The Old Shipman Homestead at Elm Ridge located on the Lyn-Yonge Mills Road, just west of the Village of Lyn Ontario
Recollections as a youth, by George A. Neville (7th generation Shipman descendant) (Feb.28th,2018)
The Elm Ridge Farm Site
The old Shipman homestead was (and still is of 2018) located on the north side of the Lyn-Yonge Mills Rd. about mid-way between the village of Lyn and Yonge Mills (a site closer to the St. Lawrence River front of the township of Yonge in Leeds County). The farm property of 100 acres – 50 to the south extending down over a wide east-west knoll to the flats below and the Grand Trunk double railroad track to the southern bush within granite outcroppings, and 50 acres to the north of cultivated fields beyond which was the ‘back woods’ used for maple-sugar making and firewood for homestead heating and cookstove use – was called Elm Ridge. The farm came to be known in the greater Lyn community as Elm Ridge on account of three large, stately American elms growing along the edge of the ridge south of the road (now long gone). Further south on the ridge, more or less in line where it began to gently begin its deep decline, a cluster of mature nut trees existed that had been planted there as sapplings by my gt-gdmother Barbara Shipman (née McDonald) – 3 large butternuts, and at least 4 black walnut trees that each bountifully produced annually (alas, they are long gone now too).
The Homestead, Exterior Aspects of the House, Drive-Sheds and Hired-Hand House
My recollections of the exterior of the Shipman house as a youth during the 1940s are that it consisted of two major portions interconnected by successive previous reconstruction and extension. There was a large, imposing square front portion with a somewhat smaller and slightly lower rear portion that extended out further about 10 feet to the east than the main block, all in white clap-board siding with dark-green painted trim and cedar shingle shakes for roofing. There was a wrap-around open-air porch extending from the north-east junction with the oldest rear section (where there was a door leading north into the kitchen area) to the whole of the front portion and front entrance beset with rocking chairs, a hamock and other occasional chairs. Just to the left of the porch door to the kitchen, there was a wider door opening westward into the dining room of the main building. It was so pleasant to sit out on the porch on a warm summer evening together with gdmother, Walter and his wife, Rita (short for Orita) and their large ‘collie’ dog to watch the ever changing colours of a sunset and later the darting flashes of fire-flies amid the growing darkness of night. At the second level over the front door and cut into the lower wrap-around porch roof, a sizeable balcony flanked with white wooden railing and balusters, was accessed through a doorway from my grandmother Macy’s master bedroom. This elevation provided a majestic view southward over the cultivated fields, of passing CNR & CPR passenger and freight trains, and of the pre-cambrian hilly outcrops and forested areas beyond.
The outward appearance of the house as described above resulted from extensions and modifications made some years after my gdfather, Joel Arthur Shipman, died prematurely on 2nd January 1917 He lived for.three days from a crushed skull resulting from a large dead elm limb falling from an adjacent tree. He had warned others about the hazard; yet it fell striking him in the back woods when he and his son, Walter, and hired man, were felling a tree for next season’s fuel. The renovation and further transformation of the frontal appearance of the house was overseen by my gdmother a couple of years before my parents were married 18 April 1935 at the homestead because I remember my father (a carpenter) scoffing at gdmother’s recollection of the builders’ hammering as being ”music to her ears”, obviously much enjoying the structural modifications and adornments to the homestead of probably three generations.
An older picture of the homestead taken about 1906 before it was remodelled as described above, shows a somewhat smaller and planer front portion lacking both the later wrap-around open porch and 2nd level balcony with altered roof lines. A variation of the picket fence shown in this photo, minus the gate, was retained in place in the more recent image of my many youthful years’ visits there. No outside hand-pump for hard water drawn from a well seems to appear in this older photo in the lower right-hand corner as existed, probably for a drilled well, in my recollected time.
Back of the older smaller (kitchen) section of the house there was a long 1-storey drive shed covered in vertical board and batten painted with red barn paint (ground hematite in linseed oil) and shingled with cedar shakes. The drive-shed abutted onto the rear of the old building with a rear door opening into it from the kitchen to a large wood-shed area for provisioning of both the kitchen cookstove as well as the hot-air furnace in the low ceiling cellar of the house. Almost opposite the kitchen exit door to the wood-shed some 20 or so feet ahead, there was a flight of some 12 steps up to an extend eastward loft above the wood-shed that held a great array of interesting stored things to a young pre-pubescent lad. In the open space of this wood-shed, a three-burner coal-oil stove would be set up and used for cooking and heating laundry water during the summer’s heat instead of suffering use of the cookstove for same. Once I raised the wick too high when lighted under a pot resulting in sooty flames shooting up and around the pot that so alarmed me that I fetched gdmother who quickly reduced the wick to a proper level thus averting what might have been the beginning of a fire in a kindle-dry area! Moving eastward, there were two drive-shed bays, each with double, full height swing doors connected by a passage way running their full length from the wood-shed area. In the first drive shed was Walter’s, always fairly new Pontiac or Chevrolet sedan, and in the the most easterly shed was his older (vintage) dark-green mini Ford truck, less than half the size of today’s F-150 models.
