From Wales to Ipswich to Bristol to Canada Part 1.

Rosedale Cemetery, Moose Jaw

There were three Maybery brothers who formed a Real Estate Company in Moose Jaw around 1906. I have been interested in the Maybery brothers because they were the ones that participated in the drawing up of a plan for the quarter section of land that Mr. John R. Green had purchased amid such controversy in 1903.  The Moose Jaw Times reported that the lots in the newly renamed  Parkside area would now be available for sale.  Since the Maybery men had their name on a title to our property,  and had been owners of the land while it was only a lot,  I was interested in them and began to try to find out more about them.

1907 Clipping from Moose Jaw Times
Another Green to Maybery Transaction “PARKSIDE”

Imagine my surprise one day when I was searching for information about the Mayberys when a letter popped up on my screen that had been clicked on to the internet in 2005 by a woman in Ipswich, Suffolk:


My name is Lxxxx Cxxxx and I live in Ipswich, Suffolk UK. I am doing some research into the history of my house and everyone who has lived in it.

One of the people that I have come across is Frank Maybery….

Imagine….the two of us on opposite sides of the Atlantic trying to find out about the same people and just running into each other that way. She wasn’t writing to me.  She was just posting a query on a message board for a geneology site.  The information in her letter and some of the replies that had been posted to her query were very helpful to me and I was off and running around the Maybery bush early every morning!!

First of all, there was a man who was born in Wales on February 14th, 1843. The story of his short life is told movingly in an obituary published in a 1877 Journal called Evangelical Magazine and Missionary Chronicle. There is  information about his journey of faith and his short career as a minister in Stoke  (the most common place name in England) sub-Hampton,  Somersetshire and across the country in Ipswich, Suffolk.  Yes, readers, he was only 34 years old.  He had served 5 years in Stoke, and 3 years in Ipswich.

When William Valentine Maybery died in in Ipswich in 1876, he was father to 4 children, 3 sons and 1 daughter.  The children were quite young: Annie Edith 6, Alfred William  4, Arnold Hugh 2, and Frank Hubert , not quite a year.

A second daughter, Ada Winifred, was born in April of 1877, a few months too late to meet her father. William had been born on February  14th ,1843, in Monmouthshire, Wales.  And now, at age 34 he has left his young wife Clara Susan (nee Sinnock) with 5 children.  He seems to have been a man with much potential and with gifts and graces for ministry.  So says his obituary:

It was no small task for a young man to follow one who had taken such a high position in Ipswich as his predecessor, the Rev. Eliezer Jones; but, so far as spiritual power and mental ability are concerned, Mr. Maybery proved himself equal to the task.  the congregation soon increased, and new life was infused into the church.  Every trace of debt was wiped out, many useful organisations were started–all the societies of the church were brought to a flourishing condition; he was daily ripening in the affections of his people, and growing in the respect of the inhabitants of the town.  But his physical constitution was not strong enough to enable him to carry out the work which was in his heart to do.

The obituary is quite detailed with reference to the text of his first sermon, the financial situation of the church,  and the illness that brought about his demise.  However, we are left to our imaginations with regard to the next few years for his wife and young family.

Valentine Maybery served at this location for 3 years.

The story of the family that Rev. Maybery left behind begins as the widow, Clara moves back from Ipswich to Barton Regis, (now a part of Bristol)  in Gloucestershire where  Ada Winifred was to be born. The first two children had been born in Somersetshire,  during the 5 year ministry at Stoke, sub-Hampton, and the second two children had been born in Suffolk, during the 3 years at Ipswich.   If one were to take this trip now, from Ipswich, Suffolk to Bristol in Gloucestershire. (Just say “Gloster” to rhyme with “Foster”)  it would be a four hour train ride.  Some pretty famous people have come from Bristol including John and Charles Wesley.   Clara herself had been born very near here in a region of Bristol called Clifton.

Clara Susan (Sinnock) Maybery appears to have taken up residence very near a relative, William Sinnock.  In the Bristol Post Office Directory for 1879,  Mrs. Maybery’s address is 13 Freemantle Road, and  her parents are living at  10 Freemantle Square.

