Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Lost Gravestones of Bloomfield

South Cairn of Bloomfield Pioneer Cemetery, Trafalgar, Halton, Ontario
Last summer, I visited a number of graveyards in Halton County west of Toronto; photographing gravestones for the CanadaGenWeb's Cemetery Project.

West Cairn of Bloomfield Pioneer Cemetery
Bloomfield Pioneer in the Town of Milton was one of these cemeteries. At first glance Bloomfield seemed a straight-forward proposition. The graveyard consisted of a line of east-facing stones set in concrete and a scattering of other monuments. Closer inspection, however, revealed a challenge. Hidden in the lilacs to the south of the grassed area was a cairn of toppled and broken moss-covered gravestones. Reading the gravestones, let alone photographing them, would be quite difficult.

Nevertheless, I returned to Bloomfield in early April before the lilacs leafed out. It was relatively easy to gently clean the moss off the stones and to prune back some of the branches. In the dappled sunlight it was now possible to make out some of the inscriptions. The lack of contrast, however, meant for disappointing photographs.

Several months ago I watched a YouTube video about using off-camera flash to photograph hard-to-read gravestones. I had purchased a  CowboyStudio NPT-04 flash trigger and had successfully experimented on a number of  "unreadable" gravestones at other cemeteries. Time for a real test.

The trick is to have the light from the tripod-mounted flash hit the gravestone at an angle almost parallel to the face. By the time I was finished my tripod and knees were covered in dirt, but I had made the unreadable, readable.

Gravestone of Martha Moffatt (1845-1872)
Photograph taken without flash
Gravestone of Martha Moffatt (1845-1872)
Photograph taken with off-camera flash

Bloomfield Cemetery is named after Richard Bloomfield (1780-1870) who donated the land in 1835 for a church and burial ground. A Methodist New Connexion church was built in 1836 and remained in use until 1876. In 1963 many of the headstones were salvaged and set into two concrete cairns. The west cairn is still in reasonable shape.

Martha McKenzie, daughter of John McKenzie and Martha, was born in Canada about 1843. She married John Moffatt in 1862. John, the son of Henry Moffatt and Sarah, was born in Canada about 1839. At the time of the 1871 Census, John and Martha had three children. At Bloomfield there is a gravestone for John Moffatt who died on  October 7, 1872 at the age of six months. John was likely the son of John and Martha, and given his age, it is reasonable to assume that Martha died in childbirth. It is not known what happened to Martha's husband or other children.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

From Ireland to Waldemar

Waldemar Cemetery, Amaranth, Dufferin, Ontario
Waldemar is a quiet hamlet in Amaranth Township west of Orangeville, Ontario. In the late 19th century, however, Waldemar was a bustling village. Originally the site of a grist mill on the Grand River, Waldemar gained importance with the 1871 construction of the Teeswater Branch of the Toronto, Grey and Bruce Railway. Within a few years Waldemar could boast two churches, a post office, two general stores, hotel, two carpenters, two blacksmiths, two saw mills, a grist mill, a boot and shoe maker, and a waggonmaker. But like many rural communities, the last century has not kind to Waldemar. Everything listed above is gone. Today the rail line is a recreational trail, and the Presbyterian church a private residence.

Surprisingly, Waldemar also does not have a cemetery that reflects its thriving historical past. In fact, all that remains of the cemetery is a cluster of gravestone fragments surrounding a modern cairn.

The size of the cemetery is not known, nor is it known how many burials occurred here, or how many gravestones might lie buried beneath the ground. It is thought that considerable damage was done to the graveyard when the Tenth Concession was realigned, widened and paved many decades ago. At some point a memorial cairn was erected dedicated to the "pioneers and early settlers of Waldemar." The remaining gravestone fragments are piled behind the cairn.

Margaret Jane Dodds (1878-1879)

Margaret Jane Dodds (1878-1879)
Seven of the fragments have names or dates. The most complete gravestone is that of ten month old Margaret Jane, daughter of Matthew and Ellen Dodds. Matthew Dodds married Ellen Dent in Fergus, Ontario in 1876. Matthew was an agricultural labourer of Irish descent who was born in Mono Township east of Orangeville about 1850. He married Ellen Dent in Fergus, Ontario in 1876. Ellen had been born in Toronto Township (now Mississauga) about 1849 to English parents and was the youngest of eight children.

Matthew and Ellen's daughter Margaret Jane was their first child. Neither her birth or death were registered.

The 1891 Census shows Matthew and Ellen had at least three children after Margaret Jane. Matthew was now a farmer in Melanchon Township northwest of Shelburne, Ontario. What happened next is uncertain since the family disappears from census records. It is known that Ellen died in 1925 and was buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery, Orangeville.

Susanna Burke née Edgar (1811-1884)

Susanna Burke née Edgar  (1811-1884)
Armed with a last name, date of death, and age at death, it was easy to determined using Ontario Death Records that another fragment belonged to Susanna Burke. Census data shows that Alexander and Susanna Burke lived for many years south of Waldemar in East Garafraxa Township. Alexander, Susanna, and their four children emigrated from Ireland about 1850, possibly a consequence of the Great Famine. Their son Robert was born after their arrival in Canada. Robert's marriage registration records Susanna's maiden name as Edgar.

Alexander and Susanna may have travelled to Canada aboard an overcrowded, poorly maintained, and badly provisioned vessel, known as a coffin ship, sailing from a small harbour in the West of Ireland. It is also possible they travelled to Liverpool first, and secured better passage. In either case their first port of call would have been Grosse Isle, an island in the Saint Lawrence River near Quebec City used to quarantine ships. From there the family would have travelled by steamer to Montreal, by bateau or Durham boat to Prescott, and then by steamer to Toronto. 

