Once Upon a Time: Pioneer Neighbours near Stokes Bay

Helene Murray Scott was a native of Stokes Bay and wrote about her family roots in this small farming community.

Malcolm McIvor was my great grandfather. “Malcolm-the-Bone,” (meaning honest), as he was known, was a real crusty old Scot, full of years and rheumatism, which didn’t help his disposition any. His cabin was much the same as other old-timers who came from the land of the heather.

A field stone fireplace filled one end of the cabin and most of the cooking, even bread baking was done there. A lean-to was built at one end wall to shelter the cow and calf.

Malcolm was truly courageous, even if stubborn. After first farming in the Stratford area, he sold that property, seeking a more rugged pioneer challenge on the Peninsula, but not paying a penny more than necessary to get it. The McIvor children were all grown when Malcolm made his move. Their beautiful daughter, Jessie, had moved to Detroit and married Robert Gray, a handsome army officer.

Robert came to visit his in-laws only once and once was enough. He was so terrified of the rugged bush country that he sat up all night with pistol drawn, ready for the wild animals he thought would surely come crashing through the cabin door. He left the next day, never to return. The Grays had two children: a son who became a lawyer and a daughter, Lillian, who was a WW1 nurse.

Great grandmother McIvor was a remarkable woman. She was tall and spare with abundant black hair without a touch of gray until she was over seventy. She was the only woman in the Presbyterian congregation called upon to speak in church. In those times, men did not hold with their women speaking in public. She was beloved by all the children in the community. They would love to visit and be made welcome with a piece of bannock (pronounced the Gaelic way,) or a scone made with milk. All our grandparents and great grandparents on both sides spoke the Gaelic, with English used by some only when necessary.

The next generation of McIvors soon followed to farm near Stokes Bay village. (To be continued.)


This article was originally written by Helene Murray Scott for the 1976 Bruce County Historical Society yearbook and adapted by Bob Johnston