Once Upon a Time: Memories of my Grandparents


In retirement, William R. Millar describes how his memory took him back to Lot 59 on the Durham Road in Kincardine Township. This location, at that time only a broken ox trail going to Walkerton, was where his grandfather received a free grant of 50 acres from the Crown in 1850.

First, Grandfather William Millar built his log cabin, leaving an opening in the centre of the roof for smoke from his open fire to pass through. He then built a lean-to against the house. One night, a pack of wolves found their way up and on to the roof. When he heard a noise and looked up, they were peering down through the smoke hole. A fire was kept on all night to discourage their attempt to leap into the room.

Prevailing storms came from the west so grandfather’s plan was to nick an acre of trees on the west side and wait for a storm. The most westerly row of trees was cut deep so that when the wind came, these trees fell against the others; he saw the whole acre go down in one gale. I remember him telling me that wild pigeons were so plentiful that it was no trick to just flail them down with a stick for a pigeon pie.

A neighbour whose farm backed on to the Millar lots once lost control of a fire he had set. It swept across my grandfather’s place, destroying two acres of timber. This was in my lifetime and I can see him coming home at night with eyes red and inflamed from smoke. Along with neighbours, he worked two weeks to bring the fire under control.

One day, grandmother heard that her close friend’s three-year-old child had strayed from her home in Kinloss. A search in the nearby deep forest revealed a shoe with the child’s foot still in it. All other traces of the girl were gone. Bears were assumed to be responsible. Grandmother Margaret had seven boys and three girls to raise. One of the younger boys had grown very restless and wanted to go west. Grandfather replied: “We need you here, but if you are determined, you will need a warm overcoat; here is mine.” He later wrote that he had a cook’s job in an Idaho lumber camp.

My father, Mathew Millar, remained on the home farm until 1912. Grandmother died in 1898 and Grandfather in 1910. Both are buried in Kincardine cemetery.


                                             Kincardine Cemetery


This article was originally written for the 1973 Bruce County Historical Society yearbook and adapted by Bob Johnston.