Sunday, September 21, 2014

52 Ancestors: #33 George Butler Wilcox and #34 Mary Jane Currier Wilcox

Climbing My Family Tree: Mary Jane (Currier) & George Butler Wilcox 65th Wedding Anniversary
Mary Jane (Currier) & George Butler Wilcox's 65th Wedding Anniversary, from The a clipping from The Daily Press (don't know where) , date handwritten on clipping 3-14-27

This is my latest post for the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge initiated by Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small blog. For more information about the challenge and links to the other blogs participating in the challenge, please click on the badge in the right margin.

George Butler and Mary Jane (Currier) Wilcox are my second great grandparents on my Dad’s side. They would be my Grandpa Henn’s mother’s parents. I don’t have as much information on them as I had on the Henn’s at this level (who would be John and Elizabeth [O’Brien] Henn).  I do have a copy my grandfather Owen Carl Henn sent me (& another sent to me by my Dad when I started this) of “The Book of Wilcox” [old hand typed pages stapled together] which states it is “copied from a paper prepared by Laoma Sanford in 1971”, which traces my Wilcox family back to George’s grandfather, Mortemore Willcock, through his only son, Simon; it includes some family stories and some descent charts. This document does cite its sources: “1. a psalter printed in London in 1822, with dates recorded by Simon Willcock (now in the possession of William D. Wilcox; 2. Family Bible of William R. Wilcox, copied by Mrs. Floyd Wilcox (whereabouts unknown); 3. Family Bible of George B. Wilcox (in possession of Mrs. Hazel (Henn) McArthur); 4. Family Bible of Charles H. Wilcox (now in possession of Mrs. Pearl Chamber).” [I have no idea where those family Bibles & psalter, or the referenced copies thereof, are now and have never seen them.] The Book of Wilcox also refers to obituaries and oral recollections collected by Ms. Sanford, and she notes some discrepancies between her sources, which I will discuss at the appropriate time as there are also some discrepancies between The Book of Wilcox and the records I’ve found so far too (but more so with Simon Wilcox, who I’ll post about next week).

George Wilcox and Mary Currier were born in what is now Canada.  Now for a (VERY) short and bloodless ( – which it wasn’t) capsulation of the history of Canada. The area on the map that we call Canada today wasn’t yet a whole country when they were born, but instead were individual colonies. At the time of their birth, the original British and French colonies had all been British possessions for about 80 years. By the early 1800’s, the colonies consisted of English Speaking Upper Canada, French speaking Lower Canada, New Brunswick, &  Nova Scotia. In 1840, Upper Canada (so called because it was contained the headwaters of the St. Lawrence River, now Ontario) and Lower Canada (so named because it was further down on the St. Lawrence River, now Quebec) were unified into one Province of Canada, and then on July 1, 1867, the Canadian Confederation was created forming the basis of the Canada we know today, initially with four provinces: Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick.  It was still part of Britain’s United Kingdom. It expanded to include the Northwest Territories and the Province of Manitoba by mid- 1870; the province of British Columbia and Vancouver Island joined the confederation in 1871 and Prince Edward Island joined in 1873. The Yukon Territory was created in 1898. Alberta and Saskatchewan became provinces in 1905. Newfoundland and Labrador joined as Newfoundland in 1949 (the name was changed in 2001 back to Newfoundland and Labrador). The Nunavut Territories were separated from The Northwest Territories in 1999. In 1931 Britain granted Canada full independence in most matters and in 1982 the Canada act made Canada completely its own sovereign independent country. Canada is now a federal parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy. Queen Elizabeth remains Queen and Head of State of Canada but in a way that is separate from her role as British Monarch. [This is a bit more than we need to know right now but once I started it seemed I should cover the history to the country's independence.  I’m sure that if I got any of this wrong my Canadian friends will correct me & I’ll edit accordingly then.]

I haven’t been able to find a birth record for either George or Mary, yet, but the Book of Wilcox gave me the birth dates and in two of the early Canadian censuses both say they were born in New Brunswick, during the period when it was still a separate colony. George Butler Wilcox was born to Simon and Lydia (Sharp) Wilcox on or about October 9, 1840; he was their fifth child and third son (2nd living son). Mary Jane Currier was born on or about April 21, 1843 to George & Unice Phebe (Curry/Currey/Currie) Currier; she was the oldest of five children.  

George Wilcox’s family had moved to the township of Blenheim in Oxford County, Canada West (when Upper and Lower Canada unified the census began referring to Ontario as Canada West) by the time of the 1851 Census – which was taken in 1852. George was 12. His father & older brother were coopers. The census indicates that the family lived in a shanty. A shanty was a temporary pine or spruce log home built when settlers first arrived in an area, where the family lived until the farmer could build a more permanent home usually within 2-3 years after settlement. The simple structure could be built by two men in a couple days and generally was about 300 square feet, about eight logs (feet) tall, and consisted of one to three rooms. The structure would have been roofed with shingles with a chimney cut in the center.

