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Posts Tagged ‘Isabella Jordan’

Here I sit at my dining room table this St. Patrick’s Day evening, sipping a lovely Irish cider and doing my utmost to feel as Irish as possible.  Devoid of green clothing and anything resembling a shamrock, I feel I may be failing…

In place of a live Irish band, I am jittering in my chair to Mumford & Sons, who, let’s face it, are just as good. Everyone knows that a fiddle is the key to a good St. Patrick’s Day celebration!

My husband is playing at an Irish pub tonight and I, for lack of a pub-mate, am nerding it up at home, taking full advantage of ancestry.ca’s free access to Irish records. I wish to tell you that my evening has been successful, that I have solved a mystery and found a long lost relative, but each of these is a devastating untruth.

I have entered and re-entered known and far-reaching dates to no avail.  I have brainstormed alternative spellings to given names and surnames, ports of arrival and departure, and every other detail I can imagine.  What am I doing wrong?!?!  Perhaps a bowl of popcorn will make this all better.  Popcorn and cider you ask?  An odd combination to be sure, but let’s not be too quick to judge.

Yes, just as I thought.  Magnificent!

Okay, one final vent…  I love the Irish, but if the Public Records Office had survived the Easter Uprising of 1913 I don’t think I would be facing so many unanswered questions. It’s an odd juxtaposition (ironic, really) that in fighting for Ireland’s sovereignty and unity, the very records that held the country’s collective history were effectively destroyed.  Perhaps there was no going back after the conflagration- the recorded past had been destroyed and nothing could or would ever be the same again.

I find myself considering the emotions that St. Patrick’s Day evoked in my ancestors.  Both Thomas Shaw and Isabella Jordan lived in Ulster and were Protestant in faith.  If this statement is true, St. Patrick’s Day has little connection to the inherent Irishness of the Shaw or Jordan families; however, part of me also wonders if the religious associations that once defined St. Patrick’s Day began to change for the Irish living in North America.  Perhaps they needed a day to remember family and friends back home…

I will never know if this was the case for the Shaws who settled in Collingwood Township, but I will continue to be proud of my Irish heritage on this day, and all days, and share the stories of the early Shaws who left the Emerald Isle in search of the promising future they found in Canada.

May the luck of the Irish be with you in all that you do!

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I am pleased to announce that this is the final post that will directly address the historical events recorded by Lorne Shaw and J.T. MacMurchy in “The Shaws of Nearby Banks”.   While I have enjoyed interacting with MacMurchy’s text, I am extremely excited to explore the unpublished histories of the Shaws, and their time spent in Ireland, Banks, and beyond.

In “The Shaw Family of Nearby Banks”, MacMurchy devotes two very brief sentences to the first generation of Canadian-born Shaws.  Both sentences appear under the simple subheading “Large Family”, and are introduced by a statement that reads like a disclaimer, or a warning of what’s to come: “The people who opened this country had large families.”  Thomas and Isabella were no exception.

Together, Thomas and Isabella are known to have raised ten children: “James, Thomas, Andrew, Sam, Isabelle (Mrs. Thomas Carscadden), Mary (Mrs. John Carscadden), Robert, William, Edward and David.”  I recently learned from my grandfather’s brother, Ian Shaw, that Thomas and Isabella may have had another child named John, who lived to be eight months old (b. 24 January 1849, d. 3 October 1849).  If anyone has located John’s birth or death certificates I would be most grateful to receive a copy as I have been unable to confirm his connection to the family.

The following photograph is believed to have been taken circa 1901, prior to Thomas’s and Isabella’s return to Ireland for a six month visit with family and friends.  According to Uncle Ian, the return trip was paid for by their children, and their departure was the occasion for this impressive photograph.   To my knowledge, this is the only photograph of Thomas, Isabella, and their children.  If you know of another, please forward it to me and I will happily post it alongside the photograph below.

