Stokes Family

Stokes Family History Part 1 Service in the War of 1812

This month’s family history will feature the Stokes family. Throughout the research process there were several roadblocks, but also instances where a treasure trove of information was found, particularly in newspaper records. We will start with John Stokes who is written about in Elise Harding-Davis’ book, The Black Presence in the War of 1812 Unsung Military Volunteers of North America. In her book, Harding-Davis writes “John Stokes, Black veteran of the War of 1812, was granted land on Garrison Grounds in Amherstburg, Ontario. This property was claimed by John and passed down through generations of his family. His son Peter Stokes was a founding member and staunch supporter of the Amherstburg Regular First Baptist Church. In 1844 at the Amherstburg Association meeting in Chatham, Ontario, Peter Stokes entered the Gospel ministry at the Association’s first ordination service. In 1847, the Colchester Church entered the Amherstburg Association under the leadership of Elder Peter Stokes. Deacons and elders of the Amherstburg First Baptist Church acted as Conductors on the Underground Railroad; the town was one of the busiest terminus sites welcoming scores of refugees … The Stokes family took a prominent place in Amherstburg society. Peter Jr. worked as a gardener on Boblo Island. The last known member of the Stokes family to live on the family land was Estella King Stokes, wife of Peter Stokes Jr., who passed away in the late 1975.” This is all that could be found for John Stokes, but his descendants will be discussed throughout this family history. As mentioned, John had a son named Peter, but records also show that Peter had two brothers named Grafton and Randolph. No further information was found about Grafton, but information for Randolph and Peter’s lines will be shared. We will begin with Peter Stokes Sr.

Peter Stokes Sr. married Mary Ann Robinson, daughter of Alfred Robinson and Margaret Fuller. The death notice for Mary Ann’s mother Margaret shares a few more details about her family and says “In Anderdon, on Sunday, December 20th, Mrs. Fuller, aged 84 years. Deceased was born in slavery in London Co., Virginia, in 1807, and lived in the United States all her life until two years ago, when she came to live with her daughter, Mrs. Peter Stokes. Besides Mrs. Stokes, her surviving children are John Fuller, of Cleveland, O., and Mrs. Annie Johnson, of Pittsfield, Mich. The funeral took place on Tuesday to the Amherstburg cemetery. Rev. W.S. Kane officiating.”

Mary Ann Robinson married twice: first to William Jones and then Peter Stokes Sr. Before we move on to discuss Mary Ann and Peter’s union, there are further details to share about Mary Ann’s first marriage, including details about her children: Virginia/Sarah, Leandor, Elizabeth and Margaret. Virginia, sometimes referred to as Sarah, married Henry Banks, the son of Henry Daniel Banks. Valuable information about Henry Banks and his father are revealed in his obituary and we felt it important to share. According to his obituary “One of the district’s oldest residents, Henry Banks, died at his home on the second concession, Anderdon, Sunday, October 10. Deceased was born in Malden 94 years ago, the son of an escaped slave, and resided in this district all his life. Because his life was a link between the bondage of the colored people and their freedom The Echo interviewed Mr. Banks two years ago and the following biographical sketch was published.”

Henry’s obituary continues by saying “Colored Patriarch – The oldest man on the grounds at the Emancipation Day celebration at Amherstburg Thursday last was Henry Banks of Anderdon. He was the patriarch, the prophet, the historian of his people. Ninety two summers and winters had passed over his head, dimming the eye, silvering the curly black hair and moustache but leaving unimpaired the upright figure and retentive memory of the adventurous youth who once possessed that body. It is his memory that impresses one. In a half-hour chat this colored gentleman depicted for an Echo reporter a cavalcade of events connected with his personal history and that of all North American colored folk that began with the dark days of slavery, passed through the underground railway and ended with the free and happy colored race of today.”

The article continues, “Fugitive slaves in huddled quarters in the land of promise called Canada; tilling the soil on the Elliot farm; nightly gatherings at Hell’s Corners; storm-tossed ships on Lake Superior; quiet days of retirement; that is the life of Henry Banks. Born in Malden – Henry Banks was born on the Elliot farm in Malden. His father had been a slave at Richmond, Va. When he discovered that he might be ‘sold down the river’ he had decided to escape with the aid of a white man. The two of them walked from the plantation to Culpepper, Va. Daniel Banks found work in the salt mines there and remained for some months. Deciding to get to Toledo, he took the ‘underground railway,’ which was a covered wagon in which a load of colored people were transported from one ‘station’ to another until they reached their final destination, which in Mr. Banks’ case was Toledo. He remained there until the Fugitive Slave Law was enacted when he again fled the bonds of slavery and escaped by way of boat to Canada. The Elliot farm was a Canadian terminal for slaves and Mr. Banks went there. He rented a piece of land from Col. Elliot, as many other escaped slaves did, and remained there for some years. Then he moved to the White farm in Anderdon, about a mile from the intersection of the third concession of Anderdon and Texas Road.”

