A Confusing Tombstone!

First photo of Olivia Taylor’s tombstone

There is a tombstone I would love to see. It is an old, weathered stone with a barely legible inscription. It is the tombstone of Olivia Taylor (nee Pettit) wife of Jeremiah Taylor that is in the Auld Kirk Cemetery in Binbrook, Ontario, Canada. This small cemetery, with only 90 plots, was built in 1834. I want to see the tombstone so I can verify transcriptions done by other people.

You can read about the history of the cemetery here.

Second photo of Olivia Taylor’s tombstone

Each of the 3 pictures was taken by different people at different times since 2008.The first one I did not source very well but it may be from the Glanbrook Heritage Society, the second is on Find a Grave and the third one is from the Canada GenWeb’s Cemetery Project.

The transcription of the first stone reads “Olivia wife of Jeremiah Taylor died April 28 1868, aged 50 years, 2 M, 21 D.” Some of the words in the picture are easier to read but death year is obscured by a mark on the stone.

I am sure that Olivia died before 1868. She is not with her husband in the 1861 census and it is unlikely they divorced so it she most likely she died before the census. Ontario death registrations didn’t begin until 1869 so the only death record I have for Olivia is the tombstone.

Third photo of Olivia Taylor’s tombstone

On the second stone the transcription states she died on April 28, 1860. That date makes more sense. This stone is still difficult to read in the photo but it does look like her death year is 1860. I thought I should see if there were any other pictures of this gravestone.

The photo of the third stone is the easiest for me to read. The person who took the photo cleaned it off well. On this stone it looks like the death year is 1860.

By looking at 3 different copies of the tombstone, I am able to piece together most the words on it. Actually, the only word that gives me trouble is her name, Olivia. None of the three pictures gives a distinct image of her first name.

Eighteen or more years later it may have deteriorated even more. I would still love to see the original. There is something about being in a cemetery and seeing your ancestors grave that makes a genealogist happy.


Olivia Taylor Tombstone; contributed on 7/2/12 by glanbrookheritage at yahoo dot ca

Olivia Taylor Tombstone; Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 23 May 2020), memorial page for Olivia Taylor (7 Feb 1810–28 Apr 1860), Find a Grave Memorial no. 73267641, citing Auld Kirk Cemetery, Binbrook, Hamilton Municipality, Ontario, Canada ; Maintained by Farison Roots (contributor 47254415) .

Olivia Taylor Tombstone; Canada Genweb Project; Auld Kirk Cemetery, Wentworth County, Ontario; Photos courtesy of Ginnie & George Feeley [2008]; http://geneofun.on.ca/names/photo/283644

He plowed the land with an ox and an ax

There’s a song that goes “…give me land, lots of land, and the starry skies above
Don’t fence me in.” My great grandfather, James Herbert Jerry, purchased a farm in Crozier, Northwestern, Ontario. He was a strong man. He had an ox that pulled the plow. In one hand Granddad Jerry held the reins and in another an ax. As he plowed, he would hit tree roots, and whack, down would come the ax splitting the roots and allowing the ox to continue on. This is how he cleared his land.

Robert and Harriet Jerry with family – Herbert Jerry with gun in Crozier, Ontario

Granddad Jerry grew up in poverty. His family was so poor that 10 year old Herb worked at a neighbour’s farm to earn money for the family. The family moved around, ending up in Crozier, Northwestern Ontario in the early 1900’s. It’s here he met his future wife, a teacher, Margaret Electa Cranston.

In the early 20th century, the only way for a poor adult to get land was to homestead. Homesteaders paid a $10 registration fee and were given 160 acres. Ownership for this land was granted if the farmer lived on the land for 3 years, cultivated 30 acres, and build a house worth $300. Granddad Jerry homestead in Saskatchewan – close to Hawarden. In 1915, he journeyed by train to Comber, Ontario and married Margaret Cranston.
After the wedding they traveled to the farm in Saskatchewan.

Herbert and Margaret Jerry in Saskatchewan

All four of their children, Bethel, Josephine, Bud, and Anna, were born in Saskatchewan. Unfortunately, Margaret, their mother, suffered from mental illness. In 1923, after Anna was born, her illness was so severe she was sent to the psychiatric hospital in Weyburn, Saskatchewan. Since there wasn’t anyone to care for the children, with Grandma Jerry in the hospital and Granddad Jerry working the farm, the children were sent to their maternal relatives in Comber – where family members raised them for 3 or more years.

