Amherstburg Freedom Museum

Family Histories


Harding Family

                                 The Harding Family History Part 1 – Settlers of Queen’s Bush

In last month’s Henderson family history, I shared information about the Harding family with the promise to expand on their history this month. Curator Emeritus, Elise Harding-Davis once again has shared memories and photographs to enrich this month’s family history about the Harding Family. We are grateful for her contributions.

The Harding family begins with Major Harding (sometimes spelt Harden) and his wife Martha (some records say Maria Hammett). According to the 1861 Wellington County Census, Major Harding was a farmer and Baptist, who was born in the United States circa 1798 and married in 1820. Martha/Maria’s details are similar. She was born in the United States circa 1801, was a Baptist and was married in 1820.

Their children include Robert, Martha, Rachael, and Sarah Jane. I was not able to find information for Rachael or Sarah Jane, but did uncover documents for Martha and Robert. Elise shared a marriage record for Martha Brown, the daughter of Major and Maria Harding, who married Thomas Parks, the son of John and Ann Parks, on December 13, 1864 in Wellington, Prince Edward County. Martha Park’s death record states that she passed away on November 9, 1914 in North Buxton at the age of 88. At the time, Martha was widowed.

According to Robert’s marriage record, he married Elizabeth Travis, the daughter of John Travis (sometimes spelt Travers/Traves) and Christina Brumer (some records say Boomer), on February 26, 1860 in Waterloo. They settled in the Queen’s Bush settlement. Approximately 1,500 Freedom Seekers and Free Black persons settled there. According to Linda Brown Kubisch’s book The Queen’s Bush Settlement: Black Pioneers 1839-1865 (pages 52-53), “By the late 1830s the Queen’s Bush community comprised an area eight by twelve miles in what would eventually become the southern section of the Township of Peel in Wellington County and the northern half of the Township of Wellesley in Waterloo County. However, the highest concentration of settlement occurred in the southern half of Peel Township between Concessions 1 and 6. Although many regarded the Queen’s Bush as a fugitive slave community, its residents during the ensuing years would continue to be a diverse group of people, that included, not only runaway slaves, but free Blacks from the United States, Canadian-born Black and white settlers. The community’s Black residents maintained a network of family and friends with other Black communities in the province and in the United States. These links of communication provided a foundation of mutual support in adapting to their new homeland and, in many cases, to their new-found freedom.”

On February 3, 1846 the Mount Hope Mission School was built on four acres of land in the Queen’s Bush Settlement. Samuel White, who was previously enslaved in Maryland and came to Canada by 1834, gave the land on a long-term loan, but if the school ever closed he wanted the land returned to him. The school was described as a “noble school-house, which is fit for a church, or a large dwelling.” On the first day of operation, the school had 16 children, which increased to 54 students in attendance. A cemetery is all that remains of the Mount Hope Mission.

The 1871 Wellington County Census lists Major and Maria Harding along with their children Martha, Rachael, and Sarah Jane. A few spots down on the Census, under a separate household, is Major and Maria’s son Robert with his wife Elizabeth. Also listed with Robert and Elizabeth are their children Malvena, William, Robert, Morris and Helen. The following Census from 1881 for Robert and Elizabeth Harding lists William, Robert, and Morris H., with the addition of Elyence (likely Elsina/Ellen), Mary and Elizabeth C. The next Census lists Robert and Elizabeth with their son Benjamin. Before discussing Robert and Elizabeth’s children, I’m going to share a few more details about them.

The website for the Buxton National Historic Site and Museum says the following about Robert: “Robert Harden was born a slave between 1833 and 1841 to Major and Maria Harden on a plantation in Virginia. Robert, along with his parents … first settled in the Queen’s Bush area of Wellington County. In 1860, Robert married Elizabeth Travis. In 1866, the couple settled in the Buxton Settlement, purchasing 50 acres on the 7th Concession to support their family of seven children farming. The children of Robert and Elizabeth were Malvina, William, Thomas, Morris, Ellen, Elizabeth & Victoria. Robert served in the Militia in 1866 to 1867 … Descendants of Elizabeth (Travis) and Robert Harding Sr. are still members of the Buxton community.” Elise adds that Robert and his father Major Harding fought during the rebellion of 1837-1838 and, along with several Black residents, petitioned for property.

According to Robert Harding’s death record, he passed away on September 30, 1917 in Raleigh, Kent County, at the age of 87. This record also mentions that Robert was born circa 1830 and his occupation was farmer. The informant was his daughter Ellen (Elsina) E. Jackson. Elise shared that Robert’s wife Elizabeth Travis Harding helped to found the British Methodist Episcopal Church in Buxton and she married five times.

Robert and Elizabeth Harding’s children include Martha, William, Robert, Morris H., Elsina/Ellen, Mary, Elizabeth, twins Lavina and Malvena/Melvina, and Benjamin. I could not find any information for Malvena, Mary, and Benjamin, but did find information for Martha, William, Robert, Morris, Elsina, Elizabeth, and Lavina.

Martha Victoria Harding was born on January 20, 1873 in Raleigh, Kent. Martha married James E. Steele, son of Irwin Steele and Mary Foster, on December 29, 1898 in Chatham. Martha also married William Abraham Shadd, the son of Garrison Shadd and Harriet Poindexter, on April 22, 1927 in Raleigh, Kent. Her marriage records states that Martha was a widow at the time of her second marriage. The 1911 Census for Martha Steele lists her children Benjamin, Thelma, Myrtle and Ervin. This record lists Martha as a widow, meaning that James passed away before 1911. Martha and James’ daughter Myrtle Florane Steele married Earnest Stanley Moore, the son of William Moore and Elmira Malone, on September 21, 1912 in Raleigh, Kent County. According to a US Social Security Information Record for Myrtle, she was born on September 22, 1894 in Raleigh Township and she passed away on October 31, 1987.

