About 1864 the family moved across the road to the brick shop so that a major addition could be added to their house. “With timber from their own woods and lumber from their own mill, according to plans made largely by themselves, Caleb and John tore down part of the old house and in front of the brick section built a most comfortable home provided with twelve rooms, a pantry and wash room, a spacious wood-house including an old-fashioned brick oven and smoke house, over which was a roomy storeroom. Spacious frost-repellant collars, a well and cistern completed the arrangements. A fine fireplace in the living room added cheer to heating provided by stoves connected with four double chimneys.”* (I can’t imagine how much wood a family would burn to keep a house with twelve rooms semi-warm!)
“The building of the new Williams home coincided with an era of prosperity in Prince Edward County…when brick houses were built in town and country which are solid and fine to this day!”*
*Taken from Merton Williams’s Samuel Williams Jemima Platt Family.
John Williams’s keen interest in horticulture soon found him travelling to Rochester, New York where he learned the best modern methods of grafting, pruning, budding, selection and insect control. He expanded the orchards until they covered 20 acres (about 10 typical city blocks) of land sloping toward the creek. He also grew cherries, plums, pears and grapes. The Ontario Agriculture Commission Report of 1881 states:
“A gentleman of my acquaintance, Mr. John P. Williams, has adopted a system of cultivation which I think is worthy of notice. He cultivates in the spring until about June, ploughs his land twice and sows it with oats; when they are about 4 or 5 inches high, he buys a lot of sheep, turns them on the land, they live on growing oats during the summer manuring the land, lying under the shade of the trees and devouring falling fruit. The sheep do not do any injury and his orchards are flourishing under that system.”
Pollination of so many blossoms was not done sufficiently by the wild bees of the area so John also purchased domestic bees and learned to be an excellent apiarist. He built a combined ice house and bee house with walls a foot thick and filled with sawdust. There he kept ice in the summer and bees in the winter.
In the meantime barrels were needed for shipping apples, so John had the staves, hoops and heads manufactured from logs at Morgan’s Mill. The construction of the barrels took place in a large brick fruit-house he had built across the road from the house. It was equipped with a good cellar for apple storage and a fireplace which kept both the apples and the barrel-makers from freezing in the winter. Many hundreds of barrels were made and packed in the new space.
In 1866 two side-wheel steamers began to provide direct and rapid connection between Picton harbour and Montreal. John could see a world of opportunity in this and got to work arranging the first shipment of Ontario apples ever to reach the soils of England!
Can you see why this man just had to work his way into the story?
John Platt Williams II, the second son of Caleb and Gloranah Williams, attended the log school on the corner of the farm as well as the West Lake (Quaker) Boarding School as a day student. The boarding school was known for its exemplary education for both boys and girls. It’s quite likely that John’s interest in apples was encouraged by the close ties between the teachers at this school and others at its sister school, Nine Partners Boarding School, in Dutchess County, New York. (Quakers from what is now Ontario and New York State gathered together each summer. At such events farming information, tools, seeds and cuttings were often swapped.) John returned home at 19 to farm and help his father run their two mills located a mile apart on the creek. When the water was high he would often pole the distance in a dug-out canoe. Many years later he modernized Morgan’s Mill with auxiliary steam power for periods of low water. He added two looms for weaving blankets and carpets. John jumped right in on all the Industrial age had to offer!
It was on her trip to Morgan’s Mill when Emma Field first sees Vera Plank in distress.
John married Mary Jane Yarwood in January of 1853, but we all think of Mary Jane as Emma, right?