Why Mary Minerva?

Lydia seated, Mary Minerva on her lap, Olive standing. Imagine keeping those white dresses clean, picture about 1912.

George Arthur Gibbs had married my great grandmother Lydia Ruth May Wise when she was 15, he was 22. The couple had 3 children in the next 3 years, and went homesteading at Gilpin, Alberta with the Gibbs family. Lydia was unhappy and the couple came back to the Flathead Valley, at Kalispell, Montana. The winter of 1906-07 was a tough one. It started snowing in November and blizzarded into April. Besides the deep snow there was bone chilling cold. Imagine living in a tiny shack with five people three of them small children.

A poem I penned for Lydia.

The land was painted winter White,

The lurking storming winter winds howled,

Coldness reigns and the snowfall and the darkness descends,

there is no caress from the sun, and her soul cried out,

“Go Home, or you will die here” as the Winter Madness descended draped like a mantle around her shoulders.

George Arthur took Lydia and the children home to Kalispell, Montana. But home was not as she remembered it. Her mother Angeline Penrod Wise had a marriage crisis of her own. James Alexander Wise had died at age 38, leaving Angeline a widow with four small children and a baby on the way. Lydia was 8. Angeline took in a boarder named Charles Condell “CC” Johnson to help with the farm work. Unbeknownst to Angeline, 46, Charles 71, was still married when they wed and had a daughter, Susie Ann, November 28, 1902. When Lydia came home her mother was going through a lengthy court case to get a divorce until finally her marriage was annulled. She changed Susie’s name back to Wise.

George Arthur Gibbs

George Arthur and Lydia Ruth May Gibbs must have had some fight; George walked away and Lydia filed for divorce asking for custody of the children then 11, 10 and 9. She worded her complaint with the words dissipation, profligacy and idleness while not providing the necessities of life. I must admit I had to look up the meanings of the words. Lydia more or less said he wasted expenditures of the family’s fortune, was extremely extravagant, and reckless. I can hear them fighting when she would quote the proverb to George: the devil tempts men but an idle man tempts the devil.

George Arthur couldn’t be found to serve the court papers on. Finally he was served over in Washington State. The divorce was uncontested and Lydia obtained her divorce and custody on October 28, 1910. George Arthur moved about going to B.C. finally coming back to his family at Broadview, Montana where his father Hiram Gibbs died the next year. His occupation here was listed as rancher.

George Arthur Gibbs Declared his Intention to become a US citizen, farmer, ruddy complexion, 5′ 11″, 180 pounds, brown hair, blue eyes. He was born June 13, 1875 at Port Hope, Michigan. He now resides at Broadview, Montana, immigrated from Flagstone, B.C. Canada on the Rexford and Fernie Branch of the Great North Railroad. My last foreign residence was Innisfree, Alberta (the homestead). He renounced King George V, of whom he was a naturalized subject, Arriving through the port of Gateway, October 25, 1909. He was not an anarchist, a believer in polygamy and in good faith he wanted to become a citizen of the USA and permanently reside therein. SO HELP ME GOD Signed George Arthur Gibbs November 30, 1912.

George Arthur married on November 2, 1914 at Stillwater, Montana to Rebecca Frances Snyder, the mother of a child from her first marriage, Eugene Kenneth Joedemann, and a new baby, Otis Vance Jones when the second husband died in 1913, made an instant family. They would add to this family a daughter, born in Columbus, Montana on May 17, 1916, Frances Lucille Gibbs.

Lydia May Ruth Wise Gibbs married George J. Blanchett on April 22, 1915 in Shelby, Montana, at the Methodist Episcopal Church. They were both divorced. The two had been working in the Glacier Park. He was 40, she was 32. They were divorced on September 22, 1917, at Flathead, Montana. She used the name Ruth.

I was saddened to think my second great grandfather just walked away from his two girls! Then I found a picture and an obituary that shed some light on the matter. Another young freighter in the Glacier Park, by the name of Gordon Reid Waddell eloped with Ruth’s daughter, Olive Vivian Gibbs just 4 months after her mother had married. Olive was 16 and lied on her marriage certificate about her age. Gordon was 24 and had a homestead east of Coutts, Alberta.

Isn’t this lovely old picture: my grandparents Gordon and Olive, my Aunt Dorothy Waddell was born June 19, 1916 making her about 1 year old in the picture, and Mary Gibbs would be Mary Minerva Gibbs

This picture was clue #1. Mary Minerva was with her sister Olive Gibbs Waddell in 1917 at the homestead at Coutts. Their father, George and wife Rebecca moved back to the Hiram and Mary Elizabeth Gibbs homestead at Viking in 1917. I think George Arthur must have kept in touch with his children because he found them here. AND he took Mary Minerva to live with them to Viking. Ruth’s marriage to Mr. Blanchette wasn’t going well by this time.

Clue #2 is a sad one. It is Mary Minerva’s obituary. It reads: Marie Minerva Gibbs birth 1901 death 22 Sept. 1919 aged 18 at Youngstown, Hanna Census, Alberta, burial Youngstown Cemetery. On her findagrave.com site is the following obtained from Cemetery Register, and Youngstown Memories Across the Years 1909-1983.

The Plaindealer Sept 25, 1919 FATALITY IN SOUTH COUNTRY

A sad occurrence took place, Miss Marie Gibbs, daughter of Mrs. Himple came to her death by self imposed gun shot wound. Deceased was 18 years of age and had been resident of Viking, Alberta from March 1918 until April of this year, when she came to live with her mother. The funeral was held in the Cemetery at Youngstown, Sept 24, 1919. Rev J.R. Geeson conducted the service. Mother buried beside her in 1923.

There it is, clue #2, Mary Minerva had been living at Viking with her father. He hadn’t abandoned her.

Lydia May Ruth Wise, Gibbs, Blanchette was married to Raymond Fay Himple, her 3rd husband. He had homesteaded at Youngstown the NE 15-26-9 W4 in 1913 and had just proved up on it January 1917. I am really surprised she came back to homestead and wonder how they met. It’s 275 miles from Youngstown to Glacier Park. They wed in 1919 and Mary Minerva was living with them at the time of her death.

Lydia Ruth Wise Himple findagrave.com reads Birth Aug 1883 Iowa, USA Death May 23, 1923 aged 39. Calgary, Alberta

Obituary: The death occurred at Calgary on Wednesday night, May 23, of Mrs. Ray Hmple, formerly of Cando district. Mrs. Himple had been undergoing operations for tumors at the Holy Cross hospital, (stomach cancer). The remains were shipped here for interment, the funeral taking place in the Youngstown cemetery May 26, 1923. Rev Eli Good, officiating. The deceased being laid to rest beside the body of her daughter, Miss Marry Gibbs, who died some three years ago. In addition to her husband, one daughter living at Coutts mourns her loss. Obituary printed in The Plaindealer published Youngstown, Alberta June 1, 1923.

The daughter would be grandmother, Olive Vivian Gibbs Waddell. I found a border crossing at Coutts when Ray Himble and step daughter Olive crossed the border going to the Shelby State Fair. I am thinking he came to return Ruth and Mary’s personal belongings to her only remaining family.

George Arthur Gibbs, Olive’s father remained in her life. Below is a five generation picture of the him with daughter Olive, granddaughter Grace, great granddaughter Lottie, and great great grandson Michael. Picture about 1961.

This blog doesn’t leave me any answers to the title, Why Mary Manervia? Why? Her name though I can explain. Mary after her grandmother Mary Elizabeth Smith Gibbs who had a sister named Manervia Ann “Minerva” Smith born in 1847 in Mornington Perth, Upper Canada. Many of the names the family used were in honor of the Smith relatives. Lendley, George, James and Charles were also Mary Elizabeth’s brothers and she honored each of them naming her children after them.

An American Citizen

Moose in the Stillwater River, Columbus, Montana. Watercolor by Wendy Harty July 2021

United States of America

Declaration of Intention State of Montana County of Yellowstone

I, Hiram Gibbs, aged 64 years, occupation Farmer, do declare on oath that my personal description is: color White, complexion: Ruddy, height 5 feet 10 inches, weight 150 pounds, color of hair grey, eye blue, other distinctive marks: first and third fingers on left hand bent and stiff. I was born in Farnham, Canada on the 10th of May, 1846. I now reside at Broadview, Montana. I emigrated to the United States of America from Coutts, Alberta, Canada on the A.R.and I Co. Railroad; my last foreign residence was Viking, Alberta Canada. It is my bona fide intention to renounce forever all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, and particularly to George V King of Great Britain and Ireland, of whom I am now a subject; I arrived at the port of Sweetgrass on the 30th day of April, 1912; I am not an anarchist; I am not a polygamist nor a believer in the practice of polygamy; and it is my intention in good faith to become a citizen of the United States of America and to permanently reside therein; SO HELP ME GOD. Sworn before me this 6th day of May, 1912 Lorin T. Jones Clerk of the said court.

I’ve decided to unpack more of the history from this one official form signed by Hiram Gibbs.

Farnham takes its name from the Township of Farnham, established before 1800. It was named for the Farnham in the United Kingdom, 30 miles of London where the Bishops of Winchester resided. The monks staying at the first Cistercian abbey, Waverley Abbey, in England were recorded as living in famine and poverty. The first “Farnhamiens” were mostly Loyalists from the United States. The town was named in 1876. It borders the Saint Lawrence lowlands, and built on the shores of the Yamaska River.

