Holland Marsh Story



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The Holland Marsh Story

Description : The Holland Marsh Story

Now almost twenty years ago, Mrs. S.S. McKenzie wrote a history of the Holland Marsh, from information assembled to that date. For Bradford's centennial history, the story was continued.
This history has been copied complete and widely distributed and also copied, in part, upon several occasions, but the search for the story continues, as students each year choose The Holland Marsh as subject material for essays.

The story written in the late '40's for this newspaper is being republished, just as it was first recorded. The first chapter begins this week.


Many interested in the Holland Marsh, either in the past, or in the present, have contributed in the hope that a story of the Marsh which is authentic, and at least fairly comprehensive, may be recorded in these columns.

Among those to whom we are indebted for information are T. A. Pratt, Islington; B. B. Collings, who has probably been associated with the Marsh for a longer period than any other living person; Mr. J. F. Hambly, reeve of West Gwillimbury at the time the big Drainage Scheme was undertaken; Mrs. Peter Catania, a long-time Marsh resident; the late Mrs. M. J. Douglas; Mrs. Glenn Boyd, whose prize-winning essay on the subject in her High School days was lent to us; and Mrs. Dave Watson, widow of the man whose dream has become a reality on the Marsh.

Chapter I.
The Holland River Marsh

To-day one of the richest and most widely known Garden Tracts in Ontario is that known as the Bradford or the Holland Marsh. In the vegetable stores across Canada and in parts of the United States, you will see potatoes, celery, lettuce, onions and carrots etc., bearing boastfully the label "Bradford Marsh" or simply "Marsh" as a sign of quality. But the Bradford Marsh not always was a gardener's paradise. Unbelievable as it may now seem, it was once nothing but an impassable marsh or Tamarac swamp, covering thousands of acres.
Beginning about Schomberg and flowing or moving in a very sluggish manner in a north-easterly direction towards Lake Simcoe is the stream known as the Holland River, so named after a Major S. Holland, Surveyor General of Canada, who in 1791 visited the river in making a general survey of the Lake Simcoe region. This is the main river and it is joined by an eastern or Holland landing tributary at a place called Soldier's Landing or Soldier's Bay, about seven miles from the mouth. At one time, navigation to Lake Simcoe points from Soldier's Landing consisted of small craft. In 1850, when boats were larger and the western or main branch of the river was found to be much easier to navigate, having deeper water and broader streams and not so choked with marsh at the eastern branch, the steamer "Beaver" went on to the Bradford Holland River bridge.

In 1819, the first settlers in South Simcoe, the Wallaces, the Armstrongs and the Algeos crossed the river with great difficulty and landed at what is now known as the old wharf in the Scotch Settlement. Here for some years was the only river crossing and that was by a ferry pulled by ropes.

By this time, the settlement of Bradford had become an accomplished fact and the question of some method of crossing the marsh and river so as to give easier access to the Holland Landing had arisen. Petitions were sent to county councils and the Government and finally, under the constant urging of Wm. Armson, Reeve of West Gwillimbury and Warden of the County, money grants were given and a road was made from Bradford to the river by laying logs across a width of marsh and filling in with earth. This was the corduroy road, the logs of which were still visible many years afterwards. Then to cross the river, a floating bridge was laid down and a through direct road from Bradford to the Landing was completed and the Marsh was at least partly conquered. The ferry at the old wharf was discontinued.

In 1837, George Lount, Government Surveyor, surveyed as a townsite, the spot on the south of the river just beyond the floating bridge, known as Amsterdam, and the streets were laid out bearing such good Holland names as De Ryder, De Witt, Van Dyke, Rubens, etc., but the townsite remained as only a townsite and no town arose, so in 1869 a lumberman named Thompson Smith acquired the patent of the unused site and built two sawmills, one on each side of the road, just beyond the bridge. And the marsh was still largely unconquered. Rafts of logs were brought up the river by the tugs "Victoria" and "Isabella" and this helped to keep the river fairly clear of weeds. The wreck of the "Isabella" lay near the railway bridge not so many years ago and is now probably lying on the bottom of the river.

The superintendent of the sawmills was James Durham and 1870, Mr. Durham cut the floating bridge in two, in order to get the logs through and this caused a lot of trouble, but led to the erection of a bridge above the water. This bridge was 420 feet long and was completed in April, 1871, the builder being Thomas McConkey of Gilford.

To the many men working in the mills, the great marsh became a familiar sight and the thought entered someone's head why not cut that marsh grass or hay, twist it into ropes and sell it, and so was born the marsh hay industry and some use at least was made of the great waste of land. The hay was twisted by laying it in long V-shaped troughs with a crank at the end and by turning this crank, the hay was twisted into long ropes. Later hay-balers were brought into use and the hay was baled instead of twisted into ropes. This marsh hay was used for stuffing mattresses. Marsh hay twisting went on for years and might still be the only marsh industry, had not a bright idea entered the head of one D. W. (Dave) Watson, an intelligent, energetic young farmer of the Scotch Settlement, who, however, had come into Bradford and acquired a grocery business, where the Village Inn now stands.

This bright idea was, why not dredge a canal and drain the marsh and so turn waste land into productive soil. Mr. Watson got Professor Day of Guelph Agricultural College interested in his idea and so was laid the germ that has sprouted into the now famous Bradford Marsh Gardens.

Chapter II.
The Horses Wore Boots

The first industrial boom on the Holland Marsh was the harvesting and "curling" of marsh hay to fill mattresses.

Three Frenchmen, Paul Courier and his son-in-law, Joe Le Duc and Charlie La Vince, were the first in the marsh-hay business, certainly the first within the memory of that veteran marshman B. B. Collings. These Frenchmen were instructed in the curling of hay by a man from Montreal and in the early 80's began what developed into a big industry.

A pair of strong hands and a scythe equipped these pioneer hay harvesters. They cut the hay with a scythe and twisted it into ropes, about the size and length of a broom handle, by hand. A man could twist about 20 of these ropes per day, and, after curling in such ropes for at least three months, they were uncurled and teased by the mattress makers to fill springy mattresses.

The Bradford youngsters of the 80's were looking for work in the 90's, and, with the demand for curled marsh hay for mattresses steadily increasing, several of these boys joined the hay harvesters. Among them were Louis Chapelle, the Collings brothers, B.B, Dan and Ernie, Tom Morris, James Armstrong, B. Caesar and Murphy and Josh Goodwin of Holland Landing. Hay cutting was done on a much larger acreage. To supply the demand the hay ropes increased in size to three and then four times the size of the first ropes, although Mr. Collings informs, like most increased production, this larger curl was not nearly so good for mattresses as the small curl first made. Probably the most progressive step in the hay cutting of the '90's was that horse-drawn mowers replaced hand-powered scythe in harvesting marsh hay.

But the boggy marsh would not carry a horse. Horses and cattle became mired and sank in the bog as if in quick sand. And here it was that the ingenuity of the hay men made it possible to work horses on that boggy marshland. Men could travel over soft snow on snow shoes, why couldn't horses be carried over marsh land with some such equipment? The experiment was tried and worked. With wooden boots (rectangular boards) fastened to their feet, the horses pulled the mowers which cut the hay. Mr. B. B. Collings states that the horses became quite accustomed to these "boots" and walked on them with assurance and ease. In fact, the horses used on the marsh came to depend so much upon their "boots" to carry them over the treacherous ground that they would balk and refuse to step on marshland until so equipped.

And the marsh hay business continued to grow, reaching its peak about 1914 and 1915. By that time, hay was being cut on about 12,000 acres, following the river from south of Bradford to the lake.
Hay pressing became a feature of marsh hay harvesting. B. B. Collings informs that he bought his first horse press in 1904 and his first power bailing press in 1912.

From the marsh hay business another industry arose. Just before the turn of the century, B. B. Collings went into the making of mattresses, conducting this business on the lot where J. Gapp now resides. "And," says Mr. Collings, "if any of the young fellows to-day think they know what hard work is, they should have seen me then. I worked day and night." After this experience, Mr. Collings spent a time in Toronto working at mattress making and furniture upholstering, before returning to Bradford and the marsh, in which he still holds a big interest.
James Armstrong and B. Caesar, two others whose names were associated with the early "marsh hay" days, are also still marshland owners, and sons of the aforementioned Thos. Morris, carry on the work their father began as a marshman.

