Amherstburg Freedom Museum

Family Histories


Brantford Family

Brantford Family History Part 1 – A Bob Lo Connection

On display in the Amherstburg Freedom Museum’s permanent gallery is a very special photograph that we have shared online many times. It is a photo of Moses Brantford Jr. leading an Emancipation Day parade down Dalhousie Street in Amherstburg. Because of Moses’ connection to Emancipation Day, which is less than a month away, we thought it appropriate to focus on him and other members of the Brantford family for this month’s family history. To do this, we will highlight the line of Moses Brantford Sr. and his descendants.

In the Museum’s collection is found a note about Moses Brantford Sr. stating that he was among the early settlers of Malden and Amherstburg, and “a defender of the town in the Rebellion of 1837-38.” According to the 1881 Census, he was born circa 1813 in the US and his death record also states that he passed away on December 30, 1885. On January 8, 1886, the Amherstburg Echo wrote “The funeral of the late Moses Brantford took place on New Year’s Day afternoon. Rev. Mr. Scott conducted the funeral services in the Baptist Church, which was filled by a large audience.” He must have been a very well respected person to have brought together such a large group.

Moses Brantford Sr. married a woman named Maria, but some documents list her as Eliza. There is only one document that lists a last name for Maria and that is in Moses Brantford Jr.’s death record which lists his mother’s name as Maria Goodrich. Moses and Maria had at least six children: Moses Jr., Frances, William, George, Martha and Claressa. We will begin with Moses Brantford Jr.

Moses Brantford Jr. was born circa 1854. He was a member of the Masonic Lodge and was known as a splendid singer. As mentioned, Moses is most known because of a photograph of him as the grand marshal of an 1894 Emancipation Day Parade. In the photograph Moses is on a horse, leading the Emancipation day parade down Dalhousie Street in Amherstburg. The procession started at Navy Yard Park, previously the Waterworks lot, to Caldwell’s Grove. There were almost one thousand participants who enjoyed food and entertainment from the Harrow Brass Band (Detroit) that year.

Moses Jr. married Clarissa (Clara) B. Hawkins, who was the daughter of James and Sarah Hawkins of Anderdon. Within the Museum’s family history binders is the Hawkins’ family tree which lists James Hawkins’ (1805-1880) children (including Clarissa): Vincent, Julia (Saunders) and John who married Lusina Virginia Lewis. According to their marriage record, Moses Jr. and Clara wed on December 24, 1889 in Amherstburg and that Moses was a widower. Under Moses’ profession it says “General Business.” Moses Jr. and Clara had at least one child, a son named Homer. Sadly, Moses Jr. passed away at the age of 53, on May 24, 1912.

Clara’s obituary, printed in the Amherstburg Echo on September 6, 1935, says “Mrs. Brantford was an old and very highly respected resident of this town, and it is a remarkable fact to report that she was one of the first women workers in the Bob-Lo café when the island first opened as a summer picnic ground and her services there extended over a period of 34 years. She was in the employ of the Company until the Island closed two years ago, but was unable to return this year on account of failing health. She had been around as usual until Thursday night when she was taken by a stroke and lingered until Saturday night, though unconscious. Mrs. Brantford’s maiden name was Clara Hawkins. She was a daughter of James and Sarah Hawkins and was born on the third concession of Anderdon, 80 years ago. There she was married to Moses Brantford, of Amherstburg. A short time afterwards they went to Jackson, Mich., to live where they remained for a few years and then returned to Anderdon township, where Mr. Brantford took charge of his father-in-law’s place. Forty years ago they came to Amherstburg. They had one son, Homer, well remembered in town as an amateur boxer. He died two years ago. Mr. Brantford has been dead for about 25 years. Mrs. Brantford was greatly interested in the work of the First Baptist Church and was president of the Ladies Sewing Circle for over 30 years. Besides the above, she is survived by a brother, Vincent Hawkins, of Windsor, and a sister, Mrs. Julia Saunders, St. Arnaud Street, Amherstburg. Other members of the Hawkins family family [sic] who are deceased were Susie, John and Jesse, who are remembered by the older residents of the town. Mrs. Brantford had been living during the summer with her sister, Mrs. Saunders, and the Convention ladies used her home on George Street in which to do the cooking for the convention recently held here. After that, she returned to her own home intending to stay there during the winter.” Clarissa sounds like a very impressive woman.

