Mississippi Madawaska Land Trust | Jul 09, 2015
In December 2011, the Mississippi Madawaska Land Trust (MMLT) acquired the 100 acre Rose Hill Nature Reserve in Denbigh, a donation from sisters Bethany Armstrong and Charlene Bernhardt. The property had been owned by their family since the 1940s and due to its remote location is a quiet, wilderness oasis and wildlife haven.
On one of our first outings to the property, someone in the group noticed on an adjacent property an enormous boulder, an “erratic” deposited by glaciers during the ice age, that looked like it had something on the side of it. We wandered up the hill and were stunned to see a large bronze plaque mounted on the side of the boulder.
The plaque was a memorial to Robert Brodey and family friend Anna Hatton from Robert’s wife Patricia. On the plaque Patricia made a promise to Robert to keep the land as it was so that others may learn to love and respect nature as he did.
We were so mystified and moved by everything we had read that we managed to track down Patricia to let her know that she had a new Nature Reserve right next door to her property. We discovered that she now lived in Bar Harbour, Maine and had already been in conversations with the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) to donate the property. On learning about the MMLT and Rose Hill Nature Reserve, it just made sense to her to donate the property to us. It also made sense to NCC, knowing that we were already monitoring the adjacent property.
Patricia’s story is both tragic and inspiring at the same time. Here follows excerpts from her narrative telling her reasons for wanting us to preserve this beautiful 258 acre wilderness property.
“..I believe that this land can help in a very special way to bring to people an understanding of “how the world works”. A tall order for a small nature preserve in a large world.
To be sure there are many more dramatic places throughout Canada and the world with magnificent views, spectacular birds and other animals, places that draw visitors and encourage donations. I, as much as anyone, am awed by such places, but I believe that in focusing so much attention on the grand, we may draw attention away from the small: the parts, living and non-living, that keep the whole together and “make it work”. We see and applaud the macro and do not take the time to understand the micro.
I have been part-owner and later sole owner of this land for over 40 years. My former husband, Dr. Robert S. Brodey, was born in Canada and became an American citizen when he was employed as Professor of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
When Bob was young he spent most of his summers at Camp Arowhon in Algonquin Park and was influenced for the rest of his life by those early years in wilderness Canada. As an adult he dreamed of owning some wild land where he could canoe, hike, photograph and study natural history (his special interest was Ornithology).
Bob asked his mother, Jennie to send him real estate ads from the Toronto papers. One ad she sent drew us to a property near Denbigh, Ontario. We had to wear snowshoes as there was fairly deep snow on the ground, but despite the difficulty in getting around, Bob knew immediately that this was the land he had hoped to find. This was the first and only land we looked at because it was perfect.
In June, 1971, Bob and I purchased the first 110 acres of land. The main attraction was a beaver pond, dammed years earlier and creating a ring of dead trees around the pond. ..
Bob at some point realized that the south end of the beaver pond was connected to another 148 acres and in June, 1972, we purchased it. This parcel had open fields, lilac bushes and apple trees, as well as an old barn and one other small building. The old silvered wood from the buildings was quite valuable and over the years was slowly removed. All that remains is what is left of the stone foundations.
..Bob and I took many trips to Denbigh from 1971 to 1979. Our last trip together was in August, 1979 when we were introducing our friends, John and Anna Hatton, to our land. On August 10, 1979 it was raining and we decided to have breakfast at the Swiss Inn (by this time Werner and Martha Lips were our good friends, and we often stayed at the Inn and/or ate meals there when the weather was not conducive to camping or cooking over the camp fireplace.) After breakfast we planned to visit Anna’s sister in Shawville, Quebec. On the way, on Highway 41, we were in a serious automobile accident, where another car swerved into our car and we collided head-on. Bob was driving with John’s wife Anna behind him; both were killed instantly. John, in the passenger seat beside Bob was badly injured with seven double fractured ribs, a broken left arm and contusions on his lungs. I was sitting behind John and had only minor facial injuries. It appears that the other driver fell asleep at the wheel.
“Shortly after the accident I first approached the Nature Conservancy of Canada about eventually donating the land. On August 10, 1980, a celebration was held on the land with representatives from the Nature Conservancy as well as our families and friends. A bronze plaque was installed on Rose Hill Rock as a memorial to Bob and Anna and a promise to preserve the land in its wild state.
“John Hatton and I were married two years after our accident. It was several years more before John and I felt comfortable enough to come back to Denbigh and to camp on the land. We thought that it would be very difficult, but we found it to be very healing being in a place where we had last been with Bob and Anna.
Camping on this land has been one of the great experiences of my life. I had always been interested in Natural History, however being virtually alone in the backwoods of Canada where, if we chose, we could immerse ourselves completely in what was around us… the insects and other tiny creatures... We were often asked if we were afraid of the Black Bears, but though there were bear-claw marks on almost every Beech tree, we never in all our years had a bear come into our camp or even glimpsed one from a distance. (We later learned that the local bears frequently went into town for the easily available food; our camp food was always hung securely in a tree.)
“We often fell asleep to the calls of the Grey Tree Frog, calls that were loud and long but soothing and pleasant. However, we could be suddenly startled awake by the very loud screech of the Barred Owl, a sound that would terrify anyone unfamiliar with this bird, especially when one screech would be answered by another from the other side of the pond.
“We learned where to find the Sundew and Pitcher plants; we watched Hummingbirds on the Spotted Touch-Me-Not growing on the beaver dam. I especially looked forward to finding the all-white Indian Pipe flower and the larval amphibian, the scarlet/orange Red Eft.
“We watched Painted Turtles and Brown Water Snakes warming themselves on fallen logs. We hiked all over the land and explored the pond by canoe and on the trail we had cleared around it. The days and nights always passed too quickly and although we occasionally ventured into town to visit Werner and Martha and eat at the Swiss Inn, we spent most of our time alone in the woods. When we returned home our friends would often say, “How does it feel to be back in the real world?” to which we would answer “That’s where we’ve been!”
In late June, Patricia fulfilled her promise to her former husband to ensure that this special spot would be protected forever and made Rose Hill Nature Reserve a grand 358 acres. A celebration and a short tour of the property is planned for Saturday, August 8. Please visit the mmlt.ca website for more details as they become available.
About the Mississippi Madawaska Land Trust: The MMLT is a non-profit, charitable organization that works directly and flexibly with landowners interested in permanently protecting properties with exceptional ecological value, often bringing the support of a number of tax benefits.