History Corner: Henry Arkell Of Farnham Farm

henry arkell

HENRY ARKELL OF FARNHAM FARM. Photo courtesy of the Arkell Tweedsmuir Book


Henry Arkell was born on August 2, 1853, the 11th child of Thomas Arkell and Isabella Hume, who emigrated from Idstone, Berkshire, England about 1829.

His father, Thomas Arkell settled on Lots 7, 8, 9 and 10, 300 acres on concession 9, Puslinch, which he called “Farnham Farm”. Thomas Arkell was a successful breeder of Shorthorn Cattle and Cotswold Sheep.

After his father’s death, Henry continued to breed his father’s Cotswold Sheep on “Farnham Farm” and after some time, both Cotswolds and Oxford Downs. In 1881, in partnership with his elder brother, Peter Arkell (c.1839-1907), who farmed in Culross Township, Bruce County, he imported purebred stock from England. Before long, Henry Arkell of Puslinch became known all over Canada and the United States, as one of the best breeders of sheep on the continent.

On the 16th July 1881, Peter Arkell of Teeswater arrived in Guelph from England, with the first shipment. It was a cargo of 53 sheep, consisting of purebred Cotswold and Oxford Downs, all from noted English flocks. He brought 26 for himself, 21 for his brother, Henry Arkell and six for F. W. Stone.

The next year, a newspaper article from May 17, 1882 notes that, “Messrs. Henry Arkell and John Iles of Puslinch left a few days ago on a trip to the Old Country. The former intends to import a large number of sheep for himself and Peter Arkell of Teeswater. He has had considerable experience in that line, is considered a first class judge and fanciers of purebred stock can rely on getting from him superior animals fo good pedigrees. He intends returning in three months. John Iles has been in poor health for some time and goes for the benefit of the change.”

In early August 1882, Henry and John Iles returned by the steamer, “Buenes Ayres” of the Allan Steamship Line, after having spent two months in England. They reached Guelph on Sunday morning. Henry brought with him 96 Oxford Down and Cotswold Sheep, two Berkshire Pigs, a white donkey, two parrots and a magpie. Thirty-four of the Oxford Downs and one of the Berkshire Pigs were for Peter Arkell, the remainder of the sheep being for himself and the other pig for John Hewer. Five of the sheep were known as the “Royal”, having been awarded the Royal Prize at Reading, England and first prize at all the other shows, where they were exhibited in England. All the stock arrived in good condition with the exception of the two ewes, one of the “Royal” pen, which died on the journey and another after its arrival.

Eventually, he sold the Cotswolds and concentrated on the breeding of Oxford Down Sheep, developing the best herd in North America. In 1896, he owned 400 head.

Subsequently, either Henry or his delegate made the voyage every year for this same purpose. From July 1890 to August 1893, James Main of Milton selected Oxford Down stock from the Royal, Bath, West of England & Oxfordshire Shows. In August 1906, John Milton of Marshall, Michigan secured for them “two extra fine yearling ewes, one being a Royal winner, bred by Harlick and two yearling rams from the famous flock of R. S. Hobbs. These rams, competent judges are of the unanimous opinion, are about the best that have been imported into Canada for some years.”

Aug. 17, 1907 – “Henry Arkell and Son’s annual importation of Oxforddown Sheep arrived from England last week in excellent condition. They are perhaps the finest lot ever imported to America and were bred by the following noted English breeders – Messrs. J. T. Hobbs, George Adams, James Horlick, H. W. Stelgae and W. A Treawick, who are Royal winners and then of the highest reputation in Oxford breeders in England. One yearling ram is especially worthy of praise, being the finest and best of the kind the Arkells have ever owned and they have owned some good ones. The shipment will be exhibited at Toronto, Sherbrooke, London and Ottawa. They were selected by that veteran Oxford breeder, George McKerrow of Pewantree, Wisconson, U.S.”

