Donated to the historical society in 1978 by Dr. and Mrs. A.W. Bowness, the ‘Francis Cabin’ is an excellent representation of a second-generation settler family home.  This cabin, complete with three rooms on the main floor and a second floor above, was built by John Francis, son of George Francis (1811-1887).  George was one of four brothers who left Sligo, Northern Ireland in 1830 – being pushed out of their homeland due to poverty and famine, they crossed the Atlantic seeking fortune and adventure in Upper Canada. 

George later added to his original lot with the purchase of land on the 13th of Brock.  His neighbours included family names like the Gordons, Purvises and Shiers – whose descendants still reside in Brock township.  The children attended Harrison’s school (schools were usually named after the landowner who donated the land), which later became the Masonic Lodge which still stands just west of Highway 12 on Regional Road 12.  

There are a variety of other items, ranging from chamber pots to irons, which gives us a hint into the lives of the people who lived in Brock Township during the Victorian era.  Nowadays, the cabin is an integral part of any tours that are conducted at the museum, is the site of learning when school groups come to visit and is occasionally part of the annual Haunted Trail event held in late October every year. 

The cabin is home to a range of artifacts that speaks to the nature of domestic life in the mid-1800’s.  One unique item is an 18 spoke spinning wheel made from oak that is typical of the quality of craftmanship of the Irish settlers who moved to this area, and was likely brought here from Ireland.  Another is a Victorian pump organ typical of the time, made by the Dominion Organ Company, which was located in Oshawa and that could set a family back up to $35.00 to bring music into their homes. 

The owner of this cabin, Thomas H. Francis, was one of George’s sons and he was born in 1869.  He married Martha Sproule in 1894 and they brought up three sons in this cabin.  Thomas was badly injured while farming, so he became an agent for the DeLaval Company of Peterborough – a dairy and farm machinery manufacturer, thereby bringing him in touch with farmers all over the countryside.  Thomas gained an interest in politics, and he became reeve for nine years.  

Francis Cabin

After a grueling six-week sail across the Atlantic, and an even longer journey from New York to Upper Canada, George managed to settle on the 12th Concession of Brock – just west of Derryville and what is now highway 12.  Having acquired a little experience at farming and blacksmithing in Northern Ireland he started to clear and cultivate his farm lot.  Francis met Eliza Black, who was traveling with her family on the same ship as he was, and this chance encounter led to marriage in 1834.  Eventually, the two of them would bring up ten children in their modest three room cabin.