AMHERSTBURG FREEEDOM MUSEUM
The Crawford Family History Part 1 – Reminiscences of Levi Coffin
This month’s family history focusses on the Crawford family starting with George M. Crawford and his wife Laura Virginia Sidney. George Crawford came to Canada as a young man. According to the Amherstburg Echo he became a master carpenter and many of the houses he built in Amherstburg “of timbers and lumber that had to be hewn and dressed in the bush are still standing as proof of their sturdy construction. The First Baptist Church is one of them.” Laura escaped enslavement in Covington, Kentucky at the age of 15 and journeyed via the Underground Railroad through Oberlin, Ohio and found freedom in Amherstburg. It was in Amherstburg that George and Laura met and married. In an article discussing George and Laura’s daughter Beatrice, it mentions that her mother Laura’s escape is documented in the book, “Reminiscences of Levi Coffin,” but she may have used a different name or was nameless because, upon review, there is no Laura or Virginia mentioned in the book.
The Amherstburg Echo printed George’s obituary on December 21, 1900 but, unfortunately, some of the print was cut off so I have transcribed the text that appears. It says “George M. Crawford, late of this town? Died in London on Tuesday last, December 12th?. A few weeks ago he removed to London, his state of being such as to demand it. A day prior to his death he was confined? to bed with an attack of erysipelas of the face, the cause of his death. His remains were brought here Wednesday and ? taken to the residence of J. H. Alexander. Internment took place ? (Thursday), Rev. J.A. Holt officiating, Rev. J.D. Holbert from the First Baptist church, to Rose Hill cemetery. The pallbearers were John Wesley, Jas. ?, Wm. Brantford, S. McDowell, ? Harris and John Brown.”
It continues by saying “George M. Crawford was born in ? Ky., about 70 years ago and he learned the trade of carpenter ? when a young man he left ? for Detroit and after working his trade there for a time he came to Amherstburg over fifty years ago. He twice married, his first wife being the daughter of George and Rosena ? she dying two years after the marriage, leaving no children. In 1834 he married Virginia Sidney, who survives him. He became a member of the First Baptist church and remained an ? and consistent member until his mind became impaired. His survivors are his widow and four children – Martha, Mrs. J.H. Gant, of Amherstburg; Geo. H., of Detroit; Annie, Mrs. J.H. Alexander, and Beatrice, Mrs. Philip N. Thomas, of Amherstburg.” Separate articles also mention that George was a member of the Amherstburg Literary Society and a Deacon of the Amherstburg First Baptist Church.
A few years later Laura Virginia (Sidney) Crawford passed away on February 24, 1908 in Amherstburg. Her death record states that she was born circa 1841 and her obituary shares more details. It says “Death came suddenly to Mrs. Laura Virginia Crawford early Monday morning. She had been ailing for some time but was able to be about the house until the end. She occupied the smaller of her two houses, preferring to live alone. Her daughter, Mrs. P.N. Thomas, was with her until a late hour Sunday night and wanted to remain until morning but the mother did not desire it. Returning Monday morning Mrs. Thomas found that her mother had passed away, death being due to heart failure. Mrs. Crawford was born in Covington, Ky., and came to Amherstburg nearly sixty years ago. Here she married the late Geo. M. Crawford. With the exception of one year in Windsor, Mr. and Mrs. Crawford lived here continuously. The deceased had been for nearly fifty years a devoted member of the Baptist church. She leaves one son, Geo. H. of Detroit, and three daughters, Martha, Mrs. J.H. Gant; Annie, Mrs. J.H. Alexander, and Beatrice, Mrs. P.N. Thomas, all of Amherstburg. There are fifteen grandchildren. Funeral services were held in the church, Wednesday at 2 p.m.. Rev. T.J. Henderson officiating, assisted by Rev. J.D. Holbert and Rev. D.M. Lewis. Internment followed in Rose Hill cemetery. The pallbearers were: – Wm. Monro, Isaiah McKinney, John S. Brown, J.A. Nall, S. McDowell, Jas. Holton. The out of town persons present were Mrs. Louisa Haggins, Mrs. Ellen Shreves, of Windsor, Arthur Alexander … Mrs. Wm. Kersey, Mrs. A. Mulder of Colchester South.”
George and Laura had several children. According to Census records their children included Margaret, George, Annie, Beatrice, and Bertha, along with Laura’s daughter Martha. Other than being listed on the 1861 Census, I could not find any other references to Margaret. She is not listed with her family in the 1871 or 1881 Census and is not mentioned in the obituaries for her siblings George or Annie so it is possible that she had passed away.
Margaret’s brother George had a bit more information in the Amherstburg Echo and The Essex Free Press. On March 10, 1911, the Echo mentions George’s passing writing “George Crawford, who was found dead in Detroit on Wednesday night, was a brother of Mrs. John Gant, Mrs. J.H. Alexander and Mrs. Philip Thomas, of this town. They went to Detroit yesterday to attend the funeral. George Crawford was a painter and was born and raised in Amherstburg. He was 55 years of age.” A week later, on March 17, 1911, the Echo reported that “The remains of George Crawford, whose sudden death in Detroit was mentioned in last week’s ECHO, were brought here Saturday afternoon over the S.W. & A. Electric railway and taken to Kemp’s undertaking establishment, from where the funeral took place to Rose Hill cemetery. A number of relatives and friends gathered to pay their last respects. In addition to his three sisters, Mrs. J.H. Alexander, Mrs. John Gant and Mrs. Philip Thomas, he leaves one son in Detroit. Deceased was a son of the late George M. Crawford, of Amherstburg. By the request of his father George M. Crawford, the younger son, will make his future home with his aunt, Mrs. P.N. Thomas.”