1879 Post Office  Directory for Bristol

By the 1881 Census the Maybery children’s story has taken a turn

Although there is no record found to explain the details of the death of Clara Susan Sinnock Maybery, we do know that she died 3 years after her husband in 1879 at Bristol. It seems that Valentine’s parents who were still living in Wales, and Clara’s parents  who were still living in Bristol were all getting on in years, and therefore,  the most eligible caregivers for  five young children were William and Eliza Mary Gibbons.  Eliza was an elder sister of Clara, and therefore aunt to the 5 little Mayberys.  She and her husband were childless themselves and took all five into their home called Grafton Villa at 4 Arley Hill.

At Census time in 1881, William and Eliza Gibbons were 45 and 44 years of age, and the children ranged from Alfred at age 10 down to Ada Winnifred at age 4.  William was a “Provisions Merchant”.  Fortunately there was some domestic help available as two young women are listed  with the family in the census.

Watch for the continuation of the Maybery story next time. There’s a reason we have a street called Maybery Crescent.

John Robert Green

What could I have in common with Maggie Siggins, 1992 winner of the Governor General’s  Award for literary merit?  The answer is John R. Green.  In Siggins’ book The Revenge of the Land: A Century of Greed, Tragedy and Murder on a Saskatchewan Farm, she tells the story of every person who owned the property near Pasqua, SK where the Eberle murder took place in 1987.  She writes the history of one particular farm  from 1883 to 1987 and  reports that not one of the men who held title to the land lived a “mundane life”. ”Not one escaped a fate full of astonishing surprises.”

The theme of Ms. Siggins’ book, she says in her preface,  is Greed.

John Robert Green
Moose Jaw Library Archives

For the men who owned this land were often not dedicated “toilers of the soil”; most hated getting their hands dirty. They were businessmen who hired other people to do the hard work.  They were land-speculators who got rich by exploiting anybody who showed signs of weakness. The defeated down-and-out half-breed was their favourite prey. 

For a time early in the 1900s, Mr. John Robert Green owned a portion of the farm about which Ms. Siggins writes, so she spends 38 pages of her book telling his story.  In her preface to Mr. Green’s chapter, she writes this assessment of his life and character.

No one made more money than he did.  He had cast aside his calling as a schoolteacher because it was a poor-paying proposition and got into real estate just as the West was booming.  Quickly he made a fortune. But farming, he said, was his first love, and he collected grain fields as nonchalantly as he did rare coins.  Yet there developed a serious split in his personality–the intellectual versus the money-grubber–and in later life he paid for his neurosis.  He died a stern sick old man, who was not at all well-loved. 

Although Siggins does not think very highly of Mr. Green and doesn’t mind saying so repeatedly in her book, and although I regret the behaviors  and influence that caused suffering and injustice to many people, I don’t think it’s wrong to note some admirable qualities as well as his shortcomings and willful transgressions.

Yes, Mr. Green was one of a number of early Moose Jaw businessmen who was involved in land speculation and the acquisition of lands through some corrupt practices relating to Metis Scrip.  The process of taking land that had been designated for Metis people was widespread, and it seems the government did very little to control what was happening.  More here.

The moral issues raised by the kind of deception and manipulation involved in these kinds of transactions by realtors, speculators, and politicians may have been in some people’s minds when the Moose Jaw Times announced the formation of a Literary and Debate Society for the town of Moose Jaw in 1895.

J.R. Green was a newlywed when he was invited to take part in a debate in the Moose Jaw Town Hall.  He would be on the Moose Jaw team who were opposed by a Boharm team made up of three farmers, one of whom was his brother Fred Green, joined by James Pascoe and R. Grant Thomson.  The Moose Jaw team included in addition to J. R. Green, J.W. Sifton, (the school superintendent, and J.E. Caldwell,  a bright young lawyer.  The resolution to be debated was: Be it Resolved that “ambition is more harmful than beneficial to mankind.”   Apparently the audience selected Boharm as the winners of the debate.   Interesting to me was the fact that both Mr. Sifton and Mr. Caldwell ended up in the area of the city that Mr. Green is most famous for.  Mr. Sifton’s house was across the back alley from 1037  Clifton and faces Main St.  Mr. Caldwell moved into a house facing ours across the street.   Here’s a review of the story of  his acquisition and development of “the avenues” west of Main.

