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Anne Brooks' Ancestry

THIS OLD HOUSE

by ANNE BROOKS

"His home, the spot of earth supremely blest, A dearer, sweeter spot than all the rest".
Robert Montgomery

The luxury of owning a website is that of meeting new people. I was recently contacted by Deanne HEIMBECKER whose husband, Alan, is descended from Henrietta Eliza WATTS. Their family has inherited many photos of the Norsworthy / Watts / Dickson line and they generously provided me with copies for the website in the hope of identifying those who are unnamed. Of particular interest to me were the photos of Aberfolyle Farm which was owned by the Dicksons from around 1884 to the 1980s. Deanne has the deeds for the property going back to the early 1800s. This homestead, pictured in three eras, caused me to wonder what history must be stored in those walls. Often when I pass old abandoned houses I think, surely if walls could talk, we would be compelled to stop and listen.

  Aberfoyle (1)

Aberfoyle was originally a village in Puslinch Township. It is located on the Brock Road between Guelph and Hamilton, about 11 kilometers south of Guelph. It was believed to be have been named by John McFarlane who opened the first general store at the north end of the town. He was born in Aberfoyle, Scotland and immigrated in 1834. (2) You may read more about Puslinch at the website for the Puslinch Historical Society

Henrietta Eliza WATTS was the second child born to Reverend John Henry WATTS and Elizabeth NORSWORTHY. She was born January 15th, 1856 in Ingersoll, Ontario. Because her father was a Methodist minister, the family moved numerous times during her childhood. The censuses alone show them living in St. Vincent Twp., Municipality of Meaford, Grey County in 1871 and in 1881, in West Garafraxa, Wellington County.

Henrietta married John Robert DICKSON in Eramosa Twp., December 31st, 1884 at the age of 28. Her husband, John, was 23 years old, a farmer, born in Flamborough Twp., and the son of Joseph and Ellen DICKSON. Both John and Henrietta had been residing in Eramosa Township prior to being married. Six children were born to them; Edna Winifred (1886), twins Lorena Elma and Irene Wilhelmina (1889), Frederick Walton (1891), Norman Alvin (1895), and Elizabeth Ellen, more commonly known as Ella, (1897).

  Aberfoyle Farm (3)

This is Aberfoyle Farm, where Ella was born; her parents, John and Henrietta DICKSON are standing in front. My initial impression upon seeing this photo was of lonliness, bleakness, and of few delights. Nevertheless while pioneer life was never easy, historical reports often impress me with the sense of community that prevailed in these times, much more so than today in our insulated homes. These homes entertained and they shared good times and bad. Families knew their neighbors in church, in school, and in local events. Their material possessions could not have been like ours, but they had so much more.


  Dickson Family (3)

This photo of the Dickson family was taken before 1914. L-R: Henrietta DICKSON, nee WATTS; Lorena; Norman (standing); John DICKSON, and Ella. We know more of Ella than the other children. The family lost Frederick at the age of 3 years, 11 months to diphtheria; at the time of his death, his younger brother, Norman, would have been around 6 months old. Norman joined the ranks of the military when the First World War broke out. Lorena married Herbert MOFFATT. Nothing is known of Lorena's twin, nor her sister, Edna; they did not appear with the family in the 1891 census so most likely they did not survive. John DICKSON died in 1934 and Henrietta in 1938; both are buried in the Coast Cemetery, Puslinch Township along with their daughter, Ella, and her husband. Ella married George HALL and all of their children were born at Aberfoyle Farm. They had three daughters, Elma, Jean, and Norma. In 1938, Elma was a teacher at the local school in Aberfolye.



  Aberfoyle Farm (3)

This is how Aberfoyle Farm (left) looked at a later time. It gives an impression of being well cared for; a peaceful place, warm and inviting. Alan HEIMBECKER, Ella’s grandson, remembers going to visit his grandmother in this home. After Ella’s death, Alan and Deanne considered purchasing it but it was not a practical decision based on location.


Left: Newspaper celebrity (3)
Above: Pro Shop (4)

The house gained brief notoriety when it was published in the Toronto Star; someone driving by had apparently been enamored by the scene. But time changes everything and today the property belongs to the Springfield Golf and County Club. The farmhouse has become the Pro Shop, and where the barn was, a parking lot exists. Now the walls absorb the “talk of golf”, money transactions, and business matters. Deanne wrote that it was a family tradition to visit with her mother-in-law on Mother's Day. After Elma's death the tradition has been continued by going for lunch at the golf club for "old times sake". Unknown to the proprietor, I would hazard a guess that on those visits the walls whisper a different story. Winston Churchill once said, “We shape our dwellings, afterwards our dwellings shape us”. Surely this is so.

January 2009

REFERENCES

1. Google maps.
2. Puslinch Historial Society
3. Photo courtesy of Alan and Deanne Heimbecker
4. Springfield Golf and Country website

  

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