That same day, The Essex Free Press wrote “The body of Geo. Crawford, who died in Detroit on Saturday morning, was shipped to Amherstburg, his former home, in the afternoon. Mr. Crawford was 54 years of age. Death was due to heart trouble.”
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.
The Crawford Family History Part 2 – The King Street School
There was significantly more information available for George’s sister Annie Crawford who was born on February 15, 1861 in Amherstburg. She married John Henry Alexander, the son of Thomas and Catherine (Harding) Alexander, on July 24, 1883 in Amherstburg. John was also a respected teacher and principal at the King Street School in Amherstburg. He taught from 1878 to 1917 at several schools beginning with Puce and North Buxton in 1878 but remained at the King Street School for 30 years. He also served as an Amherstburg Town Councillor from 1923-1926 and, in 1930, he was also appointed Town Assessor, in addition to acting as town auditor and Superintendent of the A.M.E. Sunday School for 20 years.
Sadly, on August 16, 1935, the Amherstburg Echo shared that Annie Crawford Alexander passed away. Her death record states that she passed away on August 10, 1935. In her obituary, the Echo writes “Mrs. Alexander Dies At Her Home in Amherstburg – Long And Useful Life Comes To An End – A peaceful end came to a long and useful life when Mrs. J.H. Alexander passed away at her home on Alma Street, Amherstburg, Saturday afternoon. Born February 15th, 1861, Mrs. Alexander had lived in Amherstburg all her life. She was the daughter of George M. and Laura Virginia Crawford who settled in Amherstburg nearly 96 years ago. Mr. Crawford was of Cherokee Indian descent and came north from the Southern States when a young man. He was a master carpenter and many of the house he built in Amherstburg of timbers and lumber that had to be hewn and dressed in the bush are still standing as proof of their sturdy construction. The First Baptist Church is one of them. Mrs. Crawford was born a slave in Covington, Ky. Escaping from slavery when a girl of 15, she reached Amherstburg and was married to Mr. Crawford soon afterward.
Mrs. Alexander attended the King Street school in Amherstburg, of which Mr. Alexander later became principal and which he taught for over 30 years. She was a life-long member of the First Baptist Church that had been built by her father. In 1883 she was married to J.H. Alexander, who survives her. She was devoted to her home and family, her church and community. Though her health had been failing for several years, she had remained active until a month ago, when she took to her bed.
Six children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Alexander, and all of them are living. They are Dr. J. Harold Alexander, at home; Miss N. Mae Alexander, Welland, Ont.; Arthur H. Alexander, North Buxton, Ont.; Miss Ethel L. Alexander, Belize, British Honduras; Anna, Mrs. Charles A. Webb, Detroit, Mich., and Marjorie, Mrs. J.A. Foster, Amherstburg. Also surviving is one sister, Mrs. P.N. Thomas, of Oberlin, O. One brother, George H., and one half-sister Martha (Mrs. J.H. Gant) predeceased her a number of years ago. There are 12 grandchildren. Funeral services were held at the home Tuesday afternoon. Rev. I.H. Edwards, of Windsor, conducted the services with Rev. H. A. Wright, of Christ Church, assisting. Interment followed in Rose Hill cemetery.”
Sadly, just a few days later, on August 31, 1935, John Alexander passed away. The Amherstburg Echo wrote a lengthy tribute to him on September 6, 1935 which said “Former Member Town Council Dies Saturday – John H. Alexander Played Active Part In Affairs – A life of service to his people and his community was closed on Saturday, August 31st, when John H. Alexander, former school teacher, assessor, councillor and auditor, passed peacefully away at his home on Alma Street, Amherstburg. Mr. Alexander was one of the most prominent citizens of the colored community and possessed as he was with exceptional teaching and speaking ability, he was esteemed and respected by both the white and colored citizens of the town. Ill health forced him to retire from the activity of everyday life last year and although he was able to go about the house, he was forced to resign from his position as town assessor. On Saturday he was stricken with a heart attach and an hour or so later, at 11:00 o’clock in the evening, he passed away.
Mr. Alexander was born on October 15th, 1857, in Anderdon, the son of Thomas and Catherine Harding Alexander. His parents had come to Anderdon from Kentucky and settled on the riverfront. He attended Public School at Anderdon and after completing his studies there entered the Windsor High School, from which he graduated. He entered the London Normal School and received a teaching certificate and taught school from 1878 to 1917. His first school was at Puce and North Buxton in 1878. The next year he went to Dresden and then he returned to his district to teach in the King Street School at Amherstburg. This school was established to provide an educational institution for the colored people of the town and district. It was a log structure situated where Geo. D. Pettypiece’s cement block factory now stands. Mr. Alexander took the position of principal of this school in 1879 and remained for 30 years. When he first started he had an enrolment of 62 pupils. Because of his ability, his knowledge of youth and his kindly understanding of their difficulties both in and out of school hours he was loved by all his pupils and he set them a sterling example that helped many to win success in both American and Canadian cities. Of the original pupils only six are living; two of these are David Holbert and Thos. Thompson, of Amherstburg. In 1909 Mr. Alexander left Amherstburg to teach in Tilbury and again in 1912 he returned to this district to teach school in Anderdon until 1917.
After his retirement as teacher he took a position at the Bruner Mond Canada, Limited in the lime department. In 1923 he was elected as a councillor of the town of Amherstburg and served in that capacity for the years 1923, 1924, 1925, 1926. In 1930 he was appointed town assessor and retained this position until ill health forced him to retire in 1934. At different times he was town auditor.
He was interested in promoting the spiritual welfare of the colored folks in Amherstburg and he superintended the A.M.E. Sunday School for 20 years. His ability as a public speaker also gained him much prominence in the community and he was in demand at many public gatherings throughout his career.
