Once Upon a Time: “My Pioneer Great Grandfather”

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.

Prince Albert coat and                  top hat

My great grandfather was Alexander McCosh. As it seemed the only future open to his sons was working in the Scottish coal mines, the family left Glasgow, landed some weeks later in New York and then on to Toronto.

His granddaughter reported that when he came to Canada, Alexander was wearing a Prince Albert coat made of broadcloth, white vest, knee britches, doeskin leggings and high hat.

After staying with friends in Ayr, the McCosh father and sons walked to the Queen’s Bush and took up over 300 acres along the Lake Range in what is now Huron Township. That first summer, Alexander and son William cleared enough land to erect a shanty. The entire family came        next year and, instead of the more common log houses, they built a frame home from their own cut timber. Living near the Pine River, they watered their cattle there and caught many fish, especially suckers in the Spring.

At first, settlers walked to Goderich for flour, then later to Kincardine. Eventually, mills were built at Lurgan and on the Pine River. Hardwood ashes were carried to Kincardine for the ashery. Mrs. McCosh would also carry her eggs and butter to that town, exchanging them for things not produced on her family’s farm. To save shoe leather, she would carry her shoes until almost reaching town.

The McCosh grandchildren were born between 1862-1877. They all walked three miles to the Lugan school. As teens, they trekked to Good Templar gatherings at Bethel and Young People’s meetings in Pine River, at both the Methodist and Presbyterian churches. A three to five mile journey there and back on foot was not considered a hardship.

Alexander planted a large orchard, covering about two acres. Many lilacs and shrubs were set around the house. A bed of roses grew in front of their home. In the garden were gooseberries and black currants. A neighbour girl (Catherine Welsh), said that Mrs. McCosh would make her whistle while she picked currants so that she would know she wasn’t eating them. More next month about the McCosh family.

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