Myrtle’s brother Charles Irving Steele was born on June 12, 1900 in Raleigh. He married Laura Belle Travis, the daughter of James Travis and Annie Roberson, on August 10, 1923 in Dresden. It’s important to note that Irvin and Laura Belle’s son Eugene was the first Black Fireman in Windsor and he married Freida Parker who is among the first Black Nurses to graduate from Hotel Dieu of the St. Joseph School of Nursing in Windsor.

Charles Irving’s sister Thelma Arreta Steele was born on September 10, 1910 in Raleigh, Kent. Myrtle, Charles and Thelma’s mother Martha passed away on May 30, 1936 at 63 years old in Romulus, Michigan. Her death record also states that she was born on December 2, 1872 in Buxton. This record also indicates that Martha married a third time because she is listed as Martha Thompson, not Shadd or Steele. The first name of her third husband is not listed.

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 Harding Family History Part 2 –The Freedom Seeker

Now that I have discussed Martha Harding, I will move on to share information about her brother William. He was first married to Elizabeth Williams, the daughter of Richard and Jane Coleman, on December 5, 1879 in Kent, Ontario. Witnesses included William’s sister Lavina and her husband Henry Enos. William and Elizabeth had a daughter named Kathleen. William also married Rachel Madison, daughter of George and Laura Madison, on July 3, 1909 in Detroit. Elise contributed an article titled “Essex County Haven for Slaves” to The Windsor Star (June 5, 1986) which includes more details about Rachel’s father George Madison. It says “Madison was born into slavery in 1823, the son of a slave master in Missouri, and was granted his freedom before the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. At the age of 21, he left for Detroit where he sold fish in order to raise enough money to buy freedom for his wife and four children. Madison kept his father’s surname even after obtaining freedom. The Madison’s fifth child, Rachel, was born after the couple settled in Dresden, Ont. She later married William Harding, a train porter from Buxton, and bore 3 sons, including Davis’ father, Morris.”

The 1931 Census lists Rachael as widowed, meaning that William passed away before 1931. This is confirmed by William’s death record from May 23, 1920 in Raleigh, Kent County. This record also states that William was an “Occupation Machinist helper” and that he was born on December 25, 1865 in Peel Township. On June 9, 1920, The Border Cities’ Star published a “Card of Thanks” which says, “Mrs. Rachel Harding and sons, wish to thank their friends and neighbors for their kindness and floral offerings during the sad bereavement of her husband, William Harding, who died May 23rd, 1920.”

William’s wife Rachel lived to be 88 years old. On January 23, 1959, The Windsor Daily Star reported “Close friends celebrated Mrs. Rachel Harding’s 88th birthday with her at her home, with her son and daughter-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. George Harding of Windsor Ave. Among the guests at the Harding home Thursday afternoon were Rev. and Mrs. I.H. Edwards, Mrs. Susan Garrel, Mrs. Jack Richardson, Mrs. Ted Talbot, and Mrs. James Stewart.”

Sadly a few months later, on August 20, 1959, The Windsor Daily Star shared Rachel’s obituary which says “Mrs. William Harding – Mrs. Rachel Harding, 88, of 1136 Windsor Ave., died Wednesday at her residence after a short illness. A native of Dresden, she lived in Windsor 49 years. She was a member of the British Methodist Episcopal Church Missionary Society. Her husband, William, died in 1920. Surviving are three sons, George and Morris, Windsor, and William, Owen Sound; seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild. The body will be at the Windsor Funeral Home, 411 Riverside Dr. E. until 10 a.m. Saturday. Funeral services will be held at the British Methodist Episcopal Church at 2 p.m. Saturday, Rev. E.A. Richardson will officiate. Burial will be in Green Lawn Memorial Cemetery.”

Elise shared a few more details about Rachel Harding. She states that Rachel Harding was married at thirteen years old to Hence Chase, which was a marriage arranged by Rachel’s father. Elise adds that Rachel was a midwife and helped raise the children of Albemy Janisse (funeral home owner). Elise also shared that Rachel taught her that cobwebs were good to stop bleeding. Additionally, she was a founding member of the Hour-A-Day Study Club and was a member of the British Methodist Episcopal Church Missionary Society and the Sewing Bee. A window in her memory can be seen at the present B.M.E. Church in Windsor.

William and Rachel’s children include George, William, and Morris. I was only able to find a few documents for George and William, so I will share information about them first. George is listed in the 1921 and 1931 Census. He is listed as a cook in a hotel. George was also a cook on Great Lakers Steamers and was a janitor at Kodak Camera Company in Detroit, Michigan. George married Luise Hudson from South Carolina. They had no children.

George’s brother William Robert Harding was born on December 17, 1911 in Windsor. He married Frances May Molock Harding. William became a Stationary Engineer after his stint in the Royal Canadian Army and later drove for Greyhound Bus lines. Frances’ obituary was published in the Windsor Star on August 24, 2006. It says “Peacefully at the Grey Bruce Regional Health Services in Owen Sound on Monday, August 21, 2006, in her 93rd year. Frances May Harding (nee Molock) the beloved wife of the late William Harding. Loving mother of Terry and his wife Pauline, and George and his companion Karen Steward. Loving grandmother of George, Lisa, Kim, Terry, Randy, Tina, Chris, Kevin, William, Tanya and Teri Anne. Great grandmother of 22 great grandchildren. Fondly remembered by her sisters-in-law Leona Molock and Doris Molock.  Predeceased by her brothers George, Gordon and Don, and by her sister Gladys (Mrs. Lawrence Smith). Also fondly remembered by her nieces Maureen Mulder, Elise Harding-Davis, Shelley Harding-Smith and Jaynelle Harding.”

