Thursday, January 12, 2017

Don Snyder's Fall


Climbing My Family Tree: The Story of Don Snyder's Fall
The Story of Don Snyder's Fall
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I’ve written before about my Mom’s uncle Don (see 52 Ancestors: #7 Don B. Snyder), but when I wrote his profile I didn’t know this story; and when I learned of it, I knew I must share it!

I found out about the story of great-uncle Don's fall in the packet of family history information recently sent to me my mother’s cousin, RM. In an envelope within that folder I found a handwritten letter from Don to his sister Phyllis, written in 1995 and a typed letter from the Mayor of Arapahoe, NE, also from 1995, enclosing photocopies of two newspaper articles from the Arapahoe Public Mirror, one contemporaneous and one from June 18, 1936.

I had wanted to reprint both the stories, and the picture, from the newspaper along with the letters, to let you discover it as I had, and give you more of a personal flavor of great-uncle Don, but I’ve not gotten a reply to my request to the Arapahoe Public Mirror giving me permission to do so, so I’m just going to tell you the story instead.

June 1936 was in the middle of the Great Depression, and great uncle Don was 18 years old. By that time, he had begun making a bit of a name for himself while boxing as a featherweight in local and regional (paying) matches. In the sports page of the Findlay Republican Courier on February 4, 1935, the paper noted “…Don Snyder, another Findlay Boxer who scales around 120 pounds, is matched with the Hooded Phantom of Fostoria for three rounds….” But now I know why I didn’t find any articles about his boxing in 1936!

Now, let me digress for a moment to give a little historical background to provide some context for this story.

In the Great Depression, approximately 15 million men were unemployed, and many young people dropped out of school to help their parents earn money to support the family. Many people traveled across the country trying to find work as their farms were foreclosed upon and local businesses were closed, and their savings disappeared in the bank crash that caused the Depression, often hopping on freight trains or hitchhiking to the places they hoped to find work. By the 1930’s, riding the rails was an established practice, albeit very dangerous and illegal. Hitchhiking was legal and slightly safer, even if it was more uncertain as to whether a person could find a ride a ride to their destination, or find someone willing to risk picking them up at all.  One of the programs that Pres. Roosevelt instituted in order to break the economic paralysis of the depression was the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). It was a public works relief program that operated from 1933 to 1942, for unemployed, unmarried men, 18 to 25, who were dependent welfare support. The CCC provided unskilled manual labor jobs related to the conservation and development of natural resources in rural lands owned by federal, state and local governments. The men were required to sign up for six-month terms (they could re-up, with a cap of 2 years) and were paid $1 a day, with $25 a month required to be sent home to support their families and $5 a month distributed to the men for incidentals. The CCC provided shelter, food, clothes, and medical care, as well as evening vocational and academic educational programs, during the term the men worked there. Pres. Roosevelt intended that when the economy bounced back, these young men would have both skilled labor experience, experience working with a team and basic education, and be easily able to find work at regular jobs. Local economies also benefitted from local CCC camps as they produced and sold food and other supplies to the camps, and the states received federal monies to administer the program. Over the course of the 9 years the program operated, the CCC men created much of the infrastructure of our country: they planted nearly 3 billion trees to help reforest America, built 46,854 bridges, 3116 fire lookouts, 318,076 erosion check and flood control dams, thousands of campgrounds,  and a network of service buildings and public roadways in remote areas. They also fought forest fires; and constructed trails, lodges and related facilities in more than over 800 parks nationwide and upgraded most state parks. A lot of their work is still in use today, 80 years later.

Climbing My Family Tree: Rudolph Wendelin CCC Art,
Rudolph Wendelin CCC Art,
Rudolph Wendelin Papers, Library and Archives, Forest History Society, Durham, NC, USA

On Thursday, April 9, 1936, Don Snyder, along with 40-some other young men from Hancock County, Ohio, applied to join the Civilian Conservation Corps. This likely meant that his father and he were unemployed. He was one of the 40 accepted. The first two months of an enlistee’s life was usually served at an Army base for initial training, conditioning, and discipline, and then they were sent to various projects throughout the country for a period ranging from a few months to the duration of their term. Occasionally, the CCC boys, as they were often called, were allowed to go home for a visit. Don was sent to work in a CCC camp in Nevada, and in June 1936, he and a buddy from the camp, Norman Cole, were riding a freight train on a return trip to Ohio. The freight car they were riding was a few cars behind the engine. He told the newspaper, in 1995, that since the slate from the steam engine was hitting them, Don had suggested that when the train next stopped, they go back a few cars to escape the slate (I can’t find anything that explains what that means – maybe it means the wheels of the engines were kicking up rocks that were hitting them?).