Eventually, Grandma and Granddad Jerry joined their children. Granddad Jerry tried working in the Leamington factory for a couple of years but didn’t like it. He wanted to farm. His mother and some of his brothers were still in Crozier so they decided to move there. They traveled in a big car, arriving in 1929.

While I was in university, I met an older man who remembered Herb Jerry and how he plowed his land with an ox and an ax. He eventually sold that farm to his daughter and son-in-law and purchased a smaller piece of land not far away. We children would go with Dad to visit him. I remember my great granddad Jerry as a man who loved his land. He was patient and could explain anything about nature.

Herbert Jerry in 1962 at his daughter’s house

He had a difficult life; extreme poverty as a child, and later, an unstable wife who was in and out of the psychiatric hospital. Despite this, in his old age, he exuded peace. He didn’t leave his land until the last years of his life. At about age 88 he finally moved into town to allow his daughter to care for him.

They stayed home

Seven children were born to William and Fanny Atkins (nee Green). Five of those children were shipped off or chose to move to North America. Only two remained in England. Edith Emily and Horace remained in England. It seems odd that these two stayed. I don’t know why they weren’t sent away too.

Edith is the second child born to William and Fanny Atkins. It appears she took some responsibility for her siblings after her older sister, Beatrice, left. You’ll remember that Beatrice was sent away shortly after the death of their mother in 1902.

Edith married Alfred Francis Sackett in 1909 and had a daughter, Edith Frances, shortly after the marriage. She had another child, Claude Leonard Alfred in 1911. Then 20 years later, when she was 41, she had an “oops” child, Dennis.

76 Felsham Road, Putney

Edith and Alfred lived at 76 Felsham Road in Putney, London England. Her brother Horace lived with the Sackett family from 1914 to 1919.

Horace first worked as a kitchen porter at J. Lyons & Company, a pioneer catering company. He was responsible for doing dishes and basic food prep. In 1914, he enlisted with the British army to fight in World War 1.

After the war, in 1920, he married Florence Edith Hall. His continued his career and worked as a chef in Croyden, London, England.

Pictures of Horace Atkins. One in the war, the other as a cook (third from the left)

Fresh Start for Jesse Atkins

At the age of 17, Jesse Atkins decided he needed a fresh start. He worked as a seaman on board the ship, Lancastrian, and made his way from England to New York, United States.

Born Edward Jesse Atkins in 1899, his mother died when he was just 3 years old. In 1911 Jesse and his father lived in the Amersham, Buckinghamshire, England workhouse where he was going to school. He had not been sent to Canada with Bernardos Homes like 4 of his sisters. Instead, his family arranged that he should move to America.

His sisters Edith Sackett in England and Rosa Conway in Upper New York State most likely organized his emigration. Edith was his closest living relative in England. His destination was the home of Rosa and her family.

What was the result of his new start? He arrived in New York City on December 9, 1916 and went straight to his sister’s home. A year later he enlisted in the war, World War 1. Perhaps it was in the army that he met John and James McGann.

Photo of Julia McGann

He went on to marry, Julia, the sister of John and James McGann, on June 13, 1925. Jesse and Julia lived in Moorestown, New Jersey and had 4 children, Dorothy Aileen, Mary Claire, Jesse Junior, and Thomas Donald. Jesse made a career as an auto mechanic and later as a car salesman.

Unfortunately, his fresh start lasted only 30 years. He died on June 27, 1946 and is buried in the Mount Carmel Cemetery in Moorestown.

Dispatch Rider

My great uncle, Holmes Miller, was a dispatch rider in World War 2. He rode an Indian Motorcycle delivering messages back and forth from the front lines. This was a lonely, dangerous job. They ” travelled unmarked roads, sometimes under fire or strafing, often in the dark without headlights…” Holmes would ride a motorcycle through shelling. He was once shelled by friendly fire. After he was wounded on the motorcycle, he was transferred to warehousing, ordering supplies. 

The upper left picture is part of the 37th Battery in Petawawa 1940. Uncle Holmes is the 3rd from the left front row. Bottom left picture I’m not sure if this is an Indian motorcycle but similar. Picture on right is Holmes and Edna on their wedding day.

