Fleming Migration to the United States

Jean Agnew (1862–1950) and her cousin Robert Fleming (1860–1894) were the first two of the Fleming families in Kilsyth to emigrate to the United States. Over the fifty-year period 1880 to 1930, 22 of Alexander Fleming and Jean Stewart’s 70 grandchildren (33%) left Derby Township to try life across the border. All but four stayed in the USA.  The female Flemings were as adventurous as the male – a 50/50 spit. Most were between the ages of 20 to 40. (1)

Image shows four Fleming women who lived in the United States on holiday in California, c 1910.
Outing to Ocean Park, CA. Bottom left, Minerva Fleming talking to Christina Fleming. Jean [Walmsley] on the far right. The woman behind Christina might be Jean Agnew. The men, Messrs Watson and Dury were friends of the Walmsleys. c. 1910 (Source: Fleming Family Photos)

The United States was a magnate for young people seeking better prospects for education, employment and income. The late 1860s to 1896 was the Gilded Age of rapid economic growth, technological invention, and industrial production. Hydroelectricity powered new factories. Cities in the East attracted new immigrants, and the West offered land and gold. Toronto, in 1891, with a population of 181,000, was small compared to the closest U.S. cities: Buffalo at 254,000, Detroit at 205,000, and Philadelphia at over one million.

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Flemings of Derby Township – Prepublication

Good news – the family history about the Flemings of Derby Township is nearly ready for the printer.  We expect to ship the book in early October 2022.

The book is a comprehensive account of the family of Alexander Fleming and Jean Stewart who emigrated from Perthshire to Canada West in 1843 and settled in Derby Township, Grey County, in 1850. Their stories show the spirit and resolve of the Scottish migrants to shape lives with more opportunities for their children. This narrative describes the Flemings’ Scottish roots, the perils of emigration, pioneering life in Derby Township, Grey County, and the lives of their nine children and grandchildren around the turn of the century as they undertook new travels and challenges.

Sources include Ruth (Fleming) Larmour’s extensive collection of stories and papers, contributions by other Fleming descendants, genealogical records, land records, and many other historical sources in archives and libraries. This wealth of information led to a large book that is richly illustrated, extensively sourced, and complete with name index and subject index. The table of contents will provide a view of the coverage in this book.

This is a limited (and numbered) edition with a pre-publication price of $70 Canadian (plus shipping if needed) payable by cheque or etransfer. Please order by August 8 (changed from July 25, 2022), if you would like a copy at this favourable price.

Why would you buy this book?

  • Alexander Fleming and Jean Stewart are in your family tree.
  • One of your ancestors came to Canada from the Scottish Highlands in the 1800s.
  • You would like to learn more about the Fleming Family of Kilsyth and Owen Sound, Grey County.
  • You are interested in pioneer life in Ontario in the 1800s.
  • Your family lived in Vaughan Township, Derby Township, or Owen Sound in the 1800s.
  • You enjoy reading family histories with illustrations and personal accounts from the times.

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Roy F. Fleming: Writings about First Nations

Teacher, artist, photographer, historian, researcher— of these pursuits Roy may have loved the study of history the most.

Born in Kilsyth, Derby Township, in 1878, son of Charles Fleming and grandson of Alexander Fleming, Roy Franklin Fleming  (1878-1958) had deep roots in Grey County where the Fleming family were pioneering settlers in the 1850s. He was almost destined to become an educationist— a specialist in education as he described himself— due to the Fleming family’s attention to education.

After formative years in the Normal School system in Ontario and several teaching assignments, Roy enrolled in the New York School of Art in 1905. Two years later (1907) he was appointed drawing master at the Ottawa Model School (later Ottawa Normal School).  For many, this might have been sufficient, but Roy’s intense interest in the history of Ontario and especially in the Great Lakes and the indigenous people led him into many other endeavours.

His love of history began with a childhood filled with stories about the Scottish homeland and the emigration to Canada. As a young teacher in Sheguiandah, Manitoulin Island in 1899, his curiosity about local history and native peoples deepened as he came to know the Assiginack family—Blackbird in English. In the years following he undertook further research to write about the oratorical skills and military genius of Sahgimah and Assiginack and bring recognition to both.

In January 1935 The Daily Sun Times published his long article—“Ottawas Defeated Invading Mohawks at Blue Mountain”—with the lengthy  subtitle “Contingent of Warriors from Owen Sound, Saugeen, and Meaford Indian Villages Aided  Ottawas and Objibways (sic)  of Manitoulin Island Massacre Invading Iroquois —Chief Sahgimah Led Indians of This District in Bloody Battle.” (1)

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Robbie Burns Day –January 25

Robert Burns
Robert Burns – image from BBC Robert Burns

Oh, wad some power the giftie gie us
To see oursel’s as others see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us
And foolish notion:
What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
And e’en devotion!

To A Louse ( On Seeing One on a Lady’s Bonnet at Church)”  Robert Burns 1786.  
From the Ontario Reader: The High School Reader 1886 (1)

Everyone of Scottish descent in nineteenth-century Canada would have known some lines from Robert Burns. My Heart’s in the Highlands (1789) would have been a favourite for the Flemings, whose Scottish homeland was Perthshire in the Highlands.

My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here;
My heart’s in the Highlands a-chasing the deer;
A-chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,
My heart’s in the Highlands wherever I go.

Burns’s Night

The Fleming family would surely have celebrated Robert Burns’s birthday on January 25. To this day members of the Scottish diaspora (and their associates) around the world gather for an evening of bagpipes, music, highland dance, recitation of Burns’s poems, and the traditional dinner of haggis, neeps (turnips) and tatties (potatoes). A Scottish friend has provided this account of the event.

The haggis is piped in, borne aloft and accompanied by various officials and dignitaries and the Whisky Bearer. Then the Maister o’ Ceremonies intones 

“My lords, ladies and gentlemen! Pray silence for our Haggis Maister Scottie MacKiltface who will salute our guest-of-honour before disemboweling it with the dirk tucked neatly into his right-legged Highland hose.”

Picture of haggis on a serving plate being pierced by a dagger. Drams of whiskey are in four small glasses nearby.
Cutting the Haggis (2)

Address to a Haggis:

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin’-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o’ a grace
As lang’s my arm.


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