Chapter III.
Pre-Drainage Days On The Marsh

"When the wild ducks and gees," of which there were thousands upon thousands on the marsh up to 20 years ago, "rose as a flock into the air, they hid the sun," states Mrs. Peter Catania, who, with her husband and the six eldest members of her family came to the property they now occupy, and which they purchased from John Maurino in April, 1918. Deer, partridge and rabbits were also very plentiful on the area. The pheasants, for which the marsh was famous for a number of years, only made their appearance about 20 years ago after residents obtained pheasant eggs from the Government.
The Catania property is on the 2nd concession of King, and, compared to the road on that concession 30 years ago, the marsh roads of to-day are wonderful. The little settlement then included the Sweezie family, the Taits, the Speziallis, the Simones, the Cooks and the Catanias. Practically isolated when the roads were at their worst, the little community had a social life of its own. In the evenings they congregated in one home, usually for music, and it is to those musical evenings that credit is given for the good music in Holland Landing United Church to-day, where the Taits and Cooks now reside, and for the family orchestras, which developed among the Catanias and Speziallis.
One of Mrs. Catania's memories of those early roads was at the time of the death of Mrs. Sweezie 22 years ago. Mr. Kilkenny had to make the trip in from the highway with a horse and wagon.

That an Indian settlement was at one time located on the edge of the marsh is the belief of Mrs. Catania. Only last year, her son John, while at work on the property, found an Indian arrow. Another oddity at the entrance to the property is a large stone marked with a cross apparently hand hewn.

The Catania family developed a market-garden business on semi-high land, and their gardens were inspected by the late Prof. W. H. Day during his investigations before drainage was started.

Chapter IV.
Men of Vision

When a big and expensive project proves its worth, its promoters are eulogized and its opponents are often the subject of criticism, therefore, it is with considerable hesitancy that we enter upon the recordings of the marsh drainage scheme, all of which predated our knowledge of this area. There appears to be a considerable difference of opinion regarding just who conceived the idea of draining the marsh, but it is a agreed by several that the success of drainage under somewhat similar conditions in southwestern Ontario probably gave birth to the idea here.

The late D. W. Watson was an enthusiastic supporter of the drainage project and his name is mentioned in connection with the bringing here of the late Prof. W. H. Day to inspect the area. Professor Day was, at the time of his first visit, about 1910, Professor of Physics and an authority on drainage in the Ontario Agricultural College, Guelph. Born near Lindsay, Professor Day graduated from the University of Toronto in 1903.

Professor Day, after a careful examination and gaining knowledge of reclamation schemes in Essex and Kent Counties and study of the local conditions, advised in favour of the scheme. He recommended three things:

  1. Construct a cut-off ditch or canal around the marsh along the base of the highland to prevent the water from flowing onto the marsh or into the old river bed. If this was done then the highland water shut off from the upper river would be diverted along the canals, which would empty into the river below the reclaimed area.
  2. Construct a dam across the river at the lower end of the reclaimed area, so that the lake water could not back up the enclosed portion of the old river bed.
  3. Install a pumping plant to pump the water from the enclosed section of the river over the dam, whence it would flow into the lake.

Returning to Guelph, Professor Day, in co-operation with W. D. Watson and E. Collings, had a test made the following year. A small plot of marsh muck was heaped behind the mill property and vegetables were planted. So satisfactory did it prove that the celery carried off top honours at the local Fall Fair. In 1911, the Holland Marsh Syndicate, with other owners, was organized.

But the First Great War, with its terrific toll in men and money, halted progress and development throughout the Dominion and the plans for the drainage of the Holland Marsh were shelved for the war's duration.

Chapter V.
$25 Voted Toward Engineer's Survey

Discussions in Council regarding the draining or reclaiming of the marsh land lying along or adjacent to the Holland River, where this stream forms the boundary between the Townships of King and West Gwillimbury, date back about 30 years, according to minutes in old Minute Books of West Gwillimbury Council.

In 1910 a motion is recorded as passed by the Council of that year "granting the sum of twenty five dollars ($25.00) toward a fund, to help defray the expenses of an engineer, toward the lowering of the water int he Holland River and the marsh land adjacent thereto, in connection with the Township of King, with the distinct understanding that we incur no further liability." Later in the same year, a communication received from Alex Baird was ordered filed and the secretary was instructed to communicate with the Township of King and other municipalities interested in the drainage of the marsh lands.

In 1911, a deputation, composed of Mr. L. Gibbons, councillor of King Township, and Mr. W. D. Watson of Bradford addressed West Gwillimbury Council, pointing out the advantages which would be bound to come to the municipalities concerned if the marsh lands were drained, stressing the fact that land which was assessed at less than $1.00 an acre would, when reclaimed, be worth $40.00 or $50.00 an acre.

Evidently King Township Council was also approached on the matter because minutes of March 4, 1911, record that Mr. W. D. Watson of Bradford presented a motion passed by King Township Council on motion of R. W. Phillips and N. J. Willis, "that the Clerk be instructed to correspond with W. D. Watson of Bradford and notify him that if the Councils of Bradford and West Gwillimbury meet, and have Mr. Baird, the engineer, present, the members of this Council will be pleased to meet with them and discuss the advisability of reclaiming the marsh."

This communication was signed by A. MacMurchy, reeve.
But enthusiasm did not run high and the reply of West Gwillimbury Council to this proposal is reported to have been that "owing to the lack of interest on the part of the owners of marsh land in the West Gwillimbury side of the Holland River, we, the Council of the said municipality, are of the opinion that meeting with the Councils of King and Bradford would not, accomplish anything. We are also of the opinion that this marsh can be drained only by a private capital and this Council will encourage every effort and render such assistance from time to time as seems to them advisable and that a copy of this resolution be forwarded to the King Council."

This appears to have been the general attitude on the subject when the First Great War broke out and from 1914 to 1919 the drainage of the marsh area was pretty much a dormant subject. In 1919, Professor Day returned to make further investigations and about 1922 the interest of the marsh landowners and members of the syndicate was sufficiently aroused to promote an attempt to arrange for such drainage, financed by private capital. This failed.
(To be Continued)

Bradford Witness

The Holland Marsh Story Part Five

Description : The Holland Marsh Story
(Continued from August 31)

Chapter XVII.
Bradford Co-operative Storage Limited

An ambition fostered from the time that the first big marsh harvests were put in storage in city storehouses - the determination to "some day" have a storage of their own right here in Bradford - culminated in a meeting of growers, and the incorporation of the Bradford Co-operative Storage Limited on January 8, 1945. Of course, this co-operative was not the result of one day's work. Much ground work preceded the success of that January meeting, but that was the date on which the terms on which the co-operative would operate were finally agreed upon and application was made for a charter. Provisional directors were named at that time for the new co-operative, namely, George Losak, Gregory Semenuk, J. Lindner, D. Sadovchuk and Wm. Valenteyn.
Stock in the co-operative was sold in shares of $100, and the gardeners themselves purchased $92,000 worth of shares, in other words, subscribed $92,000 toward the erection of the building. There were 150 original shareholders. To-day, there are 148 shareholders. This means that most of the stock made available by changes of residence or other causes, has been quickly purchased by those already holding stock, thus reducing rather than adding to the original number of shareholders.
By the provisions of the Co-operative Marketing Loan Act, the Federal Government gave a grant of 30% and the Provincial Government a loan of 30% toward the cost of construction of the building.
With this financial set-up arranged, work on the building began in 1945, with hopes high that it might be ready for some of the late Fall crop. But shortage of materials and labor problems upset these plans and over a year elapsed before the big building was ready for operation.
Constructed of cement and insulated with cork, the $300,000 Bradford Co-operative Storage is the most modern building of its kind in the province and is second in size among all storages in Ontario; Norfolk Fruit Growers Association Storage being the largest. The capacity of the cooler space here is 428,600 cubic feet.
On August 15, 1946, George C. Carson, manager of the big plant, assumed his new duties. At that time, the directors thought themselves very fortunate in securing Mr. Carson. Today, as they near the third anniversary of his engagement, they know they were fortunate. A native of St. Thomas, Mr. Carson was first employed by the St. Thomas Fruit Growers' Co0operative for four years, three of which he served as manager of their cold storage. Next, he managed the Thedford Cold Storage for four years before enlisting in the Army and serving overseas. After his military discharge, he was with the Agricultural Engineering Department of Ontario Agricultural College until being engaged to come to Bradford. With his wide experience it is not surprising that Mr. Carson has proved to be a most capable manager for the big Bradford Co-operative Storage.
Systematic management has put the big building into year-round use. Fall and Winter months, storage pace is largely given to celery, carrots, beets, potatoes and onions. These vegetables are stored and put on the market according to buyer demands, thus assuring reasonably good prices. When the vegetables were cleared from the storage early last Spring, eggs for Britain were stored, only to be removed for shipment in time to clear space for the early vegetable crops. During July and August, the pre-cooling of lettuce keeps the Co-operative a busy place in the period before the harvesting of the less perishable crops. To give some idea of the use to which this storage building is being used, Mr. Carson informs that in the period May 1, 1947 to May 1, 1948, the storage handled 101,000 packages and from May 1, 1948 to Feb. 28, 1949, 160,000 packages were handled.
Growers, when asked if they were satisfied now that they have a storage of their own, invariably voice bu on criticism - "It isn't big enough".