Hiram’s grandfather, Isaac Gibbs, son of Abraham and Keziah Atwood Gibbs, was NOT a loyalist. Isaac and his brother Joshua joined George Washington’s troops. He was captured at “The Cedars” in blog “Pieces of the Puzzle”. They survived the winter of 1777-78 at Valley Forge as noted in my blog “Changing the Course of History” part 1, 2 and 3. They participated in the Battle of Monmouth the biggest and longest one day battle of the war. Isaac and Joshua were with the 1st New Hampshire Regiment led by Brigadier General Enock Poor. Isaac and Joshua were honorably discharged March 20, 1780 having fought for nearly 5 years during the Revolutionary War, a year before the war ended. The next 12 years, I don’t know what, where or why or how they lived. In 1792 Isaac is on a passenger list to Canada, where he settled along the Missisquoi Bay. He signed an Oath of Allegiance claiming to be a farmer on the Seignory of St. Armand and came into the Province of Lower Canada by water by way of Lake Champlain on the 9th day of October, 1792. I imagined he kept his mouth shut about his past amongst those loyalists! My 4th great grandparents, Isaac Gibbs and wife Lydia (last name unknown) were named on their two boys marriage certificates. Abraham my 3rd great grandfather was born in 1806 at Missisquoi, Quebec married Anna Saxe, from a loyalist family. His brother Hiram was born in 1812. Abraham and Annie Gibb’s son also named, Hiram, my 2nd great grandfather was born on May 10, 1846, at Farnham, Quebec and given the name Hiram Garner Gibbs. Brome-Missisquoi is the county municipality. By the time Hiram was born here, Upper and Lower Canada which were a British colony were united as the Province of Canada, 1841. During Abraham Gibbs tenure in Quebec, the War of 1812, was fought, a rebellion that challenged the British rule of the predominantly French population. Then the Rebellion of 1837-38 was crushed by the British Army and Loyal volunteers. Any travel was by water on the St. Lawrence River until steamboats 1815 and railways 1850’s. In 1853, Hiram Gibbs, at age 7 came to Port Hope, on Michigan’s Upper Thumb region, situated on the shore of Lake Huron. 40 acre land warrants from the US Government were set aside as pension benefits for veterans of the War of 1812. Does this mean Hiram’s father, Abraham, participated on the side of the American’s? I am thinking he did otherwise why settle at Port Hope?

On May 8, 1867, Hiram Gibbs married my second great grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Smith at Huron, Michigan. The couple raised 8 out of 10 children: Nellie Mary, James Abraham, Charles Hiram, George Arthur, Marion Anna, Nettie Estella, William Henry, Lendley Edgar, Minnie and Rachel Lillian Francis. The family lived through the two Thumb fires of Huron, Michigan which devastated the area. (blogs called Port Hope and Fires at the Thumb 1871 and 1881). They moved west taking the southern route through Sac City, Iowa. They could have gone into South Dakota Territory by train, as the railroad had been built. Then would have had to cross in wagons pulled with oxen as they pushed further west to Flathead Lake, Montana settling on a fruit farm near Kalispell. (blog Let’s Go Homesteading at Gilpin, Alberta).

July 4, 1904, Hiram and Mary Elizabeth, with most of the family but Nellie Mary went homesteading at Gilpin, Alberta. Gilpin is no longer on a map but the nearest town is Viking, which Hiram listed as his residence. It was unsettled, raw prairie, a flat treeless landscape. They lived in a tent for 3 months until a log home was built 36 x 34 feet. The homestead was “proved” on July 16, 1907 which meant they owned 160 acres of land. By 1911 the family was very discouraged. The sons left looking for work back in the mines of Columbus, Stillwater, Montana beside the Yellowstone Park. Hiram and Mary Elizabeth would get on the A.R. and I. Co. Railroad at Edmonton, Alberta, escorting the son’s wives and came through the Coutts/Sweetgrass Border Crossing on April 30th, 1912. It is at Stillwater County, Yellowstone, Montana he renounced his British/Canadian allegiance, stating he wished to permanently reside and become a citizen of the USA. Stillwater is a beautiful place, today you can drive a two lane country road, where you can travel across the valley and the open plains that reach towards the bluest skies. If the family would have stayed here, I imagine me working in the Columbus Metallurgical Complex, a smelting facility and base metal refinery situated between Stillwater mine and the town of Billings. It is one of the world’s largest producers of recycled parts from spent automotive catalytic converters.

He also swore he was not a polygamist nor believed in the practice of polygamy. Why was this included in the oath of allegiance? In 1852 polygamy became a significant social and political issue. It resulted in an intense legal conflict and the LDS Church abandoned the practice on September 25, 1890. Break away Mormon fundamentalist groups living in the western US, Canada and Mexico were still practicing. Any immigrant coming to the United States to practice polygamy was inadmissible. Polygamy was a felony crime. In Canada it was also a criminal offence with a penalty of five years imprisonment. Scots-Irish settlers carried long standing multiple partner traditions from Europe. In the Supreme Court of BC in 2018 the law was upheld against polygamy.

Hiram died at Stillwater, Montana on June 9, 1913. Today, I am thinking about all the decisions he had to make as the patriarch of the family! Just imagine the logistics of moving a large family, steamboat down the St. Lawrence River across Lake Huron, wagon train pulled by oxen across from Deadwood, Dakota, the trip on the A.R. I Co. Railroad.

The Alberta Railway and Irrigation Company (A.R.I. Co.) began as the North Western Coal Company in 1882. It was formed by Sir Alexander Galt to encourage colonization. The plan was to encourage coal mining that would drive settlement to what would become the province of Alberta. Galt had a contract to purchase 20,000 tons of coal per year for 5 years at $5 per ton. In 1889 the goal of the company was to reach the US, 65 miles from Lethbridge to Coutts. Access to Montana was a state charter to build an extension across the border from Coutts to Sweetgrass. Thus when Hiram named the A.R.I. Co. he would have stepped off in the center of the lunch/dining room of a large freight station, owned by the railroad, built directly on the border, the international line running straight through the center of the station which included a post office, telegraph services and customs inspection. The year Hiram immigrated the company was taken over by the CPR, 1912.

Would Hiram remain a US citizen today? Would he be in favor of the wars the US participated in? What would he think of individual states closing down polling places, disqualifying voters, gerrymandering the districts, an aggressive attack on the right to vote. Would he be a Republican denying the existence of covid-19 as a hoax? If he could watch the attack on the capital of the United States, what would his thoughts be? My great grandfather, his son, George Arthur Gibbs, made these questions mute, as he and his mother, Mary Elizabeth Smith Gibbs, moved back to Alberta, Canada, where I enjoy my right to vote and am fully vaccinated. And here’s a closing thought, if the family would have stayed in Montana, I could be an extra in the movie, “Yellowstone” filmed with Kevin Costner, and the question I ask myself is, “What would Beth Dutton do?”

You all have a good day, thinking about the decisions others have made to get to where you are today!

Let’s Go Homesteading at Gilpin, Alberta

Photograph by Wendy Harty 2020, called The Old Homestead

Friday, May 8, 1903

36 years married today.

Sunday May 10, 1903

Charlie and Nettie Estella had their heads together. What were those two scheming, I, Mary Elizabeth Smith Gibbs wondered. As their mother, I knew them well. Charles Hiram was 29, working with his brothers, James Alexander and Lendley, and Nettie’s husband, William in the sawmills at Kalispell, Flathead Lake County, Montana. Our family had immigrated west after the Thumb Fires at Huron, Michigan. The family was gathering on this lovely May day. Nettie’s husband, the Reverend William Franklin Hughes had preached the Sunday service in the Brethren church at Kalispell. Mary Elizabeth welcomed the entire family that was gathering to hear Charlie’s announcement. Mary Elizabeth already knew that Charles was going to marry Pearl Young in July. But that wasn’t the biggest news he wanted to share!

July 10, 1904

Mary Elizabeth quietly crawled out of the tent. She stretched out kinks in her 54 year old body. Inside she could hear Hiram 59, snore and daughter Rachel 16, mutter in a dream. As the sun rose over her new home she saw a yellow breasted songbird light on saskatoon bushes. She had tasted the sweet purple fruits last night. The bird opened its’s beak and trilled, “Laziness will kill you, laziness will kill you!” Mary Elizabeth would learn her bird was a meadowlark. It was not laziness that would kill her.

July 30, 1904

Mary Elizabeth walked to the post office at Gilpin, Alberta. She’d finished a long letter to Nellie Mary, her oldest daughter married to Abram Applegate. The address was Sac City, Iowa. Of her and Hiram Gibbs eight live children, Nellie was the only one of the family that hadn’t made the decision to come west to Montana or to take up homesteading atGilpin. This had been Charles Gibbs big surprise! For $10, he was taking his young bride, Pearl, only 17 and moving away to homestead in Alberta. If he could cultivate 40 acres and build a home in three years, 160 acres of land would be his. His excitement was felt by all as he read the advertisement. Nettie and the Reverend Richard Hughes with new born daughter, Viola Chrystal and 4 year old Grace, would go to. Letters home from Charles and Nettie were read and passed from family members back and forth. James Abraham 31, young wife of 20 had died and Lendley 21, the single bachelors were now in agreement. Soon all of her married children had caught the homesteading hopes of owning their own land. George Arthur had the hardest time convincing Lydia Ruth May Wise. At 17 she’d married, the Gibb;s 4th child, George and born three children in the next three years. Olive Ruth, Howard Arthur and Mary Manervia. Marion Anna and husband David Harvey Young with children Orlen William McKinley and Ines were going. The last letter from Charles said he’d be a father in the fall. This was the final tug on Mary Elizabeth’s heartstrings. Soon Hiram had convinced Mary Elizabeth they weren’t too old to start over. Rachel at age 16 would be a great help to her mother.

A year later, Mary Elizabeth stepped off the train at Edmonton, North West Territories. Hiram was gone 11 days. He made the trek with 11 other new settlers. He found the square stake, that had the quarter and the section stamped on the top. It took some searching to find in the waving grass and brush filled hillsides. Once he found the township stake, each section was marked by a slightly smaller stake. He picked his quarter section. Hiram hurried back to Mary Elizabeth and Rachel and applied for Section 12, Township 49, Range 12 West of the 4th Meridian. The piece of paper he proudly presented to her was dated July 4, 1904. They had dreams to make it a home in the next three years. The boys all took adjoining homesteads. Marion Anna and David Young arrived at their homestead on September 17, 1904 and dug into a hillside. Their home was called a dugout. It was economical, required very little lumber as they used sod to build the front exposure. It provided them excellent protection from the coming cold, but was dark and damp. It was temporary until they built their 26 x 20 log cabin, costing $300. David had plowed 3 acres ready to planted in the spring.