Outside the drive-sheds there was a generous parking area for vehicles connected to the main gravel roadway by an earthen roadway. The main road did not get upgraded and paved with asphalt until the late 1950s. Further to the east of the homestead across a gap of grassland,but almost in line with the drive-sheds, was located a 2-story unpainted, weathered, wooden house for the ‘hired man’ or ‘woman’.
Building of that house was probably begun the summer before gdfather Joel died because Walter and his 17-year old fiancé, Oreta May Morrison were married in September 1917, and the house most likely was their wedding present. The young couple may have lived in the new house for a few years, but for most of their time they lived in gdmother’s house with her, and the other house was used for the hired help. Walter never wanted to be a farmer, aspiring always to be a mechanic and fascinated by internal combustion engines.
At the opposite end of the drive-sheds and wood-shed, there was a door that opened into a recessed area formed by the rear of the main house and the westerly terminus of the drive-shed complex. There against the northern wall of the main building was a double-doored root-cellar entrance way to the low-level earth dug cellar. About 50 feet to the north of that entrance, standing by itself, was a small wooden smoke-house, about half the size of a small outhouse but of about the same height, and in this closed compartment was hung game to be smoked from smoldering hickory chips, corn cobs, etc. ignited by a couple of small glowing coals taken from the cookstove.
An Interior First Floor Tour of the 1940s/50s Homestead House
The Dining Room
Upon arriving at the Shipman home with company, we would mostly enter via the side door off the porch into the dining room. This was a large room about 10′ x 20′ with a large oak dining room table centred in the middle surrounded by 10 matching chairs, one at each end of the table. Over the table hung a beautiful colourful Aladd in coal-oil lamp that one could raise and lower for servicing or for more intense lighting cast on the table. To the right of entry there was an open doorway to the large kitchen. To the left of that doorway on the wall was an old Northern Electric hand-cranked telephone in an oak case about 10” wide and 36” tall with about a 10” long mouth piece extending outwards. The apparatus, as I recall, was powered by four 1½ volt cylindrical dry cells (6” x 2½’ diam.) wired in series for 6 volts. Everyone on the party line had their own assigned ring for incoming calls, e.g., 2 longs and 1 short, but when you wanted to make a call, you had first to check that no one was using the line, then crank the device to generate a charge to alert the telephone dispatcher to connect you to the desired party that would be followed by its characteristic ring. It was not uncommon when having placed a call to hear interim clicks on the line as party liners lifted their receivers to listen in on the news of the day, and with each intervention, the line voltage would weaken to the point that often a conversation could not be heard or continued until one heard restoration of the line signalled by recurring clicks as receivers were hung up along the party line. There was a generally recognized ‘fire’ ring to alert all and sundry to any outbreak of a fire to summon volunteers for its containment and extinguishing. Below the wall mounted telephone casement, there was a beautifully oil-painted (a blue heron standing in water amid bull rushes) 8” diam. x 30” red-clay drainage tile (rim down on the floor) serving as a retainer for encased umbrellas and a walking stick – one of many of gdmother Macy’s artworks. Along the north wall between the box telephone and the full-sized window opposite the stairs, there was a large wooden, floor-to-ceiling cabinet whose lower area had solid wooden doors
with upper portion of two panel doors each of double width of framed glass panes about 10” x 8”.
The Music Room and more of the Dining Room
There is more to this central, pivotal dining room. Moving across the room along the telephone wall and past a full sized window, straight ahead was a doorway covered by a heavy velvety dark-green
curtain that could be gathered at the middle on each side when one did not want to close off the music room to conserve heat in the winter. The music room contained gdmother’s table grand piano, a beautiful instrument that took up nearly half of the 10′ x 10′ room. Near the piano was a mahogany music cabinet that contained much sheet music in the 5 sliding shelves of its bottom compartment, plus a frontal curved drawer above, and above and back of the cabinet top was a quality bevelled mirror encased in curving mahogany framing. I now have that music cabinet in its original varnished condition as a memento. The music room led south through an archway into the parlor about which more will be said later, but the music room had no lamp suspended from its ceiling, and if light were needed there in the evening, one would take in a table coal-oil lamp from the kitchen and place it on the piano.