Before we share more of Henry’s obituary, it first needs to be added that the Elliott property was owned by Matthew Elliott, who was an enslaver. Not only was this property later a terminus in the Underground Railroad, but before that it was a place of enslavement. Matthew Elliott “owned” roughly 60 enslaved persons on this property.

Henry’s obituary also shares details of his career as a sailor saying “Started Sailing – When he grew up Henry Banks decided, as so many others from Anderdon, to become a sailor and in 1864 shipped on the steamer B.F. Wade as a deck hand with Capt. L.J. Goldsmith. The Wade was the first steamer on the lakes and the only one besides the Water Witch, to have a crosswalking beam. The Witch was lost in Saginaw Bay and the Wade was scrapped after many years of service.”

It continues by saying “The most perilous trip that Mr. Banks ever experienced on the lakes was in November, 1913, when the worst storm in the history of lake shipping caused the loss of a great many lives and damage to a number of lake boats. Mr. Banks was on the C.P.R. passenger steamer Assiniboia which, with the steamer Hammonie, was the only boat to navigate Lake Superior during the tempest. When the Assiniboia arrived at Fort William it was necessary to take axes and chop the ice from the pilot house before the captain and other members of the crew could be liberated. Mr. Banks still has a picture of the Assiniboia taken when she was covered with ice.”

Henry’s lengthy obituary ends by saying “Took Up Farming- He finally gave up sailing and began farming on lot 15, first concession, Anderdon, where he has resided since. He was married twice, first to Virginia Jones in 1869, who died some years later; and then to Lucy Lewis, who is also dead. He has one son, Henry, employed as chef at the Lake View Hotel, Amherstburg, and two grandsons.”

As mentioned in Henry’s obituary, he married both Virginia Jones (also known as Sarah Stokes) and Lucy Lewis. Virginia Jones/Stokes Banks passed away on July 17, 1891 and according to her obituary, she passed at the age “45, 14 days. Deceased was step-daughter of Mr. Peter Stokes, and was born in Lowdon Co., Virginia, on July 14th, 1846, and came to this country with her parents many years ago.” The 1871 Census lists Henry Banks and his wife Sarah Stokes, but it is not until the 1881 Census that a child is listed. This Census lists Henry and Virginia (not listed as Sarah) living with their son Henry, in addition to Henry’s father Daniel Banks who, at that time, is listed as 101. Why the names Virginia Jones and Sarah Stokes appear interchangeably is not explained but it is likely that one is a middle name. This can be said with confidence because Henry Bank’s obituary lists Virginia Jones as his wife, but his death record lists his wife as Sarah. Additionally, Sarah and Virginia were born in the same year and no documents show Sarah and Virginia being listed at the same time or in the same year.

Following Virginia/Sarah’s death, Henry Banks married Lucy Lewis, daughter of Burris and Lucy Lewis, on January 11, 1893, at the home of Mrs. Leander Jones (who is the wife of Virginia/Sarah’s brother Leander and the sister of Lucy). Lucy’s obituary from July 1906 shares further details saying “She and her daughter in law, Mrs. Henry Banks, jr. had been living together, both their husbands being employed as stewards on lake steamers … She had no children, but there was a stepson, Henry. She was about 56 years of age.”

Now that we have discussed the first stepchild of Peter Stokes, Virginia/Sarah, we’ll move on to Leander. According to his July 1907 obituary, Leander Jones was a “native of this township, died at Ann Arbor, Mich., where he was taken for treatment Thursday last week. Mr. Jones had been suffering for some time with enlargement of the heart, and as the disease had not responded to local treatment, it was decided to take him to a specialist at Ann Arbor, but he had been there only a few days when he took a turn for the worse and passed away before his wife could reach his bedside. The body was brought home on Friday and word was sent to his sons, but they were unable to get home for the funeral, which took place Saturday afternoon to Rose Hill cemetery. Services were [at] the First Baptist church, of which deceased had been a member for several years. Mr. Jones was born in Virginia and came to Essex county with his parents when young. After the death of his father his mother was married to the late Peter Stokes of this township. In the two marriages there were eleven children, only four of whom survive – Mrs. Leonard Saunders and Mrs. Mary Kelly of Ann Arbor; Peter Stokes, of Anderdon, and Abbie Stokes, of Ann Arbor. Deceased was married some twenty-five years ago and besides his wife three children are left: Louis, at home: Charles and Thomas, who sail in the summer and live in this township during the winter. Mr. Jones was … highly respected by his neighbors and will be much missed by his family.”

