article following was transcribed from the
The late Rowland Wingfield and
John Howitt played a large part in making
In the centennial year of
Since 1837, this southern part of
Ontario has steadily progressed as a great agricultural and stock raising
country, and is now the most celebrated breeding ground of purebred stock in
Canada, and widely known as such throughout the United States.
To the writer, there are two men
worthy of special note for the part they played in making
Within a few years after John Galt broke the silence of the forest in felling the historic maple tree, two men came across the Atlantic to Guelph, one in 1831, from Rhuabon, Denbighshire, North Wales, the other, in 1832, from Long Eaton, Derbyshire, England.
The first, Rowland Wingfield, was
the son of a clergyman, and a nephew of Lord Bagot,
and near to a title, well educated, courteous, genial,
a favourite among his friends for his optimism, affability, and
cheerfulness. Notwithstanding his
happy prospects in the
In 1831, he came to Guelph, and
being unable to secure a sufficiently large estate in Guelph Township, he
bought, on the advice of Daniel Gibson, a block of land in Puslinch, 800
acres, about five miles south of Guelph, and decided to make this his future
home. After making arrangements with
Mr. Shade for clearing 60 acres of land and building a house, he returned to
The Very Best Stock
He brought fourteen Shorthorn
cattle of the Bate strain, which were unusually large and well proportioned,
Berkshire pigs, Leicester sheep, game fowl, geese and turkeys, pigeons, and a
marvellously intelligent Collie dog, capable of understanding commands in both
Welsh and English. All these were the
best that money could buy. Besides, he
brought iron frames for windows, an iron-sheeted oaken door, sheep feeding
troughs, etc. and a large quantity of household and personal goods.
He left Liverpool on the first of
June 1833 and in eight weeks and three days reached
They ultimately reached
In the meantime, the 60 acres
cleared were probably the roughest portion of the estate and constituted part
of lots 9 and 10 of the fifth concession of Puslinch through which ran a fine
creek. The house, a well-built log
structure, stood on the brow of a hill, overlooking the Speed River, with a
fair sized orchard planted in front, as well as flowers and shrubs, but still
lacking the iron window frames, oaken doors, glass, nails, hinges, etc.
brought over by Mr. Wingfield. When
finished, it was a well-built log bungalow where settlers and visitors were
wont to gather and enjoy Roland Wingfield’s liberal
hospitality, cheerful company, and contagious laughter, refreshed meanwhile
with excellent Irish whiskey.
The oaken door of the Wingfield
bungalow is worthy of special note. It
was more than two inches thick and its outer surface was iron plated by nails
driven closely together with heads an inch square. The window frames required small diamond
The bungalow was used as a
habitation by the late Thomas Dyson until 1856, and remained up till then,
intact, as left by Wingfield. The
orchard contained a variety of apple and plum trees, several of the former
bearing apples of a delicious flavour.
The garden had a variety of current and gooseberry bushes.
Is All Gone
On the 30th of June 1927, the
writer visited the site of this mansion of pioneer days. All that remains is a vestige of the old
orchard, a few neglected apple trees, still living, and a number of dead
ones. No trace can be found of the
bungalow. Till this day, the plough
has never touched more than a small portion of the original clearing, but a
number of immense pine stumps are the only indication of the primeval forest.
A concession road ran through
Rowland Wingfield’s estate, at each corner of
which, and on the bank of the river, he placed a cornerstone sufficiently
long to reach below the frost line.
The upper part of each stone was well dressed, and cut with his
initials and the date 1831. These
stones may still be seen, and if not removed, will probably remain for
ages. It is probable that they were
Not having farm buildings on his
estate to shelter his stock, Rowland Wingfield made arrangements with Mr. Ryfe, who lived about four miles from Guelph on the
Waterloo Road, to take charge of the animals during the winter, for which,
Mr. Ryfe accepted a calf in full payment. This calf was afterwards purchased by Mr.
Tolton of Eramosa. Among the
Shorthorns, were three bulls, Comet, the largest and finest, was white,
Forester, a roan, and Farmer, red and white.