Two years after the death of Susanna, Alexander married a widow, 59 year old Ellen Stewart. On his marriage registration, Alexander's parents are listed as Alexander Burke and Martha Lindsay. Alexander died in 1889 and was presumably buried at Waldemar.

A photograph of Alexander Burke and Susanna Edgar is in the possession of their great-great granddaughter.


Monday, January 2, 2017

The Baptist Pioneers of Vittoria

Vittoria Baptist Cemetery, Charlotteville, Norfolk, Ontario
Vittoria Baptist Cemetery is one of the oldest cemeteries in Norfolk County, Ontario.  Located east of the hamlet of Vittoria in Charlotteville Township, this still active cemetery contains a large number of early to mid 19th century gravestones.

Site of Charlotteville at Longpoint,
Watercolour by Elizabeth Simcoe,
Archives of Ontario
In the early 1800's, Vittoria was an important commercial centre, and the hub of what was known as the Long Point Settlement. From 1815 to 1825 it was also the capital of the London District. This came to an end when the Court House burned down in 1825 and the court and registry office were relocated to other communities.
Settlement on the north shore of Lake Erie near Turkey Point and Long Point began in 1793, although a few pioneers may have arrived earlier. In 1795, the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, John Graves Simcoe, visited the region and was favourably impressed:
The country is thickly timbered, the chief trees being oak, beach, pine and walnut. Making our way through the forest, we reached the lake at a place which from the abundance of wild fowl is named Turkey Point. A ridge of cliffs of considerable height skirts the shore for some distance. Between this and Lake Erie is a wide and gently sloping beach. The long ridge of harbour sand [Long Point] encloses a safe and commodious harbour. The view from the high bank is magnificent. Altogether, the place presents a combination of natural beauty but seldom found.
In 1792, Simcoe had issued a proclamation "to such as are desirous to settle on the lands of the crown in the Province of Upper Canada" offering grants of land to any who would cultivate the land and would swear an oath of loyalty to the King. Many such immigrants came to the Long Point Settlement.

Vittoria Baptist Church
The settlement soon grew large enough to support a Baptist congregation. Vittoria Baptist Church was established in 1803. The original church was located on the cemetery site, however, a larger brick edifice was built in the hamlet and dedicated in 1852. This church was built in the Greek Revival style, consisting of a rectangular hall with gable and cupola. The building still stands and is protected under the Ontario Heritage Act. The congregation, however, disbanded in 2013.

Abigail Barber (1758-1804)

Abigail Barber
The monument to Abigail Barber is the oldest gravestone in Vittoria Baptist Cemetery. Abigail was born in Morris County, New Jersey, the daughter of Jacob Cosad (1724-1812) and Elizabeth Sutton. She married Samuel Barber (1753-1801) in 1777, and came to Upper Canada (now Ontario) in 1800 with ten of their twelve children. They settled in Townsend Township to the north of Charlotteville Township. The following year Samuel Barber disappeared on his way back from a trip to New Jersey, and is thought to have been murdered.

It is not clear why Abigail was buried at Vittoria Baptist. It is known that her daughter Jane (1784-1820) married William Smith (1777-1823), son of Abraham Smith of Charlotteville Township, about the time of Abigail's death, so it is quite possible that Abigail was living with her daughter when she died.

Solomon Austin (1744-1826)

Solomon Austin
According to family tradition Solomon Austin was born in Orange County, North Carolina. He was a Loyalist who enlisted in the Queen's Rangers during the American Revolution. At the Battle of the Horseshoe, Solomon heroically carried the regimental flag after the standard bearer was killed. The Queen's Rangers were commanded by John Simcoe who lauded Austin afterwards. Simcoe later became the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada. When Austin arrived in Upper Canada in 1794, Simcoe welcomed him warmly and granted him 600 acres.

Little of the above, however, has been verified by primary sources. The preponderance of evidence suggests that Austin was born in Baltimore Country, Maryland, and settled in Orange County in the early 1770's. At the start of the American Revolution he likely joined a local Loyalist militia unit. In his 1795 petition to receive land in Upper Canada, he states that he was taken prisoner at the Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge on 27 Feb 1776. Most of these prisoners were paroled shortly afterwards.

The Battle of the Horseshoe was a minor engagement fought by the Queen's Rangers on 6 Jun 1781 in Colleton County, South Carolina. Austin, however, does not appear on the rosters of the Queen's Rangers during this period. It is possible that he served as a scout for Simcoe. Austin's 1795 petition is annotated with the words, "This man was in action with the Governor [Simcoe] and obtained his verbal permission to go to Patterson's Creek." But if Simcoe was familiar with Austin due to his heroic actions at the Battle of the Horseshoe, why is there no mention of the battle in Austin's petitions?

Austin married Joanna Thomas, daughter of Owen Thomas who died in 1769. Austin's land in Orange County was adjacent to Owen Thomas's.

After the war Austin's property and chattels were seized by North Carolina. Austin remained in North Carolina until 1794 when he brought his family to Newark (Niagara on the Lake)  in Upper Canada. The following year he settled on Lynn Creek (formerly Patterson's Creek) in Norfolk County.

During the War of 1812, three of Austin's sons served with the 2nd Norfolk Militia. Elements of the 2nd Norfolk saw action at Lundy's Lane and Malcolm Mills.

