To Everything, A Season – Pt. 5, Ebor House series

*

*SPOILER ALERT: You may wish to read Pt. 4 before this one.*

**

My ancestors had a saying when asked why some of their relatives had married first cousins:

“Cousin and cousin make good soup.”

The Farncomb family must have made a lot of good soup. 

Frederick married his cousin Jane.

Son John married his cousin — another Jane.

Younger son Alfred married his cousin Hannah.

But let’s go back to 1867.

**

Frederick inherited money from his uncle Thomas Farncomb, the wealthy Lord Mayor of London, England. He and Jane bought more land in Bond Head, and hired a Toronto architect to draw up the plans.

The house was built in 18 months, between 1868 and 1869.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Front 2

Three of the Farncomb sons – William, John and Frederick Edward – became Anglican priests.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Anglican church in Fenelon Falls

Blog Photo - Ebor House Rev. Farncomb in church

Two others – Alfred and Thomas – became doctors.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Entrance

Alfred became a popular and influential general practitioner in the Newcastle area. His wife Hannah appears to have helped him with the record-keeping. Hannah was a skillful host of weddings and other special gatherings at Ebor House. She was also the organist at the family church (St. George’s Anglican) for 40 years.

**

In 1895, John, who’d been posted to various Anglican churches in Ontario, returned home to St. George’s as the Reverend Canon John Farncomb…. a nice step up from being an ordinary priest. He was a well-respected rector.

Blog Photo - Ebor House - B and W photo of St. George's

He’d married cousin Jane in 1880 and they had five children.  Two sons, Frederick Charles and John Robson, went to Trinity College, a private school in nearby Port Hope that previous Farncombs had attended.

In the summer of 1901, the boys were 16 and 18 years old. They were home for the holidays.

There was a nice sandy beach at Bond Head, and it was a popular spot for both adults and young people alike. I imagine that the boys could hardly wait to put down their school stuff, shuck off their uniforms and go to the nearby lake for a swim. They did that often that summer.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Entrance lookign to lawn 3

But August 11 was different. Frederick Charles and his brother John did not return home that day. 

Both drowned in Lake Ontario.

Blog Photo - Ebor House and Bond Head harbour

It was as if the world had come crashing down on the Farncombs.

**

Parents who’ve experienced it will tell you that the worst thing that can happen is to lose a child.

John and Jane lost not one, but two children in one day.

Two beloved sons gone.

And now, John and Jane were expected to grieve, but carry on.

Perhaps onlookers thought that a priest and his wife would have some special way of coping with tragedy. Perhaps they thought that with three priests and two doctors in the family, everything would be alright.

Everything was not alright.

**

St. George's Anglican

The boys died in August 1901, and John, Jane and the remaining children  left St. George’s Church before the year was over. He served at another parish for several years.

How did they cope?

One imagines that they tried hard to get over the loss.

That they tried to rely on each other and their families and on their faith.

But Jane fell apart, and, in his own way, so did John. She died in 1914, broken, and he followed three years later.

**

In the century that followed the boys’ deaths, momentous events took place in the world.

Blog Photo - Ebor House - Normany Landing

The first and second world wars, in which many young Canadians fought.

The great depression.

A man landing on the moon.

The cold war between the west and Russia.

And these were just a few.

Blog Photo - Ebor House

Ebor House lived through them all. Life went on.

Despite the tragedy, Ebor House  continued to be “home” to Farncomb descendants. It appears to have been a wonderful home, full of activity inside and out.

Alfred’s daughter Helen married Reginald Le Gresley and, from the huge barn, they operated Newcastle Dairy. It produced 1,000 quarts of milk each week.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Newcastle Dairy  Bottle

The whole Le Gresley family worked in the dairy, adults and children alike.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Barns and hydrangea

There was a creek nearby for fishing. A beach for swimming.

Parents who worked in the barn behind the family house.

And neighborhood children to play with.

**

The records show that Frederick Farncomb died in 1893. His wife Jane died in 1905.

Blog Photo - Ebor House F Farncomb

The house passed to their son Alfred, then to Helen, Alfred’s daughter, then to Helen’s son Balfour. He was the last Farncomb to own Ebor House. He sold the house to Ron.

Blog Photo - Ebor House ron sits on table

Not much is written or said about John and Jane Farncomb in the public sphere.  Years after their deaths, one or more Farncomb descendants had a memorial stone made for the couple.

The wording is one of the most moving I’ve ever read.

“Heartbroken on drowning of sons Frederick and John Farncomb.” 

**

Next: The Series ends with another twist.

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43 Comments

Filed under A Good Home, Architecture, Barns, Bond Head, Bond Head Harbour, Canada, Canadian History, Canadian life, Children, Country Homes, Country Living, Faith, Family Stories, Grieving, Heritage Homes, historic neighborhoods, Home, Homes

43 responses to “To Everything, A Season – Pt. 5, Ebor House series

  1. Georgeina

    Human stories contain times of great happiness and times of tragedy. This story of a beautiful house and happy family was harshly touched by the loss of two sons and to compound the tragedy, the unbearable burden of that loss on their parents. I love your story and hope there is a happier ending in store.

  2. I can’t imagine losing two children on the same day. I had a niece who was killed in a terrible bicycle accident when she was just 11, and I’ve seen what it can do to a family. You need a lot of strength just to go on and you never get over it, so I would say that the words on that stone are accurate.

