In 1813, American soldiers captured John
McFarland while he was working
in the fields, and was taken to Greenbush, N.Y. where he remained a
prisoner of war until 1814. His home, meanwhile, was used as a hospital
by both British and American forces, depending on who ruled the Niagara
frontier at the time.
Legend has it, McFarland was so heartbroken by what he saw when he
returned home from prison, it contributed to his death soon after. The
house was badly damaged, missing all its doors, windows and mantels.
Most of the property was burned and 21 of his horses were missing.
McFarland's tombstone at St. Mark's Church says these events
"enervated him so much that he died a few months afterward in the
64th year of his life".
Yet, the name McFarland is very much part of today's
Niagara-on-the-Lake. Damaged but not destroyed (most everything in
Newark and St. Davids didn't escape the torch), the home was patched up
and used by McFarland's descendants for nearly 150 years. Once out of
the family's hands, it was abandoned and boarded up, becoming a target
It was purchased by the Niagara Parks Commission in 1943, and in 1959
it was renovated - at great expense - in the Loyalist tradition of the
1820s and 1830s. It has been open for public tours ever since.