Titus Finch (1756-1834)

Titus Finch 1756-1834
The Reverend Titus Finch was the first minister of Vittoria Baptist Church. According to a history of Vittoria Baptist Church written by Rev. George Watt, Finch arrived in Charlotteville in 1798, was baptised in 1804, and ordained in 1807.

In Pioneer Sketches of Long Point Settlement, published in 1898, author E. A. Owen claims that Finch was a British soldier who came to North American with his regiment during the Revolution. He further claims that Finch's wife, Nancy, was the widow of a friend of Finch's who died on the voyage. Robert Mutrie, author of The Long Point Settlers, calls this "a fanciful story." Finch was most likely born in the American colonies since he joined a Loyalist Corps: the Prince of Wales American Regiment.

In 1806 he signed a petition of Loyalist officers and soldiers who came from New Brunswick to Upper Canada requesting a grant of lands and their names be added to the United Empire list.

According to his gravestone, Titus Finch died on 14 Sep 1824 at the age of 78. His wife Nancy died exactly one year later at the age of 68. Mutrie provides evidence, however, that Titus did not die in 1824, but nearly a decade later on 12 Apr 1834.

At the start of the War of 1812 Titus Finch's son George was a private in the 2nd Flank Company of the 1st Regiment of Norfolk Militia. When the Flank Companies were dissolved he continued as a private with the Regiment. Titus's son Thomas was a sergeant in 1814 in the 1st Regiment, while his sons Titus and William were privates.

Abraham Smith (1727-1809)

Abraham Smith's story is best told through his own words as were recorded in his 1797 Upper Canada Land Petition:

That Your Petitioner is a native of the Province of New York in North America and having always been most Strongly attached to the Crown & Government of Great Britain Suffered much and lost by an act of Confiscation on account of his Loyalty a valuable Landed property in the said Province of New York Containing Eleven hundred & thirteen acres with a Saw Mill and other valuable Improvements thereon.

That Your Petitioner in the time of the late American Rebellion was taken up and Confined in the American Provost Guard for three weeks thirteen days, of which time Your Petitioner was loaded with heavy Irons and at another time though before that last Mentioned, Your Petitioner was Imprisoned for the space of three Months part of which time your Petitioner was confined on board a Prison Ship in the North River.

That the Charge Exhibited against your Petitioner and for which he Suffered as aforesaid, was Concealing and assisting Loyalists to proceed to Niagara.

That Your Petitioner arrived in this Province in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty six, and brought with him a wife and Nine Children vizt Five Sons and four Daughters and since the arrival of your Petitioner in this Province, it has pleased Divine Providence to favour him with one Son and one Daughter more.
Abraham Smith was born about 1729. He married first, Hannah Finn, who died in 1767, and second, Rachel Decker (1750-1831). He settled in Minisink, Orange, New York in 1771. During the American Revolution, Abraham's property was confiscated and the family were forced to move to Sussex County, New Jersey. In his Land Petition, Abraham states that he arrived in Upper Canada in 1786. According to family tradition, he had to be smuggled out of New Jersey in a wooden box. Abraham initially settled in Bertie Township, Welland Country near Fort Erie. In 1794 he moved his family to the Long Point Settlement and settled on Young's Creek northwest of Vittoria.

Abraham Smith
In Pioneer Sketches of Long Point Settlement, Owen claims that Abraham's son, William "Uncle Billy" Smith was the first white settler in Norfolk Country. According to Owen, William came to Norfolk in 1786. The problem is that William's gravestone clearly states that he was born in 1777. It is highly unlikely that a nine-year-old would have left his family to "live amoung the Indians of Long Point" as Owen's claims.

Three of Abraham's six sons served during the War of 1812 with the 1st Norfolk Militia. Of his eleven children, eight of them are buried at Vittoria Baptist.    

Robert Shearer (1772-1832) 

Robert Shearer was another late Loyalist. He was born in Sussex County, New Jersey in 1772, the son of John Shearer. John was a Loyalist who was jailed during the American Revolution and died in prison. Some details of this time were included in a certificate included in the Robert's 1797 Upper Canada Land Petition:
I Do hereby Certifie that in the late war between the Crown of Great Brittian and the States of America the beraer Robert Sherer was an Infant and that his father John Sheraer was a Loyalist and that on the acount of which he was prosecuted and Confined in prison and then he was Confined until his Death and his family So Distressed by that means that his widow was obliged to bind out her children of which the Bareier is one and the whole family ware all Ruined and Distressed among other people Certified by John Moore
Robert Shearer
Robert trained as a blacksmith, and in 1796, emigrated to Upper Canada and settled in Charlotteville Township, north of the hamlet of Vittoria. Three years later he married Rachel Smith (1778-1857) daughter of early pioneer Abraham Smith. Robert and Rachel had thirteen children, many of whom are buried at Vittoria. Robert appears as a Corporal on a roll of the Charlotteville Company of Militia dated 31st December 1799. During the War of 1812, Robert served as a private in the 1st Regiment Norfolk Militia.

Robert had a sister, Rachel Shearer (1775-1841), who remained in New Jersey, but after the death of her husband John Dolan (1783-1810) came to the Long Point Settlement with her son Michael (1803-1882) and her four daughters.

John Havens (1770-1806)

John Havens
The second oldest gravestone at Vittoria Baptist is that of John Havens who died in 1806. John, the son of William Havens (1738-1800) and Lydia Masters (1742-1817), was born in Gloucester County, New Jersey in 1769. He came with his parents to Upper Canada in 1787 and settled in Grantham Township in the Niagara Peninsula. John's request for land at the Long Point Settlement in 1793 was declined. Two years later he petitioned successfully for 200 acres. In his petition he stated that he had married into Abraham Smith's family. The 1795 report of Acting Surveyor General David W. Smith records that he was Abraham Smith's son-in-law.

