|Imagine, if you will, what is now called Ontario
... but back about 400 years ago.
What you would have found was a primeval forest where the sky can be only glimpsed through the thick overhanging
branches, with the sounds of nature all around. The wind blowing through the trees, the
birds singing their joyous songs, the gurgling brooks and graceful moving waterways
here to entertain the population of tens of thousands of natives. And let's not forget the
buzz of mosquitoes!
No towns or cities of any size existed. Today you
would frequently view a
sea of sub-division roofs and back then, it would have been simply a sea of trees. But if
you looked carefully, in amongst all those trees, you would have seen the simple pathways for
the animals and natives to move about.
The Natives first met French explorers in 1610. The explorers saw the vast
untapped wealth in furs, the Europeans wanted the furs, and both the French and English
moved in to fill that need.
The struggle of supremacy between England and France climaxed with the Seven Years War,
which lasted from 1756 to 1763. French rule ended in North America with the signing of the
Treaty of Paris.
Ontario at this time was still a dense forest. The "American Revolution", from the
beginnings in 1775, caused loyal British subjects to start moving north to what is now
In November 1775, the Americans Richard Montgomery and Benedict Arnold lead 10,000 men and
invaded (what is now called) Quebec. By January 1776, Richard Montgomery was dead. With
the arrival of British reinforcements in May, the American army fled. The American
congress sent three commissioners (one being Benjamin Franklin) to Montreal in the spring
of 1776. Their purpose was to circulate American ideals amongst the Canadians. The
commissioners left the country upon hearing news of the desertion. In June, there was a
battle at Three Rivers that convinced the remaining 5,000 Americans to return to the
When Britain and the new American republic signed the Treaty of Versailles in 1783, a full
scale exodus of people from the States to Canada called "Loyalists", began.
Loyalists were people loyal to the British crown, and many headed for the Canadian
Maritimes and Quebec, with only a comparative few arriving in Ontario. For their loyalty
to the British Crown, the government gave the Loyalists grants of land. Robert and Hannah
Parr weren't even born yet, so we are not Loyalists.
In 1792 the first Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe of Upper Canada created 19
counties for administrative purposes. Counties served as units for the first electoral
ridings, for land registration, and for census purposes. This is the one big difference
between Canada and the United States. In Canada, the government moved in long before the
people did. In the States, it was the opposite.
When United States declared war on England on 8 June 1812, the States by extension,
declared war on Canada. The story of Laura Secord, may have taken place in June of 1813,
in Canada's answer to Paul Revere. American soldiers had taken over the house of Mrs.
Secord. There they planned an attack on the British detachment. Mrs. Secord overheard the
plan and defying personal danger left on the long and difficult walk to warn the British
commander. The Americans didn't get to the British, and the story bolstered the spirits of
the British Allies.1
It's fanciful speculation, but one wonders if Robert Parr had his first taste of Canada as
part of the contingent the British sent to North America to fight that war. Boys of 14
were frequently involved in wars at that time, so chronologically speaking, it's possible.
Is it provable? That's totally different.
With the end of war in Europe, the British sent more troops to North America. The war with
the Americans ended with the Treaty of Ghent which the British and the United States
signed on 24 December 1814.
Now Britain was not at war with the States or France. Unemployment in England became
widespread as the large armies were no longer needed. No longer was there a great need for
the farmers' produce and prices fell. The domino effect was felt throughout the British
economy, leaving many with the seemingly only option of emigrating.2
With the population not warring with its American neighbours, the first gleam of Canadian
nationalism was starting. Responsible government and democracy were growing in interest.
The Loyalists had a taste of it when they were living in the Thirteen Colonies, before the
birth of the United States.
In 1791, British parliament created Lower Canada (now Quebec) and Upper Canada (now
Ontario) with the passing of the Canada Act. They created four levels of government. The
British Crown appointed officials from the Governor on down to the local officials such as
the judge and Sheriff. There was an Assembly that was elected as the people's
representatives to a four-year term. However, the real power and influence were with the
appointed positions who could overrule the decisions of the Assembly and by extension, the
The governing bodies made the appointed positions frequently to people with family
connections and local influence. These councils became known as the "Family
Compact" as they and their friends began to appear as a privilege clique. How this
happened really is typical human nature.
