by John Kenneth Galbraith
Some Genealogical Notes, Comments and Extractions
by Bruce C. Johnson Jr.
One of Elgin County’s most famous persons, Internationally acclaimed Economist and Political Advisor John Kenneth Galbraith
, was born near Ionia Station, Dunwich Township, Elgin County
, Ontario, Canada on 15 October 1908.
In 1963 Galbraith wrote a revealing and maybe too honest little book on his memoirs of “The Scotch
” community of his childhood Dunwich Township
The first edition of The Scotch was published in the UK under two alternative titles: as Made to Last and The Non-potable Scotch: A Memoir of the Clansmen in Canada. It was illustrated by Samuel H. Bryant. Galbraith’s account of his boyhood environment in Elgin County in southern Ontario was added in 1963. His description of the people he grew up among is a “gently evocative memoir of growing up in Canada, that he considers his finest piece of writing.”
Galbraith memoir, A Life in Our Times was published in 1981. It contains discussion of his thoughts, his life, and his times. In 2004, the publication of an authorized biography,John Kenneth Galbraith: His Life, His Politics, His Economics by a friend and fellow progressive economist Richard Parker renewed interest in Galbraith life journey and legacy.
– 1908 Birth Certificate for John Kenneth Galbraith-
Note that this form wanted to know whether the mother how many times the mother had been married and the year of marriage of the parents (1894). At the bottom is the submitter, father W. A. Galbraith of Iona Station.
Some notes, comments and extractions from Galbraith’s book, “The Scotch” :
Reader Beware –
While- some of this is JKG “tongue in cheek” writing there might be a wee bit of taste of Dunwich in the following.
The Scotch [of Dunwich Township, Elgin County, Ontario, Canada]
p. 11 – Galbraith comments on the naming of Streets and roads in Dunwich. While attempts were made to have the road he lived on called Argyll or Silver Street the inhabitants called it “Starvation Street.” Eventually it was named Hog Street but the Dutton Advance
added another “g” so consequently it became “Hogg Street.”
“Not even in the Western Isles are the Scotch to be found in more concentrated solution. Beginning at the Currie Road were first the McPHAILs and GRAHAMs, then more GRAHAMs, the McFARLANEs, the McKELLER property, CAMERONs, MORRISONs, GOWs, GALBRAITHs more McPHAILs, more MORRISONs, PATTERSONs and among others the McLEODs. Along the way were the GILROYs who may not have been Scotch and a man by the name MALONE.
p. 12 – nearby at the hamlet of Cowal everyone was named McCALLUM and the CAMPBELLs were grouped around another “minute village.”
p. 15 – “McCALLUMs, CAMPBELLs, GRAHAMs and McKILLOPs were exceptionally numerous” Common first names were John, Dan, Jim, Angus, Duncan or Malcolm. “A fair proportion of the people we knew were called John McCALLUM. The John GRAHAMs and the John CAMPBELLs were almost equally numerous.”
p. 16 – Everyone had a nickname – there were Big Johns and Little Johns and even a Wee John. Also Black John, Lame John, Dirty John, Lazy John, Old John, Bald John, Nosey John and Piggy John. “Most of the McCallums were Presbyterians; one who was not bore the proud name of John the Baptist.” “The McTAVISH were a small clan; no further identification was necessary.”
p. 17 – In 1837 one Mrs. JAMESON
, the wife of a judge of the province and a Frances Trollope of her time and place, visited Port Talbot
and the Scotch settlements and reported on the sate of the inhabitants. She was especially impressed by “There clannish attachments and their thrifty, dirty habits – and also their pride and honesty. They had not changed appreciably by my time.”
p. 18 – Some Scotch – “like our next-door neighbor, Bert McCALLUM, were very amusing.
p. 19 – “the CAMERONS were very prolific. Sons and daughters married young and had children with celerity. This was true of many of the McCALLUMS. The McKELLARS, by contrast, had ceased to marry, and the local clan had only a few more years to survive.” The CAMERONS regarded children as a valuable earning asset. Only a minimum amount of money need be spent on their improvement.”