Archives CPR Land Sales Search Results
4 Search Aciain
Your Search Found 1 Records Pages: Previous I 1 I Next
Call Number: M 2272, volume 93, contract number 23773
Date of Purchase: 1903 APRIL 4
Purchaser(s): GREEN, JOHN R.
Land Description: SE-5-17-26-W2
Number of Acres: 160
Price per Acre: $30.00
Status of Purchase: PAID IN FULL


J.R. Green bought the one very desirable quarter section of land  from the CPR in 1903 and released it gradually to realtors at the height of the building boom in Moose Jaw.  People said he “bought land by the acre and sold it by the foot.”   He paid $30 an acre and the 50 by 100 foot lot our house would be built on was purchased for $300 in 1911.  So how much profit did he make on 160 acres?   I don’t know if the lots purchased were “serviced”  as a city lot would be today with electricity and water/sewer access included in the price of  $300.  Surely he had to pay someone to survey all the lots . Did the city put the roads and lanes in?  Here’s a problem for your math students, Mrs. Mc.

J.R Green was often in the Moose Jaw papers.  One large column features him as a “Prominent Citizen” and focuses on how admired and respected he was in the community.  His involvement with the Board of Trade and his attempts to have the University placed in Moose Jaw were considered important contributions to the community.  He also made a contribution to the city by providing the land for the Wild Animal Park.  There is good information about the history of the Wild Animal Park at the SAIN (Saskatchewan Archival Information Network).

John R. Green in 1928 in front of his house near land donated for Wild Animal Park.

 My sympathies for him have to do with two things mostly:  one that he was a debater. More and more these days, I appreciate the art of well-articulated disagreement and the benefits of exploring differences in a civilized manner.   But more so, my heart went out to him and first wife, Annie, because of the tragic death of their infant son, Arthur, who was scalded by crawling into a tub of boiled water as his mother prepared to bathe him.  The child died after suffering terribly for a couple of days.  What parents would ever recover from that?

I have decided to include the obituaries that the paper published for Mr. Green and his first wife, Annie.  Both of them died unexpectedly and relatively young, her especially.  Obituary writers used to be quite the story-tellers.



After a short illness Anna Maude, wife of J. R. Green died at the General Hospital Saturday afternoon at 6:30 o’clock. The late Mrs. Green was out to dinner at the home of a friend Wednesday evening and was enjoying her usual good health. Later in the evening, however, she complained of not feeling well, and Thursday evening it was found necessary to call a physician.  Friday, he advised an operation, but the patient would not give her consent.  She was suffering so much Saturday morning that she was immediately rushed to the hospital and prepared for an operation.  Upon operating, the doctors found that it would be impossible for her to live.  She died shortly afterwards.

The late Mrs. Green was 43 years old, is a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J. G. Beesley, now in California.  She was born at the well-known Marlborough Farm near Moose Jaw.  She is mourned by her husband, three sons, Wilbert, Allan, and Jack, her father and mother, three brothers and two sisters. John, W.R. and Arthur Beesley, all of the Moose Jaw district, Mrs. J.F. Miller, Swift Current, and Sarah E. Beesley, California.

The late Mrs. Green was a Methodist in religion and was an earnest worker in the church.  She was also an active member of the W.C.T.U. for many years.

The funeral which will be conducted by Rev. H. T. Lewis and E.J. Chegwin, will be held from the family residence, 59 Athabasca West, Tuesday afternoon, at 2 o’clock, and will proceed to the Moose Jaw cemetery.

Mrs. J. F. Miller, Swift Current arrived in the city today, to attend the funeral.  Mr. and Mrs. .J. G. Beesley, and Miss Sarah Beesley, parents and sister of the late Mrs. Green, who are living in California, have left for Moose Jaw, but will not arrive here in time for the funeral.

Source: Moose Jaw Daily News  August 21, 1916

Moose Jaw Public Library Archives

John R. Green, Well Known Resident of Dist., Died Monday (Obituary from Moose Jaw Times July 12, 1938 Microfilm Moose Jaw Public Library Archives

Widely known and respected throughout Western Canada, John R. Green passed away in a local hospital on Monday morning in his 68th year. He was born at Rippingdale, England, on September 28, 1870, and the family emigrated to the United States, later coming to Canada and the Moose Jaw district.

