Historical Background

Imagine, if you will, what is now called Ontario ... but back about 400 years ago. What you would have found was a primeval forest where the sky can be only glimpsed through the thick overhanging branches, with the sounds of nature all around. The wind blowing through the trees, the birds singing their joyous songs, the gurgling brooks and graceful moving waterways were here to entertain the population of tens of thousands of natives. And let's not forget the buzz of mosquitoes!

No towns or cities of any size existed. Today you would frequently view a sea of sub-division roofs and back then, it would have been simply a sea of trees.  But if you looked carefully, in amongst all those trees, you would have seen the simple pathways for the animals and natives to move about.

The Natives first met French explorers in 1610. The explorers saw the vast untapped wealth in furs, the Europeans wanted the furs, and both the French and English moved in to fill that need.

The struggle of supremacy between England and France climaxed with the Seven Years War, which lasted from 1756 to 1763. French rule ended in North America with the signing of the Treaty of Paris.

Ontario at this time was still a dense forest. The "American Revolution", from the beginnings in 1775, caused loyal British subjects to start moving north to what is now Canada.

In November 1775, the Americans Richard Montgomery and Benedict Arnold lead 10,000 men and invaded (what is now called) Quebec. By January 1776, Richard Montgomery was dead. With the arrival of British reinforcements in May, the American army fled. The American congress sent three commissioners (one being Benjamin Franklin) to Montreal in the spring of 1776. Their purpose was to circulate American ideals amongst the Canadians. The commissioners left the country upon hearing news of the desertion. In June, there was a battle at Three Rivers that convinced the remaining 5,000 Americans to return to the States.

When Britain and the new American republic signed the Treaty of Versailles in 1783, a full scale exodus of people from the States to Canada called "Loyalists", began. Loyalists were people loyal to the British crown, and many headed for the Canadian Maritimes and Quebec, with only a comparative few arriving in Ontario. For their loyalty to the British Crown, the government gave the Loyalists grants of land. Robert and Hannah Parr weren't even born yet, so we are not Loyalists.

In 1792 the first Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe of Upper Canada created 19 counties for administrative purposes. Counties served as units for the first electoral ridings, for land registration, and for census purposes. This is the one big difference between Canada and the United States. In Canada, the government moved in long before the people did. In the States, it was the opposite.

When United States declared war on England on 8 June 1812, the States by extension, declared war on Canada. The story of Laura Secord, may have taken place in June of 1813, in Canada's answer to Paul Revere. American soldiers had taken over the house of Mrs. Secord. There they planned an attack on the British detachment. Mrs. Secord overheard the plan and defying personal danger left on the long and difficult walk to warn the British commander. The Americans didn't get to the British, and the story bolstered the spirits of the British Allies.1

It's fanciful speculation, but one wonders if Robert Parr had his first taste of Canada as part of the contingent the British sent to North America to fight that war. Boys of 14 were frequently involved in wars at that time, so chronologically speaking, it's possible. Is it provable? That's totally different.

With the end of war in Europe, the British sent more troops to North America. The war with the Americans ended with the Treaty of Ghent which the British and the United States signed on 24 December 1814.
Now Britain was not at war with the States or France. Unemployment in England became widespread as the large armies were no longer needed. No longer was there a great need for the farmers' produce and prices fell. The domino effect was felt throughout the British economy, leaving many with the seemingly only option of emigrating.2

With the population not warring with its American neighbours, the first gleam of Canadian nationalism was starting. Responsible government and democracy were growing in interest. The Loyalists had a taste of it when they were living in the Thirteen Colonies, before the birth of the United States.

In 1791, British parliament created Lower Canada (now Quebec) and Upper Canada (now Ontario) with the passing of the Canada Act. They created four levels of government. The British Crown appointed officials from the Governor on down to the local officials such as the judge and Sheriff. There was an Assembly that was elected as the people's representatives to a four-year term. However, the real power and influence were with the appointed positions who could overrule the decisions of the Assembly and by extension, the people.

The governing bodies made the appointed positions frequently to people with family connections and local influence. These councils became known as the "Family Compact" as they and their friends began to appear as a privilege clique. How this happened really is typical human nature.

For example, you want to have a deck built in your back yard. Fair enough. You don't know of anyone so you look through the phone book and get prices. Then you find out that someone you do know who does do this type of work. The question now becomes, do you hire someone whom you know, or do you hire someone who you don't?

Human nature being what it is, chances are you'll go with the one you know. No matter how much better the others in the phone book could have done it; you don't know them, and you don't know their work. You had the power to hand out employment, so you go with someone you know and you have an example of the Family Compact.