In his obituary, Leander’s wife is not named, but the Census reveals that her name was Nancy. Further research shows that her maiden name was Lewis. In Nancy Lewis Jones’ obituary other details are shared and says “an old resident of this township, widow of the late Leander Jones, passed away on Monday night of last week very suddenly, aged 55 years 6 months and 10 days. The funeral took place on Thursday afternoon, services being conducted at the First Baptist church, Amherstburg, of which the deceased was a beloved member. A large number of friends and relatives were in attendance, among them being John Lewis, brother of deceased, from Salem, Mich. Mrs. Jones maiden name was Nancy Lewis and she was she was born at Glen Run, Ohio, coming to Anderdon when a child. Here she was married to Leander Jones, and to them were born three sons, Thomas who sails on the steamer Shenango; Charles, a teacher at Beaverton, Ont., and Louis, who died a year ago. Mr. Jones died in 1907. One sister, who also is dead, was Mary Jane Davis, wife of the late James Davis, of Gesto. Mrs. Jones was a woman who was very highly respected in the community. She was industrious, and always doing some kind act for somebody.”

Both Nancy and Leander’s obituaries mention their children: Thomas, Charles and Lewis. According to his marriage record, Thomas Jones, married Edna Campbell, the daughter of Charles Campbell and Lile Davis, on November 4, 1919 in Detroit. At the time, Thomas worked as a Janitor. Thomas’ brother Charles Leroy was born on December 19, 1888 in Anderdon and later married Mary Maud Foster, the daughter of George Henry Foster and Sarah Jane Smith Foster, on December 19, 1911 in Amherstburg. The Amherstburg Echo gives a nice description of their wedding day and says “A very quiet and pretty wedding was solemnized last Tuesday afternoon, when Rev. Allan Peavy using the ring service, united in marriage Miss Maud Foster, eldest daughter of the late Geo. H. Foster, and Charles L. Jones, of Anderdon. The bride was daintily attired in white dotted Swiss, and was attended by her sister, Mrs. Evelyn Foster McCurdy, who was also in white. H.W. Foster served as best man. Those present were in immediate relatives of both families, the out-of-town guests being Mrs. Louisa F. Jacobs, of Los Angeles, Cal.; Mrs. George H. Foster, of Cleveland, Ohio; Mrs. Leroy N. McCurdy and son Foster, of Conneaut, Ohio, and Philo G. Smith, of Waynesburg, Pa. The bride was the recipient of many handsome and useful presents. Mr. and Mrs. Jones will be at home to their friends at his mother’s home in Anderdon for the present.” Charles and Maud had at least one child named Charles Leroy who was born on December 21, 1912 in Anderdon. Leander and Nancy’s youngest son, Lewis, married Stella Mathews, daughter of Mathew J. Mathews and Sarah A. Reynolds, on December 3, 1914 in Windsor. At the time, Lewis worked as a Marine Cook. Sadly, Lewis died at the young age of 29 in July 1915 in Anderdon.

The only information about Leander’s sister Margaret is that she married Gilbert Howard. Margaret’s sister, Elizabeth, married Andrew J. Lucas, the son of Anthony and Annie Lucas. The couple was married on November 11, 1873 in Anderdon. No death record was available for Elizabeth, but we were able to locate Andrew’s death record from October 7, 1895. At the time he worked as a labourer in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His death record also reveals that he was born in Kentucky circa 1832 and at the time of his death, he was 63 years old.

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.

