Hugh Miller

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.

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.

As told by: Hugh Miller/Thistle Ha’.
Photo credit: Argentine Shorthorn Breeders Association.

Tarquinos cattle

Tarquinos cattle

While showing Shorthorns at the International Livestock Show in Chicago one year, Hugh Miller/Thistle Ha’ was introduced to Pedro Laco, Secretary of the Argentine Shorthorn Breeders Association. He remarked that the Miller name was famous in Argentina. Laco said that another John Miller, who “must have been a relative of yours” [debatable, sources differ whether this John Miller came from Scotland or England], sailed up the Río de la Plata in the 1820s with the first pedigreed bull imported into Argentina – a Shorthorn bull named Tarquin. It was at “The Caledonia” ranch near Cañuelas, Buenos Aires that John Miller began crossbreeding Tarquin with native Spanish cattle, resulting in such a remarkable improvement in the quality of the beef that he is considered the founder of the modern beef industry in Argentina.

Laco added that Tarquin had white feet. This proved to be a bad trait on the pampas, since the white hair attracted ticks. Tarquin proved to be so prepotent that it took ten generations to completely eliminate white feet from his “Tarquinos” offspring.

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