Workshop: Mapping Rural Lives and Environments in the Atlantic Region

Mapping Rural Lives and Environments in the Atlantic Region: An Atlantic Canada Studies Conference 2022 Digital Humanities Workshop

 Unloading barrels of apples, Falmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada, ca. 1929. Canada Science and Technology Museum, Image No.: CN000789.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022, 8:30 am – 5:00 pm ADT

Hosted by Dr. Joshua MacFadyen, Canada Research Chair in Geospatial Humanities,
and the GeoREACH Lab, University of Prince Edward Island

Join us as historians, librarians, and other scholars share new ways to use digital tools to explore rural environmental history in Atlantic Canada.

Digital Vizualization Lab, Harriet Irving Library, UNB Fredericton
Remote option: Zoom

Keynote Sessions:

The Rural Diary Archive
Dr. Cathy Wilson
Redelmeier Professor in Rural History
Department of History, College of Arts, University of Guelph

Topic Modeling and Rural Diaries
Grace Fishbein

Farm Energy Profiles and New Data Visualisation Tools
Dr. Joshua MacFadyen and Dr. Margot Maddison-MacFadyen
GeoREACH Lab, University of Prince Edward Island

Register by Tuesday, 24 May, 2022, at 4:00 pm ADT to attend remotely via Zoom (in-person registration is closed):

This workshop considers new digital humanities (DH), quantitative research, and other approaches to documents such as rural diaries and life writing that in the past have largely received a qualitative focus.

We hope that this small focused workshop at the Atlantic Canada Studies Conference will bring together scholars to learn about these emerging DH methods and to build capacity for new rural, agricultural, and environmental history based on digital collections in the Atlantic region.

Detail from Sackville New Brunswick Grant 1791 and 1808, Mount Allison University Archives, 2004.15/1. Used with permission.

Energy on the Joseph Jr. and Benjamin Robinson Farms and the Lot 28 CSD, Prince County, Prince Edward Island, in 1861

By Joshua MacFadyen and Margot Maddison-MacFadyen

Figure 1a. Public Archives and Records Office, Charlottetown, PE (PARO-PEI), “Full Force” haying group, [between 1905 and ca. 1920], Acc2667/154, Milie Gamble Fonds. Helena Ives sits on the wheel of the hay rake machine holding Adelaide Ives on her lap. The photograph is assumed to have been taken in Tyron, Prince Edward Island, close to the farms owned by the Robinson families in this study.

The Joseph Robinson Jr. and Benjamin Robinson farms of Augustine Cove, Prince Edward Island, are an example of a Multi-family Mixed Farm in the Advanced Pioneer Stage. Born in Charlottetown, PE, Joseph Jr. (b. 1786/ d. 1874) was 75 years old in 1861, and he was the head of the Robinson “home farm,” the first of the two farms we are looking at for this Farm Energy Profile.[1] Joseph Jr.’s third eldest son Benjamin (b. 1816/d. 1881) was head of the second, less developed farm, which was located less than 2 kilometers to the north. Benjamin was 45 years old in 1861.[2] We suggest that the two farms which had a combined land base of 98 acres or 39.5 hectares were worked together as one agroecosystem.

The Robinson family arrived on Prince Edward Island in 1778 as British Empire Loyalists.[3] Joseph Jr.’s father Joseph Robinson Sr. had settled in New York in 1762 or 1763 after three years at sea with the Royal Navy. He married Mary Smith of New York. Loyal to Britain, the couple lost their land during the American War of Independence (1775-1783), and they sailed for Shelbourne, Nova Scotia, in 1777. Finding Shelbourne unsatisfactory, probably due to its rocky outcroppings and poor agricultural land, they sailed, with 25 other Loyalists, for Prince Edward Island the following year. Joseph Jr. married Phoebe Foy of Tryon, Prince Edward Island, in 1810. Phoebe’s parents John Foy and Mary Warren had also settled on Prince Edward Island as British Empire Loyalists.

Joseph Jr. and his wife Phoebe had a large family of nine, six boys and three girls.[4] His eldest son John had a farm in Lot 28 that appears on the 1863 “Lake Map,” and again on the 1880 “Meacham Atlas” map, as do both Joseph Jr.’s and Benjamin’s farms. John’s farm was 49 acres (20 ha), and although they likely shared resources we suggest it was too far (8 Km) from Joseph Jr.’s and Benjamin’s farms to be considered part of the same agroecosystem. The 1880 Meacham Map also informs us that Joseph Jr.’s farm was 62 acres (25 ha) and that his fifth son Thomas was head of this farm by 1880. The Meacham Map also shows us that by 1880 Joseph Jr.’s youngest son James had acquired a 50 acre (20 ha) parcel adjacent to Benjamin’s 36 acres (14.5 ha) as well as a 25 acre (10 ha) parcel on Traverse Road to the east, but still close by. Thus, by 1880, the agroecosytem had increased to 173 acres (70 ha) and supported three families. However, for the purpose of this farm energy profile, we are looking at the agroecosystem as it was in 1861.

In the 1861 Census of Canada, Joseph Robinson Jr. reported owning 60 acres (24 hectares) of arable (or improved) land, which the enumerator listed as “first quality.” Benjamin reported 10 acres (four hectares) of arable land, which was also “first quality.” In regard to Joseph Jr.’s farm, the two acre difference between the 60 acres reported on the 1861 census and the 62 acres reported on the Meacham Map is most likely the small woodlot along the northern edge of his parcel (see Figure 1b).

By examining the location and the combined land uses of the Robinson parcels in 1861, we see a deliberate site selection strategy. The brook that emptied into Cumberland Cove ran through Joseph Jr.’s land and extended up south facing sloped land to Benjamin’s 14.5 ha that was near the height of land between Richard Point and the upper Augustine River. Benjamin would have been able to survey the land below his 14.5 ha to his father’s house, and we suggest that this was where their livestock was wood pastured on what was for all intents and purposes common land. This meant that the Robinsons’ livestock ranged between the two parcels of Robinson land in the same watershed that centered on the Cumberland Cove brook. Wood pasturing was common practice across PEI in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the Richard Point watershed contained a variety of rich resources and shelter for livestock. From marshland grass in Cumberland Cove to the brooks and forests in the upland commons, the ruminant-intensive Robinson farms used the natural resources of the Richard Point watershed to supplement their cultivated fodder and grain feeds.

The Robinsons benefited from marshland hay in the Cumberland Cove tidal estuary. Joseph Jr’s 25 ha parcel had about five acres (2 ha) of land surrounding the mouth of the Cumberland Cove brook that likely produced marshland hay. Known locally as broadleaf hay, Spartina pectiñata is a rich naturally occurring resource that farmers used for fodder. In Atlantic Canada Acadians and later settlers cultivated and expanded marshland hay production by constructing dikes and aboiteaux, although there is no evidence that any existed on Joseph Robinson’s farm. Although the 1861 Census of Canada did not collect data on marshes or broadleaf hay, we know that Island farmers made good use of it, getting approximately 2.5 tons of broadleaf hay per acre of marshland. Therefore, the Robinsons had about 12.5 tons of broadleaf hay in addition to the upland hay (or English hay) that they reported in the census and that we calculated in the farm energy flows, below.

We also suggest that the Robinsons made good use of mussel mud, a highly calcareous soil treatment that farmers dug from the ancient deposits of large oyster beds in the estuaries and bays of Prince Edward Island. In winter, when the estuary ice was thick enough to bear the weight of horses, carts, and mussel mud equipment, farmers installed a mussel mud digger and began to haul the mud they excavated to their fields where they spread it.[5] Farmers also stored the mud above the high tide mark, moving it to their farms in late summer before harvest and in winter by sleigh.

Including themselves, Joseph Jr.’s family had eight members, and Benjamin’s had five.[6] There was ample adult labour to manage and work the two farms’ combined 98 acres (39.5 ha). Moreover, Benjamin’s woodland would supply not only his own, but also his father Joseph Jr.’s firewood demands, as well as other necessary forest products such as poles for fencing.

Figure 1b. A map of the Joseph Jr. (see Thomas Robinson) and Benjamin Robinson properties (mapped in green). Joseph Jr.’s second youngest son Thomas inherited the home farm, and his youngest son James W. Robinson acquired the two additional parcels of land (mapped in brown) after the 1863 Lake, but before the 1880 Meacham, maps were drawn. Note how the Robinsons made use of the small watershed that centered on the brook emptying into Cumberland Cove. From the height of the land above, Benjamin and James W were able to survey the land below that ran to the home farm in the Cumberland Cove Valley below (note the houses visible on each property between the 22 and 24 m contour lines). The Robinson livestock were wood pastured on the land between the two farms that was for all intents and purposes used as common land. The base map is a mosaic of 1935 aerial photographs, supplied courtesy of the PEI Forests, Fish and Wildlife, Resource Inventory and Modelling Division.

