IN the last number of "Our Children"
I gave an account of their life at home at Hillfoot Farm, so that it may
be somewhat tedious to repeat; but still, for the sake of new friends, it
may be well to give a few details, and I shall then leave other friends,
who have frequently visited us, to give their own account of the Home and
our doings there.
In summer we have to make the most
of our time. The workers in the house and out of it, rise at 5 a.m., as
the men and boys must have their breakfast at 6.30, after doing the
morning chores. The breakfast for the various classes in the big house
goes on till 8.30. Prayers in the schoolroom at 9, when the children
settle to lessons and the women and girls go to the forenoon’s work. I am
then ready to meet them, and make a round of visits to kitchen, laundry,
schoolroom, nursery, and bedrooms, not forgetting the poultry-house.
I forgot to say our latest improvement was to make a beautiful one out
of the old stable and coach-house, which provides ample accommodation for
our turkeys, geese, ducks and hens.
We then all go on with our work, and
I write letters till 12. Then usually when school is over, and the men and
boys are coming in to dinner—at 12 till 1—somebody or other wants me most
of the time till 1. The children dine at 12.30, the rest of the family at
At 2 we all settle to the
afternoon’s work. The children usually go to play in the "little
woods," a pretty, shady nook across the ravine behind the barn, with
somebody looking after them, or pick berries to make jam for them later
There are immense quantities of wild
strawberries, rasps, and blackberries on the farms, and down on the
Caribou Bog, as it is called, about four miles off, any amount of
blueberries. Every year we have one or two picnics to go and gather these.
Of course only those big enough to pick well and steadily go, to say
nothing of the risk of infants being lost on the wide-spreading bog, which
extends for miles. I need not say these ploys are a great delight.
Few people of
any age will
be found doing nothing round the doors, as I have great faith in Dr.
Watts’ statement as to the ingenuity of somebody with a bad name providing
employment for idle hands, and I never find it fail when the hands and
heads are so left empty. Play is most desirable. Idleness is
destruction. All boys of eight or nine get something to do with the men,
in farm work or the workshop, even bringing in kindlings and firewood. The
women and girls have enough to do to cook, bake, clean house, wash, iron,
and sew for such a party. Yet we have plenty of music and recreation too.
Tea at 6, prayers at 8.30, supper at 9; and I expect everybody to go to
bed at 10, except on Saturday nights, when a general and extensive
tubbing takes place.
In winter the hours are the same,
except that no one rises till 6 o’clock, and of course the children must
be occupied and amused indoors instead of out. They make strawberry
boxes in the afternoon, when the material is to be had, which is not until
February or March, our most inclement weather. And they (when there were
more boys of ten and twelve years than could be employed in the barn) used
to make toy furniture, boxes, etc. When our party increases, this will be
revived. At other times, in bad weather, they have what we call a "play
school," when the boys as well as the girls knit, draw, etc., and are
allowed to talk quietly at the same time. There is also a
collection of toys, which are given out on these occasions, and returned
to the teacher when play school is over, about 4.30. Some of the bigger
ones have learned to make common scrapbooks for the little ones, by
cutting out pictures, advertisements chiefly! and pasting them on
strong brown paper, stitched together. I save every mite of a
picture or coloured paper for this purpose.
In fine winter weather, when there
is hard frost and snow, their "sleds," are a great joy and delight,
as our slopes are capital for "coasting." The big boys are very kind to
them in making these, and each has one. The fun seems to consist in the
child throwing himself on his stomach on this arrangement, which
forthwith, and without the slightest warning (it seems to me),
shoots like lightning down the nearest hill, the performer uttering
shrieks of rapture, and dancing like a wild Indian when he reaches the
bottom. I cannot help feeling nervous, and don’t like to look at them
while this is in progress; but they never seem to get hurt; and with a lot
of boys, really, if they are happy and not in mischief, I can but
be happy too. And it evidently agrees with them, for a more sturdy,
active, merry, independent set of little fellows you seldom see. And
although they have all good appetites (bless them !), and will wear
out their clothes, and will outgrow their boots with fearful
rapidity, they are very good children. This is the almost invariable
testimony I receive from those who have taken them, as well as the
character they bear in the neighbourhood of the Home.
I have finished the description of
our winter’s life when I have again alluded to our Friday evening
merry-making in the schoolroom, which is begun every year at Hallow-e’en
and continued till March, when all in the houses are invited at 6.30. The
little ones stay up till 8.30 to enjoy it, and big and little dance reels
and country dances, play games and sing songs to their hearts’ content.
