The Story of Henry Cochrane
Henry Cochrane was my father. I shall try to reconstruct a little of his family history and achievements. He was born December 11, 1866 in Grand Cascapedia, Quebec, Canada and died January 2, 1941 in Wilson Township, Alpena County, Michigan.
His father, Hay Cochrane, was born in Scotland. He and nearly all of his family consicting of two brothers, Robert and John, and four sisters, Janet Peebles, Jean McWhirter, Margaret McCormick, and Catherine left Scotland about 1830 and emigrated to Canada in the vicinity of New Richmond, Quebec on the Bai des Chaleur, on the Gulf of St. Lawrence or Golfe St. Laurent. The families all owned farms, woodland at first, about two miles back in the country from Bai Chaleur, near New Richmond. The brothers owned fishing schooners. John was a sea captain who sailed to Liverpool and Glasgow. A brother, William, went to Australia.
One of my father’s infrequent stories of his youth told of living in a concession three miles from the bay on a farm of 100 acres which was narrow in width and which extended a mile back up into the timbered foothills or mountains. Getting out wood in the winter was a matter of rolling it downhill.
When Henry was very small his father would take him and his brothers on fishing trips for cod. In rough weather his father would lash the boys to the mast so they would not wash overboard. It was the custom to start the winter with a barrel of fish, just as Michiganders started with a pork or beef. To his dying day Dad could eat fish three times a day. He especially liked boiled fish.
A Sunday jaunt meant a walk to the bay. Once when the little boys litered behind, the father found them whittling. He took the knife away and said, “Boys, din ye know it’s the Sabbath?”
Hay Cochrane’s first wife died childless by drowning and when Hay was about 40 years old he married 19-year old Margaret (Manzie) Harriman. Margaret’s father, Sam Harriman, was a well-educated American from Maine, a “blue-nosed Yankee.” My father told with pride of his “fine library of books.” He was a mill owner. Margaret’s father [Sam Harriman] and husband [Hay Cochrane] may have been about the same age. It is thought Sam Harriman was related to the “Railroad” Harriman’s because about 1900 a genealogical questionnaire came to Henry and Estella Cochrane which they filled out and returned to New York.
Margaret Harriman Cochrane’s mother was French and English, doubtless Catholic and Anglican religious backgrounds. Her grandmother, Henry’s great-grandmother, could speak very little English. That redoubtable old lady used to care for four little Cochrane boys under six years, occasionally. She ruled with a little switch and would say in French, “Will you ever do this again?” The four little boys would all reply in English, “Yes, grandmamma,” and she would switch them on their bare legs till they danced. As they grew older they learned enough French to say “Yes” at the right time.
Margaret was one of a large family of girls and two boys: Electa, Eleska, Margaret, Melina, Jane, Ann, Sam, John.
The Cochranes were staunch Presbyterians and, oddly, Highlanders. The origin of the story standing to pray came from the bitter strife Highland Catholic Scots who attacked praying Lowland Presbyterians, thus they stood ready for action. I can remember my father kneeling to pray, however, in the privacy of his room, attired for bed in his long red underwear. He did not join my Methodist mother in church but lived and died a Presbyterian, without benefit of church until his later years he could drive a car to town, twelve miles from home.
Margaret and Hay Cochrane were married about 20 years when she died at age 39 of pneumonia, having borne eleven children, two named Robert who died in infancy, and eight ranging in age from 1 ½ to 19 years. Her life span was from 1844 to March 17, 1883. Following are the children: Bill, Sam, Henry, John, Grace, Manzie, Jennie, Robert (the third). [Doesn’t add up to 11 somehow]
Schooling for the Cochranes was very sketchy. In the first place, it was a three mile walk to school and secondly, schools were not free. After the mother died the father could not afford tuition to send them. My father attended a year or so and was in the third grade when he quit. He taught himself to write at home. One brother and sister never learned to read.
The Grand Cascapedia River was famous for salmon fishing but fishing was prohibited to any but the gentry, including the Governor General of Quebec. A brother-in-law to be, Bob Harrison, husband of Manzie made most of his living for many years “poling the gentlemen.” The “catch” would be taken to the post office and given away according to the size of the families. This sister, Manzie, was the mother of 12 children and died in 1958 having lived in the same community all her life.
