The Georges: From Cornwall to Cobourg

By Christopher Bretz


This is still a work in progress.

Although our branch of the George family has called Canada home for many generations, we can trace their recorded history back to St. Teath (pronounced 'St Teth'), Cornwall of the 17th century. There they lived as carpenters and stone masons for over 130 years before William George took his family to the New World in search of opportunity in 1842-43. Many distant George family descendants continue to live in the St. Teath-Camelford region to this day.

Throughout its history Cornwall has remained a quiet agricultural and fishing region whose people enjoy a distinct identity from their neighboring Englishman. Cornish are mostly descended from the Dumnonii tribe of Celts, and have their own folklore and Welsh-like language, which was spoken as recently as 1777 (and is undergoing a bit of a revival). The Romans had relatively little influence in Cornwall compared to other regions of the UK, and it was the early Christian missionaries who first pushed into the lands from the outside. Mining has been a large part of Cornish life for centuries. Tin and copper briefly brought wealth to the Cornish people during the 19th century, but when the mines closed it lead to the great Cornish diaspora. From 1800 to 1830, Cornwall produced two-thirds of the world’s copper and tin, with the peak of production in 1856.  The Delabole Slate Quarry has also continued to produce top quality slate for more than 6oo years.

St. Teath is a small village near Camelford most notable for having the parish church, and for its proximity to the ancient Delabole quarry. St. Teath also  likes to boast of its one famous son, Vice Admiral William Bligh, born here in 1753, and of Mutiny on the Bounty fame.

The parish church is dedicated to St.Tethe, an early 5th century Celtic Christian, and dates from about 1380. It has served the parish alone for many centuries until the Church of Saint John the Evangelist was built in 1879. This means our George ancestors very likely worshipped here for many generations. A large Celtic cross stands in the cemetery and the fact that the church land is in the shape of a rough circle indicates that there was probably some kind of place of worship here all the way back through Norman times into antiquity. In the old church records at Exeter, there is a very old document dated 1345 which  invites the pious to make a pilgrimage to St. Teath so that the time they have to spend in Purgatory when they die would be reduced.

One of the more interesting possibilities from our research is that all Cornish Georges might be related through a Salathiel George or his kin. Salathiel was from the county of Trenouth which is within 20km of the town of St. Teath and is of the George line whom was granted the coat of arms commonly associated with the surname.

Mention of the Salathiel is found in a book of illustrations by Hans Holbein called Facsimiles of original drawings by Hans Holbein, in the collection of His Majesty for the Portraits of Illustrious Persons of the Court of Henry VIII, Francis Bartolozzi, 1884. This engraving below is said to be of Simon George, Salathiel's father, a minor figure in the court of Henry VIII. Its text mentions the correct dates and locations also listed in the arms description, and even provides a brief family line. Unfortunately it indicates there were likely no male descendants of Salatheil, at least as of 1620. This does not mean there were none born afterward, and doesn't preclude a link to by way of another yet unknown brother or uncle to Simon George in Cornwall. There is a gap of perhaps three or four generations between our oldest confirmed ancestor, John George, and Simon.

From the Bartolozzi book;

Simon George, of Quocoute, in the country of Cornwall, was the son of a private gentleman of his names, who acquired property at that place, and lived there, and whose father came from Gloucestershire into Dorsetshire, and settled at Osmondton, in the latter country; his mother was descended from a good family of the name Hussey. He married Thomasine, daughter of Richard Lanyon, a gentleman of an ancient Cornish house, and had by her two sons, Simon, who died without issue; and Salathiel, who settled at Trenouth, and was living there in 1620, having at that time three daughters, Anne, Elizabeth, and Thomasine.

These men's names are also referenced in an article in the West Briton on July 19th, 1928, contributed by the historian Charles Henderson. It describes a visit to St. Agnes church in Cornwall by the Dean and Chapter of Exeter in November, 1608;

At St. Agnes the local gentry were in trouble. Simon George, gentleman, and Richard Cleder were presented "for brawling and scolding in Church"; Peter Beacham, gentleman, "for using unseemly speeches and railing words in the church." Salathiel George and Edward George, gentlemen, for the like; and Margaret, wife of John Paull, ' for scolding in the churchyard" with Katherine, wife of Richard Danyell. They were all excommunicated, paid their fines, and received absolution. Last of all, Margaret Plemyn, alias Chinoweth, executrix of John Plemyn, late Vicar of Perran, was excommunicated for allowing the ' House for the Curate" at St. Agnes to be much decayed and refusing to restore it.