For example, you want to have a deck built in your back yard. Fair enough. You don't know
of anyone so you look through the phone book and get prices. Then you find out that
someone you do know who does do this type of work. The question now becomes, do you hire
someone whom you know, or do you hire someone who you don't?
Human nature being what it is, chances are you'll go with the one you know. No matter how
much better the others in the phone book could have done it; you don't know them, and you
don't know their work. You had the power to hand out employment, so you go with someone
you know and you have an example of the Family Compact.
Catherine Parr Trail 3
wrote books on the Canadian backwoods in the 1830's. Her brother Samuel Strickland rose in
his community and through his position as a Justice of the Peace, could be considered a
member of the Family Compact. His brother-in-law John W. Dunbar received a position of
Sheriff, not because of merit, rather because of his contacts; thus, you have an example
of the fault of these Councils.4 (As an aside, to my knowledge, we are not
related to Catherine Parr Trail.)
What was life like when Robert and his family arrived? Mosquitoes and
black flies made
summer life intolerable for many. Did the family have to break off all family connections,
or did they have siblings or in-laws in somewhat proximity like the Strickland's?5 At this
point in time, if Robert or Hannah had relatives in Canada waiting for them, or had any
follow them, it is unknown.
What prompted Robert to leave England for Canada? "Farms for all" announcements
from trade unions lured unemployed members to immigrate.6 Or
it could have been the local English parish ridding themselves of an impoverished family
to Canada, as that was a cheaper expense than to support a family on relief.7
The people of the United States have Ellis Island, and the people of Canada have
Grosse-Ile. Grosse-Ile is an island 46 km (29 miles) west of Quebec City in the St.
Lawrence River. It's not known if Robert and family went steerage or not. If they did,
they would have been forced to land on the island for a period of quarantine.8
It's unknown at this point what ship brought Robert, Hannah and family to Canada or when
exactly they arrived in Canada. It is known though, that their son Frederick was born in
England in 1833 and that their daughter Mary Ellen was born in Canada in 1836. It is also
known that the 1842 Census noted that Robert and his family had been in Ontario for eight
years; suggesting an arrival date of 1834. However, it's not known if they lived in Mosa
Township, near London, Ontario since 1834 or in some other part of Ontario. There is a
plausible story that suggests that Robert and his family stayed for an unknown length of
time in the Kingston or Peterborough area of Ontario before settling in Mosa Township. It
was during this stay, so the story goes, that their daughter Lucy found her husband. That
has yet to be proven or disproved. Regardless, their arrival time to Canada seems to be
Susanne Moodie's book, Roughing it in the Bush (pages 21 to 49) gives a vivid description
of her trip up the St. Lawrence River during the summer of 1832. In 1834, cholera was
again at its height.9
Typhoid and cholera were usually brought on by the unsanitary conditions with which the
frontier society could not begin to cope. Thus, Robert and his family were probably
fortunate to have arrived without a known loss of a family member. However, there are gaps
in the ages of the children that may suggest that there were.
Mosa Township was the location that Robert and Hannah eventually settled in, specifically
near Wardsville, Ontario. Wardsville derives its name from the first settler, George Ward.
In 1834, a log general store and a shanty were the total construction of the town. Then a
tavern was built, as alcohol tended to flow as freely as water during the 1800's. In 1840
there were 12 buildings, and the population grew to about 400 by 1850. Robert Tunks, the
husband to Mariah Parr (Robert and Hannah's daughter), had a tannery there by that time.10
Cashmere was west of Wardsville where Mariah's children lived. A large tract of land in
the west of the township played a part with the Tunks clan in "Skunks Misery". The Misery has
designated an "Area of Natural Scientific Interest" by the Ontario Ministry of
Notwithstanding the unknown time of death of Robert Parr, his daughter Mary Ellen had a
son who died in 1860 and was the first known death of this Parr family in the New World.
The burial site of this child or the name of this child, is currently unknown. One
daughter of Mary Ellen died in 1866 and another daughter in 1868 with both buried in the
Men had to clear the trees to allow room for a dwelling, which was frequently a log
structure with no windows, a dirt floor and an open spot in the roof to allow the smoke to
leave the fireplace. Next would have been the clearing of trees for the planting of
potatoes and perhaps wheat and hay. The first few years though, it was typical that the
pioneer farmer had many tree stumps in his fields, as the time to remove them and the
tools to do so, were at a premium.
