Sunday, 13 January 2019

William Ollett (1838-1922)

Although the subject of this week’s blog post is not a direct ancestor, William Ollett has an interesting story.  Aunt Dodie helpfully labelled the above picture in the 1959 Blanshard History book and the Ollett biography in it is the main source of my information. As well, this Rootsweb site included his obituary from the Oak River Post in 1922, part of which is below. Two of William and Ann Ollett's grandchildren were the subject of previous blog posts: Ć amuel Robert Henry and Jessie Henry Sinclair .  Their mother was Amelia Ollett Henry, called Millie, who was the daughter of this William.

In 1881, while Millie's future husband's family was homesteading the prairies of Manitoba, the Ollett family lived in Gelligaer, Glamorgan, Wales where William was described as a Railway Platelayer on the census.  He and his wife Ann had a family of 7 children, 3 boys and 4 girls. Five years later, 48 year old William made a daring decision to leave Wales and join the flood of immigration to Manitoba.  His youngest daughter Millie, then 13 years old, accompanied him on this adventure throughout parts of Manitoba building the railway before Ann and some of the rest of the family joined them in 1888.  His experience in Wales helped him become foreman of a gang building the railroad from Brandon west.  He had also been a gardener as in Wales so the story goes that he planted trees all along the way in places he lived.  William helped open up Canada's west and beautified it too!

Daughter Millie worked first in Headingly and then once her mother arrived, they ran a boarding house at Gautier Junction just two and a half miles west of Rapid City on the CPR line. (The location of this spot on the Little Saskatchewan River was identified using the memoir written by Charlie Mundell in the Rapid City History Book.)

In 1899, Millie moved to the next stop on the line at Pettapiece to work in the store.  It was about this time that the Ollett men, William Sr, William Jr, James and Robert decided to try their hand at farming and bought land southeast of Floors Siding.


Robert married a daughter of the neighbours John and Jennet Henry, Mary in January of 1903 while William and James always remained unmarried. Robert and Mary had a family of 5 - 3 girls and 2 boys and lived at SE 27-13-21, I believe. Three months after Robert and Mary, March 11, 1903, Amelia Ollett married Samuel Henry, sister of Mary. Millie seems to have chosen a tamer brother as two of Samuel's brothers, Charles and Joseph, made the headlines of the papers at least 3 times in 1887  , 1896 and 1898 before their premature deaths as told in previous blog posts.  Millie and Samuel had a daughter and then 3 sons and farmed the homestead farm across the road from Robert and Mary Ollett at NW 22-13-21 (pictured above) except for a short time in Rivers where he built and ran a livery stable.

From the Oak River Post, Oak River, MB1/11/1922 WILLIAM OLLETTThe death occurred on Thursday, January 5th, at his home near Pettapiece ofWilliam OLLETT at the advanced age of 84 years and 25 days. The late Mr.OLLETT came to this country from Wales about thirty-four years ago. Heacted as caretaker of the Oak River station during the interim between thecompletion of the road and the running of the first train. Later he wassection foreman and ran a boarding house at Gautier Junction. About twentynine years ago he homesteaded the farm on which he died. He remained welland hearty until a few months ago but appeared to be feeling better thanusual when the end came, without pain and without warning, as he sat in hischair after having eaten his supper.

Samuel Henry died in 1947 and Millie followed 10 years later.  Samuel and Millie's stone is pictured below in The Oak River Cemetery.  Millie lived at home with her son Sam and his wife Doris.  I have Aunt Dodie's diaries from that time and she always refers to her as "Mrs. Henry" in them. I am guessing that Millie Ollett Henry would have seen many changes since her youth in Wales but held onto the formalities of days gone by.

William's wife Annie Ollett died in February of 1926 at the age of 88.  The Ollett men are named on stones at the Pettapiece Cemetery.   The name may be gone from the district but I hope that one of the descendants stumbles over this blog post someday and finds out what I have gathered on the Ollett's time here on Earth and the legacy they have left to those who follow.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

James Rae (1894-1966)

Two previous posts about Peter Deans Rae here and here, got me interested in the story of his younger brother James. He had been identified by my Aunt Dodie in the picture below on the left with Pete. It was rather puzzling however to hear from a Rae relative overseas that James had died in WW1. I wondered how Dodie would have know who it was when she was born in 1921.

A little digging online found the WW1 attestation papers for James Rae with Regimental Number 700418.  (There were at least 20 other men with the same name in the Library Archive Canada database of Canadian Soldiers.  It makes me realize the monumental number of files they had to digitize during the project.

