Tag Archives: Lesmahagow

Life and death on the farm

A few years ago, someone gave me a copy of the Hamilton family tree, starting with immigrant couple Robert Hamilton ((1789-1875) and his wife Elizabeth Stobo (1790-1853) and including up to six generations of their descendants.  Dates, places and occupations were not mentioned, however, and I wondered who these distant relatives were.  Fortunately, the Hamilton family is well documented on Ancestry.ca, however, the Scottish habit of using the same names over and over makes the task confusing.

Their health also interested me. A number of my direct ancestors died of heart disease, so I wondered whether my great-grandfather James Hamilton’s siblings also suffered from this condition.

In 1829, Robert and Elizabeth immigrated from the town of Lesmahagow, Lanarkshire to Scarborough, Canada West, now a suburb of Toronto, Ontario, where many of their friends and relatives also settled. When they arrived, their children – Elizabeth, Janet, Agnes, Robert, Margaret and James — were still young. Robert continued to practice his trade as a weaver, meanwhile reinventing himself as a farmer.

Settler Robert Hamilton, my great-great grandfather. Photo courtesy Fran Solar.

Elizabeth Stobo died at age 63, while Robert Hamilton lived to the ripe old age of 86. Two of his sisters also came to Canada, and both had long lives. Agnes Hamilton (1791-1878) and her husband Robert Rae and their four young children arrived in Ontario in 1832. Robert Rae was killed by a falling tree within weeks of their arrival, but Agnes and her children eventually purchased their own farm in Lambton County, Southwestern Ontario. According to her death record, Agnes died of “old age” at 87.

Robert’s younger sister, Janet Hamilton (1800-1882), married in Canada. Her husband, farmer John Martin, was originally from Dumfriesshire. John died at age 83 and Janet succumbed to “dropsy from heart disease.” at 81. The Martins had two sons and a daughter.

Scarborough Township had fertile soil and the Hamiltons must have enjoyed their new lifestyle because the next generation were all farmers. The 1861 census – 32 years after the family immigrated – showed that four of Robert’s children remained in Scarborough Township and neighbouring Markham, while the other two settled about 230 kilometers away in Southwestern Ontario. Eventually one branch of the family – mine – became pioneers again, this time moving to Western Canada.

Robert’s and Elizabeth’s eldest daughter, Elizabeth (1817-1894), married farmer William Oliver (c. 1814-1904), who was from Dumfriesshire. Around 1842, the couple settled in a part of Scarborough that did not yet have a road. They cleared the trees, built a two-story stone house and established a farm that became known for its beautiful flower garden. When they finally sold the property some 35 years later, it brought them more than $100 an acre! They retired to Agincourt, where Elizabeth died of cancer at age 76. They had no children.

In 1842, Janet Hamilton (1818-1897) married Robert Reid (1810-1880), who also came from Lesmahagow. They raised nine children on their farm in Markham. According to her death record, Janet died at age 79 of “old age and heart disease” and all of her sons and daughters died of stroke or heart disease between the ages of 49 and 89.

Robert Hamilton’s stone farmhouse in Agincourt, Scarborough. This photo was taken in the early 1940s. courtesy Alison Wright.

Agnes Hamilton (1821-1897) married Scarborough farmer James Green (c. 1816-1872) from Dumfriesshire and raised seven children. Agnes’s many grandchildren called her Nannie. When James and his family left Ontario, Agnes’s son James purchased his uncle’s Scarborough property. Agnes died of bronchitis at age 76.

Robert Hamilton (1824-1871) was a farmer like his father, but he left the Scarborough area for cheaper agricultural land in Bosanquet Township, Lambton County. This part of Southwestern Ontario, near the shores of Lake Huron, was opened to settlement in the 1830s, but development was hampered in the early years by a lack of roads. It remained rural, and farmers there grew primarily wheat and peas and raised pigs and cattle. Robert and his wife, Janet Smith (1824-1899), had five children. Shortly after being counted in the 1871 census, Robert died of typhoid fever at age 46. In the 1881 census, the widowed Jennet was listed as “female farmer,” living with her grown daughter and three sons. In many families, the oldest son would be counted as head of the family, but not in this one. Of their children, only James married, and some of his descendants still live in the area today. Robert, his wife and children are buried in Pinehill Cemetery, Thedford, Ontario.