Figure 1c: By the 1930s, the upland Robinson farms were most likely abandoned, although James W Robinson’s 50-acre parcel (see Figure 1b) was still owned by his son A. J. Robinson according to the 1928 Cummins Atlas. This aerial photograph shows the location of the Benjamin (in green) and James W Robinson (in brown) farm houses. Source: Photo 5247-45. Used courtesy of the PEI Forests, Fish and Wildlife, Resource Inventory and Modelling Division.

Figure 1d. A clip of the “Lake Map,” showing the Augustine Cove and Cumberland Cove areas. D. J. Lake, C. E. Topographical Map of Prince Edward Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence from actual surveys and the late Coast Survey of Capt. H.W. Bayfield. 100 rods to the inch. 1863. Robertson Library, Prince Edward Island,

Figure 1e. A clip of the 1880 “Meacham’s Atlas,” showing the Augustine Cove and Cumberland Cove areas.  From “Plan of Lot Twenty Eight: Prince Co., P.E.I.” Illustrated historical atlas of the province of Prince Edward Island: From surveys made under the direction of C. R. Allen, C.E. 40 chains to one inch. Toronto: J. H. Meacham & Co., 1880. Robertson Library, University of Prince Edward Island,

Figure 1f. Google Map.

Farm Energy Funds

Farm energy funds are components of the agroecosystem that persist over time, such as livestock herds, buildings, and farmland (including cropland, pasture, woodland and salt marshes). The farm energy profiles visualize the land funds in a nested-tree chart that is divided into three main columns. The first column is crops, the second column is fodder and pasture, and the third column is wildland—the woodland and salt marshland.

Joseph Robinson Jr.’s home farm (the 25 ha parcel) was approximately 97 percent cleared in 1861, and it was intensively farmed. It was smaller than the average farm in the Lot 28 CSD which was 39.5 ha. Benjamin’s less developed land was 27 percent improved, with the remaining 73 percent in woodland which included a very small portion in buildings and lanes. However, when Joseph Jr.’s land was combined with Benjamin’s 14.5 ha, the land base was exactly that of the average farm in the CSD, 39.5 ha. Of course, the Robinsons’ combined 39.5 ha supported two families comprising 13 individuals ranging from children to elderly individuals including Joseph Jr. and Phoebe. Probably, the Robinson family’s 39.5 ha was supporting more individuals than was the average farm in the CSD.

The Robinsons’ combined 39.5 ha was more developed than the average farm in the Lot 28 CSD. The Robinsons’ land was 70 percent improved, 29 percent in woodland, and one percent in buildings and lanes. Of the improved land, 18.4 ha was in cropland (including 2.2 ha in potatoes), and 9.5 ha was in fodder (2.7 ha in hay and 6.8 ha in pasture). The Robinson farm’s woodland was 11 ha. In contrast, the average farm in the CSD, although the same size as the Robinsons’ farm, was only 50 percent improved, with 49 percent in woodland, and one percent in buildings and lanes. Of the improved land, 12.9 ha was in crops (including .7 ha in potatoes), and  6.9 ha was in fodder (2.1 ha in hay and 4.8 ha in pasture). The average farm’s woodland was 19.6 ha. The average farm in the CSD had less crop land, less fodder land, but more woodland and other wildland than did the Robinsons’ farm.

The Robinsons kept horses, dairy cows, other horned cattle, sheep, and swine, which are the same livestock types reported for the Lot 28 CSD. However, the Robinson family had more of all types of livestock than did the average farm, and they had a noticeably greater emphasis on cattle, both milk cows and other horned cattle, than did the average farm. The Robinsons’ livestock intensity was 37.3 LU/kms and their grazing intensity was 1.67 ruminants per ha. For the Lot 28 CSD it was lower at 22.6 LU/km2 and 1.38 ruminants per ha. These livestock and grazing intensities for the Robinson farm are among the highest we have seen.

Figure 2a. Area Visualization of Joseph Jr. Robinson and Benjamin Robinson’s 39.5 ha farm. Note that the crop land is the largest block of land and that of the fodder land, approximately one-third was in hay with the remainder in pasture. The Robinsons also had extensive wildlands from which to draw resources. They had 2 ha in marshland from which they could have produced at least 12.5 tons of broadleaf hay, and they had an ample woodlot from which they drew firewood and other forest products. It may be that they allowed their livestock to wood pasture for part of the year. We have also read of wood pasturing as a common practice in both the Cairns, Michie, and Shadd diaries. See our Farm Energy Profiles of the Cairns Farm and Lot 25, Prince County, PEI (forthcoming), the John Michie Farm and Reach CSD, Ontario (forthcoming), and the Abraham Doras Shadd and Garrison Shadd Farm and the Raleigh CSD, Kent, Ontario.

Figures 2b. Area Visualization of the Lot 28 CSD of which the largest block of land (almost half) was in woodland and wildland and is a sign of an early stage of development. Of the improved land, approximately 65 percent was crop land and 35 percent was fodder land. As with the Robinsons’ farm, about one-third of the fodder land was in hay, with the remainder in pasture land. Very likely, wood pasturing was a common practice for the farmers of Lot 28.

Farm Energy Flows

Farm energy flows are components of the acroecosystem that are produced and consumed annually, such as crops and crop residues, grazed biomass, and livestock products. The farm energy profiles show this in three pie charts, Principal Grain Crops and Minor Crops, Fodder Crops and Pasture, and Livestock and Barnyard Produce.

The Robinson farm produced 66 bushels (bu) wheat, 30 bu barley, 512 bu oats, 80 bu buckwheat, and 900 bu potatoes, in 1861. The Lot 28 CSD reported the same crops, plus turnips and clover seed. Despite its large herds and relatively high grazing intensity, the farm had relatively small energy deficits. This demonstrates that the farm was a mostly self-sufficient producer of the energy required for its livestock and for its crop inputs. The combined agroecosystem maintained a feed deficit of 653,137 MJ and no litter deficits across the two farms. For the Lot 28 CSD, the feed deficit was 85,170,361 MJ (417,502 MJ for the average farm), and 5,269,467 MJ (25,831 MJ for the average farm). The large amount of oats grown not only on the Robinson farm, but in the greater Lot 28 CSD, as well, accounted for the relatively low litter deficits we see here. Straw, which is a by-product of cereals, was never counted by census officials but as the main source of litter it was essential to animal-husbandry and urban livestock, too. Oats was also a cash crop that met the demand of urban horses, and we assume that the farm found strong markets for all of its surplus grains. These cereals were shipped from the region to the Atlantic market, including cities such as Montreal and Boston, but also Newfoundland, Bermuda, and colonies in the West Indies.[7] In 1861, the Robinson farm had 36 cords of firewood on hand.[8] 

The Robinson farm produced eight tons of upland (or English) hay, slightly more than the average farm in Lot 28 CSD which produced 6.2 tons. The CSD produced 1,269 tons of hay, overall. The Robinson farm’s hay energy was less than its pasture energy, which was the same for the Lot 28 CSD. The Robinson farm’s hay energy was 130,635 MJ, and its pasture energy was 661,213 MJ. The CSD’s hay energy was 20,721,914 MJ (101,578 MJ for the average farm), and its pasture energy was 86,855,566 MJ (425,763 MJ for the average farm). Despite being the same size as the average farm (39.5 ha), the Robinson farm derived more energy from hay and pasture than did the average farm.

In 1861, the Robinson farm had more livestock in all categories than did the average farm in the Lot 28 CSD. They had two horses over the age of three, one colt or filly, seven milk cows, eight other horned cattle, 20 sheep, and four swine. The average farmer in the CSD had two horses over the age of three, .7 colts or fillies, 3.7 milk cows, 4.5 other horned cattle, 16 sheep, and 2.7 swine. The Robinson farm slaughtered five cattle, 8 sheep, and 3 swine, whereas the average farmer in Lot 28 slaughtered 2.8 cattle, 6.4 sheep, and 2.4 swine.

The Robinson farm had 176 pounds of butter, no cheese, and 16 yards of homemade cloth, in 1861. In contrast, the average farmer in the CSD had 146 pounds of butter, 3.9 pounds of cheese, and 22.6 yards of homemade cloth. However, the farmers also had cloth on hand that was not manufactured at home. The Robinsons had 98 yards of cloth that had been manufactured off the farm, and the average farm in the CSD had 42.7 yards of this same material. Lot 28 boasted at least one carding mill and a fulling mill which supported a wool industry in the community. According to the 1863 “Lake Map,” this mill was likely James B. Leard’s property, located just east of the Robinson homestead on the Cape Traverse Rd on a small mill pond that drained into the Tryon River. Undoubtedly, this is partly why the Robinsons had 20 sheep and the average farmer in Lot 28 had 16. We suggest that the relatively large sheep herd was primarily for the wool, a valuable commodity, and secondarily for meat products.