Stokes Family History Part 2 – The Lake Disaster

Now that we have discussed Peter Stokes’ stepchildren, who were also the children from Mary Ann’s first marriage, we will move on to discuss Mary Ann’s life with Peter Stokes Sr. The 1861 Census lists Peter with his wife Mary Ann, who is listed as Robinson Stokes (Robinson is Mary Ann’s maiden name) and their children: Sarah, Leander, Margaret, Elizabeth, Marchale (Marshall) and William. Just a reminder that Sarah, Leander, Margaret and Elizabeth are Peter Stokes’ stepchildren, but they are listed as Stokes not Jones. The next Census from 1871 adds to their list of children with Lucinda, Henry and Mary, while the 1881 Census includes additional children: Peter and Appie (or Abbie). If you continue with the 1891 Census you will see Peter and Mary Ann’s oldest child Randolph who is not listed in any of the other Census records as living with his parents. In this Census Randolph is listed as a fireman on a steamboat which would explain his absence. Also listed is Peter’s mother-in-law Margaret Fuller. Peter does not show up in the next Census from 1901 because he passed away on July 8, 1899 at the age of 73 years old. His death record also lists him as a farmer. Peter’s wife Mary Ann also passed at the age of 73 on February 10, 1902 and her obituary says “There passed away at her home near the quarry, early Monday morning, Mrs. Stokes, relict of the late Peter Stokes, at the age of 74 years. The deceased had been sick over a year from a complication of diseases. The funeral was held Tuesday from her late residence, to Rose Hill cemetery. Rev. D. W. Johnson, officiating. The deceased was born in Virginia. She was first married to Mr. Jones, by whom she had four children. They are Leander, of Anderdon; Mrs. Howard, Detroit; Mrs. Lucas, Ann Arbor. Her second marriage was to Peter Stokes, and they had seven children, four of whom are living, Marshall, at home; Mrs. Kelly, Peter, and Mrs. James Mann, Anderdon.”

Other than what is mentioned above, there is no additional information for Peter and Mary Ann’s first two children: Randolph and Marshall. Their brother William sadly passed away in his twenties, but an article from the Amherstburg Echo recounts the tragic disaster that took William’s life in 1885. The article, from November 13, 1885, is titled “TERRIBLE LAKE DISASTER – THE C.P.R. STEAMER ALGOMA WRECKED – OVER FORTY LIVES LOST” and says “Three Anderdon Young Men Among the Missing (Special Dispatch to the Echo) – Echo Office, Amherstburg, November 10th, 9a.m. – A special dispatch this morning from Toronto announces the loss of the Canadian Pacific steamship Algoma on the rocks at Port Arthur. Only 18 of the crew and 2 passengers reached the shore alive. The shores are strewed with the dead. Over 40 lives are estimated to be lost.”

The article continues by saying “Toronto, Nov. 10th, 9:30 a.m. – The steel steamer Algoma left Owen Sound on Thursday last for Port Arthur with 530 tons of merchandise, 6 cabins, 6 steerage passengers and a crew of 46 men. On Saturday morning she went ashore on Isle Royale, in Lake Superior, during a blinding snow storm. About 12 passengers and 33 of the crew supposed to be lost … The first know of the disaster was when the steamer Athabasca of the same line arrived at Port Arthur late last evening with the saved of the Algoma, consisting of 13 men and two passengers, who were the only ones saved.”

“The Athabasca which left Owen South two days after the Algoma found the crew and two passengers in a perishing condition on the Island. The wreak had been dashed by the maddened waves against the rocks and finally beaten against the shore of the Island. The crew and two passengers saved took the life boat and battled with the waves until the shore was reached. The men were almost dead from exposure and exhaustion. The storm continued to rage furiously all night. The rescued remained on the beach, watching the wreck beat against the rock-pound Island, and seeing dead bodies dashed in the surf against the shore. The Athabasca came along about noon yesterday, and as the channel is narrow, could not avoid seeing the wreck and those on the sand. A boat was sent ashore and brought the rescued to the Athabasca. The manager of the C.P.R. lake traffic sent out tugs from Port Arthur with instructions to search Isle Royal for survivors that may have got ashore and to pick up and take care of any bodies found.”

