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The following was my address at the Holy Trinity Church annual cemetery decoration Sunday, July 2007

Copyright © 2007 - 2020 by Clayton J. Barker, 

all rights reserved




Clayton and his grandfather Luther Barker

Photo by J. Sumsion,1990


I think the warranty for my hair colour must be finally running out!!! Maybe I'm just paranoid, but the day after my 45th birthday I looked in the mirror and I thought Blake Carrington (from the TV show Dynasty) was looking back at me! Men are supposed to age gracefully. I don't think there were too many "Blake Carrington" types in my family tree, so I guess I won't have to worry about that. I figure I'll probably look more like Albert Einstein or someone like that with big bushy nose hairs and lots of ear hair! lol!! I was always told I look more like my Father's Grandfather on his Father's side. I have some pictures of him. I can see what they're talking about, however, I think I looked more like him when I had my moustache though...



My grandfather Luther playing his violin

Photo by C. Barker, 1987



I was fortunate enough to have known all of my grandparents. My grandmother on my mother's side is still alive. Though each one of them fit equally into the theme which I have selected for you today, time will only permit me to talk briefly about my father’s side, who many of them are actually buried here in this Cemetery. The very fact that we are dedicating this service and this day to decorate our graves and pay tribute the lives of those who have gone before, tells me that this community is still interested in knowing about its past.... If we expect our future generations to remember us and look after our grave sites - then we have to set an example for them today and keep this traditional decoration service always.




Clayton and Luther playing violins at the Farrington House 100th anniversary, Cathcart Women’s Institute Hall, Cathcart. Photo by J. Sumsion, 1983.



"Every dog has its day!" (That’s what my mom always says anyways). If that's the case, then this day is yours and this day is mine. For this is the time period in which we live and thrive, and this is the time period in which others will remember us for. Thinking back, we remember: our friends, former neighbours, siblings, parents, grandparents and great-grandparents and many more that we have known throughout our lives who have all passed on. The list is endless as the years speed onward and forward. Eventually, it seems as if the list of people we used to know, who have died, is bigger than the list of people we still know. My grandfather, Luther Barker, kept a diary almost all of his life which I have. Diaries are like a viewport into our ancestor's lives.



Photo from Clayton Barker




My Grandfather's diary commences in August 1906 when he lost his thumb on his right hand in a grain binder. After the loss of his thumb on his writing hand, he needed to learn how to write with his left hand and needed to practice his writing skills. He kept his diary up till the year he died which was 1995. It is interesting to read those old diaries though. On many Sundays, he wrote: “Went to Church, Morning, Noon and night".  His family would go to their regular church, which was St. John's Anglican Church, Cathcart (now the Parish Hall building at Holy Trinity Burford) Then at noon they went to the Episcopal Methodist Church at Cathcart. Then in the evening they went to the St. John’s Anglican Church at Eastwood, which he always referred to as his "mother's Church". On one occasion, he also noted that he sang in the Choir at Eastwood. However, the most interesting events in those diaries only seemed to happen between the years 1906 and 1957 when he retired from farming at the age of 65. The last 38 years of his diary seemed to be basically a day to day list of all of the funerals he attended....."so and so died"..."so and so's funeral.”




Photo from Clayton Barker




With each name my grandfather mentions that died, it is interesting to trace those names back to when they were first mentioned in his diary. Way, way back, I find that most of these names were very close friends of his, close neighbours, school chums or relatives. But some were his mentors...People who inspired him. He thought they'd live forever...Perhaps he even thought they "walked on water". Perhaps someday someone will think that way about us too....who knows? Except...instead of walking on water - I'm sure they'll just say something like "...that Clayton Barker, could fall into a barn yard pile and come out smelling like a rose!!"...That actually happened to me once when I was 6!!!...and it wasn't pretty!!!...ask my grandmother who had to clean me off and the two girls with the smirks on their faces, who were sitting on the porch watching me while I was showing off for them....that was their entertainment for the day, back in about 1967.



Photo from Clayton Barker




The one thing better than diaries is actually having met your ancestor and having them actually tell you about their lives first hand. My Grandfather Luther was old enough to be my great grandfather since he was born in 1892.  He would sit in his rocking chair chewing his tobacco and having the occasional "mini-stroke". He would just smile and say..."don't worry, I have them all the time, one of them will probably take me one of these days!" But I always laughed and told him "come on grandpa, you’re going to live long enough to see three centuries!" He had seen nearly all of the 20th century - so what was another 5 years, I figured? Then he'd take his old splattered spittoon up to his mouth to spit, and then chuckle and say "I'll be satisfied just to see 100".



