Friday, 25 July 2014

Week 30 - Mary Tait Sinclair Simms

Mary Tait Sinclair Simms (1891 -1959)

My Grandma Simms was born on October 21st in 1891 to James and Elizabeth Sinclair.  Her middle name - Tait - was the maiden name of her maternal Grandmother, Mary Henry from Week 2 of the blog. She was the eldest daughter and with younger siblings including Ellen, Jean, Lizzie, Alexander and Bill , she no doubt had plenty of experience with little ones by the time her own children came along.  Mary attended the one room schoolhouse called Bankburn School near the family farm, also called Bankburn.

Bankburn School

Bankburn School Photo from about 1905.  Mary is the young lady standing at the top right.  Her sisters Nellie and Jean are the two girls on the bottom at the left with white bows in their hair.
Ellen, Mary, and Jean Sinclair in a studio portrait maybe in the teens?

Aunt Dodie and her mother Mary behind in 1957.

Ninety-nine years ago this week, on July 28, 1915, Mary married Alexander Simms.  He had been a hired man on her father's farm for a time after he came east from Mountain, Ontario.  They began farming south of Oak River and in 1919, moved to the farm where I grew up and my parents still live. 

Mary had 6 children in all, including 2 sets of fraternal twins.  Twins can be found in several places on the Simms side of the family tree and Dorothy has twin grandsons. Gwennie's twin Glenn James died in 1925. 
Mary's surviving children in about 1950 - Bob and Don, Doris, Dorothy, Gwennie

They operated a mixed farm together until Alex's untimely death in 1941.  Mary continued to farm with the help of her family and hired help.  They had 320 acres for grain crops like wheat, oats and barley. The land needed to be cleared of trees and broken up to make more arable land.  Horses were used until a tractor was purchased in 1942.  In 1952, the family got a combine to replace the threshing machine.  Mary also raised chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese.  There was an egg grading station in Oak River where she sold the extra eggs not used by the family for income.  She also milked cows and shipped cream to put groceries on the table. Oldest son Bob learned carpenters skills, daughters Doris and Gwen went to Normal School to become teachers and Dorothy took Secretarial School.  Donald was class valedictorian from the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg in 1954 with an Agriculture Diploma.  Education was obviously very important to Mary and she made sure that her children had every opportunity for theirs.
1947 Driver's License with Mary's signature at the bottom

Needlepoint picture made by Mary Simms
Like many of the women of  her day, Mary was skilled at handiwork.  She knitted sweaters, socks and mitts, crocheted and embroidered.  She made clothes for herself and her family and mended them and made them into quilts when they were completely worn out.  Her sewing machine is one of the few belongings that they were able to save from a house fire on New Year's Eve in 1923. 

Dad remembers that she canned fruit, made jam and jelly, and preserved anything that was available. Wild raspberries grew along the fence line east of the farmyard and rhubarb and saskatoons were plentiful in the summer.  Pin cherries grew north of the house and he recalls picking them by the milk pailful and that they made a wonderful jelly. Gooseberries were not his favourite, they had a taste all their own apparently! 

Eaton's 1940 Catalogue with the rocking chair for sale that I now have which belonged to Grandma Simms. 
SE 15-14-22 in 1959

Grandma Simms struggled with breast cancer for several years and died in Hamiota Hospital at the age of 68 on February 25, 1960.  She is buried at Whitebank Lea Cemetery with her husband and son Glenn.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Week 29 - Ellen Tait Wilson

Ellen Tait Wilson (1838 - 1930)

Robert Wilson (1841- 1906) and Ellen Tait  were married in Dumfries, Scotland somewhere around 1861. Ellen, aka Helen, can be found on the 1841, 1851, and 1861, census of Scotland in Troqueer, Kirkkudbrightshire living with her parents William and Helen Mowbray Tait.  One of her sisters, Jamima was featured in Week 27 of this blog.   
Robert and Ellen's eldest son Robert was born July 3, 1865 in Scotland (according to his death certificate), although some census records say he was born in Canada. The family immigrated to Perth County in Ontario Canada in about 1866, near Ellen’s sister Mary, who had married William Henry in 1856 and immigrated to Canada in about 1858. Mary was my great great grandmother.

Their next son, Thomas was born in 1869. He died in 1873 and is buried in Cromarty, Perth, Ontario.
A third son was also given the name Thomas and he was born in 1876 in Perth County. When he was 5, in 1881, the family moved to  Lyman County in South Dakota, USA. The 1885 Dakota Territory census shows a Robert Wilson, age 45, his wife Ella, 48 both born in Scotland. A 21 year old son, Robert born in Canada (an error?) and a 10 year old son Thomas also born in Canada are living in Steele County, which is located in the mid-eastern part of the present day state of North Dakota.

Sometime around 1894, Robert and Ellen and their sons moved to Blanshard Municipality in Manitoba near Ellen’s sister Mary Henry and her 11 children. In 1894, Robert Jr. married his first cousin, Mary Henry who was the youngest daughter of his mother’s sister, the Widow Mary Henry. Robert Jr. and Mary moved to Gilbert Plains, Manitoba to farm and raised a family of eight children. The 1906 census shows they had 5 horses, 9 milk cows, 16 cattle and 3 hogs on their modest farm. His death certificate from February 4, 1937 states he lived at S.E. 19-25-21 near Gilbert Plains and was a farmer and blacksmith until his death at age 71 of coronary thrombosis. He is buried in Eldon Cemetery, near his home.

