Search This Blog

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Rutherford Descent

My mother-in-law has loaned us a copy of her family tree, which goes back to the year 1260 without any gaps.  As Jane Austen would say, I am all astonishment.  I myself can only manage to take most family lines back to the late 1700s, sometimes the early 1600s if it's a very well documented family.  The further back you go, the harder it is to find records, the harder it is to read them once you've found them, and the less useful they tend to be even once you've managed to get hold of them and figure out what they say.  Ah!  But if you're nobility, that makes all the difference.  Records are kept, if nothing else, of what land and property you own and who they should pass down to, and family trees are drawn up to prove relationship and inheritance rights.  Our branch of the Rutherford family is a classic example of how the younger branches of titled nobility can devolve over the generations to common folk.  It happens all the time--in fact, I've seen a chart which shows how the younger line of a landowning family can become a crofting family (the poorest of the poor)  in three generations!  But even though we may no longer own the family land, we're still part of the pedigree.

William Rutherford Sr. of Montreal and Elizabeth Jackson were the couple who established our branch of the Rutherford family in Canada.  William Rutherford was born in Jedburgh, Scotland, in 1831 and moved to Canada in 1852, where he married Elizabeth (see previous post).  Now here's how the family goes back, according to the tree in my mother-in-law's possession.

William Rutherford was the son of James Rutherford and Helen Paton.  James lived in Jedburgh, Scotland, and married twice--William was his child by his first wife.  James died of old age in 1883, at the age of 81, which would place his birth circa 1802.

Death certificate for James Rutherford (2nd from top) father of William Rutherford the immigrant.  The record indicates that he was a forester, and that his father, also James, was a gardener.  His mother was Jeanie (Thomson) Rutherford.  Both parents deceased. 

According to the Borders Family History Society, which has transcribed gravestones in the area, James and Helen are buried at Jedburgh Abbey.  James's grave reads:  "James Rutherford Forester Linthaugh b. 17.3.1802 d Linthaugh 15.7.1883 1.w. Helen Paton d. 21.8.1846 36 2w Margaret (Temple) d. 6.1.1893."  The part about the wives is a little cryptic:  I take it to mean that Helen, his first wife, died on August 21, 1846 at age 36, and his second wife, Margaret, died on January 6, 1893, ten years after James.   

Here are some pictures I found of Jedburgh Abbey and the adjoining cemetery--not of the Rutherford graves, unfortunately.  I love the ruins of the Abbey--what a fabulous historic site!  If I ever get to Scotland again this will definitely be on my list of places to visit.

The James Rutherford family appears on the 1841 census of Scotland.  The family at that point consists of James, age 35, Helen, age 25, and their children James (11), William (9), Margaret (7), Isabel (5), Helen (3), and Andrew (5 months).  They have one live-in servant.  In the 1851 census, the household consists of James (now listed as 49), his second wife Margaret (35), William (19), Isabel (15), Helen (13), Andrew (10), and two new children, Robert (2) and Alexander (8 months).  This census lists James' occupation as "Forest (over six men)", which I take to mean that he was the head forester, with six men working for him.  One year after the 1851 census, at age 20, William immigrates to Canada.

Later census records, and the Rutherford family tree, show that even more children were born to James and Margaret:  John, Jamima (a girl), Annie, Jean, Mary, Jessie, and Agnes.  Altogether, James Rutherford was blessed with at least 15 children.

James was apparently a member of the Royal Scottish Forestry Society.  Here is his name on a list of members in 1877.

Both James' death record and the Rutherford family tree confirm that his parents were James Rutherford and Jeanie Thomson.  James and Jeanie's marriage record gives the brides' name as Jane Thomson and gives their wedding date as May 10, 1795, at Wilton, Roxburgh (which is pretty close to Jedburgh).

May 10, 1795:  Wilton registry.  Proclaimed James Rutherford  in this parish and Jane Thomson  in the parish of Pellesleaf. 

The family tree says of James that he was born in 1768 and "died before his father".  His baptismal record actually shows a date of June 4, 1767:

William Rutherfurd in Trove had a Child Baptized named James born the 4th June inst.  Records of the County and Parish of Roxburgh, 1767.

Besides James Jr., James and Jean/Jane/Jeanie Rutherford had a son named William, born on May 31, 1796, in Wilton, Roxburgh.  There are six years between the siblings James and William.  I can't find records for any other children.  

The website has an entry for James Rutherford's burial at Jedburgh Abbey in 1802, but there is no photograph, no grave transcription and I am unable to find an official death record for him.

James' father, as shown in the family tree and confirmed on the above birth record, is William Rutherford.  The family tree tells us that William was born in 1730 and married Margaret, last name unknown.  Here's where the records get a bit sketchier.  There is birth record for a William Rutherford, born in Maxton in 1729, whose father is James Rutherford, a tenant, and whose mother is unnamed.

Febry 23, 1729.  Maxton Parish.  James Rutherford Tenant in Maxton Child Baptized Called William. 

This is probably our William, although I'd feel better if I knew his mother's name too.  The Maxton Parish Website indicates that Maxton is a rural village right next to the parish of Roxburgh, so the area is right.  Maxton has strong associations with the Rutherford family.

