Large chunks in the life of this
man--sibling of a direct ancestor--are still missing. Mysteries
abound. For the lucky, newspapers provide clues or even fill some
biographical holes. Newspaper items can remind us our
ancestors were human and faulty just as we are. Perhaps we can relate
to long-past transgressions and crimes because of the news we are
immersed in today. Aside from the event itself, in some cases we
might learn how the community responded, an insight to social
sensibilities. Dealing with something a couple of generations ago, we
have distance from the contemporary emotional consequences and pain.
Hector McFadyen was born 28 December
1869 in Provincetown, Massachusetts, the son of John McFadyen and his
wife Isabella Campbell, both natives of Cape Breton.
Hector's parents had married in the same town in January of that
year. What were two Capers doing far south of
their home province? The family story is that the couple had sailed
to "the Boston States" to sell their boat and make a stake
to buy land in Canada's Northwest. John planned to change his
occupation from seafarer to farmer.
Hector was a child when they arrived in
Oakbank, Manitoba (also known as Sunnyside, and later Springfield),
where his father duly staked his homestead claim in 1874 to a quarter
section (160 acres) of prairie land. More
pieces of property were acquired as the family grew. The oldest of
ten children, Hector probably learned farming at an early age. He
appears to be the single man, age 31, a sole head of household at
Springfield in 1901, where he was farming not far from his
The next thing we know of Hector is his
marriage on 6 August 1909 to Katherine Grace Polley, born in Ontario
to New Hampshire natives Albert M. Polley and Flora Fuller.
In British Columbia! By this time Hector was almost forty years old.
Whether he had moved to BC or was visiting or engaged in farm
business, we simply don't know.
Grace's family provides a clue for the distant encounter. Her father Albert Polley was quite an entrepreneur in mail and passenger stage service to northern Ontario towns from his base in Goderich.
|Goderich historical town square; destroyed by tornado, 2011. Photo mbsportsweb.ca|
But Albert's love of horses was paramount. He bred and trained them in his
stables and racetrack near the town and expanded to horse markets in
Pennsylvania and British Columbia. Probably through his connections
along the way---did his daughter travel with him?---Grace met a
fellow horse lover called Hector McFadyen.
Hector has not yet been located in the
1911 census two years after his marriage. His wife Grace McFadden was
then living with her parents on North Street in Goderich, Ontario.
Our intermittent chronology now skips
ahead to 1921 when widower Albert Polley died.
Grace inherited $986.00 from him while her single sister Charlotte
was given the North Street house.
At about 11 p.m. on the last day of February 1923, smoke came pouring
out of H. McFadyen's Grocery Store on the corner of North Street and
the Square in Goderich. (It seems Hector had
relocated to his wife's home town and established a different kind of
business.) Firemen were prompt and reported next day that losses were
not heavy but the living quarters above the store, inhabited by
Misses Elliott, were damaged. A short circuit in basement wiring was
the suspected cause.
Hector McFadyen disappeared at the same
A few days later, March 6th, this
notice was inserted in a Winnipeg newspaper, appealing for
information of his whereabouts. He was
described as a "railroad construction man" and thought to
be in western Canada. To the point, the notice said his wife Grace
was "ill and entirely without money and urges him to write to
her." An address was given to contact Grace in Toledo, Ohio. Two
of Hector's sisters in Winnipeg composed the notice, likely after
being contacted by Grace or someone on her behalf.
A second newspaper notice with more
desperate overtones was published on March 7th; apparently from Grace
"Your wife is ill and absolutely
without money, do not be afraid to write. I have legal advice the
police cannot hold you for fire. My furniture is held for heat and
light.Mrs Grace McFadyen, [address withheld],
Oh, the questions! Was Hector to blame
for the fire? I suppose he scooted out of Ontario on a train.
Certainly the families were communicating between Ohio and Manitoba.
But why was Grace living in Toledo? Had she and Hector actually lived
together in Goderich for some time?
March 22nd: Grace died in Toledo at the
home of her sister, Mrs. W.B. (Helen) Major.
Her remains were shipped to Goderich for burial with her parents in
Maitland Cemetery; her name on the stone is Grace P. McFadyen.
The local death notice does not mention her husband. Ironically, on
the day she died, the same newspaper published her petition to
initiate bankruptcy proceedings.
Hector's life after 1923 is yet another
blank, with only a few clues on his death record. He died 18 November
1944 in Kamloops, BC; the informant was a man who lived at the same
residence. Hector had lived there less than
two months before his death. Described as "contractor," his
former address was Haney, BC, a small place east of Vancouver on the
CPR railway line. Typical of families dealing with a black sheep, the
McFadyens generally suppressed speaking of him to younger generations
and Hector's full story was lost.
The value of newspapers in family
history research can never be overestimated. They can help develop
the three-dimensional ancestor. Let's applaud all who digitize
newspapers and those who make them searchable!
2013 Brenda Dougall Merriman
 Massachusetts Births,
Vol. 214 (Provincetown), p. 18, birth male McFadden, 28 December
1869; as transcribed and sent to me by Cheryl McIntosh, 8 February
Marriages, Vol. 17 (Provincetown), p. 15, McFadyen-Campbell marriage,
13 January 1869; as transcribed and sent to me by Cheryl McIntosh, 8
 Manitoba homestead
grant no. 2353, NW Quarter, Section 15, Township 11, Range 5 East of
the Principal Meridian, patent deed 3 May 1878. These grants can now
be searched in Library and Archives Canada's (LAC) "Western Land
 "1901 Census of
Canada," transcription, Automated Genealogy
(http://automatedgenealogy.com : accessed 23 February 2009):
Manitoba, District 11, Selkirk, subdistrict Springfield, division
K-2, p. 4, Hector McFadyen; citing LAC microfilm T-6435. Census
indexing at the time on Ancestry.ca and FamilySearch.org
was problematic for finding any of this family.
 "Vital Events -
Marriages," database, British Columbia Archives
(http://searchbcarchives.gov.bc.ca/ : accessed 18 July 2009),
Mcfadyen-Polley marriage, no. 1909-09-120737; citing BC Archives
 "Obituary -
Polley," The Signal (Goderich, Ontario), 20 January 1921.
 "1911 Census of
Canada," digital image, Ancestry.ca (www.ancestry.ca :
accessed 18 July 2009), Ontario, District 83, Huron West, subdistrict
3, enumeration district 5, Town of Goderich, p. 29, Albert Polley
household; citing LAC microfilm T-20378.
 "Ontario, Canada,
Deaths, 1869-1934," digital image, Ancestry.ca
(www.ancestry.ca : accessed 19 July 2009), Albert M. Polley, death
registration no. 016382 (1921); citing Archives of Ontario (AO)
microfilm MS 935.
 Huron County, Ontario,
Surrogate Court file no. 8890, Albert M. Polley; AO microfilm MS 887
 The Huron Star
(Goderich, Ontario), 1 March 1921.
Wanted of Hector McFadyen," Manitoba Free Press
(Winnipeg, Manitoba), 6 March 1923.
McFadyen," Winnipeg Free Press (Winnipeg, Manitoba), 7
 "Ohio Deaths,
1908-1953," database, FamilySearch (www.familysearch.org
: accessed 24 February 2009), Grace McFadyen 1923.
Interestingly--unhappily--the entry cannot currently be found.
 "Obituary -
McFayden," The Goderich Star, 29 March 1923.
 Hector McFadyen,
British Columbia death registration no. 1944-09-651920; BC Archives