Chapter XVIII.
Big Business

During the past decade, marsh gardening has truly become big business. Seasons' crops are estimated in the millions, according to the bountifulness of the harvest and the market prices; the value of the crop usually ranging from the $3,500,000 mark to $5,000,000.
Several of the bigger growers have their own storages and others are planning building. Among these gardeners on bigger areas are the Verkaik Bros., whose gardens and building make a beautiful settlement on the West Gwillimbury side of the river. This family is in the growing and marketing business in a big way, packaging and selling under their own brand name. In addition members of the family have dealt in real estate in Bradford and built both residential and business property.
Thornton and Fuller, Bradford, while not gardeners, are big wholesale buyers of marsh produce and own a large amount of storage space for vegetables. In addition to being a member of the wholesale firm, W.H. Thornton owns a crate and box factory, making supplies for marsh produce.
S. Hochreiter has a fine big privately owned storage, located on Highway 11, just south of town. Gerald Rupke and John Maurino & Son are also vegetable storage owners.
Bradford Package Sales Limited, operated by Ed. Tupling, making crates and boxes, is another industry in the town, resulting directly from the marsh development.
As well, there are several wholesale buyers with offices here. We have Bradford Shippers, Bonita Distributors, Ontario Produce Company, Superior Shippers, Federal Distributors, etc. etc. In fact, what used to be "wide open spaces" around the C.N.R. Station and from there along Highway 11 to the bridge, is now built up almost solidly into a hive of industry, all in some way associated with the production on the marsh.
All of this shows the actual gardening is just the beginning of the big business the marsh gardens have created. Small, privately-owned greenhouses are another branch of the gardening here.
And the largest industry of all associated with marsh produce - The Holland River Gardens Co. Limited - has not to date been mentioned.

Chapter XIX.
Holland River Gardens Co. Limited

Holland River Gardens Co. Limited, Bradford, is not only the worlds most modernly equipped vegetable packing plant, built here for the purpose of packing marsh vegetables so as to place them on near and distant markets "garden fresh" but has incorporated int he company a huge marsh garden of more than 300 acres, and all marsh gardeners as members of its board of directors.
The largest headache and heartache for growers in the early years of marsh gardening was marketing. Green vegetables had to be placed on the market green and fresh, with the result that markets had to be close at hand, and products marketed pretty much in season. The big, modern packing plant of Holland River Gardens Co. Limited removed both of these aches for the gardeners.
To furnish the background which resulted in the erection of the fine big plant, one of the Dutch families, which bought marsh land in the Autumn of 1934 and came to the marsh in 1935, should be introduced into our story - the Horlings family. Of this family, three of the brothers, George, Walter and Harry, worked in partnership and by 1942 they were into marsh gardening so extensively that they owned 90 acres of garden land and has secured such a large and steady market for their produce that they found themselves forced into wholesale buying to secure sufficient produce (over and above that grown on their own large acreage) to satisfy their market's demand. It was then that George Horlings left the gardening end of the business to his two brothers and devoted his time to wholesale buying of marsh vegetables. This experience gave him business contacts and extended his vision for the handling of marsh produce. Holland River Gardens Co. Limited is a result of the possibilities realized by those with whom he did business, and by himself.
By Novemeber, 1945, just ten years after the Horlings brothers first came here as gardeners, and three years after George Horlings began wholesale buying of vegetables, Holland River Gardens Co. Limited was organized and incorporated. This organization took place following the most careful study of the vegetable packing business in southern Texas and California, which was surveyed personally y Mr. Horlings and members of the executive. Work was begun almost immediately on the big building and by July 16, 1946, the plant was in operation, with the first washing and "icing" of vegetables for shipment taking place on that day.
The writer of this story recalls that first shipment from the plant very vividly, having been invited to see the first operations. It was just like an assembly line - hampers and crates of vegetables, direct from the gardens, removed from the trucks at the front of the building on Highway 11, carried on roller-bearing tracks past helpers who placed them on trays, on into the washers and then past the packers. Celery and lettuce received the "ice" treatment, being showered with finely-chopped ice before the heavy waxed paper in which they were encased was folded in and crate nailed down - all in one neat operation - then, still on the roller-bearing tracks, on to the waiting trucks at the front of the building, or to the refrigerated cars on the tracks at the rear.
That was the opening day for Holland River Gardens Co. Limited, less than three years ago, and the intervening period has been one of amazing progress. Personnel is always a vital part of a company's success and to-day the executive is the same as it was when the company was organized.
The Executive
Mr. A. Dees, formerly of Dominion Stores, is President of the company. Mr. Dees has had extensive experience in growing and marketing vegetables, both in Europe and in Canada, and in this, in addition to his wide experience and ability in the business world, qualifies him completely for his responsible position.
Mr. George Horlings is Vice-President and General Manager of the company and the success of the past three years has confirmed that the opinion of everyone who knew George Horlings was correct - he is the right man in the right place. First and foremost, he is a marsh gardener and a good one. He is one of that early group of gardeners who worked so persistently and intelligently for the things that have made the marsh what it is today. He is known, respected and trusted by the other growers. As well as being known as a most honest and honourable gentleman, he has the necessary business ability, together with a friendliness of manner, which will win friends for him wherever he goes.
George Horlings has two brothers on the executive of Holland River Gardens Co. Limited - Walter Horlings is Production Manager of the company's big marsh garden farm and Harry Horlings is Farm Personnel Manager on the farm. Both these brothers too, married since coming to the marsh. The former returned to Holland for his wife and the latter married a daughter of the marsh, Miss Van Dyken.
In addition to Mr. Dees and the three Horlings brothers, members of the executive include G.B. Cameron, Ralph Matthews and Victor Turner. Mr. Cameron is the very efficient Secretary-Treasurer for the company. Before coming to the plant, he was Fruit Office Manager for the Dominion Stores. Ralph Matthews, who is a brother-in-law of the Horlings brothers, is Plant Superintendent, and before coming here was foreman with the Kelsey Wheel Company in Windsor. Victor Turner, former highland farmer, marshland grower, reeve of West Gwillimbury in general a widely known and popular gentleman, with a broad experience and knowledge of the marsh, is the company's buyer. Every man of the group is not only well qualified for his business duties, but together they form a most congenial group, working harmoniously and well.
The Plant
Fronting on Highway 11, with the C.N.R. tracks at the rear, and located at the south-eastern end of Bradford overlooking miles of marshland gardens to the south-west, the size of the Holland River Gardens Co. Limited plant was doubled within two years of its commencing operations. To the packing plant proper, last year a cold-storage building was added. This new addition gives a year round service to the plant. With an ice capacity of 200,000 cubic feet (or 4,000 tons), this addition has put the company in the ice business during the Summer months, and not only can it now supply Bradford and surrounding area with all needed ice, but it has its own supply for ice packing, as well as for icing refrigerator cars, thus ensuring quicker delivery to customers. An icing deck has been built for the purpose of bunker icing of railroad cars and on car can be bunker iced in approximately five minutes. The company has made a contract with the railroad for bunker icing all cars loaded in the Bradford area, or for re0icing any cars passing through Bradford which may require this service. With the ice season by, in the Autumn, the building becomes a cold storage, with a capacity for storage of 30,000 to 35,000 crates of celery.
Ice packing and pre-packaging of vegetables are specialties of the plant. Ice packing of celery and lettuce has extended the markets for these Holland Marsh products from Halifax to Vancouver, as well as to many U.S. point, whereas without this treatment these products could only reach local markets. An interesting fact in this regard is that of the produce packed in the plant, 75% of it is shipped to points outside the local market area. As well as ice packing the most perishable type of produce, the plant is fully equipped to wash, grade and pack all other vegetables. Pre-packaging is the packaging of vegetables, especially onions and potatoes, in 5 to 10 pound packages for ht small consumer. The onions are packed in mesh bags. A new departure in the prepackaging was begun last year and is continuing with success - the vegetable salad, packed in cellophane bags. This salad is prepared by machinery, with which the plant is equipped, and is ice packed.
While business for the plant has exceeded expectations to date, the equipment and building are capable of handling a much larger quantity of vegetables than has been packed so far, if only additional markets could be found.
When the plant was opened, the management estimated it would employ about 10 person the year round, taking on extra hands in the rush season. During the past two years some 40 employees have been given year-round employment, with extras engaged during the harvest months. Holland River Gardens Co. Limited employees are protected by group insurance, benefits from which cover employees' families as well as the employees.
The plant has a trackage space for 10 cars. It also owns give trucks, which truck for the plant all year, while during the busy Summer season, when its own truck service is inadequate private truckers are employed.
The fame of Holland Marsh vegetables and Holland River Gardens Co. Limited packing has spread far, as is indicated by distant visitors to the plant. These included not only those from distant parts of the Dominion and United States, but from South Africa and many European countries.
The Farm
Operated as a foundation of supplies to the plant, the company's farm comprises over 300 acres. Of this, 70 acres are on Strawberry Lane and 240 are located to the south-west of that area. In reference to the farm Mr. Walter Horlings, its production manager, stated that the new highway passes through the area, with the clover leaf on the marsh about 2,000 feet away. While this farm is operated to provide a continual supply of vegetables to the plant, it only contributes 15% of the total quantity of vegetables supplied for packing here.
"The Holland Marsh is one of the best, if not the very best, land areas for vegetable growing in Canada," stated a company official. "It holds moisture in dry weather. Just go beneath the surface and the soil is moist, while in a period of heavy rains, the pumps take care of extra water. With proper fertilizing, it grows vegetables unsurpassed both in quality and quantity."
The Holland River Gardens Co. farm is a most modernly mechanized farm. Although as personnel manager, Harry Horlings has around 50 employees, without modern machinery it would not be possible to handle to advantage the big garden area, according to production manager Walter Horlings. As an example of what modern machinery can do on a marsh garden, one type of machine was described. Last Fall, this machine harvested 4,000 bushels of produce in one day. In seven seconds, the machine dug, cut off tops, and filled one hamper with carrots. This type of machine is also used for harvesting onions and beets
The combination of farm and plant operation is very desirable from more than the supply angle. It keep the packing end of the business in sympathetic touch with the growers because the packing plant is also a gardener and, therefore, its main interest is in keeping prices firm.
The Future
And what of the future of the Holland River Gardens Co. Limited plant? It has doubled in size in less than three years. It is equipped to handle a very much greater quantity of vegetables as garden production increases. Its products have established a most enviable reputation the breadth of this continent. It is continually experimenting, and branching into new fields, of which prepackaging is the result. It is surely safe to predict that it will experience a tremendous expansion as marsh production provides the produce for its growth.
What does this plant do for the grower? It has broadened markets by thousands of miles and it has advertised the quality of Holland Marsh vegetables over the same extensive territory by putting them on distant markets as fresh and crisp as when taken from the gardens.
What has the plant and the marsh done for Bradford? Well, if you don't know, just recall the population here in 1936. Recall property values, wages paid and business transacted prior to the date, and give credit where credit is due. Yes, the Holland Marsh gardens and all of the industries which have developed from them, right up to the biggest of all, Holland River Gardens Co. Limited, have made a contribution to the prosperity of every resident of this town.

Chapter XX.
Additional Business Resulting From Marsh

And now the story of the Holland Marsh is nearly up to date, but it would be incomplete without reference to business directly, and indirectly, resulting from the marsh gardens.
New businesses have been opened in Bradford because of the opportunity of doing business in new lines with the gardeners. One of these is the Bradford Seed House.
Bradford Seed House
Like most of the business enterprises connected with the Holland Marsh, Bradford Seed House, which is operated by Mr. Harvey W. Curry, started in a small way.
In 1941, Mr. Fred. Edwards, who, for several years, had been engaged in selling a line of seeds, fertilizers, containers, etc., to the growers, decided to move out of Bradford, but, before leaving, asked Mr. Curry if he would take over the selling of celery crates for the manufacturer who was located near Perry Sound. During this season and the next, 1942, Mr. Curry operated without a place of business other than his home - his car was his office.
However, in the pursuit of his business, he was asked by the growers if he sold various items other than crates. The demand became so great that he decided to add these extra lines. It now became necessary to have a definite place of business. So, in the Fall of 1942, he began to renovate his present location and by the following March was able to move in.
Since that time he has added many lines of merchandise peculiar to gardening and farming, and, besides serving the Holland Marsh with seeds, vegetable containers, spraying and dusting equipment, etc., both he and his assistant are kept busy supplying the townsfolk and local farmers with seed, nursery stock, flowers - on-occasion, or whatever they might need to improve the appearance of their homes.
Thornton and Fuller
A big firm which began, has developed, and is continuing in growth here as a direct result of the marsh is the Thornton and Fuller firm, which handles wholesale produce, fertilizers, bags, hampers and crates, etc.
The firm of Thornton and Fuller means W. H. Thornton and William Fuller. Beginning in a comparatively small way as crate makers and produce buyers, the firm has grown tremendously. The business office is still the home of W. H. Thornton and a certain amount of storage space is at the rear of that property. In addition to all this, their crate-making factory is located to the south of Bradford, on land adjoining the marsh, and on the marsh they have a large cold storage.
Thornton and Fuller have marsh gardens. They employ some 30 persons and operate eight trucks. It's a big business.
Makes Business For All
In addition to businesses already mentioned in Holland Marsh articles, directly or indirectly growing from our marsh gardens, we the Bradford Crate and Box Company, operated by Mr. E. Tupling and Mr. Russell. This firm's building and property is what was formerly the main building on the old Fair Grounds.
But new businesses associated with the marsh gardens are not the only businesses affected by the gardens. Every business in Bradford has been made much more prosperous by the marsh people who shop here. The business section of this town is greatly improved and enlarged as the result of marsh development.
And while we lack verification for this, the Townships involved must also benefit, because the land which 20 years ago grew marsh hay is today valued per acre many times over the prices being paid for the best high land, all of which must have a beneficial effect on taxation.
In completing this record of the Holland Marsh, to date, tribute should be paid to the members of Council of the initiating municipality of West Gwillimbury, whose foresight and determination carried through the big Drainage Scheme project, namely, Reeve J. F. Hambly, Councillors Louis Neilly, Percy Selby, W. J. Dales and the late Herman Lennox, and every other one of those men who worked for the scheme; to everyone of the pioneer gardeners, and to all who laid the foundations on which the gardens and industry and business resulting from them, have been built.

Chapter XXI.
Big Business for C.N.R.

Elwood James, Inspector of Vegetables, supplied the editors with a record of the shipment of vegetables from Bradford, via C.N.R., by the carload during the past three years.
In the April 1946 to April, 1947, period, 992 cars of vegetables were shipped from here via Canadian National Railways; in the April 1947 to April, 1948m period, there were 824 carloads; and in the April, 1948 to March 31, 1949, period, the shipment from Bradford was 1,036 carloads of vegetables.
During the past year, the shipments were made up as follows:
Onions, 441; carrots, 51; celery, 171; lettuce, 55; mixed cars, 214; beets, 17; potatoes, 1; L.C.L. shipments, 54; express cars, 29. Total, 1,036 carloads.