Catherine Parr Trail 3 wrote books on the Canadian backwoods in the 1830's. Her brother Samuel Strickland rose in his community and through his position as a Justice of the Peace, could be considered a member of the Family Compact. His brother-in-law John W. Dunbar received a position of Sheriff, not because of merit, rather because of his contacts; thus, you have an example of the fault of these Councils.4  (As an aside, to my knowledge, we are not related to Catherine Parr Trail.)
What was life like when Robert and his family arrived? Mosquitoes and black flies made summer life intolerable for many. Did the family have to break off all family connections, or did they have siblings or in-laws in somewhat proximity like the Strickland's?5 At this point in time, if Robert or Hannah had relatives in Canada waiting for them, or had any follow them, it is unknown.
What prompted Robert to leave England for Canada? "Farms for all" announcements from trade unions lured unemployed members to immigrate.6  Or it could have been the local English parish ridding themselves of an impoverished family to Canada, as that was a cheaper expense than to support a family on relief.7

The people of the United States have Ellis Island, and the people of Canada have Grosse-Ile. Grosse-Ile is an island 46 km (29 miles) west of Quebec City in the St. Lawrence River. But they didn't arrive in Canada via ship.  If they did, they would have been forced to land on the island for a period of quarantine.8   The family arrived on the good ship "Nancy" to New York city on 10 June 1834.

It is known that their son Frederick was born in England in 1833 and that their daughter Mary Ellen was born in Canada in 1836. It is also known that the 1842 Census noted that Robert and his family had been in Ontario for eight years; suggesting an arrival date of 1834. However, it's not known if they lived in Mosa Township, near London, Ontario since 1834 or in some other part of Ontario. There was this (for awhile) plausible story that suggested that Robert and his family stayed for an unknown length of time in the Kingston or Peterborough area of Ontario before settling in Mosa Township. It was during this stay, so the story went, that their daughter Lucy found her husband. Well, when you have stories and no facts the stories begin a life of their own.  Unfortunately, that didn't happen for Lucy as it was later found that she died when she was 10 years old in England. Stories are what this family research is all about, but unfortunately this was one (of many really) that was chased down.  Regardless, their arrival time to Canada could be as early as 1834 but for sure they were in Ontario by 1836.

Susanne Moodie's book, Roughing it in the Bush (pages 21 to 49) gives a vivid description of her trip up the St. Lawrence River during the summer of 1832. In 1834, cholera was again at its height.9  Typhoid and cholera were usually brought on by the unsanitary conditions with which the frontier society could not begin to cope. Could it be that Robert and Hannah knew about this outbreak and that is why they arrived at New York? 

Mosa Township was the location that Robert and Hannah eventually settled in, specifically near Wardsville, Ontario. Wardsville derives its name from the first settler, George Ward. In 1834, a log general store and a shanty were the total construction of the town. Then a tavern was built, as alcohol tended to flow as freely as water during the 1800's. In 1840 there were 12 buildings, and the population grew to about 400 by 1850. Robert Tunks, the husband to Mariah Parr (Robert and Hannah's daughter), had a tannery there by that time.10

Cashmere was west of Wardsville where Mariah's children lived. A large tract of land in the west of the township played a part with the Tunks clan in "Skunks Misery". The Misery has since been designated an "Area of Natural Scientific Interest" by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.

Notwithstanding the unknown time of death of Robert Parr (circa 1848?), his daughter Mary Ellen had a son who died in 1860 and was the first known death of this Parr family in the New World. The burial site of this child or the name of this child, is currently unknown. One daughter of Mary Ellen died in 1866 and another daughter died in 1868 with both buried in the Wardsville Cemetery.

Men had to clear the trees to allow room for a dwelling, which was frequently a log structure with no windows, a dirt floor and an open spot in the roof to allow the smoke to leave the fireplace. Next would have been the clearing of trees for the planting of potatoes and perhaps wheat and hay. The first few years though, it was typical that the pioneer farmer had many tree stumps in his fields, as the time to remove them and the tools to do so, were at a premium.

The first generation of farmers cleared the land like many a logger has since been accused of - clear cutting. The farmers chopped down the trees and may have sold the lumber to be shipped to Europe or they may have burned the wood and sold the potash. All this was done to make way for the growing of wheat. Robert would have been involved in clearing his land, as part of his settlement duties, so he would have had many a tree to cut down. However, it's unlikely that he was involved with either selling the cut trees or selling potash as either option would have required a road network; a road network that did not begin to take shape until 1853.

