My grandmother wrote this short history of the Burwell family on Eden Line in Bayham Township, Elgin County, Ontario. My guess is she wrote it about 1966. I came across it on the Elgin County Archives site.
The Burwell Family (Contributed by Mrs. Chas. Burwell, Tillsonburg, Ont.)
Among the pioneers of Eden district was Joseph Norton. He was born in Boston Mass. and came as a young man, after the death of his parents, to these parts and lived with the Dobie’s for some time. From them, he bought land which he cleared and built up into the old homestead on which his great-grandson Wilford Burwell now resides, west of Eden about 2 miles.
He married a young Highland Scottish maiden named Mary Younglove who was at Simcoe. He, taking among other provisions for the journey, bread baked by Mrs. Dobie and going by ox-team and sled down the Talbot road which had been surveyed out by Col. Thomas Talbot and Col. Mahlon Burwell. He brought his bride back to this farm home and farmed successfully for many years. He died in 1895, at the age of 90 being pre-deceased by his wife in 1888.
The couple had two daughters, Melissa Jane and Ada Ann. Melissa married William David Stilwell. To this union were born four children, Joseph Norton Stilwell, Mary Helen, Agnes and Rachel. The first two died very young. Agnes married Charles Moore and Rachael died suddenly and was buried on her 18th birthday.
Across the road from the Norton’s lived Mr. and Mrs. Howard Johnston the latter nee – Maria Burwell whose brother Hercules while visiting them, became acquainted with Ada Ann Norton. And in course of time, the two married, he being the son of Lewis Mahlon Burwell and Levonia Williams, sister of the Thomas Williams who founded the Thomas Williams Home in St. Thomas. Lewis Mahlon was first cousin to the above mentioned Col. Mahlon Burwell.
To Hercules and Ada were born James Silas, Ada Larreau, Levonia (Mrs. Chancy Clark), Lewis Mahlon, Charles Hercules, Merritt Lee, Frederick William (Wilford’s father), Wilson Garfield, Peter Dwight and a baby not named. Ada Larreau, Lewis Mahlon and the baby died very young.
Their parents settled on a farm about a mile west of Eden, in fact next farm west of the Fred Chandler place. They cleared it and built buildings and set out fruit trees, making it into a nice, comfortable home. Then when the great epidemic of influenza swept the country in 1890 he died on Pneumonia on Feb. 14th at the age of 41 leaving his wife with five young children to raise alone. This she faithfully did, and when the boys were grown they decided to move the buildings out to the front of the place. They had been back on the side-road before, and the place never looked so homey afterward. Their mother died from Diabetes in July 1912, in her 64th year. This family of 8 children are now all passed on.
Mr. and Mrs. Howard Johnston lived many years on the farm across from the Norton’s or where Grover Ketchabaw lives now. They sold it to Silas Burwell, who was then a young man. They moved to Fingal where Mr. Johnston died. Then Mrs. Johnston came back to Eden again and lived with her daughter Mrs. Charles Allemand, south of Eden, until her death in her 103rd year.
My grandfather wrote about the farm on the Big Otter Creek where he grew up in his poem My Old Valley Home (see more poems)
Here is what it looks like today, from Google satellite. Looks like the old house has been torn down and a new one built. Wilford Burwell lived in the original house until his death in 2004. It was sold after his wife Madge died in 2009. So, nearly 200 years after Joseph Norton cleared the land, the property is no longer in the hands of his descendants.
Silas Burwell bought his Aunt Maria’s farm across the road and rebuilt the house about 1915. His wife was Alice Kennedy, whose siblings were Joseph, Clara and Ida May.
Joseph Kennedy was friends with the Burwell brothers ( more photos here). Clara and Ida May Kennedy married Chandler brothers Edward John and Alexander. Fred Chandler was their brother, so brother-in-law by marriage to Silas.
Burwell, Kennedy and Chandler – Eden Line
After Silas and Alice Burwell died, Grover Ketchabaw bought their farm. Silas and Alice had no children but still their house managed to keep connected to his family. One of Grover’s sons married Wilford Burwell’s sister. The son of Grover’s daughter now owns Silas’ farm.