September 30, 1904

Mary Elizabeth had refused to live in the dirt. Most of the new settlers, with no trees on the prairie had built sod houses. The Gibbs spent $300 and Hiram erected a log home 36 feet x 34 feet. Mary Elizabeth was glad to say farewell to the tent and have a roof over her head. It was just a shack, papered with tar paper and magazines. When the winds blew the paper crackled sounding like a thunder storm and she added more chinking. The home made bunks nailed up against the wall, but she was happy to swing her feet out every morning to great the dawn. Hiram had built her a sturdy shelf and the water-pail sat on a table that served as kitchen work space. A dusty trail was soon trodden back and forth from the creek until the well was dug. Hiram had bought 7 horses and 1 cow. Into the side of a dirt bank Hiram dug and built a sod barn for the livestock 36 x 40 feet for another $200; the seven horses were wintered in a sod stable 18 x 40 feet. The hens had their own sod hut. Sometimes the ghosts of those fleeing the Huron fires haunted her sleep or she came up empty handed reaching for an apple from the Montana orchard. Mary Elizabeth would come to love this treeless, windswept landscape. She’d carried Hiram water when he struggled with the team breaking only two acres of land that fall; it was too late to plant any crop. “Next year”, she’d said.

October 16, 1904

Charles came galloping into our yard this day, whooping and a hollering! Freda Myrle Gibbs, a girl was born. He was 30, Pearl 18. It was a hard birth, there would be no more. Soon Mary Elizabeth, would croon to this her latest grandchild, “Rabbit hot and rabbit cold, rabbit young and rabbit old, rabbit tender and rabbit tough, Thank-you sir, but I’ve had enough. Hiram took the hint and took his gun and went out hunting bringing home fresh deer meat. Nellie Mary wrote faithfully from Iowa, mostly about the children: ages 14 to 3. Cora Almeda, Devere Richard, Charles Arthur, Harrison McKinley and baby Beryl Bliss, the grandchildren she had never met. Abram, her husband, was a well driller and wanted to know how deep they had to dig to find water? Mary Elizabeth welcomed her neighbor ladies into her house. Fargon Martin was a widow lady living with her son, also just arrived in 1904. They were from Norway and with her came Laddie, 25 a Dutch Lutheran, born in Ontario the same place as Mary Elizabeth was from. Next came over a couple named Teman and Mary Bisstah, Methodists from the USA. The next was an Irish bachelor lad, Robert Massey, a Roman Catholic asking if Mary Elizabeth would cut his hair. He was encouraged to stay for supper and gladly ate a slice of her fine fresh bread, with berry jam.

October 1905

Hiram broke another 14 acres but only one produced crop. The cow had given them a fine calf, so there cowherd was now two. The Northwest Territories had become 3 provinces. Should it retain the name of the district, Alberta? or called Buffalo. Alberta it was and Alberta became part of the North West Territories in 1870 part of Canada and became on September 1, 1905 with Saskatchewan, became its 8th and 9th provinces. Our oldest son James Abraham went back to Montana and married Lanette (LaNettie) Young, his brother Charlies wife Pearl, sister., on March 29, 1905. Lendley our youngest son married a neighborhood girl, Jessie Rice.

February 13. 1906

James Abraham brought LaNettie to meet us. Today, February 13, 1906 he filed on his own homestead NW 30-49-11 W4 at Gilpin (now listed as Innisfee) James is 36, Nettie 21. He broke 8 acres of this virgin prairieland this year. The railroad came through last year and I watched them drive some spikes in. The village of Yelger is growing and has its own post office, feed mill, lumberyard and a blacksmith. We join daughter Nettie and Rev Hughes most Sundays when he preaches the Brethren sermons.

Hiram and I welcomed another granddaughter July 8, 1906. Lendley and Jessie Gibbs presented us with Mary Luella Irene named after me, her grandmother. This little one got the nickname of Tella. Each of our boys are proving up their quarters living next to us. Our baby Rachel, now 18 married Ed Dove and are farming nearby.

November 15, 1906

My heart is so sad for our family. Our 5th child, Marion Anna died today, and granddaughter Ines. David and Marion both had worked so hard proving up their homestead. David harvested 5 acres of crop after breaking another 8 acres. They had a nice little cow herd of 9 in the fenced pasture. Orlen is only ten, his Young relatives have offered to take him in, over at Innisfee.

My Hiram is tired tonight. He is 64 and tires easily. The winds have been blowing tirelessly since November last. It has filled up all the nooks and grannies with fine frozen granules of snow. Besides deep it is now slippery. While the drifts hold Hiram up, he has to dig out the barn door morning after morning to enter to reach the milk cows. Huge amounts of snow buried everything and along with it came bone chilling cold and those strong, incessant winds. It was blizzard after blizzard I wrote to Nellie and sent her newspaper clippings where it was called the “Winter of Blue Snow” or “Killing Winter”.

George Arthur and Lydia May Ruth are fighting. She wants to go back to Montana to where her mother and brothers live. It has been hard on everyone’s marriages living in the tight quarters of our little shacks, listening to the winds moan and howl. Finally had a letter from my George Arthur. On the train ride back to Kalispell they saw piles of dead cattle rotting in the spring sun after the brutal winter of 1906-07. They had drifted in front of the winds, until a fence corner stopped them. There, they had been smothered in the deep snow drifts.

1907

Another busy spring, James Abraham worked under another 25 acres of sod and was able to seed all 33 of his acres. He used 2 oxen and is raising colts. They gamble about in the field I can see from my house. Reverend William and Nettie Hughes waited until Vivian was born, before heading out to Iowa to live beside her sister Nellie Applegate. Lendley and Jessie had a boy on October 3rd named Charles Lendley Arthur Gibbs. He died two days later on 5th of October. I can go into Yelger and shop at the hardware store and implement dealer and mail my letters, but there isn’t much cash. Hiram cleared another 18 acres and cropped 14 last year. We have 9 cows in the fenced pasture, 4 hogs are fattening in the pen and 2 work horses, which Hiram still isn’t fond of. What a happy day was celebrated! July 16, 1907, Hiram had claimed for patent and sworn,
that the homestead requirements of the “Dominion Land Act” have been completed. All the buildings and acres prepared and harvested were duly noted on the form. The homestead of 160 acres is ours! Rachel and Ed Dove have a Christmas baby LaDella Dove before the year ends.

1908-09

Abraham and LaNettie cropped 53 acres and there is an elevator to deliver to at Yelger, whose name was changed to Ryley. It is now a nice little village with 2 churches and 30 businesses. They are a very happy couple having proved up their homestead after 3 years. Abram loves his little ranch and raising 10 colts. Rachel and Ed have a boy and name him after her brother Lendley born in the spring May 10, 1909. He was a sickly baby and died that November 27th.

1910

Loren Dove was born March 31, 1910 as Rachel and Ed tried again to have a family. This young baby died on November 21, 1910. Lendley and Jessie have a daughter and named her after his brother George Arthur’s wife, Lydia May Ruth born May 16, 1910 and registered her birth at Viking, Alberta. Geneivieve L Hughes was born May 26, 1910 in Oklahoma where Nettie and the Reverend had moved to. It was about this time we received a letter from said wife, Ruth, that she was divorcing our son stating that he had left her, not providing the necessities of life and because of idleness, profligacy and dissipation. Ruth asked for custody of the three minor children Olive, Arthur Howard and Mary Minerva, 11, 10 and 9 on October 28, 1910.

1911

George Arthur was served the divorce notice uncontested on January 11, 1911 at Stanwood, Washington, because he had been gone a year. Lydia Ruth was granted her divorce and custody on March 8, 1911 in the County of Flathead, Montana. It was not a good year for marriages. Charlie left Pearl and 7 year old Freda with us and went looking for work in Montana, which he found in the mines at Columbus, Stillwater, Montana near Yellowstone Park. They also would later divorce. James Abraham and LaNettie are giving up their homestead. It is stamped on their homestead application, “This land is subject to indebtness to the Crown, see Sec 18 0f Chap 29 of 60-61. James and Lendley followed Charlie down to Columbus, Montana. The boys wanted their families to come so once again, Hiram and I would follow and helped bring the family together. I said good bye to good neighbors Fargon and Laddie and wished them well. The census taker stopped in. He wasn’t very accurate writing down Heram and Mary Gibbo of Brethren religion, living with us was Pearl and Raddie (should be Freda) aged 7 our granddaughter. She hadn’t been to school and could not read or write. There wasn’t much to pack for the seven years we homesteaded at Gilpin, Alberta.

1912

People were coming into the area and we were leaving. We all couldn’t get tickets on the A.R and I. Co Railroad that would take us through Sweetgrass, Montana. I took Pearl and Freda. Hiram escorted Jessie, Luella and Maimie aged 4 and 2. James came back and helped LaNettie pack up. Hiram decided he wasn’t going back. On the 6th day of May he signed and Swore before Lorin T. Jones Clerk of the court.

Declaration of Intention State of Montana County of Yellowstone:

I, Hiram Gibbs, aged 64 years, occupation farmer, do declare on oath that my personal description is: color, white, complexion, ruddy, height 5 feet 10 inches, weight 150 pounds, color of hair grey, eyes blue, other distinctive marks: first and third fingers on left hand bent and stiff. I was born in Farnharm, Quebec, Canada on the 10th of May, 1846. I now reside in Broadview, Montana. I emigrated to the United States of America from Coutts, Alberta, Canada on the A.R and I. Co. Railroad; my last foreign residence was Viking, Alberta Canada. It is my a bona fide intention to renounce forever all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty and particularly to George V King of Great Britain and Ireland, of whom I am now a subject. I arrived at the port of Sweetgrass on the 30th day of April, 1912; I am not an anarchist; I am not a polygamist nor a believer in the practice of polygamy; and it is my intention in good faith to become a citizen of the Untied States of America and to permanently reside therein; SO HELP ME GOD. signed Hiram Gibbs.

1913, Columbus, Montana

Our oldest Nellie Mary Gibbs and husband Abraham Applegate joined us at Columbus bringing the grandchildren I hadn’t known: Cora, Devere, Charles Arthur, Harrison McKinley and Beryl Bliss. Her husband found work drilling water wells in the area, successfully. The oldest and the youngest daughters were getting acquainted again when Rachel divorced Ed Dove and came to Montana with LaDella. Nellie and Rachel were a great comfort to me, when Hiram died on June 9, 1913 at the age of 67. James and Nettie, Charlie and Pearl, Lendley and Jessie gathered around to say goodbye to their father. I write to tell Nettie Estella the news. She is expecting a baby, # 5.

