Scots came from Quebec to settle Blackhawk

While almost every race around the world has sent its men into Rainy River District, I believe the Scotsmen, especially those from Trois Rivieres, Que., made as much impact as anyone else.
And I’m thinking of my wife’s pioneering grandparents, especially her mother’s father, Angus McRae, when I say that.
Angus was among the leaders of a large Quebec group, some 17 families who landed at Blackhawk, north of Barwick, to take homesteads and practice their farming and logging skills in terrain probably little different from what they knew before.
They would be familiar with life along lakes and rivers from their former homes as Angus and the others settled into picking up whatever sidelines they could manage. This included guiding the visiting fishermen, for which he is best remembered.
But the paying guest had better not stand up in Angus’ boat. His guide apparently detested that idea and would rock the boat violently until the angler either sat down or fell overboard while everyone else around—knowing what to expect—would be laughing.
Angus also was fond of trapping and hunting, where he is said to have excelled up there—north of the main settlements. He put together piles of furs to be sold every spring, as did so many others in his time.
He raised two sons and four daughters as well as seeing the country around him. His eldest son, Malcolm, may have resented some of Angus’ wandering ways, especially his departures for beaver trapping very spring.
While Angus was away at one of his line camps, Malcolm was depended on to start the planting and look after the livestock until his dad returned. Malcolm made up this ditty about their circumstances: “Gentleman comes and walks away [referring to his dad]. But me damn fool, I’m here to stay!”
The Scots were always famous for what was called their dour humour. They would tell how a lot of nicknames were needed around their former Quebec homes, especially to identify which Angus McRae might be discussed.
So they called some according to their complexions, such as “Black Angus” and “Red Angus,” and others were known for their occupation, one being called “Back-house” McRae because he could supply some popular back-houses in those days of “outdoor plumbing.”
And through thick or thin, the McRaes made a living that, looked back at today, seems to have been agreeable if somewhat unsophisticated.
And so Blackhawk was born among the fiddle tunes that attracted crowds from afar to their country dances, especially when big Don Ross was keeping order there before the Second World War.
His mother kept the dances proceeding in a popular way until Don returned from overseas.
So, to recall the early years, the Fort Frances descendants of those Quebec Scots made up an expedition last summer to visit their Blackhawk relatives up the highway towards Kenora.
I imagine they returned with fresh respect for their grandparents who toughed life up there and managed to forget about Quebec.
Muriel Ross, a former high school teacher, visited Trois Rivieres over a year ago to see where the Rosses, McRaes, and the rest, including the grandparents of well-known Gordon McTaggart, on his mother’s side, had come from so many years ago.
It occurred to Muriel to visit the old Quebec cemetery and look for any Scottish name she could find that might be remembered around Blackhawk.
She brought back word that none of the gravestones in the cemetery she entered indicated any Scottish connection at all, but it’s possible our Blackhawk immigrants may have come from a slightly different locale.
Anyway, while we delve into local origins, I hope someone can tell more about another Scottish clan I used to know something about, the McEvoys from the Miramichi River region in New Brunswick who meant so much for our district logging progress here in the past century.
And I’d also like to know more about the early Boileaus and Cousineaus and others of French extraction who came here from the United States and not Quebec!
• • •
The Devlin area always has enjoyed a literary attitude and will publish its book of homesteader family histories in February, launching the community effort with a wine-and-cheese party (the exact date is to be announced).
Among those families are the Beadles, who already have had one of their family, Gertrude Beadle, produce a book of poetry that attracts admiration.
• • •
After applauding so much good hockey over so many years, I am regularly encountering those great players without realizing, in many cases, how much time has passed by. So when I met Gerald Shperuk in Safeway and recalled how well he skated as a junior, I had to ask his age.
When hs confessed to 67 years and still stick-handling, I was appalled because in my mind’s eye, I still see him as a very tall and classy skater but nowhere near so long ago.
I asked Gerald if hockey has changed much in his opinion and received the same answer most older players will express: “There’s too much grabbing these days, and it spoils the game.”
After more than 50 years in hockey, I’d say he is entitled to that opinion!
• • •
Allan Bedard Jr. has been taking a chef’s course in college so Allan Sr. called on his services for a recent Christmas breakfast. He was proud of his son’s efforts when he realized preparations for 38 diners took young Allan only 45 minutes!
And just about everything you might suggest for breakfast was included.

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