Walking the Glen Tay Block


This time last year, visiting Perth for Thanksgiving, I set out for a walk, the route of which I could easily picture in my mind but the distance (see map)…not so much.

It seems an even longer walk to recall, one year later, limited as I am by injury.

I was not even beyond the old town limits when I wondered what I had gotten myself into and yet seemed bent on proving something to myself.  I knew all the landmarks and, besides, the route is a running course for the historic Glen Tay Block Race and I certainly had no plans to exert myself beyond a steady walk.

The old stone mill along the Tay River at Glen Tay is now a private residence.

It was a beautiful walk, although I don’t have a lot of pictures to show for it. If you refer again to the map, you’ll see a jag off the “block” route. I misjudged just how far it would be to go to my Mom’s very first home on the Upper Scotch Line. When I did finally get there I photographed the wrong house! Next time I go back for a look, it will be in a car!

Old pictures tell only a fraction of the stories


 

 


Great-great-grandparents Thomas Butler and Dorcas Radford

Thomas Butler was born in Bathurst, Lanark County, Ontario in 1826, one of nine children of 1819-1820 Irish immigrants John Butler and Alice Warren. While six of his siblings married Warren cousins, in 1852 Thomas Butler married Dorcas Radford, born in 1835, also in Bathurst Township. That’s their picture, taken in 1909! According to a 1974 family history Barker and Warren Families from Ireland** , compiled by Grace Hildy Croft, my great-great grandmother Dorcas Radford was a daughter of William Radford of Ireland, while the Butlers can also trace roots there as far back as 1185 to when a Theobald Butler accompanied King John into Ireland.

The second child of Thomas and Dorcas, Jane, married James Chaplin but Jane died at the birth of their first child, Sarah Jane Chaplin, in 1873. She was just eighteen years of age. (This had been the first recorded marriage between a Butler and a Chaplin but it would not be the last.)

Thomas and Dorcas Butler, who raised their orphaned grand-daughter, and a niece as well, while parenting ten children of their own (born between 1854 and 1875), were the grandparents of my paternal grandmother Pearl Butler who married Henry Burton “Bert” Chaplin in 1922. Grandma’s brother, Thomas, Jr., died on the First World War battlefields of France on March 1, 1917 sixteen days shy of his twenty-first birthday. I wish I had been more curious about his young life, when I had the chance to talk about him with my grandmother, but it was the war story which caught my attention. More about that, including photos and newspaper clippings, here.


Pte. Thomas E. Butler (17 March 1896 – 1 March 1917)


My great-grandparents, Henry Butler and Jennie Moodie with Beatrice, Thomas, Pearl and cousin Mildred(?)

Only a couple of Grandma Chaplin’s five siblings were familiar to me in my early years, great-aunts Bea (notorious for her home-made fudge) and Ruby (who lived in LaSalle, Québec with her husband, family and a very articulate mynah bird.)

The Chaplin family, which settled within easy courting distance of the Butlers, has an interesting part in the pioneer history of Lanark County, too, parts of which can be found in another family genealogy project McKay Family History: Walking in their Footsteps.

I remember my grandmother Chaplin telling me a story, which I in turn used in an elementary school project, of how Henry Chaplin, my great-great-great-great-grandfather, the second child of English immigrants John Chaplain and Sarah Jones, was born in 1835 on board the Pomona freight ship at St. Helen’s Island in Montréal harbour. (That was one of the islands used for Expo 67 and continues as a park today. It’s also home to a fort, now a museum, where John Chaplain’s assigned station quarters were located. He had served in the Royal Regiment of Artillery in Woolwich, County Kent, England. In the regimental book it listed his date and place of birth as Foxfield, Hampshire in 1806.)

Fort St. Helen’s Island

As was common with retiring English army personnel John Chaplain purchased land, in his case in Bathurst Township, west of Perth. The McKay book records that in 1840 he bought a 100 acre parcel of land from Richard Lewis for 130 pounds. From Montreal the family took a barge up the St. Lawrence River as far as Brockville.  They then crossed overland to Lanark County.

His children’s registered surnames dropped the second “a”, a change of spelling not uncommon in those times as a new generation in a new land. There have been dozens of Chaplins in the Perth and Glen Tay area for generations, a name synonymous for many years with a large dairy and related delivery business, no longer in operation. Others made their name in a variety of ways, both locally and farther afield.

Grandma and Grandpa had five children – my Aunt Eileen, Uncle Ken, my Dad (Arnold), and then twins Iris and Lois. Eileen died a couple of years ago. Ken, for whom I was named, died on his thirty-fourth birthday, about five months before I was born. He was married and the father of two girls aged twelve and eight. Having entered hospital for a hernia operation, he died of a blood clot on the day he was supposed to have been released. There seems little doubt that today’s routine blood-thinners would have saved his life. In any case there was an almost-immediate understanding between my mother and her mother-in-law that, should I be a boy, I would be named after Ken. (My middle name, George, I owe to my maternal grandfather and great-grandfather.)

1927 – Ross Chaplin, brother Bert (my grandfather) and Pearl (my grandmother) holding my Dad, Arnold, with Ken and Eileen in front

Not too far away from Glen Tay, to the south and west of Perth, is the Scotch Line (County Road 10) where my mother and her little brother spent their toddler years before George Henry McGinnis, Sr. and Lillian Thelma MacPherson moved into town, relocating to a Drummond Street home where my mother still lives today.