A mile west of Eden
The mystery for me in Grandma’s story is in the second last paragraph. “They” moved to a farm about a mile west of Eden, just west of Fred Chandler’s farm. Who moved? It sounds like Hercules and Ada Ann, whose dates of death match those Grandma gives in that same paragraph. But their son Fred, who took over their farm beside the Big Otter, didn’t marry until 1916, which was after the death of both his parents. I never knew that the family lived anywhere on the Eden Line other than in that house.
Two stories about the Chandler family are also in the Elgin County Archives. They start on the fourth page of the pdf. Here is my grandmother’s story and more on the Chandlers.
Aunt Maria (pronounced Mariah) Burwell Johnson was my grandfather’s aunt. Born near Fingal and died near Eden, she homesteaded in Michigan during the Civil War and later had a fruit tree farm in Essex Co. Ont.
On her 100th birthday in June 1935, two newspaper articles told her story. Here are the clippings and transcribed copy. Click the images for larger views.
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Woman To Mark 100th Milestone
Mrs. Marie Johnson, Bayham, 100 on Wednesday
Looks after garden – Birthday Dinner Held At Daughter’s Home
Belmont, June 23 – Surrounded by her immediate family and relatives, numbering 22, Mrs. Maria Burwell Johnson, this afternoon was tendered a birthday dinner at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Charles Allemand, Bayham Township, the occasion marking her 100th birthday anniversary.
Although Mrs. Johnson does not attain that age until Wednesday, the party was held today, that her family might be present for the function.
In speaking to the press by telephone late this afternoon the celebrant carried on a brief, but sprightly conversation. Before calling her mother to the phone, Mrs. Allemand told the reporter her mother was as active “as a 16-year-old girl.”
The centenarian devotes much of her time to the household duties of the home. She has her daily walk, helps with the weekly churning, cares for the garden, and in winter, knits and reads extensively. Although her hearing is slightly impaired she is able to read without the aid of glasses. Today she received a telegram from her cousin, Mrs. Lydia Bage, of Burtland, Ore., who is also 100 years old, having attained that age on February 6th last.
She takes a keen interest in current events and in her telephone conversation mentioned that she “voted for Hepburn,” in last year’s provincial election. On Wednesday the Ladies’ Aid of the Bayham circuit, are tendering her a reception and birthday dinner. A three-storey birthday cake, with 100 candles, will be featured, at the event which has become an annual affair in the last few years.
Maria Johnson has been a life-long resident of Elgin County, having been born one mile west of Fingal village, Southwold Township, June 26th, 1835, a daughter of the late Lewis Burwell and Levina Williams. She is a first cousin [2nd, 1 remove] of the late Col. Burwell. For 20 years she has resided with her daughter, Mrs. Allemand, Eden R.R. No. 1. Her family are Charles Johnson, Detroit; Mrs. Edward Parker, Kingsville; and Mrs. Allemand; also 12 grandchildren.
… Johnson was just “taking it easy.” But it appeared to be no great effort for her to “tidy up” and come and have her picture taken. She walked along on the arm of her daughter because, Mrs. Johnson explained, “I’m getting pretty staggery.”
But she said it with a chuckle and marched stalwartly along. She carries a walking stick, but it’s mostly “to keep the peace.”
A characteristic of Mrs. Johnson that has always been hers has been her joviality. Though she is a little hard of hearing, she sees perfectly well and when others around her Wednesday afternoon were laughing about something she had missed, she spoke up and said: “Come now, what are you all laughing about. If there’s anything going on, I’d like to have a hand in it.”
Born Before Rebellion
It seems hard to realize, but Mrs. Johnson was born before the rebellion of Upper Canada. Her birthday was June 26, 1835, and was born the oldest of the family of Lewis and Levina Burwell, whose farm was broken in the woods between Fingal and Watson’s Corners in Southwold township. She is a second cousin of Colonel Mahlon Burwell, associate of Colonel Talbot, who surveyed much of this district and who was, with Colonel Talbot, one of Elgin county’s settlement promoters. She did a bit of pioneering herself during the early days of her married life when she lived near the village of Pontiac, Mich., and she and her husband cleared a farm in the bush out in Gratiot county.