Uncle Holmes enlisted with the 37th Field Battery in Fort Frances, Ontario. He trained at and Fort Frances and Petawawa with the other Rainy River District boys. In Petewawa he met his future wife, Edna Richardson. They married July 2, 1941 in Pembroke, Ontario.

He served in England, U.K., Central Mediterranean area, Continental Europe, Italy and France. Uncle Holmes was discharged on October 17, 1945.

Adams, Sharon, War on two wheels, online Legion Magazine, September 26, 2017, https://legionmagazine.com/en/2017/09/war-on-two-wheels/

There is no home

“I’m going home” proclaimed Gramma Harrison, as she hauled out the dilapidated suitcase from the basement and filled it with a few items. The screen door slammed shut as she lugged the suitcase down the rickety steps of the porch. She hauled the suitcase along the dusty, pothole filled lane. Abruptly, she stopped as the truth slammed into her. There was no home!

Kate Harrison at her home near Cochrane, Ontario.

That’s the way it was. Kate Atkins was 8 years old when her mother died in 1902. Her father had been unable to care for 7 children. Eventually, the family was split up and the children were sent to the workhouse or other charitable organizations. Unlike three of her sisters, Beatrice, Alice, and Rosa, Kate spent 8 years in England before she was convinced by her sister Edith to go to Canada. She arrived in Quebec, Canada on May 15, 1910 aboard the passenger ship “Canada” and traveled by train to join her sister, Rosa, in Port Dover, Ontario.

It had been ok at first, working for the pharmacist, Mr Ansley and his wife as a domestic with Rosa. But the Rosa went back to England and when she returned moved to New York state and married. Kate was alone. She didn’t stay in Port Dover for long. She headed to a domestic position in Toronto. At least there she was near her sister, Alice.

Kathleen Atkins on her wedding day

She married John Henry Harrison in Toronto on September 6, 1913. Now she lived in Brower, Ontario; a place of freezing winters and mosquito-filled summers. The lush rolling hills of Buckinghamshire, England were very different from the dense bush overgrown with spruce and pine where she now lived. She wanted to go home but the truth was this was her home. A home that had been filled with 9 children and now visiting grandchildren.

Kate never did go back to England. She died on 12 January 1973 in Connaught, a locality near Timmins, Ontario.

British Home Children Day

Alice and William James Plested. Is this their wedding day?

Two sisters of Elizabeth Beatrice Letcher (nee Atkins) were also sent to Canada with Dr. Bernardos Homes. Like Beatrice, they were both at Barkingside Village prior to coming to Canada. On October 7, 1905, at the age of 8, Alice Minnie in Quebec, probably on her way to Hazelbrae in Peterborough. Her older sister, Rosa, came to Canada with Dr. Bernardos Homes in March 1907 at the age of 16.

In 1921, Alice was a servant in the household of Alexander Elliot, an optician in the city of Toronto. In 1922, Alice married William James Plested in Toronto. They moved to the District of Cochrane, Ontario. Alice had one son, Doug, who died in December 2010.

In 1911 Rosa was in Port Dover, Ontario working as a domestic in the household of Harry Ansley, who is a druggist. Harry owned a store, so he could have been what we call a pharmacist. The exciting thing is that working with Rosa is Kate, her sister. Kate came to Canada in May 1910.

Rosa then left her employment with Harry Ansley to go back to England. This occurred sometime after the 1911 census. She returned to Canada on March 29, 1912 on board the SS Lake Manitoba, a CPR steamship that went form Liverpool to St John. She crossed into United States at the Niagara Falls, New York border in April of 1912, heading to a domestic position in the household of Mrs A. J. Howell in Syracuse, New York.

Rosa married Frank Thomas Conway in Allegheny, New York on September 30, 1913. She had 3 children, William Thomas, Julia, and Ruth Anne. She died about the 9 February, 1960 in Jordan, New York. She was very active in her church community.

I love Rosa. She was the family historian. It was from her obituary listing her living siblings and exactly where they lived, that I was able to confirm details of lives of many of her brothers and sisters. She knew where her sister, Kate, was and managed to find her domestic work in Canada. She went back to England to visit. Her husband and children even knew the name of the unincorporated community that Alice lived in. Although they were separated, Rosa kept her family close to her.