52 Ancestors – Longevity

Leah Jane Taylor nee Titchworth 1843 – 1935

My father’s mother, Bethel Miller nee Jerry,  lived to age 89. Her mother, Margaret Electa Jerry nee Cranston was 84 when she passed away and her mother, Nancy Emily (Emma) Cranston (nee Taylor) died at the young age of 78. But the person I want to talk about today is Leah Jane Taylor (nee Titchworth). It is believed she was 92 years old when she died. (The only proof that lists her birth date is  the 1901 Canada Census).

Leah Jane Titchworth was born the 2 February 1843 in Paris, Ontario to William Titchworth and Nancy Mulholland. She married Reuben Clarence Taylor, son of Jeremiah Taylor and Olivia Pettit, on 3 December 1863 in Paris. She died in Detroit, Michigan on the 5 November 1935.

In a four generation picture Leah is matriarch with her daughter, Nancy Cranston, granddaughter, Margaret Jerry, and two year old great-granddaughter, Bethel Jerry, beside her. It was said of her that “When she was pleased she smiled. When she was not pleased she looked like a thundercloud.” However, her life was hard and she may not have had a lot to smile about.

4 generations

Left to Right; Leah Taylor, Margaret Jerry holding Bethel Jerry, and Emma Cranston

The earliest record of Jane is in the 1851 Canada West Census of Paris, Brant, Ontario. At that time, Paris was a flourishing town with a population of 1,500.  In 1851, the household consists of William, Nancy, and their children; Ira, Leah, Hugh, Emily, Phoebe, and Walter. Leah’s mother,  Nancy, died sometime between the 1851 and 1861 census. In 1861, only Ira and Hugh lived with their father. Leah worked as a servant for the 86 year old Timothy O’Brien and his two sons.  At Nancy’s death Emily and Phoebe, the younger children, were sent to live with relatives. In 1861 they were with Hugh and Flora Aker in Norfolk County, Ontario.

Even though the family was split up after their mother’s death, the brothers and sisters remained in contact with each other.  Phoebe was a witness at Ira’s marriage and Emily reported that Leah was her nearest living relative in a border crossing record.  It is possible that Emily stopped to see Leah in Saskatchewan as she traveled to Seattle, Washington to visit her son.  And for the last year of her life Emily lived with Phoebe in British Columbia.

Leah married at the same time her father and sister, Phoebe, were preparing to move to Kansas, where free land grants were available. Leah’s husband, Reuben Clarence Taylor, a teacher and farmer, was twelve years her senior. Family stories say that Leah was one of his pupils and they fell in love however, records do not indicate that he taught in Paris. Reuben and Leah moved to a farm outside of Comber, Essex, Ontario and raised their children there. Between 1864 and 1875 they had seven children; Nancy Emily (Emma), Olivia Huberta (Bertie), Margaret Amelia, Jane Electa [Jennie], William John Brown, Josephine, and Thomas Aaron. The youngest child, Thomas, was mentally handicapped.

Leah expected her children to pull their weight. Thomas helped around the house as did the other children. All of her children, even the boys, were taught to knit.  Leah raised her children to be independent. The three unmarried girls all had a trade. Bertie was a milliner in Detroit, Josephine ran a store in Bethune, Saskatchewan, and Margaret worked in well-to-do homes in Essex County.

The family experienced periods of poverty. Bethel Miller was told by her Grandma Taylor [Leah] that “she should be very glad to get good food [a cold pork fat sandwich with hot homemade mustard on it] because there were times when all she had to feed her family was flour porridge and milk.”  Another indication of their poverty was that although they farmed fertile land, Reuben periodically taught nearby to earn extra money.

During the late 1800’s in Ontario Leah was busy. She raised the children, prepared meals, sewed clothes, made butter, and put up food for the winter.  With so few sons, she may have helped with the farm too.  In spite of all the work she had time to crochet and tat items which she entered into competitions at area fairs. Her handiwork was of such high quality she was often asked to judge at these fairs. She was quite proud of her work. Bethel Jerry, a great-granddaughter, was told that when someone tried to pass one of Leah’s doilies off as their own, Leah was quite indignant saying, “I guess I knew my own work when I saw it.”

In 1906 Reuben and Leah moved to Bethune, Saskatchewan with William, Josephine and Thomas. In 1912 Reuben died and was buried in the Bethune Cemetery. Leah remained in Bethune until 1920 when she and her son, Thomas, moved back to Comber, Ontario to live with Emma. The family all agreed to help out. Jennie sent raisins from her fruit farm in California.