Shortly past midnight, on June 14, 1936, the train slowed as it pulled into Arapahoe, Nebraska. It was a very dark night, and Don was unable to see anything out the door of the freight car. While the front of the train was in Arapahoe, the freight car that Don and Norman were in had stopped on a railroad bridge over Muddy Creek, just west of town. Don didn’t know this and thought that they had stopped in a railroad stockyard, and started to climb out of the car, intending to move to another further back. But when he jumped out of the car, he fell approximately 30-40 feet to the bottom of the creek bed below, landing across a downed tree! His friend, Norman, discovering what happened, ran into town for help; he gratefully discovered people just leaving a dance that had ended around midnight, and recruited help to go back to the creek and help Don. The rescuers carried Don into town. He was cared for at Dr. J. P. Pattin’s office and then Don and Norman were taken to the Park Hotel. X-rays taken showed that Don had four broken ribs, a chipped pelvis, an injured kidney, and other internal injuries.

Climbing My Family Tree: Aerial View of Arapahoe, NE city line and Railroad Bridge
Aerial View of Arapahoe, NE city line and Railroad Bridge
All rights to Google Maps
Click to make bigger

The town council, who Don referred to as the town fathers, visited him in his room at the Park Hotel, told him that he had fallen 40 feet, and that they would take care of things and that he did not have to worry. When Don wrote the mayor in 1995, he noted that those were very bad times in the country and that the kind, benevolent people told him not to worry because they would take care of everything, and they did! Don and Norman stayed at the hotel recuperating under the care of Dr. Pattin. On Thursday, June 18, 1936, he was declared to be recovering satisfactorily and was released from the hotel. Don and Norman left immediately, continuing their trip home to Findlay, this time hitchhiking.

The Arapahoe Public Mirror ran a story on Don’s fall on the day that he left town, June 18, 1936, titled “CCC Boy Injured in Fall from R. R. Bridge”. Below that story was a small entry, titled “Card of Thanks” which stated, “I wish to take this means to thank those who so kindly assisted me following the accident last Saturday evening near the Muddy Creek railroad bridge, especially Mrs. Gilbert, Leo Anderson, Joe Breinig and Dr. Pattin.” It was signed Don Snyder and Norman Cole.

****

I can’t imagine hitchhiking nearly 1000 miles back to Findlay Ohio with three cracked ribs, a chipped pelvis, and multiple internal injuries. He must’ve once been one tough guy, or, really wanted to be home.

Great-uncle Don long remembered that town which took care of him during those hard times. In the years after the Great Depression, Don rode through Arapahoe NE three more times on a passenger train, but always in the middle of the night. He never saw the bridge from which he fell, and always wondered about it. Fifty-nine years after his fall, he wrote the mayor of Arapahoe, asking for a picture of the bridge, and explained what had happened to him there.

This was the mayor’s response:
Climbing My Family Tree: Letter from Arapahoe NE mayor to Don Snyder, July 31, 1995
Letter from Arapahoe NE mayor to Don Snyder, July 31, 1995
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July 31, 1995
            Don B. Snyder
            3260 Schneider Rd. #119
            Toledo, OH 43614

Dear Mr. Snyder:
I was pleased to receive your letter of February 23, 1994 and May 26, 1995. It was certainly interesting, but must’ve been a hectic few seconds while you fell the 30 feet in addition to what you thought would be approximately 4 feet from the boxcar to the ground.

Upon receiving your letter, a friend and I went to the Muddy Creek railroad bridge and measured the distance from the top of the bridge to the edge of the stream. We found that distance to be 28 feet, although the depth at the bottom of the water may be 30 feet. The measurement was taken on the northwest side of the bridge. This bridge lies about 100 yards to the west of the corporate limits of the city of Arapahoe.

I also asked the editor of the Arapahoe Public Mirror if she would examine the issues of the Arapahoe Public Mirror from June 18, 1936 and see if an article had been printed. Shortly thereafter, she informed me that she in fact found the article printed on June 18, 1936 as you stated. I have enclosed a photocopy of that article as well as a copy of the recent article that was printed on June 15, 1995. The picture that accompanies this article was taken on the south side of the bridge as it was too muddy on the north side due to the recent rains. The color pictures that I am enclosing were taken with my camera, also from the south side of the bridge and one is from the Arapahoe city limits looking up the railroad tracks towards the Burlington Northern railroad bridge over Muddy Creek, previously referred to as the Muddy Creek Bridge.