Returning to the doorway of the music room, on one’s right, i.e., opposite the window previously mentioned was a staircase about 36” wide of ~14 steps up to the second floor level that will be described later. Back in the dining room and to the left of the staircase, there was an alcove (fronted by a solid panel door about 4′ high and 30” wide) built in under the lower reaches of the upstairs staircase used for storage of games, e.g., pick-up sticks, chinese and regular checkers and their boards, a crokinole board and chips, and other assorted items like water colour paints, tubes of oil paint pigments, and various sized brushes for each type. At the extreme left of this same wall, there was a small regular sized wooden door that led to a staircase down to the low-ceiling basement. On the wall space above the alcove hung two large, framed, charcoal sketches (from a picture-hanging rail around the room about 12” from the ceiling) of my gtgd father Luther Moss Shipman (on the left) and of gdfather Joel Arthur Shipman (to the right). Opposite that wall and against the opposite wall was a long dining-room buffet, nearly the length of the room to the east side entrance door, that held a 12-piece French Lemoge china set as well as other china and cutlery. The cabinet top came up nearly as high as the molding of the painted, simulated oak wainscoating panelling that surrounded the dining room, apart from doorways and the extra-wide archway at the southern end that opens into the airy and bright sitting room. On the wall over the long buffet were a couple of large charcoal sketches done by Macy Elizabeth Shipman, one of 3 horses galloping nearly side by side with manes flowing in the air, and the other two of upper torsos of two dogs.
The Sitting Room
The sitting room had a regular sized window just to its left beyond the archway in front of which there was an oval table on which sat Walter’s 20” high, battery powered radio with his favourite rocking chair set out in front of it, usually with a bowl of peanuts set beside the radio. He always tempted me to just try eating only one peanut on any occasion. Under the corner table, there was an array of batteries needed to electrify the old electron-tube radio. The main power source was a 6-volt sulphuric acid car battery that required periodic recharging whose power cords were attached by alligator clips. Then there were two smaller identical sized dry-packs (~ 8” long, 6” deep, 4” wide) hooked up individually with identical electrical male pin sockets that plugged into each dry pack. In addition, there was a small dry pack (~2”x 3” by 4” deep) attached by it own pin connector that was just laid on top of one of the other dry packs. The dry-packs, being non-rechargeable were an expendable, but expensive item. Under the radio table, there was a large chunk of pale green glass with a couple of creamy-white inclusions in it that most likely came from the archaeological digs with Gerald Stevens of the Mallorytown Glass Factory property.
Much of the brightness of the sitting room arose from a regular sized window on the left side of the front entrance to the sitting room, as well as from the large window in the front door and from the coloured glass transom in the south wall above the front door. In front of the window on the left and back of Walter’s rocking chair was a rectangular varnished table on which newspapers, etc., were piled with a chair set at its open end. Just inside the wide archway to the right was an oak upright writing stand with oval mirror mounted amid oak arms and enclosed storage shelves below. I think that piece was one of Rita’s heirlooms like an almost identical narrow but tall, curved glass enclosed nick-nack display cupboard (not more than 14” wide) diagonally opposite against the south wall and another narrower archway leading into the parlor complete with dark-green velvety drapes. There was no hanging coal-oil lamp in the sitting room either, but when used at night for card games, etc., Walter would light his Coleman naphtha gas lantern and hang it from a hook in the ceiling, or sometimes use the coal-oil Aladdin table lamp (with its more luminescent large mantle) kept in the parlor.
The parlor consisted mainly of Rita’s upright piano angled across the south-west corner of the room beside a southerly facing regular window along with a few occasional chairs. A striking feature on the west wall, again suspended from a picture frame moulding, was a 4′ by 5′ oil painting by gdmother of a male deer with a good set of antlers in a natural setting looking outwards toward the viewer from the top of a rocky knoll [the deer was modelled after the Hartford Insurance deer logo, as cousin Robert Williams once reminded me]. The parlor connected to the music room via the archway mentioned previously so that one could walk completely through all the downstair’s rooms of the main building in a circular fashion without interference.
Now for the kitchen on level with the dining room but in the oldest and smallest portion of the extended house. Central to it was a large kitchen table with a large wood-burning cookstove back of it close to the north wall. To the left of the cookstove was the shallow white enamelled, cast-iron kitchen sink (~14” wide by 20” long and barely 5” deep). To the right of the sink was a small hand-operated pump for pumping soft water from the basement cistern (collected via the roof eaves troughs and piping to the cistern) plus a metal wash basin in the sink and a soap dish close at hand.. To the left of the wash counter, there was an open door way to a spacious recessed pantry with lots of cupboards and supplies. The pantry projected northward and on its east wall was a door to the cellar staircase built under the upper staircase to Walter’s quarters as a young lad. Food was stored in crocks covered with large plates or boards topped with large rocks to keep rats out of the food. Crocks were placed to the side of the stairsteps going down to the cellar as well as some on the cool earthen cellar floor.
