The Other Brother

I remember listening to a genealogy speaker who said there are always three brothers…I have found three such brothers – Cornelius, Edward and Michael McMahon. But I found an unknown fourth brother and I have discovered why none of us knew about #4.

Researching my McMahon family has been amazing, I have connected with family members who have shared pictures, family stories, and information. The McMahon’s knew there were three brothers that immigrated to Canada until I came along and found out more. 

Brother number four, John McMahon,  appears in the 1861 census living with his oldest Cornelius, his wife and children. This census does not include family relationships which meant it took a little more research to figure out the family connections. John next shows up living with brother Edward’s family in the three subsequent census’s for Normanby, Grey Co., Ontario. And if you scroll all the way over on the 1871 census for Canada you will find a heading, Deaf & Dumb, and a tick mark on the box for John. And no, that is not the reason the family forgot about John. What we have learned is that John was born in 1846 in Ireland and the McMahon family left a few years later. John’s mother died on the journey over, or once the family arrived in Canada according to accounts passed down through the family.

Life must not have been easy to be a deaf mute in that time. John was considered quite intelligent and used sign to communicate. It was probably a big help to his brother Edward having another grown man and an extra set of hands to help out on the farm. 

Records from the Archives of Ontario have uncovered more about John’s story. A search on their website for “John McMahon” did not bring in any answers but when I did a search for “McMahon, John” I was led to a page that had a record for a John McMahon being charged with wounding with intent in Grey Co.

In 1894 things turned ugly in the McMahon house. A later account tells of how things had been escalating the last few years. John had started attacking his brother Edward and some of Edward’s children for no apparent reason. It all came to a head when John grabbed a block of wood from the wood pile and hit his brother Edward over the head when his back was turned. Edward’s wife Bridget intervened when she heard Edward call out. Edward survived the attack but had had enough with the erratic behavior and was concerned for the well-being for his family and called the local police. John was placed under arrest and was assessed by a doctor. He was declared not insane. I know John was sent to jail but I was unsure what happened to him.

More information on John was discovered through Michael Stephenson’s Ontario and Upper Canada Genealogy and History site. Michael has created numerous indexes to not-so-common Ontario resources. If you find a name in the index, Michael will look up the record and mail it to you for a fee.

When I searched through the  Hamilton Asylum index, a John McMahon appeared. I emailed Michael a request for the full record and I sent off the cheque to cover his look up fee, yesterday the record arrived in the mail. 

The record included a history of John’s behavior, a Doctors assessment, a second Doctors assessment, an entry from his date of admission, and entries explaining his behavior for the years 1895-1902, 1904 & 1907. Honestly, this is more information than I have on other family members during this time. The history explained the change in John’s behavior, it started in 1889 when he was struck on the head by a limb falling from a tree. This injury prompted a shift in his behavior, he started to become violent and easily agitated. He made threats and even attacked members of the family.

He is found on the 1901, 1911 and 1921 censuses as a patient in this institution. He spent 31 years living out his life at the Asylum, where the fairly detailed records indicate he helped out in the bakery. It is also noted that he was tidy, healthy, quiet, cheerful, and a good worker. 

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entry in John McMahon’s records made by Dr. Manley, unknown date

I found a photograph of the Asylum on the McMaster’s University website along with a wonderful explanation about the facility.

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Hamilton Psychiatric Asylum via the McMaster’s University web page

John was involved in one incident that was noted in the records, in 1899 he wandered off (escaped?) but this was the month of December and he made it as far as Clappison’s Corner where he was found by a farmer and returned to the Asylum. He suffered severe frostbite and had to have his toe amputated and had facial paralysis for a time due to exposure.

John died in the Asylum in 1925 at the age of 80, and likely none of the McMahon family knew of his passing. He is buried at the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in East Flamborough, Wentworth Co., Ontario.

So this time there were four brothers.

If you think you have a relative that may have stayed at one of the institutions in Ontario the Ontario Archives gives a good description of the records they have on their website.

JAMES STEWART – His History

His Life

From Ontario To British Columbia 

 

James Stewart Hedley, B.C. c1915


James Stewart was a broad-shouldered stocky man, who lived a life that embraced possibilities and adventures. Born to William Stewart and Mary Loftus in West Flamboro, Wentworth Co., Ontario and baptized on Jan. 6, 1847. James was their first son as a couple but not the first child to the household. Mary Loftus had been married previous to Felix McGowan, and they had three children. As well as three McGowan siblings, on the Stewart side three more brothers and two sisters joined the family for a total of 9 children.

William Stewart was Presbyterian and Mary his wife Catholic; all the children are raised Catholic, which caused some issues in the family according to stories told by a cousin. That’s a story for another day!

The 1861 census reveals that the family had relocated to Normanby Twp., Grey Co., Ontario. Normanby will be home to James for the next 40 years.

At the age of 28 James married Mary Curran, who was living with her parents Edward & Jeanette in Normanby. Together they bought 100 acres on Con 3 Lot 32 and farmed the land.

Mary died after eight years of marriage and is buried in Mount Forest, Wellington Co., in her parent’s plot. They did not have any children, and James must have felt the loss deeply as he did not marry again.

James and his mother Mary, both widowed are living together in the 1891 census for Normanby, James is still farming the land. He must have been ready for a change though.

Around 1902 James left his farm, friends and all that was familiar joining many gold seekers heading west. His first stop on his journey was Fairview, B.C.  and while there he was joined by his sister’s adopted son James Cody. James Stewart opened a store in Fairview, and his nephew worked with him.

