This “obituary” for Hoch Farm was submitted by Lynne Postill on behalf of the Killaloe Heritage and Ecology Society. The Current has since learned that the future of Killaloe Farmers’ Market is uncertain given that its planned opening on June 26 may be adversely affected by Killaloe-Hagarty-Richards Township’s new Special Events bylaw. More details to follow.
It is with great sadness we announce that after 116 years, Hoch Farm has passed away. The instability of the surrounding water table over the last ten years, brought about by the slowing down of the creek twice, as the Highway 60 and Queen Street bridges were repaired, and the floods of 2017 and 2019, caused the house to suffer a weakening of its foundations. The landlord had to choose between the expense of repair or demolition, and chose the latter, motivated, perhaps, by the chance of 15 minutes of fame for Killaloe as the demolition was to be part of a TV series.
With the demolition of the Hoch Farmhouse Pioneer Museum and presumably the cancellation of the site’s “heritage” designation (although as of June 13 it remains listed as the only “heritage site” on the KHR website), and the proposed new name for the site to be eponymous with the planned use of the space, Hoch Farm will cease to exist.
The legacy of Wilhelm Hoch
For 116 years, Hoch Farm was an example of the pioneering spirit of the immigrants who settled in this area, clearing land to build homesteads and raise families. The people of Killaloe-Hagarty-Richards Township were fortunate to be bequeathed this farm in 1999, and the newly formed Killaloe Heritage and Ecology Society was fortunate to be able to lease the farm and house as a centre for keeping the history of the township alive.
Wilhelm Hoch who was born in 1863 in Germany where he apprenticed as a blacksmith and wagon maker, immigrated to Canada in 1887, and settled in this area, probably in the German Settlement. In 1891, William married Amelia (Walthers) of Sebastopol, and they started to raise a family. According to the 1901 census of Renfrew South, he was a farmer, with wife and four children.
In 1904 Wilhelm bought 200 acres of a land grant from Matthias Yourth, who had taken the title of this land through the government of Upper Canada’s immigration program which granted land for settlement and agricultural development in the late 1800s.
William, as he now called himself, moved his growing family to their new property, where he built the farm house. The following year, 1905, he built a barn for his herd of cattle, horses and pigs. The barn was framed by local master carpenter, Anthony Levair. According to Martin Garvey, by 1904 William was running a creamery and on the 1911 census William is listed as a “butter maker.” His creamery business thrived, and Hoch Farm was established in Killaloe’s business history.
But in 1914 tragedy struck — literally — when Amelia was struck by lightning, whilst seated near an open window during a storm, which left William a widower with eight children to raise. William died in 1927 and is buried in the Killaloe Emmanuel Baptist cemetery alongside his wife Amalia and a daughter, Mildred Louetta, who died aged 27. The severance of the farm by the Killaloe bypass in 1958 (known today as Highway 60), can be considered another tragedy in the history of Hoch Farm.
Killaloe Heritage and Ecology Society stepped up
The volunteer members of the Killaloe Heritage and Ecology Society spent four years preparing the house to be a museum, and provided a better access road and car park on the site with the help of the Army Corps of Engineers from Camp Petawawa. Other local volunteers replaced the floor of the summer kitchen, the windows of the house, made flower beds around the house, plowed the back field for community gardening and worked on the task of cleaning the barn to make it possible to use as a storage area for the vendors’ tables and tents.
Once the preparations were completed, the volunteers set about collecting donations from the community to furnish the house in the style of an early 1900s farmhouse. In 2005, after a photo of the Hoch family was proudly hung in the hallway, the house was opened to the public.
As the next step of the project, the volunteers established ecology initiatives. Two volunteers farmed the back community gardens and Board member, Barney McCaffrey, with a group of volunteers started a boardwalk on the edge of the swamp — unfortunately, Barney passed away suddenly, and it awaited completion. Another Board member, Rachelle Clayton, proposed the ecology project “Outdoor Educational Programming for primary and secondary school students,” which was attended by between 50 and 250 students.
The first fundraising project was the Killaloe Farmers’ Market, set up in 2000 and managed by board members for 20 years.
After a fundraising giant garage sale hosted at Hoch Farm for Rainbow Valley, the Society’s board saw the opportunity for another fundraiser and opened a flea market. It was advertised as a recycle/re-use flea market, and was hugely successful.
The Society was asked to partner with three other local heritage societies to host the annual Opeongo Heritage Cup Tournament weekend of hockey in Barry’s Bay. This fundraiser was a huge commitment of time and volunteers every year, but was in return the most remunerative.
From these fundraisers the annual expenses of running the museum and site could be met, along with generous donations to the Society made by Grant Hooker, the Killaloe Branch of the CIBC, and by the Killaloe Lions Club.
The Society was successful in their applications to the Ontario Trillium Foundation, and received a total of almost $100,000 in funding to use as follows:
- for the replacement of the roof of the house
- to bring in hydro
- to install a well and septic tank
- to hire a person to record the inventory of the museum.
The museum, the site and the programs were managed by the non-profit Killaloe Heritage and Ecology Society board for the benefit of the community. As the property belonged to the Township, a Councillor was designated to sit on the Killaloe Heritage and Ecology Society Board, and the board presented an Annual Report to the Council.