Photo from Clayton Barker




But I never wanted to think of him ever dying. I wanted him to live forever.... which is a bit foolish and selfish I guess. He died August 3rd 1995 and the day of his funeral was such a gorgeous day...the sun was shining, the birds were singing the sky was blue. To me it seemed disrespectful, in some sort of way, for everyone to be enjoying such a beautiful day at a time like that. I stayed behind after the funeral service and remained at the graveside while the crowd and the undertaker and his hearse and everyone including the grave digger all left. He was buried in the Pioneer Cemetery here in Burford, beside my Grandmother, Clara. It seemed strange, but they just left him and his casket sitting there on the scaffold gleaming in the sunlight for a very long time. I wondered why they just left him sitting there like that. I even worried that someone might come along and steal his body or something. But eventually, I had to let go of him too, and so I walked over to the Rebecca Hall to be with the rest. But everyone seemed to be so cheerful, and it was almost as if they hadn't been to a funeral at all. It was almost like they had been to a baptismal or baby shower or wedding or something happier than a funeral. But it was a happy day, I guess, if you think about it, for my grandfather anyway, though I was too stubborn to realize it then! He had seen 102 years, and he had seen it all....what more could anyone ask for? He was the brother to four sisters, a brother-in-law, an uncle, a husband for 57 years, a father to 9, and he had 23 grandchildren, 53 great grandchildren and 15 great great-grandchildren, at the time he died, not to mention that everyone from here to Tim-buck-two knew him. Now his decedents probably out-number a small country of some sort!



Photo from Clayton Barker




My Grandfather's stories were priceless though! One story he liked to tell was of how he ate too many mulberries one time when he was a kid and it made him feel so I’ll he laid down on a farmer's lounge at his neighbours place and dreamed that he was a hay stack and the cows were eating him!! (And you thought the hippies of the 1960s had weird experiences!!!....) He also liked to tell about how back in 1919 just after the first world war he and his brother-in-law Harold Farrington bought an airplane and used to fly it around to all of the local fall fairs and take people up for a ride or just drop pamphlets out onto the ground below to advertise for companies at a rate of $10 per time. The plane eventually crashed landed after it got caught up on the wire fence at the end of the runway when it couldn't make lift off because of a strong downdraft. The pilot of the duo was Harold, who later became a flying instructor for the RCAF during the 2nd World War, and also a bush pilot up in Northern Ontario. Grandpa's position in the company was to drive along on the ground with a make-shift fuel and repair truck which was a 1916 Buick car converted into a truck. In 1974, Harold was inducted in the Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame in Winnipeg as a "Pioneer of aviation."  I had heard many stories about his flying escapades, from my grandfather and there are many books written about him.


What I thought was really cool though, was finding an interesting story on the internet about him when he was flying out of Hudson's Bay off of a frozen lake runway. The story online continues to explain that he had lost some of his landing gear during the take-off (which consisted of skis attached to his wheels. He had a passenger with him and a crash land was imminent...but he didn't want to alarm the passenger. So, when they reached their destination, which was another frozen lake runway, he just calmly told his passenger to wrap a parachute around his head...The passenger wanted to know why!! Harold just told him...never mind why, just do it!! Since the crew on the ground already knew there would be a plane coming in to crash land at their post, they had emergency crews standing by and everything. They even lit fires at intervals to delineate the extent of the frozen lake runway. He managed to land it by balancing the plane for a long time on just one ski. They survived, at least he did...with minor bumps and bruises of course, but he went on later to become a flying instructor for the Air Force during the Second World War. He is buried here in the Farrington plot in this Holy Trinity Cemetery.