Joseph Robinson Jr. and his wife Phoebe were the first generation of their families to be born on Prince Edward Island, their parents being British Empire Loyalists who had lost their lands and fled New York in 1777 as an outcome of the American War of Independence. With nine children, it may have been difficult for them to not only provide for all, but to also establish their six sons in farming or other ventures and to see their daughters set with good futures, as well.[9] Our small study found that of their six sons, four were established as farmers in Lot 28 either before Joseph Jr.’s death or soon after.

Our study focused on Joseph Jr. and his third son Benjamin’s farms that together totaled 39.5 ha. Joseph Jr’s 25 ha, obviously a more established farm, was approximately 97 percent improved. His son Benjamin’s 14.5 ha, however, was in an early stage of development, with only 27 percent improved and the rest in woodland. However, the woodland must have been a much-needed boon to the two families, providing firewood as well as other forest products. As well, the Robinsons’ land included marshland from where they accessed broadleaf hay. The Robinsons also made good use of mussel mud. Perhaps uniquely, their energy profile shows the importance of selecting sites with access to wood pasture such as the forests along the Cumberland Cove brook in the Richard Point watershed. Benjamin, situated at the height of land above the brook, would have been able to watch his livestock and survey the land below to his father’s farm and the Cove.

The Robinson farm had more of everything on their 39.5 ha than did the average farm in Lot 28. They had more hay land, more pasture land, more crop land, more livestock, and more of all the farm products that came from their land and animals–hay, grains, roots, meat, butter, and wool. The exception was home manufactured products such as cheese, of which they reported none, and cloth, which they produced in relatively small amounts. Possibly, with 13 family members, it was more important to churn butter for the table than to make cheese. When it came to textiles, it seems that their surpluses in other products allowed them to enjoy the services of local millers such as the carding and fulling mills that produced cloth from the Robinsons’ large sheep herd. The Robinsons undoubtedly sold some of their farm products to put cash in their pockets, possibly transporting them by ship off the Island to the greater Atlantic market. Their oats and straw, for example, would have been in demand for urban horses.

Over a century and a half later, Joseph Robinson Jr.’s family has become well-established in Prince Edward Island’s larger farming community. Descended from Joseph Jr.’s youngest son James W., Lori Robinson, in 2022, is the farm manager of Eric C. Robinson Inc. located in Albany, PEI, on the border of Lots 27 and 28.[10] Eric was her grandfather who incorporated the farm in 1962. A 2,500 acre (1,012 ha) farm comprising several blocks of land, there is still a large amount of woodland, now set aside for conservation purposes.

Figure 6a.  PARO-PEI, Fred Gamble and team of horses, [ca. 1912], Acc2667/137, Milie Gamble Fonds. This photograph is assumed to have been taken in Tryon, Prince Edward Island, not far from Anderson land.

Figure 6b. PARO-PEI, Picking cherries, Tyron, [ca. 1912], Acc2667/134, Milie Gamble Fonds.




[1] “Joseph Robinson,” 1861 Census of Canada, Library and Archives Canada (LAC), Ottawa. Schedule 1, p. 2, line 9. and schedule 2,, p. 1, line 9.

[2] “Benjamin Robinson,” 1861 Census of Canada, LAC, Ottawa. Schedule 1, page 2, line 11. and schedule 2,, p. 1, line 11.

[3] Augustine Cove, Prince Edward Island, 1800-1973 (Augustine Cove, PE: Women’s Institute [History Committee], 1973), 77.

[4] Miriam Robinson family trees and branches,, Their sons were John (b. 1814/d. 1864); Joseph (b. 1814/d. 1866); Benjamin (b. 1816/d. 1881); Charles (b. 1819/d. 1896); Thomas (b. 1821/d. 1903); and James (b. 1833/ d. 1898). Their daughters were Clementina (b. 1811/d. 1892), Maria (b. 1823/d. 1940), and Jane (b. 1826/d. 1863). Maria never married, and Charles moved to Shediac, New Brunswick. The remaining seven married men and women of the Augustine Cove community with surnames such as Howatt, Gamble, Lord, Campbell, Malone, and Callbeck.

[5] Joshua D. MacFadyen, “Drawing Lines in the Ice: Regulating Mussel Mud Digging in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence,” in Claire Campbell and Robert Summerby-Murray, eds, Land and Sea (Fredericton, NB: Acadiensis Press, 2013), and Joshua MacFadyen, “The Fertile Crescent: Agricultural Land Use on Prince Edward Island, 1861–1971,” in Edward MacDonald, Joshua MacFadyen, and Irene Novaczek, eds., Time and a Place: An Environmental History of  Prince Edward Island (Charlottetown, PE: Island Studies Press, 2016).

[6] Joseph Jr. and his wife Phoebe lived with a younger couple, probably their son Thomas and his wife Martha (nee Lord), two children, a girl and a boy, probably the children of Thomas and his Martha, plus two other single people, both aged 21 to 45. We suggest these two single people were Maria and James, two of Joseph Jr.’s and Phoebe’s adult children still living on the home farm. Maria never married, and James W. was the youngest of their nine children. Benjamin and Martha lived with two children, a girl and a boy, and an older woman, who was probably a relative. See 1861 Census of Canada for Joseph Robinson and Benjamin Robinson.

[7]  MacFadyen, “The Fertile Crescent: Agricultural Land Use on Prince Edward Island, 1861–1971,” pp. 167-168.

[8] The 1861 Census of Canada did not collect data on forest products. However, based on the 1871 Census of Canada, we assume that each household had 18 cords of firewood on hand. The Robinson farm would have needed twice this because there were two households.

[9] We have found women listed as heads of farm households in the 1871 Census of Canada. See, for example, our Farm Energy Profile, Energy on the Marguerite Messier Farm and the St. Hyacinthe CSD, St. Hyacinthe, Quebec ( and the farm of John Michie, Reach CSD, Ontario (forthcoming). As far as we know, Lori Robinson is the first of the Robinson clan to be a designated farmer, or farm manager, although we are certain the women of the Robinson family, as with women of other farming families, did much farm work.

[10]“ Lori Robison”, Farm and Food Care, Prince Edward Island,

Previous Profile (Pawling)

Next Profile (TBA)

Energy on the Abraham Doras Shadd and Garrison Shadd Farm and the Raleigh CSD, Kent, Ontario

Figure 1a. Abraham Doras Shadd appearing on Canada Post’s 2009 54-cent postage stamp. An affluent free Black man and an abolitionist, Abraham was involved in helping Black refugees escape enslavement in the Southern Slave States as they fled north to freedom on the Underground Railroad. Our investigation of Shadd’s 1871 Census of Canada listing shows that, along with his many other accomplishments, he was a successful farmer and apiarist with extensive land in the Elgin Settlement, Raleigh, Ontario.

The Shadd farm in Ontario’s Raleigh CSD is an example of a Farm with Established Land Funds, High Non-Dairy Livestock Funds/Flows, and Specialized Animal Products (wool and honey). Abraham Shadd (b. 1801/d. 1882), an affluent free Black man and an abolitionist, was born in Wilmington, Delaware, but also lived in West Chester, Pennsylvania, before moving his family to the Elgin Settlement located in Raleigh Township, in 1852.The Elgin Settlement, also called the Buxton Mission, was a Black settlement that was designed primarily by Reverend William King, a white abolitionist from the United States who had also moved north to colonial Canada.[1] In both Delaware and Pennsylvania, Shadd had participated in the Underground Railroad, assisting Black refugees heading north to freedom. The Fugitive Slave Act passed by the United States Congress in 1850 was behind Shadd’s decision to bring his family further north into Canada West, later called Ontario. The 1850 Act meant that if fugitives were caught, they had to be returned to the slave-owner who claimed them as property and that officials and citizens of the Northern Free States were bound by law to cooperate–although, of course, many did not. Slave chasers were out in force, and the destination for refugees shifted further north across the border. Abraham Shadd had 14 children, several of whom became well known for their own achievements.[2] Shadd himself was the first Black man to be elected to public office in Canada West. Although some earlier references give the date 1859, Carolyn Smardz Frost gives 1862 as the date he was elected alderman for Kent County.[3] In addition to appearing on a commemorative stamp, Shadd was added to the Kent Agricultural Hall of Fame, and Centre Road, which ran through Buxton in 1881 was renamed A. D. Shadd Road in 1994 in his family’s honour.[4]

Figure 1b. Abraham Doras Shadd’s signature on the 1871 Census of Canada. Here he placed his signature on the census’s schedule 3, page 4, where he indicates that he had a total of 479 acres in the Dominion of Canada.