Love and Money
p. 22 – on the subject of unfaithful Scotch men – “a stalwart (Dunwich) Highlander near our place had once been unfaithful to his wife, an almost incredibly unattractive woman, to the eventual impregnation of a maiden who lived a mile away. The baby, so it was said, was brought home in a red bandanna handkerchief and in any case was tolerantly reared by the wronged wife. By rough calculation …it all must have happened about 1890.
p. 28 on love and cows – “With the cows was a white bull named O. A. C. Pride
, for the Ontario Agriculture College
where my father had bid him in at an auction… the bull served his purpose by serving a heifer which was in season.
p. 29 – on money – One of the great McKILLOP clan was always known as Codfish John. Dried codfish was cheap and those serving it might be thought of as stingy- or very thrifty. When this man “was finally being lowered into his grave at Black’s Cemetery west of Wallacetown, it was said that he lifted the cover of the coffin and handed out his coat, waistcoat, pants and undershirt. “…it was always said of Codfish John, as of anyone else who was excessively frugal, that he was ‘very Scotch.’
p. 34 – on husbandry – the basic (Dunwich) farm was a hundred acres. This included cropland, rough pasture and a woodlot. the basic labor force was the farmer, his wife and his sons. The first problem in eliminating outlay was to eliminate the need for hired labour. Most work could be performed by one man and a team of horses. A few tasks such as haying, harvesting, cutting wood, breaking a colt required two people and a task such as threshing required a crew.
p. 36 – “In our neighborhood, wheat and beans were sold for cash. Everything else – oats, oat straw, hay, corn and more occasionally roots and barley were fed to beef cattle, hogs, sheep and chickens. The animals turned the feed into salable products or into manure for fertilizer.
p. 38 – With March came the arrival of tapping the maples. “No agriculture operation has even been invested with so much glamour as the making of maple syrup and the reason is simple; none ever had such magic.” We tapped about two hundred trees.” Sap was collected in a wooden tub mounted on a sleigh. The sap was then boiled in a flat rectangular pan in a “small shed-roofed sugar shanty.” The taste was better than that of Vermont syrup. Two brothers John and Angus McNABB up by the Thames River made some bland syrup and Jim McKILLOP showed them why. [no need for a spoiler alert -you will have to read the book to find out!]
The Men of Standing
p. 43 – On the Men of Standing – “All worked with their hands and went to the polls as equals.” Income and liquid assets were a secret between a man and his wife. Everyone worked for himself.: However attention was given to where a man stood. There were three social classes. At the top were the Men of Standing. Their views were sought. More than any subject the Scotch discussed one another. “A man’s farming methods, marketing decisions, livestock purchases, machinery acquisitions, wife, family , relatives, temperament, drinking, stomach complaints, tumors, personal expenditures, physical appearance ans his political, social and economic views were dwelt on in detail by his neighbors.” From this discussion came a sense of a man’s place.
p. 44 – Colonel TALBOT had given out 50 acres plots which a certain number of families still retained – but to the Scotch – “a man who farmed a fifty was not taken seriously on any important subject and would not be elected to public office.
p. 52 – A man of standing was likely to have more than 100 acres. The McMILLAN boys had large flat and poorish area near Dutton but had no standing. You had to be sober, a diligent worker and a competent farmer. It was tacitly agreed that some clans had higher standing. The McDIARMIDs, FERGUSONs, BLACKs, McALPINEs, McCRIMMONs, ELLIOTTs and many McKILLOPS were of the better elite. And of course the GALBRAITHs.
p. 55 – A man of standing needed to “act on improvement of the roads, the promotion of telephone service, the cooperative purchases of binder twine and the management of the Wallacetown Fair.
