The McLarty Family
Puslinch Historical Society Spirit Walk
Read by Lois McLean, PHS
Killean Cemetery, June 11, 2017
Today we are fortunate to find fragments of the past in documents housed in the Puslinch Historical Society archives. Together they create a portrait of one of the Township's pioneer families lost to time.
In 1836, Dougald and Ellen McLarty, their son Donald (age 4) and daughter Christina arrived in Quebec and then made their way to Galt that same year. Six years later they settled on Lot 8, R. Gore in Puslinch where they raised their family and lived out their days. Dougald was born in Campbeltown, Kintyre in 1797 and married Ellen ("Helen") Ramsay in Killean & Kilchenzie Parish there in 1826. Their daughter Mary was born in 1838 while they were living in Galt. In 1842 Dougald purchased Lot 8, Rear of the Gore in Puslinch where a third daughter, Ellen, was born in 1843.
Several early stories have been passed down about the McLarty family. The first, recorded in the McPhatter Letters, tells of Dougald and Helen's move from Galt to their new farm in Puslinch. Their wagon was what was known as a "High Carryall", with the entire wagon made of wood including wheels cut out of a pine log, as no Iron was available. It took two yokes of oxen to pull such a heavy weight. As they went down a steep incline on the road out of Galt, part of the load tipped. Anxious to get his family safely to the log house before nightfall, Dougald asked the men who were helping him move to stay with the precious items – jars of whiskey and a barrel with the family's winter supply of herring. The next morning when he returned on his horse, he found his helpers well-fed on herring and none the worse for the contents of the jars. John Thomson, Neil McCormick and Angus McKellar were having great fun when Dougald returned!
Dougald was on sentry duty during the 1837 Rebellion when 17 prisoners were taken. His stature no doubt served him well as a soldier. His brothers John McLarty (Lot 17, R. Gore) and Peter McLarty (moved to Lambton County), and sister Barbara also emigrated from Kintyre, along with their father Malcolm. On the 1861 Puslinch census, Malcolm was living at Dougald's.
Norman Ramsay, Dougald's brother-in-law owned the farm west of Dougald & Helen's, Lot 7, R. Gore. In 1852, Norman was found frozen to death along the side of the road somewhere near Galt. Dougald and Helen's eldest son Donald took over his Uncle Norman's farm, placing father and son side by side by the 1861 Puslinch map.
Donald married Mary Coy from Guelph with issue of 2 daughters and 6 sons. Donald was educated in the town of Galt, by Mr. John Gowenlock and later Mr. Fyett at Dr. Tassie's private school which was the equivalent of the Rockwood Academy in the years before universal secondary-school education.
The McLarty boys, like their father and grandfather, were of a strapping highland build – perfect as a tug-of-war team. In fact, the 1902 Championship team for Waterloo, Halton, Wellington, and the City of Guelph included McLartys and McKellars. Donald died in 1908 after two years with cancer. He had transferred the farm to their mother, Mary, on the 1906 Puslinch map. She remained on Lot 7 until her death in Manitoba in 1911 when she had gone there to visit their sister. Subsequent owners on this lot included Frosches, Menarys and, since 1945, Bridgemans. The latter moved from the hamlet of Zimmerman in Halton County. Today, a quite elderly son of Gordon Bridgeman, Mr. B.W. Bridgeman, continues to live in the fieldstone Georgian house built by the McLartys. Dave Menary, who attended Killean School when his parents moved there in the 1930s, is a Galt historian today who has written several books about the railroad locally.
Several years ago Angus Ferguson told a story about Donald McLarty in the ‘Puslinch Past' column of the Puslinch Pioneer. This incident took place in 1884. Dougald & Ellen McLarty's granddaughter, Lizzie McCormick, loved to recount the time her father, Donald McLarty, and his neighbour Sandy "the Rabbit" Wilkinson set off for Galt by horse and cutter one cold winter day. After picking up whatever supplies they had gone for, the two stopped at the tavern across from the market square to fortify themselves for their return journey in the cold. However, they had to take turns staying with the horse who was worked up, anticipating the ride home, so Sandy imbibed first. They then traded places but when Donald came out of the tavern he found the horse, cutter and Sandy gone. Donald had to walk home, his anger mounting with each step. He found his horse tied up in front of the MacIntosh house (the former Killean teacherage) where Sandy was living with his sister and brother-in-law Donald MacIntosh. Snatching the horse-whip from the socket in the cutter, he stamped in the house and up the stairs where he found Sandy sleeping. One cut of the horse whip removed the blankets and a second sweep sent Sandy running down the stairs where his sister, Mrs. Mary MacIntosh, appeared in time to stop the shenanigans.
By the 1906 atlas map of Puslinch, McLarty descendants still owned Lots 7 & 8, Rear Gore, but the name has died out in Puslinch today.
Researched by Lynn Crow
McLarty farmhouse; Lot 7, R. Gore
2013 Puslinch Heritage Committee photo
1902 champion Killean tug-of-was team
West Puslinch Families, by Betty Ferguson
Annals of Puslinch, 1850-1950
Puslinch Pioneer, Puslinch Past column
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