Marrying the Farmer’s Daughter
Embracing an unexpected move to a new way of life
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