Amherstburg Freedom Museum

Family Histories


Pearl Family

The Pearl Family Part 1 – Basil, Bozzle, Bazil or Bassel

For this month’s family history, we will be discussing the Pearl family which can trace its history back to Green County, Pennsylvania (formerly part of Washington County). According to the book The Mystery of New Canaan, a possible reason why the Pearl family left Pennsylvania was because of legislation against intermarriages, which was previously a common practice there. Because the Pearl family was racially ‘mixed’, it made it unsafe for them to remain, so they left.

We begin the Pearl family history with Basil Pearl whose first and last names have several spellings. Basil is at times spelt Bozzle, Bazil and Bassel, while Pearl is sometimes spelt Perrel. Basil Pearl Sr.’s son Basil Pearl Jr. was born circa 1814. Basil Pearl Jr. married Catherine Smith-Hilton who was born circa 1816 and was the daughter of John and Catherine Smith. Bozzle and Catherine’s children include Henry, Rachel, Alfred, Mary Anne, William, Caroline, Nancy, Hannah, Thomas P. and Joseph. We were able to find a few details for each child, beginning with Rachel.

Henry Pearl married Jane Fowler, while Rachel who was born circa 1835, married William Fowler and had eight children: Elias, Salathiel, Leroy, Albert, William, Mary J., Walter and Sylvester. Rachel’s brother, Alfred, was born circa 1837, married a woman named Miranda and had three children: Mary E., John D., and George W.

The next child of Basil Pearl and Catherine Smith is Mary Anne Pearl. She was born November 29, 1840 and in roughly 1866 married James Harris (born circa 1839), the son of Jeremiah and Elizabeth Harris. Interestingly, the 1871 Census lists James Harris as “African” while Mary Anne (Pearl) Harris is listed as “Irish” which is not an uncommon occurrence in the Pearl family: Ireland is listed as the place of origin for several members in census records. Also listed are some of their children: Mary C., Jeremiah and Caroline. James was a farmer, but the Harris family also had a brick making business. Did you know that James Harris made the bricks for a local builder, James Atkinson, who used the bricks to build the first Malden (Amherstburg) Town Hall?

James and Mary Anne later moved their family to Michigan around 1879. They are listed in the 1880 United States Census, but the spelling of their last name appears as “Harice.” The 1880 Census lists them as living in Augusta, Washtenaw, Michigan, and also gives us an updated list of James and Mary Anne’s children: Jeremiah, Caroline, Mary, James William, and David Harris. Jeremiah married Emma Leona Ward, the daughter of Nathan Ward and Lilly Smith on August 20, 1898 in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Emma and Jeremiah had eight children: Charles Franklin, David Leonze, Ernest, Chester, Sylvere, Fitzgerald ‘Jerry’, Howard and Betty June.

Jeremiah’s sister, Caroline Melinda was born circa 1868 and later married Albert White on December 6, 1888. Following Albert’s passing, Caroline married John Franklin Chavis in April of 1891 and lived on a farm on Lot 13 on South Malden Road in New Canaan. The couple had the following children: William Chavis (1892), Frederick Edward (born in 1894 and married Laura E. Woodson), David (1897), Ida Belle (born in 1900 and married Forrest Grayer) and Phoebe Ann (1906). John Franklin Chavis also had children from a previous marriage. He first married Dinah Scott and his 2nd wife was Phoebe Milton with whom he had the following children: Isaac Thomas, Cortny, John Miley, Daisy May and Eva A.

Caroline’s sister, Mary Helen Harris was born circa 1872 and later married Walter Brooks. The couple had several children including: Harry Oley Brooks (born March 1891), Sarah (born 1895 and married Harry Baylis), Earl Brooks (born May 1896 and married Leona Anderson) and Oliver Brooks.

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 Pearl Family Part 2 – “A Distinguished Looking Man”

Next is James William “Willie” Harris who was born circa 1876 and married a woman named Emma. William and Emma had at least two children: Helena “Lena” who was born circa 1928 and later married Robert Dorsey and Leslie who was born circa 1929. Lastly, David was born in 1879, but sadly passed away in 1885.

James Harris, husband of Mary Anne Pearl, passed away on July 2, 1884, in Ypsilanti, Michigan, and several years later, Mary Anne moved back to Amherstburg and married Otto/Ortho Taylor in 1887 in Michigan, then married Robert East (son of William East) in 1908 in Colchester. For further information on the Harris family, please visit our website –

Mary Anne’s brother, William, was born circa 1843 and married twice. His first marriage was to Margaret Fowler and the couple had three children: Lyman, Alfreta and William Jr.. William Sr.’s second marriage was to Minerva Alice McCurdy, the daughter of William Henry McCurdy and Mary Grinage-McCurdy. William and Alice were married in 1893 and they had a daughter named Ida. William fought in the Civil War and joined Company B of the 32nd United States ‘Colored’ Troops in 1864. He was discharged and hospitalized at Beaufort, South Carolina due to his injury. Following the Civil War, William purchased land in New Canaan, but also lived in Ypsilanti for a time. In his obituary, William was described as “a distinguished looking man and of late wore a flowing white beard which marked him in any company where he might be.”

The next child of Bozzle and Catherine Pearl, Caroline, was born circa 1844/6, married Isaac Leek circa 1866. The couple had eight children: Simon Peter, Mary Elizabeth, William, Amanda, Nancy, Susie, Clara, and Minnie. Simon Peter married Marthie Jane Matthews, the daughter of Matthew Matthews and Alma Day-Matthews in 1864, but married a second time to Medora Carter- Myles, the daughter of Lewis Jasper Carter and Sarah Elizabeth Hawkins. Medora was born in 1865 in Puce and first married William H. Myles who passed away in 1910. Simon was a successful farmer, but was most known for his horses, which earned him several awards at the Harrow Fair. To help make extra money, Simon used his horses to haul gravel and complete road work.

