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Great-Grandfather Kinneard, One of the Earliest Pioneers of Saskatchewan

Updated on January 31, 2022
Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

Wrote this in 2014. Unpublished it in 2018. Am republishing this again in case there is a relative out there with a piece of our puzzle.


Early Settlers of Saskatchewan, Canada

In 1882, James Sloan Kinneard traveled by train within the Dominion of Canada to the end of the rails -- which at that time was Brandon, Manitoba. J. S. Kinneard is my great-grandfather in my paternal lineage. He and a group of other men – and one of the men’s wives – were some of the earliest pioneers in Saskatchewan.

These are the names of some of the men in the group:

D.F. Jelly
James Sloan Kinneard
James Sneesby
Dan Kennedy
Jack Creamer
George S. Kelding
James Findley
William Dick
James Pascoe
Alex McKellar

James Sneesby’s wife was the only woman traveling with the group and it is said her name should be held in high esteem for her hard work and helpful nature. However, neither her first name nor her maiden name was notated in the newspaper article I have -- regarding this hardy group of people. The first four men on the list above were married. Their wives' names were not mentioned in the article, either. History is, by and large, written like that, isn't it?

Red River Ox-Cart drawn by Frank Blackwell Mayer
Red River Ox-Cart drawn by Frank Blackwell Mayer | Source

Pioneers, Their Oxen and Ox-Carts

Great-Grandfather Kinneard had been born in Killnoch, Toomebridge, County Antrim, Ireland in 1843. He had arrived in Canada as a young man and settled in the County of Elgin, Ontario for many years. He married Ellen McKellar in 1875.

During this period of time, land was advertised as ‘free for the staking west of Winnipeg’. Actually, there was a $10 fee and this entitled a person to160 acres. This was the Dominion of Canada’s way of getting people to move west. My great-grandparents decided they did want to go west and settle on a 160-acre homestead. So James Sloan Kinneard went on ahead in 1882, leaving Ellen and their three children, May, William and Donald Kinneard, for a short while. Ellen’s brother, Alex McKellar, accompanied James and the rest of the group who were willing to leave comforts in Ontario for the plains of Saskatchewan.

After arriving at Brandon, Manitoba the party unloaded all their goods and their oxen. From there, they trekked to Indian Head, then on to Fort Qu’Appelle and further yet as the days wore on – to the banks of Boggy Creek. This was a journey of approximately 400 miles. This was a land where the buffalo roamed.

Buffalo once roamed the Canadian prairies by the millions.
Buffalo once roamed the Canadian prairies by the millions. | Source
From the Collections of Canada site.  Millions of buffalo were slaughtered on the prairies -- mostly for their skins.
From the Collections of Canada site. Millions of buffalo were slaughtered on the prairies -- mostly for their skins. | Source

Happy Hollow was renamed Lumsden, SK

In an 1849 newspaper article in The Leader Post (of Saskatchewan) William Kinneard, my great-great uncle, outlined the good times and the bad that these early settlers struggled through to reach a place in the wide open spaces of Saskatchewan. William Kinneard reports in his article that there was plenty of wild game to survive on during the trek. He also states that although other parties of men had come through – just previous to this group -- only two other white men had done so. They were Edward Carss and William Jameison.

The Jelly party made their last camp on Section 14-19-21 W2nd in Saskatchewan. This 160-acre section became the Kinneard homestead. Each of the men claimed a homestead and got busy building log houses during that first summer. The area soon became known as Happy Hollow. In 1889, when the Qu'Appelle, Long Lake and Saskatchewan Railway extended to the area, it was named Lumsden after Hugh Lumsden, a senior train engineer.

In 1883, James S. Kinneard returned to Ontario and accompanied his wife and children to their new home in Saskatchewan. The newspaper article mentions that the first person to greet Ellen Kinneard at her new homestead was the kindly Mrs. Sneesby.

As the years went by, three more children were born to James and Ellen Kinneard.

Edith Kinneard – born 19 December 1885
James Thomas Kinneard (my grandfather) – born 5 December 1888
George Kinneard – born 30 November 1894. He became a well-known doctor and headed a hospital in the Falkland Islands.

