Once Upon a Time: “My Pioneer Great Grandfather” – Part 2


Mrs. Gladys McCosh Arnold was born in Huron Township and loved local history. In 1975, she wrote about her Scottish ancestors who set sail for Canada on April 23, 1853. This is part 2 of her story. (To read part 1, Click Here)

The family was very self-sufficient. Sheep provided meat and wool, from which most of their clothing was made. A smoke-house was used to cure hams. A cheese-press made cheese. A cider mill provided cider or apple pulp for making apple butter. A workshop provided means for making furniture and implements. Leach was used in the making of soap. Large iron kettles and coolers were useful for cooking meat or boiling maple syrup.

Once, Mrs. William McCosh, my grandmother, almost had a child drown in a cooler of buttermilk, being saved for livestock. She found her eldest son, Alex, having a lot of fun dunking his little brother in the buttermilk. Apparently, Robert and the other boys never had a fear of water because, as school boys, they spent all their free time possible in the Lake, and learned to swim well.

My grandmother said they attended the Auld Kirk every Sunday in Kincardine until 1880. Sunday was the Sabbath day. She got everything ready on Saturday and laid out their clothes for Sunday. On that morning they rode in a wagon the seven miles to Kincardine. She said they even made that trip when Robert was only two weeks old and the older child sixteen months. They never invited anyone to their home on the Sabbath. If someone came unexpectedly, Scottish hospitality demanded they be well-treated, but were never asked back. Visiting could be done during the week.

I remember this grandmother who died in 1919 as always wearing a small round covering on her head. A black laced-edged cover was used for her dress-up. These early pioneers worked hard, but life was less hurried than now. Entertainment was simple and happy and centered around the home and church.

My Great-Grandfather, Alexander McCosh, after recognizing that working in the coal mines was the only future open to his sons in Scotland, left his home country to come to Canada (ed. note: In retrospect, it was apparently a wise decision for his family and their descendants.)

This article was first written for the Bruce County Historical Society’s 1975 yearbook and adapted by Bob Johnston