Edna Webb was quite young when she gave birth to Jennie, her first child, at home on Little Franklin Lake near Perth Road on December 6, 1918. WWI had just ended, and horse power still ruled on the roads.
The Webb’s - George, Edna and baby Jennie, soon moved to Ida Hill, at the Washburn Road in the southeastern corner of Storrington Township, in what would become South Frontenac 80 years later.
At the age of 82 Jennie was one of the recipients of the second annual South Frontenac Volunteers of the Year Awards in June of 2000. The award recognised her decades long commitment to the Women’s Institute, 4H club, the United Church and numerous other community efforts. The other winners that year included Mel Fleming from Bedford, Percy Snider from Loughborough and John McDougall, Portland.
A lot happened to Jennie Webb between 1918 and 2000, and a lot more has happened since.
As she reflected last week on the occasion of her 100th Birthday at Fairmount Home, with her eldest daughters Nadine and Linda at her side, a picture of a life of family, hard work, faith, and a love of the rural, farming life, emerged.
Jennie Webb grew up at Ida Hill, where she attended elementary school at the Ida Hill School. She was not an only child for long, as 6 younger brothers arrived in succession. Her father George worked for the telephone company as the service was being built out in the region, and was an active beekeeper. After leaving Bell, he had as many as 250 hives on his own property and the properties of many neighbours around the countryside. Jennie’s mother Edna was a midwife.
When Jenny was 15, a family from Desert Lake, near Verona, bought the farm across the road from the Webbs. John Abraham was the eldest son of that family. He was about 22. With his sister, he walked the family’s stock of cattle over from Desert Lake to Ida Hill in one long day.
There must have been a first glance, a first time when 22-year old John Cousineau and 15 year, Jennie Webb saw each other soon after the Cousineau family arrived at Ida Hill. That first impression is still alive in Jennie. It comes out when she looks at some of the family photos she keeps by her side, a sign of her enduring love for her John Abraham.
Two years after meeting, Jennie and John were married. When John passed ten years ago, at the age of 97, they had been married for 72 years.
Jennie and John purchased their own farm on the Battersea Road, and moved there in 1942. They have four daughters, Nadine, Linda, Shirley and Marilyn. They ran a Holstein Dairy Farm, and raised chickens for meat and eggs on the farm.
It took John ten years to build a new brick house for the family on the property, since he was running the farm while building the house, and they moved into the new house in the 1950’s.
In those days, there were four hotels in nearby Battersea. At the Cousineau farm, they would raise 500 chicks at a time. Calls would in from one of the hotels for 3 or 4 dozen broilers for the next day, and Jennie and John were pretty experienced and efficient at preparing chickens. It took them 7 minutes to kill, dry pluck and prepare a chicken for delivery. They would bring up the chickens in the morning, for serving that evening in the dining room. Local food was a way of life back then.
Jennie lived in the house until January of last year, when a month after her 99th birthday, mobility issues, hearing and vision loss had progressed to the point where it became necessary to move to Fairmount Home. The farm is still operating, as a cow-calf operation now, in the hands of one of Jennie’s grandsons, one of many family members who continue to live nearby, and her house has been sold, to her great grandson.
Jennie’s daughter Linda lives across the road, Nadine is in Inverary, and Shirley lives nearby as well. Marilyn lives in Guelph, but has a summer cottage in Verona. Jennie has 9 grandchildren, 21 great grandchildren, and 6 great-great grandchildren, with another one on the way. Just as they visited at the farmhouse often, her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren drop by Fairmount Home on a regular basis.
The changes that have taken place in the world during Jennie’s lifetime are unprecedented in human history. She has bridged the era of horse and carriage and driverless cars.
It is a tribute to her lifetime of hard work and devotion to community and family that the rural values she grew up with are still alive in her, and in her family as well.