It's A Kean World


The following was prepared by J C Kean at the request of his daughter Susan Kean (Moates).

 I was born in the Dominion of Canada in the Province of Ontario, in the county of Wellington, in the township of Minto Road, no. 7, farm no. 32, on July 23, 1873.  My father, a native of Scotland, went to sea in early life and sailed the seas for a time.  Then (he) went to Ontario and took up two hundred acres of land in what was called the Queen’s Bush, where highways never ran.  He was the first man to take up land in that part of the country.  There he built a shanty to live in and started to clear the land.  Later a brother of father’s came and together they built a log house and lived there while the brothers built a big frame house on his land.  He was married and moved into his house.

Father married a beautiful girl by the name of Mary McCormick and there they started to build a home and raise a family.  It was sure enough pioneering.  The first wheat father sold, he hauled it forty miles on a home made sleigh with oxen.  It was hard going but they seemed to live a cheerful, happy life.  Father was a strong, brave, gallant, cheerful, kindhearted man who lived to the full status of manhood.  They took their setbacks and hard luck in stride and we're always thankful for what they had.

The county opened up very quickly.  A boom came and roads were built.  Little towns sprang up along the roads and they had a market for what they had to sell.  While the boom was on father sold one hundred acres of the land to get money to improve the home place.

There were four sisters born before I and then a sister and brother followed.  As far back as I can remember the farm was cleared and fenced with cedar rails,  a big barn and other buildings.  There was also a big orchard, father kept fine horses, shorthorn cattle and colswalt sheep.  He took a great interest in the affairs of the country and community and in the building of a fine church and school.  We were a happy family.  There was (a) considerable amount of entertainment.  There was a singing school, a temperance lodge that always put on plays and shows, company parties, picnics, high days, and holidays.  In the winter there were toboggan parties on the ice.  Some flat land near us would flood over in the late fall and in the winter.  It made a fine acre skating rink.  I enjoyed the life of the average, healthy, well fed, country boy.

Everything went well while the land was new and rich and yielded heavy crops, but they kept up the practice of cropping and selling grain too long and the land began to get thin and the crops got lighter.  When they saw what was taking place, they started to try to build up the land by keeping more livestock and planting clover.  But it takes time to build up land and just when the crops were the lightest there came a depression, a real depression.  What money there was in the country took wings.

 There was little or no market.  Eggs sold for a nickel a dozen, in trade; oats sold for nineteen cents per bushel; hogs two and one half cents per pound when you could sell them.  They could not sell wool, but they could trade it for clothe: that put clothes on our back.

 I was about fourteen years of age when the depression came.  Up to that time Father and Mother found time to do a lot of reading.  When my sisters would bring home books to read, Mother would have to inspect the books to see if they were good reading for young girls.  But she kept on inspecting until she read them through.

 With a big family, it was hard to keep down expenses.  Money got so tight that we could not pay hired help, even at fifteen dollars a month.  We all tried to do what we could.  I was big and strong for my age so I could drive a team.  It took a lot of weary walking to plow forty acres with an eight inch plow or to harvest ten acres of peas with Father Time scythes.  When there was moonlight, we would go back to the fields and work till midnight.  Father would try to encourage us by saying that hard times would not last; there would be good times again but that did not give my brother and me much comfort. 

 We began to wonder what we were going to do about it.  There was nothing ahead of us but hard work and no pay.  After we would go to bed at night, we would lie awake a long time talking it over and trying to make some plans for the future that we seemed to see coming.  My brother did not like anything about the farm.  He did not like horses, and he hated the smell of sheep and pigs.  His only plan was to get enough education to get a big job in an office in a big city.  That sounded pretty good for him, but for me there did not seem any way out.  Anyhow, I could not leave home with so much work to do.  There was one thing we did not lack and that was food.  We lived like lords as far as good eating was concerned.  We took apples to the mill by the wagon load and brought home cider by the barrels, apple  syrups and jelly and every kind of apple.  We had every kind of berries and currants, a dozen different kinds of plums, and every kind of vegetable and fowl.  We had maple syrups and maple sugar and honey, and of course cream, butter and milk.  We had lamb, beef, or pig any time we wanted it, but even all of this did not sound promising to my brother and me.

By then everybody had some cows.  A cheese factory was built about three miles from home.  One day my brother was looking over a report that came from the factory.  He learned that the cheese maker got eighty per hundred and made from ten to fifteen hundred per day.  We did not know what labor and supplies cost him, but it looked to us as if he was the only man we knew of that was making money.  A bright thought came to me.  If I could learn to make cheese and get a factory, I could take home enough money to put me at ease, good pay for labor, and give Mother the things she needed.  It was a long distance plan, but I could not keep from thinking of it.

