By Stewart Grant
My family has very strong genes when it comes to longevity, which is great for a lot of reasons but for me personally it meant that I got to spend so much treasured time with my great-grandmother Jean Grant (nee Stewart), who passed away at age 105 when I was the age of 24, and my grandfather Earl Grant who was with us until 2010 when I was 36.
Particularly in their older years, I tried to soak up as much knowledge as I could from them and always enjoyed listening to their stories. In 2009-10 I wrote a book with biographies on my ancestors for my kids to read some day if they are so inclined. In this article I’ll take a few excerpts out of it to share some of my family history in the area of St. Marys.
My ancestors have lived in the St. Marys area since the beginning, or close to it…
My great-great-great-great grandfather William Taylor along with his family and the Good family, left Scotland on a small sailing vessel called the ‘Stirling Dunbar’ in May of 1841, captained by Capt. Hastie. As described in their words, “The vessel was neither sea-worthy nor capably manned, but nothing better was available then”. The hazardous trip across the ocean was made worse when the captain took a wrong turn near Newfoundland, but they ultimately reached Canada after nine weeks and three days at sea, and being dangerously short on rations by this time. By 1845, they made their way to this area and took possession of Lot 19, Concession 13 in Downie Township. Around the same time, George Leversage was settling near Carlingford, and the Murray family was also arriving in Perth County.
My great-great-great grandfather Robert Clarke arrived in Canada from Ireland in 1830 as a youngster but settled in this area in March 1847, buying land from the Canada Company in Fullarton Township. In that same generation of ancestors, David Brown, a Scottish stonemason, helped build the Grand Trunk Railroad bridge on the Sarnia Line over the Thames. Each day of work, he walked the five miles from Downie to St. Marys and back.
The Grant side of the family didn’t get here until 1887, when Alma Grant and his wife Mary (nee Taylor) bought a 50 acre property at East Lot 19, Concession 12 in Downie Township. Alma and Mary took over operation of the Taylor homestead following the 1899 death of Mary’s brother, Charles Taylor, who was killed by a kick from a horse. In 1916, Alma and Mary moved from the farm into St. Marys, along with Alma’s parents William and Elizabeth Grant.
In more recent generations, some of you will remember my great-grandmother Jean Grant who was born in 1894 and died in 1999. She and husband Bert lived at 40 James Street North for a time, and she took a job as a retail clerk for Fred Lofft’s women’s clothing store, later working for J.B. Tudor when he took over the business.
Finally, my grandparents Earl and Margaret Grant started Grant Haven Farms just north of town, then moving to Sparling Crescent upon retirement and later to the Fairhill Residence at Kingsway Lodge.
I truly feel the pull of family history here in St. Marys. I think of my grandparents and great-grandparents frequently when I drive past a place in town where they used to live. Though as a young adult I spent a few years away, in London Ontario and then Bermuda, nowhere else ever felt like home, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love it here in St. Marys and it’s where I’ll always plan to live.