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Finding Great Great Grandmother: Elizabeth Mowat Sutherland

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Elizabeth Mowat is my great great grandmother. I didn’t even know her name before I began my genealogy quest. I still don’t know much about her but I now have a photograph, a portrait of her in her “go to church clothes” with the requisite black bonnet.

There were no pictures of her in the box that started my family history search, although there was a family photograph of her husband William, her son Donald, his wife Alice and three of their children, William, Mary and James Dickson. I originally thought Elizabeth was alive at the time, so why on such an occasion was she not with them at the photographers? It later turned out she died in 1883 and not the assumed 1888.

It was through the internet and RootsWeb that I finally saw her face. Robert Harkness, from her daughter-in-law Alice’s line, said his family had lost all their old photos and information in a house fire but his uncle might know some family history. I wrote to his uncle, Bruce Harkness but did not hear anything. Then a couple of months later I received a letter from a George Dickson with photos and stories. He was also a relative of Alice’s and lived in the same apartment building as Bruce, in Belmore, Ontario. Bruce had shared my letter and it was George who responded. In the package was a picture of Elizabeth.

She was born in 1829 in Pulteneytown, Caithness, Scotland. Her parents were James Mowat and Isabelle Houston. It doesn’t appear that she had any siblings or at least any that survived to the 1841 census.

She married William Sutherland a shoemaker and 13 years her senior, May 1845, in Pulteneytown and they set out for Canada soon after. They sailed with two of William’s nephews and their wives so he had some family with him, but Elizabeth left her family and her life, never to see them again. There are Sutherland letters that have survived which reported on all the neighbours and friends so I assume the Mowats also heard about their daughter’s new life and family.

Elizabeth and William had seven children, William, James, Donald, Christina, Isabella, George, and John. They moved from Toronto to West Gwillimbury and finally to their own land in Carrick, Bruce County Ontario. After clearing the land and farming for a number of years they gave up the hard work and moved back to Toronto.

Elizabeth died in 1883 and William died in 1887. My sister Jeannie and I visited Mount Pleasant Cemetery and found their tombstone. The names were readable but not the inscription. As Jeannie went to the car to get some paper to try a rubbing, the sun came out and it’s angle made the inscription jump out,“The dead in Christ shall rise first”.

Notes:

Ancestry.com. Scotland, Select Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.Original data: Scotland, Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013

Extracts of entries in an Old Parochial Register. Proclamations of Banns and marriages Parish of Wick, County of Caithnes general register Office, New Register House Edinburch on 26 September 2000.

Archives of Ontario; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Series: MS935; Reel: 36 Source InformationAncestry.com. Ontario, Canada, Deaths, 1869-1938, 1943-1944, and Deaths Overseas, 1939-1947 Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.Cert.

“The dead in Christ shall rise first.” 1 Thessalonians 4:16

Christina Sutherland Jaywalker

On a November morning in 1920, Christina Sutherland was hit by a car. She was hurrying along King Street in Toronto and stepped out from between two wagons into the path of the vehicle. The driver, Joseph Stern, couldn’t stop in time and knocked her down. Extremely upset, he picked up her unconscious body, placed her in his car and rushed her to the Toronto General Hospital.

Christina died the next day of a fractured skull and brain concussion. The circumstance of Christina’s death, written up in the Toronto Star was the most noteworthy event in her life.

Mr Stern reported the accident to the Court Street police station. He wasn’t detained after he explained what had happened. Christina’s death was the third one in six days caused by a motor car.

As late as 1910 pedestrians still had the right of the road. The streets were busy with automobiles and horse drawn wagons but people crossed where ever they pleased, with hardly a look. Toronto police began directing traffic in 1918 as yielding the right of way at intersections didn’t work any more. By 1920 Toronto had a population of 500,000 and cars were becoming more and more popular. Police now claimed that most accidents were the fault of the pedestrians and jaywalking became a word.