Elise adds that “Frances was a renowned pianist and singer. She was on the Board of the Owen Sound Hospital and was instrumental in keeping the Emancipation Celebrations going in Owen Sound for over 30 years.” I searched the website for The Grey Roots Museum and Archives, and it includes further information about Frances. It says “Frances Harding was formerly Miss Frances Molock of Owen Sound, Ontario. She was descended from the Molock family, an African-Canadian family. Her father, George Wesley Molock, worked as a Cook. He had married Mary Le Burtis at Collingwood, Ontario, on May 7, 1909. They had a daughter Mary born Oct. 5, 1912 at 242 11th St. West, Owen Sound. Frances was born in 1914. Her other siblings were George Molock …, Gordon Molock … and Donald Molock … The Molock family residence at Owen Sound was built on land purchased in 1884 by Francis Ebenzer Molock from William Manners. Francis and his wife raised their family there, on Beech Street (after 1909, it was known as 242 11th St. West. Francis Ebenezer Molock had escaped from slavery in Maryland in 1856, and with assistance of the Underground Railroad, and abolitionist William Still, made his new home in Canada, arriving in Owen Sound … In the 1930s, Frances was a member of the Sea Island Merry Makers band, that played in Owen Sound. This group had [B]lack musicians … She was mentioned in a c. 1933 article about a concert that featured the group … Frances married William (Bill) Harding of Windsor. They had two sons, George William Gordon Harris Harding, and Terry Robert Lawrence Harding.” According to Elise, son George worked for many years for Kentucky Fried Chicken in Owen Sound and Terry was in the Canadian Armed Forces.

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 Harding Family History Part 3 – A Family of Electricians

George and William’s brother Morris is next. Morris Harding first married Audrey Thurman and they had one daughter named Maureen. Morris then married Ruth Henderson, the daughter of Roland Henderson and Euphemia Moxley. According to Elise, Ruth and Morris were married by Aretha Franklin’s father The Rev. C.L. Franklin in Detroit. Shortly after their marriage, Morris was shipped out to fight in WWII and served as a Private in the Royal Canadian Regiment at Camp Borden near London, Ontario. Morris was trained as a sharpshooter.

According to Elise, “After shipping out from Pier 21, NS., Private Harding fought on the European frontier in England, France, Belgium, Germany and Holland. Harding worked in Stores while serving. During his tour of duty Harding was wounded; had a short stay in hospital then returned to the front. He took part in liberating Jewish prisoners at Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp. During a raid in the Black Forest Pvt. Harding confiscated a Persian rug from a castle. Many years later, a wild coincidence took place. A former German resident recognized the rug on display in the family room of Harding’s home; it belonged to his family, left behind when they fled from the Allies.”

Before serving in the military, Morris worked at Ford Motor Company. Ruth worked in Detroit as a Lens Grinder in the Penobscot Building. After the war, Morris applied to become an electrician through the V.A. bill at the St. Luke Road Barracks and within 1 ½ years he was a master electrician. Elise shared that “In March 1947 possessing only a silver dollar, a horse and buggy Harding and his wife Ruth (Henderson) opened Harding Electric. The company operated for over forty-one years. In 1957, under the VA Bill, the Harding’s built a home in Sandwich West. They raised six children who learned the business. Harding trained fourteen apprentices including his daughter Shelley who became Canada’s first Black female Electrician and first Black female Master Electrician. Hundreds of the homes and businesses in Windsor and Essex/Kent Counties were upgraded to 100- and 200-amp services by Harding Electric including the homes of many brother Veterans. Morris was president of the Ontario Electrical Association in 1955 and president of the Remington Park Legion in the early 1970s. Harding worked on the electrical banks of ocean-going ship while they were docked for repairs on the Detroit River traveling the St. Lawrence Seaway. Harding Electric had a contract with the City of Windsor and provided electrical services for Windsor’s famous Emancipation Celebrations for many years. And, in 1961, he repaired lighting in the Parliament Building in Ottawa, ON.” It is also important to note that Ruth did all the books and ordered materials for Harding Electric.

Elise also shared that her “father, Morris, Uncle Warren and Ron Smith, owner of The Walker House and the Frontier Club, sponsored a group of young Black men in the 1950s. They had a basketball team which played in Windsor and Detroit (Uncle George Henderson was a team member). These men created a fund to bail Black youthful offenders out of jail, purchase proper clothing for court appearances and assist them in retaining and paying a lawyer. They once paid for the Harlem Globetrotters to put on an exhibition game.”

On June 25, 1988 The Windsor Star printed a lengthy article titled “He attributes his success to their electric marriage” about Morris and Ruth which says “Electrician Morris Harding kids around so much with good-natured grumbling and growling that he’s called Archie Bunker in the family circle. But he leaves no doubt he’s proud of the fact his daughter, Shelley Smith, became the first black female electrician in Canada, 13 years ago. He is also quick to give most of the credit to his wife, Ruth, for the success of Harding Electric he operated for 37 years in home-town-boy-makes-good fashion. ‘My wife is a gentle person. The way she talked on the phone to people made it easy for me. A lot called up just to chat with Ruth,’ he said. Ruth’s beautiful melodious voice can be attributed to her ability to sing—she could hit ‘high C over high C’ and was once approached to tour Europe. Like her mother Euphemia, Ruth was an exceptionally talented piano player.  She married Harding instead. Then the 75-year-old Second World War veteran will josh about the battle-axe he married. ‘That old biddy is hard to deal with,’ he said of his wife. ‘I never knew what a mop and pail and broom were until that old biddy got sick.’ Ruth interjected ‘I call him Hazel.’ It was a daughter, Jaynelle Harding-Thomas, who nicknamed them Edith and Archie Bunker and Flo and Andy Capp. Sitting at the kitchen table in his Mark Avenue home, smoking seven cigarettes an hour, Morris volunteers non-stop thoughts. Some samples.

‘I’ve run into the nicest people in the world. Others I can forget with ease. They’re the people who say I am the best and I can do as I want and they don’t care who they hurt.’

‘I wouldn’t want to raise a family today. It’s all a gimme and a take. I’d be going at the world backwards. The young kids can’t even speak to you. I think these kids know too much.’

‘MOTHERS USED to stay home with their children. The government wasn’t satisfied so it had women go out to work so they could be taxed. Kids are put in a day care centre. It’s no life without mother in the house.’

‘I was a good Christian boy. My life has been good to me, I always figured.’