Date of death June 9, 1913 cause valve trouble of heart

We finally located George Arthur and he came to the Stillwater County area and lived with me. What will I do without my Hiram, I am widowed at age 63 after being married 46 years.

This story is my version of Mary Elizabeth Smith born in St. Mary’s, Perth County, Ontario Canada, on July 7, 1850. She is my second great grandmother who married Hiram Garner Gibbs, born at Farnham, Quebec born May 10, 1846. “If” Mary Elizabeth would have had a diary I am taking liberties to write the details found on census, court and birth and death records. I like to think she approves and tells me 1850- not done yet! To be continued!

Let’s Go Homesteading at Gilpin, Alberta

Meadowlark, my favorite song bird, singing, “Laziness will kill you, Laziness will kill you!” in watercolor by Wendy Harty July 2021

These are the words my 58 year old great great grandfather Hiram Gibbs said to his 52 year old wife Mary Elizabeth (Smith). The Dominion Lands Act passed government in Canada in 1872. Canada had become a country in 1867 and expanded westward. In 1869 the government purchased Rupert’s Land and the North-West Territory from the Hudson’s Bay Company. It aimed to encourage the settlement of Canada’s prairie provinces. The Act’s purpose was to encourage settlement by European and American pioneers, as well as settlers from Eastern Canada. The land was surveyed into one-square-mile sections. For $10.00 the Act gave any male farmer who agreed to cultivate at least 40 acres and build a house on it within three years. The $10 was for administrative fees. To “prove” up the land prevented speculators from grabbing the land. The settling was slow at first because at first the land couldn’t be more than 20 miles from a railroad, as it was too expensive by wagon to get the harvest to transport. In total 480,000 square miles were given away by the government under the Canadian Homestead Act and Hiram Gibbs and families came to settle before Alberta was named a province in the year 1903-1904 with an estimated 140,000 other hearty pioneers.

In search of opportunity for their entire family the Gibbs family claimed free homestead land. They found a harsh winter climate, poor crops, meager supplies and disease to endure. They moved out of the Kalispell, Flathead Lake area of Montana to Gilpin, Alberta not even found on a map today. It is near Viking, Alberta which was settled in 1909 by many Scandinavians. Gilpin and Yelger post offices were the earliest villages northwest of Viking, Alberta in 1904. The railroad was being built by 1905 and Yelger would be renamed Ryley.

Charles Hiram Gibbs and newlywed wife Pearl Young were to the first to arrive in 1903, listed as living in section 1. He had 1 horse, 1 milk cow and 1 cow. His sister, Nettie Estella married to the Reverend William Franklin Hughes, Brethren Religion, travelled with them. They settled on the 24-49-12 with 4 horses and 2 milk cows. Charles and Nettie wrote glowing letters home encouraging all the family to immigrate. By the time the rest of the family arrived Charlie and Pearl’s daughter, Freda Merle Gibbs had been born in Edmonton. Hiram Gibbs, at age 62, my second great grandfather, choose in 1904, before Alberta was a province, Section 12, Township 49, Range 12 West of the 4th Meridian. To get there, he and several other new settlers took the 11-day trek from Edmonton. What Hiram was looking for was the township stake left by the surveyors. It was a square stake, that had the quarter and the section stamped on the top. It took some searching to find in the waving grass and brush filled hillsides. Once the township stake was found, each section was marked by a slightly smaller stake and here he found his quarter section. Now back the 85 miles to Edmonton Hiram went and arrived on July 4, 1904 when he applied for the homestead he and Mary Elizabeth his wife, and Rachel, a young girl of 16, their daughter would soon call home.

A google map of the area in 2021, the black round dot is where the homestead of Hiram Gibbs was located with the families on nearby quarters

Mary Elizabeth crawled out of the tent that was their first home in Alberta, that morning of July 9th. She eased the kink from her back, not used to sleeping on the ground. She would sleep in the tent for three months until the home was built. There was the loveliest yellow breasted bird singing his heart out to her. It sounded like, “Laziness will kill you, laziness will kill you!” She would later learn the bird was a meadowlark. Hiram had purchased 7 horses and 1 cow. She surveyed the spot they would build on. They definitely would not be lazy starting from scratch on this prairie land. In September, Mary Elizabeth and daughter Rachel, set up housekeeping in a log home 36 x 34 feet. It was worth $300. Hiram cleared two acres of the fertile land but it was too late to put into crop. In 1905 he cleared another 14 acres but only one was cropped. The cowherd of 2 had a sod barn that was partly dug into the bank of a hill, 36 x 40 feet, costing $200; the seven horses had wintered inside a sod stable 18 x 40. A well for water had been dug and the hens were housed in their own sod hut. Alberta had become a province. The next year of 06 they were prospering. Hiram cleared another 18 acres and cropped 14. The cattle grew to 9 in number, there were 4 hogs fattening in the pen and they had 2 work horses. The summer had been ideal and there were record crops. There was some grumbling that the CPR hadn’t provided enough box cars. Farmers spoke of dark conspiracies to drive down prices and create a glut. There was also a lengthy strike by the United Mine Workers in Lethbridge where coal, the staple in the prairie stove, was mined. Hiram fought his way from the house to the barn. Hiram had lived through the Thumb Fires at Port Hope, Huron, Michigan in 1871 and 1881. He was happy they had chosen this mostly treeless landscape to farm. But at the age of 64 he tired easier. The winds which had been blowing tirelessly since November, had filled up all the nooks and grannies with fine frozen granules. Besides deep it was also now slippery. While the drifts would hold Hiram up, he had to dig out the barn door morning after morning to enter to milk the cows. Once again Hiram was learning that the environment could not be tamed. There were huge amounts of snow, that buried everything and along with it came terrible cold and strong, incessant winds. There was blizzard after blizzard, from the middle of November 1906 to the end of April 1907. Newspapers were writing some horrific stories of a family found frozen in their sod shack and the father with his load of coal, pulled by oxen found in a similar dead condition. Canada did not want it’s image to be known as unsafe for immigrants. The government went into crisis control and stemmed the flow of harmful information. They had the Royal Northwest Mounted Police giving assistance and checking in on all the settlers. Government senior officers and bureaucrats gave a counter narrative of The “truth”. They needed their narrative told so as not scuttle years of work to sell Canada as a safe haven for newcomers. The long cold snowy winters were hard on the families and four of the seven Gibbs children would divorce.

Somehow, Hiram and Mary Elizabeth survived another environmentally cataclysmic event called “Winter of Blue Snow” or “Killing Winter”. There was much rejoicing on July 16, 1907. Hiram had claimed for patent and sworn “that the homestead requirements of the “Dominion Land Act” have been completed. The above buildings and acres prepared and harvested were duly noted on the form. The homestead of 160 acres was theirs!

These next three pictures are from the collection at Glenbow Archives, Calgary, Alberta

By 1906 there was a store in Yelger and as the village grew a post office, feed mill, lumberyard and blacksmith. One of the greatest difficulties was the absence of roads and bridges. By 1907, Yelger had a stable, and hardware store and implement dealer. In 1908 the name of the school was Equity. A Lutheran church was open and the railroad station. By 1909 there was an elevator to deliver grain too, 2 more churches and 30 businesses; the name of Yelger was changed to Ryley. Hiram and Mary Elizabeth’s son Lendley age 24 married a local girl, Jessie Rice and homesteaded 30-49-12. Lendley and Jessie had a horse and milk cow. The oldest son, James Abraham Gibbs age 32 came to the homestead in 1906 with his wife LaNettie Young aged 22, and settled on in the same township NW 30-49-12. Their homestead was approved in 1909, having met the three year requirements. His first wife Cynthia had died and he married Lanette called LaNettie Young a sister to Pearl, his brother Charles wife. A daughter Marion Anna married to David Young died in the nearby village of Innisfee as a young mother of 29, in 1906. Her son, Orlen William McKinley Young was raised by the Young’s and he remained in the area and at age 19 was working on a farm at Strome. Another son, my great grandfather George Arthur Gibbs had married in Kalispell, Montana at age 23 to a very young Lydia May Ruth Wise, aged 16 on May 6, 1898 This couple had my grandmother within the year, Olive Vivian born April 23, 1899, Howard in 1900 and Marie Minerva in 1901. George and Ruth came with the two girls. They didn’t stay long. My grandmother Olive would recall seeing piles of dead cattle along the railroad tracks heading south after the brutal winter of 1906-7.

Nettie and William Hughes convinced Hiram and Mary Elizabeth to attend their church services and in 1906 listed Brethren as their religion on the census. This couple had their third daughter and named her Vivian in 1907. Then they gave up homesteading and went back to the USA; first to Oklahoma, then to Sac City, Iowa where her oldest sister, Nellie Mary Applegate was raising a large family and finally to Lincoln, Nebraska where Nettie ran a girls rooming house while her husband preached. She died in Florida but was buried beside her husband in Nebraska aged 77.

The neighbors living close by in 1911 were: the Reishus came in 1904. They were Norwegian Lutheran farmers, Fargon Martin was a widow of 64 living with her son 30 also Lutheran Norwegians came in 1904. Andersons J W 41 and Laddie 25 born in Ontario was Dutch and Lutheran farming, His brother divorced lived with them Teman Bisstah and wife Mary were from America and Methodists, Robert Massey was Irish, a single farmer Roman Catholic, quite the mixtures of settlers living close by the extended Gibb’s families.

This 1911 census taker wasn’t very accurate! He lists the names misspelled as Heram and Mary Gibbo with their daughter in law Pearl, (no Charles Gibbs) and their daughter, Raddie (should be Freda) aged 7 Hiram and Mary Elizabeth listed as Brethern religion, Freda a Baptist at 7 couldn’t read or write. Charles and brother James went back to the US looking for work.

Lendley Edgar Gibbs the youngest son married Jessie Rice in 1905. They had three children. Mary Luella Irena in 1906, Charles Lendley Arthur died within 2 days in 1907 and Lydia Mary Ruth born in 1910. Lendley left his wife and children and returned to Columbus, Montana near brother James Alexander and Charles Hiram. Lendley’s wife died in 1916 and the girls were raised by the Rice family.