The pioneer women made their own bread, candles, soap and clothing. A typical "medicine cabinet" of a pioneer home of 1832 contained the following;

    1 oz. of the emetic herb (lobelia)
    2 ozs. cayenne
    ˝ lb bayberry root bark in powder
    1 lb poplar bark
    1 lb ginger
    1 pt rheumatic drops (high wines, brandy, gum myrrh and cayenne)

Those ingredients were thought to be sufficient to cure any disease.11

The Upper Canadian Rebellion
In spite of the powers of appointed individuals covering different areas of ones day to day life, few people attempted to reform the process, though discontent was widespread. The Reformers (of the elected Assembly) fought to bring responsible government to Canada. However, the Conservatives of the same Assembly were on the side of the Family Compact.

The Clergy Reserves caused problems as well (These problems were settled in 1854 when the fund was used to build roads and bridges).12 One provision of the Canada Act allocated a portion of Crown land for "the support of a Protestant Clergy".13   However, this allocation caused conflicting claims within the different Protestant churches in Upper Canada. In Lower Canada (Quebec) there was no recourse for the Roman Catholics.

In 1837, widespread economic collapse had acted as the catalyst for the Rebellion. The fiery William Lyon Mackenzie was publishing a newspaper that held extremist views against the government structure and its policies in Upper Canada.

Allowing the people of Canada to govern themselves was Mackenzie's goal and time has supported him. However, he favoured political union with the United States and that did not suit the deep conviction of Canadians. In March of 1837, yet another policy put in place by an another appointed individual started Mackenzie thinking of a military attack.14

Mackenzie began organizing his followers for an armed attack against the government. When news arrived of the insurrection of Lower Canada had begun, Mackenzie set his plans in motion. The Rebellion was short lived however, as the authorities knew of his activities. Few shots were fired in the confrontations, and they chased Mackenzie to the United States.

The effect of this rebellion in Upper and Lower Canada caused the British Government to send the Earl of Durham to Canada in 1838 to recommend changes to bring peace to the opposing sides.15

In 1840, one recommendation became law with the union of Upper and Lower Canada with the "Act of Union" forming the province of Canada. They now called Upper Canada "Canada West" (today's Ontario), and Lower Canada was "Canada East" (today's Quebec).

In 1848, the Rebellion Losses Bill was designed to compensate people of Lower Canada whose property was destroyed in the 1837 Rebellion. The Conservative minority was against the bill (recall that the Conservatives supported the Family Compact); the Reformers (Liberals and those who were in favour of responsible government) were for it.

Lord Durham also proposed that the Crown grant responsible government to Upper and Lower Canada and the British Government firmly rejected that proposal. It wasn't until 1849 when Lord Elgin, then (appointed) Governor of the Province of Canada overruled the Family Compact on the Rebellion Losses Bill that a form of responsible government came into being; the will of the people won out.
To what extent this rebellion affected Robert and family has probably been lost to history. It's not known for sure where they were living (from 1834 to 1842) though they were in Ontario. If they were at Mosa Township, the lack of newspapers made the possibility of them being completely unaware of the turmoil.

In the early years of Upper Canada, the economy was tied with the United States for trade and currency. Wheat in the early 1800's, was the crop of choice. The wheat crop failed in 1842, and the following winter of 1842-1843 was exceptionally severe. Since Robert and son David were listed as farmers in the 1842 Assessment, our ancestors would have had a difficult winter.

In 1843 a series of taxes gave the Canadian wheat farmer an advantage over the Americans. Flour mills, ships and docks were built to enable the export. However, with the preferential tax treatment removed in 1846, an extensive depression followed.16

During the American Civil War, under the Reciprocity Act, the farmers of Canada West found a ready market for beef and pork. When the war and the Act ended, the economic depression that followed caused many people to leave for the United States and for Western Canada. At this point, it is unknown if any of our relatives left at this time. Robert's son George was in Iowa by 1909, but the date he left Canada is currently unknown. Robert's daughter Emma and her husband Josiah Dewey went to Iowa long before the war. Other grandchildren of Robert and Hannah found their way to Michigan, though exactly when is unknown still.

The coming of the railroad in the mid 1850's sped up the industrialization of the area. The discovery of oil in 1859 completed the process. The first half of the1800's could be said to have had wheat as the economic engine of south western Ontario; during the American Civil War beef as the chief source of revenue, then in the latter years of the 1800's was oil.