The Scottish Border Society also has a grave transcription for a William Rutherford in Jedburgh Abbey, in the grave right next to James Rutherford Jr. and Helen Paton.  This inscription reads:  "William Rutherford Forester Linthaugh d 20.5.1816 82, w Margaret Turnbull d 25.4.1815 75 4 chn da Ann d 27.4.1840 70 da Isabella d 11.6.1847 70".  This may not be the right William Rutherford, since the birth date would be off by around four or five years.  However, this William does have a wife named Margaret, and he does die after 1802, when the James Rutherford who "died before his father" passes away.  He also appears to hold the family job--Forester in Linthaugh.

Next on the family tree is James Rutherford, born 1685, married Jane Jerdon in 1728.  I can't find a record for this marriage.  I also can't find a record for a James Rutherford born in 1685.  There is one born in 1684 in Cupar, Fife, son of Edvard (sic) Rutherford and Helen Turnbull.  Possible, but not enough information to confirm right now, especially since the family tree lists yet another William Rutherford as James' father. .

 The only information the tree gives us about this William Rutherford  is that he was born in 1650 to George Rutherford and Margaret Oliphen.  To me, there seems to  be a big gap between William's birth in 1650 and his son's birth in 1684/5.  I can't find records for any of these people.  And here's where things get a little confusing.

According to the tree, George Rutherford was "vested in lands of Headfaulds and Caldschiells." and mentions his grandfather William having exchanged or bought these two properties from his younger brothers Andrew and Nicol, giving them his own property Rottenrow "and paid them besides 1000 marks."   George Rutherford's father was James Rutherford, no dates given but "acted as bailis in May 1604 in giving Sasine of Wanliss Lands in Regality of Jedburgh Forest to Andrew Rutherford".  And obviously, James Rutherford's father would be William, right?  Except that the tree also says of James that he 'died before his father Thomas Rutherford'.  Ahhh!  There's no way Thomas and William are variants of each other like some other names are.  There's something askew here somewhere.

Like James, William Rutherford has no vital dates attached to his record, although he "possessed Rottenrow 1560".  He has two younger brothers, Andrew and Nicol, who are on the tree.  William, Andrew and Nicol's father is Thomas Rutherford, born 1537, his father is Nicol (no other information), Nicol's father is Thomas of Rutherford, who in turn is a younger son of Nicol of Hundole, circa 1404, who "Got into 1426 Charter under Great Seal".  Nicole of Hundole was a younger son of Richard of Rutherford, circa 1366 (his older brothers were James of Rutherford, circa 1400,  and John of Chotte).  Richard of Rutherford was "Ambassador of England 1398.  Warden of Marehead 1400".  

Richard's father was William of Rutherford, circa 1336, son of Richard of Rutherford, circa 1325.  He was the son of Sir Richard of Rutherford, circa 1300, who was the son of Robert of Rutherford, circa 1276, "said to be a friend and valuable assistant to Sir William Wallace.  He joined Wallace in Ettick forest with 600 men.".  Sir Richard was the son of Robert of Rutherford, circa 1276, who was the son of Nicolas of Rutherford, circa 1246.  That appears to be the end of the genealogical line, although there are a few more names at the top which are undated.

I think the repetition of names in the family is interesting.  From the 1200s down, here is a list:
William (who begins the Canadian branch of the family,  and passes down William as a male name).

There's a lot of work to be done on this tree before it's properly documented, but still, it's an intriguing start.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Ancestors in the Drug Trade: Tracing William Elliot's Pharmaceutical Career

Package to Elliot & Co., 3 Front Street East, Toronto, in the collection of the Kingston Museum of Health Care.

William Elliot (1812-1893), father of Minnie (Elliot) Scott and grandfather of Arthur Scott, was one of several very successful capitalists in the Rutherford line.   He interests me because he was not only a man of many accomplishments (if you read his entry in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography you'll wonder that he ever found time to sleep) but was also very involved in the professionalization of the Canadian Pharmaceutical industry.  His career spanned a time when pharmacy was beginning to base itself more on science (particularly chemistry) than folk remedies, but had not yet developed standards for drug testing for safety or efficacy. 

William Elliot was born in London, England in 1812 and educated at an unknown London boarding school.  His family immigrated to Dundas, Ontario while he was still in school, and he joined them at age 15.  There is no evidence that he did any more schooling in Ontario, and certainly he never attended university.  In Dundas he converted to the local Disciples of Christ church (according to his entry in the Dictionary, his birth family was Anglican), and married Mary Oliphant, the daughter of the Disciple preacher David Oliphant Sr.  Upon reaching adulthood he took up farming in Dundas but, fatefully, decided to join the Dundas drug and stationery firm Lesslie and Sons (owned by the Lesslie family).  Presumably he learned the trade there;  a few years later he bought out the business in conjunction with a Mr. Thornton and renamed it Elliot and Thornton.  In 1853 he sold the business and moved to Toronto,  and in 1855 he had joined in partnership with Benjamin Lyman, a drug wholesaler, creating the wholesale firm Lyman, Elliot & Co.  As wholesalers, they both manufactured their own products and distributed the products of others.  In 1870,  William Elliot and his son Robert Watt Elliot would buy out Lyman and establish the family-owned company Elliot & Co.  Elliot & Co. became one of the leading drug wholesalers in Ontario, and both William and Robert Watt Elliot were greatly respected in the industry of the time.

