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Arabella Acheson

Arabella Bell ACHESON; born 1857 in Ireland and died 1923 in California. Great-grand-aunt Bell emigrated to Canada in 1863, grew up in Perth county, Ontario, married John McKennit and they relocated to California; no children.

Born Born 5 Aug 1857 Lower Langfield, County Tyrone, Ireland
Died Died 1 Sept 1923 Redlands, California
Buried 7 Sept 1923 Block M, Lot 1304; Redlands cemetery, California
Married Married 23 Jan 1883 John McKennit

Photo Album - Family album of photos and documents.


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

Children: no children

The Parents of Bell

Arabella'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. Bell's father finally settled down to be a farmer in Perth, Ontario.

Bellís Early Years

Arabella Acheson Arabella Acheson was born on the old Acheson homestead at Lower Langfield in County Tyrone in Ireland. Her parents had already been overseas in New York where her two older brothers Alexander and Weir were born. Now it was her turn to grow and travel.

Leaving behind her two older sisters, Ellen (who had died) and Elizabeth, the young girl of six starts a life's adventure of an Atlantic crossing to North America and into the heart of Ontario in 1863. Canada was not yet an independent country from Britain, and Ontario was then called Upper Canada.

For the first winter in Canada, the Acheson family lived with their Irish neighbours and friends the Buchanans, who had come to Ontario some 16 years earlier. At first her father rented land in the Donegal area of Elma township, then bought one hundred acres1.

Bell and John McKennit

Daughter Arabella was destined to move far away from the home farm at Donegal. On January 23, 1883 she married John McKennit who hoped to make a good living for his bride by selling farm equipment in Manitoba. There were train-loads of young Ontario farmers heading west to start their own homesteads now that the rails reached Winnipeg and free land was available on the prairies. Early in the 1880's, John McKennit and his wife Arabella, plus Alexander Acheson and his wife Sarah Braden and two babies said goodbye to their Ontario homes to answer that old call of the West1.

The Final Years for Aunt Bell

Aunt Bell died of cirrhosis of the liver at the age of 63, on September 1, 1923. She was buried six days later at the Redlands cemetery in Block M, Lot 1304, alongside her older brother, Weir.

Shortly after her death, the Acheson family discovered that Arabella's original will had been replaced with one that named her new doctor as the sole administrator of her estate not long before she died under what Uncle Sandy? thought were highly suspicious circumstances. Sandy eventually forced the doctor to resign as administrator. That left the family the choice of insisting that the original will of November 21, 1921 be reinstated, leaving the bulk of the estate to Sadie Acheson or of accepting the equal division of assets among all 16 living nieces and nephews. Sadie agreed to the latter1.


Canada Census of 1861

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

Canada Census of 1871 2

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 2

Name Status Gender Ethnic Origin Age Birthplace Occupation Religion
ACHESON Joseph married male Irish 60 Ireland farmer C. Presbyterian
Isabella married female Irish 55 Ireland   C. Presbyterian
Samuel single male Irish 22 Ireland farmer C. Presbyterian
Isabella single female Irish 21 Ireland   C. Presbyterian
- Canada 1881 Census for Elma, County Perth North, Ontario, District 172, Subdistrict E, Division 2, LDS Family History Library film #1375907.


  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 GenWeb Project; for the 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891 and 1901 Ontario census records; with access to original images

-- JimBenedict - 17 Dec 2006
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