Admittedly it is hard to believe that the Simon described here is the same one from the portrait, as this would put him at near 100 years old by then. Salathiel, however, is a rare enough name to be distinct. It is not known who the Edward George mentioned with Salathiel is.

The history of Simon George's family (both drawn these examples and other sources) helps to provide a possible, although unconfirmed, link to our own George branch. Simon seems to have come to Dorset from Gloucestershire, near Wales, in the early 16th century. He prospered and his children moved westward into Cornwall in the subsequent decades, one of which was his grandson Salathiel. By the 18th century there were several groups of George families to be found about Cornwall, some of which have fairly well documented genealogies from that time, including our own. George was never a common name in Cornwall, and in modern times much larger numbers of George families are to be found in Wales and Gloucestershire. It therefore is plausible that all the Cornwall Georges are an offshoot from the main Welsh group.

Above is a picture of the town of St. Teath as it appears today.




There were several clusters of George families around Cornwall in the 17th century. Based primarily on parish records, they were to be found mainly to the south near Redruth, Truro, and Camborne, and to a lesser degree all over the tip of the peninsula. One branch of Georges was found on the west coast in the St Enoder/Crantock area, where they had records going back to the 1500s. This was near Quocoute, the old seat of Simon George during the time of Henry XIII. Broadly speaking the George family was seemingly less inclined to live in northern Cornwall until after 1700.

The earliest direct George family member we have tentatively identified is Ambrose George (1662-1723) born around 1662, and who lived near Sithney, Cornwall on the south coast. He and his wife Ursilla had at least five children together, all born at Sithney; Richard, Susan, Ambrose, John, and Henery. Some of their descendants did stay in the area, but nothing much more is known of them.

John George (1695-1762) of St Teath, our confirmed direct ancestor, is currently believed to be Ambrose George's fourth child. According to parish records John was among the first Georges known to have lived in St. Teath village. His wife was called Mary on all of their children's baptismal records, but a search of marriage records has not revealed any local newlyweds by their names within many kilometres. The best indication is of a John (Ambrose's son) who wed in the parish of Sithney to Mary Rodda on September 26th, 1718. It is also possible the records are simply incomplete and will require more research. John and Mary's first child was born a year later in the parish of St. Teath, so if correct, this would seem to indicate they moved to the village sometime in early 1719. What took them there is not known, nor is John's occupation. John and Mary had seven children together; Edward, Mary (died young), Elizabeth, Benjamin (died as an infant), Joseph, Catherine, and Loveday.

Confusing matters, another child was born to a John George of St Teath in July 1712, six years before our John and Mary's first, aho would only have been a teenagers at this time. This is the first recorded George to have been born in the village and was named William. His mother's name in not known, nor what happened to him.

John and Mary named their youngest child Loveday, a rare Old English name which still survives only in Cornwall. Their son Benjamin died as an infant, and daughter Mary died as a teenager.

Son Joseph George married Barbara Brown and moved to St Kew where he had a large family. Daughter Catherine married William Steer and moved to St Endellion. Daughter Loveday appears to have had at least two children, but their father is unknown. She later married John Osborne and moved away with him to St Tudy. This left eldest son Edward as the foremost George in St Teath and to whose lineage our George family belongs.

18th century life was particularly difficult in Cornwall. An epidemic of smallpox afflicted the region in 1708-09, cholera and tuberculosis were ever present, and the Plague was seen in the region as late as 1667. The average age of death found in the St. Teath graveyard from 1750 was reduced to just 25 years old, and even into the 1800s it was only grew to 40.

A notable event which would have been long remembered by the people of Cornwall was the Great Storm of 1703, caused by the tail end of a large hurricane from America. Ambrose George and his family living near the sea in Sithney would surely have been affected by it.

