Tuesday, 19 June 2012

A "Man Without A Story" No More: Part II

This is probably going to go down in history as the world's longest individual blog post. As always, if you have any comments, questions or new information (aka corrections!) feel free to contact me.

I must confess that I have struggled for a way to accurately represent Levi’s “life facts.”  I eventually decided that a timeline might be an effective way to get the ball rolling. My caveat here is that this is very much an ongoing and progressive timeline—insofar as I am continuing to work on it (off-line) and will update it as new information comes to light.
 In the meantime, I will also post insights and comments on the life and times of this early Waterloo County settler and long-time occupant of the 1820 log schoolhouse. 

What has continued to surprise me (and warm my heart) is how Levi has been mentioned by other notable (historic) citizens of the time who were his contemporaries, neighbours and (obviously) friends who remembered him and his family members fondly and with respect whenever they did speak of him.  And so, without further adieu:

LEVI CARROLL—A Preliminary and Approximate Timeline
                        (Timeline also includes related data on the schoolhouse and local history)

·         Born c. 1799-1805 Maryland Levi’s parents are listed as: father-- Russ/Ross Carroll and his mother-- Mary M. Sims
Note:  There were Sims listed in Wellesley township –the Queen’s Bush area—a possible family connection?  (Further research needed).

·         1807 Abraham Weber/Weaver arrives in Waterloo County, Lot 16 and establishes his homestead. This is the Abraham Weber who employs Levi some years later (timeline pending further research).
Note:  According to the Uttley record, Weber “presents” Levi with “a piece of land” for a garden and a cabin following an accident “in the bush”—is this where Levi loses his left leg? In an account years later, Jacob Stroh says Levi “owned several acres between his dwelling and Agnes Street.” King Edward school is located today at the corner of Agnes Street and King Street, Kitchener. Back then, when Levi was living here, this would have been known as “Greenbush.” 
·         August 24, 1814 Levi was still living in Maryland when Rear Admiral George Cockburn advanced on Washington, DC. Levi was known to have told a story of his childhood memory when his “owner/master” carried him away (when he was about 5-6 years old) and hid him in a large storehouse to protect him from the British.
·         1820 The log schoolhouse is built on land donated by Abraham Erb. 

·         1835-36 Levi’s son Charles is born. Creasia is listed as his mother.

·         1836-37 Female child Carroll is born.
Note: No name or official records found yet. See note on 1861 census records. 

·         c. 1830-45 Levi comes to the Waterloo County area as an escaped slave.
     Note:   As previously posted, the Underground Railroad was known to be active during this period (and in this area). As early as 1829-30, Paola Brown (formerly of Cincinnati, Ohio) led a group of fugitive slaves and free blacks to the Winterbourne, Ontario area (known as "Crooks Tract" in Woolwich Township) and founded a small colony there (more on this in an upcoming post). As this timeline pertains to Levi Carroll, Levi’s approximate date of arrival also corresponds to a statement issued by his Greenbush neighbour, Mr. Henry Bachman (a letter carrier) upon Levi’s death in 1897, whereby Mr. Bachman said that Levi came to the area (Berlin) "some 60 years ago."      

·         1842 The log schoolhouse is deemed too small and is moved to Berlin, Ontario (Greenbush area).
           February 22, 1846 Levi’s first known marriage.
Note: There is a listing for Levi and Creasia (Lucretia Brooks--some research suggests that her name may have been Brown). The Gore District Marriage Register shows John Low, Wesleyan Methodist minister performs the marriage by banns.  The register states that both (Levi and Creasia) were of Waterloo. Witnesses Samuel Moxley and Joseph Sowder. Creasia’s religion is listed as “Episcopal.”
            1851 census records- Listed Levi, age “30”, wife Creasia, age 50 and son Charles, born 1835-36 (aged 16).  Census says all 3 were born in the USA--- all listed as “Episcopal”. 
      Note: This is interesting not only because Levi is listed as being 20 years younger than Creasia at the point of their marriage but also assuming that Levi is Charles's father, Levi would have been, according to these dates, 14 when Charles was conceived. Clearly not particularly considering the estimate of his birth date at the time of his death and as recorded in other census records. Also, if Levi is Charles's father and if Creasia is Charles's mother then maybe Levi and Creasia were living together for years before being formerly married? Just a thought ...