  3. This tale is so fascinating. I love the house and your wonderful photos! Hugs and love, N 🙂

  4. I feel the broken hearts. Very interesting to see ‘wife and cousin’ written on the headstone. The cousinly relationship was obviously very important.

    • I knew you would.
      I think it might even have made the pain more intense for the Farncombs, since it was happening among a group of people who were all related.

      • After reading your post, I happened upon this
        Grief
        By Elizabeth Barrett Browning
        I tell you, hopeless grief is passionless;
        That only men incredulous of despair,
        Half-taught in anguish, through the midnight air
        Beat upward to God’s throne in loud access
        Of shrieking and reproach. Full desertness,
        In souls as countries, lieth silent-bare
        Under the blanching, vertical eye-glare
        Of the absolute heavens. Deep-hearted man, express
        Grief for thy dead in silence like to death—
        Most like a monumental statue set
        In everlasting watch and moveless woe
        Till itself crumble to the dust beneath.
        Touch it; the marble eyelids are not wet:
        If it could weep, it could arise and go.

        Perhaps you already know it. EBB wrote it after the death of her brother, by drowning. I think your post and this poem complement each other beautifully. I hope you agree.

      • I’ve read and liked much of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poetry – and not just because she had a Jamaican background! (smile)
        It is such an expressive poem.Of all human emotions, grief must be the most painful, and she’s captured the bleakness – and the silence of it – so well.

      • I have read some EBB, but not a great deal. Often I don’t understand what she is writing but, for some reason, ‘the light went on’ with this poem.

      • Sometimes, with a poem, I have to struggle to understand the overall meaning, but lines and phrases jump out at me and hit me in the gut. She’s one of those.

        Wonder what it was like for her and Robert Browning, being a couple. I know they wrote to each other in poetry sometimes. But did they talk to each other in poetry too? (smile)

      • Perhaps they did. 🙂

  5. How very sad. I am glad you are inserting such history into the story — it makes the tale all the more real, vivid in the reader’s imagination.

    • Thank you, Rose. There is one last episode to come, the closing episode. I’m going to miss the Farncombs and Ebor House. Researching their story gave me a unique glimpse at the history of my country.
      I’m so glad you and others have encouraged me to keep going, exhausted though I am at this moment.

  6. What a tragic loss for the parents. Not surprising that they were broken-hearted.

  7. Very sad but interesting family history. A house seems more alive when you know about the people who lived in it.

    • You’re exactly right. As someone once said “a house’s best ornaments are the people who visit”.

      And maybe the people who live there help to bring out a house’s “soul”.

  8. What a sad story. They had so much to make them happy and it was all snatched away in the most painful way imaginable.
    I suppose every old house has seen great joy and great sadness too.

    • Yes, Chloris. But I think you British know and expect that every old house has seen great joy and sadness. After all, many of your houses are hundreds of years old.

      With Canada being a newer country, most of our houses are new or new-ish, especially near cities.
      And not only is there a preference among many for new houses, but a real suspicion about older houses too, because some believe that they’re most likely to have experienced tragedy.Perhaps it’s a “new world thing”. Is it, or does the same suspicion exist where you are?

      • I think it probably is a new world thing. After all if you have a very old house you know many people will have died in your house. And because medicine was so primitive every family had to endure enormous loss. Infant mortality rate in Tudor times was 200- 250 in every 1000 babies. Life expectancy was very low., and of course the plague kept wiping out whole families. I know people who lived in my house will have endured great hardship but I hope they will have enjoyed happy times too. It feels like a happy house.

      • Mine too. But perhaps that’s because I’ve lived in it, and now it is just home. I imagine that people who have lived in Ebor House feel the same way.

      • Thanks for this great reply, Chloris.

  9. Those poor people! One can hardly imagine how they must have felt that day – wondering where the boys had got to and then the awful news…
    One of the houses I lived in when I was growing up was haunted. I never saw or heard anything but my father and sister did. The woman they saw and heard seemed very unhappy and she was seen when they themselves were feeling low. I was aware of an atmosphere sometimes but never felt scared. The house had been lived in and to live fully is to experience all the emotions. I think there are certain places where those strong emotions seem to linger and can be experienced again ‘second-hand’

  10. I wonder if some of us are more sensitive to sad energy left in a house, while some are not? And does that mean that those people are also more sensitive to joyful energy in a house?
    I don’t like the idea of a house being haunted by sadness, but I sure like the idea of it being haunted by joy!

  11. WOW!!! Ron is so lucky to know such history about his home. Every older home has a tale and I often wish the walls could talk!

  12. This was indeed a tragedy that went to the graves with John and Jane. I’m glad that a good life was to be had by the next generations. It seems sad to me that it still isn’t in the family. I’ve seen this happen many times. I have my trusts written so that this doesn’t happen to my place and the land. Great work you did on this. You really should consider a book. You could follow the guys on American Pickers. Lol. Great job, Cynthia.

    • I know. so many people would prefer this, but it wasn’t possible in this particular case.
      I am glad you read this. I was thinking about a piece on your blog – a Chambers piece about how hard it is to stay on the mountaintop – that it is down in the valley that we find God. But some tragedies are so painful at times that it feels as if God isn’t listening. Even a priest and his wife must have felt this. My heart went out to that family.

      As for a book: If a 6 part blog series takes so much work, can you imagine what it would take to do a book on this? Yikes.

  13. Thank you for sharing this story, Cynthia! You did a wonderful job.

  14. Pingback: Joyful Times at Ebor House – Pt. 4 in the Series | Cynthia Reyes

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