Volume 2 of the Blanshard Municipality History book written in 1970 says James left Galashiels, Scotland some time after his brother Pete did in 1910.  He worked for farmers around the Oak River area until enlisting in WW1 just before Christmas on December 23, 1915 when his current address was 438 Hampton St in St James now Winnipeg.  According to the history book, he saw service in France with the 43rd Cameron Highlanders.  

The online personnel files fills in a few details for James but also gives but a glimpse of the terrible experience it must have been for him.  He was no stranger to the hospitals overseas and the combined effect of his injuries and illnesses would have left him a changed man.  After his enlistment and during his training at Camp Hughes, Jim contracted diphtheria in April of 1916.  Although hospitalized in Winnipeg, two months later he was well enough to set sail on board the Olympic for England.  In October of 1916 he is admitted to hospital for gun shot wounds to his arm and as a result he lost his left index finger up to the first joint.  He was admitted again in November for influenza.  In April of 1917, James is docked a day's pay for the neglectful loss of  equipment - his helmet. June 30, 1917 he received gunshot wounds to both legs.  Continued x-rays and removal of pieces of shrapnel are documented over the next few weeks until his wounds are declared "practically healed" by the end of July. 

Notable in his file is a notation that be refused to make a will dated October of 1918. I wonder if he thought by the time he had lived through that much, there was no need to make out a will! On his discharge in March if 1919, he stated he intended to make his home at Oak River. Twenty dollars was sent to his mother Elizabeth in Scotland as support each month he was on duty.
After the war he worked for a Henry connection of mine, Charles Henry among others. The history book goes on to say he became ill with sleeping sickness and remained in poor health for several decades until his death at age 71 on January 25, 1966.  His mother Elizabeth came to Canada to live near her sons in the early twenties and perhaps it was due to James needing more care than Pete could supply.  A note from Veterans Affairs appears in his personnel file that James died on January 25, 1966 at the Hospital for Mental Diseases in Brandon.   There is no evidence but I wonder if James suffered from the following condition as described in Wikipedia.
Encephalitis lethargica is an atypical form of encephalitis. Also known as "sleeping sickness" or "sleepy sickness", it was first described in 1917.
The disease attacks the brain, leaving some victims in a statue-like condition, speechless and motionless. Between 1915 and 1926, an epidemic of encephalitis lethargica spread around the world. Nearly five million people were affected, a third of whom died in the acute stages. Many of those who survived never returned to their pre-existing "aliveness".
Although not one of my blood relatives, James Rae deserves to be honoured and remembered for his part in fighting under Canada's flag and being a friend and neighbour to my ancestors.  He is buried with a soldier's headstone in Oak River Cemetery alongside his mother Elizabeth.  Rest in Peace, James.

Friday, 23 November 2018

A Mystery Aunt - Jeannie Sinclair Oliver

A recent look through Aunt Lizzie (Sinclair) Morcom's photos and papers turned up a mystery Aunt that I must have passed over before.  How appropriate that on American Thanksgiving weekend, I was able to discover a whole new Yankee branch of the family tree! Luckily, the Christmas card below was saved and started the investigation. 
Address 85 Summit
Hastings on Hudson N Y
My Dear Niece Elizabeth,
I am sending a few Xmas cards and want to send you one as it has been some time since I heard from you all but hope you are all very well.  I have been very poorly since I wrote to you last but I'll try to write you a long letter very soon.  Hoping this finds you all very well.  I hope your Father - Mother is all right and all your Folks.
With love from your Aunt Jeannie Oliver

The address helped me search her name and I came across the Find a Grave entry which also included an obituary from her death in 1944.  It tells that Jeannie was born in Kirkwall, Orkney Islands, Scotland, October 15, 1857. On my tree, I had a Jane Kennedy Sinclair as a sister to my great grandfather James but Orkney documents give her birth year as 1853.  They were 2 of the 4 children of  William Sinclair and Jane Garrioch of  Eastside on South Ronaldsay in the Orknys. She married William Oliver perhaps in Scotland and later arrived in the U.S.  For many years they lived in Ansonia, Connecticut and also resided just south of there in Derby for a time.  The 1880 Census has them at 65 Elizabeth Street in Derby and William is listed as a millwright.
The obituary lists her children as the daughter with whom she made her home Jean Lyon, Mrs. Laura Evans of Syracuse, N. Y. and two sons, William E. Oliver and Robert S. Oliver, both of Rome, N. Y.; three grandchildren and one great grandchild.  She was buried in Ansonia beside a daughter Edith who died as a toddler in 1887 and her husband William who had died in 1929.  Jeannie made her home with her daughter and son-in-law at Riverview Manor in Hastings on Hudson after the death of her husband according to census documents on Ancestry. It was during these years she wrote the Christmas letter to Lizzie. Ancestry user koliver53 had posted these pictures of Jeannie and William.

