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the Hugh Murray and Catherine McKay Gunn


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The following information is from "the GUNNs of Kinlochlaggan...A Scottish Diaspora" compiled and printed in 1979 by Kathleen Gunn Turpin (now Sullivan).

    At the time Kathleen compiled our family's history and family tree information, it was determined that Hugh and Margaret were the ancestors of over 750 people, including 41 grandchildren and 91 great-grandchildren.  That was twenty years ago.  Since then there has been a whole new generation (possibly two) added to the trees.  Gary Rhyason, our cousin in Canada, is diligently working on the update of our family tree.
     As is mentioned elsewhere in the Homepage, if you have any information that can be added to the family tree or history, please let us know by email so that we can add it to these pages.

HUGH MURRAY GUNN (1831-1915) m.

CATHERINE McKAY (1833-1915).....


Hugh Murray Gunn was the youngest child of Hugh and Margaret (Marion) Gunn of Kinlochlaggan.  He was the family member who was gone prospecting for many, many, years in the gold fields in the Cariboo region of British Columbia.

He left Bruce County, Ontario, prior to 1861 and probably returned to his family in the Dakota Territory around 1874.

It's been said that he met General Custer in Yankton while the general was enroute to establish his post on the upper Missouri River.  Supposedly Hugh tried to warn Custer about what he was going to encounter:  "There aren't hundreds of Indians out there; their are thousands of them!"

Custer thought that Hugh was only one of those prospectors who was a bit "off" in the brain, so he (the general) proceeded, with about 200 men in his command, to face Sitting Bull and his 6,000 warriors who were waiting to defeat him at the Little Big Horn.

When Hugh returned from his prospecting venture, people started calling him "The Old Man of the Mountains".  He earned this title due to his helping wagon trains make the overland trip through the rugged mountains to British Columbia's gold fields -- located in the western foothills of the Cariboo Mountains, near the headwaters of the Fraser River.

Quoting from George Schneider's 1953 letter to his cousin Marguerite Gunn Beecher, concerning their "Uncle Hugh":

     "He told great stories of the hot water throwing clouds of steam into the air, giant trees that were 30 feet in diameter, mountains so high that you could put your hand in boiling water and not feel it, etc.  Everyone thought that he was about the biggest liar in the country.
     "Several years later, someone made a trip out west and came back saying that the old man wasn't so far off, at that."

After returning to his family in Dakota he built a house on Katie's claim; the family lived there until 1890 when they moved near Wasta, SD.

While Hugh was gone, Katie adopted a little girl -- Catherine J. -- who had been born July 18, 1872, in Canada, according to the 1880 census.  She was adopted by Hugh on his return, but died May 26, 1881 at age 8 -- probably of diphtheria, since that was the year of the epidemic.

Their third son, George John, had also arrived by then -- on June 13, 1880 -- when Catherine was 47 years old.  Everyone thought she had a tumor!

Since George's brothers, Hugh H. and Alex William, were 22 and 20 years older than he, they used to tease him a lot.  One day in total exasperation, he went into the house and asked his mother, "Ma, Ma, -- where is the axe?"

Her response was, "Och, and what do you want to do with it?"

His reply, "I want to cut the head off from Alex William!"

There is also the story of when Jack Hutchinson and Johnny McLeod made a trip back to their old home of Bruce County, Ontario.  Hugh Murray told them about a certain old man up there who made the best whiskey he'd ever tasted.  He wanted them to go see him and bring back two quarts of the stuff.

They purchased the whiskey, but on the train on the way home, they drank it all.

When they got to Marion Junction, SD, they went in a saloon and bought the cheapest whiskey they could and refilled the bottles.

"Uncle Hugh" drank it all, smacked his lips, and said:  "By George, that man makes good whiskey!" He never did know the difference.

When the family moved to a homestead near the present site of Wasta, for Hugh M. to file on a claim there, George (10) remained at Scotland with Hugh and Emma Gunn in order to go to school.

The Hugh Gunns already had their George, and nephew George Schneider, so this meant there were three Georges in one house.  They were referred to as "Big George", "Little George" and "Schneider".

The Hugh M. Gunns hardly had time to get settled on the Wasta claim when the local Native Americans went on a rampage and the Gunns had to return to Scotland (SD) for a few years before returning to their ranch again.

Hugh M. and Katie then lived on their Homestead in western South Dakota until they died in 1915, while in their 80's.

The two older children of their son, George, remember some incidents involving their grandparents.

Lester Gunn, of Montana, recalls that when he was about three his mother was on her way to the grandparents' house to check on them, as she frequently did, with him and his sister accompanying her in the wagon.

The team mired down in the quicksand of the Cheyenne River.  Lester said:

     "I don't know how she managed to get them (the horses) and the buggy out, but it must have been a real struggle -- because as young as I was, I remember some of it."
     "About all I can remember of Grandpa is that he had snow-white hair and a long white beard, and spent a lot of time on the porch in a rocking chair.  I think Grandma's hair was still quite dark.  They say she always dipped her comb in kerosene before she combed it."

His sister, Esther "Buddee" Felt of Detroit, remembered her father relating this about her grandfather:

     "The old man tended to re-live in memory his early prospecting days.  One day, shortly before he died, he went to the Wasta mercantile store and ordered a long list of supplies for a gold mining trip out west."

The Hugh M. Gunn homestead stood about as it was when they had lived in it -- one mile up the Cheyenne River from Wasta -- until the 1950's.

The gravel for the runways at Ellsworth Air Force Base near Rapid City was taken from their old homestead grounds.

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