Announcement of the partnership of William and Robert Elliot, as Elliot & Co. Canadian Pharmaceutical Journal, Vol. 3, No. 24, April 1870.

What was it like to be a pharmacist during the early period of William's career?   For one thing, the trade was regulated by an apprenticeship system rather than a professional body.  Many medications were created by the pharmacists themselves, as the quality of "patent" or manufactured remedies varied widely. Standard recipes for drugs were found in the British Pharmacopoeia, first published in 1864, and in various trade journals from Britain, Europe and America.  However, patent medications, however questionable, were quite profitable,  so most pharmacists did carry a selection.  Much like a modern drugstore, the 19th century druggist would usually sell grooming items and some general stock as well as health care remedies.  The typical pharmacist offered "over the counter" or non-prescription medication to those who came in without having seen a doctor first, thus creating some friction between the domains of  physician and apothecary.

Here, from the "Canadian Pharmaceutical Journal", are some ads for products distibuted by Lyman & Elliot which indicates their huge range.  They sell drugs and chemicals, no surprise, but also spices, surgical instruments, and even furniture.  Also note the addresses--King Street East, Front Street--I can't bear to think of what these properties would be worth now.   The third ad, for patent medications distributed by the company, is incredibly politically incorrect--Chicopee Indian Worm Tea?  (Do Chicopee Indians even exist?) .  Oriental Hair Gloss and Egyptian Salve illustrate the fashion for exotica.   Butter powder seems to be some kind of food additive--notice the free advertising the company is offering its retail customers. And finally, perfumes, pomades, tooth powders, everything for the elegant lady or  gentleman who wants to smell like spring flowers or new mown hay. These ads are all to the trade, and likely not as hyperbolic as ads to the public would have been.

Ad for Lyman, Elliot & Co., 1868

Notice this ad features Elliot's Dentifrice, "a popular and salable toilet article".

Various patent medicines distributed by Lyman, Elliot & Co. 1868.

Butter Powder works miracles.  1868.

Perfume and grooming products.  1868.

Elliot & Co. wins prizes for Perfumery Extracts, Oil Cake, Linseed Oil, White Lead in Oil at the Toronto Industrial Exhibition, Canadian Pharmaceutical Journal, Vol. 15, 1881-82.

Title page of an early issue of  the Canadian Pharmaceutical Journal, 1868

In the 1860s, a movement to establish pharmacy as a profession began to appeal to Ontario pharmacists, partly because of pressure from the medical establishment, who wanted pharmacists to pass examinations delivered by a medical board.  In an effort to retain their independence and establish their own professional standards, in 1867 a group of pharmacists established the Toronto Chemists and Druggists Association, which would change its name after four months to The Canadian Pharmaceutical Society.  Both William and Robert Watt Elliot were involved from the very beginning.  William became the president of the organization, and Robert Watt was on the publication committee of the Society's professional journal.

Both William and Robert Watt Elliot were early joiners, attending the second meeting of the Society in July 1867.

Wm. Elliot, Esq., President of the Canadian Pharmaceutical Society, 1868

According to Jennifer Beales and Zubin Austin, authors of the paper "The Pursuit of Legitimacy and Professionalism:  The Evolution of Pharmacy in Ontario" (Pharmaceutical Historian 2006 (June); 36 (2):  22-27) the Canadian Pharmaceutical Society "had the aim to advance the profession through the advancement of science, to define the precise position of an apothecary and establish his relations towards physicians and the public, to establish a board of examiners, and to restrict as much as possible the dispensing of medicines by any except those qualified by such Board."  William Elliot's most pressing challenge was to draft and encourage the passage of legislation which would define the profession of pharmacy in Canada.  The Society first attempted to draft legislation for passage at the federal level, but this legislation repeatedly failed to pass.  Not daunted, they secured the passage of Bill No. 20, the Pharmacy Act of Ontario, at the provincial level in February 1871.  At this point the Canadian Pharmaceutical Society changed its name to the Ontario College of Pharmacy, with William Elliot still in his position as President.

A discussion of the Pharmacy Bill, 1868

1870--the Pharmacy Bill has still not passed.

Volume 3, number 27, July 1871.  The Canadian Pharmaceutical Society changes its name to the Ontario College of Pharmacy.  William Elliot still President.

William Elliot unanimously elected President of the new Ontario College of Pharmacy.  Vol. 5, No. 1, August 1871.

Despite the new emphasis on science and scientific education, pharmacy had yet to establish standards for testing the effectiveness of medications.  These short opinion pieces in the Canadian Pharmaceutical Journal illustrate what we would consider bogus medicine presented in an uncritical manner. 

Using Sarsaparilla to cure syphilis.   Volume 3, No. 29, Sept. 1870.