‘You can’t live without respect. You’ve got to give it to get it.’

‘I wouldn’t want pure children. I’d have to watch them all the time.’

‘In Windsor, we have the smartest black kids in Canada, and they can’t get work. But they’re fighting. The other generations used to hang back.’

The article continues with “Name it and Morris will talk about it. Morris, son of William Harding and Rachel Madison, was born in a home at Mercer and Erie Streets, and attended Mercer Street Public School and Patterson Collegiate with his brothers, George and William, both deceased. His birthplace and both schools have been demolished. His early jobs after becoming a high school dropout were shining shoes and running errands for the Wickens Cigar Store and shoe shine parlor, in the stock department of Kresge’s, and driving a truck for Auto Specialties Ltd. He described the Auto Specialties president, Henry Cantelon, as ‘one of the nicest people you could ever meet. He treated every man in that plant like a gentleman. You could talk to him. The union ruined that plant.

In 1943, the Royal Regiment of Canada in Toronto accepted the volunteer for army service and in three months he was overseas, serving in England, France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. When I came back after the war I took an electrical course at the St. Luke Road barracks, worked for Ace Brown and then decided to work for myself. I did industrial and residential work and did work for some of my old school teachers.”

The article ends with “Harding Electric was in operation from 1947 until 1989. His daughter Shelley and his son, Morris Jr., who died five years ago of [sickle cell] anemia at age 39, worked with him. ‘Word of mouth kept me busy. I never looked for a job. I’ve trained about 15 men in this town. He continues to help his old customers. Morris encouraged Shelley to become an electrician, she was apprentice to her father and now works in electronics at Wickes Manufacturing. ‘My mother made me go to Sunday school at the BME Church. I didn’t go to church much. And I belong to the Masonic Lodge.’ When Harding pursued Ruth, daughter of Roland Henderson and the former Euphemia Moxley, his would-be mother-in-law was opposed to him but Morris persisted and won. ‘She gave him a good benediction. She said ‘Ruth was in good hands with Morris,’ recalled Ruth. The Hardings’ five daughters, Maureen Mulder, Elise Davis, Shelley Smith, Jaynelle Harding-Thomas and Velma Harding, all reside in the Windsor area. There are 13 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Of his wife, he declared: ‘She and I have had a good life. I wouldn’t have had as happy a life and wouldn’t have had the business I have today without her. And Ruth declared: I’m getting my flowers before I’m gone.”

Sadly, Private Morris Harding’s passing was reported in The Windsor Star on September 11, 1989 and says “HARDING – Morris Howard, 76 years, on September 11, 1989 at Grace Hospital. Beloved husband of Ruth. Dearest father to Mrs. Maureen Mulder and her husband Wilbert, Mrs. Elise Davis and her husband Garland all of Harrow, Mrs. Shelley Smith and her husband Steven, Mrs. Jaynelle Harding and Miss Velma Harding, all of Windsor. Dear father-in-law to Mrs. Toni Harding. Predeceased by 2 sons, Morris (1983) and Robert (1950). Dear grandfather to 13 and great-grandfather to 2. Predeceased by 2 brothers and 1 sister Kathleen. Mr. Harding was the owner and operator of Harding Electric and a Veteran of WWII.”

A writeup which appeared in The Windsor Star on November 11, 2010, years after Private Harding’s passing, includes a tribute to his life. It says “Private Morris Harding was born in Windsor, Ontario. During World War II he served in England, France, Belgium, Germany and Holland. He was a brave soldier who served his country loyally. Morris was a liberator of Holocaust victims. Post-War he took training under the VA bill and became a master electrical contractor. He and his wife Ruth owned and operated Harding Electric here in Windsor for over forty years. He had many children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren plus other family members and friends who will always miss his wit and wisdom.”

Just a few years after Morris’ passing (1989), on December 10, 1991, Ruth passed away as was shared in The Windsor Star. Her obituary says “HARDING – Ruth (nee Henderson), 70 years, December 12, 1991. Beloved wife of the late Morris (1989). Dear mother of Mrs. Garland Davis (Elise), Harrow, Mrs. Steve Smith (Shelley), Windsor, Jaynelle Harding, Courtice, Ont. And the late Velma (1990), Morris (1983) and Robert (1950). Dear mother-in-law of Mrs. Toni Harding, Windsor. Also survived by her stepmother Mrs. Catherine Henderson, Union, New Jersey, 11 grandchildren and 1 great grandchild. Dear sister of Robert Henderson and wife Anne, Warren and wife Judy, Wallace, George and wife Barbara, all of Windsor, Roland and wife Dolores, Brampton, Ruby Buckner and husband James, Belleville, Michigan and Gloria Jean Brantly and husband James, Newark, New Jersey. Predeceased by Guyon Edward and Joyce Travers. Dear sister-in-law of Mrs. William Harding, Owen Sound, Mrs. George Harding, Windsor, also survived by several nieces and nephews and many dear friends.”

Ruth and Morris’ children include Morris Kenneth, Elise Lenore, Robert, Shelley Lynn, Jaynelle, Velma, and Maureen who was the oldest daughter from Morris’ first marriage. I’ll begin with Morris Kenneth who was born May 21, 1944. He worked as an electrician with his father and was married to Marie Antoinette (Toni) Shaheen. His children include Liisa Marie, Morris, Christian, and Keith Allen. Sadly, he passed away in 1983 of sickle cell anemia. On July 6, 1983, the Windsor Star published his obituary which says “– HARDING – Morris Kenneth, 39 years on July 4, 1983 at Metropolitan Hospital, late of 1382 Lillian Ave. Beloved husband of Marie Antoinette (Toni nee Shaheen). Dear father of Liisa Marie, Morris Christian, and Keith Allen. Cherished son of Morris and Ruth Harding. Dear grandson of Mrs. Roland (Catherine) Henderson of Union, N.J. Dear brother of Mr. and Mrs. Wilbert Mulder (Maureen) and Mr. and Mrs. Garland Davis (Elise), both of Harrow; Shelley Harding and Vilma Harding of Windsor and Mr. and Mrs. Melvin Thomas (Jaynelle), Clovis, New Mexico. Predeceased by Robert (1950). Loving uncle of 1 nephew and 8 nieces. Also survived by several aunts & uncles, cousins and a host of friends.”

