Saturday, May 25, 2013
Abandonment Issues: Dickson Family Farmhouse
Our visit to the Dickson Family Farmhouse in Ingersoll, Ontario was a remarkable experience. The visit, in mid-March, capped off the 2013 Anniversary Tour, highlighted by the Crowe Foundry and Edgemere Estate.
The decaying of the structure and the remaining toys and artifacts offered up plenty of rummaging fun, but it was the contents of a box uncovered on the second floor that brought the Dickson family to life. Instantly, we drew similarities to the l)()WN Family Farmhouse several hundred kilometres to the east. The box was full of correspondence dated between 1902 and the late 1920s between the Scottish Dickson immigrants and their family members both back home and in nearby Tavistock, Ontario.
As I stood and poked through the box, reading and photographing the letters, my phone started vibrating repeatedly. It was breaking news that the Tower Automotive Tower was accessible for the first time in years. Exciting news, an immediate visit was in order, we decided. But first, back to the letters.
In lieu of my usual descriptive narrative, I will allow the long deceased members of the Dickson family tell you their stories, in their own words, via the letters that I gave my best effort to transcribe. Throughout the process of transcribing these letters, many things fascinated me. The language used, the lack of punctuation, and in some cases, the penmanship were all quite intriguing. Also, there were many common themes throughout most of the letters: weather, food insecurity, family updates, illness, farm life, and apologies for infrequent communications.
Here we go, back in time. But before we do, lets have a look around.
Lets head upstairs.
And now, lets go back in time.
Undated - My dear Gordon Aggie & bairns (Front)
My dear Gordon Aggie & bairns
here I am again I have intended writing you but as usual that was all the length I got. I was at home for a fortnights holidays & the beginning of the month & saw your letter when it came in We were all glad to see it My word the bairns are fairly growing it is a good snap of them I am looking forward for my one I hope you always keep well Agg also you Gordon the youngsters speak for themselves. We were glad to hear that you had good crops that you had got it nearly all safe in It would be a week or two before they get a start at home for the corn was green when we were at home. The folks at home were all well Mother takes turns now & again of not feeling up to the mark Father is as busy as a bee. Nan was at home on holiday when I was she has changed her digs she is now at 48 Rosemount c/o Mrs Clark she got your letter The Mairyfold folks wore well but Jean has had a bad neck for some time it is still running out I think she is to get it scraped The Eastbrae folks are well & baby growing fine he is a keen wee bratBals is well also her son & husband Ruby is still at home Archie is well I think he is very like you Gordon...
Undated - My dear Gordon Aggie & bairns continued (Back)
...Bess is getting on fine in Elgin she was home for the weekend Now I think I have gone over them all There had been a letter from Bill a few days before I went home they seem to be getting on fine Amy seems to be taken up with herself long may it last What awful weather we are having when at home we were like to be b;own off the globe & now hardly a day but trains were getting into the long dark evenings I will now ring off & send a line to Bill now that I have made a start
Hope this finds you all well
Much love to both Kisses to bairns
Your ever loving sister Jen
You did well with your young ducks Agg
Mothers hens were not laying when I was at home
September 5, 1902 - My dear Gordon Agg & kiddies
My dear Gordon Agg & kiddies
You will be thinking we have forgotten you, but no its just lazyness to write that is the matter, speaking of writing you is about daily talk I intended writing you a long time ago I do hope you are all well We are all well here We were expecting a note from Bills wife telling us how you all were but it has not come yet, I dont if they will be any better there than they were here. I am now maid at home I like it fine I do not like the wet weather it makes the closes so bad. We have got all the hay home a fortnight ago We still have a few loads of peats to take home, it will be a fortnight yet *** get harvest We have not got great crops. I do hope you have good crops. The nights are coming on fast. In from the milking we have 3 cows they are not giving much milk food is scarce & one of them had whats called weed in the dder she is better again but not giving much milk we have 5 calves 5 stirks 2 horses 1 colt 1 pig a wee one and geese 5 young drakes 4 old ducks 30 chicks about 80 hens Ruby is in a place in Aberdeen she is getting on fine Nan is always ticking me at the office work Barabara is in a farm kitchen in ******** she does not care for the place but she is...
