Bryan Foster – a progressive farmer

Bryan Foster – a progressive farmer

Bryan Foster was a progressive farmer in the Upper Stewiacke Valley in the early part of the 1900’s. Born in Ontario, he was a thorough Englishman; but through circumstances, happened to be born in Canada.

His father (Lt. Thomas Foster, 63 Regt. of Foot in the British Army) was sent to Canada about 1869 to train the Militia around the time of the uprising in Canada of the North West Rebellion. In fact, he raised his whole family of five children in Canada before his death in 1880, when he was thrown from a horse. After his death, the entire family returned to England where B.N. Foster received his education in the famous old ‘Sedburgh’ Boys School (Sedburgh, Yorkshire), established in 1546, and at Giggleswick, near his father’s old home in England.

Some years later, when he was pretty well grown up, Bryan Foster came back to Canada with an older sister and her husband. While growing to manhood, he travelled extensively over western Canada, through the Rockies to British Columbia, among the mule trains, working at any farm or other occupation, learning all about the country. Eventually he drifted back and settled in Plumas, Manitoba, where he met and married (in 1894) Bertha Johnson. Bertha was teaching school in Plumas, and was the daughter of David B. Johnson of Upper Stewiacke, Nova Scotia.

Around 1900, Bryan and Bertha Foster drifted east and arrived at Upper Stewiacke. Looking to possibly purchase a farm, Bryan made up his mind and purchased the Frank Fulton farm at Upper Stewiacke, which he named Lawkland Farm, after his ancestral home in England – Lawkland Hall. This property in England was made up of a large group of farms with buildings, farm lands etc. (Around 1900 there was a large slump in farming in England so after a long study they planned to auction off all the surplus real estate and close the Estate. The ensuing auction lasted several days. I noted one lot, one day only, 40 pieces of land with buildings of all types sold.)

In 1903, when Bryan received his share of the Estate, he built the beautiful residence at Upper Stewiacke, which is still standing. The only brick house in the community, kept in excellent repair and owned by Mrs. Harold Bentley, the former Susan Redden. (At time of transcribing, this home is owned by Mrs. Bentley’s grandson, Bill Redden Jr.)

Therefore, you see, Bryan Foster had a farming background. During the years he farmed Lawkland Farm at Upper Stewiacke, he was a most prosperous farmer. Those were the days before farms were motorized. Every operation was provided by horses. Basic equipment was used, such as a plow, mowing machine, rake, reaper, feeder, harrow, manure spreader, hay unloader and seeder. In the milk rooms were found cream separators and a room to cool the milk. These machines were operated by hired help or the farmer himself. It was not necessary to use the huge amount of capital spent today, to turn out the same result. Therefore, the farmer had more profit accordingly, than can be made in the same situation today.

Although he was a ‘Mixed Farmer’, one of Bryan Foster’s special interests was the breeding and raising of little pigs. he kept several breeding sows and bought a pure bred Yorkshire boar by the name of ‘Lard Roseberry’ in an endeavour to produce a ‘Bacon-Type Hog’, which the Halifax market was calling for at that time. Most of the hogs raised at that time were Berkshire, a short, fat, chunky type of hog, or a similar type, more suited to producing fat pork. The Packing Houses, however, wanted a Bacon-Type and the Yorkshire breed was a very long type with lots of slab bacon.

As these hogs could be registered as pure bred, he sold them and shipped them when several weeks old, to various parts of the Maritimes. The breeder hogs had to be fed the year round, and he was a great advocate of feeding sugar beets. Of course he had to raise large quantities of sugar beets and would go to great lengths in experimenting with sugar beets to get the best results. In fact, he was a dedicated farmer who had his soil analyzed and also spent years bringing in a piece of marshy land at the back of his farm, next to the forest; draining and tilling until he brought it into production.

One peculiar circumstance came to light when he purchased his farm. The farm was a lovely piece of land, which ran hundreds of feet along the highway, past the residence, thence perhaps a quarter, or half of a mile back to the forest. This stretch was almost perfectly level, and would have made an excellent training ground for the Militia. While using a harrow one day, Bryan Foster turned up the hilt of a sword. This was the regular army sword, but smaller and lighter – about 12 or 15 inches long – with the bottom part broken off. This was a strange coincidence as, after writing his Grandmother that he had purchased a farm in Upper Stewiacke, she wrote back and told him that Upper Stewiacke was one of the places where his father had trained the Militia when he first came to Canada.

Several years later, about one mile away, while cleaning up an old store that had been in operation for many years, an old cardboard box was found, which contained what had been a uniform of an officer of the Militia. It was assumed this had been the property of the owner of the store. It consisted of a sort of Sam Brown belt made of patent leather, made to go over a uniform; and an elaborate military cap to complete the set up. Therefore, it was possible to assume the broken sword had been used in combat-training by the Militia on the piece of soil where it was found. This was a rather rare coincidence.

After his death in 1933, the editor of the Truro Daily News wrote a special tribute to B.N. Foster as follows:

B.N. Foster – In the lamented passing of Bryan N. Foster of Upper Stewiacke, Colchester County loses a very worthwhile citizen. Mr Foster was a gift to this province from the province of Ontario. Many good men go from our little province to Ontario, Quebec and the west, but few from there come east.

Mr Foster was one of the few born in Ontario, educated in England, farmer in western Canada, and finally locating in Upper Stewiacke. His coming to this part of the country was a tribute to Nova Scotia, the finest he could pay. His subsequent life here was a tribute to his own worthwhileness.

Intelligence, progress, energy and integrity were all finely combined in him. He loved his adopted province and gave his best to it. His settling here, his success and happiness, is a story that well might be pondered by others. Nova Scotians may travel east or west, but they, like our departed friend will find no better place to live.

We take this opportunity of paying our respects to the departed and at the same time of citing his locating in Nova Scotia, his becoming in every sense of the word, a fine citizen, as an example well worthy of consideration by young Nova Scotians whether living at home or some other place.

Note: Bryan and Bertha Foster had two children. Daughter, Frances Foster, and son Tom Foster. Those of us who lived in the area in the 1950’s will remember Tom Foster as the fellow who lived alone, at the corner of the road going across to Stewart Hill. Tom had machinery to clean and to smash oats, and many farmers took their oats to Tom to have those jobs performed.

Note: This account of the flood of 1942 is found in Stories of the Stewiacke Valley, collected and printed during the Stewiacke Valley Bicentennial celebrations in 1980.