If you’ve ever been to Murray Harbour, Prince Edward Island, you’ve likely seen this house. It’s the most prominent feature in the village, although depending when you went, you may remember it as being blue, like I do. The house was built by my 2nd great grandfather, Senator Samuel Prowse (52 Ancestors #4), was passed down to his son, my great-grandfather, Albert, and then to my great-uncle, Gerald. I loved visiting Gerald and his wife Connie when I was younger, and exploring this great house!
My great grandfather, Albert Perkins Prowse, was born on December 24, 1858, in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. He was the 2nd child of Samuel Prowse and Eliza Willis. He had an older brother, Frederick. Soon after Albert’s birth, the family moved to Murray Harbour, where Samuel went into business. Albert’s mother died after giving birth to a baby girl, Eliza Elizabeth, in Feb 1860. Tragically, the baby only lived for a few months, and Frederick died a couple of years later. Samuel Prowse then married his late wife’s older sister, Louisa Willis, and had two more children, William H. Prowse and Samuel Willis Prowse.
Albert became a partner in his father’s business around 1879, then known as Prowse & Son. In 1884, his half-brother William joined the partnership, which then became known as Prowse & Sons. In addition to a General Store, Prowse & Sons exported dried fish, canned lobster and agricultural produce. The business included a starch factory, using local potatoes to produce starch, a lumberyard and a cannery, where employees made cans throughout the winter for use during the next canning season. Following Samuel Prowse’s death in 1902, William sold his share in the business to Albert, who continued the business alone under the same name.
On November 29, 1881, Albert married Wilhelmina (Minnie) Kirkland at her parents’ home in Rexton, New Brunswick. The couple settled in Murray Harbour, where they raised a large family of 10 children over the next 21 years. Although their first child, Louisa, died before the age of 4, the remaining 9 children all survived.
Along with following his father into business, Albert also followed his father into politics. He first ran for the Prince Edward Island Legislative Assembly in 1897, where he was defeated. He was subsequently elected in 1899 in 4th Kings, the riding his father Samuel had held between 1876 and 1889. Albert held the seat from 1899 to 1900, from 1904 to 1919 and from 1923 until his death in 1925. He was Speaker of the Legislative Assembly from 1918 to 1919.
Once again, I’m profiling someone who is not a direct ancestor. This week’s prompt is “misfortune”, and nothing says misfortune quite like being a passenger on the Titanic.
The passenger in question was Charles Leonard Kirkland, younger brother of my 2nd great grandfather John W. Kirkland. At the time of the 1861 census, Charles, then aged 20, was living in Richibucto, New Brunswick with John and his family, including my then 2- year-old great-grandmother, Wilhelmina Kirkland. Charles and John were both cabinet makers and were both Baptists. Charles would eventually become a Free Will Baptist Minister.
Three years later, in 1864, Charles married Rachel Warman. They had 9 children over the next 20 years, some of whom were born in New Brunswick, others across the border in Maine. Two years after Rachel’s death in 1896, Charles married Nellie (Carver) Wheeler, a divorcée with four children. In 1900, Charles, Nellie and her four children were living Dover, Maine, where Charles was working as a clergyman. That marriage appears to have been short-lived.
Charles became a well-known preacher who led revival meetings throughout New Brunswick, Maine and frequently in Saskatchewan. In the summer of 1911, Charles spent three months preaching in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, while he was visiting his sister Emma (Kirkland) Withrow, who lived in nearby Tuxford.
In late 1911, Charles travelled to Glasgow, Scotland, reportedly to settle an uncle’s estate, but I’ve yet to be able to confirm that. There was a Kirkland who died in Glasgow in Sept 1911, but I’ve not been able to substantiate the family connection. He was much too young to have been Charles’s uncle. But in any case, there is no doubt that Charles was in Glasgow, as he wrote a letter to his daughter Maud in March 1912. In that letter, he mentioned that a coal strike was making it difficult to book passage home.
Unable to leave from Glasgow, Charles travelled to Queenstown, Ireland, where he bought a 2nd class ticket aboard the RMS Titanic. He perished in the sinking and his body was never identified. A gravestone was erected in the Mattawamkeag Cemetery in Maine, where his wife and 3 of his children were buried. It simply says “Charles L. Kirkland – buried at sea”
I’ve often wondered if my great-grandmother Minnie even knew that her uncle was on the Titanic. I suspect not, as there was nothing in the PEI newspapers about it. As Minnie’s husband, Albert Prowse, was a politician at the time, a local connection to the Titanic disaster would surely have been a subject of great interest.
