1900s


A recent accession to the Archives gives us an insight into what life was like for the men who worked in the lumber shanties which supplied firms like the Rathbun Company with their raw materials.

James R. Hill was born in Tyendinaga in around 1863, the son of Isaac and Lucinda Hill. Isaac died before 1871. The photograph below shows James with his mother and two sisters, Susan (on the left) and Elizabeth Josephine (standing), and Elizabeth’s daughter, Elsie. The picture was taken by Herbert Osborne, a Deseronto photographer who was active in the early 1890s.

Members of the HIll family in around 1892

The Hill family, c.1892 2015.19 (1)

James married Lucretia Hill on October 14th, 1896 and the couple had two children: Ruth, born in 1898 and Selma, born in 1900. In the 1901 census, James and Lucretia were living next door to Lucinda, Elizabeth and Elsie. Susan had married a Maracle and in 1902 was living in Rochester, New York.

In October 1902 James was working in Collins Inlet, near Manitoulin Island, in a lumber camp. He wrote a letter to his sister, Susan, talking about his life in the camp and his feelings about his distant family members in Deseronto.

Letter from James Hill to Susan Maracle, 2015.19 (13)

Letter from James Hill to Susan Maracle, 2015.19 (13)

Collins Inlet Nov 30th 1902
Camp No. 1
Dear Sister Susan
I must write a few lines to you to-day, its almost six weeks since I have been at this camp. I like this place very much nearly all that are working here are from Deseronto and Reserve, we are getting good board, nice clean Camp. The Weather is fine to-day, it snowed yesterday for a little while, but it turned into rain, I got a letter from home last Friday. I am very glad to hear that Elsie likes the school so well and its also a good thing that the officers all think so much of her. I intend to go and see her before I go home and I must write to her before Christmas. I wrote to Lucretia the second Sunday I was here but she never answered me yet, and perhaps is’nt going to. Charlie Claus is here with me and we are going to stay all winter and drive the river in the Spring if we keep our health, there was about forty Indians here from our Reserve, and about sixteen Chippewa Indians from Manitoulan Island, but most of our Indians have left here for some other Camps. I suppose you see Ruth & Selma some times. If I can draw some money some time before Christmas I will send the children some money for presents, and you try and get their picture together and send it to me I think if I even had their picture I wouldn’t get so lonesom after them some times, tell them I cannot go to see them until Spring. I hope the poor children are both well kiss them both for me. This will be all Good Bye
From Your Brother
James R. Hill
Collins Inlet
Algoma District
Camp No. 1

It is not clear what happened to James after this. His wife moved to Rochester in 1906 and was working as a servant for the Babcock family in 1910. In 1911 Lucretia married William Charles Holley, with whom she had another three children. She died in Brighton, New York on September 2nd, 1957.

Perhaps the reason this letter survives is because James died young and it was kept as a memento of his life and his affection for his family. It was found in a house in Main Street, where Lucinda Hill, James’s mother died in 1933.

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If you missed the history talk on the nineteenth century development of Deseronto this weekend, there’s a chance to catch it again on YouTube:

Due to a technical hitch on the day, the visuals weren’t available, but this version includes the slides!

It’s surprising just how often people discover items of historical interest in the walls of their properties. Today’s accession arrived in the Archives as a result of renovation work going on in a house in Mill Street in Deseronto. Grateful thanks to Shelley Dupont for bringing them in!

Three items were found inside a wall of the house. The first is a photograph of an unidentified family. The picture has suffered some damage from being inside the wall for perhaps 100 years, but the image is still fairly clear. There is nothing on the back of the photograph to identify the group.

Unidentified family portrait

The second photograph has more information – these three children are identified as  Hazel Annie Cole, aged 3 years and 5 months; Murney Nelson Cole, aged 1 year, 9 months and Edna Kathleen Cole, aged 6 months. Hazel was born July 27 1910 in Milford, Prince Edward County – dating the picture to late 1913/early 1914. Their parents were Jesse Abbot Cole  and Alta Theresa Viale.

Cole children

The third item also has a Prince Edward County connection. It is a wooden rectangle, covered with black felt, and with a tin plaque, bearing the name of Eliza Dodge. This is a coffin plate. Eliza died in South Marysburgh on March 1st, 1890.

Memorial for Eliza Dodge

A little digging through the census and vital statistics records shows us that Eliza was married to Frederick Dodge and her maiden name was Thompson. In the census taken in 1891, the year after Eliza’s death, Frederick is working as a telephone and telegraph operator and living with his two daughters, Rosa Bell Dodge, aged seven, and Sarah Ann Cole, aged 19. Yes, Cole again. A bit more digging yields up information on a connection between Sarah Ann and the three children in the photograph: Sarah Ann, Eliza Dodge’s daughter (known as Annie),  married Claude Wilmot Aylsworth Cole on December 11th, 1890. Claude was the older brother of Jesse Abbot Cole, the father of the three children

Annie Cole is the link between the last two items: she’s Eliza’s daughter and aunt to the three Cole children. Perhaps the first photograph has a Cole family connection, too? Claude and Jesse came from a family of four sons and one daughter, which just happens to be the configuration of the family in the first photograph. We’re entering into the realms of wild supposition here, but it’s just possible that this photograph represents Simon Aylsworth Cole (1844-1922), his wife Sarah Letitia Boulter (1848-1922) and their five children: Claude (1870-1938), Edna (1873-1929), George (b.1876), Arthur (1877-1941) and Jesse (1879-1937). If so, it would have been taken in around 1885.