In 1871, Shadd was 70 years old and head of a 103 acre (41.7 ha) farm in Raleigh’s enumeration Division 3.[5] He was listed as a Quaker (“Friends”) and a farmer, and his origin was put down as African. In 1871, the total population of Raleigh CSD’s four divisions was 4,081 with 1,192 (29 percent) listed as African. In schedule 3 of the census, Shadd listed owning 479 acres (193.9 ha) total land in the Dominion of Canada, meaning that 376 acres (152.2 ha) were outside of Division 3. He also listed one town lot.[6] Shadd was also the 1871 Census of Canada enumerator for Division 3. His wife Harriet was 65, and an older woman, Mary, aged 89, lived with them, along with six-year-old Mary A., 14-year-old Andrew, and 23-year-old Eunice. A son, Garrison, who was 32 years old, owned 50 acres (20.2 ha) and a separate house and out-buildings in Division 3. Garrison lived with his wife Harriet, aged 30, and five children, the youngest six months old and the eldest seven. Garrison was listed as a Universalist and a farmer.[7] Garrison worked the land with his father Abraham, so for this energy profile we have combined the land of father and son with the understanding that the farm supported both families.[8] The Buxton National Historic Site & Museum is a treasure trove of historic material about Shadd and his family, and we encourage our readers to investigate their website. One online exhibit (an interactive site) that is particularly exciting to our energy profile is The Shadd Barn, where Abraham Shadd’s original barn, built in 1853, plus his tools may be viewed.[9] 

– Figure 1c. Images of the Abraham Shadd barn and homestead. Left: photo of the restored barn at the Buxton Museum. Top right: a virtual exhibit of the Shadd barn, Buxton Museum. Bottom right: an undated watercolour of the Shadd homestead. All photos used with permission of the Buxton Museum.

Figure 1d. Location of Range A, Lot 3, Raleigh. Illustrated Historical Atlas of the Counties of Essex and Kent, 1880-1881. Toronto, ON: H. Belden & Co, 1881. In the 1871 Census of Canada, schedule 4, Abraham Shadd indicated that his home farm was situated at Range A, Lot 3. Other sources indicate that Garrison’s property was further east on Concession 7, Lot 5. Both lots are shown within the green rectangle. Source: The Canadian County Atlas Digital Project.

Figure 1e. Google Map of Raleigh, Kent, Ontario.

Farm Energy Funds

Abraham Shadd’s home farm (the 41.7 ha parcel) was one hundred percent improved, was intensively farmed, and probably supported two families. The first household was Abraham and Harriet and their four dependents, and the second was Abraham’s son Garrison, a farmer who had his own house and 20.2 ha elsewhere in Raleigh’s Division 3. Shadd’s home farm was larger than the average farm in the CSD which was 31.4 ha. Moreover, since the home farm was entirely cleared and the average farm in Raleigh was only 55 percent cleared, Shadd’s potential crop and fodder energy funds (41.7 ha) were much larger than average farm’s (17.2 ha). His hay land, pasture, gardens and orchards were roughly one-third of his land, with the remaining two-thirds in crops. However, his home farm was only about 21 percent of his total land, with most of his land being outside of Division 3. When Garrison’s 20.2 ha is added to Abraham’s total land, then the home farm is about 19.5 percent of their total land combined.

We assume that Abraham and Garrison made good use of their other land by way of sourcing wood and hay and possibly pasturing animals. Although Abraham’s and Garrison’s farms were located in Division 3, their other land was probably located throughout Raleigh’s three other divisions, and Shadd may have bought at least some of it from other settlers who put their land up for sale. In contrast, the Raleigh Census Subdivision (comprising four enumeration divisions) was in a much earlier stage of development than Abraham’s home farm. Just under half of farmland was still in forest, and the remainder was evenly divided between cropland on the one hand, and marshland, pasture, hay land, gardens, and orchards on the other. Abraham kept horses, colts or fillies, milk cows, other horned cattle, sheep, and swine. The Raleigh subdivision (CSD) reported the same livestock types, but Shadd had a greater emphasis on cattle than did the CSD. The livestock intensity of Shadd’s farm was 8.4 livestock units (LU/km2) and the grazing intensity was 1.65 ruminant livestock units per hectare of pasture on the home farm. For the Raleigh CSD, the livestock intensity was higher at 17.0 LU/km2, but the grazing intensity was lower at .82.

Figure 2a. Area Visualization of Abraham Shadd’s 41.7 ha home farm and his other lands that were outside Raleigh’s Division 3. Garrison Shadd’s 20.2 ha are included in the other lands. The Shadd home farm appears as the coloured rectangle, and the other lands appear in grey. Some of Shadd’s other lands may have been woodland, hay land, pasture, and/or cropland. His other land may have included farms that were rented to others, having purchased them from settlers who put their homesteads up for sale.
Figure 2b. Area Visualization of the Raleigh CSD which, with 9,182 ha in woodland, plus a greater amount of pasture (3,315.2 ha)  than hay land (1,727 ha), was still in an early stage of development. Note the emphasis on orchards and gardens (432 ha). In 1871, the CSD had 24,902 pounds of grapes, 28,407 bushels (bu) of apples, and 1,693.5 bu of pears, plums, and other fruit.

Farm Energy Flows

In 1871, the Shadd farm had 25 cords of firewood on hand which may have come from the 152.2 ha of other land that was separate from the home farm. The farm produced 117 bu of fall wheat, 150 bu barley, 17 bu oats, 30 bu peas, one bu beans, 100 bu corn, 20 bu potatoes, 3 bu turnips, 5 bu mangels and other beets, 3 bu carrots, one bu clover seed, 100 pounds grapes, 120 bu apples, and 5 bu of pears and/or plums. The Raleigh CSD reported the same crops as Shadd, plus spring wheat, buckwheat, rye, flax seed, hops, tobacco, and maple sugar. The Shadd farm had a feed deficit of 485,812 MJ and a litter deficit of 270,198 MJ. For the Raleigh CSD, the feed deficit and litter deficit were 236,780 MJ and 70,216 MJ per farm, respectively. Shadd’s feed and litter deficits were over three times greater than the average farm in the CSD.

The Shadd farm’s hay energy was less than its pasture energy, which was the same for the Raleigh CSD.The Shadd farm’s hay energy was 489,880 MJ and its pasture energy was 707,887 MJ. The CSD’s hay energy was 88,537,602 MJ and its pasture energy was 186, 768,382 MJ, which was 286,456 MJ (hay energy) and 135,794 MJ (pasture energy) per farm. The Shadd farm had more energy from hay and pasture than did the average from in the CSD.

In 1871, the Shadd farm had more livestock in all categories than did the average farm in the Raleigh CSD. Abraham and Garrison had two horses over the age of three, four colts or fillies, three milk cows, nine other horned cattle, 27 sheep, and 17 swine. They also had 14 beehives, the largest number of hives on a single farm that we have seen. They slaughtered ten horned cattle, three sheep, and 12 swine. The average farm in the Raleigh CSD had 1.8 horses over the age of three, .8 colts or fillies, 2.4 milk cows, 3.3 other horned cattle, 5.7 sheep, 6.3 swine, and .5 of a beehive. The average farm slaughtered one horned cattle,  4.3 sheep, and five swine. The CSD also had 34 oxen. Abraham and Garrison’s large number of beehives, plus their 100 pounds of reported honey, indicate that they were exploring these animals and their product, honey, for farm income, but probably also for pollination of their crops that required pollination by insects–their peas, apples, grapes, pears and/or plums. Jennifer Bonnell notes that the buffering effect of Great Lake water temperature on surrounding air masses, especially Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, “extended the growing season and supported the development of specialized ‘fruit belts’ that in turn provided excellent sources of pollen and nectar for bees.”[10] Abraham and Garrison Shadd may have been early apiarists benefitting from the unique microclimate created by Lake Erie’s water temperature on the air masses surrounding their farm. Abraham’s grandson William (Garrison’s son, see Figure 1g) “hived a swarm of bees,” 29 June 1884, showing that the apiary carried on after Abraham’s death (see Figure 6b).[11] The Shadd farm had 100 pounds of butter, five pounds of cheese, 110 pounds of wool, but no flannel cloth or linen. The average farm in the CSD, however, had 174 pounds of butter, 2.6 pounds of cheese, 3.4 pounds of honey, 25.7 pound of wool, but 7.3 yards of flannel cloth, and, as for Abraham and Garrison Shadd, no linen.