More details are shared with “CAPT. MOORE’S SWORN STATEMENT – Port Arthur, Nov. 10th – The fullest details have been received, but the following sworn account by Capt. Moore, taken before a notary public, may be relied on as the most authentic: The steel steamer Algoma cleared from Owen Sound at 1:20 p.m. Thursday, the 5th inst., bound for Port Arthur, having on board a general cargo of merchandise of about 400 tons. We had a good run to Sault Ste. Marie which port we cleared a 1 o’clock on the afternoon of Friday, November 6th, and passed Whitefish Point at 3:50 the same day. It was blowing a strong breeze from the east and northeast. The wind was increasing. We made sail at Whitefish Point at 7p.m. The weather was the same, but the wind was slightly increased, with occasional squalls, attended with rain. At midnight the wind had increased to a moderate gale with frequent squalls, accompanied with rain and sleet, a sea getting up. At 4a.m. on on [sic] November 7th the wind shifted northeast with violent snow squalls and a heavy sea running. At five minutes after 4 a.m. we checked down and commenced taking in sail. At 4:30 a.m. all sail was in except the fore tri-sail, which was partly in, and we put the wheel hard a starboard, and the ship was coming around to head out on the lake again on account of the snow. After leaving Whitefish Point, our proper course being northwest by west, but the wind being from the northwest, we steered north west by west quarter west until 10 p.m. to allow for leeway, when the course was changed to northwest, until 4 a.m. We then steered west by south for the purpose of taking sail in. While the ship was coming around as mentioned above she struck aft about 4:20 and continued to forge ahead driven in by the heavy sea. About 4:40 she settled the seas making a clean breach over her all the time and smashing the ship up. A blinding snow storm still continued. On account of the seas that were running and the surf it was impossible to make any effort to save the ship or cargo and about 6 a.m. she parted at the foreside of the boiler and the freight got washed out and some of it was driven ashore. The survivors clung to the after part of the wreck until Sunday morning, when the gale having abated and the sea gone down, we made a raft and went ashore and found we were on Green Stone Island at the northeast and of Isle Royale. On Monday morning at 9 o’clock we sighted the Athabasca, on which ship the surviving passengers and crew embarked for Pt. Arthur, at which port we arrived at 6:45 p.m. Monday night.”

It continues with “Most of the passengers and a number of the crew were in bed at the time the boat struck, but were rudely awakened by the shock and the scene that followed is beyond description. Water poured in through the broken vessel and over the bulwarks, putting out the fires in the furnaces and extinguishing the electric lights. The screams of woman and children were heard above the fury of the storm. The crew hurried hither and thither, doing what they could in the darkness to render assistance but their efforts were of little avail, for in less than twenty minutes after the vessel struck the entire forward part of the boat was carried away, together with the cargo  and human freight. Several clung to the rigging and life line the captain had stretched along the boat, but were soon swept away by the sea and swallowed up by the angry waves. The stern of the boat was steadily pushed upon the rock and those who were not too much exhausted with fatigue and benumbed by cold crept to the after steerage and sought its welcome shelter. In less than an hour after striking all was over and but fifteen out of over fifty were saved. Some of the survivors remained from the time of the disaster (4 o’clock on Saturday morning) until Monday morning at 10 o’clock exposed to the weather with but little food and clothing, nearly everything having been washed away when they were sighted by some fishermen, who came to their rescue. After taking the survivors from the doomed vessel and placing them on Isle Royale, where a fire was kindled for their comfort, the fishermen went out and intercepted the Athabasca, which was coming in about ten miles away. Capt. Foote, of that vessel, immediately put about and took the sufferers on board when they were subsequently brought here.”

The end of the article finally lists the three men lost from Anderdon, including William Stokes and says “Three Anderdon colored young men were on board the ill-fated craft as cooks – John Lott, Fred Brooks and Wm. Stokes. John Lott, the head cook of the Algoma was the second son of the late Silas Lott, of Anderdon, but both his parents died when he was young and he was brought up by John Brown, of Anderdon. He has sailed about five years, and was on the Alberta last season, and the Algoma, all this season. His sister, Mrs. Pryor Wilson, of Amherstburg, an unmarried sister and a brother in Michigan survive him. His age is about 25.”

“Fred Brooks was the eldest son of John Brooks, who formerly lived in Anderdon, but moved to Sandwich last fall. Fred was about 24 years of age and had sailed about 5 years. He was cook last season on the Alberta and all this season was on the Algoma, as second cook. His father is a confirmed invalid, while his mother and two younger brothers are living.”

“William Stokes was the second son of Peter Stokes of the 1st concession of Anderdon, and was about 22 years of age. He has sailed over four years as cook, having been two years on the Alaska. He started this season on the steamer Continental, but went on as third cook on the Algoma over three months ago. His father, mother, brother Randolph and two unmarried sisters are living.”

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.

Stokes Family Part 3 – A Separate School in Anderdon

William’s sister Lucinda, the next child of Peter Stokes and Mary Ann Robinson, will be discussed next. She married Franklin Tolbet (some sources say Talbot), the son of Reuben Tolbet, on January 4, 1882 in Amherstburg. Sadly, Lucinda passed away on February 11, 1884 at the age of 23 in Anderdon. Although Lucinda was long passed at this point, the 1901 Census lists Lucinda’s mother Mary A. Stokes with her grandson Frank Talbot who was 18 years old. He was born before Lucinda passed away, lives with Lucinda’s mother and shares the same last name as Lucinda’s husband so all conclusions lead to Frank being Lucinda’s child.