Kinnaird Castle of Perthshire -- overlooks the Carse of Gowrie and Tay Estuary, Scotland
Kinnaird Castle of Perthshire -- overlooks the Carse of Gowrie and Tay Estuary, Scotland | Source

We Might Descend from the Kinnairds of Scotland

It is worthy to note that James Sloan Kinneard’s parents in Ireland, William Kinneard and Sarah (nee Nickle or Nichol) had spelled their name as Kinneard, but for many generations prior, the name was spelled Kinnaird or variations such as Kinnard, Kinard, Kennard and Kinnear. In these earlier generations, it was usually the clerks of the towns who recorded names and dates. The clerks and the clergy spelled names in whatever manner they thought best. In researching old documents, it is sometimes found that one person’s name on a single record is spelled two different ways. It is not of significance. It can, however, make the research a little more difficult.

Our Kinneards or Kinnairds of County Antrim, Ireland, were possibly descendants of the Kinnaird family of Scotland. This possibility, at least, has been the tradition or legend passed down from one family to another in the late 1800's to 1900's.

The first known Kinnaird was Radulphus de Kinnaird, a Norman, who received a charter of Kinnaird from King William the Lion sometime before 1184. Radulphus purportedly died prior to 1216. Nothing is written about his son, but his grandson was Richard de Kinnaird. The lineage is well-documented for the next three hundred years until the 1500's when two important events occurred in the Kinnaird families. There certainly may have been other important behind-the-scenes events going on, too, but the two that are documented leave questions as to when and how our Kinnaird ancestor or Kinnaird ancestors left Scotland for Ireland.

One reply of many replies to many letters we wrote in the 1980s for information on the parents of William Kinnaird of Killnock, County Antrim, Ireland.
One reply of many replies to many letters we wrote in the 1980s for information on the parents of William Kinnaird of Killnock, County Antrim, Ireland.
Kinnaird Castle near Brechin, Scotland
Kinnaird Castle near Brechin, Scotland | Source

Our Kinnairds from Scotland Settled in County Antrim, Ireland

I have enjoyed researching our family’s genealogy since 1978. My dad started helping me in 1979 and being a very analytical type, he was very good at the research. This was back in the days before computers – when we wrote letters and waited with anticipation for the replies. On all of our lineages we have had great success in finding our ancestors’ information, sometimes even into the 1700's or earlier. But this is not the case with our Kinnaird/Kinneard lineage. We do know the siblings' information of James Sloan Kinneard. One of the brothers of J. S. Kinneard, Thomas Kinneard, wrote a daily journal which we were really thrilled to read in 1981. We also found the names of J. S. Kinneard's parents and their births, marriage and death dates. After finding those, we came to a brick wall. That was thirty-three years ago. William Kinneard and Sarah Nickle/Nichol are the parents of James Sloan Kinneard/Kinnaird. We do not know who William Kinneard’s parents and siblings are nor do we know Sarah Nickle’s parentage.

There is a website called which I have looked at from time to time and will continue to review in case there is someone who joins the site who is related to our lineage.

A long time ago there was an infamous fire in Dublin which destroyed a massive amount of genealogical treasures. This impacts many of us doing genealogical research of Irish ancestors.

My dad and I have, however, obtained some names and dates through many sources including the kindness of a clergymen who has photocopied church records for us at Grange Corner near Randalstown, County Antrim. We did send inquiries to all the churches in the area – three or more decades ago – and received replies from all of the clergymen, even if it was just a polite negative note. We also have a list of Protestant Householders (1740) of Ahoghill Parish with many Kinnards, Kinneers and other variations throughout the decades. But in the records prior to 1800, we cannot find much else. For the latter years of the 1800's, there are a few certificates – birth, death and marriage records. There was also a Will that my dad obtained for us. And we have even more precious finds than this: three dear cousins, Helen, Samuel and Thomas, who lived in the ancestral home of James Sloan Kinnaird and his parents, William Kinneard and Sarah.

My distant cousins of Ireland

Samuel Kinneard and Helen Kinneard, brother and sister, of Randalstown, Ireland.  Randalstown was called Killnoch formerly.
Samuel Kinneard and Helen Kinneard, brother and sister, of Randalstown, Ireland. Randalstown was called Killnoch formerly. | Source

We are Still Searching for the Parents of William Kinnaird or Kinneard

My dad flew to Ireland in 1979 to meet our distant cousins after we discovered their existence. Helen, Samuel and Thomas, all single, were very happy to meet Dad. They shared with him their Bible pages containing the birth, death and marriage dates of family members throughout the last many decades. They shared with Dad that family tradition or stories always held that this lineage of Kinneard/Kinnaird had arrived from Scotland in the 16th century. I did not think to ask Helen if she knew that when one says 'the 16th century' it equates to the 1500's. She might have thought the 16th century means the 1600's.