p. 59 – 61 – The West Elgin Agricultural Society’s annual exhibition
, known as the Wallacetown Fair
is now in it’s 154th season. The serious business of the fair was the improvement of husbandry. “Farmers brought their cattle, Sheep, hogs, fruit, roots and vegetables and their wives brought needlework, pies and cakes and other products of domestic arts.” ” We had a very good herd of purebred Shorthorns, So did Duncan BROWN
who lived a few miles away on the Back Street. “In the near distance the Muncey-Oneida Indian band
, from the reservation some ten miles to the north, would be tuning up with a spine-tingling successions of squeaks and oomphs.” [ most certainly JKG at his cagiest writing here- he is well aware of what an “Indian band” is!]. In the case of the Shorthorns the prize money was divided. [Browns and Galbraiths pretty much split the total]. For Herefords, every cent went every year to the McNEILs
p. 62 – In our community, the physical manifestation of the Ontario Department of Agriculture was the Agriculture Representative, the Ontario equivalent of the county agent. He was in those days a fat totally bald and very good natured man called Charley BUCHANAN. He was a bachelor, a good mixer, a nearly incoherent speaker, and within limits, a believer in progress.” He got around the roads on a motorcycle. before the Provincials bought him a car. But he did not farm so not credible with the Scotch. Everything that Charley advised cost money.
The Polity of The Scotch
p. 67 – 68 – in a political democracy “people enjoy the business of governing themselves. Many elections are desirable. In rural Ontario, “once a year on New Year’s Day, local school sections selected their school trustees, and there was an election for the township council.” In Galbraith’s 1920s the big question was whether the Province of Ontario should continue to have Prohibition. Local elective offices were given as a matter of course to Men of Standing but sometimes an individual who was badly informed as to his rank ran for office with disastrous results. One such neighbor of ours, Hugh McPHAIL, in his fifties and farmed adequately a hundred to a hundred fifty acres had some money by inheritance. He lived in a large square brick house with a very small wife, two young sons and two very large sisters. Unfortunately Hughy had the reputation of being ignorant. In about 1922 he stood for township Counsellor. The County of Elgin for some forty years was run by Mr. Angus McCRIMMON, Crown Attorney, Mr. Kenneth McKAY, who was county clerk, my father [ William A. GALBRAITH], who was county auditor and Benjamin GRAHAM, county Treasurer. All Were Men of Standing.”
And indeed there was a Hugh McPHAIL
, age 57 with wife, two young sons and a sister with him in the 1921 census for Dunwich
. Another sister of the head of house resides next door.
p. 69- 73 – “Quite a few of the clansmen backed the Liberals (also called the Grits and Reformers
) because they wanted the competitive reward of winning and even more because they wanted the unadulterated joy of seeing the Tories
lose.” Most of Scotch simply kept on voting against the Family Compact and handed the habit on to their children.” “My father, for around half a century, was the leading Liberal of the community.”
p. 75 – re bribery in politics which his father tried to avoid – one who sold their votes to both sides was a fellow known as Swampy [poor farm] Dan GRAHAM who lived two streets over from the Galbraiths. Special precautions had to be taken to supervise Swampy Dan’s voting. Balloting always took place in the Willey’s Corners School which recessed for the event. Swampy Dan was required to hold his marked ballot up to the window. There it was checked by Bill GOW. [ I see a John GOW nearby in the 1921 census.]
p. 77 – 79 – on education and the local paper – the locals “subscribed to the weekly Dutton Advance
and usually to a daily paper. From the Advance
he learned who had been born, who had married and who was dead and most of all, since this was the prime recreation of the Scotch, who had visited whom. The Men of Standing read the Toronto Globe
p. 80 – At Wiley’s Corners, on Willey’s Sideroad and Clay street stood S.S. (School Section) Number 4 of Dunwich Township, commonly called Willey’s Corners or Willey’s School
. “All of these Monuments immortalized one Moses WILLEY
. [Moses died in 1880 and is buried at Black’s Cemetery
] “The school building was a plain rectangular structure of white brick and consisted of one small room together with a very small entry where we hung out coats on hooks and stowed our lunch boxes on a shelf above. At the back of the room was a large wood stove surrounded by a galvanized iron jacket.”
