Amherstburg Freedom Museum

Family Histories


Conway Family

The Conway Family Part 1 – A House on King Street

This month we will be featuring the Conway family through George Conway’s line. On George Conway’s marriage record it states that his parent’s names were George (son of Nancy Hill and George Conway) and Catherine Conway, but other accounts record George as the son of Catherine Hatfield (the daughter of Charles Hatfield and Annie Highgate) and David Conway (the brother of George Conway and son of Nancy Hill and George Conway). According to Conway family history, David died during the Civil War and is buried in Beauford, South Carolina. David and his brother George joined the Union Army in Detroit.

David’s brother George Conway married three times. Already mentioned is Catherine; George’s first wife Margaret Johnson with whom he had two daughters, Harriet and Mary; and George’s third wife Anna Sophie Henriette Nurnburger. George and Anna had at least three children: George Alexander, William Christian and Annie Sophia. George’s second wife Catherine also married three times. Her second husband was from the Kersey/Corsey family and her third husband was Peter Dennis.

Catherine Hatfield Conway’s son George Conway married Savina Pearl Thurman. Savina Pearl was born circa 1877 and was the daughter of Mary A. and Isaac Brooks (some documents list him as Jim). Because her parents’ last name is Brooks, it means that Savina Pearl was previously married to a Thurman.

According to her obituary, Savina Pearl was “Born in Detroit, she has lived in Amherstburg since childhood. She is survived by five sons, Lionel, Lester and William of Amherstburg, Norman of New York and James of Cleveland; eight daughters, Mrs. D. (Katherine) Dillard of Amherstburg, Mrs. N. (Ruth) Trimm of Detroit; Mrs. C. (Thelma) Hogan of Windsor, Mrs. J. (Marjorie) Collier of Cleveland, and Mary, Mona, Winnifred and Bertha Conway at home; and one brother; David Thurman. The funeral was held in the B.M.E. Church, Amherstburg.”

As mentioned in Savina Pearl’s obituary she had several children. Before we discuss their children, a few more details about George and Savina Pearl. According to the Marsh Collection, George Conway lived at 221 King Street (lot 18 East Side of King) from 1897 until his passing in 1938. In April 1929, the Amherstburg Echo states that “The family home in the early days was the house which for the last thirty-two years has been occupied by George Brooks on King Street. This house was built over seventy-five years ago by the late Major Stevens.” According to Doris Gaspar, “Although no documents are registered at the Registry Office, it appears that Joseph Stephens a younger son inherited Lot 18 on his parents’ deaths. Around 1900 Joseph Stephens moved to Cleveland. He rented his house to George Conway and in 1921 Joseph Stephens sold the property to Lionel Conway.” Lionel Conway is George’s son.

George and Savina Pearl married on June 26, 1893 in Windsor. George was a 24-year old farmer and bachelor born in Colchester South, while Savina Pearl Brooks was a 16-year old spinster born in Detroit. George and Savina Pearl had at least fourteen children: Orval, Lionel, Wilbur, Mary, Mona, Norman, James, Catherine, Ruth, Lester, Thelma, Bertha, Winnifred and Marjorie.

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 and thank you to genealogist Kathryn Hogan for sharing information on the Conway family.

The Conway Family Part 2 – The Midwife

The 1911 Census lists George as being born in January of 1867 and also lists his wife Pearl and their children: Lionel (born March 1896; age 15), William (born October 1899; age 11), Mary (born January 1910; age 10), Edmona (born February 1903; age 8), George Norman (born February 1906; age 5), James (born August 1908/9; age 2), Catherine (born 1911) and Pearl’s mother Mary Brooks (born March 1835; age 76). In the 1901 and 1911 Censuses Mary is also listed as “English.” The 1921 Census lists George and Pearl with their children Lionel (labourer), Wilbur, Norman, Mary (Domestic), Edmona, James (Student), Katie (Student), Ruth (Student, age 8), Lester (age 6), Thelma (age 4) and Bertha (age 1), but Pearl’s mother Mary is not listed.

Now we will discuss George and Savina Pearl’s children. Orval was born in Amherstburg, but sadly passed away at the age of 2 ½ years on April 21, 1896. Orval’s brother Lionel married Annie Banks. At the time of their marriage Lionel was 28 years old and worked as a Ferryman, while Annie was 22 and the daughter of Tom Banks and Mary Jones. Lionel and Annie were married on June 21, 1924 in Detroit. The couple had a son named Donald Robert Conway, but he sadly passed away shortly after birth. He was born on December 20, 1933 in Amherstburg.