I am pleased to provide this information to you and seek no remuneration.
Sincerely,
(signature)
Howard T Davis
Mayor
City of Arapahoe
PO Box 57
Arapahoe, NE 68922


I didn’t receive the pictures the mayor took that he said were enclosed in his letter to Don, other than the one that was included in the newspaper article which I can’t print,  but here is a photo of what is probably the same street-level view from the city limit as the mayor referred to in his letter, taken by Google Maps. Other than this, it looks like most other railroad bridges over creeks that you may have seen. For mental comparison, remember that there are approximately 10 feet per story in a building, so the bridge was at least three stories above the creek bed (if I get belated permission to print the photo or the articles in my blog from the Arapahoe newspaper, I will edit this article to include it/them).

Climbing My Family Tree: View from Arapahoe NE city limits towards railroad bridge over Muddy Creek.
View from Arapahoe NE city limits towards railroad bridge over Muddy Creek.
All rights to Google Maps, Street View.
Click to make bigger

Don was so excited and happy when he received the return letter from the mayor that he wrote his sister about it.

Climbing My Family Tree: Don Snyder's August 7, 1995 letter to his sister Phyllis (Snyder) Fry
Don Snyder's August 7, 1995 letter to his sister Phyllis (Snyder) Fry
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Aug. 7 ‘ 95
Toledo Ohio

Hi Sis:
Perhaps you remember the time I came back from Nevada (not Oregon) and fell from the train in Nebraska (southwest corner). Well, I wrote the mayor of Arapahoe not long ago trying to get a picture of the bridge. The “town fathers” (council) came in my hotel room telling me they would take care of things. Also that it was 40 feet down that I fell. Now I guess it’s more like 30 feet. But of course it could fill in a bit in 59 years.
Anyways some time went by (I’d offered $30 for some pictures) but I was disappointed as I hadn’t heard from them. And then the letter came Friday. A real nice letter from the mayor, pictures, and two clippings. I was so happy to hear from him I just had to have copies made. These are for you. Some people probably wonder why I care. Well, there I was lying injured in a creek bed in near total darkness. Well over 1000 miles from home thinking I was going to die before help arrived. You just don’t forget that too easy. The guy with me, Norman Cole died last December in Dayton Ohio. I’m going to send his widow a copy. I visited them twice.
Things are fine here. Florence bought a new Buick so I bought her car. It’s a Buick Regal ‘81. Two years older than my Chrysler. Mine has 147,000 miles on it. Hers 65,000 and it always sit in her garage. Now I’ve got to get rid of mine.
No trips planned. Like to get to Fla. in Oct. But just an idea. Maybe I’ll take a run up to see you and bring Florence. Take care & all that. Love youDon’t say that much to anyone but when I do I mean it.
                                                                                          Don.

The city of Arapahoe seems like a fine town, full of caring, wonderful people. They went out of their way to help a boy far from home, during a time when few could afford to support their own family let alone a stranger. I’m glad they chose to care for my great-uncle Don. 


________________________
http://travelnevada.com/adventures/32876/ccc-in-nevada; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilian_Conservation_Corps; https://archive.org/stream/civilianconserva48unit/civilianconserva48unit_djvu.txt; http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/photo-gallery/ccc/; http://www.livinghistoryfarm.org/farminginthe30s/water_07.html; http://erroluys.com/greatdepression.html; http://erroluys.com/greatdepressionarchive.htmlNew Contingent of CCC Monday” Findlay Morning Courier, 10 April 1936, p.20; “CCC Boy Injured in Fall from R. R. Bridge” Arapahoe Public Mirror, 18 June 1936, p. 1; “Long drop from freight car remembered” Arapahoe Public Mirror 1995 (June 15, 1995,); 31 July 1995 letter from Howard T Davis, mayor of Arapahoe, NE to Don Snyder (photocopy in my possession); 7 August 1995 letter from Don Snyder to Phyllis Snyder (original in my possession).


Monday, January 2, 2017

By The Numbers

Happy New Year, Everyone!

This year I am not going to do New Year’s resolutions or intentions on the blog. Of all the intentions I set out in a post last January, I completed one: my photography 365 Project. In doing that project, I found that I had very little time for genealogy, and now I am craving more time spent on it. Consequently, I’m hoping to be able to write up more ancestor profiles, and other tidbits, this year, too. I’ll be working on the ancestor lines at the points where I got stuck the last time through, so we’ll see where that takes me. Hopefully, I’ll make more headway this time as more records have been digitized.


