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Homesteads & Family Farms

One of our ongoing C/DMHAC projects has been to collect information and stories about early homesteads and family farms in the Carman/Dufferin area.

We have described elsewhere (Recent History > News and Events January 2019) how formation of the Province of Manitoba opened the territory to an unprecedented land rush. Post-1870, the land was surveyed into townships and sections and opened for homesteading. Specified sections were reserved for groups such as the Hudson’s Bay Company, railways and schools. Provision also was made for those already in the Province to claim property rights. This included 1.4 million acres of land that was to be allocated for Métis heads of family and their children.

In the following accounts, families tell us what they know about the family farm—why their ancestors came to the area, how they arrived, what the country was like at that time and how it changed and was handed down over the years. Hopefully this project will encourage families to record and preserve their memories and pass them along to future generations.

The McGill Family Farm

by Caroll McGill

As of 2019, members of the McGill family have farmed Section 8-6-3W for the past 127 years. William McGill and a son James came from Janetville, Ontario, to the Homewood and Roland districts in 1890. James worked for the La Pointe family at Roland and William purchased section 8-6-3W, half from the Hudson’s Bay Co. and the other half from a Mr. Cowan who had purchased it earlier from the company. Under the Dominion Land Act of 1872, the HBC had retained ownership and right sell to sections 8 and 26 of every township.

William returned to Ontario in 1891 and came back to Manitoba later that year with his wife, Susannah, twelve children, and enough lumber to build a large sixteen-room house and a barn. At that time the railway only came as far as Barnsley, so the lumber was loaded onto Red River carts and transported to NE 8-6-3.

Original McGill home on NE 8-6-3W
Click here for a larger view

In 1919, the sixteen-room house was split in half and one part was moved to NW 8-6-3W. It was rolled on logs and pulled by mules. This part of the house now has the 6th generation of the McGill family living in it. A barn built on this quarter burned in 1927, was replaced in 1929, and is still standing.

William and Susannah retired to Carman in 1904. William died in 1909 and Susannah died in 1912. Robert McGill took over the east half of the farm in 1904 and farmed it until 1941 when he and his wife Gertrude retired to Winnipeg. The story goes that Gertrude was asked if she wanted hardwood floors or a Delco plant* for the house. This was long before hydro service and she chose the Delco plant, probably installed early 1900s.

The east half of 8-6-3 was then farmed by their son, Earle and his wife Dorothy; they also farmed SE 16-6-3 which they had purchased in 1936. This was the quarter originally owned by Earle’s grandfather, William McGill. By 1961, Earle’s eldest son Barrie married Mary Cox and built a house in the same yard. In 1972 they purchased SW 8-6-3 from the Morley McGill estate.

Stanley, son of William and Susannah, purchased the west half of 8-6-3 in 1904 and farmed it until 1914 when he sold it to his brother David and wife Alberta who farmed it until 1950. They retired to Carman and their son Morley continued farming until his sudden death in 1972.

Earle’s second son, Brian, a banker, and wife Caroll, a nurse, returned to farming in 1965 after purchasing SE16-6-3 from Brian’s father. In 1972 they purchased the NW 8-6-3 from the Morley McGill estate; that fall they moved into the half of the original house that had been moved in 1919. Earle and son Barrie both raised registered shorthorn cattle. Following Brian’s death in 1995, Caroll and their youngest son Danny continued to farm together until Caroll moved to Carman in 2000.

In 2004, Danny married Renelle Dietz. With the addition of their son Evan in 2015, they are the 5th and 6th generations to live in the house built in 1892 and to farm the remaining quarters, NW 8-6-3 and SE 8-6-3, of the original McGill section. The rest of the property was sold in 2007.

While planning for the farm’s centennial in 1992, the earliest land title records the family could find were for 1892. They were also informed that section 8-6-3W1 was believed to be the only section in one block to be held for a century by the same family. The Centennial was held on NE 8-6-3 where the original sixteen-room house had been constructed. The house was decorated in 1890s fashion with many of the original antiques and complemented by a display of vintage machinery and cars.

The McGill family have a long history of service and participation in the community. Pioneer life for William and Susannah centered around their large family, the Century Church, and house parties. The church located on the NE corner of 8-6-3 was moved 1 mile west in 1910 to become Brigdenley School. Their son, Stanley enlisted in 1915 with the 27th Battalion and died from wounds in September 1916. Grandson Morley McGill served in WWII. Son Robert and wife Gertrude were active in community and church activities. Robert was a member of the new Homewood Elevator board. Earle McGill and his sons and grandchildren were all involved in community affairs, serving on many boards, DAS, 4-H clubs, church activities and sports.**

Editorial Notes:
*a combination of gas-powered generator and storage batteries used to produce electricity.

** Caroll McGill has carried on this tradition of community involvement through her work with the Ladies Section of the DAS, as President of the Homewood Community Club, 4-H leader and many years of active service with the Dufferin Historical Society and Museum. She has a keen interest in cultivation of native plants.

For further information, see:
History of the RM of Dufferin in Manitoba, 1880-1980, pp. 619-620

Up To Now - a Story of Dufferin and Carman, Carman Centennial Book Committee, p. 120

Homewood Reunion 2018 - Family History section.

