In 1776, the year the United States won its independence from Britain, Niagara was next to a swamp which was fit only for reptiles and mosquitos. There were 26 white women, 700 soldiers and countless Indians.
That was how Fred Goring's ancestor described this area more than 200 years ago. It has been exactly two centuries since the Goring Farm was established through a land grant to a faithful member of Butler's Rangers who had fought on the side of the Crown in the American Revolution.
Sir Francis Goring, knighted for starting the first school system in the area, was the first of eight generations to live on the farm in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It is on Regional Road 81 (Old Highway 8) which follows an Indian trail along the Niagara Escarpment.
Yesterday, three of those eight generations of Gorings were part of the 1984 Ontario Bicentennial kick-off. The Goring Farm was one of two, 200-year-old family farms in Niagara-on-the-Lake identified with a cast aluminum green plaque.
The other was the Henry Freel farm on the East-West Line at Line 1 near the Niagara Parkway.
Henry Freel, 71, is the great-great-grandson of Deborah Freel, widow of John Freel, who was killed while serving with Col. John Butler's Rangers. She is buried in Butler's Burial Ground in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
The house on the Freel farm dates from around 1800 and it is believed that Deborah Freel hid with her children in the basement during the War of 1812.
The farm plaques, and individual plaques to the farm owners, were presented jointly yesterday afternoon by provincial agriculture minister Dennis Timbrell and by Margaret Birch who is chairman of the Ontario Bicentennial committee of cabinet.
Earlier in the day, they made a similar presentation to Oswald Pajot of LaSalle, near Windsor, whose family farm dates from 1762 and is the oldest in the province. There are four other bicentennial family farms in the province, all in eastern Ontario. Similar plaque presentations will be made at those farms early next week.
Mr. Timbrell said these farm owners who can trace ownership back 200 years are in fairly exclusive company since there are about 120,000 farms in the province.
The Goring Farm is jointly owned by Fred Goring and his son Dennis who is a school teacher. They breed standard bred racing horses on the 35-acre farm and have a fairly successful five-year-old horse, Tory Playgirl, racing at tracks in New York State.
Leigh Goring is Dennis and Debbie Goring's 23-month-old daughter and the eighth generation on the farm. They live in the family farm house while Fred Goring, his wife Margaret, and their daughter Dale Wright live in a newer house next door.
Fred Goring is a former Lord Mayor of Niagara-on-the-Lake and a former reeve of the former Township of Niagara.
Mr. Freel, who lives on what is now a 10-acre parcel of the original family farm, is a former Niagara township council member.
His wife Eileen, daughter Patricia and her husband Fred Connelly and children Heather, Mark, Michelle and Laura joined him for the plaque presentation. They, too, live next door.
Denis Freel, his son, is a chemical engineer now working in England. He will return with his wife next summer for the Freel family's 200th family reunion.
A 30 minute film on Ontario's Bicentennial farms will be prepared for next spring by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food.