The first generation of farmers cleared the land like many a logger has since been accused
of - clear cutting. The farmers chopped down the trees and may have sold the lumber to be
shipped to Europe or they may have burned the wood and sold the potash. All this was done
to make way for the growing of wheat. Robert would have been involved in clearing his
land, as part of his settlement duties, so he would have had many a tree to cut down.
However, it's unlikely that he was involved with either selling the cut trees or selling
potash, as either option would have required a road network. A road network that did not
begin to take shape until 1853.
The pioneer women made their own bread, candles, soap and clothing. A typical
"medicine cabinet" of a pioneer home of 1832 contained the following;
1 oz. of the emetic herb (lobelia)
2 ozs. cayenne
˝ lb bayberry root bark in powder
1 lb poplar bark
1 lb ginger
1 pt rheumatic drops (high wines, brandy, gum myrrh and cayenne)
Those ingredients were thought to be sufficient to cure any disease.11
The Upper Canadian Rebellion
In spite of the powers of appointed individuals covering different areas of ones day to
day life, few people attempted to reform the process, though discontent was widespread.
The Reformers (of the elected Assembly) fought to bring responsible government to Canada.
However, the Conservatives of the same Assembly were on the side of the Family Compact.
The Clergy Reserves caused problems as well (These problems were settled in 1854 when the
fund was used to build roads and bridges).12 One
provision of the Canada Act allocated a portion of Crown land for "the support of a
However, this allocation caused conflicting claims within the different Protestant
churches in Upper Canada. In Lower Canada (Quebec) there was no recourse for the Roman
In 1837, widespread economic collapse had acted as the catalyst for the Rebellion. The
fiery William Lyon Mackenzie was publishing a newspaper that held extremist views against
the government structure and its policies in Upper Canada.
Allowing the people of Canada to govern themselves was Mackenzie's goal and time has
supported him. However, he favoured political union with the United States and that did
not suit the deep conviction of Canadians. In March of 1837, yet another policy put in
place by an another appointed individual started Mackenzie thinking of a military attack.14
Mackenzie began organizing his followers for an armed attack against the
government. When news arrived of the insurrection of Lower Canada had begun, Mackenzie set
his plans in motion. The Rebellion was short lived however, as the authorities knew of his
activities. Few shots were fired in the confrontations, and they chased Mackenzie to the
The effect of this rebellion in Upper and Lower Canada caused the British Government to
send the Earl of Durham to Canada in 1838 to recommend changes to bring peace to the
In 1840, one recommendation became law with the union of Upper and Lower
Canada with the "Act of Union" forming the province of Canada. They now called
Upper Canada "Canada West" (today's Ontario), and Lower Canada was "Canada
East" (today's Quebec).
In 1848, the Rebellion Losses Bill was designed to compensate people of Lower Canada whose
property was destroyed in the 1837 Rebellion. The Conservative minority was against the
bill (recall that the Conservatives supported the Family Compact); the Reformers (Liberals
and those who were in favour of responsible government) were for it.
Lord Durham also proposed that the Crown grant responsible government to Upper and Lower
Canada and the British Government firmly rejected that proposal. It wasn't until 1849 when
Lord Elgin, then (appointed) Governor of the Province of Canada overruled the Family
Compact on the Rebellion Losses Bill that a form of responsible government came into
being; the will of the people won out.
To what extent this rebellion affected Robert and family has probably been lost to
history. It's not known for sure where they were living (from 1834 to 1842) though they
were in Ontario. If they were at Mosa Township, the lack of newspapers made the
possibility of them being completely unaware of the turmoil.
In the early years of Upper Canada, the economy was tied with the United States for trade
and currency. Wheat in the early 1800's, was the crop of choice. The wheat crop failed in
1842, and the following winter of 1842-1843 was exceptionally severe. Since Robert and son
David were listed as farmers in the 1842 Assessment, our ancestors would have had a
In 1843 a series of taxes gave the Canadian wheat farmer an advantage over the Americans.
