Ron Coffin did such a great job restoring Ebor House that he was honoured for it.
He received the Newcastle Village and District Historical Society’s Preservation Award in 2011.
He also opened the house to the community on an architectural conservancy day and 600 visitors came.
A pianist played beautiful music.
The visitors toured the grand old house, admiring the furnishings and paintings, old and new.
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!”
As for me?
It started when I got lost a few weeks ago and saw this house.
I wanted to know more.
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.
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.
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.