Here is a building that predates most buildings in North Grenville, but is almost unknown, except to children! Today, it is the home of the North Grenville Co-operative Pre-School and Learning Centre, a non-profit, fully co-operative organization run by parents and community members which has owned the building since 2004. However, it began life as the farm homestead of Thomas McCargar and his family, who bought the west half of lot 27 in the fourth concession of Oxford in 1830. When Thomas sold the property to Benjamin McCargar in 1845, it had doubled in value, and the house must have been built some time in those fifteen years. The McCargars were one of the earliest settlers in South Gower Township, and when Thomas moved his family to this lot in Oxford in 1830, he was one of the first four settlers in the Kemptville area. In 1836, Thomas had been appointed a Captain in the Grenville Militia, and he saw action at the Battle of the Windmill in November, 1838.
In the 1840’s, the house was described as a stone house with three fireplaces, and valued at £155, quite a valuable property in the day. The house continued to serve as a centre for the farm for the next sixty years, until the 112 acres were bought by the Ontario Government on October 12, 1916 to be incorporated into the planned Kemptville Agricultural School. The photograph shows the farmhouse before remodelling took place in 1918, when it became the home for the College Principal. Work crews constructed a cellar under the entire house and added a second story. The following year, a veranda was added to the front of the house and a bedroom and balcony to the back. In 1949, the back veranda was replaced by a smaller stone veranda. Architecturally, Leahurst is distinguished by three half round dormers and a two tier tin roof.
The farm buildings were demolished to make way for the Judging Pavilion, known today as Purvis Hall, named after Jim Purvis, who was in charge of the English Department at KAS. It was he who named the building “Leahurst”, which combines two Old English words and means “house on a grassy hill”. Over the years, it has been used as a women’s residence for the College, and the centre for the Home Management and Food Management courses. It was renovated in the mid1980’s, when stones from the original farm walls were used to make the current fireplace.
Thomas McCargar would be, I think, very surprised to know that his farmhouse was still in use, and, perhaps, even more surprised at its current users. This Heritage building, situated in the scenic grounds of the Kemptville Campus, remains as one of North Grenville’s hidden gems.