As for my Grandfather John, he seemed to embrace several different occupations along the way (minister, rancher, coal and wood entrepreneur, carpenter), always managing to provide a good living for his wife, Jennie, and their three children, one of whom was my father. John ended his days in Nanton, Alberta, where, at the age of 75, he built, with no assistance from anyone, a beautiful little home for his wife Jennie and himself, close to Jennie's family. His carpentry training as a young apprentice back in England must have stood him in good stead.
While rummaging through some old papers, I came across a yellowed clipping from "The Moose Jaw Times" (circa 1896), concerning my Grandfather John, whom I have now labelled "Firebug," The following is an excerpt from the intriguing article about this parson, turned arsonist:"The story is told of a big prairie fire that started on a ranch, south of Parkbeg, Saskatchewan, around 1896. It was a calm, clear Sunday, and two ranchers, one of whom was also the local preacher (Grandpa John, no less!) decided the weather was right for burning off the land between the two fireguard breakings. Suddenly a whirlwind sprang up, and carried the flames beyond the confined area to 200 tons of hay stored on the ranch. The flames, now out of control, swept with a vengeance eastward through the hills, finally burning out south of Moose Jaw. The few homesteaders in the path of the fire lost everything, and it cost the two ranchers the sum of Five Thousand Dollars to make good their losses. Everyone shook their heads, for "what could be expected when a preacher worked on Sunday!" With this inadvertent act of arson, Grandfather John had made his mark on the history pages of early Saskatchewan, but it was actually more like a blot!
My favourite tale about Grandpa John is actually a Love Story, one which sets my romantic heart fluttering, every time I hear it. It began in 1897, after John had assumed the position of Station Agent for the C.P.R. at Pasqua, Saskatchewan. Morse Code , the pioneer form of Email, was used to communicate from one Station House to another, and each operator had a distinct and recognizable touch. John became curious about the Parkbeg telegrapher who, he discovered, was a young woman, so he decided to investigate. He made the fifteen-mile trek on horseback to meet her, and evidently liked what he saw. The feeling must have been mutual, because, after a suitable courtship, they were married at Parkbeg, Assiniboia,(later Saskatchewan) on July 4, 1898, taking up residence at the Station House at Pasqua. Church services were conducted there on Sundays, as well as some schooling for the local children. Their wedding was "History in the Making," and another Prairie dynasty was founded, one which overflowed back into Ontario decades later, and then circled back out West and even further, as the years rolled swiftly by.
This, then, has been the saga of three young brothers, immigrants from Britain, whose personal achievements and contributions are interwoven into the fabric of Canada's history and development. For Canada is, and always has been, a nation of immigrants, dating back to 1535, when Jacques Cartier came across the Huron-Iroquois settlement of Stadacona (the present-day site of Quebec City). The rush was on to settle in this new land, and to explore its potential. The trend continues, perhaps more so today than ever before, as wave after wave of people from afar head for its distant shores, lured there for many different reasons. They will all leave their special imprints on our ever-evolving nation, just as Thomas, Samuel, and John did in the late1800's and onwards.
Canada is still growing and developing at an alarming rate; a many-faceted country which somehow manages to maintain its own unique identity; a nation making history every day of every year. Canada, eh? It' continues to be "History in the Making!"