William Turnbull

Excerpt of “A History of My Family Relations”

by William Turnbull

written in January 1884


My father, and in fact the whole family disliked the Americans–inasmuch as they resolved to move to Canada. [That] resolve was carried out in 1841. They settled in Dundas, Ontario, where they found the manner of the people much more in accord with their tastes than they found in the United States.

After settling in Dundas, they had a family bereavement in the death of my eldest sister, Elizabeth. There was a celebrated preacher in Boston, whom my sister was passionately fond of listening to. One evening, a cold rainy one such as is quite common at Boston, she attended church. [She] caught a sever cold from which she never recovered. From being a cold in a short time it developed into a consumption of which she died. She was buried in Dundas graveyard a few weeks before the arrival of Catherine and [me]. Our reunion, which otherwise would have been joyous, was sorely mixed up with grief–but such is life. We had of course to submit and say nothing.

I found the family all in employment such as could be procured in those days. John had a situation as a gardener on Long Island, New York. Alex was working with Mr. Hiram King, a builder. James was serving his time learning cabinet making with John Matthews in Dundas. Margaret was living in Toronto at Captain Colclough’s. Euphemia, [who was] quite young was of course staying at home with father and mother. My father, anxious to get along, was working at his original trade, a carpenter at Dundas, helping to build Mr. J. B. Ecwaith’s house. Mr. P. Sommerville was foreman.


My father was anxious to procure land. Although not at all easy in money matters, the family without dissent yielded to his importunities. He purchase 80 acres in the township of Ancaster from Mr. R. Wardell at $14 per acre. [It was] a pretty place and good land. I came home from Waterloo and in a few months we moved into a small log house which was on the place–a very poor shelter, but it was free of rent and the wood for fuel all around us. [It] only needed cutting up. We had a good cow and in a short time procured another. James left his apprenticeship and came home too. We set to work chopping firewood. [We] rented the saw mill in the hollow, on the Dundas and Ancaster road from Mr. Matthews. [We] worked it very nicely for a while, but Alexander got a job at his trade and I was left with the mill. Of course, I could not manage it and being offered a situation in Hamilton, accepted and so we were glad to sell out to Mr. Wilbur.

Had we all stuck to the saw mill, I think we might have come out all right. I remained bookkeeper for Curney & Carpenter for 11 years. They were fine people. My brother, James and I started a foundry in Hamilton and ran it for a number of years. Our success was just very middling–nothing to brag about. So many new firms started just when we did [and] overdid the business. It is some little satisfaction to know, that if we did not make money for ourselves as we naturally expected, nobody lost by us. All were paid to the utmost farthing.

My brother resumed his mechanical trade, vis-à-vis patternmaker. He was a good hand and easily found employment. He went to Detroit, Michigan and worked in the Michigan Stoveworks. He boarded with brother John, having left his family for a time in the City of Hamilton. His health was not very good. He died suddenly while eating his dinner. It was found that he had heart trouble. I went with his wife and son John to the funeral. [He was] buried in Detroit.

His family have all done well and are doing well. Only one “Walter” dead. He was a printer foreman in the Spectator newspaper office. He was greatly respected by all who knew him. [He] left a widow and one son to mourn his loss.

Thank you to the descendants of William Turnbull for sharing this fantastic document of Dundas and Turnbull family history.

The full account was transcribed, along with research and footnotes, by John Ledingham.

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