In the early years, the homestead at Cassidy Lake, built by William Cassidy and later handed on to son Francis Edward who handed it to his son, Robert Allen, was almost a community in itself. Besides mixed farming that included the usual crops and livestock, there was also a grist mill, a saw mill, a cheese factory, a maple sugar camp, a church, and a cemetery. It was a family home and working farm until 1954 when Robert Allen retired. A fire, set by vandals, destroyed the house in 1972. The home has not been rebuilt. However, a detailed replica was constructed by Allen Robert Cassidy in 1980 for his granddaughter Anne Renwick Villeneuve who, as of 1998, was residing in Toronto.
The aerial view on this page shows the home and farm buildings around 1950. The house was situated on a hill with a grand view overlooking the lake. It was a two story structure with four bedrooms upstairs and a kitchen, dining room, living room, and parlor downstairs.
Originally, there was a big fireplace. It was a room almost by itself and there were benches along the walls to sit on. Matthew Cassidy used to tell how he and his siblings would sit on these benches and study their lessons by the light of the fire. By the mid 1930s it had long been out of use, replaced by a large wood stove.
Each winter, the wood stove was moved from the kitchen into the dining room to provide much needed heat. The basement served as a dark, cool, dry place to store vegetables from the fall harvest. By the 1940s there was a wood furnace that let heat rise through a large metal grate in the floor of the front hall to heat the first floor. The heat would continue to rise on up the stairway to the second story.
A long driveway wound up the steep hill from the main road and passed between the house and barn. The close proximity of the two buildings made it easy to do the daily chores in the barn, such as milking the cows. Connected to the back of the house was a woodshed which had one side open to the driveway. This was where the split wood was stored for the furnace and kitchen stove. Behind the house, accessible via the wood shed, was a chicken coop. The woodshed also had room for the single-horse wagon with its 45-gallon (170 l) wooden barrel of water for drinking and washing.
There was no running water in the house or barn. Water was hauled twice a day from the lake. In the winter, a sled was used to draw water from a fast-running stream on the property that seldom froze over. This was also where the livestock were taken for water in the winter. In the 1920s a well was dug in the yard near the woodshed, but it was never satisfactory. There was no electricity on the farm. In the late 1940s a wind-powered generator was installed on a tower on the roof of the barn that charged a car battery. This provided 6 volt lighting in the house and barn. This electrical system was used primarily for work after dark in the barn, especially during the winter months. The electric light, though dim, was much safer than the flame of oil lanterns around dry hay.
The frame for the barn, which was approximately 100 feet (30 m) long, was shaped by axe in the woods, brought to the site, and assembled with wooden pins. Boards were made by placing a log over a pit and sawing by hand with a six-foot-long (1.8 m) tapered-width saw (6 inches (15 cm) at the ends, 8 inches (20 cm) at the center, with upright handles at each end). Two people were needed to operate the saw. One stood outside the pit and grasped one end of the saw; the other person stood inside the pit and held the other end of the saw. This saw was also used for cutting blocks of ice from the lake in the winter. To cut the ice, one handle was removed from the saw. The blocks were then stored in the ice house for use during the summer.
By the 1940s, the barn was actually three attached buildings: a workshop, an ice house, and the main barn building. The workshop was necessary for repairing farm equipment and making the essentials for daily living on the farm. Inside the workshop, there was, in addition to the benches, tools, and boxes of screws, bolts, and nails, a stone grinding wheel that was used to sharpen the knives, scythes, and mower blades. On the second floor of the workshop there was a large foot-driven wood lathe used in furniture making. The ice house, which had about six feet of sawdust with hay on top of that, stored one-foot-thick (0.3 m) blocks of ice cut from the lake in the winter. It was insulated enough for the ice to last all summer. Milk and cream were seldom stored in the ice house since there was always a fresh warm supply from the twice daily milking of the cows. In those days, people enjoyed drinking warm milk.
The walk-in entry to the main barn building was through the workshop, up a slight incline, and past a two-hole outhouse. Upon entering the barn, there were the cattle stalls on the south side. There were about 25 of them, nearly all of which would be filled in winter. Livestock could not survive outside during the winter when snow covered the frozen ground and temperatures regularly dropped to between -20 and -30 degrees Fahrenheit (-29 and -34 degrees Celsius). About 15 of the cows were for milking. At the far end of the barn adjacent to the cattle stalls were pens for the calves and a few pigs. Beneath the cattle stalls was the manure shed which provided fertilizer for the fields in the spring. Immediately on the left upon entering the barn was the horse stable with stalls for four horses. Next was a hay storage area called the mow. In the center of the side wall were two large double doors which opened to the yard. The doorway was large enough for a loaded hay wagon to enter to have its hay pitched into the mow. The center area of the barn is also where the animals were slaughtered. Next to this was an additional hay storage area and then finally a room where the milk was separated. The separator was a hand-cranked centrifugal device which separated the cream from the milk. The skim milk was fed to the calves and the cream was sent to a creamery.
Detached and next to the ice house was a single-car garage where the family car was kept. It was a two-story building with a storage area upstairs.
The Clover Hill Cheese Factory, as it was called, was located on the lake just west of the church and opened in 1902. Owned by the Cassidy brothers, the first year it received 376,360 lbs of milk. Income was $3820.30 and expenses $483.33. The average price of cheese was 9½ ¢ per lb. The average price paid for milk was $0.88 per 100 lbs.
Fred Price was the first manager. Allen Cassidy was manager of the factory from 1904. How long the cheese factory remained in production we do not know. It was at least initially successful by virtue of a note in the Kings County Record that from May to November 1906 the factory paid out between $5,000 and $6,000 to the farmers of the area.
Anne Renwick came across the following tidbit about the cheese factory in her grandfather, Allen R. Cassidy’s letters: “1908 to 1911…The cheese factory was operating then…About that time there was a cheese maker named Hiram Gilles a good & honorable man. Something went wrong with the vat of milk & Mr. Gilles paid for the milk from his wages. He also made cheese at Carsonville, Kings Co.”
The cheese factory was not operational in 1949. By then, all that remained were the foundation beams.
Anne Renwick, a fifth generation descendant of William and Jane, has a 1/12th scale replica of the house built by her grandfather, Allen R. Cassidy. After much research, she has written a great article about the house. [View Anne’s Article]
Transcription of letters by Allen R. Cassidy from 1972-1979 to Anne Renwick and incorporated into Anne’s article above provide a unique insight into the homestead house and life at Cassidy Lake. [View Transcription]