Sunday, November 12, 2006


This posting may not be of much interest to the general public as they are part of a series about houses that will justify the name "Prairie Mary." They are family houses -- at first my ancestors, then my birth and growing-up house, and then the whole sequence of places I've lived until now.

About the turn of the century (1900?) Archibald Strachan came from Kilmarnock, Scotland, with his wife, two daughters (Jean and Jessie) and one son, Samuel. In the United States a fourth son, Thomas, was born. Archibald had the idea that he wanted to homestead on the prairie, to be a man of the land. He was a fine carpenter and was leaving a comfortable life, but he had Jeffersonian ideas about what was important. In Scotland he would probably never own land. He settled in Faulkton, South Dakota.

When in the summer of 2002 Gene Strachan (younger son of Thomas) arrived in Valier, Montana, to look at the family albums my father (oldest son of Samuel) had kept, this was the photo he most wanted to see. He remembered this house, but it was so atypical he couldn’t quite come to terms with the memory. I've certainly never seen one like it. He said it was a terrible house for cold in winter with all those windows and before modern insulated glass. Archibald must have been a man who loved light. There appears to be only one masonry chimney in the middle of the house but we don’t know what kind of stove or furnace it vents.

Neither is there any way to tell how the space inside was divided, but I’m betting that it was like my Valier house: four rooms up and four rooms down (except that I have no “up.”) It’s unclear whether there is indoor plumbing or electricity. I see neither wires nor outhouses. No woodpile. No trees.

When Sam and Beulah Strachan and their four teenaged children decided to leave Faulkton in order to homestead in Canada, they stopped at this house to tell it goodbye. Note the “bumpout” with windows on the front, which created a small porch screened and decorated with jigsaw Victorian trim. The house is not quite so well-maintained as I would guess it was when Archibald was young. I’m not even sure any of the Strachans were living there when this photo was taken.

Archibald later made a name for himself when he was hired to do wood paneling and other trim inside the "Pickler House," which counted as a mansion in those days. Not only did Archibald do the woodwork, but also he had made all his own tools. The house is quite famous. Google will bring it up. Archibald became miserably cranky in his last years, possibly due to strokes as that seems to be a family pattern. He had been living with the Sam Strachans, but had to be asked to leave. He died in a single-room-occupancy hotel in Minneapolis. Sam went to collect the body and bring it back to Faulkton for burial, though Sam's family was in Canada by then. It may have been Sam's share of Archibald's estate that helped the Sam Strachans to move to Oregon.

SAMUEL STRACHAN was born in Nova Scotia (18??) and Married Jessie Mitchell.

Archibald Mitchell Strachan
Annie Strachan
Thomas Strachan (died in a train wreck in Australia)
George Strachan
Jessie Strachan married an Ingram
John Strachan
Maggie Strachan married Peter Monie

Archibald Mitchell Strachan (b. June 17, 1850 in Stevenson, Scotland -- d. June 6, 1926 in Minneapolis, MN)
MARRIED July 25, 1873, in Kilmarnock, Scotland
Catharine Welsh (b. Jan 10, 1852, in Kilmarnock, Scotland -- d. Oct. 1918 in Purcell, Oklahoma) (Her father was Thomas Welsh, her mother was Jeannie Gillis)
Samuel S. Strachan (He was given no middle name and chose the middle initial "S.")
Jean Gillis Strachan
Jessie Mitchell Strachan
Thomas Welch Strachan


Anonymous said...

I have even more questions than you wrote, Mary. I am confused. I only see one photo, which looks to have been taken about 1912-1914; but, the text reads as though I should possibly see a more recent photo, too. Or maybe, Sam & Beulah left for Canada earlier than my mind's eye sees?

Is the chimney truly in the center of the house? If so, it might accommodates a coal stove in the kitchen and another stove (coal, oil, wood?) in the living room that is probably back-to-back with the kitchen. As the home builder was a carpenter, we should expect built- in cabinets (up high) for dishes in the kitchen and for books in the living room? Well, so much for guessing; but, as you well know, most houses were pretty much standardized, on a very practical floor-plan, in those days.

The Mansard style is unusual to my eye; but, as you say, the floor plan is probably four up and four down (no heat source upstairs). The outhouse is probably far enough away that it isn't in the photo; but, I would expect a hand pump to a well (that could be switched to a rain-water-containment cistern) in the kitchen and, perhaps, a chain-driven hand pump to a well on the "back" porch.

Thanks for the posting. It gave me exercise!
Cop Car

prairie mary said...

The photo was taken in 1919, according to the back, just as Sam & Beulah left for Manitoba. The next post will be their homestead shack and the house they finally built, which is quite conventional. I think maybe I should include some people photos.

I need software for handling my photos that is better than what I have. My Photoshop is antique and turns the computer to mud because of having to operate in "Classic" mode. But as near as I can tell, the chimney is in the center. I agree that stoves or fireplaces are probably backed. Wood is a silly thing to burn in South Dakota, so I'm thinking coal.

It looks to me as though the road is where the two cars are -- there is no turnaround or driveway that comes into the yard -- and maybe all the auxiliary structures: coal shed, outhouse, clotheslines, and so on are off to the left, out of the picture. Granary? Hay barn? There's not even a fence. No lawn. No garden, either flower or vegetable.

No living person remembers this house. Gene died within months of being here. His "back trouble" turned out to be stomach cancer.

Prairie Mary

Anonymous said...

Like you, I thought wood would not be a viable heating source in that area; but, I also noted that the house seems to have been built of lumber! (Well, he was a carpenter!) I'm wondering about the material from which the Mansard is formed. Metal? Surely not tar paper. Well, you've brought up some great questions for us to mull on. How sad about Gene's condition. You must have been shocked when you heard the worst.
Cop Car

Cowtown Pattie said...

As an avid armchair, and theoccasional traveling geneaologist, this sort of thing really interests me. I am a sucker for stories of family lore!

prairie mary said...

One intrepid blogger at "Karbon Kounty Moos" is actually documenting cemetaries with both photos and short bits of copy. They are quite absorbing -- small cities full of stories!

Prairie Mary