Or they could be other people entirely!

UPDATE (Feb 15th, 2014): Thanks to Claudia (Cole) Grendon for adding some more details to this story in the comments. She tells us that Annie Cole was her grandmother and that Annie moved to Mill Street in around 1939 with her son, Wilmot Havelock Cole and his family. She died in around 1946 and (additional information from Tammy Cole Peterson) was buried in Glenwood Cemetery in Picton, where her husband, Claude, had also been laid to rest.

A glimpse of what life was like in Deseronto in 1906 and 1907 has come to us courtesy of a conversation recorded in 1967. Bill and Jack Duncan were taped as they reminisced about their arrival in Deseronto and Bill’s early experiences of work in Canada. Their father, John Duncan, had been a shoe laster in Leicester, England, but his involvement in the trade union movement meant that it was difficult for him to find work there and the family relied on their oldest son, Bill, for their income (26 shillings a week).

John and his wife Maria decided to move their five surviving children across the ocean to Canada. The family spent less than a year in Deseronto before moving on to Stirling and then Toronto, but Bill and Jack had some strong memories of their time here, including loitering in the Post Office in order to get warm in the winter!

One of the most prominent Mohawks associated with Deseronto was Dr Oronhyatekha (1841-1907), originally from the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford. He studied at the University of Oxford for a while and trained to become a doctor at the University of Toronto in 1867. He became involved in the Independent Order of Foresters and successfully transformed the finances of the organization. Oronhyatekha married Ellen Hill, a Mohawk from Tyendinaga Reserve. They had a house in Tyendinaga and the doctor also built properties on Foresters’ Island, which is situated in the Bay of Quinte, opposite Deseronto. These included ‘The Wigwam’, his elaborate summer residence; a hotel, and pleasure grounds. The postcard below shows the orphanage on the Island which Oronhyatekha constructed for the Foresters’ Order, and which operated from 1906 to 1907.

Imperial Order of Foresters' orphanage

Imperial Order of Foresters’ orphanage

[Postcard loaned for scanning by R.N. Goodfellow]

Oronhyatekha’s fame overshadows history’s awareness of his Mohawk colleague, Kenwendeshon, who was born in Tyendinaga on April 8th, 1855,  the son of Cornelius Maracle and Nancy Hill (a great-granddaughter of Deserontoyon). We have recently been in contact with a descendant of Kenwendeshon, who has been gathering information about his ancestor from a variety of sources, including the Kanhiote Library and the Legacy Center of Drexel University College of Medicine. He has kindly agreed to let us share the information he has obtained, to allow us cast some more light on this man, the first of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte to graduate from a university.

Kenwendeshon (also known as John C. Maracle) trained as a physician at the Eclectic Medical College of Pennsylvania and American University of Philadelphia (which has an intriguing history of its own), graduating in  1878. One of the items in the possession of Kenwendeshon’s descendant is a 1953 letter from the London Public Library which refers to a diary entry about an incident in 1874, when Kenwendeshon helped to turn the tide of a smallpox epidemic at the Moravian Indian mission at Fairfield (Moraviantown). The date is interesting, as he would only have been 18 at the time, and presumably unqualified: perhaps his association with Oronhyatekha began before he went to Philadelphia. Oronhyatekha had moved from Tyendinaga to London to begin a new practice in 1874, so may well have met the Maracles when he had been working in this area.

UPDATE, 25 May: Professor Michelle A. Hamilton of the University of Western Ontario has informed us that the epidemic was actually in 1879 and that Kenwendeshon left his practice in Syracuse, New York when Oronhyatekha asked for his assistance. Professor Hamilton also provided us with links to a file of digitized correspondence with the Indian Branch of the Department of the Interior held at Library and Archives Canada which details the response to the epidemic. Here is an example of the correspondence: a request from the Chief of the Moravian Indians to allow Dr Oronhyatekha to establish a temporary hospital “to isolate our small pox cases we have had four deaths six other cases local physicians refuse to come on the reserve”.

Telegram from Chief Stonefish, 21 May 1879

Telegram from Chief Stonefish, 21 May, 1879

A report from Oronhyatekha in this correspondence explains the circumstances of Kenwendeshon’s appointment:

…I have also employed a young physician who was formerly a student in my office & who himself has had the small pox to proceed to the reserve and be in constant attendance and to personally supervise the disinfecting of the clothing and houses of those Indians who have had the small pox.

[Professor Hamilton is currently co-writing a biography of Dr. Oronhyatekha with Keith Jamieson. This is going to be published by Dundurn Press in 2014.]

