The MacRobbie Family of West Puslinch, John and Jane (Boyne) MacRobbie and their descendants.
Puslinch Historical Society Spirit Walk
Crieff Cemetery, June 26, 2016
Margaret Douglas married John McRobie of Crieff Scotland, John died in Scotland and his widow Margaret first came to Canada about 1829 as a maid with a party from the Hudson Bay company and travelled west, one report was as far as Fort McLeod and another to the Red River county and then later returned to Scotland.
The McRobie (McRobbie, MacRobbie) family came to Canada in 1832 and Puslinch about 1835. John, James, Andrew and Ludovich, four brothers made their way to Puslinch and their mother followed a couple of years later. Andrew worked for about 2 years in Quebec on the Lachine Canal, the canal cut through Montreal Island in order to bypass the Lachine rapids in the St; Lawrence river. He became acquainted with James Black, whose son was in Puslinch during this time, and most likely that’s where he first heard about land available for settlement in Puslinch.
The four brothers chose four adjoining 100 acre lots on Conc 10 in the Corwhin district, lots 22 and 23 Front and Rear. When they built their first log homes they built them near the intersection of the four lots so that they could be close to each other. It meant that their houses were all built at the back of their lots resulting in long lanes today. Their mother Margaret followed her sons to Canada about 1835 she was about 50 years old at the time. The boys started a house for her right at the intersection of their four lots so she would have them close by on all four sides. Sadly, she never lived there as she died before it was completed. Today, her unfinished stone house lies in ruins.
Andrew married Margaret Grey and they had nine children. John their oldest son was born April 5, 1844, his is the family we are going to discover today. In 1869 (October 14) he married Jane Boyne (b. March 3, 1850) who was born in Dundas but was living in Puslinch at the time of their marriage. In 1874 they moved to a farm on lot 25 Front of the Gore. By this time, they had 3 children Mary Jane (January 12, 1870 – August 2, 1949), Maggie (October 9, 1871 – December 11, 1948) and Andrew (March 29, 1873 – December 1, 1956). Following their move to West Puslinch they had 4 more children, Johnnie (July 7, 1878 – April 14, 1879), Caroline (November 8, 1881 – August 9, 1958), Robert (March 18, 1883 – January 31, 1961) and Janet (September 3, 1893 – January 12, 1894). Unfortunately, Johnnie and Janet both died in infancy and are buried in Crown Cemetery, near their grandparents.
John farmed the rest of his life on the farm on the Crieff Sideroad. John was a trustee of SS #6, the Crieff School for a 12 years and was a member of Knox Crieff. By all accounts he lived the quiet life of a farmer but there are 2 incidents reported involving him. One concerned the store in Crieff where a spark from his pipe fell into a bag of gun powder as the store keeper Henry Becker was measuring it into the bag resulting in and explosion that caused both men’s beards being singed. Another was a report of a very strong storm that passed through the area in August 1907 causing John McRobbie to lose a fine mare. She was in the centre of a ten-acre field. There was no tree or fence with two hundred yards of her. She was struck on the shoulder.
Their family with the exception of their oldest son Andrew all continued to live in the Crieff area and attended church here.
Mary Jane their oldest daughter married James Tennant and lived on the Valens sideroad within walking distance of her parent’s farm. They had a family of three – Winnie who married Earl Martin and farmed in the Elora area, Annie who married Charlie Mast and in lived in Crieff and son John who farmed on the Beverly side of the Gore Road.
John and Jane’s second daughter Maggie never married, she was very active in the life of Knox Church, she lived with her brother Robert until his move further north in Puslinch at which time she moved to her own house on the Valens sideroad in Beverly Township.
Son Andrew emigrated to the US in 1896 living first in Kingston, Michigan and later purchasing a farm near Marlette, where some of his descendants still reside today.
Caroline married William Sim and resided on the Gore in Beverly, they were also very faithful members of Crieff Church, Willie was an elder.
Their youngest son Robert lived on the home farm at lot 25 Front of the Gore then he purchased lot 17 rear of the Gore, that is the Classy Lane property, and then he moved back to lot 25 Front of the Gore before purchasing Lot 6 & 7 front of the 4th in 1941 and then lots 4&5 front of the 4th in 1952.