More or less opposite the washstand, there was a door in the west wall to the exterior, and to the left of it was a window, and beneath it was another smaller table of kitchen height. In the SW corner and along the south wall of the kitchen was a larger work table. Above the west end of the work table, there was a bracketed shelf higher against the wall that held a row of four coal-oil lamps of varying sizes and design. Attached to the left frame of the previously mentioned window was a mounted coal-oil lamp with a circular tin reflector behind it. There was no ceiling coal-oil lamp in the kitchen. To the right of the central kitchen table about mid-way along the eastern wall there was a regular window beside which there was a small box type wooden rocker with a small newspaper stand and table in front of it and a chair set nearby. Behind the cookstove, fitted with a reservoir from which hot water could be dipped for laundry, bathing , etc., was a wood box to save frequent trips to the wood-shed. Just back of the wood box and immediately to the left of the rear door to the wood-shed, was a simple panel door opening to a short flight of steps (the back steps of the house) to the second floor of the older section. The kitchen floor was of knotty pine showing the wear of generations and painted a typical mustard yellow.
The Year-Round Exterior Privy
At the east end of the wood-shed along its north wall and set against the west dividing wall of the first drive-shed was a somewhat commodious compartment with a single latch door and inner sliding wood locking arrangement that served as the ‘outhouse’ for year-round use. This privy , about 4′ wide, 10′ long, and 8′ high, featured a sitting high enclosed bench along its north side built overtop of a 2′-deep latrine. On top of the bench were three, tapered, circular cut, inter-spaced, ‘pottie’ openings of approximately 12”, 10” and 7” in diameter (west to east) for use just like for the three bears – papa bear, mama bear, and little bear- and each had a fitted wooden top for coverage when not in use. In front of the smallest seat was a small stool for little legs. A good supply of strips of old newspaper, pages from an old Eaton’s catalogue, etc., were available for wiping from a shelf on the front wall to the left. Below the shelf there was a metal pail of wood-ashes from the cookstove along with a metal scoop for thowing some ashes over each daily deposit periodically augmented with a dosing of powdered lime. The privy would be dug out early each autumn with contents spread on a field before its plowing. The walls of the privy were attractively covered with different sections of pasted remnants of wallpaper; the rough-board ceiling was simply white-washed. On warmer spring days, deteriorated , peeling and torn papered portions of the walls would be re-pasted and adorned with new pieces of wallpaper, generally unmatching so as to create colourful mosaic murals. During the cold of winter, one did not tarry long in the privy.
A Tour of the Second Floor Area
At the top of the main staircase reached from the dining room, there was an ‘L’ shaped landing with the short base being at the top of the stairs running parallel to the front of the house and the longer portion running north and perpendicular to the base towards the oldest section of the building complex. The north-south hall as so-formed was fitted with a railing and balusters overlooking the staircase. To the left of the landing was the doorway to the master bedroom (gdmother’s) and to the right near the ‘L-angle’ was the doorway to Walter and Rita’s fair-sized bedroom with double bed, two dressers, and two windows – one looking out to the south, and one to the east overlooking the balcony.
The Master Bedroom
The master bedroom was large and fitted with a double bed, feather-tick mattress into which one sank, and a down-filled comforter. The floor of this room was carpeted, supplemented with superimposed carpet runners. Facing the foot of the bed but to the left of the curtained doorway leading outward onto the front balcony, was a large wash-stand dresser over which was attached a large oval mirror. A complete wash-stand china set was arranged on the top middle and raised side portions of the wash-stand consisting of a large wash-bowl, a large water pitcher, both in the lower middle portion, a small matching basin, water pitcher, and small jar with tooth brushes set on the left elevated top. On the elevated right top, there was a small matching china-covered bowl for hair pins, etc., a hair brush and some combs. In a lower compartment of the dresser with separate door was the matching chamber pot together with china lid. The chamber pot was used for voiding before going to bed and, if necessary, for use during the night. As a boy, I always slept with gdmother snuggled up to her in that feather-tick bed, an experience never repeated until one night spent together with Iris, Jeffrey (age 6) and Cathy (age 5) in a similar bed in a Gasthof outside the mediaeval Hansiatic town of Lübeck of Schleswig-Holstein in northern Germany on our way to Holland in April 1973.
There was another smaller dresser along the east side of gdmother’s bedroom to the right of which was a regular sized window. The north wall of her bedroom against which her bed was placed, extended to the east wall near where the smaller dresser was located and where a doorless doorway provided entrance to a smaller bedroom back of the master bedroom with a regular window looking eastward. This room also held a double bed, a smaller washstand and matching dresser, the latter two on either side of the window. It was in the drawers of these two dressers that gdmother kept all her old collected cards and correspondence in bundles tied together with colourful ribbons. She had established herself as the recognized family and community historian for which, I’m sure that she had much documentation stuffed here and there in the house. She was instrumental in getting the Lyn Women’s Tweedsmuir History group established following Lady Tweedsmuir’s challenge to the women of Canada to begin collecting and preserving the history of this young developing country.
