From the book "The Valley of the Lower Thames 1640 to 1850", (Fred Coyne Hamil, 1951).  
. . . A more progressive settlement was that of the Block Concession in Howard, a strip of land between the second and third concessions from the river. Here John McKinley, Archibald McBrain, and William Atkinson had settled in 1831, William McKecher in 1833, and Henry Symington in 1834. By 1837 each had a good log house and barn and from 19 to 33 acres under improvement.
 
From the book "Commemorative Biographical Record of the County of Kent", (J.H. Beers & Co., 1904).
Thomas Atkinson, one of the most prominent and substantial farmers of County Kent, and a worthy representative of one of its oldest pioneer families, was born on his present farm in Concession 2, Range 3, Howard township, Dec. 26, 1844, son of William and Sarah (Spence) Atkinson, natives of Yorkshire, England.

William born 1798, and his wife 1803 came to Dominion as early as 1832, accepting a grant from the English government, through Colonel Talbot, the tract being the same upon which their son Thomas resides in so much comfort and prosperity. The hardships and privations endured by these early settlers can scarcely be appreciated by the younger generation. Many of them as in this case, had left comfortable homes in too thickly settled regions, and the courage it required to settle down in a log cabin, in the great woods, in a foreign land, causes an admiration to spring up in every breast. At the time of their settlement Mr. Atkinson was obliged to carry his grain on his back a long distance to have it ground at a crude mill, which has been erected by the Arnolds on the river Thames. He and his wife laboured together to make here a comfortable home, their first rude log house being supplanted in time by a more compact one, made of hewed logs, where they lived the balance of their lives, Mr. Atkinson passing away Nov. 5, 1876, and his widow in November, 1883. He had cleared up a large portion of his farm, and became one of the prosperous farmers of the neighbourhood. Both he and his wife were consistent members of the Church of England. Politically, Mr. Atkinson was a strong Reformer. The children born to William Atkinson and wife were:

1. Christopher, born in England, came in boyhood to Canada, and after his marriage to Katie McDonald, of Harwich township, settled on a part of his father's farm, where he made excellent improvements, but later removed to Big Rapids, State of Michigan, where he died, leaving a widow and five children, John, William, Edward (of Detroit, Michigan), Christopher (of Dawn, Canada), and Catherine (wife of James Cahey, who lives on the lake shore in Canada).

2. Mary, born in England, married Albert Mayne, who settled in Howard for a time, but later moved to Michigan where both died, leaving four children - Sophronia, Algina, Minerva and Sarah, all of Michigan.

3. Robert, born in England, married Mary A. Wilson and settled on Concession 3, where he died; his wife died in Ridgetown.

4. Isabella, born on present homestead in Canada, married Leslie Griffith and died in their home in Michigan where he still resides with his children - Leslie & Sarah.

5. Jane, born in Canada, married Daniel McCavish, who died in Harwich township, and she married (second) Samuel McKay, of Chatham.

6. John, born on present home, married Jane Thompson, of Howard, and they settled near his father, on the Scane side road, where both died.

7. William, born in 1837 died in young manhood in June, 1863.

8. James died in childhood.

9. Thomas completed the family.

Thomas Atkinson, the youngest, received but a limited education in the Howard schools, the most of his time being given to the necessary work on the farm. On Feb. 1, 1871, he was united in marriage with Mary A. Campbell, who was born 1848, daughter of John Campbell, one of the honoured old pioneers of the county. After marriage Mr. Atkinson built a fine home on the old Atkinson homestead, which he purchased after the death of his father, and here he has made many and substantial improvements in addition to placing the land under a fine state of cultivation. He is a practical and thorough farmer, and owns one of the most valuable estates in this vicinity. A family of eight children has gladdened his home, and although many bereavements have come, he still has the care of a part of them, and little grandchildren now climb up on his knees. The names of this family were:

1. Isabella married Richard Jewell, and resides on Concession 5, Howard; she has 2 children, Arthur and Ethel.

2. Katie Laurie died in childhood.

3. Miss Maggie is at home, as is also

4. Miss Alice, both cultivated and most estimable ladies.

5. Willard, unmarried, ably manages the home farm, and is one of the wide-awake, intelligent and progressive young farmers of the vicinity.