The Tunks clan (Mariah Parr's descendants), some had said, had oil in their veins. It didn't make them rich as it has also been said that the wealth of the Tunks clan was poured into the ground in search of the elusive oil. As it turned out, a Tunks did strike oil. Carrie (Tunks) Stocking and husband Hillary owned the land where Imperial Oil found oil; akin to winning the lottery! However, the oil and royalties only lasted one short year.

Another relative had a different exposure to oil. Alta Geraldine (Colborne) McEwen was visiting some relatives in Lambton County (western border of Middlesex County) and she asked her aunt for a glass of water. Alta was a youngster at that time, and she was told to get it from a bucket. Well that bucket had a layer of oil sitting on top of the water that, shall we say, set her aback! Her aunt came over with a ladle and swished the oil aside and scooped the water into her glass; the water was clear and cold, but 80 odd years later she still remembered!

Upon their arrival to Ontario, Robert Parr's children may have had access to a primitive school. In these early years the school was likely made of log and one room in size. The teacher often was paid a fee, but a common form of remuneration was produce.17   There was a secondary school at Wardsville in 1860, but all of Robert and Hannah's children were married by that time, as well as some grandchildren! It is doubtful that any descendants went to that school that early, as farm work was demanding of labour hours, be it for adults or children.

When Robert and family arrived in Canada, the early census returns had them listed as Church of England. In subsequent years Episcopal Methodist was the chosen religion.

Robert and his family established themselves at Wardsville, Ontario, and a circuit rider for the Wardsville Mission did not start until 1849. In 1850 to 1852, a Rev. Charles Sylvester18 was the circuit rider that met the early Parr's.

A circuit rider was a minister that travelled by horseback to his various charges. His worldly possessions in his saddlebags, he would have travelled in all kinds of weather, frequently on implausible trails, all to attend to the religious welfare of his charges.

This Mr. Sylvester was a witness on the will of Henry Johnson, who was the father-in-law of David Parr. Henry Johnson's name was passed onto David's first child.

David Parr in 1850 was a church trustee and presumably by position, was in close contact with Mr. Sylvester. Some aspect of Mr. Sylvester must have impressed David and wife Jane, as their third child George was given the middle name of Sylvester.

When George Sylvester Parr and his wife Jane Weir named their sixth child, the Sylvester name survived another generation. That child, Roy Sylvester Parr, went through life hating his middle name without knowing the history behind it.

There have been nine ministers found so far in the family. Frederick Parr had two grandsons that were ministers (Maxwell Colborne Parr and Robert Harold Parr), and each of those grandsons had a son that became ministers as well! It carried another generation further as Frederick had a great great grandson as a minister, Richard Garnet Riseborough. It's in Frederick's line that the family bibles were found on the Parr family, greatly contributing to the knowledge of the early years of the family.

On Mariah's line, there have been two ministers found so far; George Patterson Tunks and sister Dorothy Matilda (Tunks) Pringle. One of their great nieces married a minister. David, there have been two ministers found so far; Frederick H. Parr and Gordon William Parr.  Harriett (Parr) Toles has one known minister, Walter James Plain.

At this point though, there is no knowledge of a minister in the descendant lines of George, Emma,  Mary Ellen or Lucy.

The Railway!
The first thought of the railway for southwestern Ontario was in 1834 when London and Hamilton businessmen signed a charter. That was about the time that Robert, Hannah and family arrived in Ontario. In 1845, the name was changed from the London and Gore Railroad Company to that of the Great Western Railway Company.

With British capital, work started in 1847. With railway connections with Michigan and New York, the economic boon was on. Land speculation soared. With London, Ontario being at the geographic centre, the population doubled in three years. Incredibly, there were only 110 kilometres (69 miles) of track laid.19

The railway reached London at the end of 1853. So did the land speculators. Property along the railway right-of-way suddenly brought inflated prices. Other areas zoomed in value with the thought of feeder lines.20

By the autumn of 1857 however, the economy collapsed.21 It was a post-Crimean War depression which was a financial depression throughout North America. The economic backbone of Canada West was wheat, and wheat prices collapsed. Coupled with that, was the grim winter of 1857-1858.

Stateside, many financial institutions failed. As mentioned earlier, Canada did not have any currency of its own, so merchants and farmers used American bank notes. With so many American banks closing, the paper notes were worthless, dealing the economy of Canada West an added blow.

In the good times, Canada West wheat crossed the border to Buffalo in return for American dollars. Now a trickle was all that was exchanged. Land prices of Canada West collapsed. Proposed villages fell by the wayside, as did many a speculator's fortune. No doubt that was why Frederick Parr's proposal in 1855 for the town of "Centreville" - located between today's Newbury and Wardsville, Ontario - never made it to reality.

