First Pioneer to the West

(C. Howard Shillington)

   As the records show, George Shillington was a son of John and grandson of Thomas and was the first member of the Thomas Shillington family group to leave the old home area of Ottawa Valley to strike out to, what was then the new and still unsettled west. Before leaving, he married Jane Olmstead, whose family had also come to the Ottawa Valley area in years and settled in the Nepean, (now a part of Ottawa) area. Jane Ann's mother was a Nelson, whose family had come from Ireland. The old Nelson home in City View, also a part of Ottawa, is listed in the book, "The Carleton Saga 2" reports:

   "The first Olmstead to come to Canada was Richard in 1796, from the Mohawk Valley in the U.S.A. He settled on Lot 19, 1st Consession of Marlborough Township."

The book, Carleton County 1879", also mentions a Zenias Olmstead and Gideon Olmstead.

The children of the Olmstead-Nelson marriages were:

Abram��.who married Emma McRae

Foster��..who married Emma Craig

Jane Ann�.who married George Shillington

Ellie���..who married Jack McLeod

Debbie��.who married Charles��.

Emmie��.who married George Little

   All these people moved west and settled nearby one another. The reasons of these moves being the government plans for the opening of the west and the land opportunities provided.

   Following Confederation in 1867, it became one of the objectives of the new government under Sir John A. MacDonald, to extend the new "dominion's" western boundaries, by taking over the great area of lands to the west, then under control of the Hudson Bay Company. The first move in this direction was the formation of the Province of Manitoba, in 1870. (The first Riel Rebellion had occurred in 1869, with Riel's Provisional Government in control of Red River, now Winnipeg.) The regaining control by the Government of Canada and the establishment of Manitoba as the fifth province of the Confederation marked a clear step forward in the settlement and development of the west. When this was followed up with the establishment of a new western police force, The Royal Northwest Mounted Police, and the promise of a new transcontinental railway, after the formation of the Province of British Columbia, in 1871 the opening of these new lands began.

   When the news came out of the fertile new lands opening up in a section of Manitoba, not yet handed over to the province, where homesteads could be obtained for ten dollars, George Shillington decided to move west. Thus it was that George, his wife Jane Ann and their new baby Margaret (Maggie) set out in the summer of 1878, for these new lands.

   As the future railway, the C.P.R., had not yet been built, it was necessary to travel from Ontario by way of Sarnia to Chicago and from there to St. Paul, Minnesota. Beyond St. Paul, at a location known as Fischer's Landing, they traveled by riverboat up the Red River. One end of the boat was for settlers' effects, and livestock. The passengers occupied the other end of the boat. It was a boat journey of about two days. Thereafter, after landing at the new Winnipeg, they traveled by ox team at about two miles per hour, for the several days it took to reach their destination. On reaching the end of the trail, the new country known later as "Carberry Plains", they lived several weeks with a bachelor named Clarke, where Jane Ann cooked for the men while her husband and brother proceeded with the construction of their own log shacks.

   Some interesting stories are told concerning the first early experiences of the new settlers with the Indians. These wondering tribes were generally full of curiosity about the new settlers and would ride into their yards to water their horses, seek tobacco and foodstuff from the table. They were particularly interested in the school classes and did not hesitate to walk into the schools and walk about the room during classes. While seemingly harmless, their strange ways were often frightening to the woman folk who feared for their children. However, settler and native appeared to learn to tolerate each other.

   The land were George Shillington took up his homestead was located about seven miles northeast of the present Town of Carberry. Shortly after George's arrival, his brothers, Wesley, Fletcher and William Tomlin arrived in the community as well as his brother-in-law, Abram and Foster Olmstead, all of whom took up land in the area.

   George subsequently sold his original farm to William Tomlin and moved into Carberry where he operated a grocery and hardware store. Sometime later his store was burned and it was then that he returned to farming. He purchased land at Stinson and a further quarter section at Pine Creek, a hilly area east of Carberry. His son, Russell, well remembers when, at age thirteen, he and brother John, along with sister Annie, went through the spring ice into nine feet of water when crossing the creek to work this farm.

   The original small community where most of the group from the Ottawa Valley settled was called Kerfoot, the maiden name of Mrs. Sam Craig, (Ann Jane Kerfoot) one of the pioneer woman in the area. Later when the Grand Trunk Railway passed that way and established a station there, it was called Gregg.

   In the fall of 1904, George, again feeling the need for more land for his rapidly growing family and attracted by the new immigration boom to the yet, unorganized and unsettled prairie lands to the west, traveled up to the new village of Saskatoon, in the Northwest Territories. There, he purchased a section of land some thirty miles southwest of the village location, section 9, Township 34, Range 9, was bought from a W.P. Bate. A year earlier a school had been erected on the farm and named Avondale Public School. Three miles away, a post office had been opened on the farm of a neighbor, Alex Currie, and called Loganton. For many years there after, Shillington children, including the author, received their basic education at this small country school.

   It was in the spring of 1905 that George brought his family from Manitoba to this new plains area, some months later, it was to be called Saskatchewan and incorporated, as a province, into the Confederation.

   Prior to George arriving in Saskatoon, his brother-in-law, George Little, and family arrived and, in 1902 opened a blacksmith shop, on 2nd Avenue, the heart of the present city. Later he bought land and moved near George.

   During the years that George Shillington lived on his farm at Avondale, the Shillington's were well known for their hospitality and their devotion to the Methodist Church. George served as school trustee, also on the first Council of the new municipality of Loganton. He served as Justice of the Peace and Superintendent of the first Sunday school.

   In 1915 he turned his land over to his sons and retired to Saskatoon. Here he was active in Wesley Methodist and later, in the new Grace Methodist Church on the Nutana side of the river. He also played a prominent part in establishing the Saskatoon Boy's Band.

   In 1919, at the age of 63, after a pleasant holiday at Watrous Lake, George quietly passed away in his sleep, on August 5th. His widow Jane Ann lived on in the family home until 1935. Both she and George are buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Saskatoon.