6. Annie E., born in 1882, died in 1883.

7. Ray, born in 1885, died in 1886.

8. Thomas, born in 1889, is a bright student in the local schools.

The family is religiously connected with the Presbyterian Church, and take an active part in its work. Politically, Mr. Atkinson has always been identified with the Reform Party. He is a man who stands high in the esteem of the community, and is widely known for his excellent judgment, his sterling character and good citizenship.

 
Allan Atkinson, a worthy descendant of one of the old and highly respected families of County Kent, is one of the prosperous farmers of Howard township, and is located on Lot 15, 7th Concession. Much of his success in life is owing to his own energy and perseverance. Mr. Atkinson was born on his father's farm on Concession 3, Howard township, a son of Robert and Mary A. (Wilson) Atkinson. William Atkinson, of Yorkshire, England, father of Robert and grandfather of Allan, came to Canada in 1830, and settled on Lot 5, in Howard township, County Kent, where he cleared up a home from the woods living until he was able to enjoy some of the fruits of his labour. At his death he left five sons and four daughters. These were: Christopher, deceased; Robert; John, formerly of Howard; William, who died in young manhood; Thomas, who lives on the old homestead; Ann, wife of Peter French, of Chatham township; Mary, wife of Albert Mains, of the State of Michigan; Isabel, wife of Ethley Griffith, of the State of Michigan; and Jane, wife of Daniel McTavish, of Harwich township.

Robert Atkinson was born in England in 1830, but was reared in Howard township, County Kent, and assisted his father in the exhausting work of clearing up a farm in the wilderness. He was of athletic build, and was noted for his skill with a woodsman's axe. In 1856 he married Mary A. Wilson, daughter of John and Susan Wilson, who came from England to Canada in 1810, and settled on the River Thames. Mr. Wilson took part in the war of 1812, and also in that of 1836. After the close of the war of 1812, he settled in Howard, on Concession 7, on lands which Allan Atkinson now owns, buying 400 acres in one tract. Here he erected a log house and a barn, and made the necessary improvements for comfortable living. He was one of the typical pioneers, whose brawny muscle and constant industry helped to make the township what it is today. His wife died here in 1872, and he two years later, leaving children as follows: Mary A., the mother of Mr. Atkinson of this record; Hannah, the wife of Nixon Kennedy, of the State of Michigan; Lizzie, deceased, wife of Chester Gage, of Michigan; Maggie, deceased; Sarah, wife of Justin Joeseph, of Dover, County of Kent; and Stephen, the only son, residing at London, Ontario.

Robert Atkinson settled on the 4th Concession, Lot 7, in Howard township, where he bought and cleared a large farm, erected comfortable and substantial buildings, and lived in comfort during his life, his death occurring in 1885, After his death, his widow removed to Ridgetown where she passed away in 1888. Both parents were consistent members of the Church of England. In politics Mr. Atkinson was a member of the Conservative party. They left a family of nine children.

1. William, born in 1859, in Howard, married Sarah Watson, of Ridgetown, and they now reside in Manitoba; their children are: Grace, John and Irene.

2. Susan, born in 1861, is the wife of John McBrain, of Howard, a farmer of Concession 6; they have two children, Ida and Adelia.

3. John married Mary A. Mitton, and they reside in Howard; their children are: Robert, Wilber, Flora and Nora.

5. Sarah, born in 1864, is the wife of Albert Kennedy, and they reside in the city of Detroit, where he is the chief engineer of the Union depot; their two children are: Robert and Julia.

6. James W., born in 1867, married and settled in Detroit, his wife, formerly Alma Shaw, dying there, leaving one son, Roy.

7. Julia, born 1870, is the wife of Thomas Inches, a farmer of Howard.

8. Bertha, born 1872, is the wife of Alexander McBrain, a resident of Howard township, near Blenheim, and they have one son, Neil.