There is some confusion as to when mother Mary died. Many researchers note her death in either 1719 or 1722 at a very young age. This would indicate she was not mother to most of John's children beyond Edward, and that there is an unknown mother to be found, but there is not record of John remarrying. Additionally baptismal records show John and Mary as the parents of all seven children through 1730, so it is more likely that the death recorded in 1722 is of an infant child. The only burial in St Teath of a Mary which makes sense occurred in either 1770 or 1771 showing she lived until 73-4 years of age.

Ambrose George died at Sithney in 1823. John is recorded to have died July 28th, 1762 and was buried at St. Teath. No grave is known.


Edward George (1719-1804) was born to John and Mary George and baptized on September 12th, 1719 at St. Tetha. He was their first child, and from what we can tell only the second recorded George to have been born at St. Teath.

Edward married Anne Inch on August 30th, 1740. The Inch family was from nearby St. Kew and had lived in the region for generations. According to church records, in 1740 Edward and Ann were caught having premarital sex and had to do penance.

The couple had ten children together; Richard, Mary, Elizabeth, Edward, Joseph (died as an infant), Catherine, Anne, Hambly, Florence (died as an infant), and William. Of the surviving children, the only males with children known to pass on the George surname were Richard and Hambly. Edward Jr had 2 children with Catherine Thomas but it is not known what happened to them, perhaps they moved away from St Teath. Daughter Mary married into the Visick family and moved to Perranarworthal, and daughter Anne married into the Teague family and remained in St Teath. Children Edward, Florence, and William have few records that we have found.

The unusual given name Hambly is found in the George family over and over again. Although its significance has been lost, it is originally a surname from Hertfordshire where the family held a seat of power during the Middle Ages. The oldest usage in our family line appears to be Anne Inch's grandmother, Lucy Hambly, but not much is known about her past or where she came from. From her it was passed on as a given name to Hambly Inch, Anne's father, and then to one of Anne's brothers. Anne herself appears to have continued the tradition by giving the name to her eighth child, Hambly George, who himself then went a step further by marrying a Mary Hambly, further entwining the names. There are over a dozen occurrences of its use as a given name in the George and Inch families. It was even found used as a given name into the 20th century.

The southern coast of Cornwall was hit by a 3 metre tsunami in 1755, the result of a distant earthquake in Spain. There is no official record of the overall death toll, but the 19th Century French writer, Arnold Boscowitz, claimed that "great loss of life and property occurred upon the coasts of Cornwall". Although our George ancestors lived inland, certainly they must have heard stories of this great wave.

During the 18th century, tin and silver mining increasingly began to be a profession for many Cornish men. Although we have not been able to link specific members of our George family to it, we have found several references to unknown Georges who were miners and quarrymen in the area. It was a very hard way of life and often men died at a young age.

A pandemic of Smallpox afflicted St. Teath in 1780-82. In 1789 there were bread riots in Truro at the outbreak of the French Revolution - the tin miners were nearly starved.

Edward George died on February 5th, 1804 at St. Teath, Cornwall at the age of 85. His wife Anne died a few years later in 1811. Their grave has not been found.


Cornwall once had a language of it's own similar to Welsh. The last person to speak it natively is said to have been Dolly Pentreath, who died in 1777 (however, others claim knowledge of it as late as the 1890s). Because of this linguistic past the people of 18th and 19th century Cornwall spoke a somewhat different dialect of English from their later descendants, borrowing from this Cornish language. Our George ancestors would have been no different, although the speaking of pure Cornish would have died out by the 16th century in the St Teath area.

Below is an account from 'The Lobb's of St. Teath', a branch of the Cornwall George family, where the Cornish dialect is discussed. The Grandfather referred to below would have been a contemporary of William George's children (being born in the 1830s), but these comments would apply to the preceding generations of those born in Cornwall. Listen to a samples of the modern Cornish dialect at the BBC here.