Flour mills, ships and docks were built to enable the export. However, with the
preferential tax treatment removed in 1846, an extensive depression followed.16
During the American Civil War, under the Reciprocity Act, the farmers of
Canada West found a ready market for beef and pork. When the war and the Act ended, the
economic depression that followed caused many people to leave for the United States and
for Western Canada. At this point, it is unknown if any of our relatives left at this
time. Robert's son George was in Iowa by 1909, but the date he left Canada is currently
unknown. Robert's daughter Emma and her husband Josiah Dewey went to Iowa long before the
war. Other grandchildren of Robert and Hannah found their way to Michigan, though exactly
when is unknown still.
The coming of the railroad in the mid 1850's sped up the industrialization of the area.
The discovery of oil in 1859 completed the process. The first half of the1800's could be
said to have had wheat as the economic engine of south western Ontario; during the
American Civil War beef as the chief source of revenue, then in the latter years of the
1800's was oil.
The Tunks clan (Mariah Parr's descendants), some had said, had oil in their veins. It
didn't make them rich as it has also been said that the wealth of the Tunks clan was
poured into the ground in search of the elusive oil. As it turned out, a Tunks did strike
oil. Carrie (Tunks) Stocking and husband Hillary owned the land where Imperial Oil found
oil; akin to winning the lottery! However, the oil and royalties only lasted one short
Another relative had a different exposure to oil. Alta Geraldine (Colborne) McEwen was
visiting some relatives in Lambton County (western border of Middlesex County) and she
asked her aunt for a glass of water. Alta was a youngster at that time, and she was told
to get it from a bucket. Well that bucket had a layer of oil sitting on top of the water
that, shall we say, set her aback! Her aunt came over with a ladle and swished the oil
aside and scooped the water into her glass; the water was clear and cold, but 80 odd years
later she still remembered!
Upon their arrival to Ontario, Robert Parr's children may have had access to a primitive
school. In these early years the school was likely made of log and one room in size. The
teacher often was paid a fee, but a common form of remuneration was produce.17
There was a secondary school at Wardsville in 1860, but all of Robert and Hannah's
children were married by that time, as well as some grandchildren! It is doubtful that any
descendants went to that school that early, farm work was demanding of labour hours, be it
for adults or children.
When Robert and family arrived in Canada, the early census returns had them listed as
Church of England. In subsequent years Episcopal Methodist was the chosen religion.
Robert and his family established themselves at Wardsville, and a circuit rider for the
Wardsville Mission did not start until 1849. In 1850 to 1852, a Rev. Charles Sylvester18 was the
circuit rider that met the early Parr's.
A circuit rider was a minister that travelled by horseback to his various charges. His
worldly possessions in his saddlebags, he would have travelled in all kinds of weather,
frequently on implausible trails, all to attend to the religious welfare of his charges.
This Mr. Sylvester was a witness on the will of Henry Johnson, who was the father-in-law
of David Parr. Henry Johnson's name was passed onto David's first child.
David Parr in 1850 was a church trustee and presumably by position, was in close contact
with Mr. Sylvester. Some aspect of Mr. Sylvester must have impressed David and wife Jane,
as their third child George was given the middle name of Sylvester.
When George Sylvester Parr and his wife Jane Weir named their sixth child, the Sylvester
name survived another generation. That child, Roy Sylvester Parr, went through life hating
his middle name without knowing the history behind it.
There have been nine ministers found so far in the family. Frederick Parr had two
grandsons that were ministers (Maxwell Colborne Parr and Robert Harold Parr), and each of
those grandsons had a son that became ministers as well! It carried another generation
further as Frederick had a great great grandson as a minister, Richard Garnet Riseborough.
It's in Frederick's line that the family bibles were found on the Parr family, greatly
contributing to the knowledge of the early years of the family.
On Mariah's line, there have been two ministers found so far; George Patterson Tunks and
sister Dorothy Matilda (Tunks) Pringle. One of their great nieces married a minister.
David, there have been two new ministers found so far; Frederick H. Parr and Gordon
At this point though, there is no knowledge of a minister in the descendant lines of
George, Emma, Harriett, Mary Ellen or Lucy.