What we publish is not a complete history of any family and is based on the documents that are available. We welcome photos and information to fill in the gaps. See you next week for part 2.

Brantford Family History Part 2 – “One of the most enterprising and industrious young men”

Next, we’ll discuss Moses’ sister Frances Brantford. She married Hiram Kirtley, the son of Moses and Elizabeth Kirtley, on December 26, 1858 in Essex County. Hiram was born in the 1830s in Kentucky and if you look at the Kirtley family history on our website you will find even more information about the Kirtley family. According to Frances Brantford’s 1891 obituary, she “was a daughter of the late Moses Brantford, and was born and lived all her life in Amherstburg. Her surviving brothers are William, of this town; George of Detroit, and Moses, of Jackson, Mich., and sister, Mrs. J. McGruder, of Battle Creek, Mich., and Claressa Brantford, of this town. She was married to the late Hiram Kirtley, who died about ten years ago. Her surviving children are: — Augustus, of St. Paul, Minn.,: James, Moses and Lyla, of this town. She has, for years, been a consistent member of the First Baptist Church.”

Hiram Kirtley, sometimes spelt Hyram Curtley, worked as a sailor, sometimes listed as a marine engineer. Hiram and Frances/Fanny had several children including Hiram A. (listed as a waiter in 1881 census), James Henry (listed as a cook), Moses (listed as a cook), Elizabeth and Charlotte. The 1871 Census also lists a Sarah as one of their children. According to his death record, Hiram A. was married to Sarah D. Tawles and passed away on March 27, 1926 in St. Paul, Ramsey, Minnesota.

Hiram’s brother, James Henry Kirtley, married Ellen Drucilla Brown on January 3, 1894 in Detroit and it was quite the event considering both The Detroit Enquirer and The Amherstburg Echo wrote about the couple’s wedding day. The Detroit Enquirer says “One of the most beautiful home weddings of the season was solemnized last Wednesday evening, January 3rd, the contracting parties of that most happy event being Miss Ella Brown, one of our most estimable young ladies, and James A. Kirtley, of Amherstburg, who is one of the most enterprising and industrious young men of that thriving little city by the lake. The ceremony was performed at the home of the bride’s mother, Mrs. Elizabeth Clark … The bride appeared in a beautiful dress of white bengaline silk, high corsage, with train and wearing a veil, and carried a lovely bouquet of bridal roses and hyacinths. The bridesmaid, Miss Coston, of our city, was attired in a pretty dress of pink silk, demi-train with high corsage and flowers. Of course the groom and groomsman, Wm. Webb, of Amherstburg, wore the conventional dress, as usual. The ceremony was performed under a beautiful marriage bell, and the rooms were prettily decorated with … roses, and the beaming faces of hosts of friends wreathed in bright and happy smiles, who came to attend at the launching of these two dear young folks upon the beautiful [illegible] of matrimony. A reception was held after the ceremony, and the hospitality of the hostess was enjoyed to the utmost, a fine collation of the choicest [illegible] being furnished. There were presents ‘galore,’ and many very beautiful ones, too, which were displayed in a side room. Silver, crystal and bric-a-brac, linen, porcelain, glass and beautiful china, etc.”

Ella’s mother, Mrs. Elizabeth Clark is listed in both this article and on their marriage record, but Ella’s father is not mentioned. The marriage record also states that Ella was born circa 1868 in Virginia and, just as is listed in the 1881 Census, James’ occupation was a cook/marine chef. James’ career as a chef is mentioned several times in the Amherstburg Echo. On April 15, 1910, it says “James Kirtley, the well known steamboat chef, will be home again this season, having secured the stewardship on the big steel tug Charles E. Williams, of the Buffalo Dredging Co.” The following year, on December 29, 1911, the paper still shows him in the same job, but for a different employer and says “James Kirtley, the well-known chef, has accepted a position in the Lake View, as cook for the winter months.”