Photo from Clayton Barker




My Grandfather also told me interesting stories about the life and times of other ancestors of mine who died long before I was born. One of them was my Great Grandfather James Farrington (my father's mother's father). He and his wife Mary Elizabeth are buried here in Holy Trinity cemetery. Boy! It's too bad they didn't keep diaries though!! I was told many stories of James' experiences and there are also many old faded photographs which also depict him and his brothers in the western US in the real "Old West" days of California and Nevada. Everything from the 20 mule team wagon trains and High Plains Freighting, gold and silver mines etc. and a huge ranch in Indian Valley Nevada known as the "Cloverdale Ranch" where James had 300 head of horses including a world champion racehorse "Geneva". "James' love for horses was so great that he often said he'd rather give a horse to a friend than to sell a horse to a stranger who might abuse the animal!" His older brothers had travelled to California back before the American Civil War and soon found themselves riding shotgun for a stage coach operation along the famed Santa Fe Trail. The first time James had gone to California, the trails were not too popular because of the great dangers due to the Native unrest, it was too dangerous for settlers to travel. So, they had to leave from New York by way of ship and go down the eastern coast of the states till they reached the Gulf of Mexico where they would then go aboard a flat-bottomed boat propelled by Negro slave oarsman and travel through shark infested waters by way of the Isthmus of Panama. It was 1865 James headed to California (for his second time) with his Brother William, who had been elected the "Wagon Master" of a wagon train or caravan heading from Illinois out to California. William was also known to have driven the first head of cattle into the state of Montana, which was stampeded by Natives. My great grandfather always said he "rode a mule across America." Well, it was during this long expedition that he did it. The wagon train of 42 wagons, being pulled by oxen, left Illinois in March and travelled about 14 miles per day and didn't reach the Rockies till November. They met with a lot of calamities along the way including being pelted with large hail stones, raiding Native tribes at Fort Laramie then finally being wiped out at the foothills of the Rockies by a blizzard. 286 oxen froze to death and they had to go back in the spring to salvage anything they could to be sold at Salt Lake City for scrap. James married Mary Elizabeth Laing, a Scottish woman in 1879 and they had 10 children. Though they lived much of their time in Nevada, they eventually came back to Canada and built a very large home west of Cathcart in 1883 which had 22 rooms, marble fireplaces, a billiard room and a ball room. This house still exists today.



Photo from Clayton Barker




James' Grand Parents on his mother's side were Archibald and Sarah (known as Sally) Trimble, who came to Canada from Ireland, with their 5 children, on the sailing ship the "Duncan Gibbs" in the year 1830. Sally was born in 1788 at Castlepollard, Westmeath Ireland and died in 1872 and was buried here in Holy Trinity cemetery. Her father had fought here in Canada during the conquest or “storming of Quebec” in 1759...He always said he "went back home to Ireland with his coat full of bullet holes." Sally’s claim to fame was that her best friend was Catherine Sarah Dorothea Pakenham, known as Kitty Pakenham, the daughter of the 2nd Baron Lord Longford and Kitty later married Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington. In 1834 Sally’s husband was killed on the streets of “Little York” (now Toronto), run over by a run-away wagon and was buried in the cemetery at St. James Cathedral. Sally and her 5 children came to Burford Township in 1839 to live closer to her brother and to start over, even though her husband’s family had offered to send money for them to go back to Ireland. Not long after they’d settled here in Burford Township, near Cathcart, Sally's daughter Marianne met Adam Farrington (a Scotchman from Berwickshire). She was walking back to Cathcart from Burford one day and he stopped and gave her a ride - since he was heading the same way with a wagon and team of horses. Three weeks later Adam and Marianne were married here in Holy Trinity Church in 1841, when this church was located across the road from here in a two room Sabbath school building. Marianne used to have a hat shop on Spadina Ave when they lived in "Little York" and she sang in the choir at St. James Cathedral. Marianne was said to be a "woman of great spiritual strength. Her sincere devotion to her Anglican faith remained with her at all times. She was one who could adjust to misfortune." Eight years after her marriage to Adam, tragedy struck their family again and while they were constructing their second home, her husband was killed when a wagon load of brick crushed him. The story is handed down 5 generations that when Adam was crushed by the bricks he was taken to a nearby hotel (which may have been the Lawrence Hotel which was located where the Stage Road meets old 53 highway west of Cathcart). It is said that Marianne knelt by his side and he took her hand and said: "Polly, Ye've been a light to me"...and she replied, "Adam, I hope you see the true light." He lingered for 36 hours after the accident then died Aug. 26th, 1849 - one month before their youngest son Adam was born. Adam and Marianne are also buried here in this cemetery. It must have been a hard life for them, and with the father Adam and the grandfather Archibald both dead - that left only the mother Marianne and the grandmother Sally to raise the 4 Farrington boys.  I think that's why they sent them off to the wild and woolly west!




Photo from Clayton Barker collection


Their names are now all engraved on the sides of slabs of stones, and those who had known them first hand are also buried beneath the sod. The history and stories of our ancestors and the locations of their graves will live forever as long as someone passes this information on to the next generation.



Photo from Clayton Barker collection


(This presentation was closed with a song)


Words/Music by Allen Shamblin

Sung by Randy Travis






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