John's wife was Charity Smith (1772-1831). His will, dated 28 Apr 1806, named four children: William, Abraham, Robert, and Hannah. A second daughter, Lydia, was born on 7 Jun 1806, almost a month after the death of her father. Charity later married Levi Churchill.

Oliver Mabee (1773-1854)

Oliver Mabee (1773-1854
and Mary Smith (1775-1844)

Oliver Mabee, the son of Frederick Mabee and Levinah Pelham (?-1823) was born in Dutchess County, New York on 10 Aug 1773.

Oliver's father remained loyal to the Crown during the American Revolution. In 1781, Frederick brought his family to British occupied New York City. In 1783 when the British evacuated New York City, Frederick and his family sailed as part of the "October Fleet" on the Sally to the Saint John River Valley in what is now New Brunswick.

Frederick settled first in the town of Carleton but later moved to Queensbury, York County on the Saint John River west of Fredericton. Not satisfied with the quality of the land, Frederick sold his property and moved his family to Upper Canada in 1792.

Frederick arrived at Long Point Bay in the spring of 1793, having overwintered at Quebec, and began to clear land on Turkey Point. Regrettably, he died the following year.

Oliver, who was nineteen when he arrived at the Long Point Settlement, married Mary Smith (1775-1844), another daughter of Abraham Smith. In Oliver's 1797 Upper Canada Land Petition he stated that he had received 200 acres of land, but was requesting an additional grant. The request was denied. During the War of 1812 he rose to the rank of Captain in the 1st Regiment, Norfolk Militia. After Mary’s death in 1844, Oliver married Rachel Shearer, the widow of Robert Shearer.

Map of Norfolk County, Ontario


Owen, E. A., Pioneer Sketches of Long Point Settlement, Toronto: William Briggs. 1898

Tasker, L. H., The United Empire Loyalist Settlement at Long Point, Lake Erie, Toronto: William Briggs, 1900

Mutrie, R. Robert, The Long Point Settlers, Ridgeway, Ontario: Log Cabin Publishing, 1992. 

Mutrie, R. Robert, The Long Point Settlers

Harold Austin Steiner, The Solomon Austin Story: The Early Years Revisited, Austin Families Association of America, 1997

Mabee, Dr. Oliver R., “The Ancestry and Hardships of Frederick Mabee,” Ontario Historical Society, Papers and Records, 1927, Vol. 24, p.439-442,

Charlton, John, M. P., "Some of the Norfolk Pioneers, Jonathan Austin, Esq. and His Father and Grandfather," The Simcoe Reformer, Thursday, August 9, 1900.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Abraham Hughson: A Late Loyalist

Hughson Family Cemetery, Amaranth, Dufferin, Ontario
West of Orangeville, Ontario, on the road that separates Amaranth and Mono Townships, is a plain cairn with six gravestones. No sign marks this cemetery, which is strange since one of the stones commemorates Abraham Hughson, the first settler in Dufferin Country.

Abraham was the son of James Hughson (1746-1806) and Anne Carr (1743-1830) of the Province of New York. During the American Revolution, James remained loyal to the British Crown. According to his 1795 New Brunswick Land Petition, he abandoned his home in Albany in 1776 and sought the protection of the British Army in New York City. He stated in his petition that he had served a year and an half under Thomas Ward1 in the construction of Fort DeLancey at Bergen Neck.

In 1783 the British commander, Sir Guy Carlton, received orders to withdraw from New York City. 29,000 Loyalist refugees were evacuated by ship. Many refugee families, including James and his family, were brought to the St John River valley in what is now New Brunswick. James settled his family on Belleisle Bay, a fjord-like branch of the Saint John River.

Abraham Hughson 1771-1862
A number of secondary sources place Abraham Hughson's birth in Brooklyn, New York in 1766. His gravestone, however, indicates that he was born around 1771. Census data from 1852 and 1861 supports an earlier date but in his 1824 Upper Canada Land Petition he states he is 54, which suggests 1769 or 1770 as his year of birth.

Based on the information in his father's petition, it seems unlikely that Abraham was born in Brooklyn. James had been born in Dutchess County, New York and had married Ann there in 1766. It is unclear when he moved to Albany.

Abraham is thought to have married Tamar Kelly (1776-1861) in New Brunswick about 1798. In his 1824 petition, Abraham states that he has six boys and two girls. It has been suggested that there were at least two more children who presumably died before 1824. Most sources claim that the four oldest children were born in New Brunswick, while the youngest were born in Upper Canada. Isaac Newton Hughson (1808-1897) and George Leonard Hughson (1811- ?) however, consistently stated in census records that they were born in the United States.

Upper Canada Land Petition
In his 1824 petition Abraham states that he came to Upper Canada in 1799, remained two years before returning to New Brunswick, then came back to Upper Canada in 1816. It is quite possible that Abraham spent a few of the intervening years in the United States, but choose to omit this information from his petition.

Abraham settled on Lot 3 Concession 1 in Amaranth Township in 1823 but may have been living there as early as 1819.

In the 1820s Amaranth Township was a "howling wilderness." According to family tradition it took Abraham, his son Thomas, and a team of oxen, fourteen days to travel from Niagara. It would take another eight years before more settlers arrived.

