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Fallbrook Farm Heritage Site
Update 55 -
Scotsdale Farm - The Early Years


Violet and Stewart Bennett bought Scotsdale Farm in 1938, and it was through their bequest to the Ontario Heritage Trust in 1982 that the Farm is preserved for future generations to enjoy. Situated on the edge of the Niagara escarpment and accessible from Trafalgar Road, the Farm is about eight km. north of the Georgetown area and 1.6 km. south of Ballinafad.

The Early Years

Originally there were several entrances into the main farm: the entrance into the Front Bush, now closed to vehicle traffic, led into what is now a section of the Bennett Heritage Trail. A short distance from this now closed front entrance on the crest of Blue Mountain Hill was a huge stone at Scotsdale’s peak. At one time, on a clear day, and before the pines on the hill below obscured the view, the blue of Lake Ontario, nearly sixty kilometers (40 miles) away, could be seen while standing on this stone. “Blue meeting blue.”

 

The most used entrance during the early years was the cinder road laid along the north edge of Scotsdale’s front field facing the seventh line. Traces of this service road, which led to the farm manager’s house, still remain. Although it is now gone, the first welcome, for many decades, was a fine American elm which stood in the middle of this gently rolling field.

 

The principal entrance now borders the south side of this same field and leads more directly to the main house.

 


The American Elm  (Photo by Mary Carey) 

 


The Main House, 2010 (Photo by Janice Treciokas)

 

Expansion of Scotsdale

In the 1940’s, Scotsdale expanded from the original 1938 purchase of the pioneer Cooke family homestead to include several other properties:

On the eighth line, the 100-acre Wylie Place and the Shortill farm immediately south of it.

On the seventh line, the Brennan farm located on the northeast corner of the sideroad above Silvercreek and on the opposite side of the road, the (Miller) house and barn.

The Riddell bush property, which lay between the Brennan Farm and the main farm, is now home to a section of the Bruce Trail.

The Harding Price Farm directly across from Scotsdale’s front field on the seventh line was purchased in 1952. The purchase of these properties helped accommodate the expanding farm operation and provided homes for the families of the men who worked on the farm.

In 1943 Mr. Bennett hired Maurice Baker as herdsman and shortly afterwards Mr. Baker became manager of Scotsdale. He was instrumental in developing the purebred Shorthorn herd that won premier prizes at the Royal Winter Fair and at the Chicago International Livestock Show. Emerson Clarke followed as manager in 1961 and continued to develop the renowned herd. Mr. Clarke retained the herd at the Farm after 1982.

The Early Years (development of the shorthorn herd)

The 1940’s

After the war, Mr. Bennett decided to purchase some purebred Shorthorn heifers in calf from Scotland. It was not a very safe passage for them dodging mines in the Atlantic left from the war, but they all arrived safely. From the several dozen cattle that Ontario shorthorn breeder, John Miller, had brought to North America, Mrs. Bennett was given the courtesy of choosing the last one of the twelve that Scotsdale would buy.

She chose Princess Deirdre, already in calf. Deirdre was the dam (mother) of Aspiration, the Bennett’s first grand champion Shorthorn bull at the Royal Winter Fair in 1947.


Aspiration, with Maurice Baker at the halter.
The original heritage barn is in the background.
(Photo by Mr. Bennett)


Bronze of Aspiration. (Photo by Emma Rath)

Mr. Bennett commissioned noted artist and sculptor, Jacobine Jones, to do a bronze of the prize-winning bull. Mr. Baker’s son, Grant Baker, who was five years old at the time, watched Ms. Jones as she made the plaster cast of Aspiration on site in the barnyard. Of the two bronzes made of Aspiration, one of them now belongs to Grant.

The 1950's

By the early 1950’s, both of the preeminent breeding bulls, Aspiration, who was born at the Farm, and Mayflower Ransom, purchased earlier from the Ontario Agricultural College had become impotent. Artificial insemination was still not a well-established practice at that time, so Mr. Bennett and Mr. Baker went to Scotland in 1952 and Mr. Bennett was persuaded by Mr. Baker to buy Calrossie Prefect at the Perth sale. Mr. Bennett made the final bid paying 6100 guineas for the bull…quite a sum in those days. Some would say astronomical! A measure of inbreeding followed in the expanding herd and Scotsdale continued to rack up prizes at the Royal Winter Fair all through the fifties


Mary Bennett Baker with Scotsdale Flower Victoria
Date: July 9, 1952, Photo taken by D. McElhinney.
Compliments of Cockshutt Farm Equipment Ltd., Brantford, Ontario.