Centreville was proposed by Frederick Parr on Part of the North Half of Lot 17 in the Second Range of the Township of Mosa, Middlesex County, Ontario. He proposed Parr Street having 8 half acre lots on either side, for a total of 16.  The plan still exists today, though still at this day nothing has been built on the site.

The Making of Canada
The currency of the 1700's was principally of pounds, shillings and pence from the British system. As trade with the United States increased, the dollar and cents system crept into Canada. It was a mixture of both systems when Robert and family arrived. By 1858, Canada adopted a system parallel to that of the States.22 Canada however, had no uniform currency.
The currency used were issued from the many banks in the States and a few in Canada. It was a workable system that was phased out only by the 1920's. There were pitfalls from that system, in that if a bank failed - and many did - the currency became worthless.

After the American Civil War in 1865, the people of southwestern Ontario were uneasy that the Americans would now head north for the conquest of Canada. This was not an unfounded fear, as countless American newspapers were speculating that very thing.23 What were the Americans going to do with a trained, armed, and experienced army? In early 1866, it was deemed the "manifest destiny" by northern US newspaper editors that the United States control North American.24  There was no one reason for having Canada become its own country, though "Reasons for Confederation are as thick as blackberries."25

It was the Fenians, the English-hating Irish fanatics who actually invaded Canada, not the troops of the United States as long suspected. Thousands of these Irish gathered in armed bands along the Canadian/US border from Detroit to New Brunswick. The American government did nothing to suppress their activities and generally the American press added to the alarm with their anti-British propaganda and threats of Canadian annexation.

The Canadian government called up 10,000 men for the defence of the border.26 On 1 June 1866 a force of some 800 to 1,500 Fenian raiders landed at Fort Erie and seized the town. The Fenians won a battle at Ridgeway. Their success was short-lived, as three days later the Fenians were routed at Stephensville.

This laid the foundation for the political talks from 1864 to1867 resulting in the Dominion of Canada: they passed the British North America Act 1 July 1867. They now called Canada West "Ontario", and Canada East "Quebec".

Slavery was a significant factor in United States history, however, it was a part of Canada as well. Whether our ancestors had anything to do with slavery, or which side they supported, is lost to history. United Empire Loyalists were American colonists who supported the Crown during the American Revolution. With the British defeat, those loyal to the Crown emigrated to Canada; many of them were black.
An Act was passed by the provincial Legislature under the Lieutenant-Governor. Major General John Graves Simcoe worked for the gradual emancipation of slaves within Canada.27 The year was 1793. The Act allowed people of African descent to vote or serve on juries. If they met the basic residency requirements, they were equal in the eyes of the law. The law was one place where one Peter Butler (not a relative) proved that colour was not a barrier to being a county constable for almost 50 years starting from 1883.28

In the States, "The Fugitive Slave Act" was passed in 1850 allowing slave owners to retrieve their human property anywhere in the States. This caused a significant increase in the flow to Canada, as free and fugitive African-Americans alike lived in constant fear of slave-catchers.

The World Discovers Southwestern Ontario
The Donnelly's were not relatives, but the murders of James, his wife Johannah, sons Tom and John and niece Bridget on 4 February 1880 made news throughout North America and England.

Which version do you believe? Crime writer Thomas Kelly or scholar Orlo Miller? To read Kellys' version, the Donnelly's held the residents of Biddulph Township in fear with shear muscle power and intimidation. On at least two occasions property was taken from the rightful owners, many barns were destroyed by fire, people were physically beaten, farm tools as well as livestock were stolen. If the law showed up at the door, it would take what little life the constable had left to get back on his horse and ride out of town.

However, to read Miller's version, it was the Catholics against the Protestants. The Donnelly's were Catholics friendly to the Protestants, which was an unpardonable sin. Yes, there were barn burnings, stolen tools and stolen farm animals, but that happened before the Donnelly's arrived, when the Donnelly's were out of town or in prison, and after they were killed; so how could they have done everything attributed to them?

Both authors agree that a vigilante committee was formed of Catholics swearing an oath of secrecy and that there was a conspiracy to kill the Donnelly's. James Carroll (a Catholic) was the constable then, and his sole mission was to rid Biddulph Township of the Donnellys. After months of planning, he took 30 men to James Donnelly's place in the midnight hour and they killed James, Johannah, and son Tom. A niece happened to be visiting the Donnelly's then and was killed as well. Next, only eight men made it to William Donnelly's house where they intended to kill William. They mistakenly shot and killed William's brother John who happened to be at William's that night.

