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Friday, 5 September 2014

Week 36 - Janet Henry McKenzie

Janet Henry McKenzie (1860-1949)

Janet "Jenny" Henry was the third daughter born October 3, 1860 to Mary Tait and William Henry in Perth, Ontario.  She was a sister to my great grandmother Elizabeth Sinclair.  In 1881, twenty-one year old Janet along with her mother Mary and her 10 siblings made their way to Blanshard, Manitoba after the death of her father.  William's brother John and his wife Jennet had earlier made the move from Perth to Manitoba in 1879 and they helped the Henrys get settled.

Two years later, Janet married William Roderick "Will" McKenzie on April 4 in Minnedosa, Manitoba. It is said that Will was born in July of 1854 in harbour in Quebec City on the ship that had brought his family to Canada, presumably from Scotland. He lived with his family in the Perth area in Ontario and came west in the spring of 1880. He travelled by rail to Portage La Prairie and as that was the end of the railway at that time, he came the rest of the way by Red River Cart and on foot. He took out his homestead on NE 2-14-22, the present home of Terry Espey near Oak River. This was a short distance from where Widow Mary Henry and her daughter Janet lived in their stone house. I imagine this was not a coincidence as the pair likely knew each other in Ontario but either way, they married in 1883.

The 1959 Blanshard History book says the McKenzies broke the land on their farm with one horse and one ox.  They had to take their grain to Brandon with horse and wagon where they received 10 cents a bushel for it and brought groceries home with the money received.  This trip took 3 days, if all went well and Will slept under the wagon along the road.

An interesting story that is told in this history book tells of when her husband was away in Elphinstone gathering wood, Jenny was taking the cows to the river, half a mile away, to drink.  She was in the midst of chopping a hole in the ice when a cow got too close and the axe sunk into its nose instead of the ice over the river.  This cow would have been depended on for its milk so Jenny rushed back to the house for flour to pack the wound which was bleeding profusely.  It says that either the flour stuck or providence intervened, but the cow recovered and everything turned out fine.
McKenzie Family - about 1910
Back row: Bill, Kate,Russell
Center row: Janet, Mr. W. McKenzie, Violet, Jack, Mrs. J. McKenzie, Bessie
In front: Eddy

The children attended nearby White Banklea School.  Their first cousins, the Henry's and Sinclairs (including my grandma Mary) were living within a few miles and no doubt there was lots of visiting and holidays spent together.

Eight children, four boys and four girls, were born to William and Janet:
  • John Alexander "Jack" (1884 - 1943)
  • William "Bill" (1886 - 1968) married Laura Speers
  • Russell (1888 - 1966) married Ethel Allen
  • Mary Violet (1889 - 1969) married Thomas Hayhurst
  • Catherine Mabel "Kate" ( 1891 - 1946) married Thomas Davies
  • Janet (1892 - 1922) married Hubert Sparling
  • Edward Henry "Eddy"(1895 - 1971) married Ida Hazelwood
  • Elizabeth Ismay "Bessie" (1896 - 1962) married Frank McDonald
Attestation papers for WWI can be found online for Bill ( Regimental # 3348818) and Eddy (#871891) and this photo of the latter is in the White Banklea School history booklet.  The photo of Kate on the right from about the same time period was from a clipping from the local paper when a Henry from Ontario was looking for relatives in Manitoba.

About 1930, Will had cataract surgery but it was not successful and he eventually lost his sight.  He and Janet moved into Oak River where he passed away in 1941.  Janet lived to the age of 87 and died in 1948. They are buried with their son Jack under one of the magnificent spruce trees in White Banklea Cemetery.  

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