horizontal rule The Ancestry of Mary Jane Shaw horizontal rule

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 Country."

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 was disbanded.

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.

horizontal rule Gorby Pioneers horizontal rule

I only know that Captain Taylor later moved his family up the Ottawa to Upper Canada, and bought land in Renfew county. Here he built a large stone house. In later years, my cousin, Alvin Gorby, visited in this part of Ontario, looking up people, and places and cemeteries, of our relatives. They gave him the tintype of William and Alice Gorby. Alvin told me that Captain Taylor and his wife had a daughter Henrietta, who married an Irishman, by the name of John Shaw. In 1847, in their home at Castleford, Renfew County, Henrietta Shaw gave birth to a daughter, whom they named Mary Jane. She grew to be an attractive girl with brown eyes and a slender figure. She looked like a lady, but in reality she was reared as a real pioneer woman, who could spin and weave, raise chickens and a garden, make soft-soap, bread, pickles, and preserves -- knit and sew, scrub and cook. It is well that she learned all these things, for in 1866, at 19 years of age, she was married to Thomas Gorby, of Cobden, Renfew County, eldest son of William, from Ireland, and they had a family of six sons and one adopted daughter. Their family:
  John Albert, born 1868
Henry, born 1870
William, born 1872
Edward, born 1875
Herbert Alvin, born in 1880 (my father)
Laurence Ernst, born in 1882
Jessie Ella (White), born in 1884

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.

horizontal rule Onward to Manitoba horizontal rule

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 as needed.

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.

horizontal rule The Dauphin Homesteads horizontal rule

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.

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horizontal rule Table of Contents
horizontal rule The Beginning
horizontal rule Gorby Pioneers
horizontal rule Onward To Manitoba
horizontal rule The Dauphin Homesteads
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