The first thought of the railway for southwestern Ontario was in 1834 when London and
Hamilton businessmen signed a charter. That was about the time that Robert, Hannah and
family arrived in Ontario. In 1845, the name was changed from the London and Gore Railroad
Company to that of the Great Western Railway Company.
With British capital, work started in 1847. With railway connections with Michigan and New
York, the economic boon was on. Land speculation soared. With London, Ontario being at the
geographic centre, the population doubled in three years. Incredibly, there were only 110
kilometres (69 miles) of track laid.19
The railway reached London at the end of 1853. So did the land speculators. Property along
the railway right-of-way suddenly brought inflated prices. Other areas zoomed in value
with the thought of feeder lines.20
By the autumn of 1857 however, the economy collapsed.21 It was a post-Crimean
War depression which was a financial depression throughout North America. The economic
backbone of Canada West was wheat, and wheat prices collapsed. Coupled with that, was the
grim winter of 1857-1858.
Stateside, many financial institutions failed. As mentioned earlier, Canada did not have
any currency of its own, so merchants and farmers used American bank notes. With so many
American banks closing, the paper notes were worthless, dealing the economy of Canada West
an added blow.
In the good times, Canada West wheat crossed the border to Buffalo in return for American
dollars. Now a trickle was all that was exchanged. Land prices of Canada West collapsed.
Proposed villages fell by the wayside, as did many a speculator's fortune. No doubt that
was why Frederick Parr's proposal in 1855 for the town of "Centreville" -
located between today's Newbury and Wardsville, Ontario - never made it to reality.
Centreville was proposed by Frederick Parr
on Part of the North Half of Lot 17 in the Second Range of the Township of Mosa, Middlesex
County, Ontario. He proposed Parr Street having 8 half acre lots on either side, for a
total of 16.
The Making of Canada
The currency of the 1700's was principally of pounds, shillings and pence from the British
system. As trade with the United States increased, the dollar and cents system crept into
Canada. It was a mixture of both systems when Robert and family arrived. By 1858, Canada
adopted a system parallel to that of the States.22 Canada however, had no
The currency used were issued from the many banks in the States and a few in Canada. It
was a workable system that was phased out only by the 1920's. There were pitfalls from
that system, in that if a bank failed - and many did - the currency became worthless.
After the American Civil War in 1865, the people of southwestern Ontario were uneasy that
the Americans would now head north for the conquest of Canada. This was not an unfounded
fear, as countless American newspapers were speculating that very thing.23 What were the
Americans going to do with a trained, armed, and experienced army? In early 1866, it was
deemed the "manifest destiny" by northern US newspaper editors that the United
States control North American.24 There was no one
reason for having Canada become its own country, though "Reasons for Confederation
are as thick as blackberries."25
It was the Fenians, the English-hating Irish fanatics who actually invaded Canada, not the
troops of the United States as long suspected. Thousands of these Irish gathered in armed
bands along the Canadian/US border from Detroit to New Brunswick. The American government
did nothing to suppress their activities and generally the American press added to the
alarm with their anti-British propaganda and threats of Canadian annexation.
The Canadian government called up 10,000 men for the defence of the border.26 On 1 June
1866 a force of some 800 to 1,500 Fenian raiders landed at Fort Erie and seized the town.
The Fenians won a battle at Ridgeway. Their success was short-lived, as three days later
the Fenians were routed at Stephensville.
This laid the foundation for the political talks from 1864 to1867 resulting in the
Dominion of Canada: they passed the British North America Act 1 July 1867. They now called
Canada West "Ontario", and Canada East "Quebec".
Slavery was a significant factor in United States history, however, it was a part of
Canada as well. Whether our ancestors had anything to do with slavery, or which side they
supported, is lost to history. United Empire Loyalists were American colonists who
supported the Crown during the American Revolution. With the British defeat, those loyal
to the Crown emigrated to Canada; many of them were black.
An Act was passed by the provincial Legislature under the Lieutenant-Governor. Major
General John Graves Simcoe worked for the gradual emancipation of slaves within Canada.27 The year
was 1793. The Act allowed people of African descent to vote or serve on juries. If they
met the basic residency requirements, they were equal in the eyes of the law. The law was
one place where one Peter Butler (not a relative) proved that colour was not a barrier to
being a county constable for almost 50 years starting from 1883.28
In the States, "The Fugitive Slave Act" was passed in 1850 allowing slave owners
to retrieve their human property anywhere in the States. This caused a significant
increase in the flow to Canada, as free and fugitive African-Americans alike lived in
constant fear of slave-catchers.