Is opium good for children?  This doctor thinks so...
One interesting part of both William and Robert Watt's careers is their  frequent travel to Europe.  Although their company did not to my knowledge export to Europe, the Elliot men appeared to go with regularity to see what the newest developments in the profession were, and to educate themselves about European medicinal ingredients.  Robert Watt Elliot wrote several lengthy articles in the Journal about European plants, their identification and their medicinal qualities.  The Canadian Pharmaceutical Society also apparently had its own library and museum, to which  R.W. donated books and artifacts gathered on his voyages.  On the question of whether to follow the British or the American standards of pharmacy, the Elliots and the Society were firmly on the side of Britian.   It's interesting that, in Britain, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Museum opened in 1842, and was well established by the time the Canadian Society was formed.  I'm sure William and his son must have visited it.

Britain or America?  The Ontario College of Pharmacy is Pro-Britain.  Volume 3, No. 31, Nov. 1870.

Although the domain of the Ontario College of Pharmacy was medicinal, in business Elliot & Co. continued to make and distribute non-medicinal items.  This brochure from the Toronto Industrial Exhibition (the precursor to the Canadian National Exhibition) shows off their animal care and feeding supplies.  And, as the name of their manufacturing company, the Canada Oil, Paint and Drug Mills, suggests, paint was also a prominent part of their inventory.

Drawing of Canada Oil and Paint Mills, Elliot and Co.'s Manufacturing Plant.  1879.

This description of Elliot & Co. was written in 1886, when the prime years of the firm.

Entry for Elliot & Co., from Industries of Canada:  Historical and Commercial Sketches of Toronto and Environs.  1886.  

Unfortunately for William, disaster marked the end of his years in pharmacy.  In October of 1886, when William was in Europe, his warehouse caught fire and burned to the ground.  Here is the story as reported in the Toronto Globe, October 21, 1886:


Policeman Bogart sounded an alarm at three o'clock yesterday morning for a fire that had just started in Elliot & Company's wholesale drug establishment, at 3 Front-street East. A dense mist resting upon this city rendered the operations of the firemen difficult at first.  After fifteen minutes fruitless work the firemen discovered the exact source of the flames, and directed their full strength to that quarter.  The flood of water, however, seemed to have no effect whatever on the fire, which blazed up more fiercely every minute.  A general alarm was sounded and the whole brigade turned out, but even then the fire continued to rage and destroy the immense stock of inflammables in the building, composed largely of oils which made good fuel to keep up the terrible conflagration.  The firemen had placed half-a-dozen ladders against the front of the building so that they could get at the second storey, when A LOUD EXPLOSION occured.  The whole building was shattered and fell in--in a chaotic mass.  Firemen Poynton and Fallon, of the Court-street Hall, who were upon the ladders, were knocked off and fell to the ground.  Fireman James Creighton, of Yonge-street, who held a branch just inside of the front door, had his arm badly injured by some of the debris striking him.  Firemen Spence, Reddick, Smedley and Sweatman of Bay-street, who were at the back of the building, were also injured, but not to such an extent as to incapacitate them from continuing their struggle with the flames.  The ether used in the establishment had generally been kept in the mill at one corner of the building by itself, but yesterday a case was taken into the cellar, opened, and left there, where the fire found it.  It was this case of ether that exploded with such destructive force.  The flames were not subdued until everything in the place, with the exception of the books in the safe, was destroyed.  The Canadian Rubber Company's warehouse adjoins Elliot's on the west, and the stock there was damaged to a considerable extent.  Davidson & Hay's temporary premises are next door to Elliot's on the east, but there was no serious damage done here.  THE LOSS on the stock, which was insured for $67,000, is placed at from $100,000 to $110,000...On the building and fixtures, owned by Mr. James Watson [Wm. Elliot's son-in-law] there is an insurance of $12,000...this will probably cover the loss.  Mr. Elliot is now on the Atlantic on his way home from Europe.   

The fire must have been a tremendous shock to the entire family.  Afterwards, William sold his share in the business to his son and partner Robert Watt, and retired from the drug trade.  He would have been seventy-four years old.  William lived for another seven years, dying in 1893 at the age of eighty-one. The Dictionary of Canadian Biography says that "His final days were clouded most by the tragic death of his grandson, Howard, of peritonitis at the age of 25. Howard had been an outstanding student in pharmacy and seemed destined to lead the Elliot firm to greater success."   William is buried in the Necropolis cemetery, in a grave which I hope to one day find. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Defying the Frost King: Pioneer Life in Fact and Fiction

Pa Ingalls, frontier pioneer,  as illustrated by Garth Williams
for the Little House series.
I recently read a book that apparently has been astonishingly popular with a certain breed of woman.  No, not that book--I'm talking about Wendy McClure's The Wilder Life:  My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie.  It really took me back--I remember reading every one of the Little House books, some more than once (and also watching some of the television series later on) and while I don't really remember too many plot points, I am left with certain images--cozy log cabins with crackling fires, skating on frozen lakes, Pa playing his fiddle while the girls drift off to sleep in their nest-like loft. I do remember that Pa got lost in a blizzard right before Christmas at one point and ate the two oranges which were supposed to be Laura and Mary's Christmas treats.  After that I developed a thing for getting an orange in my Christmas stocking.  Wendy McClure found--and still finds, as an adult--these elegaic books so compelling that for some time she made a project of living, as she puts it, La Vida Laura--in other words, trying to recreate some of Laura's pioneer experiences, like churning her own butter, or baking bread with wheat she had ground by hand.  Chores as entertainment! She also makes a kind of pilgrimage with her very patient fiance, visiting all sorts of Laura-associated sites and events, like Laurapalooza (really, I'm not kidding), and a museum which has a photographic portrait of the real Charles Ingalls which left one visitor visibly shaken and squawking with disbelief (she was expecting someone more Michael Landon-esque).  At one point, McClure visits one of the Ingall's homes, an earthen dugout that was "smaller than a freight elevator", and muses that "the actual past and the Little House world had different properties."

