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Loving and Leaving Ebor House – Pt. 6 – Conclusion

Ron Coffin did such a great job restoring Ebor House that he was honoured for it.

Blog Photo - Ebor House MBedroom other view

He received the Newcastle Village and District Historical Society’s Preservation Award in 2011.
Blog Photo - Ebor House Master Bedroom

He also opened the house to the community on an architectural conservancy day and 600 visitors came.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Library

A pianist played beautiful music.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Living room reverse

The visitors toured the grand old house, admiring the furnishings and paintings, old and new.

Painting by George Forgie
Painting by George Forgie

Ron has invested untold time, love and money into his home.

“This place has nurtured me. Not just me but others too. One friend stayed here in the winter, healing from an accident. It’s nurtured her.”

The children are grown up. Ron says it’s time to leave. Ebor House is too big for one person.

He looks around at rooms sparkling with sunshine, beauty and a strong sense of well-being.  He tells me yet another story about the house and the Farncombs. He calls each family member by first name.

I say:  “You don’t sound like a man who’s selling this house.”

He says he is.  

“I truly believe the house is looking for a buyer, rather than a person looking for this house. It’s a very special place.  Last evening four of us had a wonderful supper under the trees and at the end of our meal we were visited by one of the hawks that have decided to call this place home this year.  Just magical!”

Blog Photo - Ebor House back lawn


As for me?

It started when I got lost a few weeks ago and saw this house.

I wanted to know more.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Front 2

But the single discovery that kept me searching was the August 1901 New York Times story about the drowning of the two Farncomb boys.

My heart sank when I read it.

A parent myself, I wanted – perhaps even needed –  to know that things turned out well for the family.

Of course — since this is real life and not a fairy tale — they did and they didn’t.


The Farncomb family survived and, over the decades, many thrived.

John and Jane and the boys were not forgotten.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Entrance and Stairs

But life had to go on, at least after a while.

And so it did.

Dorothea, Frederick and Jane’s only daughter, was a woman of strong faith who wrote for the Farmer’s Advocate, and published religious books. Other Farncomb descendants became successful in Canadian business, education, law, medicine and other fields such as literature and media.

Family members still own property in Bond Head, and still have influence. In 2002, one descendant (among other residents) protested against a plan to change the name of a local street. He argued it made no sense. He also pointed out that Farncombs had lived there for 150 years and that he owned much of the land in the area.

His side won.

Blog Photo - Bond Head main street


My interest in a house became a story about a multi-generation family. Their joys, sorrows, achievements. Their lives.

The trail had many twists and turns, and sometimes, they alarmed me.  Combing through the city of London’s archives, I found a court case involving slave-ship owners. Thomas Farncomb, the wealthy ship owner who became London’s Lord Mayor, was involved.

A descendant of enslaved people myself, my hackles immediately went up.  Had I spent all this time researching a house built with money earned from the slave trade? After all, it was Frederick Farncomb’s inheritance from his uncle Thomas that was used to build Ebor House.

I was relieved to discover that Thomas had been brought to court by two men whom he had disparaged over their ownership of slave ships.  It appears he was opposed to the slave trade.

There were other discoveries along the way.  Some are included in this story, and some are not.

I double-checked each of my findings, then asked homeowner Ron and Myno Van Dyke, secretary of the local historical society, to read much of what I’d written. I thank them for their help.

I conclude the series knowing I’ve done my best to make it fair, factual — and kind. There is much more to the story of Ebor House and its family than I’ve written here, but this is the story I wanted to share.

One Farncomb descendant is writing a historical novel on Dorothea Farncomb and the family.  Another, Balfour Le Gresley (who sold the house to Ron), has studiously researched his family history. I decided to leave it to them to make their own discoveries and decide what to share. (Though I’ve met them both, neither contributed to this series in any way.)

Click here for the epilogue in the Ebor House series: https://cynthiasreyes.com/2014/08/15/get-lost-cynthia/


This series is dedicated to the descendants of Frederick and Jane Farncomb.


Thanks to: Newcastle Village and District Historical Society; Library and Archives Canada; Archives of the City of London, England; Trinity College, Port Hope; Canadian Anglican Church;  St. George’s, Newcastle; the Canadian Encyclopaedia; The New York Times and several other Canadian and American newspapers; other sources. Some photos of Ebor House came from Promise First Realty’s website.

76 thoughts on “Loving and Leaving Ebor House – Pt. 6 – Conclusion”

  1. A beautiful, and beautifully researched, story, Cynthia. You have honoured the house and its history and its people. I feel terribly sad that Ron is planning to leave but it is great that he is confident that the house will find a new owner.

    1. Thank you. You manage to fold history and human beings into your writing beautifully, and so when you say this, I am thrilled.
      You’ve ennobled what I did. That I’ve “honoured the house and its history and its people”. I wanted to, and I’m glad to hear that I’ve succeeded.

  2. Thanks for this Cynthia. You have a knack for falling in love with old houses and making others fall in love with them too. Now when I look at the picture of Ebor house, it seems to be smiling.

    1. I’m so glad. Thanks for your great encouragement to keep going. I knew some people would find this house intimidating. But there’s always so much more to a house like this. Ebor House IS smiling. The vast majority of its experiences have been happy ones, including the care and love it’s received from Ron.

    1. Yes, do keep us posted about the sale and the new owner, if you are able. I like that Ron is selling; I like that spirit of non-attachment. As a person who has loved and left several houses, how does his decision affect you, Cynthia?

      1. I understand and support his decision. Perhaps the house “spoke” to him because it needed Ron to come and restore it. And now he’s done his job, he can move on. He’s done a great job.

