Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Descendants of John Lewis (1817-1897)

Advertisement in the North Devon Journal
During the mid-19th century there was a wave of emigration from Devon to Canada. Part of this exodus was my ggg-grandfather, John Lewis. My ggg-grandfather was born in Filleigh, Devon in 1817. His father, John Lewis (1782-1871), an agricultural labourer, had married Hannah Parker at Filleigh in 1815. My ggg-grandfather was their second child.

In 1839, my ggg-grandfather, then an agricultural labourer living in Charles, Devon, married Elizabeth Stevens, daughter of William Stevens and Elizabeth Huxtable of East Buckland. Elizabeth was a year older than John. Their first child, Eliza, was born the same year. William, my great-grandfather, was born two years later, and was followed by Hannah in 1843, John in 1848, and Elizabeth in 1850.

Sometime after Hannah's birth, John moved his family to North Molton, Devon. At the time of the 1851 census, he was a farmer of 56 acres living at Higher Leigh, North Molton. Like most of North Molton, Higher Leigh was owned by George Bampfylde, 1st Baron Poltimore. The following year, John and his family emigrated to Canada.

As some point prior to emigrating, my ggg-grandfather became a member of the Bible Christian church, a Methodist denomination founded by William O'Bryan in 1815. Many of the emigrants from North Devon were Bible Christian and helped spread the denomination into Canada. John was an active member of the Church and a lay preacher.

John and his family likely sailed from Bideford to Quebec City. There are two candidates for the ship they sailed on. One possibility is the barque Secret, which sailed on April 3rd and arrived at Quebec City on May 5th. An account of the departure of the Secret appeared in the North Devon Journal of April 8, 1852:
DEPARTURE OF THE 'SECRET.'—At five o'clock on Saturday morning, amidst the firing of cannon, and cheering of those on board the emigrant ship, the 'Secret,' was towed as far as the pool by the 'Princess Royal,' and in the afternoon of the same day the voyagers to Yankeeland has the honour of being joined by a little stranger who had just come into the world to make the voyage of life by commencing it on the seas, to be rocked and cradled by its waves, whilst the wild winds sing its lullaby. We refer to the fact of a Mrs. Wilton giving birth to a fine son, who, in honor of the event, was named John Secret Wilton. On Monday, she crossed the bar and crowded all sail for her destination. The afternoon being beautifully fine, several of our townsmen accompanied her to a distance of four of five miles. At last the time came for parting; and, after a few interchanges of cheering sentiments, and the sincerest expressions of goodwill, they parted company, those on board the 'Secret' firing a salute as a last farewell. We also say 'farewell;' and, whilst they think of their friends at home and anticipate the land of their hopes, we will sing—

God speed ye, brethren, o'er the main;
We never more may meet again,
But, if kind prayers avail,
This morning orisons shall rise,
And piece the circumanbient skies,—
God send a prosperous gale!

We are happy to find that so many have already started under such auspicious circumstances, and that it is our province to say "Still there is room." The 'Worthy' has a few berths to spare. A word to the wise in enough; and, therefore, to those intending to emigrate this season we have no need to say—Take time by the forelock!
The Secret made a second voyage to Quebec that year, departing Bideford on July 11th.

Another other possibility is the Worthy of Devon which departed Bideford on April 17th and arrived at Quebec in early June. On its second voyage of the year the Worthy arrived at Quebec City on July 22nd after a passage of 26 days. Both vessels were owned by Richard Heard of Bideford who also transported emigrants to Prince Edward Island. Advertisements frequently appeared in the North Devon Journal promising:
...excellence of the accommodations, the approved sailing qualities of their vessels, the ability and civility of their commanders, and the exceedingly low rate of passage required, are advantages which persons about to cross the Atlantic from these parts will be likely to appreciate.
On the return voyage the ships carried pine, oak and birch logs that Heard would then sell in his Bideford timber yard.

