James Coulthart (1816-1888) of Morewood, Ontario

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James Coulthart who was born in Scotland and spent most of his years in Canada lived the arduous life of the pioneer. His life long efforts were focused on establishing a farm at Morewood Ontario, and providing a home for following generations. In 1816 James was born in the "Old Country" on a small farm at Riddingdyke near Cummertrees along the west coast where his parents, John Coulthart and Mary Carruthers, were tenant farmers. They lived in a small stone dwelling with their six other children, William who was then 16, John who would have been 12, if still alive, Elizabeth 6, Jane 4, Mary 3 and Margaret 2. James was born into the poor economic era of Europe's history that followed the conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars.

James' mother was Mary Carruthers, his father's second wife. John 's first wife had been Elizabeth Pasley, the mother of William and John. She had died after the birth of John in 1804. Five years had passed after Elizabeth's death before James' father remarried. At that time, Mary was 19 and James' father was 30 years of age.

In the mid 1820s, around 1825 when James was about 9 years old his life was swept up by a major change of events. Early one spring the Coulthart household, James, his parents and all of his brothers and sisters packed their belongings and sailed west across the treacherous Atlantic to begin a new life in Canada. If the year they left Scotland was 1825, and as yet no verifying documents give an exact date, John senior would have been 46 and his wife Mary 35. The children's ages would have been William and John 25 and 21, Elizabeth and Jane 15 and 13, Mary and Margaret 12 and 11, James about 9, and the younger siblings Christina 7, Walter 5, Andrew 3, and David 2. We don't know if James' brother John came with the family on the ship or whether he was even still alive. Smallpox, measles, cholera, typhoid etc. were just a few of the common killers amongst the European population, taking the lives of about one fifth of each generation. There are no records yet found of John in Canada. There is a possibility he stayed in Scotland. We do know that at least twelve Coultharts arrived in Canada.

As a boy of about nine or ten years in age, James probably enjoyed the Atlantic voyage and was probably excited about the prospects of seeing this "New World". James' father had most likely secured passage as far as Montreal. From there they probably made their way to Cornwall and on to the Osnabruck-Lunenburg area in Stormont County.

In 1829, several years after arriving in Canada, James' older sister Mary died at age 16. In 1835 tragedy hit the Coulthart family once again when James' mother Mary Carruthers passed away at the age of 44. Her death surely devastated the family, leaving James' father with so many young children to care for. Since arriving in Canada, James' mother had given birth to three more children, Jonah now 3, Thomas 6 and Henrietta 7. The older children David, Andrew and Walter were 11, 12 and 14. Christiana and James were young adults, at 15 and 18. Margaret was 20, Elizabeth 24, both married, and Jane was 22. William at 34 was married and had by now two of his own children. Although 1835 brought much sorrow to young James, there was also some joy brought with the birth of two more children later that year. Margaret who had married Abraham Gardner in 1834 gave birth to a son. To William, who was married to Jean French, there was a girl born, given the name "Mary Carruthers Coulthart" in memory of the only mother William had ever known. James' father who was now 55 years old and in need of someone to care for his children is said to have remarried. His third wife who was quite a bit younger could not take the teasing of the other children and left the marriage. It was at later dates that most of the Coulthart family moved north to the Morewood-Cannamore area where Jane, William, Thomas, Walter and James settled on farms. James purchased land a mile southeast of Morewood, just east of where his sister Jane was living with her husband William Hunter.

During the early 1840s James was a young healthy man, but there was something missing in his life. As fate would have it, he met a girl named Christiana Steven, a girl he would later marry. The story is that her father hired James to help move the Steven family from an area near Huntington Quebec to Cannamore, a settlement two miles east of Morewood. It was probably during this trip that the two young people became acquainted. In 1843 when James was 27 years old he married Christiana who was just 17. The following year the first of twelve children was born. James and Christiana would never have seen an end to the daily chores that faced the growing family. Pioneer life was a constant effort working with and against nature, ever mindful of the needs of providing for the family.

We know from census records that by 1851, James was living at the Morewood farm and his father was living there with him. In 1852 his father John, the man who had so bravely brought his wife and children to Canada, passed away at the age of 72. He was laid to rest beside his wife Mary in the cemetery at Lunenburg. In 1854 the Coulthart home was once more in mourning over the death of James and Christiana's 4 year-old daughter Jane. At this time the children in the household were Mary 10, John 8, Margaret 6, and Victoria 3. Later that year another girl was born and she was given the name Jane, that of the sister who had just died. After 1854 there were several more children born into the Coulthart home, James in 1856, Janet 1859, Christina 1862, Henrietta 1864, Agnes 1868, and Walter in1869.