 

Plaque at the Hedley Museum


1906 finds both the James have relocated to Hedley, BC., a mining town. Gold was found close to Hedley in 1898 at Nickel Plate Mountain. 1903 saw a flurry of activity with men digging tunnels in the mountain. At its peak, the population of Hedley was 1,000 people but in 1915 it was in decline as there were under 400 people calling it home.

In Hedley, James was a setter at the diamond drill camp as well he owned a general store.

Here are two of the of ads that I found in the Hedley Gazette which was the local paper that was in publication from 1905-1917.

STEWART Jan 28 1915

Hedley Gazette

Hedley Gazette

Hedley Gazette

The newspaper was one of the best sources of information about James and his life in BC. For instance, I learned that in 1915 had him installing a new floor and shelves in a store upgrade,  as well James regularly gave to the Patriotic Fund to support troops in WWI. There were trials as well, in 1909 he had a small roof fire that was quickly spotted and extinguished thankfully, and in 1916 $12.00 stolen from the till in his store. James’ nephew, James Cody left for Vancouver, B.C. to fix his varicose veins and after went to Helena, Montana to visit family. He wrote back to his uncle and is noted by the newspaper. James lived an active life at the age of 67 years old he was still working at the diamond drill camp. He was injured when sitting on the edge of a tram car when the cables switched, and he was “sent spinning on the track.” Thankfully both James’ recovered from their conditions.

I was also able to learn about other family members from the newspaper. In 1914, it was reported that James’ sister Margaret Cody is traveling to see her son (and brother). After her visit she is heading to Yorkton, Saskatchewan to visit another brother. I love small town newspapers!

Reading through the columns of the paper life in Hedley was relatively normal for the times. The community hosted gatherings; there were women’s groups and dances.

James was far from most of his family in a time when communication was not easy or fast. I am sure he had great friends and enjoyed his life in Hedley. James lived in Hedley until his death that took place at the hospital in the nearby community of Princeton, Jan 23, 1921, at the age of 74 years. Hedley at this time was in decline. According to the papers filed with his estate due to the closing of the mine at Hedley and the general business depression James’ estate owed money. He had property in Hedley and also in Fairview, B.C., which at this time had become a ghost town. His property was not worth very much and the administrator of his estate was having a hard time selling it. James Cody offered to buy one of his lots in Hedley for $250.00.

In 2015, a descendant of James’ brother, David Stewart made the journey to Hedley. Mary Stewart traveled over 11 hours to see the community and learn more about his life. It was a memorable trip and incredible to see where James called home. The fact that the miners lived at the top of the mountain and had a community there was jaw-dropping to see first hand.

James didn’t leave any direct descendants, but we his family remember him and his exciting life. He endured loss and day-to-day struggles but continued to adventure on and explore new horizons.

My fingers highlight the camp location.

My fingers highlight the camp location.

Mary pointing to the camp at on the Nickel plate Mountain

Mary pointing to the camp on the Nickel Plate Mountain

 

Patricia & Mary in Hedley with the Nickel Plate Mountain in the background.

Patricia & Mary in Hedley with the Nickel Plate Mountain in the background.

Mary (Stewart) Dever at the Hedley Cemetery, Hedley, B.C. June 2015. In Memory of James Stewart 1849-1921 May His Soul Rest In Peace

Mary (Stewart) Dever at the Hedley Cemetery, Hedley, B.C. June 2015.
In Memory of James Stewart
1849-1921
May His Soul Rest In Peace

SOURCES

1852 census West Flamboro, Wentworth Co., Ontario; William Stewart; Family Search index https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MWT2-XMG

1861 census Normanby, Grey Co., Ontario; Family Search Index https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MQ78-K1T

1891 census Normanby, Grey Co., Ontario; Family Search Index https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MWLM-6CT

Hedley Heritage Museum, Tenacity, the Story of Hedley, Then and Today- http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/histoires_de_chez_nous-community_memories/pm_v2.php?id=story_line&lg=English&fl=0&ex=00000834&sl=9272&pos=1

Penticton News, Hedley Boys http://www.castanet.net/news/Penticton/119516/The-WWI-Hedley-Boys

Hedley Museum –  http://hedleybc.ca/go-to/hedley-heritage-museum/

Princeton & District Museum & Archives – http://www.princetonmuseum.org/Princeton_Museum/Home.html

Fairview, B.C. information kept at the Oliver Archives – http://www.oliverheritage.ca/

Hedley Newspaper available on-line and ran from 1905-1917 http://historicalnewspapers.library.ubc.ca/info/collection/hedley

Royal BC Museum which has b/m/d records for British Columbia http://search-collections.royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/Genealogy/BasicSearch

History of Fairview, B.C. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairview,_British_Columbia

Photo of James Stewart is a copy of a tintype that was owned by Mary McIntee. Mary McIntee’s obituary http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/statesmanjournal/obituary.aspx?pid=172811956

From the Letters of Administration –

At the time of his death James owned Lot 3 Block 24 Map 107 Hedley; N1/2 Lot 12 Block 4 Map 27 Ellis Subdivision Fairview & Lots 10,11,17 & 20 Block 4 Map 27 Ellis Addition Town of Fairview;  Lot 18 Block 24 D.L.’s 1975 & 1976 Group 1, Similkameen Division, Yale District Map 107 – James Cody to purchase for $250.00.