Now That’s Perseverance! Local Farms Celebrate 150 Years

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Photo Karen Graham. Two Cavan residents received commemorative plaques recognizing their family’s 150 years of farming in the community. Flanked by their sons Jordan and Kirk, Murray Foster and Allan Bigelow (centre left and right) are both fourth generation farmers operating on properties originally acquired by their great-great-grandfathers. Like other original farm settlers including Staples, McCamus, Syer, Sharpe, Stewart, Fallis, Hutchison, and many others, their ancestors built this community with their ingenuity and hard work. They all deserve our thanks.

Two Cavan area farmers have recently received commemorative plaques acknowledging their family’s more than 150 years of dedication to farming in the township.  Recipients Allan Bigelow and Murray Foster who are both 4th generation farmers on original parcels purchased by their great- great- grandfathers. The award was launched in honour of Canada’s sesquicentennial by Ontario’s Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Minister Jeff Leal.

Allan Bigelow currently resides on Larmer Line but retains ownership of one of the original properties purchased by his great- great- grandfather John Bigelow who purchased property on Dranoel Rd in Cavan in 1865.  There were two lots, totalling 150 at that time, but eventually the family came to own 950 acres along that road during the period from1865 until the 1990’s .  Located north of Hwy 7A, the properties sit on a significant elevation which have been referred to as “Bigelow’s Hill”.   John’s father Samuel Bigelow (1808-1857) originally settled in Hope Township and is buried in the Anglican cemetery in Elizabethville.

John Bigelow and his wife Mary Coleman had seven children, and in 1890 their son William and his wife Grace assumed ownership of the Dranoel farm, which eventually was taken over by their son Francis William Bigelow and his wife Lillian in 1929.  In 1980, current owner Allan Bigelow and his late wife Laureen became the owners of this property.  They severed off a two acre parcel of land for Allan’s late brother William Lauder Bigelow which remains in the hands of his daughter Louise Lucy Bigelow and her husband Veto William Coppola who are currently constructing a post and beam summer home on this property.

The red brick house located on the property at 1677 Dranoel Rd. was constructed in 1900 and is still in excellent shape. The main barn is painted red with white trim is also in very good repair. The property also has a driving shed that was built in 1800’s as well as a licensed 17 acre gravel pit.

The Bigelow family operated a mixed farm operation, harvesting maple syrup and firewood from the more than 50 acres of hardwood bush on the Dranoel properties.  While Allan has always farmed the properties, he also worked off the farm, settling into a long career with General Motors in Oshawa after working out west for a brief period of time.  These days Allan raises Charolais cattle on his 122 acre farm on Larmer Line, growing his feed and occasionally helping a neighbour with some custom work.  His son Kirk is not active on the farm but may consider doing custom machine work when he retires, and Allan’s grandson Brandon has also worked on the farm harvesting firewood for summer employment.

Murray Foster’s family came from County Clare in Ireland in 1831 with his wife and son Tom and his great-great-grandfather Will Forester settled on Stewart Line where they had four more children.  His great grandfather Tom purchased the farm on Morton Line in 1872 where Murray and his wife Alice live in a modern bungalow while their son Jordan and his family occupy the original farmhouse.  The farm passed to Murray’s father Bert in the 1920’s and the family continued to operate a mixed farm and harvest maple syrup on the property.  With the passing of Bert, full-time farming ended for the Foster family.  Murray enjoyed a long career with General Electric, but continued to operate the 400 farm and recently celebrated his 62nd year as a strawberry producer.  He also raises cash crops with the help of son Jordan, who works for hydro utility giant Alectra.

These award recipients are both 4th generation farmers on their properties, with 5th and possibly 6th generations in the wings.  In both families, full-time farm careers ended with the 3rd generation, perhaps an indicator of the financial pressures facing the agricultural industry in the 1980’s.  By coincidence, both male members of their fifth generation currently have careers with the same employer.

These families are among the founding members of this community, and this award recognizes their extensive contribution to the heritage, economy, culture and social fabric of our community and our province.  Congratulations and thank you to you and your families! KG

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