Ainsley Megraw (1857 – 1923)

Born on July 12th, 1857, in the serene surroundings of Greenock Township, Bruce County, Ontario, Canada, Ainsley Megraw’s story is one of ambition, perseverance and a relentless drive to excel across diverse endeavors – from education and journalism to military service, mining ventures and distinguished community leadership roles. His legacy stands as a testament to the limitless potential of the human spirit when fortified by resilience and an unwavering commitment to personal growth.

Early Years and Education

Ainsley was one of twelve children born to John Megraw and Isabella Wallace, Irish immigrants who settled in Greenock Township after fleeing the Great Famine in Ireland. Growing up in the rustic charm of rural Ontario, the young Ainsley embarked on his academic journey in 1868 or 1869, first attending school in Paisley, Bruce County. The writer of a local history account described him as “a demure little chappie” who sat on a bench that was perhaps a bit too high for his stature. Nevertheless, these formative years laid the foundation for his values of diligence and determination embodied by his immigrant parents.

In December 1879, Ainsley achieved a significant milestone, passing the Professional Examination at the renowned Ottawa Normal School, a prestigious teacher training institute. Earning a 2nd Class Certificate from the Ontario Minister of Education was a remarkable accomplishment for the son of working-class Irish immigrants in that era.

Volunteer Military Service

Ainsley Megraw maintained a lifelong interest in military affairs, which manifested early on through his involvement as a volunteer with the 32nd “Bruce” Battalion of Infantry – a militia battalion formed in September 1866 in Walkerton, drawing volunteer companies from across Bruce County. Ainsley’s exposure began a couple of months earlier when his brother Robert J. Megraw joined a local militia unit mobilized in June 1866 and sent to Goderich, Ontario during the Fenian crisis, likely inspiring Ainsley’s own volunteer military pursuits later in life.

As a volunteer in the 32nd Battalion, Ainsley rose through the ranks of Sergeant by the early 1880s. He continued attending specialized training, earning prestigious certifications with high marks in drill, discipline, and marksmanship. His dedication was recognized with promotions to the ranks of Captain in 1889 and Major in 1895 within the battalion.

While passionate about military affairs through his volunteer service, Ainsley’s true calling lay in engaging his community through the newspaper industry, where his intellectual curiosity and thirst for knowledge found their fullest expression.

A Career in Journalism

In 1884, Ainsley became the co-proprietor of the weekly newspaper The Busy Times in Port Elgin, Bruce County, Ontario, partnering with Wesley S. Johnston. The paper later merged with The Free Press and was renamed The Port Elgin Times.

Ainsley’s newspaper career continued to flourish, and in 1885 he purchased the Paisley Advocate, a weekly publication in Paisley, Bruce County. For the next eight years, he proved himself to be a well-qualified journalist, serving as the editor and publisher of the paper. During his tenure, he even published a special edition in 1890 to commemorate Paisley’s 25th anniversary as a township.

In 1892, lured by the prospect of the burgeoning mining industry in western Canada, Ainsley ventured west, taking over the Vernon News in Vernon, British Columbia, alongside George G. Henderson, as co-owner and editor. While continuing to manage the Vernon News, they also launched the Okanagan Mining Review in Okanagan Falls in 1893, though the latter newspaper was short-lived, ceasing publication after only 11 issues.

Ainsley’s newspaper career continued to evolve, and in 1893 he returned to Ontario, establishing The Wiarton Canadian in Wiarton, Bruce County. He served as the editor and publisher of this weekly paper until 1896, when he retired from journalism for a time to pursue a career in the mining industry.

Ainsley’s entrepreneurial spirit and love of the written word drew him back to the industry, and in 1905 he founded the Hedley Gazette and Similkameen Advertiser, the first newspaper in the town of Hedley, British Columbia. He served as the editor and manager of the Gazette until 1914, when he sold the paper to W.C. Martin to focus on his appointment as Inspector of Indian Reserves in the Okanagan District.

Throughout his diverse newspaper career, Ainsley Megraw demonstrated a talent for journalism and a deep commitment to serving his local communities. His work in the industry not only provided him with valuable experience and connections but also laid the foundation for his future endeavors in the mining sector and government service.