I have been assisted -- by a community member on a genealogy site I frequent -- to consider that there was more than one plantation of Scots to County Antrim in the 1600's. There was the Ulster Plantation, but there was also the Montgomery-Hamilton settlement of 1606. Besides this, there is the plausible possibility that our Kinnaird ancestor departed from Scotland when one of two crises occurred within the family's fortunes in the 1500's.

Helen, Samuel and Thomas had thought they were the end of the William Kinneard lineage. They were in their late 40's at that time. They worked on their farm each spring, summer and fall. Their health paid the price and they all died relatively young. We felt blessed to be able to get to know them and correspond with them for more than two decades.

My Cousins, Once Removed -- in County Antrim

Samuel Kinneard and Thomas Kinneard, brothers, on the property of the Kinnaird/Kinneard ancestral home and farm. 1981, Ireland
Samuel Kinneard and Thomas Kinneard, brothers, on the property of the Kinnaird/Kinneard ancestral home and farm. 1981, Ireland

Of Fellow Sleuths and Sleuthing

We did hire a professional genealogist of the Ulster Foundation in the early 1980s to try to find the parents and family of William Kinneard, but the genealogist could not find much more than we had.

It has been my experience – with googling – that sometimes we can find great treasures in genealogy – work that is well-documented with primary sources. I have had two such bonanzas so far where I found the bulk of work done (on two of my husband's lineages) by a professional genealogist who generously shared his decades of intensive research by putting it online.

I am hoping someone of our ilk who has found William Kinneard/Kinnaird and Sarah Nickle/Nichol's respective parents and siblings will be googling and find this hub.

By the way, if you haven't tried an exercise of googling for information on specific ancestors, you might want to try it. In fact, it is one of the popular classes given each year by the Federation of Genealogical Societies during their conferences. And speaking of classes, if you want to take free, comprehensive classes in different facets of genealogy research, you can do so by going to Click on the LEARN tab at the top of the screen. When the new screen appears, it says Getting Started. Scroll down and click on the title Research Courses.

Canola field in the distance.
Canola field in the distance. | Source

Chaplin's Heritage Helped Me Think About my Pioneer Ancestors

I do love to think about our ancestors. I imagine them and how they used to live.

I was doing just that today as I got thinking about the Centennial Celebration I had the pleasure of attending this past July in a little town in southern Saskatchewan named Chaplin. Many of the pioneers of Chaplin were revered during the celebration as their progeny came from far and near to celebrate, talk, dance and eat – for three whole days. There was a parade, too, with beautiful horses belonging to one of Chaplin’s hardworking ranch-owning families. Many of the families in Chaplin inherited their land as former pioneer homesteads – which consisted of 160 acres. Some of the ranches here are now thousands of acres wide with hills and vegetation. There is always a nice-sized pond for the cattle on every rancher’s property. I don't know if that is happenstance or due to the labor of the ranchers.

Lumsden, Saskatchewan, Canada

Chaplin Pioneers -- Not that Different from Original Saskatchewan Pioneers

During the Centennial Celebration, I ventured into the historical building which had been the Toronto Dominion Bank, built in 1915. There were photographs on the wall of scenes from the 1920s and 1930s. There were several photographs of neatly dressed men standing as helpful clerks in the General Store. It looked just like a scene from The Road to Avonlea. Of special interest to me was one of the men in the photograph. He was known as Trix Kinnaird. I have visited the nearby cemetary where George Edward (Trix) Kinneard, and his brother and parents are buried. As far as I know, they are not related to our Kinneard/Kinnaird line. Yet their forebears had left their beloved Ireland to seek a more prosperous life – just like our James Sloan Kinneard did.

The landscape of the farms and rolling hills surrounding Chaplin is not that different than the landscape of Lumsden, two hours away by motor vehicle, where my great-great grandparents set up housekeeping and raised a family.

Until this past winter when I spent four months in Chaplin – and then this summer – I had never been to Saskatchewan. The Chaplin, Saskatchewan winter is terrible. The temperature can drop to 35 degrees below (Celsius) and stay there for a week at a time. Add a high wind chill factor -- and it can become quite a mystery as to why humans even live in the province called Saskatchewan.

The summer was lovely – except for the dust. The dust rivals Maui and the sugar cane fields there – at least in the small Saskatchewan towns where the roads are not paved. It baffles me how some of the towns in Southern Saskatchewan have not opted to pave their roads – apparently due to the costs involved – and yet each little town, some with only a population of 300 people, have a full-professional-sized hockey arena.

