The farm on the North Talbot Road /
Allan G. Bogue.
Lincoln : University of Nebraska Press, c2001.
xiv, 226 p. : ill.
0803261896 (pbk. : alk. paper)
More Details
Lincoln : University of Nebraska Press, c2001.
0803261896 (pbk. : alk. paper)
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
Allan G. Bogue is emeritus professor of history at the University of Wisconsin Madison.
First Chapter

Chapter One

Of Time and Place and People

During the 1920s and 1930s the stretch of the North Talbot Road that linked the villages of Lambeth and Byron was an "improved" gravel road between the junction of Provincial Highways 2 and 4 in Lambeth and the Springbank Drive, cutting the latter slightly to the east of Byron. Place yourself in time on a September afternoon in 1935 in Lambeth at the two-story red-brick continuation school located a couple hundred yards south of the highway junction. Now follow me as I mount a rattly blue bicycle, leave the school grounds, and point my machine north along the uneven cement sidewalk. Soon I am at the crossroads, just past the white clapboard Masonic Hall. A branch of the Royal Bank of Canada is on my right, and across Highway 4 is the one-story Anglican Chapel beside its graveyard.

    I cross Highway 2 to take the village sidewalk on the west side of the North Talbot Road, passing beside a one-story gray-brick establishment owned by the local Farmer's Cooperative Society. Stepping beneath its front portico and inside, customers can find candy, groceries, or dry goods. At a side entrance is coal oil in a horizontal drum. Big bags of livestock feed are inside at the rear side door, which faces on the North Talbot Road, and locals fill their need for yellow wooden fence posts and rolls of fence wire from the piles in a yard at the back of the store. Across the street on the other corner is a small gray-brick hotel, the Longwoods Inn, and a little farther along, the edifice of the United Church of Canada, also of gray brick.

    If you look to the left as we cross the highway to the Farmer's Co-op, you see the gasoline pumps and show window of the Ford Agency, and beyond that, the open door and faded board front of the blacksmith shop. A glance in the other direction, up Highway 2 in the direction of London, reveals a couple of gasoline stations, a drug store, and the recreation hall, ice cream bar, and bus stop called The Bluebird.

    Leaving Lambeth's major intersection behind, I cycle through three short blocks of residences, some of substantial size, built mostly of gray brick. One serves as residence and office for our family doctor. The sidewalk ends at a sign that proclaims on its northern face: "Live in Lovely Lambeth," a motto often altered by paint-wielding pranksters to read "Love in Lively Lambeth."

    Now I take to the gravel road, which at this time of year is a hard-packed washboard, bordered by a treacherous fringe of loose gravel that can throw a careless rider into a wrenching skid and abrasive fall. I shall follow the road for a mile and a quarter until I reach Dale's Side Road. This stretch is one of gentle undulation, dipping to cross a small bridge and a number of culverts and rising in between these points, sometimes sufficiently to make me shift from the bike seat into stand-up pumping. To the immediate left, as I leave the "Lovely Lambeth" sign, is a small field of asparagus planted in a sunken area that was once part of a gravel pit. This is owned by my father's cousin Bill, and beyond stretch his two greenhouses. His modest white frame house is set close to the road, and to the north another small field drops down to a creek that passes under the road below a diminutive cement bridge, scarcely more than a glorified culvert. Bill's Jersey cow grazes beside the little waterway.

    Farther along the road are several small one-story residences. One is occupied by a mysterious retired pianist; another, so it is said, by an aged relative of Sandy Somerville, the London hero who won the United States Amateur Golf Championship a few years earlier. Across the road to my right, farmsteads have sprung up. As soon as I have crossed the little bridge I begin to work against a gentle slope that continues until I have pedaled half a mile from the four corners at Lambeth and reached the line fence of the third farm on my right. Here the Third Concession-line Road of Westminster Township intersects the North Talbot Road from the left and apparently proceeds no further.

    At this point I have reached the boundary of my family's immediate neighborhood. In the fat V formed by the Third Concession Road and the North Talbot Road is the schoolyard and gray-brick school of School Section (ss) 17. Its two substantial rooms join at right angles, a stubby bell tower sitting at the junction. Behind the school a white board fence divides the grounds and separates the two-holer outhouses into domain of boy and girl--females to the north, males to the south. My brother, my two sisters, and I all received our public schooling at ss 17. Across from ss 17 is the farm of Cousin Norman, known to the family as Tink because of his love of tinkering with machinery. Next, to the north, is the holding of my grandfather, David. He and Tink's father, John Jr., spent much of their lives in expanding the original clearings on these farms after John Sr. acquired the title in the early 1850s.

