Here we will leave the Gorbys, and take you back across the Atlantic Ocean,
to find out how Mary Jane's family happened to come to Canada from the "Old
In 1808, Wellington, with a large English army, was stationed in Portugal,
fighting to keep the French under Napoleon, from overcoming Europe,
Wellington drove the French out of Portugal, through Spain, and back into
France, with his well-trained army. Wellington chose his officers carefully.
They did not come up from the ranks; he chose his Captains from the families
of his friends in the English Aristocracy, asked for certain young men, and
trained them himself. He liked the young, showed obvious delight in their
dashing style and high spirit. If ability was found to be lacking, no youth
was permitted to remain.
These young officers, in turn, idolized their leader. They would rather see
his long nose in a battle, then a reinforcement of 10,000 men any day. They
said the admired and copied him: his red coat, the white breeches, the tall
boots, his neat hair style. They tried to imitate his coolness under fire,
followed his orders, his decision to wait for the enemy to strike. Each
captain must be a gentleman. he must pay for his own uniform, have money to
live on, as money from the English government was not always available. He
must be able to drink socially without becoming intoxicated, treat ladies with
respect, and gallantry. These officers would fight in the rain and the cold,
with mud sucking their tall boots off, with nothing to eat but acorns, and
still admire their leader.
While they were in Portugal, the wealthier Portuguese entertained Wellington
and his British Officers in their homes, grateful for their protection. During
these gatherings, on Captain Taylor met, and fell in love with a young
Portuguese girl, just graduated from the convent. Her father refused his
request for her hand in marriage, considering Captain Taylor to be a
foreigner. Whereupon, she buried her jewels under a tree in the garden, eloped
with Captain Taylor, and they were married by the padre in Wellington's army.
She never returned to collect her jewelry, but became one of the war-brides
who followed the army wherever it was stationed. By 1811 they had driven the
French out of Portugal into Spain. They fought them across Spain to the
Pyrenees, and by 1814 they had driven them back to Paris. In July of 1815
Wellington conquered Napoleon in the Battle of Waterloo. After this the army
When Captain Taylor took his wife home to the family estate in England, his
parents did not approve of her, considering her to be a foreigner, in her
speech and appearance. This may have been the reason that he sailed with her
to Canada; or it may have been that Wellington sent Captain Taylor, along with
many other officers, to join the English Garrison in Quebec. The Citadel of
Quebec had been rebuilt after 1812, as part of the general defense against
probable American attack. Neither the English nor the French in Canada wanted
to become part of the United States. In the American Invasion of 1812-14, the
Canadians came to realize that they had something very worthwhile to protect.
We have seen the paintings by Baucourt, Berozy and Kreighoff, of the happy
life in Canada at this time.
I have no proof that Captain Taylor served in Quebec only the memory of
references to it, in conversations of my parents and my grandparents, Thomas
and Mary Jane, when I was a very young child. If he did, he and his wife would
have sailed swiftly across the Atlantic in a big clipper ship, more
comfortably than the sailing of the Gorby's; and they no doubt enjoyed the
life in the English-speaking garrison at Quebec.
As the boys grew, they attended school; when not at school, they became
carpenters, hunters, farm workers, sheep shearers, bee keepers and all the
other occupations that a pioneer life demanded. then the eldest son John
finished school, he was sent to the Normal School in Toronto, where he became
a licensed school teacher, and worked for two years in a one-room school near
home. By this time, Thomas and Mary Jane Gorby were looking toward the West,
as the railway had been built as far west as Regina, Saskatchewan, by 1882.
