30 June 2017

Canada 150

Robert E. Bruce & Mary Ann McMillan February 13th, 1913



Happy 150 Canada! 

I thought in honour of Canada's 150th birthday I would write about my deep my Canadian roots. I actually started several months ago with what was going to be a simple history, but little did I know where it was going to lead me, or how far back my roots actually go. 

1867 Brougham County, Ontario Dr. Ryerson wrote:
"We occupy a country on which Divine munificence has lavished all the needful elements of wealth and greatness. By a parental and liberal policy, and not by the clangour and bloodshed of revolution, we are architects of our own fortune; it depends upon ourselves, under Providence, whether we shall be a virtuous, intelligent, happy and prosperous people-a welcome member and honour of the family of nations-or whether, by domestic quarrels and divisions, and consequent weakness and degeneracy, we disappoint the expectations of our best friends and well-wishers, and become the outskirt hewers of wood and drawers of water to a neighbouring republic. And it devolves on the electors of Canada, in the spirit we now cultivate, and in the choice we now make of our first legislators, to stamp upon our country its future character, and determine for our children their future destinies."

In 1802 my great grandfather x5 came over from Scotland and settled in Upper Canada at Finch, Stormont County.

Allan Glen Payne McMillan, who lived in Lochaber Bay, Scotland had seen a map of Finch township and in that year chartered a boat which, with a passenger list of all McMillan's and Cameron's, landed at Montreal in the fall of 1802.

The fare was 10 pounds for a family and the crossing took thirteen weeks. These families had to portage up the St. Lawrence to Lancaster and then tramp through the bush carrying their belongings. The first winter was spent with some friends who had come to Lochiel, Scotland in 1796 and then went on to Canada and settled around Kirkhill (Ontario).

The next year, four McMillan's and four Camreon's walked from Kirkhill to Finch, selected their lots, built their log homes, and obtained their patents. In 1803 they brought their families to what would have seemed a wilderness. They did not receive rations and supplies for three years and there were no half pay officers among them to scatter a little money. Their only sources of revenue were potash and oak barrel staves.


It's not known exactly when the Bruce's arrived in Canada, but was likely sometime between 1838 - 1841. They went to Renfrew County - the next county north of Stormont. We know my great x3 grandfather was born there in 1841. His older sister is listed on the 1851 census as being 13 and born in Ireland.

Around or before 1884 John McMillan came to Alberta and established a stopping house along the Sheep Creek as part of the McLeod Trail. There were Cameron's and McRae's arriving about the same time. Because the area provided a safe river crossing it was popular with the First Nations people. The Blackfoot called it "Okatok" for the Big Rock erratic which they used as a reference marker. The Sarcee called the area "chachosika" - valley of the big rock. And the Stoney name was "ipabitunga-ingay" - where the big rock is.

The town was named Okotoks after the Blackfoot name, but briefly changed to Dewdney from 1891 - 1896, before reverting back to Okotoks. The Bruce's arrived in 1902 - buying land just south of the famous Big Rock landmark. They arrived with all of their children and their families, who also bought land in the area. The Mceathron's, Ballard's, Gould's, Bremner's, Peacock's, and McCuaig's  were all Bruce daughter's. During holiday's the families would all gather and have a great celebration with 30 or more people present.

In 1906 a young beautiful 14 year old girl travelled alone by train from Finch, to live with her sister, a McRae, on their farm adjacent to the Bruce's. At 20 she went to work for the Bruce's as a housekeeper, where she fell in love and was married soon after. It is this woman, my great grandmother, that I credit with making me who I am, of creating in my a love for the land and nature that forms the basis of my art. 

While the genealogy can be traced, the stories are mostly lost. And in the end it's the stories that matter most. These are stories only from my one side of the family. There are more from my maternal side, who first came to Alberta in 1892 but didn't stay permanently until 1907. I wish I had more of the stories than I do. 

I Am Canadian!