Thursday, December 25, 2014

John Squire (1811-1890) — Organ Builder

Builder's Plate, St Peter's, Brampton, Suffolk

One of the interesting aspects of genealogical research is the connection to social history. I've previously written about the Tanton family of St Giles in the Wood, Devon. While recently updating my records on this family, I discovered that I had missed three children of Elizabeth Tanton (1770-1846) and her husband Robert Squire (1768-1846). At first I was sceptical given the ten year gap between the baptism of their fourth child in 1799 and that of their fifth in 1809. What convinced me, however, was three things. First, there is no evidence of any other Robert and Elizabeth Tanton in North Devon. Second, their sixth child, John Squire, had a daughter named Frances Tanton Squire. Finally, in the 1851 Census, John Squire is recorded as visiting his oldest sister Fanny and her family.

What is most interesting about John Squire, however, is that in every census from 1841 to 1881 his occupation is recorded as organ builder. Further research uncovered photographs of one of his organs in St Peter's Church in Brampton, Suffolk.

St Pancras Church, London
John Squire was born in Great Torrington, Devon in 1811. His father was a carpenter. In 1832, John married Mary Ann Slocombe (1808-1879) in the parish of Alphington near Exeter. Five children were baptised at St Sidwell in Exeter. The first reference to John as an organ builder was in the record for his daughter, Frances Tanton Squire's baptism in 1836. In about 1839, John moved with his family to London. While in London, John and Mary Ann had four more children who were all baptised at St Pancras. It is interesting to note their daughter's Elizabeth (1842-1927) and Rosina (1845-1929) were not baptised until 1854.

At the time of the 1841 Census he was living on Seymour Crescent near Euston Square in the parish of St Pancras. He remained in the Euston Square area for at least the next twenty years, but by 1871 was living a mile further east in a terraced house on Pentonville Road.

Organ, St. Peter's Church
Brampton, Suffolk
John Squire was part of what became known as the Golden Age of British organ building. Before the 1830s, none of the organs found in Great Britain could compare with the organs found in churches and cathedrals throughout France and Germany. For example, the music of J.S. Bach, which was becoming very popular, could often not be performed as written. This created a demand for better instruments. In addition, the prosperity and population growth created by the Industrial Revolution, resulted in the building and renovation of many churches, and consequently the demand for new organs.

The leading organ builder of the Victorian era was Henry Willis (1821-1901). Among the organs he built or rebuilt were the instruments at St Paul's Cathedral and the Royal Albert Hall. While John Squire could not compete with Henry Willis, smaller churches were more than willing to commission him. The National Pipe Organ Register has records of 19 instruments built or rebuilt, one of which was the organ at St Peter's in Brampton, Sussex.

Sometime before the death of his wife in 1879, John Squire moved to Wandsworth, Surrey where he remained until his death in 1890.

Friday, October 3, 2014

An Imprudent Marriage: Sarah Stephenson (1782-1836)

Gravestone of Sarah Stephenson at St George's Anglican Church
Sometimes the most unassuming of gravestones leads to the most interesting of stories.

The gravestone in 1983
One such gravestone is found at St George's Anglican Church in St. Catharines, Ontario. Lying flat on the ground and almost completely obscured by grass, is the monument to Sarah Stevenson, wife of William Dummer Powell. Anyone familiar with the history of Upper Canada you will recognize the name. William Dummer Powell (1755-1834) was Chief Justice of Upper Canada from 1816 to 1825, and was also one of three judges at the Bloody Assize of 1814. He was a member of the York elite, a group usually referred to as the Family Compact. William Dummer Powell, however, did not have a wife named Sarah. This is the grave of his daughter-in-law, the wife of his son, William Dummer Powell (1778-1803). Her story is both romantic and tragic.

Sarah Stephenson (1782-1836) was the daughter of Captain Francis Stephenson (1750-1807), formerly of the Queen's Rangers, and his wife Eleanor Townsend (? -1830). After the American Revolution, Captain Stephenson initially settled in New Brunswick, but was later granted land in Louth Township, to the west of present-day St Catharines.

