Owen Sound in the 1850s

Jennie Fleming, the youngest of the Fleming family who settled in 1850 at Kilsyth, Derby Township, had deep memories of her pioneer days.

“As a frequent visitor in the early days to Owen Sound, Derby’s market place, she saw this hamlet on the arm of Georgian Bay grown from a little village of Sydenham into the thriving commercial town and city of Owen Sound. She sometimes recalled the fact that at first on entering the town she had to cross the Sydenham River on a log where the Second Avenue bridge [sic] now stands, and walk deep in mire on the main part of Poulett Street.”(1) [Roy Fleming, 1942]

Roy Fleming more than once recalled that in Owen Sound’s early days his Aunt Jennie crossed the Sydenham River by traversing – very carefully, we might surmise – a felled log, and then in town having to deal with the muck of the main street. One can imagine Jennie, a vital woman who lived into her nineties, reflecting on the changes she had witnessed since her arrival to the forested wilderness – walking long distances as a teenager, driving horse-drawn buggies on gravel-covered roads in her twenties, travelling by express trains to Toronto in her seventies.

Felled trees probably served as bridges in more than one spot – and in those years the tree could be at least three feet in width and easily tall enough to reach from bank to bank.  In 1841, according to Paul White in Owen Sound: The Port City, it was possible to cross the Sydenham River on the west side of town by tree. He wrote, “The only easily accessible crossing was to the south of the new community, at the present day site of the mill dam on 2nd Avenue West. Here, a tree had been felled and travellers could pass over the river by walking on the bridge created by the fallen log.”  (2)

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Walking Kirrandrum

In June 2018 I had the great pleasure of visiting the Highlands of Scotland to walk the land of the Fleming home of Kirrandrum, the farm outside Ballinluig in Logeirait Parish.  I was guided by Eddie Thomson of Heartland Tours. We found the remains of Alexander’s house, which he built himself, and some of the other buildings, as well as the dry-stone wall Alexander built and which still stands intact. Most of all,  we saw surrounding hills and the Tay valley almost as they were when Roy Fleming and family members visited in 1903, and even as the Fleming family saw them when they left for Canada in May 1843.

A complete account of the visit with photos and video and reference to Roy Fleming’s description of his visit is provided in Walking Kirrandrum June 2018

The map below from Canmore shows the location of Kirrandrum relative to Ballinlluig and to the adjacent Dalnabo.

Ballinluig area showing Kirrandrum and Dalnabo. Source: Canmore - Ordnance Survey 1843-1882.
Ballinluig area showing Kirrandrum and Dalnabo. Source: Canmore – Ordnance Survey 1843-1882.

Visit to Cragganfearn

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Cragganfearn looking east – rock foundations, wall, and sheep in the background (Photo: G Harris)

Where there had once been a village of four families at “Upper Cragganfearn”, only the crumbling walls of a steading and the foundations to a few cottages and farm buildings remain.

Sheep graze in the fields of this quiet place. It was windy on the sunny June afternoon when Eddie Thomson of Heartland Tours led me to the site. Along the small stream, he pointed out the remnant of what might have been a sawmill. Past the gate, we could see a stone building that still stood high on the hill. We made our way uphill on a path and across the fields, nodding to the nearby sheep, to come to marvellous panoramic views of the hills. Continue reading

More maps and drawings at Scotlands People

National Records of Scotland has released to Scotlands People “more than 2,400 historic maps, plans and drawings”  that show country estates and plans of towns and cities.

See News Article: Maps and Plans Release (June 13, 2018).

Spanning four centuries, the collections cover both manuscript and printed topographical maps and plans. They are particularly strong in estate and railway plans; architectural drawings; and engineering drawings, particularly of ships, railway engines and rolling stock. More maps and plans will be added to the ScotlandsPeople website.

Requires free registration at Scotlands People to access and search

A search on Atholl delivers “Plan of the estates of Fincastle, Borenich, Lick and Duntaulich, Blair Atholl” (RPH6594). Dated 1832, this map shows the lands along the Tummel River.

Speaking of Scottish resources, Ancestral Findings offers this list of  Online Resources for Researching Your Scottish Ancestors.  Scotlands People and five others (including Family Search) are described here, and there are links to other postings related to Scotland.

