My great grandfather, George Everett Scroggie is a larger than life figure in my memory vault. I am not sure what I remember about him or what I have learned about him during my research. Regardless, he is a fascinating character.
George was born onAugust 30, 1888 in St. Louis, Missouri. He was the second son and third child for parents George Catto Scroggie and Myra Alice Cunnigham. George Sr. was a recent Scottish immigrant to the US – recruited to work in the quarry in the Iron Mountains of Missouri by other Scotsmen. Myra came from a family with quite deep American roots throughout the Southern States.
When the family was quite young in 1893, Myra tragically passed away at the age of 30 years, leaving father George with four young children to raise. Exact details of the next few years are sketchy but family lore suggests that George took up with or married another woman after his wife’s passing. She, nameless, was reputed to be a “school marm” meting out harsh discipline to the children. George moved to Massachusetts for work during this time and it is not known if the family went with him. The rumour is that his new wife, put the children in an orphanage at some point between 1893 and early 1899. George passed away himself in January of 1899 in Douglas, Massachusetts.
The family of the young children were frantic to find the kids and bring them back to Scotland. The four children, led by older sister Alice, sailed back to Scotland in March 1899. George Everett was taken in by his paternal Aunt and Uncle and raised with their family. His siblings were scattered to other family members and shortly after their arrival in Scotland, his youngest sister, Bessie died from meningitis. Sadly, he also lost his Aunt Christina when she passed away in 1902 while George was attending school. He was captain of the rugby football team and was studying to go into medicine but money was somewhat scarce and went towards his cousin. George ending up joining a bank in London upon his graduation and emigrated to Canada as a bank Clerk for the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. George has cousins that were already settled in the Toronto area so they were able to make introductions for him and get him settled in his new country.
In about 1915, George ended up managing a CIBC branch in Southwestern Ontario, in the small town of Blenheim in Kent County. It was there that he met a gentleman named Charles Baldwin Langford, a local doctor, who introduced him to his in-laws Charles and Sarah VonGunten who owned a local jewellery shop. This family would become his own when he married Clarice Louie VonGunten in early 1920. Prior to their marriage, both George and Clarice, or “Louie” as she was know, volunteered for the War. George would see active service in France and Belgium as part of a “Cycling Corps”. His bravery on one particular mission was commended and he was awarded a Military Cross from the Canadian government upon his return. He had led his troop, on bicycle, through enemy fire, to deliver vital correspondence to and from the front lines. Unfortunately, George did not want to keep this medal and tossed it into water in Ottawa upon receipt. Perhaps the memories from the War were too much to handle and he did not wish to have a reminder. He lost his one brother William in battle during WWI, along with countless others, marking the 30 years of his life with so much loss.
The newly married couple were in Carleton Place in the 1921 census, along with their first child Mary Louise, my grandmother. Shortly thereafter, the family moved to the Westdale neighourhood in Hamilton, Ontario. There they would raise their family of four children – Mary, Alice Evelyn, Jean Elizabeth and George Alexander. Great things were expected of the children. Each learned to play an instrument and would perform for guests whenever George and Louie had dinner parties. Each would go to university and would become notable in their field – Mary an Registered Nurse, Evelyn a Medical Doctor, Jean a Journalist and George a math scholar and teacher.
George left CIBC and became an Investment Advisor with T.A. Richardson. He never learned to drive and either walked or hired his driver to take he or the family farther afield, including the cottage on Lake Wah-Wash-Kesh. His driver was a close family friend. George’s normal daily attire was a suit, even when he was not working. His wife pre-deceased him by almost 20 years, she passing away in 1952 and he in 1971 in Beamsville. George was known to be a prankster, often donning silly hats and affecting different accents. He enjoyed making jokes and being the life of the party. Later in his life, he was a resident of Allbright Manor, an old age home. He told everyone that he was in love with one of the nurses and he even tried to run away with her to get married. Despite his tragic early years, his later years were marked with pride in his children, love for his family and the desire to ensure everyone was having a good time.