Margaret Hamilton (1827-1891) married James Gordon (c. 1820-1903) and had seven children. They settled in Middlesex County, in Southwestern Ontario, around 1860 and farmed there for 22 years. After selling that property, they purchased a small garden farm. Margaret died at age 64 of angina. Descendants of this family also remain in Southwestern Ontario.

As for James Hamilton (1829-1885), after farming in Scarborough for more than 20 years, in 1882 he became a founding settler of Saskatoon, which at that time was an alcohol-free community of farms surrounding a tiny hamlet. His wife and family moved West the following year. In 1885, James travelled east to visit his relatives and he died there of a heart attack at age 56. He is buried beside his parents in St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Cemetery, Scarborough.

Thus I discovered that the first generation of my Scottish immigrant ancestors were farmers and that most enjoyed long lives, although heart disease made a frequent appearance in their death records. My great-grandfather was the outlier, leaving Ontario for the West long before any other members of the extended family did so. And while his sons went to university and became professionals, the majority of their cousins remained in farming for at least one more generation.

Notes: Here are some suggestions for researching this period of Ontario history.

Local organizations, such as the Scarborough Historical Society, are an invaluable resource.  See http://scarboroughhistorical.com.  Several books about the community mention Scarborough’s early settlers by name. See  The Township of Scarboro, 1796-1896, edited by David Boyle, Toronto, 1896 (http://www.archive.org/stream/cu31924028900970/cu31924028900970_djvu.txt) Also, The People of Scarborough: A History, by Barbara Myrvold, published by the City of Scarborough Public Library Board, 1997, gives a comprehensive overview of the community’s history. It is available online as a PDF from the Toronto Public Library.

Scottish baptismal records can be found on Familysearch.org. The image of this church document should be viewed on the Scotland’s People website. 

If you find your early Ontario ancestor on Ancestry, you will likely see links to other references to that person, although occasionally the link is to another person with a similar name, or to a son or daughter.

The original marriage documents contain identifying information such as the names of the parents of the bride and groom and occupations.

View census records to see where the family was living every ten years, the name of the current spouse, the names of the children living in the same household, and each person’s occupation. The 1901 census includes the day, month and year of each individual’s birth, although that date may not correspond with other records. (Census informants made mistakes.) City directories are also useful, although they only list the household head.

Ontario death records from this period can be found on Ancestry.ca by searching the database “Ontario Canada, Deaths and Deaths Overseas, 1869-1948.” Some women are listed under their married names, others under their maiden names. These death documents usually include the date and place of birth as well as the date, place and cause of death.

(This article is also published on http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.com.)

The Stobos of Lanarkshire

(This story is slightly complicated because of the similar names: generation one was Robert Stobo and his wife Elizabeth Hamilton; generation two was Elizabeth Stobo and her husband Robert Hamilton.)

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Avondale Parish Church, Strathaven, Lanarkshire. jh photo

The story of my two-times great-grandgrandparents’ move from Scotland to Canada is legendary in my branch of the Hamilton family. Robert Hamilton (1789-1875), a weaver from Lesmahagow, Lanarkshire, moved to Glasgow with his wife, Elizabeth Stobo (1790-1853), and children to earn money for the move to North America. They boarded a ship bound for New York in the spring of 1830, and reinvented themselves as farmers in Scarborough Township, Upper Canada.

In 2012, my husband and I visited Lesmahagow, about 20 miles south of Glasgow. We looked for my Hamilton ancestor’s grave in Lesmahagow parish cemetery, gazed at the sheep grazing on the rolling hillsides and breathed in the cool Scottish air. From Lesmahagow, we drove to Avondale Parish Church in nearby Strathaven, where Elizabeth Stobo was baptized in 1790, “lawful daughter of Robert in Braehead.” We also visited Stonehouse parish, where Elizabeth and Robert were married in 1816.

All I knew about Elizabeth’s background was her place of birth and her parents’ names, Robert Stobo and Elizabeth Hamilton. Recently, I delved into the Stobo family tree and came up with a few surprises, notably that Elizabeth’s father led the way to Canada when he was 60 years old, and that several of her siblings also immigrated.