The World Discovers Southwestern Ontario
The Donnelly's were not relatives, but the murders of James, his wife Johannah, sons Tom
and John and niece Bridget on 4 February 1880 made news throughout North America and
Which version do you believe? Crime writer Thomas Kelly or scholar Orlo Miller? To read
Kellys' version, the Donnelly's held the residents of Biddulph Township in fear with shear
muscle power and intimidation. On at least two occasions property was taken from the
rightful owners, many barns were destroyed by fire, people were physically beaten, farm
tools as well as livestock were stolen. If the law showed up at the door, it would take
what little life the constable had left to get back on his horse and ride out of town.
However, to read Miller's version, it was the Catholics against the Protestants. The
Donnelly's were Catholics friendly to the Protestants, which was an unpardonable sin. Yes,
there were barn burnings, stolen tools and stolen farm animals, but that happened before
the Donnelly's arrived, when the Donnelly's were out of town or in prison, and after they
were killed; so how could they have done everything attributed to them?
Both authors agree that a vigilante committee was formed of Catholics swearing an oath of
secrecy and that there was a conspiracy to kill the Donnelly's. James Carroll (a Catholic)
was the constable then, and his sole mission was to rid Biddulph Township of the
Donnellys. After months of planning, he took 30 men to James Donnelly's place in the
midnight hour and they killed James, Johannah, and son Tom. A niece happened to be
visiting the Donnelly's then and was killed as well. Next, only eight men made it to
William Donnelly's house where they intended to kill William. They mistakenly shot and
killed William's brother John who happened to be at William's that night.
James Carroll and five others were put on trial for murder. The first trial ended with a
hung jury. The second trial found James Carroll "not guilty." The remaining men
were released without going to trial.
Kelly's version says that the jury agreed with the murderers in that The Donnelly's Must
Die (ironically the title of Miller's book). Miller's version said that the venue of the
trial was too close to the vigilante's sphere of influence, and the jury members were
intimidated into rendering a "not guilty" verdict. My personal bias is towards
Miller's version, though I have purchased a third version to read, "The Donnelly
Album" authored by Ray Fazakas to find the common ground in all three.
Whereas Biddulph Township is not close by 1880 standards to Mosa Township, it would seem
implausible that Robert's descendants (Robert and Hannah were deceased by this time) did
not know about the murders; it was the hottest news/gossip in North America!
Another time for North American fame to southwestern Ontario came on Queen Victoria's
birthday 24 May 1881; the river steamer "Victoria" sank drowning 198 people.29 The
ransom kidnapping of brewery magnate John S. Labatt during the last 6 months of 1934 put
London, Ontario back on the crime map of North America.30
Considered a cheap form of entertainment, everyone seemed interested in politics. The
secret ballot did not come about until 1874. "Pork barrel politics" came about
because of large hogsheads of meat, strategically located so that the "right"
voter could help himself. Or the payoff could have been a drink, a bottle or a fiver.31 How
widespread the "pork barrel" was in southwestern Ontario of course, is open to
speculation and in need of research.
Many people today have lawn signs indicating their voting preferences. Over 125 years ago,
your politics were known by the newspaper you purchased, the company you kept, and the
businesses you bought from. Not having a secret ballot in the many small communities could
not have been a privacy issue; rather, it would have been one of intimidation or bribery.
In the late 1880's, an American publishing company sent their staff into south western
Ontario to prepare a series of county histories on a subscription basis. These history
books have proved useful with this family research. David and Fred Parr have been the
principal relatives that have found some fame with these publications, with
brother-in-laws Robert Tunks and Robert Beveridge also being noted. A grandson to Robert
Tunks, Franklin Little, was found in one as well.
