Jim Weir's Barn
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The following oral histories were gathered by Nancy Weir McCowan for her "Brown's Corners" paper. 


Jim Weir's Barn
As Told to Nancy Weir McCowan

I don't really remember much about living at the Brown's Corners farm at Finch and Markham Road.  We left there when I was 3. But here are some stories, mostly from my siblings, all older than me. My own notations are in (brackets). 


Peggy Weir Lawrie: 

Water was piped into the barn, pumped by a gasoline engine.  It was pumped into a large wooden tank upstairs in the barn and then by gravity flow down to the cows in the stable below.  In the summer, water was hand-pumped into a trough. There was no plumbing in the house, so water was carried to the house from this well which was out near the barn.  The handpump was located in a small pumphouse and this building was also the milkhouse where the cans of milk would be stored in a vat to be kept cool in summer until picked up to go to the dairy.


Jack Weir

In the winter months, the cattle were watered from basins or bowls in front of them, one basin for two cows.  The water was fed to these basins by gravity.  The cow would stick her nose into the basin and press down a valve  and the water would come in.  The water storage tank which was set on the second floor of the barn above the cow stables, used to leak rather badly.  The water dripped down onto the passageway which ran from the horse-stable to the other end of the cow-stable.  There was a very wet area about ten feet long just below the tank.


Blake Weir

The wooden water tank had a slow leak in it all the time we lived there.  The pipes went into the tank from the bottom, so that there was a lot of pressure from the weight of the water onto the connections.  Dad was not very handy at repairing things and we put up with water on the floor of the passageway for years.


Neil Weir:  

Sometimes in the winter the pump would not work.  We would have to pump the water by hand - hard work as I remember it.  It took two kids to pump it, myself and either Jack or Blake. Ches was too small, although he probably had to do it too when he got a little bigger.  I hated that job of pumping water.


Jack Weir:  

One day the gasoline engine wouldn't go.  Neil was going to clean the spark plugs and I was supposed to help him. He had it in his hand and he said 'Don't turn the wheel.'  So just to see what would happen I turned it a very little bit, about one-half an inch.  It was a great big flywheel.  It went "Bzzz".  Neil went up in the air and he came down running.  He got me going through the barnyard fence out onto Markham Road.  Fortunately, Mother and Father came along, or I don't think I would be telling you this story now. 

There was a fence separating the barns and barnyard from the house area and a narrow gate through which the horses would be led from the buggy shed to the horse stable.

The main barn, painted red, was north and a bit east of the long shed. It was about 80' x 45'.  There was another barn, black unfinished wood, at right angles to the big barn.  It housed chickens, pigs and implements with a hayloft over all of it.

Neil Weir

The barn was a very good one.  It had a hip roof and it was the only barn I ever saw with cleats between the barnboards.  There was a stone foundation.  At the rear of the barn were two ramps to the upper level and also two silos for corn silage.  Just outside the north-west end of the barn was a soft water cistern.  The water from it was used for the steam engine for the threshing machine, etc.

Regarding the interior of the barn --  the horse stable was at the south end with a stairway to the upper level.  There was a passageway next to the horse stable and another long one running almost the full length of the barn.  There was another short one at the north end - a widened "H" shape.  On the east side of the long passageway were two box-stalls to house the young cattle.  As the barnyard was on the east side of the barn, the cows entered the barn through a door next to the box-stalls.  The cow stable would hold about eighteen cows. The wooden stable was in very good condition.  The mangers were of wooden construction.  The ceiling and walls had to be whitewashed.  A mixture of lime and water was sprayed on to keep the stable clean looking.

The floors were cement, with gutters for the cattle droppings.  Fastened to the ceiling there was a "litter carrier" track behind the cattle stalls and from the entry door it led out into the barnyard.  (Litter was the manure and straw which gathered behind the animals as they stood in their stalls.)  The 'carrier' was a large metal, round-bottomed tub which looked a lot like a horse water-trough.  It was attached by chains to an above-the-head track.  For cleaning out the gutters, the tub was lowered to the floor level and filled with manure (shovelled by hand) and when filled it was cranked up again and then pushed out into the barnyard on the track.  Here it was emptied by pulling a latch which caused it to get off-balanced and it would fall over, emptying the contents onto the manure pile.  Some of these Litter Carriers were made in Oshawa by a farm equipment company called "The Pedlar People".  They made other things such as stanchions (to secure the animals in their stall), water bowls, milking machines, water troughs and many smaller items of equipment needed on a dairy farm.  According to Blake, most of the equipment on our farm was made by "Beatty Brothers" and a firm called "Louden".

The water pump and the root pulper and the gasoline engine to run them both were situated about half-way down the long passageway. The turnips and mangels had to be chopped up before being fed to the cattle. There was a wall between the passageway and a large room which was the root cellar.  There was a hole in the wall, and a trough ran through this hole from the root cellar to the passageway.  The gasoline engine would be turned on when attached to the root pulper, and someone in the root cellar would roll a turnip or mangel down the trough from one side of the wall to the other.  Then the pulper would chop up the vegetable for the cows.  There was really not much food value in those roots - mostly water - but the farmers then did not know this back in the '20s, and root crops like mangels were easy to grow.

Blake Weir:  

One day when Ches was only about three years old, he was standing on the handles of a wheel barrow filled with turnips.  He lifted them one by one into the trough and let them roll down, through the hole in the wall, into the pulper.  When most of the turnips had  gone, the wheelbarrow became unbalanced and Ches fell, breaking his arm.  Within a week or two of the accident, Ches was turning one-handed cartwheels.  At that time, turnips sold for about six cents a bushel.

(Ches had a happy nature and I suppose he thought that doing the job was fun, but it was a rather dangerous thing for such a small child to be doing -- but typical on the farm in the 1920s.)


 The Scarboro Heights Record V14 #11