Church was always a central gathering place for most pioneer families. It provided a place to worship, socialize, exchange news, and it provided a sense of community. During the late 1860s when James' family was growing, a new Presbyterian Church was built on the Fraser property a concession north of James' farm. Click on the thumbnail to see a larger picture of the church. All throughout the countryside, the old temporary pioneer buildings were slowly being replaced with new ones as families prospered. Later in the 1870s James demolished the "shanty" as pioneers referred to their original homes and he undertook to build a spacious two-story brick house on the property. Click on the thumbnail to see a larger picture of the house that James built. Most of the material for building the house would most likely have been obtained locally. The limestone blocks for the foundation most likely came from the Smirle quarry a mile east of Morewood and the orange-red bricks were manufactured from the soil north of Russell. All of the lumber was probably milled in Cannamore and Morewood. Prior to the house being constructed, a long carriage shed had been built on the property and the Coulthart family, now numbering thirteen, made the upper level habitable with plastered walls etc. and lived there until the new house was complete. James' children eventually grew into adults and one by one left home to begin lives of their own. Some of the family stayed in the area and others moved to distant parts of Canada and into the United States.

In 1888 at age 72, with his life's work complete, surrounded by the caring and love of a large family, James Coulthart passed away. He was buried in the Morewood Presbyterian cemetery . Click on the thumbnail to see a larger picture of the gravestone. Like many of the early pioneers his life consisted of too many years of hard work. As a young energetic man he had started the lengthy task of clearing the forested land, exposing the fertile soil that had been laid down ten thousand years ago after the last ice age. He laboured with rough hands and a strong back, digging drainage ditches and clearing the fields of huge stones and tree stumps. Year after year he increased the number of fields, turned the soil, planted and harvested the crops. The product of all his hard labours established a farm that continued to provide for the livelihood of many Coultharts for the next hundred years. He oversaw the construction of several buildings, some of which are still standing today. James was said to have been a man of great stature, standing about 6'4" and weighing near 300 lbs. He and his wife Christiana managed to raise eleven children into adulthood. After James' death, his wife and his youngest son Walter continued to operate the farm. The James Coulthart house still stands today and although a hundred and twenty some years have weathered the bricks the foundation has never shifted which is a tribute to the careful craftsmanship of our forefathers.

Most of James' children remained in the Morewood-Cannamore area:

  • Mary Coulthart (1844-1900) married William Casselman and they had four children: Jim(????), Maggie (1874), Elizabeth (1876) and Sarah (1879). The family lived on a farm near Morewood.

  • John Coulthart (1846-1898) married Elizabeth Dillabough and they had four children: Ida (1875), Adran (1876), Alva (1880) and William (1882). The family lived near Morewood where John worked as a cooper, a maker of wooden barrels.

  • Margaret Coulthart (1848-????) married an older gentleman from the U. S. named James Rosbeck. He had heard that James Coulthart had some eligible daughters so he travelled the distance in hopes of finding a wife. Although Margaret hardly knew the man but a few hours, she decided to marry him and move to New York state. At the time James appeared at the Coulthart farm she was probably in her late thirties, felt that it was time to get on with her life and so chanced James Rosbeck's invitation. They had two children: Morris (1879) and David (18??). The family lived on a farm in New York state not far from Morrisburg, Ontario.

  • Jane Coulthart (1850-1854) died at age 4.

  • Victoria Coulthart (1851-1924) married Adam Carlysle. They lived on a small farm near Dunbar, Ontario. They had no children.

  • Jane Coulthart (1854-1923) married Alva Dillabough and they had three children: William (1884), Phoebe(1887) and Morris (1889). The family lived near Morewood.

  • James Coulthart (1856-????) apparently did not marry and moved to western Canada.

  • Janet Coulthart (1859-1921) married Matthias Barkley and they had one child: William Leonard (1884). They lived on a farm between Williamsburg and Morrisburg, Ontario.

  • Christina Coulthart (1861-1931) married Matthew Carlysle and they had one child: David (1891). They lived in Lethbridge, Alberta where Matthew owned a dairy.

  • Henrietta Coulthart (1865-1929) married her first cousin Robert Steven and they had eight children: Christina (1889), Florence (1892), Jay (1893), Orvis (1895), Rachael (1897), Nettie (1897), James (1900) and Jessie (19??). The family lived near Cannamore where Robert farmed. Descendants currently live in Eastern Ontario.

  • Agnes Coulthart (1868-1936) married Calvin Munro and they had three children: James (1897), Adam (1907) and Ida (1910). They lived on a farm near Chesterville, Ontario.

  • Walter Coulthart (1870-1955) married Josephine Baker and they had 10 children: Jennie (1894), Agnes (1897), Laura (1899), Charlie (1900), Gladys (1902), Alice (1902), Ida (1905), Margaret (1907), James "Archie" (1911) and Hugh (1913). The family lived on the original family farm south of Morewood. Descendants currently live in Eastern and Western Ontario and British Columbia.

For more information on this Coulthart family write: Ian Coulthart, 30 Redstone Lane, Kanata, Ontario Canada K2M 2K9.

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Page last updated 07/26/1999. © Copyright 1999. Terry Meinke. All rights reserved.

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