On July 27th, 1883, he was married to Annie Louise Crawford, who predeceased him exactly three weeks before his death. Surviving him are six children: Dr. John H. Alexander, at home; Miss N. Mae Alexander, Welland; Arthur H., North Buxton; Miss Ethel L., Belize, British Honduras; Anna, Mrs. Charles Webb, Detroit, and Marjorie, Mrs. J.A. Foster, Amherstburg. Also one sister, Mrs. Martha E. Simms, Providence, R.I. There are 12 grandchildren.
A large number of friends and relatives attended the funeral service held at his late residence on Tuesday afternoon to pay their last tribute of respect to his memory. Rev. H.A. Wright conducted the service at which vocal solos were rendered by Mrs. William Wilson, who sang ‘Face to Face,’ and Mrs. Alfred DeZon, who sang ‘One Sweetly Solemn Thought.’ Mrs. H.A. Wright acted as accompanist. The pallbearers were: Messrs. Peter Brooker, Jerry Harris, Martin Green, Richard Brown, William Brown and Peter Stokes. Burial was in Rose Hill cemetery.”
As mentioned in their obituaries, John and Annie had six children named John Harold, Nina Mae, Arthur H., Ethel Ladonia, Anna, and Marjorie. I uncovered a birth record for an additional child named Daphne who was born on June 1, 1885 in Amherstburg, but found no further records for her.
I found a birth record for a John Crawford Alexander who was born on April 11, 1884 in Amherstburg and this is likely the correct John. Other records mention he was born on April 19, 1883. He married Leila Theodosia Plummer, the daughter of William T. Plummer and Inez A. Larter, on September 12, 1911, in Toronto. There are also references to John living in Ottawa in the Amherstburg Echo. John and Leila had a daughter named Inez who married Dr. Alan Jackson of Burtford, Connecticut and a son named Plummer.
John Harold Alexander passed away unexpectedly on March 29, 1951 in Highland Park, Michigan. The Amherstburg Echo printed an extensive article about his life which was printed on April 5, 1951 and said “In Detroit – John Alexander Dies Suddenly – John Harold Alexander, born in Amherstburg April 11, 1881 and eldest child of the late Mr. and Mrs. J.H. Alexander, died in Detroit, March 29, 1951, age 66 years, 11 months. In early childhood he lived with his paternal grandparents in Anderdon Township, where he received his public school education, passing the High School Entrance Examinations at the age of 11 years, under the tutorship of the late Alexander Mackenzie.
After the death of his grandmother Alexander he returned to reside with his parents in Amherstburg where he attended the continuation school from which he graduated with honors.
With the ambition of becoming a physician he worked at various jobs to accumulate the necessary funds. He did part-time work for the Amherstburg Echo, was bookkeeper for the late J.D. Burk, and waited tables on Bob-Lo Island. After taking a correspondence course in accounting he procured a position with the Dunbar and Sullivan Dredging Co. He did some newspaper reporting and successfully engaged in many literary contests. He entered Toronto University in 1907 but after two years transferred to the University of Michigan in order to ? himself of an offer of part-time and holiday employment with the Dunbar and Sullivan Co., as accountant.
After graduating from Ann Arbor with the degree of M.D. in 1911, he married Miss Ella Plummer, a Toronto teacher. They moved to Detroit where he practised medicine with notable success for several years. A period of ill health led to his retirement as a physician and he returned to Canada and spent a few years with his aging parents. He was elected to the Town Council in 1930? and served as chairman of the Park and Cemetery Committee. During World War II, Dr. Alexander worked as clerk in the offices of the Federal Government in Ottawa, and afterwards secured employment as a bookkeeper with the Shell Gas Company (The Bannerman Service Dept.) of which he was a valued employee at the time of his death.
Although he had undergone a major operation a year ago and had influenza this year, he seemed in fair health on arrival on Easter Sunday for a visit to the family home, Alma Street. [illegible sentence] in Detroit and was due to fly back to Ottawa early Friday morning apparently he had a seizure while visiting at the home of his son as he was found unconscious in the tub with hot water tap running. He died in Highland Park Hospital, Thursday evening. Surviving him are one daughter, Inez, wife of Dr. Alan Jackson of Burtford, Connecticut; one son, Plummer and grandson, Gary of Detroit; three sisters, Ethel and Marjorie (Mrs. John Foster) of Amherstburg, Anna (Mrs. Webb) of Detroit; and Arthur H., of North Buxton. A sister, Nina Mae, predeceased him last June.
During his residence in Ottawa the deceased had joined the Roman Catholic Church and was an active member of the Parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. For several years the study of various religious beliefs had interested him. While resident in Amherstburg during his late father’s long illness he was a student of the Catholic faith with the Rev. C. Todd as tutor. Funeral rites were solemnly and beautifully conducted in St. John the Baptist Church, Amherstburg, Monday morning, April second with Rev. V.A. Thomson officiating. Pallbearers were Max Simpson of Amherstburg, five nephews, Philip Alexander of Windsor, Arthur Alexander of Chatham, Charles and Donald Webb of Detroit and John Foster Jr. of Sarnia. Dr. Alexander endeared himself to many people wherever he lived and his sudden death was a shock to his relatives and a wide circle of friends. The floral tributes and spiritual bouquets were many and beautiful. Burial was in the family plot in Rose Hill Cemetery with Rev. D.S. Henry, B.A. officiating.”