Much of what I’ve learned about Charles Kirkland comes from his profile on Encylcopia Titanica, although the information on his parents differs from what I have found, which I discussed in an earlier post. As always, sources I’ve used can be found on Charles’s WikiTree profile.
For this week’s theme of “Lucky”, I used a random number generator to pick the ancestor I would profile. I asked for a number between 1 and 500, and got #253, which I then compared against an Ahnentafel Report of my ancestors. So by the luck of the RNG, this week’s ancestor is Eva Magdalena (Sarah) Somers. She did have an slight advantage in getting selected, since she is in my tree twice! I’m a descendant of two of her sons, Ephraim Allen and Matthew Allen. Ephraim’s grandson, Isaac Trenholm Allen, married Matthew’s daughter, Miranda Allen. Isaac and Miranda Allen were my 3rd great grandparents, which makes Sarah both my 5th great grandmother and my 6th great grandmother.
Luck comes into this profile in other ways as well. I’ve been very lucky in that other descendants of Sarah Somers and her husband, Benjamin “Shy Ben” Allen, have been researching this line since long before I ever gave family history a thought. Most of what I know of this branch of my family tree comes from the work of others – in particular, Barbara Trenholm-Merklinger, whose website Trenholm.org, published in 1999 and last updated in 2011, is still my first go-to site for sorting out the many children of my Allen and Trenholm ancestors, and Arthur Owen, whose family tree intersects with mine in several places. In addition to his tree on “Our Maritime Ties”, Arthur has documented much of what he knows about these ancestors on WikiTree. I am grateful to both of them for sharing their many decades of research so openly!
The story is told that Benjamin Allen was extremely shy, hence the name “Shy Ben”. One night after returning from a long trip, he found a New Year’s Eve dance in progress at Fort Cumberland. After suitable liquid fortification, he went to the center of the dance floor and said: “I am in dire need of a wife! Who will have me?” Up stepped a hearty lass of German descent, Sarah Somers, who said “I’ll have you, Ben!”. The happy couple were married on the spot by a minister who happened to be in attendance. It is said that any pugnacious tendencies in the Allen female descendants can be attributed to Sarah.
This “hearty lass of German descent”, was born in Whitefield, Pennsylvania in 1753. Her parents were Mathias Somers/Sommer and Maria Christina Null, who were both born in Germany and married in Pennsylvania in 1749. The Somers family was among the original group of German families in Philadelphia who settled the Monckton Township on the Petitcodiac River in what was then Nova Scotia (now Moncton, New Brunswick), in 1766.
On January 1, 1771, a month shy of her 18th birthday, Sarah Somers married Benjamin Allen, some 20 years her senior. They had 12 children, most of whom also had large families – my 4th great grandfather, Matthew Allen, had 11 children and my 5th great grandfather, Ephraim Allen, had 15 children (with two wives). As a result, there are likely thousands of descendants of Sarah Somers and Benjamin Allen alive today, many of whom show up among my DNA matches. Even if the likelihood of matching a 5th or 6th cousin is low, the shear number of them means that I match a lot of Allen/Somers descendants.
How many of them have pugnacious tendencies has yet to be determined.
When I started the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, I decided to focus on direct ancestors, with the occasional foray into collateral lines. This is one of those weeks. While I have no shortage of strong women (this week’s theme) to write about from my direct lines, there’s a group of woman I came upon in my research for whom I have particular admiration.
Agnes had an older sister, Elizabeth Prowse, who was born in 1864. Following the death of her sister-in-law in 1889, Elizabeth moved to Murray Harbour, PEI, to care for her brother Isaac’s two young children. In 1894, Elizabeth, like many unmarried women of her generation, made her way to Boston to seek employment.
In 1896, Agnes, age 23 and unmarried, gave birth to a daughter who she named Bessie. In 1897, Agnes left Bessie in the care of her brother Phillip and joined her sister Elizabeth in Boston. In 1900, Agnes and Elizabeth were working as servants in the same household in Boston.
By 1906, Agnes had reunited with her daughter back in Charlottetown. In 1911, Agnes and Elizabeth were running a small boarding house, in a home that they rented. Bessie, then aged 15, lived with her mother and aunt.
By 1921, they owned a larger house on Euston Street in Charlottetown, which they also ran as a boarding house. By this time, Bessie had begun her long career as a teacher and was living with her mother, aunt and 5 boarders, all male.