In 1924 Margaret Jerry, Leah’s granddaughter, suffered a nervous breakdown and was placed in a Saskatchewan psychiatric hospital. For five years her three children were cared for by their grandmother Cranston and great-grandmother Taylor.  Bethel Jerry remembered her great-grandmother Taylor from that time, “In 1924 when I went east, I met Grandma Taylor. She must have been 81 years. She sat and pieced quilts and knit sox and mitts at the window where the light was good. She usually had a dish of daffodils growing in a flat dish with stones and water in winter. She was a chubby and short person.”

Leah died on while visiting Bertie in Detroit and was buried beside her husband in Bethune. She was survived by seven children, eight grandchildren, twelve great-grandchildren, and three great-great-grandchildren. Although she had a hard life, Leah was a strong matriarch who taught her children independence and the value of hard work.

Memories of Bethel Miller, (no date), privately held by Tara Shymanski, Calgary, Canada, 2008. These five handwritten pages contain information about Reuben & Leah Jane Taylor and their family. As a child Bethel (Jerry) Miller spent from 1924 to 1929 with her relatives. All of the quotations, personal anecdotes and personal information come from these notes; Inherited in 2006 by Tara Shymanski, from her grandmother Bethel Miller.

1851 Census of Canada West, Paris, Brant County, District 2, Subdistrict 11, page 33 line 42, Microfilm Reel C-11714, Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa.

Ontario Registrar of Deeds, Brant County, Paris 1859-1868, Instrument 1053; Archives of Ontario; FHL microfilm 170,352.

1861 Census of Canada West, Paris, Brant County, Page 25 Line 28. Microfilm Reel C-1009, Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa.

1861 Census of Canada West, Paris, Brant County, Page 49 Line 13. Microfilm Reel C-1009, Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa.

1861 Census of Canada West, Walshingham, Norfolk County, District 4, Line 33. microfilm reel C-1053, Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa.

1901 Census of Canada, Tilbury West, Essex County, District 59, Subdistrict J, page 1, line 1; microfilm reel T-6466, Library and Archives Canada. Ottawa.

Ontario County Marriage Registers, 1858-1869, Brant County, p. 127, Archives of Ontario, FHL microfilm 1,030,055 [the marriage registration lists Jane’s parents as William and Nancy Titchworth

“Mrs. Leah Taylor”, obituary clipping with handwritten year, date is in text of clipping, probably from the Comber Herald, privately held by Tara Shymanski, Calgary, Alberta, 2008; Inherited in 2006 by Tara Shymanski, from her grandmother Bethel Miller.

Ontario County Marriage Registers, 1858-1869, Norfolk County, p. 129, Archives of Ontario, FHL microfilm 1,030,061

Border Crossings from Canada to U.S., 1895-1956, Sumas Washington, November 1911, digital image, Ancestry.com  (http://www.ancestry.com  :  accessed 4 November 2007) citing National Archives and Records Administration Micropublication M1464, 639 rolls); Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

Mrs. Emily Coleman Obituary, The Victoria Daily Times, 24 October 1930, page 15, microfilm reel NJ FM 776, reel 121, Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa.

Ontario Registrar of Deeds, Brant County, Paris 1859-1868, Instrument 1053; Archives of Ontario; FHL microfilm 170,352.

1880 United States Census, Windsor Twp., Cowley, Kansas, Enumeration District 185, p 20, line 16, digital image, Ancestry, com (http;//www.ancestry.com : accessed 3 April 2008) citing National Archives and Records Administration; National Archives, Washington, D.C.  [William Titchworth is listed with wife, Frances E.; in the 1885 Harvey, Cowley, Kansas Census William is alone but it stated he came from Canada.  As well, in the obituary of Edward Field, husband of Pheobe, we find that this family lived in Kansas prior to moving to British Columbia. Mr. Edward Field Obituary, The Victoria Daily Times, 14 July 1917, page unknown, microfilm reel 121, NJ FM 776, reel 200, Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa.

Records of Department of Education, Annual Reports of Local Superintendents and Local Boards of Trustees, 1850 – 1870 Series RG2-17, Microfilm Reel MS 3539, Archives of Ontario; Toronto, Canada [These records do not list Reuben Taylor as a teacher in Paris for the time period 1855 – 1870.  In 1861 he is teaching while living with his father in Binbrook Twp. 1861 Canada West Census, Binbrook Twp., Wentworth, p 3, household 10, Microfilm Reel C-1085, Library and Archives Canada; Toronto, Ontario]


2 thoughts on “52 Ancestors – Longevity

  1. Jody

    So we come from a long line of strong women. Wondering about Reuben. Where is he from? Just wondering as it is sounding like a Jewish name.



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