But Mrs. Johnson’s home has been practically all her life in Elgin county. The oldest of a family of seven children, all have predeceased her with the exception of her sister, Mrs. Jane Elams [Helms], of South Haven, Mich., who was the third of the seven children in the Lewis Burwell family and who is herself in her 90’s. One of her brothers, Richard, died only a short time ago at his home in South Haven. The family has been noted for its longevity, but Mrs. Johnson is establishing a record. The names of her brothers and sisters, in order of their age, were John, Jane, Richard, Hercules, Samuel and Amy.
Lived on Talbot Estate
Mrs. Johnson lived with her parents near Fingal and on the Talbot estate until her twenty-third year. She had no schooling other than what she was able to learn herself. She reads and writes which, to say the least, was an achievement for one who, in her early days, had no end of hard work on her father’s farm, and who, when she married, brought up a family and helped hew down bush to clear more land. She does little writing now, nor does she read, because the strain of the latter is too telling.
When she was 23, she married Howard Johnson, who came to Southern Ontario from Nova Scotia. The marriage took place in Pontiac, Mich., and there they built their home, a little log cabin some miles out of the settlement. For some time directly after the wedding, the young couple resided at Waterford, where their oldest son, Charles, now of Detroit, was born. But they returned to Pontiac and resided there until after the American Civil War, for service in which Howard Johnson was drafted. When he went away to war, he had to leave Mrs. Johnson and two young children to fend for themselves on the little farm in the woods. Home from the war, Mr. and Mrs. Johnson moved from Pontiac back to Ontario and began farming near Fingal.
It was no easy matter for the couple to break up their home in Gratiot county. It had stood for a good deal to both Mrs. Johnson and her husband. But conditions in the States at the close of the Civil War were far from settled and neither cared to take the risk of going through another war. Mrs. Johnson says to this day that, of all the home in which she had lived, that little log cabin in the woods was far the best.
Husband Lived Till 84
For many years, Mr. and Mrs. Johnson lived not far from the Lewis Burwell homestead west of Fingal. But they later acquired a farm in Bayham township near Eden and resided there until going to the district around the town of Essex where, until his death, Mr. Johnson was a fruit farmer. He passed away in 1912 at the age of 84, and Mrs. Johnson returned to Bayham township to make her home with her daughter, with whom she is still living.
Mrs. Johnson’s three children are all living. They are Charles Johnson, of Detroit; Mrs. E. L. Parker, of Kingsville; and Mrs. Kitchen [Allemand], of Eden. She has twelve grandchildren living. In Charles Johnson’s family there are Carl Johnson, Detroit; Mrs. (May) Williams, residing in California; Mrs. (Ruby) Blain, Mrs. (Gladys) Anderson, Mrs. (Dorothy) Brian, and Mrs. (Nellie) Kirkland, all of Detroit. Mrs. Parker’s children are Gordon Parker, Detroit, and Cecil Parker, Kingsville. Mrs. Kitchen’s children are Mrs. Fred Stark, Toronto; Mrs. Arol Bowes, New Liskeard; Mrs. Clarence Williams, Lapeer, Mich., and Arthur Allemand, Eden. There are twenty-seven great-grandchildren. The Burwells having been a large family of Elgin county pioneers, Mrs. Johnson is related in one way or another to a very large number of descendants of the original Burwell family, many of whom still reside in this district.
The Elgin County Council and the Council of the township of Bayham will likely recognize Mrs. Johnson’s 102nd [100th?] birthday. Certainly she will have the felicitations and best wishes of a host of old friends.
No Recipe for Longevity
Mrs. Johnson offered no suggestion on how to attain old age. But she had always been a great worker, her labors carrying on into the evening hours, commencing early in the morning. It is still no hardship for her to stay up until eleven or twelve in the evening and rise again at five along with the others on the farm. She eats three hearty meals a day and is by no means as frail as one might expect of a person who has reached her age.
Recently a radio was acquired at the Kitchen home and Mrs. Johnson enjoys its programs. She particularly enjoyed the Coronation broadcasts, and in this regard it is of interest to note that she has lived during the reign of King George IV, Queen Victoria, Edward VII, George V, Edward VIIII, and now King George VI.
