Category Archives: Jerry

He plowed the land with an ox and an ax

There’s a song that goes “…give me land, lots of land, and the starry skies above
Don’t fence me in.” My great grandfather, James Herbert Jerry, purchased a farm in Crozier, Northwestern, Ontario. He was a strong man. He had an ox that pulled the plow. In one hand Granddad Jerry held the reins and in another an ax. As he plowed, he would hit tree roots, and whack, down would come the ax splitting the roots and allowing the ox to continue on. This is how he cleared his land.

Robert and Harriet Jerry with family – Herbert Jerry with gun in Crozier, Ontario

Granddad Jerry grew up in poverty. His family was so poor that 10 year old Herb worked at a neighbour’s farm to earn money for the family. The family moved around, ending up in Crozier, Northwestern Ontario in the early 1900’s. It’s here he met his future wife, a teacher, Margaret Electa Cranston.

In the early 20th century, the only way for a poor adult to get land was to homestead. Homesteaders paid a $10 registration fee and were given 160 acres. Ownership for this land was granted if the farmer lived on the land for 3 years, cultivated 30 acres, and build a house worth $300. Granddad Jerry homestead in Saskatchewan – close to Hawarden. In 1915, he journeyed by train to Comber, Ontario and married Margaret Cranston.
After the wedding they traveled to the farm in Saskatchewan.

Herbert and Margaret Jerry in Saskatchewan

All four of their children, Bethel, Josephine, Bud, and Anna, were born in Saskatchewan. Unfortunately, Margaret, their mother, suffered from mental illness. In 1923, after Anna was born, her illness was so severe she was sent to the psychiatric hospital in Weyburn, Saskatchewan. Since there wasn’t anyone to care for the children, with Grandma Jerry in the hospital and Granddad Jerry working the farm, the children were sent to their maternal relatives in Comber – where family members raised them for 3 or more years.

Eventually, Grandma and Granddad Jerry joined their children. Granddad Jerry tried working in the Leamington factory for a couple of years but didn’t like it. He wanted to farm. His mother and some of his brothers were still in Crozier so they decided to move there. They traveled in a big car, arriving in 1929.

While I was in university, I met an older man who remembered Herb Jerry and how he plowed his land with an ox and an ax. He eventually sold that farm to his daughter and son-in-law and purchased a smaller piece of land not far away. We children would go with Dad to visit him. I remember my great granddad Jerry as a man who loved his land. He was patient and could explain anything about nature.

Herbert Jerry in 1962 at his daughter’s house

He had a difficult life; extreme poverty as a child, and later, an unstable wife who was in and out of the psychiatric hospital. Despite this, in his old age, he exuded peace. He didn’t leave his land until the last years of his life. At about age 88 he finally moved into town to allow his daughter to care for him.

Homestead – 52 Ancestors

I’ve never thought of any piece of land as the “old homestead” but members of our family did homestead. William Titchworth traveled to Kansas to homestead in 1863; the James Cranston homestead has been in the Cranston family since 1846; members of the Miller and Jerry families homestead in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Jerry, Herbert with gun and brothers Ed, Bert, Bill and parents

Robert and Sarah sitting, Herb holding gun, Ed, Bert, and Bill on the homestead in Crozier

The Jerry family also homesteaded in Crozier, Rainy River, Ontario. Dad says their property was the land across from  the current golf course in Crozier. The land documents say that Robert Jerry received land from the Rainy River Free Grant and Homestead Act. This act gave land to settlers as long as they made improvements. Robert and Sarah Harriet Jerry homesteaded on 162 acres on the North East of Section 29. He was given title to the land in October 1907. I found an older map of Crozier . For easy finding I drew a box around the land Robert, Edward, and James Herbert (granddad Jerry) owned.

By 1902, Robert and Harriet and 4 sons, William, Herbert, Edward, and Albert were living in Crozier. They built a log cabin and eventually the sons received homesteads in the area. In August 1917, Robert Jerry died leaving a widow and 5 heirs at law. There was no will but 2 witnesses stated that before passing away, Robert had said  Albert was to receive the homestead. Albert and his wife, Clara, lived with, tended the farm, and cared for Robert and Harriet as they aged. None of the siblings contest the verbal will. Albert had the farm until he sold it in 1943 to John George Bragg and Lucy Bragg. An interesting side note is that Norbert Bragg the man who drove most of us to school also owned this piece of land for a while.

Our Great-grandfather, James Herbert Jerry homesteaded the SE1/2 of Section 29. The family moved there permanently in 1929 after a stint in Saskatchewan and Southern Ontario. According to our Great-Aunt Jo, his daughter,

James Herbert Jerry home in CrozierThe homestead had a two room building with a garage on one side and a bachelor’s room on the other.  Dad had logged the land to build a bigger house but when he came back from the south the logs were gone.  He figured the neighbour had sold them.  So we lived in the little building with Dad turning the garage into a kitchen.