There is a general preparation in the way of "tidying" for the occasion;
and at the close we take care to have ready some sweeties, cakes, or
"jelly-pieces," and disperse at 9 o’clock, very happy. I make a point of
keeping up this custom, as we have a long dull winter, and I think it
positively very bad for children and young people to be kept without
reasonable amusement and variety.
At Christmas we have great doings.
The Christmas shopping is a great event, and conducted with the utmost
caution and secrecy—consists of gifts for everybody in the houses, not
all painfully useful ! but toys, goodies, pretty things, and a great
many useful things too. I find this institution will have to be continued,
as about July requests and suggestions are made by the smaller
members as to what they think "Santa Claus" should bring them " AT
CHRISTMAS." I used to fill their stockings, but having stayed up
one Christmas morning until 1 a.m. for this purpose, and having carried it
out successfully (as I thought), was interrupted at the close by a perfect
chorus of congratulation. I never did it again! My sleep is too
precious to be wasted on such
To return to Christmas Eve. In the
course of the day the boys have followed up a thorough housecleaning,
which has been going on for nearly a week, by bringing evergreens, and the
house is decorated before evening, and the Christmas tree decorated and
filled with its nice things in the schoolroom. When all is ready, about
7 p.m., everbody, old and young, in the various houses, every man,
woman, and child on the place, assemble in the drawing-room, and I read
the Christmas reading which we have read together for so many years—Isaiah
ix. 1—9 and St. Luke ii. 1—20—sing the Christmas hymn, "Once in royal
David’s city," and pray. Then we all go down to the schoolroom, and admire
and benefit by the Christmas tree, which is amusement enough till 9
o’clock, when, very happy and rather sleepy, most of the assembly want to
go to bed, and get ready for to-morrow, with its "Merry Christmas," all
good wishes all round, Christmas cards, and—Christmas dinner of roast beef
and plum-pudding. Those who have left us are not forgotten, as I send
every one of them a Christmas card, with loving greeting, and receive a
pile of such in reply or anticipation.
This completes my story of our
children’s life at home. My friend, Mrs. Gee, will now give her account of
it, and after her, Dr. Lawson and other friends will give their opinion of
our children and their surroundings at home—at Hillfoot Farm.
ANNAPOLIS Co., NOVA SCOTIA,
Feb. 4th, 1892.
Passing the world-famed
land of " Evangeline," and entering the Annapolis Valley by the Windsor
and Annapolis Railway, we have often heard travellers inquiring about the
picturesque group of buildings nestling at the foot of the North Mountain,
in the vicinity of Aylesford. A few times we have felt glad to have the
chance of giving full information; more frequently, however, we have been
obliged to sit and hear meagre and incorrect details given about the
history, past and present, of "Miss Stirling’s Homes," Hillfoot Farm.
As the honoured founder and
supporter is about to extend the work by giving a hearty invitation to
destitute children —amongst fresh people in fresh places—perhaps a few
words from a disinterested and constant visitor may be received with
At this point in the
history of the work a summary will be given by the founder herself, so
that no statistics need be repeated here. It is rather of the home element
in these Homes of which we would now speak.
Since the commencement of
the work in this country from two to three hundred children have been
received into the homes of the people, the great majority of them giving
satisfaction and doing well in the truest sense of the term. Again and
again persons having these children have spoken to us of the constant
proofs given by them of their love for Miss Stirling, and the happy
recollections of their home with her; others say " marvellous," "
wonderful." Still others ask, "Whence this strong bond of union?" Perhaps
the secret can only be discovered and understood by those who are often in
their midst. It is not found in the literal " giving food to the hungry,"
or "clothing to the naked," though we would to God that all children
EVERYWHERE could have this literal
work done for them. Alas, alas!
even this week we read of hundreds going to school in the city of
London "without breakfast, and no prospect of dinner or tea"
Soon after our arrival on
the Aylesford circuit three and a half years ago, we were shown over the
buildings by the founder. The most striking thing to us was, not the noble
arrangements for the bodily comfort of the children, but her own manner
of dealing with the children. Now a fat rosy boy, then a happy-looking
girl—scarce able to speak plainly— would appear from. all corners, and
with a pull at her dress exclaim, Tirling! Tirling! " but the look
in the baby eyes who could portray it ?—of fullest confidence and
entreaty, for what the human heart, old or young, everywhere craves, the
soft touch of a loving hand on the cheek, the hug, the kiss!—all this
these children got ere they were sent off to their play.