James Carroll and five others were put on trial for murder. The first trial ended with a hung jury. The second trial found James Carroll "not guilty." The remaining men were released without going to trial.

Kelly's version says that the jury agreed with the murderers in that The Donnelly's Must Die (ironically the title of Miller's book). Miller's version said that the venue of the trial was too close to the vigilante's sphere of influence, and the jury members were intimidated into rendering a "not guilty" verdict. My personal bias is towards Miller's version, though I have purchased a third version to read, "The Donnelly Album" authored by Ray Fazakas to find the common ground in all three.

Whereas Biddulph Township is not close by 1880 standards to Mosa Township, it would seem implausible that Robert's descendants (Robert and Hannah were deceased by this time) did not know about the murders; it was the hottest news/gossip in North America!

Another time for North American fame to southwestern Ontario came on Queen Victoria's birthday 24 May 1881; the river steamer "Victoria" sank drowning 198 people.29  The ransom kidnapping of brewery magnate John S. Labatt during the last 6 months of 1934 put London, Ontario back on the crime map of North America.30

Considered a cheap form of entertainment, everyone seemed interested in politics. The secret ballot did not come about until 1874. "Pork barrel politics" came about because of large hogsheads of meat, strategically located so that the "right" voter could help himself. Or the payoff could have been a drink, a bottle or a fiver.31 How widespread the "pork barrel" was in southwestern Ontario of course, is open to speculation and in need of research.

Many people today have lawn signs indicating their voting preferences. Over 125 years ago, your politics were known by the newspaper you purchased, the company you kept, and the businesses you bought from. Not having a secret ballot in the many small communities could not have been a privacy issue; rather, it would have been one of intimidation or bribery.

Historical Atlases
In the late 1880's, an American publishing company sent their staff into south western Ontario to prepare a series of county histories on a subscription basis. These history books have proved useful with this family research. David and Fred Parr have been the principal relatives that have found some fame with these publications, with brother-in-laws Robert Tunks and Robert Beveridge also being noted. A grandson to Robert Tunks, Franklin Little, was found in one as well.

The Riel Rebellion
The Riel Rebellion occurred in the spring of 1885, as Louis Riel led an uprising against the Canadian Government. He led the Métis (half French, half Native Indian) against the North-West Mounted Police on 26 March 1885 at Duck Lake, (in what is now) Saskatchewan. By this time, descendants of Robert and Hannah had not taken up the offer of free land in the Canadian west. It's possible that some ancestor may have been involved with the Rebellion as many young men of Middlesex County joined the Seventh Fusiliers and were shipped to the west. They didn't see any action, but were given a hero's welcome upon returning to London, Ontario.32

By midsummer, the Rebellion had been crushed. Louis Riel was subsequently charged, convicted and hanged.

Fire regulations were unheard in the 1800's. Commercial enterprises, homes and outbuildings could be constructed of whatever material to whatever standards the builder chose or could afford, which meant buildings were susceptible to fire. What frequently happened, was a fire started in one building and quickly jumped to neighbouring buildings with the result of a devastated town. John Thomas Parr lost his garage station in one such fire at Wyoming, Ontario; that was 1947. Bothwell, Ontario - the home of many of the Tunks clan - was victim of numerous town fires. Carrie (Tunks) Stocking as a child (c1907) thought that the world was coming to an end during one May Bothwell fire.

Sir Adam Beck built the first hydro generating station at Niagara Falls in 1917. Imagine not having electricity! No roller coaster rides, no television, no computers! It was over seventy years after Robert and family arrived, when the incandescent light bulb was able to glow in southwestern Ontario.

The city of London in Middlesex County was one of the first cities in Canada to light its streets by electric power.33 However, since many of our ancestors were still farmers living far from major cities, it is doubtful that any had electricity until maybe well into the 1900's. It may not have been an unusual story in that there are relatives out there that did not have the benefits of electricity until after the Second World War!

The Automobile
The early roads made for adventure, as you may recall pictures of driver and passengers wearing goggles on their excursions. In the early 1900's, anyone who could afford an expensive automobile, was obviously a heavy taxpayer. So in the cities at least, the governments responded with better roads.34

One automotive story of the descendants of Robert and Hannah Parr, was about the one owned by Robert Henry Tunks. An old relic when purchased, and in 1919 it was put to use in the basket business owned by Robert at Bothwell, Ontario. This two cylinder "truck" carried the baskets to the various shipping docks and market locations. The vehicle eventually lapsed into disuse and supposedly wound up in the Dearborn, Michigan Ford Museum.