Chapter XXII.
The Marsh People

Let us introduce you to some of the marsh residents. There are the Atamachuks, Biemolds, Boonstras, Baks, Bartkos, Bereznicks, Bernyks, Bodnarchuiks, Brinkos, Brouwers, Catanias, Caesars, Chyzs, Csehs, Decyks, De Jongs, Dragons, Dugas, Dutkos, Gajdos, Gatti, Gres, Horlings, Hucks, Hutftusz, Hlmas, Hazsudas, Harvillas, Hochreiters, Havingas, Hurd, Jaques, Kacmars, Kapisaks, Kauchaks, Kiss, Knipfs, Kanyos, Kolariks, Kulhas, Lindners, Lohnes, Losaks, Lottos, Matthews, Miedemas, Moritz, Magetiaks, Maurinos, Megani, Misatas, Malkos, Megalos, Molokachs, Melenicks, Melynchuks, Mestdaghs, Morganthalers, Nuzdas, Nydams, Oosterhuis, Osadchuks, Parrys, Peters, Prins, Petryks, Podobas, Pikulas, Plackos, Phillips, Podabas, Propkochuks, Prymas, Rols, Rupkes, Rajcas, Sauners, Simones, Sneeps, Spezialis, Sadovchaks, Simurdas, Sklencars, Sopuchs, Sakaliks, Sadlons, Siervogels, Semenuks, Soderbergs, Skabernickys, Smiths, Socolowskys, Toorenaars, Takatas, Taylors, Turkstras, Uitvlugts, Van Dykes, Van Dykens, Van der Kleyns, Van Dykes, Vander Meers, Valenteyns, Van Hofs, Vernons, Valentinuzzis, Vargas, Vdovjaks, Velebirs, Verkaiks, Vrabliks, Vandergoots, Verrips, Watsons, Winters, Wists, Wouters, Winterkorns, Wrabkos, Webers, Wolfes, Yoshimuras, Ziemianskis, Zuraskis, Zucchettis, and several hundred other families.
Whether it is because of the word "Holland" in Holland Marsh, or because of the Dutch Settlement, which is the marsh's only village or whatever the reason may be, other parts of this province appear to have gained the impression that nearly all of the marsh residents are of Dutch origin. Give your address as Bradford to most strangers and almost invariably the answer is : "Oh yes, Bradford, you have a lot of Hollander sup there on the marsh."
Well, we have a great many marsh residents who are either natives of Holland or of Dutch origin, but the marsh population is certainly not essentially Dutch. There are many Hollanders, and finer people cannot be found the breadth of this Dominion, but the marsh population boasts immigrants, and children of immigrants, from practically every European country, as well as parts of Asia. They or their ancestors, were born in Italy, Germany, Czecho-Slovakia, Yugo-Slavia, Rumania, Poland or the Far East - Japan or China - as well as in Britain. Most of them belong to divided families, with many of their relatives still in the motherland countries at war with one another and with Canada, and during those years of war, marsh men lived at peace with their neighbours.
Why could a man from Holland, with brothers and sisters in the territory over-run by German troops, live in friendship with his neighbour who hailed from Germany and, ten chances to one, had relatives in the said German army? And so, on down the line, the motherlands warred while the sons and daughters on the marsh tilled the soil and lived at peace with one another.
There are several contributing factors to the unity of marsh people, the first and foremost being that they are all Canadians and Canada has been good to them. Many of them have paid visits to their native lands since the war and without exception, they have told us upon returning that they are glad to be "home". "There is so much more freedom here than over there," they say. They worked together in the years of adversity - the depression years before the war - and they shared the worries and hardships of those years, each respecting the other for his courage in facing adversity. They worked together happily when times were bad, so why shouldn't that friendship continue during more prosperous days regardless of what political leaders in their motherlands do to one another. If the political leaders of our countries became as tolerant, as understanding, and as generous with their neighbours as our marsh men are with one another, wars would cease and peace and prosperity would be the way of the world.
Yet, while the racial back ground of our Canadian marsh residents does not affect their neighbourliness and friendship, is it noticeable that the closest bonds are among their own people. The Holland Canadians marry almost always among themselves; the Czecho-Slovaks the same, as do the descendants of practically all other races, including those of British descent.
They are law-abiding people. There is not a juvenile delinquency problem on the marsh - the sons and daughters are too busy to be "problem" children. Parents, as well as children, are anxious that the boys and girls receive full benefit of the opportunities opened here and as a result, children from the marsh are usually highly-rated students in High School and at University, several being University graduates. Their homes, their church, their families, and the financial progress which will benefit these three are the chief interest of the average marsh man's life. All in all, they are the very best type of citizen. They are glad to be Canadians and Canada has reason to be glad that such fine people chose Canada as their home.
Social life on the marsh in the early days was confined pretty much to church friendships; business meetings amongst the men, and the big annual banquet in Bradford in the Fall. The marsh population grew, its members so exceeded catering facilities in Bradford that the annual banquet was dropped.

Bradford Witness

The Holland Marsh Story Part Four

Description : The Holland Marsh Story
(Continued from last week)


Employed from 1932 to 1935 as broker and salesman for Emerson Faris, George Losak learned much about marsh gardening, especially the marketing end of the business, before he became a marsh gardener. Those three years convinced Mr. Losak that the marsh could grow the finest vegetables on the market and in the greatest abundance; that it was better to play safe and handle a small area, where high-priced labor was necessary, and that prosperity on the marsh depended more upon organized and systemically planned marketing and storage of produce than it did upon the quantity it produced.

Mr. Losak sold for Mr. Faris on Toronto, Hamilton, Montreal and other Canadian markets. During his last two years as salesman, prices were very poor. "Mr. Faris has employed some 30 people on his gardens. He put his crop into storage and had storage rent to pay. In February, he had 30,000 cases of celery and we couldn't sell them on the Montreal market for 70c a crate," recalled Mr. Losak.

In the earlier days, there was not sufficient drainage for the land. Potatoes were considered best for freshly-broken land and Mr. Faris rented 100 acres from Manson and May on the Kind side of the river and planted them in potatoes. In the Fall, lack of roads made it next impossible to bring out that crop. The potatoes were as nearly perfect to look at as the potatoes possibly can be and the first lot sold rapidly on the markets. But the second shipment was another story, no one wanted them; they were too wet. "Marsh potatoes are 60% better than those early potatoes. It was too wet land that spoiled the early crops, and the well-drained gardens today grow good potatoes," says George Losak.

That the marsh should have an expert on fertilizers is the opinion of Mr. Losak. He believes that the yearly addition of fertilizers to the land, without scientific research on its needs will result in a lack of balance in the soil of the necessary chemicals. "Why, in 1934, we grew 540 crates of No. 1 lettuce on one acre," recalled Mr. Losak. "We could not do that today."

The late Job Morris was one of the early and successful gardeners on the Bradford Scheme. He owned quite a large area in the early days, most of which has been sub-divided into smaller gardens now. Among other early gardeners in Bradford still here were John Kacmar, Gregory Semenuk, Andy Simurds, Jos. Kulha, Steve Kapisak, Mike Kasik, Steve Kiss, S. Csamer and W. Desyk.

Yes, disappointment and failure paved the way for later success. George Losak saw poor prices discourage Emerson Faris, so that he gave up big gardens. Losak bought garden from the Faris area when it was sub-divided in 1936, paid down all he could afford with "a promise to pay" inthe Fall. But it wasn't a good year, he couldn't meet the promised payment and lost all. The next year, he bought on the canal bank, where he still is successfully gardening 10 acres. Others who had come in on rented land that year also bought, and thus the Bradford gardens were populated by small gardeners.


Early in their experience as gardeners, it was recalled by the marsh population that organization was needed among them if the products of their labours were to bring in fair financial returns. Storage was also a problem for early days. If produce was not to cause a terrific price slump at harvest time by "glutting" the market, it had to be held over and put on the market gradually during the early months of Winter. Storage space in the city was always expensive and often very unsatisfactory, as produce was not always in marketable condition when removed later.

The first marsh growers organization was among the Hollanders and was know as the Dutch Growers' Association, with Jan Rupke as president and Mr. Havinga secretary-treasurer. The Ratepayers Association followed. Its first president was P. Jaques. The late Anthony Sneep was the next president and Wm. Watson has held that office for the past number of years. Jack Van Luyk has been secretary-treasurer throughout the years the Association has functioned. Another organization which is still in active operation is the Holland Marsh Co-operative. Wm. Valenteyn has been its chairman throughout the years and T.E. Bell its secretary-treasurer. Others serving on the executive include C. Davis, Ronald Jaques, H. Prins, W. Eek, Jack Lindner, Wm. Watson, Sr., George Horlings, Wm. Horlings, J. Wist, C. Brouwer, the Verkaik brothers and others.

Not only did the Holland Marsh Cooperative organize for marketing purposes, but members provided themselves with a building which is suitable for th storage of certain vegetables, by purchasing the former factory building, located at the eastern limits of Holland Street. This building has proved very satisfactory. When the Co-operative bought it, money had to be borrowed from the Ontario Government, but the management has been able to pay back the entire debt. Money was again borrowed recently for improvements which have been made on the building and the directors are confident that this obligation will soon be met.

On the Bradford Scheme, the growers organized the Bradford Marsh Growers' Co-operative Association and bought the mill building. This served members needs fairly well for some time, but this group had more obstacles to overcome than growers on other parts of the marsh. There is possibly a more varied racial origin among this group and no matter how congenially they endeavour to work together the differences, in language especially, are an obstacle. At any rate, the realizing of the big storage co-operative dream in 1947 solved a great part of the need these growers had felts, and a few weeks ago, they sold their mill property.