A Rare Inside Bathroom for the House Period
Returning to the upper landing and proceeding north to the oldest section of the house, one took 2 steps down at the juncture of the two buildings to a small landing of the oldest section. To the right of this lower landing is a door and doorway to a unique bathroom of the times. The room is small, but well occupied with facilities. One entered a passage way about 3′ wide on the left of which was a wall running to the east exterior wall with a wall on the right of passage about 5′ in length that contained a rectangular tank, an upstairs cistern that collected softwater from the roof for bathing. Beyond the eastern end of this cistern wall that rose only to within about a foot of the ceiling was a small recessed area in which sat a ‘chemical’ commode with a 4” diameter ventilation pipe attached to its upper rear portion that extended through the ceiling and roof for ventilation purposes. This commode, with a fitted covered seat, would be of great comfort especially during the winter and periods of sickness or convalescence, however, it had its limitations. Above the toilet against the wall was a small rectangular water tank from which hung a chain to pull to flush the toilet for which there appeared to be no outlet.
Because it would require periodic maintenance and cleaning in addition to its chemical digestion, its use was not encouraged when anyone capable could make their way to the outdoor privy or use the chamber pot located in each bedroom for any necessary nocturnal voiding or defecation. My younger sister, Margaret, being only 5 or 6 at the time, found this flush mechanism, to be a ‘game’ until scolded and told to ”Look, don’t Use… Go outside”. She had never seen anything like this before.
The other rare installation was a tin bathtub with soldered joints built into a wood encasement painted blue like the walls of the room. The tub was just wide enough and long enough for an adult to be able to sit in it with outstretched legs with back to the perpendiclar tub-end and feet towards the 50º upward curved end. During summer stays at the homestead as a boy, I sometimes had a bath in that tub after a day of particularly dirty playing or farm activity. Water from the cistern was admitted to the curved end of the tub from a brass tap connected to piping running back to the base of the cistern raised from the floor to ahout tub height. A half pail of hot water drawn from cookstove reservoir would be taken up to be added to the cistern water to take any chill off it. When bathing was finished, the tub water was drained from the vertical end when the rubber plug was removed that allowed the bath water to drain through a pipe extending through the east wall out to fall into the yard below. As I recall, there was a little window high up on the east wall mid-way between the tub and the commode to admit light. I think also that there was a stove pipe that came up through this bathroom to the roof chimney of the older section located close to the junction of the two buildings that would have kept the cistern from freezing in the winter months. I should also explain that rainwater collected from the roof to the upper cistern, when full would flow down through piping to the cellar cistern that also had an overflow pipe that discharged excess water to the yard.
Walter’s Bedroom above the Back Stairs
Next to the bathroom and north along the narrow hallway flanking the west wall of the older section was Walter’s small room for his use as a young lad/young man. Here was a single bed and somewhat rustic surroundings, a chair, a small dresser, another little storage cupboard for his collections and a window that looked out to the east. What really caught my attention amongst his collected items as a boy was his extensive collection of bird eggs all pierced with a small hole at the narrow end and blown out through a larger opening in the broad end, each nestled in soft, finely dried grass. Usually he had only one specimen of each type, but there were a couple or more of duplicates with the exception of having three turtle eggs the size of ping-pon balls. The lower hallway, outside Walter’s bedroom, terminted at the top of the narrow staircase leading to the kitchen and exiting behind the cookstove.
I think that entrance to the attic was gained from a doorway and enclosed staircase that arose from the westerly edge of the upper landing more or less opposite to Walter & Rita’s bedroom door. The attic floor was completely boarded, and it was a paradise for exploration. Perhaps its greatest use was to spread copious quantities of butternuts and walnuts harvested in the autumn from the nut trees of Elm Ridge to be dried for at least a year (freeze-drying followed by summer’s attic heat) after which they cracked with ease with little loss of their meats, providing one knew how to handle them. This I readily learned as a boy because the inner fruit of these dry nuts, first shucked of their outer softer but hand staining shells, could only be yielded efficiently by striking butternuts on top with a hammer when held vertically against a solid piece of iron. I still have that iron, a 10” section of the early Grand Trunk narrow guage rail track that was saved by earlier generations as a souvenier that I managed to buy when Rita held the estate auction sale out of the old Lyn Seed Cleaning Plant the spring following Walter’s death. Walnuts, on the other hand, are best struck with a hammer blow when turned on their side with ends pointing parallel to the iron rail. During those youthful years, I was too young to realize what treasures might exist in various attic trunks, etc., but I did much fancy the cast iron pots, and other curious tools stored and hanging about in the loft above the woodshed.
There was a cellar under the older part not deep enough to enable an adult to stand up because of a rocky ledge below the earth removed for a field-stone foundation. In one area of this rocky base there was a lttle crevice (~2” wide) through which cool water seemed to run continuously, and it was beside this little cellar stream that gdmother or Rita would place the butter dish in hot weather to keep the butter cool and solid.
