There’s a mystery behind the sampler I inherited from my great, great grandmother.
The sampler itself is quite lovely and very detailed, most of the colours still vibrant today. It is edged with a border of stylized red roses. Inside are the traditional bands of letters and numbers in various stitches, along with a large two-storied house, trees, birds, animals, two baskets of flowers and a verse about the challenges of life. The creator’s name is written clearly: Jane Jamieson, Her Sampler, Quebec and a date. 1819? 1844? The numbers are unclear and therein lies the mystery.
Jane Jamieson was born in 1818 in Drum, Ireland to Samuel Jamieson and Jane Stewart. A sampler date of 1819 is therefore not possible, Jane would have been an infant.
Jane’s father was a tenant farmer and according to family legend, had at one time belonged to the Irish Constabulary. He was also a Protestant and a Loyalist. After suffering a series of irritating incidents at the hands of his Irish landlord, Samuel decided to quit Ireland and take his family to where he could farm his own land. In 1836 he, his wife, and their six children immigrated to Canada.
The Jamiesons, along with twenty-six other families, settled in the “highlands” of Megantic County south of Quebec City. Samuel was given Lot 5 S.W. on the First Range of Inverness Township in what was to become known as South Ireland (now Saint-Jean-de-Brebeuf). Their first home was an old cabin that an earlier squatter had left behind.
The land grants were part of a complex government scheme, beginning in 1791 and now known to be largely unworkable, to settle the vast wilderness between Quebec City and the American border. It took until 1869 before Samuel’s 100-acre grant was finally legalized in his name.
Life in Inverness was not easy. The settlers were expected to cut down the forest and unearth rocks to build their homes and to farm. The winters were long and brutal.
They were also very isolated. Craig’s Road, the dirt road to and from Quebec City, was mountainous, narrow, and heavily rutted with the only means of transportation being by foot, by ox cart or, in winter, by sleigh. It could take three days to reach Quebec or up to a full week when hauling a load of wood or charcoal to sell.
Two of Samuel’s daughters eventually left Inverness to find employment in the city. Both Jane and Sarah went into service. Jane worked two jobs, house maid and parlour maid, for a cash total of $3.00 a month.
In 1846 Jane married William Kelly, a wealthy coal merchant from Quebec City, and became mistress of her own home. There is no record of how they met and courted. Perhaps Jane worked in his family home. Jane and William had five children: James, Eliza, Samuel, Annie and Emma, my great grandmother.
If the date on the sampler is actually 1844, then Jane made the sampler as an adult, two years before her marriage, and not as a child as was the norm at the time. She perhaps learned the various stitches from a fellow domestic, or even her mistress, and created the sampler in her free time, likely something to be tucked away in her hope chest until the day she married. The large house in the sampler may have been the one in which she was employed. One might even suggest that the trees, the birds and the animals were reminiscent of her earlier life in Inverness. So too might have been the reference to the challenges that she “would overcome in the by and by”.
Jamieson Harper, Helen. The Jamieson Family, 1995 (part of a research project by Gwen Barry Rawlings)
Barry Rawlings, Gwen. The English 180 years in rural Quebec-Megantic. The Canadian Genealogist, Vol. 3, No.2, 1981
The Kelly Family Bible – now owned by the writer