The first association formed on the marsh, which has continued to serve its members since the days of its organization, and is still serving actively, is the Holland Marsh Ratepayers' Association. Organized in 1940, it is holding a meeting at the end of this week.

"Way back" in 1940, the war years' boom hadn't yet reached the marsh. Gardeners were getting a living, and thankful for that, but life was still quite a struggle. "We formed the Association for two purposes," stated our informant, "to get acquainted and to get improvements."

The Ratepayers' Association is comprised of ratepayers on some 2,000 acres of garden land, including territory from the bridge to Strawberry Lane, concessions 3 and 4 of King. It began with 90 members and in these "not so prosperous" days, practically every member was at every meeting. The capacity of the school-house was taxed to its limit, with the men standing even in the vestibules. The road was still a hard climb in those days and every man was out to do his part in building for the future. "Strange to say," said an official of the Association, "when things got good the attendance fell off."

Did the Association accomplish its aims?

If you doubt it did, do some recollecting. As stated before, one objective was that the marsh growers should become acquainted with one another. Not only did they get to know each other, but they got to know Bradford and Bradford to know them. The ladies of Bradford should recall those Ratepayers' Association banquets just as vividly as do the ladies from the marsh. We certainly did get acquainted. The executive of the Ratepayers' Association bargained with the ladies of Bradford Women's Institute to serve chicken dinner for them and their ladies (around 200 in all) on three or four successive years. We certainly all became acquainted at those banquets.

And through the war years, do you recall the big sums of money raised for Red Cross and War Victims' Fund at the big auction sales, following those banquet dinners? The growers brought in their produce, and other products from the wholesale houses, and auctioned them for sale, raising in the neighbourhood of $1,000 for a war charity. Yes, that was the Ratepayers' Association.

One Objective Not Attained

They organized for improvements and they got improvements. This Association has sent delegates to councils and to Queen's Park, time and again, with requests and have received courteous consideration, usually eventually having their mission crowned with success. "We have been most fortunate in our members of Legislature and Cabinet Ministers," said our informant. "The Minister of Agriculture, the Minister of the Department of Highways, and the Minister of Planning and Development at Queen's Park have always given our deputation their personal attention. They have visited us and know from personal experience what are our problems. They have almost invariably agreed with our requests."

What has been accomplished? This Association played a part in these endeavours which finally resulted in a special Act in Parliament known as "The Holland Marsh Roads Act," which was a tremendous accomplishment and made possible the opening of of new marsh roads and the improvement of old ones. The improvement in the pumping system is another forward step in which this Association had a hand.

"In fact," stated our informant, "we've usually got what we went after, with exception of that direct road into Bradford. Bradford is our town; the business of the marsh is handled here, and the railway accommodation here would be hard to beat -- produce is handled to the greatest satisfaction of marsh growers."

Percival Jaques was the Association's first president and a good foundation was laid for the years which followed as a result of his energies. The late Mr. Anthony Sneep was the second president and Wm. Watson is the organization's present capable head. Jack Van Luyk has been the efficient secretary since the Association was formed.


As stated before, there is only one village on the marsh -- the Dutch Village of Ansnorveld. The building of their church almost immediately followed the building of those first houses int he little settlement and until that church was built, the people worshipped in the homes. That first church in Ansnorveld, the Christian Reform Church, was enlarged for the third time during the past year and it is now a building of which any town might well be proud. It is modern in design, both within and without - a truly beautiful church. The late Anthony Sneep was responsible for much of the work on this building, which is the heart of the Protestant Hollanders' community. The church has had a resident minister for many years and his home is in the village. Rev. Mr. Schans was the first minister and the present resident minister is Rev. Van de Meer.

A public school was erected for the village children. Miss Eileen Nolan, daughter of Bradford's reeve at the time of the development of the Drainage Scheme, and an early marshland owner, was the first teacher in that school. The Protestant Hollanders now have a school of their own, the Christian school. This is a private school, and Mr. J. Uitolugt is the teacher.

As the church population grew, a Catholic congregation was assembled and this met in the school-house for a number of years, with Rev. Father Bolan as their priest. They, too, began a building program and erected their own church, St. James Chapel, two years ago. They are still raising money for interior work on their attractive building.

The Czech-Slovakian people have a good-sized congregation of their own. They worship in Bradford United Church and have their resident minister in Bradford, Rev. E. Velebir.


While at the present time the trend in marsh gardening is definitely toward mechanized labour, the gardens were made famous in producing an abundance in the highest quality vegetables by work done the hard way -- by busy hands aided by a few simple garden tools. Throughout the early years, Spring planting, Summer weeding and Autumn harvesting filled the gardens with workers, hundred upon hundred of them. In those days, labourers hunted labour -- there was a depression.

This was the condition of labour on the marsh when the Second World War broke out, and suddenly labour conditions changed, and labourers were being hunted and could not be found. The marsh gardens needed men and women and these were in the army, navy and air force, so the gardeners had to plan another way.

Gardening means long, busy days, but the work is not heavy, and, like fruit picking is quite suitable for teenagers. Therefore, the local growers took their problem to the Provincial Government and the Ontario Farm Service Force. To partially solve the problem, it was arranged that the latter secure additional workers during the harvest season.

Farm Service Work Camp

Suitable housing accommodation had to be provided for these teenagers, who were mostly high school students, and, therefore, the Farm Service Work Camp but built at Ansnorveld on the lot directly behind the public school. For this building, in which is included a large well-equipped kitchen, big airy dining-room, wash and shower rooms on the main floor, and sleeping quarters, the Ontario Government provided the material and the building was erected by community labour without remuneration. The late Anthony Sneep was supervisor for the entire undertaking of erecting the building.

The first Summer saw the big building filled to capacity. The Y.W.C.A., Toronto, was responsible for supervising the camp, with the first district supervisor being Mrs. Selbert, Toronto.

In addition to the men and women who each Summer were engaged to manage the various departments of camp life, a committee of growers was appointed to look after the camp. That first committee included George Horlings, Chas. Favis, John Wist, Jr., Thos. Miedema, Wm. Watson and Jack Van Luyk.

Throughout the war years, and the boom years following the war, the camp has served a very useful purpose. most of the boys have proved themselves good workers and have appreciated the treatment accorded them by their kindly and generous "bosses."

Two years ago, the management of the camp was reorganized. It is now known as the Holland Marsh Labour Co-operative Ltd. it is still supervised by the Ontario Farm Service Force and the Y.W.C.A., on a non-profit basis while responsible for the management of the camp in the Ontario Farm Service Force and a board of directors, appointed annually by the shareholders of the Co-operative. The present directors are: George Horlings, president; S. Hochretter, vice-president; William Watson, secretary-treasurer; H. Prins, W. Eek, Gillis Moritz and John Wist, Jr.

The camp is open each year from about May 24 to Novemeber 15, with some 50 to 60 boys housed there during the season. The lady supervisor at the present time is Mrs. Sheriff, Toronto.

(To Be Continued)

Bradford Witness

The Holland Marsh Story Part Three

Description : The Holland Marsh Story
(Continued from Aug. 3)

Canning Factories to Help

"Some people say we can't bring all the marsh under cultivation for we'll glut the market. At every stage of this project, from its inception to the present time, there has always been some wise one to rise to in his wisdom and solemnly warn us: "It can't be done." But all difficulties to date have been safely negotiated, and this one will be, too. The method of meeting it has been in our mind for years. We'll have diversified crops, and canning and soup factories, and then see how easy it is. In the Summer, we'll sell everything we can, and what we can't we'll can and then in the Winter we'll sell al we can, and by Spring be ready to start all over again.

"The relation of this reclamation scheme to the unemployment problem of this community, and indeed the province in general, is worth noting. During the past season, from 20 to 25 people were busy mos the time on 37 acres. In the height of the celery harvest, 43 were counted at one time, including three truck drivers hwo were busy hauling the celery to Toronto. Picture the hive of industry when the whole 7,500 acres is under cultivation, and 5,000 people are working daily on the marsh and many other supplying their needs, etc., the grocer, the clothier, the butcher, the implement manufacturer. A sugarbeet factory, and other kindred industries will spring up as the development proceeds, all requiring their quota of men. Seven thousand five hundred acres of marsh, producing this year's average $700 per acre would mean a yield of 5 1/4 million dollars per annum, not to mention greater yields expected. It appears, therefore, that the Holland Marsh reclamation is one of the biggest events that has happened in Ontario in recent years.

