BIOGRAPHY OF W.A. EDWARDS
By Ken Willis
I am at a bit of a disadvantage writing about a man I never met. Those who remember him will each have their personal remembrances, that I know nothing about, but wish I did.
I have a hard time using the term “Grandfather” to describe this man. The name “Bill” comes easier and I will use it as I relate information about him. To a lot of people, Bill Edwards was “Stubbles from the Farm” in the person of “Claud Hopper” the central character in this farm based series.
Bill used people from the “Big Bend” area as characters for his Stubbles stories, most under names he made up. His wife became Mandy Hopper, Hugh Archer became Abe Ashton and his wife was Levinia. The list is long. The week’s happenings usually ended up on the “Farm News” page of the London Free Press, Saturday mornings. Many an argument ensured between Bill and my grandmother over something he had written. But there was more to Bill than “Stubbles from the Farm” and I hope to give you a glimpse of it.
William Albert Edwards was born on the 23rd of November 1879, at Lot 15, Range 1 North, Mosa Township. He was the eldest son of Thomas A. Edwards and Gertrude Rowena James and a great grandson of Thomas Edwards and Elizabeth Rayle, who came from Pennsylvania in 1783, to Canada, after the American Revolutionary War.
I only mention this as Bill had a great liking for history as is revealed in his many stories. Some of them go back to the early settlement of this area. As a young boy Bill attended Mosa School No. 3 near Woodgreen and then Wardsville High School and later Chatham Business College.
While attending High School, is where I believe the earliest evidence of his writing was done in 1899 or 1900. It is a parody of a poem written on Jeff Davis that he called Paul Kruger’s Finish. Upon moving back home, Bill worked for several years at a brick yard,run by an uncle. This brick yard was mentioned in a story he wrote and which was later carried in the London Free Press (1930’s)
He moved to Owen Sound sometime prior to 1910 and worked in another brick yard and lived with his uncle, Fred Edwards. Somehow, Bill met a beautiful young lady from Euphemia and on August 9, 1911, Bill and Lillie Beatrice Smith were married in the Baptist Church in Bothwell.
For the first 3 months of their marriage they lived in a small log cabin next to the Edwards family home. In November of that year they purchased the General Store in Shetland and moved into the attached living quarters. The store also contained the local office of the Inwood and Bothwell Telephone Exchange. This exchange was run by my grandmother along with her other duties of serving customers and raising the first members of their family.
During this time Bill wrote articles and local news items for the Bothwell Times, Glencoe Transcript and farm reports for the London Free Press (for 25 years). He wrote under the names “Counter (c) Hopper (c) Ruralite (c) Bill (c) Uncle Billie (c) W.A.E. and W.A. Edwards.”
In 1918, the family moved to the 10th Concession of Euphemia and occupied the residence of Mrs. Edwards’s parents. (who retired from farming and moved to Newbury) Bill farmed there for four years as well as writing articles. They moved to Newbury in the early 1920’s, after trading the farm for a house in town. Bill worked for a time with the J.J. Heinz Co.(first in Rodney, then in Leamington)
In 1925, he purchased a farm at Lot 12 Range 1 South Mosa Township, where he again took up farming. By now he had a family of 3 boys and 2 girls. From this time, until his death in 1940, Bill was a regular (weekly) contributor to the London Free Press, with “Stubbles From the farm” feature.
Also during this time, he made yearly fall trips North to Owen Sound, stopping along the way to check the progress of the fall harvest at each of the townships he passed through. These reports were forwarded to the Free Press and printed before he returned home.
The “Bend Road House” was always a hive of activity on Sundays and that was the only day Bill could write his Stubbles. For a time, the only place he could find to type up his stories was on the landing at the top of the stairway. Eventually he built a small cabin, a distance away from the house and to this he retreated to do his writing. Many a story and poem was written in this “haven” that he called “Shagatta.”
Just prior to his death in December of 1940, he had been asked by the T.M. Dant Publishing, of Toronto, to write a fiction publication, but he wasn’t able to find the time to get it written. He did however, have a complete outline, chapter by chapter of what he wanted to write. The Publishing Company had also been working on the probability of publishing “Stubbles From the Farm” in book series form and in August of that year he had received word that “it” had passed the proof reading. The critics had pronounced it “well worth publication.” They also added that with the war time conditions, it was a bad time launch anything of a reading matter onto the market.
Bills writings also included histories on the following places:
Adelaide Twp Aylmer Battle Hill
Big Bend Cashmere Dawn Mills
Delaware Dunwich Twp Ekfrid Twp
Fingal Florence Forest
Glencoe Kilworth Melbourne
Moraviantown Morpeth Niagara
Parkhill Port Burwell Port Glasgow
Port Stanley Rodney Skunk’s Misery
Southwold Thamesville Wardsville
West Lorne Woodgreen
Writing about people (real and otherwise):
Baldy Bedford (Street Fighter)
Tom Crottie (Station Agent)
Brodison Debrophy (Hunter Scalped by Indians)
John Dobbyn (Euphemia Twp Lumberman)
Tom Edwards (From Big Bend, Shot by Indians)
Thomas Hay (Road Builder)
Henry Ford (Auto Maker)
James Fleming (Scout for Governor Simcoe)
Granny Graves (Casts a Curse)
Charles Groves (Reformed Husband)
John Loust (Prisoner Hung in Toronto Jail)
Maggie O’Mara (One Tough Woman)
Ol MacRhoy (AKA MacCrimmon the Fugitive)
Angus MacTardy (Travelling Preacher)
John Ryerson Moore (School Master)
A.V. Morningstar (Newbury Songwriter)
Rouel Renault (From Seneca Settlement)
Wild Jack Simpson (AKA Texas Jack, Scout for Buffalo Bill)
Captain Spigott (From Salvation Army)
Tecumseh (Indian Chief)
Robert Yates (Of Wardsville)
In 1921 or 1922, Bill won First Prize of $250 in a short story contest, sponsored by the Dominion Textile Company of Montreal. This was a Canada wide contest and the Glencoe Transcript extended their congratulations and took pardonable pride in stating that Mr. Edwards began his literary work as a contributor of community news items to their columns.
The Bothwell Times reported this contest as well and offered their congratulations to Bill. They reported the contest was for the best original short story. The title for Bill’s story was “Drew’s Grey Duck’ and was about a country store scene. Obviously his years in the Shetland General Store played a part in this story but, I have been unable to locate the actual story.
His writing was a large part of his life and he regretted that none of his family ever “Took to writing.” Bill was a musician and in his younger days, a very enthusiastic ball player. He was the neighbourhood organizer, be it for card parties, dances, picnics, ball games or whatever. Things had to be happening to make him happy.
During the depression years he worked (when weather called for it) shovelling snow for the Township, along the Big Bend Road. Bill received $25 per month for his Stubbles Series and $3 each for every article and farm report he sent to the Free Press. His writing never made him a lot of money, but it was clearly a hobby that gave him a great deal of enjoyment and pleasure.
DOES DEATH END ALL?
Written By: W.A. Edwards July 6th, 1938
Does death end all?
Our worries, work and tears?
No eternity at all?
Only time and tide and years?
No peace, eternal peace?
And joy that knows no end?
Must love and friendship cease?
Never again meet a friend?
No home, no Heavenly home?
No realms beyond the sky?
No happy golden shore?
No sweet by and bye?
No Hosts, No Heavenly Hosts?
No throne, no great white throne?
No resurrection morn?
Just death and death alone?
No life Beyond?
The end only the grave?
I but as the brute?
No god no soul to save?
Death does end all
For those who thus so live,
Death does not end all
For they who shall believe.