Saturday, November 14, 2015

A Story Carved in Stone

Gravestone of Anna Judd (1821-1855)
at St Giles in the Wood, Devon, England
When I upload photographs of gravestones to my website, I always like to include some biographical information. Usually the information is limited to baptisms, marriages and burials, but sometimes more interesting details come to light.

Anna Nethaway, the daughter of Ezekiel Nethaway (1793-1861) and Mary Cole (1793-1845), was baptised at Langtree, Devon on 20 May 1821. In November of 1853, she married Thomas Judd (1821-1904), of Higher Healand in nearby St Giles in the Wood. Regrettably, Anna died fourteen months later, the day after the birth of her son Peter Ezekiel Judd. She was buried at St Giles in the Wood.

Thomas Judd (1821-1904)
Her husband, Thomas, was the eleventh child of yeoman farmer Peter Judd (1781-1868) and his wife Patience Sussex (1785-1839). Thomas's marriage to Anne was one of three connections between the two families. His older sister Ann (1816-1897) had married Henry Ezekial Nethaway (1815-1898), while his brother Frederick had married Christiana Nethaway (1829-1922).

In 1856, Thomas remarried. His second wife was Anne's 18-year-old sister Caroline Nethaway (1838-1925). The following year they emigrated to Australia aboard the British Trident.

Caroline Nethaway
The passenger list for the British Trident lists Thomas Judd, his wife Caroline and his son Peter, but also lists Thomas's brother William, his nephew Francis Hill, his sister Susan (the wife of William Gordon), Susan's daughter Augusta, and Thomas's brother Frederick with his wife and two small children. Emigration from Devon to Australia, New Zealand or Canada during the 19th century often involved these extended family groups. As a younger son, Thomas’s prospects were likely rather limited in Devon. Higher Healand  (also known as North Healand) was owned by the Rolle Estate, and was leased by Thomas’s father. The opportunity to own land in Australia would have been an irresistable draw.

The British Trident departed Liverpool on 7 Sep 1857. To reach Liverpool, Thomas and his group would have endured a long and uncomfortable trip by train. Train travel was new to Devon. The Exeter to Barnstaple line, for example, had opened only three years earlier. Prior to the opening of the railway most emigration from North Devon had been from Bideford. 

An article in the Liverpool Daily Post dated 5 Sep 1857, described the British Trident as

. . . a model of those clipper ships which have made the port of Liverpool distinguished for its naval architecture. . . . her interior accommodations are in keeping with her large proportions and elegance of outline. Her saloon, placed high on deck, is spacious and airy. Nothing that the upholsterer and artist can supply has been neglected.
Since Thomas's group were likely steerage passengers, so the opulence of the saloon would have had no importance. Instead, "spacious and lofty 'tween decks" would be their home for the three month voyage. The article, however, concludes with:
A visit to the British Trident will convince the ordinary emigrant that he could not hope in any other ship to accomplish a long voyage with better security of life, or with so great facilities for the comfortable passing of his time, or the greater security of his health afterwards.
After their arrival in Melbourne, Australia, Thomas Judd and his small family slowly moved westward. A daughter, Anna Maria Judd was born in 1859 in West Gelong, Victoria. About 1861, Thomas was one of the first settlers in Beeac, Victoria, and was instrumental in the building of a Methodist church there in 1862. Thomas and Caroline went on to have another nine children, all of whom survived to adulthood. A local Beeac landmark is known as Judd's Hill.

Thomas died in Beeac in 1904. Caroline survived him by 21 years, dying in Beeac in 1925. Both are buried at the Beeac Cemetery.

Judd Gravestone, Beeac Cemetery, Beeac, Victoria, Australia

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Melville White Church Cemetery

Melville White Church Cemetery, Caledon, Peel, Ontario
Located northwest of Toronto in the Town of Caledon, the Melville White Church is one of the oldest square timber frame churches in Ontario. The church reflects the plain architectural style favoured by Protestant denominations in Upper Canada during the early 19th century. The church was built in 1837 on a one-acre lot donated by Daniel McLachlan, one of the area's first settlers. The timber frame church replaced an earlier log church, and was named Melville Presbyterian after Andrew Melville — an early follower of John Knox. Gaelic was often used in early services.

McLachlan Monument
In 1925 the congregation joined the United Church of Canada, and the church was known as Melville United until it closed in 1964. The church building was designated a heritage property by the Town of Caledon in 1998, and has been restored by the Belfountain Historical Society. Restoration work revealed that the building originally had simple rectangular windows. The Gothic windows were a later addition.

The Melville White Church Cemetery is located to the south and west of the church and contains many 19th century gravestones. A stone wall with iron gates was built in 1902. A transcription of the gravestones was undertaken by local historian William Perkins Bull in 1932, however, his work contains a number of errors. A more systematic transcription was completed just over 40 years ago by the Ontario Genealogical Society. Remarkably, all 145 gravestones recorded in the 1974 transcription are still identifiable.

