The Canadian Connection (Clan West Archive)

From the Clan West Archive – Originally published January 13, 2011.  This is part of a series of articles that were initially published by the now-inactive Clan Hannay Society West.  Many thanks to Gigi Hanna, Convenor Emerita.

Note: Any hyperlinks and images that may have been in the original article are now lost. Hyperlinks below were added (and references to lost images removed) when the archived version was reviewed and revised in June, 2020. The author — Dr. Richard Hannah — refers to specific relatives (e.g. Grandad, Ernie) of his who are not further identified.


The Canadian Connection is the work of Dr Richard S. Hannah, Professor, Department of Anatomy, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta T2N 4N1 – Dr Hannah is an active supporter of the Hanna, Hannah, Hannay Clan.

The family arrived in [Montréal,] Québec from Donegal sometime in 1848. The reason I assume Montréal is based on the immigration patterns of the mid-nineteenth century. Most Irish immigrants headed for Upper Canada would disembark at Montréal to avoid the Lachine rapids. Then go either overland via stage or re-board a lake-bound sailing vessel above the rapids. This begs the question, how many of the family came together and why did they choose to settle in rural Durham Co. in then Upper Canada? We know they arrived in 1848 from family records and the fact that Richard was born on the boat during the transit from Ireland. Family history suggests that Richard was named after the captain of the vessel who supposedly offered £1000 to adopt him.

In Ireland, by the 1840′s perhaps a third of the population of 8.5 million existed in a subsistence economy, depending for their diet almost exclusively on the vulnerable potato crop. The famine began in earnest in 1845 and lasted for six years. It was the famine which caused an unparalleled exodus with as many as 2.5 million people leaving over the decade from 1846-56. Untold numbers boarded the “coffin ships” on which thousands died en route to Québec. Our family was either extremely lucky or had the funds to travel in better quarters than the majority of their countrymen. So great were the numbers attempting to escape to Canada that in 1848, the Canadians raised the port taxes to stem the flow of ships carrying the poor and diseased Famine Irish. The evidence from 19th century Canada suggests that a sizable portion of the immigrants (about 2/3 Protestant) became well-adjusted and successful rural dwellers. Given the so-called “chain” migration of young emigrants from Ireland, the concentration of Irish from particular areas at home in particular localities in their “New World” are not surprising.

The letters home, containing information about the opportunities and even more vital, the fare, led new emigrants to seek out relatives and friends. This was certainly the case in Manvers during this time. The 1851 census lists pages and pages of “born in Ireland” and “Church of England”. Protestants and Catholics did not mix! Although our family, i.e. Francis and all but one brother (John), left Manvers, the Census records in subsequent years reveal a number of Hannahs emigrating from Ireland into the Manvers area. Since Hannah is an uncommon name in Canada and they are only found around Manvers, the new Hannahs were probably relatives of ours. For example, there was an Andrew Hannah and family who arrived sometime between 1851 and 1861 and lived close to John. Since one of Francis’ and John’s brothers was called Andrew, perchance he was a cousin.

The first official signs of the Hannah family are found in the 1851 Census of Upper Canada. Four families appear in Manvers Township, Durham County. They were listed as follows:

1. Francis (31)

  • Catherine (31)
  • Catherine (8)
  • Jane (6)
  • Richard (4)
  • David (2)
  • Andrew (26) (probably an unmarried brother)

2. Edward (43)

  • Anne (44) Died just before census
  • Jane (25)
  • Eliza (18)
  • Elva (17)
  • Robert (11)
  • Mary Anne (9)
  • Edward (5)
  • Sarah (3)

3. John (36)

  • Ellen (28)
  • Margaret (8)
  • Robert (6)
  • William (4)

4. Jane (58) Widow

  • John (28)
  • Jane (19)

Since there are no birth/death or marriage records before the late 1860s, we will never know if one family arrived first or if they all arrived together. A check of the 1851 census in townships adjacent to Manvers does not reveal any other Hannahs and these three families lived within a few houses of each other.

The census records show that Francis lived in a log cabin while all of the other families lived in log shanties. All of the brothers are listed as labourers. One could speculate that the widow Jane aged 58 and her two children had arrived first and were the reason that Francis and his brothers went to Manvers in the first place. It appears as if Francis and family remained in Manvers until at least 1856. This assumption is based on marriage records for Francis’ sons, Robert and John where they record Manvers as their birth place. So in their 8 to 10 year stay in Manvers, Francis and Catherine increase the size of their family to seven with two more to come. Only Francis’ brother John is still in Manvers in 1861 according to the census of that year.

You are probably wondering where Manvers Township is. Manvers is in Durham County just south of Lindsay, Ontario. In a detailed map of Manvers Twp. from 1876, you can find the property of Robert Hannah and like all the Hannahs of that generation he has donated part of his land for the Orange Lodge. The Hannahs in North Dakota did the same thing, but more on that later. There exists a drawing of Robert’s farm circa 1876. I do not know the relationship of Robert to our family, but he was probably a cousin. Whoever he was it is obvious from the farm “Maple Grove” that he much better off than our family!

