Pursuing a childhood dream of picking blueberries on land formerly owned by Abiel Peck, Stephen Holmstrom returned to New Brunswick in 1989. Leaving behind four married children, Stephen and his wife Elaine left Victoria, BC, in 1989 with their youngest son Christopher. The three travelled across Canada in a rented van with all their possessions to come to their new home: the “Old Peck Place.” Elaine had never been east of Saskatchewan, the place of her birth.
Stephen is the 9th-generation descendant of Abiel Peck through his mother Kathleen, née Calhoun Harper. Abiel settled in Albert County in 1765. It is believed that the original home of Abiel was in the Holmstrom’s blueberry fields across from their house (Peck Colonial House) in Hopewell Hill.
In 1768, Abiel Peck’s daughter Rachel married Thomas Calhoun. Calhoun had been a trapper and trader in the area now known as the State of Ohio. Calhoun became acquainted with General Haldim-and, Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in North America. Calhoun and Haldimand later settled along the south bank of the Petitcodiac River.
Rachel (Peck) Calhoun’s grave lies behind the Hopewell Rocks Motel on land that was part of a 100,000-acre parcel given to Thomas Calhoun. King George lll granted the land to Calhoun in appreciation of services rendered during the “French and Indian Wars” (1756-60).
Thomas Calhoun, along with his brother-in-law William Peck, mined grindstone from Grindstone Island. The stone was shipped by sloop via the Bay of Fundy and down the East Coast of North America. (Stone from the island was used in the construction of buildings in Halifax, New York City, Philadelphia and many other cities.) In the spring of 1772, their boat capsized while they were loading grindstone. Thomas, his brother-in-law William Peck, and other crew members drowned. They are buried in the Pioneer Cemetery within view of Grindstone Island.
Abiel Peck acquired 5,500 acres of the Calhoun grant. Stephen and Elaine consider themselves very fortunate to now own 340 acres of Abiel Peck's land, the only parcel of the grant to remain in family hands. They have a copy of the original grant, which they obtained from the archives in Fredericton.
Stephen Holmstrom grew up with his six siblings and his parents, Ernest Holmstrom and Kathleen Calhoun Harper, on a farm located near the Hopewell Hill Cemetery (the house is now painted blue). This is where Gilford Peck, a son of Abiel, developed one of the first apple tree nurseries in the area. By 1880, more than 200,000 trees per year were shipped from the nursery. In 1901, Gilbert moved to Wolfville, NS, where he carried on his fruit tree nursery.
In 1970, Ernest and Kathleen Holmstrom sold the farm and moved westward. Stephen left for the West Coast after attending community college in Moncton.
In 1994, Stephen, Elaine and Chris began restoring their new home, previously owned by Hilyard Peck and his daughter-in-law Helen. The Holmstroms cut timber on their property and brought in a portable sawmill to make their own lumber, including 10x10 inch and 4x8 inch beams. They searched for old windows, doors and moldings to make the restoration as authentic as possible. In 1995, they opened a tea-room, which they operated until fall 2010.
For more than 30 years, the Holmstroms have opened their home as Peck Colonial House B&B, welcoming everyone who enjoys a warm, comfortable atmosphere, good homemade food, and interesting conversations. They have hosted guests from around the world, entertaining second and third generations of guests. Recently, a couple from Switzerland who had stayed with them 20 years ago came back for a return visit.
The Holmstroms have hosted many descendants of the Pecks and Calhouns. These guests often bring charts, maps and pictures of tombstones to make connections with their ancestors. One guest of note was Edward Peck, the son of Cyrus Peck who was born in Hopewell Hill; Cyrus was awarded the Victoria Cross after World War l for feats of bravery.
Stephen has taken cuttings (called scions) from many of the old apple trees on Gilbert Peck’s original property where Stephen himself grew up. (Note, Stephen received permission from the current owners to do this.) Stephen has grafted scions from the old trees onto wild apple trees on his property.
As much as possible, the Holmstroms have used their land responsibly. With the wonderful opportunity they have been given, they have grown blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, rhubarb, cranberries and vegetables, as well as tapped trees to make their own maple syrup. From this bounty, Elaine makes jams, jellies, pickles and pies (her speciality), which are in much demand. During the summer, excess produce is sold from a small tent by the roadside.
Stephen is known for his beautiful yard and garden full of flowers of every description. Many people stop to take pictures and the garden is particularly enjoyed by their many guests.
They are very grateful to their son Chris who has much sweat equity invested in the old place, alongside his wife, Mindy, and their children, Jade (15), Tyler (13) and Danaleigh (10), who have all supported this endeavour.
Stephen and Elaine are trying to cut back on their workload, but they find it difficult to do so as they have been blessed with good health and a love of what they do.
Stephen and Elaine Holmstrom are the owners/operators of Peck Colonial House B&B, 5566 Rte. 114, Hopewell Hill, NB. 506-882-2114. www.peckcolonial.com