On November 20th, 1879 Kenwendeshon married Julia Hill Thompson in London and the couple had two children: Lillian, born in London in November 1880, and John Albert (Bert), born in Roscommon, Michigan, in August 1882. A note written in 1953 by Bert (reproduced below), suggests that Kenwendeshon worked with Oronhyatekha in London and Stratford before moving to Roscommon.

Note by Bert Maracle about Dr. Kenwendeshon

Note by Bert Maracle about Dr. Kenwendeshon

According to this note, Julia died in Roscommon when Bert was 14 months old (late 1884). We have not been able to track down a death record for her, but the two children were subsequently adopted into two different families, 400 kilometers apart. Lillian went to live with her mother’s two unmarried older sisters, Caroline and Georgina, and her grandmother, Henrietta Thompson, who lived in Queen’s Avenue, London, Ontario. Her brother, Bert, went back to Tyendinaga to live with his aunt, Susan in the household of his grandfather, Cornelius.

Kenwendeshon appears to have continued to working as a doctor  in Michigan: in Roscommon and, later, in Beaverton. He died in Beaverton on September 22, 1899 at the age of 44 and was buried at Christ Church in Tyendinaga. His mentor, Oronhyatekha, died eight years later.

Another family mystery this week, this time from across the Atlantic with a story which starts in the small Lincolnshire town of Brigg in England. The person we’re interested in is a man called Preston North, a tailor who was born there in 1859 to Frank and Jane North.

At the time of 1901 census of England, Preston North was living in three rooms in a house in Paradise Place, Brigg, with his wife, Martha (née Little) and their eight children: Caroline, Alice, Lucy, Frank, Preston, Charles, Percy and Robert. A 41-year-old tailor of the same name (and who was born in Brigg, Lincolnshire) is also listed as living in a boarding house in Pontefract, Yorkshire. The Pontefract Preston North is listed as single, rather than married. Interesting…

1901 census North family

1901 census entry for the North family (UK National Archives: RG13/3102 f.42 p.35)

By the time of the next census, in 1911, Martha is listed, still living in three rooms in Paradise Place with her six sons (Harry is the youngest, born after the 1901 census), but Preston is not at home that night and is not to be found anywhere else in England through the census records, although the fact that Martha lists herself as married rather than widowed suggests that Preston is still alive somewhere.

We don’t have access yet to the 1921 census records, so will have to wait a few years to see what they might tell us. What we do know is that Martha died in Brigg in 1924 and by 1933 Preston North was living in Deseronto. In that year he sent a postcard to his grand-daughter in England which showed the Bank of Montreal in the town (the building which is now the Town Hall).

On the postcard, Preston North noted that the bank had closed down due to lack of business (this happened in 1932 as a result of the Depression).

His great-grand-daughter also owns a letter which was written in Deseronto by North in 1939 (when he would have been eighty years old).

Letter from Preston North, 1939

Letter from Preston North, 1939

He wrote:

Deseronto
Sept 14th 1939

Dear Alice and all at home,

The war has started

I was glad to get your letter on sept 12th and I did not get any other letters you sent before Christmas. It is a fight to the finish Canada has gone to a finish no fooling this time.

Returning men are going up by the thousands and no turning back. They have got into Warsaw and the women are fighting like tigers.

I am very well but I don’t work much only at my own clothes. 3 years war if not more. Hoping to hear from you at any time. Give my best wishes to all.

From your father Preston North

Deseronto Canada xxxx Bye bye

The story in the North family in England is that Preston started another family here in Canada and never returned to England. They don’t know where or when he died, or when precisely he came to Canada.

On September 12, 1944 an old man called John North was buried in the Deseronto cemetery. Could this have been the man formerly known as Preston? (The name of the North’s second son was Preston John North, so it’s possible that his father shared his middle name as well as his first name. Or just borrowed it!)

UPDATE, January 23, 2013

Some new information about John Preston North has emerged. On June 19th, 1915 he married Chloe Anne Lalond in Kingston, Ontario. He claimed to be 42 years old (he was actually 52) and a bachelor who had been living in Kingston since 1910. This would explain his absence from the 1911 UK census. There was a family story that this man was a bigamist, and this evidence seems to confirm that this was the case. In 1916 John Preston North was living in Napanee when he signed up to join the Canadian Expeditionary Force. By this stage his real age was 57, but he claimed to have been born in 1872 and to be 44. So not only was North apparently a bigamist, but he also seems to have been a habitual liar!

Harold McMurrich Rathbun took this photograph of Portage Avenue in Winnipeg in the summer of 1907:

I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to Winnipeg to talk about our work at Deseronto Archives and so today I had the chance of standing in the same spot to try to recreate the photograph.

Actually I couldn’t stand in exactly the same spot, as it looks like Harold was standing in the road, which isn’t something I’d recommend on a weekday morning in the rush hour in today’s Winnipeg.

The only structure which is still recognizable from Harold’s photo is the Somerset Building, 294 Portage Avenue, which you can see on the left of the shot. The Eaton’s store has gone, replaced by the MTS Centre and there are now some trees softening the lines of  the road and buildings.

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