    Just past the school, the road begins to slope gently toward the north and continues to do so until past the David Bogue farm. Thus far it has angled to the west of north, but now at the north line fence of my grandfather's old place, a quarter mile past the Third Concession Road, it bends to head more directly to the north. The change in direction seems to increase the velocity of the head winds that cyclists face. West of the road the frontage of the Sadler family's dairy farm and well-tended orchard has stretched from the school to the bend. Next is the farm to which my father, George Bogue, took Eleta Britton, my mother, on their marriage in 1904; it is now owned by Sam Kilbourne, who is employed in London but works at odd times as a plasterer and farms with the aid of a grown son. An ugly two-story brick house that my father built dominates this farmstead.

    Most of the farms between Lambeth and Byron are fifty or one hundred acres in size, but immediately to the north of the Bogue homesteads on the east side is a two-hundred-acre holding, its frontage stretching for a quarter of a mile. George usually refers to it as the Burley Burch farm since it was first owned and long occupied by the Burch family, who obtained it from the Crown as a United Empire Loyalist entitlement. In my earliest memories it was the Pringle farm, owned by a London businessman believed to be rich, and stocked with purebred Jersey cattle, some of them wearing the chain and small padlock around the horns that denoted origin in the Jersey Islands, or so we believed. Across the road and next to the Kilbourne place is the Bilyea farm. In the corner made by their line fence and the road fence is a small cemetery plot with an impressive monument marking the resting place of a family patriarch.

    Beyond the north line fence of the Bilyea farm the road dips gently for some fifty yards and then levels to run to its junction with Dale's Side Road a quarter of a mile ahead. To the left the Vanstone farm stretches for the whole distance, first an open field, then an orchard and a weathered two-story frame house shrouded by large pines, with maple trees along the road fence, and then again an open field. To my right is the fifty-acre farm of Fred Merriam, a younger farmer who recently bought the place after the deaths of Mrs. Vanstone's aged parents. Next I reach the land that George Bogue farmed during the teens and most of the 1920s. Its farmstead sits at the corner of the North Talbot Road and the side road. Here, quite close to the North Talbot Road, George built another two-story brick house. But I pass by this residence because the family now lives in the farmstead on the northeast corner of the road junction.

    On the right-hand corner of the road junction two mail boxes are mounted on posts, and I open the one closest to the corner. Back on the cycle, I pedal along the side road for some fifty yards before turning left into the driveway of our farm. Had I continued past our farm to the north toward Byron, I would have found the cycling more challenging, for after a slight dip in front of our house to a small bridge spanning a little stream that emerges from our night pasture, the road crosses hillier terrain. Beyond our line fence on the left side of the road is an old frame house usually occupied by renters, and across our line fence is a one-story dwelling, little better than a shack, built by a bachelor who recently inherited the twenty-five acres on which it sits. Now the road dips again before surmounting a hill steep enough to make some cyclists dismount and push their wheels up past the mailboxes of the McLaughlins' place on the right and that of the Griffiths to the left. From here there are no more farm residences to the east of the road until it reaches the Second Concession-line Road, three quarters of a mile from our side road. To the west of the road however, Ed Brown's farm lies adjacent to that of his sister Mrs. Griffith, and Basil Cornell has a small acreage in fruit beyond him. The Second Concession Road rises rather sharply as it runs west from its junction with the North Talbot Road, and on the crest of the hill Stan Cornell manages a prosperous small fruit operation. His gray stucco house commands a magnificent view of the countryside to the south, and he has named his home the Valley View Fruit Farm.

    Beyond the second concession the road continues to loop upward. The first farmstead on the left is unoccupied, owned by a widow, Mrs. McGregor, the land rented during the mid-1930s by Tink Bogue. Opposite that farmstead is a smallholding occupied by nonfarming retirees. Beyond the McGregor place on the west side of the road to the north is the small farm occupied by the Duncans, father and son. Just beyond their farmstead the road crests, and here there is a large gravel pit. Now the rider has reached the summit of the Thames River bluffs. From here the road descends steeply through wooded banks in a series of tight curves. To the school cyclist, this is the "Big Hill." Sometimes my brother Len amuses himself and his passengers when returning from Byron by pushing the accelerator of our Model A. Ford to the floor as the car labors out of the last upward curve of this big hill, gains all the speed possible over the short stretch of level road ahead, and bursts over the hill crest behind Duncan's barn with a stomach-twisting wrench. Then he turns off the ignition to see whether the car will coast all the way home.