At age 14 my father, Henry, as had Bill before him, was apprenticed to a blacksmith in New Richmond, “a very good but strict master.” About the time his mother died a horse rolled on him while he was shoeing it, and splintered his left knee bone. He spent a year and one half in bed. Doctors were too far away and too expensive. Finally, an Indian woman succeeded in getting his leg to heal but with a stiff knee. Splintered bone kept working out. During his bedfast days he took up knitting for the large family and in later life taught my mother some knitting tricks.
This accident was to color all his life. However, he went back to finish learning his trade and became a fine mechanic and blacksmith and wood worker. He was a diffident, reserved person, careful not to get his feelings hurt but taking great pride in his work. He was a quiet enthusiast of fishing. In his youth he learned to use snowshoes and in later years used skis to travel over deep snow, until he sprained his ankle because of his disability. He took up the fiddle, by ear, and with sister Grace, chording on the organ, played for square dances. As a child I used to love to hear him whistle. The family’s love of music evidently was inspired by the father, Hay, and his brother who were both “fiddlers.”
During most of his life his leg needed to be dressed ever day and finally several times a day from an oozing ulcer. He was subject to erysipelas. During his first few years of marriage it remained healed. He was very taciturn about his condition. If anyone asked about how his leg became stiff, he did not answer. His children never questioned him. It was a taboo subject and they knew it.
About 1887 when Henry was 21 the father, Hay Cochrane, and all of the family, except Manzie, who remained in Grand Cascapedia and married at 16 [to Robert Harrison, above], emigrated to Michigan. An older brother, Sam, had first succumbed to the lure of the Pine, and returned to the family. Bill, the oldest, had been in a lumber camp in the Georgian Bay area and joined them.
They lived in Alpena for a time and worked in mills. The father, Hay, died at age 76 in 1892 of dysentery. (1816 to August 221, 1892) The youngest brother, Bob, a baby when his mother died, had become deaf at 18 months from scarlet fever. As a boy of 11 he was carrying hot dinners to the brothers in the mill. He could not hear the whistle blow when the machines started up at the end of the noon hour. He was caught in a belt and his right arm was mangled and had to be amputated. Upon recovery he was sent to Michigan School for the Deaf in Flint and remained until he was 21, the latter years as janitor. He spent a dozen years with the Henry Cochranes, as much with the Bill Cochrane family in the Soo, traveled a few years selling extracts and in his later years was grounds keeper at the Alpena County Home. He was always proud of the fact that he could work almost as well with one hand as most men with two. He died at 72 of a heart attack. When he lived with the Henry Cochranes, my brothers and I learned to spell words with our hands and talk sign language.
As Bill, Sam, John, Grace, and Jennie married they lived on farms in Long Rapids Township, Alpena County. In winter the men worked in lumber camps. My father was camp blacksmith and spent late hours keeping horses and oxen shod for the slippery roads. Hauling the timber was done any time from 2:00 a.m. on before the sun melted the ice.
Camps were 60 to 100 to 200 men. In one of the big camps he told of class consciousness. The dividing line in the huge bunkhouse was between the clean and the unclean.(lousy) and no one stepped across without benefit of brawl. During this time someone learned that Hay, as he was now called, could fiddle. A collection was taken up and when the tote team went to Alpena for supplies a fiddle came back. An orchestra, never duplicated, resulted. Wires strung between ceiling beams made a giant bass fiddle, zylophone, or what have you. Mouth organs, jew’s harps, improvised drums and triangles added to the harmony. Sundays, after wash day activities, were symphonies of delight. All of his camping experience was in Montmorency County on the north branch of Thunder Bay River. He spent one winter on “The Old Pack Farm” near Hillman.
In 1896 when Henry was 29, he and a partner, Ross Robertson, sought a new location and arrived in Wilson Township at the Postoffice of Dafoe, one half mile from my mother’s house. [Estelle Herron living with her mother Catherine Clark] They built a blacksmith shop and started a house. The shop burned and they lost valuable tools. Ross left; Henry bought him out, finished the house and built another shop. Then he turned to courting. On February 9, 1898 he and my mother, Estella Herron, were married in their own home, a rather neat feat in those days. It had been a leisurely courtship. First Henry “went with” her sister and then finally won Estella’s hand with her mother’s approval.
Five children were born in the next 18 years.