(Letter becomes indecipherable)
Much love your ever loving Sister Jen
March 29, 1921 - Dear Agnes (Front)
We got your letter about two weeks ago, and cannot tell you how glad we were to hear that you were improving so much as to be able to come home so soon. We were longing every day to hear from you and we often phoned to Maggie when she was on the farm to hear about you. I hope you will keep gaining and when the roads are good and the weather warm that you will be able to come to see us and make a good visit. Well we are all pretty well at present except Dan, he took sick with appendicitus about two weeks ago, but it is getting better now, he came near getting into the hospital, there is a lot of sickness over this way, so were not able to make any syrup this year. And we *****...
March 29, 1921 - Dear Agnes continued (Back)
...I am glad Annie likes her school so well, she will be more likely to take her lessons better and I suppose Aleck will start this summer. We have 26 hens and we got 16 eggs today, the most yet. You must tell your hens that they should lay a good lot every day. Kate talks to our hens. She told me to tell you that she wrote to you about two weeks or so before you wrote to us and Lesey put a card in it for you we wondered if you got it, she addressed it to London. Well aggie I hope those few lines will find you still better and the rest of your family well. We will be glad to hear from you again whenever you are able, so I will close with love to all.
Your loving Aunt
Dec 22, 1923 - Dear Aggie (Front)
I thought I would write you a few lines as we have not seen any of you for some time. I expected to go down you way last summer for a few days but I **** in a miserable summer with trouble in my head but I did not get to see anybody but it is all better now and we are all able to eat three meals a day. we are having a nice winter but it does not seem so much like xmas without snow but if the ***** stays away with the snow I for one will not be sorry. I got the last egg of the season Sunday our hens laid well all year our ****** have not started yet we could not get them to set early and that made the chickens late I kept some old hens last year expecting they would set early but they fooled me and they all had their turn of coming to the block and that stopped their fun...
Dec 22, 1923 - Dear Aggie continued (Back)
...we have no cow this summer we buy our milk as we need it we bought two spring calves this fall to be in the stable with the horses and then they will keep the stable warm enogh that the roots will not freeze if the weather gets colde. I seen some fish worms laying on the ground yesterday they say we will not have a very cold winter as long as they stay **** the ****, we had the first radio service in our church a week ago we heard a sermon that was preached in New York part of it was very plain but other parts we could scarcely hear it there was something in the machine that got loose on the way coming here the man that had it came from Innerkip I expect they will be trying it again some time
well I must close for this time hoping this will find you all enjoying good health
Wishing you all a very Merry Xmas and a Happy new Year and come and see me when ever you can
March 24, 1924 - Dear Aggie
It does not seem possible it is nearly two months since I got your letter - but you know I am always lazy at answering letters it seems a natural failing of mine I would much rather reeive a dozen than to write one. well I think you were busy all summer raising foul if you did nothing else they are nice to have anyway. I suppose your ducks will be thinking of laying soon. we just have 19 hens this winter the most eggs we got was 13 in a day they average about 8 to 9 a day generally. well we have a lot of snow yet but I don't think I ever saw such a lot of snow go away so nicely without rain or any floods. Well Dans hand is getting better the Dr gave him order last Saturday he could work with it in 2 or 3 days yesterday he done the chores and to day he thought he could do a little more and he struck for the bush and started tapping he tapped 50 trees...
(Letter form K Murray - Back side of letter unfortunately not photographed)
May 13, 1926 - Dear Sister & Brother (Front)
Dear Sister & Brother
We haven't heard of you for long and we have always been to write you but was always put off and we are always so busy. We used to hear of each other a while so often but somehow the corresponding stopped.
How are you all keeping I do hope you are all in good health as it leaves us same. What rotten weather we have been having for sometime now I do hope it will settle up soon & let the work get on the work was far forward in March & April but it has been put back again. I hope you haven't had Mr. Nicol seeing you I should have had this away ere now as you will think it funny if he has called you or you got this. We used to go a lot down to Mr Nicols at Rosehill he was...