McNabb Monument
Most of the  gravestones commemorate the original Scottish settlers of the area and their descendants. Many of these pioneers were from the Isle of Islay off the west coast of Scotland and were the earliest settlers in Caledon Township. The area in which the settled was named Rockside after a village on the Isle of Islay. And while the raised stone slab for Daniel McLachlan and his wife Mary MacDonald is of modern origin, it does provide a date for when the area was first settled — 1821.

Another notable stone is the double slab monument in the northeast corner to Alex McNabb, Duncan McNabb, and Duncan McNabb. The inscription reads "Alex McNabb and Wife" but his wife is not named. Nor are death dates recorded. Unfortunately not much else is known about them other than they were "of Scotland" and lived for a long time.

Currie Monument
Perhaps more interesting are the numerous 19th century limestone grave markers. Frequently the stones are carved with a willow tree motif, although a lamb is common for stones commemorating children.

One double headstones records the deaths of four children of Donald Currie (1799-1892) and Jessie McGregor (1815-1887), three of whom died in a one week period in 1859. Diptheria may have been the cause. Another gravestone records the death of three children of Alexander Binnie (1811-1866) and Elizabeth Fead (1815-1891) who died in an one week period in 1848.

It is interesting to note that Donald Currie was considerably older than Jessie McGregor. A significant number of gravestones at Melville reflect the marriage of older men to much younger women.

Archibald McNaughton 1794-1834
The oldest gravestone in the cemetery is that of Archibald McNaughton who died in 1834 at the age of 40. According to his gravestone, Archibald was "vituous and intelligent, and enjoyed that sympathy and friendship so usual among the settlers of Caledon."

Melville is one of numerous old cemeteries in the Town of Caledon. In 2007, the Town began a multi-restoration program to repair individual monuments and cairns at its pioneer cemeteries. The Melville White Church Cemetery has certainly benefited from this commitment to history.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Two North Devon Gravestones

Rowland Denis's gravestone at Monkleigh, Devon
Most gravestones in North Devon date from the 19th and 20th centuries. In the churchyard there will often be a handful of 18th century gravestones, but if you are searching for memorials from the 17th century, then you usually need to head inside the church to look at ledger stones and mural monuments. I was therefore pleased to encounter at Monkleigh this late 17th century slate slab which commemorates Rowland Denis (1625-1685) and his son Michaell (1670-1691). The gravestone is Grade II listed.

Rowland Denis, the son of Richard Denis (1601- ?) and Helene NOTT, was baptised at Monkleigh on 1 Sep 1625, and was buried there on 29 Apr 1685. He married Agnes DEANE (1635- ?) at Monkleigh on 4 Feb 1661. Their son Michaell was baptised at Monkleigh on 27 Mar 1670, as was Michaell's brother Richard. Michael was buried at Monkleigh on 5 Apr 1691.

Rowden gravestone at Chumleigh, Devon
While this stone at Chumleigh is considerably newer, it is remarkable in that it commemorates the eleven children of Richard Rowden and Mary, all of whom died before their parents. Richard Rowden was a blacksmith who was born in Devon about 1773. In 1797, he married Mary Vicary at St Petrock's in Exeter. Their first child, Elizabeth was baptised the following year at St Kerrian's in Exeter. By the birth of their fourth child, Ann, in 1808, the family was living in the market town of Chulmleigh.

The first death occurred in 1808 when three-year-old Ann died. Five years later, in 1813,  eleven-year-old Mary passed away, and year later, nine-month-old William. These deaths were undoubtedly sad for the family, but not unusual, given the high child mortality rates in the early 19th century. What is unusual is that in the four year period beginning in September 1818, seven more children died, ranging in age from seven months to twenty-two years. The deaths are spread out, which suggests a variety of causes, rather than a epidemic. Unfortunately, the parish register for Chulmleigh only records the burial dates.

When 22-year-old Richard died in 1822, the only surviving child was 27-year-old John. John died in 1836.

Mary died in 1846 at the age of 69 in 1846. By 1851, Richard had retired from blacksmithing, had become the parish clerk, and had married the widow Elizabeth Davey, nee Parsons. Richard died in 1864 at the age of 91.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Queen's Bush Settlement

African British Methodist Episcopal Cemetery, Peel, Wellington, Ontario
At the side of a gravel road northwest of Elmira, Ontario sits a row of weathered and broken gravestones. This cemetery has suffered not only from the ravishes of time and vandalism, but also from misguided attempts to repair the stones. While similar to many other small cemeteries in Southern Ontario, the African British Methodist Episcopal Cemetery is unique in that it is all that remains of the Queen's Bush Settlement, once the largest Black settlement in Canada West (Ontario), and the first to which fugitive slaves from the United States migrated in large numbers.