The group photo from around 1916 was described as : Three generations. Children at bottom from left, William Jr, and his cousin Jeanne Evans. Seated middle are Jeanne Sinclair Oliver and William Oliver.  Also seated are Laura Oliver Evans and her husband Ernest. Standing from left are Marguerite Bence Oliver and her husband William E. Oliver, Sr., Robert Oliver, Jeanne Oliver Lyons, and her husband George Lyons.

After going through more old papers and pictures I found the postcard collections below.  The ones from Maine are postmarked 1945 from J.O.L. (Jeanne Oliver Lyon) and The New York collection predates Lizzie's marriage in 1930 and is also signed from Jeanne.

The photo on the left has "Your cousin Laura and her daughter Jean E. Evans 1952" on the back.  The profile picture has no name but seems to bear a resemblance and was stamped with a photography company's stamp in White Plains, NY.

I am guessing the picture below with the writing copied from the back is of Jeanne Lyon in 1963.  

Happy Thanksgiving to my Oliver cousins and I hope to hear from you soon!

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Maybe You Can Go Home Again

Saturday, November 3 was a wonderful day when my cousins Karen and Rea planned a tour of the former home of Frances and Frank Kinnaird.  Their two daughters Margaret and Marjorie and Margaret's husband Don and I met to take a stroll down memory lane and admire the farm yard and home of the current owners Trevis and Heather.  Margaret and Marjorie grew up in the farm house and us grandchildren had our own memories that were rekindled. It had been built in 1907 at W1-11-27 by James and Elizabeth Lane who lived there until they left in 1920.  The home was rented out until Grandpa Frank Kinnaird moved in after purchasing the half section in 1925.  Grandma and Grandpa raised 3 kids there and lived in it until he had a stroke in 1962 and needed to have personal care until his death in 1967. Grandma continued to live there until her death in 1974. 

It seems to have been a labour of love for Trevis and Heather to restore the home they raised their 2 boys in.  Original doors and handles as well as door and window trim and baseboards were painstakingly refinished and reused wherever possible. The room that I called the piano room at the bottom of the stairs is the master bedroom now and Aunt Marge remembered that it was the same for them during the winters when the family of 5 slept downstairs to conserve heat. She slept in a crib at the end of a bed where Margaret slept with her parents and Uncle Keith was on a couch in the living room. The wallboard around the stairs had been removed to reveal how beautifully the spindles had been restored.  The same creeeeak, creeeeak as we made our way up the stairs brought smiles and good memories all around.
Looking east out her bedroom window, Grandma used to be able to see the Lenore Hill.  We thought it was ironic that now the house sits just a few miles south and east of that familiar landmark and that she would be pleased.

The upstairs hall brought Aunt Marge backin time, using the long wall as a chalkboard and the trunk that sat below the window as a desk as she role played being a teacher.  Part way down the stairs was where her pupils, cut from the pages of Eatons catalogs, would sit as she patiently delivered their lessons.  She recalls her mom and dad being okay with her writing on the wall with chalk as it was recovered with light green muresco (plaster) every year.

Heather shared her photo album with us that chronicled the transformation of the house starting with the move to their site in the fall of 1984.  It has had many updates and modernizations over the years but the bones have remained the same.

We were also interested to find pictures of the coloured glass window and the original archway between the kitchen and living area. We posed for a picture on the way out in front of the beautifully varnished original siding that greets visitors at the door. What an incredible opportunity to take a step back in time and revisit our childhoods.  May it stand proudly for more generations of feet racing up and down those stairs!

