Old St. Andrews



Farming on Minister's Island



Before the second summer had arrived, Van Horne had had a telephone line laid from the Island to the railway station; the first in St. Andrews. A gardener's cottage was built in the fall of 1893. In the spring of 1894 the small annex was added to the cottage, to separate staff from the main building. William McQuoid, a local resident, was first gardener. A garden plot was planted nearby, and the Beacon soon reported that Van Horne's garden was producing 2-foot cucumbers, a wonder to the locals. About the only other change in 1894 was the new windmill, added partly for Dutch effect, as Van Horne was proud of his ancestry, but also to draw water from the well. There were many such windmills, albeit perhaps not so picturesque, in St. Andrews at that time.

In 1896 Van Horne acquired another 250 acres from Edwin Andrews, giving him 4 fifths of the Island. This addition included the original homestead of Rev. Samuel Andrews. A road was surveyed around the Island and in the winter of 1897 the interior of the Andrews homestead was renovated so as to serve as temporary winter quarters for Van Horne when he was in town to inspect or improve his property.

In 1897 Van Horne began to fancy getting into the farming business in a professional way. He had purchased the farming stock of Marshall Andrews, lately deceased. In the fall of 1898 he began the construction of his soon-to-be famous barn, which remains almost as impressive today as when it first went up. It was designed by renowned architect Edward Maxwell, a friend of Van Horne's. Maxwell had been coming to St. Andrews, initially at the invitation of Van Horne, since at least 1896 and was eventually to build a home for himself at the foot of the Bar Road, just across from Minister's Island. The foundations were 150 x 52 feet, with a 40 x 50 foot ell. By November of 1898 30 men and 15 horses were at work on the building.

The plans, reported the Beacon, "reveal an immense structure with high double towers, which will give it quite a castellated appearance. These round towers are the silos. Beneath one is the cook house, where the food for the cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry will be prepared. Under the other is a large bull pound. Besides these apartments, the basement will contain a large space for young cattle, a piggery, root cellar and compost heap. The latter will be located immediately beneath the cattle stable and will be arranged on the latest scientific principles. The stall space for cattle will be very large, indicating that Sir William purposes conducting his experiment on no mean scale. The poultry will have a fine run in the main building, with an abundance of light. The barn will be a model one in every respect, and will surpass anything of the kind that exists in the lower provinces."

When finished the barn was 60 feet in height, and said to be perhaps the largest in New Brunswick. Its interior was unusual in that there were no cross beams overhead. From floor to peak it was wide open except for the trusses and knees on which the roof and frame were supported, and the iron girders that held aloft the hay mows. There were two silos, each 16 feet in diameter. The horse stalls measured 48 x 28 feet. At the end of the barn was a room laid out in palatial fashion for Van Horne's gigantic new Clydesdale stallion. The barn was just part of a larger project Van Horne had conceived form breeding both Clydesdales and Dutch Belted Cattle. He had recently purchased 4,000 acres of farmland in Selkirk, Manitoba, also for cattle breeding. Covenhoven, it seemed, was to a nursery for this larger farming operation out west. In addition to the great barn, a combination boilerhouse and greenhouse was built; also an icehouse and dairy. Farm operations aside, apple, plum, pear and cherry orchards were planted. In 1899 the first of the Dutch Belted Cattle arrived from Pennsylvania.