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

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