Where and how young William and Sarah met is uncertain, however, William's father and his wife Anne Murray (1755-1849), were not at all impressed with eighteen-year-old Sarah. Their disapproval resulted in an elopement. William and Sarah were married at Niagara on 25 Jul 1801 by Rev. Robert Addison.  In a letter from Queenston dated three days later, William thanked Robert Nelles of Grimsby and his wife for their help:

Dear Sir:—I should be unpardonable if I lost any time returning the hearty thanks which are so justly due from me to you for your kind and friendly assistance in rendering me one of the most happy of men. After leaving your house on Friday night we had as uncommonly fatiguing ride to Runchey's and arrived at Niagara on the following morning where, by Mr. Addison's assistance we were soon out of fear of pursuit. Mrs. Powell joins with me in her professions of gratitude to yourself and Mrs. Nelles and requests that you will take the trouble of apprising her sister, Ellen, of her love and obligations to her for the part she took in forwarded our escape. Believe me dear Sir, your obliged and obedient servant, W.D. Powell, Jr.
Portrait of Anne Powell, 1834
Justice Powell's biographer, William Reddick Riddle, described the "runaway marriage" as "one of the romances of the time." Anne Powell described it as marrying "imprudently." Ironically, Anne's marriage to William Dummer Powell Sr. had also been an elopement.

Sadly, the marriage between William and Sarah was not to last. William drowned on 29 Sep 1803.

William and Sarah had two daughters. Mary, likely born in 1802, and Anne, born after the death of her father. Sarah was considered unfit to raise the girls, so both were legally adopted by her husband's parents. In a letter Anne Powell wrote of Sarah: "Surely it is not unjust to say she feels not maternal affection. She left them without a tear." Sarah was, however, given an allowance of 25 pounds a year.

William and Anne Powell's concern for their grandchildren may have been justified. A few years later, in a letter to her brother, Anne wrote:
Her neglect even of her children would in any other character by surprising. Not a line has she written for months, & when she did write, no one was mentioned with any marks of an affectionate remembrance. Unfortunate marriage! In what difficulties has it involved me.
Unfortunately, we only have Anne Powell's side of the story. It is clear, however, that Anne wanted the best for her granddaughters, and that the best did not include their mother:
The children are better when she is at a distance. The imbecility of her mind prevents her from seeing what is best for them and produces frequent disgusts.
Years later another scandal arose. Sarah, now in her thirties, fell in love with young man of seventeen. She pursued him even after he rebuked her. He told her that she was old enough to be his mother, and that he hated her. Sarah's sister-in-law, Mary Powell, became involved and convinced Sarah to stop acting so foolishly.

Sarah lived quietly in St. Catharines for the rest of her life. She died at the age of 54 in 1836. It is likely that she was buried at the First Anglican Chapel Burial Grounds, but was later reinterred at St George's Anglican Church.


McKenna, Katherine. A Life of Propriety: Anne Murray Powell and Her Family, 1755-1849. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1994. Print.

Riddell, William Reddick. The Life of William Dummer Powell, First Judge at Detroit and Fifth Chief Justice of Upper Canada. Lansing: Michigan Historical Commission, 1924. Print.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Hazards of Gravestone Photography

Over the years I have photographed thousands of gravestones. Sometimes it can be quite challenging. I've dealt with gravestones obscured by encroaching grass, day lilies, wild grape vines, or lilac bushes. I've excavated half-buried gravestones. I've dealt with numerous lighting issues: gravestones in heavy shade, gravestones that face north, gravestones that can only be read when the sun shines perpendicular to the stone. But I've never had to deal with a wasp's nest on a monument. I'll think I'll wait for freezing temperatures, or use a telephoto lens.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

An Ocean Apart: The Voddens of Esquesing

Gravestone of Thomas Vodden (1814-1815)
It is the quite the distance between the parish of St Giles in the Wood in Devon, England, and the hamlet of Walsh in Norfolk, Ontario. These two places, however, are linked by the gravestones of two brothers.

