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.
In this gallery are newspaper clippings from my mother’s scrapbooks. Their dates are from the 1940s on. They are about family and our towns as well as random people and events that struck her. And, of the many clippings in her scrapbooks, these are the ones that also particularly struck me.
Hover over an image to see its caption. To see a particular article, click or tap it. After doing that, you can click the small magnifying glass under the image title for a larger view. I will add more as I scan them, so check back.
Belmont Clubs, late 1940s
Oddfellows photo with my dad George Anger, granddad Austin Anger and uncle Wallace Jackson. The Mary Hastings’ Bluebirds (below) with my mother Ruby Anger.
Belmont Arena 1949
The parents of Jake Bradburn (top photo, left) were Flo and Wes Bradburn. A few years later, when my parents moved to the big old house at the corner of Main and Odell, Flo and Wes lived in the front apartment.
Uncle Floyd, horseradish king of Tillsonburg, was my mother’s uncle. He married Marguerite Lymburner, sister of Minnie Lymburner Burwell. They lived near Tillsonburg with their eight children.
The top clipping is from 1950 and tells the story of a young Port Burwell teacher, Mary Anne MacMath, a century earlier. The next is about the 1960 historical plaque for Col. Mahlon Burwell. Below that are stories about a faith healer in Port Burwell in 1951. I can’t find any information on the Rev. Orland Bailey but I found Harvey Vaughan’s 2013 obituary.
My mother was quick to send off a letter to the editor if need be.
Obituary for Mom’s uncle Eddie Lymburner, 1948
Miscellaneous Newspaper Clippings
In this 1951 story of Woodstock cat Herkimer, the writer mentions “the wealthy” Rhubarb. Googling told me that Rhubarb is a 1951 movie about a stray cat who hits the jackpot when he is given a home. It is based on a 1946 novel by H. Allen Smith. You can watch it on YouTube (for a fee).
Confused by many men centuries ago named Samuel, Adam, John and James Burwell in my database, I gave up trying to sort them out. I then picked up my mother’s family history binder. It pays to do that occasionally. So here is a letter from the late Lloyd Burwell to my mother about their mutual great-great-grandfather James Burwell UEL. Also included is information on James’ brothers and father and possible connection to the Virginia Burwells. I removed only small parts not relevant to family history in my transcription.
Dear Ruby, …
I am sending you a copy of the obituary of James Burwell as you requested. I am also sending you copies of several other items…
Upper Canada Land Petitions
The list I made of the Upper Canada Land Petitions from PAC in Ottawa includes our ancestor James Burwell (No. 1 and 12) and our ancestor Lewis Burwell (No. 8). The others are the other sons and daughters of James (brothers and sisters of Lewis). The list of Upper Canada Land Grants on the same page includes James (No. 1) and Lewis (No. 10). I have copies of all the petitions and grants in these lists.
I have included copies of the Land Grants for Lewis (Warrant 3855) and James (Fiat 2347) together with the Certificate signed by Col. Talbot certifying that James Burwell had completed his settlement duties 2nd July 1819. I have also included a copy of the survey for Lot 13 North, Talbot Road East Branch. By the assignment recorded on Warrant 3855 it is evident that Lewis did not take up his Crown Grant. Instead he sold his right to a land agent by the name of James Anderson.
I had first seen the Biographical Sketch of James Burwell by Lorenzo Sabine (p 277) back in 1974 and wondered where he got his information. Two years ago I found out when Wm. Yeoger, curator of the Eva Brook Donly Museum in Simcoe, published the results of his searching old newspaper records at the Ontario Archives (OA) including the obituary of James Burwell reported in the Church of England paper “The Church”.
When vacationing in New Brunswick
When vacationing in New Brunswick in 1976 we visited Esther Clarke Wright in her home. She listed James Burwell in her book The Loyalists of New Brunswick among some 6000 Loyalists she had researched. She is a PhD; a retired professor of history from Acadia University in Wolfville NS. I did not get any new information from her.
I also went to the Dept. of Lands & Mines in Fredericton NB to look at the original Crown land grand maps. I did not find a reference to a specific lot but did get a copy of the land grant to the Regiment of 38,450 acres and reference to James Burwell being entitled to 250 acres. I believe he sold his right to his officer, Captain John Borberie.
At the PAC in Ottawa
At the Public Archives of Canada (PAC) in Ottawa I researched through microfilms of the British Military Records and ordered copies of all the Muster Rolls that listed James Burwell. I made a list (copy enclosed) of the ones I found. James Burwell had a brother Samuel and his father’s name was also Samuel. Since there is a Samuel Burwell listed on some of the Muster Rolls, we can speculate that it may be James’ brother or father.
William D. Reid (now dead) was an archivist at O.A. On p. 43 of his book “The Loyalists in Ontario” he lists James Burwell and his 10 sons and daughters who received Crown Grants of land. Actually there was an eleventh child, Timothy, but there is no evidence that he applied for or received a Crown Grant.
I am enclosing a photocopy of the monument in Fingal cemetery near the east gate having inscriptions on three faces for 1, Lewis Burwell, 2, his wife Levonia Williams and 3, Laura A. Kennedy. I transcribed Laura’s year of death as 1881 but have since found her mother Amy [d/o Lewis and Levonia] age 25 in the 1881 census so Laura, being age 15 at death, must have died in 1891.
I am enclosing a photocopy of a 1908 newspaper clipping I found in a scrap book at the O.A. about Levonia Burwell, wife of Lewis. Lewis died at age 42. Did you ever hear what the cause of death was?
