Kudos to the Bruce County Museum and the Bruce County Historical Society for digitizing the yearbooks of the Society for 1967 to 2010.
Each yearbook contained a variety of historical stories about the people, places and events in Bruce County history. These fascinating stories of our past are now more available to people across the globe who are interested in Bruce County’s past.
Go to Bruce County Historical Newspapers at https://newspapers.brucemuseum.ca/. The yearbook is the second item on the list. Browse the list by year or enter a keyword search. Of course, my search was for fleming – returned eight results of which two were related to this Fleming family. The 2006 issue referred to an article written by Roy Fleming, and the 1971 mentioned Christy Morrison as a survivor of the loss of the Asia in Georgian Bay. Results were more plentiful for the term Oliphant.
“We set sail probably on the second or third of May 1843 from Greenock, the port of Glasgow”– wrote William Fleming in his recollections of crossing the Atlantic Ocean to Quebec with his parents and seven siblings. William was six years old at the time. “It was a three-masted vessel,” he remembered and, “The ship had a general cargo of merchandise, the crew and passengers numbered some fifty to sixty.”
All who read William’s emigration story wish his account had been longer. What was it like to travel in steerage, what were the conditions, what did they have in provisions? We can can get a sense from a superb reproduction of an 1840s emigrant vessel, The Dunbrody, that is moored in New Ross, Co. Wexford, Ireland. Built in Quebec in 1845 the Dunbrody was a three-masted ship with a registered tonnage of 485. Lloyd’s Register tells us that it was made of oak, elm, and “hamkmatack” – tamarack. Lloyd’s assessed the ship as A1. (1) In 1849, when it sailed for New York, it carried 176 passengers.
The Flemings sailed on the Jeanie Deans out of Glasgow – a three-masted barque in May 1843. It was 319 tons – a bit smaller than the Dunwoody, built in 1841, also in Quebec, and was “sheathed with yellow metal.” According to Lloyd’s Register, the ship was made from black birch, oak, and tamarack and graded as A1. (1) The Jeanie Deans carried 65 passengers and 10 crew on that voyage. (2)
Typically (as we learn from Cian T. McMahon’s book, The Coffin Ship), emigrant ships had a forecastle deck at the front, the main deck in the middle, and the poop at the rear. The poop deck was reserved for officers and ”cabin” passengers. Below the poop deck there might be a hospital and the ship’s galley. Steerage travellers were allowed on the main deck at designated times to cook their meals on an open-fire grate. For most of the day they were confined below the main deck – or ‘tween deck” – in a long room accessed through hatches from the deck. When the seas were rough, the hatches were nailed shut to prevent flooding, but this also closed off air and heightened the misery below deck. Sleeping and living arrangements were cramped.
We digress in this blog to shine a light on the woman who wrote the biography of Christopher Alexander Fleming of Owen Sound, Ontario. C.A. was a much loved and distinguished educator, auditor, and publisher in Grey and Bruce Counties. After he died in April 1945, the Fleming family engaged Dorothea Deans to memorialize C.A.’s life and character. Dorothea, the women’s editor for the Sun Times in Owen Sound for over 20 years, was a perfect choice: She wrote well – her prose was warm, clear, and concise; she had known C.A. thorough her work; and she had lived in that port city most of her life.
Family members would have provided Dorothea C.A.’s writings and correspondence, along with papers he and his cousin Roy Fleming had collected on family history. She must have interviewed many family members and business colleagues, and she could research many of his accomplishments in the newspapers. In the first paragraph of the foreword, she laid out the scope of the work and nature of her subject carefully and reverentially.
This sketch of the life of Christopher Alexander Fleming is in no way an attempt at an interpretation of a man and his period. He is too close in time for that and too dear to family and friends to need translation. Rather, it is a record of facts about his hereditary background, his youth, and his long, productive years, gathered together like the photographs of an album, the acts of a play, the blueprints of a building. Somewhere, within the facts and the intangible things they imply, love and beauty, work and sacrifice, truth and aspiration, is the immortal personality. 
Land records have been an important resource in documenting the history of the Fleming families in Derby Township, Grey County. The most useful record has been the “abstract index to deeds” adopted in the land record offices in 1865. The abstract is a summary of the transaction showing dates, instrument number, transaction type, lot and concession, acres, grantor and grantee, dollar amount. Transaction codes indicate “bargain and sale,” mortgage received, discharge of mortgage, release, grant, and other events. In a nutshell it shows the history of the changes in ownership and financing arrangements, and sometimes the disposal of an estate. For further detail, it was sometimes necessary to find the memorialization of the deed or transfer by the instrument number in the copybook for the township or locate the original document.
Previously, researchers had to go to the county land registry office or Archives of Ontario. Today the Ontario Land Registry Access (OnLand) website provides online access to digital images of the index pages. This posting is a short guide for searching that service.
Land records are organized by concession and lot. In our case, we knew the concession and lot numbers of the properties Alexander Fleming bought in 1847 and 1858. Another source for this information are farmers’ directories – especially the Gazetteer and Directory of the County of Grey 1865-6 (Toronto: W W Smith, 1865)
In this example, we are looking for the history of “Forest Lawn” on the north half of Lot 9 Concession 6. James Fleming obtained the lot from his father in 1853 and during his lifetime developed it into an estate of orchards and gardens. Continue reading →
George Herbert Wyllie, son of Mary Fleming and George Wyllie of Kilsyth, ON, was another young man of Fleming blood to join the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the Great War.
Fit, 5 feet 7 ¾ inches tall, 146 pounds, with blue eyes and fair hair, this strapping lad whose only blemish was a scar of three inches on the inner side of his left knee, walked into the Owen Sound recruitment office for the 147th Grey Overseas Battalion. The day was the 13th of May, 1916, four months to the day since he had turned 18 (on 14 January). Under the command of Lt. Col. G.F. McFarland, this battalion recruited 1,000 men during the winter of 1915-1916 and trained at Niagara-on-the-Lake and Camp Borden that summer. On November 14, 1916, Pte G. Herbert Wyllie, No. 839119, shipped out from Halifax on the RMS.Olympic.
Through the CEF Personnel Records and the War Diaries at Library and Archives Canada we have learned more about Herb’s service and experience. Continue reading →