The Story of Jane Russell Gibson of Lanark County

The Story of Jane Russell Gibson of Lanark County




Beverly Salkeld from Winnpeg, Manitoba wrote this but she asked that John Collins be credited as well as much of her information was gleened from his book  John Collins-Mcintosh family of Lanark County.  But,Effie Edna Park Salkeld is her grandmother not his.

The Jane Russell, John Lawson and James Gibson Families.




When doing research on my family history I came to admire women, who in1820 immigrated from Lanarkshire, Scotland to what is now Canada. It was believed that she, with her family in tow, was to have traveled on a ship named the Prompt. She must of   felt strongly, that it was her duty to create a better life for herself and her family. The family settled in what is now Lanark County Ontario. You may care little for what seems ancient history, but my grandmother Effie Park Salkeld a descendant in this story once wrote, ‘Perhaps no one cares about ancestors dead and gone but we should take heed of the life they helped build Canada the greatest in the world.’   In those days travel by water could be quite treacherous. Life in Scotland after the Napoleonic wars was dismal, at best. The life of a tenant farmer who would never have the privilege of owning land was far from prosperous.

The Scottish economy showed little, if any recovery. Wages were down in all sectors of the county. While in this Promised Land across the sea there lay great dreams. This lady of whom I speak was born one Jane Russell and it is very unfortunate, that I know little about her early life beyond the fact that her parents emigrated from England quite sometime before the 1820’s. Jane’s first marriage was John Lawson; of this marriage two children were born. Their marriage was estimated to have taken place in about 1803 and John’s death would have taken place about 1808 or so. I tried but I never was able to find out the cause his untimely death. The oldest child a boy named John, named after is father, or grandfather as is Scottish Tradition and a girl named Maggie or Margaret.  I am sad to say that since no social support agencies existed in those days that it was often better to be a widow than to have a maimed husband who could not work. One would be at the mercy of family and friends, who were also struggling to support themselves.   Jane and her two children must have felt very alone in the world.

But  being a widow Jane had the chance to re-marry .The widow Lawson later met a man named James Gibson, they soon married. James was a weaver and stonemason.  They were believed to have married in about 1811 which was estimated to be about 3 years after he first husband had passed on.  It is said that as they were waiting at the dock for the ship that they would travel on to get to this new land. James was stated as saying” We’d better turn yet we will surely get a living in the land of our birth”.  Jane being strong-minded women refused. The saga moved on Jane and James (Gibson) John and Maggie (Lawson) and the tree children from their own marriage boarded the ship, most likely a refitted ship left over from the Nepoleon wars. The children of James and Jane were Euphemie (my direct ancestor and another name for Effie, who later married Alexander Watt) two boys William and John Gibson.

After a rough journey at sea under the steerage of a drunken captain who’s boat I was told was quite often off course, often coming too close to icebergs, which upon hitting one, could have easily been the demise of all aboard. They were often so far of course that the Captains of the Great Whaling ships often called out ahoy .  However all passengers arrived safe and sound in what is now Montreal Quebec. The voyage was believed to have taken about eight weeks. From Montreal the family would have traveled up the St. Lawrence Seaway by boat to Brockville Ontario and then overland to Lanark. I have heard tell that the ride overland was very rough by horse dawn wagon and many of the processions were tossed and broken along the way. The roads were terribly bumpy and often fallen trees had to be moved in order that the journey continue.  I read in Catherine Parr Trails book the Backwoods of Canada that mosquitoes were thick and presented a major problem for both the settlers and the animals. A full time swisher with a tree branch , that still had leaves on it was often employed. The drovers who carried the settlers in their wagons, had but one objective and that was to collect their money and ready themselves for the next lot of settlers who were on their way to Lanark.   I suspect there would have been a certain degree of disappointment when James first saw his new land. Nothing but bush and more bush, and a sign tacked to a tree, a building or possibly two, where stores were kept.  My grandmother Effie Park wrote in her memoirs that the tree was also marked with a gash made by an axe. This family most certainly had their work cut out for them. I would imagine that there could have also been some discord between James and Jane Gibson, due to the fact that James never wanted to come in the first place. However they were here  now, turning back would not have been have been an option at this point. The family would now have to make the best of the situation.