Henry Arkell’s flock won many prizes in show rings. For years, his sheep swept everything before them at larger shows in Southern Ontario. In October 1881, he was awarded the silver butter dish given by Joseph Kidd, as a special prize for the highest aggregate cash value of animals or field products gaining first prizes at the Puslinch Show.

In the fall of 1891, he took his prize sheep to the Montreal and Ottawa Exhibitions. At Detroit in 1892, he won the sweepstake prize of $100. for the ten best sheep, against fifteen competing pens, besides the prize for the best ewe. In 1893, he won nine prizes out of ten entries at the Chicago Exposition World’s Fair, amounting to $500. At the World’s Fair at St. Louis in 1904, he won in every class, 34 prizes including three sweepstakes, with 28 sheep.

Sept. 25, 1905 – “Henry Arkell and Son, the well-known Oxford Down breeders of Arkell, have been very successful with their exhibits this year. At Toronto, they won 20 prizes, 11 firsts and the balance seconds and thirds – $300. in all. They swept the board at London, securing 10 firsts and 10 seconds. At Syracuse, they won with 12 sheep, eleven (?) firsts, two seconds and three thirds, against the millionaires, Howley and Sweet of New York, who had all imported stock, while the Arkell stock was principally of their own breeding, with a few importations. Mr. Arkell Sr. was the first to intoduce the Oxford Down sheep into Canada and he has greatly improved the breed. He ships to nearly every state in the union, to Manitoba, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Quebec. In fact Arkell and Son are shipping almost every day.”

Sept. 19, 1906 – “Henry Arkell and Son of Arkell sustained their splendid reputation as breeders of Osford Downs at the big fairs this season. At Toronto, they captured 15 firsts, 10 seconds and 8 thirds. At Syracuse, NY, Ottawa and London Fairs last week, they took a total of 50 first prizes, 20 seconds and 25 thirds. During the whole tour of the fairs, they did not lose one first prize and in addition, captured every sweepstake and every champion prize, a record that is indeed enviable. Their winnings at these fairs will reach the handsome sum of $700.”

He also sold sheep throughout the continent. The American ranchers were his best customers. His first sale of Oxford Downs went to Colorado and the following year, he sent a carload to Wyoming. To a buyer from Wisconsin, he sold from $500. to $1,000. worth a year, for over 25 consecutive years. Uriah Privett of Greensburg, Indiana, a well known dealer in sheep, bought stock from Henry Arkell for 17 years.

henry arkell sale Oct. 4, 1887 – “Henry Arkell’s Surplus Sale:
On Wednesday, 12th Oct. Henry Arkell will offer for sale a number of purebred Shorthorn cattle and grade cattle, Cotswold and Oxford Down sheep, Berkshire pigs and a few horses. Mr. Arkell, as is well known, breeds only first class animals.”

Oct. 13, 1887 – “Henry Arkell’s sale of surplus stock at his farm at Arkell on Wednesday was well attended, quite a number of buyers being present from this district and some of the stock was bought to go to BC.”

Sept. 16, 1893 – “Messrs. Jones and Savage, who have a flock of 12,000 sheep in Wyoming, have been in this section for a couple of weeks, purchasing Oxford Downs to cross with their sheep for wool producing purposes. They have bought about 150. Mr. Jones has been in the sheep business for over 20 years and he states that he never saw a finer lot of sheep than those owned by Mr. Arkell, nor never met a more gentlemanly man to deal with.”

June 8, 1895 – “Henry Arkell just received from Robert Jones, Fort Steele, Wyoming, a sample of wool, the result of a cross between Oxford Rams and Merino ewes, which is grand quality. Mr. Jones is very highly pleased with his experiment and claims to get top price for his lambs. Mr. Arkell sold him a carload of Oxfords in September 1893 and another car load last December.”