Mining Ventures

Ainsley’s foray into mining began on January 2nd, 1897, with the acquisition of the Minnehaha Mineral Claim in Camp McKinney, Similkameen District, British Columbia. The Minnehaha claim saw significant development and expansion under his management. By June 1897, the property had emerged as a promising prospect, with fourteen men in his employ and the construction of several buildings on-site.

Ainsley’s mining ventures were part of a larger corporate effort. The Minnehaha Gold Mining & Milling of British Columbia, Limited, which Ainsley managed, had a board of directors that included Professor Henry Montgomery, the president and a professor of geology at the University of Toronto, as well as Capt. J.F. Ramsay, a wholesale merchant in Toronto, serving as vice-president.

However, Ainsley’s journey in the mining industry was not without its challenges. In October 1897, he suffered a serious head injury in an accident at the Minnehaha mine when struck by a fallen timber – a stark reminder of the inherent risks associated with mining operations.

Undeterred, Ainsley continued to play a pivotal role. In July 1899, he assumed the role of agent for the Sailor Consolidated Mining and Milling Company, overseeing the successful flotation of the company’s stock in Eastern Canada.

The amalgamation of the Minnehaha and Sailor Mining Companies in 1900 signaled a new chapter in Ainsley’s career. Appointed as Mine Superintendent of this consolidated venture, he managed the operations and adjoining claims. Under his supervision, a 5-stamp mill was installed and operated on the Minnehaha mine site for three weeks in March 1900. However, the results were disappointing, leading to the permanent closure of the mine later that year – a devastating professional and personal blow after Ainsley’s investments of time, effort and likely his own capital.

During his diverse mining endeavors, Ainsley exhibited entrepreneurial spirit and tenacity in the face of adversity. Though his pursuit of wealth beneath the earth encountered challenges like the collapse of the Minnehaha mine venture, it underscored his unwavering commitment to exploration and innovation in the pursuit of success.

Masonic Involvement and Leadership

In addition to his esteemed pursuits in education, journalism, the military, and mining ventures, Ainsley Megraw was deeply involved in the Masonic fraternity, ascending through its ranks and playing a pivotal role in the establishment and leadership of several lodges. Ainsley’s Masonic journey began in Paisley, Bruce County, Ontario, where he served as the Secretary of Aldworth Lodge, No. 235 in 1890. His dedication and leadership qualities were quickly recognized, and by 1892, he had assumed the role of Worshipful Master of the same lodge.

During his time establishing and running The Wiarton Canadian newspaper in Wiarton, Bruce County from 1893 to 1896, Ainsley also served as the past master of the Spirit Rock Lodge No. 312 in the town.

As he ventured westward to British Columbia, Ainsley’s Masonic involvement continued to flourish. He became a founding member and Worshipful Master of Miriam Lodge No. 20 in Vernon, which was established on May 3, 1893. This early involvement laid the foundation for his subsequent contributions to the fraternity in the province.

In 1905, Ainsley’s entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to Freemasonry converged when he founded the Hedley Gazette and Similkameen Advertiser in the town of Hedley. The following year, on July 20, 1906, his Masonic accomplishments reached new heights as he became the first Worshipful Master of the newly constituted Hedley Masonic Lodge No. 43.

Ainsley’s dedication to the Masonic order extended beyond his local involvements. From 1908 to 1909, he served as the District Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia, a testament to his leadership and the esteem in which he was held within the fraternity.

Throughout his life, Ainsley maintained deep ties to the lodges he helped establish. Records show he was still affiliated with Miriam Lodge No. 20 in Vernon in 1914 and with Hedley Lodge No. 43 in 1922, where he had served as the inaugural Worshipful Master.

Ainsley Megraw’s legacy within the Masonic fraternity is one of unwavering commitment, visionary leadership, and a lifelong dedication to the principles and ideals of the order. His contributions not only enriched the communities in which he lived but also left an indelible mark on the annals of Freemasonry in Canada.

