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Introduction / William Gray and Mary Robertson / David Gray and Ann Harcus

David Gray and Isabella Macdonald

David Gray was born at Newhouse, Papa Westray, Orkney, on 15th July 1857. He was the fourth child and second son of David Gray, a farm servant, and his wife Ann Harcus.

At the time of the 1861 census, David was 3 years old, and was living with his parents and siblings at New Houses no. 1, Papa Westray. In the 1871 census, when he was 13 years old, he was recorded with his aunt, Oliphant Fowlis, and some of her family, at South Quatquoy, Firth / Stenness, Orkney. His occupation was "general servant", and his age was given as 15 years.

By the time the census was taken in 1881, David had become a journeyman stone mason, and was in Leith, near Edinburgh, staying with his brother William and his family. A year later, on 9th June 1882, he married Isabella Macdonald in Leith. (Isabella was born in Kirkwall, Orkney, on 6th May 1859, the daughter of Hugh Macdonald and his wife Isabella Muir.)

David and Isabella had 10 children:

  • David Gray, born 11 March 1883 in Leith. He became a stone mason, and died, unmarried, on 17th August, 1906, at Naseby, Saskatchewan, Canada.
  • Isabella Muir Hopkirk Gray (called Isa), born in Lerwick, Shetland, on 24th November 1884. She married, first, Alexander Fraser, and second, William Aberdeen, but never had any children. She died 29th June 1974 at Fort Langley, British Columbia.
  • John Macdonald Gray (Jock), born 2nd September 1886 in Lerwick. He married Catherine Ferguson and had 5 children. He was a carpenter and farmer at Naseby for most of his life, and died in Saskatoon, Sask. on 16th June 1968.
All of the younger children were born in Edinburgh:
  • Annie Angus Allan Gray, born 19th March 1889. She married Albert Padgham and had 6 children. She died in Chilliwack, B.C., on 16th February 1985, aged 95 years.
  • Jane Smith Gray (called Jean), born 24th April 1891. She married Charles Curtis and had two daughters. She died in North Battleford, Sask., on 25th February, 1955.
  • Mary Robertson Gray, born 13th January 1894. She married Alfred Cooke and had two children. She died in Saskatoon on 25th March 1991, at the age of 97 years.
  • Williamina Topp Gray (Mina), born 24th May 1895. She married John Jones, a Naseby area farmer, and had 3 children. She died on 14th September 1976 in Saskatoon.
  • James Foulis Gray, born April 1897. He died in Edinburgh on 24th June 1897 at the age of 2 months.
  • Hugh Macdonald Gray, born 8th November 1898. He died on his 20th birthday, 8th November 1918, in Saskatoon.
  • James Foulis Gray, born 10th November 1901. He took over his father's farm at Naseby and married Rebecca Wood; they had three children. Later he married Irma. He died in Saskatoon on 22nd August 1979.

The 1901 census gives the following information about the family:

3 Thistle Place, Merchiston, Edinburgh
Relation Status Age Occupation Born
David Gray Head married 43 years Stone Mason Papa Westray
Isabella Gray Wife married 41 years Kirkwall
David Gray Son unmarried 18 years Apprentice Stone Mason Leith
Isabella Gray Dau unmarried 16 years Clerkess - Butcher Lerwick
John Gray Son unmarried 14 years Telegraph Messenger Lerwick
Annie Gray Dau unmarried 12 years Scholar Edinburgh, St. Cuthbert
Jane Gray Dau unmarried 9 years Scholar Edinburgh, St. Cuthbert
Mary Gray Dau unmarried 7 years Scholar Edinburgh, St. Cuthbert
Wilhelmina* Gray Dau unmarried 5 years Scholar Edinburgh, St. Cuthbert
Hugh Gray Son unmarried 2 years Edinburgh, St. Cuthbert

* Williamina's name is often written in this form.