John’s sister Nina Mae is next. She was a teacher. An article from December 24, 1909 in the Amherstburg Echo mentions “Misses N. Mae Alexander and Ethel Alexander and J. Harold Alexander leave to-day (Friday) for a week’s visit in Toronto. Miss Mae has resigned her position in S.S. No. 5, Mersea, to go on the occasional staff at Toronto, but was offered $475 to take Union S.S. No. 11, Mersea, and accepted.” A separate article from ten years later, printed on July 11, 1919, says “Miss N. Mae Alexander left on Monday to attend the summer session at the Ontario Agricultural College at Guelph. Miss Ethel Alexander is taking a course in physical culture at the Toronto University.”
Nina Mae Alexander passed away several decades later on June 18, 1950 at the age of 65 which was reported in the Amherstburg Echo on June 22, 1950. Her obituary says “Death Of Miss Mae Alexander – Following an illness that had led to her recent retirement as a schoolteacher, Miss Nina Mae Alexander died at Metropolitan Hospital Windsor, June 18th. Miss Alexander was born in Amherstburg 65 years ago the eldest daughter of the late J.H. Alexander who had also retired from teaching after nearly fifty years of service.
She received her preliminary education in Amherstburg schools and her academic training at Windsor Model and Toronto Normal Schools. Her first years of teaching were spent in Merriton, Shrewsbury, several schools in Mersea and Gosfield townships, and on the Six Nations Reserve at Ohsweken, Ontario. Twenty-six years ago she became a member of the staff of Maple Leaf school, Lowland Township, Welland county and remained there until her resignation. The occasion of her retirement was marked by many presentation parties held in her honor by various groups to whom she had given loyal service.
Miss Alexander was a member of Holy Trinity Church Welland and took a prominent part in the activities of all organizations connected with the church as well as the Church Sunday School. During her vacations which she always spent in Amherstburg, she was a well known figure in Christ Church of her native town. She has held important posts in the Women’s Business and Professions Club and was past president of the Women’s Teacher’s Federation.
She is survived by two brothers, John H. of Ottawa and Arthur H. of North Buxton; three sisters, Miss Ethel of Belize, British Honduras, Mrs. Anna L. Webb, of Detroit, Mich., and Mrs. Marjorie C. Foster of Amherstburg; one aunt, Mrs. P.N. Thomas of Oberlin, Ohio and several nieces and nephews and grandchildren.
A prayer service was held at the family residence Tuesday evening at which Mrs. Doris Stainton sang two solos. On Wednesday afternoon a special memorial service was held in Holy Trinity Church Welland, by Arch Deacon J.A.H. Davis of the Welland Diocese.
Rev. R.W. Lane officiated at the burial service from Christ Church, Wednesday afternoon. Six nephews served as pallbearers. The floral tributes were many and beautiful. She was laid to rest with her mother and father in Rose Hill Cemetery.”
Nina Mae’s brother Arthur Harding Alexander is the next child of Annie Crawford and John Alexander. Arthur was born on November 2, 1886 in Amherstburg. He married Ethel May Shreve, the daughter of Charles and Elizabeth (Dyke) Shreve, on June 29, 1914 in Chatham. Before becoming a teacher, Arthur worked in several occupations before he became a highly respected teacher and principal. He worked as “the Printer’s Devil” for the Amherstburg Echo, which involved an apprentice or errand boy working in a printing office doing tasks such as sweeping and cleaning the ink off the ink rollers. Arthur also worked as a cook on the “Alexander Leslie,” a freighter that sailed the Great Lakes. He used the money he earned on the freighter to further his education.
From there Arthur became a teacher, later a school principal. He taught in the North Buxton area for 40 years at S.S. No. 13 and was honoured several times for his dedication to education. An Amherstburg Echo article from July 1, 1954, reported “Arthur Alexander honored – A record of 46 years in the education field, close to 40 of them in the same school, was honored Saturday night when Arthur Alexander principal of North Buxton Public School, S.S. 13, Raleigh, a former resident of Amherstburg was guest at a reception at the B.M.E. Church Hall, North Buxton. Among those present were Mr. William Newby, a school trustee at North Buxton for more than 40 years. Mr. Lloyd Perry, former pupil of Mr. Alexander, and now a solicitor with the Attorney General’s Department. Also one of his earliest pupils, Captain Abe Allen of the Chatham Fire Department, who was a student of Shreve’s School, Concession 5 Raleigh, 42 years ago. Mrs. Alexander, then Ethel Shreve, was a classmate of Mr. Allen.”
Just two years later, on August 2, 1956, the Echo reported another honour bestowed upon Arthur Alexander. It wrote “A.H. Alexander Honored By Federation – In the June 1956 edition of the Educational Courier, the monthly publication of the Public School Teachers’ Federation, in the column, Federation Honours, was the following story of Arthur H. Alexander, an Amherstburg native and brother of Miss Ethel Alexander and Mrs. Marjorie Foster. The article read: “Perhaps the most deeply affected person at the O.P.S.M.T.F. Annual Dinner in December of 1955, was Arthur H. Alexander. His sentiments were such because this was the first time in O.P.S.M.T.F. history that Honorary Life Membership had been conferred on a member of his race by the Federation.
Born in Amherstburg seventy years ago and the son of a school teacher with fifty year’s experience, Mr. Alexander himself taught completely in rural schools for forty six years – thirty-seven of these in S.S. No. 13, Raleigh. His education commenced in Amherstburg Public School and Continuation School continued through Windsor Model School (1905) and London Normal School (1911-12). He holds a number of special certificates via summer school work as well as university credits. His activities in church affairs and young people’s organization in his community were outstanding. In his last year of teaching (1953-54) he was President of Kent County Branch.
Upon his retirement in June 1954, a function in his honour saw several hundred former pupils pay tribute to him as did a communication from the Minister of Education.
This ‘good man’ is now spending his hours of leisure on a small farm not far from the village of Fletcher.”
