Port Perry is steeped in history, which is evident when you stroll along Queen Street, and admire the beautiful 19th century buildings. It is also apparent when you strike up a conversation with some of the residents, especially those who were born here.
One such person is Beverly Brown, a long-time resident of Port Perry, but also a direct descendant of the first Reeve and his wife. To give you a little background, Joseph and his twin brother Joel Bigelow, were born in 1829, west of Bradford. When Joseph was 22, his father heard of the death of Peter Perry, a visionary in Port Perry, who had great ambitions. Hiram (Joseph’s father) immediately saw this as an opportunity for his sons, and purchased a parcel of land for them to make their fortune.
Joseph and Joel built a small general store on Queen Street. Prior to this, Port Perry was the industrial part of Scugog, and all social and commercial business was done in Prince Albert.
Joseph was courting the daughter of a Member of Parliament, and proposed marriage to her. Elizabeth Paxton accepted, but this presented a problem, as brother Joel was living with Joseph in the small house adjacent to the store. After the wedding, Joel moved to Whitby, and shortly relocated to Chicago, where he opened and operated the Bigelow Tea Company.
Joseph and Elizabeth built a beautiful house on Cochrane Street, still affectionately known as the Bigalow house. As their children move out they wanted to downsize, but instead suggested their daughter Emma and her husband moved in with them. Emma had eight daughters, one of whom was named Marion. She married David Carnegie and their son, Donald, was the father of Beverly Brown, nee Carnegie.
There was no proper hospital in Port Perry when Bev was born, so the birth happened in Oshawa; however Bev grew up on Durham Road 21 near Manchester, across from what is now Century Home and Garden Greenhouses.
Bev’s sister moved to North Carolina in the nineties, but Bev remained a Port Perry gal and during school, helped out in the family hardware business. Her cousins purchased the business from her dad, and changed it to Crest Hardware (home of today’s Cycle Life), while her dad opened Don Carnegie Men’s Wear on Queen Street. Her mom was an administrator at Port Perry High School, where Bev, of course, also attended.
During her high school years, Bev picked strawberries for Mr. Parkinson, a teacher who owned a farm. The going rate was two cents a quart, so you can appreciate why she moved on to the Five and Dime store, located where Luke’s is today.
After graduating from high school, Bev moved to the Toronto General Hospital’s school of nursing. She was married in 1970. A few years later, before she graduated, she was expecting, and was the first person at the college to be granted an eight-month leave of absence.
After Bev graduated, she did a short stint at Women's College Hospital and then returned to Port Perry to work at our hospital. “I often laugh,” Bev said. “I have delivered 75% of Port Perry’s residents.
Bev was an avid curler, beginning during her high school years, and playing for most of her adult life. She was president of the regional district of the Ontario Nursing Association, and is quite active in her church, as well as girl guiding.
In 2016, Bev Brown heard of a new housing concept, where four women would purchase a house together, renovate it to accommodate senior living, and share the expenses. “I certainly was not ready for a retirement home, but this sounded quite interesting,” Bev explained.
The house was on Mary, Street and after a complete renovation, Bev and her three, newfound friends, moved in. Each of the four residents has a bedroom and sitting area, and the living room and kitchen are shared. There is also an area for a personal care worker, should the need arise. The four ladies were affectionately dubbed, ‘The Golden Girls’.
This is where the story becomes even more interesting. Back in the day, Elizabeth Bigelow, who lived with her family in a house on Queen Street (next to Bigelow’s Emporium), decided it was not fitting to reside on the ‘merchant’ street. She therefore arranged to move the house to Perry Street. You guessed it, it is the same house where Bev Brown and the other three Golden Girls now live. The story has gone full circle.
Bev Brown is very proud of her heritage. She enjoys spending time with her three children and six grandchildren, and loves to travel. Locales such as Israel, China and Great Britain have been checked off, and Scotland is in the works for this December, pandemic permitting.
Meeting and spending a few hours with Bev Brown was very interesting, and reinforced the historic element of this wonderful town.
Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Watch his show, ‘Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel’, on Rogers TV, the Standard Website or YouTube.