According to Elise, Liisa “Lisa” has a double degree in Nursing and is a Nurse Practitioner. She lives in Detroit Michigan where she works at Henry Ford Hospital. Morris 3rd of Tecumseh, is the City Planner for Lakeshore, ON.  He has one son Morris 4th “MK”. Keith works for Ford Motor Company. He is married to Melanie Taylor and they have two children, daughter Kaitlin and son Joshua.”

Morris Kenneth’s sister Elise Lenore, who has generously shared memories and photographs to enrich this family history, was born on April 24, 1947. She is Curator Emeritus of the North American Black Historical Museum (now The Amherstburg Freedom Museum) who retired from the Museum after 32 years of dedicated service. She is also an author, educator, historian, international lecturer, and African Canadian Heritage Consultant. Elise has taught Black Studies at St. Clair College since 1993 and networked widely with numerous international educational facilities.  She was also an Executive Administrator at Hotel Dieu Grace Hospital for six years with a portfolio dealing with Physician/Staff complaints and the review/revision of policy and procedure to ensure diversity/cultural competency. Elise also organized/managed the office of the Member of Parliament for the riding of Essex, Jeff Watson, for eight years and acted as his spokesperson throughout the riding. She has also appeared on diverse media-TV, radio, YouTube, and podcasts, and contributed many articles to newspapers and magazines and written several books including The Black Presence in the War of 1812 chronicling Black military involvement, and The Colors of Essex County which concentrates on 13 sacred African Canadian cemeteries in Essex County. She has worked to ensure their preservation through Municipal, provincial and/or Federal heritage status. Much Black history is recorded on the gravestones at these sites.

Elise was a core member of “The African Canadian Heritage Tour Program” and acts as a Tour Guide. Elise worked with Police Forces throughout Ontario for several years to devise less biased hiring practises for Women, Indigenous Peoples, Black Persons and the Disabled. She has supported and educated minority youth helping them to develop improved self image and seek post-secondary education. Elise assisted her sister Shelley in devising a Black Studies draft program which was implemented by the Greater Essex County District School Board, where she served as a consultant. She has been a member of many Boards including North American Black Historical Museum, the Can-Am Indian Friendship Centre, the provincial Alliance of Healthier Communities and Chair of the Harrow Health Centre. Elise has received many awards, letters of appreciation and certificates of merit, internationally, including both The Golden and Diamond Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Metals. Recently, Elise was also named to the Order of Ontario. According to Elise, her life’s passion, the love of her people, has given Elise the opportunity to travel globally to such places as China, Ghana, Africa, England, Greece, Portugal and the Caribbean educating about and upholding “The Black Thread in the Canadian Tapestry”, proudly proclaiming , “Without Black History—History is Incomplete.”

Elise married Garland Davis, son of Lloyd and Gertrude (Lee) Davis of Dresden, Ontario,  on July 10th, 1965 at the First Baptist Church, Mercer Street, Windsor with 1000 guests in attendance. Charlotte Watkins Maxey sang at the wedding. A reception was held at the home of her parents Morris and Ruth Harding. They divorced after 32 years.  Elise and Garland are parents to Sybil Leone, Daphne Jessica, and Angelique Lenore. 

Sybil married Arnel Bruce Davis, son of Velma and the late A.V. Davis of Detroit, Michigan, on April 28th, 1990 at the B.M.E. Church, Windsor, Ontario and later divorced. They have 3 children, sons Julian Ariel, Sean Alexander and daughter Ava Marie, who passed away at age 16 years, on February 10th, 2018. 

Julian is a musical genius who can play 14 instruments, composes music and lyrics. He was admitted to the Michigan Musician’s Association when he was eight years old. Julian is currently training to be an Electrician in Detroit, Michigan. Sean married Stephanie Csikasz, October 7th, 2021, in Harrow, Ontario at Harrow United Church. The couple resides in Ruthven.

Daphne married Richard Bergeron in the Dominican Republic in 1992. She was later engaged to Robert Carreria who tragically drowned in Lake Erie on September 10, 2021. Daphne has no children.

Angelique married Nicolos “Nick” Speros on August 29th, 2008, in Toronto. Her two children are Marissa Lenore Davis Buckley and Christos “Chris” Doudlas Maximus Davis Speros.

Sadly, the next child of Ruth and Morris, named Robert, was stillborn in 1950 and is buried at Windsor Grove Cemetery. Robert’s sister Shelley Lynn, born May 25, 1955, married Herman Steve Smith, the son of Herman Smith and Lucille Tate, on April 19, 1984 in Lucas, Ohio. Shelly was previously married to Michael L. Waffle and Herman was also previously married. Shelly worked as Canada’s first African Canadian Female Master Electrician. She was among fourteen apprentices trained by her father Morris. She was also the mother of Richard, Stephanie, and Olivia. Following Shelley’s unexpected passing on October 4, 2019, her sister Elise shared a moving tribute which says, “She believed, ‘education is the portal to active and productive participation in society.’ Her personal commitment to life-long learning enabled her to graduate from St. Clair College and enjoy a rewarding career as Canada’s first African Canadian Female Master Electrician (1978). She was among fourteen apprentices trained by her father Morris Harding, who owned/operated Harding Electric with his wife Ruth.”