For most of the 20th century, the Hughson family cemetery was abandoned and forgotten. In 1991 six stones were located, stacked against a fencepost. The gravestones were removed from the site, and placed into storage. In 2001 the gravestones were returned and placed into a concrete cairn.


1Captain Thomas Ward (later Major) commanded the Loyal Refugee Volunteers. Formed in November 1779, the unit was tasked with cutting firewood on Bergen Neck in New Jersey for the British garrison of New York, and to make minor raids into rebel territory. It is interesting to note that the Loyal Refugee Volunteers included some Black Loyalists. Fort DeLancey was a blockhouse on Bergen Neck built after the battles at Fort Lee in 1781. The Loyal Refugee Volunteers withdrew from Bergen Neck in October 1782. Thomas Ward went on to become one of the first Loyalist settlers in Nova Scotia.

Monday, November 7, 2016


Winterbourne Presbyterian Cemetery, Woolwich, Waterloo, Ontario
Winterbourne Presbyterian Cemetery is a medium-sized cemetery located south of the village of Winterbourne in Woolwich Township east of Waterloo, Ontario. It contains a significant number of gravestones that date from the mid-19th century.

The land on which the Presbyterian Cemetery and the village lie has a convoluted and confusing history. It was part of the Haldimand Tract — the large plot of land to either side of the Grand River that was acquired by the British Crown from the Mississauga in 1784, and granted to the Joseph Brant and the Iroquois in recognition of their loyalty to the Crown during the American Revolution.

In 1797 Brant sold most of what is now the Townships of Woolwich and Pilkington to land speculator William Wallace. After the War of 1812, Wallace's land was seized by the Crown because Wallace had disappeared and was suspected of having supported the Americans. In 1821, the Crown sold 7048 acres east of the Grand River to William Crooks, who in turn sold it to William Allen. Eventually small parcels were sold off to various buyers, including Robert Douglas, who subsequently sold one acre of his land to the Trustees of the Presbyterian Church.

Gravestones at Winterbourne
Unfortunately, time and vandalism have taken their toll at Winterbourne Presbyterian. Many of the oldest stones are weathered, sunken, broken, obscured by shrubs, or leaning at a precipitous angle. Some stones lie face down on the ground. Scattered throughout the cemetery can also be found small piles of broken gravestones, often containing the remnants of two or three stones.

Anna Maria Cole
One such pile triggered an interesting chain of research. In this pile were two gravestones each broken into two pieces. After carefully lifting the uppermost stone, it was positioned it so that oblique sunlight would enhance readability of the inscription. The stone commemorates Anna Maria Cole who died on 18 Feb 1872 at the age of  one year, six months, and 23 days. A break in the stone obscures the names of her parents. A transcription of the cemetery, published by the Waterloo Branch of the OGS, apparently missed this gravestone. A check of the Ontario Death Registrations, however, confirmed her death and stated that her father was Isaac Cole, a blacksmith.

While Anna Maria Cole's birth registration has not been found, there is a marriage between Isaac Cole and Zipporah Woods in Woolwich Township on 17 Nov 1869. Zipporah was the daughter of John Woods (1798-1893) and Eleanor Hardy (1816-1877), and had been born in Wilmot Township, Waterloo County. Her parents had emigrated to Canada West from Norfolk County in England. Isaac was the son of Jeremiah Kohl and Hannah Hammacher, both of whom were born in Canada.

Mary Cole (1839-1869)
Isaac was ten years older that Zipporah, and even though the marriage registration states than he was a bachelor, Zipporah was his second wife. Elsewhere at Winterbourne is a gravestone for Mary, wife of Isaac Cole, who died in 1869 at the age of 30. Beside Mary's gravestone is the sunken stone of their son Alexander.

According to census data, Isaac and Zipporah did not remain in the Winterbourne area. At the time of the 1881 Census they were living in Somerville Township, in Victoria County north of Lindsay, Ontario. With them were four children, Charles, aged 23, Clarissa, aged 20, Isaac, aged 12, and Malcolm, aged 9. Charles and Clarissa were apparently children from Issac's first marriage. Isaac and Zipporah were still in Somerville Township twenty years later, however, by 1906 they had moved to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Zipporah died in 1909 and was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Saskatoon. Isaac died seven years later in 1916.

Unfortunately, the name on the gravestone that lies underneath Anna Maria Cole's has weathered away. "Scotland" appears on the stone as does "died Sept. 28" and "Aged 68 Years." Neither the transcription nor the Ontario Death Registrations could help determine whose gravestone this was.

A significant number of gravestones at Winterborne Presbyterian record Aberdeenshire, Scotland as the place of origin. These gravestones are representative of the wave of Scottish settlers that came to Canada West (now Ontario) after the War of 1812. Encouraged by the British government, Scots from the Lowlands came to Canada in large numbers. While many immigrants were farmers, blacksmiths, masons and carpenters; there were also teachers and clergymen. Quite a few Scottish families, as well as English families, settled in the Winterbourne area in the 1830s.

Chalmers Church
For many years the cemetery was associated with Chalmers Church in the village of Winterbourne. But before 1876 the cemetery was the location of St Andrews Presbyterian — a frame church erected in 1838. Chalmers Church was the result of the 1844 split between the established Church of Scotland and the Free Presbyterian Church. The Free Presbyterians were barred from worshipping at St. Andrews. The Free Presbyterians build a frame church in the village, and in 1870 built the yellow bricked building which still stands today. In 1876, after the reunification of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, St. Andrews joined with Chalmers, and in 1878 the frame church on the cemetery site was sold and dismantled. Chalmers Church itself closed in 2011, but not before the building was designated a heritage structure.