Little else is known about Christina. The only mention of her is in her nephew William Harkness Sutherland’s diary and that too is about her death. “ Received a special delivery letter from Wilson this morning just as we were starting out to church giving news of Aunt Christina’s death.” There weren’t any photographs of her, she isn’t mentioned in any surviving family letters and the record of her birth hasn’t been found.

She was born in Ontario around 1854, the fourth child of William Sutherland and Elizabeth Mowat. They followed the Scottish naming pattern and so she was named for William’s mother. William purchased crown land in 1855 in Carrick, Bruce County, Ontario. The land had to be cleared, a house built and crops planted, so there was always a lot of work to be done as Christina grew up. All the Sutherland children went to S.S. #9 Carrick. The school, built of hand-hewn logs by the original settlers was opened in 1859. Parents had to supply half a cord of wood for each child attending. Christina continued to live at home at least until she was seventeen.

In 1881 she was living in Toronto and working as a domestic for William Johnston, his wife Mary and their two children. He was her aunt Jessie Sutherland’s brother. Some of Christina’s brothers had also moved to Toronto at this time, but she wasn’t living with any of them.

She wasn’t found on another census until 1911 when she was a lodger at 381 King St West. This appeared to be a boarding house owned by an Alice Dawson, who lived there with her daughter and grandchildren. There were ten lodgers on the census; four women and six men. Christina was listed as an operator at a factory, working 48 hours a week with a two week holiday and all for three hundred dollars a year. She must have had an independent streak as she worked to support herself and still wasn’t living with any family members.

She never married and was reported to be 66 at the time of her death. She was still living on King Street, although at number 391. There was contact with her family as it was her brother George Sutherland who was the informant of her death and her funeral was from her sister Isabella’s house.

Christina was buried in Mount Pleasant cemetery in a plot with her parents, two young nephews and a niece. Even there she didn’t leave a mark, as her name is not on the tombstone.

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Sutherland Tombstone Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto

Bibliography:

“Hit By Motor.” Toronto Star 4 Nov. 1920: n. Pg. 2 Print.

Toronto Star 6 Nov. 1920 Print.

Ontario Census, 1861,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MQQ6-V4G : 8 November 2014), Cristenik Sutherland, Carrick, Bruce, Ontario, Canada; citing p. 4, line 18; Library and Archives Canada film number C-1010-1011, Public Archives, Toronto; FHL microfilm 349,251.

“Canada Census, 1871,” index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/M4QW-JX5 : accessed 30 Mar 2014), Christena Sutherland in household of Isabella Sutherland, Carrick, South Bruce, Ontario, Canada; citing p. 28, line 8; Library and Archives Canada film number C-9935, Public Archives, Ottawa, Ontario; FHL microfilm 4396334.

“Canada Census, 1881,” index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/MVFS-GNB : accessed 30 Mar 2014), Christina Sutherland in household of William Johnston, St-John’s Ward, Toronto (City), Ontario, Canada; citing p. 51; Library and Archives Canada film number C-13246, Public Archives, Ottawa, Ontario; FHL microfilm 1375882.

Canada Census 1911 Ontario, Toronto South, 38, Ward 4, page 16 Archives Canada.

Ontario Deaths, 1869-1937 and Overseas Deaths, 1939-1947, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JDT9-6H8 : 11 December 2014), Christina Sutherland, 05 Nov 1920; citing Toronto, York, Ontario, yr 1920 cn 8083, Archives of Ontario, Toronto; FHL microfilm 1,863,282.

Historical Walks through Carrick and Mildmay. Owen Sound, Ont.: Mildmay-Carrick Historical Society, 1989. 48-51. Print.

Plummer, Kevin. “Historicist: Those Vicious Devilish Machines.” N.p., 17 Jan. 2009. Web. 28 Feb. 2016.

Sutherland, William Harkness. Diary from January 1920 to December 1924. In possession of the author.

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