Grey County is situated on the south-west flank of
Georgian Bay in Ontario. Distinct, high rocky ripples in the land are covered with a mixed deciduous forest and stands of tall conifers. Primarily settled by Scottish immigrants
in the 1800s, the land of Grey County was logged and the stony ground tilled
for sowing or cleared for grazing cattle and sheep.
On March 25, 1890,
Agnes Macphail was born to the McPhails and Campbells, Scottish descendants who lived close together in Proton Township, one of the wettest areas in
South Grey County. When Dugald McPhail married Henrietta Campbell in 1889, they started their life together in a log house in the same neighbourhood. That first farm was low lying and the house dark and cold in winter but Agnes remembers that "the kitchen was big and attractive, and we children loved it". The McPhails stayed in the log home until Agnes was 12, when they moved to a farm near Ceylon.
The farmhouse was brick and could be more easily heated all winter, which made Henrietta much happier. Dugald prospered by farming the land, cattle dealing and auctioneering. He didn't believe that women should do heavy work, but Agnes did not take to housework with any enthusiasm and helped Dugald
tend and harness the animals instead.
Along with regular family gatherings, the McPhail home was a social gathering spot where groups of men talked over farm politics and affairs of the day while the women discussed domestic issues and events. Already rebelling against the narrow trap of marriage, Agnes' resolve was fueled in these early years to make a contribution to society, "in addition, or in place of, having children...[and] doing some work as a person".
See Family photographs...