The Riel Rebellion
The Riel Rebellion occurred in the spring of 1885, as Louis Riel led an uprising against
the Canadian Government. He led the Métis (half French, half Native Indian) against the
North-West Mounted Police on 26 March 1885 at Duck Lake, (in what is now) Saskatchewan. By
this time, descendants of Robert and Hannah had not taken up the offer of free land in the
Canadian west. It's possible that some ancestor may have been involved with the Rebellion
as many young men of Middlesex County joined the Seventh Fusiliers and were shipped to the
west. They didn't see any action, but were given a hero's welcome upon returning to
By midsummer, the Rebellion had been crushed. Louis Riel was subsequently charged,
convicted and hanged.
Fire regulations were unheard in the 1800's. Commercial enterprises, homes and
outbuildings could be constructed of whatever material to whatever standards the builder
chose or could afford, which meant buildings were susceptible to fire. What frequently
happened, was a fire started in one building and quickly jumped to neighbouring buildings
with the result of a devastated town. John Thomas Parr lost his garage station in one such
fire at Wyoming, Ontario; that was 1947. Bothwell, Ontario - the home of many of the Tunks
clan - was victim of numerous town fires. Carrie (Tunks) Stocking as a child (c1907)
thought that the world was coming to an end during one May Bothwell fire.
Sir Adam Beck built the first hydro generating station at Niagara Falls in 1917. Imagine
not having electricity! No roller coaster rides, no television, no computers! It was over
seventy years after Robert and family arrived, when the incandescent light bulb was able
to glow in southwestern Ontario.
The city of London in Middlesex County was one of the first cities in Canada to light its
streets by electric power.33
However, since many of our ancestors were still farmers living far from major cities, it
is doubtful that any had electricity until maybe well into the 1900's. It may not have
been an unusual story in that there are relatives out there that did not have the benefits
of electricity until after the Second World War!
The early roads made for adventure, as you may recall pictures of driver and passengers
wearing goggles on their excursions. In the early 1900's, anyone who could afford an
expensive automobile, was obviously a heavy taxpayer. So in the cities at least, the
governments responded with better roads.34
One automotive story of the descendants of Robert and Hannah Parr, was about the one owned
by Robert Henry Tunks. An old relic when purchased, and in 1919 it was put to use in the
basket business owned by Robert at Bothwell, Ontario. This two cylinder "truck"
carried the baskets to the various shipping docks and market locations. The vehicle
eventually lapsed into disuse and supposedly wound up in the Dearborn, Michigan Ford
The automobile shows the evolution of transportation in North America. The first villages
were built near water; as you may recall, the forests were so thick it was the only option
for travel. The second generation of villages developed via road way intersections. Then
villages appeared because of the railways only to be superseded by roads because of the
car. The Trans-Canada Highway built up business sections of town that once existed by
railway stations, that once existed by county road intersections that once existed by the
waterfronts. Will something come along to replace the car??
The first noted accident was probably David Tunks, losing his left hand at a saw mill;
date unknown. The doctor amputated most of his arm and "One arm Dave" took up a
new vocation; mailman.
Arthur Howard Parr survived World War I and a gas attack, but in 1927 he did not survive a
construction accident leaving a wife and three young children.
Cecil Roy Parr was killed in 1954 when a 5 ton steel tank broke free during unloading and
crushed him. His wife and four children survived him.
Gloria Joyce Pilkey was swimming when her brother was caught by an
undertow. Gloria saved her brother but did not have the strength after
fighting the undertow, to save herself. That was 1966.
Also in 1966, Robert Harold Parr was fishing when he fell into the water and drowned. He
In 1976, Wayne Tunks was electrocuted when his tandem truck inadvertently
touched hydro lines. He was 29.
Mark William Johnston was killed in a car accident in 1984 west of Orillia, Ontario. He
left behind his wife and two children.
World War I
Every community seemed to have had parades, bands, singing, cheering, and patriotic
demonstrations with the announcement of this war.35
Relatives that so far were known to have signed up;
From Frederick's family
Floyd Wesley Parr, Robert Harold Parr
From David's family
Arthur Howard Parr, Roy Sylvester Parr
From Mariah's family
Ernest Tunks, William Clifford Tunks
The Stock Market Crash and the Depression
With so many stocks becoming worthless, and many others devalued, selling stocks wasn't a
good profession. Harry J Parr did sell stocks at one time in his life, as he was a
professional salesman, but it's not known if he was selling stocks during the late
twenties and early thirties.