George McKerrow of Madison, Wisconsin, Secretary of the Farmers’ Institute of Wisconsin, visited the principal sheepbreeders in Ontario in July 1895, purchasing purebred sheep for exhibition purposes. He was the guest of Henry Arkell, from whom he purchased 23 sheep. Accompanied by Henry, he visited the Ontario Agricultural College and dined with President Mills, after which he was shown through the buildings and over the farm.

By Feb. 25, 1896, 50 lambs had been born on Farnham Farm to date that year.

Nov. 27, 1896 – “Robert Jones and Andrew Johnson of Rawlings, Wyoming, have made their second trip to Arkell this year, purchasing sheep from Henry Arkell, the noted breeder. On this occasion, they will take with them about 240 head. Mr. Jones is one of the largest sheep ranchers in Wyoming.”

In autumn 1896, Henry Arkell took a trip among his customers in the Western States and saw for himself the results of the Oxford Down cross on the range sheep. The progeny were hardy, attained a good size, matured quickly and produced a good quality of wool.

By November 1897, his business had grown extensively. As he was his own shepherd, personally looking after his flock, he had found it necessary to resign from all public positions and give his whole attention to his work. He did retain, however, his connection with the Dominion Sheepbreeders Association.

Sept, 16, 1897 – “Henry Arkell left this afternoon with 50 of the best Oxford ewes, weighing from 160 to 190 lbs. and three yearling rams, weighting 250 lbs. each, that have ever left the County of Wellington. They are for E. Rife, Rocksprings, Wyoming.”

So trusted was Henry Arkell by G. J. Campbell, whom he had supplied for ten years, that for the five years, 1892 to 1897, Mr. Campbell had purchased sheep from him without seeing them.

On Dec. 22, 1898, it was reported that Farnham Farm had sold 300 head of Oxfords since spring.

Sept. 27, 1909 – “Henry Arkell and son of Arkell, have just shipped to quarantine at Port Huron, 200 first class registered Oxford Down ewes. Mr. Arkell left with the shipment today. After 30 days, they will be forwarded to a prominent rancher at Weiser, Idaho. They have also 95 yearling rams there now to be shipped at once to the Knolling Sheep Co. of Chicago, thence to be forwarded to Wyoming. They have rented 100 acres convenient to Port Huron. Their retail trade is good lately, having sent out five or six a week.”

As well as the sale of sheep, Henry Arkell sold a good amount or wool. James Hewer purchased over 800 lbs. of unwashed Oxford Down wool on the Guelph Market from Henry Arkell on May 16, 1893, the first wool bought that year. The price was 13 cents a pound. On May 19, 1883, he purchased 90 pounds more, this time at 12 cents per lb.

He was also lauded for his crops. On Sept. 7, 1882, Henry brought the first load of spring wheat of the season into the Guelph Market It was purchased for Miller Spence, at $1.04 per bushel. A newspaper report of July 6, 1894 stated that, “Henry Arkell of Arkell has a fine big field of rye, which stands over 7 feet in height”.

Henry also bred Shorthorn Cattle and maintained a small herd of Jersey Cattle.

This report appeared in the Toronto Globe on May 22, 1912:
“Arkell is a familiar name to the majority of farmers and livestock breeders, not only in Ontario but throughout Canada and the United States. It is known as the home of the man, who raises purebred Oxford Down and Hampshire Sheep, Shorthorn Cattle and at one time, Jersey milk producers. It is known to the farmers for miles around as the location of one of the best farms in Wellington County, where success in every venture can be traced to the adoption of modern methods. Farnham Farm in Wellington County, owned by Henry Arkell, after eighty summers’ constant cultivation, possesses soil as rich, if not richer, than when it was first broken in 1831. The following methods of farming, rigidly adhered to by Mr. Arkell, may be cited as reasons for this happy situation:

The owner’s interests are evenly divided between crop production and livestock raising. Everything grown on the farm in the way of feed is fed on the farm. A system of crop rotation prevents any needless waste of soil fertility. The application of barnyard manure, after specially absorbant crops, replenishes the soil with plant food. Hay area is pastured two years and crops cut from it two years, then ploughed under. Rapeseed is sown with oat crop, providing pasture for cattle and sheep for more than three months after harvest.

