McEachen Family

 by Flora Garson and Henry McEachen  pg 396 Big Hill Country

In 1887 Donald McEachen came to Canada from South Uist, an island in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. On South Uist, the croftland lay along the centre of the island between high hills.

Perhaps it was the memory of his old home that prompted him to homestead in Grand Valley. He could not have made a better choice for it is one of the loveliest valleys in Alberta. He homesteaded the NE 14 34-26-5-5 and bought the NW14 of the same section. On the west, he had the Wildcat Hills which reminded him of home, on the open east slopes of the hills he had good grazing land for his stock, and lower down he had rich farmland where he could raise forage and grain. Later he acquired more land in the same township: the W1/2 of Section 26 and the N12 and SE14 of Section 27. A few years later Mr. McEachen’s half-sister Katherine came from the old country and homesteaded the SW14 of Section 34. For a while, she lived on it with her children, Dennis and Annie Blaney. Mr. McEachen also bought the SE 14 31-27-5-5. 


In 1888 Marjorie McDonald and Mr. McEachen’s sister Jessie came to Canada from South Uist. Jessie later became Mrs. H. B. Atkins. She passed away in 1901. 

For a year Marjorie McDonald worked for Dr. Lafferty in Calgary, and in 1889 she married Donald McEachen. They built a comfortable home and other farm buildings on the homestead. At the spring on the property, they had a stone building put up and used part of it for a dairy. On the upper floor, there was a dance hall. 

Mr. McEachen was a hard-working, upright man, a bit stern but very kind. For a while, he worked on the Betsy line as a brakeman. He even found time to break a saddle horse for Donald Morrison, for he told that one morning when he

was late for his work on the Betsy, he jumped on this bronc and it took him to his job in record time. 

Mrs. McEachen was a wonderful woman, amazingly strong, very capable and a good neighbor. The McEachen home was considered one of the most hospitable in the district. For years they raised sheep as well as horses and cattle. Mrs. McEachen washed the wool after the sheep were shorn, carded it, spun it on her old spinning wheel and knitted it into socks and underwear for her family. For fifteen years straight her butter won first prize wherever she showed it. She always had an extra place at the table for a wandering cowboy and was good to the Indians [sic] who brought her prairie chickens and traded them to her for groceries. One day when Mr. McEachen was liming his henhouse an Indian [sic] came and said he wanted some of that white stuff. Mr. McEachen thought he meant the lime and gave him some; the Indian [sic] thought he was getting flour. When he came back he said, “My wife put water in – and fizz-fizz-fizz!” 

The McEachens had five children: Jim, Flora, Jessie, Katie and Henry. Jim was a big, quiet lad with a keen sense of humour. He was good with machinery, made the repairs and did the blacksmithing. Flora worked out from time to time. She often visited Dave McDougalls, where they thought the world of her. Jessie passed away at the age of two and one-half years. Katie always lived at home. She was a wonderful cook, milked cows and worked in the hayfield. Henry was good with horses. He won many stake races with his horse, Shorty, and he was in 


demand as a pickup man at local rodeos. All four children attended the Grand Valley School in their youth, and Mrs. McEachen boarded several of the schoolteachers. 

In 1924 Marjorie Atkins, Mr. McEachen’s niece came to make her home with her uncle. After the ranch was sold she married Robert Baptie Sr. 

In 1924 Flora married Andy Garson who owned land northwest of Cochrane. They made their home in Cochrane where Flora kept milk cows. She inherited her mother’s ability and won first prize for her butter, seven years running, in Cochrane, Calgary and Edmonton. One year at the Calgary Exhibition she took first with her cake, second with her biscuits and third with her pie when entries were so numerous that she thought she would have no chance. 

Mr. McEachen was instrumental in getting the Agricultural Fair started in Cochrane. At the Cochrane Fair, Flora once entered seventeen classes and won fifteen firsts and two seconds. She was also an ardent curler and competed in many bonspiels, usually coming home the victor. 