Elise added “Shelley helped pioneer women’s entry into non-traditional occupations for skilled trades and technology. She owned/operated Harding-Smith Electric and was also employed at Chrysler Canada-Skilled Trades, the City of Windsor, WICK and Boblo Island as an Electrician and taught skilled trades courses in Windsor’s high schools. While representing Wards 1, 2, and 9 when elected Trustee with the Greater Windsor/Essex District School Board, Shelley successfully introduced a Black Studies Teachers Guide. A community activist, she was passionate about preserving all aspects of heritage. Shelley sat on several boards-the North American Black Historical Museum (presently the Amherstburg Freedom Museum), First Nations Metis, Inuit Council, Friends of the Court – Mackenzie Hall and The Hour-a-Day Study Club. Amongst many awards she received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal and the Caucus of Colour Award. An avid amateur genealogist, Shelley featured in a Cable 16 documentary filmed in Missouri on slave George Madison, her paternal great grandfather. She filled volumes of generational family information. A world traveller, Shelley visited such places as Cuba, Ireland and China. She hosted a yearly neighbourhood children’s’ Christmas cookie-making party and mentored numerous youths, encouraging them to take up skilled trades. Shelley created a bursary fund honouring of her parents. She took risks, worked smart and fiercely advocated for Black equality.”

Shelley’s obituary appeared in the Windsor Star on October 8, 2019 and says “Passed away unexpectedly October 4, 2019 surrounded by loving family. Born May 25, 1955, Shelley was a life-long Windsorite. Caring mother of Richard (Lisa), Stephanie (Gwenyth) and Olivia. Cherished grandmother of Sarah (Jake), Korben Ethan and Bryanne. Adored great-grandmother of Astriid and Noah. Former spouse of Steve Smith. Proud Mother of her beloved fur baby Wall-E. Predeceased by parents Morris (1989) and Ruth (Henderson) Harding (1991). Sister of Maureen Mulder, Morris (1983) (Toni), Elise Harding-Davis, Robert (1951), Jaynelle (Gaitan), and Velma (1990). Shelley is also survived by caring nieces and nephews Rita, Wendy, Sybil, Lisa, Morris, Daphne, Angelique, Keith, Euphemia and Tia and 22 great and 8 great-great-nieces and nephews as well as Uncles Roland and Warren Henderson and aunt Gloria Jean Brantley. There are a host of friends and colleagues who mourn her passing she will be sadly missed by all those whose lives she has touched. Shelley was a no nonsense, straight shooter who lived life on her own terms. She believed that education is the portal to active and productive participation in society. Many thanks to Drs. Shobola, Y. Oozeer and Ouellette Campus Drs. Bradford and Singh and the ER, OR and ICU staff for expert, compassionate care. Huge thanks to neighbor Mike for his kind ongoing assistance. Arrangements have been entrusted to the Victoria Greenlawn Funeral Home.”

Son Richard Robert has Master Electrician credentials in both Canada and the United States where he is a Supervisor in a diamond mind in northern Michigan. He has one daughter, Sarah, two stepchildren named Brianne and Ethan. He has one granddaughter Astriid, who is Sarah’s daughter.

Daughter Stephanie works for the Canadian Government and is married to Gwyneth. Their son is Korben. Olivia Whitney owns a Janitorial Service in Windsor.

Shelley’s sister Jaynelle Georgetta born August 18th, 1957 was Vice Principal at a public school near Oshawa (Courtice), Ontario. Elise also recalled Jaynelle’s first marriage was to a man named Greg Williams. Her second husband was Melvin Thomas. Elise also mentioned that Jaynelle is brilliant and was on the Dean’s list at the University of Windsor. She speaks several languages fluently. Shelley’s obituary mentions Jaynelle’s partner Gaitan. Jaynelle also has two daughters named Euphemia and Tia. Euphemia Harding Morris who lives in Courtice, Ontario, is the mother of eight children and has two grandchildren. Tia Thomas Henry who lives in New York, is the mother of two sons.

Jaynelle’s sister Velma Elizabeth Robin was born on February 5, 1961. She worked as a cosmetologist and also as a carpenter. She sadly passed at the young age of 29 years old. According to her obituary which appeared in the Windsor Star on March 15, 1990 “Velma, 29 years, March 12, 1990 at Windsor Western Hospital. Beloved daughter of Mrs. Ruth (Henderson) Harding and the late Morris Harding – 1989. Dear sister of Mrs. Wilbert Mulder (Maureen) and Mrs. Garland Davis (Elise) of Harrow, Mrs. Steve Smith (Shelley) and Jaynelle Harding of Windsor and the late Morris Harding – 1983. Dear sister-in-law of Mrs. Toni Harding of Windsor. Dear friend of Dale (Nate) Nolan of Windsor. Also survived by several nieces and nephews, one great-niece and nephews, one great-niece and one great-nephew as well as numerous friends … Velma was employed at Cerebral Palsy Association Participation Industries.”

Velma’s sister Maureen Gwendolyn was born on January 9, 1939 and is the oldest child of Morris from his first marriage. Elise shared that Maureen’s first job was working for Sydney Leon at Real Lace and Linen on Ouellette Avenue in downtown Windsor. She was a Supervisor at a Plastic Plant in Windsor and worked in several factories in rural Harrow. Maureen married Wilbert Mulder, the son of Vida Mae and Harvey Mulder. I was able to find their marriage announcement in The Windsor Daily Star which was printed on October 11, 1957. It says “Maureen Harding and Wilbert L. Mulder Married at B.M.E. Church Ceremony – At a ceremony at the B.M.E. Church, Rev. I.H. Edwards united in marriage Miss Maureen Gwendolyn Harding, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Leslie Bailey of Windsor Ave., and Mr. Wilbert L. Mulder, son of Mr. and Mrs. Harvey Mulder of Harrow. Mr. Fred Kirby sang ‘At Dawning’ and ‘The Lord’s Prayer, accompanied by Mrs. M.C. Rock, the organist. The bride wore a gown of Chantilly lace and satin [fashioned after the gown worn by Princess Grace of Monaco], the yolk and the everskirt being caught at the back with satin bows and extending into a train. The front of the skirt was appliqued with lace embroidered in sequin and pearls. Her fingertip veil was tiered and lace edged, and she carried baby chrysanthemums, and stephanotis centre with an orchid. Miss Karen Tubaro was maid of honor and the bridesmaids were Mrs. Ruby Williams, Mrs. Arthur W. Preston of Ann Arbor, Mrs. Leonard Shreve, sister of the bridegroom, and Miss Shirley Boyd. The maid of honor wore turquoise taffeta and the bridesmaids wore rose taffeta, styled on princess lines, with white feather hats and cyclamen accessories. They carried cascades of white chrysanthemums. The flower girls were Shelley Lynn Harding, sister of the bride, and Elizabeth Talbot, cousin of the bridegroom, who wore dresses of tiered ruffles and carried nosegays of baby chrysanthemums. The ring bearers were Ronald Mulder and Robert Talbot, cousins of the bridegroom. Mr. Douglass Brown was the best man and the ushers were Mr. LeRoy Turner, Mr. Arthur William Preston, Mr. Fred Johnson and Mr. Glen Johnson. The bride’s mother wore a ballerina length dress of cotillion blue velveteen with a corsage of orchids. The bridegroom’s mother wore royal blue barathea with white accessories and a corsage of red roses.” Elise adds that “Step-mother Ruth, wore a slate blue knee length sheath dress. Both her father and step-father walked Maureen down the aisle.”