    For the cyclist returning home on his one-speed bike, the Big Hill is too much; he is soon afoot, pushing his machine up the winding inclines. But going north, as I did on school mornings during my last two years of high school at London Central Collegiate Institute, the Big Hill was pure exhilaration. Coasting downward, the bike accelerates swiftly. Soon the wind whistles in the ears, eyes tear, and the intoxication of speed takes full command. In the late spring of 1938 that intoxication was almost to end in serious injury. Sweeping out of the last curve, I tried to avoid a rut and my handlebars broke apart. In the clanging, scraping, dust-raising crash that followed, pure luck placed me on top of the rear wheel as the machine slid along the road.

    My companion, Ron C., helped me search for broken bones. There were none, but there was a six-inch rent in the seat of my trousers. We borrowed needle and thread from Jeanie L., at whose place we left our bikes during the day, and Ron did his best to stitch up the problem. But my probing hand detected flesh as we walked from our London bus stop to the school, and I blessed the dimness of London Central's corridors when I moved from class to class. As I emerged into the light of a classroom, I darted quickly to a seat, holding my notebook well to the rear.

    The two miles of road stretching from Cousin Tink's southern line fence to the Duncan property gave lengthwise dimension to our neighborhood. Dale's Side Road, on which our driveways opened, provided latitude. If we followed that little road west from its junction with the North Talbot Road, the Vanstone farm ran along on our left, and on our right lay the fields of Fora Cornell, who occupied the holding on the northwest corner at our crossroad. Beyond its junction with the North Talbot Road the side road inclined downward for some 150 yards to a small bridge above the same stream that exited from our night pasture. On a rise some fifty yards past the bridge sat Fora's two-story brick residence.

    Now the road ditches became increasingly sandy and we came to a smallholding where young Harvey Kilbourne lived in a one-story dwelling for some years during the 1930s, supporting himself by market gardening and by work as a plasterer. Once past his sandy field, we came to the woods that bordered the east bank of Dingman's Creek and a final mild downward dip of the road took us to a small iron bridge across the "crik." Here a path through the trees along the stream led to a neighborhood swimming hole. Beyond the bridge on both right and left were the farms of the Pack brothers, although in these years, Bill, living south of the side road, spent much of his time trucking livestock, particularly animals being shipped to the Toronto stockyards.

    If, on the other hand, we turned east from our gateway on the side road, we traveled between George's former and current farms for half a mile and thence another half mile between the Dale and the old Topping place. This distance brought us to the T junction where the side road met the Bostwick Road, named for the early nineteenth-century surveyor who had surveyed it during the 1820s. By turning to the right and traveling along "the Bostwick" for half a mile, we reached, on the right, the edge of the back fifty of the David Bogue farm, a tract that George had inherited. The family of George's younger brother Chester held the matching fifty, fronting on the North Talbot Road, Chester having been killed in the woods by a falling tree in 1911.

The presence of Bogues on the North Talbot Road during the 1930s traced back to the decision of a lowland Scot, John Bogue Sr., to emigrate to Upper Canada when he was already in early middle age. Born in 1800 in Lanarkshire, Scotland, he arrived in London, Ontario, with his wife and four young children in 1837, the year of the Upper Canada Rebellion, and they settled on lot 33 in the First Concession of Westminster Township. Unfortunately any records and correspondence belonging to Bogues of the first and second generations disappeared with their passing. John's biographical sketch in the History of the County of Middlesex of 1889 explains that he migrated as a young man to Widby in northern England, where he worked as a gardener for some twenty years, married Elizabeth Parrott, and fathered the children that they brought with them to Upper Canada.

    In the new land John was a farmer and brick maker, benefiting from the excellent brick clay that underlay some of the holdings in the First Concession of lots in Westminster Township. This activity of John and some of his neighbors gave the road its early name, Brick Street. The census taker of 1852 recorded a household that included John, Elizabeth, and their children, Allan, Emma, James, David, and Richard, ranging in age from twenty to seven years of age. Of the younger Bogues, Allan and Emma were born in England, while the place of birth of the remaining three was listed as Upper Canada. The household also included a laborer, James Smart, identified as a Scot and eventually the husband of Ann Bogue, a daughter who was not present when the enumerator called in 1851. The census reveals a thriving agricultural operation producing a wide range of crops, livestock, and dairy products.

    By this time, the Bogue family on Brick Street was already subdividing. The census taker also reported that twenty-four-year-old John, English born, and eleven-year-old Thomas Bogue, Canadian by birth, were living on a farm in the Second Concession of Westminister, where they tended sixty-nine acres in crops in 1851. But this John's later history, along with that of his younger brother David, was played out on the North Talbot Road between Lambeth and Byron.