Grandfather spoke a distinct Cornish dialect. Not all people in Cornwall spoke alike, in fact, the dialects would shade off from one county to the next, and grandfather said that in Cornwall there were two parts, one called “we's” country, where folks always said “we” and never said “us”, and 'us' country where the reverse was true. Thus the latter would say “Wim (we am) goin”. Grandfather belonged to “we's' country”. He also used “hair” for both “she” and “her”. Thus instead of “She told us so” he would say “Hair told we so”. He also used “they” for “those” and objects and animals would be “he” or “ee” regardless of gender. To me the possesive sounded like “eess”. His h's were misplaced. For “Here's the hook and here's the eye”, I once heard him say, “Eer's the ook an eer's the hi”. Actually the pronoun “she” did not occur in old English, and in Cornish “Did a come?” could mean “Did he (or she) come ?”

Grandfather's son Dick told me that “thee” was still sometimes used, particularly in a sort of dispariging sense. Thus “Where art thee going” or ”Beesta coming?” Also grandfather used the old accusative of “he”, viz. en or un, as in “He took the orse and tacked en” (He took the horse and hitched him.”) The plural of the present tense of “to be” was in grandfathers speech, wim and yoom and them (ie: we am, you am, they am). It should be noted that “ea” had the Irish sound, thus Go to the stoor and git a paound of tay. And,” I must go aout an mate me chickens” (meat i.e. feed my chickens). I also recall “chimley” (chimney) and “the ould ooman” (the old woman, i.e. my wife). St Teath was pronounced “Sinteth”. Other places grandfather mentioned were, Padstow (Padsta), Wadebridge (Wedbridge), St. Endellion, trebarwith, Delabole, Longa Bridge (as grandfather pronounced it) and Camelford.

In the early 18th century the Cornish pasty, or oggy, came into existence. With the development of tin and copper mining in Cornwall, the miners who worked long hours in terrible conditions, needed a nutritious yet portable meal to last them through the day. They could easily hold the pastry with two fingers to eat it's contents and discard the shell. An important feature of the snack due to the high levels of arsenic and other poisons in the rock they mined, and which covered their skin.

Another insight into Cornish cooking of the period is found in Jean Graham's Poldark Cookery Book

'All larders were on the north side of the house or farm, with stone or Delabole slate floors and shelves of slate around the walls.  A large wooden table stood in the middle and hooks hung from the ceiling with smoked hams.  Large earthenware jars stood around the floor to hold salt pork and occasionally a piece of salt beef brisket.  What could be nicer on a cold November day than boiled beef, dumpling and carrots?'

The Methodism of John Wesley  proved to be very popular with the working classes in Cornwall in the late 18th century. The number of poor in Cornwall was increasing by 1800. Methodist chapels became important social centres, with male voice choirs and other church-affiliated groups playing a central role in the social lives of working class Cornishmen. Traditionally, the Cornish have been nonconformists in religion. Celtic Christianity was a feature of Cornwall and many Cornish saints are commemorated in legends, churches and placenames.


Hambly George (1758-1843) was born the eighth child of Edward and Anne George in July 1758. He was apparently named for his maternal grandfather, Hambly Inch.

Hambly married Mary Hambley at St Tetha on September 8th, 1782 and together they had nine children; William (died as an infant), Mary, Florence, William, Richard, Edward, Joseph (died as a child), Susanna (died as an infant), and Joseph. It appears to have been a tradition that if a child died young their name was used again, perhaps as a tribute.

Hambly and Mary are found living at Union Row to the west of town off Trerosel Road in 1789 when their son William was born.

There is an October 1825 record in the County of Cornwall of a William George being convicted of larceny (stealing) and sentenced to 3 months imprisonment. Unfortunately there is no other reference to which William this might be, or even if he was in this George family line. It could be Hambly's son (our ancestor) or his brother, or another more distant cousin. The name William was quite common in the George family at that time.

Hambly George's family is the first with whom we get more detailed insight into their lives. From the early census of 1841 we find that Hambly was a carpenter and he lived on Union Row near his sons William and Edward and their families. His son Joseph is also a carpenter living in town. We also see for the first time that his son William George and grandson are listed as Masons. Often occupations were passed between generations. Perhaps Hambly's father Edward was a carpenter as well.

