Sources: The Ontario History of Brougham, Past! Present! Future?, by Robert A. Miller, 1973; Historic Ever Green Villa Bulldozed, by Pat Valentine, November, 2012.

Pickering, Ontario lost an important piece of its heritage when the house called Ever Green Villa was demolished last week.

Ever Green Villa wasn’t just any house. It was a grand old house on a farm property that was historically important. Located on a 1799 United Empire Loyalist grant, the farm was acquired by Scottish immigrant Elder George Barclay, a Baptist preacher, in 1819. Elder Barclay became a prominent advocate of political reforms promoted by William Lyon Mackenzie. Two of Barclay’s sons, George Jr and David, were also Mackenzie sympathizers and participated in the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837. George Jr was arrested in December 1837, convicted and sentenced to three years in prison, to be followed by banishment to a penal colony in Van Dieman’s Land, but he was pardoned and released in 1839.

Elder Barclay’s farm passed to his youngest son, Eli. In approximately 1854, Eli replaced the original log cabin with a house he called Ever Green Villa. This was a large and handsome farm residence, built of clear white pine, and elaborately ornamented with gingerbread trim along the eaves of the house, including its verandahs. The Barclays surrounded the house with spectacular floral gardens. Many thought this house was the finest on the Brock Road; according to family lore, people from miles around would drive past Ever Green Villa on Sundays just to see the Barclay flower gardens.

Eli Barclay and his family stand in front of Ever Green Villa in 1865. (Click to embiggen.) Photo credit: Robert A. Miller estate

Ownership of the Barclay farm passed from Eli to his son Charles, who married my great-aunt, Caroline “Carrie” Stevenson, from Brougham, Ontario. Great-Aunt Carrie lived in Ever Green Villa for her entire married life. The farm was taken over by their second son Harold, who eventually sold it and moved to a farm near Lindsay, Ontario in 1958.

Until recently, “Atha” Willie Miller and the history of Lakeside Stock Farm in Storm Lake, Iowa were somewhat of a mystery in the annals of the Miller family. Why did he go to manage this particular farm in the northwestern Iowa frontier in the 1880s? Thanks to key research contributed by Wendy Cooke of St. Louis, Missouri, we now have a better understanding of the fascinating story of this farm by the lake.

Document sources: Storm Lake Pilot Tribune newspaper; Miller, Robert Anker, Highlights of Miller History; Sanders, Alvin, Shorthorn Cattle: A Series of Historical Sketches, Memoirs and Records of the Breed and Its Development in the United States and Canada. Chicago: Sanders Publishing Co., 1916.
Photos: provided by, and used with the permission of Wendy Cooke, St. Louis, Missouri.

After the American Civil War, Illinois Central Railroad built a line from Chicago to Sioux City, which is located on the Missouri River on the western border of the state of Iowa. Since the “last spike” was driven just west of Storm Lake in 1870, it is possible that land speculators purchased land on both sides of the railway, including land that was to become Lakeside Farm.


The Mighty ‘Mato™, background, shows more vigorous growth than the regular Brandywine variety, in front. (Click to embiggen.)

A new breed of tomato, the Mighty ‘Mato™, is on trial in Thistle Ha’s garden this year. What’s unique about this tomato is that it’s a grafted plant, combining vigorous root stock with a Brandywine scion, a heritage variety famous for its quality and flavour. Grafting techniques have been used for fruit trees for a long time. Recent grafting experiments by greenhouse growers produced two to three times the number of tomatoes compared to the non-grafted variety. The Mighty ‘Mato™ is the first grafted tomato available for home gardens. Its root stock has been selected to be more tolerant to diseases and over/under watering, and to produce substantially more fruit over a longer season. A desirable tomato for home gardeners with summer vacation absences, limited growing space, or an aversion to using pesticides.

We are growing four regular Brandywine tomato plants beside the Mighty ‘Mato™ to check the marketing claim that this is a “super tomato”. Not all home gardeners know that tomatoes are stem rooters; planting the stem all the way up to the bottom leaves results in additional root formation and more vigorous growth. The graft on the Mighty ‘Mato™ is marked with a band, but instructions do not emphasize the importance of ensuring that the graft remains above the soil surface during planting. Otherwise the scion will form its own roots, eliminating the benefits of grafting, and resulting in an ordinary tomato at an extraordinary price – $15 a plant.

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