November 3, 1901
Married Arthur B. Mains
Nov. 24, 1903
d. May 2, 1931
Married Clara Lancaster
October 30, 1906
Married Murel Rabiteau
October 21, 1908
Married Louise Arlt
October 12, 1919
Married Marion La Vasser
By 1905 the restless Cochranes, except Henry, had left lower Michigan. Bill and family moved to the Upper Peninsula and finally settled in the Soo. Sam and his wife (Millie Dunford) and children, Mable and Frank, settled in Sand Pointe Idaho. John and Martha (McWhirter) ended their days together in Spokane Washington, and Grace died in British Columbia.
My father never again saw Sam, John, Grace or Manzie. During the last ten years of my father’s life, he and sister Jennie Loomis who had moved back to Long Rapids, were very friendly. Almost 25 years after the Bill Cochrane’s moved north we visited them at the Soo. The brothers, Bill and Henry, took the reunion quietly. Much of the time they sat on a bench by Bill’s shop and whittled. Sometimes they spoke; sometimes sat silent. They had one more visit before Bill died. The following year Henry and Jennie drove to the Soo to attend Bills’s funeral – a real achievement for an old man with a stiff knee and an old car, a distance of about 150 miles.
The trip to the Soo was the beginning of a fine friendship with two Cochrane cousins, Ann Beaudrie and Lillian Mende. Lil and husband Alger and family and the Mains family have become kissing cousins and some of our happiest vacations have been spent at Chub Lake, Ontario in fishing, blueberrying, and gayety. This lake is in the Mississaugi Valley, northeast of the Soo. We spent half a dozen vacations together and still yearn for more.
From 1896 to 1914 my father operated his blacksmith shop, working ten or more hours a day, making three dollars a day in times when one dollar was the going wage. He built sleighs, set tires on wagon wheels, shod horses, repaired farm machinery, and was available whenever something broke. He had a secret formula for “setting” stone hammers with which stone houses were built. He was an expert welder and cabinet maker. He prided himself on fine workmanship. He never raised his prices. All of his boys “cut their teeth on hammer handles” and learned many a fine point from their father. In early years I took my nap in a pile of shavings when Mother went to town.
A growing family was expensive so mother decided to help. One of her ventures was “keeping store” in an unused front bedroom that had a convenient front entrance separate from our other front door. We children ate crackers from a barrel and helped ourselves to candy. That lasted three years. The enterprise provided our groceries at cost.
Another time mother had a project. She raised a dozen geese. They became large and fat and hissed. Time came to reap the profit. With Dad’s help she strung them up on a beam with their feet tied together. Dad slit their jugulars and as they dripped, head down they followed us children with sad eyes. Mother, the practical one, with great urgency was stripping down into a big bag for pillows. Finally, I could stand it no longer and tried to push her away, crying softly and sorrowfully. I can remember her nervous exasperation as she said, “Get out of here!”
We lived on about an acre, part of which was bog. On it were a house, shop, lumber pile, and barn. Mother had a love for gardening so the next venture involved raising some sheep on a rented place and making enough money to buy a 40 acre farm. Grandma [Catherine Link Herron Clark] had given us a pet sheep. Mother “put it out to double” and kept “putting it out to double” until she had 30 sheep. She sold the sheep for $12.00 apiece and made a $360.00 down payment. My dad agreed to help finish the payments. The farm was a mile and a quarter away so we traveled back and forth in summer by horse and buggy, gardened and milked the cows. Summers were one big camping spree for us children. Eventually we moved there and added another 80 acres.
My father was always a quiet reserved man. His speech in early years was flavored with local “Canadianisms,” ile, bile, kittle. He lost these but he never lost a few momentoes of camp terminology. He always asked for the “push,” the man of the house. When he fired a man on rare occasions he told him to “pack his turkey.” “Hardtack” was poor food. If things went “haywire” they were broken or disarranged. “Cant hooks” were tools to be repaired. He could “scale” a piece of lumber, that is, tell the number of board feet a log contained. He was an expert at figures and could make split second estimates. However, from his camp days he retained no rough language. I never heard him swear.
When I was about 12 my father lost a finger in a planning mill as I was pushing boards through to him. He shut off the engine, grasped his finger and walked to the house. The doctor gave him chloroform and he sang a Gaelic song while coming out of anesthetic. He could never repeat that song.