The name Winterbourne dates to the construction of a dam, sawmill and gristmill on Cox Creek by William Henry Lanphier in 1854. Lanphier was born in Sunbury-on-Thames, England in 1809, the son of the Reverend Dr. William Henry Lanphier (1774-1823). Lanphier joined the Madras Army of the East India Company as a Cadet in 1826. He rose to the rank of Lieutenant but retired in 1839. He came to Canada in 1854 but returned to England the following year to pursue a career as a Church of England minister. He graduated from Cuddesdon College in 1856 and was ordained by the Bishop of Oxford in 1858. Lanphier was appointed Vicar of Long Compton in Warwickshire in 1861.

It is said that Lanphier named the village Winterbourne after his ancestral home in England. There is no record, however, of a Winterbourne in Sunbury-on-Thames. There are numerous Winterbournes elsewhere in England, but it likely that Lanphier just liked the name. Previous to 1855 the settlement had been known as Cox Creek, named after blacksmith Michael Cox who came to the area about 1840.

Presbyterian Manse, Winterbourne
The same year he built the mills, Lanphier also build a house which still exists and was used as the Presbyterian manse for many years. He died in St Leonards-on-Sea, Sussex in 1875, and was buried at Long Compton.

William Henry Lanphier's brother Thomas Halifax Lanphier (1811-1872) had settled in the Winterbourne area more than fifteen years earlier, and owned a farm east of where his brother built the mills. He married Jane Gordon (1806-1891) in 1840. Jane had been born in Aberdeenshire, and had come to Canada with her parents. John Gordon (1776-1862) and Elizabeth Davidson (1776-1862). According to his obituary Lanphier had served in the Royal Navy and came to Upper Canada after his discharge in 1835. The obituary states:

He was a man of large means and kind heart, and was never slow to aid the distressed, and many now comfortable homes can date their early prosperity to his helping hand. He leaves a widow and two daughters to mourn his loss. (Galt Reporter, November 29, 1872)
Thomas Smith 1768-1850
The earliest settler in the Winterbourne area, however, was Thomas Smith. Smith was born in Vermont in 1768 and came to Upper Canada in the 1790s. He married Mary Weaver (1778-1845) and settled in Woolwich about 1807, probably as a squatter. Thomas and Mary lived with their three children on the east bank of the Grand River opposite the mouth of the Conestoga. Their daughter Priscilla was born in 1808 and was likely the first white child born in Woolwich.

During the War of 1812, Smith was a Lieutenant in the 2nd York Militia, and was wounded in the knee at the Battle of Lundy's Lane. In 1835 he started a coach service from Winterbourne to Preston (Cambridge) via Berlin (Kitchener) than ran until 1850. Unlike most of his neighbours, Smith was a Methodist. He died at the age of 82 after suffering a stroke at a religious meeting, and was buried at Winterbourne's small Methodist cemetery.

Rachel Hewitt 1797-1846
Another early settler in the area was Elisha Hewitt. Hewitt was born in Cayuga, New York in 1800 and came to Upper Canada in 1819. In 1823 he settled in Woolwich Township and the same year married 26-year-old Rachel Cress. Elisha and Rachel had seven children, all of whom survived to adulthood. After Rachel's death in 1846, Elisha married Elspit Meldrum (1812-1860). Rachel's and Elspit's gravestones survive as does the gravestone of Elisha and Elspit's daughter Jane (1849-1853).

The earliest gravestone in the cemetery is that of George Wright who died at the age of 19 in 1841. The gravestone of George Mackie records an earlier death date of 1840, however, the stone was erected after the death of his wife Jean Forsyth in 1850. George Mackie was born in Aberdeenshire about 1758 and came to Canada in 1837 with the families of his adult children.

It is interesting to note that the Winterbourne area was also briefly home to a Black settlement known as Colbornesburg. In 1829 a group of freed slaves from Ohio, led by Paola Brown, convinced Lieutenant Governor Sir John Colborne to let them settle in Upper Canada. Brown chose the area north of Cox Creek for his settlement. By 1832, nine families totalling 34 individuals were living there, and a church and schoolhouse had been built. Thirty-four Blacks are known to have settled in the area but within a few years most had moved away, many to the Queen's Bush settlement further north.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

On the Trail of the Pittaways

Everett Cooke (1927-1987)
and Winifred Pittaway (1905-1937)

I never met my maternal grandmother. Winnie, as she was affectionately known, died two decades before I was born. She died shortly before my father's tenth birthday, far from her home in New Carlisle, Quebec, while undergoing treatment for cancer at St Mary's Hospital in Rochester, Minnesota.

Winnie and Dorothy
with their mother Rose
Winifred Ellis Pittaway was born in Caversham, Oxford in 1905, the eldest of two daughters of Arthur and Rose Pittaway. In 1907, shortly before Winnie's second birthday, the family emigrated to Canada, arriving at Montreal aboard the Tunisian in May 1907. The family headed west by railway to Calgary. After Winnie's sister Dorothy was born in 1909, Arthur moved his family further west to Castlegar.

Castlegar, in the interior of British Columbia, was a newly minted settlement. The first schoolhouse and the first hotel had only been built in 1908. Census data shows that Arthur had established himself as a farmer by 1911.

Winnie and Alfred Cooke
Arthur remained in Castlegar for the next 16 years, and it was there that Winnie met a young lumberman from the Gaspe region of Quebec named Alfred Harris Cooke. Winnie and Freddie were married at Castlegar in the spring of 1926. The same year, Freddie was asked by his father to take over the family farm in New Carlisle. Freddie brought his new bride east to the Gaspe, and my father was born the following year.