Robert was an elder of Crieff Church from 1920 until 1928. He was also a member of the choir and choir leader; he was also church treasurer of a term. The church picnics were held in the MacRobbie bush for a number of years. Robert married Mary McMillan (October 15, 1894 – June 5, 1982) in 1928 and they had 6 children, one little girl died in infancy. Bob and Mamie’s (as they were known) children, Beatrice, Andrew, Archie, Douglas and Richard all grew up in Puslinch. Andrew moved to a farm in the Mount Forest area in 1963 and Archie spent a few years in Winnipeg but returned and set up his trucking business on County Rd 34. The other members of the family remained in Puslinch, were members of Knox Crieff and were involved in community organizations; ball teams, hockey teams, and 4-H both as members and leaders.
At one point in the last 1990’s following in their father’s footsteps, the four siblings that lived in Puslinch all sang together in the choir here at the church.
Local politics had a place in the MacRobbie history. In the 1850’s brothers James and Andrew were on council and following his Great Grandfather’s example Archie (Oct. 31, 1932 – July 20, 2006) entered local politics being elected to council in 1973 and continued to be council member, deputy reeve and reeve. He was warden of the County in 1979-1980 and later was the Ward 7 councillor for the County representing Puslinch and Guelph Eramosa. Archie lost only one election, over the building of the Puslinch Community Centre. Taxpayers said it wouldn’t pay for itself, but Archie argued it was needed. The centre became a Puslinch fixture and Archie was re-elected. After his death there was a dedication ceremony held to name the main hall of the Puslinch Community Centre the “Archie MacRobbie Hall”
Archie was a media favourite, following his death in 2006 Wellington Advertiser stated that “He said things other politicians would fear to even think - and his blunt style turned John Archie MacRobbie into a legend in his home Township of Puslinch and in Wellington County and beyond”. In 1984 at a time when the city of Guelph was trying to annex land in Puslinch Archie became the subject of the political cartoon in the Guelph Tribune, it showed a defiant Archie holding his fist in the air saying “Vive Le Puslinch Libre!” while wearing a T shirt that said My Puslinch Does Not Include Guelph.
He was instrumental in the 1991 restoration of the Wellington County Centre, a heritage building that was nearly demolished.
He also served the Grand River Conservation Authority from 1981 until his death, 16 years of that as chair or vice chair representing the GRCA to Conservation Ontario.
Plowing matches are important in Puslinch agricultural history. There was a headline in the Guelph Mercury in 1991 that stated “If your name is MacRobbie chances are you can plow”. The Puslinch Agricultural Society’s first plowing match was held in 1851 and the MacRobbie family has been involved almost from the first. In 1865, Andrew MacRobbie was a member of the executive of the Union Ploughing Match. The family involvement continued down through the years with children being taught how to plow not only to help with the work on the farm but also for the competition. The MacRobbie family has hosted plowing matches at least 7 times. Welcoming friends and neighbours, and in recent years plowmen from near and far, to take part in friendly completion. John MacRobbie’s son Robert and his sons and grandchildren have competed and won many awards and some still compete today. Robert’s son Andrew was recognized in 2009 at the International Plowing Match in Earlton because he had competed for sixty consecutive years, plowing with horses and a one-furrow walking plow, and his son and daughter still compete the same way. This year the International Plowing Match is being held in Wellington County near Harriston and there should be 3 MacRobbies competing.
In 1984 when the International Plowing Match was held in Wellington County near Teviotdale, Archie MacRobbie was a member of the executive in charge as special events chairman and was in charge of the coordination and planning of demonstration displays and special category plowing completion. At that particular plowing competition his brothers Andrew and Richard were both champions in their respective classes.
John and Jane moved to West Puslinch in 1874 and became involved in the church and community, their family has continued that tradition. John died in 1909 (May 13) and his wife Jane died in 1926 (February 17) and they are buried here at Crieff as well as his son Robert, daughters Mary Jane, Maggie and Carrie and several grandchildren and great grandchildren.
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