George Shiels was born in 1828 and was the sixth child of Thomas Shiels & Barbara Jean Cranston. He was a sixth generation descendant of Micheal Shiels and his lineage is as follows:
- G1: Micheal Shiels 1671 & Bessie Brown
- G2: Daniel Shiels 1719 & Jessie Scott
- G3: James Shiels 1750 & Janet Younger
- G4: Robert Shiels 1769-1845 & Annie Dickson
- G5: Thomas Shiels 1795-1839 & Barbara Jean Cranston
- G6: George Shiels 1828-1906 & Susannah Wortley
- G7: Barbara Shiels 1859-1902 & Thomas Gilpin
- G7: Jane Shiels 1860-1908 & William Pomeroy Bray
- G7: Thomas E. Shiels 1862-1936 & Jessie Anderson
- G7: Susannah Shiels 1864-1912 & Angus Carmichael
- G7: Robert Shiels 1867-1901 & Annie Coombs
- G7: Mary Shiels 1869-1921 & Henry Hart
- G7: George Shiels Jr 1871-1904 & Frances Mary Coombs
- G7: Jemima Shiels 1874-1902 & George Arkless Hart
- G7: Ellen Shiels 1877-1951 & George Alfred Ford
- G7: William John Shiels 1880-1906 & Mary Machann
- G7: David Shiels 1883-1969 & Velma Annie Ward
G6: George Shiels 1828-1906 & Susannah Wortley
George Shiels was born on October 18, 1828 in the family home at East Mains, Coulter, Lanarkshire, Scotland. He was educated at the school on the estate of the Duke of Buccleuch until he reached the age of eleven. He then went to work on the Thomas Anderson farm as a choreboy. His brother John was employed there.
George was soon promoted to plowman, a task at which he became highly skilled. He also became an expert checker player. Tradition says that he engaged the world champion in a contest which lasted thirty hours. After playing five games, George had won two of the five games and was only a teenager at the time. Time was taken out for food and sleep.
George is reported to have stated later that the defeat was the best thing that could have happened to him, as his later life as a farmer was highly satisfying to him. George left the Anderson farm for a job in a greenhouse at higher wages. He stayed there until 1850 when he and his brother John decided to emigrate to Canada.
The brothers left Glasgow about June 15, 1850 on the good ship Morton. The voyage almost ended in a shipwreck off the coast of Newfoundland. A squall came up suddenly and carried off two of the masts and two sailors with them. Repairs took two weeks and during that time, smallpox broke out on the ship. Eleven people died and John was very ill with it. He was still quite weak when they landed in Canada. They stopped at Whitby where a friend, Andrew Archibald, got John an easy job. George got a job as a teamster for a sawmill. He said later that he had never seen such a sensible team of horses as those he drove there.
George remained at Whitby for two years and then came on to Toronto where John had gone earlier. The two brothers then travelled west to Andrew Archibald’s farm on lot 5 Concession 5 Tuckersmith Township, southeast of the present Seaforth. At that time the land in Ontario south of the boundary of Elma, Grey, Morris, Wawanosh and Ashfield townships was Canada Company land. The land above that line was Crown land. Settlers on Canada Company land could not obtain a deed for their land until they had it completely paid for. On Crown land, one could get a deed subject to a mortgage as soon as the land was opened for settlement by the Government. A settler could register a “patent” and this gave one a right to live on the land until deeds were available in 1865.
George and John went through this procedure. The land records differ with family tradition in regard to the ownership of the four farms the brothers took. A patent given at Goderich on August 31, 1854 has George’s signature as owner of lots 19 and 20 on concession 14.
His first name is crossed out and John’s signature is above it. Another land record has George selling lot 19 concession 15 to Alexander Campbell for 7 shillings sixpence an acre with a down payment of 25 pounds. Lot 20 concession 14 is said to have been traded to James McNair for lot 27 concession 16 and cash to boot. George is said to have cleared the pine timber from lot 27, made money on the lumber and then sold the lot as a cleared farm. George obtained the deed to lot 20 concession 15 in 1865 subject to a $400.00 mortgage. He and John obtained lot 16 concession 15 from Alexander Campbell and sold it to their brother Thomas when he arrived in Ontario from Illinois in 1860.
To resume the narrative, Andrew Archibald advised the brothers to go north to the Crown land in Grey or Morris township. They set out north travelling to the present location of Walton and they decided to turn east into Grey. The last place they could get a meal was at the Combs’ house. (It is interesting to note that two of George’s sons later married daughters of the Combs family). They travelled east along the line of the 15th concession, stopping at the Jim Douglas farm as it was the last farm. They got a good feed of potatoes and venison. George always had a good word for Mrs. Douglas because of that good meal.
After that they lived off the land. George was a good shot with the old musket they had and John was a competent cook. They continued east along the 15th concession crossing the Beauchamp creek on a log. They met Lauchlin & Hugh McNeil on the way. Hugh had taken lot 16 concession 14, and Lauchlin had lots 17 and 18 on the same concession. George and John slept in Hugh’s shanty on lot 16 that night and the next day cut their names on the stakes on lots 19 & 20 concession 14 and lots 19 & 20 concession 15. They put up a shanty on the line between lots 19 & 20 concession 14 and began to slash down the trees to clear the land for farming.
