By Maureen Coulter
Nov. 12, 2014
Catherine Hennessey received a phone call one day from a woman visiting New York. The woman wanted to visit Prince Edward Island to see where her great-grandfather lived.
Hennessey, a heritage activist, was intrigued and asked who that was.
“Robert Poore Haythorne,” said the woman.
“Oh that is really exciting! Come over!” exclaimed Hennessey.
Once the woman arrived, Hennessey took her to the old Haythorne estate in Marshfield. The house had since fallen to the ground, however, the woman found a shingle and brought the piece of history back home to New Zealand.
Haythorne was the last premier before Prince Edward Island joined Confederation in 1873 and, to honour him, a trail was built along the old Haythorne Roadway that leads from St. Peters Road to the eight linden trees Haythorne planted on his residence.
Haythorne owned 10,000 acres in Marshfield and farmed 257 acres with his brother Edward.
“He was a very good soul,” said Hennessey.
She was at the opening of the trail Oct. 4 and was tempted to climb the linden trees.
“Oh those trees. They are so climbable.”
At the opening of the trail, Hennessey challenged the crowd of 50 people to try to find the great-granddaughter of Haythorne who visited the Island years before, as she had lost the woman’s contact information.
At the opening, Hennessey introduced Jim Hornby, the guest speaker and musician at the event. Refreshments were enjoyed as people mingled and walked the trail on that autumn afternoon.
Glen Kelly carried out the project for the trail with support of the Hillsborough River Association, the Marshfield Pioneer Cemetery Committee and the Marshfield Women’s Institute. The 2014 program also provided funding for the project.
Kelly, who lives in Marshfield, walks the two-kilometre trail frequently and has hopes to add three more kilometres to the trail some day.
“We would like to see something long term. We are fortunate that it is close to town and it’s really one of the first woodlots next to Charlottetown.”
Haythorne did a lot of good things for P.E.I. at the start of Confederation that he is not recognized for, he said.
“Anybody who studies history would recognize on P.E.I. that he was overlooked.”
Velma Carmody MacDonald of Marshfield said he deserves to be honoured because of his compassion for his tenants.
Fair terms of purchase by the tenants were not ordered until August 1864, but Haythorne did it before his time. He was one of the first proprietors on the Island to sell his land to his tenants at $2 an acre.
He was willing to negotiate with them to become owners of their holdings, she said.
“He was a caring compassionate person.”
Being good to his tenants would have been frowned upon by some of his colleagues in those days, said Hennessey.
“Certainly the quality of life in Marshfield would have been affected by Robert Poore Haythorne’s generous spirit towards tenants.”
Everything people say about him warms your heart, she said.