Laird of Cragganfearn

Cragganfearn, Logierait Parish, Scotland in 2018. Photo by Eddie Thomson
Cragganfearn, Logierait Parish, Scotland in 2018. Photo by Eddie Thomson (https://www.heartlandtours.co.uk/)

Many families have a story from the past that takes on mythic qualities in the retelling. In genealogy, however, it is important to examine the story critically and evaluate the evidence. (1)

The Fleming family’s story has been about the “laird of Cragganfearn”,  the belief that Alexander Fleming’s grandfather had been “laird of Cragganfearn”, an estate of some 260 acres in the central part of the Atholl region of Perthshire. As the story goes, Alexander Fleming’s father, John, met his future wife Janet Ross at Cragganfearn where she was a servant. John’s father, the laird, banned the marriage and disinherited his son when John disobeyed. Very romantic, but how much is true? To be a laird means owning a substantial estate. Did a Fleming own that estate?

Others have wondered. In 2006 there was a heated thread at Rootschat in which three Fleming descendants sought information about the laird. One respondent (not a descendant) with the handle Tickle pointed out that the entire area had been owned by the Duke of Atholl in the 1700s, and that rental records at the Blair Estate in Blair Atholl (north of Logierait and Cragganfearn) would have the answer.

We examine the sources of this story, the information itself, and the evidence from land records and other accounts. We will see that the “lairdship” story began as wishful thinkin and continued thus. Continue reading

Time-Travel to Scotland

Excerpt for Logierait Parish from the New Statistical Account of Scotland (1838-1845) Vol X Perth. Source: Internet Archive
Excerpt for Logierait Parish from the New Statistical Account of Scotland (1838-1845) Vol X Perth. Source: Internet Archive

Outside of watching the TV Series Outlanders for its historical time-travel into the Scottish Highlands in the 1700s (or, of course, reading the novels by Diana Gabaldon’s on which the series is based), our best method for learning about the people and places of the time is through resources on the Internet. This may be a less entertaining way, but it can be rewarding. In researching the Scottish background about the Fleming Family, we have dug into several tremendous resources about Scotland’s past that includes historical accounts, maps, drawings and images, and fiction.

The Scots, with great foresight, undertook two extensive and detailed accounts of the geography, population, economy and society in the late 1790s and mid-1800s. The First (or Old) Statistical Account of Scotland (1792-99) in 21 volumes was compiled by Sir John Sinclair who engaged over 900 ministers in the parishes to report on their areas guided by his questions. The Second (or New) Statistical Account of Scotland (1834-45) was done for the Society for the Benefit of the Sons and Daughters of the Clergy in Scotland and was produced similarly.

Both may be searched and read in digital format through Statistical Accounts of Scotland Online, a superbly rich website. Use the clickable map to zoom into a county and then browse from the list for a parish, or use a keyword search. Locating the parish – for example, Logierait – leads to links to the digitized images in the sections in the Old and New Statistical Accounts. This resource was created by EDINA, a division of the University of Edinburgh’s Information Services. Searching and viewing are free, but a fee-based subscription is needed to have access to transcripts, downloads, printing, enhanced searching, and other personalized features.

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Home to Perthshire: July 11 – July 23, 1903

After a long day’s journey across Scotland, Roy Fleming, his Aunt Jennie, his Uncle James and his cousin Minnie arrived in Dunkeld, Perthshire, 11 July 1903.

We land at Dunkeld 8:10+. Bella and Jeannie Smith are there to meet us. Send our grips down to Mrs. Duff’s with Mr. Fisher, and we six walk down and call at Smith’s house where we are welcomed. [From Roy’s Journal]

The Smiths were relatives on the Stewart side – Roy’s father’s mother. Jean Stewart’s sister Margaret married Alexander Robertson, and their daughter Elizabeth married Hugh Smith. Roy said of Elizabeth – “Mrs Smith is very much like Aunt Jessie [Jessie Agnew]– inclined perhaps to be a little more jokey.” Bella and Jeannie, delightful young women of 26 and 24 years, were Mrs. Smith’s (Elizabeth’s) daughters – Jeannie was a bookkeeper and Bella “a 1st assistant in P.O and a telegraph operator”. Roy later praised Bella to his cousin C.A. Fleming in Owen Sound as “handsome, clever and bright” and “the most genteel person” he met in Scotland. (Perhaps Roy was smitten.)(1)  Tom and Andrew, who are often mentioned in the journal, were young men of 25 and 21 years, both employed as blacksmiths. (There were three other daughters: Margaret, Jessie, and Elizabeth). (2)

The next day, the Flemings joined the Smith family at the Sunday service in the Dunkeld Cathedral, and repaired to the Smiths afterwards. They would spend the next ten days, until July 23, touring old family haunts, visiting relatives and friends, walking the hills of Perthshire, and absorbing every moment.