Thomas Shaw Sr. and Isabella Jordan Family, c1901

The Shaw Family, c1901
Back Row (left to right): James, Thomas, Isabella (Shaw) Carscadden, Samuel, Robert, Andrew
Middle Row (left to right): Thomas Shaw Sr., Isabella Shaw (granddaughter), Isabella (Jordan) Shaw
Front Row (left to right): William, Mary (Shaw) Carscadden, Edward

(more…)

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Things are already looking up during week two.  My choice of beverage is more desirable than last week’s, and despite its inflated price tag of $4.80, I am $0.57 and 614 words ahead of where I originally began.  I fully expect to dominate my 2013 New Year’s resolution.

So yes, as promised, I give you Lorne, Mr. J.T. MacMurchy and “The Shaw Family of Nearby Banks”.  Please note that dates and statements requiring correction or further discussion have been identified with an asterisk (*). These points will be revisited in future posts.

The story of Thomas’s arrival at Banks is characteristic of the hardships that greeted, threatened, and ultimately empowered Collingwood Township’s earliest pioneers.  According to MacMurchy’s article, Thomas Shaw and his bride (who remains unnamed) left County Down, Ireland, “early in 1840* and after seven weeks at sea landed in the Lower Canada*.  They made the rough journey to Barrie where Mrs. Shaw rested while her husband continued through the bush on foot, looking for a farmsite in the Blue Mountain country.”

Upon arriving in Collingwood Township, Thomas settled on the west half of Lot 18, Concession 4.  He is presumed to have cleared* and constructed a shelter on his newly acquired property before returning for his wife, whom I must identify as Isabella Jordan out of respect for her own toils and out of necessity for my own sanity.

In his first year of settlement, Thomas planted “a little grain…and soon was able to take a bag to Barrie to be ground into flour for the winter. This trip was made on foot and Thomas Shaw carried the wheat on his back and brought it back the same way”.  For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the geographical layout of Grey and Simcoe Counties, Thomas’s impressive trek roughly amounts to a sixty minute drive today.  Additional research into the early “roads” of Grey and Simcoe Counties will shed light on the various routes he may have taken; however, this is a task for another day.  The important thing to note is that Thomas’s journey was inspired by his primal struggle for survival.

Reading on, Thomas continues to battle the challenging landscape of his new home. The familiar story that follows recalls that of the mythical figure Sisyphus; however, unlike Sisyphus, Thomas willfully chooses to traverse the Niagara Escarpment – the closest landmass to a mountain that Ontario has to offer – with an immense object balanced upon his back, and shoulders.  This is the story of Thomas and his iron kettle – not a tea kettle mind you, but a large, cast iron cauldron.

“In the spring of 1841* Thomas decided to tap some of the maple trees, but he lacked a kettle in which to boil the sap. He had cut troughs and other containers out of wood, but these could not be used to make sugar.

“One of his neighbours, Mr. Lunan, offered to guide him to an iron kettle which had been abandoned near Wasaga Beach. The men found it and floated it on a raft to a point near Craighleith [sic]. Mr. Lunan returned to his farm on the flats while Mr. Shaw put the kettle on his head and proceeded to climb the mountain to bring it to his home. He was successful in this attempt but he carried the scars of his experience to his death in 1902*.”

Of all the family stories I have heard, and that have been told over the past five generations, the story of Thomas and his kettle is undoubtedly the most revered. The pride and worth of an entire family has been built upon the powerful shoulders of this inspiring man who toiled in an unfamiliar landscape that would eventually become home to subsequent generations of strong-willed, and respected Shaws.

IMG_1327

The photograph that accompanies MacMurchy’s article successfully captures Lorne’s pride in his grandfather’s accomplishment.  That Lorne offers to “loan the kettle to any young man who would care to duplicate [Thomas’s] feat” only strengthens this point.

If you can believe it, there’s more.  But not until next week…

Source: MacMurchy, J.T., “The Shaws of Nearby Banks.” The Enterprise Bulletin. Sept. 6, 1972.

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