In the early 19th century the unsettled area between Guelph and Lake Huron was known as the "Queen's Bush." Starting about 1820, hundreds of free and formerly enslaved Blacks established farms north of the Conestoga River in an area which eventually became the southwestern part of Peel Township in Wellington, County.

John Little, who settled in the area in 1842, described his experience:
Then we marched right into the wilderness, where there were thousands of acres of woods which the chain had never run around since Adam. At night we made a fire, and cut down a tree, and put up slats like a wigwam. This was in February, when the snow was two feet deep.
Families who had recently fled slavery fared the worst for they had no resources to purchase even the simplest tools, and hunger was their constant companion. Black settlers often had to borrow farms implements, or work for more affluent white settlers to the south.

Thomas Smallwood, a Black abolitionist who visited in 1843, wrote:

They had to go fifteen miles out into the settlements, and there work for the farmers, a fortnight, to get provision sufficient to enable them to work one week in clearing their own land. And, while I was there, they were making their three meals a day on potatoes and salt.
Even clothing was in short supply. Reverend Melville Denslow of the Wesleyan Methodist Church, wrote:
There is a great destitution of clothing among these new settlers. Some of the children are naked — others with a shirt or pair of pantaloons, may be frequently seen. Bedding is very scarce, but the free use of wood serves in a measure as a substitute.
Despite these hardships a vibrant settlement developed with four churches and two schools. The children were taught by American abolitionist missionaries, who were also involved in the solicitation and distribution of clothing to new arrivals.

Sadly, the Queen's Bush Settlement only lasted a few years. Because Peel Township was not surveyed until 1843, the land was not available for purchase. Black settlers squatted as did many white families. In 1848 the settlers were given the opportunity to purchase their land, however, most lacked the resources to do so. As a result, many abandoned their farms. A few families, however, were able to stay.

Rev. Samuel Brown
One of several denominations active in the Queen’s Bush was the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), first organized in Philadelphia in 1816. In 1844 Reverend Samuel H. Brown of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) was assigned to the Queen's Bush, and settled on Lot 16, Concession 4 in Peel Township. The AME was first organized in Philadelphia in 1816. In 1856 the Canadian congregations amicably split from the AME and became the British Methodist Episcopal Church (BME).

Born in Maryland about 1798, Reverend Brown was an inspiring preacher and a leader in the AME and later the BME. A church was erected on his farm and a cemetery established in the churchyard. In 1862, his church boasted 165 members and 65 children in Sunday School. Reverend Brown formally transferred the land to BME Church in 1877. Services at the BME church continued until about 1918. The last burial occurred in 1924, and the church building was removed in 1934.

Priscilla Brown
Reverend Brown died in 1881. His gravestone is in three pieces, however, at some point a misguided attempt was made to repair the stone by bolting the three pieces to steel bars. Also in several pieces is the gravestone of his first wife, Priscilla, who died in 1853 at the age of 67.

It is unfortunate that so many of the stones at the African British Methodist Episcopal Cemetery have been badly damaged. A 1979 transcription records at least two gravestones for former slaves: Jacob Steward and Vincent Douglass. Jacob Steward was born in Maryland about 1808. He married Mary Ann Knox in Canada in 1847. His broken gravestone is now almost unreadable, while that of his wife is marred by two rusty steel bars bolted to the front.

Mary Ann Steward
Vincent Douglass was born into slavery in Virginia about 1791. He and his wife, Martha, and their children, Charles, Maria, Vincent and Agnes, escaped and fled to Canada shortly after the birth of Agnes in 1838. Another son, Albert, was born in 1845. Vincent died in 1877 at the age of 86.

Despite it's importance to African Canadian history, the story of the Queen's Bush Settlement was largely unknown until the 2004 publication of Linda Brown-Kubisch's book on the subject. And while the cover of her book shows a pioneer cemetery, it is not the African British Methodist Episcopal Cemetery, but the nearby Olivet Cemetery, established in the late 1850s by English and Scottish immigrants.


Brown-Kubisch, Linda. 2004. The Queen's Bush Settlement: Black Pioneers 1839-1865. Natural Heritage Books, Toronto.

"The Queen's Bush Settlement, 1820-1867." 2008. Web. 3 Aug. 2015. 

Mountjoy, Max, ed. 1999. Portraits of Peel: Attiwandaronk to Mapleton. Peel History Committee.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Greenlaw Cemetery, Caledon

Greenlaw Cemetery, Caledon, Peel, Ontario
Greenlaw Cemetery (sometimes referred to as Baker's Cemetery) is one of numerous small cemeteries in the historic township of Caledon northwest of Toronto. It is the only remnant of the hamlet of Greenlaw, better known as The Grange.