The wedding announcement concludes by say “Following the wedding a reception for 500 guests was held in St. Angela’s parish hall. A dinner for the family and immediate friends was served at the home of the bride’s mother.” Their children include Alrita, Wendy, and Wilbert Jr.

Maureen’s husband Wilbert passed away on July 29, 2003. His obituary says “MULDER, Wilbert Leroy 66 years. July 29, 2003. Late of Harrow. Beloved husband of Maureen (Harding). Beloved father Alrita Mulder, Harrow and Wendy and Aron Moore, Hamilton. Predeceased by his son Wilbert Jr. (Mookey), 1963. Dear papa of Deana, Joshua, Winnie and Breezie. Dear son of Vida Mae and the late Harvey Mulder (1998). Dear brother of Wanda Shreve, Toronto, Helen and Troy Robinson, Cincinnati, OH, Hilda and Larry Ware, South Carolina. Resting at the Gerald A. Smith Funeral Home, 197 King St. W., Harrow. Visiting Thursday 2-4 at the funeral home and 7-9 p.m. at Harrison Memorial C.O.G.I.C., 810 Mercer St., Windsor. A service to celebrate Wilbert’s life will be held Friday, August 1, 2003 at 11:00 a.m. at the Harrison Memorial C.O.G.I.C. with Bishop Lionel Riley officiating. Cremation to follow.” According to Elise, Wilbert was Canada’s first double lung transplant recipient.

Maureen passed away on July 12, 2022 and her obituary says “MULDER, Maureen “Moe” Gwendolyn (Harding), 83 years. July 12, 2022 peacefully surrounded by her loving family. Loving wife of the late Wilbert Leroy Mulder (2003). Loving mother of Alrita Mulder, Wendy Moore, the late Wilbert Jr. “Mookey” (1964). Loving nana and great grandmother. Daughter of the late Morris Harding and Audrey Bailey. Dear sister of Elise, Jaynelle (Gaitan), late Morris (Toni), late Shelley and late Velma. Dear sister-in-law of Wanda (late Leonard), Hilda (Larry), Troy (late Helen). Also remembered by a host of relatives and friends. Moe was the founder of the Turtles. A service was held at Central Grove AME Church 4005 Walker Rd. Harrow with Interment in Colchester Memorial Cemetery.” Elise shared that “Maureen courageously struggled with Multiple Sclerosis. Her phenomenal ‘faith in God’ enabled her to make over one hundred unique quilts and hundreds of prayer hankies which she gifted to family and friends.”

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 Harding Family History Part 4 – The Constable

Now that I have discussed William Harding’s line, I will move forward by sharing information about Robert and Elizabeth (Travis) Harding’s next child Robert Thomas Harding. He married Caroline M. Moore, the daughter of William and Sarah Moore, on October 10, 1889 in Raleigh, Kent. Their children include Robert William, Bertha Lauretta, Charles Henry, Alta, Elsie May, Samuel, Albert, Ethel Marie, and Irene. Robert William was born on June 12, 1890 in Raleigh, Kent, while his sister Bertha Lauretta was born on March 12, 1892. Their brother Charles Henry Harding was born on January 23, 1894. Charles’ sister Alta Helen was born on January 22, 1899. She married Samuel C. Gilmer, the son of John Gilmer and Nora Cropps, on August 14, 1922 in Wayne, Michigan. She married a second time to Eddie Wallace who is listed on the 1940 Census as a ‘Core Maker’ at an auto factory. The next Census for 1950 lists Eddie as a Millwright in an auto factory. Alta passed away on June 12, 1988 at the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Her death record shares that her husband Eddie passed away on October 18, 1976 and that Alta was a member of the Church of Christ. This record also shares that Alta was survived by “one daughter, Agatha Wallace, Escanaba; one brother, Sagasta Harding, Romulus, Mich.; one sister Marie Hardwick, Lansing; several nieces and nephews.”

Alta’s sister Elsie May was born on December 27, 1895 in Raleigh, Kent. According to her death record from August 19, 1938, she married a man with the last name Anderson, but his first name is not mentioned. This record also shares that she passed in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Elise May’s brother Samuel Wilfred Harding was born on June 20, 1902 in Raleigh, Kent. He married Dolly Scott, the daughter of William Scott and Margarette McCarthy, on May 25, 1927 in North Buxton. Samuel’s wife Dolly Scott was born on September 2, 1908. I also found a marriage record for Samuel and Dolly’s daughter Valaida E.M. Morton who married William A. Segee, the son of John A. Segee and Elizabeth Timbers. They married on July 9, 1981 in Lucas, Ohio. This record also states that Valaida was previously married to Howard L. Morton but was widowed. Valaida is also listed as an Assistant Nurse.