The Royal Visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth
Many Canadians went to see the "Royals" in their cross Canada tour. Ralph
Stonehouse Colborne (Frederick's grandson) was the engineer on the train that carried the
couple through Northwestern Ontario in the summer of 1939.
"It is something more than just mere idle curiosity which draws thousands of people
to the centre of Western Ontario to see the royal couple. It is deep affections for the
Crown and a firm belief that British institutions, of which the Crown is the emblem, are
the foundation of all our civil liberties and personal freedom ..." 36
World War II
Unlike the first war, news of the outbreak was received in silence37.
Our relatives that were known to have served in World War II
William Fones Colborne, Ralph Alexander Moore, William Arthur Toles
Wilbert George Webb, Rodmund Percy Parr, Bernice Kathleen Parr, James Frederick Parr
Unknown at this point
Other Historical Events
The listing below is simply a time line of events. At this point, it is unknown if Robert
and Hannah's descendants were personally affected by any of these historical events.
Should you dear reader find a connection, I'll be more than thrilled to review the data
for inclusion in this page and in the research.
||British Parliament passed New Poor Law.
||Queen Victoria ascends to the throne.
||The French Revolution.
||Gold rush to California.
||The Canadian Parliament buildings at Montreal were destroyed by fire.
||The first Canadian postage stamp was issued.
||British Columbia Gold Rush.
||Oliver Wendell Holmes invents the stereoscope. Catherine (Tunks) Little
had boxes of stereoscopic pictures
||The Canadian Parliament buildings at Quebec City were destroyed by fire.
||President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.
||The Atlantic Cable was completed.
||Canada became a nation. The Parliament is now at Ottawa, Ontario.
||A new writing machine is called a "Type-Writer".
||The North West Mounted Police was established by a Canadian
||Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone.
||Thomas Edison invents the electric light.
||Long distance phone calls can be made.
||The last spike of the cross Canada railway was hammered into place.
||George Eastman perfects the "Kodak" box camera.
||Edison's phonograph is available to the public.
||Oklahoma is opened to non-Indian settlement. Harriett (Parr) Toles was
said to have lived out her life there, but it appears that she did not arrive there before
||Sir John A MacDonald, Canada's first Prime Minister died.
||Sioux and Cheyenne defeat Custer at the battle of Little Big Horn.
||Klondike Gold Rush.
||Marconi sends a radio signal across the Atlantic.
||Queen Victoria died.
||Orville and Wilbur Wright have their first manned flight.
||Ford Motor Company produces the first Model "T".
||King Edward VII died.
||S.S. Titanic sinks on maiden voyage; 1,513 drowned.
||The world's largest man made explosion (to date) occurred at Halifax, Nova
Scotia when a munitions ship collided with another ship.
||People can now dial telephone numbers themselves. Carrie Alva (Tunks)
Stocking operated a switch board before then; lots of gossip could be had!
||KDKA in Pittsburgh broadcasts first scheduled radio programs.
||Abdication of the British Throne by Edward VIII.
|A Century of Western Ontario
Author: Orlo Miller
Published by The Ryerson Press 1949
|Family History News
volume 3 number 1
Author: Audrey Y. Morris
Published by Paperjacks 1973
|Lord Durham's Report
Edited by Gerald M. Craig
Published by McClelland and Stewart Limited 1966
|Middlesex: Two Centuries
Editor Edward Phelps
Published by Frontline Publications 1989
|Ontario: An Informal History of the Land and Its People
Published by the Ministry of Education 1984
|Roughing it in the Bush
Author: Susanna Moodie
Published by McClelland and Stewart 1970
|The Black Donnellys
Author: Thomas P. Kelly
Published by Pagurian Press Limited 1974
|The Donnellys Must Die
Author: Orlo Miller
Published by the Laurentian Library 1967
|The Great Migration
Author: Edwin C. Guillet
Published by University of Toronto Press
|The John A. Macdonald Album
Author: Lena Newman
Published by Tundra Books
|The Story of Canada
Author: George M. Wrong, Chester Martin, and Walter N. Sage
Published by Ryerson Press 1943
|Upper Canada The Formative Years 1784 - 1841
Author: Gerald M. Craig
Published by McClelland and Stewart 1977