Pa  "Beefcake" Ingalls on TV,  played  by Michael Landon 
Pa playing his iconic fiddle in the stage version of
"Little House on the Prairie".  The day's chores are
done, it's time to dance!

The real Ma and Pa Ingalls--Charles Ingalls and Caroline (Quiner) Ingalls.
Get a load of that beard!  Or is it a moustache?

After I read The Wilder Life, I went on to read Memoirs of a Prairie Bitch by Alison Arngrim. She played the villain Nellie Oleson in the TV show, and she has many hilarious stories to tell about people confusing the show with reality--for example, once she and the actress who played her mother visited a school to promote the series and were actually attacked by the schoolkids.  Also, she and Melissa Gilbert, who played Laura, became friends and when they were out together people would try to warn Melissa that Nellie Oleson was nearby.  This is when they were wearing regular clothing, not pioneer garb. And some of these people were grown adults!

Mean old Nellie Oleson has her say. 
Books like Little House that romanticize the frontier/pioneer experience have had a tremendous influence on how we think of "pioneer life".  Just for fun, I thought I'd look into the Ontario pioneer lifestyle which the Davis family would have lived.  It's described in a book called Historical Sketches of the County of Elgin, published by "The Elgin Historical and Scientific Institute" in St. Thomas, Ontario, in 1895.  It quotes an anonymous old-timer on the subject of pioneer life in Elgin County.  The William Davis family arrived from New York around 1809-1810, during the time this passage discusses.  I'm quoting here from pages 12-15.

"The first improvement of this settlement...was in 1810. In 1812 the Americans declared war against Great Britain, and Canada was the theatre of their operations:  so that improvement in the settlement was suspended for three years, which was a trying time for empty purses and lonely women, while the husbands were on duty to protect a home that was yet in embryo...The first act of a settler was with axe in hand to select a spot on which to erect a shanty;  then felling the huge trees...then the timber had to be cut piled and burned to form a starting point for further improvement.  The shanties were uniformly built of logs with elm bark for roof and floor. Then came the furniture which was invariably of home manufacture.  The bedstead was made of poles with bark taken off and basswood bark for bedcord, and the tools for its construction were an axe and an auger.  The table leaf was made from a piece of wood two inches thick, split from the centre of a large log, and holes made from a two inch auger to receive the legs;  the seats were tripods, the material and workmanship the same as the table.  Then cradles were ready for use by putting rockers to a sap-trough.  I knew one family where the same sap-trough served to rock four of their babies in succession."  

An illustration of a log shanty with bark roof. Notice there
are no windows.  A typical shanty would have only one room. 

Photograph of a log shanty with bark roof.  Notice the size
in relation to the family.  Notice also the catch hanging from the roof.
Typically mud would be used for caulking.   It doesn't seem to have a chimney...
I can't see it keeping out either cold or mosquitoes. 
"The mortar was indispensable in each family.  This article was made by cutting a log three feet long and 15 inches in diameter.  The log then stood on end and a fire kept burning in the centre till it formed a bowl-shaped concavity to hold ten or twelve quarts.  Into this a quart of corn was put and with a heavy wooden pestle pounded to the required degree of fineness, which process had to be repeated morning noon and night--or go without the indispensable johnny cake."

A "johnny cake" was a cornmeal flatbread.  Apparently the Little House Cookbook includes a recipe for this pioneer staple!

But back to our historical sketches.  The effect of the War of 1812 on shopping and provisions is described:

"'During the war', we are told, nearly all the settlers had to go to Port Ryerse for their salt, pay $12.00 a bushel for it and carry it home on their backs.  In the winter of 1813 I went to long point and paid $6.00 for 28 pounds, a neighbour offering to take it home in his sleigh.  He staid over night on the road, but left his load exposed, so that a cow destroyed the salt, killed herself, and caused me to return to replace the loss.  This necessitated 200 miles of travel on foot, and $12.00 in cash, to realize 28 pounds of salt.  During an unusual scarcity a pedlar came with a horse load.  I took 14 pounds for which I paid $8.00.  Two of my neighbours...went to Hamilton and paid $75.00 for a barrel, and allowing for their time, expense and team, it cost them $100.00.  But a few days after peace was proclaimed, and in a short time salt could be had at Port Ryerse for $12.00 a barrel."

Port Ryerse, in case you don't know,  is on Lake Erie, in Norfolk county, just west of Port Dover.  It's 36 miles west of Aylmer, 46 miles west of St. Thomas, "as the crow flies".  That's a painfully long walk with a bushel of salt on your back.

Perpetuating what I suspect is the Myth of the Happy Pioneer, Historical Sketches of Elgin County  assures us that early settlers, despite their lack of creature comforts,  had sunshiny temperaments: .