Just after Christmas, I received a manila envelope from one of Mom’s cousins, R. (F.) M. Containing a folder of genealogy material, letters, and pictures, from her mom’s side of the family – which is the side we share. I’ve been having so much fun going through it, and trying to see where the information fits into my tree!


One of my brothers recently asked me how many direct line ancestors I had found. I had to tell him I didn’t know without turning on the computer and counting. Ancestrydotcom counts how many people I have in my tree, but since I do a lot of collateral research that doesn’t actually help me determine how many people have I have found in the direct line. [Aside: I don’t understand how people who only research their direct line ever find their direct line people; most of the jumps in generations I’ve been able to make have come from research I’ve done on brothers and sisters of my direct line ancestor.] But now I can answer him here!


Yesterday, I saw a post on the blog Twisted Twigs on Gnarled Branches on tallying up your family tree, in which she explained an easy way how to do that if you use ancestrydotcom. So, this morning I tallied my direct line ancestors, and this post is for you M! I chose to include only those ancestors I am certain of. On some of my lines I’ve got some possibilities that I’m exploring, but until I am more certain, I decided not to include them in this tally – maybe in 12 months I can do a year-end tally and if they made the cut, my percentages will go up.


MATERNAL SIDE
(This is using Mom as a starting point, and thus the “parents” listed are my grandparents; so each one of these numbered levels would be one level greater, or higher, from me and my brothers.)
Generation
Actual Number
Number Found
percentage

Parents

2

2

100%

Grandparents

4

4

100%

Great-grandparents

8

8

100%

2nd great grandparents

16

16

100%

3rd great-grandparents

32

12

37.5%

4th great-grandparents

64

8

12.5%

5th great-grandparents

128

0

0%

6th  great-grandparents

256

0

0%

7th great-grandparents

512

0

0%

Total

1022

50

4.89%




PATERNAL SIDE
(This is using Dad as a starting point, and thus the “parents” listed are my grandparents; so each one of these numbered levels would be one level greater, or higher, from me and my brothers.)
Generation
Actual Number
Number Found
percentage

Parents

2

2

100%

Grandparents

4

4

100%

Great-grandparents

8

8

100%

2nd great grandparents

16

16

100%

3rd great-grandparents

32

17

53.13%

4th great-grandparents

64

5

7.81%

5th great-grandparents

128

0

0%

6th  great-grandparents

256

0

0%

7th great-grandparents

512

0

0%

Total

1022

50

5.08%


Obviously, I’ve still got a lot of work to do, but I’ve only been doing it for about four years, off and on. Looks like I've got lots more years of fun to come!



P. S. For those of you curious as to how many people overall are in my Ancestrydotcom tree, here are my tree stats: 2374 people, 7776 records, 569 photos (only a small proportion of the photos are of people, unfortunately).

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Mind the Gap

image from Pixabay.com, under Creative Commons CC0  

I haven't forgotten about the blog, but this summer and fall were busier than I'd anticipated and I didn't get as much research done as I'd wanted.  Whoever it was that told me when I listed my goals for the year here in January that I'd bitten off more than I could chew, was absolutely correct. I did. The last time I tried to do a photographic 365 Project (take a photo --and edit/process it-- a day, and post it publicly) and research and blog about genealogy (and move) in the same year, I had to give up the 365 Project mid-year to be able to keep up with and finish the 52 Ancestors project. This year I really want to finish the 365 Project as I'm enjoying it and my photographer's eye is growing better (if you're curious, check out my 365Project on Instagram), so I've been giving the 365 Project and church board work priority (as well as regular work). Therefore, the genealogy production has slid because I've already found the easy stuff and research takes more time now;  I'm also starting to move a bit into offline research as well so mailing time must get added into to the equation as well.  I'm excited by what I am finding; it's just taking more time to get those results and I haven't enough time to give it a lot these past several months.

As we're heading into the holiday season, I'm thinking that it's more practical (and less guilt-inducing -- every time the blog crosses my mind I feel guilty this year) just to declare this a gap year on the blog and start again fresh in January as a family history blog instead a blog of excuses. I don't plan to do another 365 Project next year, and so can concentrate more time on genealogy and blogging. Hopefully, I can get the research a bit ahead to be able to have the start of a few good ancestor profile posts ready to go next year, we'll see.

So, I'm sorry, but there's going to be nothing to see here for the rest of 2016. But check back at the start of 2017 for what is starting to look like some interesting stories on my Mom's side of the family.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

August 2016 update




I hope you all are having a good Summer. Mine's been full!

I’ve been working on a profile over the last few weeks, but I’ve realized recently that there is no way I can write it right now that won’t disturb a new-to-me cousin. There’s no reason to do that, so no profile this week. Realistically, I probably won’t have another post up until Summer after ends. 

