“The Elms”: home to two writers?

The naming of houses and properties was brought over with British colonists, but didn’t gain much ground in Canada. Modern property owners might name their farms, but not their houses.

On researching local writers, I discovered two claiming “The Elms” as their home: W.G. Hardy and Ernest Thompson Seton. These can’t possibly be the same property because Hardy lived near Peniel and Seton lived north of Reaboro.

At the time, Kawartha Lakes was populated with elms, trees that could reach heights over 100′ and live over 300 years; trees of such height would have been awe-inspiring to the colonists.

On the road near our gate were two large elm-trees, relics of the forest that had once stood there. Father called them Gog and Magog, after the two giants that guarded the gate of London; and it was from these that we, in English fashion, named our farm “The Elms.” The bigger one had the shorter name, and was visible miles away as a home-beacon. We were proud of that elm.

Imagine our feelings on coming home from Lindsay one day, to find the big elm cut down, and now being reduced to firewood. The road master of the year had given his permission to its being cut, when asked by a needy and improvident neighbour. He was amazed when he learned that Father had prized that tree, and said that, had he known it, nothing would have made him let anyone touch it.

Such, in those days, was the pioneer attitude towards trees.

Trail of an Artist-Naturalist: The Autobiography of Ernest Thompson Seton (1940)

Sadly, the elms of Kawartha Lakes were lost to Dutch Elm disease.

postcard, Kawartha Lakes Public Library digital collection

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