EPISODE 56 EYWOOD, PART TWO
Louisa (Bufton) Freeman with daughter Elsie on her one and son Frank by her side.
Photo may have been taken in the Head Gardener’s house at Eywood Estate.
In 1972, I asked mom to explain life as immigrants in Canada from 1905 to 1914
This is Granddad and is gardeners…ten men and boys and two horses
There was always something strange about the Freeman farm house. Something different
from other houses as I remember. And the difference, I now realize, was the picture frames
and the photos fitted therein. The frames were hand carved by Granddad out of slabs of
hardwood. Then intricately carved. As below.
“How long did it take you to carve these, Grandpa?”
“Did one ever winter for a few years?”
“Who is in the frame?”
“That’s to cook from Eywood…your mother’s godmother?”
“I thought you hated Eywood?”
“Too strong a word, Alan.”
“but you said you hated tipping your hat to Mr. Gwyer, the owner of Eywood.”
“Hate is too strong a word…let’s say disliked.”
“If you disliked Eywood, then why spend your winter’s doing something
that reminds you of Eywood.”
“Alan, there is the world of difference between a system I might dislike
and the people working within the system.”
“I don’t get it.”
“Some of those people in service at Eywood became as close to
your grandmother and me as our family. They became family really.”
Winer’s work beside the wood stove in Erin Township, Wellington County 1930’s.
Elsie Freeman…hand made frame by Edward Freeman
The old Freeman farm house had reminders of Eywood on each wall of the only room
in the house that was permanently lived in. The room with the big wood stove. The rest
of the house in winter time was so cold that icicles formed in the rooms. Just to got
to bed upstairs we had to take a hot brick wrapped in paper. The brick was heated in
the wood stove oven.
This was not the home of rich persons. Yet the walls were reminders that there was
a place somewhere in England where rich people lived and were served by servants.
It was all very confusing.
I thought Grandma and Grandpa came to a better place..Canada. But the reminders
on the walls told a different story.
Always in the back of my mind were these reminders of Eywood. A mystical place
that I thought I would never see. Time and circumstances changed things for me.
Remember this point. I was born in 1938. I was a teen ager in the 1950’s. I was
an adult in the 1960’s. I was to become part of the luckiest generation of humans
this world has ever seen. I did not know it though. Nor did I know that in a few years
I would find myself on the Eywood estate. Not once, but several times. I would
arrive there just six years after the grand house was demolished by impoverished
Brits. I would arrive just six years after the grand estate home was blown to
What of granddad?
“Will you ever go back to Eywood “
“No. We will never return…burned our bridges.”
They left Eywood in 1905. Sailed to St. John, New Brunswick. Then train to Toronto.
where Granddad expected his wife Louisa to stay for a few weeks while he checked out farming
in Manitoba. That was a non starter.
“You expect us to take Frank and Elsie to a remote wilderness where there are no schools nearby?”
“For a while that will be so.”
“And no hospitals.”
“Well…that is not going to happen…we are not going to Manitoba.”
So grandpa bought a small garden farm in Etobicoke (exactly where Highway 427 sweeps north
today and crosses Burnhamthorpe Road.). He tried to grow vegetable then haul them to Toronto
for sale. Tough. Poverty was getting close.
“We will sell the garden farm, Lou.”
“And do what?”
“I have a job as carpenter with the Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway. Big things
happening in Northern Ontario. We will have a cabin in Krugerdorf…a village near Englehart.
Start all over again.”
Around 1985 we drove north to find krugerdorf. We found it. All that is left of the
railway village is this sign. As I looked at the sign, a black bear crossed the railway track
some distant away.
This is the log cabin of Harry Horsman, a friend of the family in Krugerdorf. His cabin is primitive as was
the cabin belonging to Ted and Lou Freeman. Theirs caught fire an burned to the ground in 1913 or 1914. Fires
raged all across Northern Ontario in those years.
Contrast the log cabin above with the majesty of Eywood Estate main house.
The cabin turned out to be a rudimentary log cabin. In the summers massive wildfires swept across
Northern Ontario. Granddad had to ride through at least one such massive blaze sitting on a flat car
with forests burning on each side. It was tough. Then their own log cabin caught fire and burned
to rubble. They managed to save their one t treasure…a small pump organ. Music was a big
part of their social life. But they were burned out. So they moved…fled… south.
Grandma wanted something stable. Not flashy. For their money was limited, very limited.
In 1914 Edward and Louisa Freeman bought a small farm in southern Ontario. Very small indeed.
