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Alexander Acheson

Family reference: 111

Born Born 2 Nov 18481 New York City
Baptised 4 July 18491 New York City by Rev. W. Mann
Married Married 7 Aug 18771 Sarah Braden Miller at Elma twp., Donegal, Ontario
Died Died 6 Oct 1897 Rosenfeld, Manitoba
Buried   Morris, Manitoba

Photo Album - Family album of photos and documents.


  • Father: Joseph Acheson; b. 1815; d. 1901
  • Mother: Isabella McKennit; b. 1821; d. 1887


  1. Joseph Alexander Acheson; b. 1878; d. 1955
  2. Sarah Isabella Sadie Acheson; b. 1879; d. 1953
  3. Mary Jane Minnie Acheson; b. 1881; d. 1926
  4. Weir Henry Acheson; b. 1884; d. 1916
  5. Ethel Maud Maudie Acheson; b. 1886; d. 1974
  6. Emily Gertrude Gertie Acheson; b. 1888; d. 1987
  7. Alexander John Sandy Acheson; b. 1891; d. 1972

The Parents of Alexander

Alexander's parents, Joseph and Isabella Acheson, were transatlantic travellers embarking from Ireland to New York in the 1840's, then returning to Ireland to raise the family. They eventually departed the old country by 1863 for a new life in the rurals of Canada West. Alexander's father finally settled down to be a farmer in Perth, Ontario.

Alexander’s Early Years

Alexander Acheson Alexander would have been born in north Ireland but for the potato famine there. A devastating blight had spread across the potato fields of the island, causing massive starvation and exodus from the land. The famine lasted just four years but it destroyed an entire generation in the rural countryside.

Joseph and Isabella Acheson headed to the new opportunity in New York, America.

Alexander was born in New York as was his younger brother, Weir. Shortly after Weir was born, the family returned to County Tyrone in Ireland where the three sisters and a younger brother were born.

The family stayed in Lower Langfield for several years, likely near the old homestead in the county of Tyrone. Alexander would get to know his grandfather Weir Acheson, who would still be alive until the young lad reached age six.

Alexander would have been familiar with the countryside, knowing the backroads, nearby towns and pathways through pastoral lands. The Tyrone district is rolling farm and sheep land with mountains ranging along the north and with the large lake of Lough Neagh bordering on the east side. It is a rugged land; harsh at times but totally suitable for an adventuresome Irish boy.

Being an Acheson, he likely attended school, learning English at class and with friends and family, perhaps knowing Gaelic with the rural farm folk. Being the oldest boy, he would be expected to inherit the family farm as well. By the year 1863 when the family emigrated once more, grandfather Weir had died some nine years previously and now Alexander was fourteen.

For some reason, his father wanted to return to America and try again. This time it would be different; they would settle in the English Dominion of Canada. New land was opening up in the western region around the Great Lakes.

teacher's marks So in 1863 Alexander's family made one last emigration overseas, to the fertile area of Perth county in Canada West. His two older sisters Ellen and Elizabeth stay behind. It is rumoured that Ellen was too sickly; she dies before the family departs Ireland. Elizabeth remains there, later marrying in 1878.

Joseph's family does not appear in the 1861 Canada census but does in the 1871 records. All of the emigrated children are listed with mom and dad Acheson in the village of Donegal, Elma township, Ontario.

Perhaps the move from the old Irish homestead was suitable to Alexander as he decided to become a teacher rather than farm like his father. Like his younger brother Weir, he attends the Model College in Clinton, about 30 miles west of the farm in Sebringville. In 1875 he received his third-class county certificate of teaching, although not with outstanding marks. It appears he failed in reading, writing, composition and education/school law, with barely a pass in the other subjects. Although, for some reason, he did excel at spelling.

It was time for our young school teacher to get settled down.

Alexander and Sarah

Sarah Braden Miller Sarah Braden Miller was born at Ellice township, Perth county in Ontario on December 3, 1853, the daughter of Joseph Miller and Sarah Braden Henry. She was of age 23 on her wedding day, he was 27.

The old Miller farm must have been quite a scene the Tuesday evening of August 7, 1877.

It was a double wedding, for not only Alexander and his bride but also Sarah's younger sister Isabella "Bella" was married that same day to George Clarke Anderson of Philadelphia. The services were performed by the Rev. Thomas Macpherson of Stratford and the Rev. J. W. Mitchell of Mitchell. The brides were dressed in elegant blue silk and the bridesmaids in drab silk, trimmed with Brussels lace. After refreshments were partaken of by all present, the happy young folks drove to Stratford where they took the early train for the east. They intended to visit Niagra and other fashionable resorts in Canada and the United States1.