Thomas Vodden the son of Laurence Vodden (1783-1855) and Ann Manning (1781-1873), was baptised at Burrington, Devon on 9 Jun 1814. When Thomas died the following year he was buried at St Giles in the Wood. Why his parents choose to bury him there is unclear, as St Giles in the Wood is several kilometres from Week in Burrington where Thomas's father was a yeoman farmer. Thomas's father and grandfather had been born in Winkleigh. His great-grandfather, however, had been born in St Giles in the Wood, and his great-great-grandfather, Lawrence Vodden (? -1733), is the common ancestor of the numerous Vodden lines in North Devon.

Ann Manning (1781-1873)
Thomas's father, Laurence, son of Robert Vodden (1748- ?) and Prudence Pope, was born in 1783. He married Ann Manning at South Molton in 1808. Ann, the daughter of  Charles Manning and Elizabeth Hill, was born in Burrington in 1781.

It seems likely that Laurence and Ann had a child between the time of their marriage and the birth of their son Laurence in 1811, however, no record of this child has been found. Thomas was their second child, followed by Elizabeth in 1816, Ann in 1818, Grace in 1820, Rose in 1822, and Rebecca in 1825. All of these children were baptised at Burrington.

The 1838 Title Apportionment shows two farms with the name Week in Burrington: Higher Week and Week Park. Both farms are small: Week Park at 16 acres and Higher Week at 26 acres. In 1838 Higher Week was owned by Robert Chichester and occupied by John Manning, possibly the brother of Ann. The Higher Week farmhouse dates from about 1600 and is Grade II listed.

Higher Week Farmhouse, Burrington, Devon
According to an 1895 article in the Acton Free Press, written to celebrate their daughter Rebecca Vodden's fiftieth wedding anniversary, Laurence and Ann emigrated to Canada about 1829. After spending a few years in Miramachi, New Brunswick, they moved to Esquesing Township, Halton County to the west of Toronto.

Laurence Vodden
A few years after their arrival in Canada, their son Laurence married Mary Ann Hutchinson, the daughter of another English emigrant. The younger Laurence had ten children, five of whom were born in Esquesing. By 1852, Laurence had relocated to Walpole Township in Haldimand County. Between 1861 and 1871, he moved to Charlotteville Township in Norfolk. When he died in 1884, he was buried in the Walsh Cemetery.  Laurence has two grave markers: a plain slab with his name and dates as well as the name and dates of his wife and two of his children. Nearby is the original gravestone, broken into five pieces and lying flat on the ground.

Vodden-Kennedy Monument
Greenwood Cemetery, Georgetown
The older Laurence died in 1855. At the time of the 1861 and 1871 Censuses, his widow Ann was living with her daughter Ann and son-in-law John Kennedy (1821-1886) in Georgetown. Ann died in 1873. Laurence and Ann's names are inscribed on a monument in Greenwood Cemetery, although there is evidence that they were buried at the Wesleyan Methodist Cemetery, then moved to Greenwood in the 1890s.

John Kennedy was the son of land surveyor Charles Kennedy (1792-1854) who mapped out the north half of Esquesing in 1819, and built a sawmill on Silver Creek. Ann Street in Georgetown is named after his daughter-in-law, Ann Vodden. In 1845, John Kennedy built Cleave House, named after the subsequent owners. In 1871 he built and moved into a Victorian cottage now known as the John Kennedy House. Ann died in 1886, ten months after her husband.

Advertisement for the
Walter Sanitarium
Laurence and Ann's oldest daughter, Elizabeth Vodden, married George Walter. She died in Acton in 1884 at the age of 67. Their son Dr. Robert Walter (1841-1921) founded the Walter Sanitarium, a health resort, at Wernersville near Reading, Pennsylvania.

Rose Vodden may have married Samuel Snell of Chinguacousy. Like Rose, Samuel had been born in Burrington, Devon, and had emigrated to Upper Canada via Miramachi, along with his parents. According to an entry in the Wesleyan Methodist Baptismal Register held at the United Church of Canada Archives, Samuel and Rose had a daughter Mary born in Mar 1843. Rose, however, died later that year and was buried at the Zion Cemetery.

Rebecca Vodden
Laurence and Ann's youngest daughter, Rebecca, married Richard Hemstreet (1818-1908). Rebecca died in 1920 at the age of 95 and is buried in Milton. Richard was born in Pennsylvania but had come with his parents to Upper Canada at the age of three. At the time of his death, Richard and Rebecca had been married for 63 years.