Climbing My Family Tree: Typical Ontario Shanty in Winter
Typical Ontario Shanty in Winter

Climbing My Family Tree: Typical Ontario Shanty in Summer
Typical Ontario Shanty in Summer


The census also indicated that the family were Free Will Baptists. The Baptists constituted about a third of the population of New Brunswick and in the early 19th century began to move westward in Canada, planting churches. They never became more than 2 or 4% of the population in most of Canada, except for in the area just above Lake Erie to which George Wilcox’s family had moved.

The 1861 Census found George (under the name George Wilcock) living separately from his family and working as a laborer in Blenheim Township. The entry says he was born in New Brunswick, and is 21 (which is what he would have been in 1861), and is Baptist, albeit “Christian Conference Baptist” this time (I don’t know what is the difference between Free Will Baptist and Christian Conference Baptist), so I think it is the correct George Wilcox, even if the census taker did spell his name differently, since he lives in the same township the family was in nine years before.

I wonder if he knew or was courting Mary Jane Currier yet. Her family had moved there from New Brunswick by at least 1854. I haven’t found her in any census before 1861, but according to the 1861 Canadian census her family was living in the Township of Blenheim in Oxford County, West Canada (Ontario) and they were Christian Conference Baptist. Mary was 18, and living at home. Her father was a farmer. The census indicates that they were living in a one-story, single family frame house that was built in 1854. They may have lived there before that in some other dwelling, but we know by this census that they were there at least by 1854.

George and Mary married on March 14, 1862. George and Mary told a newspaper reporter on the occasion of their 65th wedding anniversary celebration that they were married in Drumbo, Ontario, but the index of the Ontario Canada record of their marriage I found on Anestry.com (which has all sorts of other details wrong, so why not one more) says that they were married in Paris, in the county of Brant, Canada West. (According to Google Maps Drumbo & Paris are about 17 km [10 miles] apart.) I don’t know whether the official record is wrong, or perhaps that’s just where the license was filed. However, the index of the record also lists Mary as Mary Carrier (not Currier), and her parents as George Carrier (a mistake in last name that is made on other records) and Eunice [no last name given]. It lists George Wilcox as George Wilson and his parents as Simon Welery and Lydia Sharp. On the other hand, it correctly lists the bride and groom as residing in Blenheim Township, that they were both born in New Brunswick, lists their ages correctly, and gives the correct maiden name for George’s mother, the correct marriage date, and the correct first name for everyone involved. So overall, I believe that it was meant to be the record, but either the record recorder or the indexer was terrible with names (the original is not available for me to view so I can’t tell if it was the recorder or the indexer for Ancestry.com. I will note that the same record’s indexed entry on FamilySearch.org still shows the marriage in Brant, Ontario, Mary’s & her father’s last name as Carrier  & George’s last name as Wilson, but correctly lists his father’s last name as Wilcox. It also correctly spells Mary’s mother’s name without the E in front of the U in Unice. – Again the original document is not available to view.)

At some point in the next five years the couple immigrated to the United States to live in Michigan. In later U.S Censuses George variously says he arrived in 1849 (he would have been 9, we can discount that one based on the above information), 1866 and 1867, and Mary variously reports that she arrived in 1863, 1866, and 1867. I think that 1866 or 1867 is more plausible as it makes no sense to emigrate in the middle of a war (the Civil War) you might be called up to serve in while still a newlywed, and in the 1894 Michigan Census George reports that he did not serve in the Civil War. Moreover, the U.S. Censuses show that George and Mary’s first three children were born in Canada, and the third was born in 1867. In the book of family remembrances written by Lucille Henn Robson, Members of the Flock, she says that George Wilcox purchased the farm, located one mile south of Burnside MI & one-half mile east of it, in 1867 from a lumber company. She notes that George and Mary were married in Drumbo Canada, (but she also states that their first two children were born there and that both George and Mary were from Nova Scotia, which is not correct). According to the newspaper clipping from The Daily Press, marked 3-14-27, about George and Mary’s  65th wedding anniversary, they initially settled on a farm near Almont, MI and the next year they came to Burnside Township and purchased a farm, 59 years ago (which would make the purchase in 1868). The newspaper article says that they “hewed a home for themselves out of forest and brush and swamp,” and lived on it 45 years, converting it over time from the rude early settler’s home into a modern residence.