After the marriage, the couple stayed at the Miller farm near Sebringville, Ontario, as their first child Joseph was born there.

Living in Goderich

At the late age of 30-ish, Alexander returns to the Clinton Model School for at least three years to gain his permanent teaching certificate. Although the family had to sacrifice for some time, this certificate will be their ticket into Manitoba and prosperity. He is listed in the 1881 census as a "student" in Clinton with two very young children in the household.

Their first child, Joseph, is born at the Miller family farm at Sebringville, Perth county, Ontario in the fall of 1878. The family moves on to Clinton for father to attend school and for the next in line, Sarah (Sadie) to join in. Then Minnie. The next four will have to await the move west.

Alexander and Sarah reside in the nearby city of Goderich for a short period. We are not sure which residence housed the Acheson family at that time, but Goderich has many fine homes along well-developed residencial streets. Goderich was the west anchor for the Huron Tract, a wilderness development in Upper Canada that was initiated by John Galt in the 1820's.

Off to Manitoba

Steamer Ontario Manitoba joins confederation in 1870. How do they get to Winnipeg in 1880? Joined by younger sister Arabella and her husband, John McKennit. Note that Arabella's mother's maiden name was also McKennit.

Settling into Winnipeg

Winnipeg in 1887 Alexander's first teaching position in the West was in the Parish of St. Charles, soon to be engulfed by the growing Winnipeg. The parish was then located just outside the west edge of Winnipeg on the south bank of the Anniniboine River. For many years after their move to Rosenfeld, the Achesons continued to own and visit their summer cottage there. Winnie (Webber) Benedict remembered it well, especially its huge hammock, slung between two giant trees by the river near the cottage1.

In St. Charles, the Acheson offspring increased to seven. Our teacher must have feared that his wife Sarah, still in her thirties, might catch up with her mother's precedent of thirteen offspring, since he decided to purchase a whole section of land that included the little railside village of Rosenfeld, fifty miles south of Winnipeg.

Taking over Rosenfeld

Rhineland When Grandfather Acheson purchased his section of land, it had just been surveyed by the Canadian Pacific Railway. There were only two elevators and a grain warehouse and a scattering of residents in the hamlet of Rosenfeld, then with a total population of abuot 70, so the arrival of nine Achesons was a real population explosion.

It was the Mennonites in the West Reserve that influenced growth of the village. Sarah handled the business in the family and set up a general store in Rosenfeld. Back in Russia, the Mennonites had depended on Jewish peddlers and businessmen for their outside needs, and in their early years in Manitoba they relied on non-Mennonite entrepreneurs. So Grandma Acheson's general store received their trade in a mutually beneficial barter type, as the natural order of things. Thus began a new life for the Acheson children with Mother running the family general store and Father teaching the local school for the Mennonite community.

See the photograph page on Rosenfeld.

Alexander as a Father

Later in life, daughter Sadie shared family stories with her daughter Gert. She gave the impression that grandfather Alexander Acheson was a rather stern, self-centered man. As a teacher she thought he was excellent, but as a disciplinarian, much too harsh on his own sons, often with little reason, although Sadie did admit her two older brothers were pretty high spirited and fearless. Perhaps, too, grandfather was trying to compensate because grandmother spoilt her boys, usually giving them what they wanted. The girls on the other hand, were expected to wait on their brothers, hand and foot. Grandfather provided a balance for he was kind and generous to the girls and as dedicated to their education as that of the boys. Grandma apparently worried because she thought a postmistress was "after" Grandfather (hardly his fault); also that his occasional social glass was yielding to "old devil gin".

Well, Grandfather died in Rosenfeld when only 49, and Grandmother told her daughter it was the gin that did him in, and later Sadie would warn her boys about gin, and they did seem to avoid it specifically.

It has been said that "no man is a hero to his butler", and perhaps, likewise, few fathers are heroes to their children. Looking into Grandfather Alexander Acheson's history, Gert discovered quite a different person than that pictured by his oldest daughter. She saw a husband and father, at a time when adult education was an oddity, returning to Clinton Model School for at least three years to gain his permanent teaching certificate, and then having enough adventure to head west to the wilds of Winnipeg (as St. Charles was then), and when that became too settled, taking on a whole section of land to farm and settle and establish the first public school there and teach in it. When his children left his public school, he made sure they went to nearby centres or to Winnipeg for higher education and he encouraged other students to do likewise. When Gert revisited Rosenfeld, and talked with those who knew of Grandad, she got a picture of a very kind man, dedicated to education, and always willing to help in the community. He was fluent in both German and English, and voluntarily taught adult Mennonites English and gave them legal and business help with documents and red tape problems1.