Arthur, Rose and Dorothy moved to the larger community of Trail, British Columbia where Rose died in 1934. Arthur remarried in 1940 and moved to Vancouver. I remember meeting him around 1965 when he was in his eighties. He died in 1970 and was buried beside Rose at the Mountain View Cemetery in Trail.

When I first started researching my Pittaway ancestors I had some difficulty discovering Arthur's origins. I knew that he had been born in England in 1878, and I knew from a note on the back of a blurry photograph that his mother's name was Margaret. The 1881 Census showed numerous Pittaway families in the West Midlands, but no Arthur and Margaret. Finally, I found several Pittaway families living in Watchet, Somerset, a harbour on the Bristol Channel.

Arthur Pittaway
Arthur Ellis Pittaway was the oldest of the three children of Joseph and Margaret Pittaway. Although his father was a mariner, Arthur trained as a carpenter, and by 1901 had left Watchet for Portsmouth, Hampshire. Also in Portsmouth in 1901, was Rose Broom Smith, a shopkeeper's assistant from Greenwich who was living with her uncle, a retired Royal Navy carpenter. Arthur and Rose married in Portsmouth in 1902. Rose was 12 years older than Arthur.

Arthur's father, Joseph Snow Pittaway was born in Watchet in 1852, the son of Frederick Pittaway and Ellen Burge. His wife, Margaret Mock, had been born in Braunton, Devon. Margaret's brother Joseph Mock (1835-1868) had married Martha Pittaway (1834-1889), Joseph Snow Pittaway's aunt. It was likely through them that Joseph and Margaret met.

Joseph Snow Pittaway began his nautical career in 1863 as a boy on the ketch Tom. His uncle, Joseph Pittaway, was the master. In 1871, he was mate aboard the Thomas & Sarah. The following year he was mate on the schooner Kelso. He became master of the Fortitude in 1873, followed by the Ann in 1876, and the Kelso in 1877.
Joseph was master of the Kelso for five years.

The Kelso was owned by the Beasley family of Watchet, and frequently carried iron ore from the Brendon Hills in West Somerset to Newport in Wales, and returning with a load of coal. A portrait of the Kelso hangs in the Watchet Market House Museum.

The Topsail Schooner Kelso by Thomas Chidgey (1855-1926)
In 1887, Joseph became Master of the Telegraph, owned by William Stoate of Watchet. He was Master of the Electric, also owned by William Stoate, from 1892 until 1903. The Telegraph and the Electric were ketches, sailing vessels with two masts ideally suited for moving cargo along the coast and across the Bristol Channel. A ketch is distinguished by having a forward mast (mainmast) larger than the after mast (mizzen).

Joseph afterwards sailed trows on the Severn River estuary, frequently carrying salt from Gloucester to Bristol. A trow is a small vessel. The only surviving Severn trow, Spry, built in 1894 is just under 22 metres in length with a beam of 5 1/2 metres.

When regattas became popular in the late 19th century Joseph took up the sport of yachting. He almost drowned in 1905 when his yacht capsized during a race at Minehead.

In the 1914 Kelly's Directory, Joseph is listed as a Master Mariner, however, the 1911 census shows him as a worker at the Wansbrough Paper Mill.

Margaret died in 1910. Joseph died in 1927.

Watchet Harbour by Thomas Chidgey (1855-1926)
Joseph's father Frederick Pittaway was born in Watchet in 1826. In 1849 he married Ellen Burge, the illegitimate daughter of Grace Burge (1792-1839), and the mother of five-year-old John Burge. Frederick and Ellen had ten children. Their oldest died at the age of eighteen months. Joseph Snow Pittaway was their second child.

Frederick was a mariner, however, he contracted measles in 1855 and became blind. The 1871 Census records Frederick Pittaway as a "late mariner" and "blind from measles." The 1861 Census indicates that he been blind for six years. His blindness, however, didn't stop him from getting in trouble with the law. An 1864 article from the Taunton Courier reported that Frederick, his brother Joseph, and several others were fined £2 each for assaulting a police constable. One the magistrates described the group as "a riotous bad lot of fellows." Frederick died in 1878.

James  Pittaway and Margaret Mock
Frederick's father James was the patriarch of the Pittaway family of Watchet. He was born in Penryn, Cornwall in 1798 and died in Watchet in 1879. He is likely the "eldest of the family" pictured with Margaret Mock. James worked at the paper mill in Watchet which later became the Wansbrough Paper Mill. It is not known when and why he came to Watchet, but in 1825 he married Jane Webber (1803-1876).

Joseph Pittaway (1830-1904)
James and Jane had eight children. Frederick was the oldest. Their second son, became a Master Mariner but drowned in the 1860 when the Medora sank off the coast of Wales. Their third son, Joseph, was also a Master Mariner. He and Ellen Wilkins had a large family including Charlotte who was the last Pittaway living in Watchet when she died in 1961. Joseph and Ellen's gravestone at St Decumans, Watchet is quite distinctive.

Alfred Pittaway was the fourth child of James and Jane. He was living with his parents in 1841 but afterwards disappears from the records. Martha was the first daughter of James and Jane. Her husband Joseph Mock was mate on the schooner Trial when it sank with the loss of all hands during a heavy gale in the Bristol Channel.