The 25 acre farm on the Fifth line of Erin Township, Wellington County, Ontario could hardly
be considered a farm. Jus to 20% of the land was swamp. And the fields were oct strewn.
rocks left behind when the glacial ice retreated thousands of years ago. Rocks on the surface.
Rocks below the surface. But there was a brick house. Well really a brick faced house…one brick
thick. Really the house was built like a barn. Timbers rescued here and there from other buildings
some of them scorched by fire. No running water. No indoor toilet than thunder jugs beneath the beds.
There was a barn. The builders must have thought the site for a barn was ideal. Between two
swamps with ager inning through the stable. No need to haul water. Of course the idea was faulty.
In winter the water froze. When water freezes it expands with force enough to crack and push cement
foundations out of place. The barn would not last the century but it would last the remaining lifespans
of Ted and Louisa Freeman. Room enough for a chicken coop and stabling for a few cows and a horse
to two. Small. Self sufficient. Survivable.
The Freemans set down roots. Roots that took some time to get established because
the Freemans were Welsh-English. And Erin Township’s Fifth Line was overwhelmingly Scottish.
There was no love lost between the English and the Scots. Tensions dating back and beyond
Robert the True and William Wallace were very real in this small backwater piece of rural Ontario.
Photo of the Freeman farm in the 1930’s as seen from the air.
“We were not liked at first.”
(Most locals could not understand why anyone would try to eke out a living on 2r acres. An
English family forced by poverty to buy the small rock/swamp parcel.)
“They won’t stay long..”
“What is worst is that they are English. Odd they did not get better land.”
“Must be a reason.”
“Wait and see what happens.”
Across the dirt road was the farm of Jean Macdonald, nest to her farm on south side
were Jean and Janet McLean…south of the Freeman farm were the Macecherns, then
the Kerrs. To the north was a great wedge of forested swamp that had once been part of
the new Freeman farm. The land had been sold to raise enough money to build the
brick house. Once the new Freeman house had been built the former owners found
they no longer had a farm. All of this did not bode well.
Did the Freeman’s feel they had made a massive mistake leaving a reasonable comfortable
life in the Gardeners House on the Eywood Estate for the near poverty of life in Canada?
They must have but I never heard a word of complaint as a boy spending many free hours
with my grandparents.
“It did not take lone for us to fit in. A little tension at first.”
“But everyone was poor. We made our own entertainment
using the one room school for musical evenings.”
“I played the violin along with Frank.”
“Your grandmother played the pump organ and she
had a lovely singing voice.”
“In not time at all, we were part of the community. Did not matter that
we were English.”
The Great War began in the same year the Freeman’s bought the farm. To pay
for it, Edward Freeman took a job making eplosives in Toronto. Elsie, Frank
and his wife Louisa were left to do the farming. With the money earned the
mortgage was soon paid in full. I am guessing when I say the farm cost $6,000
perhaps less than that.
From 1906 until their deaths in the 1950’s, Grandma and Granddad kept in close touch
with the resident of Eywood. No complaints. Granddad even successfully encouraged
two of his brothers and his sister to come to Canada. They did not feel poor although they
were poor. But there was a richness of spirit in them. A great joy of living on their own land.
Security of tenure.
All the same it was wonderful to hear about the happenings on the Eywood Estate. The gossip
of those still ‘in service’. The letters from the Griffiths were a kind of touchstone.
Mercifujlly, both Grandma and Grandpa died before the terrible news reached us.
The Eywood Estate was gone…the great house had sold everything right down to’
the floor boards and doors and windows. All gone. And the final catastrophe was
the demolition…with the help of explosives I was told…the final demolition of the
great estate house.
IN 1955, this wasalll that remained of Eywood mansion house.
Odd fact though. The rest of the estate…the barns, the servants quarters, the dovecote,
the park, the lake, the walled gardens…and the head gardeners red brick house…all of these
remain. Mom..Elsie Freeman…was born in that red brick house in 1901.
NEXT STORY: PART THREE OF THE EYWOOD STORHY
BACK THEN…THE 1940’S
(MY BROTHER ERIC AND I DRESSED AS WE DID BACK THEN…ON THE FREEMAN FARM)
So here we are in the year 2020…and the 25 acre Freeman farm has survived while thousands of
other family farms have been gobbled up into larger and larger farms with fewer and fewer farmers.
The average size of a farm today is over 500 acres.
We call our farm a farm but is really not a farm. Our income from the farm is
miniscule. So small that we do not pay farm taxes. We pay the much larger
property tax of non farming rural residents. No matter. The farm has survived.
A wooden horse like this would likely have been present in Eywood.
NEXT STORY…PART THREE OF EYWOOD. …AS FOUND IN 1960