Mr. McEachen leased the road allowance which ran along the east side of his land. There was no road there but he put gates in so that people could travel it if they wished. One day he spotted Ewen MacKay driving along with his housekeeper, Jeanie Smith. They left the first gate open – and the second. Mr. McEachen, angry because his cattle could get out, met them at the third gate just as they prepared to drive away leaving it open too. He jumped in front of the team, seized the horses by their bridles and backed them through the gate. The wagon cramped too sharply, one wheel dropped into the survey hole and the wagon overturned. Mr. McEachen said he could not see Jeanie at all – her petticoats were over her head! They righted the wagon and shortly after Mr. MacKay got home they saw him heading for town on a saddle horse to tell the police. The case went to court but was thrown out, the judge ruling that the gates should not have been left open. 

In the First World War, Henry enlisted in the 89th Battalion and was transferred to the famous 10th Battalion. These were trying years for his parents as he was away from December 15, 1915, until 1919. Fortunately, he came through the War without being wounded. He later returned to the ranch, and after the ranch was sold he worked for the Department of Highways for 20 years. 

Mr. McEachen died March 31, 1930, and Mrs. McEachen on October 25, 1934. In May 1935, Katie married Eddie Rowe, a longtime friend. They continued to live on the home place with Jim, Henry and Marjorie until the place was sold to Earl Campbell in 1940 when they moved to Cochrane. A few years later Earl sold the ranch to Norman and Rose Brohman who sold it to the Austins. The place has now been sold to the Alberta Government for parkland. 

Cochrane Advocate 1924
Garson McEachen announcement 1924

Jim passed away in 1943, Eddie Rowe in 1961, and Katie in 1963. Andy Garson passed away in 1969 and since then Flora has made her home in Cochrane. 

Note: Henry passed away in 1974 after this story was written. 

This news item is from the Calgary Daily Herald of September 6, 1912. COCHRANE FAIR SEPT. 10 

The Annual Agricultural Show at Cochrane which takes place on Tuesday, Sept. 10th is always looked forward to by hundreds of Calgarians who enjoy a genuine Western Fair. Cochrane has always been famous for its magnificent horses and daring riders and the many events are sure to be fast and exciting, while the farm products, stock and horse exhibits can hold their own with any in Canada. Train leaves Calgary at 8:15 a.m. returning at 9:30 p.m.

DONALD McEACHEN'S DANCE — by Andrew Garson 

Twas lately on a Friday night 

Just now about a week ago 

When to Donald McEachen ranch 

To dance we all did go

As he did give this social dance 

Just for old friendships sake 

For now it is over twenty years 

Since this man here did locate

For the boys and girls they all did come 

To have a jolly time 

To spend a night on this old time ranch 

As in the days of Auld Lang Syne

Some drove there in fancy rigs 

Some rode for many a mile 

But each and all were entertained

 In good old Western style

For music we had violin sweet 

Which was played in first class time 

  And the musicians’ names 

  Ill give below If I can get them into rhyme

 The first I will name is Dennis Blaney

 From Quigley’s lumber mill 

He tuned his fiddle and led the dance 

With a merry old quadrille. 

And we have known Johnny Curren 

Who works in the old coal mine 

He made us think of happy days gone by 

When he played the girl I left behind. 

And Jack Gillies from Ghost River 

He played those old tunes with that Highland swing 

He fairly made the fiddle talk 

He made the house to ring. 

And Harry Jones and Johnny Curren 

The quadrilles they well did call 

They put us through without a hitch 

The Gent and Ladies all. 

We had waltzes and we had two-steps 

And the polka heel and toe 

And Highland schottische and Scotch reels 

Which was anything but slow. 

And lots of other dances 

Too numerous for to name 

But I for one did wish that night 

To be as long again. 

For sure we had a jolly time 

We danced until the clock struck five 

And then one another we bid farewell 

And homeward we did drive. 

But I hope we all will meet again 

And have another dance 

On this familiar spot in Grand Valley 

On Donald McEachen ranch.

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