Fairview Historical Society Articles Archives

Ashburn Golf Club

Submitted by Devonna Edwards

It was located on Joseph Howe Drive (formerly known as Dutch Village Road). The property was once a private estate known as “Ashbourne”. Ashburn has a long history as it is situated on lots seven and eight of the twelve lots granted to settlers in 1763. The original settlers on lots seven and eight were Conrad Brugg, a Swiss and Balrar Gebhardt, a German.

In 1860 the property became part of the estate of James Cogswell. The property was sold to Colonel William Myers, an officer in the 71st Regiment and of the Royal Staff Corps, who subsequently sold it to his son-in-law, John Matthew Jones. Born in 1828 Jones was a native of Wales and a British admiral’s son. Independently wealthy and educated as a lawyer, Jones served in the Crimean War on the front as a captain in the Royal Montgomery Rifles. He eventually settled in Halifax.

Ashburn suited Jones interest in nature and brought him in touch with his neighbour Andrew Downs. At Ashburn Jones built his own museum, which housed over eight thousand specimens. He wintered in Bermuda, where a number of fish species were named after him. He was a donor to the British Museum, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Nova Scotia Institute of Natural Science, of which he was president from 1863 to 1873. He employed a personal servant, a cook and a housemaid, as well as outside staff, including a coachman and a gardener. Within a few years of purchasing the property, which consisted of eighty-nine acres, Jones moved into the city of Halifax. He died in 1888 on his sixtieth birthday at his Tower Road Home. Jones owned the property from 1860-1868.

“Notice of sale which provides significant details of the property today known as Ashburn Golf Club.” This valuable and well known property of 900 feet front to the main road (Joseph Howe Drive) is situated in the most pleasant part of the Dutch Village and includes 89 acres of land, with a modern built family residence containing ten rooms, besides smaller rooms, kitchen, pantries, closets, etc. The out-houses are capacious and comprise three stall stables, barn for four cows,
coach house, wood shed, large barn; capable of containing 30 tons of hay, having two threshing floors and a children’s play room 35×18; well finished throughout at a large expense and prettily situated in a grove on the lawn.

On Friday May 2, 1868, a Halifax newspaper, The British Colonist, reported: The beautiful situated estate of J.M. Jones known as “Ashbourne”, was sold for the sum of $10,000 to James B. Duffus. Duffus. He and his young family lived on the property from 1868 to 1884, when Duffus died at the age of fifty-one. He named his youngest son, William Ashbourne Duffus. The Duffus name still remains associated with Ashburn; the E.G. Duffus Silver Bowl is still awarded in golf competitions.

In 1886 the Duffus estate sold the property to William Henry Webb, one of the partners in Brown and Webb Wholesale and Retail Drug House. When William Webb moved to Ashburn, it was a palatial country estate, four miles from Halifax, with a sheep fold, tenant’s cottage and avenues of Norwegian pine. Webb resided there for forty years, delighting in the many attractive features of the country estate.

“Ashbourne” got its name from Lord Ashbourne of England. Webb supposedly altered the spelling of the name from Ashbourne to Ashburn; “ash” for the ash grove on the property; “burn”, for the Scottish word “small brook”, for the brook that the grove surrounded.

The 1891 census shows Webb with three sons under the age of twelve, as well as his wife’s parents, her two spinster sisters and three servants, all living at the estate. His wife of eleven years died in 1888. His son Arthur H. Webb was a graduate of Mount Allison, a player of the Halifax Crescent Hockey Team and co-founder of the Maritime Dental Company. He resided at Ashburn, maintaining horses, a coach and a coachman on the property long after motor cars were in vogue.

In 1905 the Halifax and South Western Railway Co. (H&SW) was granted the right to lay rail line which affected Webb’s beautiful, quiet property, reducing its market value. In later years William Webb relocated to Inglis Street in Halifax and left the property to his son Arthur Webb. Arthur Webb retired in 1921 due to ill health and sold the property to the Halifax Golf and Country Club for $22,500 in 1922. Arthur died in 1929 at the age of fifty. The Webb family owned the property from 1886-1922.

An article in the Mail Star newspaper by E. Wetmore in March 1954:

Stated that before World War 11, a visitor to Ashburn out walking on the property reportedly encountered a woman in a shawl. To the visitor’s amazement, the woman she met apparently had no feet and appeared to be gliding along several inches above the ground, towards the woods. When approached, she put her shawl above her head with one hand, as if to cover her face and gestured violently with her free arm. When approached more closely, she glided into the woods and disappeared.