The Gibson’s luckier then some as they had sons to help them clear the land. As time passed, the Gibson family grew in number. New members were Mary, Hugh, James, Thomas and lastly Jean who was also called Jane. The Gibson family was issued stores which would have consisted such things as blankets, an axe, files, latches and catches, hinges, hammer and chisels, reaping hooks and some cash.  They were expected to payback the cash once their land was deemed ready to make a living. Several of the settlers in Lanark including the Gibson’s ultimately obtained their land for free as it was so strewn with rocks and not very fertile, not the type of land from which one could make a decent living.  They worked hard to clear their build a cabin and plant crops.

Great tragedy struck the family about 1827. John and Jane lost not one but two of their sons to falling trees. Apparently these deaths were separate incidences. Even thought these deaths took place over 180 years ago, I do not wish to diminish the pain and loss that the family must have felt, or the grieving process and the deep sadness they would have had to endure. I often wonder if Jane  ever regretted coming to Canada due to the tragic loss of her sons.   Jane and John had to be of strong character to carry on with their day-to-day life, as did many pioneers of the  period.  In those days it was often up to the family to bury there dead in the best way they could. I have no details on their burials, except for the fact that they may have been buried in what is now the Gibson family burial ground, but having  read and heard tell of many accounts of how deaths were handled in the olden days I can well imagine what it would have been like.  It often meant preparing the bodies in your own home, and building simple pine box or other wood caskets. Since cemeteries were not really established until later in the century, their graves may have been marked with rocks, or simple wooden crosses that would have  long since rotted away. Rocks were often used to keep wild animals from getting at the bodies of their beloved. The Gibson family cemetery located in Lanark County Ontario on what was once Gibson land. There is a headstone that pays tribute to the graves of John and Jane Gibson, and the life they helped to build in Canada.

They have thousands of descendants all across North America. It is my hope that some of the at least some of the strengths shown by this early pioneer family was and is  in each and every descendent. Jane and John Gibson  were the parents of Euphemie  who married Alexander Watt , parents of Mary who married John McIntosh, parents of Mary Whyte  McIntosh who married Duncan Park, who  parents of my grandmother  Effie Edna Park who married Rae Salkeld.

Beverly Salkeld from Winnpeg, Manitoba wrote this but she asked that John Collins be credited as well as much of her information was gleened from his book  John Collins-Mcintosh family of Lanark County.  But,Effie Edna Park Salkeld is her grandmother not his.


Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun and Screamin’ Mamas (USA)








Gibson Family Burials

Lammermoor, Ontario, Lot 26,

 Con. 1, Dalhousie Twp.

Burials 1851 to 1978

County/District/Region: Lanark County
Historical Township: Dalhousie
Current Municipality: Lanark Highlands
Historical Municipality: Lammermoor
Lot: 26
Concession: 1

Related reading

“They were Set Down in Dalhousie Township”– Effie Park Salkeld

For the Love of Lammermoor

Part 1 of “My Dad was an Old Thresherman”

Part 2 of “My Dad was an Old Thresherman”


Settler’s related reading

Lanark County 101 — It Began with Rocks, Trees, and Swamps

Rock the Boat! Lanark County or Bust! Part 1

It Wasn’t the Sloop John B — Do’s and Don’t in an Immigrant Ship -Part 2

Riders on the Storm– Journey to Lanark County — Part 3

ROCKIN’ Cholera On the Trek to the New World — Part 4

Rolling down the Rapids –Journey to Lanark Part 5

Lanark Mormons and Mormon Tree?


Home and Garden Before Home and Garden Magazine

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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