The McEWEN Family of Heather Crest
Osgoode Township, Ontario, Canada
December 30, 2011:
The McEwen Family of Heather Crest
Translation: "I flourish again."
In 1829, crofters Peter McEwen, his wife Isabella McLaren and toddler sons Dougal (bap.Aug 10, 1826) and Alexander (bap. Nov 12, 1828)
traveled to Cornwall by boat from Perthshire, Scotland (near Killin and Kenmore, Loch Tay). They traveled with four other families
from the same area; the McLarens, Campbells, Dows and McNabs. Having wintered along the St. Lawrence in the Lancaster Eastern District
they each set out to find their respective 200 acres of deeded bush; the McEwen's land having been purchased for twenty five pounds from
Joseph & Mary Ann Holmes of Williamsburg. Peter McEwen and family arrived at Lot 35 Concession 9 of Osgoode Township in January 1830.
The census of 1831 shows the birth of a third son, Peter II. This record also shows that each of the families had cleared 2 acres of land
and erected shanties. The first structure, made of log, was situated close to the west bank of the Castor River on the north part of the lot.
A low barn would also soon be built. By 1861, the census attests to the building of a "balloon-frame" house. Therefore, the home that
stands today atop the hill, was built sometime between 1851-1861; certainly a landmark.
The McEwens were farmers; boasting one of the township's first cows. Peter II took over farming duties after brothers Alex and Dougal
left for work in the northern United States; Alex to St. Cloud Minnesota's lumber industry and Dougal to the employment of the City of
Syracuse, New York. Alex died of infection and his four children returned to the farm to be raised by their Uncle Peter II. This made
for a very full house in 1871; Peter Sr. age 82, his children Peter II, Christy (named after Peter's mother Christian Campbell),
Cathrine (named after Isobel's mother Catherine McBichie), John (a teacher), Isabella (named after her mother), Daniel (a labourer) and
Alex's children Margaret, Sarah, Alexander and George. It is unknown when (b/w 1861 &1871) mother Isabella died.
The men also participated in rafting logs from the "Golden Valley" down the Castor to Montreal and Quebec City for use in ship building.
Legend also tells of winters spent working at a Quebec shanty. At some point between 1860-1870, perhaps upon the death of his father
Peter Sr. (Oct 2, 1869), the east 100 acres was bequeathed to Daniel. After Daniel deserted the land to go west, Peter II sold it on
a handshake to Mr. McArthur from Kenmore in order get a deed and regain legal title for resale. The parcel was then sold to A.E.G. Robertson,
a traveling salesman.
The McEwens were also generous people, donating time and land to help build their new community. In June of 1845, church records indicate that
Peter Sr. spent at least one full day volunteering in the building of the new Osgoode Presbyterian Church, stables and a wagon house.
In the 1860s, the McEwens donated a ½ acre lot, from the farm's south-west corner, for a school house to be built. It would be named SS#12;
but affectionately called the "Scotch School", for the families of origin. There would be three schools on that locale; the first of log,
the second frame and the third which still stands as a private residence. Peter II sold a second ½ acre parcel to the school board to
be used as a playground.
In 1877/8, in his mid forties, Peter II married Russell girl Jennie Hay; 24 years his junior. They had six children, three boys and
three girls; William Robert, Margaret Millie, George Wellington, Russell, Jessie and Emma Luella.
George, born in 1883, was destined to carry on the family farming tradition. In March of 1894, at the age of 10, younger brother Russell
died of, what was thought at the time to be, a ruptured appendix. Father Peter II died on December 6, 1902, in his 73rd year.
In 1900, just prior to his Dad's death, older brother William added the north part to the farm house, before leaving for labour out west.
He too met an early fate; dying of suffocation in a well collapse on March 12, 1912 (age 32). Sister Millie married neighbour Park Little,
school teacher Jessie worked out west and returned to marry W. Justin Docksteader, of Ormond (1925) and Luella, a nurse, married Jack Woods.
The loss, by fire, of some of the most treasured old McEwen pictures has been blamed on Luella's clean up.
George made many changes to the farm in the early 1900s; putting it on the leading edge of the dairy industry in the district. In 1919 he
built a new gambrel-roofed barn, 80' by 36'; the envy of many neighbours. In the early 1920s he purchased the east ½ of Lot 35 Concession 8.
This 100 acres had been previously used as common pasture land. The maple grove on the west hill would be used as bush lot and maple
syrup producer, while the east portion for field crops and pasturing heifers. In the winter of 2011 the field "over the hill" would be
expanded by clearing 25 acres of soft maple.
In 1924, at the age of 41, George married 31 year old Catherine (Katie) Isobella Grant from Apple Hill, Glengarry County.
