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Saturday, 25 January 2014

Week 4 - James Garrioch Sinclair

James Garrioch Sinclair (1857 - 1935)

I am reminded when I gather my history on my Great Grandpa James that I have no photos of him.  I asked Aunt Dodie about it once and she said there was one but we got distracted by another picture when we went looking and never did get back to finding it.  She said he was a tall man with a big bushy moustache.  There are many Sinclair photos from the early part of the 1900's and several of his wife Elizabeth on the veranda but I imagine him being unwilling to pose for pictures, or just too busy!

Online birth documents for James indicate he was born on July 2, 1856 on a farm called Cavelton on the island of South Ronaldsay in Orkney, Scotland.  Family records however, give his birth date as July 3, 1857.  The above Proof Of Age dated 1906 to the Order of Forresters is not specific.  This organization was a life insurnace for pioneers on the prairies.  By investing in Foresters memberships, pioneer men knew their families would have financial help if something happened to them.

I am a member of the Orkney Family History Society and have written an article on my Sinclair branch for their newsletter.   According to the Canadian 1906 census, he arrived in Canada in 1873. Family information says he worked on the railroad and in Winnipeg, Manitoba for a time.  His daughter, my Aunt Nellie, told the story of him working in a draying business (hauling freight by wagon) on what is now Portage Avenue and being stuck in the gummy mud  many times. 

James later moved west to Blanshard Municipality where he took a homestead on the NW quarter of 22-14-22.  His mother's brother James Garrioch ( spelled Garrick in Canada) had earlier acquired the section 16-14-22 in 1877 and the nephew James dug the basement for a house which he later bought for his own home.  All four quarters were eventually bought for a just over $3000.  James Sinclair broke the prairie sod for planting wheat crops with oxen and later horses.

 He married Elizabeth Henry in 1890 and raised a family of 8 children.  Witnesses to the marriage ceremony performed by James Halliday were Elizabeth's brother Charles Henry and her mother Mary - the subject of Week 2 in this blog.

This photo of six of James' children was taken around 1902. Jean, Ellen, and my Grandmother Mary (the tall one) are in the back and Alex, William, and Lizzie are in front. This photo surprised me when we found it because it is so early and doesn't really look any different from others taken decades later.
Bankburn Farm was the name James gave to his farm, 16-14-22 W1 near Oak River, Manitoba.  There is currently a Bed and Breakfast near St. Margaret's Hope in Orkney with this name.  I have often wondered what the connection is and hope to visit there someday, after I retire!  The Oak River can be seen at the very bottom of the aerial farm photo above, probably from the 1960's.   

In 1901 Bankburn School District No. 1098 was formed on the corner nearby with an enrolment of seven pupils. The teacher boarded with neighbouring families in turns. The families received $10 a month for room and board, washing, and ironing. The highest salary received by a teacher was $500 a year. Family history tells that many good times were held through the years at Bankburn School at the yearly picnics, baseball games and football games, box socials through the winter months and of course dancing. The ravine was a big attraction in the winter for skating and sledding.  A class of 42 pupils from Grades 1 to 8 was enrolled by 1908. Sunday School was also held in the school every Sunday.

In 1917, the school closed and students were transported into Oak River school by horse drawn vans in summer and winter.  A cairn was erected in 1984 on the site where Bankburn School stood in memory of the pioneers who were instrumental in having the school built as well as to honour its teachers, pupils, and trustees.

James spent part of each winter hauling wood from the bush 75 kilometres north at Elphinstone and also hauled logs for many buildings in the district. He became well known for his Clydesdale horses which he showed at the Oak River fair.   His family wrote that he sold horses to Trotter and Sutton in Brandon .  I am guessing this is James' youngest son Bill in the photo above, pehaps taken in the twenties or thirties.  Over the years he built up a herd of  registered Hereford cattle which continued with my Uncle Bill  in later years. 

In 1981 the Sinclair farm was designated a Century Farm by the Manitoba Department of Agriculture and James' daughter Ellen wrote:
The hardships thru those first years of occupancy were many.  The land was broken by oxen and walking plows.  When the land was hot and dry the oxen made for the nearest pond of water and would not be coaxed out of it until they were ready for come.  The first few crops grown were always frozen.  When threshed the grain had to be hauled by team and wagon to Brandon, the nearest shipping point.  What a blessing when the rails were laid for a railway system to take the grain from the threshing machine to an elevator to ship out by box cars.  In this present system of PROGRESS when those same rails have been lifted - they meant so much to the pioneers of the late 1800's.  It is a blessing that those same pioneers are not around to witness this sacrilege. 

His 1927 Avery threshing separator was pulled out of the bush and painted to sit as a welcome on the west side of the town of Oak River in 2009. Aunt Dodie told the committee in charge that five other area farmers bought the same model in 1927 and they arrived in Oak River together by train. The machine used by the Henry Brothers was placed on the east side of town. 

James and Elizabeth both died in the winter of 1935 and are buried beneath a big spruce tree at the White Bank Lea Cemetery just a few miles from their former home.  

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