The general conduct of the farm is closely in accord with mixed farming principles, which protect any soil from depletion.”

Henry Arkell was President of the Puslinch Agricultural Society for two years and a Director of the Society for seventeen years. He was a Director of the Central Exhibition in Guelph for five years and also a Director of the Fat Stock Show in Guelph for five years. He judged stock for the Ontario Government for eight years. He was a Director of the Dominion Sheep Breeders’ Association and a Director of the American Oxford Down Association for ten years.

Henry had a great appreciation of the work done by the Farmers’ Institutes. He was, himself, well pleased with his accomplishments and enjoyed his contacts and his travels.

For The Farmers’ Advocate Dec. 20, 1893, he wrote:
“My Oxford Downs are doing well. I have an abundance of oats, roots and well-cured clover hay. Prospects are bright for carrying stock through the winter in good shape. I have sold my share this past season, in spite of hard times. My sales to different parts of Canada and the United States are too numerous to mention – in all, about two hundred head of rams sheep, both English and Canadian bred. My flock won at the World’s Fair nine prizes with ten entries. With another exhibit made by me at the leading Canadian Fairs, including Toronto, London and Ottawa, I won twenty first prizes, ten seconds and five thirds. I also won the Cooper Cup offered at the Fat Stock Show in Guelph, for best sheep on the grounds.”

June, 1897 – The American Sheepbreeder:
“Henry Arkell of Arkell, Ontario writes that Oxfords at “Farnham Farm” are looking fine, that the pastures are luxuriant, that the lambs are fast growing into big, strong fellows and that a carload of nobby Oxford ram lambs will be ready for some fortunate ranchman about the 10th of October. Henry has been over to Flint, Michigan, inspecting the Oxford Downs of the Genesee County Association and reports a royal time with a lot of royal flockowners.”

Henry was married three times. On September 27, 1877, he married Jessie McFarlane, the daughter of “Black Davey” McFarlane, a schoolteacher in Puslinch. Jessie was a refined and educated woman, skilled in social graces and adept at entertaining, which was so necessary for hosting the numerous buyers from across the continent. She died from diabetes on February 23, 1905. He married Mabel Sanders on July 9, 1907. After her death, he married her sister, Laura Sanders on April 15, 1926.

Henry and Jessie had two sons, William Hume Arkell (1880-1881) and Thomas Reginald Arkell (1887-1975). It is clear that Henry hoped that Reginald would follow in his footsteps at “Farnham Farm”. Reginald graduated from the Ontario Agricultural College. He worked for the Canadian Ministry of Agriculture in Ottawa and while there, wrote an agricultural column for the Ottawa Citizen, and was engaged as Professor at New Hampshire Agricultural College. However, in the mid-1920’s, he changed course completely and became a playwright, living in Los Angeles.

On Jan. 10, 1898, Thomas was hospitalized in the Guelph General with typhoid fever. On March 14, 1912, he held an auction of his entire herd of Jersey and Shorthorn dairy cattle. At his dispersal sale in 1918, the average price was $67. per head. The stock ram sold for $250.

He died in Los Angeles on March 18, 1944, where he went to live with his son, Reginald, shortly after the death of his third wife. His body was cremated and his ashes were interred in the family plot at Farnham Cemetery in Arkell, Ontario.