Dunkeld Bridge, July 1903, photo taken by Roy Fleming
Dunkeld Bridge over the Tay River, photo taken by Roy Fleming, July 1903 (Fleming Family Papers)

They were staying at Mrs. Duff’s on Atholl Street in Dunkeld. During their stay, James told the story that when he was a schoolboy he had been egged on to fight Duff – he refused until Duff called him a coward. Later Mrs. Duff, rather than scolding James, gave him “a piece of head cheese and oat bannock and asked him not to hurt her boy anymore.” Might this family have been related to the “young Duff” James had known?

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Touring Robbie Burns’ Country

Previous blog postings introduced The Trip of a Lifetime that the Flemings took in 1903 to the British Isles and Europe and described their ocean voyage on the R.M.S. Tunisian. In this posting, we follow them in their pilgrimage to Ayrshire, land of Robbie Burns; a quick trip to Belfast; and a tour through Loch Lomand and the Trossachs. Many thrills lay ahead for Roy, his cousin Minnie, their Aunt Jennie, and James (Minnie’s father, Jennie’s brother), as they visited places they had read about in literature and Scottish histories.

They travelled at a pace so dauntingly fast it would challenge young people today, let alone more senior-aged travellers like Jennie and James. On arrival in Liverpool, July 6, 1903, the Flemings moved quickly, taking a cab to the Liverpool and Manchester Railway Station on Lime Street in the centre of town. Not a moment to waste, they visited St George’s Hall and Walker’s Art Gallery (where they noted the statues of Michelangelo and Raphael at the entrance), before boarding the London and North Western Railway to head north to Robbie Burns’ country. With their luggage – we hope they were travelling light – they changed trains in Carlisle to the Glasgow, Dumfries and Carlisle Railway, which passed through Gretna Green (famous for “runaway marriages”), and arrived in Dumfries at 7 pm that evening. After finding their hotel – the Palmer’s Temperance Hotel – and seemingly energized, they went for a walk around town – for Dumfries was where Robert Burns had lived his last three years.

Palmer's Temperance Hotel, Dumfries
Palmer’s Temperance Hotel, Dumfries

Jennie found Dumfries a “beautiful clean city – streets so pretty and clean and situated on the Nigh River.” They came upon the Globe Inn where Burns used to drink. Jennie did not dare to enter, but Roy and James did and James, sitting in Burn’s chair, sang a stanza of “Willie brewed a peck o’ malt”. They made their way through narrow, crooked streets to 16 Burns Street where Mrs. Brown, Burns’s granddaughter, showed them the house in which he had died in 1796.

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R.M.S. Tunisian – Montreal to Liverpool – June 27 to July 6, 1903

R.M.S. Tunisian - postcard postmarked Sarnia June 25, 2003
R.M.S. Tunisian – postcard 1903.  Courtesy Simplon Postcards, The Passenger Ship Website

Boarding in Montreal, the Fleming party settled into their quarters on the Tunisian at 7:30 pm Friday, June 26. Roy noted – “We put baggage in our rooms. Mine is Room 126 Berth 2, Uncle James 126-4. Aunt Jennie 128 – 2 – Minnie 128-4.” They were on the Upper Deck, in cabins on the outside wall. The Saloon Deck with the dining, music, and smoking saloons for second class and first class was above. The two top decks were the Bridge for First Class and the Promenade deck .

The Norway Heritage website has a full history of the Tunisian with postcards and the cabin floor plan.

With advances in steamer technology and ship design, travelling to Great Britain and the continent had become more comfortable and increasingly fashionable. They were travelling second (cabin) class in rooms that accommodated four people. Roy immediately remarked, “Rather neat appearance of rooms and dining rooms. Music Room and Smoking Room.”

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Trip of a Lifetime: Introduction

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Jennie Fleming – Passport photo – c 1903

Nearly sixty years to the day that the Fleming family arrived in Quebec City from Glasgow, Scotland, Jennie Fleming, with her nephew Roy Fleming, her older brother James Fleming, and his daughter Minnie, boarded a steamer in Montreal bound for Liverpool, England.

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Roy Fleming in New York City, 1906

They were embarking on an eight-week trip through the British Isles and Europe that included a pilgrimage to their homeland in Perthshire. Roy had proposed the trip to his family in October of 1902 and they decided at Christmas. They must have been very busy over the next few months deciding on itinerary, arranging accommodations, and contacting family in Scotland.

It was Friday, June 26 1903. Their ship was the passenger liner R.M.S. Tunisian, built in 1900 for the Allan line. They were comfortably settled in two second-class cabins, the men in one with two other cabin mates, and the women in another across the passageway. James, who had been only a boy of thirteen when his parents Alexander and Jean emigrated from Perthshire Scotland with their children, must have remarked more than once on the luxury of the modern steamer with its dining saloons and decks compared to the cramped and harsh conditions of the Jeannie Deans, the wooden three-masted barque that had brought them to Canada.

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