 One evening I went to the factory and applied for a job.  I was told I could always get work on Mondays because milk was not taken in on Sundays and Monday was always a heavy day.  When a Monday morning came, I was up early, did all the work around the barn that I could do, and at the breakfast table I announced I was going to the cheese factory to work that day.  At first they laughed at me, but when they saw I meant it a protest arose.  They said that if I went a team would have to stand idle and much planting had to be done.  However, I walked out over the protest.

It was heavy work.  The vats were diked with fifty pound buckets, the curds ground by hand, and I was pretty well played out as I walked home that night.  The next Monday was the same.  I kept that up for several Mondays and then when the planting was done and my brothers (I am only aware of one brother) were home for the school holidays, I got work for a month, and every Monday for the rest of the summer.

In the make room the boss sat at a table most of the morning doing the testing.  He tested the milk for time to set, tested the curd for time to salt, and tested the curd also for butterfat.  I was very much interested and wanted to learn all I could.  When the boss saw that I was so interested, he taught me how to do it.  Before long I was doing the testing which is an important part of the making of the cheese.

The next summer I spent more time at the factory.  Any time the boss had to go away, I was the one that looked over the plant for him.  If I was home and he wanted to go someplace, he sent for me.  I got acquainted with the dairy supply salesman, the cheese inspector, and the sentry inspector.

The following summer, just after we had the planting done on the farm, a maker at Elma needed a man who could take over a factory, and I was recommended.  I spent six months at Elma, then a factory at Mt. Forest about fifteen miles from home was open for bids for a maker and manager.  Oh boy!  If I could get that maybe my dreams would come true.  I had recommendations from the men I worked for and also the trading men.  Although there were about a dozen other men who applied, I was the man who got the job.

I paid for thirty cords of wood, but my supplies I bought on time.  My first month was good.  A lot of milk came in and my paycheck was good.  I made a payment on my supplies.  The second month was promising.

One day my father and mother drove by on their way across the country to visit some kin folks.  It was so good to see them.  It was a busy place; cans rattling and steam blowing off.  I wanted to have them come in to show them around, but the horses were afraid of the steam and they had to leave.  I offered them some money, but they said for me to keep it until I got my things paid for.  I cut off a chunk of cheese for them and as they drove off I thought, maybe they think I am going to be good after all.  But like Burns said, “The best laid plans of mice and men go aft agley.”

The next year was a bad year.  No rain fell in May, June or July.  The sun was hot every day and there was frost every night.  The pastures dried up and some farmers turned their cows in and what little cropping they had to keep them alive until they could buy hay.  Milk fell off so bad that it was not enough to pay for hauling.  The board met and decided the only thing to do was to shut down for the season.  I was left with thirty cords of wood and all my other supplies.  I managed to sell my wood at half price, but nobody wanted my other supplies.

The dairy supply company was very thoughtful.  They would get me a job because they wanted to get their money.  The job they had made for me was near Stratford, where we had to pump our water by hand.  I lived on milk because the place I stayed had terrible food.  But I stuck it out.

I had just enough money left to dress myself nicely to go home.  I stayed out at home long enough to help plant the crop that spring.  Then I got a phone call from a man at Georgetown who wanted me to start working for him at once, if possible.  I did not know what to do, but I finally decided to go.  My mother darned my socks, sewed on my buttons, packed my little bag and I left.  I really liked Georgetown; light work and lots of help.  There were five nice boys there besides me.  We all boarded at the same place, had nice rooms, and we're having a good time.  But I did not stay there very long.  One night the boss’s brother came to see me.  He wanted to know if my boss could spare a man that could take over a factory.  He came to me, offered me some money, so I went with him.  This job was near the city of Bramplow (likely Brampton).  His cheese had been turned down, and I could understand why he wanted to turn his factory over to me if I thought I could make the cheese.

Every months’ cheese that I made was sold and classed extra good.  When my October cheese was sold and the inspector was inspecting it, he came out of the curing room and said to me, “Son, you have some very fine cheese here.  Why not exhibit it at the convention?”  He said he would help me pick one.  We picked one and I washed it and turned it every day until it was time to ship it into Statford (Stratford).

