Background for John McClelland, born 1818, County Armagh
My great great grandfather John McClelland was born in County Armagh, Northern Ireland in about 1818. I have not been able to positively identify his father or mother. However, I do have information that his father may have also been John, born 1796 in Legacorry, Armagh, and his grandfather may have been William McClelland, born about 1771 in Armagh. I have included William and John in the McClelland history, but researchers should be cautioned that there is no way at this to confirm the connections. According to family records, John had a younger sister Jane.
John McClelland and his sister Jane arrived in Canada in 1837 and settled in Ontario. In 1838, John married Margaret Blackburn. Margaret's family (George and Jane Blackburn) were living in North Elmsley, Lanark County, Ontario at the time. The Blackburn family arrived in Ontario in 1821. John and his sister Jane may have originally settled in Leeds County. John and Margaret homesteaded in Kitley Township, Leeds County in 1840, near the present day town of Toledo. In 1849, they relocated to Holland Township, Grey County, Ontario.
Following is an excerpt from the Daily Sun-Times, Owen Sound, as told by his son Joseph, May 13, 1939
He (John McClelland) received a good public education in Ireland. His mother died when he was quite young. He and his younger sister Jane came to Canada in 1837. In 1839(actually 1838), he married Margaret Blackburn and they moved to a bush farm near Smiths Falls. They resided there for ten years, and their four eldest children, Samuel, Jane, John and George were born there. They sold out in 1849 and moved to Holland Township in Grey county, where they bought 100 acres of bush land. They arrived November 5, 1849. The journey there took them through Barrie, Penetanquishene and arriving at Owen Sound aboard the boat "Gore". The men had been there the year before to construct temporary shanties to live in. It appears that James Williscroft and George Blackburn had accompanied John to build the houses and that James Williscroft also settled in Holland Township. They hired a team to take their belongings 16 miles out into the bush of Holland. They had to carry everything the last one and a half miles to their homestead. The homes were hand built from logs. A fireplace was built of stones, with the flue being constructed from sticks, then plastered with heavy clay. Tallow candles were the only means of lighting the one room home. There was little money and John would walk to the old settlement near Brampton to work for cash to buy much needed supplies which couldn't be bartered for. Clothing was all hand made from wool, taken from their sheep. This was spun on an old spinning wheel in the home. It was then woven into cloth on a loom by a weaver, for about 12 cents a yard. John died six weeks after taking a bad cold in March, 1859. He had sold the farm just before he died. Margaret and the family then moved across the road to a good big log home with an upstairs in it. It had a large brick fireplace for heating. The property had a creek running through it. Wild fruits were plentiful, including strawberries, goose berries, black and red raspberries, currants, cherries, plums, hazel and beech nuts. They grew wheat, oats, and peas, and a large quantity of potatoes, turnips, some hay, tumble beets, carrots, onions, rhubarb and cabbage. The land was very rich and clean, which meant no weeding nor insects to deal with.
I do have in my possession, a letter addressed to John McClelland in 1854 from a James McClelland of County Monaghan, Ireland. I assume this was likely a cousin or some other relative. A transcription follows:
Monaghan, 19th Sept 1854
My Dear Friend:
I received your very kind letter of the 25th April last. We were very happy to know you enjoyed good health. This is the second letter I wrote you since April. I went by your directions respecting the obtaining the power of an attorney to send you but could not do so not knowing the name of the Bank and Town that the money is lodged in now.
I request you will be so kind on receipt of this letter to write and mention the Bank and the Town and any other information that you may consider necessary. Soon as I receive yours, I shall send you all that will be required to draw the money. I will have nothing to do but let my attorney know the name of the Bank and Town to get the writings prepared to send you.
Please do say when you heard from our father. Do you live far from Boston? I am sorry for giving you so much trouble. We are all well.
I trust you will write soon as you receive this. I hope to be able to compensate you for all the trouble you will have when I am sending the power of an attorney to you. I will let you know the Bank to send the money to for me.
Hoping you and the family are all well as I am, dear friend.
Wm McClelland, Monaghan
Mail at that time came on the Royal Mail Steam-Packet Co. which later became Cunard Lines. The letter was dated Sept. 19th, 1854 in Ireland and was posted marked at Owen Sound, Ontario on Oct. 12th, 1854.
