by Audrey Underwood, originally published December 4, 1992 in Stanton Stats.
Let’s go back to the beginning of what we know of the Stanton family. From their marriage certificate we learn that George Stanton, son of Joseph, was married to Sarah Meech, daughter of Thomas Meech. Neither mother’s maiden name was listed.
At that time, George was listed as a carpenter, a bachelor and “of age.” His father was also a carpenter. Sarah was listed as a housekeeper, a spinster and “of age.” Her father was a yeoman.
The ceremony took place in the Ilminster Church, the Parish of Ilminster, in the County of Somerset, District of Chard, the 16th day of November, 1841, — by banns. From this information one might presume that George and Sarah both resided in Ilminster, however, such does not appear to be the case as a thorough search of the census records turned up nothing of them. Recent research suggests our family had to move around to secure work.
George and Sarah’s children’s names are recorded in the family Bible. The first was Albert, March 12, 1842 – May 23, 1842. George was born March 27, 1843, Thomas (subject of this story) July 29, 18445, and John August 27, 1847, all in England.
Some time in 1848, George, Sarah and their three boys sailed for America. Possibly they departed from Bristol and arrived in New York. From there family legend tells us, the father George set out for Ontario and the home of his brother James, while Sarah remained at Utica, NY with her three small sons, awaiting the birth of their 5th child. Another son, born October 26, 1848, was called William, later known as “Painter.”
The next place of residence for our ancestors was the village of Newboro, situated on the Rideau Canal in Leeds County, township of North Crosby. Here George was active building many of the fine homes in the village. It is also said that he (possibly along with his brother, James) was called upon to build the spiral stairway in the building which was to be the Parliament Buildings for Upper Canada, and is now the Kingston City Hall.
There in Newboro four more children were born, James on January 29, 1851, Sarah Joan, June 13, 1853, Katherine (Kit) July 11, 1855, and Joseph on July 5, 1858.
Thomas Marries & Goes West
Nothing is really known of Thomas Stanton’s early life except that he probably followed in his father’s footsteps as a carpenter. On February 24, 1880, he married Margaret Elisabeth Dier of nearby Westport. The marriage was performed by Rev. Wm. Burns in the town of Perth, Ontario.
Margaret was the daughter of Henry Dier and Jannot Porter. She was born on February 19, 1865, on the Dier farm near Westport. She was raised by an aunt and uncle, but at this time we do not have names or proof.
Following their marriage, Thomas and Margaret left for Manitoba with Thomas’ younger brother James and his wife Martha Stedman. (See James & Martha’s story.)
The complete story of my grandparents’ journey to their homestead was never told directly to me by my grandmother, but I always understood that they went by ox-cart, probably from Winnipeg to Portage la Prairie. Mother, Reta Stanton, wrote down a bit of family history in which she said: “Mother came later by steamer which had come from Red River.” By ‘later’ I believe she was referring to later than when Martha had gone by boat to Smart’s Landing. Mother also wrote “Dad swam the Assiniboine River with ice going down, where Uncle Bill Dier’s home is.” Another bit she wrote was “Mother and Aunt Martha came West in 1880 to Portage la Prairie.” Did she mean west from Winnipeg? One other quote from Mother’s writings, “Ox carts were never greased, — made out of native oak.”
Several papers survive regarding Thomas Stanton’s activities. One is a Loyal Lodge Association certificate stating that he joined the Lodge the 11th day of June, 1874, at Newboro. The certificate itself was signed February 12, 1880. No doubt this was in preparation for their trek West.
Another paper that survives is the receipt given by the Office of Dominion Lands, Gladstone District, October 10, 1881, to Thomas Stanton for the amount of $20 for Homestead and preemption for the NE quarter of Section 14, Township 8, Range X W.
A third document still exists entitled “Statement Made and Confirmed by Statutory Declaration” by Thomas Stanton concerning claim to the East 1/2 Section 14, Township 8, Range 10, West. Twenty-three questions were asked; a few are quoted here:
“9. What length of time since first going into residence have you been absent? Answer: one month thrashing about Sept ’82 — two weeks labouring at Portage la Prairie — first July ’83.
11. Are you by proficcion a farmer and have you any other trade? Answer: farmer yes carpenter.
13. What buildings have you, what are their size and what quarter section are they on, when erected, present cash value? Answer: house 12 by 14, kitchen 8 by 12 ft., milk house 8 1/2 by 11, stable 16/20, granary 14/20, value about 200 dollars, Erected 1881.”
This statement was requested from the Office of Dominion Lands Commission, Winnipeg, January 17th, 1887, in connection with Thomas Stanton’s application for a leave of absence from his homestead. Whether or not he took leave of absence at that time is not known. However, this could have been when he went to the gold fields, because family legend tells that the gold for his wife’s rings came from his panning in the Fraser River.
