View all Stories

Mark Gillogly Remembers His Grandfather Maurice Lansfield

April 17, 2024

The Transfer Bus in Front of Jeremiah Twomey's Mansion House

When Maurice Lansfield was a boy, his father died, leaving a widow with seven children to look after. Maurice had been born in the mid 1880s, an era long before the advent of the welfare state, or all of the modern conveniences that have vastly reduced the amount of labour that goes into just getting by. Without running water, pails of water had to be carried for cooking or bathing; each meal had to be made from scratch over a wood fire; that firewood had to be split; and readymade clothing was an expensive luxury, so practically every article of clothing had to be sewn. Being a widow with seven children would have meant being destitute, if it was not for willingness of the community to “love thy neighbour as thyself”—as they would have learned at Sunday service.

The community was ready to do what they could to help. There was some talk of providing Maurice’s mother a pension, but instead they agreed to build a triplex next door to the family’s home, where one side would be a single family dwelling, and the other would have an apartment upstairs and another downstairs. Then the Lansfield family could rent out the three units in the triplex, to have some income to help them to get by. In time, the Lansfield family moved into the single family unit in the triplex, and the original house became a rental unit. The triplex remains in the family to this day.

When Maurice was a teenager, secondary schooling in the village was in its infancy. The South Ward School (now the Masonic Lodge) offered continuation courses, that gave scholars the opportunity to complete some courses beyond Grade 8, but to finish Secondary School the student would either need a private tutor or to attend Lindsay Collegiate Institute, which would typically involve boarding, because there were no school buses. Instead, most teenagers were expected to start on their working lives. For Maurice, this need was much more pressing, because of the difficult circumstances that his family faced.

As a young man, Maurice became a teamster, which in those days meant driving the team of horses and wagon. He received a contract from the village to spread water on the streets to keep the dust down, travelling around with a barrel of water on his wagon. In the era before refrigerators, those who were fortunate enough to have an ice box required blocks of ice to keep their food cool. Several local businesses cut ice on the local lakes in winter, storing it in ice houses for summer, insulated under layers of sawdust. Some businesses exported thousands of blocks of ice on the railway. Maurice worked cutting ice in the winter, and delivering it to customers around the village.

In the late nineteenth century, many farmers had their own team of horses, with wagons, sleighs or carriages. It was not uncommon to walk to the nearest town. But for those who travelled for business or who were fortunate enough to visit the Kawarthas for pleasure, the railways and steamships were the fastest mode of transportation. But once they arrived at Fenelon Falls, they had to get from the train station or wharf to the hotel where they would be staying. Given Victorian sensibilities and fashions (think beautiful white dresses with corsets), ladies were not going to be carrying any travel trunks—and it would not be becoming for a gentleman to be seen lugging a heavy trunk. So Maurice began to operate the village’s Transfer Bus. He built a barn behind the family home on Bond Street to keep his horses. At that time, it was not uncommon to have farm animals in town.

In the early twentieth century, technology was rapidly changing. Within a few years of when the largest steamboat company named the region the Kawarthas to turn it into a steamship and railway travel destination, the company had dissolved, and integrated steamship networks were becoming a thing of the past. In their place, those with waterfront property were beginning to purchase motor launches, that gave them the freedom to go anywhere they wanted. Similarly, automobiles were becoming common by the 1920s, which impacted the market for railway travel. Maurice purchased a Ford Model T Bus, which he would use to operate Lansfield Coach Lines.

Lansfield Coach Lines provided scheduled bus services linking Fenelon Falls, Cameron and Lindsay. In 1939, the coach ran a daily afternoon trip, with a second trip scheduled in the morning on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. In that era, many families did not have an automobile, and vehicles were not nearly as reliable as they are today. Drivers had to be prepared to perform minor repairs—sooner or later they would have to change a tire on the side of the road. Coach lines were a revival of the old stage coaches that had served major roads in the mid-nineteenth century.

By the 1950s, most families had an automobile, but others still needed a driver. So Maurice sold his old Model T Bus and went into the taxi business, which would last for the final few years of his career. His bus was sold to a potato farmer, who used it to store spuds. But years later, in the 1990s, his daughter Patsy Gillogly received a call from a man who restored old vehicles and was reviving the old Lansfield Coach Lines bus to be used on film sets. More recently, Andy Bellwood of Memory Lane Motors told Mark that the bus transports visitors around the grounds at an automotive museum in Florida.

© Copyright 2024 - Maryboro Lodge Museum