James and Jane's fifth son, Robert, stayed away from the sea and became a coachman in Leckhampton, Gloucester. His sister Elizabeth died in infancy. James and Jane's youngest child, Wentworth Pittaway (1842-1899) emigrated to South Africa.

In his will James describes himself as a "Paper Maker" and bequeathed his estate to his daughter Martha, the widow of Joseph Mock.

According to census data, James was born in Cornwall about 1798. I have not be able to find a baptism for him, but there is a marriage recorded for James Pittaway of the Worcestershire Militia and Ann Snow of Penryn at St Gluvias on 25 Oct 1795. But there the Pittaway trail ends.
St Decuman's Church and Watchet Paper Mills
by British School

Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Mystery of Alfred Cooke

Soo Depot and Elevators, Anamoose, McHenry, North Dakota, 1928
When I first started researching my family history sixteen years ago, all I knew about James Alfred Cooke (1853-1937), brother of my great-grandfather Arthur Cooke )1867-1936), was that he had married a girl from Boston. Slowly, over the years, more details have emerged, but mystery still surrounds him.

Alfred was born in New Carlisle, Quebec in 1853, the son of William Cooke (1825-1901) and Judith Chatterton (1828-1912). On December 12, 1878, Alfred married Albertina Olson in Boston, Massachusetts. Albertina had been born in Sweden about 1851, and had emigrated to the United States in 1875.

According to Massachusetts birth records, Alfred and Albertina had five children born in Boston beginning in 1881: Frank (1881-1881), William (1883- ?), Emma (1884-?), Helena (1886-1944), and Edna (1891-1894).

A sixth child, Rose, was likely born before Alfred and Albertina were married. At the time of the 1880 US Census, the young family were living in Boston. Alfred lists his occupation as carpenter. Strangely, Alfred also appears in the 1881 Canadian Census living with his parents in New Carlisle.

The real mystery, however, is what happened to James Alfred Cooke after the birth of his daughter Edna in 1891. The 1900 Census records that Albertina was living with her three surviving daughters in Boston. Alfred is nowhere to be found. Albertina lists her marital status as widowed.

In 1910 Albertina was still living in Boston with her three daughters, and still claiming to be widowed. Meanwhile, Alfred has reappeared in Anamoose, McHenry, North Dakota. He is married to woman named Lena, has a daughter Frieda, and a son Frank.

Did Alfred and Albertina divorce? Or did Alfred abandon his family? If Alfred did not divorce Albertina, then his marriage to Lena implies that he was a bigamist.

Fifteen years ago a second cousin of mine was able to make contact with Frank's children. Frank was born in 1907 and died in 1956. Their mother Violet (1912-1991) met their father when he served in England during the Second World War. Unfortunately, they knew very little about their grandparents other than Lena's maiden name was Behr. Apparently Violet was a very private person who destroyed most of the family papers before she died because "it was none of their business."

Census data indicated that Lena was born in Mississippi about 1876. It took numerous attempts over the years to find her, but I think I have finally succeeded. In the 1880 Census there is a Lena Behr, aged 4, living in Beauregard, Copiah, Mississippi. Her father was Alfred Ernest Bahr (1835-1902), a general merchant who had emigrated from Pomerania. Her mother was a local girl named Martha Jane "Mattie" Benton (1856-1939).

Further research uncovered Alfred and Mattie's marriage in 1875, that Albert was a private in Stockdale's Battalion, Mississippi Calvary during the Civil War, and that their gravestones are in the Beauregard Memorial Cemetery.

On her death certificate, Lena's date of birth was recorded as 24 Jul 1879. In view of the 1880 Census data her date of birth was more likely 24 Jul 1876.

Alfred and Lena's daughter Frieda was killed by a tornado on 3 July 1916. The Ward County Independent reported on her death:

Freda Cook, aged eleven years, a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Cook of Anamoose, and Anna, the nine-year old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ludwig Huber, residing five miles north of that city, were instantly killed in a cyclone which visited that section of the state at six o'clock Monday evening, leaving death and ruin in its wake.... The little Cook girl was killed by flying debris from the wrecked hen house. Her mother was in the building at the time it was destroyed, but escaped unharmed, being left on the floor. The flying timbers struck the little girl, killing her almost instantly.
Alfred remained in Anamoose for the rest of his life.

In 1920, Albertina was living in Boston with her married daughter Helena. I have not found a record of Albertina's death.

Alfred and Albertina's daughter Rose married twice. In 1910 she married Arvid Daniel Skonberg. He died of tuberculosis in 1914 at the age of 38. Five years later she married Samuel Victor Walters. Samuel had been born in Bath, Somerset, England in 1885, and died before the 1930 Census.

Brattleboro Retreat, Brattleboro, Windham, Vermont
Rose's death certificate records that she was born on 13 Aug 1877 in Boston, and was the daughter of Fred Cooke and Albertina Olson. She died of chronic myocarditis at the Brattleboro Retreat in Brattleboro, Windham, Vermont on 7 Feb 1946. Brattleboro is a mental health and addictions hospital founded in 1834. Her death certificate notes that she suffered from "manic depressive psychosis" and the 1940 Census shows that Rose was a patient at Brattleboro.

James Alfred Cooke died in Anamoose on 27 Oct 1937. Lena Behr died in Wells County North Dakota on 4 Sep 1940.

Research continues. If Albert and Albertina did divorce, then a court record should exist, however, a trip to Boston might be required. There is also a collection of 28 photos, called the "Alfred Cook Family Photograph Collection," at the State Historical Society of North Dakota Archives in Bismark, North Dakota. Included in the collection is a "photo of the Cook family in front of their home."