Cardiff family history spans over 160 years in Huron
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
This article was published as part of The Citizen's 2016 Salute to Agriculture, which can be viewed in its entirety here.
There are few families more steeped in the agricultural history of Huron County than the Cardiffs of Grey Township, now in the Municipality of Huron East and Morris Township of Morris-Turnberry.
With several children just beginning to find their own way in the world, the Cardiff family is now in its seventh generation in Huron County.
The Cardiff family originated in Wales as early as the 1600s. They made their way to Northern Ireland in the early 1700s, and then fled the potato famine and made passage to Canada in 1823.
It was the branch of the family led by William Mark Cardiff, born in 1809, with his sister Jane and brother George that first made their way to Canada.
George and Jane settled on land in Lanark County in the eastern section of what was not yet officially named the Province of Ontario.
In 1834, Mark moved to Kitley and then to South Elmsley in 1848. Ten years later, in 1858, Mark and his family moved to Huron County, settling on a parcel of land in Grey Township that remains in the family today.
Mark and Margaret Cardiff settled on Lot 3, Concession 7 in Grey Township and cleared much of the land, all of which was bush, leaving 15 acres of hardwood bush.
A small log cabin was erected on the property in which the family would live. The lot is now owned by Scott Cardiff, but the house is long gone. Scott farms the land now, but only a barn sits on the land.
Mark and Margaret would have 10 children (an 11th, Alice Rebecca was born, but she died at the age of seven) and the Cardiff family in Huron County would continue to grow from there.
According to the Huron County Atlas, “Indians peddled their wares and camped on the farm. Candles, lye, soap, butter and cheese were made.”
Lot 3 Concession 8 would soon come into the family and that is now where Scott and his family live. They live in a farmhouse built in the late 1800s that had actually been moved from Lot 6, Concession 6 in 1917, Scott said in an interview with The Citizen.
Much of the Cardiff family’s current history, however, took place on Lot 3, Concession 6, the former home of Harold and Elizabeth Cardiff, and another property that remains in the family.
Murray Cardiff, long-time Huron Bruce Member of Parliament, was born on that farm in 1934 to Harold and Elizabeth, as were his siblings Margaret and Jean.
Murray would eventually take over that farm from his parents in the 1960s and build a life and a family there with his wife Betty (Mathieson) and their children Jeff, Joan and Scott.
Murray and Betty would farm a mixed operation that included cattle and pigs. He maintained the farm for decades, even when he was elected to represent the people of Huron-Bruce in Ottawa between 1980 and 1993.
By that time, Betty said, the couple’s children were old enough to help out, so between Jeff, Joan and Scott and Betty herself, the farm remained profitable, while Murray worked as an elected representative.
He still helped at the farm when he could, Betty said, but he was rather busy in those days.
As an MP, Cardiff served on the Standing Committee of Agriculture and Finance and spent time on a task force investigating a National Trading Corporation, which involved hearings all over Canada, the U.S. and Europe.
He would eventually become the deputy-critic for the Ministry of State and Finance and for the Ministry of Agriculture.
In his spare time, Murray also served as the chairman of the White Bean Producers’ Marketing Board, which led him to be involved in two missions to the United Kingdom in 1979.
Betty said that Murray’s work as an MP sent him all around the world and she was able to accompany him on many of those trips. His trips over the years included China, Italy, Spain and Switzerland to name a few.
While Murray and Betty’s daughter Joan moved to London after being a tremendous help on the family farm in her younger days, Jeff and Scott stayed in Huron County and built farms of their own, all on land that has been in their family for decades.
Joan, however, has been working as an accountant in London for decades and still works on Scott’s farm finances for him.
Jeff, a graduate of the Agricultural College in Ridgetown, began farming on his own in 1986 when he grew cash crops and pigs. It was only a few years ago, in 2012, that he and his wife Cathy decided to get rid of the farm’s pigs.
He says the decision hit his father Murray hard and that tears were shed.
While Murray acknowledged that it was the right decision at the time, Jeff said, it was still hard for him because Cardiff family farms had grown pigs for decades until Jeff decided it was time to get out of the business.
Murray passed away in 2013, leaving his family, colleagues and many in the agricultural community to mourn. The funeral took place at Melville Presbyterian Church in Brussels, where Murray had dedicated so much of his time over the years.
At that time, however, Jeff and Cathy were fully immersed in the family’s catering business, which they had taken over from Murray and Betty, that they simply couldn’t manage all of the endeavours at once.
It was around this time that the Cardiffs first became involved with the storied Brussels Agricultural Society.
While Murray had always supported the Brussels Fall Fair, he hadn’t been involved with the society himself. Betty, however, has been a member since the 1970s, even serving as Homecraft President at one point.
Jeff has also been involved for over 30 years, serving two two-year terms as the organization’s president. Cathy has also been a long-time member of the organization.
They have recently given way to the next generation, as Jeff’s son Matt was named president at the organization’s annual meeting earlier this year. By all accounts, at the age of 23, Matt is the youngest president in the organization’s history.
While he’s currently working in agricultural banking for the Bank of Montreal in Listowel, Matt hopes to take over his father’s farm one day.
He will be the group’s president when the Brussels Fall Fair and the International Plowing Match partner up in 2017 for the first time ever.
His sister Emily is currently a nurse in British Columbia.
Scott hasn’t been officially involved with the society over the years, but has been known to exhibit field crops at the Brussels Fall Fair. He farms cash crops and 1,000 head of beef at his home farm.
His son Blake now has his own farm, carrying on the storied Cardiff farming tradition, with 600 head of cattle. Scott’s other son, Tanner, is currently attending St. Clair College.