Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Tombstone Tuesday: David and Hannah Johnston

In my early years of researching my ancestors, my mother and I headed to Unionville, Ontario, (now part of the City of Markham) to see if we could locate where her great-grandparents were buried. We weren't successful in doing so. We asked a young lad working in a store, where was the cemetery for Unionville. He didn't know. Despite not locating the cemetery, we did have a very enjoyable visit to the community where they had lived.

Later, at a meeting of the Bruce-Grey Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society, we were asked at the beginning of the meeting to share what we were working on, in our family research. I mentioned my visit to Unionville to find the burial location of David Johnston and his wife Hannah Hemingway.  I was in luck that day that there was a person at the meeting from that area who spoke to me after the meeting. She took my address and wrote down their names.

I didn't think anything more about it, but one day an envelope arrived with this photo of the marker.

David Johnston
Oct. 2, 1816  Nov. 6, 1892
His wife
Hannah Hemingway
Mar. 4, 1819  Oct. 13 1887
Their daughter
Caroline Johnston
Apr. 15, 1857 Apr. 20, 1877

They are buried in Hagerman East Cemetery, Markham, Ontario. We were able to go on another trip to visit this cemetery.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Tombstone Tuesday - Tragic Deaths -- Who Died?

In a small cemetery in Osprey Township, Grey County, Ontario, there is a tombstone that hints of a tragedy. The cemetery is the Methodist Cemetery, located on St. John's Street and on the east side of Grey Road 2, Feversham

The cemetery has been inactive for years. At some point, the scattered stones, many of which were broken, were gathered together and placed in cement. This cemetery is the final resting place of the founder of this community, Edward Horton. The other stones are reminders of some early pioneers. Are there others buried there that never had stones or the stones are now missing?

Now this stone speaks of a tragedy. (stone on the right).

This is how it is transcribed in Township of Osprey: Peace, Plenty Progress (p. 408).

In memory of the children of Samuel and Mary VANMEER, who died May 31, 1875. Samuel, aged 14 and 11 months. Sarah M. aged 10 years and 5 months. Richard, aged 9 years. Rachel, May 29, 1875.How lonely has our home been made,Since death has entered there,And taken from our loved embrace,Those that held so dear."

To see other photographs of the stone, check these websites as they were taken earlier than the one above that I took in the summer of 2017.
Find-A-Grave for the Cemetery - select Samuel Vanmeer.

The stone also can be seen at Ontario Genweb's Cemetery Project Choose   Ontario - Grey County - Feversham Cemetery

The Advertiser, an Owen Sound newspaper dated 10 June 1875, copied information from the [Collingwood] Enterprise gives us an idea of what happened on the night the Vanmeer siblings died. 

Fire and Loss of Life

 A farmer, residing in the Township of Osprey, named Van Meer, was awakened on Sunday morning at about three o'clock, by his eldest daughter, with the cry of fire. He immediately jumped out of bed, when he found nearly the whole house in flames. His first thought was his children, who slept upstairs, where he immediately went and woke them up, picking up the youngest in his arms, he rushed out, supposing that the others were following. When he had put his young charge in a place of safety, he began to look around for the others, but could not find them until after the fire was exhausted, when he discovered the charred bones of three of his children. The one was a boy, about 14, and the other two girls, aged respectively 16 and 18 years. In being awoke out of their sleep by their father, they must have become bewildered and blinded by the smoke, for instead of trying to get out of the house, they found their way into their parents rooms, which was on the ground floor, and there remained until they were smothered by the smoke.
The fire was first discovered by the eldest daughter, who slept over the kitchen, she being awoke by the intense heat in her room, when she rushed down stairs and gave the alarm. The fire had made such headway before this, however, that nothing whatever was saved, and no effort could be made to reach the missing children. The bereaved family have the deepest sympathy of the whole neighborhood, hundreds having flocked to the place as soon as the news of the dreadful affair spread. The remains of the unfortunate children were interred the same evening, followed by over fifty teams and a large number on foot. Enterprise.