In October 1852, John purchased 200 acres of land (Lot 16 Concession 11) in Stephen Township, part of the Huron Tract, from the Canada Company. The Canada Company was a large British land development company that assisted emigrants by providing inexpensive transportation, implements and tools, and cheap land. Two of Elizabeth's brothers later emigrated to Stephen Township as well: John Stevens and Michael Stevens. There is evidence that John's younger brother George also emigrated with his family to Canada and settled in the Huron Tract a few years later.

Whether John occupied his property in the fall of 1852 is unclear. A number of emigrants to Canada West appeared to have found lodging and work for the winter in Toronto or Hamilton for the winter, and then headed for the Huron Tract in the spring.

Getting to the Huron Tract from Quebec in the early 1850s was a significant undertaking as the railroads were not opened until later that decade. John and his family likely travelled by a succession of steamers, the first from Quebec to Montreal, a second up the Ottawa River and through the Rideau Canal to Kingston, and a third along the north shore of Lake Ontario to Toronto or Hamilton. From there it was likely northwest to Guelph and then west along the Huron Road to Stephen Township.

Fryfogel Tavern on the Huron Road
The Canada Company arranged to have a number of inns built along the Huron Road to accommodate emigrants. John and his family may have spent a night at the Fryfogel Tavern located east of the Village of Shakespeare. Built in the Neoclassic style in 1845, this two story brick and fieldstone building is now a registered historic site.   

Another possibility, however, is that John and his family continued aboard steamers through the Welland Canal, along the north shore of Lake Erie to Port Stanley, and then overland, first to London, and then north along the London Road to Stephen Township.

Upon arrival the process of clearing the land and building a log cabin would begin. Animals would be brought in: a yoke of oxen, a cow, pigs, sheep and fowl. A garden would be dug and planted. Once clear of trees, the land would be first ploughed and then harrowed, and a crop sewn.

By 1861, John and Elizabeth had had at least two more children: Mary Jane, born in 1857 and Michael, born in 1859. There is a seven year gap between Mary Jane and her older sister Elizabeth, so it is possible that there were one or two other children who died very young.

Eliza is a mystery. She was living with her family in 1841 and 1851 and so presumably emigrated with them to Canada, but she does not appear with them in the 1861 Census.

The first of the children to marry was my gg-grandfather, William Stevens Lewis, who married Lydia Mary Madge in 1863. Lydia, the daughter of Walter Madge and Mary Webber, was born in Meeth, Devon in 1843 and had come to Canada in 1849. William and Lydia had three children: Mary Elizabeth, William Wesley, and Lydia Mary. Lydia died shortly after the birth of her second daughter, leaving William a widower with three small children. Less that a year afterwards he married Charlotte Jory, a young widow with two daughters. William and Charlotte went on to have five more children.

At some point William started practicing as a veterinary surgeon, and and from 1880 to 1917 he was Division Court Clerk. Like his father he was a lay preacher, and an active member of the Bible Christian Church. In 1884 the Bible Christian Church merged with the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Primative Methodist Church to become the Methodist Church of Canada. William died in 1921 at the home of his daughter Effie, the wife of Francis Clark.
Home of Samuel and Hannah Langford
Next to marry was John and Elizabeth's daughter Hannah. In 1865, Hannah married Samuel Langford, a widower from Cornwall, England with two children. They lived in Lambton County for over ten years then crossed the St. Clair River into Michigan where they live for a few years in St. Clair County. Six children were born in Canada and two in the United States. The youngest, unfortunately, died in 1877.

In the spring of 1881, Samuel travelled west with his eldest son to North Dakoka to begin homesteading in Griggs County. A history of Griggs Country describes Hannah's journey to join her husband later that year.
Late in August, delicate in frame, gentle by nature, but with indomitable spirit, Hannah Langford began the long journey with their eight children. She brught with them the household goods, twenty chickens, and a pure bread cow.... She came by boat to Duluth and train to Sanborn, North Dakota, where Mr. Langford met them with two wagons pulled by oxen.
Samuel Langford was also a veterinary surgeon. Samuel and Hannah had one more child, Minnie, who was born in 1885. Samuel died in 1913 and Hannah in 1923.

William and Hannah's brother John married Elizabeth Camm in 1868. Their first four children were born in Stephen Township. In 1878 he also crossed the St. Clair River into Michigan and lived in Sanilac County.