Robert Stobo was probably born in Avondale parish on July 16, 1764, the son of James Stobo in Braehead. When he married Elizabeth Hamilton in 1789, the marriage proclamations were read at both Avondale Parish Church and at Dalserf Parish Church, the bride’s parish.

Robert and Elizabeth moved several times during their child-rearing years, although they did not leave a relatively small area in southern Lanarkshire. Their children’s baptismal records show they lived in Braehead in Avondale parish, Dalserf parish, and Auchren in Lesmahagow parish. According to a reference letter from their minister that they brought with them to Canada, they also lived in Stonehouse parish for about nine years before leaving Scotland.

The minister who baptized Robert’s daughter Janet in 1792 usually noted each father’s occupation in the parish register. On the page where Janet was listed were a labourer, a shoemaker, a servant and a weaver. Unfortunately, the minister did not mention Janet’s father’s occupation. Robert may have been a tenant farmer, or he may have worked in the lime kilns around Braehead. Lime was quarried in the region and burned in kilns before it could be used to improve soil for agriculture, or in mortar for building.

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Old St. Ninian’s Kirkyard, Stonehouse. jh photo

Meanwhile, the early years of the 19th century were difficult ones. The Scottish economy was experiencing a recession, the weather was poor and, if Robert was a farm labourer, wages were low.  Many families in lowlands Scotland, especially in Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire, were dependent on charity for survival. The government began offering assistance with travel costs to people who wanted to relocate to Canada. Perhaps Robert decided to take them up on the offer. The Stobo family left Lanarkshire in the spring of 1824.

The Stobos were one of the first families from Lanarkshire to arrive in Scarborough Township, settling on a piece of land near the Scarborough Bluffs overlooking Lake Ontario. Daughter Elizabeth and her family followed them to Scarborough six years later.

Robert Stobo was 60 when he started his new life in Canada, and his wife was 61. Several of their children were already adults, so some family members remained in Scotland while others left. According to “The Stobo Family: Scarborough, 1824 –“  (see note below) their children were:

Elizabeth, b. 25 June 1790; m. Robt Hamilton 15 April 1816, Stonehouse; d. 15 April, 1853, Scarborough. They had six children, the youngest of whom, James Hamilton, was my great-grandfather.

Janet b. 3 March, 1792, m. Coppy, d. 30 April 1816.  Her birth in Braehead, Avondale parish, is included on Scotland’s People, but I have not confirmed her marriage or her death.

Barbara, christened 14 March 1794, Dalserf parish; m. Borwick. The marriage information comes from The Stobo Family manuscript. Two genealogy entries on Familysearch.org say Barbara married Thomas Borwick, 22 October 1832, Scarborough Township.

James, b. 7 Feb. 1896, m. Jean Muir, Scotland. His date of birth is confirmed in Lesmahagow parish on Scotland’s People. Ancestry.ca lists James Stobo m. Jean Muir, June 1827, Culter, Lanark.

Robert, b. 3 Feb 1798, according to The Stobo Family manuscript, however, I have not found a church record of his baptism. According to The Stobo Family manuscript and a letter from William McCowan in Lesmahagow to his nephew Robert McCowan in Scarborough, dated 9 March, 1836, Robert Stobo jr. was probably lost at sea.

Helen, b. 6 February 1800, m. 1. James Stobo of Bog, m. 2. Neil McNeil. Her baptism in Lesmahagow is listed on Scotland’s People. Her marriage, 6 April 1823, to James Stobo, Stonehouse, and her marriage to Neil McNeil, 1 Sept. 1839, Stonehouse, are listed on Ancestry.ca. According to The Stobo Family, she had four sons, three whom remained in Scotland.

Margaret, b. 10 May 1805; m. Adam Carmichael. While her birth is recorded in the old parish records of Lesmahagow, I did not find a marriage record. The Stobo Family manuscript says she and Adam had several children. More research is needed.

Jean (Jane) b. 10 July 1807, Lesmahagow; m. 25 April 1834 Archibald Glendinning, Scarborough; d. 2 Sept, 1893, Scarborough. Archibald was a well-known farmer and merchant in Scarborough, and they had a large family.