The following is a listing of some of his customers throughout the years, as reported in newspapers of the times:

Nov. 11, 1880 – Francis Rawson, Guelph Twp.
Aug. 4, 1881 – William Privett, Greensburg, Decatur Co., Indiana
Oct. 13, 1881 – Mossom Boyd of Bobcaygeon,
Oct. 13, 1881 – R. H. Thompson of Paisley,
Oct. 13, 1881 – R & W. Thomas of Nassagaweya
Feb. 9, 1882 – Henry Iles of Eramosa Twp.
Feb. 9, 1882 – William Rae, Arkell
Feb. 9, 1882 – John Iles, Arkell
Feb. 9, 1882 – James Petty, Arkell
Feb. 9, 1882 – William Hume, Arkell
Feb. 9, 1882 – R. H. Thomas, Nassagaweya Twp.
Feb. 9, 1882 – Hugh Wharton, Eramosa Twp.
Feb. 9, 1882 – James Watson, Nassagaweya Twp.
Jan. 24, 1883 – William Privett, Greensburg, Indiana
Jan. 24, 1883 – John Moore, Halton Co.
Jan. 24, 1883 – Thomas Hume, Burnbrae
Jan. 24, 1883 – Valentine Veitch, Woodstock
Jan. 24, 1883 – John Kirby, Guelph Twp.
Jan. 24, 1883 – L. J. Lewis, Copenhagen, NY
Jan. 24, 1883 – Augustus Derrick, Merrickville
Jan. 24, 1883 – Henry Longworth, PEI
Jan. 24, 1883 – John MacKenzie, Presque Isle
Jan. 24, 1883 – F. W. Wood, Sarnia
Jan. 24, 1883 – John F. Knight, Philipsville
Jan. 24, 1883 – J. & W. Nutt, Salem
Jan. 24, 1883 – A. Preston, Newborough
Oct. 15, 1883 – Frank Wilson, Jackson, MI
Dec. 23, 1885 – John C. Wright, PEI
Dec. 23, 1885 – Henry Bailey, Victoria County, ON
Dec. 23, 1885 – Leslie Ellis, Dundas
Dec. 23, 1885 – D. P. Campbell, Prescott
Aug. 30, 1886 – William Young, Sarnia
Sept. 21, 1886 – Smith Evans, Gourock, On
Sept. 21, 1886 – W. G. Shanley, Petersburg
Sept. 21, 1886 – James Tabb, Goderich
Sept. 21, 1886 – Anthony Jonson, Jarvis
Sept. 21, 1886 – G. H. Pugsley, Lockport, NY
Sept. 21, 1886 – Thomas Temple, MP, Frederickton, NB
Sept. 21, 1886, William Young, Sarnia
Nov. 15, 1886 – E. B. Hill of Union, Oregon
Nov. 15, 1886 – Andrew Gilmour of Huntington, Quebec
Nov. 15, 1886 – James Kennedy, Eramosa Twp.
Nov. 15, 1886 – George & Son, Crampton, ON
Dec. 10, 1886 – J. L. Campbell, Simcoe
Dec. 10, 1886 – George Hampson, Eden Mills
March 8, 1887 – George Atkinson, Marden
Nov. 20, 1888 – W. B. Watt of Salem
Nov. 20, 1888 – John Crowell of Barrington, NS
Nov. 20, 1888 – Henry Trender of Simcoe
Nov. 20, 1888 – W. Young of Brigdon
Nov. 20, 1888 – W. D. Palmer of Charlottetown, PEI
Nov. 18, 1889 – K. McKenzie, Corwhin
Nov. 18, 1889 – George McKerrow, Sussex, Wisconsin
Nov. 18, 1889 – B. R. Marsh, Thornbury
Nov. 18, 1889 – John Taylor, Ancaster
Nov. 18, 1889 – George Harding, Wauhesha, Wisconsin
Nov. 18, 1889 – Uriah Privett, Greensburg, Indiana
Nov. 18, 1889 – T. J. Jackson, South Bend, Indiana
Nov. 18, 1889 – James Duthie, Melgund, Manitoba
Nov. 18, 1889 – Harbour Grace Agricultural Society, NF
Nov. 18, 1889 – Thomas Wakefield, Bad Axe, MI