p. 83-84 – “Between twelve and fifteen children attended Willey’s school in my time. [ this would be about 1913 – 1918] One progressed through five grades after the first, each divided into a junior and senior section.” “…because of the very small number of children, there were usually only one or two in a class. the teacher often found it economical to add the children in one class to those in the next, and the consequence was a greatly accelerated rate of movement.” Galbraith passed through Willey’s School n five years and started high school at the age of ten. “We were taught reading, penmanship, arithmetic, spelling and in a manner of speaking, the geography and history of Canada. The required courses on hygiene and patriotism were ignored. The hygiene book promoted a nightly bath which everyone knew was silly. The teacher did not have one and neither did the McFARLANES nor the ROBBS where she boarded. “Patriotism was inculcated by a rendering of “God Save The King” at the beginning of each day as well as “The Maple Leaf Forever.” “From time to time we had talks on the virtue and beneficence of the Royal Family to which the Scotch were rightly thought to be very indifferent.” Much of this later instruction was undertaken by the school inspector, Mr. TAYLOR who visited twice a year.”
As Galbraith notes, teachers were single young women who looked upon the job as a means to finding a husband. They normally were married in 2-3 years [as in the case of my grandmother Edna YOUNG of Port Bruce] and another single teacher needed to be found.
p. 90 – “Once we had a good teacher. Her name was Ella Belle McFARLANE and she inspired everyone with her enthusiasm for what one could know.”
Godfearing but Unfrightened
p. 92 – 93 – “following Willey’s Sideroad past the school, one comes to the Back Street, sometimes called the Talbot Road and now Queen’s Highway Number 3  When life was oriented to the Lake [Lake Erie] this road lay along the edge of the wilderness and hence the primary name” [Back Street].
West on the Back Street three miles, through the lands of the McWILLIAMS, GRAHAMS, McCOLLS and more McCALLUMS and McKILLOPs lay the Canterbury of our community.”
had a very small Catholic church, a somewhat larger Methodist congregation, a somewhat remarkable Baptist congregation whose church was situated a little distance from town, and a very large body of Presbyterians. The latter gathered for worship in a big red brick edifice on the Currie Road just north of town after giving their horses the protection of the long horse sheds in the rear.” All were interested in ” whether God frowned on Angus McWILLIAM
who copiously spat tobacco down the furnace register during his devotions.”
p. 94 – As noted in the 1911 and 1921 census above, the Galbraiths were actually Baptists. They met with other “Old School or Hardshell Baptists” in a “plain rectangular red brick structure about a mile east of Wallacetown on the Back Street.” the church “contained nothing, literally nothing, but square oaken pews ans plain wooden pulpit. Church doctrine forbade a choir,organ – in fact music of any kind. The collection of money in church was also strictly forbidden.” “Central to the creed of the church was an uncompromising predestinarianism. A man was born saved or he was born dammed; it was incredible that an omnipotent God could be without an advance view of hte fate of Malcolm “Little Malc” GRAHAM
or even that of the Honourable John C. ELLIOTT
, M.P., Postmaster General of the Dominion of Canada.
p. 97 – “At sometime during the weekend a number of the more committed members of he congregation accompanied Elder SLAUSON
to the Thomas River, some seven miles to the north, for baptismal ceremonies.” This is most likely John B. SLAUSON, age 57, who is given in the 1921 census
for nearby Ridgetown as a Clergyman and Preacher. He and his family had immigrated to Ontario from the United States in 1914.
