Mar­ry­ing the Farmer’s Daugh­ter

Em­brac­ing an un­ex­pected move to a new way of life

More of Our Canada - - It’s Tradition - by Ken­neth Sornberger,

Never in a mil­lion years did I think I’d be a farmer. Of course, grow­ing up in the ru­ral com­mu­nity of Lit­tle Britain, Ont., I had friends who lived on farms and some­times I’d stay for a few days, but sel­dom did it mean help­ing with the daily farm­ing op­er­a­tion. It wasn’t un­til I met and mar­ried a farmer’s daugh­ter that this story started to evolve.

My wife San­dra, her brother Gary and their par­ents, Lawrence and Dorothy Thurston, took a great in­ter­est in their fam­ily his­tory and knew much about their roots. They could tell you who was re­lated and mar­ried to whom, al­most from the be­gin­ning. Four of the Thurston broth­ers who em­i­grated from Nor­folk, Eng­land, in the mid-1830s set­tled in and around Dunsford, Ont.

San­dra and I are now liv­ing on the land that was set­tled by Jonas Thurston, one of those broth­ers. Back then, in a log house lo­cated in a field east of our cur­rent home, 12 chil­dren were raised. When they were old enough, their fa­ther Jonas paid a school­teacher to live with them and teach the chil­dren ba­sic lessons. Although there is noth­ing left of that log house to­day, parts of the wood stove still re­main in the fence line.

Thomas, one of Jonas’ sons, built the present house. Boast­ing 12 rooms, it must have looked like a man­sion in those days!

When Lawrence and Dorothy were mar­ried in 1945, they moved in with Lawrence’s par­ents, Ezra and Ag­gie. The house was di­vided into two liv­ing ar­eas. Lawrence and Ezra did mixed farm­ing, in­clud- ing cat­tle, pigs, horses, chick­ens and sheep. Since two fam­i­lies now lived on the farm, more in­come was needed. After much thought and hard work, a dairy op­er­a­tion came to be.

They all lived un­der the same roof for 14 years at which point, Ezra and Ag­gie left the farm and built a new house in the vil­lage of Dunsford. Be­tween liv­ing to­gether on the farm and spend­ing a lot of time in their home in Dunsford, San­dra and Gary be­came very close to their grand­par­ents.

The dairy op­er­a­tion con­tin­ued un­til Lawrence and Dorothy de­cided the work had be­come too much for them and Lawrence went into beef pro­duc­tion. He farmed un­til he was 81 years old.

Time passed and the folks moved into a re­tire­ment home. A cou­ple of years later, Dorothy passed away, leav­ing a heart­bro­ken Lawrence to carry on. We made sure he got back to the farm of­ten and it was dur­ing this time we de­cided that things needed to be re­fur­bished.

One day, Lawrence asked San­dra and me if we ever thought about mov­ing to the farm, and that’s when we be­gan to con­sider do­ing just that. Lawrence passed away a few months later and, although he didn’t know for cer­tain we were go­ing to do it, I am sure he sus­pected.

Many a good time has been had here. One very spe­cial oc­ca­sion was the Thurston Re­union in 2010. The homestead—the only farm that re­mains in the orig­i­nal fam­ily from the time the deed was reg­is­tered—was opened up to any­body who wanted to come. Rel­a­tives ar­rived from all over Ontario and some even flew in from Alberta. Birth­days and Christ­mases con­tinue to fill this home with love and laugh­ter. San­dra and I are re­tired now, a lit­tle too old for the rigours of full-fledged farm­ing, but we keep chick­ens, sell eggs and hay, and en­joy watch­ing the cat­tle graz­ing in the pas­ture.

The farm is main­tained and the land is work­able, so hope­fully we will be here for many more years to come. I’m sure our fam­ily that have passed on are look­ing down, smil­ing at our at­tempts to keep it alive. n

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