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Fallbrook Farm Heritage Site
Update 51

There is an excellent book "Elora, The Early History of Elora and Vicinity" by John Connon and the publishers have kindly provided us with an extract from the book, pages 64 - 85, in pdf format which you can download below. The book can be purchased from WLU Press at

Thanks, Alastair, for showing us the excerpt of George Elmslie, s diary concerning the Bon Accord settlement which was the hub of European settlement north of Hamilton in the early nineteenth century. This is a first of firsthand accounts as we develop the theme of the everyday life of the European pioneers who followed in the paths of the first nations. There is a direct link between the Elmslie diary and Fallbrook as the early Scot settlements formed tight nit networks between different regions. The Grand and Credit Valleys, Galt, Georgetown, Owen Sound all were settled by Scots as the need for farmland and new sources of wood increased. The first link between the Fallbrook farm and George Elmslie was his great great grand-daughter Mary McKay, wife of Alec McKay, grandson of the patriarch Donald McKay (and my mother). She was the family historian responsible for passing this rich heritage onto her grand children. Although in her twilight years, suffering from alzheimers, she had lost the details, she had transmitted enough history to maintain the flame.

Throughout her life, Mary McKay maintained a passion for her ancestors in Elora, Galt and Owen Sound but also in Fallbrook. She actually slept in the attic bedroom before the Fallbrook farm was sold to the Vaughan's and remarked that she would have built the house across the field on the hill where the Vaughan's built their beautiful home. She had no farm experience and did not appreciate that the house and barn had to be near the creek. In fact, her ancestors were teachers, ministers and merchants. George Elmslie was part of an organised society from Aberdeen and was sent out specifically to found a settlement for future emigration. The Ballinafad pioneers were mostly crofters, displaced tenant farmers from Ireland or Scotland or British loyalists. They all embraced the harsh pioneer life and quickly formed cooperative communities based on a strong work ethic,sharing,church and education for men and women. They socialised during danses and get togethers with music fiddled on homemade violins.

Like Ada Kirkwood and so many other amateur historians, Mary McKay understood the significance of their ancestor's contribution and worked diligently to pass on this rich heritage. They have succeeded and the torch has been passed. And not too soon. There are no physical traces left of the Bon Accord settlement accept in the Elora cemetary and the Fallbrook farms remains threatened as its historical designation remains suspended. But through the passion of this rich oral history and the research of the Department of Scottish Studies. University of Guelph and young historians like James Jensen, the invaluable contribution of ordinary people formed into vibrant communities survives. The torch remains alight.

For more information on George Elmslie and the Bon Accord settlement,go to the marvellous Wellington County website-

Another link between Mary McKay's ancestors and Ballinafad is Reverend William George Wallace born in Galt in 1858.He began his career in 1883 as minister of the Georgetown and Limehouse congregations. He was the first minister of Bloor St. Presbyterian Church for 30 years from 1888. Reverend Wallace married Alec McKay and Mary Elmslie in 1942,thus officialising the Ballinafad- Bon Accord connection.

Finally , the link comes full circle through Alan and Nancy Sinclair, Ballinafad historians and story tellers. They now live on a farm near Elora only a stepping stone from the original Bon Accord settlement.

A memorial to Ada Kirkwood can be read in Update 52. Mary McKay died one year ago today, in her 94th year.

Download the Extract here! (pdf)

Dave Elmslie (pdf)

Return to Fallbrook Farm Index Page


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