Below are the Georges found in St Teath on the 1841 census, almost all of which are identified as family members. Church Town refers to the main village itself, while Union Row is a lane to the west along Trerosel Road. Knightsmill is a hamlet to the east of the village. Although not shown here, the family was also recorded as Methodist.

1841 census, St Teath

Union Row
            Edward George 47 Carpenter (Canada George's brother)
            Elizabeth George 47
            Mary George 13
            Elizabeth George 8
            Abel Long 64 Agricultural Labourer

Union Row
            William George 50 Mason (Canada George)
            Susanna George 50
            Thomas George 25 Mason
            Mary George 20
            William George 18
            Joseph George 15
            Phillippa George 14
            Hambly George 9

Union Row
            Hambly George 83 Carpenter (Canada George's father)
            Mary George 79

Church Town
            Joseph George 38 Carpenter (Canada George's brother)
            Phillippa George 36
            Joseph George 7
            Jane George 4
            Mary A. George 2

Church Town
            Edward George 35 Carpenter (Canada George's nephew, Edward George's son)
            Mary George 35
            Grace George 10
            Mary George 5

Church Town
            Thomas George,68, Shoemaker

Knights Mill
            William George 45 Agricultural Labourer
            Jane George 50

Hambly died in St Teath, Cornwall on December 29th, 1843 at age 85. His wife Mary followed him just two weeks later on January 16th, 1844.

This map of the St Teath area is from an 1888 ordinance survey. Very little has changed since then. The town has expended slightly to the south, but the fields all retain the same boundaries today. It is likely that St Teath also looked much the same for decades before this map was made.





Many of Hambly's children and descendents continued to live in the St Teath area for generations. Below are the Georges found on the 1851 St Teath census.

1851 census St Teath

93 Church Town
            Edward George 57 Carpenter (Canada George's brother)
            Elizabeth George 57

97 Church Town
            Joseph George 48 Carpenter (Canada George's brother)
            Phillippa George 46
            Joseph George 17 Carpenter
            Mary A. George 11 Scholar
            Priscilla George 9 Scholar
            Elizabeth J. George 6 Scholar
            Hambly George 4 Scholar

111 Church Town
            Thomas George 36 Mason (Canada George's son)
            Elizabeth George 33
            Joseph George 5
            Elizabeth A. George 3

14 Nights Mill
            William George 53 Ag Lab
            Jane George 63

19 Trehanick Mill
            Hamly George 50 Miller (Edward George's son)
            Catherine George 49
            John T. George 6
            Enos Slogget Servnt 21, Miller
            Benjamin Beer Servnt 14, Mill Lab
            Richard Lobb Servnt 12, Mill Lab

31 Church Town
            Mary Ann George 47 Pauper
            Thomas George 8 Scholar

This tinted photo to the right is from the late 1800s and shows the village of Boscastle, not far from St Teath, which would have looked very similar.

The first major railway lines into Cornwall were lain during the late 1840s, linking the region to London with only a few hours travel. Railways brought huge change to formerly remote regions by giving them more access to markets to sell their products, and allowing the population to travel much further than they otherwise could. Although short distance local trams had existed in parts of Cornwall since the early 1800s, trains would not arrive near St Teath until the 1890s, however, when the Northern Cornwall Railway completed a line to Padstow.

Of Hambly's surviving children:

Mary George (1785-) came to the New World with her brother William in the 1840s.

Florence George (1787-1847) married Henry Carthew stayed in St Teath village. They do not appear to have had children.

William 'Canada' George (1789-1846) was born on August 25th, 1789 in St Teath, Cornwall. He was the fifth child of Hambly and Mary George, but their second to be named William as his older brother had tragically died when he was just 4 years old. William married Susannah Rush (1790-1861) at St Tetha on November 9th, 1811. Together had eight children; Mary Ann (died as an infant), Thomas, Mary Ann, Susannah, William, Joseph, Phillipa, and Hambly. William was the first George we are aware of who worked in the Mason profession, while his father and several brothers were all Carpenters. William moved his family to the New World in the early 1840s.

Richard George (1791-) Unknown. Possibly died young or moved away from St Teath.