When Caledon was surveyed and opened for settlement shortly after the War of 1812, most of the early settlement was along the Credit River. At nearby Belfountain, settlement began 1825 when a sawmill was built. Greenlaw, located at the intersection of Mississauga Road and The Grange Sideroad, developed during the 1850s, but went into decline during the 1920s.

The cemetery marks the location of a Congregational Church (The Congregational Church merged with the Methodists and Presbyterians in 1925 to form the United Church of Canada). In 1852, Michael Baker deeded 3/8 of an acre for a church, cemetery and parsonage, but it is unclear what denomination initially used the church. In 1865 the church and cemetery were sold to the Congregationalists. The church closed around 1900, however, burials continued until 1941. In addition to the church, Greenlaw was also the location of a post office, blacksmith, and Temperance Hall.

Greenlaw Cemetery in 2011
When local historian William Perkins Bull visited the cemetery in the 1930s, he described it as being, "another neglected and overgrown cemetery with long grass, logs scattered here and there, and an abandoned church." He described the church as being "roughcast" and "built on a stone foundation." About 1940 the church was demolished and some years later the gravestones were gathered together into a cairn. The gravestones, unfortunately, were placed far too close together, making reading the inscriptions difficult. Transcriptions were prepared in 1974 and again in 1984. In 2014, the Town of Caledon rebuilt the cairn, making it much easier to read and photograph the gravestones.

Michael Baker 1795-1873
The earliest gravestone is that of Michael Baker who died in 1873. Michael was born in Williamsburgh Township, on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River, in 1795. His father, Conrad Baker was an United Empire Loyalist who had served in the King's Royal Regiment of New York during the American Revolution. During the War of 1812, Michael served in the 1st Regiment Dundas Militia. In 1818, the same year he married Caterina Frank, Michael petitioned the government of Upper Canada for land as the son of a United Empire Loyalist. He was granted 200 acres in Caledon and was one of the earliest settlers.

The most recent gravestone records the deaths of Sarah E. Tomlinson and her husband Henry Scott in 1939 and 1941 respectively.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Lymath Mysteries (Continued)

Lymath Gravestone at Deddington, Oxford
When I first started this blog, one of the earliest posts was titled "The Lymath Mysteries." The article touched on my frustration with trying to discover the origins of my great-great-grandfather George Lymath. Five years later I'm still frustrated.

George Lymath (1817-1864), was a coachman who died at the age of 47 at Westminister Hospital in London. Searches of the 1841, 1851 and 1861 Census have found no trace of George, however, the 1857 marriage certificate for George and Elizabeth Boorer records that George's father was a Thomas Lymath, Schoolmaster.

Lymath is a very unusual surname so it is almost certain that George is a descendant of Richard Lymath of Brailes in Warwickshire. Richard was buried at Brailes in 1796. Richard's oldest son, Thomas, was baptised at Brailes in 1750, and apprenticed as a blacksmith in Little Tew in the north of Oxfordshire where he married and raised a family.

Lymath Gravestone at
Little Tew, Oxford
Another son, Richard, also apprenticed as a blacksmith and moved to Chipping Warden in Northamptonshire, where he married Ann Willson. Two of his sons, however, returned to Oxfordshire and settled in Wardington. There is also circumstantial evidence that Richard and Ann had a third son named George who was buried in Wardington in 1824. George's son John emigrated to the United States in 1871 and settled in Nebraska.

Richard and Ann's daughter Hannah (1784- ?) had an illegitimate son when she was 18. William Harwood Lymath was baptised at Marston St Lawrence in Northamptonshire in 1803. In 1839 he married Mary Ann Geary of Crick, Northamptonshire. William and Mary Ann had four children born in Northamptonshire. About 1847 they moved to Birmingham. When William died in 1850, Mary Ann was pregnant with her sixth child, and applied for parish relief in Birmingham. Birmingham, however, obtained a removal order, and Mary Ann and her children were sent back to Marston St Lawrence. Marston St Lawrence unsuccessfully appealed the removal. The proceedings were reported in Aris's Birmingham Gazette on 12 Apr 1852:

Birmingham Borough Sessions
Birmingham respondents; Marston St. Lawrence, Northamptonshire, appellants.—This was an appeal as to the removal of Mary Lymath and six children.—Mr. Spooner, for Birmingham parish, stated that he should prove a birth settlement of the pauper's husband (who was illegitimate) in Marston. That parish, however, contended that the birth had taken place there fraudulently, that the mother of the pauper's husband being pregnant, was fraudulently removed by the officers of the parish there she was then residing, and taken to Marston to be delivered, and cast a burthen upon that parish. The appellants also set up an alleged settlement of the husband by hiring and service in the parish of Wiggington, in Oxfordshire. Mr. Spooner then proved the alleged birth, but upon enquiry into the case, the Recorded said he did not see any evidence whatever to support such suggestion.—Mr. Field, for Marston parish, then attempted to support the settlement in Wiggington, but it appearing that the husband always came home and brought his box and clothes with him during the last week of each year, the Recorded thought that there was no case of hiring for a year, and the order of removal from Birmingham must be confirmed.
And while this is all very interesting, it doesn't get me any further with discovering the origins of my great-great-grandfather.