What became of Grace, and whether Laurence and Ann had other children, has yet to be discovered.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Book Cemetery

Book Cemetery, Ancaster, Wentworth, Ontario

The Book Cemetery is one of several old family cemeteries in the Ancaster area of Ontario. Unlike the nearby Shaver Cemetery, time has not been kind to the Book Cemetery. Many monuments are weathered, toppled or broken, and there is evidence that vandalism has been a problem in the past. A number of very old monuments, however, survive in situ, including two from 1815.

The cemetery is located at Lot 45, Concession 4, Ancaster on land that John Book (1754-1827) was granted in 1801. Johannes Buch, later anglicized to John Book was born in Heidelburg, Germany. About 1774 he married Anna Gertraute Zimmerman (1752-1829), who adopted the name Charity when she came to North America. In 1786, the couple and their seven children emigrated to the New Jersey, where their eighth child was born. Two years later they relocated to Canada. By 1789 they were one of 22 families squatting in the Ancaster area. John and Charity eventually had 12 children, nine of whom are buried at Book Cemetery. One of their daughters, Mary Catherine, married William Shaver (1771-1846) and is buried at Shaver Cemetery.

Book House in 1960
In 1811, John Book began work on a two-and-a-half story red brick house, but construction was interrupted by the War of 1812 when John's sons George, John and Adam served with the 5th Regiment Lincoln Militia. The Georgian style house, was completed shortly after the war and featured a five-bay symmetrical design with chimneys at the gable ends. The sash windows originally would have been 12-over-12, and the door had sidelights and a half-moon fanlight over the door. The house, surrounding farmland, and cemetery remained in the Book family until 1907. The building was the oldest brick house in Ancaster until it was destroyed by fire in 2005 in a suspected case of arson.

Mary Book 1759-1815
While oldest gravestone in the Book Cemetery is that of Henry Book (1795-1815), tenth child of John and Charity, far more interesting is the red slate gravestone of Mary Book (1759-1815), possibly an unmarried sister of John. John and Charity's gray slate gravestones are also extant as are their footstones.

Completing a photographic inventory of this cemetery was a challenge. The 1985 Ontario Genealogical transcription is incomplete as at least six gravestones were not listed. It also contains numerous errors, and does not appear to have been completed in any sort of systematic fashion. This made it next to impossible to identify the several unreadable gravestones based on their location. Fortunately an 1890 transcription is also available, as is a cultural heritage assessment report prepared in 2010.
John Book (1754-1827)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Prendergast Gravestones

Gravestone of Penelope Prendergast (1774-1845)
St. George's Anglican Church, St. Catharines, Lincoln, Ontario
Partially hidden by the barberry shrubs that grow in the courtyard cemetery of St George's Anglican Church in St. Catharines, Ontario, is a 19th century gravestone to Penelope and Jedidiah Prendergast. What is unusual about this stone is that there is another stone to Penelope and Jedidiah in the Prendergast Cemetery in Mayville, Chautauqua, New York.

Portrait of Jedidiah Prendergast
St. Catharines Museum
Jedidiah, a physician, was born in Pawling, Dutchess, New York on 13 May 1766. He was the fourth son of William Prendergast (1727-1811) and Mehitable Wing (1738-1812). Jedidiah married Penelope Chase, the daughter of William Chase (1754-1813), a Rhode Island merchant, and Catherine Rodman (? -1789). Penelope was born in Kingston, Washington, Rhode Island in 1774.

The year Jedidiah was born, his father was charged with leading an armed revolt against landowners in the Hudson Valley. When he was found guilty and sentenced to hang, his wife Mehitable rode over 100 kilometres on horseback from to beg the governor for a stay of execution. Eventually, William Prendergast was granted a full pardon by King George III.

Portrait of Penelope Prendergast
St. Catharines Museum
Almost four decades later, William and Mehitable departed New York for Tennessee, accompanied by most of their children and grandchildren. Tennessee was not to their liking, so they headed north to the Chautauqua Lake area of Western New York. It is unclear whether Jedidiah and Penelope went with them. What is know is that Jedidiah moved to Upper Canada and settled at St. Catharines, then know as Shipman's Corners. Jedidiah was the first non-military doctor in the Thorald and St. Catharines area.