Manitoba had become a province of Canada in 1870, and homesteads were being
offered there. With a family of six sons, it seemed to be a good idea to move
to Manitoba, a land of opportunity for a large family. Homesteads were offered
at ten dollars down, a whole quarter section, one hundred and sixty acres, all
for ten dollars, and the promise to live there for three months out of every
year, and build a shack and stable, buy a plow and a pair of oxen, and improve
the land. No stumps of trees to remove, as in Ontario - only a heavy grass sod
to turn over in a long straight furrow. around the numerous creeks and rivers
were clumps of poplar and birch trees, in the hollows. These provided fuel for
stoves, or material to build houses and stables. Wooded low knowles had trees
on them, but the level land was free of stumps and stones. Plenty of partridge
and prairie chicken lived in the wooded area, sloughs were full of wild ducks
and geese, good hay was found in the native grass, and the soil was so rich
that wheat was sixty bushels to the acre, and oats a hundred bushels to the
acre. These encouraging stories were in fact, true. There was not so much
emphasis put on the fact that houses got so cold in the nights of the long
prairie winters, that the water in pails and basins would be frozen solid by
morning and the windows covered with an inch of frost. Only a buffalo robe on
the bed could keep one warm. But the knowledge that each son, when he reached
the age of eighteen, could have a homestead of one hundred and sixty acres of
his own, was reason enough to some to Manitoba. Besides a new railroad was
being built, north of Winnipeg. It would provide extra work. Building railways
was "Big Business" in those days. The Gorbys were convinced.
Onward to Manitoba
In 1880 the Canadian Pacific Railway Company had conquered the plateau of
rock and scrub and swamp north of Lake Superior, and were pushing the railroad
through to Manitoba and the prairies, south of the Saskatchewan Valley. So, in
1888, leaving the Ontario homestead with other members of the family, Thomas
and Mary Jane packed their household effects, and prepared to move to
Manitoba. They would ship their horses, cattle, and sheep. They took their
bedsteads, the spinning wheel, woolen blankets, homemade quilts, bedticks
filled with goose feathers, pillows, chests of drawers, a mirrored buffet,
two tables, dishes, cooking utensils, cutlery, family photos, the Bible, all
the school books, a few window curtains, and a tablecloth, clothing, the
precious violins, and a guitar (added luxury.) Notice, no chairs - they would
be made as needed, as other furniture was, shelves, a rocking chair, and beds
Thomas and Mary Jane Gorby with their six sons and little daughter, said
good-bye to all their friends and relatives in Renfew County, and boarded the
train at Pembrook. They traveled on the OPR over the north of Lake superior,
through Port Andrew, Fort William, Kenora, Winnipeg, and onto Brandon,
Manitoba. Here they disembarked, and took a homestead at Souris, about thirty
miles south of Brandon.
It was 1888, and John was twenty years of age, Henry eighteen, William
sixteen, Edward thirteen, Herbert eight, Laurence was six, and Jessie four
years old. Quickly, with everyone working together, this homestead was turned
into a good farm. with level fields and fine building. a great blue immensity
of sky was reflected in the rivers and lakes of the prairies. Long grasses
blew in the warm wind and the air was fresh with the smell of pine and sage.
The summer days lasted from 3:30 am until 9 at night, but when the winter
came, the light would only last until 4 in the afternoon. In summer, grass
fires, in pots, kept mosquito's away - in winter, log fires had to be kept
going at night, and buffalo rugs put on the beds to keep warm. Even so,
morning found the house so cold that water was frozen in the basin, and heads
were kept under the blankets to keep the noses from freezing, until morning
fires were lit.
The Gorbys were soon able to sell this farm for a good price, as they had
heard of a rich and beautiful valley to the north, between the Riding
Mountains and the Duck Mountains, with creeks and rivers flowing into Lakes
Dauphin and Winnipefosis, and a new railroad being built to Prince Albert, and
needing workers. So they packed their belongings into Red River carts, and,
driving their animals before them, they traveled north on the Burrows Road.
They left a little grave in Souris: their youngest son Laurence had died of
pneumonia, following an attack of measles, during the cold winter.
There was a stopping house at Lake Audy on the northern slope of Riding
Mountain. Here, in tents provided with floor boards and cross beams, and
lighted by candles, were lodged an overflow of visitors. In one of these
tents, young Herbert woke from sleep one morning, convinced that he had died
during the night, because his eyes would not open. His wild shrieks brought
his Mother running from the stopping house. She peeled the hardened wax from
his eyelids where it had dropped during the night, from the candles on the
cross-beam above his head. She convinced him that he was indeed alive, and
that today was the very beginning of a new life for him, for today they would
travel down to their new home in Dauphin Valley.