Lucinda’s brother Henry also died at a young age. He passed on December 28, 1883 in Anderdon at the age of 19. At the time, Henry worked as a sailor. Both Lucinda and Henry passed due to consumption. Their sister Mary Stokes married Porter Kelly. The couple had at least four sons: Andrew, Alfred, Willie and Edward. Andrew was born on November 19, 1891 in Sandwich West, while Andrew’s brother Alfred passed away on September 18, 1930 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. At the time he was single and 37 years old. His death record also says that Alfred was born on April 5, 1893. Alfred’s brother Willie was born on September 12, 1894 in West Sandwich Township and Edward was born on July 13, 1897 in Anderdon. Sadly, Edward passed away a few days after he was born. Mary Stokes Kelly must have married a second time because her death record lists her as Mary Johnson, daughter of Peter Stokes and Mary A. Robinson. Mary (Stokes) Kelly Johnson passed away on November 17, 1939 in Ann Arbor at the age of 72.

Mary’s brother and the next child of Peter and Mary Ann Stokes, Peter, will now be discussed. Peter married Sarah Estella King, daughter of Albert King (who was the son of Urial/Uriah King and Keziah Goodrich) and Mary Ellen Saunders (daughter of Benjamin Saunders and Mary Robinson). In a 1941 Amherstburg Echo article “Colored People Of District Had To Start Own School – Peter Stokes Tells History Of Building” Peter recalls the history of a school that was located in Anderdon. The lengthy article says “Announcement that the Board of Trustees of School Section No. 1 was endeavoring to sell the property on the second concession of Anderdon, north of the Texas Road brought back a flood of memories to the colored folk of Amherstburg and district. For it was on this small parcel of land that the colored people, over 80 years ago, established their own school which they maintained until 1917, according to records kept by Peter Stokes, King Street, Amherstburg.”

The article also shares that “Racial prejudice forced them to break with the whites and Indians at the Sloane School and after many hardships which culminated in a court battle, the colored people of Marble Village won recognition by the Government and the school was officially known as S.S. No. 1. The fight for governmental recognition is one of the most outstanding stories in the history of this locality. Previous to 1850, all races which included whites, colored and Indians attended the Sloane School on what is today Brunner Mond property, east of Highway No. 18. Before long, narrow-minded people raised the racial issue which continued to grow and in time forced the colored people of the district to apply at Ottawa for permission to form a colored Separate School. The petition was bucked by some 100 or 125 families, residents of Marble Village, but under English law there was no color distinction and this made it impossible for the government to grant their request. Undaunted, the colored folk continued the battle which was forced upon them by prejudiced people and their efforts were later rewarded with the announcement from Ottawa that they might have their own school, minus financial backing from the government.”

The history continues by saying “Established School – Cheered by this declaration, the colored people immediately withdrew and established their own school in a smaller building on the Sloane place. With no other source of income the pupils were obliged to pay an assessment of 25 cents a month to maintain the school. But the plan worked out well and it wasn’t many years before the colored people had purchased a small tract of land on the second concession, which the trustees of S.S. No. 1 are endeavoring to sell. About 1850 the white section of Sloane School moved to a building north of the Texas Road on the River Front, but the school flourished for only 10 or 12 years. About this time a friend appeared in the person of Roland Winfield, a man of wealth with a desire to assist the colored people. Little is known of Mr. Winfield’s background, but according to Mr. Stokes he was thought to be a Southerner, who owned a block of land north of the Texas Road and west of the second concession known as Marble Village. While Mr. Winfield was looked upon as a philanthropist eight or nine decades ago, he would be classed today as a shrewd real estate dealer. With the view in mind of assisting the colored folk, Mr. Winfield divided his property into small parcels of two, five and ten acres and sold them on the installment plan.”

“But if they all paid the price Peter Stokes, Sr., did for his small piece of land then Mr. Winfield made a mint of money. Curious to see what the land cost his father, the present Mr. Stokes looked up the deed and found to his amazement that his father was charged at the rate of $96 – an acre. Mr. Stokes, in commenting on the transaction, was of the opinion that the property wouldn’t bring that same price today. However, regardless of the price Mr. Winfield received for his land, he was the one who made it possible for the colored people to own their own school.