When his father died in 1811, Jedidiah rejoined the rest of his family in Chautauqua, and became a merchant in partnership with his brother Martin Prendergast (1769-1835). Jedidiah would eventually go on to become a New York State Senator.

In the few years Jedediah and Penelope had been in Upper Canada they had become acquainted with the Merritt family, including young William Hamilton Merritt (1793-1862). William married Jedidiah’s daughter Catherine Rodman Prendergast (1793-1862) in 1815. William Hamilton Merritt was a soldier, merchant, and politician, and is considered the “father” of the Welland Canal. The numerous letters held at the Archives of Ontario, and the letters published in an 1876 biography, show that William frequently turned to his father-in-law for advice.

Gravestone of Penelope Prendergast (1774-1845)
Prendergast Cemetery, Mayville, Chautauqua, New York
Penelope Chase Prendergast died at St. Catherines on February 1, 1845 during a visit to her daughter and son-in-law, and according to the burial register was interred in the churchyard of St. George’s Anglican three days later. Jedidiah died in 1848 at his home in Mayville, Chautauqua, and was buried at the Prendergast Cemetery. When William Hamilton Merritt erected a gravestone for his mother-in-law at St. George’s, he also decided to commemorate his father-in-law Jedidiah. Apparently, Jedidiah’s relatives in Chautauqua had the same idea.

Drawing of the Prendergast Gravestone from
the 19th Century Tombstone Database Project

Friday, July 25, 2014

At Lundy's Lane: John Fletcher (1777-1842)

Engraving from Harper's Weekly June 1866
200 years ago today, one of the bloodiest battles of the War of 1812 took place in present day Niagara Falls. The Battle of Lundy's Lane pitted 3500 British regulars and Canadian militia against an American army of 2500. One of the participants was 37-year-old Sgt. John Fletcher of the 1st Regiment Lincoln Militia.

Pay list
1st Lincoln Militia
Recently digitized War of 1812 pay lists from Library and Archives Canada show that John Fletcher was a sergeant in Captain George Ball's company for much of 1813 and 1814. John was a recent arrival in Canada, likely part of the wave of American emigration after the Revolutionary War. In 1796 he received patents for Lots 5 and 6, Concession 4 in Grantham Township, east of present day St. Catharines. This 200 acre block of land is now mainly vineyards, and is northwest of the Niagara District Airport.
In 1811, John purchased parts of Lots 13, 14, and 15, Broken Front and Concession 1 in Grantham, located on the shore of Lake Ontario at the mouth of Walker Creek. The 1876 Illustrated Historical Atlas of Lincoln and Welland Counties shows this land occupied by John's descendants. John Fletcher's property is now a residential area and parkland to either side of Vine Street in St Catharines.

John's neighbours to the south were the Darby family headed by George Darby (1763-1812), whose son Jacob Darby (1792-1866), was also a sergeant in Capt. George Ball's company. Jacob Darby married Mary Ann Goring (1794-1870), daughter of Francis Goring who I have written about previously.

In 1829, John Fletcher sold off Lot 5 and 6, Concession 4. Lot 5 was sold to his oldest son William (1798- ?), who in turn sold it in 1834.

It is uncertain where John Fletcher was born, and when and where he married. His wife Elizabeth (1773-1856) was a young widow with a son, David Wood. John and Elizabeth's first child, William Fletcher was born in 1798. Seven more children followed.

Unlike many in the Niagara District, John's losses during the War of 1812 were minimal. He did, however, make a claim for two horses, a wagon and harness lost in September 1814 during the Siege of Fort Erie. John's stepson, David, had been attached to his father's unit as a driver:
...he was sent with his team to bring water from the River, some firing took place which frightened the horses so much that they became unmanageable & got into the current where they were drowned before any assistance could be given.
The claim was rejected since it appeared "by the evidence that the loss arose from the carelessness of the Driver."

John died in 1842 and was buried at St George's Anglican Church. His wife Elizabeth died in 1856. Their graves were among the small number that were subsequently moved to Victoria Lawn Cemetery. Unfortunately, Elizabeth's gravestone is now in two pieces, however, a photograph from 1983 shows both stones side by side at the corner of the Parish Hall.