           Between 1852-1854 Creasia dies-- No official death records found yet. TBD

·         Dec 17, 1854 - Levi marries Anna Emile Timlet , wife #2.
Note: Anna Emile was born c. 1825 so was around 29 when she was married (by Church Banns) by Rev. Wilhelm Friedrich Bindeman, a Greenbush neighbour of Levi’s. Marriage witnessed by Mary France and Rev. Bindeman, Berlin;  Anna Emile must have died before 1861 as she doesn’t appear in the census as having died during the previous year- 1860-61

                                                     Reverend Wilhelm Friedrich Bindeman

·         January 1, 1857 Waterloo incorporates as a “village.”

·         1861 census records Levi is listed as being a shinglemaker, and a widower. Along with him, there is only one child listed as living with him and one 24 year old female who had died in the past year.
        Children listed as living with Levi in 1861 census
1.       Female Child Carroll born c. 1836-37 (this may have been Creasia’s child and 
               would have been born right after Charles. This child is listed as having died 1860-61 (she
               would have been 24 just as the census lists). There is no mention of Charles who would
               have been c. 26 years old. Upon the death of Levi in 1897, Henry Bachman recalled that
               Levi said his son had been lost in a storm at sea many years before. Would this maybe   
               have been Charles? No records have been found yet.

Note #1: An interesting reminiscence about Levi's son Charles from Joseph Schneider's grandchildren—Louisa and her brothers, Samuel and David.  In later life they gave newspaper interviews regarding their childhood memories and they said that “Charly Carl” (sic) was Samuel and David’s friend with whom they used to play ball. Louisa recalled that they (her brothers) “really liked him” and that he attended school with them and was the only “coloured” (sic) boy in the school. They also said that” Charly” was teased by some of the other children.

Note# 2:  Something else that I have uncovered and find very thought provoking and certainly worthy of further investigation: two US military records for “Levi Carroll” aged 22 (not that far off from what Charles would be at this time), born in Frederick, Maryland who enlisted in the 19th regiment of the US Colored Infantry on December 31, 1863 for a period of 3 years. His height is listed as 5’6 ½ “and his occupation is “farmer.”
 What is most striking about this information is that this "Levi" Carroll's enlistment birthplace is a close match to that of Levi and that the name “Levi Carroll” for a black man born in Maryland would not have been that common. I personally think that this sounds like Charles may have gone back to fight in the Civil War perhaps in honour of his father, potentially taking his name to enlist. What is also striking is that there is a town in Maryland called after its founder, Carrollton (a white Charles Carroll who did own slaves BUT was very sympathetic to abolition. Charles Carroll was a signatory ("signer") of the Declaration of Independence and therefore an historic figure of significant note. Remember Levi’s story of being protected at a tender age by his owner........? This may also explain where Charles was when the census was taken (in the US) and why he would not be listed as living with Levi. Also, the time period fits, too. Food for thought.

For more information on Charles Carroll, the founder of Carrollton, MD see: 

2.       Elisabeth Ann Carroll born 1852-53

Note # 1:   Presumably Anna Emile Timlet and Levi’s baby since Creasia would have been around 51-52 when this birth occurred and we know that Creasia died somewhere between 1852-54--unless Elisabeth Ann's listed birthdate is "off".  We know that Levi married Anna Emile Timlet in 1854 according to the marriage certificate so perhaps Elisabeth’s birth occurred just before the marriage OR if the dates are off, maybe Anna Emile died in childbirth AFTER the marriage. Another theory is that Anna Emile was really only 24 when she died (and that her birth date estimate is wrong and not c. 1825) insofar as it was she who potentially was the female who died in 1860 at the age of 24.  A death of a female someone, 24 years old,  is registered as having taken place the previous year (1860) due to a "p.sore throat"—strep? Elisabeth Ann is listed as 8 yrs old and as attending school.  Was the 24 year old who died Elisabeth Ann’s mother or sister who died? No records yet to prove any of these scenarios so  with further research pending, results to be determined...

Note # 2: In the 1861 census, another family is listed as living with Levi in the log house: a Henry Scott (blacksmith, 37) and a Mary Scott (22), both Wesleyan Methodist. Levi is listed as Episcopal Methodist.  All are listed as being able to read and write.