The Dauphin Homesteads
They took a homestead on the banks of the Ochne River, quickly put up house,
stables, granaries, and cleared the land for planting. A good offer from a Mr.
Wolfe persuaded them to sell this farm, and to take another homestead, much
closer to the settlement of Dauphin. Here they took four quarter sections
about seven miles from Dauphin, and three miles from Dauphin Lake. John owned
one quarter section, the N. West corner. The family built on the S. W.
quarters, and the S. E. quarters and N. quarters were for which other sons
wanted them. John later sold his quarter, as he was the first licensed teacher
in the district, but the family still owned section 22-21-18.
The land was in a wild state, thickly timbered with clumps of willow, and
groves of tall poplar, oak, elm, and birch. A clear narrow stream called "the
Creek" crossed the section, flowing through the center, where a flowing well
of pure clear water gushed forth, where the four quarters met. It kept the
creek brimming, for watering the farm animals. On a sunny hillside, North of
the flowing well, white beehives stood in rows. A smoke house held hams and
bacons from the pigs, enclosed on the North East quarter by the creek. Along
the creek, on the South East quarter, many wild fruits grew: cranberries,
plum, choke cherries, saskatoons, raspberries and strawberries; and bright red
pin cherries. Wild roses everywhere!
Gorby home was on the SW corner, here the sheep grazed around the lawns
where the elm trees and manitoba maples had been spaced. Spring shearing
gave wool for socks and mittens. Great harvest's of vegetables were taken
from the large garden, and stored under the flooring of the house. For extra
income, to buy the expensive farm machinery, Thomas left the care of the
farm to his wife and sons, and worked as foreman on the railroad being built
north of Dauphin, up to Hudson's Bay Junction, and on to Prince Albert.
His quiet enthusiasm for his family, and his success as a farm-builder,
kept that Irish Gorby twinkle in his eyes. When all his family was grown,
he was able to work at home on the farm again.
Mary Jane was a real pioneer wife and mother. Her days were filled with
work, and many hardships to be overcome, but she managed it all with
quiet good humor, and pride in her husband and family. She carded the wool
from the sheep, spun it into woollen thread on her spinning wheel, she raised
chickens and stored the eggs - she made preserves from all the fruits
that grew along the creek - also jams and jellies. She made her soft soap
in summerdays and stored it in wooden buckets for winter. She baked
huge puffy loaves of delicious white bread twice a week or oftener;
and she taught her daughter to do all these things. She scrubbed
the wide boards of her floors to whiteness, and she tended the growing
garden, making rhubarb pies, or saskatoon pies, often. She
provided all the meals for a family of ten or eleven, as she also
boarded the teacher at times, and was always ready for unexpected
company. She did not enter into the life of the community in any way,
except to be a good friend to her neighbors, and look after her family
and her home.
Thomas and Mary Jane Gorby and their family did much to help subdue the
primitive conditions in early Manitoba. They had the satisfaction of
seeing their labours crowned with success, the result of honest and
intelligent endeavor. They had the greatest respect for, and friendship
with all their neighbors. And another contribution was their music.
All the Gorby brothers were born, I think, able to play the violin and guitar.
Perhaps they learned it from their father, Thomas, who played his
violin on the banks of the Ottawa river, and he had learned it from his father,
who played in Ireland. The boys formed their own orchestra, and each one had a
perfect ear for music. Herbert (my daddy) and Edward were particularly
proficient on violins, mellow and sweet. The Gorby Brothers played
for the "Quadrille Club" in Ochre River; this was a group of early settlers
who liked to gather in a large home, or a school, dressed in formal
evening wear they had brought from Ontario, or the old country, before
and after the turn of the century. The gentlemen wore black tie and tails,
white shirt (starched by the Chinese) and white gloves. The ladies
wore their long evening gowns, long white gloves, and their jewels.
The Gorbys, dressed as the other gentlemen, would play jigs and reels
quadrilles, square dances, and long slow waltzes. I remember my daddy
going off in his evening clothes, after 1912, and my Mother having to
stay home with me! The Gorbys played for house parties in evenings,
all over the community.
Table of Contents
Onward To Manitoba
The Dauphin Homesteads
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