Monday, June 1, 2015

James Day: The Shipwright of Paspebiac

Charles Robin & Co's Establishment, Paspebiac
from Canadian Scenery: District of Gaspe by Thomas Pye 1866

In June of 1767, 23-year-old Charles Robin of Jersey in the Channel Islands landed at Paspebiac on the Gaspe Peninsula to establish a inshore fishery on the Baie des Chaleurs. Several years earlier, the British had defeated the French during the Seven Years War, and Robin was taking advantage of the end of French control of a large area of Eastern Canada.

Charles Robin on Isle Madame by Lewis Parker
Operating a cod fishery on the Baie des Chaleur was a challenge during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. While Robin found a ready market for dried cod in Spain and Portugal, he had to contend with the disruption of  business first by the American Revolution, then the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, and finally the War of 1812. Robin estimated that he suffered £6000 in damages as a consequence of privateer raids during the American Revolution. During the French Revolutionary Wars, Robin lost a number of ships to the French, and because it was wartime, was unable to procure replacements. His answer was to build his own ships at Paspebiac, and in 1791 he hired my gggg-grandfather, James Day as his shipwright.

James Day, was baptised at Shorwell, on the Isle of Wight, on 28 Oct 1768. His parents, James Day and Ann Burt, were married the previous May. Sometime between the birth of his brother John in 1769 and William in 1772, the family moved to Newport. In 1783, James became an apprentice to master shipwright John Siers. Shortly after his apprenticeship ended, James was hired by Charles Robin.

Robin would have had to provide strong incentive for James Day to leave the comforts of England for the wilderness of the Gaspe. There was certainly no shortage of work for shipwrights in England. Records of the Charles Robin & Co. held at the Nova Scotia Archives show that Day was paid £50 per year, some of which was invested for him by Robin in British stocks.

It has been suggested that James left a wife and child behind in England, but I have found no evidence for this. Nor is there any evidence for James having every served in the Royal Navy. In his letters and journals Robin does refer to James's fondness for alcohol, but otherwise held him in high regard: "We'll never find another like him."

Upon arriving in Paspebiac, James Day laid out a shipyard and repaired the Charles Robin & Co. ship Hilton. He then began work on his first ship, the Fiott, which was launched in 1792, but unfortunately captured by the French in 1794. A second ship, the If,  followed two years later. In total, James Day built 16 ships for Charles Robin & Co., about one every two years, and numerous smaller boats.

The eighth ship constructed at Paspebiac was named after its builder. The Day, completed in 1806, was a square-rigged vessel of 185 tons with two decks and three masts, 84 feet long and 23 feet wide. Black birch was used for the hull while the masts and spars were of white pine. Like all of Robin's ships she bore no figurehead, however, during the War of 1812 she did mount two four-pounder guns. On her maiden voyage she carried 2250 quintals of dried cod to Malta (a quintal is equivalent to 112 pounds), and then proceeded to drydock in Liverpool where her bottom was coppered. For the next 27 years the Day sailed to Palermo, Naples, Lisbon and various ports in Spain. She lost a mast in 1810, suffered hull damage in both 1817 and 1818, and became stuck in ice for 15 days in the spring of 1822. In 1826 the Day began taking dried cod to Brazil. Although she was sold in 1833, the Day continue sailing until at least 1847.

Unlike most Robin employees, James Day was permitted to raise a family in Paspebiac. About 1803, he married Angelique Brasseur. Angelique was the daughter of Mathurin Brasseur and Catherine Therese Duguay. Mathurin was an Acadian refugee from Ile St Jean (Prince Edward Island) who had escaped to the Baie des Chaleurs in 1758 during the Expulsion of the Acadians. Before her marriage to James, Angelique had an illegitimate son named Jacques who was born in 1795 but died in 1801.

Day Mill, New Carlisle, Quebec
James Day died on 15 Mar 1833 at Paspebiac. By the time of his death he had acquired a considerable amount of property around Paspebiac including a mill. In his will he divided his property amongst his wife and five children. After her husband's death, Angelique left Paspebiac and joined her two daughters in St Helier, Jersey, where she died in 1849.