9. Mary E., born in 1876, is the wife of George Eaton, and they reside in Eden, Ont., and have three children.

Allan Atkinson is the fourth member of the above family, and his boyhood was passed in assisting on the farm and attending the district schools. Some years prior to his father's death, he became the manager and operator of the homestead farm. In 1888 he purchased his present farm from his brother, erected a most comfortable residence, drained and cleared thirty acres of the land, and now owns a very valuable piece of property, to which he has given careful and intelligent attention. To this home he brought his bride after marriage in May, 1888. She was Annie Morrel, of Brantford, born there in 1867, the eldest of a family of eleven children born to George and Alice Morrel, one of the old pioneer families of Canada. Mr. Morrel is a car builder and a skilled workman, now a resident of Detroit, connected with the Michigan Central Railroad. The children born to Mr. and Mrs. Atkinson are: Harry R., born in 1889; Frederick A., in 1891; Ethel, in 1893; W. Gordon, in 1896; Norman J., in 1897; and Frank I., in September, 1901. In politics Mr. Atkinson is much interested, and is Independent, and he is identified with the leading public movements in his township. Both he and wife belong to the order of the Home Circle of Ridgetown, and they are leading members of the Methodist Church.

 
From the book "Big Manitou Country 1905 - 1981 A history of the Districts", (Big Manitou Hist. Assn., 1981).
Allan and Annie Atkinson lived in Beechwood school district near Ridgetown, Ontario. In 1906, they left Ontario and moved to Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. They brought their seven children: Harry, Fred, Ethel, Gordon, Norman, Frank, and Annie (in order of their ages).

Allan came as far west as Lashburn, where he located a homestead, N. E. 10-46-26 W3, which he filed on that fall.

In the spring of 1907, they got a settler's car, along with Alf Elson and Erv Wilson, and moved the family to the homestead. The women and younger children were by passenger train; the men and older boys, seven of them, went in the settler's car. The Atkinsons had a team of horses and a cow, as well as some farm machinery. They had enough money to get by on, so Alf was able to build a lumber stack and break some land. He even harvested some oats that first year.

Their first shack was built with what they referred to as a "car roof". A ridge pole was put up, half inch lumber laid across it and nailed to the walls, making a curved roof to shed the rain. Two layers of half inch lumber were laid, splitting the joins, and often there was a layer of tarpaper between.

Harry Atkinson went to work on the Grand Trunk Railway construction, south of Manitou Lake. Later, he got a boring rig and dug wells. When Harry and Fred were old enough, they took up homesteads, too. Harry on S.W. of 14 and Fred N.W. 20-46-25 W3.

In 1909 the children were able to attend school again in the new Beechwood School. About this time, too, they a baby boy, David.

In 1911, Erv Wilson and Alf bought a steam engine and thrashing machine, one of the first in the district. The older boys worked on the thrasher and they got work through to Wycollar and towards what is now Neilburg. In 1914, Fred had the first crop on his homestead. Snow came early that fall and they used bobsleds to hall the sheaves to the machine. Pearl Wilson and Ethel cooked for the thrashing crew in a little shack just south of Fred's land. Then they went to cook for Sid Berry's threshing outfit. The threshing partnership lasted till 1917, with Gordon running the separator the last year.

In the spring of 1916, Fred got Rheumatic fever. He was in the Lashburn Hospital for some time, and when they couldn't do anything to help him, he was sent home. He became unconscious and died some time later. Fred's death was a great shock to everyone, as he was a favourite with them all. The family was never the same after his death. Alf had to go to the hospital in North Battleford and was only home once for a short time before he died. Annie, his wife, died a few years later.

Norman and Gordon Atkinson went overseas in World War I, but saw no action. Ethel and Frank ran the farm while they were away.

Harry married a teacher from near Waseca. He farmed Fred's land for awhile. He and Ivy lived in Roger's old log house. In 1919 they moved to Saskatchewan where he worked for T. M. Ball Lumber and Coal for a good many years. About 1935 they moved to Vancouver. They had one daughter Allie Kilgour, who lived north of Nanaimo. Harry died in the 1960's.

Ethel married Wally Marlatt, and they farmed west of Lashburn. They had no children. She died in her early fifties.

Gordon married Hilda Bexfield.

Frank learned plastering and worked at that trade here and after moving to Edmonton. He and his wife had several children. In his later years, he worked for the city checking building lots. He died in Edmonton.

Annie married Dave Wallace. They had a family. She ran a lunch counter at Woolworths for a few years. Later, she was a matron at a senior citizens' lodge in Burnaby, British Columbia. She has now retired and lives in Burnaby.