Next is Samuel’s brother Albert Sagasta Harding who was born on June 21, 1908. He married Ruth Huff Rideout, the daughter of Thomas Huff and Mary Meek, on May 2, 1940 in Lucas, Ohio. This record also shares that Ruth was previously married to Robert Rideout. Find A Grave states that Albert and Ruth had a son named Robert Sagasta Harding, but I could not find any documents that confirm this. Albert Sagasta Harding passed away on December 8, 2002 in Wayne, Michigan. According to Elise, Sagasta was a talented jazz pianist who used to visit his cousin Morris and wife Ruth; Ruth and he would play piano duets.

Albert’s sister Irene is next. According to her obituary which was printed in the Windsor Star on July 7, 1982, she is listed as Irene Rhue. It says “RHUE – Irene V, 67 years, late of Wyandotte St. W., July 5, 1982 at Grace Hospital. Dearest mother of Kenneth, Windsor and Mrs. Patricia Jiminez, Kitchener. Also survived by 8 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren. Dear sister of Sagasta Harding, Romulus, Mich.; Mrs. Alta Wallace, Estinoba, Mich.; Mrs. Marie Hardwick, Lansing, Mich.”

Irene’s sister Florence Harding Jones passed away in 1977. A tribute to Florence appeared in the Windsor Star on June 20, 1979 and says “ JONES – In loving memory of Florence who passed away 2 years ago in Escanabo, Mich., -She was something special And I miss her more each day; The saddest day of my life Is the day she passed away; I think of her in silence And often speak her name; All I have is memories And her pictures in a frame – Always remembered by her twin sister Irene Rhue and brother Sagasta Harding.” The last child of Robert and Caroline Marie Moore Harding is Ethel Marie. She was born on March 12, 1911 in Raleigh, Kent. I could not find any further information for Ethel, but she is listed in her sister Irene’s obituary as Marie Hardwick.

Now that I’ve discussed Robert, William, Martha, Mary and Benjamin, I will move on to discuss the remaining children of Robert Harding and Elizabeth Travis who are Morris (Maurice), Elsina, Elizabeth and Lavina. Morris married Eliza McConnell, the daughter of Josiah McConnell and Hannah Scipio, on August 17, 1889 in Raleigh, Kent. The 1901 Census lists Morris and Eliza along with their children Harry, Ralph, and Lillian. According to Eliza’s death record, she passed on November 18, 1932. The following year, Morris passed away on September 29, 1933 in Chatham at age 58. At the time, Morris worked as a Blacksmith. According to Elise, he was the last Black Constable for Buxton.

Elsina (some records says Ellen) Harding, is the next child of Robert and Elizabeth (Travis) Harding. She married George W. Shreve, the son of Felix and Matilda Shreve, on July 8, 1890 in Chatham. Elsina and George’s son Amos William Shreve was born on July 20, 1887 in Raleigh, Kent. Amos’s brother Ernest W. Shreve married Mezephor E. Brown, the daughter of R.S. Evans and Katie B. Haley, on April 9, 1918 in Cuyahoga, Ohio. According to their marriage record, Ernest worked for the U.S. Army while Mezephor worked as a housekeeper. Ernest’s Immigration record states that he worked as a Barber. Both George Shreve and Elsina Harding married again. George married Wilhelmina Hooper, daughter of William Hooper, on September 3, 1902 in Detroit. His third marriage was to Sarah Ward Pitts, the daughter of Joseph and Lucy Pitts, on April 15, 1923 in Detroit. George passed away on September 28, 1930 in Detroit at the age of 63. Elsina married a second time to John L. Jackson, son of David Jackson and Mary Johnson, on September 30, 1901 in Cuyahoga, Ohio. According to her death record, Ellen/Elsina passed away on March 30, 1937 in Cleveland, Ohio at age 66.

Elsina’s sister Elizabeth is next. She was born on August 30, 1875 and later married Isaac Doras Shadd, the son of Garrison William Shadd and Harriet Jane Poindexter, on September 23, 1893 in North Buxton. Their son Ralph Stanton Shadd was born on March 8, 1895. He married Bonnie B. Sands, daughter of Alfred Sands and Lucy Dean, on August 29, 1919 in Cuyahoga, Ohio. Elizabeth and Isaac’s daughter Floretta Minerva Shadd was born on July 12, 1896 and their next daughter Fredda Shadd was born on July 20, 1900. They may have also had another daughter named Elsie Elizabeth, but I could not find any documents to confirm this. Elizabeth Harding Shadd’s death record states that she passed away on July 20, 1900 at the age of 25. It seems that Elizabeth died in childbirth because her death date is the same as the birth date of her daughter Fredda. Following Elizabeth’s death, Isaac D. Shadd married Emma Jones, the daughter of Ren. S. Jones and Cathy Richison, on December 18, 1911 in Chatham. Isaac passed away on November 13, 1920.

The last child of Robert Harding and Elizabeth Travis is Lavina. She married Henry Alonzo Enos, the son of Jacob and Lenvezer Enos, on September 21, 1880 in North Buxton. Their son Robert H. married Jennie Traves (might be Travis), the daughter of Robert Traves and Emma Birdett, on June 1, 1910 in Chatham. His Social Security Information record states that Robert was born on May 3, 1883. Robert’s sister Hester Lavina Enos was born on November 26, 1887. According to her death record, she passed away on August 17, 1922 at the age of 35. This record lists her as Ester Lavina Rolls, but her husband’s first name is not listed. Ester’s brother Andrew Enos married Henrietta Clark, the daughter of William Clark and Hattie Higgins, on November 14, 1912 in Windsor. Andrew’s sisters Caroline Enos married William Earvin Johnson, the son of Louis Johnson and Susan Wallace on February 20, 1918 in Chatham. Caroline’s death record states that she passed away on November 12, 1945 in Romulus, Wayne, Michigan and that her date of birth was February 19, 1897. Caroline’s brother Frank Enos married Alma Smith, the daughter of James W. Harrison and Leona Williams on October 14, 1940 in Lucas, Ohio. This record states that Alma was previously married to a man named Artie Smith.

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.