p. 102 – on the controversial subject of Church Union in the mid 1920s Galbraith has some lovely stories. Churches could vote on the subject and with the local Presbyterian Church the vote was close – It depended on the family of Big Jack
Crawford (named disguised since descendants were surviving in 1960s) who had “ three massive daughters
who were neither beautiful nor musical but who yearned, as did all maidens of their age and marital hopes, to sing in the choir. While Big Jack opposed Union but the Unionists offered the girls a place in the choir and the family voted with the Unionists. Annie McTAVISH’s
husband Malcolm McTAVISH
had died some years before. She was in her late 70s and told how she looked forward to “lying by Malcolm’s side beneath the modest McTAVISH
headstone. Annie’s children were in favor of church Union but non-concurring Presbyterians told her that if the Unionists won she could never lie by Malcolm’s side. She protested the tactics and voted for Union but in the end Union for the local Presbyterian Church was defeated. [Many McTAVISH burials at the Cowal-McBride Cemetery
The Urban Life
p. 107 – east on Hogg street to the Dunwich – Southwold town line was Iona Station
, the nearest Market Center. “Here the railroads, the Canada Southern become the double-tracked Michigan Central, then the New York Central and paralleled by the single line of the Pere Marquette (since the Chesapeake and Ohio [as of 1963]). In earlier times life and centered around the village of Iona
, two miles to the south but the railroads had missed it and Iona Station had risen in it’s place. In Galbraith’s time the population of Iona Station was “not more than twenty-five souls. The cultural center comprised a white brick church and a small frame hall used for box socials, an occasional political meeting” and later some dances. The residential section consisted of four or five frame houses all in need of paint. John DUNDAS
, a very good blacksmith, provided a universal repair service all by himself. For all practical purposes, Iona Station consisted of Dan McBRIDE’s
p. 111 – “Dan McBRIDE was a quiet, mild-mannered man of medium height and undistinguished appearance. He was known to have made quite a bit of money out of the store for he was a well-regarded source of mortgage money for anyone buying a farm. Hannah, his wife, was a woman of much more marked personality. Spare, sallow, rather sharp-featured with gray-brown hair, complexion and attire, she was, at a certain level, perhaps the best-informed woman in the two townships. Her specialty was human frailty and personal disaster.” On winter evenings, men came through the deep snow to sit around the stove at the back of the store.”
p. 113 – on journeying to the nearby larger village of Dutton
– “One could turn north over Willey’s Sideroad, in the direction opposite from the school, pass the CAMERONs
‘,cross the railroads and then turn west by McFARLANEs, McCURDYs, McINTYREs and the famous Hereford farms of the McNEILs
and come into town on Shackleton Street, socially the most distinguished avenue in town.” “One could also go straight up Hogg Street and instead of turning left on the Currie Road to Wallacetown, turn right by the GRAHAMs
, the Fairview Cemetery, past the McVICARs
‘ and again into town.” On this approach one came upon the Dutton’s leading garage. Across from the garage was a “slovenly” frame building where someone had once started a laundry.
p. 115 – In Dutton there was a small white brick building which housed the clerk of the Township of Dunwich. [Canadians in the 1920s like my father called the common yellowish brick “white brick” – now it is more commonly called “yellow brick
“] – and a dirty white frame building , with the usual false front, which housed The Dutton Advance
. The Advance
was a weekly consisting partly of advertisements, partly of local news supplied by correspondents in exchange for the literary opportunity and a free subscription, and partly of singularly unreadable boiler plate. The Advance
had no editorials and hence no editorial policy.” J. D. BLUE
, who owned The Advance, was one of the few newspaper proprietors to realize that the Scotch might not value his opinions – so he didn’t offer them!
The McIntyre House
p. 118-102 – “The McIntyre House stood nearly in the center of the east side of the single block that comprised Main Street.”
p. 125 – “The Dutton High School in those days was a gaunt two-story building of white brick and hideous aspect.”
p.. 141 – In the final chapter, Galbraith reflects on the migration of the job seeking youth of Dunwich to the manufacturing centers of Detroit but then returning to London and Toronto.
The Second Edition of 1985 from Houghton Mifflin includes a new introduction and afterword by the author.