Last to marry was Elizabeth (1850-1916). In 1876 she married Roland Ferguson Johnstone (1849-1916) in Detroit, Michigan. They lived in Harbor Springs, Michigan and had no children.

According to his death certificate, Michael Lewis was murdered in 1874 at the age of 15. No newspaper account of his death survives, however, his gravestone in Exeter Cemetery bears this epitaph:

Beneath this stone our child doth lay
From us his life was taken away
In the field where he did stand

There should be a fourth line, however, at some point this line was physically removed from the stone.

Michael's sister, Mary Jane, committed suicide in 1878 at the age of 20.

Lewis Gravestones, Exeter Cemetery
Sometime before 1879, John moved to Lot 5 Concession 8 of Stephen Township. When Elizabeth died in 1885, she was buried beside her son and daughter in Exeter Cemetery. The three adjacent gravestones are surrounded by daylilies. John died in 1897 and was buried nearby. In his will he named his daughters Hannah and Elizabeth, and his sons William and John. 

William Wesley and Edith Lewis
After the death of his mother, my great-grandfather, William Wesley Lewis, spent considerable time at the farm of his maternal grandparents. In 1888 he travelled to Manitoba in order to homestead, journeying by train to Brandon and then walking with a team of oxen to the site of his future farm west of Hamiota. His first home was a sod shanty with a sod roof, and his first crop of potatoes was planted on the roof. In 1890, he married Edith Smith, daughter of Henry and Elizabeth Smith in Brandon. Edith had been born in Dolton, Devon. Wesley and Edith had two boys and four girls including my grandmother Hazel who was born in 1900.

In 1920 Wesley and Edith moved to Winnipeg where Wesley worked for the railroad. The Hamiota property was rented out until 1926 when Wesley asked his son Sidney to move back to the homestead.

Edith died in 1954 followed by Wesley in 1960 at the age of 93. Several of their descendants still live in the Hamiota area.

William Wesley Lewis with his daughters
Nora and Hazel

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Child Arsonist at Dodscott

West Dodscott, St Giles in the Wood, Devon

Dodscott is a small hamlet in the parish of St Giles in the Wood, Devon, about one kilometre east of the village, and was listed in the Domesday Book of 1086. The hamlet historically consisted of  three farms with the unimaginative names of East Dodscott, West Dodscott and Great Dodscott. In the 16th century Great Dodscott had likely been the home of Thomas Chafe (1585-1648) whose effigy is found inside the church of St Giles in the Wood. Chafe was the brother-in-law of Tristram Risdon (1580-1640), author of Survey of the County of Devon.

During the 19th century all three farms (indeed most of St Giles in the Wood) were part of the Rolle Estates and were leased to tenants. The same family would often occupy the farm through several generations. East Dodscott, for example, had been occupied from before 1742 to 1786 by my ggggg-grandfather Michael Cooke (1707-1777), and then by my gggg-grandfather George Cooke (1742-1821).

In 1868 Dodscott suffered two incidents of arson. Arrests were quickly made in both cases. The alleged perpetrators? Two fourteen and one eleven year old girl.

William Squire had occupied Great Dodscott since the death of his father Robert Squire in 1858. Shortly after he returned home from Stevenstone on the morning of Wednesday, September 9, 1868, Squire discovered that a linhay (a shed with an open front) was on fire. A lack of water meant that the fire "spread with great fury" to the other outbuildings and to the farmhouse. Fortunately, Squire was able to save most of his household goods. Suspicion fell upon two fourteen year old girls with a donkey and cart who Squire had seen at the gate to his farm: Elizabeth Copp and Polly Diment.

Elizabeth, daughter of William Copp, was born in Black Torrington in 1854. Her father was a miller at Stonyford, a kilometre south of Dodscott. Mary, also known as Polly, was born in Great Torrington in 1854, the daughter of Elizabeth Diment. Both girls had been frequent visitors to South Dodscott.

