August Gust, his wife Louise and their four sons were all born in Germany: August in 1837; Louise in 1836; Albert in 1869; Fredrick in 1873; Herman in 1877; and Gustav in 1880.
Most of the German farmers in this area, including August, obtained their land as a free grant under the Homestead Act of 1880. August and his family left Prussia in 1884 and in 1888 obtained a free grant of land on Brindle Road. When his eldest son, Albert, reached the age of 18, he also became eligible for a land grant, securing property beside his father. Frederick worked as a labourer for the railway and Albert as a teamster in the logging camps. In 1891 Albert married Bertha Wagner; in September, 1894 August’s youngest son, Gustav, died at the age of 14.
By 1905 the Gust family had been in residence on the Petawawa Plains for 17 years when the Government decided to build a Military Camp on the land occupied by many of the German settlers, and began buying up their land. On December 23, 1908 August transferred his land to Albert consisting of 90 acres cleared, 110 acres uncleared, a house and kitchen, cow barn, five outbuildings, one well, and fences. Many of the homesteaders felt the appraisers were not giving fair dollar for their land, and refused to sell, which created an upheaval in the Government’s acquisition of the properties.
The Military Camp Superintendent, Henry Aylmer, felt that a few homesteaders would no doubt cause problems and singled out Gust, Schroeder and Stewart. Albert was one of the settlers determined to get fair value and on one occasion ordered a work team off his land, and flatly refused to allow any further cutting; he would hold out until he got the price he wanted.
Finally, on January 23, 1909, Albert sold the homestead for $3960, consisting of 200 acres and purchased a farm in Alice Township from James Cobourn, a free grant settler.
When the Gust family moved to their new home they took with them their household possessions and tools, including the furniture made by August, and all the apparatus required to manufacture woollen yarn and cloth – the loom, spinning wheel, bobbin winder, bobbin rack, and wool winder. In 1910 they built a new home on the property, with three generations living under the same roof.
On March 11, 1909 Rev Hamm of St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church called a special meeting of the congregation. An offer of $500 had been made by the military for the church. Albert Gust made the motion to accept the offer and move the church building, which included all the furniture and vestments, to Chalk River. At the last meeting of the church congregation on April 24, 1909, Albert received $40 to fence the cemetery. The church severed the congregation until 1965, and it was decided in October of that year to demolish the church. When the siding was removed, the timber from the old church was found; the foreman leading the group of volunteers was Wilfred Gust. The Gust family had been members of St. Matthews Lutheran Church since 1895.
Albert’s son, Adolph, inherited the farm on the death of his father in 1946 and years later when he retired to a modern home in Petawawa, he took with him some of the furniture that had been made by his grandfather, August, on the Petawawa Plains. All pieces were made from pine and included kitchen cupboards and bedroom furniture. Fred Gust moved to Chalk River with his wife and two children, and Herman Gust moved to California.
Written By: Dianne McKinnon 2011-10