Arthur was also awarded the Fred L. Bartlett Memorial Award which was given by the Ontario Public School Teachers Association to honour teachers who made a valuable contribution to education in the province. He received the award at the age of 89 and Arthur was the first Black educator to be nominated for the award. It was said that “Mr. Alexander’s outstanding leadership was known far beyond the area” and he “lifted the educational standards of an entire community.” He taught in a one-room school house, later a two- room school house at the Buxton school and was recognized as one of the best educators in the area. This was despite dealing with the racial climate of the time. It has been said that other educators felt that “he would have advanced higher in Ontario education but was limited because he was a black teacher in an era when opportunities were limited to a few segregated schools.” To be recognized for his work through the Bartlett Award despite these obstacles shows his true dedication to education. Arthur never had less than 50 pupils in his class which included eight grades and he loved music. He even used a mandolin as a teaching aid to instruct students on how to sing. According to Arthur, “The mandolin looked like a potato bug … So that’s what I called it. The students usually got a kick out of that.” Arthur’s grandson Philip also recalled his father (Philip V.) saying that the school inspectors always made a point of going to the North Buxton School at a time when they would be able to enjoy the performance of “Pirates of Penzance” or other Gilbert and Sullivan productions by Arthur’s students. Arthur retired in 1954 and positively influenced countless student’s lives while teaching.
Arthur was also active in the community considering he was a church deacon for more than 50 years, Superintendent of the Sunday School and chairman of the local Temperance League. He also assisted in the establishment of the Buxton National Historic Site and Museum. Arthur had the personal philosophy that the world should be viewed with humour and enthusiasm, which is something he incorporated into his career as a teacher, his work in the community, but also his marriage to Ethel May Shreve who was born in North Buxton. She was the daughter of Charles Shreve and Elizabeth Dyke and they had four children: Gloria Roby (Detroit), Philip (Windsor), John Arthur (Chatham-Kent) and Ronald (California).
Arthur Alexander sadly passed away on March 20, 1977 at the age of 91. The Echo shared a tribute which said “Amherstburg native dies in Buxton – Arthur Alexander, a native of Amherstburg area, died in North Buxton, March 20th in his 91st year. He was a son of John and Annie Crawford Alexander. Mr. Alexander was a one-time school master in Amherstburg and later a municipal man. The Alexander home was on Alma Street. The subject of this sketch Arthur Alexander was a prominent school teacher in Kent County and during the years and on his retirement was acclaimed for his excellent leadership in the field of education. His wife survives him. He was father of Gloria Ruby of Detroit, Philip of Windsor, Arthur of New Brunswick, Ronald of California, 13 grandchildren and six great great grandchildren. Mrs. John (Marjorie) Foster of Sarnia is his surviving sister. Predeceasing him were sisters Ethel Alexander, a Missionary teacher in British Honduras, and Mrs. Annie Web and Brother Dr. John Alexander. The funeral was in the First Baptist Church, North Buxton, Wednesday afternoon with Rev. Adam Vinson officiating. Burial in North Buxton Cemetery. Friends from here who went to North Buxton to pay their respects were Mr. and Mrs. Alvin McCurdy and Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Henderson.”
Arthur’s wife Ethel May Shreve Alexander passed away a few years later as was reported in the Echo on January 17, 1979. Her obituary states “Wife of late Arthur Alexander – Ethel May Alexander, 84, of RR6 Merlin, North Buxton, wife of the late Arthur Alexander of Amherstburg, died on Sunday, January 7 at Public General Hospital, Chatham. She was born in Raleigh township, the daughter of the late Charles Shreve and the former Elizabeth Dyke. Mrs. Alexander is survived by a daughter, Gloria Roby of Detroit: three sons, Philip of Windsor, John Arthur of Raleigh township and Ronald of California; two foster sons, Orion Shreve of Toronto and Gregory Shreve of Chatham; a sister, Harriett Overton of Detroit; four brothers, Elbert of North Buxton, Harry of Raleigh township, Ervin of Toronto and Winston of Kitchener and 14 grandchildren and eight great grandchildren. Mrs. Alexander was predeceased by her husband Arthur in 1977 and by two sisters and five brothers. Funeral services were held on Tuesday afternoon, January 9 at the First Baptist Church in North Buxton with Reverend Adam Vinson officiating, assisted by Reverend Donald Wright. Internment was in the memorial cemetery in the village.”
As mentioned, Arthur and Ethel had four children named Gloria, Philip, Arthur, and Ronald. Gloria became a music teacher and taught many North Buxton residents to play piano. Gloria’s brother Philip Valoure, who was a carpenter and cabinet-maker, went on to marry the daughter of the Reverend H. Talbot (Windsor), Elsie Adele Talbot, on October 2, 1940. Philip was a long time Sunday School Superintendent at the First Baptist Church in Windsor and taught Sunday School classes. Philip and Elsie had two sons named Philip Henry and David Valoure (Belleville).
Philip’s brother Ronald became a Professor of Communication at Stanford University and taught documentary filmmaking for 18 years in the graduate program of the Department of Communication. In 1970, he was invited to Stanford as a visiting lecturer for six months and was soon after offered a permanent position. This is all despite not having a bachelor’s degree. Ronald retired in 1988 but was a beloved mentor to countless students. Ronald’s career in film began while he worked as a sleeping car porter on the Canadian Pacific Railway. It was while working that he met the wife of the commissioner of the National Film Board of Canada and she was so impressed by him that she introduced Ronald to her husband who then recommended Ronald for a job in the technical research department. He also worked as a re-recording sound mixer at the National Film Board of Canada and his name is listed in the credits of almost 300 films. Ronald also developed and patented a soundtrack-mixing device known as CUE VUE, which is a system still in use today.