Millions in other days have
given thanks to God for that precious narrative which tells of Christ
and the children. Millions more will yet give thanks for it. If
the children brought to Him then had needed bread or clothing, we believe
those disciples would have tried to supply them willingly. But oh, that
further action on the part of Christ our example—that folding to
the heart! What pen can tell of all it means to the human soul?
How the world yearns for more of it to-day! This is the element permeating
the lives of these children of whom we write: it is shown in everything
that goes to make up life to them, in the way they are taught the
commandments of God, in the observance of all Christian festival seasons,
down to the care of a sore toe or finger.
This is the element into
which other children are now invited, to enter and partake. Within and
without the gospel "law of kindness" reigns; the large stock of
animals and fowls, as well as the wild birds, come in for their full share
of love. If the venerable "Father Chirpie" and noble "Uncle Toby" of
fame, presiding over their thousands upon
thousands of captains, officers, and members, could spare time to visit
the leafy shades of Hillfoot Farm, they would be very much delighted.
Some of the most precious memories
of our stay on the Aylesford circuit are in connection with our intimacy
at their Homes—watching the effect of good food and tender care upon the
delicate boy or fragile girl, until all have become alike rosy and strong,
saying "Good-night" to them snugly tucked up in their warm beds, when
all with folded hands and
closed eyes would say, " God bless all the little children in the world."
Reading God’s truth with them, and kneeling for prayer in the morning,
sharing in their games, etc., etc.
Not much more than a dozen years ago we supplied
daisies and buttercups to chidren in cities, who had never seen a daisy
growing, never been in green fields, knowing nothing of murmuring brooks
or of singing birds, as they abound around Hillfoot Farm. Much, much has
been done since then in the way of trips to the country for a day or more.
Still there is so much to be done, and we can never, never forget these
suffering children as we gaze upon the luxurious abundance of flowers and
fruit in these favoured provinces. We close with a prayer that God may
direct His people to send of His most needy little ones to where "there is
bread enough and to spare," until the doors now opened unto Christ
Himself by one of his followers, shall all be filled.
Remaining the attached and devoted
friend of "Our Children,"
HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA,
6th February, 1892.
In September last I accompanied my
friend, the Rev. Dean Ellis, Rector of Sackville, on a visit to Miss
Stirling’s "Home for Children," at Aylesford, in this province. We spent
part of two days there, enjoying the hospitality of Miss Stirling and her
cousin. We visited every part of the establishment, the school and
play-rooms, work and mending rooms, washing and drying rooms, dairy,
pantries, kitchen dormitories, and the large room used for worship and
social meetings, which neighbours as well as the servants and children
attend. The school-room was visited while the teacher was engaged in her
work, and Mr. Ellis spent an hour in drawing out from the children the
results of the useful instruction in reading and arithmetic which they
were receiving. We conversed freely with the servants, male and female,
while they were engaged in their several employments, and found them to be
industrious and intelligent, all working together under Miss Stirling’s
judicious direction in perfect harmony, with a sincere desire to do the
best they could for the little ones committed to their care. The children
were well and happy; they spoke affectionately to and of each other, and
showed a confidence in Miss Stirling’s love for them that any mother might
The "Home" occupies "Hillfoot Farm":
the buildings are pleasantly situated on level ground facing the main
road, and are sheltered behind by a hill range a few hundred feet high,
the farm stretching up the hill, which is mostly wooded, and serves for
pasturage. The level fields of the farm showed successful cultivation, the
grain and root crops being in fine condition. The main building, the
"Home" proper, is a commodious villa, shaded in front by old willows that
were probably planted by the Acadians while Nova Scotia was a French
colony, and there is an old apple orchard in rear. There are separate
dwellings at some little distance off for the farm servants The farm barn
is substantial, commodious, and complete, one of the best in this country,
and there is a separate piggery, commodious and well planned. Early in the
morning (before breakfast) I found several of the boys at work in the
barn, feeding the cows and doing other ordinary light work, in which they
took evident interest some I met on a pathway bringing in firewood or
kindling, and others were engaged in a workshop near by. They were too
young to do much effective "work," but were obtaining their early lessons
in industry, and showed cheerful signs of emulation in trying to be
I was much pleased with what I saw
on the occasion of our visit, a comfortable and happy Christian home,
where young children were being carefully brought up to habits of
industry, and of regularity in the performance of daily duties, and
educated for their prospective sphere in life, so as to become useful,
independent, and self-respecting members of society.
Professor of Chemistry in the University, and Secretary for Agriculture of
Nova Scotia Government.
HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA,
MY DEAR Miss STIRLING,— Will you
allow me to convey to you my best thanks for the great pleasure and profit
I derived from my recent visit to your farm at Aylesford, and your large
and very comfortable Home for children there. I regret very much that you
were not at home, but I nevertheless embraced the opportunity to carefully
go over your delightfully situated Home and well-cultivated farm, and was
surprised beyond expression to find that in so comparatively short a time
you have brought your farm to so high a state of cultivation by many
improved methods of agriculture, as is not, I believe, attained elsewhere
in this province.
The little ones, both boys and
girls, all looked so healthy, happy, bright, and generally well kept, that
I could not help thinking what a great change for good has been made in
their lives. There is every prospect that each will grow up to be a useful
member of our Canadian society. I am glad that your work is already
bearing good fruit, as those placed by you in homes in different parts of
the country show, I am informed, the results of their training under your
good care, and by their conduct testify to the good work you are
I wish for you many years of
continued usefulness in your arduous, but nevertheless grand work, and
trust that each year you will have greater rewards for your labours in the
direction you have chosen for yourself.
Again thanking you for the pleasure
and privilege I enjoyed,
I remain, yours faithfully,
Barclay Webster, Esq., M.P.P. for
Kings Co., N.S., writes :—
Feb. 6th, 1892.
DEAR Miss STIRLING,— During my
visits to Hillfoot Farm I had an opportunity of seeing how the children
there under your charge were looked after and cared for. And I have much
pleasure in testifying that in my opinion the well-being of the children
was carefully regarded and seemed the first consideration of all there.
The schoolroom was under the charge of an efficient teacher and the
children appeared happy, contented, well dressed, and cleanly.
B. WEBSTER, M.P.P.
George Whitman, Esq., M.P.P. for
Annapolis Co., N.S., writes:—
ROUND HILL, ANNAPOLIS, N.S.,
6th Feb., 1892.
On visiting Hillfoot Farm in Aylesford, King's County,
found the buildings and grounds admirably suited for a school of
agriculture for children. The variety of soil is well adapted to mixed
farming, and gives employment to young as well as old—to the young in the
care of small fruit, poultry, etc.
The farm is protected from the cold
north wind by the range of mountain along the south of the Bay of Fundy,
and from the buildings you have a fine view of the valley.
On visiting the schoolroom found the
children comfortably situated and being taught by an efficient and
painstaking teacher, and looked as though they would make themselves
useful in the work for which they were being trained.
GEO. WHITMAN, M.P.P.
Miss EMMA M. STIRLING,
Rev. A. S. Tuttle, Berwick, N.S.,
supernumerary minister Methodist Church, writes :-—
Having resided in the vicinity of
Miss Stirling's Home for Children, at Hillfoot Farm, Aylesford, N.S.,
since it was founded, and having had every opportunity of observing its
managements, I am fully persuaded there is no institution of the kind
where more ample provision is made for the physical comfort and religious
training of the young, and where better facilities are afforded for
acquiring all the elementary branches of education. The greatest care is
taken to secure the best homes for the children, and in this Miss Stirling
has been remarkably successful, as well as most particular and
indefatigable in seeing that the conditions made in their interest
are carried out by those who adopt them or receive them in charge.
There is much additional that I could say, but it is probably not
A. S. TUTTLE.
Rev. George Steel, 104, Broad Street, St. John, N.B., writes :—
ST. JOHN, N.B.,
Feb. 6th, 1892.
DEAR Miss STIRLING,— During my residence in the
province of Prince Edward Island, I had great satisfaction in placing
several children, who had been under your training, in suitable homes.
After their adoption into those homes I visited them from time to time,
and made careful inquiry about their characters. In addition to this I
visited several other children, who had received the benefit of training
in your institution. From all that I have both seen and heard I am most
thoroughly convinced that the training you give them is admirably fitted
to make good Christian men and women of those who are fortunate enough to
be placed under your care. The children compare favourably in educational
ability with the other children of the province. And they are also trained
in habits of neatness, obedience, and reverence. Happy are the children
that come under such influences. Your work is deserving of all confidence
and support. May it continue to prosper!
I receive from all quarters good accounts of our
children. No doubt they are not all alike, and none of them are
perfection, but they are a very well-conducted and promising set of young
people, and, I must do them the justice to say, have in the vast majority
of cases done what they can to do me credit and repay the care and pains
bestowed upon them. A great many have risen to positions of trust, as well
as usefulness, and are a testimony known and read of all men to the good
results of the work for our children at Home and Abroad.