Community Leadership and Civic Engagement

Beyond his endeavors in education, journalism, the military, and mining, Ainsley Megraw’s dedication to service extended into various facets of community leadership and civic engagement. He held several key government appointments, actively participated in local organizations, and advocated tirelessly for the interests of the towns and regions he called home.

In the late 1880s, while residing in Paisley, Ainsley served as an agent for the Ontario Mutual Life insurance company and as the Finance Secretary for the Caledonian Society. He was also the Second Chief of the volunteer Albatross Hose Company fire brigade and the Secretary of the Mechanics’ Institute, a pioneering establishment for adult education.

As Ainsley ventured westward, his commitment to public service intensified. In Camp McKinney, he acted as the Secretary for the local Public School Board of Trustees from 1900 to 1901. He was appointed as a Magistrate for the Small Debts Court in 1901 and served as a License Commissioner and Chief License Inspector for the region from 1902 to 1905, overseeing the enforcement of liquor licensing laws.

Ainsley’s leadership extended beyond government roles. In Hedley, he co-founded the town’s first Board of Trade in 1905, serving as its inaugural Secretary and driving early economic development initiatives. His commitment to community advocacy was evident when he spearheaded petitions and public campaigns against a proposed railway route that threatened to bypass and impede the town’s development and access to industries that were vital to its future growth prospects.

A lifelong proponent of marksmanship, Ainsley was appointed as the first President of the Hedley Rifle Association in 1905, fostering the town’s engagement with the sport. His organizational ties deepened through roles such as serving on the Board of Directors for the Hedley Hospital from 1913 to 1914.

In 1914, Ainsley’s commitment to public service culminated in his appointment as Inspector of Indian Agencies for southeastern British Columbia. With characteristic dedication, he embraced the responsibilities of this vital role, demonstrating an unwavering devotion to the welfare of the Indigenous communities under his care until his retirement.

Over the course of his life, Ainsley’s contributions were recognized with appointments as a Notary Public, Marriage Registrar, and Coroner, further underscoring his esteemed standing within the communities he served. His unwavering civic spirit, guided by a profound sense of duty and a drive to uplift those around him, left an indelible mark on the towns and regions that benefited from his leadership.

Personal Loss and Resilience

Ainsley’s life was not without its share of personal trials. He married Annie Elizabeth Nelson in 1884, but tragically, she passed away in 1886, leaving Ainsley to mourn her loss deeply. Their daughter, Annie Elizabeth Nelson Megraw, born the same year, also passed away in 1888.

Undeterred by adversity, Ainsley found love again and married Ada Margaret Killins in 1899. Tragically, Ada passed away in 1902, leaving Ainsley to grapple with loss once more. Yet, through it all, he remained steadfast in his commitment to duty and service, finding solace in the bonds of friendship and the enduring legacy of his family.

A Lasting Legacy

On January 5th, 1923, Ainsley Megraw’s journey came to a close at the age of 65 in Vernon, B.C., leaving behind an exceptional legacy that spanned numerous professions and community roles. His funeral service at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church was conducted under the auspices of the Masonic order, drawing a large attendance of brethren from the district as well as other friends. Beautiful floral tributes from lodges, Indian agents, civil servants, and personal friends adorned the service, attesting to the widespread esteem and affection Ainsley had cultivated throughout his life’s work. After the service, he was laid to rest at Pleasant Valley Cemetery.

Ainsley Megraw’s life stood as a testament to the incredible breadth of achievement that can be attained through steadfast determination, resilience, and an unwavering commitment to growth. From his roots as the son of working-class immigrants to his ascension as a respected leader in journalism, military service, business ventures, and civic engagements, his journey inspired all who witnessed his integrity, empathy, and drive to uplift those around him. Ainsley’s legacy challenges us all to embrace opportunities with passion, surmount adversities with fortitude, and uplift others through compassionate leadership and civic engagement.

James Megraw Jr. (1860-1934)

In the bustling city of Belfast, Ireland, where the mighty ships of Harland & Wolff were born, a man named James Megraw Jr. carved out a remarkable life, leaving an indelible mark on his community through his deep dedication to Freemasonry, his faith, and his steadfast principles.

Hailing from the picturesque townland of Magherascouse, County Down, James’ journey began on June 24th, 1860 – the feast day of St. John the Baptist, one of the patron saints of Freemasonry whose annual celebration was deeply significant to the fraternal order that had long defined his family.

Freemasonry and the Megraw Legacy

Freemasonry has deep roots in Ireland, dating back to the early 18th century. The Grand Lodge of Ireland, established in 1725, is the second oldest Grand Lodge in the world. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, hundreds of Masonic lodges were founded across the country, serving as hubs for social, intellectual, and philanthropic activities. James Megraw Jr.’s own family had long been involved in Irish Freemasonry, with his ancestors Ansley Megraw (ca.1775-1820) from 1793 to 1796 and John Megraw ( – ) in the early 1800s affiliated with the ancient Saintfield Union Lodge No. 425.

James’ father, James Megraw Sr., was the Worshipful Master of Ballygowan Lodge No. 136 in Magherascouse. He took great pride in carrying his newborn son James Jr. into a lodge meeting, presenting the newest addition to the fraternity. This legacy of Masonic involvement would become a defining thread in James Jr.’s life.

Following in his father’s footsteps, James Jr. joined the Abercorn Lodge No. 114 in Ballymacarrett on July 1st, 1891. Rising through the ranks, he became a Past King of the Craigantlet Royal Arch Chapter in Holywood, serving as its secretary from 1918 to 1931. Throughout his life, James Megraw Jr. remained deeply involved in the Masonic Order, becoming the secretary of the Ballymacarrett Lodge No. 436, a position he held for over a decade.

In 1924, James Megraw Jr. assisted William George Simpson in researching the history of the former Ballygowan Lodge No. 136, which had met in the attic of the Bowman family’s cottage in Magherascouse for over 30 years until its warrant was called in 1887. The two men’s visit to the century-old cottage provided a glimpse into the rich Masonic heritage of the region, which Simpson later captured in his book “Masonry of the Olden Time in the Comber District, County Down, Ireland” (1926).

Building a Career in Shipbuilding

James’ professional journey mirrored the industrial growth of Belfast in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He began his career working at the renowned Workman, Clark & Co. shipyard, one of the largest and most successful shipbuilding firms in Belfast. The company built a wide range of vessels, from cargo ships to passenger liners, and played a key role in transforming Belfast into a global hub of shipbuilding.

After gaining experience at Workman, Clark & Co., James’s skills earned him a promotion to yard manager, a position he held for several years before moving to Cammell Laird & Co. in Birkenhead, England. Cammell Laird was another prominent shipbuilding company, known for constructing advanced and famous vessels, including the renowned HMS Ark Royal, the first British warship to be designed and built as an aircraft carrier.

James later returned to Belfast, resuming his role at Workman, Clark & Co. before joining the prestigious Harland & Wolff shipyard. Harland & Wolff was the largest and most prominent shipbuilder in Belfast, responsible for constructing iconic ships like the ill-fated RMS Titanic. According to family accounts, James may have been involved in the planning of the Titanic, as it is said that he, along with his colleagues, helped to chalk out the plans for the vessel on the tiled floor of the scullery in his home. Though the extent of James’s direct involvement is unclear, this anecdote does suggest he was associated with the Titanic project, underscoring the significance of Harland & Wolff’s shipbuilding legacy during his tenure at the company.

Marriage and Family

In October 1882, James Megraw Jr. married Emily McCreary Lowry, daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Murdock, in Belfast. Together, they raised a large family, welcoming eight children into the world:

i. Frederick James Megraw (b. 1883)
ii. Emmeline Beatrice Megraw (b. 1884)
iii. Helena Gertrude Allen Megraw (b. 1886)
iv. Harold Thomas Lowry Megraw (b. 1888)
v. Wilfred Ansley Megraw (b. 1890)
vi. Edith Irene Maude Megraw (b. 1892)
vii. Bertram Stanley Rutherford Megraw (b. 1894)
viii. Ida Ethelwynne Octavia Megraw (b. 1901)

James’ own childhood had been marked by immense tragedy. Shortly before Christmas in 1870, when he was just 10 years old, his father James Megraw Sr., a blacksmith by profession, passed away at the young age of 45 from “heart disease.” James’ mother, Jane, was now a widow and suddenly responsible for raising her four young sons alone, the youngest just 4 years old.

Two years later, the family’s grief was compounded when James’ eldest brother, Robert John, an apprentice painter, tragically died after falling off a ladder. This left the widowed Jane with three remaining young sons, the eldest of whom was only 12 years old. Despite the incredible hardship, James’ mother displayed remarkable determination and resilience, finding a way to provide for her sons until they were old enough to start earning their own wages and support the family. Through these formative years, young James undoubtedly learned valuable lessons about perseverance and the importance of family that would shape the rest of his life.

In 1929, further tragedy struck the family when James Jr.’s son Harold lost his wife at the young age of 33 in England, where they were raising a family of three daughters and a son. Faced with the responsibility of caring for four young children, James Jr. and his wife Emily, now almost 70 years old, decided to keep the family together by having the children move in with them at their home in Bangor, County Down. Their youngest daughter, 28-year-old Ida Megraw, who was unmarried and living in Belfast at the time, gave up her job to help her parents care for the grandchildren. This selfless act speaks to James Megraw Jr.’s strong family values and his willingness to put the needs of his loved ones first, even in his later years.

A Man of Faith and Temperance

Beyond his professional accomplishments, James Megraw Jr. was a man of deep faith and unwavering principles. He was a devoted member of the Bloomfield Presbyterian Church for 37 years, serving as the first elder and superintendent of the Sabbath School. His commitment to the church was so steadfast that he only missed one service in all those years.

James’ dedication to his faith was matched by his ardent belief in the temperance movement, which gained significant traction in Belfast during his lifetime. As a founding member of the Belvoir Rechabite Tent, an organization dedicated to promoting abstinence from alcohol, James played a significant role in advancing the principles of temperance in his community.

The temperance movement advocated for sobriety, viewing alcohol as a scourge on society and a cause of numerous social problems. By advocating for abstinence and setting an example through his own lifestyle, James contributed to broader social reform efforts aimed at improving the lives of Belfast’s residents, many of whom were employed in industries like shipbuilding where alcohol consumption was seen as undermining worker productivity and contributing to the cycle of poverty.

The Passing of a Patriarch and a Lasting Imprint on History

On a somber August afternoon in 1934, the community of Bangor, County Down gathered to bid a final farewell to James Megraw Jr., a man whose life had been a testament to unwavering faith, steadfast principles, and unwavering dedication to his family and community. At the age of 74, Mr. Megraw had passed away at his beloved residence, “Bemersyde,” after a period of failing health.

The funeral procession made its way from Bemersyde to Comber Churchyard, where the Pastor of the Bloomfield Presbyterian Church, the congregation James had faithfully served for over three decades, conducted the solemn services. The pallbearers, Mr. Megraw’s three sons – Wilfred, Harold, and Stanley – solemnly carried their father’s casket, a heavy burden that surely weighed upon their hearts as they bid a final farewell to the man who had guided and supported them throughout their lives.

The large and diverse gathering that had assembled to pay their respects was a testament to the high esteem in which James Megraw Jr. had been held within the community. From his Masonic brethren to the members of his church, all had come to bid farewell to a man whose life had been a shining example of integrity, service, and devotion.

That James Megraw Jr. had been able to overcome the adversity-filled beginnings of his life to carve out such an accomplished and impactful legacy spoke volumes about his unwavering determination and the values instilled in him from a young age. Though his name may not be carried by all of his descendants, the spirit of James Megraw Jr. would live on, inspiring future generations to emulate the principles that had defined his remarkable life.

Robert Megraw Sr. (c.1782 – 1864)

In the picturesque county of Down, Ireland, amidst the rolling hills and vibrant landscapes, Robert Megraw Sr. was born around 1782. Little did he know that his life would intertwine with the rich history and events of his homeland. From his humble beginnings to his lasting impact on the community, Robert Megraw Sr. embodied the spirit and resilience of the Irish people. This brief biographical narrative delves into the life of a man who lived, loved, and left an indelible mark on the land he called home.

Early Years and Family

Robert Megraw Sr. spent his entire adult life in the charming village of Magherascouse, nestled in the heart of Co. Down. Though details about his early years are scarce, we can gather that he was a man of steadfast character and enduring determination.

In due course, Robert married Martha Bowman, a woman whose story remains elusive, save for her passing before 1864. Together, Robert and Martha raised a family of six known children, each born within the embrace of their beloved Co. Down. Their names echoed through the generations.

i. Sarah Ann Megraw (born ca. 1818)
ii. John Megraw (born ca. 1819)
iii. James Megraw Sr. (born ca. 1825)
iv. Agnes Megraw (born ca. 1827)
v. Robert Megraw Jr. (born ca. 1830)
vi. Annesley Megraw (born ca. 1833)

Freemasonry and Connections

Beyond his familial responsibilities, Robert Megraw Sr. was an active participant in the social fabric of Co. Down. His involvement with the Freemasonry organization offers a glimpse into his affiliations and commitments. On 22nd June 1815, Robert joined Lodge No. 136 in Ballygowan, Co. Down, fostering connections within the community.

Through the years, Robert’s dedication to Freemasonry manifested in his roles and responsibilities within the organization. On 15th December 1817, he served as a foreman on a committee at Masonic Lodge 136, showcasing his leadership qualities. The following year, Robert was elected as the High Priest of the same lodge on 27th December 1818, signifying his esteemed position within the Masonic community.

Land and Livelihood

Robert had a deep connection to the land of Magherascouse.In 1827, he held a lease from Lord Dufferin for “Fort Hill,” a 25-acre property that would become the cornerstone of his life’s work. Perched atop the site of an ancient rath (ringfort) constructed by Gaelic natives over two thousand years ago during the early Christian period, Robert’s farmhouse commanded sweeping views of the rolling countryside towards Strangford Lough.

An intriguing thread connects Robert even further in the past. Records show a farmer named John Megraw registered a sizable freehold in Magherascouse in 1790, around the time of Robert’s birth. Though their precise kinship remains elusive, one can’t help but wonder if the land’s legacy passed from father to son, an unbroken chain through generations.

Like many of his contemporaries, Robert’s path was not without its challenges. By 1831, unpaid rent amounting to £50 cast a shadow, threatening the very soil he tended. Summoned to court to explain the arrears, Robert faced the looming specter of eviction. Yet, his resilience prevailed – records indicate he found a way to resolve the debt, allowing him to continue nurturing the land he cherished. The 1835 Tithe Valuation, levying £1 5s 4.5p on his property, underscored his obligation to support the Church of Ireland, a responsibility he dutifully upheld.

Trials and Testimonies

In February 1842, Robert Megraw Sr. found himself embroiled in a legal dispute when he accused James Longridge of stealing his potatoes. The trial took place at the Down assizes, and according to the “Downpatrick Recorder” newspaper, Robert’s son, John Megraw, testified that he discovered tracks leading from their house to the prisoner’s house and found similar potatoes in the prisoner’s possession. Another witness, John Scott, confirmed the similitaries between the stolen potatoes and the ones found in the prisoner’s house.

Thomas Gourley, the landlord of James Longridge, also played a crucial role in the case. He came down to the scene when called upon and witnessed the search for the missing potatoes. It was Thomas Gourley who suggested examining under some hay and sticks, leading to the discovery of the concealed prisoner. James Longridge’s attempt to explain his possession of the potatoes did not provide a satisfactory answer to the witnesses.

In light of the compelling evidence presented, the court reached a verdict of guilty, sentencing James Longridge to three months of hard labor.

Legacy and Final Days

As the years unfolded, Robert continued his connection with the land, as evidenced by the Griffiths Valuation of 1863. Leasing two properties from Lord Dufferin and Claneboye, Robert’s commitment to his ancestral home remained steadfast. These properties, spanning from a small house and offices to extensive acres of land, bore witness to his dedication and resilience.

In the spring of 1864, Robert Sr. became ill and died of pneumonia six months later on a Monday. His remains lie beneath a weathered headstone standing on the grounds of St. Mary’s Church of Ireland in Comber, Co. Down. The inscription etched into the pitted face of the stone’s surface reads simply: “Erected by Robert and Hugh M(eg)raw of Magherascouse, A.D. 1848.” It is believed that Hugh is a brother of Robert.

Two days prior to his death, on 17th September 1864, Robert Megraw Sr. penned his final testament in Belfast. Ensuring the legacy of his hard work and devotion, he named his son Robert Jr. and nephew John Bowman as executors of his estate. The indomitable spirit that guided his life now flowed through the veins of his descendants, forever entwined with the history of Co. Down.

Funeral and Masonic Traditions

On the day of Robert Megraw Sr.’s funeral, Masonic traditions would have been observed. Neighboring lodges received invitations, and the brethren gathered at Robert’s house for a brief service before accompanying the coffin to the cemetery.

Following 19th-century Masonic customs, the funeral corteges were led by the “musik,” with muffled drums, pipes, or fifes. Knights Templars and other orders, possibly on horseback and wearing regalia, participated. Deacons ensured order, keeping non-Masons at a distance.

At the graveside, after the burial service, the Masters and High Priests formed the inner circle, while the rank and file formed the outer circle. The general public stood behind. The brethren clasped hands, offering a “sign of distress” thrice. They then reverently placed sprays of “yew” or “palm” on the coffin, paying their final respects to Robert.

As the funeral concluded, a hushed solemnity fell over the gathering, with echoes of respect and gratitude lingering in the air, honoring their departed fellow lodge member.

Final Reflections

Robert Megraw Sr. was a man deeply rooted in the land of Co. Down, Ireland. From his involvement in Freemasonry to his connection to the land and his enduring resilience, Robert’s life reflected the spirit of the Irish people. Through his trials and testimonies, he demonstrated his determination to protect his property and seek justice. His legacy lives on through his descendants, who carry his name and the indomitable spirit of their ancestor.

As the sun sets over the verdant fields of Magherascouse, Robert’s story remains etched in the annals of Co. Down’s history, a testament to the strength of character and the enduring legacy of those who shaped the land they called home.

John Megraw (1819 – 1906)

Born on November 15th, 1819, in Ballygowan, Co. Down, Ireland, John Megraw’s early years were marked by the tumultuous events of his time. As a young farmer in Ireland, he witnessed the devastating effects of the potato famine, which ravaged the country from 1845 to 1852. The suffering and hardships endured by his fellow countrymen left a profound impact on him, motivating him to seek a better life. In 1846, amidst the challenges of the famine, John made a courageous decision that would shape his destiny: he married Isabella Wallace at the Ballygowan Presbyterian Church on February 17th. The ceremony, officiated by Rev. John Gamble and witnessed by James Gibson and Alexander McMorran, marked the beginning of a shared journey of love, resilience, and determination for the couple.

The Journey from Ireland to Canada West

In 1849, with the devastating effects of the potato famine still weighing heavily on Ireland, John and Isabella made a life-altering decision. Driven by their desire for a brighter future, they embarked on an arduous and potentially dangerous voyage to a foreign land then known as Canada West. Leaving behind their homeland, relatives, and friends, they set sail for the promise of new opportunities. This momentous journey marked the start of a new chapter in their lives, as they left behind the struggles of famine-stricken Ireland and set their sights on building a prosperous future in Canada.

After landing in Toronto, John, his wife, and two young children resided near Richmond on Yonge St. for a short period before he set out to locate a homestead in the untamed wilderness of the Queen’s Bush, an area in the Bruce Peninsula, Ontario, characterized by dense forests and promising opportunities for pioneering settlers. It was within this rugged and untamed landscape that John Megraw would forge a new path for himself and his family, carving out a homestead and leaving a lasting legacy in the heart of Canada’s wilderness.