For the future, I’m going to pivot from working on Dad’s side as I have been for the last year and a half, to working on Mom’s side for a while. Ancestry has been telling me that there are a bunch of new hints for her side. I’m looking forward to exploring them and to trying to push further back than I've managed before.

I’m also helping my boyfriend with his paternal family tree to see if a fresh pair of eyes can chip through his brick wall.  It’s kind of refreshing to work on something brand new to me. 

I hope you're finding intriguing new puzzles to chase, too.

I’ll see you in September!


Saturday, June 25, 2016

Margaret McFarlane Bennett Brown (1826-1909) Scotland to Lower Canada to Michigan, USA

Climbing My Family Tree: Ayrshire Scotland
Ayshire, Scotland
Click to make bigger
Margaret McFarlane, my second great grandmother, was born on March 10, 1825, in Scotland, according to her death certificate and several censuses in Canada and the U.S.  I have some discrepancies, though, on who her parents may be. Her death certificate (information supplied by her youngest son, James – remembering that the information supplied is only as good as the knowledge of the person supplying it, in a time of grief) states that her parents are James McFarland and Jeanette Braiden, both also born in Scotland. But the marriage record for her second marriage (which, frankly, already has one significant error that I know of – which I will get to later when it is relevant) states that her father is Andrew McFarland and her mother is unknown. Although I’ve seen some other family trees which indicate that her parents should be Thomas McFarlane and Ann Miller, they haven’t turned up in my research at all and I’ve yet to find a family tree containing them that doesn’t source that connection with anything but a reference to another tree. On the other hand, AncestryDNA has put me, my Dad, his brother, and both his sisters in a DNA Circle along with 22 other people, stating that “Mary Jane Bryden” is my third great-grandmother and another saying that my third great-grandfather is Andrew McFarlane. It’s easy for me to see how Andrew McFarlane can become McFarland. I can also see how Bryden could become Braiden, when dealing with Scottish accents coming down to later Michigan generations, and how Mary Jane could become Janet or Jeanette, especially since every reference I’ve found to Andrew McFarlane and Jane Bryden call her Jane (I’ve not yet found her birth record, but I found the marriage record and several birth records for their children, and the 1851 Canada East Census). And then there’s the matter of the name of Margaret’s oldest daughter, Mary Jane. For these reasons, I’m currently accepting that Margaret’s parents, and my 3rd great grandparents, are Andrew McFarlane and [Mary] Jane Bryden/Braiden.


Andrew McFarlane and Jane Bryden were married on June 19, 1825, in Ballantrae, Ayr, Scotland. While I haven’t found Margaret’s birth record, her brother James Carnochan McFarlane was born on June 4, 1830, and baptized on July 2, 1830 in Girvan, Ayrshire, Scotland, suggesting that the family lived in the Ayrshire [although the McFarlanes were historically a Highland clan, the clan fell out of favor with the government in the 17th century and clan lands were sold to pay off debts, causing clansmen to move out of the traditional clan lands around Loch Lomond]. Ayrshire is in the lowlands of Scotland, on the southwest coast. I discovered when looking into emigration from Scotland in the early 18th century that while Scots from the Highlands were mainly forced out of Scotland during the Clearances, or eviction of tenants from land in favor of sheep farming by the landlords, those leaving from the lowlands of Scotland, such as Ayrshire, largely left voluntarily in an effort to improve their economic status, and in response to advertisements the British government had made in the papers and on posters and via the lecture circuit, enticing people to move to British American colonies in order to help settle the country and preserve the borders against the United States of America. Moreover, many Scotsmen already had relatives in the area as the Scottish had been moving to the British American colonies for two centuries.


Climbing My FamilyTree: Map of Beauharnois Twp, Huntingdon County, Canada East, 1861
Map of Beauharnois Twp, Huntingdon County, Canada East, 1861
Click to make bigger


I have not been able to find out exactly when Margaret and her parents and her brother James moved to the Beauharnois Seigniory in Lower Canada (Quebec), but I know they were there by 9 October 1834 because her next brother, Andrew McFarlane, was born in Beauharnois Canada on that day. Additionally, military payroll records show that her father, Andrew McFarlane, served with Margaret’s future husband in the Beauharnois Loyal Volunteers, during the uprising of 1838 in the Beauharnois Battalion, 1st company, Georgetown on the side of the British (for more of an explanation of the uprisings see the entry on William Bennett.) This means that they arrived before the severe economic depression began in Scotland, and were thus likely middle-class farmers or tradesmen when they left Scotland. Andrew and [Mary] Jane Bryden/Braiden had five more children born in Canada, based on the 1851 Census of Canada East, and baptism records: Elizabeth Ann Cowans “Lizzie”, born 20 March 1837; John, born about 1839; Helene, born about 1844; David, born about 1848, and Peter, born about 1849.

