Edgemont Barn

Author: Adam Foreman Msc., Museum Collections Manager; Erland Lee (Museum) Home
Editor: Sharifa Riley, Museum Curator; Erland Lee (Museum) Home

The Lee family emigrated in 1792 after the end of the American Revolution as United Empire Loyalists (U.E.) to the recently formed Saltfleet Township where James and Hannah Lee were given 200 Acres of land for staying loyal to the British in the war.  Their eldest son John married Mary (Moore) Lee in 1808 and received land from her father on what is now Ridge Road and built his first home there with his wife. The Lee family named the home Edgemont Farms and lived in the home until 1970.  The six generations of the Lee family were farmers until the late 1960’s, with John Lee’s grandson, Erland Lee, raising some of the first Jersey cattle in Wentworth County. 

The large barn pictured (Figure 1) was built in 1885. This barn was used to house Jersey cattle and horses.  To the left of the main door was a stable for the Jersey cattle the family raised. To the right of the door was a stable for the horses the family raised for work and sale. Period records show that the horses raised at Edgemont Farms were some of the finest horses in Saltfleet Township (now Stoney Creek).  The small barn in the bottom left corner of the image was for the flock of sheep the Lee family raised.

Figure 1: Lee family barn

The large barn had a wooden windmill on the roof, this powered a water pump that supplied a 1,000-gal reservoir that filled the troughs for the animals.  The Lee family always liked to use technological tools when they could.  Abram Lee, son of John Lee installed a cistern in their basement, with a pump to bring water to the house so that they no longer relied on well water.  Abram also installed an octopus furnace in their home in the 1890’s.  This was to remove the need for the home to be heated by open fire hearths.  While John Lee was a subsistence farmer, his son Abram Lee was the Councilor, Deputy Reeve, and Reeve for Saltfleet Township from 1865-1870 as well as the first President of the Fire Insurance board until his retirement in 1902.  Abram Lee took the family farm and turned it into a highly profitable and renowned resource for local butter, beef, and dairy products.  The increased business resulted in Erland Lee needing to build the pictured barn in 1885.

Figure 2: Chicken Coop pre-restoration
Figure 3: Chicken Coop post-restoration

While Abram Lee was a politician and businessman of notoriety in the Saltfleet Township area, his second son, Erland Lee (namesake of the museum), was the Township Clerk (treasurer) and made the most impact to the Wentworth area and eventually Canada, by being the co-founder of the Women’s Institute. Erland was a member of his local Farmer’s Institute and in 1896 came to recognize that the wives and daughters of the farmers were being underserved and underutilized.  With his wife Janet (Chisholm) Lee, and other notable citizens of early Ontario, E.D. Smith, his Wife Christina Smith, F.M Carpenter and Mrs. Adelaide Hunter Hoodless they founded the first Women’s Institute.

The Women’s Institute (WI) was founded on February 19th, 1897, in the dining room of the Lee family home.  The WI was a way to support, educate, and advocate for rural women.  This organization has aided in the creation of many civil and public liberties we take for granted today, including milk being pasteurized, the provision of birth certificates, lines on roadways demarking direction and lanes, and many other beneficial resolutions over the 125 years they have been in operation.

If you visit the Erland Lee (Museum) Home today for a tour of the historic property you will sadly not see the 1885 barn, as it was taken down by Frank Robertson Lee (Erland’s son) and moved to Caistor Township in the 1950’s.  Visitors can see the chicken coop, built in the 1930’s and restored in 2019, along with the drive shed, now called the ‘Carriage House’, which was built in the early 1900’s and is still in use today as an event and exhibit space.

Figure 4: Carriage House interior, showing original hand-hewn beams
Figure 5: Carriage House interior, showing original beams and posts
Figure 6: Carriage House interior, showing wooden joint construction
Figure 7: Carriage House interior, showing wooden dowel retention pegs
Figure 8: Carriage House, exterior

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