It can’t have been easy raising a child as a single mother in the early 1900s in Charlottetown. She clearly raised a strong, independent daughter. Bessie became a teacher who was much loved by her students and was an active member of the PEI Professional and Business Women’s Club, including acting as President of the club for several years in the 1960s. Bessie never married and had no children that I know of.
Unlike many in her immediate and extended family, who had long detailed obituaries, Agnes’s death warranted barely a mention in the local paper.
To Agnes, Elizabeth and Bessie – you may not have left descendants, but know that you are not forgotten.
We’re up to week 9 in the 52 Ancestors challenge. Over the past 8 weeks, as I have seen each prompt, I’ve thought of different ancestors I could choose, before finally settling on one. But this week was different. When I saw the prompt “Where There’s a Will”, I knew immediately who to write about – my 4th great grandfather, Richard Rider. Not only did his will give me valuable information about his children (including an explanation for something I had been curious about), it also gave me an impression of who he was as a person. And all this in about 100 words!
Richard Rider was baptized on July 18, 1766, in North Huish, Devon, England. He was the son of William Rider and Joan (Unknown). Richard married Agnes Pilditch on June 19, 1790 in South Milton, Devon. They had 8 children who were baptized in the All Saints Church, South Milton, 5 of whom survived to adulthood.
In or before 1824, Richard & Agnes Rider and at least three of their children left Devon, England to settle on Prince Edward Island. Richard and his eldest son, John, purchased lots 416 and 417 in the Royalty of Charlotte Town. They later petitioned to receive to adjacent lots of crown land, lots 415 and 437, which was granted on August 3, 1824.
PEI Public Archives and Records Office, Land Petitions, RG5, Series 4, File 36, 1824
William and Agnes (Rider) Prowse also settled in Charlottetown, though it is unclear whether they came at the same time as Agnes’s parents, or whether they followed later. One of their children, born in Devon before they emigrated, was Joseph Jarvis Prowse.
When I was researching Joseph, I came upon the baptism of one of his sons, which listed the mother’s name as Agnes Rider Prowse. Was this a mistake? Were Joseph’s wife and mother both named Agnes Rider? Further research would reveal that Rider was her middle name – her full name was Agnes Rider Jarvis!
So Joseph Jarvis Prowse, son of Agnes Rider, married Agnes Rider Jarvis. They must be related – it would be much too coincidental for them not to be.
It was Richard Rider’s will that would lead me to the answer.
To Joseph Prouse, one pound. To Richard Jarvis (son of William and Peggy Jarvis in England), one pound. To Elizabeth Grace Rider (daughter of Jane Bryenton), my bed and bedding. My son John may purchase lot 437 at a fair value decided by three or five other men. The proceeds are to be equally divided between my five children. I appoint my children John, Agnes Prouse, Peggy Jarvis of England, Grace Wise, and Jane Bryenton as Executors. All of my children are to have an equal share in my effects, after giving Jonathan Pillage Rider and Robert Herwood my watch to be valued and divided between them. Dated 1 Sept. 1837.
Early Prince Edward Island probate records, 1786-1850 / by Linda Jean Nicholson, 2005, Pg 224, Richard Rider (Estate File Will R-27. Two documents. Liber 3, Folio 150)
How very helpful to have his daughters’ married names listed! Based on this information, I was able to track down each of them. And look – one of them married a Jarvis! They had a daughter named Agnes, who later married her cousin, Joseph Jarvis Prowse.
This still doesn’t explain Joseph’s middle name of Jarvis. Could he have been named after his mother’s brother-in-law? It’s possible, but I believe instead that William Prowse’s mother was also a Jarvis, though I haven’t yet determined whether or how she was related to William Jarvis. More on this when I profile William Prowse in a later post.
The other interesting thing about Richard Rider’s will is the grandchildren that are mentioned in it. At the time of his death in on January 4, 1838, Richard had at least 14 grandchildren, only three of whom were mentioned by name in his will:
To Joseph Prouse, 1 pound. Joseph was the oldest of Richard’s grandchildren. At 13 years old at the time Richard’s will was written, one can imagine that Joseph was a help to his grandfather.
To Richard Jarvis (son of William and Peggy Jarvis in England), one pound. Richard Rider Jarvis was 9 at the time. It is unclear from the wording whether he was with his parents in England, or whether he was on Prince Edward Island with his grandfather. I suspect the latter, as he was not listed with his family on the 1841 census of England. His mother and sisters emigrated about 1845.
To Elizabeth Grace Rider (daughter of Jane Bryenton), my bed and bedding. Elizabeth was born on April 6, 1832 and was baptized 18 months later on October 30, 1833. Elizabeth’s mother, Jane Rider, married George Bryenton in 1835.