In 1871, Abraham and Garrison Shadd’s farm was prosperous and compares in land use to other farms we have portrayed in our Farm Energy Profiles series, such as Messier and Houle whose Quebec farms were of the same approximate size and were also 100 percent improved. What differs, however, is the very large amount of other land (152.2 ha) that was situated outside Raleigh’s Division 3. Abraham and Garrison Shadd and the Raleigh CSD produced the largest amounts of corn grain that we have seen so far. Most other parts of Ontario did not reach those levels until the twentieth century. Moreover, Shadd’s farm is the first we have seen with more energy from beef than from milk, and it is also the first we have seen with such a large number of beehives. Innovative apiarists, perhaps Abraham and Garrison Shadd were experimenting with their energy funds and flows to find a new approach that would make the best use of their land and the Elgin settlement’s warm microclimate. Certainly, their large number of beehives suggest that they were boosting pollination for their peas, apples, grapes, pears and/or plums. When Abraham Shadd made the decision to move his family north to the Elgin Settlement in 1852, he relocated to what was perhaps the final destination for many Black refugees fleeing the slavocracy of the United States. At Elgin, Abraham Shadd’s ingenuity flourished in a new locality, and he made his mark not only as the first Black man to be elected to public office in Canada West, but also by his success as a farmer and an apiarist.

Figure 6a. Apiary of William Coleman, Birr, Ontario, with Mr. Coleman in the background, ca. 1914. As is Chatham, Birr is located in southwestern Ontario. Although this is not a photograph of Abraham or Garrison Shadd, it gives an idea of how their apiary of 14 beehives may have appeared 35 years earlier, in 1871. Image courtesy of the St. Marys Museum and Archives, Ontario.
Figure 6b. Diary entry (28 June 1884) by Abraham’s grandson William (Garrison’s eldest son) where he mentions that he, “Hived a swarm of bees.” Source: Rural Diary Archive (see footnote 11).

[1] Fergus M. Bordewich, Bound for Canaan: The Underground Railroad and the War for the Soul of America (New York, NY: Amistad, 2005), 389-394. Born in Ireland, King immigrated with his family to Ohio, where their farm became a station on the Underground Railroad. Later, he married the daughter of a wealthy slave-owning family based in Louisianna. When his wife died, he found himself her heir and the owner of 14 enslaved people whom he wanted to manumit. He travelled to Toronto where he gained the aid of the Presbyterian Synod, recruited 24 businessmen to oversee finances, and acquired an 18-square-mile (4,662 ha) tract of land near Chatham, Ontario, for a Black settlement. In honour of Lord Elgin, Canada’s Governor General at the time, the group of abolitionists was called the Elgin Association. The standard allotment was a 50-acre parcel. These were sold to Black settlers for $2.50 an acre, either by a lump sum payment or over time. King brought the 14 enslaved people he had inherited from his wife to the Elgin Settlement, and he gave them manumission papers when they crossed the border into Canada West. To learn more about the Underground Railroad in this area see: Chatham-Kent, “Chatham-Kent Underground Railroad,” (n.d) Accessed 23 Febuary, 2022),

[2] Karolyn Smardz Frost, I’ve Got a Home in Glory Land: A Lost Tale of the Underground Railroad (Toronto, ON: Thomas Allen Publishers, 2007), 328. Mary Ann Shadd (Cary), Emaline Shadd, Issac Shadd, and Abraham Shadd were four of Abraham’s children who had many wonderful achievements, including the following: Mary Ann studied law at Howard University and later taught school in Washington, D.C.; Emaline became one of the first female professors at Howard University; Isaac, who had moved back to the Deep South, was elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives; and Abraham became a judge in Arkansas.

[3] Frost, I’ve Got a Home in Glory Land, 295.

[4] “Shadd, Abraham D.,” Kent Agricultural Hall of Fame, (Accessed 23 February 2022),-Abraham-D.aspx.; “Abraham Doras Shadd,” (Accessed 23 February 2022)

[5] “Abraham Shadd,” 1871 Census of Canada, C-9891, Library and Archives Canada (LAC), Ottawa. Schedule 1, p20 line 5, ; Other members of the family were listed as B. Methodists (Black Methodists) and members of the Church of England. Shadd’s grandfather, Hans Schad, was a Hessian mercenary soldier who fought for the British. Hans married a Black woman Elizabeth Jackson, and one of their sons, Jeremiah, and his wife Amelia Cisco, were Abraham’s parents. See “Shadd, Abraham D.,” Kent Agricultural Hall of Fame, (accessed 23 February 2022),,-Abraham-D.aspx.

[6] Shadd may have purchased land from other settlers when they put their land up for sale. A rule of the settlement was that for the first ten years of ownership, should a person decide to sell, he or she could only sell to another Black person. Eventually, white people moved into the area. The settlement school was free to attend, excellent, not segregated, and focussed on academics, including Latin and Greek. It attracted white students, including adults, who took seats in class alongside their Black neighbours. Bordewich, Bound for Canaan, 390, 392; Joyce Shadd Middleton recorded that Shadd owned land in Tilbury East and at least one town lot in Chatham, Ontario. Joyce Shadd Middleton, Bryan Prince, and Karen Evelyn, Something To Hope For. The Story Of The Fugitve Slave Settlement Buxton, Canada West (Buxton: Buxton National Historic Site and Museum, 1999).

[7] “Garrison Shadd,” 1871 Census of Canada, C-9891, LAC. Although Garrison had 50 acres, he did not list any crops, livestock, or wood products in the 1871 census’s schedule 4.

[8] Garrison kept a diary (1881-1889) with the assistance of his sons William, Alfred, Charles, and Issac, and there are many references to farm topics. See “Garrison Shadd Diary Collection,” Rural Diary Archives, (accessed 24 February 2022),

[9] The  Buxton National Historic Site & Museum website includes lovely and informative interactive sites, such as The Shadd Barn and the Buxton Schoolhouse. See, (accessed 24 February 2022),

[10] Jennifer L. Bonnell (2020). “Insecticides, Honey Bee Losses and Beekeeper Advocacy in Nineteenth-Century Ontario.” Ontario History, 112(2), 141,

[11] “Shadd Diary & Transcription, 1881-1899: William Shadd, 1881-1885,” Rural Diary Archive, (accessed 24 February 2022), See page 106.

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Energy on the Marguerite Messier Farm and the St. Hyacinthe CSD, St. Hyacinthe, Quebec

Figure 1a. Simone Durant holding cured leaves of cigar, left, and cigarette tobacco leaves, in Joliette, Quebec, 1949. Like St. Hyacinthe in the nineteenth century, Joliette became part of Quebec’s tobacco producing region in the early twentieth century. Although this photograph was taken long after Marguerite Messier grew tobacco on her farm in St. Hyacinthe, it shows a woman participating in this branch of agriculture, not unlike Messier almost a century earlier. Library and Archives Canada/National Film Board or Canada fonds/e011175785,

The Messier farm in Quebec’s St. Hyacinthe CSD is an example of a Farm with Average Land Funds (land and pasture), Low Livestock Funds/Flows, and Specialized Cash Crops (tobacco) and Animal Products (wool and honey). In terms of its land size and crop energy flows, the Messier farm was almost the perfectly average farm in the CSD. It is in many ways a typical operation for this region.[1] It stands out in one important respect, however, because it was owned by a woman. In 1871, 59-year-old Marguerite Mefsier (Messier), a widow, was head of the 36.4 hectare (ha) farm.[2] Marguerite’s husband Michel died in 1865 at 58 years of age.[3] She continued to farm the completely cleared parcel, and like many farms in the region she produced cash crops such as tobacco and surplus cereals. In other ways, the Messier farm was smaller than average, such as its lower number of livestock and the flows they generated.

Her two sons Améde and Antoine, ages 23 and 19, were farmers who must have done much of the farm work. A second family of the same surname, Messier, lived with them in the same house. This was 38-year-old Michel, who was a commis (or clerk), his wife Marie who was 35, and their five children, Joseph, Albina, Georges, Jean, and Ema, ages 13, 11, eight, four, and two. In the 1871 Census of Canada Michel did not report any land, livestock, crops, or products. Although we do not know the exact relationship between Marguerite’s immediate family and Michel and his family, they were probably relatives–possibly her eldest son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren–who lived at the farm as family members or as boarders and who pitched in to get work on the farm done. The farm was successful because of Marguerite’s good fortune to have extensive pastures and other cleared land as well as family labour to work it. Her two adult sons, plus Michel, Marie, and probably Ema, their eldest child, all could have contributed labour. This was not the case for all women, of course. Another widow whose farm we examined in St. Hyacinthe, Esther Beauregard, was not nearly as well supported as was Marguerite. Esther, who had three young children, the eldest deaf, lost her farm and ended up in Hotel Dieu of St. Hyacinthe where nuns cared for the poor. Esther died impoverished at 60 years of age.[4]

Marguerite had an additional 12 ha in the Dominion of Canada that was outside the census subdivision in which she lived.[5] This additional 12 ha was likely close by to her 36.4 ha and used as a woodlot or, if it was improved, she may have had more pastureland, hay land, and cropland available than reported in Schedule 1 of the 1871 Census of Canada. When combined, Marguerite’s two parcels of land totaled 48.4 ha.