Wilbur is the next child of George and Savina Pearl, but he is sometimes listed as William in records like the 1911 Census. A birth record for William Valentine Conway states that he was born on October 7, 1898 in Amherstburg to George Conway and Pearl Brooks.

There was no available information for Mary, Mona, James, Thelma and Marjorie, except for their date of birth. Mary Marguerite was born February 25, 1901 in Amherstburg, Pearl Edmonia was born on August 16, 1903 in Amherstburg, James in 1908, also in Amherstburg, Thelma Leona was born November 18, 1918 in Windsor and Marjorie Ann was born on December 18, 1924 in Amherstburg. According to his birth record, George Norman Conway, son of George and Pearl, was born on February 19, 1905 in Amherstburg. Interestingly, it was Pearl’s mother Mary Ann Brooks who was the midwife that delivered George.

Next is Catherine Conway, likely named after George’s mother. According to her birth certificate, her full name was Thurly Katherine/Catherine Conway and she was born in Amherstburg on December 5, 1910. Catherine married Stanford Dillard and according to the June 3, 1938 edition of the Amherstburg Echo the couple had a daughter named Elaine. Thurley Katherine Dillard’s naturalization papers state that she was naturalized on July 22, 1960 in Cuyahoga County, Cleveland, Ohio at the age of 49 years after living in the state for 25 years.

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.

The Conway Family Part 3 – The Boxer

George and Savina’s daughter Ruth Helen married John Nathan Trimm who was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Willis Trimm of Memphis Tennessee. According to the marriage announcement in the February 14, 1936 edition of the Amherstburg Echo, Ruth and John were married by the Reverend Father Louis Costello on February 7th at the Parish House in Detroit. Ruth was attended by her sister Thelma Conway and John was attended by Mr. Haven Quinn of Detroit. It also mentions that the couple intended to live in Detroit.

Ruth’s brother Lester is written about in the Amherstburg Echo on May 31, 1935 because of his birthday. The article titled “Delightful Birthday Party” says “Almost 50 members of the Baptist Sunday School gathered for a delightful party at the home of Mr. Norman Wilson, George Street, on Friday evening last to honor the twentieth birthdays of Miss Alva Wilson and Lester Conway. The superintendent, Mrs. Ellen Kirtley, presided, while Miss Florence Kirtley was the sponsor. A musical program arranged by Miss Dorothy McCurdy, and some interesting games directed by Miss Florence Dean, were the two main features of the evening. Baskets of spring flowers were in abundance and an elaborate lunch was served at beautifully decorated tables, the colors being pink and green. Mr. Ralph McCurdy toasted the honored guests, and Mr. Conway responded, while Mr. Wilson, the host, expressed his pleasure and appreciation of the honor paid his daughter. Both Miss Wilson and Mr. Conway received many nice and useful gifts.”

Another birthday celebration for Lester also appeared in the June 3, 1938 issue of the Echo which says that “Mr. Lester Conway entertained on his 23rd birthday, Monday evening, the guests comprising his Community Club members, and Miss Violet Webb of Detroit, and Mr. and Mrs. Stanford Dillard of Cleveland.” The Echo also mentions in 1940 that Lester held the position of President in the Community Club for two years. This club met at the First Baptist Church in Amherstburg.

Lester was also an athlete. In an article titled “Leather Flies At The B.M. Club Boxing Bouts” from the Amherstburg Echo it says “The science of how to push leather in somebody else’s face was demonstrated with such enthusiastic abandon by a group of amateur boxers at the Brunner Mond Club, Amherstburg, Monday night that the 200 or more fans who were witness of the hand-to-hand conflicts forgot to worry about the heat and gave themselves over to a tense enjoyment of the pummeling exchange.” This event involved Lester who fought against Arnold Wilson in the 135 pounds category.

Lester also volunteered his time to coach softball. The Echo states, in 1941, that “A five-steam schedule has been drawn up by the Amherstburg Youth Centre for the Juvenile Soft Ball League and games will get under way next week. The following have offered their services as managers of the different teams: Gerald Coyle, Ralph Charette, Augustin Jones, Ralph McManemy, Joseph Fitzmaurice and Lester Conway. Some of the bats and balls have already been donated by the Senior Softball League and the club would appreciate receiving more equipment suitable for practise but for which people might not have use for. The first game will be played next week on the Hamilton Park, Richmond Street, and Mayor Marra will pitch the first ball. The members of the Youth Committee would appreciate it very much if the parents of the boys would attend the games and cheer their sons on to victory.”