So what do we know about Manvers Township during this time period? The following account is from Smiths’ Canadian Gazetteer of Canada West in 1846, which is only two years before the clan arrived:

“A township in the Newcastle District. In Manvers, 21,281 acres are taken up, 3,800 of which are settled within about 25 years by Canadians, Pennsylvanian Dutch, Germans, Americans, Irish and a few English and Scotch. Population about 300. Professions and Trades include one physician, woolen factory, five stores, one brewery, one tannery, two taverns, four blacksmiths, five wagon makers, four shoe makers, one foundry and one tinsmith.”

In the 1861 census the only brother that I can find is John who is still comfortably ensconced in Manvers Twp. Where the other three brothers went is still a mystery. Unless one has a hint of a location, looking in the census is an impossible task. I only found the Hannahs in Manvers because on David’s (son of Francis) marriage certificate he lists Manvers as his birthplace.

However, then comes 1871, thank goodness, because the entire Ontario census of 1871 has been indexed and is not only on a computer database but is also on the Internet. Much to my surprise Francis and Catherine are listed twice. In April they are residing in Derby Twp Grey Co. (near Owen Sound) and again in August in Assiginack Twp. on Manitoulin Is. An interesting observation is that Francis lists his age as 50 in April and only 49 in August. Ten years later he is only 58!! This obviously was the beginning of the Hannah tradition of obfuscating their ages from the government. Ernie comes to mind right away. I digress. So sometime between 1856 and 1871, Francis and Catherine plus brood along with brother Andrew and his family, closed up shop in Manvers and moved to the Owen Sound area. Until more of the censuses become indexed by name on computer databases, where they were during this time span will remain a mystery. Since they moved to the Manitoulin in 1871, I think it is safe to assume that they were in the Owen Sound area for a number of years, so the missing time is probably in the nature of five or six years. I was hoping that Francis and Catherine’s two youngest boys (James and Edward) would state on their marriage certificates where they were born but alas, one lists Ontario and the other really narrows it down by listing place of birth as Canada. Unfortunately, births were not registered by the government until the mid 1870s.

So here is what we know. Until April of 1871, Francis and Catherine were farming in Derby Twp., Grey Co. Frances’ brother Andrew and his family and Francis and Catherine’s eldest daughter Catherine and her husband Arron Box are living in Arran Twp. Bruce Co. Also present in Derby Twp. was Richard Hannah and family (not our Richard but perhaps Francis’ brother) who came from Donegal and whose descendants eventually ended up in the Killarney and Brandon area. Some of you may have met Eldon Hannah (a grandson of this Richard). I am still not 100% sure of the relationship to our family but given the predilection of Hannahs to live together, they were brothers or else cousins.

Manitoulin Island was the traditional home of the Chippawa and Ottawa tribes. In 1836, the then Lieut. Governor Sir Francis Head decided to consolidate “all of the wandering Bands of the North Shore and also the tribes settled in all parts of Upper Canada” on Manitoulin Is. The scheme ended in failure because very few Indians could be convinced to resettle. Since that did not work, in 1870 the government of Canada decided to move the native population unto reserves on the Island and move in the White settlers.

By the fall of 1871 Francis and Catherine have moved to Assiginack Twp, near the town of Manitowaning, on Manitoulin Island. Sons Richard, Robert and Edward are not listed, so I assume that they remained in Derby Twp. for a time to work or were away visiting relatives when the Census Takers came by. Ellen Jane (Francis and Catherine’s second daughter) has married Alpheus Adams, and they are also in Assiginack. Either living with, or just visiting with, the Adams are Sarah and Robert Hannah, who are the daughter and son of Francis’ brother Edward.

The next window we have on the lives of the clan is the 1881 census. Over the intervening 10 years Richard, David, Robert and Francis (Frank) have all married and are living in the same neighbourhood around Manitowaning. The exception is Frank and his new bride Eliza who move north of Manitowaning a few miles to Bidwell Twp. Since Frank was the youngest of the married brothers, he most likely had to go further afield to find land to farm, or it could be related to the fact that Andrew (Francis’ brother) and family have moved to the same area from where we last saw them around Owen Sound.

So what were they up to in the Manitoulin? A scan of the Manitoulin Expositor published in Manitowaning, reveals a few references to the family:

9 Aug 1879. One day last week Mrs. F. Hannah of lot 5 con 1, Bidwell, went down to a field about dusk to feed some pigs. While in the field she suddenly discovered a bear about four rods away. She called to her husband who was about 200 yards from her and picked up her little boy and ran, the bear following her. The cries brought her husband, S. Carr and John McCauley to her assistance and they chased the animal with dogs but on account of darkness and thick swamp they found it impossible to capture him. Had it not been for the men being so near it is quite likely Mrs. Hannah would have lost her life as the bear followed close after her till frightened away. (This is Francis Jr. and Eliza Hannah)

11 Oct 1879. Assiginack Fall Fair. The annual Fall Fair of the Assiginack Agricultural Society was held in this village on Friday Oct 3rd. The total number of entries was 848 and the number of visitors is estimated at about 1000; quite a number of these came from the north side of the Island.