In the summer the two brothers worked on the construction of the Huron Road (now provincial road #8) to provide cash for the necessities in the winter. They worked together in the winter to clear their own land. This type of life continued until 1857 when both brothers were married.
George married Susannah Wortley on September 4, 1857, a daughter of Benjamin and Mary Wortley, who had come from England. They were married by a Rev. James Findlay, in Fullarton Township, Perth County. The ceremony was witnessed by a brother and sister of the bride, John and Elizabeth Wortley. Apparently neither witness could read or write at the time as their names were written in by the minister and they made their “mark” below. Rev. Findlay must have been an itinerant minister as the Fullarton township records do not show any churches in the township in 1851 or 1861.
George and Susannah lived in a log house on their farm until a two storey house was built by George and his sons in the 1880’s. Susannah’s brother and sister, John and Caroline Wortley, lived with them until 1863 when John married Agnes Robertson and took the west half of lot 18 concession 15 as his homestead.
Family tradition says that George had one pig when their first child was a baby. The pig was kept in a log pen and George heard the pig squealing one night. He went out with his axe to investigate as he did not have a gun at the time. He found a bear in the pen after his pig. Susannah arrived at the scene in time to witness George killing the bear with his axe. Apparently no bear was going to get his pig!
The original school building was erected in 1864 at the instigation of George Shiels. He helped organize the district and served on the board for many years. The land did not belong to the school board until 1873, when trustees George Shiels, James McNair and Alexander Stewart, purchased the 1/2 acre where the school was located from James Fulton for fifty dollars. Of course there was no self interest on George’s part, but his children only had 100 yards to walk to school! George bought the old building for six dollars and sold it at a profit. The new school was a frame building that cost six hundred and forty-seven dollars to build. George’s brother Thomas dug the well and lined it with brick. In 1914 the building was covered with yellow brick and subsequent to that a furnace was put in and running water was provided. Many of the Shiels family served on the board, including George Jr, Thomas, John, James and Jack. James McNair and Angus Carmichael also served on the board. When the Grey Township schools were consolidated in 1965 the school was sold and is now occupied as a residence.
Family tradition says that George had a driving horse called “Rose”. She was unmanageable to the point that only the men of the family could handle her. In 1887, Susannah was kicked by a cow and seriously injured. The nearest Doctor was nine miles away in Brussels. One of Susannah’ sons hitched Rose to the buggy and took the whip to her. She made Brussels in one hour and the trip back with the two men in the same time. That was a notable feat on the dirt roads.
Susannah died on January 4, 1889, in Brussels, Ontario, at the age of 51, having never recovered from her injuries. George died on January 19, 1906 at 77 years of age. Both are buried in Brussels cemetery.
George and Susannah had eleven children: Barbara (1859); Jane (1860); Thomas (1862); Susannah (1864); Robert (1867); Mary (1869); George (1871); Jemima (1874); Ellen (1877); William John (1880) and David (1883).
G7: Barbara Shiels 1859-1902 & Thomas Gilpin
Barbara Shiels was born March 24, 1859 in Brussels, Ontario. She was the first child of George Shiels and Susannah Wortley.
At age 18, on February 6, 1878, she married Thomas Gilpin Jr, the son of Thomas and Catherine Gilpin of McKillop Township. Thomas Jr had previously been married to Jane McKay and they had five children when Jane died in 1876.
In 1890, Thomas and Barbara emigrated to Michigan, where they bought a farm west of the village of Walkerville, Oceana County. They lived out their lives there. Barbara (Shiels) Gilpin died October 21, 1902, and is buried in Walkerville Cemetery, Oceana County, Michigan. Thomas died November 26, 1917.
G7: Jane Shiels 1860-1908 & William Pomeroy Bray
Jane Shiels was born on August 10, 1860 in Brussels, Ontario. She was the second child of George Shiels and Susannah Wortley.
She married William Pomeroy Bray in Brussels, Ontario, on October 15, 1879, when she was 19 years old. They had nine children in 25 years.
William died on October 14, 1907, in Brussels, Ontario, at the age of 53. Jane died on January 18, 1908, in Brussels, Ontario, at the age of 47.
G7: Thomas E. Shiels 1862-1936 & Jessie Anderson
Thomas E Shiels was born on May 24, 1862 in Brussels, Ontario. He was the third child of George Shiels and Susannah Wortley.
He married Jessie (Janet) Anderson and they had one daughter together. He then married Mary Frances Coombs on June 7, 1928. He died on September 23, 1936, in Detroit, Michigan, USA, at the age of 74.
G7: Susannah Shiels 1864-1912 & Angus Carmichael
Susanna Annie Shiels was born on June 22, 1864 in Brussels, Ontario. She was the fourth child of George Shiels and Susannah Wortley.
She married Angus Carmichael on June 5, 1889. They had five children in 12 years. She died on April 28, 1912, in her hometown at the age of 47.