Bridges and Roads

"Before concluding, I might point out that the bridge across the main canal at Bradford has been completed, thus providing ingress and egress for both King and Gwillimbury lands near the north end of the scheme. Also a bridge across the smaller canal at the 15-16 sideroad in King is under construction by the King Council. Besides they are digging a large rood ditch along the "third", i.e., the road allowance between the 2nd and 3rd concession, thus providing access as well as drainage for adjacent King lands within two miles of the Bradford highway.

"on the Bradford-Gwillimbury side of the river, similar activity is expected, as the need for roads and bridges develops."

Holland Marsh Drainage Commission

What is the indebtness of Holland Marsh growers and all those who have profited from these gardens to those who have served on the Holland Marsh Drainage Commission throughout the years? In dollars, the answer cannot be estimated, but a perusal of the secretary's minutes for that Commission is a revelation. Meetings of the Commission, especially in the early years, were not only held monthly, but as occasion and need demanded, and the records show that such need often compelled several meetings within a week.

The first meeting of the Drainage Commission recorded in the Minute Book was February 14, 1930 -- juse 19 years ago. Members of the Commission were E.J. Evans, Reeve of West Gwillimbury; Denis Nolan, Reeve of Bradford and E.M. Legge, Reeve of King. In that year between February 14 and December 26, the Commission met 38 times. Those first minutes recorded by E.J. Evans named as chairman and Denis Nolan as secretary.

The year 1930 minutes record that D.H. Sutherland, marsh overseer, was instructed to proceed with the building of a bridge across the dredge cut at the pump house and to precure Engineer F.G. Campbell. Tours of inspection on work done on canal banks, on fire ravages and flood damage were carried out by the members of the Commission and reports regarding observations made on these tours were given at the meetings.

During 1931 and 1932, visits to the pumps, canal banks, etc., continued with business meetings following. Pumping appears to have demanded considerable attention in this period and materials as directed by Simcoe Commissioners paid visits to Hamilton and Toronto regarding pumps and possible changes to meet more economical Hydro power consumption.

The Commission's accounts for 1931 and 1932 made an interesting page. These payments to the Commissioners included mileage and were as follows: E.J. Evans $47.80; E.M. Legge, $39.50 and Denis Nolan, $75.00 (this included $20 salary as secretary and expenses for a trip to Toronto.)

The King Township member of the Commission changed in 1933; Mr. MacMurchy replacing Mr. Legge. On April 25th of that year the Commission met Messrs. J.J. Snor of Bradford and J.A.A. Hatrland, Directeur Stichting Landverhuizing, Netherland, The Hague, Holland. Messrs. Snor and Hartland stated their intention of accepting terms offered by Messrs. Manson and May of Hamilton, with a view toward locating a number of Dutch families on the land acquired by the above firm in the Township of King.

By 1934, marsh roads demanded a lot of consideration, as did openings in the canal banks, the latter resulting in a motion that operators in the drainage scheme making openings in the canal banks for the purpose of allowing water to run through for irrigation purposes must have such openings protected by a shut-off valve recommended and approved by the Commission. At the same time Mr. Cox of the O.A.C. was taken to the third line of King, where some irrigation has been carried on, and he was asked to formulate some practical plan of irrigation. The same month, July, the Commission visited drained lands in Western Ontario and, after reporting on that visit, Secretary Nolan completed his report with these words: "The general concensus of opinions of each and every member of this Commission after making this trip leaves no doubt in their minds that the Holland Marsh Drainage Scheme is the best, most complete and largest artificial drainage area we saw and offers many opportunities for irrigation, shipping, marketing and is generally attractive in many ways not so apparent in the scheme it was our opportunity to see."

In the early '40's, the personnel of The Holland Marsh Drainage Commission changed -- it became a Commission of marsh land growers, namely, Turner, Goodfellow, Davis, Horlings and Verkaik. George Horlings was named chairman and Charles Davis secretary, with B. Turner and W. Watson marsh supervisors. In the Fall of 1943, representatives from the councils of the three municipalities met the Commission to arrange for the installation of new pumps to be ready for operation by the Spring of 1944. Louis Neilly, Gilford, was called in for additional advice regarding the installation of these pumps.

Meetings in the past few years have not been nearly so frequent. The Commission's problems have become bigger business, the small details having apparently been largely taken car of in earlier years. The secretary is no longer a member of the Commission, but an appointed official -- West Gwillimbury's Township Clerk, Arthur Kneeshaw. Fred Collings is supervisor of the pumps and the dredge work, which is proceeding on the river. New pumps were installed last year at the north branch of the river. Money i snow spent in much larger sums on much larger projects. Among last year's estimates is an allowance for the expenditure of $15,000 for dredging the river, and $20,000 for dykes.

One of the last motions on the books is typical of the Commission's present problems. It reads: " That the Drainage Commission of the Holland Marsh Area, representing the municipalities of King, West Gwillimbury and Bradford, whereas the Municipal Drainage delay in the repairing and maintaining in good repair and safe condition the dykes and other works connected with the Scheme, would like to discuss with the Minister of Agriculture these several serious problems, as this matter is very urgent, an interview with the Minister be arranged by the Secretary at as early a date as possible."


"Oasie McKinstry should know more about the marsh and its people then anyone I know," stated Charlie David, therefore, we interviewed Mr. McKinstry and discovered that we had been given excellent advice. Mr. McKinstry's experience extends over a longer period of time and a much larger area than most marsh gardeners.

Born in Bradford, he has known the marsh all of his life and his contact with the Holland Marsh Drainage Scheme dates to the digging of the drainage canal. The men on that work transported their supplies by boat in Summer, but in the Winter, Oasie McKinstry and "Casey" Stewart delivered food supplies to them from Sutherland's Store.

Following the completion of the big scheme, a year or two elapsed before settlers began building little homes on the marsh. One of the first residents was C. Coert, on the canal bank, and after he had made a few shopping trips to Sutherland's store and gone away on foot with a very heavy load, he was told that big orders would be delivered. That was in 1930 and those first deliveries really started something. As more settlers arrived, they arranged to shop together and Sutherland's delivery truck, with Oasie McKinstry in charge, delivered the groceries, and often, in addition, some marsh grower's purchases made at stores handling other lines of merchandise. As the marsh population grew, so did its needs. The majority of the residents had not at that time a means of transportation into town to shop at the stores, which in a small part, went to them. The inside of a delivery truck was fitted with many compartments, in which were stored most of the food essentials and three days a week, this "store on wheels", in charge of Oasie McKinstry, served the marsh people. For nine years, Mr. McKinstry delivered good to the marsh people, until good roads, trucks and cars made them independent of such service.

In the early 30's, the Bradford Scheme was worked by Professor Day, while in the West Gwillimbury, Emerson Faris was a big gardener and a good one. There was also Doane's Marsh, Sutherland's marsh and Hurd's. "Ralph Doane and W.W. Hurd did the first ploughing on the West Gwillimbury marsh," said McKinstry. A member of the Doane family being a pioneer down there did not surprise us, but how did Mr. Hurd happen to be so early on the marsh? It may surprise other, too, to learn that Mr. Hurd's father was, about 50 years ago, in business here and at that time he bought more than 300 acres of marsh land, which stayed in his possession and at his death passed on to his son. For years, marsh hay was cut on that area by the late Mr. Thos. Morris, and when the Drainage Scheme was completed, Mr. Hurd began gardening on that big acreage and is still carrying on with this big gardening with great success. Mr. McKinstry has been foreman of his gardens for the past nine years, in the gardening season, and in the winter months is in the Toronto office of Mr. Hurd's firm, Holland Marsh Celery Company.

Although selling largely from their own gardens, the company purchased at seasons from various celery growing areas of this continent and Mr. McKinstry states that the celery grown on the Holland Marsh has a finer flavor than that grown in any other section from which they buy.

Mr. McKinstry has been in contact with the marsh during its early years of struggle and its prosperous years. Like all who knew the pioneer gardeners, his admiration is largely for them. They laid the foundation for the wartime prosperous years. According to Mr. McKinstry, not only have the several developments which have grown from the marsh, organization in marketing, etc., aided in creating prosperity, but the land has mellowed through the years producing better crops. Those who came later reaped the benefits of the pioneers.

Going back to the early gardeners, it was recalled that Professor Day pioneered the Bradford Scheme and after his death this area was sub-divided and most of its settlers came here about the same time. Emerson Faris, too, was a good gardener and others learned a lot from him. The Doane and Sutherland areas have been mostly sub-divided and sold, although sections have been retained by these owners. Mr. Hurd's land was worked on shares during the depression years by unemployed men from Toronto. On the Kind side of the river. Frank Romanelli dares back with the Catanias among the oldest residents left on the marsh. Vic Ferro is also an early resident, but he is now on the Kettleby marsh area.

