This stone house and granary is named after James William Scallion because he and his brother, Thomas, farmed here. The stone house is in rough condition but the unusual granary is still sound and strong.
In the short period that I’ve been writting this blog I have already noticed that there are fequently connections between the movers and shakers of the early 20th century. James W Scallion was one of those movers and shakers among the men who fought for a better life and financial return for farmers. Technically he wasn’t a politician but he helped to create a number of associations that enabled farmers to speak with one voice to politicians. In doing this he met with William Richard Motherwell, who is well known in Saskatchewan. Motherwell was one of the founders of the Territorial Grain Growers’ Association. The meeting with Scallion, Motherwell and many other farmers resulted in the formation of the Virden Grain Growers’ Association with Scallion as president. Scallion was then instrumental in creating the Manitoba Grain Growers’ Association which later changed its name to the United Farmers of Manitoba. In 1922 the Manitoba Agricultural College honoured Scallion for “his contribution to the social and economic betterment of the farm community.” He had taken the first steps in his province to provide farmers with a mechanism for altering the balance of economic power in western Canada. Note; this paragraph was paraphrased from the Dictionary of Canadian Biography. See full citation below under References.
The Scallion Family
The most complete article about James W Scallion that I have found, and quite possibly the source for several other articles and websites, was written by Gordon Goldsborough, and called “The Scallion Family of Virden, The story behind the farm, the family and the enduring name“. Also see a CBC article, published October 21, 2018, which is about Goldsborough and his most recent book, “More Abandoned Manitoba“.
All articles about the Scallions are about James W. Scallion. Some don’t even mention the rest of the family. William and Catherine Scallion (the parents) had four children, and moved from Ireland to Ontario. William and Catherine died in Ontario in 1887. At some unknown date the two sisters, Catherine and Hannah joined their brothers James W and Thomas B in Manitoba. It is in Manitoba that they lived out their lives together as none of the four Scallion siblings ever married.
According to Wikipedia, “a granary is a storehouse or room in a barn for threshed grain or animal feed. Ancient or primitive granaries are most often made out of pottery. Granaries are often built above the ground to keep the stored food away from mice and other animals.” This stone granary was certainly effective in keeping the grain safe from larger animals and birds, but I don’t think it would do much to keep the mice or other rodents away. It was built in 1893, the same year that the Scallions arrived in the Virden area of Manitoba. I don’t know why it has such a unique design or appearance and I haven’t read anything that explains it.
The ramp shown below would be used by a team of horses and later a truck to haul the grain up high where it can be unloaded into the granary. That’s the general idea although I don’t see any large openings on the ramp side of the granary.
The Scallion Stone House
All stone houses on the prairies are special whether restored or decaying and regardless of who owned them. These structures made use of the many rocks found in their fields or by a nearby creek. Stone houses were most common in the southern prairies of Manitoba and Saskatchewan where optimism was plentiful but trees as a source for wood were in short supply. Using rocks from the field (hence the name fieldstone) would help to remove the nuisance of the rocks in the field where they could damage farm machinery. The raw material was therefore free other than the time it took to pick the stones from the fields. A secondary benefit was to reduce the reliance on the railways to bring lumber which was an expensive commodity. Another benefit was to provide some protection against the inevitable prairie grass fires. The amount of the benefit was probably negligible because even a stone house had extensive woodwork such as the roof and doorways. Still, in the event of smaller fires, every little bit of protection helped.
Black and White vs Colour
I generally process images in colour but I’ll use black and white or monochrome when they meet one criterion; the colour version simply doesn’t work. There could be many reasons for colour not to work in an image. It could be too busy so you can’t see the subject very well. Another reason is that the colours just don’t work together very well and provide little contrast. For the above image with the house in the trees and the granary to the right, the colour version was passable but bland. I switched it to black and white and tweaked the lighting a little bit to arrive at the image that is quite satisfying. There is a strong light on and in front of the granary which was not nearly as pronounced in colour. Also the house has a haunting look in black and white whereas in colour it was just muddy.
The image below was dark in colour with much less shadow definition. Neither colour nor monochrome could do much for the granary in the background but it’s not the main subject here so that’s okay.
I like the image below because you can see both the best remaining side of the house and the granary in the same light and quality. That granary will be there for many years but this house is destined to become a pile of rocks any year now.
The stone house that the Scallion siblings lived in is nearly gone and with it will be a tangible part of Manitoba’s history. The unique granary will be standing for many more years, or at least we can all hope so.
- Karen Nicholson, “SCALLION, JAMES WILLIAM,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 15, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed April 30, 2021, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/scallion_james_william_15E.html. Biography – SCALLION, JAMES WILLIAM – Volume XV (1921-1930) – Dictionary of Canadian Biography (biographi.ca)
- The tombstone data for James, Thomas and Hannah Scallion came from the website for Find-A-Grave: James W. Scallion (1847-1926) – Find A Grave Memorial
- Manitoba Historical Society: Memorable Manitobans: James William Scallion (1847-1926) (mhs.mb.ca)
- Gordon Goldsborough / Virden Empire-Advance OCTOBER 18, 2018. The Scallion Family of Virden | Virden Empire-Advance (empireadvance.ca) This is probably the most thorough article about the Scallion family although I only used it to establish the names of James Scallion’s parents and siblings. Dr. L. Gordon Goldsborough, Associate Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Manitoba, is the author of Abandoned Manitoba and more recently, More Abandoned Manitoba: Rivers, Rails, and Ruins .
- The Canadian Encyclopedia; William Richard Motherwell | The Canadian Encyclopedia Used for the link to William R Motherwell who assisted Scallion in forming the Virden Grain Growers’ Association.
- Ed Ledohowski; Retired historian for Manitoba.
If you visit the structures shown in this blog, or any other old potentially abandoned structure, please respect the landowers’ rights and obtain their permission to access and photograph their structures. Always excercise caution when visiting abandoned buildings as there are potential dangers such as crumbling structures, deep wells hidden by grass, and even spores of mould in the air.