G7: Robert Shiels 1867-1901 & Annie Coombs
Robert Shiels was born on April 1, 1867 in Brussels, Ontario. He was the fifth child of George Shiels and Susannah Wortley.
He married Annie Coombs on March 15, 1893. They had six children during their marriage.
He died as a young father on January 9, 1901, in his hometown.
G7: Mary Shiels 1869-1921 & Henry Hart
Mary Shiels was born on May 22, 1869 in Brussels, Ontario. She was the sixth child of George Shiels and Susannah Wortley.
She married Henry Hart on October 8, 1890. They had two children during their marriage. She died on January 16, 1921, in her hometown at the age of 51.
G7: George Shiels Jr 1871-1904 & Frances Mary Coombs
George Shiels was born on October 18, 1871 in Brussels, Ontario. He was the seventh child of George Shiels and Susannah Wortley.
He married Frances Mary Coombs on July 29, 1896. They had one child during their marriage.
He died as a young father on March 13, 1904, in his hometown.
G7: Jemima Shiels 1874-1902 & George Arkless Hart
Jemima Shiels was born April 11, 1874. She was the eighth child of George and Susannah (Wortley) Shiels. She attended Grey Twp school #8, at the corner of the family homestead. Records published in “The Brussels Post” of 1886 show “Jemima Shiels, highest mark 3rd class-March” and “Jemima Shiels, highest mark 4th class-April”.
On May 16, 1898 she married George Arkless Hart. George was born April 11, 1874, the third son of Henry Hart, who came from Devonshire, England and emigrated to McKillop Twp, Huron County.
Jemima and George Hart had no children. They farmed on the 14th concession of Elma Twp, Perth County.
Jemima died on October 23, 1902. Jemima’s sister Ellen kept house for them during Jemima’s lengthy illness and remained to keep house for George after Jemima died. George later moved to a farm in Hullet Twp Huron County. George died there on September 22, 1906.
Jemima and George are buried in Lot 73, section “F”, in Brussels Cemetery. Their place of burial was unknown to the family until 1982, when the Village of Brussels assumed ownership of the local cemetery, which had been operated by a voluntary association. Ontario bylaws requested all cemeteries to correct and update all of their records. In this process, the Brussels people discovered a record showing that Ellen (Shiels) Ford had been buried at Brussels in 1931. They so notified her son, stating that no upkeep had been paid on the lot since 1951. They were shown that Mrs. Ford had died in 1951 in Grand Rapids, Mich. and is buried there. Research showed that Mrs. Ford had assumed responsible ownership of Lot 73, Section F, at Brussels in 1931, but her sister and brother-in-law, Jemima and George Hart are buried there. Ellen Ford had left no arrangements for continuing payment when she died in 1951. The plot contains five graves, of which only two were used. Ellen’s son, William G. Ford, negotiated an arrangement whereby the Cemetery accepted ownership of the remaining three graves in return for cancelling the debt and establishing perpetual care on the graves of Jemima and George Hart.
G7: Ellen Shiels 1877-1951 & George Alfred Ford
Ellen Shiels was born on July 12, 1877 in Brussels, Ontario. She was the ninth child of George Shiels and Susannah Wortley.
She married George Alfred Ford on March 29, 1911. They had three children during their marriage.
She died on January 23, 1951, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA, at the age of 73.
G7: William John Shiels 1880-1906 & Mary Machann
William John Shiels was born April 10, 1880. He was the tenth child of George and Susannah (Wortley) Shiels. He was the only one of the children who had a middle name. He lived at home on the family farm until he married Mary Machan on June 25, 1902.
Mary was the daughter of Robert and Eliza (Elnor) Machan. Robert had come to Canada from Scotland with his parents Robert, Sr and Mrs. Machan. The Machan’s settled on Lots 33, 34 and 35, Con18, Grey Twp. In 1879, Robert Jr. owned lots 31 & 32, con.18. Eliza was the daughter of Daniel Elnor, who served in the Coldstream Guards during the Upper Canada Rebellion. In appreciation of his service Queen Victoria granted Daniel an honourable discharge and 100 acres of land near Sarnia. In the 1860’s, the Machan family founded a village on or east of Lot 35, Con.18, which they named “Carmunnock” There was a post office, which was named “Stowe”, a general store and a sawmill. That village has completely disappeared.
William and Mary (Machan) Shiels lived in the village of Ethel, in the subdivision of lot 23, concession 8. Their home was on Lot K of that subdivision.
They had one daughter, Mary Etta. She was born May 19, 1903 and died September 27, 1904 and is buried at Brussels.
William John Shiels died July 20, 1906, and is buried at Brussels. Mary (Machan) Shiels was remarried to Robert John Rennick on August 21, 1908. Mary died September 6, 1957 and is buried at Mitchell, Ontario.
G7: David Shiels 1883-1969 & Velma Annie Ward
William John Shiels was born on April 10, 1880 in Brussels, Ontario. He was the eleventh child of George Shiels and Susannah Wortley.
He married Mary Machann on June 25, 1902. They had one child during their marriage.
He died as a young father on July 20, 1906, in his hometown.