James and Angelique's daughter Angelique married Francis Luce, shipmaster in the employ of Charles Robin & Company. They left Paspebiac for Jersey about 1830. Her sister, Sophia, married Francis's brother, John Luce, and also left Paspebiac for Jersey. Their brother John married Jane Eleanor Munro of Bas-Caraquet in New Brunswick. Another son, William Day, married Jane's sister, Mary Charlotte Munro. William was found dead in his bed at the age of 33.

James Day (1843-1933) and
Angelique Veneta Day (1867-1948)
James and Angelique's oldest son, James, became a miller. In the 1861 census he is shown as having a grist mill and a lumber mill at New Carlisle to the west of Paspebiac. James married his cousin Maria Day (1811-1897), daughter of his uncle William Day (1772-1847) of Westbourne in West Sussex. James and Maria were married in Westbourne in 1827, and their son William James Day was born there during a visit in 1841.

James died in 1876 and was buried at St Peter's Anglican Cemetery in Paspebiac. His son James (1843-1933), my great-great-grandfather, became a merchant. James married Annie Harris Crawford who was born across the Baie de Chaleur in Pokeshaw, New Brunswick. Their daughter, Angelique Veneta Day (1867-1948) married Arthur Cooke of New Carlisle (1865-1936), my great-grandfather.


David Lee, “Robin, Charles ,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003, accessed June 1, 2015,

David Lee, The Robins in Gaspe: 1766 to 1825, Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 1984

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Cemetery Crawling 2

Peel Township north of Waterloo, Ontario is peppered with numerous pioneer cemeteries. The cemeteries typically mark the locations of churches that were founded in the mid-19th century but have long disappeared. At most of the cemeteries, the gravestones have been gathered into a cairn. This has made photographing the monuments a relatively easy proposition. 

Bloomsbury Methodist Cemetery

Bloomsbury Methodist Cemetery, also known as Creek Bank Methodist Cemetery, is located on land once owned by Alexander Fisher and his brothers, Michael and John (1791-1860), who settled in the area about 1841. John's gravestone forms part of the cairn. A stone church existed on this site from 1882 until 1916, however, the significant number of gravestones from the 1850s and 60s suggests the existence of an earlier church. 

Ebenezer Primitive Methodist Cemetery

Primitive Methodism was a major movement in Methodism that began about 1812 and spread to Canada with the wave of English immigration in the mid 19th century. A log church was built on this site about 1854. In 1867 a brick church was built with cushioned pews and doors to each pew. The church was in use until about 1900 when the Primitives united with the Wesleyan Methodists, and the Ebenezer congregation joined with the congregation at nearby Goldstone Methodist. The earliest gravestones date from 1855. 

Potter's Cemetery

Potter's Cemetery began as the gravesite of Thomas Potter (1784-1848) and Hannah Smith (1797-1848), pioneers of Peel Township from Yorkshire, England, who died of dysentery on the same day in 1848. Members of other local families were also buried here including John Morrison (1816-1859) and four of his children: Sarah, Emmer, Jane and Mary. All five appear to have died within a two week period in February of 1859. In 1890 the burying ground was transferred to the Methodist Church. Burials continued at this site until 1933. 

Olivet Abandoned Cemetery

Like Potter's Cemetery, Olivet was a community burial ground for the surrounding area. Dates on the gravestones indicate that the graveyard was in use from 1859 to 1869. The cemetery has been incorrectly linked with the Mount Pleasant Mission School which was set up for the children of fugitive slaves who had settled in the area. All the gravestones, however, are for members of the families of English and Scottish ancestry. 

Zion Methodist Cemetery

In the 1840's the Methodists built a log church at Wallenstein, west of Elmira, Ontario. The church and the adjacent graveyard were used up until 1910. The cemetery is known by a number of names, the most poetic being the Old Log Church Cemetery.

Cross Cemetery

Cross Cemetery was the burial ground for the Goshen Wesleyan Methodist Church, established about 1860. A wood frame church was located to north of the cemetery, but in 1884 a brick church was built about a kilometre away. This church closed in 1946 and was demolished in 1955. The earliest of the 22 stones dates from 1859 and commemorates Mary Ann Bayne who emigrated from Ireland. Several members of the Cross family were also buried here including James Cross (1787-1864) and his wife Margaret (1788-1866).

Goldstone Methodist Cemetery

Goldstone Methodist Cemetery is on of the few pioneer cemeteries in Peel Township associated with an active church. The current yellow brick building dates from 1903, replacing a smaller brick church built in 1867, which in turn replaced a log church built in 1845. When the cemetery was transcribed in 1995, 39 gravestones were recorded, however, I was only able to find 17. The transcription notes that a number of gravestones had been stacked in a corner of the churchyard. There are also references to a tornado damaging some of the monuments in May 1884.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Grand Old Man of Blairmore

Oakland Pioneer Cemetery, Oakland, Brant, Ontario
One of the first cemeteries I visited when I began stalking dead people was the Oakland Pioneer Cemetery south of Brantford, Ontario. What drew to me to this cemetery (as well as the nearby and much larger Oakland Cemetery) was the presence of several stones with the surname Beebe.