"The hardships, the privations, the discomforts of those earliest and even later days were very great and real,  though borne with great cheerfulness.  Bad roads, or none at all, scarcity of everything, except fuel and perhaps game, poor clothing, rude huts, rather than houses, the wolf literally at the door, or howling near it, every night--such seem to have been the common lot of all the first settlers... sheep were unknown in the Talbot settlement for the first ten or twenty years [perhaps because of the wolves],  flax forming the staple material for clothing.  The climate was quite as rigorous...then as now,--yet the hardy settlers battled with the forest and defied the frost king, despite the lack of woollen garments and other things accounted luxuries then--necessaries now." 

With all that hunting, though, wouldn't they have made themselves winter clothes out of animal fur?

To me, all this seems like a tremendously challenging undertaking, one that, if you lived through once, you wouldn't want to try again.  But with more of a sense of adventure than I have, one of William Davis's sons,  Edwin E. Davis (who was, obviously, also Adoniram Davis's brother and Minnie (Davis) Scott's uncle), moved to the Dakota frontier in the 1800s in search of land.  The Ingalls family lived in Dakota for a few years in the 1860s--we missed them by a measly two decades!

Friday, November 30, 2012

A Dollar and an Ax: The Davis Family, Pioneers in Elgin County

House of Andrus Davis, brother of William Davis and Pioneer in Orwell, Ontario. 

It hasn't been easy finding information about the Davis family of Elgin County.  I have very few vital records for them, Davis is a common name, and from census records it's hard to tell who is related and in what way.  In a previous post I talked about how I tried to connect the dots on this group of people using secondary records and family names.  Sims History of Elgin County, Volume II by Hugh Joffree Sims (published by The Aylmer Express Limited, 1986) fortunately gives us some information about this elusive family.

Here's what Sims has to say about William Davis, one of the pioneers of Elgin County:

Orwell (Temperanceville--Catfish Corners):

"Catfish Corners [an early name for Orwell] was just a stake in the earth when Deacon William Davis and his wife settled there after a lengthy journey from his home on Schohario, New York, in 1809.  In this locality he obtained a large tract of land from the Crown and established the first gristmillIt was a stump mill made out of a hollowed out buttonwood stump. This type of mill was in use by many early settlers throughout Elgin County;  it was replaced by the hand-mill or quern, which was made of field stones. The daily output of a stump mill was twenty bushels.  William Davis was followed by his brothers Andrus, Daniel, Simeon, and Joel, and his sisters Hannah, Polly and the one that became Mrs. Brown in 1811.  Deacon Davis lived on his farm until his death in 1865 at the age of seventy-nine.  During his lifetime he helped clear a road through the woods to the site of St. Thomas and on eastward to Aylmer.  He became a deacon in his church and organized the first Baptist church in the township and built the first school near Orwell.  When Davis first arrived here in 1809, all he had to his name was $1.00 and an axe.  At his death he left behind nine hundred acres of cleared land in Yarmouth and Malahide Townships.  He served in the War of 1812.  David F. Davis, his son, was born in Orwell in 1822.  He married Mary Birdsall, and became a magistrate.  He lived on the homestead until he moved to Aylmer.  

Deacon Davis married twice.  His first wife was Miss Leek [Temperance Leek--they married in the United States] and by this marriage he had five children:  Richard, Hempstead, Warren, Septimus, and Mathatible (sic).  By his second marriage to Mary Sibley he had eight children:  Betsy Jane, Temperance, David F., Joel M., Adoniram J., Ursula, John, and Edwin E.  Edwin moved to Dakota in 1881 and became part of the history of the Old West.  The son of Warren Davis, William Andrew, sought his livelihood in Dakota where he died in 1908 at fifty-eight.  His brother, George P. Davis, ended his days as a farmer in Watertown, Dakota....Joel Davis settled on four hundred acres east of Sparta around the year 1837.  Joel Davis farmed for a short time, but hearing of the great tracts of land that were available in Illinois, he left and got 1,000 acres there.  He then returned to Sparta to complete the closing of his estate.  He fell ill at Fingal and died suddenly at twenty-seven years of age.  His body was conveyed to Aylmer and buried.  One of Joel Davis's sisters married John Brown who, along with William Andrew Davis, had the first saw and gristmill on Catfish Creek at Orwell in 1817...The old Andrus Davis house was a large frame house with four fireplaces and a huge hall on the upper floor which served as a ballroom on many occasions.  The old Simeon Davis hotel that was located east of Roger's Corners was of similar architecture. The old house was built in 1830..."

A stump mill was a hollowed-out stump with an oversized pestle to grind grain
by hand.  It was hard work.  I can't believe William got 20 bushels a day from this!

Quern or hand mill to grind wheat and other grains.