·         October 1, 1861 Levi marries wife #3: Margaret Moore Johnston (her parents Robert Moore and Senty Huston from the Queen’s Bush, Peel Township and her first husband was James Johnston, born c. 1822 and was of the Queen’s Bush area). He was 56 and she was 39, born in Montreal, Quebec, about 1822.
                  Children Listed as living with Levi:
                   Emiline Johnston “Caroll” born 1854-55(Levi’s stepdaughter, would have been 6-7 yrs)                    John Carrol born 1865-66 (Levi’s son presumably by Margaret)

·         1868 The town of Berlin buys two acres of land from John Hoffman (a self-made man and local political figure who owned a great deal of land in both Waterloo and Berlin--more on him in upcoming posts) in order to establish a municipal (Mount Hope) Cemetery.

Note:  In 1871 Berlin purchases an additional 10.5 acres from him to expand the cemetery (which is really two cemeteries-- the newer one as a Roman Catholic cemetery that was originally operated by Sacred Heart Church and the original (older one) that was located where modern day Grand River Hospital and KCI High School are. This would have also been near where the 1820 log schoolhouse or Levi’s “cabin” was located). As early as 1855 the first Mount Hope Cemetery (originally called Greenbush Cemetery) is listed on the map of Waterloo and was considered to be a protestant cemetery. In 1871 the Ontario legislation regarding schools changed, allowing for upper level grammar schools to become known as “high schools”. Around 1872 transfer of burials from the older Mount Hope Cemetery to the newer section began to take place.
·         1871 census records  Levi, labourer-68, Margaret- 53 and Emiline-16. Religion is listed for all as “Methodist” 
            1876 Waterloo is incorporated as a “town.” Berlin High School (modern day KCI) also opens and as noted in the picture of Levi and his family is seen in the background.

·         1881 census records  Children living with Levi, Margaret and Emiline:  Melissie (9 in the 1881 census) and Bismark (5 in the 1881 census).  Emiline is listed as being 27 years old.  
Note: So here is a good question: whose children are Melissie and Bismark? Are they Levi and Margaret’s children or are they Emiline’s? If they are Emiline’s, who is the father?

·         April 14, 1884 Emiline marries James Aylestock/Aylestook, 40, from Elmira, born in USA (who listed his occupation as a barber).
Note: His mother was listed as being Sally Aylestook (sic),” born in slavery”. The marriage certificate says that James did not know his father’s name.   It is also interesting to note that her mother, Margaret, is NOT a witness at her wedding. Levi is listed as a witness along with “Elisabeth Thompson”.  The marriage took place in Berlin and was by license.

·         1886 Emiline and James had a son, William James-- born March 4, 1886
Note:  It is interesting to note that in the 1900 NY census somes years later, it states that James was born in June of 1884 (see below- 1900 NY census)

·         October 21, 1886 Death certificate registered in Toronto, Ontario on October 26, 1886 for a Charles David Carroll, aged 55
Note: I am not entirely sure that this is the same Charles Carroll (Levi’s son) but the name fits and the death certificate does state that this gentleman was “negro,” was the age of Levi’s son Charles and that he had been born in the US. It states that he died as a result of heart disease and paralysis (doctor’s notation was that the duration of illness was seven weeks). He had been employed as a waiter and his religious affiliation was Methodist. A (probable/possible) match?

·         September 1, 1890 The town of Waterloo, along with the assistance of the Board of Trade, acquires/purchases Jacob Eby’s 60 acre farm ( some sources say 65 acres) to build its first park (today Waterloo Park originally named “West Side Park”) from Jacob Eby’s widow, Elizabeth, for $74.00 an acre.

·         Feb 19, 1890 Margaret Johnston Carroll dies.

·         1891 census records List Levi, Emiline and William as the only ones living in the schoolhouse.  
Note:  Presumably James Aylestock must have died. No mention of the other two children: Melissie or Bismark, either.

·         1891 Levi, “having fallen on hard times since the death of his wife”, enters the House of Refuge along with Emiline and William.

·         August 7, 1893 Waterloo (West Side) Park opens.

·         1894 The Park Board purchases the 1820 schoolhouse (largely through the efforts of Isaac Erb Bowman who was a member of the Park Board of Management). 