The saddest mention of his career is in his November 10, 1934 (printed November 16, 1934) obituary which refers to him as a respected citizen. The article also says “When a young man he began working in the galley of freighters and followed this occupation until last year. He was chef of the Norton, Zenith City. Richardson, and his last boat was the Mullen, on which he worked for some years. He was well known among mariners and respected for his many fine qualities. Forty years ago he was married to Miss Ella Brown, of Detroit, who survives him. Eight children were born to their union … Those surviving him are: Frances, Mrs. Alphonse Dezon, Detroit; Miss Flossie, of Detroit; Kenneth, of St. Louis, Mo., AND William, of Chicago, Ill. Mr. Kirtley was a member of the First Baptist Church, Amherstburg and an ardent worker in the activities of the church. At the time of his death he held the office of deacon. He was also a member of Lincoln Lodge, F.& A.M. The funeral was held on Wednesday afternoon under the auspices of this lodge. There was a large number in attendance at the service, which was conducted by Rev. Edwards, pastor of the First Baptist Church, Amherstburg … The ceremony for the lodge was conducted by Mr. R.J. Robins, Grand Master of Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Ontario. Vocal solos were rendered by Mrs. Wm. Wilson and Mrs. Jerome Simpson. Many beautiful floral tributes and letters of condolence were received by the bereaved family.”

Many nice things are said about James’ wife Ella in her own obituary: “She was born in Virginia, but as a child came to Detroit with her parents to reside. Forty-two years ago she was married to James Kirtley, well known marine chef, who died two years ago. Following their marriage they came to Amherstburg to live. Her maiden name was Ella Brown. Eight children were born to their union … Mrs. Kirtley was prominent in church and social work among her race. She was a leading member of the First Baptist Church, and headed many of the church societies.” Ella was involved in several groups, inside and outside of the church. As early as 1895, Ella is listed as a member of the Social Literary Society in Amherstburg. At a “musical party” hosted by Ella and other members such Mrs. Prior Wilson, Miss Christian and F.H.A. Davis, Ella (Mrs. James H. Kirtley) and Miss Mabel Binga gave vocal performances, while guests also enjoyed refreshments and games.

Among the other organizations that Ella was involved with include the Women’s Guild of the First Baptist Church. In the January 28, 1927 edition of the Amherstburg Echo it discusses a meeting at the home of Mrs. Estella Stokes “for the purpose of closing the books for the year 1926 and electing officers for 1927.” Among those elected was Mrs. E.D. Kirtley as the Treasurer. She was also a member of Amherstburg’s Central Grove Club.

Other articles list her activities, but she is often listed as Mrs. James Kirtley. A common way to recognize women at that time was by using their husband’s names. A reception for the Frederick Douglass Self Improvement Club, an Amherstburg-based etiquette club, was held in the home of “Mr. and Mrs. Jas. H. Kirtley, King street, on Wednesday. The evening was spent in games, singing and other amusements, which were kept up till the wee sma hours of the morning and all departed extending to the host and hostess their hearty thanks for their hospitality.” Many years later, in 1925, Ella attended the Michigan and Ontario Wolverine state convention as a representative from the Women’s Missionary Society of the First Baptist Church. The same year, she attended the Regular Baptist Association Home Mission and Sunday School convention in Toronto, which also involved guests attending a fair. Several years later, in 1932, Mrs. J.H. Kirtley participated in the missionary service held in Windsor at the British Methodist Episcopal Church, likely as a representative of the First Baptist Church.

Clearly, Ella was active in the community and the same can be said for her husband, James Henry. He was involved in the Amherstburg Literary Association which met at the King Street School House, just down the street from the Amherstburg Freedom Museum. On several occasions in 1881, the Amherstburg Echo reported the activities of this group, particularly debates. In January 1881, James Kirtley was given the title of captain for a debate that concerned “which is productive of the greatest amount of evil, intemperance or the sword.” The next month, he participated in a three-cornered debate which asked the following question: “A woman is alone and ill on an island, and is discovered by one man, is brought off by a second man, and is cured by a third man, and each claims that his right to her is the best – Whose is?’ The right of No. 1 was championed by W.G. Kirk and Augustus Adams, that of No. 2 by N. McCurdy and James Monroe, and that of No. 3 by Ralph Adams and J. Kirtley. Decision was given in favour of Messrs. McCurdy and Monroe.”

