As you travel east from the busy highway 35/115 and head for the quiet village of Kendal, a farm house with a unique red steel roof on the south side of the road greets over as you drive over the hill. This is the Southwinds – Historic Marr Home.
Former owner, Martha Rutherford Conrad, has collected much of the history of the farm and farm house and given us the opportunity to share that information with you.
Samuel LaRue and his wife Jane Dixon were the first residents on this property. He was a French Huegenot who had emigrated to the area from the States as Loyalists. His sister Rebecca LaRue was the wife of Nathanial Powers. Nathaniel and Rebecca had married in 1809 in New York State. They emigrated to Canada in 1818 settling near Brockville. In 1832 they journeyed along the old Kingston Road to the present site of Newcastle. Rebecca and their seven sons and three daughters remained in Newcastle with Nathaniel’s brother Thomas while Nathanial journeyed north passing through a small settlement (Orono) until he stopped in present day Kirby and began to build his dwelling. This was June 19, 1832. Around the same time that Rebecca arrived in the area, her brother Criness LaRue arrived too. Rebecca and Criness’ father was Hendrik LaRue a revolutionary soldier on the British side. Samuel LaRue was a son of Criness. Arriving around 1832, Samuel and his wife Jane lived in a log cabin that stood on the west side of the existing old well with its still working pump. This is located in the pasture that is southeast of the stone house and right next to an old soft maple tree. There was an old stone fireplace at the east end of the house and the door faced to the south to catch the warm sun rays.
By 1840, the LaRues had left the property and Alexander Marr along with his wife had arrived on the land. They employed a stone mason most likely brought from Scotland to aid in the building of the Rideau Canal. After the canal was finished some of the stone masons preferred to remain behind in Canada rather than return to Scotland. They worked their way westward building stone houses for settlers who wanted to replace their log cabin. The stone was usually collected from the fields surrounding the houses. The Marrs moved into their new stone house circa 1845. The front of the house and the eastern side of the house that face the laneway greeting visitors is all finely cut stone in order to present the best view of the house. There are limestone mantels and lintels surrounding the door and the windows. These were ship ballast on schooners from the Kingston area and were intended to reinforce the window casements and door portal plus also as decorative pieces. One of the windows is missing its limestone casement on the southside. Family lore indicates that these blocks of limestone were brought to the house by horse and wagon from Kingston and that one of the blocks broke in the process which is why the window is missing its south casement. If you walk around the house to the west side, you will notice that the stone is no longer cut neatly. This was the back of the house and while it was built to be sturdy and strong, asthetics were less necessary as people did not usually view the house from that side…no need to waste time making it look pretty. The old summer kitchen which is the part of the hosue on the south side with the large stone fireplace in it was built first. The family then lived in the summer kitchen while the remainder of the house was built. This summer kitchen was initially a kitchen with two bedrooms on the west wall. There are two windows there and each bedroom had one window. There was a second floor (loft) and today you can see the small door where you could pass from the second floor of the the main house into the loft of the summer kitchen. While standing in the summer kitchen looking toward the main house, there were three doorways. The first doorway on the left led into the hallway of the main house. The next doorway led down stairs into the basement below. Today, that is the doorway into the kitchen and you can see on the floor, the ‘newer’ floorboards that were put in place to cover up the hole in the floor where the staircase down to the basement used to be. When this access was closed, a trap door was cut into the floor of the hallway and that became the access point into the basement. In 2010, a basement was dug out below the old summer kitchen and a full staircase leading down into the new basement was put in on the west side of the summer kitchen. A new doorway and staircase to the outside was built on the southside of the house. A doorway was also cut through the old stone foundation to allow access into the basement below the main house. At this time the trap door was sealed although its fixtures were left in place representing the history of the house. Down in the basement under the main house there was a large cistern where the laundry is located. It had a crack in it so never operated properly and eventually just became a storage bin for potatoes. Finally the third doorway on the far right of the summer kitchen led into the kitchen in the main part of the house. Today that is a false door just to represent what used to be there. The wainscoting on the walls in the summer kitchen were handhewn out of old growth wood. The large stone fireplace was not original to this room and was added by the Rutherfords in the 1950’s. Originally there would have been a large cookstove for both cooking and heating purposes. This part of the house would have been closed off in the wintertime and the family would have lived in the main part of the house only.
There was a second door into the basement from the outside of the house. It was located on the north side of the sunporch on the east side of the house. It would have been used to take produce directly into the basement from the harvest. It has of course been completely covered up. There was also an outside cistern on this side of the house too.
Alexander Marr and his wife emigrated from Fifeshire, Scotland. They had two daughters Jessie and Allie Marr who attended Kirby Schoolhouse.
After Alexander Marr and his wife passed away, Allie and Jessie continued to live in the stone house together. There are stories from their time in the house as sisters. At one time, they got into a huge fight and one of them locked herself in her bedroom which is the current downstairs washroom in the summer kitchen. She refused to come out of her room until the other sister set fire to her bedroom door. When this part of the house was being renovated by the Rutherfords charred marks were found upon the door to this room. Jessie eventually married the gentleman who owned the taxi service in Orono and they lived where the Orono Cafe is now located. In 1945, the sisters sold the farm to Sid Rutherford who had bought it as a birthday present for his wife Mary as she had always admired the old stone house and used to peak into its windows from the neighbouring property where she and Sid and their two children Paul and JoAnn resided with Sid’s parents upon their return from Sid’s teaching position in northern Ontario (Nakina). The farm remained in the Rutherford family until 2012 when it was sold to the current owners.
Other notable features of the farm is a line of old locust trees that runs from the back of the pasture where the original log cabin stood to the woodlot. These are a species of locust trees originating from Scotland. They were brought to Canada by the Marr family. While this was a common practise at that time, very few of these trees remain today on other land settled by Scottish settlers It was very important to our family to protect these locusts trees.
There is an old shed behind where the log cabin once stood. I am not sure of the date of this shed but I had always understood that the oldest barn was in fact the sill barn. It was torn down in 2013 I believe. It was a very old rare barn in the area. It stood on the north end of the newer stone foundation barn and ran east from that barn. The Mennonites had inspected it in 2000 and remarked that the sway beam that ran the entire length of this barn was the longest sway beam they had ever encountered. Sill barns are the original barns erected by the settlers and there are very few left. They are built flush to the ground typically and do not have much of a floor in them unlike the more common bank barn. Because they are flush to the ground, they are more susceptible to rot. I am not sure if any of the pieces from this barn were kept or are remaining but if so they are very old representations of the earliest barns built by the settlers in Kirby. The old smaller shed in the pasture might date back to the same period as the sill barn did but we never did get confirmation on that and the Mennonites seemed to feel that the sill barn had more historical implications.
The current owners, the Lawrence Family, invite you to come see their home, the Southwinds – Historic Marr Home, during Doors Open Clarington on Saturday June 10th.
For the latest information on Doors Open Clarington, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter (@DOClarington)