·         1894 the log schoolhouse is moved to Waterloo Park

·         July 15, 1897 Levi Carroll (Karl) dies at noon in the House of Industry (poorhouse)-obituary published in the “Weekly News-Record”.

Note:  I found it interesting that Levi’s obituary is published twice. Once on the day of his death and again a few days later, listing him as someone known to “most citizens” of the area.

·         September 1, 1897 Willam Aylestock is discharged from the House of Industry at age 11
Note: William is possibly taken in by family in the Glen Allan area since a Wellington County Museum biography of the Aylestock family says that William was the only child on the 200 acre farm he grew up on but I have not yet found documents to confirm this as of yet. What is known is that William’s dad, James Aylestock, was indeed related to people from Wellesley area so this seems like a reasonable assumption.  

·         1900 census for NY state shows William, aged 16, listed as a servant in Brooklyn, NY.
Note:  The census lists his date of immigration as 1898. It certainly was not uncommon for people to go back and forth to the States during this time period. William would have been about 14 when he went. This same census has stroked out his age of 16 and written 15 beside it. His date of birth is also different: the Canadian birth record states that he was born March 4, 1886. This record says June 1884.

·         1909 William Aylestock, back in Canada, marries Jemima Ridella Lawson-“ Minnie”  (from Glen Allan). They eventually had 8 children. 5 of them were born in Glen Allan, Ontario and the last 3 were born in Lebanon, Ontario (just outside of Listowel, Ontario).

·         1943 Emiline dies in the House of Refuge of a heart attack. Body claimed by Hunter Keffer.
Note:  I will be posting more over time about the descendants of the Aylestock family. Several descendants of note (and incidentally Levi Carroll’s step-great granddaughters) was Addie Aylestock who became the first ordained woman minister of the BME and the first African-Canadian woman minister in Canada. Her sister, Rella Aylestock Braithwaite, an accomplished and celebrated writer/researcher of African-Canadian history, had a daughter, Levi's step-great great granddaughter Diana Braithwaite. Ms. Braithwaite is a  well known Rhythm and Blues musician who is responsible for the "Underground Railroad Music Festival" held at Glen Allan, Ontario in August each year. For more information on the festival, see: 

1967 William Aylestock dies in Listowel, Ontario at age 81
More, then, on this fascinating family (ancestors and descendants) in future posts...

Monday, 18 June 2012

A little Detour for Historic Maps, as Promised

As requested, here are several historic maps of the area for perusal:

Village of Waterloo, 1855

It is interesting to note that our little 1820 log schoolhouse, having moved by this point (in 1842) to its location in Greenbush (adjacent to modern day Kitchener Collegiate, KCI) is not immediately identifiable however we can make a guess as to where it was.

 If you look at the right hand side of the map, you will see Mt. Hope Cemetery. This is the 1st Mt Hope Cemetery, not the present day one that is located on Moore Street in Kitchener (behind Central Meat Market grocery store). It was originally called "Greenbush Cemetery" (--more on this in an upcoming post). At any rate, this Mt Hope Cemetery location is where the present day Grand River Hospital is located on King Street and across from Pine Street (see map). Modern day KCI, then, is located just up the street from there (heading toward Kitchener it would be about a block or so up the street to the right of Grand River Hospital (Mount Hope Cemetery on the 1855 map). In the picture of Levi and the schoolhouse we know that it was taken in front of and to the side of the old Berlin High School (KCI). This being the case then, it must certainly have been one of the buildings that are marked above the notation on the map: "To The Grand Trunk Railway." Now looking at the picture of Levi and the map, my guess is that it is one of the clump of three buildings (two others are off-set and further on)--and if I am to go out on a limb, I believe that the schoolhouse (Levi's house)  is the one located at the bottom right hand side of the triangle of the three buildings. I say this because Levi's picture shows a house (building with a chimney) to the right of it and in back of it and another dwelling to the left and in back.
Village of Berlin, 1853-4

An interesting note here: at the bottom left and corner of the map, you can see Joseph Schneider's house and even the sawmill is noted. (for more information on Joseph Schneider and the museum, see link at right).

