This is the second in a series of stories on the pioneering families of Minden.
The name Prentice is synonymous with Minden.
Many are familiar with Tom Prentice and Sons a local multigenerational trucking grading and excavating company but the Prentice family’s relationship with Minden goes back much further.
Hailing from Lanarkshire Scotland the Prentices first settled in Carluke a community near Hamilton Ont. in the mid-19th century.
John Prentice and his wife Christina who’d married in 1856 would move to nearby Alberton in 1873 where according to a memoir written by one of their sons Alexander they ran a general store and post office until 1878.
Feeling the effects of an economic depression and with the Canadian government offering incentives and encouraging people to settle in Haliburton County the Prentices headed north.
“It was the year 1878 when father my brother John and I ‘Sandy’ as that was my nickname . . . left Alberton near Hamilton on a Monday morning” Alexander wrote. “We loaded all the heavy things on a hayrack not a covered wagon that we read about the people trekking in the olden days on the Oregon Trail. We arrived at Minden on Saturday. This area was to be our new home.
“From Minden we drove north up the Bobcaygeon Road with our mind centred on the junction. We knew the four townships of Anson and Hindon on the west side of the road and Minden and Stanhope on the east side of the road cornered at the junction. And later it was from this point we began the work of cutting out the old Peterson Road to the west as far as lots four and five Concession 1 Hindon which father had taken up as a homestead.”
The Prentices were trustees of the Bethany Congregation Methodist Church also known as “the Prentice chapel” along the Bobcaygeon Road. The small wooden building that constituted the church was later moved farther down the road and is today part of a small grey house near Bobcaygeon Road’s intersection with the Scotch Line.
John also sat on council for several years.
When they left Alberton in 1878 the Prentices had 10 children. The eldest Catherine was already married and did not make the trek to Minden. The Prentices’ 11th and final child a girl named Jessie born in 1880 was the only one born in Haliburton County.
The other children were Alexander Angus John Lindsay Andrew Christina John Lee (yes two of the sons were named John) William Thomas and Duncan.
Most of the children eventually moved away some ending up in the United States. Alexander for instance is buried in Willamina Ore.
Jim Black is the grandson of Jessie the youngest of the 11 Prentice children who would eventually leave the county. After Black’s father died in 1945 he lived with his grandparents in Sharon Ont. before going on to live in Markham where he worked as an elementary school teacher.
Throughout his life Black made trips to Haliburton County.
“I grew up coming here to [Prentice] family reunions” he explains.
Retired Black and his wife Carole have a home in Gravenhurst and a cottage on Little Boshkung Lake.
Black who’s passionate and knowledgeable about the family’s history feels as though his life has come full-circle in some way.
“We’re maybe five kilometres from where my grandmother was born” Black says standing in the kitchen of his Little Boshkung Lake cottage.
Black marvels at the resilience and steadfastness of his Prentice relatives who carved a life for themselves out of the land around Minden.
“Because I live here in 21st century Canada . . . how tough life was for these people . . . how they even survived” he says. “They had no electricity. They had no automobiles.”
While many of the 11 Prentice children moved away from Minden at least three stayed – William Thomas and Duncan.
As Black explains Duncan learned stone masonry from his father and helped construct a number of stone buildings in the county. Some of them are still standing including a schoolhouse on the Queen’s Line and one along Highway 35 at Miners Bay which Duncan constructed with Joseph Valentine in 1906.
Tragically Duncan was killed in a sawmill accident in 1909.
Thomas Calder Prentice also stayed in Minden living in a house that still stands today beside St. Paul’s Anglican Church along Invergordon Avenue.
In 1900 Thomas married Jennie Pritchard.
Thomas Calder Prentice was the grandfather of downtown shop owner Sinclair Russell.
William would also go on to live most of his life in Haliburton County. He was the grandfather of Tom Prentice Sr.
Living in the house at the corner of Invergordon Avenue and Bobcaygeon that today houses Suwan’s Thai Cuisine the entrepreneurial William operated an automotive business out of the building that is now home to the Grill on the Gull.
“He had a garage there and sold GM products” Tom says.
As Tom explains it was also William who essentially began what is today the family business.
“My grandfather started a livery business” Tom says. “In a roundabout way it predated me.”
In 1925 William bought a truck another in 1928.
“That truck was the first truck to plow from Halls Lake to Dorset” Tom says.
William would eventually retire near Pine Springs.
Tom’s father Duncan (named for William’s late brother) and his uncle continued trucking and in 1968 “I bought one of his trucks loader and a road grader” Tom says. While that may have marked the technical start of what is now Prentice and Sons the company’s fleet of vehicles proudly proclaim that trucking has been a family tradition since 1925.
“My boys are running the business now” says Tom making them the fourth generation of Prentice truckers in Minden.
When John and Christina Prentice Tom’s great grandparents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1906 40 guests signed an address presented to them at the party.
“Mr. and Mrs. Prentice” the address reads “When you came to the county it was most part virgin forests accessible only in the winter the haunt of the deer the bear and the howling wolves. You have seen the forest disappear year by year the land cleared for cultivation and the forest wealth given to the people by a bountiful and all-wise creator go down our streams rivers and lakes to the great centres of trade and commerce of the county. Instead of the rude shanty erected to shelter the settler and his family we now have on the most part fine commodious dwellings with the comforts of life and many of the luxuries as well. Instead of the log houses and log barns of former days we now have in many places fine houses and good bank barns commodious enough to hold the entire crop for the year and furnish shelter for the farmer’s herds and flocks.
“Not a few of these you and your sons have built while your ample staples stand as a constant invitation to your many friends who pass up and down the road. Your modest but well-furnished home is known to every resident of the rough country. More than one generation of travellers has taken shelter under your hospitable roof and have been fed from Mrs. Prentice’s ample store of provisions always kept in readiness for the hungry and way-worn traveller making his way over the awful hills lakes and valleys of this interminable wilderness of the North known as Bobcaygeon Road.
“In a public capacity you have been willing supporters of the school the church in this neighbourhood while your home has been the regular stopping place for the minister and teacher. Mr. Prentice has borne his share of the township burdens for a score of years until failing health obliged him to give up his place at the council board so long and honourably held.”
John Prentice died on April 23 1909 and Christina just more than three years later on Sept. 1 1912. By that time they had some 30 grandchildren spread throughout the continent.
The Prentices and many of their descendants are buried in the Minden cemetery along Bobcaygeon Road.