    North of Lambeth on both the east and west sides of the North Talbot Road, the government surveyor marked off two-hundred-acre lots, beginning with number 71. These continued the sequence of lot numbers running from south to north along the road from Talbotville, south of Lambeth. On the north side of lot 75, the surveyor left space for the crossroad that we called Dale's Side Road, and beyond this street lot 76 fronted on the North Talbot road. Since the lot lines along the North Talbot road did not run in parallel with the concession-line roads of the township as a whole, lot 78 (east), lying immediately south of the Second Concession-line road, was triangular in shape. Reflecting the fact that the land surveys in Westminster Township incorporated at least two organizational principles, the lots to the north of the Second Concession Road fronted on that road rather than on the North Talbot Road (see map 1).

    In 1835 the Crown vested the title to the 202 acres of lot 73 (east) in Abram Sloot, and by 1853 David M. Rymals and his wife owned this property. In that year this couple deeded it to John Bogue Sr., accepting from him a note and mortgage in the amount of one thousand dollars. Ten years later the Rymals released the mortgage, John Bogue's obligation to satisfy the note or bond having been satisfactorily discharged. John Bogue Jr. and his younger brother, David, developed farms and raised families on the southern and northern halves of this property. The patriarch on Brick Street did not rush to place ownership of these lands in his sons' hands, deeding them to John Jr. and David, my grandfather, in 1886. By that time John Jr. was fifty-eight and David was forty-three years of age. John and David Bogue lived out their lives on the North Talbot Road. John passed on his property to his son Norman, and David divided his half of lot 73 between his son George and the family of his deceased son Chester.

    Elsewhere, three other sons of John Bogue Sr. also became land-owning farmers, presumably with the assistance of their father. Thomas and James settled in Adelaide Township, close to the town of Strathroy. Allan, the second son, inherited the Brick Street property when his father died at the age of ninety-one in 1891. Of the six sons of John Bogue Sr., therefore, five succeeded in acquiring farms in Middlesex County. Only Richard left the county, emigrating to the prairies of the Canadian West and becoming a storekeeper in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

    Obviously the combined occupations of farmer and brick maker allowed John Bogue Sr. to do well by his family. He reported to the census taker of 1871 that he had produced 250,000 bricks in that year to the value of some twelve hundred dollars, using a labor force of six workers during five months of operation--somewhat lower figures than those reported by the proprietors of seven adjacent brickyards.

    David Bogue celebrated the birth of his eldest son, George Allan, in 1879. The youngster attended public school and then saved the money that allowed him to attend the Business College directed in London by James Westervelt. Here he learned basic accounting procedures, mental arithmetic, and other skills appropriate to bookkeepers and clerks. Late in his life he could still demonstrate the rigor of this training by reciting multiplication tables up to fourteen times fourteen and saying the alphabet backwards. His business skills gave his later life a different quality than that of the usual farm boy. One of his best decisions, however, led him to court and in 1904 to marry Eleta Britton, one of the three daughters of Ellen Brannagan Britton, who lived on the Third Concession Road between the school grounds of ss 17 and Dingman's Creek. When he started farming, George's possessions consisted of two horses and probably a buggy or wagon. But Eleta had inherited five hundred dollars from the estate of her father, and George used it as down payment on a farm in lot 74 (west) on the North Talbot Road. It was apparently a sensible decision, but Eleta later believed that the importance of her stake in the union was not always acknowledged.

    Solidly built and a scant five feet, nine inches in height, George had hazel eyes, a small wave in his black hair, and a ginger mustache. He was articulate, although no orator. Nor was he a wit or a great raconteur, although not without some sense of humor. In later years I recall him repeating with great relish the story about Mitchell F. Hepburn, the provincial Liberal Party leader, who mounted the box of a manure spreader at a barnyard political rally and announced that for once he had the opportunity to stand upon the party platform of his opponents. A female relative in George and Eleta's generation told me that as a young man, George had been thought to be a great catch by the young women of the neighborhood.

    Eleta Britton, eldest of Ellen Britton's three daughters, was a slim girl almost as tall as George, with brown hair, gray eyes, and regular features. Her stepfather called her a tomboy, and one of her shins was deeply pitted where a doctor had chiseled out an infection that had developed in a bruise suffered in a fall from a horse. She did not smile for photographers because her teeth were unevenly placed. In the years that I knew her she was a serious and prim woman. "That wasn't very nice," she remarked to me as the audience laughed during a grandstand performance at London Fair when a clown lost his outer trousers to reveal red flannel long johns. She did enjoy the occasional joke and drew upon a fund of proverbs. "If wishes were horses, all beggars would ride," she told me when I learned that I was expected to walk to a young people's function in Lambeth, adding "Shanks mare for you."

