Interview with Mrs. H. C. Nixon conducted on 22 June 1978.
Mrs. Nixon moved to the Nixon homestead near St. George when she was married in 1914. Her late husband, Mr. Harry Nixon was elected to the provincial legislature in 1919. Always very active in both provincial and local affairs, Mrs. Nixon was able to tell us about Mr. Nixon's political life along with information on the Nixon homestead and village life.
Interviewer: When did you come to St. George?
Mrs. Nixon: 1914, in October.
Interviewer: Where did you meet Mr. Nixon?
Mrs. Nixon: I met him at the University of Guelph, the agricultural-college. His sister, Netta, taught at the consolidated school. My brother, Lloyd Jackson, was a good friend of Netta Nixon’s because they were all young teachers on the staff. They used to come out to our place quite regularly — it got to quite a family compact. Lloyd would have them come out to our house and we got to know them very well. Well, my brother took a position with the Western Canada Flour Mills in Winnipeg, to establish a laboratory for testing the wheat as it came in. It came from all over Manitoba and Saskatchewan. He asked me to ho out and assist him because I had taken up the chemistry of wheat and flour. I did the practical end of it. There was a new laboratory built and I was there for a year, or two years. Where I took this course, in the chemistry department at Guelph, the head, Miss Purdy, was very sick. I was sent for to come and take her place if I could. So, I came home and took the position. Well, I knew the Nixon family already, but during this time, Harry was in the final years of his course and I got to know him pretty well.
Interviewer: When were you married?
Mrs. Nixon: October 22, 1914, at my home at Helenbank, our 25 acre farm just out of Guelph.
Interviewer: Did you move right down to the farm in St. George?
Mrs. Nixon: Yes, Harry’s father and Mother (Henry R. Nixon) had moved up to the house on Beverly street where Duftons live now. They took all of the furniture with them except Harry’s bedroom furniture. We had a table to eat off of, but we certainly furnished it by degrees. I remember at the time that I had everything I needed except a salt and pepper, and in the mail came a had painted salt and pepper from a cousin of mine, who did China painting. I remember that so well.
Interviewer: Could you tell us about the history of the Nixon homestead? Who built it?
Mrs. Nixon: My husband’s grandfather, Charles Nixon, built the house in 1853- Charles had located first down near Burford, on the Burford road. I was told that he lived there with his first wife. They had two children. They died of that cholera epidemic. I think that that home is still there, a red brick cottage. Anyway, they said that the land was so light that they couldn't grow anything. So, he came down here to get heavier land, for a better crop. But, after that they discovered that that land was good for tobacco .farming. And I remember farmers that were up there used to come to my husband when he was member, to get assistance from the government because they were going to lose their farm — they couldn’t raise enough on it to pay their expenses. But, anyway, that's how Charles came to move down here.
Interviewer: Who built the small cottage right beside the stone house?
Mrs. Nixon: When my husband's father, Henry, was getting married, Charles was still running the farm. He moved an old schoolhouse, one that was back behind; Wait’s farm, and moved the logs up, built the house, then bricked it in. My husband was born there — there were seven children born there.
Interviewer: Which schoolhouse was it?
Mrs. Nixon: I don’t know, I never saw it. All I ever saw were rose bushes and orange lilies growing back there. I used to ask why they were there, and Harry told me that that was where the old school house was, well, that was years back.
Interviewer: What did you raise on the farm?
Mrs. Nixon: Harry had gone to O.A.C. and had graduated with a science degree and he used to grow special seed wheat and oats and would sell it in the spring — that was just a sideline along with his regular crops. He used to raise purebred hens and roosters and sell them. That was just when we started. Of course he was farming you know, all the time. These were just extra. We had a big herd of cows.
Interviewer: They were dairy cows, weren’t they?
Mrs. Nixon: Yes, we got one of the first milking machines the year we were married. We also had a Ford tractor in 1915. We had a Ford car then too.
Interviewer: So, when did Mr. Nixon enter politics?
Mrs. Nixon: In 1919. He was just 28 years aid. At that tine he ran as a U.F.O. (United Farmers of Ontario). They were organized at that time because the farmers were getting very discouraged with the prices they were getting for their produce. Now for example, I remember Harry having a big field of turnips. They would ship them by the car load. The year of his first election, it was in October, this field of turnips was ready to harvest—and it was raining, really terrible weather. They had to get those turnips out and in the car to be shipped. Well, they got them out but I can remember how disappointed they were with the price they got per bushel. I forget what it was, but it was only a few cents per bushel.
Interviewer: So the prices were the major complaint at this time.
Mrs. Nixon: One of them. It was felt generally by:; the farm¬ers everywhere. So they had an organization that met in Burford, I think. There were several Conservatives in that group that I know of. There were Liberals too but there weren’t any labour parties then. Well, Harry ran against both Liberals and Conservatives to get the nomination. I remember Harry talking about that particular meeting — they were trying to chose a U.F.O. representative for the next election. He said the speeches went on and on, and around and around. Finally they settled for Harry. They thought he was younger and he'd make a good representative. I remember him coming home that night and he said, “I was nominated to run in the next election.” Well, I wasn’t really interested you know. That was the year that Kathryn was born, she was only three months old when the election came along in October. Harry went out speaking all over, sometimes I wouldn't even know where, he was going. He would do the chores and get them all done, then go out and canvass for the rest of the evening. He really didn't even expect to win, you know. I remember his father telling him, “You’re foolish to run, why there’s so many strong Conservatives and Liberals around here that you don't have a chance.” Well, Harry was funny, and I remember him saying, “Well Dad, you’ll vote for me won’t you?” “Yes,” he said, “I’ll vote for you.” Then Harry said, “and Alice will vote for me, and I’ll vote for myself, so that’s three votes right there!” I can remember that so well. Well sir, he won, and he had a good majority too.
Interviewer: How did Mr. Nixon get back and forth from Toronto?
Mrs. Nixon: By the train. We had a car, and I learned how to drive it and I would drive!-him too Paris, or to Lynden station, Well, on the way home, at the end of the week, he'd get off at Harrisburg. Sometimes the roads were so bad that he’d have to walk the tracks back home. I remember many times when I had to take the cutter back to Harrisburg to pick him up. We couldn’t drive the car in the winter you know.
Interviewer: Speaking of the roads, could you tell us about the changes in highway #5?
Mrs. Nixon: It was built first in 1931- It was rebuilt three times during the time I was on the farm. It was always the same road, but it was hilly, and narrow, and it had trees on both sides. But each time they changed it, they would widen it. The last time they widened it, they raised it so we had to £50 uphill to get into the lane. It still is like that, you know, just before you get to the train bridge when you're coming from St. George. They cut down ninety maple trees, off both sides of our road, in front of our place. I don't think there are any down there now. I’ve got pictures of the huge stumps, after they cut them off. And there was a rail fence all along there too. The lawn at the front of the house used to go way down to the road, it v/as a lot bigger then.
Interviewer: What other problems did Mr. Nixon have to deal with?
Mrs. Nixon: I remember a time with many of the farmers from Burford. As I mentioned before they were having a tough time because the soil was so light. A lot of the farmers used to come and say that they just had to have more money in order to pay for their farm. They borrowed money from the government at that time. They were really complaining back then, but now of course, they have discovered that tobacco grows so well out there.
The other big problem during his time that I remember was the Ontario Temperance Act. On, it was terrific—they had an awful time. Well, I'll tell you, there was a show on the television the other night and they mentioned the O.T.A. and I thought that sounded familiar. They were talking about the 'rum-running1 on the Detroit river. I remember that the government felt dreadful about it, but there wasn't much they could do to stop it. Even around here, we used to have a Temperance League. The kids took pledges in Sunday school and I’ve got a certificate that one of the kids had signed.
Interviewer: What was it like for you when Mr. Nixon was in politics?
Mrs. Nixon: In those days, when the legislature opened, we'd all go down and have a grand opening. The wives would be in the legislature and have a tea afterwards. The Speaker of the House and his wife would always entertain in the Parliament buildings. Several of the members wives would come to Toronto and stay for a week and we'd have receptions and get acquainted. I don't think it's quite the same now. In fact, we used to go out to Governor House in Toronto, where the Lieutenant Governor and his wife lived. Colonel Cockshutt was Lieutenant Governor during our term of office. They would have a banquet for all of the members and their wives. Oh, it was a big palace, very beautiful. Of course I used to have teas and things at home on the farm too.