When the need for a school was brough to his attention, he sold the residents of the district a plot of land and a log building on the second concession for this purpose. The building which is now for sale today was built some years later. It was the official school in this section of the township after the Sloane School was closed, but it wasn’t long before the fight for governmental recognition was forced upon the colored people. The white people in the section started a movement for a new school which was later erected on the Texas Road, east of the third concession. Then came the agitation to make this the official school of Section 1. The colored people fought the movement and the battle ended in the courts at Amherstburg.”

“Trustees -The trustees at the time were Leander Jones, Philip Alexander and John D. Brown. These three men hired a brilliant lawyer by the name of Kirkland and placed the fate of the school in his hands. When the flow of legal oratory had subsided the court ruled that the colored school should remain the official school and continued to get the government grant. In 1850 when the school opened Miss King was the teacher and she was paid $150 or $200 a year for her services. Some of the teachers who later served at the school were Miss Julia Turner, George Simons, Mr. Coxfield, Mr. Pocock, Miss Harris, Miss Christian, Jacob Taylor, Alexander MacKenzie, Miss Round, Miss Madeline Foster, J.H. Alexander. The oldest trustees Mr. Stokes can recall were the late A.J. Lucas, John D. Brown and Aaron Saunders. Mr. Stokes himself served as trustee for 12 years and H.D. Banks, George Street, Amherstburg, was treasurer of the board for a number of years.”

The article ends with “60-Year-Old Pupil – In the early years the school boasted the oldest student in the country attending regular classes, Edwin Brooks, grandfather of Jerome Simpson, King Street, hungry for knowledge, attended classes there at the age of 60, carrying his lunch daily to the schoolhouse along with his grandchildren. And Mr. Brook’s patience were rewarded for he received a fair education. Some years after the court battle, the ‘white’ school was destroyed by fire. It was not rebuilt and the pupils were compelled to attend either the colored school or the Separate School on Darragh’s Hill, Texas Road. When the Brunner Mond Company began to flourish about 1917 a colony of workmen with families congregated near the quarry. The school accommodations were inadequate and the company resolved to erect a new school The colored school by this time had outlived its usefulness and it was decided to construct a new building. For this purpose the Brunner Mond leased to the School Section a plot of land on the second concession, south of the Texas Road. In the Spring of 1918 a new public school without color distinction was opened with Miss McCormick as teacher. And with the erection of the new building there passed from the scene one of the oldest centres of learning in the district.”

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.

Stokes Family Part 4 – Days of Slavery Still Seem Real

A separate newspaper article titled “Days of Slavery Still Seem Real” also involves Peter Stokes’ memories, but this time about his own family’s history. The article says “And to others in the Windsor district the days of slavery seem as real as though it were actually yesterday, or perhaps the day before. The parents of many local folk were once actually sold on the slave block. Peter A. Stokes, 112 King street, Amherstburg, brings out an old muzzle-loading rifle and hand-made knife, brandishes both when the subject of freedom is broached. Born in 1870, he has never for one moment lost sight of the value of being a free man. ‘My grandfather was beaten to death in the United States,’ he says. ‘My father was a slave in Kentucky, and ran away with his whole family because he wanted to be free. This is the gun he carried with them. It claimed three lives in my father’s fight for freedom. This knife also did its part. Both the knife and the gun would be used again if my freedom were threatened. Freedom means everything to us. It means life. I’d just as soon be dead or die fighting rather than be a slave the way my father and his folks were.’”

According to Sarah Estella King’s obituary, her husband Peter worked as a gardener for the John Mullen and Fred Elliott estates. In October 1931 the Amherstburg Echo published an article that further discusses Peter’s work in gardening through the Amherstburg Garden Contest. The article titled “YARD CONTEST WINNERS ANNOUNCED” says “Prizes Given in Each of the Three Wards – J. Jones, Judge – “… Mr. Jones and his brother visited every street in the town and considered that great credit is due to many of the people of Amherstburg for the time they spent on the upkeep of their lawns … The prizes were awarded as follows: … Second Ward – best lawns and gardens, Ray Nicholson, Gore street; C. Drouillard, Murray street; Peter Stokes, King street.”

Peter Stokes and Sarah Estella King had one child named Mae Elizabeth who was born on September 25, 1895 in Anderdon. According to her Naturalization Application from 1941, she was working as a cook, was not married and had no children. Sadly, a few years later, Mae Elizabeth passed away in April 1946 at the age of 50. Her obituary adds that she was a practical nurse and received her training at the Chicago School of Nursing. Before returning to Amherstburg, she lived in Ann Arbor.