"The marsh was built up in depression years. The war years were a boom. But even though a recession does occur, there is nothing to fear. A good living is to be had on the Holland Marsh, especially as Nature has been kind here, compared with some Western Ontario drained areas and as a result, drainage operational costs here are lower than in some other Ontario areas," said Mr. McKinstry.

Bradford Witness

The Holland Marsh Story Part Two

Description : The Holland Marsh Story
(Continued from last week)

Chapter VI.

In 1924, West Gwillimbury residents elected a new council. Mr. J.F. Hambly became reeve, with L.A. Neilly (Gilford), Percy Selby, W.J. Dales and the late Herman Lennox, the Councillors. These names, in marshland history are memorable, because it was this council which took the initiative in the Holland Marsh Drainage Scheme.

Soon after assuming office in 1924, these Councillors were presented with a petition signed by approximately 90% of the marsh landowners, asking that an engineer be appointed and a survey be made to ascertain the approximate estimate of the cost of a drainage scheme for the marsh. Owing to the large percentage of owners who signed the petition, Council felt justified in acceding to the request.

Alexander Baird, engineer, gave the first estimates and reported to West Gwillimbury Council, which body fulfilled the necessary legal requirements, holding Court of Revision, passing a By-Law authorizing the scheme and advertising for tenders for the work of draining the marsh according to the engineer's report. An appeal against the report was made by King Township Council and the case was tried before the Drainage Referee on March 4, 1925, when the appeal was dismissed.

Reeve Hambly and members of Council worked untiringly to acquaint themselves with marsh drainage projects in south-western Ontario and the more they investigated, the more enthusiastic they became regarding the prospects locally.

Regarding the actual work of drainage on the marsh, two motions on West Gwillimbury Minute Book record the letting of contract and the payment for same.

May 16, 1925, on motion of Councillors Neilly and Dales, the following motion was passed: "That the tender of Cummings and Robinson (Toronto) be accepted subject to the disposal of any motion to quash the By-Law and that Engineer Alex. Baird and our solicitor be instructed to prepare the necessary contract of work."

On March 4, 1929, the Treasurer was authorized to pay the contractors, Cummings and Robinson, "the sum of $6,500 balance of their account in full settlement of all claims and demands of every nature and kind whatsoever in connection with the Holland Marsh Drainage Scheme."

According to a 1929 newspaper, the amount of the entire contract was $137,000, which, together with engineering, legal and other expenses, made the reclamation cost about $21.00 per acre of land reclaimed. The money for this work was borrowed on the credit of the municipalities concerned and charged against the land, with debentures to run for 30 years. Of this, the Ontario Government contributed 20% of the cost of work in accordance with the provisions of the Municipal Drainage Act, which empowered the Government to do so.

West Gwillimbury being the municipality petitioned by the landowners became the initiating municipality in the work of reclamation, but cost was borne proportionately by King Township.

Bradford Scheme

The Bradford, or Little Scheme, comprises some 200 acres of Bradford marsh lands, and, according to the Drainage Act, this could not be included in the Township scheme. When this fact was discovered, the owners in the Bradford area petitioned Bradford Council, in July 1925, to have this land reclaimed. The late Mr. Denis Nolan was then Reeve of Bradford.

Work on the Bradford Scheme went forward quickly, the cost of drainage being approximately $11,000, on which a Government grant of 20% was also applicable. By 1927, the Bradford Marsh grew its first crop of vegetables.

Chapter VII

No story of the Holland Marsh would be complete without reference to Professor W.H. Day.

The first day the writer was in Bradford, the future of the marsh was "sold" to him while listening to an address by Professor Day, who told of the success of his first big marsh harvest in the Autumn of 1930. Following that 1930 harvest, Professor Day reported, at the request of the Holland Marsh Drainage Commission, at both West Gwillimbury and King Township Nominations as follows:

"A few days ago, the Holland Marsh Drainage Commission asked me if I would appear at this nomination and give the ratepayers a report of results being obtained on the Holland Marsh land. It is a pleasure for me to do this, for I feel that the municipalities which guaranteed the debentures are entitled to know how the development is proceeding.
Before entering into details, however, I should like to make a few observations of a general nature.

"In the first place, I wish to congratulate King, West Gwillimbury and Bradford on the appointment of the Holland Marsh Drainage Commission with full power under the Municipal Drainage Act to manage the drainage scheme and "do all things necessary for it successful operation." I also wish to congratulate the Commission on the energetic and business way in which they approached their task and carried it through to the present. Many of you know that early in 1929 the marsh land owners, being thoroughly dissatisfied with the way in which their interests were being looked after, formed a Marsh Land Owners Association, in order that they might make their wishes known to the municipalities. This Association instructed me, as its President, to attend the Gwillimbury Council meetings from time to time and lay its wishes before the Council. This I did on a number of different occasions. When we asked for a commission with full power to manage the scheme, a by-law was passed at one meeting, but repealed at the next, and another substituted. The second was little better than the first, for the powers given to the commissioners were so meager that two of those appointed refused to act. We were told that the Council could not appoint a commission with full powers. The Land Owners Association, early in 1930, sent me to consult the best drainage lawyer in Toronto, who said the Drainage Act specifically provided in schemes where pumping was required, the Council might appoint a commission with full powers and he drew up a suitable by-law, which we submitted to the Council and which they in turn submitted to the Drainage Referee of Ontario. The Referee made it plain that it was not his province to give advice tot he municipalities, but felt free to state that he saw no objection to the proposed by-law. The Council, feeling that it was now on safe ground, unanimously passed the by-law, appointing the present reeves of the three municipalities as commissioners, and the Marsh Land Owners Association takes this opportunity of stating that they are well satisfied with the work of the Commission, and hope that no change in its personnel will be made at the time. Not once since the Commission was appointed has it been necessary for the Association to make any representations either to the commissioners or to any of the councils.

Chapter VIII
$26,000 OFF 37 ACRES

"Let me now come to the marsh development itself. During the past season I had 37 acres in crop, as follows: Head lettuce, 22 acres; celery, 6.5 acres; onions, 4.5 acres; carrots, 2.5 acres; parsnips, 1.5 acres. The total crop harvested was parsnips, one carload; carrots, two carloads; onions, four; celery, 17, and lettuce, 26, making a total of 50 carloads. If this were all in one train, it would make a train almost one half mile long. Everything has now been marketed except the carrots and parsnips, which are in cold storage. The total cash receipts up to the present moment amount to $25,718, over and above the selling commissions of 12.5%. The carrots and parsnips when sold will bring the total to approximately $26,000. Divide this by 37 and we find the average yield to be $702 per acre. Compare that with your highland crops. With wheat at 70c a bushel, it would require a yield of 1,000 bushels per acre to equal our average marsh returns. Individual pieces have done much better than the average. One acre of lettuce yielded approximately $1-400; one-seventh acre of celery nearly $500; one and one-sixth acre of celery, $2,452, and 6.5 acres of celery, $10,412.

"In regard to lettuce, wholesale firms in Toronto state that never before has there been Canadian head lettuce on the Toronto market throughout the entire season. Bradford head lettuce appeared on July 11th and was on sale every day until October 11th. We had two acres of lettuce maturing each week for 11 weeks. It was our largest crop, both in acreage and in returns, bringing us $11,-867.78. We look forward to the time when Holland Marsh will supply the head lettuce for all Canada during the Summer season, instead of its being imported from California, Arizona and other American states.

"And yet on the average, lettuce was one of our poorest crops, yielding about $540 per acres, although individual pieces produced as high as $1,400 per acre. The reason for the unsatisfactory return on lettuce is not far to seek. Owing to the drought, a large percentage of the plants did not head properly. Needles to say, the cause of this is receiving our closest attention and we are devising ways and means of avoiding a like result in case of another drought.

"How do we propose to do this? By irrigation. Last summers, when we realized that a drought was on, we made a cut through the bank and let the water from the outside channel into our ditches. It spread out through them, and in a few days the soil, which had been dry and dusty on the surface, began to look moist as it became saturated with water. You see, the bottom of the ditches is about 2 1/2 feet below the lake level. The irrigation saved our celery from feeling the effects of the drought. But our inlet ditch was neither deep enough nor wide enough and so the water never reached the lettuce fields farther down. For next year, we have two inlets, each admitting four times as much water as the old one. We have just learned that in California, Arizona and other lettuce...

Bradford Witness