Figure 1b.  Carte du comté de St. Hyacinthe construite d’après les plans du Cadastre. 1:63:360. Bibliothèque de Archives nationals du Québec, 1930. Approximate 1871 CSD boundary shown in green.

Figure 1c. Google Map of St. Hyacinthe, Quebec.

Farm Energy Funds

Marguerite Messier’s 36.4 ha was one hundred percent improved, was intensively cropped, and supported either one large family or two smaller families. Marguerite divided this parcel’s improved land roughly by thirds: 12.1 ha was in pastureland, 12.1 ha was in hay land, 9.8 ha was in cropland, and the remaining land was in gardens, orchards, buildings, and lanes. In contrast, the St. Hyacinthe CSD’s 9,747 ha was not completely improved, but had 1,363 ha in woodland with the remaining 8,381 ha improved. The CSD’s improved land was not evenly divided by thirds, as was the Messier farm. Instead, the hay land was proportionately smaller and the cropland larger so that the profile of the St. Hyacinthe CSD was 2,750 ha (32 percent) pastureland, 1,187 ha (14 percent) hay land, and 4,353 ha (53 percent) cropland, with the remaining 93 ha (one percent) dyked marshland, gardens, orchards, buildings, and lanes. The Messier farm was slightly larger than the average farm in St. Hyacinthe (34.4 ha); but, with the 12 ha that lay outside her CSD Marguerite had access to a bit more land than the average farmer in St. Hyacinthe. Marguerite kept horses, milk cows, and sheep, but she also had one other horned bovine and one pig. The greater region of the St. Hyacinthe CSD reported the same livestock types as the Messier farm with a similar emphasis on milk cows and sheep over other horned cattle and swine. The livestock intensity of the Messier farm was 17 LU/km2 and the grazing intensity was .35. In contrast, the St. Hyacinthe CSD was higher at  23.9 LU/km2 and .59 respectively. The Messier farm had a lower grazing intensity because proportionally it provided more pasture for its animals to graze upon and, as discussed in the next section, the farm had less livestock than the average farm in St. Hyacinthe.

Figure 2a. Area Visualization of Marguerite Messier’s farm in St. Hyacinthe, Quebec, 1871. Marguerite Messier’s 36.4 ha is represented by the coloured rectangle, and her 12 ha is represented by the grey area that surrounds it. Her 36.4 ha is one hundred percent improved, with about two-thirds in pastureland or hay land and the remaining third in cropland.
Figure 2b. Area Visualization of the St. Hyacinthe CSD shows that it was in an earlier stage of development than Marguerite Messier’s farm: approximately 20 percent of the available land was still wooded, and of the remaining 80 percent half was in fodder and half in cropland. About two-thirds of the fodder was in pastureland and one-third in hay land. As farms develop, often pastureland appears first, followed by hay land. Still, St. Hyacinthe’s agroecosystem was approaching the limits of land clearing, and the remaining forest was likely valued for firewood and other critical forest products.

Farm Energy Flows

In 1871, the Messier farm had 60 census standard red pine logs on hand, as well as 19 cords of wood. Likely these forest products came from the 12 ha that was outside the census subdivision in which Messier lived. The farm produced 70 bushels (bu) oats, 122 bu potatoes, 65 bu barley, 14 bu wheat, five bu peas, seven bu buckwheat, 30 bu corn, and ten pounds of tobacco. The St. Hyacinthe CSD reports the same crops as Marguerite Messier, plus beans, turnips, beets, carrots, grapes, apples, pears and/or plums, and maple sugar. The Messier farm had a feed deficit of 279,555 MJ, and a litter deficit of 83,841 MJ. For the St.Hyacinthe CSD, the feed deficit was 392,523 MJ per farm, and the litter deficit was 93,011 MJ per farm. Marguerite’s feed demand was 95 percent fodder, and with a very small hay crop in 1870, we see that even the residues from her grain crops failed to make up the feed deficit. It may be that Messier met her feed and litter requirements that year by feeding her surplus grains to the animals, or, more likely, by selling or trading them with neighbours who had feed and litter to spare. Certainly, her ten pounds of tobacco, a lucrative cash crop, would have put money into her hands.

The Messier farm’s hay energy was less than half of its pasture energy which were 130,635 MJ and 293,349 MJ respectively. There were 224,360 MJ of residues, and the farm reused all of its fodder. For the St. Hyacinthe CSD, the hay energy (32,838,273 MJ) was about one-third of its pasture energy  (110,650,816 MJ). There were 81,506,961 MJ of residues and the CSD reused all its fodder.

In 1871, the average farm in the St. Hyacinthe CSD had more livestock than did the Messier farm. Marguerite Messier had two horses over the age of three, two colts or fillies, three milk cows, one other horned bovine, eight sheep, and one swine. The farm either butchered or exported the one horned bovine, four sheep, and three swine.[6] These low, and apparently declining numbers combined with the low grazing density on her extensive pastures suggest that Marguerite was reducing the size of her herds. For comparison, and based on St. Hyacinthe’s 283 farms, the average farm in St. Hyacinthe had 2.5 horses over the age of three, .8 colts or fillies, 3.7 milk cows, 13.3 sheep, and 3.4 swine, and butchered or exported 1.6 horned cattle, 6.1 sheep, and 2.9 swine.

Marguerite may have been reducing her dairy produce and specializing in other animal products, such as those from bees and sheep. This is reflected in the yields she reported for her butter, honey, and wool, and her lack of cheese. The average farm in the CSD had slightly more than twice as much butter than did the Messier farm. Marguerite reported 50 pounds of butter, but the average farm in the CSD had 104.The tables were turned, however, when it came to honey and firewood. The Messier farm had one beehive, 40 pounds of honey, and 19 cords of firewood, but the average farm in the CSD had .8 beehives, 7.6 pounds of honey, and 7 cords of wood. Where the Messier farm and the CSD are more or less on equal footing is wool. Whereas the Messier farm had 30 pounds of wool, the average farm in the CSD had 28.9. Marguerite processed some cloth from the wool, although she likely sold much of the wool to others. The average farm in the CSD had 33.3 yards of homemade cloth, whereas the Messier farm had 25. One product that the Messier farm lacked completely was homemade linen. The CSD reported 3,543 yards of homemade linen, or 12.5 yards per average farm, but the Messier farm reported none.

Figures 5a and 5b. Livestock and Barnyard Produce for the Messier farm and the St. Hyacinthe CSD. The Messier farm and the St. Hyacinthe CSD have very similar patterns in regard to livestock and products from livestock.


Marguerite Messier’s 48.4 ha farm was larger than the average farm in the St. Hyacinthe CSD, yet her crop and animal energy flows were smaller. Her evenly divided pastureland, hay land, and cropland suggest a rotation of crops, possibly on a plan similar to that of the Maltais brothers whose farm we previously highlighted in this series of farm profiles. In year one the Maltais brothers’ fields were sown with cereals, in years two and three those same fields were used for hay, and in years four and five they were used for pasture. The Messier farm’s three milk cows produced enough milk and butter for the people living on the farm, and the slaughtered animals would have been meat for the table. Beyond providing sustenance to those living on the farm, Marguerite’s focus was wool and tobacco. All in all, Marguerite’s approach to operating her farm was balanced, as can be seen with her diverse crop types, probable crop rotation, and her reduced livestock density. Her farm was also multi-generational, and with a single woman as the matriarch it is perhaps not surprising that she appears to have been focusing her energy strategy on wool and tobacco, and perhaps even honey. With Michel working off the farm as a commis, or clerk, the frame for the farm becomes pluri-occupational as his wage would contribute to the farm’s economy. Ultimately, the Messier farm was successful because Marguerite, her sons Améde and Antione, plus Michel, Marie, and their eldest child Ema, provided needed labour. The photo of Simone Durant holding cured tobacco might have been taken 78 years later, but in some ways we see a little of Margeurite in her portrait.

