Commentary


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.
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From mid-April until mid-December, 2011, the farmhouse was renovated. As the work progressed, daily progress reports and photos were posted to show the details of how our contractor started with, for example, this:

Before: old dining room (click on all photos to embiggen).

and ended with this:

After: Charlotte's new kitchen.

For those interested in reading about troubles and triumphs of this project from start to finish, all posts concerning it have been consolidated into an article entitled “2011 House Renovation”, located in the Pages section on the right-hand side.

The Thistle Ha’ corn harvest is done. Despite a late planting due to a very wet spring, the corn yield was quite good.

I accompanied a 20-tonne load of corn to the local mill, and talked to the general manager. He surprised me when he said that they sell most of their corn as ethanol feedstock. Although Canada started promoting use of biomass (corn, wood products) to manufacture ethanol fuel in 2000 to combat global warming, he said the shift of corn sales from food to fuel has occurred just recently, after the U.S. government started subsidizing corn as a biofuel. This resulted in construction of numerous ethanol plants using corn as feedstock.

40% of the 2010 corn crop in the U. S. was converted to ethanol. This is past the “tipping point”; the U. S. corn crop is now insufficient to meet food needs. The wet spring in the U. S. mid-west and drought conditions in southern hemisphere corn growing regions has resulted in reduction of world-wide corn production in 2011, pushing corn to its highest price in recent memory. This has led to increased prices for other food crops such as soybeans and cereal grains. Although this trend has been beneficial to grain farmers and big agribusiness, increased feed prices have hit the poultry and hog industries hard. Cattle farmers are less affected since the corn mash byproduct from ethanol production is sold for cattle feed. More worrisome, some economists claim that the price of corn has started to track the price of crude oil. Has the U. S. policy to increase corn ethanol production in an effort to reduce the cost of imported crude oil to the American economy not only failed to reduce the cost of energy, but actually caused a permanent increase in global food prices?

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