Davie married Florence Osland. They had one daughter, Darlene. Davie died in the 1940's.
 
Norman Atkinson was born in Ridgetown, Ontario in 1897. His family moved to Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. It was while they were living here that Norman was stricken with typhoid fever. By some miracle none of the rest of the family contracted it.

When he was nine years old, his family moved to the Beechwood district. This was in 1907. Beechwood school district had not been formed yet. Mr. Atkinson, Norman's father, was among the first homesteaders to vote for the school to be built. The school was named after the district in Ontario where they had lived. Norman was among the first pupils to start in Beechwood School. He obtained his education there.

Norman and his brothers all filed on homesteads, but he did not live on his. It was mostly pasture land. He lived at home, helping with the farm work until he joined the Army in World War I in 1918. He remained in Belgium for about two years after peace was declared, to help with the "cleanup" operations. His job was to help round up all the horses and care for them. When he was discharged from the Army, he went to Saskatoon to work. He stayed there for several years, working on farms and trucking. In later years he returned to the Neilburg, Lashburn and Marsden areas, where he worked for various farmers.

Norman liked to visit with his friends and old neighbours. He could always be counted on for a good game of cars, but woe betide the person who did not play "according to Hoyle"!

Norman used to stay many winters with Tom Wilson, before and after Tom was married. When Tom passed away, Norman helped Evelyn, Tom's wife, for that first winter.

Norman worked for Robert Graham, living in a house in their yard. When he retired, he continued to live there. He died suddenly in January, 1973 in his seventy-fifty year.
 
Gordon Atkinson (by Hilda Atkinson)

In 1923, I met Gordon Atkinson, who was born in Ridgetown, Ontario and had moved to Beechwood district in 1907. He had just been discharged from the Canadian Army. We both liked horseback riding very much and as that was the most popular mode of transportation in those days, we spent many hours riding. Our most popular entertainment was the country school dances, which were usually held every Friday night during the winter.

In the spring of 1924, Gordon and I were married in Lashburn, Saskatchewan. We had a small wedding reception at my home, followed by a wedding dance in Wells School. We could not afford a honeymoon at that time so we started our married life on the farm where Gordon was already established in the Beechwood district.

In the spring of 1923 our first baby girl, Eileen, was born. The summer of 1926, Gordon applied for a Soldier's Settlement quarter of land, which he was able to purchase north of Neilburg, two miles from Wells School, S.W. 27-45-26, West 3rd.

In December, 1926 or second daughter, Ethel was born and our son, Fred in the fall of 1928. We had a small two-room home with one bedroom and a kitchen-living room combined. Later we built a small lean-to bedroom for the girls.

Gordon liked to garden so we had two large gardens. One was mainly fruits such as strawberries, rhubarb, raspberries, apples, plums, currants, both red and black and gooseberry bushes. Nearly all our food was grown on our farm except for a few staples such as sugar, tea, coffee, etc. We ground our own wheat for cereal, killed our own beef and chickens for meat and with the garden vegetables and fruit I canned we lived very well. Gordon kept bees so we had all the honey we could use and we milked a few cows which kept us in milk and butter. I was able to sell enough butter at the grocery store to buy the staples we needed.

I made a lot of our clothing from used clothing, flour and sugar bags. The flour and sugar bags were used to make dresses, tea towels, table clothes, pijamas, aprons, etc. Gordon worked the fields with plow, harrow, dise, and drill drawn by four horses. The work was slow and long, hard hours. Grain crops were poor and often total failures. Holidays in those times were almost unheard of.

The 1930's brought another baby girl, Jean, to our home and was also the start of a decade of dry weather with poor crops, infested with grasshoppers and dust storms. Our main source of entertainment in the summer was getting together with friends on Sundays and for the occasional picnic. There were lots of ball games and sports days at the schools. In winter there was always a dance at a school. Card parties were a popular money-raising project in the area. Our evenings were spent playing cards, games and reading.

By 1940 things began to look a little brighter for the farmers, but Gordon's health was failing and he was forced off the farm to find lighter work. We left the farm in 1942 and moved to Edmonton, Alberta, where the children all finished their education.

I am still in the same house we moved to in 1942. Gordon passed away on March 17, 1957. There has been a big change in Edmonton over the last forty years.