Maria’s son Charles Johnson of Detroit. He married Nellie Havens Gray of Eden. Charles’ sisters were Amy Jane (married F. L. Sweet, Edmond Parker) and Fanny Jeannette (married Charles Allemand, R. Kitchen). See Burwell Family Tree, nos. 59-60 for their families.
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Mrs. Maria Johnson of Eden Feted on 100th Birthday (June 27, 1935)
Col. Thomas Talbot was a good old fellow but pretended he wasn’t, Mrs. Maria Johnson of Eden told The News this week as she recalled incidents of her childhood days spent near Port Talbot. She was 100 years old yesterday. Mrs. Johnson lives with her daughter, Mrs. R. Kitchen, formerly Mrs. Charles Allemand. Her birthday was marked with two parties, one on Sunday for the relatives who could not be present yesterday when the whole community was invited. The Ladies’ Aid Society of the Eden Baptist church arranged the dinner and reception yesterday afternoon in her honor.
Mrs. Johnson likes to read and can do so without the aid of glasses. She crochets, too. In her own words she says she is able to walk a mile. Her daughter remarked that she had churned on Tuesday of last week. Mrs. Johnson possesses unusual faculties for one who has seen a century go by. Her only impairment is a slight difficulty in hearing. She laughs as she recalls the fun of childhood and holds the listener’s interest with her well-told anecdotes.
Mrs. Johnson was born one mile west of Fingal. Her father, Lewis Burwell, was a mason and did a great deal of Col. Talbot’s masonry work. He was a cousin of Col. Mahlon Burwell. Her mother was Lavina Williams, a sister of Thomas Williams – patron of the Thomas Williams Home for indigents at St. Thomas.
“Col. Talbot was good to us young ones if we were good to him. He was not very cranky, pretending a lot which he didn’t mean.” Mrs. Johnson remembers that the boys bowed and the girls curtseyed in those days. Sometimes she failed to curtsey to Col. Talbot, and then he would say to his retainer Jeffry Hunter, “Hit that girl a good slash, Jeffry”; but he didn’t do it.”
“Oh, my, but that is a long time ago,” she would remark occasionally.
Mrs. Johnson’s husband first saw her when she was driving sheep along the road. Right away he said to himself that she would be his wife. His family went to Michigan. Mrs. Johnson followed and on Sept. 12, 1858, became the bride of Howard Johnson at Pontiac. Her husband fought in the American Revolutionary War [Civil War], in which her brother, John R. Burwell, was killed.
Mrs. Johnson is the oldest in a family of seven. She has a brother and a sister living, Richard Burwell of Grass Lake, Mich., and Mrs. Jane Helms of South Haven, Mich. A first cousin, Mrs. Lydia Bage of Burtland, Ore., was 100 years old on February 6th last, and has sent a letter on congratulations on also becoming a centenarian.
While living on a fruit farm at Essex Centre in 1912 Mr. Johnson passed away, ending 54 years of married life. Mrs. Johnson has since lived with Mrs. Kitchen and another daughter, Mrs. Edmond Parker of Kingsville. A son, Charles Johnson, resides in Detroit. Mrs. Johnson has 12 grandchildren and 26 great grandchildren.
Mr. and Mrs. Johnson lived in Pontiac, Waterford, and Gratiot during their stay in Michigan. “When we moved to Gratiot we saw hard times,” she recalled. “It was a new country, and we had to build our own little log house. It was the best little home we ever had. Then the war broke out and Howard had to go, leaving me with two children five years and five months old. The roads were bad and we had a team of oxen. There were lots of bears about. It was a great change for me after living on the Talbot Road on Col. Talbot’s place.
“That was where father died and mother was left with a large family. John and I being the oldest, we were great chums. We made sugar, braided hats, picked limestone out of the creek, and husked the corn. When it was awful cold Bill Welch came and helped us.
“We had good days as well as sad days,” she paused to say.
“For music, a fiddle did it all – for logging bees, barn-raisings, dancing, and it was played in the church, too. Those were good times, but I enjoy life yet,” Mrs. Johnson said with a happy smile.