Despite protesting their innocence, and despite "assisting in the removal of the household goods," Elizabeth and Polly were taken into custody on the Thursday. Their
"distressed" parents bailed them out on the Friday, and they appeared before the magistrates in Great Torrington the next day. The Bench adjourned the case for two weeks as the only evidence was that the two girls had been in the vicinity. Why the girls had been incarcerated given the slight evidence was also questioned.

Two weeks later the bench ruled that there was not enough evidence to commit the case to trail, and the charges were dismissed.

Following the fire, William Squire, his wife Fanny, and their four children moved in with William's aunt and uncle, William and Fanny Snell of West Dodscott. With them was their eleven-year-old servant, Selina Matthews.

Selina, the daughter of Thomas and Mary Mathews, was born in St Giles in the Wood in 1857. Her father was an agricultural labourer. Like many girls from poor families, Selina had entered domestic service at a very young age.

On November 4, 1868, at about four in the afternoon, a fire broke out in the loft above the stable at West Dodscott. Luckily, Snell was able to rescue the horses and prevent the fire from spreading. Suspicion, however, immediately fell upon Selina.

Selina had left the house for a few minutes before the fire, and on her return had been the one to alert Fanny Snell about smoke coming from the stable. The constabulary was summoned and when Selina was searched a box of matches was found.

Selina was taken into custody. The following day she made this statement to Eliza Babbage, the wife of Police Sergeant George Babbage:

I went out to give the pigs some corn. I was going into the stable, but was afraid the horses would kick me. I went into the shippen, took up a handful of straw, and there was a little hay in the rack. I set fire to it, and went in upstairs to make up the beds. I looked out of the window and saw smoke and fire—smoke first, and fire after. I shouldn't have done it if I hadn't been told by Polly Diment to burn Black Fan and old Will.
Black Fan and Old Will were taken to mean Fanny and William Squire, but Selina may possibly have meant Fanny and William Snell who were considerably older. Selina told Police Sergeant Babbage that she had set the fire because Polly Diment, a suspect in the South Dodscott's fire, had told her to do so. Polly strongly denied the accusation.

Selina appeared before the magistrates a few days later. The Bench committed her for trial at the Lent Assizes.

At her trial on March 11, 1869, Selina said she was sorry she did it, and began to cry. The judge in his charge to the jury said, "there could be no doubt that prisoner set fire to the stable, and it was for them to consider whether it was done with a felonious intent." The jury found the prisoner guilty with a recommendation to mercy. Selina was given a deferred sentence of two months hard labour.

Two years later Selina was a servant in the household of Thomas Shearm of Beaford.

In 1877, Selina gave birth to a son, Thomas James Matthews. The reputed father was James Hearn of Great Torrington who had promised to marry her, and had gone so far as to have banns published. James, however, had absconded, and Selina was forced to apply for a court order. The Bench made an order for two shillings a week.

In 1881, Selina was a servant in the household of Joseph Row of St Giles in the Wood. Thomas James was living with his grandfather Thomas Matthews. Thomas James also fell afoul of the law. In 1896 he was charged with "feloniously wounding Annie Hooper, with intent to murder her, and to do her grievous bodily harm." Thomas pleaded guilty and was sentenced to seven years. Annie had been Thomas's "sweetheart" but when she broke off the relationship he cut her throat with a razor.

In 1884, Selina, then an inmate of the Torrington Union Workhouse, gave evidence at an inquest into the accidental death of a infant.

Sometime before 1891, Selina "married" George Buse, a labourer who lived in Great Torrington. While no record of the marriage has been found, Selina and George had several children: John Henry in 1890, Norah Ellen in 1891, Alice Maud in 1893, Kate in 1894, Albert William in 1895 and Walter Cyril in 1897.

Selina died in Great Torrington in 1923 and was buried in Torrington Cemetery.


North Devon Journal, Thursday, September 17, 1868
Western Times, Tuesday, September 22, 1868
North Devon Journal, Thursday, October 1, 1868
North Devon Journal, Thursday, November 12, 1868 

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, March 12, 1869
North Devon Journal
, Thursday, January 10, 1878
North Devon Journal, Thursday, January 31, 1884
North Devon Journal, Thursday, June 25, 1896
North Devon Journal
, Thursday, May 31, 1923