The Porter family came to Manitoulin Island in 1873 from from Greenock, Ontario, having benefited from the government's attempt to encourage families to take up farming along colonization roads by granting any male settler of British descent over the age of 18 willing to clear 12 acres, build a house, and establish a farm, a 50-acre parcel of land free of charge.

Andrew Porter Sr., who had struggled to earn a living in several other locations around Ontario in the decades since coming to Canada, took advantage of the government's generosity. Over time, his land gained in value and Porter eventually cashed out, relocating to cheap land that became available on Manitoulin Island, which the government had opened to permanent settlement by non-indigenous populations in the late 1860s.

Porter bought the maximum amount of land allowable and settled across the government road from the Bryan family. As his oldest children came of age, he started subdividing his property, gifting various sized plots to each child. It looked as though the family was destined to build a dynasty on the island but, by 1892, the Porters had vanished from the public record.

It took a while for me to figure out what had happened to them.

A clue came in the 1891 property tax records for Tehkummah, which contained a note stating that Andrew Porter Sr. could be reached at a post office box in Hannah, Dakota Territory. Another clue came in the form of a letter to the editor that was published in the April 27, 1889 edition of the Manitoulin Expositor. Written by a farmer who had elected to remain anonymous, it was sharply critical of settlers who had failed to make a go of farming on the island. Having gotten themselves into enormous debt that required them to sign over their land to those they owed, the failed farmers then fled to places like the newly founded Hannah, Dakota.

Hannah was named after Francis (Frank) Hannah, who had been born in County Donegal, Ireland in 1816 and emigrated to Canada in 1848 with his wife, Catherine. They initially homesteaded in southern Ontario and, like Porters, found themselves in the position of being able to purchase cheap land on Manitoulin Island in the early 1870s. But, also like the Porters, they had a tough go of it. When the Dakota Territories started parcelling out free land, Hannah moved his wife and six of their married children to the territory in 1883, settling on a site in Cavalier County north of Devil's Lake, roughly a kilometre south of the Manitoba border.

Frank Hannah soon began luring his former Manitoulin Island neighbours to Hannah, telling them stories about how much great the land was in the Territory, how comparatively easy it was to farm there, and how the community would soon thrive in a way that wasn't possible on the island. Many disgruntled residents of Assiginack, Tehkummah and Sandfield followed Hannah to his new community. Before too long, some his followers grew disillusioned and either returned to Manitoulin or moved on to greener pastures elsewhere.

Others, like the Porters, stayed. Andrew Porter Sr., his wife Catherine, and many of their descendants are buried in the Hannah town cemetery as are Frank Hannah and his descendants. The town Hannah founded would officially receive its charter in 1896 although it would never thrive. It hit a peak population of 262 in 1930. Now listed as a ghost town, its current population is 8.

The undated photo above is of Andrew Porter Sr. and his wife Catherine Porter.