The newspaper article only mentions that children died in the fire, one boy (aged 14) and two girls (aged 16 and 18). These ages don't match what is on the tombstone.

The Meaford Monitor 1 June 1875 as transcribed in Osprey Township history --

"Died in Maxwell 3 children to Mr. Van Meer. Samuel 17, Rachel 11, one younger"

Also in the same book, there is another report

"Per Alda Hawton's cemetery book, these children are buried at Feversham Wesleyan Cemetery - 3 children by fire May 31, 1875. Sam aged 14, Sarah M. aged 10, Richard aged 9. Also in same plot Robert aged 11 years died Oct. 19, 1877. 

Checking the 1871 census for Osprey Township, we find the family
Samuel E. (44), Mary (43), George (21), Wm H. (20), James (18), Alfred (14), Samuel (11), Hannah (9), Sarah (8), Rachel (7) and Robert (4). Note: There is no Richard.

1875 -- Who Lived at Home?

By 1875, when the fire occurred, who lived at home?

  • George married Eliza Jane Lindley on 7 April 1875.
  • William Henry married 29 December 1875 to Sarah Jane Clark but possibly was already living away from home.
  • James married Elizabeth Campbell 10 March 1875.
  • Samuel aged 14
  • Hannah aged 12 -- She lives and will marry Smith Parks 28 January 1880 -- The one who gave the alert as reported in the newspaper article?
  • Sarah aged 11
  • Rachel aged 10
  • Robert aged 7 -- The one who was saved by his father as reported in the newspaper article. 

  • Now looking at the death registrations using Ancestry. 
    Found are Samuel aged 14, Sarah aged 12 and Rachel aged 10.  The date of death is reported as 29 May 1876. The date of registration is 13 July 1876. It would appear that the registrar entered ten deaths on the 13 July 1876. The deaths of the Vanmeer children are inserted among the 1876 deaths. The deaths were registered by Edward Vanmeer of Febersham. He dated his return at the bottom of the page as 15 July 1876. 

    Note: There is no Richard in the death registrations.

    Now there are two different dates of death - The stone -- 31 May 1875 and the death registration 29 May 1876 (it was not reported until 1876, so it would be easy to have the wrong date).

    From the newspaper we know that the fire occurred in 1875. The Owen Sound newspaper was published on 10 June 1875. It was likely from the Enterprise from the previous week. The article says the fire occurred on Sunday morning at 3. Checking a perpetual calendar, Sunday morning would have been 30 May.

    No matter the actual date of death, the death of the children was a tragedy for the Vanmeer family and their friends.

    Robert, who was the youngest was rescued, is named on another stone in the cemetery  showing a death date of 19 October 1877. No death registration has been found for him.

    Osprey Historical Society. Township of Osprey: Peace, Plenty, Progress, The Society, 2002, p. 408
    "Fire and Loss of Life", The Advertiser, Owen Sound, 10 June 1875.
    1871 Census of Canada, Ontario, Grey South (district 36), Osprey (sub-district h), division 2, p. 36, family 119, Samuel Edmund Vanmmer household; digital image, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 1 September 2017), citing microfilm C-9952, p. 36, family 119, Library & Archives Canada, Ottawa.
    Samuel Vanmeer Ontario death registration, #3838 (13 July 1876); digital image, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 1 September 2017), citing microfilm MS 935 Reel 12, Archives of Ontario, Toronto.
    Sarah Margaret Vanmeer Ontario death registration, #3839 (13 July 1876); digital image, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 1 September 2017), citing microfilm MS 935 Reel 12, Archives of Ontario, Toronto.
    Rachael Vanmeer Ontario death registration, #3840 (13 July 1876); digital image, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 1 September 2017), citing microfilm MS 935 Reel 12, Archives of Ontario, Toronto.