Berlin, 1881

This one appears as if it is on its side but when you read it, it is actually right-side up. An interesting view of how things changed for Berlin about 27 years after the 1853-4 map, above.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

A "Man Without A Story" No More: Part I

Levi Carroll first shows up in the 1851 census for Berlin, ON. The listing shows Levi “Carrol”, his wife “Creasia” and his son, Charles. Further investigation has uncovered Creasia’s full name to be Lucretia Brooks Carroll. In the census, their ages are listed as follows: Levi ,30; Creasia, 50 and Charles, 16. Their religion is listed as “Episcopal”. It says that all originated from the United States—no state listing at this point although other records indicate that he was born in Maryland, USA., in 1805. His father's name is listed as Russ/Ross Carroll and his mother is listed as Mary M. Sims. But I digress....

Now, I do believe that Levi’s age here is a glaring mistake and I shall attempt to prove it—herein lies the frustrating pitfalls of research and historic truth sleuthing---and occasional trips down the rabbit hole. This endeavour is not for the faint of heart and requires great patience since 1+1 does not always add up to 2...

Nonetheless, here we go:

Later censuses record advancing ages for Levi : in the 1861 census, 54!—quite a jump from 30 ten years before; in 1871, his age has clearly been written over so it is either 48 or 68 (let’s go with 68—read on...); in 1881, Levi is listed as being 76 and finally in 1891, his age is 92! Whew!  

Not to be discouraged, I uncovered an interesting account that was printed in a local newspaper which might be of some help to us in determining at least an approximation of Levi’s real age. Either way, it illuminates the fact that although some records were clearly not always accurate, recounted memories of childhood trauma might sometimes be more helpful when trying to determine a timeline for events in peoples’ lives.

 In the late 1890’s-- July 22, 1897 to be exact-- following Levi’s death on July 15, 1897 a correction to his obituary was printed in the Weekly Record-News. In this correction, Mr. Henry Bachman, a mail carrier who knew Levi “Karl” quite well and was a neighbour who had lived beside him in Greenbush, claimed that the obituary incorrectly stated that Levi was a centenarian (was 100 years old) when he died. To prove his point, Mr. Bachman recounted a story that Levi had told to him:

...Though generally reputed to be a centenarian...the figures of history would hardly bear out this statement, according to narratives related by Karl, himself, about his boyhood days. He was born in slavery and stated he remembered quite distinctly when the British, under Rear Admiral Cockburn, worsted the Americans and advanced upon Washington. He relates (sic) the fact of being carried away by his master and hidden away in a large storehouse to escape from the British. As he was only 5 or 6 years old at the time, he could hardly have reached the century mark...

Historically, this is a traceable event. Rear Admiral George Cockburn was known to have advanced on Washington on August 24, 1814. If (and I do say if since it is a well known fact that many slaves did not know their exact year of birth, let alone their day of birth or month) Levi had been 5 or 6 during this time, this would have meant that he would have been born around 1808-09 (not too far off the 1805 date) and would have been closer to his late eighties or early nineties when he died. Hard to say for sure, I suppose.

What is more interesting to me, here, though was that Levi remembered that his master carried him away to somewhere safe during the invasion.  This indicates an arguably "fond" memory of a man who “owned” him—perhaps more “fatherly” than an "owner" or "master"?

Bachman does say that Levi came to the area about 60 years ago (from 1897--c. 1837 during a point which the Underground Railroad was active). Bachman says that when Levi  “first came into this vicinity he was engaged by (in the employ of) a Weaver family, who presented him with the land near the High School, on which he lived many years.”  Clearly this is the land (Greenbush) where the schoolhouse was relocated to in 1842.  Records indicate this "Weaver" was Abraham Weber whose Conestoga wagon is preserved today at The Region of Waterloo Museum in Doon (Kitchener).

Weber, having arrived here in 1807, along with Joseph Schneider of modern Joseph Schneider Haus fame, owned lot 16 of the German Company Tract just north of where the Via rail train tracks (Victoria Street in Kitchener) are today. 

The story is further corroborated. In 1937, William Valores Uttley or “Ben”, as he was more commonly known, wrote a book entitled, “A History of Kitchener, Ontario (Canada)”.  Uttley was a respected journalist and owned three local newspapers. In his book, he wrote about Levi on page 13:

The pioneer hired a Negro named Carroll. Once while working in the bush, the darkey (sic) broke an arm or leg. Mr. Weber then gave the injured man a piece of land for a cabin and a garden.”    
Clearly, Levi was accepted into his new community and was a contributing member. Several of the censuses listed refer to him as a labourer. One says he was a tile worker and other says he was a gardener.  No doubt he was all of these things. And perhaps, like many today, he changed jobs frequently to “get by” as best as he could.