    We know little about George and Eleta's first farm operation. Their first daughter, Myrtle, arrived in 1905 and three years later came a son, Leonard Wilfred. The household at this time was Grit--that is, Liberal--in sentiment and my brother's hated middle name attested to George's admiration for the great party leader Wilfred Laurier. Eleta and George apparently prospered in other respects as well, if the substantial brick house that they built on this holding is any indication. During George's early years in agriculture, the farmers of the Lambeth area became converts to the gospel of cooperation, he among them. In later years Eleta told of early cooperative activity when the local society ordered railroad carloads of fertilizer and other farm supplies for distribution to members. George kept the books for such enterprise. Later the society maintained two general stores and a cheese factory. Hired employees managed the stores and a cheese maker contracted with the society to run the dairy enterprise. Throughout my memory of the co-op activity, George was the secretary, holding the seal of the society, preparing and sending out the annual reports, and going to the store in Lambeth on Saturday nights to write checks for the manager.


Excerpted from The Farm on the North Talbot Road by Allan G. Bogue. Copyright © 2001 by University of Nebraska Press. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Main Description
As the family farm of yesterday steadily loses ground to the corporate farm of tomorrow, pundits and plain folks alike bemoan the loss of the homely, down-to-earth rural life that few actually know or remember anymore. Allan G. Bogue is a notable exception. A legendary agricultural, political, and economic historian, and one of only three historians ever elected to the National Academy of Sciences, Bogue has for the last fifty years written about the political and economic forces shaping agriculture. And he himself has roots in the family farmroots he traces in this memoir that is both a thoughtful tribute to the tradition that nurtured him and North America and an authentic, unsentimental portrait of the hard life that most have abandoned. Through descriptions of neighborly good will, adverse climate, charismatic family relations, and the seasonal tasks demanded by dairy farming, Bogue imparts the rhythms of growing up in rural Ontario in the early years of the twentieth century. Tracing the family's fortunes through the ups and downs of the economy in the 1920s and 1930s, he draws an absorbing picture of how they and their neighbors farmed, the crops they raised, the livestock they kept, the technology they used, and the stresses, strains, frustrations, sadness, joy, and triumphs they experienced. Firsthand history of a rare and moving sort, his book is at once an elegy for a disappearing way of life and a deftly realized, meticulously reconstructed chapter of North American history.
Main Description
As the family farm of yesteryear steadily loses ground to the corporate farm of tomorrow, pundits and plain folks alike bemoan the loss of the homely, down-to-earth rural life that few actually know or remember anymore. Allan G. Bogue is a notable exception. A legendary agricultural, political, and economic historian who has for the last fifty years written about the political and economic forces shaping agriculture, Bogue himself has roots in the family farm-roots he traces in this memoir that is both a thoughtful tribute to the tradition that nurtured him and North America and an authentic, unsentimental portrait of the hard life that most have abandoned.Through descriptions of neighbourly good will, adverse climate, charismatic family relations, and the seasonal tasks demanded by dairy farming, Bogue imparts the rhythms of growing up in rural Ontario in the early years of the twentieth century. Tracing the family's fortunes through the ups and downs of the economy in the 1920s and 1930s, he draws an absorbing picture of how they and their neighbours farmed, the crops they raised, the livestock they kept, the technology they used, and the stresses, strains, frustrations, sadness, joy, and triumphs they experienced. Firsthand history of a rare and moving sort, his book is at once an elegy for a disappearing way of life and a deftly realised, meticulously reconstructed chapter of North American history.Allan G. Bogue is emeritus professor of history at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. His publications include Bull Threshers and Bindlestiffs: Harvesting and Threshing on the North American Plains and Plain Folk: A Commonplace of the Great Plains.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrationsp. viii
List of Mapsp. ix
List of Tablesp. x
Prefacep. xi
Of Time and Place and Peoplep. 1
We Move to the Northeast Cornerp. 25
Out at the Barnp. 47
The Ormsby Faynes and Other Friendsp. 67
Horse-Power Daysp. 86
Harvests of Field and Woodp. 104
Fowl Business and Other Supplementary Enterprisep. 131
To Market, To Marketp. 150
Neighborhood and Familyp. 172
Epiloguep. 199
The Dairy Herdp. 201
A Note on Income and Outgop. 207
Bibliographyp. 215
Indexp. 219
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

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