H: William Tanner (1856-1937)

 H:        William Tanner McCUTCHEON (4) (Charles McCutcheon-3; Samuel McCutcheon-2; Samuel McCutcheon-1) was born in Mulmur Township, Dufferin, Ontario on the 12th July 1856 and he died in 1937 in Saskatchewan.  He was buried at the Fern Cemetery.  He married Mary Elizabeth DORSEY (December 1860 – 1940) on the 23rd May 1882  in Dufferin County.  Her parents were Thomas Dorsey and Grace Mitchell.  Mary was buried at RoseTown Saskatchewan.  ►

∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞

The County of Cardwell in Ontario was formed in 1867 as an electoral district and disappeared around 1903. It was redistributed between the counties of Dufferin, Peel and Simcoe South.  However, for people born between 1867 and 1903, their place of birth may be shown as “MONO TOWNSHIP, CARDWELL COUNTY” or “ADJALA TOWNSHIP, CARDWELL COUNTY” or “CALEDON TOWNSHIP, CARDWELL COUNTY”. etc.  This makes it particularly confusing when dead information like this appears and there is no modern reference for it.  The birth locations for all of William and Mary’s children, on the Ontario Census, list them as “Mono Township, Cardwell County, Ontario.” 

∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞

William Tanner McCutcheon 

A Pioneer Story of Hardship, Heartache and Happiness

Between 1881 and 1885 the Canadian Pacific Railroad united Canada coast to coast with the driving of the last spike” at Craigellache, BC.  For those who could afford the transportation, travelling west by rail was more expensive, accommodating and comfortable than by Red River Cart.

William Tanner McCutcheon and Mary Elizabeth Dorsey left Shelburne, Ontario in the spring of 1895 travelling on the newly constructed CPR, arriving in Gainsborough, Saskatchewan.  They travelled west with four children, losing 2 boys when still babies in Ontario.  After disembarking in Gainsborough they journeyed  about 15 miles north to their homestead in an area called “Fern” which was situated just about directly east of Storthoaks.  Since there was no school yet in the district, 10 year old Marietta Pearl stayed with William’s brother, Joseph, in Boissevain, Manitoba to go to school.  Boissevain is located 80 miles east of Fern; a long way in those days.

William encountered a different problem than his pioneering parents and grandparents.  In 1825, upon their arrival on their homestead in Ontario, they had to cut down trees to make room for their log cabin.  In Bellegarde (which is what this area was called 1895 – 1905) there were no trees. It was a prairie plain.  Sometimes the settlers lacking lumber built their first house out of the tough buffalo-grass sod.

However, the first summer for William and Mary, was a particularly busy one, with the construction of the frame house they built, to get ready for the bitterly cold winter that soon set in.  During this land rush to the prairies, there were tens of thousands of these simple, small, single-storey frame houses that sprung up like the crocuses on the land in which they grew.  The frame houses were constructed out of simple 1×4 or 1×6 boards purchased at the nearest Hudson’s Bay Company Post; sometimes insulated with sawdust, sometimes not.

White-washed, inside and out.

Plaster was not available, so the houses were drafty and cold in the winter months; temperatures of 50 – 55 below were not unheard of.  The only source of heat was the Fat pot-bellied Quebec stove that sat in the middle of the main room floor that needed to be stoked with coal every so often.

This picture is from the author’s collection of one such frame house (newly white-washed) built around the turn of the century on a homestead near Parry, Saskatchewan.  Picture taken circa 1920.

The stove pipe from these stoves went up through the ceiling and through the attic above the house, which was usually where the children slept, several to a bed, cuddled beneath goose-down comforters.  When they awoke in the morning, the windows were frosted over; if one left a glass of water on the window sill, it was frozen.  It was these stoves with the over-heated stove pipes that caused many fires, burning the frame houses to the ground.  Another little McCutcheon girl, a second cousin about the same age as Lena in the above picture, burnt to death in such a fire as this.  (Lawrence McCutcheon has seen a picture of this little girl, charred, lying in her coffin).

Life on the farm for both William and Mary was tough.  In 1914, William lost an eye to an accident.  While he hauled hay to feed the livestock, cleaned the barns and spread manure, tilled the fields and hauled wheat by team to Gainsborough, returning with a load of coal walking both ways in the winter time to keep from freezing to death, Mary was busy planting and reaping a garden, canning vegetables for winter, baking bread, milking cows twice a day, separating milk and making butter, washing clothes, raising chickens, turkeys and geese; gathering eggs daily; nursing and attending to children, some of whom had a tendency to break legs.

And then tragedy struck them in 1897 when their baby girl, Edith, must have stepped on a rusty nail and she died shortly after of blood poisoning.

Two things happened in 1899.  In the spring of 1899, a new school district was formed and William was the first chairman of the school board.  Their children were the first to attend the new school.  Then later in the year, a prairie fire destroyed their crops, despite having ploughed a fire break around the property.  Luckily, the fire missed their house and barns.