Early 1900s in Chaplin, Saskatchewan

Chaplin, Saskatchewan General Store, early 1900's.
Chaplin, Saskatchewan General Store, early 1900's. | Source

This is Believed to be the Exterior of General Store in above photo

There were several fires in downtown Chaplin since 1925, so it is possible that this is not the building that housed the General Store, but it is thought to be -- although somewhat renovated.
There were several fires in downtown Chaplin since 1925, so it is possible that this is not the building that housed the General Store, but it is thought to be -- although somewhat renovated.

Lumsden and Regina Area Yesterday and Today

Today Lumsden is a thriving community bordering Regina, Saskatchewan – the capital of the province. When Mr. Jelly and my great-grandfather and the rest of the party arrived in the vicinity of present-day Regina, it was known as Pile of Bones. The First Nations people were great hunters of buffalo. The bones of the buffalo were scattered there.

The railway did not arrive in the (Happy Hollow) Lumsden area until 1885. By 1920, there were railway branch lines to all the little townships which had developed due to farmers needing to sell their crops. Wooden grain elevators sprung up across the prairies. Every grain elevator needed a branch line.

Saskatchewan is booming these days. There are wheat crops, lentil crops, peas, flaxseed, canola and other million-dollar commodities being sown and reaped throughout the land and shipped worldwide. There are also potash and sodium sulphate mines.

A normal (not-extravagant) house in Regina these days costs $400,000 to $500,000. The law of supply and demand is in full swing in the Queen’s city of Regina

My brother, Kelly Kinneard, at Great-Grandfather's grave in Regina, SK.
My brother, Kelly Kinneard, at Great-Grandfather's grave in Regina, SK. | Source

Remembering Those Who Reached Regina Before the Railroad

I have in my possession a copy of a newspaper article which is titled, Men Who Reached Regina Before Railroad. There are two poems on the bottom of the page with my great aunt’s handwriting which states the date as 1909, but I have not been able to find the news article on the internet.

The news article states, in part:

“Pioneers of the days when Regina was still Pile o’ Bones were photographed on the lawn in front of the home of W.H. Duncan....Tuesday afternoon. The group includes 10 of the 22 surviving members of the group of men who settled Regina previous to August 23, 1882.”

Many of the twenty-two men, present or not present, were listed in the newspaper article. My great-great grandfather’s name is not on the list. He was residing in Vancouver, British Columbia by then – in poor health. His son, William Kinneard, was looking after the farm in Lumsden. Mr. Duncan is quoted in the article as saying he was able to secure the names and addresses of most of the men to send invitations to –but not all. Here is the list:

W.H. Duncan, Robert Sinton, T.C. Craigie, Jas. Grassick, George K. Grass, W.R. Jameison, George Mollard, Robert Martin, W.E. Cooney, J.C. Moore, J.W. Brown, Sam Beach, A.R. Dunnett, W.H. Collander, F.S. Collander, John Cowdry, Robert Moore, George Moffatt, D.H. McCannel, D. Stewart and T.S. Gore.

James Sloan Kinneard died in Vancouver on December 13, 1915. Ellen (McKellar) Kinneard died September 5, 1929. They are buried, side by side, in the cemetary in Regina.

One of the poems on this sheet of paper in my file folder was written by a person with the initials A.J.A. The title of the poem is obscured and not readable. The poem is dated 1909 in the handwriting of my Great-Aunt Edith – more than a hundred years ago -- so I think it is all right if I quote a verse or two – in closing.

It is a pile of weather-beaten bones,
Relics of many monarchs of the plain.
Here on this spot, the mighty buffalo
By (strong) Indian hunter has been slain.
We make our camp and lay us down to sleep –
When suddenly we know not how or why,
As though a scroll unrolled before our eyes,
A wondrous vision spreads across the sky.

First, one lone ox-cart makes a winding trail
Across the grass, near to the Pile of Bones –
The driver has his household goods along
His wife, family, and everything he owns.
He is the van of those true souls and brave,
Willing to risk their all upon a dream.
And following after him, we see them come –
Men, wagons, teams, a constant growing stream.

Gravestone of James Sloan Kinneard, his wife Ellen, and William, one of their six children.

Gravestone of James Sloan Kinneard (1843-1915) and wife,  Ellen (McKellar) Kinneard.   Son, William Kinneard (1875-1952)
Gravestone of James Sloan Kinneard (1843-1915) and wife, Ellen (McKellar) Kinneard. Son, William Kinneard (1875-1952) | Source



Leader Post newspaper article, 1949. No other date legible. Author of article, William Kinneard.

Other papers and documents in my possession.

© 2012 Pamela Kinnaird W


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