Descendants of the Jerry family still live in the Rainy River District.


Ontario Land Registry Access; Historical Documents; Rainy River, Crozier, Parcel 18 – 3849, image 160-162;

1901 Canada Census; Robert Jerry Household; Alberton, Algoma, Ontario; District 44; Subdistrict H-1; Household 30; Page 3; Microfilm T6458; Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario.

Land Patent Maps; Archives of Ontario; Crozier;\errors\img_simNo.htm

“Stories from Aunt Jo”; written memories from Josephine Beaton.


Gingersnaps made by Bethel Miller

I loved my Grandmother’s cooking. She made great perogies (no she wasn’t Polish or Ukrainian), creamed peas on toast and ginger snaps, my favourite cookie. Her food wasn’t fancy, but it was Gramma made, in other words delicious.  One thing she couldn’t make was pie crust which, much to my disappointment, is a gene I have inherited.

Gramma and Tara

Me with my Grandmother Miller

My Grandmother, Bethel Miller (nee Jerry) was born in Hawarden, Saskatchewan on 15 March 1917.  She lived through the depression and an alcoholic husband. With 8 children she had to learn how to cook cheap and filling  meals and she excelled at making them.

Gramma taught me to bake alongside her youngest daughter. Gingersnaps was one of the things we learned to make. I remember her telling us to mix the flour and lard so the lard was pea size and wondering if she meant big or little peas.

When I married and moved away, Gramma would mail me gingersnaps because she knew how much I loved them. When she found out my husband didn’t like them she sent thumbprint cookies for him.

My sisters carry on the tradition and make gingersnaps. But unlike Gramma, they don’t mail me any (hint, hint). I am including the recipe if you would like to try them. The recipe comes from a church fundraising cookbook, that is known as The Bluebook in our family. As you can see the recipe is well used.

Gingersnap recipe

Agricultural census records

While preparing for a presentation I rediscovered the Canadian agricultural census records. Not only is there one for 1861 but I was reminded an agricultural census record exists for 1851 too. The 1871 census, as well as the nominal census that lists the household members, has is a schedule for
1.  return of deaths in 1870
2.  return of public institutions, real and personal property
3.  return of cultivated lands
4.  livestock, animal products, homemade fabrics and fur,
5.  return of industrial establishments
6.  return of forest products
7.  return of shipping and fishing
8.  return of mineral products

You won’t find personal information on these other schedules but they are packed with information on how your family lived.  My 3 great grandfather, William Jerry, came to Canada from Norfolk, England between 1834 and 1837 (I discovered this in the 1851 census that listed the birthplace of his children). He lived in Pickering Township, Ontario County,  but between 1861 and 1871 moved to St. Vincent Township, Grey County, Ontario. (Once again I discovered this from the census records)

The information on the other census schedules reveals how he lived his life.  The 1871 census schedules tell me he owned 2 oxen, 1 milk cow, one horned cow, and 8 sheep. I wondered what he did with all those sheep and discovered he also had 24 pounds of wool; his wife made wool. The milk cow provided milk and 70 pounds of butter. He also had 50 bushels of peas, and 80 bushels of turnips, as well as wheat, barley, and oats. He had 20 cords of wood. This tells me he, his wife, and children worked really hard. Can you imagine picking 50 bushels of peas or chopping 20 cords of wood? That’s a lot of work.

Robert Jerry and Sarah Harriet with Albert, Herb, Edward and possibly William3

This is a picture of William’s son Robert in 1903. Robert and his wife Harriet (sitting beside each other in the centre of the picture) moved to Crozier, Rainy River District, Ontario.

You can find digitized images of the 1851, 1861, and 1871 agricultural and other census records at Library and Archives Canada. Just look under the Schedules heading. The 1861 agricultural census is indexed at Ancestry but when you search you must put “Agricultural” in the keyword box.

1851 Census of Canada East, Canada West, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia; Robert Jary Household; Pickering, Ontario, Canada West; District 26; Subdistrict 245; Line 30; Page 39; Microfilm C_11742; accessed October 8, 2013 at; [database on-line]; Provo, Utah; Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario.

_1861 Census of Canada; William Jary Household; Pickering, Ontario, Canada West; District 5; Line 12; Page 83; Microfilm  C-1057; accessed October 8, 2013 at; [database on-line]; Provo, Utah; Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario

_1871 Canada Census; William Jerry Household; St. Vincent, Grey North; Ontario; District 37; Subdistrict H-1; Family 296; Page 86; Microfilm C-9954; accessed October 8, 2013 at; [database on-line]; Provo, Utah; Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario.

_1881 Canada Census; Charles Lee Household; Pickering, Ontario South, Ontario; District 132; Subdistrict A-1; Family 428; Page 88; Microfilm C-13244; accessed October 8, 2013 at; [database on-line]; Provo, Utah; Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario.