Matthew Wilson and his wife Janet McBlain, James Wilson and Alexander McBlain left Scotland and went to the United States in 1866. The Wilsons went to Geneseo, New York. Sandy McBlaine first went to Kentucky before settling in Mitchell, Ontario. He worked for a man named Jack Scott. Here he met Isabella McLean whom he married April 12, 1870. Hearing about the free and grants being offered by the Canadian Government, Matthew and Janet and their 2 small children, Jessie born April 1870 along with James and his wife Alice Christal came to Canada and headed north to the Parry Sound District. They travelled by rail to Barrie; by steamer up Lake Simcoe and Lake Couchiching to McCabe;s Landing (Gravenhurst). They sailed up Lake Muskoka to Port Carling on the Winonah. The locks at Port Carling were not opened at that time and so the remainder of the trip up Lake Rosseau was by rowboat. Sandy McBlain and his wife left Mitchell and went north arriving at Sandy Bay on July 18d’about a week after the Wilson’s arrival. Alice Wilson, daughter of James and Alice is believed to be the first child bom in Humphrey Township. A brief history of Matthew’s life in Cardwell Township is encompassed in his obituary that appeared in the Bracebridge Gazette in 1936.
At his home at Hekkla, Cardwell Township, Muskoka, there passed peacefully away on Tuesday, February 25,1936, Mr. Matthew Wilson, one of the most outstanding men in Muskoka’s history. Born March 25th, 1844, he was in his 92nd year.
The funeral, which was largely attended, took place on the afternoon of February 28th, Rev. J.D. Richardson, Pastor of Rosseau United Church officiating. Interment took place in Rosseau United Cemetery. The pallbearers were Messrs Alex Crawford Sr., Alex Crawford Jr., George Lambert, John Forman, C.K. Beley, and Barney Einarson.
The late Mr. Wilson leaves to mourn his loss one son, Robert, of Hekkla, and one daughter, Mary, (Mrs. Joseph Jackson) of Haileybury. Mr. Wilson’s wife and two of his daughters predeceased him, his daughter Jessie QVIrs. Alex Crawford Sr.) dying in 1901, his wife dying in 1918, and his daughter Agnes (Mrs. John Tough) dying in 1932.
Mr. Wilson was born in Ayrshire, Scotland, and resided there until early manhood. There he married Miss Janet McBlain, a kindly, cultured lady.
In 1866 Mr. and Mrs. Wilson moved to Geneseo, New York, and resided there until 1870, when they came to Muskoka and MT. Wilson located a homestead at Bass Lake, between lakes Rosseau and Joseph. Five years later they moved to Cardwell Township and there both resided until death called them. Mrs. Wilson passed away in 1918. When the Township of Cardwell was incorporated in 1878, Mr Wilson was elected a member of the first council and from that time till his death he always took an active interest in Cardwell’s municipal affairs. After serving as councillor he became Township Clerk, and his period of service to the municipality, as councillor and clerk, extended unbroken from the township incorporation in 1878until his retirement, due to advancing age, in 1930, a period of well over half a century.
Mr. Wilson was a real authority on municipal law, finance and procedure, and the township was most fortunate in having his guidance,
When the Muskoka Municipal Association was formed he was a valued officer and shortly before his retirement from municipal work that association presented him with a gold-headed cane as a mark of esteem,
Like many other pioneers, he helped to lay the firm foundations of our present day Muskoka and in so doing endured all the hardships of the original homesteaders. But no other man left his mark on a Muskoka municipality’s public affairs like Matthew Wilson did - his service to the public having covered ably and honourably, the first fifty-two of Cardwell Township’s fifty - eight years of municipal history.
When, in 1930, the Heavy Hand of Time obliged Mr. Wilson to lay down the cares of public office, he was succeeded as Township Clerk and Treasurer by his son Robert who has ably continued the high standard set by his fitther.
Though his Physical activities have been circumscribed of late years, Mr. Matthew Wilson’s bright mind never lost its grip and he read the newspapers and took a keen interest in world affairs until a very few days before he peacefully passed away. He was always a man of literary tastes and was very widely read indeed.
And so there passed to the Great Beyond a real gentleman, kindly, scholarly, able and industrious who departing left behind him “footprints in the sands of time”. Copied from the Bracebridge Gazette March? 1936 Bibliography. “Early Explorations & Surveying of’ Muskoka District “ by Robert J. Boyer (1979) “The Guide Book and Atlas of Muskoka and Parry Sound Districts” 1879 “A Brief History of the Schools in Muskoka “ by Gary Denniss (1972 “ A Brief History of the Churches in Muskoka” by Gary Denniss (1996) “Rosseau - The Early Years” (199?) “Places of Worship Index for Muskoka District before 1900” by Nipissing Branch OGS (2000) “A History of the Church of the Redeemer - Rosseau, Ontario 1871-1983.
Special thanks to Bruce Wilson and Earl Marchand for their contributions.
This article first appeared in the April 2001 newsletter, Volume 17 - Number 1