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Recollections and Memories of the Grandchildren of Frances Milne Kinnaird

 My memories of Gram are all very positive as she was a rock for our family and a true pioneer. She influenced me in a very positive ways. She gave me a wall plaque when I was about 13 which I still have hanging in my shop and stated “Watch out for ambition, it will get you into a lot of work”. I think she was amazing.
Grama Frances was a very traditional and hard-working woman! She never liked fuss but was always looking out for others, especially her family. Grama would meet us in the yard when we got off the bus with warm cinnamon buns on baking day! After Grampa was in the hospital, I would go for supper with Grama once a week. We would eat pancakes or actual Kraft dinner – just the two of us! For the Hargrave fall supper, besides cooking turkeys and baking pies Grama would be the main dishwasher for the whole night! Hargrave bonspiel kitchen was also a busy place for her. She would make soup, cook turkeys and bake a few pies for the week! Grama and Mom and Dad milked a few cows by hand. She separated the cream and sold it be the quart or sometimes the pint to customers in Hargrave and Virden. I would help by delivering it to the door and exchanging it for an empty jar with money in it. The bulk of the cream she would take to the creamery in big cream cans – too heavy for me but ok for her. I was 10 and probably talker than her already. I loved her house! The cupboards were much shorter than at my house so I could get stuff when I was little. I liked to lounge on top of her freezer (which was in the kitchen) and enjoy an ice cream cone – she would have tea and we would talk! Her piano room was always full of red geraniums. If flour or sugar were on sale, Grama would buy extra and store in the trunk of her car. I bought her car so it came with a bag of  sugar but no radio!

Rea & Lyle:
The memory of Grandpa seeing Rea and Lyle throwing stones (at each other?) out the window and him yelling at them to stop it!

Special times with Grandma Kinnaird included the following: Going to her place for sleepovers; Eating watermelon on the front step with the Kinnaird cousins; Grandma would get ready to go and milk the cows in the morning usually at around 5 am and coming back to the house through the porch with her big rubber boots; Going out to the pasture to watch her start a smudge for the cows to keep away the mosquitoes; Getting water from the kitchen sink because of the different style of faucet; Going to the garden beside the house with a cat or two cunning around; Being reluctant to go into the basement where the coal was kept; Going to sleep in her bed with a bottle of hot water that was placed in a sock to keep our feet warm. Then graduating to be able to sleep in Aunty Margaret s room; Picking Saskatoon berries with Grandma, Aunty Aida and Karen , then checking for wood ticks; Watching Grandma read the Brandon Sun while she stood at the deep freeze in the kitchen; Smelling the wood burn in the stove before she got the electric stove; Delivering eggs and cream in Hargrave and in Virden on Saturday mornings, along with the Kinnaird cousins; How happy she was when the new linoleum was laid in the house; How Grandma would play the hymns for Sunday church service so she would know them ahead of time and occasionally going to church on Sunday with the Kinnaird cousins; She would often look through her binoculars to see what was going on down the road or to see who was coming to pick up Judy (was it Sheldon?); Grandma would call neighbors to collect the weekly news to report the Hargrave news for the Virden Empire Advance and then watching as she would write on the special paper from the Advance for the news for the next week paper; Looking out the coloured panes of glass in the window upstairs to see how things looking in either yellow or red; Saturday night was often (more that often) spent getting ready to go to Virden to play BINGO. On the way there might be a stop to pick up Mattie Lifeso; On Sundays often we would phone and ask if she would like guest for supper. Supper would often consist of a tin of ham or sometimes a jar of preserved chicken, mashed potatoes with cream and green onions added in for taste, some type of vegetables fresh or frozen from the garden, always homemade bread or buns and often Virden ice cream or fruit cocktail for dessert. It was always fun to get in a game or two of euchre. She wold often send home with us eggs, homemade bread, and if we were lucky scones; If Charlie and Bella Gardiner were coming for a visit and supper Grandma would be invited too. You could tell what good friends they were. Usually there would be a card game after having supper; We would go to see the Simms at Oak River. Grandma would come to our house or we would pick her up. In the summer Karen and I would accompany her and have a sleepover so we could play with our cousins. One trip Judy came with us and she got to drive the blue car; When Grandpa Kinnaird was in Brandon at the Assiniboine Centre we would visit, pack a lunch (usually egg salad sandwiches on homemade bread) and spend time at the paddling pool in the summer. We would go to Brandon regularly to visit but unfortunately times were different and children were not allowed to visit as they are today. We celebrated one Christmas visiting in a large waiting room, often though it was looking through his room’s window and waving as we were held up high enough by Dad.;  About 2 am on August 19, 1967 Grandpa passed away. We were on a sleep over as mum and dad were working in the valley. I remember on the Friday, Grandma and Uncle Keith went to Brandon to see Grandpa and knowing things were not too good. The phone rang early in the morning and I heard grandma go downstairs to answer it. She and Uncle Keith who was also in on the call (party line) spoke for a while. As she came back upstairs I remember her saying “poor dad”; Mum would often cut and would give Grandma s hair a perm. I think the one she liked was a Quick perm; When Grandma was ill, she spent a lot of time at our house. She would spend hours hooking rugs and would watch her favourite soap “The Edge of Night” at 3:30 pm. Sometimes she would talk to Aunt Nan. Our dog Lucky would always be on the lookout for some food scraps dropping conveniently onto the floor. During this time I was a candy striper at the Virden hospital. When Grandma was a patient I would get extra visiting time, Thelma Penner RN in particular would always make sure of that. I would make sure she was ready for the meal tray and help get her hair combed and freshened up ready for visitors. There were so many wonderful times spent with Grandma.