Nov. 18, 1889 – Andrew Cree, Ballinafad
Nov. 18, 1889 – Davey MacFarlane, Parry Sound
Nov. 18, 1889 – William Watson, Arkell
Nov. 18, 1889 – William Leslie, Arkell
Nov. 18, 1889 – Thomas Arkell, Arkell
Nov. 18, 1889 – James Porter, Linwood
Nov. 18, 1889 – Hugh Wharton, Eramosa Twp.
Nov. 18, 1889 – James Ross, Holstein
March 10, 1891 – Valentine Veitch of Woodstock
March 10, 1891 – James Baptist of Mildmay
March 10, 1891 – James Swanston of Holstein
Aug. 1891 – George McKerrow of Sussex, Wisconsin
Aug. 1891 – Samuel Hays, Alderley, Wisconsin
Aug. 1891 – Grant F. Campbell of Pittsfield, Ohio
Aug. 1891 – Frank Harding of Wenkesby, Wisconsin
Aug. 1891 – L. W. Cote of Bic, Quebec
Sept. 8, 1892 – To Chicago, 140 Oxford Down ram lambs, destined for a big sheep ranch in the west
Apr, 8, 1895 – Alexander Graham, Wiarton
June 8, 1895 – Aaron Bardwell, Fargo, NY
Aug. 12, 1895 – Henry Struck, Montana
Aug. 12, 1895 – J. G. Campbell, Plattsfield , Ohio
Nov. 27, 1895 – Mr. Rennie, Ontario Agricultural College, Guelph
Nov. 27, 1895 – James Starkey, Arkell
Nov. 27, 1895 – Valentine Dines, Riberry
Nov. 27, 1895 – William Fry, Sutton
Nov. 27, 1895 – Peter Lundy, Chatsworth
Nov. 27, 1895 – John Knox, Wroexter
Nov. 27, 1895 – Alexander McKee, Teeswater
Nov. 27, 1895 – Alex MacKenzie, Campbellville
Nov. 27, 1895 – Charles Rennie, Eden Mills
Nov. 27, 1895 – Archibald Cameron, Campbellville
Nov. 27, 1895 – Hugh Wharton, Eramosa Twp.
Nov. 27, 1895 – H. Humphries, Hastings
Nov. 27, 1895 – Crastor Scott, Arkell
Nov. 27, 1895 – William J. Laing, Corwhin
Nov. 27, 1895 – Stephen Barbaree, Nassagaweya
Nov. 27, 1895 – D. McCrae, Guelph Twp.
Nov. 27, 1895 – Robert McNaught, Parry Sound
Nov. 27, 1895 – Andrew Elliot, Nelson
Nov. 27, 1895 – John Tawse, Aberfoyle
Nov. 27, 1895 – William Alderson, Guelph Twp.
Jan. 6, 1896 – Hedley McKay of Shubenacadie, NS
Jan. 6, 1896 – J. E. Widdowfield of Uxbridge
Jan. 6, 1896 – George Hamilton, Parry Sound
Feb. 25, 1896 – Henry L. Holbrook, Laotta, Indiana
Feb. 25, 1896 – William Cross, Cascade, QC
Aug. 1897 – Professor Curtis, Ames, Wyoming
Aug. 1897 – G. J. Campbell of Pittsfield, Ohio
Sept. 21, 1897 – 67 Lincoln and Oxford Down Sheep to Rich Springs, Wyoming, valued at $1,000.
Nov. 3, 1898 – George McKerrow, Wisconsin
Nov. 24, 1898 – P. E. Barclay, Sunfield, Michigan
Nov. 24, 1898 – O. E. Bolenburg, York, Ohio
Nov. 24, 1898 – C. E. Thompson, Evart, Michigan
Nov. 24, 1898 – A. J. Hammer, Bloomington, Wisconsin
Dec. 22, 1898 – John Edit, Port Elgin
Dec. 22, 1898 – J. B. Finlay, Mellington, MI
Dec. 22, 1898 – R. Elliot, Shawville, Quebec
March 4, 1907 – Andrew McEwan, Dayton, Algoma


By Marjorie Clark.

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