George Playfair was one of
Baldur’s first businessmen. Before the site
of Baldur was settled, he bought grain for the Bawlf Grain
Company. In the fall of 1889 when the railway arrived and the townsite
was selected, he erected a spur on the new railway track and
established an office for his winter grain buying. The building was
moved from its previous location on his farm.
Others soon followed and Baldur, as yet unnamed, was in business. In
1890 he opened a furniture, lumber and coal business east of Second
Street on Elizabeth. In 1891, he enlarged his furniture store to
a two-storey building and his eldest son, John, joined the business.
His third residence was at the rear of this building. In 1896, he built
the first planing mill.
George was born at Playfairville, Ont. in 1839, the eldest son of John
Playfair. With his wife, Jessie Ferguson, and their seven children,
they arrived at Otenaw on Aug. 10, 1880. An eighth child, Katie
Wilhelmina, was born in October – the first birth in the new settlement.
This was the period without municipal government and roads were from
house to house. They were miles from a doctor, post office, groceries
and railway. Katie's first apple was a "red potato". Suppers were often
cleaned, boiled wheat with milk or cream.
In spite of numerous difficulties, one of George's children wrote: "My
earliest recollections are of a happy family of mother, father and
eight children seated about a long table with an oil-cloth cover and a
kerosene lamp in the centre. The little red school was soon built on
the side of the farm and here I spent some of the happiest years with
neighbouring children, many of them our cousins. Gathering wild flowers
and picking berries on our way to school in the autumn; sliding down
the snow-covered hills in winter; story-telling and the best books we
could procure for the winter evenings were all happy memories."
George's early farming years were hazardous. The first crops provided
only seed and feed. Fear of frosts before harvesting the late crops was
prevalent. Straw was placed in piles about the fields and on calm,
frosty nights the straw was kept burning all night, so that the smoke
would hold the heat down on the crops. The sheaves were tied with wire.
The coyotes were hungry and prowled about seeking food. One evening one
of the children was sent to bring the cows home and she soon became
aware wolves were following them. The wolves came closer and closer,
snapping at the cows' hooves. She clung to the strap of the leader
cow's bell and with the galloping herd, got safely home. Other
predators, mink and weasel, carried off the chickens.
But perseverance paid off, those farmer that struggled in the early
years became the well-established, and successful farmers of the next
era. Eventually there were surplus crops and the Playfairs, like
so many others, had a new and bigger house for their second home.
For nearly 40 years George was actively involved with almost every
community endeavour. He was chairman of Wolseley School and served as a
trustee there and on the Baldur School Board. He was elected warden or
reeve, in the fall of 1881, to the first Argyle Council, sworn in by
A.W. Playfair, Commissioner. He was a member of the first Baldur Town
Board formed in 1906. He and Jessie were staunch members and strong
supporters of the Methodist Church, serving on boards and committees.
Adapted from Come into our Heritage, page