My memories of Grandma are very special. Going to Grandma’s was always anticipated with excitement. We also got to play with our Kinnaird cousins, a bonus! Dolores and I had many sleepovers at Grandma’s and even sometimes we went there on the bus after school with Judy, Rea and Lyle. Many times we slept with Grandma in her bed with a warm bottle on the feet. I was always in the middle (not much room) but remember being put to sleep by the sound of the ticking of her clock. I hear Rea has that clock now, working or not! Grandma would get us to look out her east bedroom window to see the Lenore hill.  Going to light the smudge in the pasture at night was a ritual with Grandma before bed. Grandma made wonderful cinnamon buns, butter tarts, and her famous macaroni and tomato. TV was watched in the living room, mainly The Edge of Night and on Saturday night Wrestling her favourites, and caramels and cheese puffs close by. Dolores and I would go to Bingo with her in Virden often learning the different games. I loved going to deliver eggs, butter and cream to customers in Hargrave (a cookie from Bessie Carruthers) and to Virden (a visit and a treat from Esther Greig among others) ending up at the creamery to buy ice cream. Chicken and turkey killing days at the Kinnaird’s were busy days, and Mom and Dad, Dolores and I were there too. But the canned chicken was the reaped benefit.  I remember Grandma putting in wood to the stove and the open oven door, always so warm in the kitchen! Trips to Oak River with Grandma to see the Simms were usually on rainy days so Grandma did not have to worry about milking cows as Uncle Keith was not as busy. There were many wonderful get- togethers for birthdays, Christmas and New Year’s that were spent together. Charlie and Bella Gardiner were often part of these gatherings, very good friends, just part of the family. Grandma was not one for pictures of herself so the rare ones we have are treasured. Grandma always remembered your birthday with a card signed “Love Gram”. Grandma loved to play the piano and taught me on the black keys my first piano piece. I remember going to church with her and she was in the choir. We would go to many events at Hargrave and Grandma was always involved whether the church, school or rink. I remember Grandpa Kinnaird having multi colored chicklets in his pocket and giving them to me! When he was in hospital in Brandon only remember a few visits, but once by his bedside and Mom cleaning his glasses and once in a large room at Christmas time and getting a tight hug. I always thought it was so terrific that both of my grandparents, Grandma and Grandpa Kinnaird and Grandma and Grandpa Tapp had so many of the same friends. So many great memories!

My memories of Grandma include sleeping over and getting up early when the cows were milked. Grandma told me just to sleep in but I wanted to get up and see what went on in the barn. Tippy was very excited that I was up too, jumping up on me which probably added to the commotion of the cows seeing a stranger in the barn! Helping collect the eggs was another novelty we did not have at home. Visiting at Grandmas was always something that I looked forward to.

My memories of Grandma include All Star “Wrassling” on Saturday night on TV, The Irish Rovers on the record player, chicken canned in jelly, her calling the cows – Cow Boss, Cow Boss, the little dolly she had dressed in a kilt. We were allowed to use markers in her colouring books!  I remember when I came in the house to tell her and Mom that I drove the Kinnaird skidoo right in to the shed. (Those dear cousins showed me how to squeeze the throttle to make it go but never said to let go to make it stop!) Her only concern was that I was okay and anything that happened was their fault, not mine! Ha. I remember Grandma at our house and she tripped coming down from upstairs and Dad ran to her and said "Frances!"  I was so mad at him because her name was Grandma, why was he calling her that! That north bedroom in our house was called Grandmas Room for many years until I moved into it with the dresser and wardrobe from her house after she died.  Her dresser followed me to my current home and I remember her fondly.

My memories of Grandma were lemon drop candies and Nilla wafer cookies.