In the 1901 census, Robert Sr. and Ellen, 60 and 63 years old respectively are found living with their son Thomas in Blanshard, Manitoba.  In 1903, Thomas married Elizabeth Hayes in Brandon, Manitoba. 
In the 1906 census, Ellen is widowed and is found living with Thomas and his wife Elizabeth along with their 2 young children, John Gordon and Hazel. In the 1916 census, she is called Helen and is 76 years old and is still living with Thomas and Elizabeth and now their 6 children.
Ellen’s obituary from the Oak River Post in 1930 follows. (It seems to have mixed up the dates of death for her son Thomas and her husband Robert.)
2/6/1930 MRS. ELLEN WILSON The funeral of the late Mrs. Ellen WILSON, who died at the home of her son, Robert, at Gilbert Plains, on Tuesday, January 28th, took place on Saturday to the White Bank Lea cemetery, following a service at the residence of her nephew, Edw. HENRY, at 2 p.m. Rev. Mr. WOTTON of Cardale officiated. The pall-bearers were: Messrs Edward, Charles, John, Thomas and William HENRY, and Reeve W. BRAND. A large number of people attended to pay their last respects, and there were many beautiful floral tokens. Mrs. WILSON was 91 years of age. She was born in Scotland, and had lived in Ontario and North Dakota, moving with her husband and family from the latter place to Gilbert Plains 35 years ago, and to Oak River a year later. Her husband died in 1920. Her family consisted of two sons, of whom one, Thomas, died in 1906 at Elphinstone, and the other, Robert, lives at Gilbert Plains, where Mrs. WILSON had made her home for the past seven years.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Week 28 - Elizabeth Kinnaird Slack

Eliza Kinnaird Slack (1863 - 1942)

Elizabeth, (aka Lizzie and Eliza) Kinnaird was born on February 18, 1863.  She was a sister to my great grandfather, William George Kinnaird and to James Kinnaird.  She also had 4 half-siblings from a previous marriage of her father.  The baptismal registration form below includes both older children as they were baptised the same day, April 1, 1863 in St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Toledo, Ontario.

Their parents were Mary Nesbit and William Kinnaird, according to Elizabeth's marriage certificate to Samuel Bradley Slack in 1886 at the age of 23.  They were married in Winchester Township, Dundas County, Ontario. Strangely, he is called Thomas B. Slack on his marriage certificate.  The entry before theirs in the record was a Thomas so likely it was just a transcription error  by the person who wrote the registration down.  Samuel was 24 and Lizzie (as she was called in the register) was 22.  She is declared to be Presbyerian and he is Church of England. 

Samuel B. Slack was born in Manchester, England in 1860.  As a young man, he joined the militia, served in India and later left for Canada.  He settled in the Chesterville area of Ontario and that is where he met Eliza.  She was a dress maker by trade and they were married in 1886.  In 1888, Samuel came west and took up a homestead at 30-5-26 in the RM of Albert.  Eliza came west the next year and the family grew.
  • George Bradley (1888 - ?)
  • Fred (1891 - 1979) - farmed in the area - married Mae Simpson
  • Charlie (1894 - 1959)- served in WWI and later farmed - married Mary Fenske
  • Mary(1897-1967) - married Ed Tufts farmed around Regina then retired to Vancouver
  • Ina (1903 - 1982) - taught school and married Frank Kirkoff - lived in Weyburn, retired to B.C.
  • Isabelle (1906 - 1999)- married Russell Livesley and lived in Winnipeg
Thanks to Rod for this picture of the family in the 20's. Left to right is Samuel, Lizzie, Ina, Mary and Belle, and Fred.  

The family were part of the community of Bede and my Mom remembers going there to visit Charlie and Mary Slack and their family as he and her dad were cousins.  The village of Bede had a grain elevator from 1908 - 1952 and a store and post office.  The sandy soil made the area very vulnerable to dust storms and grasshoppers during the '30's but the Slacks continued to stay and work the land they homesteaded, one of the few families that did.  Three generations of Slacks attended Bede School #1683 before it closed in 1966 after 52 years of educating the neighbour children. 

Samuel B. and Eliza Slack are buried at Bede Cemetery, just south of Pipestone, Manitoba on Highway 83. 

RM of Albert's  History Book Reflections of Time, published in 1984 was used in writing this biography.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Week 27 - Jamima Tait Johnstone

Jamima Tait Johnstone (1846 - after 1901)

This photo was found in with many others among Lizzie Sinclair Morcom's old pictures.  Thank goodness someone wrote on the back of it to help figure out who it was taken of all these years later.  I am assuming that she is Mrs. Johnstone but don't understand the Mrs. Graham or Mother notation under that, so my guess may be all wrong.

Mary Tait was Lizzie's Grandma and we refer to her as Widow Mary due to it being such a common first name in the family but also to distinguish her as the woman who left Ontario with 11 children for Blanshard, Manitoba in 1883.  She herself had married William Henry in 18  and left Scotland for Perth, Ontario in 18.  Mary had 3 brothers and  6 sisters and I have been in touch with some of their  descendants still overseas who are interested in genealogy as well, although none that are directly connected to this lady.

If the back of the photo is believed, with Ancestry's trees help, I can surmise her first name was Jamima and she was born in Troqueer, Scotland in December 17, 1846.  She was living with her parents, William Tait and Helen Monbray on the 1851 and on the 1861 Scotland census she is a fourteen year old  domestic servant in the household of John and Margaret Johnstone in Aberfoyle.

In about 1866, she married Samuel Johnstone and they can be found living at Tinwald Shaws Farm Cottage with 6 children on the 1881 census.  In 1891, she is listed as a shepherd's wife with 9 children living at Paisley Abbey, Renfrewshire on Nesklebog Farm.

The last place I can find her in online searches is at Wester Craigenpolk in Renfrewshire County on the 1901 census as a 54 year old mother of 5 children along with her husband Samuel.

I would guess this photo was taken many years after that and hope to someday find out the rest of the details about her story.