And on the home front, he and Grandma raised an outstanding family; an attractive, gutsy, fun-loving clan, upwardly mobile despite life's share of set-backs and tragedies.

Sarah as a Mother

When Miller or Henry girls got married they came with homemaking skills, any one of which would have made them artisans today. Their weaving of patterns from homedyed, home-spun, home-carded, home grown wool into bedspreads and wall hangings were works of art, as were many of their patch-work quilts, hooked rugs, tatted and crocheted tablecloths and covers. Not only could they make their own dresses, but they could design and cut their dress patterns, and in cottons weave their own materials. And in cooking, the Miller girls were "Julia Childs", slinging big, basic hunks of food together without recipes, and substituting ingredients with wild abandon. Yet the results were tasty and properly served, and all knew "which fork to use". No Miller needed Miss Manners to enter high society. Great Grandmother Sarah (Braden) Miller was determined that even if her family were raised in the backwoods, they could eat with the elite and not be embarrassed. Like education, the social graces were considered by the Henry/Miller clan to be assets that could never be taken away.

Until she moved to Rosenfeld, we know little of Grandma (Miller) Acheson's life after marriage. There our tiny, graceful grandmother proved to be ahead of her time in business for women of her day. She ran a country general store (the generic of today's mall), supervised farm business, and enjoyed a little wheeling and dealing in real estate. But with her four marriageable daughters - Sadie, Minnie, Maudie and Gertie - she was overly protective even for the late 1880's. When a young man was invited to the house, the four girls often had to guess which one of them was the young man's "date", for Grandma alone gave permission to date a daughter and then only if chaperoned by at least two sisters. On her first date with Rusey Webber (our Dad), our mother Sadie said she refused to dance the home waltz with him because she thought sister Maudie was his date. And Dad often joked that a quick peck in the pantry was the closest he got to kissing our mother during their courtship. However, Dad was grateful Grandma did not ship Sadie away as she sometimes did with other daughters when she disapproved of their suitors (Maudie to California, Minnie to Minaki; and all in turn took high school in a convent for safekeeping).

But though Grandmother Acheson restricted the girls' social life, she made sure they "looked their best" when they did go out. She would periodically invite her dressmaking niece from Stratford, Minnie Miller, to be the Achesons' resident dressmaker. Grandma's Rosenfeld store had bolts of satins, silks, damask, dotted swiss, and huge spools of velvet ribbons, braids, fringes and Amsterdam lace. Minnie Miller was free to use any of it for haute couture for the Achesons. So the girls stepped out in luxurious clothes, elaborately designed, or elegantly simple or tailored.

The Final Years for Alexander and Sarah

Alexander died in 1897 as a relatively young man of 48 years. He was buried in the Morris cemetery of Manitoba.

Sarah was then left with seven children to raise in the prairies of Manitoba, Sandy being the youngest was then only seven years. Their mother was only 45 by that time See the funeral photo) when her husband passed away but whe went into mourning for the rest of her life. She continued to wear black hats, trimmed with black lace, ribbons and beads, and choker-necked, long flowing black dresses.

Sarah died on February 17, 1919 in Winnipeg, Manitoba.


Notes on the Children

birth records:
  • Sarah Isabella: 012779-80 (Huron Co) ACHESON, Sarah Isabella, f, b. 7 Dec.1879, father - Alexander ACHESON, student; mother - Sarah MILLER, infm - John Junor, Clinton2

  • Weir Henry: Born: May 1, 1884; Sex: M; Place: Assiniboia; Mother's maiden name: Sarah Breiden Miller3

  • Ethel Maud: Born May 17, 1886; Sex: F; Place: St. James-Assiniboia; Mother's maiden name: Sarah Breiden Miller3

  • Florence (sic) Gertrude; Born: May 5, 1888; Sex: F; Place: Assiniboia; Mother's maiden name: Sarah Miller3

  • Alexander John: Born NOv. 28, 1891; Sex: M; Place: Assiniboia; Mother's maiden name: Sarah Breiden Miller3

Canada Census of 1861

The Acheson family does not appear in Elma twp., Perth co. for the 1861 census.

