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The Freeman family and the village of Freeman

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family-crestJoshua Freeman Sr. [1774-1863] was the sixth child of William Freeman who, in 1759 at the age of 18, immigrated from Yorkshire, England, to Nova Scotia.  In 1816 Joshua moved to Upper Canada with his wife, Elizabeth [nee Black], and ten children.  Two years later he built his homestead on 400 acres of land on the north-east corner of what is now Plains Road and Brant Street.  He and Elizabeth had four more children.

Their son, Joshua, inherited the homestead and its land,

 

 

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The home of Joseph S. Freeman

while another son, Joseph, was given 200 acres across the road, on the northwest corner, on which he built an attractive, large brick home.  Both farmed for many years.  This area came to be known as “Freeman’s Corners” and later as the village of “Freeman”.

 

 

freeman-sign-closeupFor over 100 years Freeman was an active village with its own character and was clearly separated from Burlington [formerly Wellington Square] by several farms on either side of Brant Street.

 

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Freeman general store

On the west side of Brant Street, just north of the railway tracks, was a general store operated by Joseph Freeman’s sons, Edwin, Smith, and Wesley.

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Rebuilt after the fire

Within the store was located the Freeman post office. In addition to the postal boxes for servicing local residents, there were three rural postal routes which serviced the large and prosperous agricultural areas to the west, north, and particularly to the east where the rural route extended almost to Bronte.

 

canada-post-cardThe post office used the Freeman postmark until 1952, at which time it was taken over by the Burlington post office.

 

(Mouse over for captions, click to enlarge each photo, elsewhere on the page to return.)

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Freeman toll house

The Freeman brothers also operated and maintained a toll road along Plains Road from Guelph Line to the Valley Inn Bridge, near Hamilton.  The portion of this road extending east to Guelph Line was originally an Indian trail known as Iroquois Road.   When surveyed in 1806 it was a rough corduroy track.  In 1835 ditches were dug and the road surface graded and it became part of the toll road. Eventually it was called Nelson Gravel Road, then Middle Road.   Much later this became part of one of Canada’s busiest roads – the Queen Elizabeth Way.  The QEW has since been rerouted to the north where it meets with Highways 403 and 407 at the “Freeman Interchange.”

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Freeman Station, early 20th Century

The train station was located to the West of Brant Street on the South side of the tracks.   Although the sign on the front of the station read “Burlington Junction”, local residents referred to it as the “Freeman Station”.   Passenger trains stopped here on a regular and frequent schedule.

 

Farmers load produce on the fruit train
Farmers load produce on the fruit train

Also, because the farming areas in and around Burlington were blessed with very rich soil, much market garden produce and fruit was grown.  This was shipped out in great quantities during the summer and fall with special sidings and loading sheds built near the station for this purpose.

 

 

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1920’s: More than 40 trains a day

Because of rail transportation with trains passing through that provided an easy and convenient means for export and import of goods, the village of Freeman had several industries.  One of these was Vera Chemical Co., which was later purchased by Hercules Powder. It has since been taken over by Ashland, Inc. which still operates today near Brant and Fairview Streets.  There was a pickle factory, which later became the Niagara Brand Spray Company, the Glover Basket Factory, and the Burlington Brick Company.   A fairgrounds was located on Middle Road.

The Freeman House was a hotel which provided overnight accommodation to travelers. It later became a boarding house, then a barber shop, and by the 1950’s a variety store operated by the Tinning family.

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Artist: George Kush

The level crossing at the tracks in Freeman caused many traffic jams on Brant Street which necessitated the building of an underpass in 1962.

Brant Street was also straightened and widened to four lanes.

Fairview Street was built and development grew in all directions.

The Village of Freeman was engulfed in this development and it ceased to exist as a separate community.

 

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The only remnant of the village is a handsome home built in 1885 for Edwin Freeman by the famous A. B. Coleman.  It was of top quality in design and structure.  In 1888 central heat was installed and in 1906 it gained electricity.

Five generations of Freemans lived in this house until it was sold in 1988 by Robert Black Freeman. [This marked the end of 170 continuous years of Freemans living on Brant Street.]

Located on the west side of Brant Street between Fairview and the railway underpass, the home currently houses a medical clinic.

car-photoEdwin’s 1908 model `T` Ford, the second automobile in Burlington, was kept in the barn behind the house.

 

 

 

 

Editor’s note:  The Freeman family – Richard T. Freeman and Candace Freeman, and Robert E. Freeman and Laura Freeman – have sponsored the Joshua Freeman Station Master’s Office in the restored Burlington Junction Station. The Crew Room, dedicated in memory of Robert B. Freeman (1927 – 2008) has been sponsored by Robert E and Laura Freeman.    We thank them for their support.  

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Train

Video by Kevin Davies; photography by Bob Chambers, Bob Miller, Nikki Wesley, John Mellow, Joel Waterman, Denny Williams, Alan Harrington, Al Pettman and others (by permission)