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.

Mr. Wilson drove me to Claremont and other parts of Pickering, the agriculture of which has considerably improved of late years. I observed on his farm a good young stallion, finely bred, and some excellent grade cattle. Mr. Wilson has adopted tile draining of late years, with most satisfactory results.

I spent a couple of days with Mr. George Miller, of Markham, whose reputation as a breeder has been so long and extensively known as to require only a passing notice from me. Notwithstanding the heavy loss which Mr. Miller suffered by flre a few years since, and the serious personal injuries which he sustained from the attack of a bull, I found him, in mind at least, as energetic and persevering in the good cause of agricultural improvement as ever. He has still a large herd of excellent Durham cattle; those imported or bred from the Kentucky stock of Alexander, Duncan and Bidford, are particularly fine, forming a type quite distinct from the ordinary Shorthorns one commonly sees in this Province. His imported bull, Bell Duke of Adria, is a beautifully shaped animal, an excellent stock-getter, but disfigured, unfortunately, by the loss of an eye. His imported yearling bull, though not large, is exceedingly symmetrical, and promises to make a handsome animal. He has also several fine one and two years old, and a number of cows that would be a credit to any breeder. I hold it to be a high honor to the agricultural character of Ontario to be able to boast of such herds as are possessed by Messrs. Miller, Christie, Stone and Snell, the benefits of which are fast being felt throughout the country. Mr. Miller’s sheep may be said to have a continental reputation; some of his Leicesters and Cotswolds are among the finest I ever saw, both as regards form, size and fleece; and his Shropshires are much heavier animals than I was prepared to find. The cross of the Leicester and Cotswold produces a sheep admirably adapted to the climate and pasturage of this northern section of the American continent. I was pleased to observe that, although Mr. Miller’s heavy land was rather severely afflicted by the excessive rains of spring, followed by a rather severe drought of summer, both his cattle and sheep had plenty of good pasturage, on which they entirely depended, keeping in a good healthy condition, admirably adapted for breeding. Mr. Miller has a domain here of eleven hundred acres, some of it tile drained, and mostly well farmed, with the exception of some that has been leased, but which is now in his own hands, that will require both time and labor to clean and restore. This leasing of land in Canada has generally a downward tendency. The Canada thistle is alarmingly spreading on all the badly tilled lands in this section of country. In going through Norfolk and Elgin [counties] this summer, I was struck by the general absence of this fearful pest, which appears not yet to have got a foot-hold, or rather root-hold, in that part, and I would seriously advise that it never should.

I may just add that Mr. George Miller is not only a good farmer and successful breeder, but he shows a practical interest in those minor matters the aggregate influence of which so powerfully affects the comforts and enjoyments of country homes. He is an extensive apiarian, takes much interest in poultry, is surrounded by a large orchard of the various kinds of fruit of the most approved sorts, and has a greater collection of conifers, of the best European varieties judiciously planted both for ornament and shelter, than I have over before seen in this country. I have seldom spent a day so agreeably and profitably as I did with George Miller, whose operations are fruitful in useful suggestions, and their results clearly indicate the path which leads to healthy progress and improvement

Mr. Miller drove me to Scarborough, where I found the President of our Provincial Association, Mr. J. P. Wheeler, busy in cutting down an excellent field of wheat. Mr. Wheeler is now devoting his principal attention to the breeding and keeping of Ayrshire cattle for dairy purposes. There is a cheese factory near Woburn, and two in active operation in Markham. The Hon. D. Reesor has devoted much time and attention to the promotion of this important movement. Having only an hour or two previous to the arrival of the train, I could only cast a cursory glance at Mr. Wheeler’s farm, which evidently shows to a practised eye traces of neatness and good management, which one would like to find more generally prevailing.


Toronto, August, 1867.