Mahlon and James Burwell 1st cousins 1 remove
I am enclosing copies of p. 327 and 328 from Vol II July 1920 of Tyler’s Quarterly Historical & Genealogical Magazine. The chart supplied by Mr. Raymond W. Smith of Orange NJ shows our ancestor James as being a first cousin of Col. Mahlon Burwell. Maria Burwell who married Howard Johnson spoke of Mahlon Burwell being a cousin of her father Lewis [s/o James and Hannah]. According to this chart they would be 1st cousins once removed.
I am enclosing photocopies of the last two pages of a 16 page article by Archibald Blue in 1899 about Col. Mahlon Burwell. He quotes Lorenzo Sabine in the Biographical Note with reference to James Burwell, then states that his relationship to Adam Burwell, the father of Mahlon, is uncertain. I have a copy of Adam Burwell’s petition for land which Archibald Blue states “appears to be lost”. The record is with the Upper Canada Land Petitions at PAC in Ottawa.
USA to Bertie Township
In James Burwell’s 1811 petition for land (Vol 37 B10/24) he states that he sent his brother (not named) with his cattle and goods from Presque Isle on the south side of Lake Erie to Upper Canada on or about the 1st day of July 1798 and that he arrived with his family in the Township of Bertie on or before the twelfth of July 1798. It would appear that the date 1796 stated in James Burwell’s obituary and all subsequent quotes by others is in error. Adam Burwell also affirms (he was a Quaker at the time) that James Burwell’s cattle and goods were brought to his farm in Bertie about the 19th of July 1798.
No mention is made of the relationship of James to Adam. Adam Burwell came to Upper Canada 12 years earlier than James, i.e. in 1786. He had been a spy for the British during the Revolution.
I am enclosing photocopies of the 10 pages of genealogy of the Burwell family of Virginia as recorded in Colonial Families of the Southern United States of America. It is Edward Burwell identified as 2-6 at the bottom of the 1st page (p. 94) that is referred to following the chart in Tyler’s Quarterly on p. 328.
Lewis Burwell family Bible
Mr. McDermott who lives in Fort Erie, Ont. is the present owner of the family bible of Lewis Burwell of Brantford, the surveyor and younger brother of Col. Mahlon Burwell. I have photocopies of all the family information recorded in this bible.
Lewis, writing in the bible in 1837, states that about the year 1607 or 1610 his great-grandfather Edward Burwell was named in a Royal Charter to a Plantation Company, who came from the city of London to the Province of Virginia. He states that his great-grandfather’s son John who married Agnes Lee removed from Virginia to the Province of New Jersey. He states that his grandfather John had several sons and the youngest son was his father Adam who married Sarah Vail, daughter of Nathaniel Vail of New Jersey. Also in this bible Lewis records the death of James Burwell, a cousin who died at Port Talbot on 25th June 1853 aged 99 years and 5 months.
Our ancestor John Burwell
I find it hard to believe that our ancestor John Burwell who is said to have left Jamestown, Virginia in 1721 would be the son of Edward Burwell who was in Virginia in 1648. John Burwell is believed to have been born in 1705 and Edward in 1625. This would make Edward 80 years old when John was born. It seems to me there should be another generation in between.
Your (2nd) cousin,
Also see my Burwells in US & Canada. I will post the papers referred to above in a photo gallery or post format.
Years ago, I was in a public library in Los Angeles and found reference books on family histories. I looked up my family name, Anger. It said the name came from France, from the region of Anjou, with its main city being Angers. I was thrilled with the idea of being French.
When I came home, I told my father. He said “French! No! We’re German.” He had always said when asked that he didn’t know the family origins – “a little bit of everything” was his answer. So I remained convinced that we were French.
Much later, when I started delving into family history and found other family members doing the same, I discovered that Dad and I were both right.
A French and German family name
The family was Huguenot or French Protestant. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Protestants in France had to convert to Catholicism or be killed or expelled. Or they fled the country. They went to Protestant countries, among them the territories that became Germany. And that is where the known history of our family starts.
Georg Frederick Anger migrated to Pennsylvania in 1754. When the American colonies went to war with Britain, George Frederick chose the British side and he and his sons fought as Loyalists to the crown. After the war, they moved across the new border and settled in Bertie Township, near Fort Erie. They joined Butler’s Rangers, a British regiment made up of Loyalists.
The Anger men weren’t done with war. In the War of 1812, they again found their new homeland in the midst of American and British conflict. Then, forty years later, the Angers of Bertie literally found themselves in the midst of battle. In the 1866 Battle of Ridgeway, part of the Fenian Raids in Upper Canada, the Anger homestead was smack in the midst of the battlelines. Bullet holes are still visible in the bricks. The house was turned into a field hospital, being handy to the wounded.
Several years ago, Jim and I made a trip to Ridgeway to find the family. First stop was the Ridgeway archives and library.
The librarian told me that my great-great-great-great-grandparents were buried in the “Coloured Cemetery,” north of Ridgeway near the Anger house. Close to the American border, the area had become home to escaped and freed slaves. But just when I was thinking, with delight, about what the Anger place of burial meant for my personal ancestry, the archivist told me it had been the cemetery for everybody in the early days of the settlement. White people, generally, had gravestones. Black people had wooden crosses. The Angers have gravestones.
All the cemeteries near Ridgeway have Angers buried in them. But several of the children of George Frederick’s son John Charles moved west. One of them, also named John Charles, had a son Peter who moved to Hazen Settlement in South Walsingham Township, Norfolk County. It is from him that all of us here in Elgin County claim descent. (See my Anger family tree.)
This is for my father, George, who died nine years ago today. He had seen his family history in computer printouts first by my cousin Chris Anger and then by me. Dad and I also came to agree that the family was German and French. The title for this is from his saying about our family name – “Anger by name, Anger by nature.”