Tuesday 26 February 2013

Levi Carroll: The Tenant Had Tenants in the 1820 Log Schoolhouse

Black History Month is nearly over and in its honour, I would like to take another journey into the Queen’s Bush—well, sort of...

I originally started this blog in order to highlight local settlement history within the Region of Waterloo, beginning with the “untold” history associated with one of the Region’s most recognizable built heritage icons: the 1820 log schoolhouse that is presently located in Waterloo Park. My intent was always to move around the Region and focus on different people and their stories over time. It seems that the more I research the more I realize that the local social history keeps wrapping back onto itself.  What I am trying to say is that I often start to research one person or story and then realize I am really just expanding on an earlier story. The one story becomes “our Regional story” in many ways.  In fact, our area is indeed unique because we were first (permanently) settled by white Pennsylvania German Mennonites who came here in groups of families that were well provisioned and well-prepared for the harsh life ahead. They did not settle as individuals—they brought their community with them—their extended families. They were a tight knit, faith-based group that was also highly entrepreneurial—even though they were primarily farmers.  Prior to their arrival, the First Nations people (the Mississaugas) cultivated seasonal gardens and hunted for wild game in the vast forests that surrounded the Region. In the early days of settlement, the two groups co-existed in a mutually beneficial existence—trade and barter was the early means of economic survival and success for these groups, post contact. The Region began as a multicultural community right from the start.
The Mennonites, as pacifists, were also against slavery and often employed the incoming runaway slaves as farm labourers at a time when other settlement areas were not as friendly or welcoming to the blacks. The Mennonites were also known to help the blacks to survive by providing seed, food and other supplies. And as I have posted before, life was particularly hard for the ex-slaves—especially those who settled in the Queen’s Bush/Peel Township/Wellesley area---and many eventually left the area. For those who stayed, evidence suggests that there was a broader black community of individuals who regularly interacted with one another between local towns and rural communities (e.g. Waterloo, Berlin/Kitchener and the Queen’s Bush), regardless of geographical distance. This tells me that the early black settlers in Waterloo Region had strong ties to each other in much the same way as the Mennonites did. Even though they may not have started out as an extended family, it would appear that in many ways they developed an ad hoc extended family of sorts, over time.   

My current story involves our old friend, Levi Carroll, the former black slave who lived in the 1820 log schoolhouse in the mid to late 1800’s and is a return to an earlier post about him.  Levi had strong ties to a number of residents who lived in and around the Queen’s Bush area and so I present one more post to Levi Carroll’s legacy as it pertains to the 1820 log schoolhouse AND the Queen’s Bush Black Settlers....

For one thing, making a living in the 19th century wasn’t easy for whites or blacks although it was particularly difficult for blacks. To exemplify this, Levi ‘s occupations throughout the census records varied from labourer to shingle maker to gardener. As a man who was disabled (he had lost the lower half of his right leg), his options for employment would have been even more limited. As a man of meagre means, no doubt Levi would have found it a challenge to meet his financial obligations. What if Levi was also a landlord?

This might truly be a bit of a stretch but hear me out.

At one point actually, Levi had at least two tenants or “roomers” who lived with him and his family in the former log schoolhouse. We have evidence that Levi was most likely renting the house during the time that he lived there and most of the censuses list him as living only with family members (those with the same last name as his). That is, with the exception of the 1861 Berlin census. The 1861 Canadian census for “the incorporated village of Berlin in the county of Waterloo” records the inhabitants of the house thus:

Levi (Labourer, age 54)—no mention of his marital status. Rather, it is left blank (which is interesting).
Elisabeth Ann Carroll (child, age 8)—listed as attending school and, of course, single
Henry Scott (Blacksmith, age 37)—listed as married
Mary Scott (age 22)—listed as married