Fletcher gravestones, St George's Anglican Church, 1983
Fletcher gravestones, St George's Anglican Church, 2014

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Chequered Sheds and Thomas Perrin (1791-1870)

Mt Vernon Cemetery, Brantford, Brant, Ontario
Mount Vernon is a small community in Brant Country west of Brantford, Ontario. The village was established in 1829 by Thomas Perrin (1791-1870) along the "Military Road" built in 1810 between Brantford and London.

Thomas Perrin
Thomas Perrin was the son of Thomas Perrin (1756-1822), an American who brought his family to Upper Canada about 1804. He purchased 1000 acres in the Mount Pleasant area southwest of Brantford. In 1811 he bought the local gristmill.

During the War of 1812, the elder Perrin commanded a company of militia from the Mount Pleasant area. Perrin's company became part of the 5th Lincoln Militia and was present in a supporting role at the Battle of Lundy's Lane on 25 July 1814. It is claimed that Perrin became known as "Captain Barefoot" for his habit of drilling his men in their bare feet.

The younger Perrin served in his father's company.

Pay list
5th Lincoln Militia
On 5 Nov 1814, Perrin's Mill and several Mount Pleasant homes were burned during American Brigadier General Duncan McArthur's extended mounted raid into Upper Canada. The following day McArthur attacked and overwhelmed a force of a few  hundred militia at Malcolm's Mills (Oakland) south of Mount Pleasant. The Battle of Malcolm's Mills was the last land battle of the War of 1812 fought in Upper Canada.

Perrin’s Mill was rebuilt the following year. Thomas Perrin Sr. died in 1822 and was buried at the Mount Pleasant Pioneer Cemetery. In 1829, Thomas Perrin, Jr. sold the mill and sought his own area to settle. He laid out a village which was first called Springfield after his birthplace in Massachusetts. Locally it was known as Chequered Sheds because of the black and white chequered hitching posts. Finally it acquired the name Mount Vernon.

Mount Vernon Methodist Church
Mount Vernon grew into a productive village. The first sawmill was built in 1840 and a gristmill in 1845. By 1860, a woollen mill, a carding and fulling mill, and a barrel factory had been added by Thomas Perrin and Son Company.

In 1850, the Methodists built a large wood frame church on Mill Road. The church, which in 1925 became the Mount Vernon United Church, is now a pre-school, but was once the spiritual centre of a thriving community.

Footstone for
Walter B Swayze
The adjoining cemetery predates the church by a number of years. The oldest gravestone is that of a child, Walter B. Swayze, who died in 1834 at the age of 14 months. While the gravestone is not particularly remarkable, the survival of the corresponding footstone is. Another early gravestone is that of Eliza, the young wife of Charles Nixon, who died in 1844 at the age of 22.

The cemetery is still active and currently has just over 200 gravestones. Many of the older stones have been set in concrete and some have been repaired using metal frames.

Thomas Perrin, the founder of Mount Vernon, died on 15 Jul 1870. His monument is surrounded by those of other early settlers of the area.

Eliza Nixon, 1822-1844

Monday, June 30, 2014

A Lonely Grave: Susannah Kinzie (1851-1853)

Pioneer Cemetery, North Dumfries, Waterloo, Ontario
On the western edge of North Dumfries township west of Cambridge, Ontario is a sign proclaiming a small lot to be a pioneer cemetery. Also known as the Alexander Family Plot, the cemetery contains no gravestones in situ. Fragments of four gravestones, however, can be found learning against a tree in the centre of the lot.

According to the Waterloo Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society, this cemetery represents the remains of an early pioneer cemetery used by local families including the Alexanders. In 1877, most of the graves were moved to the nearby Ayr Cemetery. When the adjoining road was widened in the 1970s, a gravestone for a young girl was found, as well as the fragments of other stones.

Susannah Kinzie (1851-1853) was the youngest daughter of Jacob Kinzie (1804-1862) and Susannah Stauffer (1809-1868). Susannah's grandfather, Dilmon Kinzie (1774-1854), had emigrated to Canada from Pennsylvania about 1799. The Kinzies were part of a mass exodus of German Mennonites from the United States after the Revolutionary War, attracted by inexpensive land, and the prospect of once again living under British rule.