I've previously mentioned that my ggggg-grandfather, Joshua Beebe (1738-1778) was a Loyalist living on the North Branch of the Susquehanna River at the start of the American Revolution. In 1777 he and his oldest son, Adin Beebe (1761-1843), enlisted in Butler's Rangers, having previously served in the Indian Department. In the summer of 1778, just prior to the Battle of Wyoming, Joshua and Adin evacuated their family first to Tioga Point near Athens, Pennsylvania, and then to Fort Niagara. Later that year Joshua was sent with dispatches to New York where he contracted smallpox and died. Joshua's wife, Mary Secord, and Adin's siblings were eventually sent to the refugee camp at Machiche near Trois-Rivières, Quebec.

Adin continued to serve in Butler's Rangers until the end of the war, rising to the rank of Sergeant. He was granted 300 acres on Lake Ontario in Louth Township west of where St Catharines, Ontario is now located. Between 1784 and 1786 he married Margaret Dorothy Crysler, daughter of Philip Crysler who had also served in Butler's Rangers.

During the War of 1812, Adin's son Amasa served with the 5th Lincoln Militia. Initially Amasa was with the 2nd Flank Company. When the flank companies were disbanded after the Battle of Queenston Heights, Amasa joined Capt Ball's company of the 5th Lincoln Militia. He was likely present at the Battle of Lundy's Lane in 1814.

In 1802 Adin Beebe had received an additional grant of 700 acres in Oakland Township south of Brantford, and after the war, Amasa began the process of clearing, ploughing, planting, and building a home at Oakland. About 1816 he married Rachel Smith, daughter of Silas Smith of Saltfleet. Their daughter Caroline was born in 1818 followed by Angeline (1820), Jordan (1824), Smith (1825), Martha (1827), Crysler (1832), Diantha (1835), and Judson (1841). Sadly neither Angeline or Judson survived to adulthood. Angeline died in 1829 and Judson in 1841. Both are buried at Oakland Cemetery.

Amasa Beebe 1791-1850
Amasa died in 1850 and was buried beside his two children, followed by Rachel in 1862. The farm was taken over by Smith who had married Sarah Secord, daughter of Asa Secord. Smith died of jaundice in 1877, having twice served as reeve of Oakland Township. Within ten years all of his surviving children had moved from the area—some to Michigan, and some to California.

Smith's brother Crysler was a bit of a vagabond. In 1854 he fathered a son, Charles (1854-1942) At the time of the 1861 Census he was living with his sister Martha in Charlotteville Township. In 1880, he was convicted of larceny having "feloniously" stolen off a clothesline: "two counterpains, three table clothes, one pair woolen drawers, one pair lace curtains and two handkerchiefs." Crysler then disappears from the records.

Smith and Crysler's brother Jordan married Elizabeth Thompson and became an innkeeper in Oakland. In an 1869 directory, the Oakland House Hotel is described as "worthy the confidence of commercial travellers and the public generally.

Beebe Gravestones at Oakland Pioneer Cemetery
Three of Jordan's children died young and are buried at Oakland Pioneer Cemetery. The youngest was given the impressive name of Emma Rosetta Britamart Beebe. In the mid 1880s Jordan emigrated to the United States and settled in Bay City, Michigan.

Jordan's eldest son, William Amasa Beebe had an interesting life. He was born in Oakland Township in 1847, and died in 1940 in Blairmore, Alberta. According to his obituary he settled in Blairmore in 1902 after having spend several years up north during the Klondike Gold Rush. He had previously lived in Port Arthur on Lake Superior and in Bay City, Michigan. In Blairmore he eventually became a realtor and insurance agent, and served as mayor of Blairmore for a one year term.

William Amasa Beebe in 1928
In 1871 he was living with his parents in Oakland Township. During the 1870s he moved to Bay City, Michigan. At some point he married Molly Holmes who had been born in Missouri. At least four children were born in Bay City, Michigan. Emma Rosetta Britamart, named after William's sister, was born about 1873. Frank was born in 1876, and Elizabeth about 1878. The fourth child, an unnamed female was born in 1882 but survived only 11 days. Her mother's death followed four days later.

In Bay City, Michigan, William operated a dredge and fishing business. By 1891, William was Port Arthur, Ontario working as a fisherman. By 1895 he was the captain of a fishing tug, and he was still living in Port Arthur when his daughter Emma married in 1897. William became known as Captain Beebe, not because of any military experience, but because of his fishing business.