During the following summer, 1834, Mr. Wingfield sold one or more of
the Shorthorns for large sums, to Americans.
Met With Reverses
Unfortunately, for Wingfield’s success, an election was forthcoming, and he
was induced to become a candidate for the “Gore District”, which at that time
extended from south Wellington to Lake Huron, that is, including the “Queen’s
generous nature prompted him to keep open house in all the taverns of the
district. However, he was defeated and
financially ruined, and his personal effects were sold by auction in
It was commonly rumoured that Mr.
Wingfield was a sympathizer with the cause of William Lyon MacKenzie, in 1837.
Mr. Howitt Carries On
for the livestock industry in
Born, as we have said, in Long
Eaton, Derbyshire, where his family had lived since the days of Edward IV,
this second Guelph pioneer was originally of Danish descent. In his youth, he was fond of athletic
sports, but detested games of chance, pugilism, etcetera. More than once he
had been the hero of swimming exploits in his native
Mr. John Howitt
(picture painted in 1862)
After he had settled in
At the age of eighteen, he married
Miss Catharine Lee, a relative of General Robert Lee of Southern Confederacy
fame, by whom he had seven sons and three daughters. After many years of happy union, his wife
died in 1842, and in 1844, he married a widow, Mrs. David Murray, eldest
daughter of the late Alexander McIntosh, of Paisley Block, a native of
Settled near Guelph
In the early part of 1832, with a
view of later emigrating to
But when travelling one day
through the forest, he found two fine, fresh water springs and determined to
build his residence there, the spot on which “The Grange” house still stands.
In 1835-36, Mr. Howitt accordingly erected a fine residence there, which
included family quarters, servants’ quarters, a brew-house, conveniences and
coach-house, English style; and about the same time, he built fine farm
buildings, including the first banked barn, probably of Western Canada. This work was done by Mr. Hebe, a German American.
The barn was 100 feet long by 100 feet wide; the frame to the peak purline was made of squared rock elm. This barn stood until last year when it was
destroyed by fire.
Lodge House Still Stands
The house faced south with double verandahs in front and “stoop” in the rear. The ground in front was beautified by flowers
and shrubs. A road was built to the
To protect the sheep and cattle
from wolves, a sheep-pen was built of cedar posts, 14 feet high, set upright,
closely together and what was known as the “bull-pen” enclosed two acres in a
similar manner. The sheep pen stood
intact until 1873.
In those day,
The agreement of sale that John Howitt made with Rowland Wingfield included the valuable
cattle, sheep, pigs, and other farm animals, implements, Puslinch estate, and
last but not least, the wonderful Collie dog.
Mr. William Thompson, one of the herdsmen who had come at first with
the cattle from England, transferred his service now to Mr. Howitt.
His Herd Became Noted
The news of the important
importations by Wingfield had become widely known in
Until a certain event, to which
reference will be made, he also took a keen interest in public affairs, was
at one time a member of the Council, and the first President of St. George’s
Society in Guelph. The same writer
says of him, “He takes a leading part at agricultural meetings and at cattle
shows, etcetera. Shortly after the
union between Upper and
“The Grange” Destroyed
At three o’clock Christmas morning
1853, a neighbour noticed flames and smoke issuing from the roof of “The
Grange”. Knowing Mr. Howitt’s disbelief in locks, he was able to rush through
the French windows of his bedroom and roused him with difficulty, half
suffocated as he was by smoke. Mr. Howitt leaped up the burning stairs to save two of his
children, and coming back, had to jump over the banister, striking the floor
just as the stairs fell behind him into the cellar.
In this fire, everything in the
house was burned excepting a bureau, a gun and a silver mug. Mr. Howitt lost
his heirlooms, his records, and his library.
The family and servants escaped to a neighbour’s in their night
The mental shock of this harrowing
experience was one from which Mr. Howitt never
afterwards fully recovered. His public
activities ceased. He became diffident
and had little intercourse afterwards with any but his own family and a few
friends, but he always remained just and kind.
Later, the historic Shorthorns
were sold to Mr. Frederick William Stone.
died at “The Grange” on the 29th of March 1881, within a few days of his
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