The family made their home for two years at the Henry Battell, later Brubaker, farm, and during his early days John R. Green walked into Moose Jaw daily to attend school, which was held at a variety of places, including two rooms in the Brunswick Hotel, with J.N. McDonald as teacher.

He received his high school training under William Rothwell at Victoria School, and there being no normal school available, engaged at once in his chosen profession of teaching.

In 1895 he taught school at Boharm and later at Pioneer and Marlborough, and it was while  teaching at the last named school that he met his first wife, Annie Maud Beesley, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J. G. Beesley, pioneers in that district who later moved to California.

For a time Mr. Green was principal of a school at Nelson, B.C., and on returning to Moose  Jaw, he established a real estate, insurance and financial business.  He was agent for the Manufacturers’ Life Company.  Mr. Green was also the first collector of customs in Moose Jaw, and he homesteaded in the Marlborough district.

The deceased took a prominent part in local affairs and was especially prominent at one time in Board of Trade activities.

In 1905, Mr. Green unsuccessfully contested the Moose Jaw constituency in the Liberal interests for the first legislature of Saskatchewan, being defeated by the late John Wellington, who ran as a Conservative.

He was widely known as a student of economic matters and his services were much in demand for addresses to service clubs and other organizations over a wide territory.

At the time of rapid development of the Western prairies, Mr. Green was extensively engaged in the real estate business, during the late 90’s and the early part of the present century.  He was one of the largest realtors investing in Southern Saskatchewan lands at a time when settlers came into this locality in large numbers; and he himself was one of the largest property owners in this part of the country.  Mr. Green farmed on a large scale, and this year had about 3,000 acres under cultivation.

When Moose Jaw first started to grow, Mr. Green invested heavily in local property, and placed on the market one of the first subdivisions, High Park West, a quarter section lying immediately north of Caribou St. West and between Main Street and Fifth Avenue.

After disposing of that property he acquired the Alex Thompson and Ostrander farms immediately south of the city—a total of one and one-half sections, and here he made his home.

Through his generosity, Moose Jaw came into possession of the now widely famed Wild Animal Park, a lease of which former farm property was granted to the wild Animal Park Association.

By his first wife, Mr. Green had three sons, Wilbert now of San Pedro, California; Alan and John both farming in Moose Jaw district. A fourth son, Arthur, predeceased Mr. Green.

In 1920 he married Alida Blakely, daughter of R. W. and Mary E. Blakely of Toronto. By this marriage there are four children, Robert, Harry, David and Mary, all of Moose jaw.

Read about House History


Daniel Coleman has written about a small plot of land sheltered by the Niagara Escarpment near where he works at McMaster University.  In his book Yardwork: A Biography of an Urban Place he works to deal with questions about belonging to a place.

“Belonging comes from having been accepted, not from being in charge.  The work of place, the recording of its biography, its life story, then, requires as much listening as it does speaking. Indeed, because of the imbalance of our acquisitive aggressive times, the work of belonging may require more listening than speaking, more contemplation than action, more intuitive immersion than bold assertions.

Coleman, Daniel. Yardwork: a Biography of an Urban Place. JSNB James Street North Books, 2017.

Leith Knight carefully researched and listened, and in her Times-Herald Column called “Historically Speaking” told many stories of the days before Moose Jaw was a town or a city.

Collection of Columns “Historically Speaking”

“As winter approached family groups moved into the sheltered valleys of prairie streams which could supply water, fodder and sufficient timber for log cabins….There were at least two wintering sites on the Moose Jaw Creek: one where the river meets the Qu’Appelle, another about twelve miles upstream at a big bend, called the Turn by all who travelled the prairies in pre-settlement years. …The latter site, situated in what is now Kingsway Park, had been a campground for nomadic plains dwellers for centuries, and for fur traders and buffalo hunters since the beginning of the 1800s. Not only was it an oasis in the middle of the vast dry prairieland, but the only point on Moose Jaw Creek where Red River carts, loaded with pemmican and furs, could cross the valley with minimum difficulty.  The great west trail from Fort Garry utilized this natural ford, bringing to The Turn many colorful figures of the old West to barter for furs and pemmican, peddle whiskey and preach the Gospel.”

