I finally had the pleasure of meeting Pete Marchildon and Judy Veitch, the new owners of the Fleger House last weekend. It is so exciting to see one of the few examples of turn of the century (20th) buildings being preserved. Judy took me over to visit one of Uffington’s long time residents, Bruce Johnson. Bruce and his family are fascinating with a history steeped deeply in horse culture.
Bruce specialized in breaking horses, the family business. The Johnson’s relationship with horses goes quite far back. Bruce’s great uncle was a horse breaker for the border patrol during the Yukon gold rush. The family lived in Lewisham before settling over 66 years ago in Uffington. The family bought the farm from Bill Ketching (sp.?) and the house at that time was already over 40 years old.
The Johnson farm was the stop for the Anglican minister and his horse (and later a bicycle!) that came in every Saturday from the Bracebridge Mission House to conduct services for the communities of Uffington, Alllen’s Corners, Barkway, Purbrook and Housey’s Rapids. The minister would spend the night at the Johnson farm and Bruce, an alter boy at St. Paul’s (see the painting, Evanescence), would go and clear the snow and stoke the fire in the woodstove to prepare for Sunday’s congregation.
Now, a few of my misunderstandings about the Fleger house and the neighbouring church were cleared up for me by Bruce. Apparently the Fleger House was the manse for the Presbyterian Church. The Oswin house next door was, in fact, the Presbyterian Church. The Hannah family maintained it much as the Johnson’s had the Anglican church.
The manse had been empty for some time before Earl and Dorothy moved in. Bruce’s uncle Henry, purchased the house from the church – the name of Rev. Grover Livingstone, a once patient of the Gravenhurst Sanitorium came up on the land registry documents. He sold it to the Flegers when their house built by their son, Doug, had burned down. (There is an interesting story behind the fire that had to do with the rationing of gasoline. I’ll include it in the upcoming book.) The dates are a little muddy, Bruce remembers the Flegers moving in during the 1930’s. The records indicate that they took title in the 1940’s.
Later, after revisting the Fleger house itself with Judy, I bid her farewell and visited with Curtis Iddison, Tom’s son and grandson to Earl and Dorothy Fleger. He shared a number of wonderful family photos. The photo above, is one such image. I have a new painting of the house in its new location that I will share when I get a good enough photograph. For now, here is a link to a post with some images from early 2009.
I am so grateful to the kindness and the generosity of the people in the Uffington community for allowing me a glimpse into their lives and their homes. This project and the ability to create art from these special places has been and is a privilege.