Climbing My Family Tree: Birth and Baptism Record  in Beauharnois Siegniory in Lower Canada for Andrew McFarlane (1834 - ?)
Birth and Baptism Record  in Beauharnois Siegniory in Lower Canada for Andrew McFarlane (1834 - ?)
Lower Right
Found at Ancestry.com
Click to make bigger


When they first arrived they would have lived in a rough shanty, as those were the homes first built upon arrival while the clearing the land on the frontier. The History of Huntingdon and of the Seigniories of Beauharnois and Chateauguay by Robert Sellar contains several fascinating contemporaneous descriptions of life on that frontier in approximately the same time frame as Margaret’s family came to the Beauharnois Seigniory. A woman who had come to the area as a child with her parents in approximately 1830 described the described the normally simple chore of bread-making in those days as having “its own particular difficulties, the greatest of these being the obtaining of flour. Even if we had a bit of land cleared, there was a small, wee, tiny red worm that would eat the kernels out of the wheat and leave the fine long straw standing erect. Even when we had wheat, there was no mill to grind it nearer than Chateauguay basin fit to travel. The canoe had to be used. Sometimes we got a barrel flour from Montréal. There were no hops, but some neighbor would have a bit of leaven, that is, a small piece of the last baking covered up in the flour. This we would put into water a while to sweeten it before setting the bread. When the bread was risen, we would add a teaspoonful of saleratus (sodium bicarbonate) for there was no baking soda. We had no stoves, only square tin boxes for baking, that cost $2. We got nice hemlock bark and made a good fire, and when fit we put our loaf in the chaudron and buried it in the hot coals and ashes, which we heaped also on the lid, and let it bake. When ready the bread was fine was well raised and sweet too.” She continued “for light we had cruises, or just a saucer with some grease and a rag and it; they burn fine..… We made our own tablecloths, towels and trousers for the men out of flax. We sold the flax, then pulled it by hand and let it stand and bundles to dry a little; if we let us stand too long it spoilt the flax. Then we put a lot of nails through the end of a board, kneeling the other end to a block and, pulling the straw against the nails stripped the seed off by handfuls. Then we tied the straw in bundles and put in the water at the side of the river for nine days, afterward spreading it on the grass to bleach, turning it occasionally. At first, we heckled it (preparing the fibers to be spun and removing the fibrous core and impurities by pulling it through heckling combs), but that was hard work so we got a contrivance made to break it for knives underneath and three on top with a handle to lift the top one. That did more quickly. Then we scutched it (beat it) over a board and it was ready. We spun the tow (coarse broken fiber) and so make our thread and towels.” [If you wish to see this process here is a YouTube video of making linen out of flax using 19th century methods: Making Linen From Flax, from the 19th Century Daily Living Series.] They also made wool clothes entirely by hand, starting with shearing the sheep. Life on the frontier was not easy.


The McFarlane lot in North Georgetown was two lots down from the Bennett lot, where William Bennett, Margaret’s future husband lived, according to the settler's lists in Sellar’s History. In order to survive on the frontier, neighbors had to work together, and help each other, so Margaret and William probably saw each other frequently. In the 19th century marriages were often arranged to best suit the business alliances of the parents. I don’t know if their marriage was initially arranged by Margaret’s parents or whether it was a love match.


As William was 20 years older than Margaret it is possible that he was married before. I don’t know.  I do know that they were together at least as of early 1845, as their oldest daughter, Mary Jane, was born in the Unified Province of Canada on October 28, 1845. However, they did not or were unable to marry until ten months after their third child and first son, Thomas, was baptized on January 21, 1849.  William was originally Catholic when he emigrated to Lower Canada, while Margaret was Protestant (the Church of Scotland). The Catholic Church in British Canada did not like marriages between Catholics and non-Catholics, and the priest may have refused to marry them. The Church of Scotland was less stringent as to mixed marriages in that time so it is possible that they married in the Protestant church after giving up on being able to be married in the Catholic Church – after the birth of their first three children. Living on Canada’s frontier, they also probably had to wait for a traveling pastor to come through the area.