I can’t help but have kind thoughts about a 72-year-old man in 1838 leaving something as personal and practical as his bed and bedding to his 5-year-old granddaughter who was born out of wedlock. To me, it speaks of protection and safety – no matter what happens, she would always have a bed to sleep in.
The only other specific article mentioned in Richard’s will was his watch, which was given to Jonathan Pillage Rider and Robert Herwood “to be valued and divided between them”. I find that very curious – why not just give the watch to one person? The only way to divide it between the two is to sell it and share the proceeds. Usually a watch is something to be passed down, not to be sold. So while Richard’s will gave me some answers, it also left me with a question. And I’m okay with that. It’s the questions that keep me exploring my family history.
Every Christmas of my childhood, my mother wore a gold bracelet. Engraved on the back is “A.S.P. to B.A.H. Xmas 1913”. This bracelet was a Christmas gift from my grandfather, A. Samuel Prowse, to my grandmother, Bessie A. Hicks, two years before they were married. The rest of the year, the bracelet lived in a velvet box in my mother’s dresser drawer. I always loved opening that box and reading the inscription. As a child in the 1960s and 70s, 1913 seemed like an eternity ago. Now that I’ve been researching ancestors back to the 1760s, 1913 seems so very recent.
My maternal grandmother, Bessie Hicks was born on August 31, 1892 in Midgic, Westmorland County, New Brunswick. She was the daughter of Arthur Hicks (52 Ancestors #2) and Morinda Wheaton. Bessie grew up on the family farm in Upper Sackville, the eldest of 8 children.
Bessie attended Mount Allison Ladies College (now part of Mount Allison University), where she met her husband-to-be, Sam Prowse. They were married on December 1, 1915 at the home of Bessie’s parents in Sackville, NB.
Following their marriage, Bessie and Sam settled in Sam’s home town, Murray Harbour, Prince Edward Island, where Sam was a partner in the family business, Prowse and Sons. Bessie and Sam had 4 daughters: Audrey in 1917, Hazel in 1919, Betty in 1923 and my mother, Florence, in 1930.
The Great Depression spelled the end for the Prowse family business. In 1932, the family moved to Moncton, New Brunswick to start over.
As I side note, I giggled when I saw my mother referred to in that article as “Baby Florence”.
The 1930s and 1940s were hard on the family, with little money and their share of difficult times. In 1939, Bessie’s 2nd oldest daughter, Hazel, then age 19, married with 2 children and pregnant with her third, lost her home in a house fire and then lost her husband in a car accident. Bessie and the two younger children moved to Riverside, New Brunswick to support Hazel. They later moved to Sunny Brae, New Brunswick and Bessie raised Hazel’s youngest son. Bessie was widowed in 1949, when her husband died of cancer.
Throughout these tragedies, Bessie was always the rock of the family. She made sure there was always food on the table and plenty of love to go around.
I’ve always felt a strong connection to my grandmother, even though I never had the chance to know her – she died in January 1965, when I was just 10 months old. My mother has often told me that I remind her of her mother, especially when I laugh. This is my favourite picture of her – she looks like someone who was not afraid to be silly, and I admire that in a person.
This week’s prompt for the 52 Ancestors challenge is “Favourite Name”. I’ve come across some great names in my family tree – names like Snowball, Silver and Submit. But none of these are in my direct line. Oh no, my direct line is full of Williams and Johns and Elizabeths and Sarahs, with the odd biblical name like Hezekiah and Mehitable thrown in for good measure. So I decided this week to go with my 5th great grandfather, Joseph Providence Richardson. While I don’t know a lot about him, what I do know explains the story behind his name.
John and Mary were both born in Yorkshire, England and were married 1765 in Hutton Rudby, Mary’s home town. Following the birth of their first two children, they left their homeland for a new life in the Colonies. They were among the over 1,000 immigrants from Yorkshire who settled in the Chignecto Isthmus (the neck of land between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick (Canada) between 1772 and 1775.
In April 1774, John, Mary and their two children, Christopher and Elizabeth, boarded the Providence in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. There were 72 passengers on board. When it arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia some 5 weeks later, there were 73.
That newborn, named Joseph Providence Richardson, was my ancestor.
The Richardsons settled in Sackville, New Brunswick, where Joseph became a farmer. He married Jane Patterson and they had 5 daughters and 3 sons, including my 4th great grandfather, John P. Richardson.