On Sunday 25 relatives gathered for dinner at the home of Mrs. Kitchen to honor Mrs. Johnson. They came from Toronto, Lapeer, Mich., Detroit, New Liskeard, and Kingsville. A large birthday cake centred the table. Some of the guests remained for the big party Wednesday.
Yesterday afternoon the Ladies’ Aid Society of the Eden Baptist church and many people of the district celebrated Mrs. Johnson’s 100th birthday. There was a beautiful four-story cake made for the occasion by Mrs. D. D. Healy of Eden, who is 80 years old. It was trimmed with white icing and silver berries. The figures “1835-1935” were on it in silver icing and the top story held up a silver horseshoe. All the community was invited to come with their lunches and enjoy a piece of the fruit cake. A program of speeches and music was prepared the the members of the Ladies’ Aid Society. Mrs. William White is the president and Mrs. W. Stilwell the secretary. Solos and duets were sung by Mr. N. O. Stilwell and Miss Olive Stilwell. Mr. [Edward] Sivyer of Eden, who is 93 years old, was an honored guest.
Mrs. Johnson has received many gifts, flowers, cards and letters of congratulation for her birthday celebration. On June 16th her granddaughter and husband from Lapeer, Mich., took her for the first automobile ride she has had this year which she enjoyed greatly. She was a Methodist, but the church was closed at Eden and for several years now the Baptist Ladies’ Aid has gathered with her on her birthday.
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The Thomas Williams Home, I learned from St. Thomas residents on Facebook, is at 57 Walnut Street right beside the old St. Thomas Anglican Church.
Maria’s brother John Rice Burwell died 16 June 1862 in the Battle of Secessionville, James Island, South Carolina at the age of 24. He may have been a Private in Company C, 8th Michigan Infantry, Union Army. There is a record that matches in all details except names of parents and siblings.
One article says that Maria’s brother Richard is alive and the other says he recently died. I have his date of death as Feb. 27, 1937 in Jackson, Michigan.
The birthday cakes got their own write-up in June 27’s paper. With the effort put into them, they deserved it. An 80 year old Mrs. Healy made one and the other came all the way from Detroit.
From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Apr. 13 2010 – in memory of Jack who died 7 years ago today
Today is the 13th anniversary of the death of my old Collie-mix Jamie and tortoiseshell cat Cedric. They were put to sleep together, due to cancer and crippling arthritis, and they’re buried together behind a house I used to live in. The present occupants of the house know they’re there, but in future no one will know the significance of that small bed of orange and white dahlias and tiger lilies.
Now my animals have plots at Sandy Ridge Pet Cemetery just south of Eden. The first time I went there, I was in the area with a bit of time to kill. I was driving around Calton, Richmond and Eden, looking at the places that were home to my parents’ families a century ago. On the Plank Road (#19 Hwy), I saw a sign for the pet cemetery.
So in I went. I quickly used up all the tissues in my pockets and was using old napkins from Tim Hortons that I found in the car, then my sleeves to wipe my eyes and nose. It’s the most beautiful cemetery I’ve ever seen. And active! Seasonal flowers, small toys, photographs, solar lights and notes left on beloved pets’ gravestones. It’s lovely and gut-wrenching. There are people’s graves too, with their pets.
A pet family plot
I looked up the website and contacted the owners, the Cowans. I broached the subject with my husband. He thought it was a good idea for the pets. Then I moved on to the subject of us. Expecting his response to discussion of our own mortality to be “lalalala my fingers are in my ears I can’t hear you”, I was surprised that he heard me out and thought about the options. His family is from Kentucky, so the family plots are there. My family plots are in London, Tillsonburg and Dorchester – not places with any real connection for me or him.
The scattering of ashes over a waterfall or lake is a romantic idea, but leaves no mark of your existence. He realized that some ‘I was here’ marker mattered to him, at least for the sake of his sons. I realized it was important to me because I do genealogical research and gravestones are a solid connection with the past. They tell you something about individuals and families.
