A few months ago I wrote some brief notes about Charles Leslie McFarlane (Franklin W. Dixon) who wrote the Hardy Boy books and was born in Carleton Place. This week I spotted some more information at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum and elsewhere about his father and how the family came to Carleton Place.
Leslie McFarlane was born on October 25, 1902, in Carleton Place, Ontario, and he was one of 4 sons. His father, John Henry McFarlane, was born in Lanark, Ontario on July 31, 1870, and was a was a local Carleton Place school principal. He received his teaching certificate in 1895 after attending Ottawa Normal School. During one of his stints as a teacher in the village of Clayton, John Henry boarded at the home of Aaron Barnett, the town cooper (barrelmaker). There he met the cooper’s pretty brown eyed daughter Rebecca.
It did not take long for John Henry to propose, and after they were married he moved to the larger town of Carleton Place where he was offered a job. He taught elementary school for 45 years, serving as a principal for much of this time. The family moved from Carleton Place to Haileybury, Ontario in 1910 where Charles grew up.
Leslie’s father was a devout Presbyterian who insisted that Sundays be devoted to church and other activities should be associated with holiness. His mother was Anglican, and Leslie was confirmed in the Anglican church when he was 17.
McFarlane is famous for being a ghost author of The Hardy Boys mystery novel. These novels were being written under the pen name Franklin W. Dixon, a system which allowed more than one writer to pen novels in a series like Carolyn Keene and Nancy Drew. McFarlane wrote 19 of those novels between 1927 and 1946. He also wrote the first four volumes of The Dana Girls series for the Stratemeyer Syndicate under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene, which the Syndicate also used for the Nancy Drew series of books.
Leslie’s son, Hockey Night in Canada commentator Brian Mc Farlane said that in his father’s diaries his father complained of having to write another of those nuisance books in order to earn another 85 dollars to buy coal for the furnace. His father admitted he never read them afterwards, and it was only much later that he accepted plaudits for the work. Leslie McFarlane died in 1977.
Clayton Historian Rose Mary Sarsfield added: So here’s your fun fact for today. As an addendum to the evening on the topic of the Hardy Boy and Nancy Drew books, 21 of the Hardy Boys and 4 of the Nancy Drews were actually written by Leslie McFarlane. Leslie McFarlane was born in Carleton Place. His mother Rebecca Barnett came from Clayton and his father John Henry McFarlane came from Drummond Twp. and was the teacher in Clayton for four years (1894-97). The family moved to Haileybury in 1910 where John Henry was the school principal for the rest of his life. Leslie McFarlane’s son was Brian McFarlane broadcaster for many years of Hockey night in Canada.