On July 30, 1881, a son, George, was born to Thomas and Margaret (Dier) Stanton. A daughter arrived February 13, 1884, and was named Ida Alba. Their second son was born January 13, 1886, named John William but called Jack. their youngest child, another daughter, Louie Reta was born March 12th 1897. (Reta used the name Louise instead of Louie.) These children were probably all born on the homestead just north of Treherne, Manitoba.
Family Returns to Ontario
Shortly after Reta was born, Thomas took his family to Strathcona area near Edmonton. Already his brother, John (Jack), and sisters Kit and Joan were in that area. However, Thomas and his family did not remain there long, as by 1899 they were in Saugeen township, Bruce County. Here they spent the winter with Margaret’s parents Henry and Jannot Dier, who lived on the 4th Concession of that township. Margaret always said she never wanted to return to Ontario, but Tom thought she should be near her family.
In Saugeen, they looked around for a suitable farm to buy and found one to their liking on the banks of the Saugeen River; and although the flood might cover the road which followed along it’s shore, or the low-lying flats, the buildings were high an dry up on a hill. From there you could survey all the activities that went on.
George never came to Ontario to live with his parents, but by the time of this move, Jack was a strong young lad, very active in sports and no doubt a needy hand to his aging father.
Thomas immediately set about to make improvements on the farm. The house was built in two sections, the main two-gable front part, connected to the tail or back part both through the upstairs and the downstairs. Their daughter, Reta, remembered her brother Jack trying to sneak in through the back upstairs if he happened to be out too late on a date!
But that all changed as Thomas built a stone foundation along the bank of the gully, between the house and barn and moved the back part of the house onto it The upstairs was used for a driving shed and the under part for a pig pen.
He also had plans for the barn. The original barn was just east of the house a short distance, — an indentation in the ground even yet indicates the spot. It is not known if he moved the barn to the present location or just put an extension onto it, making the total length 90 feet.
Besides the renovations at home, Thomas was a popular carpenter in the neighbourhood as well as doing a lot of “horse trading.” When he passed away in September, 1831, the operation of his farm, Melrose Farm, was taken over by his daughter, Reta, and her husband, Howard Webster.
George Stanton farmed most of his life in the Major, Saskatchewan area. In his earlier years not too much was known of his activities, but, it is thought that he took part in the Japanese-Russo War of the early 1900’s. He wrote yearly Christmas letters to his mother during her later years. Many of these letters still exist. In his declining years he spent the winters in Vancouver where he died March 29, 1965. Burial was in the family plot with his parents in Port Elgin.
In 1913, Ida Stanton married William Robert Campbell, born December 25, 1882, in Arran Township, Bruce County. Bill had a homestead near Nanton, Alberta. There two daughters were born to them; Orla Marguerite on February 20, 1917, and Hazel Alverne, February 6, 1922. Bill Campbell died April 2, 1922 after being kicked on the head by a horse. Ida died August 16, 1935. Both are interred in the Nanton Cemetery.
Jack Stanton spent his teen years in and around Dunblane, Saugeen Township. Eventually he went to his sister’s at Nanton, Alberta. There he met his future wife Sylvia Bessie Kepner. She was born Feb. 3, 1893 in Adair County, Iowa. They were married December 25, 1917, in Victoria, B.C. They returned to Saugeen where they farmed for a time until Jack joined the army. Their first child, a daughter was born in Port Elgin, October 4th, 1918. They named her Eloise Lorene. A son, Lawrence Clair, was born in North Battleford, Sask. August 27, 1921. Marlin Clifford (known as Joe) was the last of their children and was born in Wroxton, Sask. on August 30, 1924. In 1925 the family moved to Basswood, Manitoba. Jack worked as a grain buyer and elevator operator. Sylvia ran a boarding house for 16 years. When their son Lawrence returned from World War II, he and his mother went to Vancouver an lived in a three-roomed log cabin on Prospect Road in Capilano, while Jack remained i Basswood where he worked at the elevator. (He had to stay until he could get a pension.) In 1948, Jack came out and they bought their retirement home on William St., Vancouver. There they lived the rest of their lives. Jack’s death was on March 1st, 1967. Sylvia passed away December 14, 1981. They are both buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery, Burnaby, B.C.
Reta Stanton was raised on the farm at Dunblane. She attended the school and church of the same name. On June 20th, 1925, she married Joseph Howard Webster who was raised just down the road, the son of Joseph Webster and Jane Bartleman. Howard was born in Amabel Township, Bruce County, June 30th, 1899. After the wedding, Howard and Reta took up residence at Seacliff near Leamington where Howard was employed by a market gardener. Soon they moved to Windsor where their two daughters, Muriel and Audrey, were born in their little home made from a garage. While living in Windsor, Howard worked for Silverwoods Dairy, but he always wanted to get back to the land and farming. On April 29, 1931, an indenture was drawn up between Howard, Reta and her parents to purchase Melrose Farm, Lot 20 RWSR, Saugeen. In September of that same year, Thomas Stanton died. The next summer their house in Windsor burned to the ground and it is believed it was at that time that they assumed operations of the Saugeen farm.