Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Scottish Cowboys?


When Andrew and Helen Gammie arrived on their homestead in 1907, Saskatchewan had only been a province of Canada for two years. They arrived late in the year and family lore held that they spent their first prairie winter living in a cave! Not entirely what anyone would consider today to be a welcoming circumstance. Stewart Gammie of British Columbia has informed me that it really was more likely a sod hut built into the ground that they would have constructed, typical for new arrivals in that time, although the imagery of the 'cave' is understandable. As the provincial population grew, new rail lines were established although the primary means of transportation remained the horse. Many of the 'pioneer' settlers used a walking plough or sulky to begin their farming practise and typically cleared a 'fire guard' around where they built their homes for, as beneficial as the arrival of the train was to communities, the train traffic was the cause of many prairie fires such as a huge 75 mile long fire in 1909.

By the time Alexander Hadden and his family arrived in 1923 to join his mother Helen Gammie and her family, Saskatchewan was prospering. Cattle ranching had given way to agriculture and although the horse was still the main mode of transportation, a few Model T automobiles were being seen. My great-uncle Alec Hadden who was not quite 20 years of age when he arrived in Saskatchewan, enjoyed talking about his time on the prairies. He especially enjoyed recounting stories of the local North-West Mounted Police sergeant, who sixty years later he still remembered by name, who would burn haystacks on many of the farms looking for booze stills - and having success finding them! Uncle Alec also described his grandmother, Helen (Shand) Gammie as being the strongest woman he ever knew - able to carry heavy loads over long distances between homesteads farms.

It was also Uncle Alec who held onto his 'cowboy' paraphernalia - his six-gun and sheep skin chaps. The attached undated photo has been identified as Alec Hadden proudly modelling his western wear.

When the Hadden family left Saskatchewan is not completely clear. I am in possession of several older family photos, dated in 1927, that appear to have been taken in a Toronto east-end backyard. The first appearance that I have found of the family in the Toronto city directories is in 1929 when the family lived on Lawlor Avenue. What does seem to be clear is that Jessie (Gaull) Hadden liked Toronto a lot more than prairie life. Jessie's younger brother, George Gaull immigrated to Canada from Scotland in 1910 and established "Lawlors Bread," a small grocery store on Pickering Street, at the intersection with Lyall Avenue. When Jessie and the Hadden family visited George in Toronto's east end, they never left. Pickering Street was to become the 'home' to the next generations of Haddens!

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