And yet they had time to enjoy their neighbours, visiting in the winter months, playing cards, travelling by horse and cutter to attend old-time dances, box socials and Christmas concerts at the new school.  The annual grass-roots get-together, the “Fowl Supper” happened around the turn of the century and was attended by all.

Another tragedy struck the family in the spring of 1902.  There was massive flooding that year, as sometimes happens on the prairies, and the rivers were swollen and angry.  William and a neighbour had decided to plant a piece of land on the east side of the river.  Several men and boys were on this side of the river, planting and fixing machinery.  One man left and crossed the river with a team and stone boat, barely making it through the swollen river, just the wagon box visible above the water.  The other two, Percy and his father William, started for the river shortly thereafter.

Percy, who was 11 and ½ at the time, was proud of his latest accomplishment of being able to handle a man’s job – a walking plow behind a team of horses.   And so he wanted to take the team of horses through the river.  His Dad suggested to him that he take the horses, one of which he was riding, four abreast and go through the raging torrent.  When half way through the river both Percy and the horses disappeared for a moment.  The horses made the bank, but Percy made only one more short appearance.  William jumped into the current to try and reach Percy, but his clothes dragged him under.  The neighbour threw William a ladder which he managed to latch onto, but Percy was gone.  He was in the water for 3 days before he was found.  Someone made a set of hooks and they dragged the river.  Mary’s hair above her forehead turned instantly white as she witnessed this horrifying event.

The winter of 1906/1907 was a particularly severe winter.  Blizzard after blizzard buried them in.  After one blizzard that lasted 3 days, William finally made an attempt to get to the barn.  The barn was a stone barn with a sod roof about 60 feet long and the cattle and horses were stabled in it.  Finally reaching the barn he managed to dig a hole to allow air to reach the livestock; steam poured through the hole like a “reekin’ lum”.

Many a night in the cold, dark days of winter, Mary left a kerosene lamp lit in the window in case lost travellers happened to be passing by and in need of a place to stay.  And they did come from time to time.  In the winter of 1906/07, an NWMP, who was patrolling the district for lost travellers, happened by one night at supper.  He had a frozen corpse tied to his saddle.

Yet they stayed.  Finally the “dirty thirties” happened and Saskatchewan became a dust bowl.  Nothing grew but the crocuses.  Like thousands of other homesteads, the municipality repossessed the homestead for back taxes.

CONCLUSION:             This is a true story based on events from an article William and Mary’s son Edgar submitted to the book “Yesterday’s Prairie Wind”, pages 617 to 620.  I have re-created it, adding more information found in historical records.  The attached picture of William and Mary is taken from this book.  So far to date, I have not been able to reach a member of this family to receive permission to use the picture.  If this offensive to anyone, I will remove it.  However, the picture is integral to the story.  The small boy in the picture is Edgar.

On another note, the Land Grants or Letters patent for the Township 4, Range 30, Section 20, has not been found in William’s name.

►         Land Grants and/or Letters Patent Applied for.  Township 4, Range 30, West 1st Meridian.


  • Charles Aubrey McCUTCHEON (5) (William McCutcheon-4; Charles McCutcheon-3; Samuel McCutcheon-2; Samuel McCutcheon-1) was born on the 4th June 1883 in Mono Township, Cardwell County and he died on the 14th October 1883.
  • Marietta Pearl McCUTCHEON (5).                    See i following.
  • Anna Lena McCUTCHEON (5) (William McCutcheon-4; Charles McCutcheon-3; Samuel McCutcheon-2; Samuel McCutcheon-1) was born in 1888 in Mono Township, Cardwell County, ON and she died in 1932 in Saskatchewan.  Anna Lena never married.
  • Albert Percy McCUTCHEON (5) (William McCutcheon-4; Charles McCutcheon-3; Samuel McCutcheon-2; Samuel McCutcheon-1) was born on the 16th December 1890 in Mono Township, Cardwell County ON and he died in 1902 in Saskatchewan.

NOTE:   Percy died at age 11 of an accidental drowning.  He was driving a team of horses across a river in a flood.

  • Samuel Joseph McCUTCHEON (5) (William McCutcheon-4; Charles McCutcheon-3; Samuel McCutcheon-2; Samuel McCutcheon-1) was born on the 10th August 1892 in Mono Township, Cardwell County ON and he died on the 27th September 1892 in Mono.
  • Edith Annetta McCUTCHEON (5) (William McCutcheon-4; Charles McCutcheon-3; Samuel McCutcheon-2; Samuel McCutcheon-1) was born on the 27th July 1894 in Mono Township, Cardwell County ON and she died in 1897 in Saskatchewan.

NOTE:  She died of blood poisoning that she came down with from a rusty nail when she was 3 years old.