After he got his second papers for citizenship, of which he was very proud, he became Justice of the Peace. During that time he performed two marriages. For nine years he was Township Clerk. He was Master of the Grange. He was on the local school board for many years. For ten years in his 60’s he was secretary and trustee of the Township School Board. During the last ten years of his life, before his health failed, he was a 4H Leader. His clubs were cabinet making and wood working. He taught boys respect and use of his fine tools. Good sharp tools had meant his livelihood and he treated them well.
In 1916, when my Dad was 50, he sold his blacksmith shop and we moved permanently to the small farm which my mother, brothers, and various “hired hands” operated. He worked at the “Shale Bed,” a subsidiary of the Huron Portland Cement Company. It was less than a mile from our home. My father was the machine repair man there for 14 years. It was before the days of Social Security or big unions. He lost his job at the beginning of the Depression in 1930 just before retirement age.
About 1916 the Automobile Age caught up with the Cochranes. They purchased their first car, a second-hand Oakland. A salesman drove it out from Alpena. My father was sure he could never manipulate a car, so my 12 year old brother, Lee, much to my disgust, received the first and only driving lesson. We rode a mile and back. From then on we were on our own. That summer I exerted the prerogative of my 14 years and with my brothers Lee, Oran, and Bob drove the car in and out of the barn floor until they and I could steer it. The two younger boys were nine and seven. Lee and I took turns taking my father to and from work. I went in the ditch three times. Turning a corner too fast but we all lived through it. Ten years later my father, to his great satisfaction and comfort, learned to drive a Model T Coupe.
Farming by remote control, as my father did, presented many problems. He would lay out jobs each evening with the boys for the next day. They drove teams and used machinery as soon as their legs were long enough. Donald drove a tractor when he was eight for by that time he was the only child at home. My brothers and I rode the horses bareback. On one occasion Oran fell off and had a tooth knocked out as the horse stepped over him. Sometimes a horse and cultivator would stand at the end of a row of potatoes for an hour while three boys followed their own pursuits. In spite of this one summer the group of 8, 10, 13, and 15 year olds “took off” several acres of hay. Occasionally a load would topple before reaching the barn but while the horses munched it would be reloaded.
The only outing with Dad that I remember was planned the summer of 1914. We borrowed a tent, baked a crock of beans and a few pies and with home made bread and other goodies loaded a wagon and drove to Hubbard Lake, a distance of 15 miles. We camped two nights and cooked the best fish I ever ate. Mother stayed home to do the chores.
Mother tried her hand at bee keeping about this time. We ate honey until we itched with hives. The bee hives were kept in an orchard and the dropping apples made the bees more ill-tempered than usual. When bees swarmed we always tried to capture them. It was thought that ringing cowbells would get them to cluster. Mother would be arrayed in net and gloves and shake the bees into a hive. Once a cluster fell inside her net and almost stung her to death. Dad saved her with wet clay.
In 1919 when I was eighteen I was teaching a country school near my home. That year our youngest brother, Donald, was born the day after my father’s 53rd birthday. My mother was 40. The other boys were 16, 13, and 11 so, in turn, Donald was petted, bossed, teased, ignored, and loved by the elders in the family. By the time Donald was ten, three of us were married and all had been away from home for several years. What a different life than the rest of us.
Mother interestedly saw him through grade school and high school. In the long winter evenings they played flinch and dominoes. He tagged at Dad’s heels and learned to help in the blacksmith shop and use tools. From the time Donald was 11 Dad worked at home instead of at the Shale Bed. He had a year of college in Alpena and a year of teaching. In his 21st year Dad died. Shortly, Don married and the last child had left the home ties.
In the early days Dad wore a handle bar mustache. In his wedding picture it is waxed and pointed. Mother was always his barber and as the style changed she kept his mustache neatly trimmed. His hair thinned and greyed but he was never bald.
The last 22 years of my father’s life were lived on mother’s Old Farm Home, the original Herron farm or rather 80 acres of it. He bought it in 1918 shortly before Grandma Clark’s [Catherine Link Herron Clark] death. My mother, brothers, and hired men plus Dad’s help, when not at the Shale Bed, provided the labor needed for raising crops, berries, livestock, and getting out timber and fuel. It meant a great responsibility and much hard work for my mother. Two of her diversions were the Home Economics Club and the Ladies Aid of which she was president for ten years. That may have started her quilting hobby.