So we bought a family plot for us and pets. Too soon we had to use it. January 30th 2008, our German Shepherd Jack died. He was buried the next day. We, our mothers, my sister and the Cowans were in attendance. A month later, Henry, the oldest cat, joined him. It was a bad, sad winter. Eventually, we’ll all be there in this plot demarcated with granite ‘S’s at the corners.* And it feels ok, knowing that others like me will walk along the path and read names and dates and reconstruct bits of family history. And cry.
*In 2012, the Ontario government demanded the removal of the human graves. Human ashes only were there, but they and the gravestones had to be moved away from the spots the people had chosen for their final repose.
I have never seen the Bible belonging to my great-grandparents, but I know what was written in it, thanks to my grandmother. It looks as if she made a couple of additions as time, and events, went on.
For ease of reading, here is what she wrote:
Record Copied From Family Bible of Hercules and Ada Ann Burwell
Hercules Burwell (Father) born Oct. 5, 1848
Ada Ann Burwell (Mother) b. Aug. 30, 1848
James Silas Burwell b. Apr. 30, 1870
Ada Larreau Burwell b. Jan. 3, 1872
Lavonia Burwell b. Apr. 9. 1874
Lewis Maylon Burwell b. Mar. 23, 1879
Charles Hercules Burwell b. Oct. 11, 1880
Merit Lee Burwell b. Jan. 30, 1882
Frederick William Burwell b. July 13, 1884
Wilson Garfield Burwell b. Sept. 29, 1886
Peter Dwight Burwell b. Apr. 18, 1888
Hercules Burwell and Ada Ann Norton, Parents
Married Aug. 22, 1869.
Chancy E. Clark and Lavonia Burwell
Married Nov. 9, 1898.
James Silas Burwell and Alice Kennedy
Married July 4, 1906.
Charles Hercules Burwell and Minnie May Lymburner
Married Dec. 14, 1910.
Merit Lee Burwell and Ella Myrtle Chatterton
Married Dec. 10, 1913.
Wilson Garfield Burwell and Florence Wareham
Married Aug. 16, 1911.
Frederick William Burwell and Ada Sophia Meadows [Leach]*
Married Dec. 4, 1916.
Peter Dwight Burwell and Alberta Davis
Married Feb. 14, 1917.
Wilson Garfield Burwell and Annie Miller
Married Apr. 16, 1953. [2nd]
Peter Dwight Burwell and Wilma Maher
Married March 27, 1959. [2nd]
Ada Larreau Burwell died Dec. 19, 1875
Lewis Maylon Burwell died Apr. 1, 1882
*Father* Hercules Burwell died Feb. 14, 1890
*Mother* Ada Ann Burwell died Jul 4, 1912
Frederick William Burwell died Feb. 26, 1922
Mrs. Frederick W. Burwell, nee Ada Sophia Meadows*, died [Jan. 17, 1968]
Chancy E. Clark died Dec. 9, 1923
Levoina Clark (Burwell) died Dec. 13, 1923
Merit Lee Burwell died Nov. 27, 1924
Ella Myrtle Burwell (Chatterson) (Chambers) died Sept. 30, 1955
James Silas Burwell died Dec. 19, 1947
Alice (Silas) Burwell (Kennedy) died July 31, 1964
Florence Burwell (Wareham) died Feb. 28, 1950
Wilson Garfield Burwell died Nov 10, 1959
Annie (Miller) Burwell (Wilson’s widow) died July 26, 1971
Alberta Burwell (Davis) died Jan. 7, 1954
Peter Dwight Burwell died Jan. 24, 1961
Charles Hercules Burwell died November 11, 1965
*Grandma knew Ada Sophie first as Meadows, the surname of her first husband Clarence M. Meadows. Her birth name was Leach.
The Bible would have been in Hercules and Ada Ann Burwell’s house, beside Otter Creek west of Eden in East Elgin County. It was the farm where Ada Ann lived with her parents, Joseph and Mary (Younglove) Norton. Before he married Ada Ann, Hercules Burwell had lived in Fingal, in West Elgin, with his family.
The house and farm was inherited by son Frederick Burwell. His son Wilford (my mother’s first cousin) lived there for the rest of his life with his wife Madge (Hodgson, my father’s first cousin). My mother framed a photograph of the farm together with the poem her father wrote about it.