Class Poultry

    • 1st place- pair of Buff Cochins F. Hannah
    • 1st place- pair Turkeys F. Hannah

Class Common Sheep

    • 1st place- Shearing Ram F. Hannah

Class Grain and Seeds

    • 2nd place- half peck white beans A. Adams

Class Vegetables and Fruit

    • 1st place- 1 doz. crab apples F. Hannah
    • 1st place- 12 large tomatoes A. Adams
    • 2nd place- 12 small tomatoes A. Adams

Class Dairy Products

    • 3rd place- 50 lbs. butter in tub Hannah
    • 1st place- 1 loaf light bread A. Adams
    • 1st place- 1 doz. buns A. Adams

1 Nov. 1879. “New Buildings- A new home is being erected for Mrs. R. Hannah on the South Bay Road, near the corner of J.H. Tinkis’ park lots” (The reference is to our Richard and Anne)

6 Dec. 1879. School Reports- The teacher would be very much pleased if some of the ratepayers would allow their children to attend more regularly: make an effort to encourage both teacher and pupils.

No. 1 Assiginack Second class

      • 1st Anna Hannah
      • 3rd Albert Hannah

The Expositor can do much good for our future fathers and mothers by publishing these reports. It has already engendered a spirit of generous emulation amongst the youth, and the spirit may yet reach the parents and stimulate them to give their children some chance of education. (These are the children of Robert and Sophia Hannah. Edward’s son Francis’ children and grandchildren did not avail themselves of much education since all but a few are listed as illiterate on the census).

20 Dec. 1879. On a motion of D.L. Clark, seconded by R. McDonald, an order was drawn on the treasurer in favour of Francis Hannah for the sum of $6, being payment in full for road job to be done by him before 1st June, Hannah N.D.

On the move again, the peripatetic Hannah clan heads for the prairies. In 1882 Alpheus and Ellen Jane Adams arrive in Cartwright, Manitoba in search of land less severe for farming than available in the Manitoulin. In the fall of 1883, they squatted on a piece of land just south (2 km.) of the international boundary in the then Dakota Territories. Anecdotal family history leads us to believe that they were unaware of the fact that they were in the U.S. On November 24th 1884, a farm Post Office was established on Alpheus and Ellen Jane’s farm. Alpheus named the Post Office for Francis. A year later it moved a mile east to Francis’ farm which is now the town site of Hannah.

According to the U.S. census (1900), Francis and Catherine, their children and their families, (Richard, David, John and Edward) arrived on site between 1884 and 1885 and staked out claims (see fig. 7). Catherine Jr. married Arron Box and I lose track of them in Bruce Co. Ontario. Francis Jr. and Eliza (of bear fame) arrived in Hannah, 11 years later in 1896. Unfortunately the other two sons died young and did not move to Hannah. Robert was a hotel keeper in Manitoulin and died in June of 1879 at the age of 26. Robert’s widow Sarah (nee Laybourne) and family never moved to Hannah (see complete story later). James farmed in Manitoulin and died in February of 1900 at the age of 38.

So besides farming what did the clan do in Hannah?

John Hannah was Postmaster from Sept. 20 1890 until Jan. 1898.

Alpheus and Ellen Jane Adams established the Methodist Church by holding services in their home. In 1898, Alpheus along with others formally established the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Hannah. Ellen Jane was the first president of the Ladies Aid Society.

David and Mary Hannah were charter members of Hannah Presbyterian Church.

John Hannah (1897) was a charter member of the Independent Order of Foresters and was the first Treasurer.

Then there was the Loyal Orange Lodge. John Hannah built the hall and donated it to the lodge. The chapter went by the name “The Chosen Few” and all of the Hannah males were charter members. Since the “Orange” was a decidedly anti-Catholic organization brought from Ireland, it is not surprising to see the Irish Protestant settlers embrace the tenets of the Lodge.

The Masonic Lodge began the Hannah cemetery, and Alpheus Adams was on the fist Board of Directors. In a visit to the cemetery in 1996, I found a marker for Catherine but no sign of Francis. After checking the existing records with June Dickson (the secretary/treasurer) it became evident that he is probably buried there but there is no record of where. It certainly is odd that Catherine predeceased Francis by eight years yet she has a marker. It is possible that he was buried next to Catherine and no one got around to adding his name to the marker.

Robert Henry Hannah (Granddad) ran a Barber Shop.

In 1897, John Hannah ran a Feed and Livery Stable:

“He also ran a stage carrying passengers and baggage for the purpose of making connections between the Great Northern at Hannah and the Canadian Pacific at Snowflake, Manitoba each Friday and Monday. One day John Hannah was met at the Snowflake depot by a Canadian Customs collector and informed that he was at liberty to bring passengers from Yankeedom, he must not take any more back or his team would be confiscated.” (Hannah 100 years, 1996).

David Hannah Jr. was also in the Hardware business for a brief time.

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