Every year in December the Big Cheesemakers’ Convention was held then.  Makers from all over Ontario gathered there.  There were long shelves of cheese from every part of the country.  But my cheese took first place and I received my congratulations and handshakes.  I had hit a high point.  Now I was in line for an inspector’s job with a buying company or the government which was an important job and payed big money.  If a shipment of cheese was off flavor when it got to Liverpool, somebody would go bust.

About that time I got word that my father was sick so I went home.  He was still looking after things but he had Bright’s Disease and was never well again.  I decided to stay with them.  By then all my sisters but one had married and gone off to the far off lands to make homes for themselves.

Father had gotten money somehow to let my brother take a nine month course at the Hamilton Business College where they promised him a job when he got his diploma.  They got him a job but it was not much of one.  He soon found a better job at Deluth and then Philadelphia.  Soon he had a big job with a firm where he handled all the money and banking business.  His dreams came true.  I took over and did the best I could with the farm.  Prices for everything had gone up and times were good again.  I was home almost a year when my father died.  Shortly after that my other sister married and went to live on a farm not far from home.  Then there was just mother and I left on the home place.

The farm was paying off pretty good and the income was not bad.  We enjoyed some happy days together.  I felt that I had her and she had me.  I had an aunt in town and I would take mother to spend the day with her and go back to get her at night.  Sometimes she would spend the day with my sister.

I was very much interested in my farm operation.  I took pride in the number of finished fat cattle and hogs I could sell.  Everything went well for two years.  But I always felt that this was not the place for me and did not think I wanted to spend my life on a little farm among farm folks.  One day I told my mother that I was going to quit the farm.  She did not like to hear it, but she said she wanted to make the best of it.  So we had a sale and sold the stock and rented the farm to a neighbor.  I went to Strathray (Strathroy?) to take a five month course at the Stratray College while mother lived alone on the farm.  The course embraced everything pertaining to dairying, the caring for milk cows, bacteriology, pasteurization, butter making, cheese making and some bookkeeping.  The president of the college, Professor Smith, had an interest in some creameries and although there were several men ready for a job, he called me to his office and asked me if I would take charge of the Spring Bank Creamery.  Spring Bank was only twelve miles from home and I could be with mother on Sundays so I went and took over.  There was a general store operated by a Bushfield family.  Mr. Bushfield said if we would leave the money for the patrons he would pay off.  Of course he thought that would bring business to his store and it helped us out some. 

This (arrangement) took me to the store quite often.  Mr. Bushfield had a very lovely daughter who spent a lot of time in the store.  She was clever, lovely and quite popular.  Indeed, she was the belle of the community.  When I went to the store I was always glad to see her, but was disappointed when I did not.  As time went on, we got to be good friends.  We went driving sometimes and sometimes to a show.  With me I think it was love at first sight.

The company had three creameries: Spring Bank, Ayton and Kinderworth.  The man who had the Ayton Creamery had only been there five months and announced that he was leaving.  I had a smart young fellow working with me that they thought could finish out the season, so I was sent to Ayton.  It was a big factory in a nice town.  I boarded at the hotel along with a boy from the store, a boy that worked at the bank, two girls that taught school, and one manager of the flour mills.  We always had card games or a dancing party.

The Ayton Creamery always shut down for a couple of months in the winter when the snow got deep and the frost got hard.  Winger and Son who had the biggest share in the creamery wanted me to stay in town and work for them in a hardware store.  I did not think too much of that.

I saw an ad in the paper that wanted a man to manage a two hundred herd of pure bred jersey cows and a small creamery at Greenwood.  I answered the ad and said I would take it for two months.  I got hired to come at once.

I went to Greenwood and really liked it.  Professor Smith who was in charge of the creameries decided to go to Mississippi to take a position with A&M College so they sold the creameries.  The new firm wanted me stay on and work for them so they gave me the Kinderworth factory.  Professor Smith kept writing me wanting me to come to Mississippi and work for him.  So when I finished my time at Kinderworth, I went to Mississippi.

I liked Mississippi and my work.  After I was there about two months Professor Smith sent me back to Ontario on business for him.  While there I visited my sweetheart and we became engaged to be married.  That was in June and we set the date of our wedding for September 19th.  When the red letter day came I was back in little old Lakelet with some little pomp and style.  We were married and took our honeymoon in Mississippi.  I had kin folks in Detroit and we stayed there a few days.  We were royally entertained and had a gay time.  Then we went on to St. Louis and were received with open arms.  They were a fine young couple who had money to burn and didn’t mind burning it.  We had a touch of high life.  As we went on our way it seemed like a glorious new world had opened up before us.