Sometime before 1860, Susannah's parents emigrated to Michigan and settled in Kent County south of Grand Rapids. They are buried in Blain Cemetery in Gaines Township.

Two other fragments bear inscriptions. The first reads: "In memory of Louisa wife of Robert...." The second fragment contains a date (Dec. 17) and an age (27). The final fragment bears only the name of the engraver. Unfortunately, without a surname, it is difficult to determine who the fragments of these gravestones commemorate.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Cemetery Crawling

Over the past few weeks I have had the opportunity to visit a number of smaller cemeteries in the Hamilton and Niagara regions of Southern Ontario. Only a few of these cemeteries contain gravestones related to my own research interests. Most I visited as a volunteer photographer and indexer with the Canada GenWeb's Cemetery Project.

When I photograph a cemetery I usually try to make two visits at different times of the day. This allows me to photograph east-facing gravestones when the sun is in the east, and west-facing stones when the sun is in the west. As I later index the photographs, I cross-check against the Ontario Genealogical Society (OGS) transcriptions compiled in the 1980s. This usually sends me back for a third visit to locate any gravestones I may missed. Sometimes I find them. Sometimes they have disappeared. And sometimes I find a stone that was missed by the transcribers.

Here are a few of the cemeteries I have recently photographed:

Marx Binkley Cemetery, Ancaster, Ontario

Marx Binkley (1745-1805) and his family came to the Ancaster area from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in the late 1790s. He established a family burial ground in 1803, and his 1805 gravestone in one of the oldest in Southern Ontario. His gravestones has an unusual epitaph:
When I am dead and buired
And all my bones are rotten
When this you see oh think of me
Lest I should be forgotten
Beside him is buried his wife, Matelena, who died in 1838.

Henry Binkley Cemetery, Ancaster, Ontario

Henry Binkley, a grandson of Marx Binkley, established this family burial ground in 1852. The oldest gravestone is that of his father William Binkley (1784-1852).

Turney Family Burial Ground, St Catharines, Ontario

Imagine having a cemetery in your backyard. This was the consequence of building a subdivision in the Power Glen area of St Catharines. Access to this graveyard of six stones is via a branch of the Laura Secord Legacy Trail that climbs up from the valley of the Twelve Mile Creek.  The Turney Family Burial Ground is located on land granted to John Turney (1744-1819), a Lieutenant in Butler's Rangers during the American Revolution. While no stone to John Turney survives, there is a stone to his daughter Jenny (1774-1812), wife of William Boyd (? -1837).

Smith Family Cemetery

Another cemetery located on land once owned by an United Empire Loyalist is the Smith Family Cemetery. Nicholas Smith was a fifer in Butler's Rangers. His land is now owned by the Henry of Pelham Winery. None of the stones remain in situ, however, a wooden pavilion has been constructed to protect the fragments of stones that have been found. Nicholas Smith's gravestone is broken in three pieces and is no longer readable. That of his wife is also broken in three but the inscription is clear:

CATHERINE Consort of
of PELHAM who departed
this life Feb 3, 1817
Blessed are the dead who died in the Lord

St. George's Anglican, St. Catharine

Finally, there is the remnants of the graveyard that once surrounded St George's Anglican Church in Downtown St Catharines. Most of the graves were moved to Victoria Lawn Cemetery many years ago, however, about 60 stones remain, some on the west side of the church, and some in a courtyard squeezed between the church and parish hall.

The stones date from the first half of the eighteenth century, but over the years many have sunk into the ground or become overgrown with grass, some have become obscured by juniper and barberry bushes, some are broken (presumably before the courtyard was enclosed with a locked gate), and two are hidden behind a heat pump. Photographing these gravestones is proving to be a challenge.

Fortunately, in addition to the 1984 OGS transcription, other records of the gravestones exist. In the early 20th century, Janet Carnochan described the cemetery in her Inscriptions and Graves in the Niagara Peninsula. Even more useful is the 19th Century Tombstone Database Project Records held by Brock University Archives. In the summer of 1982, students supervised by Dr. David Rupp collected information on various graveyards in the Niagara region. 