1932 – Lillian (MacPherson) McGinnis with Madeline, George Henry McGinnis with George, Jr.

Grandpa McGinnis, born in 1887 in Sharbot Lake to George Henry McGinnis, Sr. and Eliza Bertram, was a widower cheesemaker, having worked at various cheese factories in the area (Fallbrook, Lanark, Mississippi-Prestonvale) before going to the Scotch Line Union Cheese Factory on the Upper Scotch Line and eventually marrying my grandmother, the new school teacher. They were married in St. Paul’s United Church in Perth on June 26, 1925, one of the first, if not the first, marriage in that congregation of the newly-formed United Church of Canada.

Lillian MacPherson, born in 1904 in Green Valley, Charlottenburg Township, was a school teacher who had come to the Perth area from Glengarry County, east of Cornwall and, among the many schools she eventually taught at, was Scotch Line School.

My great-grandparents, Marjory and Alex MacPherson

My grandmother, Lillian (MacPherson) McGinnis, age 18, in 1923

Grandpa McGinnis, believed to have been taken at Prestonvale Cheese Factory

Scotch Line Union Cheese Factory – ca.1932

Scotch Line home, near the cheese factory

The former Upper Scotch Line School, one of many small schools in the area where my grandmother McGinnis taught, is now used by Scotch Line Cemetery and casts its morning shadow over the grave-sites of my grandparents, parents and brothers Craig and Claude – mine, too.

During the Great Depression, when both my mother (Madeline) and George, Jr. were born, there was a great deal of bartering that went on – cheese for milk, cheese curds for produce, and so on. Nevertheless cheese was a staple in the family and has remained so. Mom jokes that she’ll never have problems with her bones because of the great amount of calcium she ingested as a child.

Grandpa and Grandma were also very musical and would go to house parties always prepared to provide some of the entertainment, Grandpa on the violin and Grandma “chording” accompaniment on the piano.


Grandpa died in 1951, a little over a year before Mom and Dad were married. This picture was taken in approximately 1949.

Grandma (my siblings and I actually called her “Gammy” until she died at age 95 in March of 2000), never stopped being a teacher even though she had retired by the time I was half-way through elementary school. One of the stories she talked about was the still-legendary Judge John Matheson, who presided at the Lanark County Court House right across the street. Talk about six times six degrees of separation but Judge Matheson, known for his role in the crafting of our Maple Leaf flag, is related:

My grandmother’s grandmother, my great-great-grandmother Margery McIntosh-MacDonald, was a sister of Judge Matheson’s grandmother Catherine McIntosh.

Grandpa McGinnis had three older sisters – Mary (Mrs. Duncan Avery), Maud (Mrs. George Fife), and Maggie (Mrs. Billie Ennis). In addition he had two younger brothers: Charles (who married Della Doran) and Arthur (whose wife’s maiden name was Meta McLellan.) One younger sister, Christena, was married to Ed Pratt.

As mentioned Grandpa was a widower married first to Edith Jackson. They provided his second family, along with his many descendants, with step-sister Dorothy (“Auntie Dot” to me) and step-brothers Mervyn, his wife Myrtle “Myrt”, who gave birth to cousin “Red” Jack, and Fred and his war-bride Betty, all of whom the blended family simply claimed as aunts, uncles and cousins. Dot and Homer gave us sons Jack and Don and daughter Nancy.

A character known as “Grandma McGinnis”, she would actually be my great-grandmother, was named Eliza Ann Bertram and having lived until 1953, to the age of nearly 104, stories about her will be passed on for many years. When I was growing up, particularly when I was doing so literally hitting 6’3″ in my teens, I had a habit of clicking my feet on the dining room floor at dinner. That, my mother (and others in the family if they were visiting) told me, reminded them of Grandma McGinnis who seemed to have the same kick in her step.

Great-Grandma McGinnis (Eliza Ann Bertram) 1849-1953

Dancing had a lot to do with Mom and Dad getting together. A friend of Mom was dancing with him one night and Mom inquired as to who he was. They would dance together through nearly fifty years of marriage which began on July 26, 1952. Their first child, Arnold Craig Chaplin, was born May 13, 1955.

Dad was working at a textiles plant in Perth called Springdale Mills, owned by a company based in Montréal, and which presently closed up in Perth and transferred anyone who wished to go to Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Québec. Mom, Dad and Craig moved despite misapprehensions from family and friends, who seemed to see Québec as a nearly foreign, dangerous place. We, on the other hand, feel that the experience of living there enriched us immensely. Craig stayed in Montréal the rest of his life, dying in 2007, and we remain close with his partner of seventeen years, Claude, so maintain a connection with the city and province.

I was born in Ormstown, Québec, a short drive from Valleyfield. It was October 26, 1959. Lynn followed on March 2, 1961 and then Janice was born on September 30, 1968.

100 Nicholson – The first Valleyfield home for Mom, Dad, Craig and then me


22 Maden Street – that’s Craig,8, and me, 4, in the back yard – was the second place we called home in Valleyfield, and where sister Lynn joined us, with memories of this place much clearer than the apartment on Nicholson St.

In 1964 the family moved to 38 Simpson Street, a home which Mom and Dad designed and which managed to meet the needs of a family of six, with Janice’s arrival in 1968.


**The full name of the book, as noted on the title page, is The Barker and Warren Families from Ireland – And Allied Families: Butler, Burke, Crawford, Dodson, Doxey, Hildy, Kinch, Rath, Singleton, Smith, Tompkins, Webster et al.