We stepped off the train at the little A&M College station.  They were repairing a house for us, but it would not be ready for ten days so we lived at the Belkhouse in Starkville for that time.  While there, a group of town ladies called and the young wife got acquainted with a lot of people.  We took up housekeeping in our new home on the campus.  I was afraid that my Susan would be homesick or not like the place, but she loved it from the start and we lived many happy days at the college.

Three lovely children were born to us.  I liked my work and although everything was fine, it began to bother me a little that we were not able to save any money.  We had a family coming on now and expenses would be greater.  I began to think about getting something better.  Cotton was the main crop with farmers of the state, but the boll weevils hit the cotton fields and many thought they would have to give up cotton growing.

The big Mary Mac Cotton Plantation had decided to change to livestock farming and a man came to the college and offered Professor Smith eight thousand dollars a year to do the job for them.  That was a big salary then.  He was not long there until he sent for me.  He said he would pay my expenses to come and look things over.  He offered me twice the salary I was getting at the college and showed me a fine, big house in the little town where we would live.  It was a good break for me and I was pleased with it, but my family hated to leave the college so badly that I gave that up.  This made me a little dissatisfied with my job.

I heard of a farm for sale and I went to look at it.  I found that I could buy it with a small down payment.  I thought I could rent it and I would pay the interest, the first payments were not very big.  I might soon have something coming beside my salary and the price of land was going up.  I bought the farm and rented it for two years, though I was never able to collect any rent.

There was a big model farm near Dallas, Texas that had decided to change from cotton to dairy farming.  A man came to the college looking for someone to supervise the job.  There would be barns to build, cows to buy, pastures to make, and a big job to do.  He went to the president and the president said they had a young Canadian who might be what he was looking for.  He told the man to get in touch with Professor Smith because he knew I had worked with Professor Smith and he would probably tell him all he needed to know about me.  Of course Smith gave me a good recommendation and he offered me a place.  It paid a thousand dollars a year more than the president was getting.  Now I was getting somewhere.

When I went back to talk to Professor McClean (sp) who was then head of the department, (to tell him) that I had decided to stay with the college, he said he was glad to hear that.  He said he did not know how he would get along without me, but he knew they were not going to be able to keep me at the pay I was getting and said he was raising my salary four hundred effective at the first of the month.  But before the end of the month McClean had left to take a big job with Quaker Oats Company at Chicago.  The man who took his place was a young, smart alec, rich man’s son who did not know how to act.  He started changing things.  I knew I could not work under him and I was ready to try something else. 

When I went to resign they offered to make me director of a small station in south Mississippi, but there was no school near.  I thought that I saw something in farming so I decided to move to the farm.

When my neighbor, Mr. White, learned I was leaving the college, he came to me and wanted me to go into business with him.  He offered to furnish the land, the livestock, and money against my labor and management which suited me.  He brought in milk cows and grazing cattle.  Soon I was milking sixty-five cows.  I was to get half of what was made.  The war made the price of everything go up and between milk, hogs, and everything that was to sell, the income was very good.  The dear mother did not think much of coming to the farm because at first it did not look like a good move.  But the day she came to the farm she got interested and put all she had in making a good home.  It was her thrift, counsel and ability to manage that made things click.

The second year we were on the farm we bought our part of the farm.  Another baby girl was born to us.  Now we were living for our children.  We decided that after all a farm was the best place to bring up a family.  In mutual confidence together we planned and together we built.  We wanted to bring our family up in a Christian home and give an education.

Soon we were well established with pure bred cattle and a prosperous farm, a promising family and a happy home.

You know the rest better than I can tell it.  No, I did not set the world on fire.  Not many mighty, not many great, but by the grace of God, I am what I am.

Yes, we lived and loved together  through the many changing years, shared each other’s gladness and wept each other’s tears.


Pop and Mum

JC Kean and Susan Bushfield Kean wedding photo.  September 19, 1907

This house which was located on the southwest side of the football stadium, is the house where JC Kean and Susan Bushfield Kean lived when they arrived from Canada in 1907.  It is the house where Betty, Isabel and Jack Kean Jr. were born.

This is the house in Sessums where the Kean family moved around 1915.  It is where their last child, Susan, was born.

Barn behind old house in Sessums.

JC Kean and Susan Bushfield Kean wedding, Septemer 19, 1907, Lakelett, Ontario, Canada.

Left to Right:  JC Kean, Susan Bushfield Kean, Jack C. Kean Jr., Eloise Wolfe Kean, Harris Turnipseed, Betty Kean Turnipseed, Susan Kean Moates:  In front John Kean Turnipseed

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