House History One of Wakefield's oldest dwellings, the Fairbairn house was the home of Scottish settler William Fairbairn. Fairbairn arrived in Wakefield in 1834 and, in 1838, erected the area's first grist mill, beside the La Pêche River just as it begins its descent to join the Gatineau. The original thick stone walls he constructed are still an attraction in today's Wakefield Mill. The house, built by William in the 1860s, now sits proudly on the east bank of the Gatineau River, a short walk from the centre of Wakefield village and not far from its original site on William Fairbairn's farm. It has an adventure-filled past, having been relocated twice. Threatened with demolition in 1993 to make way for a road approach to the new bridge over the Gatineau River, it was moved across Route 105 from its farm location by Andy Tommy. in 2005, about to be torn down to provide space for condo housing, the house was moved again, by the Municipality of La Pêche at the request of the Gatineau Valley Historical Society. Its permanent location is across the river, near the covered bridge, in the seven-acre Hendrick Park. In late summer 2012, the new Fairbairn House Heritage Centre first opened its doors to visitors. With exhibits, programmes and an ongoing roster of special events, Fairbairn House has a renewed purpose, focussing on our unique history and enhancing the area's potential as a recreo-touristic destination.
Fairbairn Family William Fairbairn and his wife Jean Wanless were married in 1813, and emigrated to Canada from Roxburghshire, Scotland, in 1817. William was trained as a stone mason and his wife was a nurse. They originally settled in St. Andrews-East, near Lachute, Quebec, but later moved to Bytown, where William worked for a time on the locks of the Rideau Canal. In Bytown, they lived on a plot of land at the foot of Parliament Hill, near where the Supreme Court stands today. He and his family moved north to Wakefield Township in 1834. In 1838, he petitioned the Governor of Upper and Lower Canada to be allowed to build a grist mill on the last falls on the La Pêche River. In his petition, he described himself as "of the millwright trade." First a mason, now a millwright, Fairbairn soon opened a grist mill in the newly emerging settlement. In 1844, David MacLaren bought the grist mill from Fairbairn and added a sawmill and a woollen mill, creating an important industrial complex. William and his wife had four sons -- Archibald, William, John and George -- and four daughters -- Helen, Mary, Elsie and Frances. In 1861, their sons went west to prospect in the gold fields of British Columbia. At about the time they returned to Wakefield, in 1864, William built his new frame house a short distance west of the family's log home. Members of the Fairbairn family lived in the house until 1906. William died on February 6, 1872; his wife, Jean Wanless, predeceased him in 1868.
Major assistance has come from the Municipality of La Pêche, the CLD des Collines-de-l'Outaouais, the Department of Economic Development (DEC), the Department of Canadian Heritage, Desjardins Caisse populaire de Masham-Luskville, Conférence régionale des élus de l'Outaouais (CRÉO), Ministère de la Culture et des Communications, and the Gatineau Valley Historical Society.