A few years later, the Echo once again mentions Lester’s military service. It states “Private Lester Conway arrived in town from the West Coast Tuesday night. Private Conway has been honorably discharged from the Canadian Army.”

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.

The Conway Family Part 4 – The Tool Maker

The next child of George and Savina is Bertha. The March 4, 1938 issue of the Amherstburg Echo mentions a party held for Bertha and says “A very gala affair was staged on Tuesday evening, March 1, at the home of Mr. and Mrs. George Conway, celebrating the 18th birthday of their daughter, Bertha. A host of presents was received by Miss Conway from her guests among whom was Mis Webb of Detroit. George McCurdy ran off with a very attractive door prize. Lunch was served at midnight after which followed a jam session by the whole house. Throughout the evening a ‘Happy Birthday’ rang out. Climax was reached singing ‘No Place Like Home.’”

The next child of George and Pearl is Winifred who married William Hogan and had a son named Michael E. Hogan. Michael married Mary L. Galvin on June 16, 1925 in Detroit. Mary was the daughter of John F. Galvin and Della McColl. At the time, Michael was a Tool Maker and Mary was a Bookkeeper. Winifred’s brother Lloyd, according to his birth record, was born on March 20, 1896 but there are no further records for him.

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 5.

The Conway Family Part 5 – The Mystery of George Conway/Brooks

On June 24, 1938, the Amherstburg Echo printed a detailed account of George Conway’s life in his obituary. The article says “No colored man in Amherstburg was better known than George Conway, and it was with much sorrow that word was received of his death Thursday noon of last week. He had been failing for a year or more, due to weight of years, and three weeks before the end he became very ill and did not rally. He was in his 76th year. The funeral took place Sunday afternoon from the residence, King Street, to the B.M.E. Church, where services were conducted by Rev. Henderson, assisted by Rev. Jackson, and burial was in Rose Hill cemetery. He was born in Colchester South, son of George Conway and Catherine Hatfield. His father died when he was young and afterwards his mother married a Mr. Corsey, and later passed away in Indiana. George was the last of a family, which comprised two sisters and one brother. Susan, Mrs. Bruce, died in Chicago; Thomas in Indiana, and Martha died when young. Mr. Conway was raised in Colchester South and afterwards came to Anderdon to live with his grandfather, Isaac Brooks, which resulted in his being called Brooks at times. He later settled in Amherstburg, where 45 years ago he married Pearl Thurman, who survives him with the following family of thirteen, one having died at three years of age: Lionel, Wilber (Willie), Mary and Mona, at home; Norman, Brooklyn, N.Y.; Jimmy, Cleveland; Catherine, Mrs. Stanford Dillard, Cleveland; Ruth, Mrs. Nathan Trimm, Detroit; Lester, Thelma, Bertha, Winnifred and Marjorie, all at home. Mr. Conway worked for some time on the street railway, and for the McGee Coal., the Pioneer Distillers and as a laborer in town. He was a man of strong opinions, an ardent Conservative, and a member of Lincoln Masonic Lodge, and the Knights Templar. The funeral which was under the auspices of Lincoln Lodge, F.&A.M., Amherstburg, was held in the B.M.E. Church, on Sunday afternoon, with Dr. T.M. Henderson officiating. A large number of friends and relatives attended the service to pay their final tribute of respect to the deceased. During the service Mrs. Ralph McCurdy sang very sweetly, “God Will Take Care Of You.” The pall-bearers who bore the remains to their last resting place in Rose Hill cemetery were brother Masons, Peter Brooker, Roy Banks, Frank Artis, David Woodson, David Freedman and John Hall.”

There is a bit of a mystery behind George Conway because he is sometimes referred to as George Brooks. In his obituary it states that his grandfather was Isaac Brooks, but whether this Isaac Brooks is the same person as Savina Pearl’s father is unclear. Something else to think about is whether Isaac Brooks was a blood relative or if the term grandfather was just used as a descriptor for care giver. George could have been adopted and was possibly raised in the same household as Savina Pearl Brooks or he could have been adopted by another Brooks family, which is also possible. Additionally, the 1901 Census lists Mary Brooks under the same household as George, but her relationship is listed in the 1901 Census as “step-mother.” Because this Isaac and Mary have the same names as Savina’s parents, the use of grandfather and step-mother to describe their relationship confuses things even further. For anyone researching the Conway family just be aware that George was not always listed as a Conway.

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.