Goldie Family Long Prominent In West Ontario
John Goldie, Founder of the Family In this Province, Located At Ayr in 1844
By Dr. A.E. Byerly
The recent election in South Wellington, to which the Hon. Lincoln Goldie was returned to office in the Ontario Legislature by a very substantial majority, will recall to many throughout Western Ontario the pioneer history of the Goldie family.
There is likely no name better known in the history of Waterloo and Wellington counties than that of Goldie. It is unfortunate, however, that only a few of the grandchildren of the original settler, John Goldie, are living in this part of Ontario. In Guelph there remain but two grandchildren, both distinguished citizens for many years, namely, the Hon. Lincoln Goldie, provincial secretary, and his brother, Roswell Goldie, the well-known historian.
John Goldie, who was the founder of the family in Ontario, was born Marcy 31, 1793, in the parish of Kirkswald, Ayrshire, Scotland, and came to Ayr, Ontario, in the year 1844. Mr. Goldie was a great lover of plants and flowers and received a thorough training in botany. He entered university, where he turned his attention to language. He was married on Waterloo Day, June 15, 1815, to Margaret Ballantyne Smith, daughter of James Smith, a well-known florist and botanist of that day, residing at Monkwood Grove, near Minishant, Ayrshire.
Explores In Canada
Mr. Goldie came to America in 1817 and landed at Halifax, where he did some exploring and also on the north shore of New Brunswick and collected specimens of many plants and flowers, several of them new to science. Thence he traveled to Quebec and Montreal, meeting at the later place Frederick Pursh, the celebrated botanist, who presented him with a copy of his book The American Plants. Mr. Goldie was the discoverer of a beautiful fern near Montreal, which was named by Dr. Hookuc after him, the Aspidium Goldianum. Three shipments of his collections to the old land were lost. He had been for two years collecting in Canada, New York and New Jersey, and the fruits of those two years research were gone.
However, he was able to get together a goodly collection of plants after his first failures to get them across, and those he took with him on his return to Scotland in the fall of 1819. He later made trips to Russia and was able to introduce into England a number of plants heretofore unknown in the country.
Mr. Goldie had been so well impressed with the land across the seas that his two sons William and James preceded him to the United States. Mr. Goldie and the remaining children emigrated from Scotland in 1844 to an area near Ayr, which they named Greenfield after a place near their home in Scotland. With Mr. and Mrs. Goldie were their children, John, David, Elizabeth, Jane, Margaret and Mary. William, who had been in New York, now joined the family in Ayr, but James remained in New York until 1860, when he came to Canada and settled in Guelph.
The Ayr Farm
At the farm near Ayr, Mr. Goldie imported fruit trees, shrubs and plants from England, and in a letter to his son in New York we obtain a picture of the varied activities of the Ontario pioneer. Quoting from that letter, “We sowed our wheat on the 9th of April. It looks very well except a bit that has been much hurt by the wine-worm. David is plowing the high field for our grass crop. William and I have been very busy rooting out the pine stumps and have made a considerable clearance. I would strongly advise against buying a wagon, as John can make what we want in that way and money is wanted to pay for our land. We have wood seasoning for a common wagon. John has his machinery in operation and it answers well. He has made several beds and other things and is likely to get plenty of work, but the evil is that the cash is not easily gotten,”
The first industry established by the Goldie family along with their farm work was a sawmill, but this was given up in 1849 and the sons, William, John and David worked hard in 1850 to finish building their flour mill, which had been planned along with an oatmeal mill. In November it was complete, but for several years it was a struggle to keep going. From 1854 the business began to be a paying one, and at last success came to the young men who had planned, built and struggled along against severe odds and hardships.
The mill at Ayr continued to be run for many years by John Goldie and his son David. John, Jr., along with his brother-in-law, started a sawmill in the Township of Esquesing, near Acton, which they operated for several years. However, in 1859, John, Jr., returned to Galt and with Hugh McCulloch bought the Dumfries Foundry. This establishment is now the largest in Galt and is owned by the sons of John Goldie, Jr., and Hugh McCulloch.
William Goldie, the eldest son, was never married and died in the United States in the early sixties. John, Jr., died in 1896, David died in 1894, and James in November, 1912.
Elizabeth, the oldest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Goldie, Sr., was married to Sydney Smith, of Galt, later of Acton, and she died in 1854, having been born November 9, 1820. Jane, the second daughter, was married to Andrew McEwan in 1847. She died in 1862 and left seven children. Margaret was married to the Rev. Dr. Caven, of Knox College, Toronto, and died May 22, 1913. Mary married Andrew McIlwraith, of Galt, in 1862 and died in Galt in April, 1911, a family of five surviving her.
John Goldie, Sr., gave up active business in his later life and devoted his time to his beloved flowers and plants. He died in July 1886, in his 94th year. His wife died February 21, 1878, in her 87th year. They were indeed honored pioneers of western Ontario. The milling business so successfully started by John Goldie and his sons continued to be run by David Goldie, and as it was one of the first mills in Ontario to adopt the roller process of making flour, enjoyed a large measure of success in consequence. The mill was sold some years ago and passed entirely out of the hands of the Goldie family. The old homestead at Ayr is still in the possession of the family.
Free Press London Ontario – November 23, 1929 – retyped by Jane Gillard