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the Finlay Gunn and Helen Bailey Gunn


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    The youngest son of George Gunn, 1814-1833, and a grandson of Hugh Gunn, 1792-1851, Finlay Gunn was born near the forested shore of Lake Huron, in the township of Underwood, County of Bruce, Ontario -- a district settled during the 1840's and '50's by his father and uncles and other Highland Scots from the Parish of Creich and nearby parishes in Sutherlandshire, Scotland.

   As a boy of nine Finlay Gunn came in 1873 with his family to Scotland, Dakota Territory, where his uncles Joseph and John Gunn and his Aunt Katie (wife of his Uncle Hugh Gunn, who was then prospecting in Western Canada) had already settled in 1870 -- accompanied and followed as we know by many other Gaelic-speaking Highland Scots from the County of Bruce.

   The family story is that the boy Finlay was so eager to see his new home that he jumped partly unclad from the prairie wagon and ran ahead for a glimpse of the buildings of the pioneer community dimly visible that early morning across the James River.

    His years as a boy and youth were in part devoted to helping his father and older brothers turn the prairie soil for the planting of flax, wheat, and corn; in part to school, hunting, and like boyish pursuits; in part to learning St. Joseph's craft of carpentry.

   In October 1895, having acquired farms of his own, he married a young school teacher, Helen Bailey of nearby Lesterville, who had come with her parents and a brother and sister from Grosse Ile and Trenton, Michigan.  Two sons -- Alexander and Alan -- and four daughters -- Alice, Elizabeth, Helen, and Lucile -- were born to this marriage between 1897 and 1908.

    In 1901, Finlay Gunn transferred his farming interest to Grant Township, Beadle County, S.D.  Here he introduced alfalfa tillage, now an important South Dakota crop.

    An adherent of the Presbyterian faith of his Scottish forebears, Finlay Gunn gave the land and helped to build on his farm the Rosehill Presbyterian Church.

    They left that area for about two years -- 1908-1910.  Finlay managed a ranch near Piedmont in 1909-1910 after some months in Rapid City living near his cousin Hugh H. Gunn, who was Chief of Police there at that time.  Here Lucile was born.

    Enroute to Rapid City they had visited Finlay's Uncle Hugh and Aunt Katie in Wasta.

    Then they returned again to live in Grant Township, Beadle county.

    Five years after the tragic loss of his son Alexander in 1911, he moved with his family to Huron, the seat of Beadle County and Huron College and the home of the Reverend H.P. Carson, a longtime family friend.

    Here and in the surrounding county, he practiced his craft of carpentry in the building of barns, railroad car repair, and public school and college maintenance.   In 1927 he retired from active work to move with his wife and daughters to Los Angeles, California.

    Throughout the fourscore and more years of Finlay Gunn's life, he remained active and in good health until his fatal cardiac failure in March of 1948 -- thus surviving for thirty years the other children of George Gunn, 1814-1883, and tragically also his son Alexander George, 1897-1911, and his daughter, Helen Gunn Collins, 1903-1932.

    The minister who pronounced his funeral eulogy thus described the life and character of Finlay Gunn: "Those who knew him best remember him as a quiet, yet strong character, a good neighbor, always doing those little acts of kindness which endear a man to his friends.

   "He was generous, thoughtful of others, a man who enjoyed life and fun.  He carried a deep concern for public affairs on into the years of his retirement.

    "He had worked for the betterment of country schools in his younger years and later supported improvements in city schools from a firm conviction that the hope of peace for our world must be rooted in the education of youth.

    "His life was invested not only in the farm which he homesteaded and loved, but in all of the affairs of his time and neighborhood.  Typical of his peaceful spirit was the fact that when in the 1880's he homesteaded a forest tract in the Black Hills, he took no gun with him, and yet was untroubled by Indian or white man as he crossed the plains and the Badlands between Scotland and Deadwood.

    "In Los Angeles, in his years of retirement, he was still the same good and cheerful neighbor that all had loved in his earlier years."


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