Memories of Florence Smitheram
January 12, 2024
By J.R. MacLean
Originally Published circa 1990
For almost fifty years Florence Smitheram has lived in a farmhouse about a mile up Glenarm Road from Highway 35. In that time, she has borne seven children, farmed, helped her husband Merle run their gravel pit, watched a twister ‘blow up the barn like a balloon,’ and become a great grandmother.
Born in 1921 in North Emily Township near Dunsford, Florence married Merle Smitheram in 1940. In 1941, Merle purchased the family farm on Glenarm Road from his father, Mr. John Smitheram. John before him purchased the farm from his father Mr. Emmanuel Smitheram.
Emmanuel was sold the first deed to the place back on October 26, 1874, at which time the property consisted of “100 acres, a small log house and a stable.” According to the history of the place which is on record in a Lindsay museum, “Emmanuel burnt out a virgin pine forest to clear the land. Stumps were pulled by yoked oxen.”
Construction on the house, which still stands, was begun in 1875. Bricks were brought by sled across the ice of Sturgeon Lake and maple trees were planted in front of the house.” Those trees, now huge, stand to see this day. Mr. John Smitheram purchased another 100 acres for the property in 1918.
Merle and Florence Smitheram got Hydro to the place in 1948. By that time, they were well on their way to producing the six children who survive today. Eleanor, now Mrs. Joe Archer, was first in 1941. Myrna, now Mrs. Russel Fegan, came in 1944. Marsha, now Mrs. Wayne Hood came in 1952 and was followed by Stan, John and Barrie in 1954, 1955 and 1958 respectively. All of Mrs. Smitheram’s children still live in the area, with the exception of Barrie, who has worked at the Limelight Dinner Theatre in Toronto for the last ten years or so. In 1949, a sawmill and power machinery were brought in and modern farming started in earnest. Merle opened the sand and gravel business in 1955 and it closed in 1980 though Florence says, “There’s still more yet, but it’s just too much for me to take care of.”
Merle passed on in 1985, leaving Florence alone in the house. During his long illness, ‘the family stuck right by him. He was scared to be in the hospital and one of us was always right by him, even when he was in Toronto. I’m not in the least lonely,” continues Florence. “I’ve got three grandchildren nearby and on the weekends there are usually five or six visitors. I got 22 at my table for Christmas.” Among them is likely to be great granddaughter Courtney Barker, who is the grandchild of daughter Eleanor.
Still a vigorous woman, Florence Smitheram may well become a great great grandmother one of these years. The family really looks after me, taking me to the store and so on. I own a car but the only thing I know how to drive is the lawnmower.” Florence keeps a garden in summer, knits and shovels snow in winter, does some babysitting for neighbours, and is a member of the Pleasant Valley Women’s Institute.
It’s a little sad that Florence may be the last Smitheram to live on the property which has been in the family for over a century. I’ve willed it to be sold and the money divided among the children,” she says. “There’s not much money in farming these days, with the prices and quotas and marketing boards controlling everything.” Florence accepts this, as she has learned to accept the bad with the good in nearly half a century on Glenarm Road.