      2. Aggie: I should also say that I relate very much to the struggle he went through before deciding, and even the loss he will feel when he leaves. But he will leave knowing he’s done such good for that house.

    2. I really didn’t mean that I expected you to go on with this story now. I only meant that the house will continue to be a home for many years to come, especially after Ron’s wonderful renovation of it, and the house will generate more stories. I would hate it if you thought that I was putting pressure on you. I endorse Aggie’s request that you keep us posted on your road to recovery. You are in my prayers.

      1. I got that this was one of the two possible ways I was meant to take your question. I chose to give the answer I did!

        Thanks so much, Clare.

        It will be a wonderful home for whoever buys it. What a great place!

    3. I think your question has 2 meanings, Clare. I’ll answer one of them now.

      Ron may give me more news about the house, and if so, I’ll do an update, for sure.

      Right now, I feel completely exhausted.

      So there may be more, but right now, I’m just glad it’s done. My brain and body need a rest!! (smile)

    1. Also, an observation: your book made so many situations come alive, but not the ordeal you have gone through. I’m curious whether anyone else has said this to you. I formed no imagery of your physical suffering. I did have imagery of the process of recovery, which you elaborated. This leads me to believe that you are very tough, very positive, and didn’t want to dwell on it, not that you are incapable of description. What do you think?

  3. Wow, you really dove into this story Cynthia. I almost had the impression your were working up to be the next owner of this house! Your passion and care shine through. Sorry to hear about your health.
    Please take care of yourself. 🙂

    1. You bet! I will.
      Given my condition, will you provide me with:
      an elevator
      a live-in housekeeper
      A groundskeeper
      And about a million dollars?

      You do that, and I will.
      And hey- you must come to visit!

  4. I can understand that you’ve put in a lot of time and work to this series on Ebor House. Thank you for the interesting write-up and photos. Do have a good rest and be refreshed, Cynthia. 🙂 Kind regards, Iris.

  5. Thank you Cynthia, it was a compelling story about a house and the people who lived in it. And now when Ron goes there will be a new chapter. I wonder what is in store for the house in the future. New dramas being enacted within its walls. New stories.

    1. I can’t help wondering about the future of the house myself. That house has such a big heart, and is shining very brightly again.
      Thank you, Chloris, for sticking with the series throughout. I really appreciate your interesting and warm responses to it. I also like your last two sentences, about new dramas and new stories. It aptly describes life in and with a home.

  6. Ron did a great job renovating such a lovely house, and I hope whoever buys it appreciates its “history.” As you, my friend, I can hardly wait until you get lost again. Not bad lost, mind you, but fun lost like this time. Hugs, Natalie 🙂

    1. Haha – you made me laugh. OK, next time when I get lost, I’m taking you with me. We can have a good laugh together – at ourselves for getting lost!

      Ron did indeed do a great job with the house. It really shows.

  7. What a great story, Cynthia. Fascinating. And the house – so beautiful. One of my favorite periods in homes. I’m sure the house will find just the right person; Ron would’t have it any other way. What an amazing job he did.
    Getting lost can be a good thing! 🙂 Jeanne

    1. Thank you, Jeanne. I am so glad you like it.

      And I now have all these people telling me to “Get lost, Cynthia!” and I have absolutely no comeback to that!
      Thanks again.

  8. What a story…I just finished reading the last part. When I spoke to you a few days ago I did not realize that I had not read the first part – you getting lost and coming across the house. So I read it again this time from the beginning. For some reason the house did not feel as ominous as I first thought. I think because I was able to feel compassion and identify with the humanity of the family over the generations. I was disappointed that Ron was selling and moving on… but as he rightly said, his mission was completed. I really feel that mystically, you also had a mission to bring this family’s story to light. There is no coincidence in life, I truly believe.

    Great job my friend…we love your writing so much, we can never get enough! Please rest up and renew yourself in body, mind and spirit.

  9. Cynthia, this was a wonderful series. I enjoyed it very much. So much joy, so much tragedy. They say real life is stranger than fiction and I have found it to be true many times. Thank you for sharing this and have a lovely, peaceful and relaxing Sunday. 🙂

    1. Glad you got to read the series, MT. I know how busy things are with the books and family life. I hope your parents are doing well.
      Yes, I’ve been flooded with advice to “get lost”, as you will see in the post “Get Lost, Cynthia.”

  10. That was a great story! I was lucky to have had time to read but the story drew me in. It was sad about the two boys, that’s the way history is sometimes. ❤

    1. Thanks for hanging in with the series, Jackie. Blogger friend Gallivanta reminded me that in the old days, tragedy was the silent companion at every dinner table. Whether it was disease, war or accidents such as drowning, virtually all families were touched by tragedy.

    1. Thanks so much, Liz. I do too, but this house both enchanted and possessed me. I still don’t know why I felt driven to write this series, and I don’t know how I did it either – it took enormous work for a person still struggling mightily with pain, a head injury and PTSD at the time I researched and wrote it. I’ve never done anything like it, before or after.

      1. I don’t think so. I think the story of that couple and their sons wanted to be told and drew me in. I was in bad shape at the time, and finding and following the trail across N. America and the UK was extremely difficult for me.

  11. This story is outstanding Cynthia. A great slice of history and a wonderful tribute to all who have had the pleasure of calling Ebor house, “home”.

  12. Hi Cynthia , So glad you got lost and stumbled upon the Ebor House. This house obviously has special meaning to our family as my Dad worked as a Farmhand in the early 60’s when he first came to Canada. Could feel your passion and heartfelt interest in the old place. Will have to find pictures that we have when we were there and stop in for a visit . Great Job Cynthia…Rick

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