There are several unknowns concerning William Amasa Beebe. He may have had additional children, although only three appear in the 1880 Census. There are also claims that he married a second time, but I have found no evidence for this, and he is consistently listed as widowed in Canadian census data. What is known is that the "Grand Old Man of Blairmore" died in 1940 at the age of 92, and was buried in an unmarked grave.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Tanton Tragedy

Millbank Prison, Westminster, Middlesex, England
James Tanton suffered many tragedies in his long life. When he died at the age of 90 in 1853 at Beaford, Devon, James had outlived not only his wife, but ten of his 15 children.

James was born in Bideford, Devon in 1768, and with his parents came to St Giles in the Wood about 1790. In 1797 his youngest brother Daniel died accidentally. Daniel's untimely death is described in gruesome detail on his gravestone:

In memory of DANIEL
TANTON by Firing off
a Gun it Burst the Breech
of which sunk in his Head
where it remained 9 weeks
on extraction of which He
expired ye 29th of Jany 1797
aged 17 Years
In 1799, James married Mary Lemon at St Giles in the Wood. The first of their 15 children was born the following year. At the time of his marriage, James was an agricultural labourer. He soon acquired the means to become a tenant farmer at Blinsham in the neighbouring parish of Beaford. This was likely the result of an inheritance brought about by his father's death in 1801.

James and Mary's fourth child, Jane, died in 1804 at the age of four months. Four years later their seventh child, Richard, died at the age of seven months. Their ninth child, Hannah, was born in 1811. Six additional children followed, including twins in 1819, but all died within a few months of their births.

Their eight child, Charlotte, died in 1827 at the age of 17. Two years later, their daughter-in-law, Ann Leathern, wife of their oldest son James, also died.

Perhaps the greatest tragedy, however, involved James's youngest surviving daughter, Hannah. In 1834, Hannah had an illegitimate daughter whom she named Charlotte. Six years later she married Stephen Balkwill, an agricultural labourer from the nearby parish of Meeth. At the time of her marriage she was several months pregnant—not that unusual an occurrence. Two more children followed, both baptised in Merton.

Hannah died in August of 1847. Details of Hannah's death are recorded in the Merton burial register: "Killed in the harvest field by the cart going over her chest." Hannah's youngest was only 2½ years old.

A few months later a spate of burglaries occured in the area. After a break-in at the house of John Gordon on October 14th, suspicion fell on Stephen Balkwill, Hannah's widowed husband, and an accomplice, James Lewis. Stephen was arrested on October 30th, however, he escaped custody the following day despite being handcuffed. A reward of £10 was offered, but it wasn't until early December that he was recaptured at a lodging house in Crediton.

Between his escape and recapture, Stephen had fallen in with Mary Ann Eastman, who pretended to be Stephen's wife. Together they broke into the house of William Budd of Dolton on November 23rd. Evidence given at the trial showed how Stephen had cut through the shutter and removed a pane of glass from a window in order to gain entry. Mary Budd, the wife of William testified that "seven table-spoons, a dozen teas-spoons, four salt spoons, all silver, and various other articles" had been stolen. Some of this was recovered when Stephen and Mary Ann were arrested.

At their trial at the Devon Assizes on 16 Mar 1848, James Lewis and Mary Ann Eastman were sentenced to be transported for seven years. As Steven had been involved in both burglaries his sentence was fourteen years.

During the early 19th century, the British Government transported more than 165,000 convicts to penal colonies in Australia. Of these 76,000 were transported to Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) between 1804 and 1855.

Prison Hulk (HMS Warrior)
Steven Balkwill never made it to Australia. The usual procedure for convicts awaiting transportation was to be first sent to the "hulks" in London. Prison hulks were old navy ships anchored on the banks of the Thames. Steven, however, was sent to Millbank Prison. Millbank was located near Vauxhill Bridge in Westminster (now the site of Tate Britain) and, beginning in 1843, was used to house convicts awaiting transportation to Australia.

Conditions at both the prison hulks and at Millbank were appalling, and diseases such as typhoid and cholera were rampant. Stephen Balkwill died at Millbank on 13 October 1848.

In October 1848, Mary Ann Eastman was transferred from the Devon County Gaol to Millbank Prison. She eventually was one of 170 female convicts transported on the Stately which sailed from England on 12 May 1849, and arrived in Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) on 2 Sep 1849. The records also show that Mary Ann died in Hobart a month after her arrival.

In the 1851 Census, all three of Stephen's children, Stephen, Mary Ann, and John, are inmates of the Torrington Workhouse. Ten years later all had obtained employment as servants. Mary Ann married in 1865 and Stephen in 1878. What became of their their half-sister Charlotte is not known.


Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 20 Nov 1847
Exeter Flying Post, 8 Dec 1847
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, March 25, 1848

Exeter Flying Post, 19 Oct 1848