The automobile shows the evolution of transportation in North America. The first villages were built near water; as you may recall, the forests were so thick it was the only option for travel. The second generation of villages developed via road way intersections. Then villages appeared because of the railways only to be superseded by roads because of the car. The Trans-Canada Highway built up business sections of town that once existed by railway stations, that once existed by county road intersections that once existed by the waterfronts. Will something come along to replace the car??

The first noted accident was probably David Tunks, losing his left hand at a saw mill (date unknown though perhaps in the 1910's or 1920's). The doctor amputated most of his arm and "One arm Dave" took up a new vocation; mailman.

Shirley Jean Houston died from ingesting Oil of Wintergreen; she was 22 months old in 1926.

Arthur Howard Parr survived World War I and a gas attack, but in 1927 he did not survive a construction accident leaving a wife and three young children under 4 he was 33.

Oscar Little died from a job related accident in 1930 near Chatham, Ontario.  He was 58.

Oscar Lloyd Smith was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1933, aged 20.

Abbey Adeline (Drennan) Stinson was killed in a traffic accident in Detroit in 1937.  She was 40 years old leaving behind three teenaged children.

Probably the most tragic accident in our family history, was when Lucy Ann (McKim) Wedge was run over trying to sell doughnuts on the side of the road in 1932; she was 50 years old.

Mary Catherine Marshall was 7 months old when she was killed in a car accident in 1953.  Her mother Gloria Marguerite (Parr) Marshall suffered a broken leg in that same accident.

John Duncan Tunks was killed in a car accident in 1954 near St. Thomas, Ontario.  He had no children and was 35.

Cecil Roy Parr was killed in 1954 when a 5 ton steel tank broke free during unloading and crushed him. He was 42 and his wife and four children survived him.

Gloria Joyce Pilkey was swimming when her brother was caught by an undertow. Gloria saved her brother but did not have the strength after fighting the undertow, to save herself. She was 28 when it happened in 1966.

Also in 1966, Robert Harold Parr was fishing when he fell into the water and drowned. He was 69.

Mabel Jean (Smith) Camano died in a car accident in 1975, aged 63.

Audrey Edith (Rogers) Parr was killed in a single vehicle accident in 1976 near Brigden, Ontario; aged 51.

Another tragic story Edward James Langford, aged 26, was killed in a snowmobile accident in 1975 leaving an unborn child.  That unborn child, James Edward Langford and his mother Sharon Patricia (Harris) Langford both perished in a hotel fire in 1984.

In 1976, Wayne Tunks was electrocuted when his tandem truck inadvertently touched hydro lines. He was 29.

Donald George Elson was killed in a car accident in 1980 near Bracebridge, Ontario; he was 25 leaving two young children.

Mark William Johnston was 30 when killed in a car accident in 1984 west of Orillia, Ontario. He left behind his wife and two children.

Alice Madeline (Cucksey) Mills was killed in a traffic accident in 1992, aged 72.

Robert Telford was 48 when he was killed in a racing accident in 1999 in Lyon County, Iowa.

World War I
Every community seemed to have had parades, bands, singing, cheering, and patriotic demonstrations with the announcement of this war.35  Thirty relatives and spouse are so far were known to have signed up;

From David's family
Alfred Lee Drennan, George James Esson, Albert Edgar Parr, Arthur Howard Parr, James Frederick Parr, Roy Sylvester Parr, David Elroy Turrill, Hubert Wesley Turrill, Hugh Daniel Turrill, Thomas Sylvester Turrill.

From Mariah's family
George Wesley Badgley, Walter K Brown, Daniel William Little, Archie Graham Patterson, Clarence Bryce Tunks, Clifford William Tunks, Ernest Henry Tunks, William Clifford Tunks, William Elmer Tunks.

From Harriet's family

Clifford Durward Collishaw, Leonard Earl Collishaw, Herbert Toles

From Frederick's family
Francis Carroll, Joseph Robert Morton, Clayton Bryan Parr, Floyd Wesley Parr, John Leslie Parr, Maxwell Colborne Parr, Robert Harold Parr, Sherman William Parr, Charles Norman Taylor,

The Stock Market Crash and the Depression
With so many stocks becoming worthless, and many others devalued, selling stocks wasn't a good profession. Harry J Parr did sell stocks at one time in his life, as he was a professional salesman, but it's not known if he was selling stocks during the late twenties and early thirties.

The Royal Visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth
Many Canadians went to see the "Royals" in their cross Canada tour. Ralph Stonehouse Colborne (Frederick Parr's grandson) was the engineer on the train that carried the couple through Northwestern Ontario in the summer of 1939.