**Note: all four are delineated with an “N” for negro. One other notation for Levi is that a female living in his household, aged 24, died sometime during the previous year from a “P. Sore Throat.” (I mentioned this particular fact in an earlier post). Looking back, there are a number of archaic medical terms which seem to be confusing to the modern understanding of disease in the 19th and early 20th century. The explanation of this condition will sound rather nasty as indeed it is/was: “a putrid sore throat.”  Historically this ailment was commonly associated with Scarlatina, a Staphylococcal infection known today as the bacteria which cause Strep throat (or even Strep throat with a rash or “Scarlet Fever”). At its worst, it is a condition that is an ulcerative form of infection that attacks the tonsils down into the throat. In some historic medical records, a putrid sore throat condition was also associated with complications arising from severe Diptheria. In the 19th century, this was a dire and deadly disease. Today, by contrast, this is an easily treatable disease since we have antibiotics that can be prescribed following diagnosis.  It is, however, so easy for us to forget that modern antibiotics really weren’t widely available until 1942 when penicillin was finally was sold as a medicine.  As scientific research advanced in the 19th century along with it came the serious search for antibiotic remedies. It was not until 1924, that Sir Alexander Fleming discovered that the Staphylococcus Aureus bacterium --the cause of Strep Throat— could be killed with a mould known as “Penicillium Notatum.”  Following his discovery, it still took years of development and research before Fleming and two other researchers, Howard Florey and Ernst Chain, finally shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine for their work to successfully refine and manufacture the drug, Penicillin.

Having worked for years in the Public History field, I am always squeamish when visitors remark how they “would have loved to live “back then” as times were so much simpler”—well, I am here to tell you that if you have ever had an antibiotic for anything, then you may well not have made it if you lived “back then” since, as I have pointed out, no antibiotics were available and many people succumbed to their infection. But I digress.....

The question remains: Who was this woman, living with Levi in the schoolhouse, who died at the tender age of 24? We do not know for certain—but whoever she was, she was close in age to 22 year old Mary Scott (see above), wife of Henry Scott, a blacksmith. Was the woman who died related in some way to Mary Scott? Was she her sister or close friend? Well, we may never know but some interesting facts emerge as to who Mary Scott was, where she came from and who her family was that eventually overlaps again back to Levi in an interesting turn of events...

At the time of her marriage to Henry Scott, Mary was still listed as being 22 years old. Her marriage record indicates that she and Henry were married on October 29, 1860 by the good Reverend F.W. Bindeman (remember him—the “marrying” preacher who was also a neighbour of Levi’s in Greenbush)? Depending on the date the census was compiled, Mary may not have yet reached her next birthday. Nonetheless, we know by this record that Henry, (age 36 when they married and born in North Carolina) had been a resident of Brantford (“Brandford” sic) prior to his marriage. His parents were listed as Jackson Scott & Mary Gelks—where they were living at this time is not known. What we do know is that his occupation is listed as “blacksmith.” In a time when many blacksmiths were rural tradesmen (many Mennonite farmers had side trades, for example) with little to no formal training, it is hard to say whether Henry was formally trained or not.  I have not yet found a record for him working for anyone in a local business nor have I found a record of him as a business owner so where he worked as a blacksmith is unknown at this point. It is also quite likely that since he and his new bride were living with Levi, his resources were limited. No doubt their living arrangement was mutually beneficial (if temporary) as in it would help both men keep a roof over their families’ heads by sharing the costs of accommodation.  

Mary’s lineage, thankfully, is a bit more clear than Henry’s. Mary’s maiden name was “Lawson” and she is listed as being both a resident of Berlin, ON and as the daughter of Dangerfield Lawson and Elisabeth Harris. Dangerfield (also spelled “Dengerfield Lason” sic) was a resident of the Queen’s Bush.

