Duncan and Janet


In 1882 the Coulter area of Manitoba was opened up for homesteading.  John McLaren (?-1890) and his wife Janet Agnes (Atkinson) (usually called Jennie) (1863-1917) came out to Manitoba and settled on 16-1-27.  As well as farming the land, John kept a stallion and  provided its stud services to surrounding farmers.  To get it to other farms and back he would have ridden it (they had no horse trailers in those days).  One time he tried to bring the stallion home during a bad winter storn.  He suffered a severe chill and later died from pneumonia as a result.  His death was 4 months prior to the birth of their first child - Robert Alexander.McLaren(1890-1968).   In those days, it was common for farm families that could afford it to hire live in house keepers to help a housewife with her chores when they were expecting the birth of a new baby.  After the birth of her own child, Jennie rented out the farm to Duncan Day and went out to work as such a house keeper.   Apparently young Rob was a cute and fairly obedient child and Jennie was much in demand, not only for her house keeping abilities but because everyone enjoyed her little boy.  Duncan Day (1862-1928) was born in Ontario and came out to Manitoba, probably around 1890, which was too late to establish a homestead for himself, so he rented the McLaren farm.  Duncan later married the widow Jennie, and they settled onto the McLaren homestead and went on to have 3 sons, Cecil Isaac (1898-1957), John Bruce (1902-1955) and Arnott Atkinson (1904-1957).  Although Jennie never knew why she became so weak after the birth of Arnott, we now know that she had a type of muscular dystrophy called myotonic dystrophy type 2 that generally affects a person's muscles later in their life.  We think that it must have manifested itself around the time that Arnott was born because we know that she had trouble caring for her new baby.  Duncan asked his sister Isabella (Belle) to come out from Ontario to help care for Jennie and the baby.  Belle came out to help, and she stayed on in Manitoba, marrying Rob Atkinson, who was a local farmer, and also happened to be a nephew to Jennie.  Rob and Belle's farm subsequently became like a second home to the Day boys.

Jennie died in 1917, and the folowing year WWI ended and Cecil returned from duty.  There was a bad flue epidemic soon after the war (probably caused by the returning service men).  Duncan and his sons all took ill.  Their doctor approached a housekeeper he knew named Henrieta Pridgeon (but usually called "Fanny"), and explained that he had a houseful of patients who would all die unless they got someone in to look after them during their illness.  Fanny, like Jennie had been left a widow with one child, Lilly (although Lilly was out living on her own by this time).  Fanny moved in to nurse Duncan and his sons.  Fanny stayed on as a housekeeper after the men had recovered and later married Duncan.  They continued to farm until Cecil got married and Duncan let him take over farming the McLaren farm.  Duncan felt that it was really Jennie's farm and should go to her children, so Duncan and Fanny moved into Waskada and ran a service station while Arnott finished his schooling there.  Bruce may have gone to Waskada with them, although he may have already left home by this time to start teaching.  Bob McLaren had left home several years previously and gone to Alberta to seek his fortune.  Duncan apparently decided that he really preferred farming to running a service station and so he bought a farm on 28-1-27 very close to the McLaren farm, and he and Fanny, with the help of Arnott started farming it.  Duncan and Arnott built a home on the farm, and interestingly they made it entirely out of cement.  They built wood frames, and then mixed and poured the cement.  The house lasted and was used until it was torn down in the 1990s.  Arnott tried to start farming on his own, but this was at the beginning of the "dirty thirties"  Of course his crop, like everyone else's did not come in, and so his farming career ended.  Arnott then went into selling Rawleigh products, which he continued doing for the remainder of his life.  Fanny's daughter Lilly had been working in Winnipeg as a tea cup reader under the name "Princess Lilly", but during the depression she found that there was not much demand for tea cup readers and so she went to live on the farm with Duncan and Fanny.  Lilly married their hired hand Sid Dunning, and they took over the farm on Fanny's death and they farmed it for most of their lives.

Duncan, Jennie, Fanny and Arnott are all buried in the Coultervale cemetery, about 20 miles south of Melita.  This is very close to the original McLaren homestead, and just slightly south east of the farm that Duncan and Fanny bought.