Locals said this woman could have been the ghost of an old widow who was found dead in the area during the autumn of 1850. The widow lived with her daughter and son-in-law on the west sided of Dutch Village Road, north of Bayers Road, just a ten minute walk from Ashburn. The woman was subject to bouts of melancholy, during which she wandered about alone in the wooded area to the west of Dutch Village Road. She became quarrelsome and complained frequently about her neighbours, whom she claimed were conspiring against her. Attempts to persuade her that her fears were groundless went ignored. In her depressed state, the woman committed suicide by tying a blanket around her neck and hanging herself.

Ashburn came into its present role as an outgrowth of the old Halifax Golf Club, which for many years operated in the south end of Halifax on the Collins estate of Gorsebrook.

The Ashburn Gatehouse also known as the Ashburn Cottage or the Estate Lodge It was erected many decades before the Ashburn property became the Halifax Golf and Country Club. The Gatehouse was situated on the east end of the property at the entrance to a winding avenue leading up to the main house and its surrounding buildings. When the property was turned into a golf course, the driveway route became a fairway and a new entrance was constructed to the north. When the property became a golf course the Gatehouse was located behind the number two tee. The house was described as small and had a rather oddly design with varied angles both as to its walls and roof. Upstairs were two bedrooms, while downstairs were three rooms and a small storage area. Water was piped from the upper pond on the property for service use, while, drinking water was drawn from a nearby well.

Originally the dwelling was used as a gatekeeper lodge when the property was a spacious country estate. In later years it was used as a living quarters for the club’s professional golfers. A caretaker lived in the Gatehouse in the summer but moved into the clubhouse during the winter months.
Ashburn pro Tommy Cornfoot, a native of St. Andrews, Scotland lived there from 1924 until 1933. On Dec. 20, 1933 he went out to cut down a Christmas tree for his daughter, Annie Jean when he had an accident. He was found dead in a pond on the property, the same pond which he had helped to deepen. It was speculated that he tripped and fell, hit his head on a rock and fell into the pond, slipping under the ice and drowned.

The house was occupied up to the fall of 1958, when pro golfer Cecil Manuge became the last tenant. In the spring of 1959 Alan Ogilvie came from Moncton to take over the post of pro at Ashburn but he discovered that the house was no longer liveable without major repairs. At that time it was decided that it was not economically sound for the club to undertake the needed repairs so the old gatehouse was demolished.

There was another death on the property that occurred on Sept. 9, 1993, when the body of Gisele Pelzmann was found by golfers. Gisele was only seventeen years when she was murdered, she had been beaten to death with a rock. Doris Mae Eisenhauer was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.

The Ashburn Clubhouse

In August, 1922 one hundred and fifty men and thirty teams of horses set out to build a golf course on the former Webb property. Canadian golf architect Stanley Thompson designed the 142 acres of naturally rolling landscape to create a favourable golf course.

The Ashburn Clubhouse opened on May 10, 1924 and served for seventy-five years before it was demolished in to make way for a new clubhouse.The old building, first used as a grand old estate house then a clubhouse was 140 years old. The old clubhouse was demolished in 1999 and a new modern clubhouse was opened in 2000. The attractive new clubhouse had meeting rooms, lounges, a banquet facility, a pro shop, administrative offices, locker rooms, and a dining room.

The original fourteen room Webb’s county house was renovated into a clubhouse with only minor changes, including the addition of the two glass rooms; the sun room and the dining room.

The ground floor contained two reception rooms, coat room, washroom, kitchen and pantry as well as quarters for professional golfers and caddies. The second floor had a lounge with a fireplace and two dressing rooms for the ladies, a private card room and staff quarters.

The golf course remained as is until the late 1950s, when the province began construction on the Bicentennial Highway. To make room for the four-lane highway, part of the 13th fairway had to be expropriated, narrowing the fairway. Then in 1990 three new holes were built, mostly for safety reasons because golf balls were landing on the highway, endangering the motorists on the road.

In the late 1960s the old 18-hole golf course had become overcrowded with 1,000 members and the Board of Directors began looking for a second Ashburn Golf Course outside the city of Halifax.

Property containing 600 acres was purchased from the Lee family in Fall River and in 1968 construction began on the new golf course. In 1970 a golf course called “The New Course at Ashburn” opened on the shores of Kinsac Lake in Fall River. Geoffrey Cornish designed the stunning 18-hole course. Today in 2020 the old and new Ashburn Golf Courses are considered to be among the best courses in Nova Scotia.

Famous People that played golf on the old Ashburn Golf Course on Dutch Village Road (Joseph Howe Drive):

Babe Ruth, the legendary New York Yankee slugger, played a game of golf there in 1942. In 1995 during the G-7 Economic Summit Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien and U.S. President Bill Clinton also played golf there. The great hockey player Gordie Howe as well as golf stars George Knudson and Moe Norman also played the course.

Similar Posts