By about 1904 Jock had become a carpenter, so David and his two oldest sons were all working in the building trades. At that time, according to family stories, there was a slump in the building industry, and young Dave and Jock were both having trouble finding work. The decision was made that Dave should go to Canada and investigate the conditions there with an eye to the whole family emigrating. He is said to have spent a year or so in Winnipeg, and to have worked on the construction of Stony Mountain Penitentiary, just outside the city. Then he filed on homesteads about 60 miles west of Saskatoon, for himself, his father, his brother Jock, his cousin John Allan (son of his mother's sister Anne), and a family friend, William Smith. The land taken by David (the father) was described as NW 1/4 28-37-16 W3 (the northwest quarter of section 28, township 37, range 16, west of the Third Meridian). Each homestead was 160 acres.

In March of 1906 David and Isabella, with their sons Jock, Hugh, and Jim, and their daughters Annie, Mary and Mina, left Glasgow on the ship "Numidian", arriving in Halifax on 27th March. Ships to Canada generally sailed to Quebec City, but in March the Saint Lawrence River was still frozen, so they landed at Halifax. John Allan and his family, and the William Smith family, arrived a few weeks later. David and Isabella's daughters Isa and Jean remained in Edinburgh for another two years, probably staying with their father's sister Jane and her husband John Smith, and arrived in Canada in 1908.

After a train journey of several days (in a "Colonist Coach", with hard wooden benches for seats, no berths, and a small stove in each car so the passengers could make tea and provide some of their own meals), the Grays arrived in North Battleford, the "end of steel" and the closest point to their new home that they could reach on the train. From there, it was about 40 miles south to the homestead, where Dave was already living. They sent word to Dave, who walked in to meet them. They then purchased wagons, oxen and supplies, and made the last leg of the journey. David's application for title to his homestead, filed in 1909, says that they arrived on their land on April 12th, 1906, although family reminiscences vary slightly.

In August, 1906, Dave became sick, and his father borrowed a horse and buggy from a neighbour and went to Battleford to get a doctor. The doctors there were busy fighting a typhoid epidemic, however, and could not leave. One of them said that the symptoms sounded like typhoid, and wrote a death certificate to that effect. By the time David returned home, Dave had died. There was no cemetery yet, so he was buried on the farm. About 1930, his remains were disinterred and buried in the local cemetery.

The doctor put typhoid as the cause of death, but apparently Dave had been having stomach problems for several months, and some members of the family have always thought that he actually died of appendicitis.

The Grays lived in a sod house for the first few years. Sod houses are warm in the winter and cool in the summer, but can be dusty, and if it rains outside for a day, it can be raining inside for the next week. After living on their land for three years, building a house on each farm, and breaking 5 acres of land each year, David and Jock obtained title to their land in 1909. In 1910 a larger frame house was built for David and Isabella, although by this time the four older daughters were all living in Saskatoon, Jock had his own place nearby, and only Mina, Hugh and Jim were still at home.

For several years there were few changes in David and Isabella's household. A school was started in 1910, and Mina, Hugh, and Jim attended for a few years. Jock married and started a family on the next farm, and the four older daughters married and set up their own homes in Saskatoon.

The next major change occurred in November 1918, when Hugh took sick. He was sent to the hospital in Saskatoon, and died there on his 20th birthday, 8th November. The cause of death is uncertain now, but he is generally thought to have been one more victim of the world-wide Spanish flu epidemic that winter. He was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Saskatoon. Isabella's health deteriorated over the next few years, and on 26th April 1922 she died in hospital in Saskatoon, of pneumonia. She was also buried in Woodlawn Cemetery.

For about 18 months David, Mina and Jim carried on, then Mina and Jim both married within a few weeks of one another. Mina moved out to her new home just a few miles away, and Jim's wife moved in, and within a few years there were two grandchildren in the house too. David's health began deteriorating, and he handed over the farm to Jim.

David was bedridden for the last few years of his life, and died on 23rd November 1934, when fire destroyed the house while the rest of the family were away. He was buried beside his son David in Rosemount Cemetery, just a mile or so from where he lived for the last 28 years of his life.

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