Figure 6a. Workers storing cured tobacco in a Quebec barn, 1949. Library and Archives Canada/National Film Board of Canada fonds/e011175786,

[1]  Previously, we have written about farms that were exceptional. For example, we have written about farms that eventually won gold in Québec’s Concours Provincial de Mérite Agricole (Agricultural Merit Contest) of the early twentieth century. The Thomas Maltais farm of Jonquiere, Quebec, and the Edouard and Edmund Houle farm of Nicolet, Quebec, both won gold, for example. We have also written about farms that were exceptionally large, such as the Christian B. and Joseph Snyder farm of North Waterloo, Ontario. A third category we have written about is farms with exceptional products, such as the Philip Maher farm in Windsor, Richmond,Quebec, whose farm was actually a timber extraction enterprise. Finally, we have profiled farms whose owners were listed in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, such as the diminutive-in-size (5.3 ha) Andrew Hay Johnson farm of Falmouth, Nova Scotia.

[2] “Marguerite Mefsier,” 1871 Census of Canda, RG31, C-10065, Library and Archives Canada (LAC), Ottawa.

[3]  “Michel Messier,” Quebec, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1968, Marguerite’s husband Michel died at age 58 and was buried on 18 November 1865.

[4] “Esther Beauregard,” 1871 Census of Canada, RG31, C-1005, LAC. See also Esther’s death certificate: “Esther Beauregard,” Quebec, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1968, Esther died 7 February 1887. Esther’s husband Irénéé Beauregard appears in the 1861 Census of Canada, but does not appear ten years later when the 1871 Census of Canada was taken. Therefore, he died after 1861 but before 1871. Esther and her children are listed in the 1881 Census of Canada. They are living (along with dozens of others) in a religious poor house, probably the Hotel Dieu of St. Hyacinthe.

[5] “Marguerite Mefsier,” Schedule 3, 1871 Census of Canada.

[6] For the 1871 Canada Census, slaughtered or exported animals were counted over and above the head count for the animals on a farm. For example, Messier’s one swine plus three slaughtered or exported swine meant the swine herd had been four animals in 1871 and that 75 percent of the herd had been slaughtered or exported. The one animal that was not slaughtered or exported was probably a sow.

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Energy on the Christian B. Snyder and Joseph Snyder Farm and the Waterloo North CSD, North Waterloo, Ontario

Figure 1a. Joseph B. Snyder and two oxen pulling stumps on Lot 63, CA MAO Digital 94, Mennonite Archives of Ontario. Used with permission. Joseph B. was given the easternmost section of Lot 63 (217 acres) by his father Christian B. Note: the oxen appear to be hauling cordwood or lumber, not pulling stumps, in this photo.

The Snyder farm in Ontario’s Waterloo North region is an example of a large and highly productive Mixed Animal Husbandry Agroecosystem with Extensive Family Labour Supplies. In 1871, Christian B. Snyder (b. 1824/d.1897) was head of the Snyder farm on Lot 63, German Company Tract.[1] Christian B. was married to Barbara Bauman (b. 1825/d.1914), and the couple had 10 children.[2] Christian B.’s grandfather and grandmother (“Old” Christian Schneider and Elizabeth Erb), both born in Pennsylvania, had immigrated with other Mennonite settlers to Waterloo Township, Ontario, in 1806. “Old” Christian acquired Lots 42, 63, and 83 in the northern part of the German Company Tract; however, his first homesteading was done on land in the southern part of the Tract near Doon.[3] By 1807, “Old” Christian had erected a two-story log house in the Doon area.[4] “Old” Christian’s son Joseph (b. 1796/d. 1874), who was Christian B.’s father, built a two-story log house on Lot 63, in 1839.[5] It was 40 feet by 44 feet, two stories, and made of logs 8 inches by 24 inches, all hand hewn.[6] This is the same land subsequently occupied by Christian B. Snyder and his family in 1871, which the census enumerator reported to be 440 acres (178 ha).[7] Schedule 3 of the 1871 census shows that Christian B.’s total land in the Dominion, however, was 659 acres (267 ha).[8] This additional 219 acre (88 ha) parcel or parcels would not have been located in the same census division as the 440 acres he occupied, but they were probably close by.

At the time of the 1871 census, Christian B.’s father Joseph still lived on Lot 63, but in a separate house with his second wife, Catherine Snyder (nee Weicker). Joseph also reported a few livestock in the census: therefore, for the purposes of this farm energy analysis Christian B.’s livestock numbers are rolled together with his father’s smaller herds. Christian B. eventually divided his land into three farms. In 1872, the eastern section (217 acres or 88 ha) was given to his son Joseph B. (who appears in Figure 1a). Joseph B. (b.1854/ d.1938) drew elm, basswood, oak, cherry, and pine from the woods of his farm, fully cleared 100 acres of woodland, and sold many hundreds of cords of wood to local mills. Sixteen years later, in 1888, Christian B. gave the central section of his farm (80 acres or 32 ha) to his son Franklin. That same year, 1888, he gave the western section with the old buildings (148 acres or 60 ha) to his daughter Lovina and her husband Israel B. Gingrich.[9] This is the same year that Lovina and Israel were married.[10] Christian, Barbara, and their youngest son Jared lived with Lovina and Israel, and by 1890 it was a three generation household again with the arrival of baby Helinda.[11] Thus, over the course of 82 years since the arrival of “Old” Christian and his wife Elizabeth from Pennsylvania, Lot 63 had changed hands between family members three times and had been divided into three farms.

Figure 1b. Christian B. Snyder and Barbara Snyder (nee Bauman). The couple were married in 1848. Photograph credit: Gingrich family, Waterloo. Used with permission.
Figure 1c. Location of Lot 63, German Company Tract. Illustrated Atlas of the Dominion of Canada, Containing All the Provinces, the Northwest Territories and the Island of Newfoundland. Toronto: H. Belden & Co., 1880. The Canadian County Atlas Digital Project,

Figure 1d. Google Map of Waterloo North with red pin marking Lot 63.

Farm Energy Funds

Christian B. Snyder’s 178 hectare parcel was 46 percent cleared in 1871 which was 20 percent less than the amount of land cleared by other farmers in Waterloo North (66 percent cleared). Perhaps this was because Lot 63 was in the northern reaches of the German Company Tract which was developed later than the southern region. This means Snyder had a greater percentage of woodland (54 percent) available on his 178 ha than did the Waterloo North CSD (33 percent), and it reinforces the narrative that Christian B.’s son Joseph began to clear 100 acres (40 ha) after receiving his 217 acre share of the farm in 1872. In 1871, Christian B. divided his cleared or improved portion of his 178 acres (80.9 ha), into the following four divisions and proportions: 59 percent crops, 20 percent pasture, 17 percent hay land, and four percent gardens or orchards. For the Waterloo North CSD, however, land use was 64 percent in crops, 13 percent pasture, 19 percent hay, and 4 percent gardens or orchards. The Waterloo North CSD also had a very small amount (.2 percent) in dyked marshland, most likely along the Grand River. Therefore, proportionately, Snyder’s 178 hectare farm had more woodland and pastureland, but less hayland and cropland, than their neighbours in Waterloo North. The average-sized farm in the district was 36.5 ha, or only about 20.5 percent of Snyder’s 178 ha farm.[12] Therefore, we assume that Christian B. Snyder’s farm was one of the largest farms in the Waterloo North CSD in 1871. It may be that because the patriarch “Old” Christian had purchased three lots in the northern part of the German Company Tract but had left them for future development while he lived in the southern region of Doon, Lot 63 was not as developed, nor had it yet been divided amongst the first Mennonite settlers’ descendants, as were other farms in the CSD.

Figure 2a. Area Visualization of Christian B. Snyder’s farm in 1871 showing his two parcels of land (266 ha) combined. The 88 ha parcel that was outside his specific division (but was probably in one of North Waterloo’s other three divisions) is in light grey, and the 178 ha that was part of his division is represented by the coloured polygons. Fifty-four percent of the farm’s 178 ha parcel was unimproved, meaning it was in woodland. The remaining 46 percent was in pasture, hay, crops, and orchards or gardens. Given that the 178 ha farm was five times the size of the average farm in the Waterloo North CSD, and despite his large woodlot, Snyder had ample cleared land for his livestock and crops.
Figure 2b. Area Visualization of all 425 farms in the Waterloo North CSD, North Waterloo, Ontario. Proportionately, Waterloo North had significantly less woodland available (20 percent less) of its agroecosystem than did the Christian B. Snyder farm. Moreover, 64 percent of the CSD’s improved land was in crops, with the remaining 36 percent in pasture, hay, garden and orchard. A very small amount (.2 percent) was dyked marshland.