The last child of Peter and Mary Ann Stokes that will be discussed is Abbie. She married Isaac Eugene Hughbanks, the son of Robert Hughbanks and Jane Fairfax, on July 30, 1908 in Windsor. It is likely that Abbie and Isaac didn’t have any children because the 1910 and 1920 Census lists list Abbie and Isaac, but no children. In same year as the latter Census, Abbie passed away on April 20, 1920 at the age of 43 from stomach cancer.

What we publish is not a complete history of any family and is based on the documents that are available. We welcome photos and information to fill in the gaps. See you next week for part 5.

Stokes Family Part 5 – Randolph’s Line

Now that we have shared the history of Peter Stokes’ family line, we’ll move on to discuss his brother Randolph’s line. The 1871 Census lists Randolph, a farmer, and his wife Lucinda (Robinson) with their children Sarah and Alexander. The following Census from 1881 lists a third child, Susan. The 1891 Census lists Lucinda as a widow and the head of the house, along with her children Alexander, a house carpenter, and Susan, a seamstress. No further information was found for Susan Stokes, but there was information for Sarah Francis and Alexander Grafton. Sarah Francis sadly passed away at the age of 19 on March 4, 1882.

Sarah Francis’ brother Alexander married Erskine Bruce, the daughter of Alex and Nancy Bruce, on July 21, 1891 in Detroit. At the time, Alexander was a carpenter. He passed away in February 1932 in Detroit. Alexander and Erskine, also known as Caroline E. or Lena, had at least 11 children: Harold, May, Clarence, Percy, Ethel, Alexander G., Hazel, Ester, Gerald, Florence, Viola, and Elsie. A birth record was found for Thomas A. Stokes, listed as the son of Alexander G. and Lena Stokes, born on May 1, 1900 in Detroit, but there was also no further information for this child, nor for May, Esther, Gerald, Florence, Viola or Elsie.

Harold Stokes, the son of Alexander and Lena Stokes, married Mable Robinson, the daughter of Walter and Martha Robinson, on December 2, 1912 in Detroit. Records from his military service also reveal that he registered on November 1, 1917 at Camp Custer, Michigan, Co. 4 160th Depot Brigade. He is listed as a Private. Harold also has a draft registration card from 1942.  Ten years later, Harold passed away on March 10, 1952 in Detroit.

Harold’s brother Clarence married Theresa Ball on December 21, 1919 in Detroit. Theresa was the daughter of Payton Ball. Theresa’s mother’s last name is listed as Graham, but no first name is shown. Military Service Records also appear for Clarence who is listed as being in CO C803 Pioneer Infantry as a Private and the first date of service is July 31, 1918 at Camp Custer, Michigan. His military record shows that his date of birth was February 5, 1894 in Windsor, along with his wife’s birthday as July 6, 1900 in Alabama. Clarence’s draft registration for WWII lists the event date as 1942 in Detroit. Further military records show that Clarence passed away on November 11, 1952. Also available is information for Clarence and Theresa’s children. A death record for Lillian Alberta Stokes states that she was born on April 28, 1920 in Detroit and passed away the following year on February 24, 1921, also in Detroit. Another child, James, was born on January 25, 1924 in Hamtramck, but he also sadly passed away shortly after birth, on February 14, 1924. The 1920 Census also shows Clarence and Theresa and their child Clarence, along with a Pauline Maybury and Clarence’s brother Harold and his wife Bell living in the same household.

Clarence and Harold’s brother Percy also served in the military. According to his military service record, Percy’s date of entrance was July 25, 1919 in St. Louis, Missouri. At the time, his residence was Detroit, he was a carpenter and his birthday was May 9, 1895 in Windsor.

The next child of Alexander and Lena Stokes is Ethel. She married William J. Wright, the son of Jack and Mary Wright. The couple was married on August 17, 1915 in Detroit. This record also indicates that William was born in Missouri. They had at least one daughter, Ethel Lena Wright, whose death record reveals that she passed on February 7, 1952 in Detroit, was 34 years old, single and born on June 5, 1917.

The only information available for Ethel’s brother Alexander G. is that he was born on May 9, 1895 in Sandwich. This record lists Alexander’s father by his middle name of Grafton, rather than Alexander and he worked as a carpenter. Alexander’s sister Hazel was born on May 5, 1903 in Detroit.

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.

 

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