  • Wilfred Edgar McCUTCHEON (5).                    See ii following.
  • Agnes Vera McCUTCHEON (5).                        See iii following.


i.       Marietta Pearl McCUTCHEON (5) William Mccutcheon-4; Charles McCutcheon-3; Samuel McCutcheon-2; Samuel McCutcheon-1) was born on the 9th July 1885 in Mono Township, Cardwell County, ON and she died in November 1972 in Redvers, SK.  She married Harold Henry GIES on the 3rd December 1907 in Antler, SK.  He was born on the 1st March 1867 in Linewood, ON and he died in June 1950 in Antler, SK.  His parents were Blassius Gies and Magdalena Schaefer.


  • Carl S GIES (6) B. 10th November 1908 in Storthoaks, SK.  D. on the 17th April 1975 in Redvers, SK.  He married Isabella FOORD (1915-1982) on the 1st November 1941 in Tilston, MB.
  • Rubina GIES (6) B.24th March 1915 in Storthoaks, SK.  She was married twice.
  • Russell GIES (6) B. 24th February 1917 in Storthoaks, SK.  He married Yvonne McMILLIAN.
  • Edna Marietta GIES (6) B. 2nd February 1918 in Storthoaks, SK.  She married Don WHITE on the 18TH December 1945.

NOTE:   Stories on the Gies Family can be found in the book “Redvers 75 Years Live”.


ii.         Wilfred Edgar McCUTCHEON (5) William Mccutcheon-4; Charles McCutcheon-3; Samuel McCutcheon-2; Samuel McCutcheon-1) was born on the 27th July 1896 in Gainsborough, SK.  He died on the 15th December 1985 in Lethbridge, AB.   He married Marie Ethel COX in England.  She was born in 1896 in Sussex, England and she died on the 15th November 1988 at the age of 92 years in Lethbridge, AB.  ☺☺

NOTE:   In 1916, Wilfred was a constable with the city police force of Regina, SK.  When he enlisted in the army on the 3rd May 1918 he was training for the Royal Canadian North West Mounted Police.  (RCNWMP).  He travelled overseas to England for the end of the war where he met and married Marie Cox.  Marie came to Canada as a war bride.


  • Aubrey Dorsey “Rusty” McCUTCHEON (6) B. 1920 – 2000.
  • Stella McCUTCHEON (6) B. 1924 – 1974.
  • Norma McCUTCHEON (6) B. 26th January 1926.  She married Michael DOUGLAS.

Rusty and Norma McCutcheon Circa 1946 Calgary, Alberta

Pictured are Aubrey (Rusty) McCutcheon and his youngest sister, Norma McCutcheon circa 1946 on a street in Calgary, Alberta on their way to go golfing.  This picture was taken by a street photographer.  Picture from the Family photo album of Norma McCutcheon. Courtesy of Lindsey Bingley.

☺☺        Lived to be a Nonagenarian or more.


iii.        Agnes Vera McCUTCHEON (5) William McCutcheon-4; Charles McCutcheon-3; Samuel McCutcheon-2; Samuel McCutcheon-1) was born in June 1899 in Gainsborough, SK. And she died on the 1st May 1989 in Victoria, BC.  She married James Charles MAINES on the 12th July 1916 in PipestoneMB.  He was born on the 13th June 1891 in Minnedosa, MB.  His parents were James Maines and Sarah Campbell.  ☺☺


  • Orville MAINES (6) B. circa 1920.
  • Geneva MAINES (6) B. circa 1922.  D. Victoria, BC.

☺☺       Lived to be a nonagenarian or more.

Grandchildren of William Tanner McCutcheon

Pictured: L to R: Aubrey (Rusty) McCutcheon; Geneva Maines; Stella McCutcheon; Norma McCutcheon;  Orville Maines; taken Circa 1930 sitting on the running board of a relatively new invention of the time – a motor vehicle. Cute hat Orville.

 Picture from the Family photo album of Norma McCutcheon seated second from right. Courtesy of Lindsey Bingley.

∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞

NOTE:  Of the three illustrations pictured here, the top picture is from the book “Yesterday’s Prairie Wind”, the second one is from my collection, the third one is from old archives whereby the copyright has expired and is now in the public domain.  Angela Andrew.


3 thoughts on “H: William Tanner (1856-1937)

  1. HI there! I am a great great grandaughter of William Tanner McCutcheon (through Wilfred Edgar, then A.D. McCutcheon). I would love to get in touch and give you more information about our family, for example, my grandfather’s initials stand for Aubrey Dorsey and he passed away in 2000, not 1986 (that was my grandmother, Gwen).

    I’m so excited to look around here and learn more about our family! I am glad to see the photograph above.

    Please get in touch, thanks!

  2. Cindy Maines says:

    Hi Lindsey, I am the grand daughter of Vera McCutecheon and daughter of Orville Maines in the photo.

  3. Hi Cindy! I’m so happy to make contact with a near cousin on this side of my family. Are you in BC? I seem to remember hearing about cousins who lived in BC. I will let my Auntie Norma know that I’ve heard from you!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s