YUILL, JOSEPH, farmer, breeder, butter producer, and educator; b. 1838 in Ramsay Township, Upper Canada, son of Alexander Yuill and Ellen Aitken-head; m. 10 March 1864 Margaret Cochrane, and they had five sons and four daughters; d. there 27 Nov. 1905.
Joseph Yuill’s father emigrated with his parents and siblings from Glasgow to Ramsay Township in Lanark County in 1821. He settled there on lot 9, concession 6, a 200-acre property that he developed as a mixed farm, raising a variety of grains, keeping cattle, sheep, and pigs, and selling wool, butter, cheese, and barrels of pork. Eventually he retired and left the operation of the farm to his youngest son, Joseph, who would inherit it.
A leader by example, Joseph successfully pursued the two major activities of late–19th-century agriculture in Upper Canada/Ontario: the breeding of purebred stock and dairying. He and his bride began to specialize in the 1860s in raising purebred Ayrshire cattle, Shropshire sheep, and Berkshire hogs. Later they also raised Barred Plymouth Rock chickens. His chief business was Ayrshires, the most important breed of dairy cattle in Canada, which he started breeding about 1868. There were, in fact, relatively few Ayrshires in the country at this time; most cattle were dual-purpose grade, such as Durhams. Yuill’s Ayrshire bulls and cows won prizes at many local fairs and the Ottawa and Toronto exhibitions, and one of his bull calves won first prize at the Columbian exposition in Chicago in 1893. Yuill sold breeding-stock all over Canada and eventually built up a herd of 75 Ayrshires, the largest in the country he claimed. He also claimed, in 1897, to have the “oldest” herd of Ayrshires in Canada, though agricultural historian John Walter Grant MacEwan dates the earliest herd at 1860 and has evidence of several importations of breeding-stock in the 1850s.
Under the direction of Margaret Yuill, Meadowside, as the farm was called, became known for its high-quality butter, for which the Yuills received the “highest price from private customers.” Together they developed Ontario’s first “travelling dairy.” In 1888 Joseph spoke on butter-making at an agricultural picnic in Galetta, Carleton County. A Renfrew merchant and butter-dealer, Aaron Abel Wright, heard him and was so impressed that he asked Yuill and his wife to give a practical demonstration at a Farmers’ Institute meeting in Renfrew. Joseph addressed over 600 people on that occasion. Wright then asked them to give a series of public lessons on butter-making. Starting in June 1889 and accompanied by Wright and his wife, who paid all of the expenses, they toured the Renfrew area for a week, holding two meetings a day. The “dairy” initiative was very successful and for many years afterwards the Yuills continued to give practical instructions on butter-making. Wright reportedly stated that he had “never laid out money that paid him so well.”
Both Joseph and Margaret Yuill spoke regularly to Farmers’ Institutes on a variety of topics. Her talks featured domestic subjects such as butter-making on the farm, the care of milk, raising calves and chickens, and the care of fowl in winter. In addition to their work with the Farmers’ Institute, they frequently addressed other agricultural groups, among them the Ontario Agricultural and Experimental Union and the Dairymen’s Association of Eastern Ontario. Joseph was also a regular contributor to agricultural journals.
Acknowledged for his expertise, Yuill was president of the Dominion Ayrshire Breeders’ Association in 1891–93 and was subsequently awarded a life membership in this organization. He was also a member of the Dominion Swine Breeders’ Association and judged swine at local fairs. In addition to being prominent in agriculture, he was an avid Liberal. He often declined involvement in municipal affairs, however, claiming that he had “all he could attend to as was.” A Presbyterian, he was an elder of the church on Ramsay’s 8th line and was later a member and elder of St Andrew’s Church, Carleton Place.
By 1905 Yuill’s farming operation had grown to cover 600 acres and included two large stock barns, a large windmill for driving equipment and pumping water, and a new, “model” farmhouse, built in 1892 with a dairy-room in its woodshed. He gradually retired and divided the farm. He left Meadowside to his son Alexander and to another son, Andrew, he left the new farm, Elmhurst. In 1905 he died on the farm where he had been born and was buried in Auld Kirk Cemetery near Almonte. His wife and partner in farming, Margaret, survived her husband and died in 1936 at the age of 92.
Almonte Presbyterian Church, (Almonte, Ont.), Auld Kirk Cemetery records. NA, RG 31, C1, 1851, Lanark County; 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, Ramsay Township. Almonte Gazette, 1 Dec. 1905. Farmer’s Advocate and Home Magazine, 1891–1905. The dairy industry in Canada, ed. H. A. Innis (Toronto, 1937). Dairymen’s Assoc. of Ontario, Annual report (Toronto), 1870–76. Dict. of Scottish emigrants (Whyte). Farming, 14, issue for December 1896. Illustrated atlas of Lanark County, 1880 . . . , ed. Ross Cumming (Port Elgin, Ont., 1972), originally pub. as “Lanark supplement” to Illustrated atlas of the Dominion of Canada . . . (Toronto, 1880). J. W. G. MacEwan, The breeds of farm live-stock in Canada (Toronto, 1941). Ont., Dept. of Agriculture, Annual report (Toronto), 1886–1905 (includes reports of the Dairymen’s Assoc. of Eastern Ontario) [the association was established in 1877, but no reports were published until 1886]. A. M. Ross, The college on the hill: a history of the Ontario Agricultural College, 1874–1974 (Vancouver, 1974).