The cellar under the main building was similarly dug, but in its southern end under the archway of the dining room and sitting room, it was deep enough to allow a hot-air gravity fed wood-burning furnace to be set up probably at some later time in the early 1900s. Towards the northern end of the cellar along its western side were three large oak barrels set on supports and resting parallel to the earthen floor. These were used for making natural (organic in today’s jargon) maple vinegar which not only had a strong maple flavour, but also a high acetic acid content (a strong vinegar excellent for pickling cucumbers, beets, etc.). The barrels were used in rotation. Vinegar was drawn as needed from the most aged barrel which was then cleaned in late winter for filling with maple sap collected at the end of the syrup season when the sap was not good for syrup production but still good to ferment into vinegar. A portion of the greyish-white occluded bacterial mass, the so-called ‘mother of vinegar’ was taken from the next aged barrel of vinegar and added to the barrel of fresh sap to initiate the bacterial fermentation. The newly charged barrel of sap and starter was left untouched for at least a year. It was much easier to take milk cans of sap into the basement as well as a supply of wood for the furnace via the root cellar entrance on the north side of the house described earlier.
The Barn, Cow & Horse Stables
Across the main road and further west than the end of the house was the barn built on a stone foundation set into the declining frontal hillside. It was a squarish barn with a hay mow above the cow stable area that was reached off the main road by a slightly banked pathway to the north side of the barn where the hay wagon could enter for unloading and mowing of hay. Built into the north-west corner of the barn was a square silo, common in the day, but very few were still standing in the 1970s. My sister toured many back roads to find another for painting references, and only found one back of Napanee. Square silos evolved into wooden eight-sided, to wooden round to concrete, to steel (Harvester) silos by the 1990s.
The house and barn did not get electrical service until 1953 although a hydro-electric line had been cut through the southern flat fields below the barn just after WW II. Walter, however, had set up a mechanical, harmonic oscillating system set in motion by an offset connection to a single piston gasoline powered engine with a big fly wheel. The engine would put-put-put at first as ignition caught from giving the fly wheel a good spin then reve up to speed as the wooden sliding connectors mounted within sleeves along a wooden header above the cattle stanchions rattled throughout the stable. Walter would then attach a pneumatic vacuum pump cylinder to part of the oscillating wooden sliders from which he obtained a vacuum that was conducted down by a thick-walled rubber hose to the head of a milking kettle bearing a single set of four milking vacuum cylinders that were applied to a cows teats once the udder had been cleansed. I don’ t think that at any time he had more than 10 milking cows because his mechanical pumping system was installed on only one side of the cow stable. He kept the bull at the far end on the other side, and a few dry or young cattle on that side too during the winter, but in the summer all the cattle were taken down the laneway on the western edge of the farm across the rail-road tracks to the other side of the tracks (through swing wire gates on each track side) to graze amid the rock outcroppings. When the Grand Trunk railway was first put through the area, Nelson Shipman, from the adjacent 100-acre farm to the west and a couple of generations earlier than Walter, being the shrewd business man that he was, negotiated with the railway authorities to have a sub-passage way put under the tracks so that his cattle could be pastured south of the tracks without the 4-times daily hazard of crossing the busy double tracks. Nelson, like the other Shipmans of that area are all descendants of Samuel Shipman who first gained Crown title to the 200 acres of the combined farms, was the only person along the Lyn-Yonge Mills Rd. to have such a subway for his cattle, and a nice stone-faced one, front and rear, at that!
Besides the cow stable, on the lower side of the barn was a lean-to built horse stable where Walter kept 2 horses and a colt. They were tethered in stalls facing the barn and could be serviced with hay and oats via a passage way in front of the horses’ heads or by a wider passage to the rear of the horses which allowed for greater mobility when taking out manure with a wheel barrow. I dreaded walking in behind the horses as a boy and kept close to the remote wall lest they might kick me since they seemed always to be stamping or lifting their feet with a little flick as their bodies shifted in the stalls. Now, out in the barnyard along the western fence, but just south of the ice-house, was a long concrete built watering trough for use by the cattle and horses. It was about 4′ high, 3 ‘ wide and 30’ long with 4” walls. Walter would turn a valve at the upper head-end of the trough and water would pour forth from a pipe into the trough from a storage tank in the barn . There was a high windmill at the edge of a field below the inclined hill that he would set in motion from time to time connected to a hand-pump that would pump water through a connected pipe to the storage tank. He would lead the horses one by one by hand-held bridle out to the running water of the trough, but sometimes one or more would refuse to drink at that time much to his frustration. They had some chickens too and one or two roosters, but I can’t recall where the hen house was located somewhere near the barn.