Calrossie Prefect
Photo taken by Strohmeyer & Carpenter
White Plains, New York

The white door seen in the photograph (left above) is the south door of The New Barn, which housed the breeding bulls. Inside, it assumed gallery proportions as a showcase for the livestock. A wide corridor of impeccable cement was flanked on either side by the livestock pens housing the bulls. With their massive heads and their huge lumbering balls grazing the fresh straw, they were a formidable presence.

Two Grand Champion Shorthorn Bulls of the Fifties
The two photographs (below) by Jim Rose were taken in the show ring at the Royal Winter Fair


Mr. Bennett with the trophy for Scotsdale Jupiter in 1956


Scotsdale wins Premier Breeder and Exhibitor in 1959

Mr. Bennett became president of the Royal Winter Fair in 1953, after having served as vice president for two years.

An article appeared in the Financial Post in March of that year profiling Mr. Bennett.

From Evelyn Baker’s Scrapbook  (copy of Post article below)

“The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto is the largest fair of its kind in the world.  This coming November it celebrates its 25th birthday.  Actually the Royal has been going longer than that, but during the war it was suspended when the RCAF took over its buildings on the Canadian National Exhibition grounds.

In the midst of all the planning is farmer-industrialist Stewart Gordon Bennett who this week became president of the Royal, after two years as a vice-president

President Bennett also heads Beardmore & Co., which is one of Canada’s oldest leather firms.  It’s been operating since 1844.  In addition, he is a director of Dominion Stores, Chartered Trust, Phoenix Assurance, Canadian Bronze and several other companies.

But 40 miles away from his downtown Toronto office on dignified Victorian Front St. he’s a farmer.

And it’s as a farmer that he heads the Royal.

For 15 years, Mr. Farmer Bennett has lived on his 600 rolling, wooded acres at Georgetown.  There he has developed a prize-winning Shorthorn herd.  Those cattle are a pretty aristocratic bunch, and wear ribbons from the Royal and Chicago.  And when they come up for sale they wear price tags like $2,550, and $4,800 and $5,700.  Proud ones, they are.

But the cattle on the Bennett farm take a backseat to the master of the bullpen—the $20,000 1952 Supreme Grand Champion Bull which Bennett brought back from the famous Shorthorn sale in Perth, Scotland.

Bennett was born in Toronto, 60 years ago.  His father was in the lumber business, at different times had mills throughout parts of northern Ontario.

Stewart graduated from University of Toronto in engineering, then headed for Oxford to study political economy.

He was just nicely in England in 1914 when Europe’s political economy blew up.  And he joined the Royal Engineers.  At war’s end he came home to Canada, a captain with an M.C. and a mention in dispatches.  For six years he taught engineering at his old alma mater, and in 1925 joined Beardmore’s.

Bennett has seen much of the world on business and pleasure trips; Australia, New Zealand, Cuba, South America, Mexico, U.K. and Western Europe.

In addition to his business and farming interests, he’s on the board of the Toronto Art Gallery, and is chairman of the tariff committee of the Canadian Manufacturers’ Association.  He is an Anglican, and a member of the York, Toronto, Toronto Gold, and University clubs.”

More from Evelyn Baker’s Scrapbook


Heifer Class winner at the CNE is young Grant Baker of Scotsdale
Farms near Ballinafad, who is presented with a trophy from the
Ontario Shorthorn Club by Reford Gardhouse of Aberfeldy Farms, R.R.5, Milton


The photograph above would have been taken prior to the 1952 Perth sale where
Mr. Bennett famously bought Calrossie Prefect for 6100 guineas

The Horses

The horses were a passion for Mr. Bennett and he bought the purebred Arabians, Mihrima and Sahara, in Britain. Mihrima’s foal, Senob, was the first horse born at the farm. Senob was known as Bones, which is Senob spelled backwards.