It is interesting how the Gibb’s left Alberta that spring of 1912. In March Mary Elizabeth traveled with Charles wife Pearl and daughter Freda destination Billings, Montana which was near Columbus where the boys would be engaged in mining. Charles escorted his brother’s wife Lanettie on April 24, 1912 and then Hiram crossed the border on April 30, 1912. He stayed in Sweetgrass a week and applied for his American citizenship. Hiram Garner Gibbs died on June 9, 1913 at Columbus, Stillwater, Montana at the age of 67. What a life’s journey this second great grandfather of mine had. From growing up on the seignory farm at Farnham, Quebec, marrying the blacksmith’s daughter, Mary Elizabeth Smith at Port Huron, Michigan, having 7 of 10 children alive, escaping from the Thumb Fires of 1871 and 1881 which burned millions of forested acres and the town of Port Huron, making the trek across the upper US states before the railroad went past South Dakota and not freezing to death on a homestead in Alberta, 1906! 67 years of living. His widow my 2nd great grandmother would out live him another 27 years till she was 90.

The oldest son, James Abraham Gibbs and LaNettie Young left also going to Columbas, Stillwater, Montana where two boys were born: Leroy Jonathan in 1918 and Raymond. They moved to Idaho where James ranched and lived out his life till he died in 1955 aged 83.

Charles Hiram worked as a miner at Columbus, Stillwater, Montana. He and Pearl were divorced. He remarried in 1931 to Ethel Gillander. At age 64 he was working for the State Highway Dept. when a fatal accident took his life instantly; his skull was crushed when he fell off a truck and it ran over his head.

Rachel Gibbs 23 had married Ed Dove 29 on 1906 at Vegreville and their daughter LaDella was born in 1907, listed as being Methodist also living with them a teacher named Mary Robenary his sister. Rachel buried her next two boys, Lendley named after her brother in 1909 and Loren 1910. They moved north to Victoria, Alberta in 1911. By the time the first World War broke out the couple were divorced. Rachel remarried Jan 28, 1914 to Claude Edward Cox, moved to Edmonton and ran a store until 1950 when she died aged 63.

The soil is claimed to be the best and finest in Alberta, at the area of Gilpin. The next village still surviving is Ryley. Just think if Hiram would have stayed we might be living the life of Ryley? Wait! I have purposely left out the story here of my great grandfather, George Arthur Gibbs. His story isn’t one of the life of Ryley but he did go back and live there when the area was called Victoria, Alberta. Stay tuned for a future blog and the remainder of his mother’s life story, Mary Elizabeth Smith Gibbs.

Manifest Destiny – Montana

Apple Gourd Art by Wendy Harty 2015

I don’t think I had ever heard the phrase “manifest destiny” Then twice in one week it cropped up in my news feed. Back in 1845, the USA thought that Canada would request annexation eventually. Some claimed it was the right of manifest destiny to spread and possess the whole of the continent which providence had given them for the development of the great experiment of liberty and self government. US expansion was used to justify the removal of Native groups from their homes. This rapid expansion intensified the issue of slavery as new states were added to the Union, leading to the Civil War. With high birth rates and immigration the population of the States went from 5 million to 23 by 1850, the year my second great mother Mary Elizabeth Smith was born in Canada. This is part of her story of what drove millions of Americans westward in search of new land and new opportunities.

My great grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Smith Gibbs was of Irish, Scottish and German backgrounds. She was the product of many who went before choosing to leave the shore, cross the Atlantic, and hope for a “city built on a hilltop”. Her birthday was July 7, 1850, born on a farm near St. Mary’s, Ontario, in the township of Mornington. Her parents were homesteaders; her father James William Smith a blacksmith by trade, immigrated from Ireland with the men in the family having been British soldiers; her mother Mary Ann Wilson a descendent of loyalists settled in Ontario after the Revolutionary War. Mary Elizabeth was born into a large family of Smith’s, 6 brothers and 2 sisters. She was 7th in a family of 9.

At the age of 4, Mary Elizabeth boarded the ship with her family, that would take her across the Great Lakes to a new developing community at Port Hope, Michigan. There were no roads or highways other than the water.

The saw mill chimney constucted in 1858, still stands today, 80 feet tall made from 20 ft of sandstone on the bottom, tapering another 60 ft with bricks. It withstood the two Great Huron Fires of 1871 and 1881.

Mary Elizabeth was 8 when the saw mills and chimney were built. All of her brothers and sisters were born at St. Mary’s, Ontario, except for George the year they moved in 1854 and Lendley, 1859, both born at Port Hope. The Smith’s were again pioneers building up the brand new community that would be a major lumber exporting port.

The red arrow is Port Hope, Gore County, Michigan

Civil War broke out when she was 11. Michiganders were critical of slavery and many were abolitionists. After President Lincoln called for volunteers, Michigan was called upon to furnish infantry, Calvary light artillery and engineers and mechanics. 90,000 men left the state or 1/4 of the men. Although the Gibbs were registered, I did not find them joining in the actual fight, possibly because they were (aliens) from Canada and it wasn’t their fight? The men on the farms helped to feed the troops and Michigan forests provided lumber for war materials. No Civil War battles happened in Michigan. When Mary Elizabeth was 17 her mother, died at the age of 48. Mary Elizabeth would marry at the age of 17 to my 2nd great grandfather, Hiram Gibbs, born at Farnham, Brome-Mississiquoi, Quebec. Hiram was 26. The wedding took place at Huron, Michigan on May 8, 1867, four months after her mother died. Three years later, Mary Elizabeth and baby Nellie moved back home to housekeep for her widowed father, James William Smith and brothers, George and Lendley. I assume Hiram Gibbs was away maybe in a logging camp? The next year the devastating Huron fire swept through the region, 1871. James Smith and Hiram Gibbs attended the Mason Lodge at Port Hope and relief efforts were distributed from there coming across the Great Lakes. By the 1880 census, the couple were farming and their family had expanded: Hiram 34, Elizabeth 29, children named: Nellie 11, James 8, Charles 6, my grandfather, George Arthur 5, Marion 3 and Nettie 1.

Hiram’s brother John Gibbs is listed on the same census in 1880, married to Sarah, Children William 11, Annie 10, John 6, Rachel 5, Herman 3 and Winnefred 1. Can you imagine the Sunday gatherings feeding all these cousins growing up together on the shores of Port Huron, Lake Huron, Michigan. The parents had already lived through the devastating fire of 1871. The Huron Daily Tribune wrote an article in the newspaper. The Smith home, built in 1866, a beautiful elegant structure stood in the path of the fire. It escaped the fire of 1871. Was this the home of William James Smith, Elizabeth’s father?

The brothers, Hiram and John Gibbs comforted each other with thoughts of, “The first good rain will put the fires out.” Alas, there was no rain. Only dry hot, hot winds! The year of 1881 another drought would hit their farming and logging community.

The wind was lurking, ready to march to the sea and burn down the town of Port Hope, again. Once again the Gibb’s scanned for smoke on Monday morning, September 5th. They had no knowledge that the greatest calamity was about to explode around them. At 2 p.m. the wind was howling and volumes of smoke were seen in the west. Suddenly a great cloud of darkness covered the entire area. All was darkness! The heat grew until it was almost impossible to breathe and the wind had a hurricane force. Then, everything burst into flames! The new brick country courthouse was built of bricks. 400 people crowded into the tall stately building. Weeping women, crying children and grim faced men were sheltered in the building. At sundown there was a lull in the wind. All the buildings in the little town had burned. Hiram and Mary Elizabeth settled the children between them on the oak floor and spent an uncomfortable night. For days after smoke and flying ashes blotted out the sun. The families would rely on the newly formed Red Cross to provide food and clothing. John and Susan Gibb’s and family would remain at Port Hope but Hiram and Mary Elizabeth decided to accept their manifest destiny.

The towering forests of Michigan, once so majestic were wiped out during the two Thumb fires that swept through after severe droughts in the region. Then winds swept the fires for miles through the area up to the shores of Lake Huron. Hiram and Mary Elizabeth Gibbs had a decision to make. They decided to go west.

Two of their children married in Iowa, so I deduce that is the way they went and stayed long enough for them to find love. West they went, leaving Michigan and Mary Elizabeth’s aging father, James William Smith 80 who would die at age 82 on December 1, 1890 in Gore, Michigan. Nearly 2000 miles through Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and South Dakota the family went. Here a forced stop was made.

Mary Elizabeth bore down. She was 37 years old, about to give birth to her last child. Coming west with them were James Abraham 15, Charles Hiram 13, George Arthur 12, Marion Anna 10, Nettie Estella 8, Lendley 5. Behind at Port Hope, she left two babies, in graves, William Henry, 1881 and Minnie, 1884, both only living two weeks. Her oldest daughter, Nellie Mary at age 17 had married Abram Applegate in 1885 in Iowa.

Rachel Lillian Frances Gibbs made her appearance on September 19, 1887. The Gibbs family had just crossed into the south east corner of the Dakotas when the backache started. This paused their journey. Mary Elizabeth had looked out over the steep embarkments of the Missouri River at Pierre, Hughes County, South Dakota. It was not a state yet being Dakota Territory, but where they would register Rachel’s birth. Should they stay here and put down roots? The Dakota Territory had been open for settlement in 1858 but there were few takers. Hiram and Elizabeth were just ahead of the boom that would start the next year with abundant rain, the swarms of locusts were gone that had plagued the region and free land was offered in the Homestead Act. The discovery of gold in the Black Hills and the coming of the railroad would lead to explosive growth but the family travelled on, Pierre was the end of the rail line and riverboat.

From here they would travel on once Mary and Rachel were strong enough. They were destined to take a wagon train headed west along the 200 mile route known as the Fort Pierre to Deadwood Trail. It was an old buffalo trail used by the natives and fur traders. They carefully loaded up the wagons pulled by teams of draft animals, usually oxen. Deadwood was a lawless, rowdy mining camp. They kept going.