My father prided himself that even during the Depression Era when Scrip and Barter were the only economic results he was always able to pay his taxes. Work on the land was always extra effort for him but wherever he lived he always had a shop and continued blacksmithing as long as he was able. The family was sure that no one had ever seen the bottom of his money pouch.
In 1934, with four little girls 2, 4, 5, and 6, the Mains’ purchased their first house trailer and spent summers at the Farm. Some of those summers, eight in all, we all picked strawberries and Dad and Mother went to town each day to sell the crop. At the end of the season, if they had done especially well, they would celebrate with a bottle of orange pop and an ice cream cone apiece. And speaking of treats, Mother always bought some fancy buns and, in season, Dad specialized in watermelon or a basket of Concord grapes. When I was a little girl and made an all day trip to town with the horse and buggy we always had bologna and crackers on the way home.
My husband, Arthur Mains, learned to fish on the Lower South Branch of Thunder Bay River. Dad would pilot the boat for him on Sundays. One time he cast a hook into Dad’s ear but Dad never became excited. One year they had a boat in partnership; Arthur furnished the material and Dad built it in his shop. He loved that boat.
My mother has said that her best year was her 60th. Dad was 72 then. They were alone on the farm and both interested in 4H Clubs, Mother specializing in nature study in the summer. During school time she taught little girls to crochet and big girls to make aprons and tea towels. That summer they visited every park in the county. They would pack a lunch and start off early on Sunday morning “before anyone came.” Dad helped Mother work on points for a State Conservation project. She came in second in the State.
The last five years of his life his health was very poor. Never, however, unless driven to it did Dad ever go to a doctor – once when he lost a finger in a planning mill and occasionally for injuries. He always thought a doctor would take one look at him and amputate his leg. Before his death on January 2, 1941 he was bedridden and suffered a hemorrhage of his leg which caused his death.
Our last trip to the farm was in 1941 when our son, Richard, was almost two, the summer after my father died. My mother sold the farm the next year and has spent most of each year in Dearborn since, returning to Alpena for the summer months.
My father was and undemonstrative but fond proud parent. He was always lenient, never demanding. I always respected him. Mine must have been a “permissive” childhood. I always felt “very special.” My best was taken for granted.
Additional family stories could be added, such as the departure from New Richmond: from Bill Cochrane’s memory this: “We left the old home with the clock ticking on the wall. We got up, had breakfast, and walked away without looking back.” Henry’s story of leaving Canada told of the trip thusly: ”We took a boat to Campbelltown where I first saw electric lights. We went by train and boat to Niagara and then by boat to Alpena. It was my first sight of a train.”
Another quotation: “When Henry’s leg was crushed a horse doctor set it. Going to Quebec City, 400 miles away was out of the question. The Indian woman who succeeded in getting it to heal used steeped herbs.”
A family story tells that as boys they pounded barley into coarse meal or flour in a “hollowed-out stump with a churn-dash mallet.” From their French background they sang a “work song” as the pounded.
Pile, pile, pile l’orge (Peel la, etc. l’orge
Pile, pile, pile, le! Peel la, etc. lay)
Pound, pound, pound the barley
Crush, crush, crush it!
A cousin from Grand Cascapedia contributed this: “The Cochranes came from Scotland in the early 1800’s. They do not belong to any clan of a number but have their own private tartan, which is rather pretty and is handwoven.”
And so, each one who reads this tale has his own wonderfully interesting story to tell – each one different, and each one helping to make him what he is.
It is 92 years since my father was born and my mother will soon be 80. Their lives have touched the pioneer period and the beginning of the space age. From ox team to Mother’s first airplane flight to Florida in 1950 could be a symbol of the era encompassing the lives of Henry and Estella Cochrane.
I have presented this as nearly to the text of the original test written by Lorraine Cochrane Mains as my typing skills allow. The original copy I used is in my aunt, Kay LaCombe’s possession. I believe that the copies that were distributed were all individually typed. I don’t know if Mrs. Mains typed each one personally or if she made an arrangement with someone else to type them from a master copy. Given the difficulty I had preparing this one using a computer word processor, I am all the more impressed with the efforts she put forward.
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