Mary Elizabeth Leek married John Mulder and had four children: Charles, Harvey, Lucille and Viola. There wasn’t any available information on Caroline’s next child, William, but Caroline’s daughter Amanda married George Jones. Amanda’s sister, Nancy, was born circa 1883 and married into the Adams family. Susie Leek, Caroline’s next child, married Arthur Coates. Clara Leek was born circa 1884 and Minnie Leek was born circa 1886 and married William Shoffner but married a second time to John Dickerson. Minnie and William had four children: Katherine (born 24 January 1936 and married Walter Williams), Theodore (born circa 1909), Marguerite (born April 1907) and Evelyn (1918).

Caroline’s sister Nancy, the next child of Catherine and Bozzle Pearl, was born circa 1886 and married Gilbert Lambert Green. Nancy and Gilbert had six children: Arthur, Joseph, Rosie, Frederick, Georgia and John. Arthur was born circa 1869 and married Nellie McCurdy. Arthur and Nellie had 5 children: Chauncey, Jessie, Bessie, Wavy and Olive. Nancy’s next child, Joseph was born on October 2, 1873, married Verlita Medesta Wilson (born January 31, 1900) and the couple had one son, Joseph Green, who was born circa 1927. Nancy’s third child, Rosie was born June 20, 1877, while Frederick ‘Freddie’ Green was born on May 15, 1879 and married Sarah Bibb (born circa 1884). Frederick and Sarah had three children: Ruth, Dorthy and Frederick Jr. No further information could be found on Nancy’s remaining children, Georgia and John.

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 where will discuss the remaining children of Basil and Catherine.

The Pearl Family Part 3 – A Stone Mason

So far, we have discussed five children of Basil and Catherine Pearl: Rachel, Alfred, William, Caroline and Nancy. We will continue by discussing their remaining children: Hannah, Thomas P. and Joseph. Hannah was born circa 1847, while Thomas P. was born on May 27, 1853. The 1891 Census lists Thomas’ occupation as “Stone Mason.” On July 11, 1897, Thomas married Olive H. Butler-Milton who was born in March 1866 and was the daughter of Phillip Butler and Mary Kirtley-Butler. Olive is listed with Thomas, who is recorded as a farmer, in the 1901 Census, but sadly Thomas is listed as a widower in the 1911 Census. He then moved to Amherstburg, then to Detroit.

On May 13, 1938, the Amherstburg Echo printed a story called “Thomas Pearl Is Well Known Mason of Bygone Years.” It says “Many things crumble and decay but when a man works with stone his handiwork usually is enduring. Thus Thomas Pearl, a member of the ‘colored’ race who moved the Amherstburg recently from Windsor, can still see here and in Detroit many buildings which he helped to construct while he worked at his trade as stone mason. One of these is the Wayne County building in Detroit; another is the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Jefferson and Antoine, Detroit; the Art Loan building. These and many others he worked on while in the employ of the late Alexander Capoton, one of Detroit’s best known building contractors, grandfather of Mrs. J.H. Sullivan of Amherstburg. Mr. Pearl also worked on a number of buildings in and near Amherstburg that are well known. The merry-go-round building at Bob Lo and other stone buildings there; the stone schoolhouse on the Pike Road; the Laramie house on North Street, Amherstburg. He learned his trade with Walker Brothers of Ann Arbor, Michigan having gone there in the year 1867. Born in Green County Pennsylvania in 1853, he came to Canada with his parents Basil and Catherine Pearl, when 13 years of age. They settled on a farm in Colchester North, near where the Gilgal cemetery is now located.”

The article continues by saying “After staying with the Walker Brothers for six years he went to Detroit and was with the Capotons for 16 years. Returning to Amherstburg district he worked here for some time and lived on the farm on the seventh concession of Colchester North, now owned by Eccles J. Gott of Amherstburg. He was married to Olive Butler of New Canaan, who predeceased him some years ago. He is the only survivor of his family and has been living retired for the past six years. Mr. Pearl was in his younger days a hearty supporter of the Liberal party and worked among his people at election time for the Grit candidates. He says he is glad to return to Amherstburg to spend the rest of his days.”

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 Pearl Family Part 4 – A Recipe Book

The last child of Basil and Catherine Pearl is Joseph. In the 1861 Census Joseph is listed with his mother Catherine who was a widow at that point. None of Joseph’s siblings are listed with them, but Joseph, who was 15 years old at the time, is listed as a farmer.

Joseph married Charlotte Fowler. Their children include: Nora Pearl who married Clinton Elmer Wright in 1900; Orrin Pearl who married Ellen; Josephine Pearl, who married George M. Bell (Josephine’s second husband was Willie Jones); Mandie Pearl (1886); Maude Pearl (born August 1886) who married Edgar G. Mifflin; Florine Flossie Pearl (born June 1888) who married William James Wright and had 5 children: Donald L, Donald Morrelle, William Waldo, Vivian Roxanna and Ruth E. Did you know that Flossie wrote records of people’s birth in her recipe book? In addition to the children already listed, Joseph and Charlotte’s children include Cecilia Pearl (b. June 1890), Joseph Jr. Pearl (born March 20, 1894) and Dorman Pearl (born November 1901) who married Helen Ruth Johns.

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 where we will celebrate another amazing family.