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.