The ice-house was a fair size about 20′ x 30′ and 10′ high before the cedar-shake shingled roof height. Blocks of ice were probably cut from the Lyn Pond and drawn to the ice-house where they were arranged in rows and layers surrounded by thick layers of sawdust, especially around the perimeter of the building against the summers’ heat. Ice was used in an ice-bath tank for cooling milkcans full of warm milk before being collected for delivery to a condensed milk factory and also for use with course salt to achieve freezing tempertures around a metal home-ice-cream freezer set within a wooden containeer for hand operation. When few cows were milking, the milk was put through a De Laval cream separator near the single-cylinder gasoline engine in the cow stable (no milk-house at that time) for the cream to be made into butter or sold. The skim milk was fed to the pigs.
The Hop House & Itinerate Indigenous Hop Pickers
There was another small storey-and-a-half building on the eastern end of Elm Ridge above the nut trees but south of the main road. This shed, clad with vertical weathered barn boards and having a wide opening with no doors, was known as the ‘hop’ house. It was used for storage of the long hop poles used in growing hops in cultivated ground on top of the eastern ridge. When it came time for harvesting the hops from the vines growing upon clusters of hop-poles assembled like the inner framing of tee-pees, numbers of itinerant Indigenous men would be hired to pick the hops. These native Indians would sleep in the loft of the hop house. In late summer or autumn, Indian women would come through the district selling their beautiful, multi-coloured baskets woven from fragrant sweet grass and thin strips of slippery elm wood.
Taking the Sow to be Bred
When I was about 10 years of age and spending a few summer days at the farm, Walter’s hired hand at that time was a stocky, strong, round-faced woman, named Leafy, who lived alone in the little house for hired help. One morning, Walter decided that it was time to take his sow up the Lyn-Yonge Mills road to Burnham’s (I think)to have its boar inseminate the sow, and suggested that I come along with him and Leafy in his little truck. First the large pig had to be led and pushed up a ramp into the back of the truck; this took the combined effort of Leafy and Walter. With the sow tightly tethered to the truck just back of its cab, the three of us got into the front with me sitting in the middle of the seat with my feet
straddling the stick shift. Fortunately for the pig, it was not a long ride up the road to the other farm.
When we got to the Burnham farm, the sow was led down to the boar’s pen and put in with it. No sooner had the sow arrived when the boar became excited extending and twirling its long semi-spiral penis already dripping fluid and mounted the sow. In a flash, the boar quickly penetrated the sow then withdrew dripping a stream of creamy-white semen that looked every bit like tapioca pudding to me. I must have been wide-eyed with amazement, but it was over before I knew it. The sow was reloaded onto the truck, and back to the Shipman farm we went. Upon return, Rita was out in the yard and made a rather sharp rebuke to Walter to the effect that he could have spared the boy such a sight. I still enjoy eating tapioca pudding, but it conjures up more than flavour and consistency for me, even now.
Boiling Maple Sap to Syrup in the Back Woods Sugar Shanty
There were a large number of mature hard (sugar) maple trees in the back woods of the Shipman farm, and each late winter, March/April, these would be tapped with spiles from which metal buckets were suspended to catch the dripping sap. The sap ran best on sunny days following cold nights while there was still frost in the ground. The sugar shanty was a small frame building about 10′ wide and 20′ long with vertical barn boards and an elevated small roof and venting outlets rising above the main roof. The heart of the sugaring operation was a long cast-iron, wood-burning hearth on top of which a long segmented tin evaporator, the full width and length of the hearth, was placed. Sap from an elevated storage tank at the rear of the shanty flowed into the rear end of the evaporator through a pipe with a float regulator on it to maintain a desired level of raw sap in the terminal end of the evaporator. As water was boiled off the sap, the more dense syrup in formation slowly moved towards the front of the evaporator under the influence of gravity through three sections of interconnected evaporator pans. When the syrup at the front end reached a certain viscosity, it was partially drained off through a spout through a cheese-cloth strainer into a 4-or 8-gallon milk can of finished syrup. At the finishing end of the evaporator, there was always much foam formation by the boiling action, and it was not uncommon to hang a piece of pork fat from a wire a couple of inches above the level of the boil such that the rising foam would be broken by contact with the fat and collapse back into the evaporator.