The couple had eleven children of their own and also raised one of their grandsons. Their children were:  Emma Wilcox Messer (1864-1930); Annetta “Nettie” Wilcox Sharp (1866-1929); George C. Wilcox (1867-1895); Charles Wilcox (1868-1904); Frank E. Wilcox (1870-1894); Bertha Wilcox Crippen (1872-1906);  Adeline “Addie” Wilcox Sutphen (1876-1903); Arthur H. Wilcox (1877-1955); Myrtie Mabel Wilcox Henn, my great grandmother(1879-1953); Russell Fred Wilcox (1883-1961); and Ethel G. Wilcox Gardner Ryan (1885-1973). After the death of their daughter Addie in 1903, George and Mary took in their grandson, George Joseph Sutphen. He lived with them from age 1 at least through age 18. (His father remarried approximately six years after Addie died and had three daughters with the second wife.)

Climbing My Family Tree: George & Mary J. Wilcox Family, photo used with permission
George & Mary J. Wilcox Family, photo used with permission from  Kerry Rose and From Judy Wilcox

George farmed the land he bought in 1867 or 1868 for 45 years. In 1913, he retired from farming and sold the homestead to his youngest son, Russell. George and Mary then moved into a house they’d built at 144 McMorran Street in Brown City MI where they lived out their retirement.  They were still living there at the time of the 65th wedding anniversary celebration, at 86 and 84 years of age. The celebration was a quiet one due to their failing health. The article noted that rapidly failing eyesight had required Mary to put down her needle of late, but she had until that point been very active in making quilts and rugs and had been able work and read without glasses until the prior fall. The paper also noted that George was not able to get out of the house very often. Of their 11 children, six were still living (I cannot imagine the heartache of outliving five of your children): Mrs. Everett (Emma) Messer of Royal Oak, Mrs. Albert (Annetta) Sharp of Burnside; Mr. Arthur Wilcox of Detroit; Mrs. Oliver Henn (must mean Owen Henn and that would be Myrtie Mabel) and Russell Wilcox of Burnside and Mrs. R.W. (Ethel) Ryan of Brown City.

George died a year later on March 19, 1928, at the age of 87.  According to the 1930 Census, after George’s death, Mary and George’s youngest daughter Ethel and her husband Robert W. Ryan, their 9 year old daughter and Ethel’s 19 year old daughter moved into the home on McMorran street with Mary, likely so that she wouldn’t be alone and so they could help her as needed. Mary was 87. She died seven years later, at the age of 94, on May 26, 1937. They were buried in the Burnside Township Cemetery on Van Dyke Road (M-53) in Burnside Township, Lapeer County, Michigan.

Climbing My Family Tree: Mary J & George B. Wilcox gravestone in the Burnside Township Cemetery, Lapeer County, Michigan
Mary J. & George B. Wilcox gravestone in the Burnside Township Cemetery, Lapeer County, Michigan
Found at Findagrave.com, Find A Grave Memorial # 25141706, posted by Anonymous


If anyone has any information on the family and is willing to share, please leave a comment below or contact me at the email address on my Contact Me page. (11 kids!...Are we related???)

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Canadian Census 1851 & 1852; U.S. Census  for 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, and 1930; Essentials Canadian History, Pre-Colonization to 1867: The Beginning of a Nation by Terry A. Crowley, Ph. D (Research & Education Association 2000); http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canada; The Dalziel Barn, http://www.dalzielbarn.com/pages/TheFarm/BuildACabin.html ; Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, New Brunswick’s Forests of old, http://archives.gnb.ca/Exhibits/archivalportfolio/TextViewer.aspx?culture=en-CA&myFile=Forest; Memory and Hope: Strands of Canadian Baptist History, edited by David T. Priestly; The Reformed;  Reader, Baptists in greater Britain, http://www.reformedreader.org/history/vedder/ch18.htm; The A to Z of the Baptists, by William H Brackney, pp. 118-121.; Pioneer Baptist Work in Oxford County, by Zella Hotson, found at www.ourroots.ca; http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~canon/research-topic-church-religion.html; Archives of Ontario; Series: MS248_5; Reel: 5, Ancestry.com and Genealogical Research Library (Brampton, Ontario, Canada). Ontario, Canada, Marriages, 1801-1928 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010; "Ontario, Marriages, 1800-1910," index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/XLPB-D31 : accessed 21 Sep 2014), George B. Wilson and Mary J Carrier, 14 Mar 1862; citing Brant, Ontario; FHL microfilm 1030055; “Celebrating Sixty-fifth Anniversary of Marriage”, The Daily Press (clipping. “3-14-27” written on it – I have a copy, I don’t know what city the Daily Press belonged to); “Members of the Flock, by Lucille Henn Robson, p. 9.


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