Of particular interest are the photographs and detailed sketches of the gravestones. These records are important since a significant number of gravestones at St George's and other Niagara region cemeteries have been damaged or have disappeared. One example is the stone on the left.

Weathering and the encroachment of ground cover have made the stone difficult to read. According to the OGS transcription this is the gravestone of Samuel Freure (1775-1855) and his son Samuel Freure (1802-1841). The Register of Burials in the Parish of St. George's, St. Catharines records that Samuel Freure, "formerly from England," died on 29 Mar 1855 at the age of 81, and was buried on 2 Apr 1855. But what is inscribed on the stone? Fortunately the 19th Century Tombstone Database Project Records includes a drawing:

Samuel Freure was born in Bedfield, Suffolk, England, the son of Benjamin Freure and Elizabeth Pritty. Samuel likely came to Canada with his son and daughter-in-law in 1836.  

The oldest gravestone at St. George's is that of Jacob Shipman (1796-1813). Three pieces of this gravestone were found resting against the wall of the church. A photograph in the 19th Century Tombstone Database Project Records shows in stone in one piece and beside that of his mother. Jacob was the oldest son of Paul Shipman (1756-1825) and Elizabeth Hawke (1767-1847). St. Catharines was originally known as Shipman's Corners, named after Jacob's father, the second owner of a tavern located at the junction of the Iroquois trail and another trail than ran alongside 12 Mile Creek. Jacob was born in New Jersey, and came with his parents to Upper Canada in 1802.

Jacob was not originally interred at St. George's but at the First Anglican Chapel Burial Grounds located near his father's tavern. This burial ground was closed in 1837 after the site for the future St. George's was procured. At least sixteen graves were exhumed at the old site, and the remains transferred to the new burial ground.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Shaver Family Cemetery

Shaver Family Cemetery, Ancaster, Wentworth, Ontario
One of the more interesting Ontario graveyards I have visited is the Shaver Family Cemetery in Ancaster west of Hamilton, Ontario. What makes this cemetery unique is while most private family graveyards are small, Shaver is quite large with 68 monuments. Also remarkable is it's state of preservation. There are no signs of vandalism, and the few stones that are broken are likely the result of fallen tree branches.

 Cemetery Dedication
The cemetery is enclosed by a substantial stone wall. On the west side of the wall is a large stone inscribed with the following:
This cemetery was erected A.D. 1848 as a token of filial affection and respect by the 13 children of William and Mary Catherine Shaver, who settled this farm in 1798, it being then a wilderness.
John Shaver (1739-1795)
The Shaver family (originally Schaeffer) came to the Ancaster area from northwestern New Jersey in 1789. The head of the family, John Shaver (1739-1795) was born in Germany and had emigrated with his parents in 1765. He was a United Empire Loyalist who served with Butler's Rangers during the Revolutionary War. According to family tradition, John Shaver returned to New Jersey after the war to find that his first wife, Katrinka had died, and that his neighbours were less than friendly. John Shaver's gravestone is at nearby Betheda United Church Cemetery, and is one of the oldest gravestones in Ontario. His second wife, Mary Magdalene Hone (1761-1836) is buried beside him.

In 1797, John Shaver's second son, William (1772-1830) was granted Lot 35 Concession 3 in Ancaster. William married Mary Catharine Book (1776-1845). Together they had 13 children and acquired 1600 acres.

1856 Shaver Homestead
Three houses built by the Shaver family in the 19th century also remain in the area. The Georgian style Philip Shaver House was built in 1835. The cut-stone Gothic-Revival style Shaver Stone House was built in 1863, and the 1856 Shaver Homestead occupies the site of William Shaver's original home. Another property, the Daniel Shaver House, was built in 1860 but was destroyed by fire in 2011.

1835 Philip Shaver House

1863 Shaver Stone House
The Shaver Family Cemetery was in use until 1938. A photograph taken during the 1940s shows the cemetery surrounded by farmer's fields. In 1993, the Town of Ancaster designated the cemetery a heritage property. Today the cemetery forms an oasis of quiet surrounded by retail development.

Shaver Family Cemetery in 1945