Family Stories


Favourite Name

A favourite name doesn’t have to be favoured because it is odd, amusing or famous.  It can be beloved because remembrances of the person evoke warm feelings.  My favourite name is Jessie Elizabeth, my Aunt Jessie. Years ago, I decided my first daughter would have this name.

Aunt Jessie and Uncle Austin in 1946 at my grandmother’s wedding to Walter Dunn, Jessie’s brother.

Once a year, my family drove to Cochrane in North-Eastern Ontario to visit Mom’s relatives, mainly my grandparents and great-grandparents. This trip usually included a day trip to South Porcupine to see Aunt Jessie, my (step) grandfather’s sister. South Porcupine’s claim to fame is that Frank Mahovlich, a famous National Hockey League player, was born nearby, in Schumacher. When we drove through Schumacher, Mom would remind us that Frank was born there.

It was my Aunt Jessie and Uncle Austin who lived in South Porcupine. Driving an hour both ways with 8 kids in the car suggests she was important in Mom’s life. Aunt Jessie and Uncle Austin were an older, robust couple who planned activities for us. They had only one son who was older than us. I like to think they loved having us visit.  

Aunt Jessie was a big woman with a calm, compassionate demeanor. I remember her white hair braided and wrapped around her head. More energetic, Uncle Austin was thinner with a full head of white hair. He was a retired miner had worked in the mines around South Porcupine. He always had a bagful of polished rocks for us to play with and we got to take them home.

Aunt Jessie treated me like an adult even though I was not in my teens yet. She had a huge loom in one room and took time to teach me how to use it. Perhaps the reason I admired her was because she gave me little dolls – something I collected. One was a plastic with a pioneer outfit. It had been used for a 1967 Canada centennial celebration.

Walter looks younger so this may have been taken before leaving for B.C.

Jessie Elizabeth is how her name appears in the Ontario Birth Registrations. She was born on the October 26, 1902 in Northern Ontario. Her parents had 2 sons after her birth. My grandfather was born in 1906. The family moved to Proctor, British Columbia about 1907. In 1908, her father, John Edward Dunn, drowned and the remaining family moved home. After that, Aunt Jessie lived with her paternal grandmother and uncle in New Liskeard while the 2 boys lived with their mom, Christina Clayton Dunn and maternal grandmother in Hamilton, Ontario.

I think her mother, a religious woman, missed her daughter. She remarried after 10 years of widowhood and moved to Northern Ontario. In her diary, she writes

Once when Jessie was going to school in New Liskeard when the two Jessies were keeping house, I saw Mr. and Mrs. Bumstead going to town on Friday. I asked God to let them bring Jessie home… It was Mrs. Bumstead that asked Jessie to come home with them.

The Bumsteads did bring Jessie home with them to see her mother that weekend.  

From Christiana Clayton Dunn Richarson diary
Aunt Jessie and Uncle Austin in 1980. No white and no braid. My memory is false.

Jessie married Austin Walker in 1922. She was community minded and took a Red Cross Certificate in Home Nursing in the 1940’s. My mom said she was heavily involved with the Girl Guides too. Although I barely knew her, I have fond memories of my Aunt Jessie, hence my love of the name Jessie Elizabeth.


The Porcupine Advance, Timmons, Ontario, Thursday, June 13, 1940, page 2, column 2

Christina Clayton Dunn Richardson Diary

Photos, The younger and older photos, Isabella Walker Tree,