Monday, 1 October 2012

Celebrating Myrtleville House

             On November 22, 1836 Allen Good and his family; wife Eliza, daughter Anne, and sons John and Charles, left Cork, Ireland for Canada. They first moved to Montreal where Allen had been appointed Bank Manager for the Bank of Montreal. By 1837, Allen had been let go and they decided to relocate to Brantford, Ontario where he had previously purchased 108 acres of land. His family, now including a new daughter Charlotte, made the difficult journey to Upper Canada.
             Upon arriving in Brant County, the Good family stayed in a rental house for some months at the corner of Colborne and Dumfries Streets. Allen began drawing up contracts for their new family home which detailed a two-story, nine room house with seven fireplaces and no cellar, at the cost of four hundred and sixty-seven pounds, five shillings and nine pence halfpenny. This is equal to about sixteen thousand dollars today.
Myrtleville house was designed after a home in Ireland with the same name. It had been owned by a Thomas Daunt, a partner to Eliza Good’s Father, Mr.Carroll. The original house was a country home located on the bay of the Atlantic that got its name from the green myrtle shrubs which grew all around it. As a child Eliza spent many holidays at this house and no doubt wanted to bring a little piece of Ireland to their new home in Brantford. The Canadian Myrtleville house was given the same name and built in the same Georgian style with stucco siding, which was well out of fashion by this point.
The property was passed down through generations of the Good family and in 1903 William Good, the grandson of Allen Good was in possession of the farm and house. Ten years later William Good began construction of a new house on the current property next door to Myrtleville house. This house, unlike the original, was to be equipped with all the modern conveniences of the time. This included a coal furnace; stationary washtubs, bathroom upstairs, hot and cold water in the kitchen, laundry, and bath. Although the house was wired for electricity it did not receive it until 1917 when the Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Canada was created. The first house’s main use from then on was as a summer home for family visitors, or for farm hands to stay.
William married Jennie in 1908 and purchased the Myrtleville property from ‘Aunt Annie’; after her death he became the figure head of the family. When William took over operations of the farm he started to make improvements such as the addition of an orchard. In 1921 William was elected to Parliament for four years. While he was away he put the farm on hold and rented out most of the property to a family. In 1925 William retired from politics and returned to Myrtleville. He was ready to go back to the family legacy of farming. He maintained his position as President of the Cooperative Union of Canada which he started in 1921, as well as being on the Board of United Farmer’s Cooperative of Ontario. When he returned to farming he built up a herd of purebred Holstein-Friesians and began what would come to be a dairy farm.
During the Great Depression William hired as many men as he could afford to help out on the farm and brought fruit to the Social Service Centre to be distributed to the unemployed. Jennie was also a very practical and thrifty woman, obtaining many unbleached soft muslin bags used to transport unprocessed silk from Japan and constructed sheets, nightclothes, and aprons for her family.
           Upon William Good’s death in 1967 the possession of Myrtleville was passed on to his son Robert Good. Many restorations in the 1960s preserved the homestead and began considerations of donating the house as a museum. In 1978 the documents were signed that donated five-acres of land, containing two houses, a swimming pool and a number of octagonal silos, to Heritage Canada.
           Many of the artifacts in the museum have found their way back to Myrtleville from previous family members. Original pieces from Eliza Good such as the big four poster bed in the master bedroom, her Collard piano now located in the parlour, and the dollhouse they gave to their daughter Anne still remains in the house. Likewise, William Good’s handmade camera still remains in the library along with shelves and shelves of books that the Good family enjoyed.
          Along with being a great example of living history of the Good family , Myrtleville has remained a place of learning and family gathering. The property is host to camps that are run throughout the summer and school year as well as annual celebrations such as the Easter Egg Hunt, and the Family Day event. Myrtleville house has changed over the years, but one thing has always remained true: Myrtleville is a place of family and community, a place of gathering for everyone.      Once upon a time Myrtleville was a place of learning and gathering for the Good family; now Myrtleville has come to encompass a broader family; that of Brantford.
           Visit Myrtleville House today to see 175 Years of Myrtleville: A Story of Family, Community and Nation on display now.

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