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Pirney’s Farm in Canada
Robert G. Flint Sr continued to work his small farm in Hall’s Mills perhaps up to his death in April, 1859. He and Hannah raised wheat and rye for their own use.
20 Oct 1851:“. . . we have put in the whole field with wheat & rye—12 acres—but your Father works very hard. he says he wants to make the place look well—that his boys may see he is not idle. he has done a great deal to improve the place. . . .”1
30 May 1854:“. . . your Father lets Wm2 have the horses to carry out flower, so he has kept them all last winter which was a great help to us both. we always can have them when we want, but your Father is getting too aged to look after them in winter. Wm is a good man to dumb animals. . . . we have got four [ac]res of rye & wheat in. we have had a severe Winter with frost and no snow to cover the ground that our . . . is part winter kill’d, but I think we shall have enough for our use. . . .”3
There apparently exist Flint letters that I haven’t seen:“. . . The valuable legacy of family letters is particularly revealing about the Flint's lives and characters. Hannah is shown to be an astute, well educated, staunchly upright woman, inclined to be judgmental of others and acutely aware of her own sufferings. When her youngest son, Pirney, returned from seeking gold in California, she claimed to be so distraught at his heavy drinking and low company that she said she ‘would sooner live in a cave in the earth than live the life [she did].’ Robert Flint, in contrast, appears hard working, (despite being lame), uncomplaining, and consistently tolerant. Against Hannah's advice, he insisted on building [a] house for the wayward Pirney. There Pirney became a conscientious, though feisty, farmer and a devoted husband and father.”4
Pirney probably took over some of his father’s farm work after he returned to Canada about 1855. The tract may have been somewhat of a hardscrabble place and there are also a couple of mentions in letters that part of it was a swamp. In the Agricultural Census of 1861 “Pluncy” Flint has 6 acres under crops and 14 acres under orchards or garden. In the previous year he had produced 60 bushels of peas, 30 of Indian corn, 100 of potatoes, 1700 of turnips, 100 of mangel wurzel, 2 of carrots and 2 tons of hay. No wheat, barley, rye, oats, buckwheat, beans, hops, or clover or grass seed. Somebody must have liked turnips. He is the only one of the 50 farmers on the census page for whom mangel wurzel, or field beets, a fodder crop, is listed. The data seem incomplete; there is no mention of livestock or fruit crops. I believe there was a second page to each of the Agricultural Census pages that has been omitted in the Ancestry.com files. Otherwise, why do the page numbers jump by 2 between pages?
Information about the farm for the remainder of Pirney’s life is vague and piecemeal since all the letters I have for that period are from Robert to Pirney. There is also a long gap from 1863 to 1872. Robert’s letters are full of Big Brotherly advice. A favorite topic was Pirney’s orchard, of which Robert may have been envious.
24 Jun 1862:“. . . Pleas to write soon and let Me know how you are geting along and what you are doing—if working at the old trade5 or farming—and how your Orchard is thriving.”6
31 Mar 1872:“. . . Your report of your orchard is very gratifying and, could you devout More time to it, the results would be still greater. but you Must be well pleased at you success, which promis so Much in the future could you pay More Attention to it. I think you idea of Not taking any crops off it will be the Means of Making it a great success, and your bees work well together and Robert7 being able to Manage a swarm is a good deal of help to you. . . . you say if you could sow corn and let it get two or three feet high, then plough it in, it would enrich it More than any thing els. prehaps it would. however, you allready know the benefit of Clover ploughed under; why not stay with it? it is said that summer fallowing orchards is a great help to them and that is [?easey] when you cannot Manure. as regards keeping apples, I do Not know wether it is proffitable or not. Could you sell at a fare price in The fall whilst gathering, it would take a great deal of trouble off of your hands and give you time for other things. . . .”8
23 Jan 1874:“. . . In your next lete Me know how Many bushells or barrells of apples you had this year . . .”9
13 Nov 1876:“. . . I am glad to see you take the same vew of Cultivating your Orchard as I do. we cannot get something for nothing. your Orchard, if proper care is taken of it, is a fortune and I know of No other buisness that is so interesting and proffitable at the same time. do all you Can for the orchard; it will repay you ten fold. . . .”10
18 Apr 1878:“. . . on receipt of your letter I instructed M.P. Jones & Co. to put you in a way of ca[?rry]ing out your vews in replanting your Orchard, which I think Must pay in the near future. at least I would not abandon the idea I comenced with. . . .”11
14 Aug 1880:“. . . I wish you had writen about your Orchard. . . .”12
Another recurring subject was fences.
23 Jan 1874:“. . . about the fencing: if I was there we could do something. as it is, take some of the old trees; Make rails to repair the fences on the old place. . . .” 13
18 Apr 1878:“. . . I also think well of the Hay buisness with cattle but, as you say, to do that you Must have good fences to keep controwl of the cattle, and I suppose fence building is best done in the winter. . . .”14
23 Feb 1879:
“. . . you say the Snow is so deep it’s hard getting about in the woods. I remember about that, but after the roads is once brooken it Make easer for the horses, and if you Make the fence—which I hope you will—there is considerable hauling to do. enquire if young Chestnut is as good for post as old chestnut; I think they are Not. if Not, get the other kind should you build the fence. when it is done, let me know what it Cost. . . .”15
14 Aug 1880:“. . . I am glad to hear the fence is done; it was quite an undertaking. . . .”16
Besides owning land in California and Indiana, Robert seemingly owned some in the vicinity of Pirney’s farm:“. . . have an eye to it as I wish to add it to the lot on the river so soon as it can be had. . . . I wish you would keep track of the land and let Me know when it is in Market. . . . on that place of Mine, I have been in hopes the purchas of the lot adjoining Me would have happned before this time and that I could have come home and put a good fence around it all. . . .”17
Pirney was a school trustee and a member of the Masonic fraternity and the Church of England.18 He is listed in the 1891 Canada census, enumerated on 14 April, but he soon entered his terminal illness and died on 28 Jun 1891. His death certificate has his cause of death as “general debility” and the duration of his final illness as “3 months”.19 He is buried near his brother Robert in Brick Street Cemetery in London, ON.20
Credit: Jon K Shidler
Pirney Flint in Later Life
1 Flint, H (1851).
2 William Blinn, a miller, was the husband of Robert and Pirney's Sister, Mary (Flint) Blinn.
3 Flint, H (1854).
4 Tausky (2005), p 10.
5 Both brothers had been trained in the mason's trade by their father.
6 Flint, R (1862).
7 Pirney's son, 10-year-old Robert G Flint III, named after his uncle Robert G Jr.
19 Ontario, Registrations of Deaths, 1869–1938. MS 935, reel 61. Archives of Ontario, Toronto, ON, Canada.
8 Flint, R (1872).
10 Flint, R (1876).
11 Flint, R (1878).
12 Flint, R (1880).
13 Flint, R (1874).
14 Flint, R (1878).
15 Flint, R (1879).
16 Flint, R (1880).
17 Flint, R (1872).
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