John, b. 18 May 1811, Lesmahagow; m. 12 July 1836, Scarborough, Frances Chester; d. 16 May 1889, Scarborough. John was a farmer and had a large family.

See also:

From Lesmahagow to Scarborough, http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.ca/2013/12/from-lesmahagow-to-scarborough.html, posted Dec. 13, 2013, revised Dec. 27, 2016

The Glendinnings of Westerkirk, http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.ca/2016/12/the-glendinnings-of-westerkirk.html, posted Dec.3, 2016

The Missing Gravestone of Robert Hamilton and Janet Renwick, http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.ca/2015/10/the-missing-gravestone-of-robert.htmlposted Oct. 28, 2015, revised Dec. 27, 2016

Notes and sources

“The Stobo Family: Scarborough, 1824 –“  is a typed family tree manuscript by Stobo descendant Margaret Oke. It can be found in the Ontario Genealogical Society collection housed at the Toronto Reference Library. Mrs. Oke said the references used were family recollections, family bibles and census records in the National Archives (now Library and Archives Canada.) This document was originally prepared by Miss Ethel Glendenning (1880-1976), who was a United Church missionary in India for many years. Miss Glendenning gave it to Miss Marjorie Paterson (1901-1980), and Mrs. Oke transcribed it in 1986. I have used this tree as a starting point, checking the names and dates it gives with other sources including the Scotland’s People website, Ancestry.ca, and Familysearch.org.

The Stobo Family says Robert senior’s date of birth was 16 July 1764. Scotland’s People lists two Robert Stobos born in Avondale in 1764: one is the above individual, son of James, and the other was born 5 October 1764, son of Robert, but both index listings lead to the same image: son of James, born in July. The Stobo Family manuscript has proved accurate in all the dates I was able to verify, so the July date is probably correct.

I have not been able to find any information on Robert’s wife Elizabeth. The name Hamilton was very common in Lanarkshire.

This article is also posted on writinguptheancestors.blogspot.ca

 

 

The Missing Gravestone of Robert Hamilton and Janet Renwick

Robert Hamilton & Janet Renwick Gravestone imp

Writing a family history blog is a lot of work, but the effort is rewarding in many ways. Since I started writing my own blog and contributing to http://www.genealogyensemble.com, I have heard from several relatives I never knew I had. A distant relation in Australia is helping me break through a brick wall in Ireland. A researcher in Vancouver has provided information about a great-great aunt who moved there from Montreal. And a distant cousin in Ontario forwarded some of the letters our newly immigrated Hamilton ancestors sent home to Scotland.

Another breakthrough came through the kindness of the parish archivist in Lesmahagow, Scotland, hometown of those Hamilton ancestors. He ran across the article I posted about my three-times great-great grandfather Robert Hamilton, a tailor in the town Lesmahagow near Glasgow. Robert’s son and grandchildren left Scotland in 1829 and settled as farmers in what is now Scarborough, a suburb of Toronto. Robert, an elderly widower, stayed behind and died in Lesmahagow two years later.

My uncle did some research on the family in the 1950s and copies of the documents he collected eventually made their way into my hands. One of the items I acquired was a sketch of the parish cemetery in Lesmahagow, showing the location of the grave of Robert Hamilton and his wife Janet Renwick. When my husband and I visited in 2012, there was only grass in that spot, so I was delighted when the parish archivist recently emailed me a photograph of the missing Hamilton gravestone. The photo was taken in 1999. Since then, the stone must have fallen over and been covered by dirt, or perhaps it became unstable and had to be removed for safety reasons.

The text shown in the photo says: Erected in memory of Robert Hamilton tailor of Abbey Green who died 18th Nov. 1831, aged 77 years, and of Janet Renwick, his spouse, who died 2nd May 1821, aged 63 years, and of their son Archibald, who died in infancy.

Most Scots could not afford gravestones in those days, and I am sure the Hamiltons were no different. Tailors did not make much money. This is a nice big stone, and I suspect it was erected by family members many years later, perhaps with money sent to Scotland from the farm in Canada.

Lesmahagow churchyard

See also: Robert Hamilton, Tailor of Lesmahagow, http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.ca/2013/12/robert-hamilton-tailor-of-lesmahagow.html

This article is simultaneously posted on writinguptheancestors.blogspot.ca