Numerous written accounts say that he raised vegetables in his garden, referring most specifically to potatoes and corn. In “Reminiscences of Berlin (Now Kitchener)” there is mention by Jacob Stroh (the same guy who donated/lent the native grindstones to Waterloo Park that now sit in front of the schoolhouse. More about those in a future post). I just LOVE how these stories keep overlapping back onto each other!

Well, Stroh tells us that Levi was a “one legged ex-slave from the Southern States” who lived in the schoolhouse for a number of years. Stroh says that Carroll “owned several acres between his dwelling and Agnes Street.” He points out that the land was not plowed according to the Pennsylvania German fashion but rather was cultivated by Carroll with a long handled hoe only, planting corn year to year so that it looked like “a plantation field from the south.”  We also know that the land adjacent to Carroll's was a potato field.

Remember this photo? A closer look reveals cabbages growing, as well. Also, Levi's left leg is a wooden or "peg" leg prosthesis, providing credence to Stroh's story about him:

This picture has a lot to reveal to us about the schoolhouse, Levi and the surrounding area. I will be referring to it from time to time as I continue to discover more each and every time I really look at it.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Black History and Black Holes of Information

Levi Carroll continues to be a fascinating character-- especially in the month of February. 

Once a year, in honour of Black History Month, local newspapers are known to pay tribute to Levi as the former slave who lived for an extended period of time in the 1820 log schoolhouse at a time when it found new life in a new location where it was re-purposed as a family residence. More often than not, the one known photograph of Levi and his family accompanies said articles. Perhaps more poignantly, however, few facts about this gentleman are actually mentioned and are usually punctuated by a caveat that “little is known” about him (or other early black settlers to the area—especially those who lived in the Waterloo Region during the 19th century).

This particular story ALWAYS has tugged at my heartstrings--- that a man could be discussed, annually, as a historic icon for local Black History and yet few actual details of his life were ever included in the newspaper accounts. To me, it seemed that Levi was a man “without a story” in that his only claim to fame seemed to be that he had been some former slave who had lived in a well recognized regional historic building. It seemed flat, not personal—like the history we didn’t like as children where you memorized a bunch of dates, names and facts and then regurgitated them for tests. The humanity always seemed to be missing—as in, who were these people and how did they REALLY live their daily lives? 

 As an academic and trained researcher, this just wasn’t good enough for me so I went on a search---one that has taken me over five years now—to uncover as much as I could about the log schoolhouse so I could tell its story--a biography of the schoolhouse, so to speak. In so doing, it wasn’t long before I became captivated by Levi Carroll and began to follow the threads of his story, too. Yes, records are scattered here and there but if you know (or can guess) where to look you would be amazed at what some patience and a little time can yield in the way of solid information. Yes, it is true that names are often misspelled, dates may not correspond and people disappear in subsequent records (either die, marry and change names or leave the area) but if you are diligent, there are records that do exist even if they are not complete. 

Some cultures are excellent record keepers whereas others--not so much. In the case of black history, especially slave history, records are very difficult to track down. More often than not, only one name may exist for a slave in a ledger book of accounts--such as a first name or nickname--or perhaps, as was most common, the slave may have the owner's last name and be listed as "chattel" that may be sold or transferred upon the death of the owner to his heirs. For the early African slaves, many names were changed once they were sold ("Christianized" by traders or owners) whereby their original African tribal names disappeared. Record keeping regarding black slaves, then, until regular census-taking occurred in the mid-1800's, was more individualized and were usually found in bills of sale or transfer, wills, ledgers, etc. Sometimes, however, other means of gathering information can be quite fruitful, if nonetheless unconventional: legal interactions--e.g. arrests, etc.--are often reported in newspapers of the time.  Other times, church records can be of use. It just depends.

Throughout this project, I have had the pleasure to make the acquaintance of fellow history sleuths (many of whom are academics like myself—others are heritage professionals, archivists, librarians, genealogists, historians and even museum researchers).  I have often received as much information as I have tried to share.  Facts continue to be discovered as new leads are followed but the best part is that I can now tell you some of Levi’s story as I have come to know him.