Knight, Leith. All the Moose –All the Jaw. Moose Jaw 100, 1982.

The Kingsway Park mentioned by Leith Knight will enter into the stories of more than one of the families who lived at 1037 Clifton Avenue.

In Media Res (Yes, Virginia…)

Many of my frienvirginia and Mirva (2)ds have heard me tell about the lady who showed up on the veranda of our house at 1037 Clifton Avenue, in August of 2002.  She was wondering if she could have her picture taken on our porch because this was her birthday, and she was turning 80 years old.  She had been born here in what was then her grandparents’ home on August 22, 1922.  In a brief tour of the house, she designated our second floor study as the room of her birth. Her maiden name was Virginia Louise Bills.  She was the daughter of Dick and Louise Bills, their youngest child.  She had 3 older brothers: Burdette, Robert, and Don.

In the brief conversation during the house tour, Mrs. Virginia (Bills) Stewart said she had been married for 55 years to Douglas Stewart and had been a widow since 2000. She had had some ties with the Free Methodist Church and knew some students from the  Moose Jaw Bible College in the 1940s:  Jack Walrath, Phyllis Langman, and “Donnie Bastian” to name a few.

Hindsight tells me we should have pinned her in a chair and fired questions at her: about her memories of this house, (her grandparents owned it only until 1935 when she was 13), about the people we knew in common, about the college in those days of its beginnings, and about the Free Methodist Church camp in Kingsway Park south of Moose Jaw and about farming in the early days in the Tuxford/Marquis area, and of course, about where her grandparents put up the Christmas tree.  But she couldn’t stay long and we were busy arranging for our daughter’s wedding in a few days.

The story of Virginia Bills and her family (four generations of them had lived in this house) was put aside for a time.  When retirement time was available, I first searched with the contact information I had from her. Then I googled her name and found her Obituary.  She had died on June 11th of 2010 in her 88th year.  Yes, Virginia, you were the fire in my bones to start a retirement project that I love waking up to!  I knew the walls of this house couldn’t talk, but the library archives could, old newspapers could, and the internet could, Land Titles could, and yes, your descendants and friends could.  I wondered, and researched, and learned about your losing your father when you were only two, about your 12 year old big brother drowning at a church camp when you were 4 years old, about watching your auntie walk down the stairs for her wedding in your grandpa’s house six months later, about what it’s like to have your grandparents lose their house in the depression and move away.

From this in medias res beginning, research moved back to previous house owners and forward to others: Lockwoods, Cooks, Simingtons, Humphreys, Conleys, Keelers, Andersons, Babiches.  And that, dear friends and total strangers, is the subject of this Blog.  It all started with Virginia.

Watch for more about Virginia’s family when I write about the Thomas Years.  Although Virginia spent a lot of time in this house until she was 13 years old, the  house was  rented and then owned by her grandparents, James Smith Thomas and his wife Winnie.

(picture credit: Mirva Travland)

First Things First

This blog is about a plot of land and a building, one domestic space  in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada that was owned and sold by a dozen families over the last 115 years.

Because the property is part of traditional Indigenous lands that are the subject of the Qu’Appelle Treaty (Number 4), the first acknowledgement must be to the Cree,  Salteaux, Assiniboine and Métis peoples, Indigenous Nations who traveled, hunted, and found shelter in the areas now populated by the city of Moose Jaw and the farms and villages in the vicinity. Before the first plows were brought into the area, according to Leith Knight, Moose Jaw historian and archivist, the first wooden dwellings were the wintering cabins of Metis buffalo hunters who preferred to stay on the plains after the fall hunt. The peoples who moved and told their stories all around this place for hundreds of years did not consider themselves “land owners” or “settlers”.  Yet they surely must be acknowledged as the rightful storytellers about Beginnings.  And if we are wise, we will acknowledge and listen to their powerful narratives, listen and learn.

Hello world!

Welcome to my new blog!!  I’ve been telling some of you for years about the interesting things I have found in researching the house we live in and the families who have lived here since 1913.  Now instead of cornering you at every outing with new tidbits about who lived and grew, married, gave birth and died in our house, I can put my stories in this blog….and you can take it or leave it!!