Edward George (1893-1880) married twice, first to Grace Prout then to Elizabeth Lobb. Grace is buried in the St Tetha cemetery. Some of his descendants moved to Ohio and Pennsylvania in the late 19th century.

Joseph George (1803-1867) married Phillipa Allen stayed in the St Teath area. They are buried at the St Tetha cemetery. Phillipa was often recorded as a witness at family weddings. His son Hambly moved to Pennsylvania in the 1880s. His son Joseph moved to New Zealand. The Hambly name lived on in this line.


Shown here are some of the locations of the George family in Cornwall.


Leaving Cornwall

The early 1830s saw a great increase in Cornish (and broadly English) emigration, with arrivals to Canada in 1830–34 tripling the number that had come since 1815. This Great Migration of the Cornish was caused by a perfect storm of events; the great potatoe famine, the slow decline of Cornish mining industry, and poor living conditions and incredible poverty endemic to the area. The widening of the emigration was also in part the consequence of efforts by landowners and parish vestries to reduce the poor rates by assisting paupers to emigrate. The number of these assisted emigrants in 1831 accounted for nearly 30 percent of the Canadian arrivals from English ports that year and for a fifth of arrivals over the next two. By the end of the 19th century more than half of the Cornish population had left. In fact, in each decade from 1861 to 1901, around 20% of the Cornish male population migrated abroad. So many single men left that it is said that there were entire villages in Cornwall where the only residents were women, children and the elderly.  

Once abroad, most families went to where they could buy land for farming and start a new life, something which was often impossible at home as unless it was inherited. In Canada these groups were instrumental in forming the largest concentration of English immigrants to Upper Canada at mid-century, settling in York, Ontario, and Durham counties, along the western half of the Lake Ontario shore between Port Hope and Toronto.

A number of St. Teath families also left during the Migration; the Brays, the Jewells, the Hoskins, the Downs, plus many others, all arrived in the Cobourg/Rice Lake area of Upper Canada during the 1840-50s. These families would continue to support and intermarry with one another over the coming years of pioneer life.

This chart shows (to the best of our knowledge) the points in time at which various St Teath George family lines moved to new regions. As you can see there was a great deal of change around the onset of the Long Depression, however this also coincided with the onset of adulthood for that paticular generation and so might not be significant.

William George (1789-1846), the father of the George family in Canada, also immigrated to Upper Canada at this time. His family's voyage would have occurred after June 1841, as they were recorded in the St. Teath census of that year, and before the mid-1843 Haldimand census a few years later. All of William's children would eventually end up in Ontario as well, but did not journey at the same time.

When William left, his eldest son, Thomas, initially chose to remain in Cornwall. Perhaps he took over his father's stone mason business? He soon married Elizabeth Hoskin and had several children before joining his siblings in Ontario in the early 1850s.

William's daughter Mary Ann was recently married to Thomas Bray and had two small children. They came over between 1845–1853 and were found on the 1861 census of Haldimand township working as a farmer. By the 1880s they would move to Grey county, Ontario.

His daughter Susanna was married to James Hoskin (cousin of brother Thomas' wife) and had lost two small children to unknown causes. They came over between 1843-1851 and were found on the 1861 census of Haldimand township. However, by the 1871 they would move their family to Victoria county, Ontario.

The younger children, William (~20), Joseph (~17), Phillipa (~15), and Hambly (~11) all presumably came over with their parents.

It is not known whether any of the George family were part of a group of parish assisted emigres, or left of their own means, but judging by the amount of land they were able to purchase after they arrived, it doesn't seem that they were particularly poor. For a discussion of some of the property owned by the George families in the 19th century see George Homesteads in Canada.

An account known as the Samuel Pedlar Papers gives some insight as to the nature of the journey from Cornwall to Canada in 1841. An excerpt;

The four vessels selected for the transportation of these six hundred Cornish emigrants, were the “Clio”, “Dew Drop”, “Spring Flower”, and “John and Mary”. The “Clio” was considered one of the largest vessels engaged in the timber trade between Quebec (Canada) and Padstow. Her space between decks, afforded better accommodation than other ships calling at Padstow, which were much smaller. Of the six hundred emigrants, two hundred fell to the share of the “Clio”.