"It is something more than just mere idle curiosity which draws thousands of people to the centre of Western Ontario to see the royal couple. It is deep affections for the Crown and a firm belief that British institutions, of which the Crown is the emblem, are the foundation of all our civil liberties and personal freedom ..." 36

World War II
Unlike the first war, news of the outbreak was received in silence37.

Our relatives that were known to have served in World War II

William Fones Colborne, Ralph Alexander Moore, William Arthur Toles
Wilbert George Webb, Rodmund Percy Parr, Bernice Kathleen Parr, James Frederick Parr

Unknown at this point

Other Historical Events
The listing below is simply a time line of events. At this point, it is unknown if Robert and Hannah's descendants were personally affected by any of these historical events. Should you dear reader find a connection, I'll be more than thrilled to review the data for inclusion in this page and in the research.

1834 British Parliament passed New Poor Law.
1837 Queen Victoria ascends to the throne.
1848 The French Revolution.
1849 Gold rush to California.
1849 The Canadian Parliament buildings at Montreal were destroyed by fire.
1853 The first Canadian postage stamp was issued.
1853-6 Crimean War.
1858 British Columbia Gold Rush.
1861 Oliver Wendell Holmes invents the stereoscope. Catherine (Tunks) Little had boxes of stereoscopic pictures
1864 The Canadian Parliament buildings at Quebec City were destroyed by fire.
1865 President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.
1866 The Atlantic Cable was completed.
1867 Canada became a nation. The Parliament is now at Ottawa, Ontario.
1868 A new writing machine is called a "Type-Writer".
1873 The North West Mounted Police was established by a Canadian order-in-council
1876 Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone.
1880 Thomas Edison invents the electric light.
1884 Long distance phone calls can be made.
1885 The last spike of the cross Canada railway was hammered into place.
1888 George Eastman perfects the "Kodak" box camera.
1888 Edison's phonograph is available to the public.
1889 Oklahoma is opened to non-Indian settlement. Harriett (Parr) Toles was said to have lived out her life there, but it appears that she did not arrive there before 1889.
1891 Sir John A MacDonald, Canada's first Prime Minister died.
1896 Sioux and Cheyenne defeat Custer at the battle of Little Big Horn.
1898 Spanish-American War.
1898 Klondike Gold Rush.
1899-1902 Boer War.
1901 Marconi sends a radio signal across the Atlantic.
1901 Queen Victoria died.
1903 Orville and Wilbur Wright have their first manned flight.
1908 Ford Motor Company produces the first Model "T".
1910 King Edward VII died.
1912 S.S. Titanic sinks on maiden voyage; 1,513 drowned.
1917 The world's largest man made explosion (to date) occurred at Halifax, Nova Scotia when a munitions ship collided with another ship.
1919 People can now dial telephone numbers themselves. Carrie Alva (Tunks) Stocking operated a switch board before then; lots of gossip could be had!
1920 KDKA in Pittsburgh broadcasts first scheduled radio programs.
1939 Abdication of the British Throne by Edward VIII.


A Century of Western Ontario
Author: Orlo Miller
Published by The Ryerson Press 1949
Family History News
volume 3 number 1
Parr's Publishing
Gentle Pioneers
Author: Audrey Y. Morris
Published by Paperjacks 1973
Lord Durham's Report
Edited by Gerald M. Craig
Published by McClelland and Stewart Limited 1966
Middlesex: Two Centuries
Editor Edward Phelps
Published by Frontline Publications 1989
Ontario: An Informal History of the Land and Its People
Published by the Ministry of Education 1984
Roughing it in the Bush
Author: Susanna Moodie
Published by McClelland and Stewart 1970
The Black Donnellys
Author: Thomas P. Kelly
Published by Pagurian Press Limited 1974
The Donnellys Must Die
Author: Orlo Miller
Published by the Laurentian Library 1967
The Great Migration
Author: Edwin C. Guillet
Published by University of Toronto Press
The John A. Macdonald Album
Author: Lena Newman
Published by Tundra Books
The Story of Canada
Author: George M. Wrong, Chester Martin, and Walter N. Sage
Published by Ryerson Press 1943
Upper Canada The Formative Years 1784 - 1841
Author: Gerald M. Craig
Published by McClelland and Stewart 1977

If you have information on any relative involved with a historical event, please contact me at parrresearch@sympatico.ca

I thank you for your interest in the family of Robert and Hannah Parr.

This web site is for your personal reading enjoyment only. No commercial intent or use is permitted.


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Copyright © 2015 by Jack Parr
All rights reserved. Revised: 11 Mar 2017 22:16:42 -0500.