Loved by community members
Hoch Farm will be sadly missed by those who came every Saturday morning to enjoy breakfast and/or brunch with friends; make purchases from the variety of fresh produce and baked goods vendors; find collectibles among the books, videos, LPs, dishes, DVDs in the recycle/re-use flea market; and visit the museum. They enjoyed festivals on the long weekends:
- Canada Day activities for children
- the Irish Gathering
- the Garlic Festival
- the Hoch Farm Birthday Party
- and the end of the season grand finale – Hochtoberfest
The media will also miss Hoch Farm greatly as it was always a source for a local story during the summer months, and many magazines featured articles about Hoch Farm.
It is sad that the driving force behind the Society, Garnet Kranz, was slowed down as his health deteriorated in the last few years, and in 2020 he passed away. Without his leadership the remaining board could do little to change the fate of the museum. With the anticipated name change of Hoch Farm to reflect the focus of the new project located “in the space formerly known as Hoch Farm,” the financial investments, time and energy made by William Hoch, his family, Garnet Kranz, the volunteers, Hoch Farm will pass into distant memory.
Recognition for volunteers
Happily, the time and energy put into the Hoch Farm project by the volunteers gained the respect of Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MP Cheryl Gallant who in 2018 presented the Killaloe Heritage and Ecology Society with a certificate honouring the volunteers for their efforts to preserve the local history of pioneers, saying “It is my honour to congratulate the organizers and volunteers at Hoch Farm on the 113th birthday … for 113 years, Hoch Farm has been providing the residents of Renfrew County and Ontario with well researched history of pioneers and early agriculture. Hoch Farm hosts “the famous Killaloe Farmers’ Market which provides many locally-sourced products for all in the area to enjoy. You have my sincerest congratulations on all your accomplishments.”
For a poignant glimpse into the Hoch Farmhouse Museum, please watch this brief video homage produced by Lynn Flokstra Creative:
Thus article was amended on June 13 to provide the correct years for recent flooding events and for the Killaloe by-pass.
Hello Lynne Postill!
Thank you for creating this wonderful link and information!
My dad brought my brother (Norman Charles William Hoch) and myself to see the farm and to look around in the farmhouse about 19(?) years or so ago. Even though the farmhouse is now demolished, I remember it and the barn clearly.
I am thrilled that the volunteers fixed everything up and that many people enjoyed spending time there.
I hope people will enjoy the walking trails also –
Morristown, New Jersey
It is indeed fascinating to learn about the ongoing water table problems in this area of flat farmland. I can see how it eventually compromised the integrity of the old farm house. It hurts my heart however to have lost such a gem in our town. The regular Farmers’ Market held every Saturday in the summer was a festival of wonderful food and a great place to meet with friends and hear music from the live bands and singers. Many hard working vendors put much energy into keeping it all going and none of it would have happened at all without Lynne Postill’s vision and the rest of the hard working Saturday crew. We can lose these little treasures that help to create a community in the blink of an eye. I do hope something equally creative can manifest in the near future to nurture our shared sense of place.
It’s a shame how little value is place on such local tradition. I hope that in the future, KHR realizes how this decision will further divide the community. In the end, the ruling council is the only thing that comes between development and lost history. Be careful who you vote for!
Lynne, thanks for the great historical write-up on the Hoch Farm. I can appreciate the amount of time you had to put in to include all those details. Too bad there couldn’t have been a happier ending.
Old endings often open the door to new beginnings.
Perhaps the Killaloe Heritage and Ecology Society should morph into a new “Bonnechere Heritage Society” and develop a new “Bonnechere Pioneer Village” to preserve the heritage of the upper Bonnechere River.
It should certainly be on Hwy 60 for maximum tourist visibility but perhaps further to the east closer to friendlier folks in Golden Lake or even Eganville (and a safer distance from unsympathetic folks in Killaloe).
Ultimately it’s the volunteers who make these things happen and not some municipal commissars
so perhaps folks should put their heads together to build a new “Paradise Found” to replace the old “Paradise Lost”.
I watched that show, excited to learn about the history and thought it would be more than the 5 mins that was featured. Love that this story gave so much history in it, thank you ❤ I’d love to know how much Killaloe paid for Priestly Demolition to come out and do the demolation. Golden Lake faired much better with how often it was mentioned for the that and the next episode.
My condolences to the Killaloe Heritage & Ecology Society & its volunteers.
Congratulations and thank you to everyone who made Hoch Farm such a wonderful place to visit. There will be many sad and shocked people when they come up to visit the area this summer. It is a very sad time. 🙁
The water-table problems for Hoch Farm actually began ca 1931 when a new dam was built at the outlet of Golden Lake to convert it into a reservoir to supply water at a controlled rate to new hydro power plants on the lower Bonnechere. This would have gradually raised the water table all around Golden Lake which is why the ground is so soggy along Hwy 60 from Hoch farm to the upper Bonnechere River. You can see what used to be former farm fields and hay meadows along there which have been overtaken by alder and willow scrub as the water table gradually rose and ruined all the farms along there. No sensible farmer would have built Hoch farm in its present location with its present high water table and it was obviously much drier when it was built ca 1905. By the time the Hoch family donated the Hoch farm to the TKHR it was essentially a ruined swampy farm with little utility for any activity and little market value and it would have been pointless to keep paying property taxes on it.
Golden Lake is only the visible part of a much larger underground lake which extends under the low-lying flatlands at its northwestern quadrant and when they raised the level of the visible lake they also raised the level of that much larger underground lake and basically swamped those flatlands.
Thanks for this information Eve-Marie – I was only using my (British) school girl knowledge of watersheds, swamps etc and the experience of the changes on the Hoch Farm site over the last 20 years. I often joke that Killaloe was once a seaside town, but haven’t been able to prove it!