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 Crawford Family History Part 3 – A Teacher in Belize
The next child of Annie Crawford and John Alexander is Ethel who was born on March 14, 1888 in Amherstburg. She attended the King Street School and the Amherstburg Echo mentions on March 15, 1901 that the students formed a club of which Ethel was a member. The article says “The pupils of King St. school formed a Victoria literary society and elected the following officers: President, Leroy McCurdy; Vice Pres., Ethel Alexander; Sec., Annie Foster; Assist. Sec., May Holton; Treas., Benjamin Young; Programme committee, George McCurdy, Mabel Smith, Mary Simpson, Simuel McDowell.”
Just like her siblings Nina Mae and Arthur, Ethel was a teacher and taught at several schools. In 1909, the Echo reported that she was a teacher at S.S. No. 9 in Maidstone (now Lakeshore). She also taught at S.S. 11 Colchester South and was also a missionary teacher in Belize (British Honduras) for 28 years. Ethel is featured in several articles from the Amherstburg Echo which mentions presentations she gave while on break from teaching in Belize. In June 1935 the Echo printed “More Frightened of Detroit Traffic Than Tropical Jungles – Miss Ethel Alexander, Teacher In British Honduras, Tells of Some of Her Experiences – How would you like to go to your cookie jar in the pantry and find a seven-and-a-half foot snake coiled up on the shelf? No? Neither did Miss Ethel Alexander, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J.H. Alexander, of Amherstburg, who was home on furlough from the British Honduras. She didn’t say ‘Shoo!’, or attempt to frighten it away however. She just called one of the native help and let him do the shoo-ing. That’s just one of the things that makes life in the tropics different from the daily routine in this part of the country. We never knew that snakes had any redeeming qualities, but it’s a fact that native hotel-keepers keep these huge reptiles as rat catchers. Most people would prefer rat-traps, however. These snakes are called ‘Wowlers’ by the natives and are not venomous.
To Miss Alexander, walking down Woodward Avenue in Detroit is a great deal more dangerous than going through the jungle in the tropics. That, of course, is because she is used to the jungle, she says. Before being transferred to her present position as teacher in a girls’ school in Belize she was stationed at Orange Walk, a settlement in the interior of 1,000 population. To get there from Belize one paddles up a river, whose banks are thick with the luxuriant vegetation of the tropics in which wild animals abound. Once while riding along one of the bush roads, the only highways in the interior besides the 11 miles of railroad, she saw a jaguar crouched beside the pathway. She registered alarm but the native boy who was with her told her the animal was more afraid of her than she was of it. The proof of the statement was shown when the jaguar gave the strangers the once-over and scurried back into the bush … Miss Alexander left on Friday to return to Belize and we asked her which she preferred, this country or British Honduras. Her reply was that her work lay in that land but she would enjoy it much more if it had a few more of the modern conveniences of Canada.”
In June 1951 the Echo also wrote about Ethel being the guest speaker for the Women’s Missionary Society of the Wesley United Church. The Echo writes “Wesley W.M.S. Hears Former Missionary From Br. Honduras – The W.M.S. of Wesley United Church met at the home of Mrs. Roy McKim on Wednesday afternoon last. Mrs. E.E. Keith, president, took charge of the business and stressed the need for clothing overseas … Miss Ethel Alexander, who has spent 28 years as a missionary in British Honduras; 10 years in Orange Walk and 18 in Belize, was the guest speaker. She told a great deal about the work of the women there; where there has been a great influx of people from other countries, the women learn to do work very much as they do in other countries – knitting, crocheting, etc. She showed samples of their work and also showed samples of beautiful work made out of their own materials as mahogany and straw, also work of weaving, the same type as done by Indians 2,000 years ago. She told many incidents of her work there; she spent the last three years of her stay in Belize in charge of a book shop, the first of its kind there to supply books, Bibles and hymn books for Christian education. Her talk was very much enjoyed by all.”
Ethel also did story hour at the Public Library in 1953 as part of Young Canada Book Week. This was in addition to being the guest speaker at the Windsor Business and Professional Women’s Club in December 1953 where she spoke about Christmas in British Honduras.
Ethel Alexander was also honoured by the Anglican Women’s Association in September 1953 when she was made a Life Member. The Echo reported “Miss Ethel Alexander Made Life Member Of Anglican W.A. – About fifty members of the Women’s Auxiliary of Christ Church Amherstburg, Christ Church Colchester and St. Alban’s Malden met at St. Alban’s Church for an eleven o’clock Communion Service last Wednesday morning. Rev. R. S. Skinner was the Celebrant assisted by Rev. M.C. Davis, St. George’s, Walkerville and Rev. D.S. Henry of Amherstburg. During the service Miss Ethel L. Alexander was made a Life Member of the Diocese of Huron Women’s Auxiliary to Church of England in Canada. Mrs. Frank Miller presented Miss Alexander. Miss Bertha Staddon, Colchester W.A. presented the Certificate and Mrs. John Shand, Windsor Deanery Secretary for the Life Members of Essex County pinned on the gold W.A. Badge of Membership. Upon the conclusion of the Church Services the guests of honor Miss Alexander and Mrs. Fred Call Deanery W.A. President were presented with corsages by Mrs. F.W. Manning, Christ Church W.A. president, Amherstburg. The group then repaired to the friendly home of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Levergood where a luncheon with lovely appointments was served. A social hour was enjoyed enlivened by a few remarks from Rev. H.A. Wright and the Rev. D.S. Henry followed by an inspiring missionary talk from Mrs. Fred Call. The members of the three Women’s Auxiliary branches take great pride in presenting this Life Membership Certificate and pin to Miss Alexander for her faithful years of missionary work in British Honduras and her worthy example here at home.”