This is great stuff--now I know which people were William's siblings and which ones were his children.  I also know where he came from, and that he fought in the War of 1812.  I find that interesting, considering that he had just immigrated from the United States a few years earlier.  Doug and I both feel that the comment about the dollar and the ax is probably rhetorical--he brought his wife and some children along with him, so I'm imagining they had clothes, blankets, kitchen ware, and perhaps a horse and wagon or cart.  However, the point that he arrived with very little and built a great deal is well taken.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Mrs. William Rutherford Receives On Wednesdays

No telephones, no e-mail--how did ladies manage their social lives during the 1800s?  Anyone who's ever read Jane Austen can tell you--it's all about the "at home" or receiving day and the visiting card.  There was a whole etiquette around women visiting each other at home, which in urban settings involved a social directory such as Dau's Society Blue Book.  Published biannually for many urban centres in Canada and the United States, the primary job of the Dau's Society Blue Book or other social registers was to indicate the "at home" day for the local ladies of a certain class.  Here is the Montreal Blue Book entry for Mrs. William Rutherford Jr. and Mrs. William Rutherford Sr. for the year 1898:

Dau's Society Blue Book for Montreal, Rutherford Listings.

The entry reads:
"Rutherford, Mr. and Mrs. Wm., 61 Rosemount Avenue, Wednesday.
Rutherford, Mr. and Mrs. Wm., 35 Staynor Avenue, Westmount, Wednesday." 

My husband, who is familiar with the etiquette for this period, was able to explain the system to me.  First of all, the listings are by subscription, which means that families must pay to have their name entered.  Although husband and wife are both named in the listings, it would be the wife who would receive at home on the listed day.  Children would only be included in the directory if they were of age, or if the young ladies of the house had "come out" to society.  These were adult, not family, social calls. 

The visits made during someone's receiving day were supposed to be brief, about fifteen minutes long, especially if one was visiting an acquaintance rather than a close friend.  Receiving days were not about extended conversation--a long visit, if desired,  could be arranged on another day.  They were more about establishing and maintaining social ties. Since visitors would be introduced to each other,  the system also allowed women to extend their social circle.

During these visits, ladies would leave their visiting or calling card.  Visiting cards would usually have the person's own receiving day inscribed along with their name.  This allowed women to keep track of who had visited, since not returning a visit would be considered impolite.

The convention of the receiving day was restricted to ladies of the leisure class.  As you can see,  the title page for the Blue Book emphasizes that it is for "elite" families:

Dau's Society Blue Book Title Page, 1898 ed.

Also, the preface defends itself from possible criticisms around the inclusion of "names which may seem unneccesary":
Dau's Society Blue Book for Montreal, Preface.

While the bulk of a social directory consisted of individual listings, at the back there would normally be a section devoted to club membership within the city.  Masculine as well as feminine clubs were listed equally. For example, the 1905-6 Montreal Dau's Blue Book tells us that A.H. Scott, another ancestor,  was a member of the Montreal City Club. 

The convention of receiving days began to fall out of favour during and after World War I, so the Wm. Rutherfords were among the last generation to use social registers and "at home" days to anchor their social lives.  The Blue Book really fills a gap--it's nice to have some material evidence of how the females in our family line lived.  Now, at least, we know what they were doing on Wednesdays!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

"There Stand the Redcoats and They Are Ours:" The Battle of Bennington and the Harmon Family

The Battle of Bennington took place on August 16, 1777 and was a decisive Colonial victory during the American Revolutionary War.  Our ancestors the  Harmons lived in Bennington during the Revolutionary War and Daniel Harmon Sr. (the father of Daniel Williams Harmon), along with some of his brothers, fought as part of the Vermont militia in this historic battle.  Daniel was 30 years old at the time, and was a Sargent in Captain Elijah Dewey's regiment. Later on he was promoted to Captain himself.

During protracted military invasions, feeding your troops becomes a major issue.  It was becoming  British Lieutenant General John Burgoyne's issue as he was leading his troops toward Albany from Quebec.  Having already engaged in a few battles, Burgoyne's troops were low on supplies, and Burgoyne heard reports that there was a major stash of  food, horses and cattle to be found in the Bennington supply depot, with only a few men standing in defense.  He sent in two units comprising of  British soldiers, Colonial Loyalists,  German mercenaries,and Natives,  as well as two cannons, for what he thought would be a simple raid.  These units were under Lieutenant Colonel Friedrich Baum and Lieutenant Colonel Heinrich von Breymann. (Actually, Baum's unit went in first, sized up the situation, and sent back a message asking for reinforcements,  at which point von Breymann's unit was sent in).

What Burgoyne, Baum and von Breymann didn't initially know was that the Republic of Vermont had taken note of the advancing British army and had appealed to New Hampshire for assistance in defending themselves.  John Stark, an experienced military leader from both the French and Indian Wars and from previous Revolutionary War action (notably at Bunker Hill) immediately brought in the New Hampshire militia, amounting to about 1,500 men.   Baum had marched the first British unit to a point about five miles northwest of Bennington, realized that the depot was more than lightly guarded,  and then stopped to send for the second unit before advancing further. It was apparently also bucketing rain, which had bad implications for his cannon and firearms.
Brigadier General John Stark

Brigadier General Stark, however, wasn't inclined to wait.  Knowing he had the enemy outnumbered, he went out to initiate the attack.  He sent troops to the right and left of Baum's, essentially hemming him in, and then led the attack from the front.  Famously, he roused his troops before the initial attack with some version of the words "There stand the redcoats and they are ours, or tonight, Molly Stark sleeps a widow!", "We'll beat them before night or Molly Stark's a widow!";  or, "There are your enemies, the Red Coats and the Tories.  They are ours, or this night Molly Stark sleeps a widow!".  My own favourite version is "Now, my men, yonder are the Hessians!  Tonight, the American flag flies over yonder hill, or Molly Stark sleeps a widow!"  It sounds very dramatic to me, almost literary.  But as my historian husband points out, there was no such thing as America yet, so perhaps this version is unlikely.

