts in 1864 to save the boys he saw living on the streets of Glasgow led to the setting up of homes for children in the 1870's. He first began to send children to Canada as part of the emigration scheme of his friend Annie MacPherson. In 1878 after years of planning, he opened the first buildings in his National Orphan Homes of Scotland village outside Glasgow at Bridge of Weir.

He later came to Canada looking for a property to use as a forwarding point for his children. In Brockville he purchased the former home of George Crawford, and Harry B. Abbott, and opened it as Fairknowe Home. His daughter Agnes moved here with her husband, James Burgess to organize and run it for her father's organization.

Most years saw groups of boys and girls make separate trips by ocean passage and arrive at the orphanage in Brockville. They would not stay in the home any longer than it took to find a family ready to adopt them or hire them on as farm or domestic help. In the end, close to 6000 children were sent to Canada by this group.

William Quarrier accomplished a lot in his life before his death in 1903, and his family and supporters carried on the work. His village at Bridge of Weir is still thriving, although the focus broadened to care for children and adults with various diseases such as tuberculosis and epilepsy. In the later years, Claude Winters was the superintendent of the Brockville home. Operations in Brockville ended about 1934 when the Fairknowe Property was sold to Dorothy and Arthur Hardy. Some of the early work of the Children's Aid in Brockville was, for a time, carried on at Fairknowe, and the property was subdivided for housing in 1934.

The remains of this once elegant house can still be found on Fairknowe Dr. as an apartment. A section of the old Brockville Cemetery contains a large monument with the names of a number of children who died here while under the care of Quarriers.

A book has been published on William Quarrier's life and gives many more details than we have room for here. It is "The Village, A History of Quarriers" written by Anna Magnusson, and published in 1984.

Copyright July 1999 Douglas M. Grant (reprinted with his permission)

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Copyright© Douglas M. Grant (reprinted with his permission) 2014