By the mid-1840s when William and Margaret started living together, Mr. Sellers’ said in his History, “the revolution that has taken place in the conditions of the habitants has been such that it has been a complete revolution. With rare interruptions their houses so close were they formed continuous streets on both sides of the St. Louis from the 4th concession to Beauharnois. They were invariably of wood, one story with an attic, divided into rooms, the larger serving as kitchen and living room, the other the bedroom, a big Three Rivers double stove set in the partition, heating both. The children climbed the ladder to sleep in the attic: when the weather was warm the barn was used as a sleeping place. In winter, buffaloes were spread on the floor where the younger members slept. Houses and barns were thatched with straw; in front of each house was the V-shaped oven, perched on a wooden table and beside it a sweep well. Outwardly the houses look trim, being kept whitewashed, in the inside they were clean and bare of furniture. Madame did her cooking with few conveniences. On the stove was kept the big pot and a smaller one served for extra needs. There was no necessity for more, for the menus were simple, consisting mainly of bread and milk in the summer and when the cows went dry bread with cupfuls of peas soup dipped from the pot-au-feu kept simmering on the stove. Pork was the chief meat and the fatter the better. Every habitant had a few sheep, kept more for the wool the family spun and got woven into cloth or blankets than for their flesh. So few were there wants that each family was sufficient in itself; excepting molasses nothing in the grocery line was bought and of dry goods what was traded was for Sunday wear.”


William and Margaret had eleven children that I know of:  Mary Jane (bn 28 October 1845 in Canada East, married John Young on 12 July 1870, and died 15 July 1923 in Brown City MI); Charlotte Marguerite (bn in 1846 in Saint Martine, Canada East, married Charles Gray on 19 October 1873, married Joseph Bone on 20 November 1897 in Clark, Washington, and died 16 February 1916 in Portland OR); Thomas (born about 1858 in or near Ormstown, Canada East, married Margaret Cody, and died on 24 June 1934 in Reed City MI); Elizabeth (born 29 February 1852 in Canada French near in or near Beauharnois County, married William Henry Lewis on 18 August 1880, dd 23 September 1914 in Osceola MI); Dorothy (born about 1855, married Robert Watson on 25 December 1875 in Saginaw MI, and died in Battle Ground WA  on 31 December 1927); Andrew (born 26 November 1858, married Anna Gregor on 10 April 1885, and died 30 January 1920 in Brown City MI); Sarah (born about 1858 – ?), William (born about 1862 in Canada, married Teresa Tracy on 6 July 1884 and died after 1940), Janet (born 15 July 1863, married on 13 October 1886, and died 28 March 1932 in Flint MI); John Edward (born in September 1865, married Emma Masters on 28 October 1889 and died in Maple Valley MI on 2 March 1935); Lucretia (born in or about 1868, married William H. Baker, and died after 1905); and James (born in April 1871 in Michigan, married Martha Wengert on 27 January 1892, and died in 1958). Margaret gave birth over 26 years (she had to love that man). She had children born in each of four decades! So in addition to cooking, cleaning, laundry, gardening, sewing, quilting, farm work, etc. -- all without electricity or running water, or central heat or air conditioning – she always had kids around to raise, care for, and love. That’s a strong woman.


In the early years of their marriage, the couple lived in the southwest corner of what became Quebec in Beauharnois township. I found William and Margaret and their first four children in the 1851 Canada East census, for Beauharnois Township, living in a French-speaking area of Canada in a one-story brick house. Margaret’s parents and seven of her siblings are found on the same page, 26 entries above (also in a brick home).


Climbing My Family Tree: Bennett's and McFarlane's on 1851 Census Beauharnois County Canada East
Bennett's and McFarlane's on 1851 Census Beauharnois County Canada East
{Page 1 of the 3 page census}
Found on Ancestry.com
Click to mack Bigger


In or about 1869, the family immigrated to Lapeer County in Michigan, USA. They may have been attracted by the excellent farming on land that had already been logged by the Michigan timber companies, and/or may have been enticed to move there by entreaties of family already there as both the Scots and the Irish tended to move in family groups (I’ve not yet sorted out who might already have been there, but there was a large Scots settlement in neighboring Sanilac county and my own family tree shows several generations of mixed Irish and Scot stock living in Lapeer and Sanilac counties in Michigan). They lived in Burnside Township of Lapeer County, Michigan, until William’s death at age 84, on 27 December 1890.


After her husband’s death, Margaret initially lived with her youngest son James, who was 18 at his father’s death, on the family farm, according to William’s obituary.  But by June 18, 1894, according to the 1894 Michigan Census, she was living in the household of, or it appears, perhaps, next door to her son John and his wife Emma and their three young children James, Albert, and William. That may be because James got married in 1892 to Martha Wingert.