Ella and James H. Kirtley’s obituaries both mention that they had eight children, but only list the four surviving children: Frances, Flossie, Kenneth and William. The remaining children include Hervey/Harvey, James Edgar, Norman and Azalia. To learn more about Ella and James’ children, go to to read the Kirtley Family History.

What we publish is not a complete history of any family and is based on the documents that are available. We welcome photos and information to fill in the gaps. See you next week for part 3.

Brantford Family History Part 3 – From Amherstburg to Lorain, Ohio

So far, we have discussed two of Moses and Maria/Eliza Brantford’s children – Moses Jr. and Frances. Now we’ll move on to William. According to his death record, William was born on August 1, 1844. He married Julia Dean and the couple lived in Amherstburg for several decades before moving to Lorain, Ohio. Available documents indicate that William and Julia had at least 9 children. The 1881 Amherstburg Census lists Julia, not William, with her children: William H., Cora B., John R., and Caroline. The next Amherstburg Census for 1891 has the addition of Elizabeth and Roy, but also lists Julia’s husband William Brantford who does not appear on the 1881 Census. The 1901 Census completes the list by including Aftem, Earnest and Olive.

We’ll begin with William and Julia’s son William H. The only additional record available for William H. is the 1901 Census that lists him living with his wife Mary E. No children are listed. No information could be found for Cora, but information for her brother John was available in two marriage records. John was first married to Anna Kale, the daughter of Albert Kale and Marjorie Beck. The couple married on November 24, 1901 in Cuyahoga, Ohio. At the time of their marriage, John worked as a Labourer, while Anna was a Housekeeper. John married a second time to Bessie Lewis on April 15, 1909 in Cuyahoga, Ohio. Bessie was the daughter of James Lewis and Martha Jones. James was now working as a Chef and Bessie was a Milliner.

John’s sister Caroline or Carrie is up next. According to her death record, she was born in June 1879. She married Edward Thompson and moved from Amherstburg to Lorain, Ohio. Carrie and Edward had at least one child named Marie Katherine who was born on March 12, 1901 and later married Charles D. Owens.

Carrie’s brother Aftem was born on February 1, 1892. According to his WWI Draft Registration Card, Aftem was born in Amherstburg, lived in Lorain, Ohio, and worked as a truck driver for the National Tube Co. He is also listed as married with a child, but their names are not given.

Aftem’s sister Elizabeth or Bessie was born on February 19, 1887 in Amherstburg, while Roy was born on March 2, 1889, also in Amherstburg, although his WWI Draft Registration Card states that he was born March 21, 1890. It also lists him as single, living in Lorain, Ohio, and working as a “brick layer helper” for the National Tube Co. Roy married Blanche E. Nichols and according to his death record he lived in Lorain, Ohio until the time of his death and worked as a Mason’s Helper.

Roy’s brother Earnest was born on April 4, 1894 in Amherstburg and his WWI Draft Registration Card, just like several of his siblings, lists him as living in Lorain, Ohio and working for the National Tube Co, but in Earnest’s case he worked as a chauffeur for the company. He is also listed as single at the time.

Now that we have discussed the families of Moses Jr., Frances and William, we’ll move onto George, the next child of Moses Sr. and Maria/Eliza. George married Elizabeth Parker, the daughter of Henry and Martha Jane Parker, on January 9, 1870 in Amherstburg. An article from the Amherstburg Echo, in December 1887, mentions a George Brantford working as a Mariner on the “Wheeler.” The 1881 Census lists George as a Mariner, while the 1891 Census has him working on a steamboat, so this is likely the correct George. He and his wife Elizabeth are also listed in the 1891 Census with their daughter Isabella.

What we publish is not a complete history of any family and is based on the documents that are available. We welcome photos and information to fill in the gaps. See you next week for part 4.