Ethel sadly passed away in 1974 as was reported by the Echo on September 4, 1974. The article, titled ‘Missionary Dies’ said “Miss Ethel Alexander of Amherstburg died at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Toronto on Friday in her 87th year. Miss Alexander was a daughter of John Alexander a prominent educator in old Amherstburg. She, a teacher also, spent many years in Belize, British Honduras as a missionary-teacher. A service was held for Miss Alexander in St. James Cathedral in Toronto. Of this prominent old family a brother, Arthur Alexander of North Buxton and a sister, Mrs. Marjorie Foster of Sarnia, survive. A memorial service will be held in Christ Church, Amherstburg, Sunday, September 8th, at 2 p.m.”
The Amherstburg Echo shared that while on a trip to Belize, a former Amherstburg resident, Harold Pillon, recalled that Ethel worked as a missionary there and asked one of the residents if he remembered Ethel. As the man’s face lit up, he said “I remember her with affection.”
Ethel’s sisters Anna Louise and Marjorie are the last children of Annie Crawford and John Alexander. Anna Louise was born on May 20, 1890 in Amherstburg. She married Charles Anderson Webb, the son of Charles R. Webb and Mary Anderson, on July 4, 1917 in Amherstburg. In 1917 Anna Louise’s wedding to Charles was the subject of a detailed writeup in the Amherstburg Echo which wrote “On Wednesday, July 4th, the anniversary of the day when our neighbor across the border severed her tie with the mother country, Canada, surrendered to Uncle Same one of her daughters when Anna Louise, third daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J.H. Alexander, Alma street, became the bride of Charles A. Webb, eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. C.R. Webb, Detroit, Mich. Rev. Levi Wells, pastor of the First Baptist church, Windsor, officiating. At high noon, to the strains of Lohengrin’s wedding march, played by Miss Marjorie Alexander, the bridal party descended the stairway ushered by Bertram Webb, brother of the groom, followed by the matron of honor, Mrs. J. Harold Alexander, gowned in cream duchess satin; after her came the two bridesmaids, Miss Mae Alexander, sister of the bride, in cream georgette crepe, carrying yellow flowers, and Miss Rachael Webb, sister of the groom, in white net with pink flowers. Miss Inez Alexander, niece of the bride, acted as flower girl carrying a floral basket of pink and white roses, and was followed by the bride and her father. The bride’s dress was of ivory duchess satin with tunic of white chiffon, caught at the shoulders with pearl banding. She wore the regulation veil of white tulle and orange blossoms, and a pearl sunburst, the gift of the groom. Her bouquet was of bride’s roses and lilies of the valley. Just after the bridal party took their places beneath an arch of roses. Miss Ethel Alexander sang ‘Beauty’s Eyes,’ by Tostl. After the ceremony Miss Marjorie Alexander sang ‘A Perfect Day’ very sweetly. After congratulations the bridal party and the guests proceeded to the dinning room, where a luncheon was served by girl friends of the bride, Misses Ada Kelley, Violet Hyatt, Eloise McDowell, of Windsor; Blanche Montgomery, of Sandwich and Marguerite Nall of Amherstburg. Toasts were given by Rev. Levi Wells, F.H.A. Davis, Dr. Turner of Detroit, and C.H. Webb, father of the groom. Responses were made by Virgil Richardson, the groom’s attendant and J.H. Alexander, the host. The dining room was prettily decorated with smiling and pink roses. The bride’s favors to her attendants were ivory fans, while the groom presented tie pins to the ushers and best man. The bride was the recipient of many valuable and useful presents. After luncheon an informal reception was held from three to five to guests from Amherstburg, Windsor, Detroit, and Cleveland. Amid showers of confetti and good wishes the bride and groom left by auto for their new home. The bride’s travelling suit was navy blue serge with a white hat. They will be at home after August 15th at 319 Canfield? Avenue, Detroit.”
Charles and Anna had at least four children, Charles, Donald, Violet and Marilyn. I was able to find a marriage announcement for Violet Patricia Webb in the September 27, 1940 issue of the Echo. It says “Graham – Webb Wedding – Miss Violet Patricia Webb, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. C.A. Webb, and Mr. Charles Graham, son of Mrs. Matilda Graham and the late Mr. Graham, all of Detroit were united in marriage Saturday, September 14, at St. Cyprien’s Church Detroit. Reverend Father Daid officiated. The bride was lovely in a soldier blue suit with matching hat and veil, with winter berry accessories of suede and a corsage of talisman roses. She was attended by her sister, Marilyn, who chose navy and wore a corsage of rapture roses. The groom was attended by Mr. D.E. Polle Friende of Detroit. The immediate families were present at the nuptial bonds. The dinner was later served at the home of Mrs. Mary Webb, parental grandmother of the bride. After a short trip Mr. and Mrs. Graham will take up residence at 1040 Scotten Avenue, Detroit. The bride is niece of Mrs. John A. Foster, Alma Street.”
On October 18, 1961 The Windsor Star printed an obituary for Anna L. Webb which said “Mrs. Anna Webb, 71, formerly of Amherstburg, died Monday in Detroit after a lengthy illness. She was born in Amherstburg and lived there until she moved to Detroit in 1917. She was a clerk at the Michigan Employment Services Commission until she retired in 1959. Surviving are two sons, Charles R. and Donald A., of Detroit; two daughters, Mrs. Violet Graham and Mrs. Marilyn Graham, also of Detroit; one brother Arthur Alexander, of North Buxton; two sisters, Mrs. Marjorie Foster and Miss Ethel Alexander, of Amherstburg; 10 grandchidren. Funeral services will be held on Friday, at 10:30 a.m., at St. Mathew’s Episcopal Church, Detroit. Burial will be in Rose Hill Cemetery, Amherstburg.”