The Arabian horses with Mr.Bennett and Grant Baker at the halter.
Janice Baker and Mary Ann Maxwell astride the horses.


Betty Trott at the halter with Bones.

Before the Arabians were purchased, the Bennetts had two Clydesdale horses, and in a taped segment that has been transcribed, Mr. Baker recounts one occasion that lends some flavour to the early years.

“I remember once I took them over to O. D. Vaughn’s (Fallbrook Farm)  (on the side road past the eighth line, nearer to the ninth) …and hitched them up; we had all the harnesses, the brass polished, the colours, the high tops and the bridge sleigh; everything.

That time Mr. and Mrs. Bennett had a guest out who used to work with Walt Disney; and she'd had quite a good job. Well, I had the horses out hitched and everything shining and she came down just before we were about to go and looked at them and then she said "Who wouldn't be a horse's ass if you could look like that." 

The Pond

The pond is a beautiful feature of Scotsdale. It is fed by Snow’s creek from the north end of the property below the manager’s house. The pond was created by a dam built just beyond the New Barn on the northeast side of the cinder road. The dam was built to prevent flooding in the lower fields as the flow tracks east and south. Below the dam there was a small bridge that the various implements and trucks could cross to access the back bush and fields.  After the original bridge collapsed, the Ontario Heritage Trust built a much sturdier one to replace it.  In the early years Alex Mitchell snow ploughed the roads and kept them clear through the back bush to the eighth line. The Adams children from the Shortill property and the Gates children from Fallbrook Farm were able to walk through this back bush road to reach Blue Mountain School on the seventh line. This walking route saved them a much longer roundabout trek.

The wishing well, right at the edge of the pond opposite the New Barn, is built of fieldstone and covered with a shingle roof.  It has always been a favourite subject for photographers.  On the near side, weeping willows, as they grew larger, draped their branches into the water.  In the black and white photo below, (left), the dam is just visible beyond the water. In the early years, Mr. Bennett stocked the pond with trout and the photo below (right) shows Grant holding his catch with Mary beside him. 

The Dogs

Mr. And Mrs. Bennett always had a series of Scottie dogs as their companions. The dogs lived with them in the main house. Some were invariably called Hamish. Bess was a favourite name for the female dogs. Bess was also the name of their border collie, an invaluable outdoor dog for herding the cattle. Scott, the male border collie, was her companion.


Mary and Scott (photo by Vytas Treciokas)

Once, one of the Scotties, who had become blind, fled into the snows of winter. It took a full morning and a full team of men to find him. Finally, in the southernmost reaches of the farm nearer the side road to the eighth line, he was found alive sheltering under a snow bank beside a stream.

An unmarked hill corner of the south field opposite the main house and just below the entrance to the front bush is where the dogs are buried.

Some photographs from the early years


A 1940’s Easter Egg Hunt


Pamela (holding the reins) and Elizabeth Bennett, nieces of Mr. Bennett.
Scotsdale was their home during the war years. Janice Baker is seated, left


Skiing at Scotsdale. Mrs. Bennett, center.


From left: Mary Baker, Betty Trott, Barbara Adams

Sources for this website include:

Reminiscences of Scotsdale by Maurice and Evelyn Baker.
(from transcribed tape recordings)
“Highlights of Shorthorn History” by Grant McEwan.
The Financial Post, March of 1953
Evelyn Baker’s Scrapbook.
The Baker Family photograph album
The Ontario Heritage Trust

Many thanks to my sister, Mary Carey, and my brother, Grant Baker,
for their support in creating this site.

Janice Treciokas

http://www.webruler.com/mtreciokas/scotsdale/


Going back through the files I found this again. Not necessarily for posting but thought you might be interested in a trip my parents took to Scotland in the late 50's and what it was like then.

 

Janice

 

Going to Scotland (1958)  (M. and E.  Baker)

 

(Dad first went to Scotland with Mr. Bennett in 1952, when Mr. Bennett was persuaded to purchase Prefect. In the winter of 1958 the Bennett’s sent both Mom and Dad to Scotland, but by then the Scottish breeders had sold off the best of their herds.  Buyers had come from all over the world from the United States, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Argentina and the Scottish herds had become depleted of their best cattle. The buying spree after the war had taken its toll.)

