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Bean pickers c1914, at what was later Jack Lawrenceísí barn, which stood in the middle of a field all by itself, on the east side of Maple Avenue North, Burford, Ontario.

(Photo from Clayton Barkerís personal collection.)



...They were summoned from the hillside

They were called in from the glen,

And the country found them ready

At the stirring call for men.

Let no tears add to their hardships

As the soldiers pass along,

And although your heart is breaking

Make it sing this cheery song:

Keep the Home Fires Burning...


From the song "Keep the Home-Fires Burning ('Till the Boys Come Home)" is a British patriotic First world war song composed by Ivor Novello in 1915 with words by Lena Guilbert Ford.



Copyright © 2014-2020 by Clayton Barker


Just prior to war being declared, things were looking up for Burford; finally, some building lots were made available along Dufferin and William Street, by Stuart Jarvis, and fourteen lots were auctioned off; Three homes were being built elsewhere in the village, including one on the newly opened Alexander Street (Alexander Street only went as far as the present intersection of Andrew Street). The Village populous was spread a mile along basically King Street, east and west and Maple Ave., north and south, with only two side-streets yet under construction: Alexander Street (anarrow track) commencing at the United Church and running south for only a few hundred feet, and another narrow track offset a block north of King and running west, now called Dufferin Street, which went parallel to King Street to another incomplete future road allowance, now called Saint William Street. Park Street, Andrew Street and Rutherford Street were not put through until the end of the war.


The plan was to complete all incomplete streets and provide new housing, however many of the buildings along both Alexander Street and Dufferin Street were constructed after 1918 and some homes, of course, were just moved in from other places and set on new foundations, which was common prior to WW1.


Besides a want for new homes and rental accommodation in the village, there had been an aging want for good roads, which was not only a concern for Burford people, but it echoed all across the nation, as automobiles were coming on the scene rapidly and the roads were not fit for motorists, most of the year, then in the summer automobiles would kick up clouds of dust through the streets.


It was a Provincial election, earlier that summer of 1914 (the province stayed Conservative for another round) and the election pitch for most was to have new concrete highways put through, here in Ontario. Road officials, both Provincial and municipal, went on a field trip to Detroit Michigan to see the magnificent concrete roads there, and they came back with great plans to commence the movement for concrete roads here, and ear-marked over $30,000,000 for road upgrades. Roads around here would not see concrete until the 1930's and 40's.


In the meantime, Burford officials ventured into Brantford to see the newly oiled roads there, and agreed that it was the most effective way to keep the dust down, so Burford purchased an "oil wagon." [ Note: this oil wagon would end up being parked in the South Brant Agricultural show grounds, near the exhibition buildings and in 1917 was the cause of the fire which completely destroyed the old exhibition complex, which consisted of the former Burford Militia Drill Hall, moved there from the Yeigh property in 1893.]


Along with the problem of roads was the problem of sidewalks, but there were local concrete companies around and sidewalks and some patches of large areas of concrete were installed on King Street during the 1914-18 war era. Bridges were also a nuisance to the local road officials because some creeks wound back-and-forth across the same road several times, in some cases, and in 1914 they finally removed at least one of the three bridges a mile north of Burford at Whiteman's Creek, and constructed the 6th concession to go around, instead of straight across the creek basin.


One of the greatest bits of news to hit the community for a long time, in the summer of 1914, was the fact that Burford was going to get a new Federal Building (Post Office). Several properties were looked at as potential locations, then it was settled that the new building would be built on the old former cooper shop property (the present P.O. site) however there was a line of huge trees in front of it there and some had thought the trees to be such an obstruction to the project. Until one morning, according to the late Mel Robertson, when someone cut the trees down apparently in the night and all was a go again.


The tender went out in June and by July the project was awarded to Secord Brothers and Company, Brantford. It was estimated that the building would cost between $18,000 and $20,000 to complete and everyone thought that construction would commence immediately. Not so. Though the date stone for the building was made and pressed with the date "1914," sod would not be turned until the spring of 1915, and the building not completed until December 1916....not sure if the War had something to do with that...


Burford Armoury was home to 'C' Squadron, 25th Brant Dragoons, who knew they were gearing up for something, but had no idea that it would be a war that would last five years...


The other major event in 1914 was that a vote was finally given in favour of the village being hooked into the Ontario Hydro Commission grid. It was said that it would be cheaper (about $5,000) to have it done at the same time Waterford and Simcoe connected and both Waterford and Simcoe gave the green "light" to be connected with hydro. It was now or never for Burford. Prior to this, hydro was provided sporadically by a dam across the creek at the mill, on the 6th Concession, with the biggest customer being the Canning Factory. But this service was basically only available during the day, until about 11pm, unless you made previous arrangements with the miller, otherwise hydro prior to 1914 was undependable. Sometimes the community would be "thrown into darkness" without notice, and many evening church services and house parties were interrupted, while those attending scrambled around to light lanterns and lamps.