Brantford Family History Part 4 – Military School

There is significantly more information for George’s sister Martha and her family who we will turn to next. Martha married James L. McGruder on October 23, 1879 in Jackson, Michigan. According to the 1880 Michigan Census, James worked as a barber. By 1900, the Michigan Census lists James and Martha (listed as Mattie) with their children Estella, Lavinia, Willington (Wellington), Erie, Ethel, Lewis and Romain. Not listed are two of their children, Walla and Clara (sometimes listed as Dennie). Before discussing James and Martha’s children, it should be mentioned that James married a second time in 1922 to Ella S. Miller. The 1930 Michigan Census lists James McGruder and Ella with their grandson Russell L. McGruder, stepson Edwin N. Wallers, stepdaughter Rozina Wallers and step-granddaughter Ella M. Wallers.

Ten years earlier, in the 1920 Michigan Census, James and Martha are listed with their daughter Stella and her children Finley Guthrie, Margaret Guthrie, Viola Guthrie and Russell McGruder. It should be noted that the Census does not state whether Russell McGruder is the child of Stella; it just lists him as the grandson of James and Martha.

Estella/Stella’s sister Lavinia was born on July 15, 1885 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, while her brother Wellington was born on September 27, 1889 in Battle Creek, Michigan. His WWI Draft Registration Card states Wellington was unemployed at the time and single. Under military service it says that Wellington had 6 years of experience in Military School, Lansing, Michigan, and was currently the rank of Adj., likely meaning Adjutant.

Wellington’s brother, Lewis, was born on October 15, 1895 and later married Hazel M. Jackson, the daughter of John Jackson and Anna Campbell. The couple married on September 25, 1916 in Adrian, Michigan. Lewis’ brother Romain was born on January 21, 1899 in Battle Creek, Michigan and, according to his death record, passed away in Chicago on March 5, 1945 at the age of 46 years old. Romain married Helen Sharpe, the daughter of Charles Sharpe and a woman with the last name Jones. The couple married on September 26, 1918 in Detroit, Michigan. At the time, Romain was a cook.

Next is Romain’s sister Walla who was born on September 10, 1883 in Battle Creek, Michigan. Walla’s sister Clara married twice. Her first marriage was to Philip Lee, the son of Free Lee and Mary Long. The couple married in March 1906 in Battle Creek, Michigan and, interestingly, Clara is listed with the name Dennie McGruder. At the time, Philip was working as a waiter and Clara/Dennie did housework. Philip and Clara had at least two children: Elizabeth and Walter, as is shown on the 1920 Michigan Census.

Clara’s daughter Elizabeth Lee married twice. Her first marriage was to George H. Griffith, the son of James Griffith and Julia Ann Henry, on June 25, 1924 in Albion, Michigan. Elizabeth married a second time to George Junior Maupins, the son of Hector Maupins and Florence Ferman. They married in October 1940. The 1910 Michigan Census lists Elizabeth, her brother Walter J. and their mother Clara, but Clara is listed as a widow. She married a second time to Owen W. Coy, the son of James Coy and Menerva J. Robinson. Clara and Owen married on April 4, 1914 in Battle Creek, Michigan. Owen was born in Ft. Scott, Kansas and was a labourer, while Clara worked as a cook. Both were married before. The 1920 Michigan Census lists Owen and Clara with their children: Wilbur and Dora, in addition to Clara’s brother Romain and his wife Helen. The 1930 Michigan Census adds to the list of Clara and Owen’s children with Romaine and Jack, but a marriage record for Helen Coy adds her to the list of children. Helen married Clifford Allen, the son of August Mooney and Gertrude Locas, on October 6, 1934. Clifford worked as a Metal Finisher and Helen was a Maid.

We will end the Brantford family history with the last child of Moses and Maria/Eliza Brantford, Claressa. She is listed in the 1891 Census as single, working as a Domestic and living with her father Moses. Her obituary says she was one of Amherstburg’s oldest natives and lists her as single and living in the Essex County Home for Aged, in Leamington, where she was admitted only two months prior. She was also listed as a long-time member of the First Baptist Church.

What we publish is not a complete history of any family and is based on the documents that are available. We welcome photos and information to fill in the gaps. See you next week where we will celebrate another amazing family.