Mary Elizabeth bit into the apple she had plucked from their own orchard. She was enjoying the cool nights and long sunny days in the valley. It was certainly different from their lake home of Port Hope, Michigan. Their home close to Kalispell, in the Bitterroots was known for its higher quality apples with varieties including the McIntosh. The cherries had already been picked leaving her pink and red stained fingertips. The mild lake influenced climate, pure water and fertile soil had given them an abundant crop of the pleasantly sweet and very juicy fruit. It was a busy time with pickings from the second week of July for a month into August. Now it was time for the apples. The original inhabitants of Chief Charlo’s remnant band of Salish were forced onto their Flathead Reservation in 1891. Copper had been found and Marcus Daly, the Copper Baron, began buying land, building irrigation ditches and planting orchards. Mr. Daly was concerned with feeding his miners at Butte and Anaconda. Real estate investors came buying the land cheaply and selling the promise of an easy and profitable small farm. At first Hiram and Lendley found work being day laborers in the district. By 1903 in a local Kalispell directory, Hiram was listed as fruit grower. There had been planted 300,000 apple trees in this boom, which 100 years later can still be found as gnarled remnants or thriving amongst the new orchards. Any boom does not last. Production would dwindle as pests, including the coddling moth arrived. There was another problem; fruit growers were often swindled by middlemen who never paid after the apples were shipped east.

A family meeting was called in 1903.

The first to arrive was James Abraham Gibbs. Abram had married a girl named Cynthia Anna Trible in Iowa 1897 . They came to the Flathead Valley. Abraham came home at noon and found his wife not well. She complained of feeling very bad, that she seemed to have smothering spells. Abram asked if he should write for her mother to come. She objected but finally assented. She grew worse rapidly and at one o’clock he sent for the doctor, who was unable to ward off the chilly hand of death and she passed five minutes after he came. Abram buried his young wife Cynthia, age 20 in the Demersville Cemetery, Kalispell, Flathead County, Montana. Printed in the Jefferson (Iowa) Souvenir paper May 22, 1897.

Next came Charles Hiram, 29. He’s just became married on July 19, 1903 at Chautauqua, Flathead, Montana to Pearl Young, 15. Marion Anna at 18, had married David Harvey Young in 1894. She had given them their first grandchildren Orlen William McKinley Young in 1896, the next year 1897, Ines both born nearby in Kalispell. Nettie Estella at age 18 had married William Franklin Hughes in 1897. A granddaughter, Grace L was born the spring of 1899. Another girl Violet Chrystal was a newborn at the meeting of 1903. George Arthur, my great grandfather had at age 22 married Lydia May Ruth Wise. She was 16. Within the next three years they had three grandchildren for Mary Elizabeth and Hiram: Olive Vivian April 23, 1899, my grandmother, Arthur Howard a boy 1900 and Mary Minervia November 15, 1901. Lendley Edgar 21 and Rachel Lillian Francis 16 were still single, living at home.

And what did these families decide? Their manifest destiny would send them to the newly opened homestead site at Viking, Alberta.

At the beginning of this blog I mentioned manifest destiny. The article I was reading was referring to Alberta making threats to leave the Canadian federation. Once again Manifest Destiny, the American dream of controlling the entire continent, would be revived, at the prospect of welcoming Alberta as its 51st state. This would strengthen their energy markets and Canada would be dependent on them for their energy. I doubt Hiram and Mary Elizabeth gave this much thought; they were just looking for opportunities for their large extended family and land, not political ideology or visionary speculation.

Fires at the Thumb 1871 and 1881

Its 2021 and still forest fires burn entire cities down with the expertise and equipment we have today, water bombers and trained fire fighters. Mother nature still wins!

Hiram Gibbs was worried. There would be some lean winter months ahead. The heat and lack of rain had made The Thumb region of Michigan at Port Hope a tinderbox! His forty acres were slowly cleared of the numerous white pine. There were now endless piles of stumps and branches , dried in the summer’s heat. This was called slash or the logging debris left from the logging operation. His wife Mary Elizabeth wiped Nellie Mary’s face to cool her. The child was the delight of her husband Hiram Gibbs. They had celebrated her third birthday in August. Although her mother, Mary Ann Wilson Smith had died in January, 1867 just before she wed Hiram, Mary Elizabeth knew the signs of morning sickness and knew their family would increase the next year. It had been such a long hot summer with no rain for months. The vegetation crunched under her feet.

Hiram lit the match. It was Saturday, October 7, 1871. As the pile went up in flames, he saw his neighbors doing the same thing, in preparation to plant the next year. Hiram watched the fire that night and saw in the sky the meteor shower from Biela’s comet.

My third great grandparents, James William and Mary Ann Wilson Smith sailed from St. Mary’s, Ontario to Port Hope, Michigan. Before the days of autos and highways, it was the only mode of transportation over the vast distance on the Great Lakes. The early timber industry drew them to the newly settled area. On May 8, 1867 their daughter, Mary Elizabeth, my second great grandmother was 17 when she married Hiram Garner Gibbs aged 26, born in 1846 at Farnham, Quebec. Their wedding day was May 8, 1867 at Huron, Michigan. Hiram was the grandson of Abraham and Keziah Atwood Gibbs.

Mary Elizabeth went to call Hiram for lunch. In the west the sky had turned to a yellow haze. She could smell the smoke. Burning to the west were other Michigan fires where the loggers had worsened the chance of fire with huge amounts of dry wood. In the haste to move on the loggers left stumps and branches. Maybe it was a milk cow kicking over a lantern in a barn or the remains of the comet striking the earth, no one ever determined. By summer’s end fires broke out and spread to still uncut timber lands and into the settled areas. The fire followed the slash loaded trails back to their towns. Burning embers ignited piles of brush. It blasted across and up the Thumb, fed by hurricane force winds which fed the fire, out of control.

Mary Elizabeth turned at Hiram’s frantic call. Roaring, cackling flames crept close. A rushing 100 foot flame was coming dancing on the tree tops. Then it spun like a tornado. On this Sunday of October 8th, 1871, a gale force wind arose from a cold front moving into the area. The fires had been lit and under the wind they whipped together to form a massive wall of firestorm. It escalated to a superheated inferno of 2000 degrees Fahrenheit, which advanced 110 miles per hour.

Hiram lifted a crying Nellie Mary, his daughter just turned three. There was no time for “things”. They rushed as others were doing to the shores of Lake Huron, then into the lake being battered by the waves. The early settlers used bucket brigades to protect their houses and barns. This was no match for the raging fire. The town of Port Hope was destroyed. By Tuesday rain came. But a new monster sent smoke into the already choking air, as drops of rain fell on the hot spots. It lasted for days.

The Hiram Gibbs and James Smith families and the whole area was devastated. They watched in horror as people who had hidden in wells, walked into town with singed or missing hair, blistered faces and the clothes on their backs with burn holes. There was so much human misery and death and want. Winter was only weeks away, with no food, shelter or clothes. The news travelled of their destitution. Port Huron became the headquarters for relief that came across the Great Lakes and steamships came with supplies.

By the time it was over 1.2 million acres were burned, prime forests lost and 2500 lives. Twelve communities were destroyed. In the neighboring state of Wisconsin, 350 bodies were buried in a mass grave; there was no one alive to identify them.

The Gibb’s rebuilt and their family grew. Soon Nellie Mary had brothers, James Abraham 1872 (named for his grandfathers James Wilson and Abraham Gibbs), and Charles Hiram, 1874. My great grandfather, George Arthur was born on June 13, 1875. then Marion Anna 1877, Nettie Estella 1879.

Dead timber now stood as stark reminders of the fire of 1871. Once again these sapless trees and dry branches would make food for a flame. Pine, hemlock and cedar trees that weren’t burnt before had blown down over the next ten years and the forest was full of slashings of dead timber with old roots. There was lots of fuel for the burning, besides the large quantities of harvested timber that left behind the slashings.

Once again, Hiram looked up at noon that September 5th, 1881, with nervous apprehension It had already been a tragic a year for the family. William Henry Gibbs had been born July 15th 1881 and had only lived two weeks. He took his last breath on August 1. Even the swamp had burned to hard clay under the relentless heat of the sun. Day after day no rain came. Nellie Mary at 13 was too old to play but tasked with keeping Marion Anna 4 and Nettie Estella 2 within her sight. The boys James Abraham 9, Charlie 7 and George Arthur 6 made a game of jumping over the wide cracks in the ground behind their house. Once again their father, Hiram watched the crops become drought stricken. Mary Elizabeth tended her garden with such care, but the heat had penetrated this plot too. Every drop of dish and bath water had been packed to the parched rectangular plot but each stem had drooped and wilted. Then the people of Huron Township, Michigan saw an ominous sign. The sky was like twilight with a yellowish glow. This time there was an elderly father, James William and step mother Amelia and 6 children rushing to the shores of Lake Huron. Blankets were grabbed in haste and put over their heads to stop the falling ash. By the next day what would be known as the Thumb Fire burned over 1 million acres, the consequences of drought, hurricane winds, heat and logging techniques of the era. The Great Thumb Fire, The Great Forest Fire of 1881 or the Huron Fire, all were its name that killed 282 people. The damage for the times was over $2million and once again consumed most of Gore Township, Huron County and three others. This was where my Smith relatives lived just north of the village of Port Hope.

Perhaps it was a lightning strike that started the fires fanned by the winds. Port Huron suffered serious damage. In 1881, the Thumb Fire followed the path of the 1871 fire.

Hiram and Mary Elizabeth Smith welcomed a boy, Lendley, who was named after his Uncle Lendley Smith when he was born the next year, August 21, 1882. Two years later Minnie was born August 24th, 1884 but by September 7 only 2 weeks old died. The Smith family stayed in the area for 3 more years but the lumbering industry was finished. They packed up the wagon and headed west. The appearance of Rachel Frances Lillian Smith at Spink, South Dakota on September 19, 1887 put a stop to their travels. At the time of the 1900 census Hiram and Mary Smith Gibbs had been married 33 years. They had relocated to Flathead, Montana; Hiram was 54, Mary Elizabeth 49, only the two youngest were living with them Lendley 17 and Rachel 12. Both Hiram and Lendley were listed as day laborers, living in a mortgage free home. Another move for the family, back to the country their ancestors had called home after the Revolutionary War was about to occur; instead of Ontario they would go homesteading in Alberta before it was even a province, 1904.