The finest tasting syrup and lightest in colour was generally made after a first run had been made to take away any metallic taste from the evaporator. As the sap season progressed, the sap would become more woody in flavour resulting in progressively darker syrup formation. By the time the buds on the trees were about to expand, the syrup was very dark and really only fit for use on pancakes or for making very dark maple sugar. Maple sugar was made on the cookstove by boiling syrup further with near constant stirring to remove water to obtain a near crystalline beige state when it would be ladled into candy moulds or sugar cone moulds. The sugar loafs from the sugar cones stored well and would be scraped when one needed brown sugar for cooking or baking. When we were kids, Walter would bring in a 4-gallon milk can of syrup for our use. Mother would bring it to a boil in batches of pots on the kitchen stove at home and fill oven heated wine and liquor bottles with the hot syrup so that it would not ferment during storage in the basement fruit cellar. Often at the shanty or at home, ‘jack-wax’ (sugar taffy) would be made by heating some syrup to a thicker consistency, then pouring it on a tray of compacted fresh snow where it congealed and could be lifted off on a stick and eaten like taffy. It was very sweet, strong in maple flavour, and tacky to the teeth. We have a picture of Edna, grandfather Joel, Walter, and I think a hired man, taken in the shanty at the front of the hearth during boiling operations.
Demise of Elm Ridge Homestead, Sale of the Property, its Desolation and Partial Restoration
After grandmother Macy Shipman died in early February 1950, Walter and Rita arranged for our family of four to go out to the homestead on Saturday in mid-April to clear out her effects as virtually nothing had been done to her master bedroom since her demise. In the last couple of months or so of her deteriorating condition, Walter and Rita had converted the music room into a downstairs bedroom for gdmother for greater ease for Rita to attend to her by avoiding the stairs. The grand piano must have been pushed into the parlor but returned to the music room when she was laid out in her casket in the parlor prior to the funeral in Lyn United Church and later burial in the Lyn Cemetery. Soon after the funeral, Walter asked my father to help him move the grand piano out of its room and to bring along a good hand saw. The legs of the piano had to be sawed off flush with the cabinet in order to get the piano out of the room through the narrow doorway, and it would have required too much extra work to take it out through the archways with shifting of much furniture. The four ebony legs, however, were saved as souvenirs, and Dad hollowed out the bottom of each leg to support a glass ash tray when inverted. Inverted with the heavy flat portion of the leg on the floor with its rising prominent black provincial furniture curvature, the leg was a striking addition to any living room. We had one at home (Eva Macy née Shipman), the Pettems (Edna, née Shipman) had one in their farm house, and Walter & Rita kept one.
For that Saturday clearance day, Walter had started a bonfire in the yard a fair distance back from the smokehouse and other buildings. Here he brought to the consuming flames the urine spotted carpets from the master bedroom as mother and Rita went through grandmother’s closets for clothes, footwear, etc. Then it came time to empty the dresser drawers of collected papers, bundles of cards and correspondence, and I can remember Walter sputtering to me as he dumped these items intact by the drawer full on the blazing pile how “anyone could save so much stuff”. Just in the last months of first year high school, I was more interested in attending to the fire than realizing the potential genealogical and historical loss that might be occurring before my eyes.
The farm did not sell easily although advertised sometime after it was electrified in 1953. As I recall, it was sold in early spring of 1955 as I was finishing up high school. I didn’t learn until a couple of years later when attending Queen’s University that it had been sold for just $13,000 – mind you, agricultural property had not yet started its later rate of appreciation, but this whole property of houses, drive-sheds, outdated barn, etc. essentially went for land value and very cheaply at that!
The new tenant, a Dutchman by the name of Bill Vandermead soon began to despoil the farm. Elm Ridge was destroyed when the elm trees and all the nut trees were cut down, the hop house removed, and the ridge plowed as a continuum of the fields below. The ridge was plowed year after year down and up the hill instead of cross-wise to counter soil erosion! The old barn was dismantled, and a pig barn was established back of the main house where too a lagoon was dug for the urine run-off from the pigs. This man died after a few years, a brother and his wife took over the enterprise until they had to give it up and sold the farm to another more appreciative party. The new party cleared the back area of the pig buildings, filled in the lagoon, and a couple of years later had the main building and older part behind it clad in white aluminum clapboard siding matching the size of the original white painted wooden clapboarding. They also gained good occupants of the former hired man’s house, and fixed up its exterior with flowers, shrubbery, etc. so it is hardly recognizable now as the same.
Aproximately 10 years ago (2008), my sister Margaret had just started her quest for Family History. Her goal was to take pictures of the Shipman Homestead. When approaching the desired spot, she moved to the side of the road to let a car pass. It turned into the Homestead. She explained who she was and her purpose for the photos. The gentleman was delighted to meet a relative of Walter Shipman. He had heard much about him and was interested in the history of the house. They were offered a tour of the house, but since she was with her young granddaughter, Kate, and friend, Josh, they agreed another time would be better. They did not want to intrude as it was meal time. They never got back to the tour but had a wonderful discussion with the owner.
Acknowledgements – Thanks to Margaret E. Cooke (née Neville) for review of drafts and to my wife, Iris M. Neville (née McLinton) for catching many typographical & spelling errors in the final version.
(Note: While we realize that this home was located in the Township of the Front of Young, the house and family had a strong connection to the Village of Lyn, so we have decided to include on our website)