Great great grandfather John died in 1859, leaving Margaret to raise the family. Samuel had married in 1858 and was on his own. In 1861, Jane, John, George, William, Thomas, James, Joseph and Mary were still living at home. In 1871, John, George, William, James, Thomas, Joseph and Mary were still at home. By 1881, Margaret was now living with her son George and daughter Mary in Keppel. In 1891, Margaret is still living with her son George as well as a granddaughter Ida. Ida was the daughter of her son John McClelland and Eliza Jane Irvine.
Margaret's son John had died in 1886 and Eliza was having problems raising her children, so Ida lived with George and Margaret for some time, but did return home to her mother some time later.
In all of the family records, there is no mention of John’s sister who supposedly accompanied him to Canada. There are no records of her to be found.
My great grandfather James headed west in 1882 in search of a new life, no doubt enticed by the offers of free and/or cheap land in the west. He would be joined by his wife Mary the following year.
Following is an excerpt from Moose Times Herald (year unknown) from a reporter who interviewed my great grandfather.
If any homesteader had reason to be discouraged with life on the Prairie, it was James McClelland. Wind storms, rains, blizzards and fires, which would have driven a less determined person from the plains, were commonplace in his homestead experiences. If you want a good story of the olden times, people used to say, go and see Jim McClelland.
James aka Jim McClelland arrived in the West from his native Ontario in the spring of 1882, a season long remembered for rains and runoffs which turned the Prairie land into a sea. While mired in mud at Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, he heard people talking about a place called Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, referring to it as Moose Jaw near the Dirt Hills.
“I came along to see if I could try for 160 acres of land offered by the government, he said. We (a brother William and two brothers-in-law, Heman and Asahel Hurlburt ) had tents and all the necessary outfits and we camped and fought mosquitoes.”
They went scouting for homestead land in the Buffalo Lake area and were surprised one morning to find themselves enveloped in a dense fog. They trudged on anyway, but without a compass, kept wandering in circles, always ending up at their campsite of the previous night.
Jim located land in the Archydal district and built a shack of logs from the Buffalo Lake valley. “ I would go occasionally to the lake for a load of wood which was a distance of 15 miles and there was only one house between Buffalo Lake and my place.”
One extremely hard winter was ushered in by a severe November blizzard which piled eight feet of snow in the prairie and made travelling almost impossible. When it was necessary for him to get to Caron, the nearest settlement, he took along a supply of sticks to mark the trail. The precaution saved his life when a blizzard struck during the homeward journey.
Like all settlers, he dreaded the fires which periodically devastated the Prairies. After one bad fire, which burned up nearly all the country, the only untouched spot on the McClelland homestead was a green slough bottom where a cow and calf had been safely pastured.
Then there was the violent windstorm which struck the homestead when Mary McClelland and the children were alone. She had heard the storm coming and had herded the children into the cellar seconds before the roof and top logs of the walls came crashing down. Jim managed to get the roof back on but it leaked and in the rainy season which followed, everyone slept under oilcloths, to keep out the dripping water.
In 1893, James sold his homestead at Archydal and purchased land just east of Moose Jaw where he continued to farm. During an early building boom in Moose Jaw in 1901, he left the homestead to work in town. A plasterer by trade, he helped to construct many of Moose Jaw's turn of the century buildings. He built an elegant home for him and his family. The home is still being used to this day, much of it restored to its original state.
James and Mary had eight children, Percival, John, Ethel, Barbara Grace, Rhoda, George, Norman and James. Two of the boys, George and Norman, were killed in action in WW1.
James moved to Bounty, Saskatchewan in about 1919 to live with his daughter. He was in poor health and resided with her until his death in 1921.
My grandfather Percy, first worked as an engineer with the CPR, then joined his father James building homes in Moose Jaw, and then eventually went farming in 1917. He first farmed near Loreburn, and later near Mawer.
My father grew up during the depression years and the dirty 30's. Like many young men, he completed his Grade 8 education and then went to work to help support the family. He worked at various jobs but mainly as a farm hand. In 1941, he enlisted in the RCAF, and went overseas, returning in January, 1946. After returning home, he went back to farming. He was one of the founding members of the Matador Co-op Farm, located near Kyle, Saskatchewan. The farm was part of the old Matador ranch. When they arrived at the Matador, there was nothing but prairie. There were no services or roads. They had to break the land and build everything they needed. It was much like his grandfather experienced when he first homesteaded in Saskatchewan in 1882.