Stories of John Howitt


(from the Guelph Mercury newspaper

 for Wednesday July 20th 1927.)


Mr. John Howitt

─ picture painted in 1862.



The Money Was Good


One day, during 1842, Mr. Howitt was working in the stable when a stranger entered, and, without ceremony, walked up and down, examining the fine cattle.   Turning, he asked, “Where can I find Mr. Howitt?” and on learning that the man that he sought was before him, he pointed first to a bull and said, “I’ll give you fifteen hundred dollars for that beast”, then went on to offer unusually high prices for five or six more of the herd.  The prices offered were far beyond any that had ever been given before, and his offer was accepted.  There and then, the stranger paid the full amount in American cash.  As the man was a stranger and as Mr. Howitt was not conversant with American money, he invited the visitor to stay for dinner and meanwhile privately dispatched Patrick McGarr, of kind remembrance, to town, to obtain the opinion of Mr. Sandilands of the Gore Bank.  Mr. Sandilands sent back word, “The bills are as good as those of the Bank Of England.”  Mr. Howitt assisted the stranger to drive the cattle to the Waterloo Road.  On the way, seven half-grade young calves galloped up, for which the stranger offered seventy dollars apiece, an offer quickly accepted.




Went to Kentucky


Within the last three months, the writer has ascertained the name of the American buyer and particulars of the after history of the Shorthorns that he bought.  The buyer was Mr. James Letton of Bourbon and Nicholas Counties, Kentucky.  The descendents of the cattle of the above transaction are still widely known in Kentucky as the “Canadian Shorts”.  A forefather of this James Letton received from King George III, a charter for five thousand acres of land in the Kentucky “blue grass region”, which region later became the principal home of the Shorthorns of the world.




An Intelligent Dog


We have mentioned a famous Collie dog, Stranger, which deserves a few words here.  On the occasion of a visit from a gentleman interested in sheep, the dog was told to bring up the flock, which was pasturing in a distant part of the farm more than half a mile from the house, and not visible from it.  On the arrival of the sheep, Mr. Howitt found on counting that one was missing, and Stranger was sent back for it.  An hour passed and it was decided to investigate the cause of delay.  A sheep had died during the previous night, and Stranger, when found, had dragged it half of the distance home, a marvellous feat for a dog!




In the troublesome times of 1837, at a meeting in Moran’s Castle Garden Hotel, someone present made very derogatory comments about Queen Victoria, whereupon, John Howitt, forgetting for the time his pacific Quaker principles, seized the offender by the collar and seat of his pantaloons, and hurled him through the window, carrying away the sash.




Used Bulls to Plough


In attempting to plough the meadows of “The Grange” for the first time, William Thompson, the ploughman, found it impossible to work with horses owing to the rocky condition of the subsoil and the roots.  He was told to yoke the imported Shorthorn bulls, Comet and Forester, and the difficult work was done, the ploughman only once being thrown into the air.  After this, the valuable yoke was used occasionally for special work, the only time on record when imported Shorthorns were used as beasts of burden.




In the 1840’s, Lord Elgin paid a visit to “The Grange”, and persuaded Mr. Howitt to exhibit his cattle at the coming fair at Newark, then the capital of Upper Canada, now Niagara-on-the-Lake.  At this fair, his stock carried off the principal prizes.


Later on, the Provincial Fair was held at Muddy York, now Toronto.




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