Six months later, on 19 December 1894, Margaret married John Y. Brown, who was also born in Scotland. He had never been married before and was a peddler at the time of the marriage (thereafter he became a farmer). The registrar made a significant error in the ages of the couple in the marriage record saying they were both 54. A comparison with later documentation assures me that the marriage record is for my Margaret but that the age listed for her should have been approximately 68 (Margaret may have shaved 4 years off her age for the event but I strongly doubt she shaved off 14 years!).

Climbing My Family Tree: Marriage record Margaret McFarlane Bennett to John Y Brown 19 December 1894
Marriage record Margaret McFarlane Bennett to John Y Brown 19 December 1894
Third Entry
Found at FamilySearch.org
Click to Make Bigger


The 1900 Census shows Margaret (74) & John (60) Brown living and farming next door to Margaret’s son James’ family (James and Martha now have 3 sons and 2 daughters, ranging from 7 years to 8 months old (and two doors down from son Andrew’s brother-in-law, Anson J. Bentley, which confused me for a while since I knew I knew the name but couldn’t find a daughter married into that name – I finally went back to my actual tree software and traced the name to son Andrew’s wife’s sister Grace Gregor Bentley’s husband Anson. This genealogy stuff is starting to make me think in webs!)


Margaret was widowed again when John Y Brown died on 6 February 1909 of Oedema of Organic Heart Lesion (which appears to mean a swelling caused by a buildup of fluid in the tissues of a narrowing of the arteries going into the heart, or, essentially, heart failure). The more personal information was supplied by Margaret’s son, James, who didn’t know his birth date but said he was 67 when first married, and that he was a cabinet maker. He reported that John Brown’s parents’ were John Brown and Jeannie Young. (As I’ve mentioned before, the information on death certificates, other than the date and cause of death filled out by the doctor, is best taken as clues rather than facts, as it is only as good as the knowledge of the person giving that information.) John was buried two days later in the West Burlington Cemetery in Clifford, Michigan.


Margaret died eight months later on 15 October 1909 at age 87, 7 months, and 6 days. Her cause of death was listed as Old Age. James supplied the information for her death certificate too. It appears that She was buried four days later in the Deanville Cemetery, in Lapeer County, Michigan, which is the cemetery in which her first husband, William Bennett, was buried.




If anyone reading this is related to Margaret McFarlane or William Bennett or their parents/siblings or children, and would be willing to share any information or stories or pictures they have with me, I would love to see to speak (or email, probably email) with you. If you wish to dispute any of my conclusions, I’d still like to hear from you – maybe together we can figure it out. (I’m also interested in John Y. Brown.) Please leave me a comment below or email me at the address on my Contact Me page.

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I’d really like to find out more about William and Margaret’s early years: where they were born, more about their families of origin, how they got to Canada and when, when they met, how they lived, etc.

I’d also like to find out more about how they lived in Canada and when and why they decided to move on to Michigan. I’d love to know how they made the trip, and how they lived after they got to Michigan, where the farm homestead was, what it looked like, etc.

And I’d really love to see pictures of any or all of them!

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Much thanks to Judy Wilcox for her help with information regarding Martha Wengert, James Bennett, and the Wengert family and James and Martha's family, and the Findagrave.com links for William Bennett and Martha Wengert, and her encouraging emails. (I’m related to her husband twice!)


“McFarlane” History, https://www.scotweb.co.uk/info/macfarlane/; https://www.scotweb.co.uk/info/macfarlane/ ; https://www.scotsconnection.com/clan_crests/MacFarlane.htm; http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/higherscottishhistory/migrationandempire/migrationofscots/emigrationandsociety.asp; Transcribed militia pay lists for companies in the Beauharnois Battalion during the Rebellion of 1838, http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~qcchatea/1838pay.htm#first; Ancestry.com. Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 200 - Original data: Gabriel Drouin, comp. Drouin Collection. Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Institut Généalogique Drouin; 1851 Census of Canada East, Canada West, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia; transcription of the Cadastre Abrege for 1854,http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~qcchatea/cadastre/ngeorge3.htm ;  The History of Huntingdon and the Seigniories of Beauharnois and Chateauguay, From Their First Settlement to the Year 1838 and Revised to the 1900s by Robert Sellar, (150th anniversary edition, the Gleaner, Huntingdon, Québec, June 1975; originally published by Huntingdon, Québec, the Huntingdon Gleaner Incorporated. 1888.); Courtship, Love, and Marriage in 19th Century English Canada, by Peter Wald (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1993); U.S. Federal Census for 1870, 1880  and 1900; Michigan Death Records; Michigan Death and Burial Index.