 

"We had a terrible trip across and we had to land in Ireland  ( mom speaking) We landed in Ireland and had our breakfast and then we flew to London and Nick met us (Nick Bennett was Mr. Bennett’s nephew and he had stayed at Scotsdale for a few years during the war. We stayed in London for two or three days; he showed us around the first day, and he took us on a pub crawl which we really enjoyed and then we saw Mrs. Bennett's sister too the next day (we had met her before) she had a home there and a little back garden and we had tea there. We had dinner at the Savoy one night; that was a ritzy restaurant and we had a lovely dinner there. Then we went by train to Scotland to Castle Douglas to Jimmy Biggars. We got there one morning in the fog, and they showed us around there and then we took the train to Perth. I remember at Jimmy Biggars that they had hot water bottles waiting for us in our beds and I thought that was the height of hospitality. It was so cold over there and we appreciated the warmth. It was a big stone house and the crocuses were in bloom; it was the end of January and this was really right out near the Irish Sea, in the southwest corner of Scotland, and then when we got up to Perth which is more or less in the center of Scotland, there was a huge snowstorm and it was cold and some of the bulls never even got to the sale. We stayed at the Station Hotel in Perth and we also were up to Calrossie’s, the Gordon Bapton herd, which was just outside of Aberdeen. We stayed overnight there too. Our whole trip lasted for about two weeks.

 

At Gordon Blackstock’s we stayed for a couple of days, and we visited many other of the herds and visited with the hosts. Gordon Blackstock managed the herd for Cecil Moore who was a millionaire; he ran the football (soccer) pools. He had this Bapton herd which he bought in England and then brought up to Scotland. They treated us royally. We were taken to dinner one night at the Station hotel, and then one night there was a reception and they were dancing the highland fling up and down the huge hall. It was wonderful to watch. At Inverness I bought the Scottish tweed for my suit and I had it made later when I got back and do you remember I wore it for your graduation.

 

The Bennett’s had made all the plans in advance and arranged everything and we were afforded the hospitality that they would have received had they gone. It was a wonderful trip. We came back from Prescott and landed in Montreal. But on that trip we didn’t buy anything. There was nothing to buy. The herds had already been well picked over. Mr. Bennett had been over in the summer before but there wasn’t anything there then and there still wasn’t.

 

“Highlights Of Shorthorn History”, 1982 by Grant MacEwan, (quotes, chapter 24)

 

“What appeared more remarkable was that the herd which drove to the top in the shows of the ‘ 50s and ‘60s could adjust to the new type seen in the “70s and continue to win the highest awards”…

 

“...early in 1970 two Bennett bred bulls Scotsdale Coinage and Scotsdale Cromarty, both sired by Scotsdale Tehran…were bought by prominent Scottish breeders and flown to Prestwick, Scotland by Air Canada.”

 

It was an historic flight that transplanted these two promising bulls back to the land of their ancestors. They were met at Prestwick by Col. and Mrs. Dewhurst and a Highland piper. The Scottish cattlemen, who saw the bulls on arrival, and later, with their first crop of calves, … were much impressed.”

 

Note the contrast in delivery of the cattle between 1945 and 1970

 

Getting the Cattle to Canada after the war  (M. Baker)

 

The shipment that *John Miller bought in Scotland in the fall of 45,and Johny Blum from Malabar Farms in Libertyville Illinois, he was over and he bought some too. I think altogether there was close to 60 head of cattle that had to be shipped from Scotland without any insurance and there were mines still floating around Britain. This was six months after the war. I didn't think Mr. Bennett was a gambling man but the insurance was so high and Johny Miller said, "Aw, the ship won't hit a mine." They all got here and of course it was out of Princess Deirdre that came our first grand champion Aspiration.

 

Note: I have no knowledge or record of how Calrossie Prefect, the 6100 guinea bull, came to Canada in 1952, but presumably it was a safer passage than in 1945.


Return to Fallbrook Farm Index Page

 


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