The last child of Annie Crawford and John Alexander is Marjorie Katherine Laura Alexander. She was born on August 10, 1896 and later married John A. Foster, the son of John Arthur Foster and Annie Elizabeth Stevens, on February 7, 1921 in Walkerville. Their marriage record states that John worked as a decorator and Marjorie was a stenographer. John and Marjorie had at least two children, John (married Sarnia Jones) and Patricia.
According to the site Find A Grave Marjorie passed away on January 23, 1984 in Sarnia, but I was not able to find her obituary. I did find the obituary for Marjorie’s husband in The Windsor Star on March 21, 1958 which says “Ex-Lake Ship Sailor, J.A. Foster Dies – A lifelong resident of Amherstburg district John Arthur Foster, 66 of 209 Alma St., died Thursday in Essex County Sanitorium following a long illness. He was a former wheelsman on great lakes ship and also a decorator and painter in Amherstburg and Windsor. Surviving are his widow, Marjorie (nee Alexander); a son John A. with the Canadian Army at Sarnia; a daughter Patricia Anne, Sarnia; two sisters, Mrs. Ella F. Bell, Mrs. William Zimmer (Bessie), both of Detroit and two grandchildren. The body will be at the James H. Sutton Funeral Home, Sandwich and Gore Sts., Amherstburg, Saturday. Further arrangements are incomplete.”
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 Crawford Family History Part 4 – The Professor
Now that I have discussed Margaret, George and Annie, I will continue with the next child of George M. Crawford and Laura Virginia Sidney, Beatrice Lillian. Beatrice was born on July 28, 1872. She married Philip N. Thomas, the son of George Thomas and Mariah Buckner, on April 4, 1894 (some records say 1896).
Beatrice was an active member of Mount Zion Baptist Church since her arrival at Oberlin, Ohio in 1912. In a write-up discussing her life, it was said that “The main interest of Mrs. Thomas in life besides her family, was church work; her devoted husband and children are thankful for her unfailing trust in God and her sublime faith in the Christian way of life.” This quote is very accurate considering she was involved with most of the church’s organizations including the Senior Choir, Missionary Society, Sunday School and BYPU, which may have stood for Baptist Young Peoples Union. She also served as a deaconess for 25 years and after her failing health no longer allowed her to be active in this work; she was made an honorary deaconess. Outside of the church she was involved in several other organizations, including the Martha Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star, a member of the Women’s Progressive Club and a Girl Scout leader.
Beatrice’s obituary was printed in the Amherstburg Echo on January 28, 1954 and shared details of her life. It says “Mrs. Philip Thomas, who passed away in Oberlin, Ohio, on Sunday was the daughter of the late George and Virginia Crawford and was born in Amherstburg, July 28, 1872. In 1894 she married Philip Thomas who survives her. They have resided in Oberlin for the past 41 years. There were eight children, seven of whom survive namely, Mrs. Gladys Wallace, Mrs. Thelma Godette of Oberlin, Mrs. Mary Ward and Mrs. Linny Leach of Loraine, Ohio; Mrs. Annie Hargraves of Covington, Kentucky; Philip Thomas, a prominent Loraine attorney and chairman of the civil service commission and Wilbur Thomas of Warren, Ohio. There are 12 grandchildren and nine great grandchildren. Two sisters, Mrs. Martha Gant and Mrs. J.H. Alexander and a brother George Crawford predeceased her. Funeral service was Tuesday afternoon at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Oberlin of which Mrs. Thomas was a deaconess for 25 years. She was a past matron of Martha Chapter O.E.S. and with her children she was active in many useful organizations until her health failed.” Sadly, her husband Philip N. Thomas passed away a few years later on July 6, 1963 in Lorain, Ohio.
Beatrice and Philip had eight children: Shelena, Gladys, Thelma, Mary, Linny, Annie, Philip, and Wilbur. Shelena Lillian Thomas was born on March 14, 1899 in Amherstburg. Her sister Gladys married into the Wallace family, while Thelma married a labourer, Rollin Clyde Godette, the son of Henry Godette and Etta Fields, in February 1928 in Lorain, Ohio. Mary Maria Frances Thomas was born on December 13, 1901 in Amherstburg. She married Clinton Ward. Interestingly, Mary Ward was a celebrated resident of Lorain, Ohio, and was described as “one of the ‘richest women of the locality in friendship and respect.’” She gave her time and talent to both civic and humanitarian causes, and on March 2, 1971 the community honoured and thanked her with a civic testimonial dinner that had 250 people in attendance. Sadly, Mary passed away the next day at the age of 68. She had two children: Clinton Jr. and Marion (m. John Marshall).
Mary’s sister Linny May Freida Thomas was born on November 4, 1903 in Amherstburg. She married into the Leach family. Linny’s sister Annie was born on December 14, 1905 in Amherstburg. She married a teacher, William Frederick Hardgraves, the son of Hammond Arthur Hardgraves and Anna Dere Langford, in June 1930. Annie’s brother Philip M. married a woman named Betty, while Wilbur C. Thomas married a woman named Marie. Philip and Beatrice also had a daughter named Beatrice Virginia, but she sadly died in infancy.
Now that I have discussed Margaret, George, Annie, and Beatrice, I will discuss the biological child of Laura Virginia Sidney Buckner and the stepdaughter of George M. Crawford, who was named Martha Joiner. She married John Gant, the son of Edward and Roxanna Gant, on May 26, 1868. John Gant was also referred to as ‘Professor’ John Gant and he worked in many jobs including his work as a barber, Sanitary Officer and Dog Tax Collector, and County Constable. Because I was able to find a lot of information for John Gant and some of his family members, the Gant family will be featured in next month’s family history series.
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.