The Contrarian: Youmans or Yeomans

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The first entry in the Land Agents Record Book for a lot in the CPR subdivision which became Dryden was on August 4 1896 to a Mr George Markland Yeomans (sometimes spelled Youmans).

On that day he claimed lots 1, 2, 5 and 6 on the north side of King Street, that is, 4 out of 6 lots on the downtown block, Earl to Whyte. On Feb 17, 1897, David August Yeomans claimed lots 7 and 8 on the north side of King, the long-time home of Gould Furniture.

“Carved from the Wilderness”, George Wice’s history book of early Dryden, says Yeomans built the first real store in Dryden, that is, a free-standing purpose-built building. It was built along with a house on lot 1, that is, the NE corner of King and Earl, presently the Bank of Montreal. So the Yeomans family had a whole block of downtown King Street and was the largest landholder and merchant in the town.

On the rural scene, among the first properties claimed was the Yeomans 960 acres in 3 abutting parcels in Wainwright Township. An entire lot (rural survey lot) is 320 acres, and that was the maximum one person could claim as a homestead. The family circumvented this by each member, wife Elizabeth Yeomans, daughter Charlotte Yeomans, and George Markland Yeomans each claiming a whole lot, adding up to the total of 960 acres. This property was along the Wabigoon River, 2 miles northwest of the corner of the

Demonstration Farm (now the cemetery corner). So in 1896 the Yeomans family was also the largest landholder outside the town. These original homesteads were not free; there was a considerable charge in order to obtain title to the land, so Yeoman’s were among the biggest early investors in the community.

The very first road in the district was built that summer of 1896, ‘building’ consisting mostly of removing all the trees and cutting the stumps short.

John Crerar reports in his memoirs that he worked on that crew as a young man. He said the route started with a crossing of the CPR from at the foot of Earl Ave. It went northwest from there along a line, still visible, which includes the highway between McKinstry’s and the Dairy Queen, to the west boundary of the Demonstration Farm. Then it went north along that west boundary, now Grand Trunk Avenue, and continued north-west to and through the Yeoman’s claims. So the first road connected the Yeoman’s town and country properties.

The crew then went back and built a road east along the south boundary of the Demonstration Farm, now Government Road and highway 17 East. That was all the road construction in 1896, so the Yeomans got a lot of priority.

More about this pioneer family next week.

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