Canada Census of 1871 4

Name Status Gender Ethnic Origin Age Occupation Religion
ACHESON Joseph married male Irish 55 Farmer C. Presbyterian
Isabella married female Irish 50   C. Presbyterian
Alexander single male Irish 22   C. Presbyterian
Weir single male Irish 20   C. Presbyterian
Samuel single male Irish 14   C. Presbyterian
Anabelle single female Irish 13   C. Presbyterian
- Canada 1871 Census for Elma, County Perth North, Ontario, District 030, Subdistrict e; microfilm #C-9941.

Canada Census of 1881

Name Status Gender Ethnic Origin Age Birthplace Occupation Religion
ACHESON Alexander married male Irish 31 New York, USA student Presbyterian
Sarah married female Irish 26 Ontario   Presbyterian
Joseph A. single male Irish 4 Ontario   Presbyterian
Sarah single famale Irish 2 Ontario   Presbyterian
- Canada 1881 Census for Clinton, County Huron North, Ontario, District 173, Subdistrict h; microfilm #C-13272, LDS library film #1375908, page 26.

Canada Census of 1891

The Canada census for 1891 has not been indexed as of yet. It is believed the family was in Manitoba by that time.

Canada Census of 1901

Name Relation Status Birthdate Age Birthplace Origin Religion Occupation
ACHESON Sarah B. head widow 4 Sept 1853 47 Ontario Irish Presby merchant
Sarah I. daughter single 9 Dec 1879 21 Ontario Irish Presby clerk store
Mary J. daughter single 13 Dec 1881 19 Ontario Irish Presby  
Wier H. son single 1 March 1884 17 Manitoba Irish Presby  
Ethel M. daughter single 17 March 1886 15 Manitoba Irish Presby  
Emily G. daughter single 5 March 1885 13 Manitoba Irish Presby  
Alexander J. son single 28 Nov 1891 9 Manitoba Irish Presby  
HEINRY Mary J. cousin single 12 Sept 1875 25 Ontario Irish Presby  
BAXTER Sidney domestic single 14 July 1863 37 England English Anglican labourer
- Canada 1901 Census for Lisgar (District #7), Rhineland (Subdistrict F-11), Manitoba; microfilm #T-6432, page 12 & 13.

Canada Census of 1911

Name Relation Status Birthdate Age Born Orign Religion Occupation
ACHESON Sarah B. mother   Sept 1855 56 Ontario Irish Presby  
Wier H. son single March 1884 27 Manitoba Irish Presby agent
Maud E. daughter single March 1888 23 Manitoba Irish Presby  
Gertrud E. daughter single March 1890 21 Manitoba Irish Presby  
Alex J. son single Nov 1891 19 Manitoba Irish Presby clerk bank
MILLER Hugh brother single Nov 1866 45 Ontario Irish Presby retired
- Canada 1911 Census for Lisgar, Manitoba; Enumeration District #35, Township 3 in Range 1, page 5 (Rosenfeld Village).


  1. "Who's That Sitting in our Family Tree?", by Gert [Webber] Lawrie; private publication 1988; history and stories of Canadian families of Webber, Acheson, Miller and Henry
  2. The Ontario Vital Statistics Project for births, marriages and death indexes in Ontario; volunteer site.
  3. The Manitoba Vital Statistics; for birth, marriage and death records. Government site.
  4. The Ontario GenWeb Project; for the 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891 and 1901 Ontario census records; with access to original images

Family Outline

Descendancy Chart for AlexanderAcheson1848
0 AlexanderAcheson1848
1 RosenfeldHamlet
2 SarahAcheson1879

-- JimBenedict - 01 Apr 2006
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I Attachment sort Action down Size Date Who Comment
family.gif manage 27.4 K 13 Dec 2006 - 06:43 JimBenedict Alexander's family
alexander.gif manage 12.8 K 22 Dec 2006 - 06:41 JimBenedict Alexander Acheson
standing.jpg manage 13.8 K 31 Dec 2006 - 03:04 JimBenedict teacher's marks
standing.gif manage 15.9 K 31 Dec 2006 - 03:05 JimBenedict teacher's marks
SteamerOntario.jpg manage 51.9 K 05 Jan 2007 - 22:28 JimBenedict Steamer on Great Lakes
Winnipeg1887.jpg manage 56.6 K 05 Jan 2007 - 22:28 JimBenedict Winnipeg 1887
Rhineland.jpg manage 58.3 K 05 Jan 2007 - 22:20 JimBenedict Rhineland Manitoba
sarah.gif manage 6.7 K 28 Jan 2007 - 18:58 JimBenedict Sarah Braden Miller

Acheson.AlexanderAcheson1848 moved from Acheson.AlexanderAcheson1849 on 10 Jan 2007 - 06:52 by JimBenedict - put it back
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