Dangerfield Lawson had an interesting story. The Peel Township Census of 1851 states that Dangerfield was born in Virginia in 1806 although family tradition claims that he lived in Hagerstown, Maryland (where he escaped from slavery at 16).  There is also a story that he had been captured by his owner following his first escape.  Following a fight between them, Dangerfield apparently strangled his owner before meeting up with some abolitionists who helped him to come to Canada. In 1844, he came to Peel Township (the Queen’s Bush) and settled on the western half of lot 17, concession 7.  The same 1851 census records him as being married but the only female that is listed as living in his household at the time is 18 yr. old Molly Ann Lawson who is noted as being single, not married. In fact, she is the only other person that is listed as a member of his household in 1851.  Linda Brown-Kubisch speculates that he must have died sometime prior to the 1861 census as he was not listed at all. What I find interesting here is that the name "Molly" is also a common nickname for either Mary or Margaret. Was this Molly Ann the same person as Mary Lawson? The age is off unless the Mary Lawson that married Henry Scott was really older than 22 (accordingly she would have been 28 when she married Henry if her age was really 18 during the 1851 census) or younger than 18 in the 1851 census.  Although there are Harrises living in Peel Township at this time, I could not identify one of them specifically as the Elizabeth Harris who was listed as Mary’s mother on her marriage certificate.

Linda Brown-Kubisch lists several children for Dangerfield: Henry Dangerfield Lawson (b. 1838-41), William (b. 1843) and a younger sister named Elizabeth. In 1861, Henry Lawson and his two younger siblings were living with a Rev. Samuel H. Brown, a black man who was noted as being one of the oldest residents in the Peel Township area and “for many years, preacher of the negroes who lived there” (for more information see: http://generations.regionofwaterloo.ca/getperson.php?personID=I243053&tree=generations ).  Reverend Brown was one of the ministers for the African Methodist Church (also known as the “Negro Church”) and was also the owner of the land on which the church was built (East ½ Lot 16, Concession 4, Peel Township). 

 Remember this photo? The church property included a small cemetery. The last services to be held there were about 1918.

FYI: Ministers of the African Methodist Church, Peel Township were:
1838-1839 William Raymond
1843 Fidelia Coburn (see earlier post and photo via "labels link")
1845 Elias E. Kirkland
1846 John S. Brooks
1847 Melville Denslow
1850 Thomas Vipond
1851 Matthew Swann
1851-1853 Samuel Brown

Linda Brown-Kubisch (incidentally, no relation to Rev. Brown) does tell us that Henry and William Lawson worked for Rev. Brown as farm labourers on his 100 acre farm (Lot 16, Concession 4, Peel Township). In 1871, Henry eventually took a wife, Sophia, and continued to work as a farm labourer in the community. Together they raised a large family: Ellen Jane, Sophia, Agnes, Hannah, Henry, James, Jacob, Herbert and Phillip.  The house they rented was situated next door to Henry Lawson’s brother William’s 50 acre farm (Lot 15, Concession 5, Peel Township). William married a woman named Mary Ann Cromwell and they also raised a large family of 8 children: Major D., John Alexander, Emma Victoria, Arbery Dia, Flossie, Rueben, Jemima Ridella and Mabel. 

Well, this story comes nearly full circle—remember Levi Carroll’s step-daughter Emiline Johnston Carroll whose mother, Margaret Johnston Carroll was from the Queen’s Bush area? Well Emiline’s son, James William Aylestock (who spent time in the Berlin Poor House before being released) was raised, according to family tradition, on a farm in the Glen Allan (Peel Township/Queen’s Bush area). When he grew up, he married Jemima Ridella Lawson (March 11, 1909).

So to re-cap as this is a bit confusing: In 1861, Levi shares his home (rents?) in Berlin, ON with Henry and Mary Scott. Mary Scott, formerly of Peel Township, is the aunt of Jemima Ridella Lawson who lives in the Queen’s Bush and who eventually becomes the wife of Levi’s step-grandson, James William Aylestock, from Berlin, ON. Incidentally, just to complicate things further, James Aylestock's family (i.e, James William Aylestock's father) were also from the Glen Allen/Peel Township area of the Queen's Bush.....

I intend to keep researching these inter-community connections and will post what I find. Until then, Happy Black History Month, Waterloo Region!  Levi, this one was for you....

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