Katie was the daughter of Duncan Angus Grant and Marjorie MacKinnon. Katie is credited with naming the farm, Heather Crest; representing the
knoll on which the farm is located and a native plant of their families' homeland. The farm name was used as the prefix for registering
Holstein cattle. The couple had three sons; Russell, who died at birth (July 17, 1925), George Dean (born 1927) and John Lynden (March 25, 1931).
As he awaited entrance into medical school following the war, Dean would teach for a short time in the Dunvegan School, Glengarry County.
Based on the birth certificate spelling of his last name (completed by Aunt Luella) and for credentialing reasons, Dean changed the spelling
of his last name to MacEwen. After graduating from Queen's in Kingston he launched a highly successful career as a Chief
Orthopaedic-Pediatric Surgeon in Philadelphia, Delaware and New Orleans. In 1954 Dean married Occupational Therapist Marilyn (Lynn) Heidelberg.
They had five children: Kathy, Nancy, Jane, David, and John. Accolades included President of the American Orthopaedic Society and the
Dr G.Dean MacEwen wing at DuPont Hospital.
Lynden meanwhile remained at home, inheriting the farm upon his father's death from colon cancer in 1959. He courted and on August 10, 1963,
at the age of 32, married a young Ottawa school teacher named Marion Alice Megill. Six years his junior, Marion would move to the farm and
balance a teaching career at Russell Public, farm life and the raising of their three children; George Lynden (November 10, 1964), Hugh John
(July 8, 1966) and Marion Anne (August 19, 1968). Grandma Katie moved to Vernon and died in February 1969 of breast cancer. Lynden and
Marion were both very involved in Kenmore St Paul's United Church; Marion serving as Sunday School teacher and UCW President and Lynden as
Elder and Stewart. In 1974 Lynden had his right thumb amputated in a PTO farm accident. The milk cows had to be moved to neighbour and
cousin Wayne Little's while George and Hugh, then aged 10 and 8, took on the daily chores of feeding, cleaning and animal care at home.
George went on to Queen's University for a Bachelor of Science, York University for a Masters of Business Administration and a career in
Toronto's Financial District. Anne received a Bachelor of Arts from Carleton University and a Masters of Library Science from University
of Western Ontario. She married elementary teacher David Rubinoff and settled in Ottawa, having two girls Rebecca Lynne (May 8, 2004)
and Sarah Anne (June 17, 2010). In 1988, Hugh underwent major spine stabilization surgery, in New Orleans, to repair a congenital
cervical spine deficit. He continued to work on the farm through his convalescence; even haying while wearing a halo collar.
This tireless effort extended into his post-secondary education. While working full-time farming around school schedules, Hugh received
Cabinet Maker's Credentials from Algonquin College. Although encouraged to explore other careers, Hugh's love was still dairy farming.
Hugh has continued to operate Heather Crest since his College graduation; adding many self-designed and manufactured upgrades including
bunk silos, machine shop, self-locking head-gate wagon, outdoor wood furnace and machine shed. In 1999, Hugh and silent-partner George
purchased Heather Crest South. The 150 acre original McNab Farm, located on 9th Line south of the Castor, was sold by tender following
the suicide death of friend Bruce Presley. The McEwen brothers surprised many other neighbouring bidders with their winning tender.
They sold the house and barn on a 6 acre parcel. The remaining 144 acres was tile drained, cleared and used for cropping. At the Presley
auction sale, Hugh stopped to visit Cheryl Cooper (Oct 23, 1970), daughter of neighbours Gary and Doris Cooper and owner of
Cooper Physiotherapy Clinic in Osgoode. A romance would soon flourish. In the spring of 2002, an acre lot was severed off Heather Crest West
(Lot 35 Con 8). The lot would be used for the building of a home, Braeview, for Hugh and Cheryl; following their marriage on July 13th, 2002.
Hugh would continue to upgrade farming facilities at Heather Crest. Following the birth of their first child, Katherine (Kate) Anne (February
22, 2004), Hugh would begin the restructuring. The summer of 2006 saw the construction of a double-six DeLaval swing milking parlour and
the movement of calf barn to north end of the 1919 barn. The original north log barn was renovated to house heifers. By October 2007, Hugh
had changed existing tie stalls to freestalls with an east feed alley. A manure pump system and feed room would soon follow. On January 5th
2008, a month early, Stuart John McEwen was born weighing 4lbs 13.5 oz. He would represent the 6th generation of McEwen men to live
at Heather Crest.
-Cheryl A. Cooper
updated 2011 05 27
E-mail Cheryl Cooper and Allan Lewis
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