James & Margaret (Durno) McIntosh Homesteads

by granddaughter Nedra McIntosh Burnett

James and Margaret McIntosh and their first three children (Margaret, Jessie, Alexander) came to Manitoba from Northern Scotland in 1885. They arrived via Emerson where they were met by Margaret’s brother, George Durno, who had homesteaded the previous year.

The party travelled by team and wagon to the Stephenfield area where James applied for homestead rights to SE 32-6-6w, in the same section as George Durno’s claim on NW 32-6-6w. They later homesteaded NE 32-6-6w and purchased NE 29-6-6w, a ‘school section’ from which taxes went to maintain the school. The claim on Section 29 was in Margaret’s name; it is still in the family, owned by a granddaughter, Marjorie (Gibson) Irwin, daughter of Ellen (McIntosh) Gibson.

Settlers came to this area because there were lots of trees and water in shallow wells. The family built a log home where they lived until they put up a frame house in about 1908. When this house burned in 1947, everything in the house was lost. This included wooden willow chairs made by the Indigenous people who used a trail through the property. They would stop at the house as they passed and Grandma McIntosh gave them bread and vegetables from her garden. In return, they made the wooden willow chairs for her.

Three more McIntosh children were born at Stephenfield: Ellen, James and Christine. The children attended Ravenswood School which was northeast of the farm. The family got their mail at Almassippi post office which opened in 1885 on NW 34-6-6w. Providing for the family wasn’t simple in those days. Grandpa McIntosh took wheat to be ground into flour at Nelsonville, a two-day trip with horses and wagon. The family had a root pit in the yard where they stored garden vegetables for winter use.

James Sr. served on the Dufferin Council prior to his death in 1916.

In 1921, my father, James Jr., took over the farm and lived there with his sister Chrissy until he married Maggie Findlay in 1924. They had four children: Irene, James, Jean and myself (Nedra). The farm was a mixed farm with cows, horses, pigs and sheep. They also grew grain and had hay land. James served on the Stephenfield School board for a short time. He owned the farm until his death in 1966.

In the 1970s, my mother turned the farm over to my brother Jim and his wife Joan. They had three children: James, Brian and Marlene. Jim and Joan passed the land to their sons, Jim and Brian. It has now been sold and no longer is in the McIntosh name.

Gray Family Farm

Five generations of the Gray family have lived on 25-6-6w. What is distinctive about the farm is that they share this section of land with Graysville, the community that bears their name. Another unique feature of the farm is that the original homestead claim was made in the name of Ann Smith Gray, under the Métis land claim agreement.

George Gray Sr., great-grandfather of the present landowner, came to the Red River settlement from Aberdeen, Scotland in 1872. He worked for four years in John Taylor’s store in Headingley before marrying Ann Smith and moving to the Boyne district.

Ann Smith’s family had deep roots in the Hudson Bay Co. territory. Her father, William Robert Smith, came to York Factory from Surrey, England in 1813 to work for the HBC. He served with the company until 1824, then became a teacher at the Red River Settlement. In 1852, he was appointed clerk to the Council of Assiniboia. Ann’s mother, Ann Omand Smith, had Métis status through her mother Jane Brown. Under the Dominion Land Act of 1872, both Ann Omand Smith and her daughter Ann, as Métis residents of the former HBC territory, were awarded scrip entitling them to lay claim to 160 acres of land.

Gray Home built 1916
Ann Smith laid homestead claim to the SE ¼ of 25-6-6w near the Boyne River in 1874, prior to her marriage to George Gray. She was awarded patent to that land and the adjoining NE ¼ section in 1881. George Gray purchased the west half of the section in 1881. The family first built a log home on the SE ¼, replacing it in 1916 with a larger house (below) in which future generations of the Gray family were born.

Ann Smith headstone
George and Ann (Smith) Gray had twins who died shortly after birth; they were buried in the now-abandoned Harrison burial site near their farm. The Grays had three more children: two daughters, Georgina and Agnes, and a son James. The girls stayed with an aunt in Headingley to attend school until Orr School opened.

Ann died at the age of 32 and was buried in the Harrison burial site. Her broken headstone was retrieved from the site and is a prized possession of the current George Gray family.

When the Canadian Northern Railway built a line west from Carman through the Gray property, George Sr., known as “Boss”, recognized the opportunity and built a store at the site that became Graysville. The first school was built in 1909 on Gray land, just north of the railway. That building was sold in 1934 and moved south of the rail line where it was used as a dwelling, store, and post office. George Gray also donated the land on which the Graysville United Church and other buildings were built.

The Gray property has been handed down through the generations from George Sr. to son James, to his son Hector. It currently is owned by Hector’s son, George, and his wife Noreen. They moved the 1916 house across the farmyard and joined it to their bungalow. The house has been renovated but retains many of its original features. George and Noreen have five children.
George has served as Councillor for the RM of Dufferin and is currently serving his second term as Reeve of the Municipality. In keeping with his rich family history, George is known for his keen interest in local heritage.

See also:
History of the RM of Dufferin in Manitoba, 1880-1980, pp. 43-44 for more information on Graysville, and pp. 496-490 for photos of the Gray family and property.

Carman-Dufferin Cemeteries – A guide to the history, location, art and craft of local cemeteries, p.108 for photo and details of Ann Gray’s burial site and grave marker.

Recent History, October 2016, for a 1908 ad from the George Gray store in Graysville.