Interviewer: Let’s talk more about the village now. Did the Nixons attend the Methodist church?
Mrs. Nixon: Yes, we did. It was a beautiful big church. I remember Harry saying that the galleries were always filled. At one time that church had a very big congregation.
Interviewer: What do you remember about union?
Mrs. Nixon: Oh, there was quite a feeling. Some people refused to go to church. There were a few Continuing Presbyterians in the old Methodist church for a while, but they gradually started attending services out of town.
Interviewer: What about church groups? Do you remember anything about a Leper Society?
Mrs. Nixon: Oh yes. It was called the Leper Mission. I think it has developed into something else now. I was always a member of the Women's Institute. When I was a girl in my teens, around 12 or 14, that was the time when Adelaide Hunter Hoodless had spoken for the women of Ontario organize and they did. My mother used to speak about Adelaide Hoodless, I remember when I was a little girl. This was in Lambton County, where I was born.
Interviewer: What other organizations were around here that don’t exist now? We’ve read that you were president of the Junior Patriotic League. What was that?
Mrs. Nixon: Well, it was more or less the same thing as the Red Cross. We did a lot of work then, when the war was on. Vie made clothes for children and for the men we made warm helmets and socks galore — beautiful socks. We used to ship them off in bales. In fact, that little table there was given to me by the workers of the Junior league. I was so surprised.
Interviewer: We ft like to ask you about other people who used to live in the village. What can you tell us about Dr. and Mrs. Addison?
Mrs. Nixon: Oh, I knew them very well. Dr. Addison was the doctor here. Mrs. Addison was a Thompson and did a lot of work for the church. (Presbyterian) They were wonderful people and they lived where the Meyers live now on Beverly Street, in that house beside Dufton’s. They did so much locally.
Interviewer: What about Dr. Kitchen?
Mrs. Nixon: Well, I didn't know him very well, but I knew Mrs. Dr- Kitchen. They lived in Sunnyside, that big home on Main Street. They were great workers in the Red Cross and Mrs. Dr Kitchen was a great Women's Institute member.
Interviewer: What was their home like inside?
Mrs. Nixon: On, it was lively. The whole thing was furnished from top to bottom. They had a big ballroom in there on one of the upper floors. I don't remember ever being in it, though. You see, Mrs. Kitchen didn't live very long after I was married. But she was regarded as a very fine citizen.
Interviewer: What happened to house after they died?
Mrs. Nixon: I think it was given to Ted Donald. His father was related to Mrs. Kitchen in some way, anyway, it was left to the Donalds. His father had died and they had it. They moved down here from British Columbia — from the Peace River. That's where Bruce Donald and Ted and Jean, the daughter grew up. Jean Donald was Mr. Nixon's Secretary in the parliament buildings for a while. She then joined the army.
Interviewer: When did Dr. Gordon arrive?
Mrs. Nixon: They come just about 4 or 3 years after we were married. She was from Newfoundland. She was a nurse in the Ottawa hospital, that's where he met her, he interned there. They lived where Dr. Weldhen lived, that red brick house on the corner. Everybody knew Dr. Gordon, he was so hood to everybody, he really was. He worked awfully hard. You know the roads were really very bad and if he couldn’t take the house and buggy or the cutter, he’d walk. We’ve always had good doctors here. Then, there was a Dr. Reid. Mrs. Reid was a very popular woman. They lived in that house where the Rosebrugh’s are on Beverly.
Interviewer: Was that the same time as Dr. Gordon?
Mrs. Nixon: Yes, and Dr. Read ran against Harry at one point. They were always good friends you know. Anyway, he didn’t win. I think they moved down to Pert Rowan. I guess he lived to be ninety.
Interviewer: Do you remember anything about A.E. Green?
Mrs. Nixon: Yes, he taught Harry and all of the Nixon family years ago. His wife was Roy Howell’s sister. Everybody liked him. They were both born around here you know and they were well respected. He was a lawyer and a teacher and looked after all sorts of things. He even had a library.