Port Hope

Port Hope, Michigan, began as a lumber town. It is on Michigan’s Upper Thumb, situated on the shore of Lake Huron. It was a boom and bust town. The lumber industry created frontier millionaires and dirty towns sprang up around the mills. Salt blocks, were constructed to produce salt for export and utilized tons of debris from the sawmills as fuel.

Ruben Dimond invested in lumber tracts in what would become Port Hope. By 1851, William R. Stafford bought out Dimond and partnered with William Southard. They bought up 40 acre land warrants from the Us Government that were set aside as pension benefits for veterans of the War of 1812. Legend says Southard was coming to see what he bought. A storm arose, the schooner let them off and at night rowing in a boat against the wind he vowed he’d name the spot Port Hope if they reached it.

Stafford and Southard constructed sawmills and began lumbering operations. By 1858 a large dock was finished allowing ships to transport the finished lumber. There was an 80 foot chimney at one of the mills. The Bottom 9x 10 feet is built of sandstone with an open hearth. The upper portion of the stack is built of red brick and rises to gradually taper about another 60 feet. The Stafford dock extended into the lake from the saw mill, was a structure of timber cribs filled with stone. The great fires of 1871 and 1881 destroyed much of Stafford’s mills, docks and millions of board feet of finished lumber. The fires devastated the declining lumbering operations.

Port Hope, Michigan is the site of reconciliation for my family ancestors. A deep and painful chapter of Canadian and American history was played out in the Revolutionary War. The Gibbs family (Abraham and Keziah Atwood Gibbs children fought for the Revolution). The Miller, Bush, Weaver, Saxe, Leroy families were Loyalists and most escaped to Canada during and after the war of 1775-1783. After fighting for years in the Revolutionary War my 4th great grandfather, Isaac Gibbs, moved to Missiisquoi, Quebec amongst the loyalists by 1792. Here his sons, Abraham born 1806 and Hiram Gibbs born on February 2, 1812 at Farnham, Brome Missisquoi, Quebec to Isaac and Lydia Gibbs. Abraham Gibbs married Anna Sax on November 4, 1833 at Stanbridge, Quebec. This was the start of the reconcialation.

Abraham and Anna Gibbs had seven children. Their names will carry on for the next generations. And two of their children would marry into the Smith’s of Irish background who fought for the British army who had married into very Loyalist background families. I think they were tired of the wars! War seems to be part of our DNA, part of human nature. It is the consequence of religious, ethnic, economic, and political differences. It is part of a greed for land, oil, prestige and power. For a little while my DNA matches overcome all the reasons to go to war and united in love. They overcame the vicious cycle of war and I join their optimism that war is a choice and that these two families united and sought the alternative – to love.

The children of Abraham and Anna Gibbs James William and Mary Ann Wilson Smith

were named:

John Nelson Gibbs 1834-1891

Rachel Francis Gibbs 1836-1874 married John Nicholas Smith 1834-1920

they married in 1855 in Perth County, Upper Canada and immigrated with both families to Gore, Michigan to Port Hope where George A., Minerva Estella, named after Minerva Smith, Anna Jane and a baby were born. Rachel died in 1874 at age 38.

Caroline 1837-1891

John H 1840-1909

George Arthur 1841-1841

Peter Abraham 1842-1911

Hiram Garner Gibbs 1848-1913 married Mary Elizabeth Smith 1850-1940.

Mary Elizabeth’s father, James William Smith from Limerick, Ireland and her mother, Mary Ann Wilson, Selby, Ontario had married, and were some of the first settlers at St. Mary’s, Ontario. True pioneers of Upper Canada. They moved across the Huron Lake to Port Hope, Michigan around 1855, where their last child Lendley W. Smith was born there, December 10, 1858. I looked up the maritime history for the Great Lakes in 1855. It was a dangerous time with 362 disasters that year and 122 lives lost. It details a passenger steamer, the explosion of her boiler, schooners that wrecked in storms and sunk or wrecked by collision in a fog. The Smith’s made the journey and once again were the first pioneers in the area. The land listed under the name of James Smith, SW quarter of the SE quarter of Section 19, and the W 1/2 of NE quarter and the SE quarter of the NE quarter Section 30 in township 18 containing 160 acres bought in 1857, was fully paid and registered to him. Mary Ann gave birth to their last child Lendley W. Smith on December 10, 1858 in Huron Country, Michigan. By 1860 there was a post office listed as Port Hope. Mary Ann Wilson Smith died on January 31, 1867. She was 48 years old leaving my 2nd great grandmother, Mary Elizabeth aged 17, George 13 and a young Lendley only 9, with her husband 58 years. They’d been married for 38 years. James William Smith knew what it was like to be motherless and he remarried three years later to Amelia Wood. They were married for 25 years when she died in 1895.

Perhaps the couple dined out at the Pay Port Hotel built in 1886. It was for the times state of the art having 117 heated rooms, hot and cold running water bathrooms, bowling alleys, pool tables and electric lights, with highlights of a Casino and a barbershop. The culinary crew of six boasted the finest in Michigan.

James William Smith died 5 years later on December 1, 1890 at Gore, Huron, Michigan having reached the age of 83. The motherless lad from Ireland, crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a voyage taking 12 weeks, learned to blacksmith to make a living, at St. Mary’s, Ontario. At the age of 50 he came to the shores of Lake Huron and used his blacksmith skills to build up Port Hope and become a farmer. After coming to live in the US from Canada he would read about Abe Lincoln’s anti slavery speech and live through the Civil War. He would discuss Thomas A. Edison’s first electric battery experiments erected at Port Huron. He lived through 2 of the worst fires in history in 1871 and again ten years later in 1881, facing nature’s frightening power. He and his family would receive help from the American Red Cross in its first disaster relief. In 1883, his grandchildren in the area would have compulsory school attendance. 1885, his sons would be in a lumber strike, the militia called out as temper flares and a ten hour workday law is passed. He would marvel at the tunnel being built under the St. Clair River linking foreign countries he had lived in when Port Huron, Michigan and Sarnia, Ontario are joined by the Grand Trunk R.R. tunnel; however he didn’t quite live long enough to see the first train come through. Imagine all James William Smith did see and live through! 1808-1890

From St. Mary’s, Limerick to St. Mary’s, Ontario

My beloved hills and coulees of home beside the Milk River, Alberta Canada

When I was about eleven, my mother and I wandered to the top of a high hill and she told me a story about a dinosaur dragging his tail to make the river valley. When the dinosaur swished his tail from side to side, he created the coulees.

I imagine my third great grandfather, James William Smith walking with his mother, Alecia Jephson Smith, at about the same age along the Shannon River, in Limerick, Ireland. She told about the river monster, called Cata, with a horse’s mane, gleaming eyes, thick feet, nails of iron and a whale’s tail. In the monster’s attempt to flee Ireland, it carves out the route that the Shannon would flow down for centuries. James William was thinking about fleeing like Cata. James William remembered well the happy day the family of Nicholas and Alicia Smith had presented their daughter, his baby sister on March 20, 1819 at the Cathedral St. Mary, Limerick for baptism. Along with sisters, Johanna and Margaret, the newest babe, another girl was named Anna Maria, was carried up the majestic steps of a once royal palace, overlooking the River Shannon.

His parents, Nicholas Smith and Alicia Jephson wed on May 29, 1806. The wedding had also taken place at the beautiful St. Mary’s Cathedral in Limerick, Ireland. 13 years the couple were married and when James William was 11, Alicia Jephson Smith, his mother and the girls died. The son of Nicholas and Alicia, James William was motherless in Ireland in 1819. What what his life like in Ireland? That spring the Select Committee of the House of Commons inquired into the state of disease and condition of the poor in Ireland. Typhus epidemic continues. The Ribbonmen, a secret society of rural Irish Catholics formed in response to miserable conditions in which tenant farmers were evicted and wanted separation of Ireland from Great Britain. James William chose the path of his father and grandfather and at age 17 he joined the 34th Regiment British Army for Life! His enlistment says for life? How then did he come to Canada?. I have found no records. No immigration, until myheritage.com gave a clue. Of the hundreds of James Smith’s that immigrated out of Ireland there is one on the Ship Dalhouse Castle that embarked from Liverpool, England and arrived on August 21, 1829 at New York. On the passenger list were many Wilson’s. Could this be my James William? It’s a possibility, and the connection of travelling with Wilson’s is another possibility of how he would come to Canada and meet Mary Ann Wilson. James William Smith, my 3rd great grandfather had come to Canada by the year 1832, at age 24 when he wed my 3nd great grandmother Mary Ann Wilson, a very young bride at the age of 14, a descendent of the Mary Ann Bush, Rebecca Miller, and Garrett Miller, Loyalist family.

St. Mary’s, Ontario was first settled in the early 1840’s by settlers at the junction of the Thames River and Trout Creek. It’s first nickname was Little Falls, as the river cascaded over the limestone ledges and provided power for the towns mills. It soon became known for its limestone quarry and earned the nickname Stonetown, which the houses were built from. In 1844 the town of St. Mary’s had 120 people in it and was thriving having a grist mill, saw mill, 1 physician and surgeon, 2 asheries, 3 stores, 1 tavern, 1 shoemaker, 1 tailor, 1 cooper and 1 blacksmith. According to the 1860 census, James went by the name William Smith and was the blacksmith.

It is to the town of St. Mary’s Perth Ontario that my third great grandfather James William Smith set up housekeeping with Mary Ann Wilson. The Wilson’s were from Selby, Ontario where their name was associated with the Methodist religion, being preachers and Sunday school class leaders.

