George Miller/Riggfoot


In an 1867 letter to the editor of the farm journal The Canada Farmer, correspondent George Buckland reported on his visit with the Millers in Pickering and Markham townships, giving us a glimpse of the Miller enterprises 144 years ago. It is interesting that George Miller was farming a total of 1,100 acres [445 hectares] in 1867.
Source: George Buckland, correspondence to the editor, “A Few Days with the Messrs. Miller”, The Canada Farmer, Volume IV, Number 18, Globe Printing Company, Toronto, September 16, 1867, pp. 280-281.

A Few Days with the Messrs. Miller.

To the Editor of the CANADA FARMER :—

Sir,—I had the pleasure of a day’s intercourse with Mr. John Miller, of Pickering, who occupies a situation commanding a view of one of the finest landscapes that is to be met with in this section of Canada. Mr. Miller has some well-bred pure Durhams [English Shorthorn cattle], and an excellent bull, that is doing good service in the neighborhood. His herd of grades, consisting of cows and young stock, is really superb, illustrating the supreme importance of what I endeavour everywhere to enforce, the necessity and advantage of using a pure-bred male animal in all our endeavors to improve permanently the live stock of the country, and wherever practicable, no other. The sheep on this farm, consisting of Leicesters and Cotswolds, are very superior, denoting great care and sound judgment in their breeding and management. The high character which the Millers have long earned in this particular department of agriculture, continues to be well sustained. Mr. William Miller, father of John and brother of George, of Markham, has now retired from active business; he is among the oldest, perhaps the oldest improver of farm stock in Canada, and both he and his brother George were favorably known in Scotland in these relations, nearly half a century ago. They now own and cultivate a large tract of very productive land, in this and the adjoining township. Mr. John Miller’s four years old Clydesdale Stallion is a very pretty symmetrical animal, rather small, but having the more distinguishing characteristics well brought out; he is a sure stock getter, and his numerous progeny are well liked by the farmers.
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The Annan Observer (Scotland) reported Uncle Geordie Miller’s/Riggfoot livestock buying trip to Britain in 1861. This article was reprinted in The Canadian Agriculturist magazine, as illustrated. This was Uncle Geordie’s first trip back to Scotland since he emigrated to Canada in 1832. Simon Beattie left Newbie farm in Scotland to come to Canada in 1854 with “Atha” Willie Miller on the Helen Douglas. He worked on Uncle Geordie’s Riggfoot farm as manager, and accompanied Uncle Geordie on this trip. Under Uncle Geordie’s expert guidance, Beattie developed a reputation of being “a superman with livestock.” This report is also the first known instance of a Miller woman (probably Mary L. Miller) going on a family livestock buying trip. The eclectic collection of over 100 animals was a typical importation, with livestock carefully selected not only for use at Riggfoot farm, but also for customer orders.
Notes: a one-year-old male sheep is known as a shearling, a gimmer is the female equivalent. The article is transcribed as originally printed, with several spelling errors.
Source: Shipment of Stock for America., The Canadian Agriculturist or Journal and Transactions of the Board of Agriculture of Upper Canada, Toronto, Vol. XIII, No. 11, June 1, 1861, p. 329.

1861


Shipment of Stock for America
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We find the following paragraph in reference to the shipment of stock referred to in a communication in our last number, in the Annan Observer.

“On Wednesday the Helen Douglas, of Annan, started from Annan Waterfoot for Quebec, freighted with a full cargo of stock for America. She has been chartered by three parties who have for some months past been purchasing farm stock for shipment to Canada and New York State, namely: Mr. George Miller, of Markham, near Toronto,—formerly of Riggfoot in the parish of Cummertrees,—who has re-visited his native country after an absence of nearly thirty years ; by Simon Beattie, also from Markham—a Nephew of Mr. James Beattie in Newbie; and by Mr. Brodie, of New York State, a native of Ayrshire. Mr. Miller takes out six Galloway Cattle, purchased from Mr. Graham, of Shaw; one Ayrshire cow and calf; two cotswold rams, and six gimmers from Glocestershire; one ram and ten gimmers, Shropshire Downs; five Liecester rams and eight gimmers from the stock of Mr. Wilkins, of Tinwald Downs; and two Cheviot rams and nine gimmers, from the stock of Mr. Graham Shaw. He also takes with him three Boars, and a Sow and pigs; some poultry; a large cock and hen pheasant from Knockhill; and a beautiful Mule for the use of Miss Miller, who accompanies her father. Mr. Beattie’s stock consists of a two year-old Durham heifer, from the no less famous Newbie Galloway herd; an Ayrshire Cow; a very fine Cotswold ram, and four gimmers from the stock of Mr. Walker of North Leech, Gloucestershire; two Leicester rams, twelve shearling rams, and six gimmers from the well-known Leicester stocks of Messrs. Simpson, Sandys & Barton, in Yorkshire, and of Mr. Beattie, Newbie. The sheep have all been selected with great care—the Leicester Rams at a cost of not less than £15 sterling a piece, (equal to $75 each.) Mr. Brodie takes out to New York State, by way of Quebec, an Ayrshire Bull, a Cow and three Heifers, selected from the best dairy stocks in Ayrshire; two Leicester rams, and six gimmers, and three Highland sheep. There are also on board sheep dogs and two greyhounds, and a number of farming implements, as well as an abundance of Swedes, mangel wurzel, oil cake, corn, hay, &c, as provisions for the stock during the voyage.”

As told by: Hugh Miller

The first of the family to emigrate to Canada was George Miller, who left Scotland in 1832, settling on Lot 16, Concession 9, Markham Township in York County. He called his property Riggfoot farm, after one of the local estates in the old country. His neighbours called him “Laird o’ Riggfoot”; he was known in the family as “Uncle Geordie”.

Like the rest of the Millers to follow, he was a pioneer in Canadian agriculture. His 1880 obituary [writer and newspaper unknown] notes that he was “the first of our agriculturalists who introduced the sowing of turnips in drills, and … among the first to import live stock from Great Britain.” His first known importation was a dozen Leicester sheep [a dual purpose breed, known particularly for its fine wool], and a pair of Yorkshire pigs [a brand new breed that debuted at the 1831 Royal Windsor Show]. It is said that Uncle Geordie was the first importer of Yorkshire pigs to Canada. His nephew, John Miller, accompanied the animals, sailing from Scotland on April 12th, arriving at Riggfoot farm on June 1st, 1835.

Neighbours held George Miller in high esteem for his hospitality and kindness, but he was also known as a blunt Scot who would not tolerate nonsense. His obituary describes him as “one of those men who are wont to call things by their true names, yet withal kind and affable, hospitable and generous”.

One of the few stories about Uncle Geordie to survive was about the time he was showing sheep at the New York State Fair. A bold stranger was caught yanking a tuft of wool from the back of one of the Miller prize-winning Cotswold sheep. The man was immediately shocked by the pain of having a handful of whiskers jerked from his beard by an angry Uncle Geordie, who scolded the man that wool, like hair, had roots deep in the skin; and sheep, like men, had feelings.

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