Typical scene, c1914, to illustrate what the roads out in the Township looked like in 1914. "Radford's Hill," Harley. (Photo from Clayton Barkerís personal collection.)




Copyright © 2014-2020 by Clayton Barker


War was only beginning to be talked about in Burford, and the "Toronto Daily" was being advertised alongside The Advance, so folks could keep abreast of the news on the War. Generally, it was thought that the war would not affect us much, and that it would be over in a short time. Here on the home front, the lazy hazy days of summer were winding down and the harvest was in full swing.


Ice-cream Socials, garden Parties and pic-nics were the typical summertime events in the days before radio and TV. Picnics and socials and many church-group outings, were usually held in the flats along Whiteman's Creek, or in pleasant groves or on the lawns of prominent homes in the area. Lilico's Grove (east side of the Village near the present County office and Fair Ground), Baker's Flats (previously known as Stuart's Flats, north of the Village), and Jull's grove, were popular places in 1914.


There were not many automobiles in the area, but those who had one, like Stuart Jarvis and C.F. Saunders, were able to take on many passenger (no seatbelts needed or supplied back then) and drive them, some standing on the running boards, etc., out of the village to enjoy picnics several miles outside of Burford, such as Mohawk Park, in Brantford, and "Radford's Grove" Harley.


In the grove, "a happy party of young and old assembled...College songs were sung and tales of Auld Lang Syne were related, and those in the prime of life became for the time being boys again..."Later in the evening refreshments were handed out by the ladies...and the camp was a scene to be remembered - the campfire burning brightly in the grove, around which sat many happy faces, the fire-light showing clearly the expression of each face; the merry voices in song, and the brilliant moonlight glinting through the tall pines in the grove, made a picture worthy of the artist's brush..."



For many occasions, the groups going off to picnics and camping excursions were able to borrow tents from the local Armoury, but after war was declared, military related equipment was being inventoried and closely watched and kept in readiness for that call to action.


At a Burford Methodist Sunday School picnic, on the lawn of Wm H. Jull, "Chinese Lanterns" decorated the trees and provided light "which made a unique appearance" Old fashioned games were played, there were speeches and readings and vocal selections sung.


Brantford was gearing up for their "Old Home Week" August 9th to 14th, and Burford getting ready for the annual Burford Fair, October 6th and 7th, as the Army worm continued to muster its troops here, in the fields, the armies, both here and abroad were put on full alert.



1914 horse-drawn corn binder.

(photo from Clayton Barkerís personal collection)



"...Keep the Home Fires Burning,

While your hearts are yearning,

Though your lads are far away

They dream of home.

There's a silver lining

Through the dark clouds shining,

Turn the dark cloud inside out

'Til the boys come home."


From the song "Keep the Home-Fires Burning ('Till the Boys Come Home)" is a British patriotic First world war song composed by Ivor Novello in 1915 with words by Lena Guilbert Ford.



Copyright © 2014-2020 by Clayton Barker


The war had just been announced for the first time in The Advance, and already volunteers were answering the notice asking for recruitments for the front, posted on the Armoury door: Leslie Shellington, James Muir, John Davis and G. Tapley.


Note: George Tapley is listed as being wounded during the war. [Reville, Vol.2, pg. 576]


Also posted on the Armoury doors were orders from Divisional Office, Toronto, to say that a guard has been posted at the Armoury and that the public are warned not to enter the building on any pretext whatever... (signed W. K. Muir, major. Officer in Charge of the Armouries).


On Thursday August 6th a very successful military Tattoo was held on the grounds of Capt. A.D. Muir, with entertainment provided by the 25th Brant Dragoons 40-piece band, conducted by Lieut. Pearce. Other entertainment came in the form of comedy routines by the renowned J.H. Cameron and his piano accompanist, Dr. Robb, both of Toronto. Refreshments and ice-cream were served in a tent put on by the Girl's Guild of Holy Trinity.


In Paris a meeting was held by "The Daughters of The Empire" to see if the Paris people would contribute towards the "Hospital Ship" which the women of Canada are offering to the Mother Country.


Labour Day was celebrated Monday September 7th, in 1914.


No matter what you did, it somehow ended up in the newspaper the following week; you could never sneak out of town on a secret getaway! From the time of the first local newspaper in the 1840's and 50's, up until the 1960's the papers had always published the local gossip columns, compiled and written by columnists from each locality, except by 1914 every time someone bought or sold an automobile, it was even announced in the paper!




The information contained on this page represents the research findings and opinions of the author. The material on this page reflects the authorís best judgement in light of the information available at the time of compilation. Any use of this material made by a third party, or reliance on, or decisions made based on it are the responsibility of such third parties. The author accepts no responsibility for damages, if any, suffered by any third party as a result of decisions made or actions based on this work.








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