 Fighting began at 3 o'clock;  two hours later,  Baum's British unit was routed and the few panic-stricken survivors were trying--mostly unsuccessfully--to flee into the woods.  Just then, von Breymann and the second British unit appeared, which would have been very bad news for the battle-weary Colonials except that Colonel Seth Warner and the famous Green Mountain Boys (Vermont militia) arrived just a bit later to reinforce the American side.

A reproduction of the flag of the Green Mountain Boys.  The
thirteen stars represent thirteen states.  This flag was flown during the latter
half of the Battle of Bennington.

Uniform of the Green Mountain Boys, 1776.
The battle was a disaster for the British.  Two  hundred of their soldiers were killed, and seven hundred captured, leaving Burgoyne with 15% fewer men with which to attack Albany and none of the needed supplies.  The Colonials, meanwhile, had only lost 30 men (another 40 suffered wounds). The Colonials were also able to pick up some military-grade weaponry from the battlefield (the website GeneralAtomic:  Thrilling Incidents in American History says that they captured 1,000 muskets, 900 swords, 4 brass field-pieces, and 4 baggage-wagons). Colonel Baum was wounded, captured, and died of his wounds the next day in Bennington.  Von Breymann was wounded as well, but not captured.  This victory raised the spirits of the defending Colonials immensely, significantly bumping up the number of militia volunteers for future encounters.  For the rest of his life,  John Stark was known as "the Hero of Bennington", and Burgoyne would later report to his superiors that "Wherever the King's forces point, militia to the amount of three or four thousand assemble in twenty-four hours."

Bennington Flag

Uniform of the German Dragoons, who fought on the British side in the Battle of Bennington.

Historic postcard showing the house in Bennington where Colonel Baum
died of his wounds the day after battle.

What would this battle have been like to fight?  I imagine it must have been terrifying.  For one thing, partly because Stark chose to attack on all sides almost simultaneously, most of the battle consisted of close combat, which was unusual in 18th-century warfare. Michael Stephenson, in his book Patriot Battles:  How the War of Independence Was Fought, quotes a Hessian officer who survived the battle as saying "the bayonet, the butt of the rifle, the sabre, the pike, were in full play, and men fell, as they rarely fall in modern warfare, under the direct blows of their enemies."  (p.299).  General Stark described the noise and confusion of the battle as "one continuous clap of thunder."   All of the participants must have been aware that their lives could end painfully at any moment.   I think it's likely that these hours were some of the worst of Daniel Harmon's life.  

One question I have found difficult to answer definitively is whether Harmon and his kin were in the battle from the beginning, or whether they belonged to the Green Mountain Boys that joined the battle half-way through.  Since they were living in Vermont at the time of the battle, I think it's probable that they were part of the Vermont militia, not the New Hampshire militia.  However, Harmon could have been one of the men guarding the deport from the beginning. 

The Battle of Bennington had an impact on the direction of the Revolutionary War, and it is remembered vividly as part of Vermont and New Hampshire history.  Vermont celebrates the battle each year with a state holiday on August 16th.  The Bennington Battlefield (which is actually just inside the borders of modern New York state) is a National Historic Landmark.   Vermont  built a monument to the battle in 1889 on the site of the former Bennington supply depot.  New Hampshire has the Molly Stark House in Dunbarton, New Hampshire (Molly nursed wounded soldiers in her home after the Bennington battle).  Not to be outdone, Vermont has the Molly Stark State Park and the Molly Stark trail. There are symposiums and historical reenactments.  I even saw a slightly weird historical battle reenactment on youtube in which children played all the roles.  Watching a ten-year-old say "..or Molly Stark sleeps a widow" is strange. 

Bennington Battle Monument Plaque, Bennington, Vermont.

The Bennington Battle Monument Itself.  Its size can be gauged from the statue in front.

Statue of General John Stark, at the base of the Monument.

Statue of Seth Warner in front of the Monument.  He led the Green Mountain Boys into the battle.

Entrance to Molly Stark State Park

Bas-relief of the Battle of Bennington, in the Bennington Battleground Historic Site in New York.

Historic Plaque in the Bennington Battleground Historic Site.

There is one more link between the Battle of Bennington and the Harmon family.  Daniel Harmon and his wife Lucretia (Dewey) Harmon ran an inn in Bennington, which is where General Stark stopped for breakfast on his way to the battleground.  Lucretia may have cooked him breakfast herself!

The Inn was built by the Harmons and run by them from about 1773 to 1794.  The book Memorials of a Century by Isaac Jennings says that "The tavern was the most pretentious [that used to be a compliment] building of the town in early times.  The doors were handsome and substantial...for those days, moldings were in several rooms and the winding staircase was beyond the ordinary."   Harmon was described in this book as "a tall man with solid shoulders, dark eyes and jet black hair." 

The Harmon Inn, long after its glory days.  A historic plaque marks the spot today.