I have three theories about why these my third great grandparents choose this location. The brother of Laura Secord, Thomas Ingersoll, built the mills at “The Little Falls” of the Thames or St. Mary’s. These settlement formed around these mills built in 1841-43 and in exchange he received 337 acres from the Canada Company. The Canada Company was the brainchild of John Galt. In 1826 he purchased from the Canadian government 2.5 million acres of land for $295,000 or about 12 cents/acre. He had payments over 16 years and the company failed to provide the promised improvements. (Maybe why they went looking for greener pastures?) In published brochures to attract potential settlers the Canada Company said they would arrange for transportation, help settlers select land, provide equipment and seed for the first crop and assist in the construction of homes. Another theory of how James settled here was a Roman Catholic Bishop, Alexander Macdonell. He accepted the government promise of 200 acres in Upper Canada to every soldier who emigrated. He was the leader of the mainly Irish settlers. Or my third theory is James William Smith had fond memories of his early childhood at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Limerick, Ireland, and liked the name of St. Mary’s. What is fact is that James William and Mary Ann were amonst the first settlers in St. Mary’s, Mornington Township, Perth County, Ontario at that time still called Upper Canada. Seven of the nine children were born here.

By the late 1850’s the community was bustling when the Grand Trunk Railroad helped it grow to become a center for milling, grain-trading and manufacture for farm related products. My second great grandmother was born nearby in Mornington Township, Perth County on July 7, 1850 and must have enjoyed the first library opened in 1857. She grew up amongst a large family of Smith’s: John Nicholas 1834 through whom I have DNA matches, James William Jr. 1837, Sarah Jane 1839, Charles Wesley (Charlie) 1841, Levi (sp Levy on census) 1845, Manervia Ann 1847, my 2nd great grandmother Mary Elizabeth 1850, George 1854 and Lendley, 1858. Note the names of Mary Elizabeth’s siblings because they are about to repeated in the next generations.

By the census of 1860, James William Smith and family had made the decision to cross the Huron Lake and were found at Port Hope, Huron County, Michigan. He is listed as William, age 52, a blacksmith, wife Mary, children Charles 18, Livy 14 (Levy), Marianna 13, Mary E. 10, George 7 and Lindley 1, having been born in Michigan. The three oldest, John Nicolas, James William and Sarah Jane, are also on the census having married and were living close by.

A Wedding May 29, 1806 in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, Ireland

Let’s add the interesting last name of Smith to my ancestors. It must almost be any researchers worst nightmare.

Saint Mary’s Cathedral was built in 1168 A. D. on a hilltop on King’s Island, Limerick. It is still used today! It belongs to the Church of Ireland. The King of Munster, Donal Mor O’Brien once stood on its steps. It has witnessed invasions, sieges, battles, wars, famine, unrest and sometimes peace.

In researching I found the Vikings and Norsemen from Scandinavia came raiding the isolated monasteries in their longboats during the 8th century. Eventually in Munster, in the small kingdoms, amongst which Limerick was the most prominent, there were many rivalries and complex alliances with native Irish Gaelic clans, with other Vikings in Ireland. The kingdom of Munster was eventually divided after it withstood invasions by the Normans and in the 16th century was brought under the English Crown in Ireland.

The Ulster plantation was the cause of the 1641 Irish Rebellion. Thousands of settlers were killed, expelled and fled. The Irish Catholics were defeated in the Cromwellian conquest of 1652, and their land confiscated and thousands of English soldiers settled in Ireland.

I am assuming this may be how the Smith’s became Irish? The forced dominance of the Protestant class persisted until the late 1800’s when they reluctantly voted for the Act of Union with Britain in 1800. My 3rd great grandfather Nicholas Smith wed Alicia Jephson on May 29, 1806. The location for the wedding was the beautiful St. Mary’s Cathedral which has six chapels: the Chapel of Saint James and Mary Magdalene, the Lady Chapel, the Chapel of the Holy Spirit; the Jebb Chapel; Saint Mark’s Chapel, and Saint George’s Chapel. It’s sad to me that after 1651, and Oliver Cromwell captured Limerick, his army used the cathedral as a stable, his troops removed the altar which has been reinstated in 1960. Inside the cathedral are famous features of carved misericords. These misericords are unique in Ireland, dating from 1480-1500. In the early church, priests stood for the service, and sitting was prohibited. There was a lip on the edge of these seats that allowed the clergy to rest while the seats were tipped up, so it appeared as if they were standing but were allowed to sit in an act of mercy, thus the name misericords. There are 21 carvings, with depictions of a two legged one horned goat, a griffin, a sphinx, a wild boar, an angel, a head resembling Henry IV, a dragon biting its tail, antelopes with inter-twined necks, a swan, an eagle, The Lion of Judah with a dragon, a two headed lizard holding its tail and a wyvern or two legged dragon biting its tail. I can imagine the awe of wedding at this church, with its exquisite stained glass windows illustrating in great color the biblical stories of salvation. Standing in the main aisle of the Cathedral Nicholas and Alicia could look up and see the arcaded arches. High above them on three sides, on the north, west and south sides, was a monk’s walk or clerestory. The interior roof was wooden made from the Cratloe oak, from the forests of nearby County Clare. Below the 120 foot tower, Nicholas and Alicia would have entered the cathedral that day in 1806, through the elaborately carved door, once the entrance to King Donal Mor O’Brien’s Palace. Did they notice the two cannon balls, that damaged the Cathedral in 1691 during the Williamite Siege of Limerick? Or did they squint through the leper’s squint. In olden times leprosy, common then, was highly contagious and therefore Lepers were not allowed in. The holes allowed them to see in, hear mass and receive Communion. The couple are listed on a registry for St. Mary’s Cathedral at Limerick, Ireland for their daughter Anna Maria baptized on March 20, 1819.

The children were born: James William Smith May 23, 1808 – 1890; Johana 1809; Margaret 1814 and Anna Maria,1819. Alicia’s death is listed as 1819. This means my 3rd great grandfather James William Smith son of Nicholas and Alicia by the age of 11 was motherless.

An Irish Wedding, Dec 10, 1780 at Nobber, Ireland

If my 5th great grandmother’s name is Mary Fagan, then perhaps the newest family author is Oisin Fagan. He writes in his debut novel about the town of Nobber, 1348 during the plaque. Mary Fagan’s son, my 4th great grandfather Nicholas Smith is buried back in his home town of Nobber, County Meath, Ireland in 1840, having died May 11 at the age of 55.

Oisin Fagan says he had no idea his novel about the Black Death that reached Ireland, set in the village of Nobber that lies in the County Meath, would mimic the Covid-19 rampaging through my world today. I still have windows and can leave for essentials, unlike the townsfolk of Nobber who have a total curfew. As conmen descend on the town in County Meath to take over the land they meet some stark raving bonkers characters. Locked inside their homes, they are quarantined within Nobber as their families succumb to the plaque.

My 5th great grandfather, Anthony Smith was baptized on September 4, 1769, at Dublin, Booterstown, Ireland in the Dublin Diocese. His father is listed as Willm Smith, mother Margaret. These 5th great grandparents Anthony Smith and Mary Fagan wed on December 10, 1780. The occasion took place and was noted in the Ireland, Catholic Parish Marriages and Banns, in the Parish of Nobber and Cruisetown, Diocese of Meath in County Louth. The first witness was Jas Smith, the second Barny Fitzsimons. The next year, my 4th great grandfather, Nicholas Smith my 4th great parent was born and baptized November 13, 1781. Parents : Anthony and Mary Fagan; 1st witness and sponsor Brian Fagan and 2nd witness Bridget Blake. Though the Church of Ireland, a Protestant denomination was the established state church from 1536 to 1870, Ireland’s population remained overwhelmingly Roman Catholic.

Anthony Smith put on his new scarlet jacket and tight fitting pants that tucked into knee high boots. He had joined the British army, being in the 1st Battalion of the 87th Regiment, during the Napoleonic Wars. The 1st Battalion remained in the Channel Islands and England until being sent to South America in 1806-07.

The 87th Regiment of Foot was an infantry regiment of the British Army, raised in 1793. The 1st Battalion with Anthony Smith sailed for South America in September 1806 and took part in the disastrous expedition, seeing action at the Battle of Montevideo, at Montevideo, Uruguay, in February 1807. The 87th was recognized by the British house for their brave exertions with their skill and valor. Monte Video was carried by assault and the bravery of the troops left an impression upon the enemy in that quarter of the globe. The 87th Regiment of Foot was awarded the battle honor “Monte Video”. The siege started with heavy artillery and the defenders added hides to the wall to fill the breach. Once inside the walls they met heavy resistance but forced the defenders back. Anthony Smith along with the 87th Foot (later called Royal Irish Fusiliers) were waiting at the city’s second gate. The gate never opened so they scaled the walls and attacked from behind. There was an unconditional surrender. Was it here Anthony Smith was wounded amongst the 600 casualties? Or perhaps it was during the unsuccessful attack on Buenos Aires in July 1807. After several days of street fighting against the militia and Spanish army, half the British forces were killed or wounded, and the British were forced to withdraw. They were captured by Spanish troops during the attack and later released. I found Anthony Smith, at age 40 being discharged Feb 3, 1808, a private, in the Royal Irish Fusiliers, from the UK, Royal Hospital Chelsea Admissions and Discharges.

Nicholas Smith followed in his father’s footsteps joining the 97th Foot Soldiers in Munchin, Limerick on November 13, 1803, at the age of 18. The 97th served in Ireland for a year and then was sent to the West Indies. Nicholas Smith married Alicia Jephson on May 29, 1806 and had four children before she died as a young mother, in Limerick, Ireland at the age of 34, 1819. That year 1819, was the year Anna Maria their youngest child was born. I do not know what she died from. My 2nd great grandfather James William Smith was born May 23, 1808 in Ireland, along with sisters: Johanna 1809, Margaret 1814 and Anna Marie, 1819. I find no further record of the girls so presume they died young. This left James William motherless at the age of 11. I found James Smyth at age 17 enlisting in the UK army on Jan 24, 1825 in the 43rd Foot Soldiers. James is 5′ 9 1/2′, with grey eyes and brown hair, born in Limerick, employed as a laborer, period of service, Life! This was one way to get fed and clothed by joining the army, and following in his father’s and grandfather’s army occupations. His regiment served at Gibraltar from 1823 to 1830 and then returned to England. James William Smith immigrated to Canada sometime before 1832 when he wed Mary Wilson on February 11, 1832. James William was 24, an Irish Catholic when he wed the young 14 year old girl, Mary Wilson, whose grandfather was an Irish Palatine with very strict Methodist roots. There has to me more to his story: How did he leave the army and how did he make his way into Canada. So far I found no records of either, which raises my suspicions.

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