May 13, 1926 - Dear Sister & Brother continued (Back)
Gardener to Sir James Innes so Mr Nicol left it to go to Canada so we gave him your address & he was to call & give you all the news he is to stay with his sister for a year or he sees how he is to like it & if he likes it his wife & girls are going out to him. He is a very nice man especially after you are acquaint with him. Beannie said he would be no distance from your place.
When have you seen or heard of Bill & his folks how is he liking his new job he had, had a very bad sale I believe.
We have had ten days of Coal Miners, Railwaymen, printers & some more all out in strike it has been a very serious time just put a stop to everywhere & some terrible riots in towns there are a few trains running now but Government would like Union men now for the Railway we heard there are to be 25 percent of men paid off so that will put a lot off the Railway. I will need to stop now & I trust this finds you all well. Hoping to...
E.J. Hacker - General Merchant - Feb 1, 1928
W.M. Carroll - Dealer in Fresh and Salt Meats, Poultry in Season - August 17, 1921
Eaton's Groceries Catalogue No. 21 - 1924-25
Oct 25, Unknown Year - Dear Son & Daughter & family (Front)
Dear Son & Daughter & family we hope you are all well and getting on well we are all well here and all the rest are well as far as we know it has been a very bad season here all through the turnips was a job to get in & they are no crop a wet season all through lots of corn out yet...
Oct 25, Unknown Year - Dear Son & Daughter & family continued (Inside)
...and not bulking much lots of it cut very green and lots of itshaken we had a great gale the peats a re a bad lot it will be a job to get through the winter the stirk are not selling well and lots selling of for want off winter keep and horses will not sale unless it be long pedigreed beasts well I hope you got your Crop in good order ours was valed on thursday and it was in the stack on the Monday following but it was ripe & cut dry not a big crop and badly shaken rubie is away to rothiemay today to Cormacks we had archie today he is fine we hope this finds you all well our best wishes to you all
Oct 25, Unknown Year - Dear Son & Daughter & family continued (Back)
...Many thanks for the shots of the family they look well and seem to be growing fast they will soon be able to help some
Jan 2 1929 Dear Aggie (Front)
Dear Aggie just a few lines to see how you all are Maggie told me last week you had been very sick hope you are all better now we are all pretty well now if I could once get rid of this rheumatism in my arms and shoulder I would be all O.K. Jennie had a bad spell with her stomach but is better now Lexy & Dan are the only bricks in our house too much mischief in them both for to be sick well Aggie I just got a letter from Bessie Dunbar saying her father was very sick he took a cold before Xmas but got some better and was up and around the second day he was up his wife fell down stairs head long and hurt her shoulder out of joint she suffers a lot at times can not use that hand they got the Dr as soon as they could & fixed her up I do not think they have much hopes of John getting better it is his heart that is giving him trouble . Bessie asked him (Dr) if he thought he might drop off suddenly he said he seen lots of people with better hearts go very quickly but he could not say for sure he would...
Jan 2 1929 Dear Aggie continued (Back)
...John gets very lonesome at times we have to to be writing a few lines to him every few days I thought you would like to hear he was sick and if you were all well maybe you could share time to write a few lines to him I know he would be very pleased to hear from any of you, we got a photo of Ada, Leslie gave two Mary one for us and one for brother John it was the last one she had taken with her wedding suit on. Well Aggie I must close as my hand is getting very sore and tired
I do hope the next letter we get from Sundridge everybody will be much better there is a lot of Flu going around all over I hope we all will escape it this time write soon if you can
Oct. 28, 1966 - Dear Elaine
I am having a Hallowe'en party. Saturday night October twenty-nine. I would like you to come. You are come at about eight o'clock and wear mask and costume
It is experiences like this that motivate and inspire us to continue exploring abandoned farmhouses. The opportunity to connect with the past in such a way as this is very rare, and we are very fortunate and appreciative for this glimpse into the minds and the lives once lived by the members of the Dickson family. With such rich history, one can only hope that the family line is still going strong. But one can only ponder as to why the family home and the family history have been abandoned and left to rot here in Ingersoll.
click here to check out all of jerm & ninja IX's ABANDONMENT ISSUES