The Dryden Observer

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The Contrarian: More Yeomans History

Latest posts by Mel Fisher (see all)

If you Google George Markland Yeomans, you can come up with this story. Asa Yeomans married Charlotte Yost Herkimer in New York State, and moved to the Belleville, Ontario area after the war of 1812, perhaps as a belated United Empire Loyalist.

George Markland Yeomans was born in Belleville in 1830, married Elizabeth Fry, and they produced a family of five including a son David and a daughter Charlotte.

They homesteaded several places in Ontario, and ended up in Manitoba. The Glenbow museum has a picture of George and Mrs. Yeomans and Charlotte in front of their general store in Dalton, Manitoba, in the 1890’s.

This coincidence of names and occupation serves to nail down that this is indeed our family. This indicates that George was 66 years old at the time he came here, and no doubt his large family helped him get established. Incidentally, Google also tells us that David died in Alexander, Man., and we have no record as to what he did with the King St properties or when he left Dryden.

Another son, also George Markland Yeomans, died in 1919 in Winnipeg as a result of war injuries. “Carved from the Wilderness” indicates that the store built by G M Yeomans in 1896 was in the hands of a J. G Hayes, Hardware merchant, when it burned down, ‘within a few years’.

George was actually farming on the Wainwright properties in 1897, but when the properties were patented in 1902 he listed his occupation as ‘Merchant’, perhaps he still had the store as well as the farms.

The newly patented farms were sold, also in 1902, to Thomas Goodwin, farmer. The Wainwright properties then fell into the hands of Winnipeg investors, perhaps Mr. Goodwin was not well enough capitalized to maintain such a large property, and were eventually purchased by Emily Pickering in 1908.

And the Yeomans family, who started off so prominently, disappeared from the local scene.

We commonly think of our pioneers as being from Ontario, however, this also makes the Yeoman’s the first family to come here from the west, having moved to Manitoba some years before.

They built the first building purpose-built to be a store in Dryden. They were the largest property-owner in Dryden and the largest rural landowner, and had enough influence and clout that our first road was built directly from their town property to their farm property.

The mystery is that someone so prominent is not mentioned very much at all in any of our written history. Perhaps it had to do with their moving away early in our history.

Although George wrote a glowing testimonial to the farming potential here in 1897, by 1902 he was gone, so perhaps he was seen by other settlers as more speculator than genuine settler. Still, an important figure in Dryden’s early history.

Follow-up to this story next week.

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