The Snyder farm’s livestock intensity was 15.2 livestock units per km2 (LU/km2) on their 178 ha parcel, and the grazing intensity was 2.04 ruminant units per ha of pasture. This was lower than the Waterloo North CSD which had a very high livestock density of 28.2 LU/km2 and 2.19 ruminants per ha of pasture. The Snyders had 100 cords of firewood on hand in 1871 (50 per household), compared to the 7,530 cords of firewood produced in the Waterloo North CSD, which averaged to 18 cords of firewood per farm. One can assume that when Christian B.’s son Joseph cleared 40 ha of woodland and sold hundreds of cords of wood to local mills (after he received his 217 acre share of the farm in 1872), he was following in his father’s footsteps (Figure 1a). Perhaps, Christian B. had sold large quantities of cordwood to local mills before his son Joseph took up the wood business.

Farm Energy Flows

The Snyder farm is one of the few in the Farm Energy Profile project that produced more energy from a human edible crop (wheat) than from feed crops. In 1871, the Snyders produced 250 bushels (bu) of spring wheat, 100 bu of fall wheat, 170 bu of barley, 600 bu of oats, 280 bu of peas, 360 bu of potatoes, 2,500 bu of turnips, 3 bu of mangel-wurtzel, 1,500 bu of carrots, 90 bu apples, 4 bu plums, pears, or other fruit, 4 bu of grass or clover seed, and 800 pounds of maple sugar. The Waterloo North CSD grew the same crops, plus rye, corn, grapes, and small quantities of rye, beans, buckwheat, hops, and tobacco. Waterloo North farmers produced 56,621 pounds of maple sugar, or 133 pounds per farm. Snyder’s 800 pounds of maple sugar indicates that he was using his woodland in more ways than drawing out wood to be sold to local mills. He also benefited greatly from the annual flow of maple sugar coming from his woodland.

In terms of energy flows from fodder, the Snyder farm consumed much larger amounts of feed than the average farm in Waterloo North. However, their mix of pasture, hay, and residues was quite similar to the township’s, proportionally. The Snyder farm’s residues were 4.26 times greater than the average farm in the Waterloo North CSD. However, when considering that Synder’s 178 ha farm was roughly five times the size of the average farm in the Waterloo North CSD, there is not a great difference in residues proportionally. The Snyder farm and the Waterloo North CSD also had very similar ratios of pastureland to hayland. Additionally, both reused 100 percent of their biomass (see figures 4a and 4b).

In 1871, Christian B. and his father Joseph Snyder reported having five horses over three years old, three colts or fillies, four working oxen, 14 milk cows, 19 horned cattle, 80 sheep, and three swine. They also produced 1,000 pounds of butter, 100 pounds of cheese, 300 pounds of wool, and 300 yards of homemade cloth or flannel. Given the 300 pounds of wool that was on hand, his homemade cloth was probably wool flannel. They slaughtered or sold for export two swine, six cattle and 20 sheep. The Snyder farm exceeded the average farm in Waterloo North in all of these categories, except swine. The average farm in the Waterloo North CSD had six or seven swine and slaughtered or sold for export five or six. Snyder’s most notable farm productions were, perhaps, his butter and cloth. Whereas Snyder had 1,000 pounds of butter, the average farm in the Waterloo North CSD had 270, and, whereas he had 300 yards of cloth, the average farm had 4.5. In fact, Snyder’s 300 yards of cloth represented 16 percent of the 1,886 yards of cloth reported for the Waterloo North CSD. It may be that he had a small enterprise on his farm for wool flannel production. Farms in Waterloo North also reported producing honey and linen, where Snyder did not.

Both the Snyder farm and the Waterloo North CSD had feed and litter deficits. In terms of total energy deficits, Snyder’s animals were short by 1,065,484 MJ of feed and 334,866 MJ of litter. Figures 3a and 3b do not include peas in the feed balance, so it is likely that a tenth of Snyder’s feed deficit was satisfied by the farm’s pea harvest. The average farm in the Waterloo North CSD had only about a 290,177 MJ feed deficit and an 86,299 MJ litter deficit. The feed and litter deficits on Snyder’s much larger farm were 3.67 and 3.88 times greater than the average-sized farm in the Waterloo North CSD. Given that his farm was roughly five times the size of the average farm in the Waterloo North CSD, his feed and litter deficit was proportionally not as large. Snyder’s butter, cheese, wheat, maple sugar, cordwood, meat products, and cloth must have brought him enough cash to pay for his shortfall in feed and litter.


Christian B. and his father Joseph Snyder’s farm was five times larger than the average farm in the Waterloo North CSD. Fifty-four percent of their 178 ha farm was unimproved, or in woodland. This gave him the opportunity to develop a farm energy strategy that diverged slightly from the Waterloo North CSD. He made good use of his sizable woodlands by supplying cordwood to local mills and by tapping the annual flow of maple sugar. He had moderate dairy production, producing milk, butter, and cheese. He also had wheat, cloth, and meat products to sell from his farm. Noticeably, although he had a much larger farm he had far less swine proportionally than the Waterloo North CSD in 1871. This helped to keep his livestock numbers low, resulting in a lower livestock intensity than the Waterloo North CSD. Because of his lower livestock numbers, proportionally his feed and litter deficit was not as great as the average farm in the Waterloo North CSD. Snyder’s approach and farming strategy made extensive use of his woodlands while at the same time keeping his livestock numbers low and focussing on ruminants that supported his dairy and cloth production.

Figure 6a.”Old” Christian Schneider’s home was built about 1807. The house was situated in Beihn’s Tract, Unnumbered Lots, Doon, Waterloo County, Ontario. The Kitchener Public Library has the original photo.
Figure 6b. This plaque honours “Old” Christian Snyder who immigrated to Waterloo, Ontario, from Pennsylvania in the first years of the nineteenth century and his son Joseph who built a two-storey home from hand-hewn logs drawn from the land of Lot 63 where the Snyder farm was situated. In 1972, the log house was taken down, log by log, and moved to St. Jacobs Farmers Market. Because many of the logs were rotten, the new structure is much smaller and only one-storey. The original house was over 3,500 square feet. The Gingrich connection comes from Israel B. Gingrich who married Joseph’s granddaughter Lovina. The couple lived in the house with Lovina’s parents, Christian B. Snyder, his wife Barbara Snyder (nee Bauman), and their youngest son, Lovina’s brother Jared, probably from 1888, the year that Lovina and Israel were married.

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[1] “Christian B. Snyder,” 1871 Census of Canada, RG31, C-9944, LAC.

[2] “Christian B. Snyder,” Christian Schneider, Waterloo Region Generation, The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding,

The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding actually lists 12 children, but it appears that two of the children who are listed are repeated.

[3] Ellis Little, “Snyder’s Corner: The History of G.C.T. Lot 63,” Waterloo Historical Society, Vol. 90 (2002): 21.

[4] “Christian Schneider,” Waterloo Region Generations.

[5] “Joseph Schneider,” Joseph Schneider, Waterloo Region Generations, The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding,

The Waterloo Region Generations website notes that the plaque is erected on a one-story log structure located at St. Jacob’s Farmers Market but the logs were moved from a two-story log house built on German Company Tract Lot 63 by Joseph Schneider.

[6] Little, Snyder’s Corner, 24.

[7] Historians have concluded that his main farm was actually 448 acres. Little, Snyder’s Corner, 25. The German Company Tract, some 60,000 acres, was divided into sections of 448 acres each. Therefore, each of “Old” Christian’s Lots, 42, 63, and 83, were 448 acres. The 1871 Census of Canada indicates that Christian B.’s father Joseph, who the enumerator put down as a Gentleman, was living nearby his son when the census was taken. He was listed as a tenant living with his second wife Catherine Snyder (nee Weicker). Catherine was from Germany and was 57 years old.

[8] “Christian B. Snyder,” 1871, LAC. Schedule 3 also lists three dwelling houses, three barns or stables, four carriages and sleighs, eight cars, wagons, or sleds, five ploughs or cultivators, three fanning mills, and one each of reapers or mowers, horse rakes, and thrashing machines.

[9] “Christian B. Snyder,” Waterloo Region Generations. These numbers–217, 80, and 148–do not add up to either the 440 acres reported by the enumerator when the 1871 Census of Canada was taken, nor do they add up to the 448 acres that historians agree was the size of Lot 63.

[10] “Lancaster, Pennsylvania, U.S., Mennonite Vital Records, 1750-2014,” s.v “Israel B. Gingrich,”

[11] Helinda was one and a half years old in 1891. “Christian B. Snyder,” 1891 Census of Canada, RG31-C-1, T-6374, LAC.

[12] The average farm in Waterloo North was only 13.5 percent the size of Snyder’s much larger 266 hectares of land (including the additional 88 ha he had that was situated on a neighbouring division).