Carving a Life in the Untamed Wilderness

In October 1851, accompanied by James Legge and his nephews, Moses and Aaron, John ventured through the untamed wilderness from Richmond Hill to Owen Sound, led by an Indian guide. From there, he continued along the Saugeen River, eventually arriving at the Gowanlock settlement, named after William Gowanlock, a Scottish immigrant who established a thriving farm in the area. Inspired by the remarkable progress made by the Gowanlock family, John found himself drawn to the town of Paisley, then known as Mud River, where the first pioneer settlers, Simon Orchard and Samuel T. Rowe, had arrived earlier that year.

John returned to Richmond Hill that winter, and in the following spring, he went back to Mud River, where he cleared a piece of land and planted potatoes. Tragically, a devastating fire destroyed his shanty, prompting him to strike a deal with John Valentine, who was traveling down the river at the time. Mr. Valentine was putting up a grist mill on the Tees River, and he agreed to hire John. So he sold the rights and improvements of his cleared land to Archie Pollock and his potatoes to Timothy Craig and went to work for Mr. Valentine.

Subsequently, John acquired the property where the Paisley station stands today, securing it in 1852. On October 11th of that year, he erected a shanty on the exact spot where the former Grand Trunk Railroad ticket office once stood. In January 1853, the family moved into this new dwelling. The following year, they settled on a farm located at Lot 1, Concession 22 in Greenock, which became their beloved homestead.

Building a Strong Family Foundation

John and Isabella Megraw were blessed with a large family, and their children became a testament to their enduring love and dedication. Their children were:

i. Robert John Megraw (b.1846)
ii. Hugh Megraw (b.1851)
iii. Grace Megraw (b. ca.1852)
iv. Elizabeth Megraw (b.1853)
v. James Alexander Megraw (b. ca.1856)
vi. Ainsley Megraw (b.1857)
vii. Martha Ann Megraw (b.1859)
viii. Agnes Jane Megraw (b.1862)
ix. Wallace Megraw (b.1865)
x. Hugh Megraw (b.1866)
xi. Isabella Megraw (b. ca.1868)
xii. Sara Megraw (b. 1870)

John’s commitment to his family was unwavering, and he raised his children with the values of hard work, perseverance, and resilience. They, in their own unique ways, contributed to their community and carried on the Megraw legacy. As the years passed, the Megraw family grew and spread their roots across different parts of Canada, leaving an enduring mark on the nation’s history.

A Lifelong Dedication to Masonic Values

John took an active but ostentatious interest in public affairs, being all his life a supporter of the Liberal-Conservative cause. In religion, he was of the Presbyterian faith. But the organization that claimed his longest fealty was the Masonic Order, and he was perhaps one of the oldest Masons in Canada. He was initiated in Lodge No. 136 Ballygowan, Ireland, during the 1840s, and was a charter member of Aldworth Lodge, Paisley. Before leaving Ireland, John had advanced into the higher orders of masonry, and in his dealings with his fellow man, the almost child-like faith in masonry in which he evinced, and the manner in which it dominated his life, showed that masonry was with him a vital principle of conduct and action.

A Life Remembered and a Legacy Preserved

Always of a rugged constitution, John enjoyed good health throughout his life. Four years before his death, he met with an accident resulting in a fracture of a hip joint, which, although crippling him for his remaining years, did not impair his general health. To those of his family who had not seen him for years, it seemed difficult to think of him ailing.

On March 14th, with deep sadness but profound respect, John’s remains were buried in the Paisley cemetery with Masonic honors. The Masonic Order, an organization that held immense significance in his life, honored him with a burial ceremony befitting his lifelong commitment. The afternoon of March 14th became a solemn occasion as family, friends, and members of the Masonic Order gathered to pay their final respects to John Megraw, the pioneer, the family man, and the steadfast Mason whose life touched so many.

With his passing, John Megraw leaves behind a proud lineage and a family tree that branches out to numerous descendants, each of whom can trace their roots back to this courageous pioneer. His unwavering faith, dedication to his family and community, and his enduring legacy continue to resonate through generations, serving as a testament to his character and the lasting impact he made. Although his surname may not be carried by his descendants today, the spirit of John Megraw lives on, inspiring future generations to embody the same values of resilience, determination, and love for family.