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                                                                              Bronze of Aspiration. (Photo by Emma Rath)

                                     (Photo by Mr. Bennett)

 

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                                                                                       Calrossie Prefect:

 Date: July 9, 1952, Photo taken by D. McElhinney.                                                                            Photo taken by Strohmeyer & Carpenter

          Compliments of Cockshutt Farm Equipment Ltd., Brantford, Ontario.                                                           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 holding the trophy. Scotsdale Jupiter, the 1957 champion.                         

 

 

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

                                                                          

 
           

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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

 

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 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.                                                       Betty Trott at the halter with Bones.

            Janice Baker and Mary Ann Maxwell astride the horses

 

 
                                                                                                           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 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)

 
 


                                                                                                                           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

 
               

                                                                                                                                                               

 

                                                       A  Summer Outing

                                                       A 1940’s Easter Egg Hunt

                                                                                                                                                                                                    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                           Skiing at Scotsdale. Mrs. Bennett, center.                                                                                                               Girls and Horses                                          

 

 

 

 

 
                                                 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                      Skiing at Scotsdale

                                From left: Janice Baker, Mrs. Bennett, Mary Ann Maxwell                                         

                                                                                                                                                                                               

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

                                                                                                                                                                                          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