The long wished for tide, and favourable breeze, came at last. I am unable to give the date of sailing. On this point the notes be silent. After hastey goodbyes, relatives and friends went ashore, and sails were promptly set. Hearts that were sorely wrenched in bidding farewell to those who, in most cases would never again be met on Earth, were providentially made to feel less grief, in consequence of the bustle and excitement of the moment.

In a short time, the “Clio” got out to sea, and quietness came to the sorrowing people. The cessation of orders thundered forth by Captain Brown, enabled those not otherwise employed (and they were few in number,) to watch the distant fast receding shore, and to indulge in sentimental thoughts of the old houses now left behind. The Writer of the notes - Mr. Samuel Pedlar - well remembers the scenes described. One hour after the “Clio” got to sea, the two hundred or more souls on board, were in sorry plight. Those who were fortunate enough to be able to keep the deck for the weather was fair, watched the scene with more or less pleasure. The ship was in full sail, the gulls chasing her, apparently in high glee.

The suffering below deck was great; the majority of the people had never been to sea before. The Pedlar family went to quarters pretty early, and staid there for days, father being the last to yield to sickness, having a heavy charge on his hands - a wife and five children - he was required to bestow continuous attention, though himself, no doubt, suffering keenly. It may well be imagined that a journey across the Atlantic in 1841, in a “timber” ship, with accommodation and conveniences of the scantiest, and the consequent suffering entailed, was altogether unlike the pleasant trip on board of one of the “Ocean Grayhounds” of the present day. The world moves, and in no direction more swiftly, than in the improved methods provided for the comforts of those, whose business or pleasure causes them to traverse the great Waters. The “Clio’s” passengers had a long, tedious voyage. The defective accommodation rendered the more distressing by reason of the length and monotony of this part of the journey, was increased by “calms” for days at a time, preventing any progress Westward, while the “Swells” made the ship roll incessantly.

After being at sea a week or two, everyone be in ordinary health, had passed through the ordeal of sea sickness, and sharp appetites entailed quite a task upon those having large families to provide for. These old sailing ships did not adequately provide sufficient cooking apparatus, hence the “wait in turn” times very frequently were anything but peaceable and brotherly. At other places and on other occasions, women attended to the preparation and cooking of food, but on board the rough and ready emigrant craft of 1841, men were compelled to attend to these duties, to the loss, and probably disgust, of the little ones of each family.

Mr. Samuel Pedlar distinctly remembers his father’s first attempt to fry pan-cakes, a favourite dish on board ship. First he poured the “batter” into the pan but failed to grease the pan sufficiently. Observing the brown colour of the cake, he supposed it was time to “turn” it. He attempted the trick (easily done by those who have had a little experience in such matters) of tossing the pancake two or three feet into the air, and catching it on the turn over as it dropped into the pan. Mr. Pedlar’s attempt was not a success; the cake stuck to the pan too long, and when it did go up in the air, it became a shapeless mass, and on coming down, struck the edge of the pan - a part of the cake went into the fire; the remainder was mixed with some fried potatoes, and formed a decidedly novel and curious combination. To please the Cook, all partook of his “new dish” with great apparent relish, which acted as a kind of encouragement to him. Mr. Pedlar “did” most of the cooking - such as it was - and all his “dishes” were remarkable for great originality.

Acting on the advice of friends who had made similar voyages in the “Clio”, the Pedlars took large supplies of delicacies on board, and these were frequently supplied to the children, adding materially to their comfort and health.

Several more diary accounts of Cornish voyages across the Atlantic can be found here.

Interestingly, there is an 1842 account of a young William George from St. Teath who was a ship's apprentice aboard the Clio under Thomas Brown, but we are unsure of his relationship to the family. It is entirely possible that he is our direct ancestor, William Sr, as he would have been 20 years old at that time. There were only two other possible 'William Georges' of St Teath that we are aware of, and one would have been 10 years old, the other 45. The record is referenced by the book The Cornish overseas: a history of Cornwall's 'great emigration', Philip Payton, 2005.

The Clio, built at Grenville, Nova Scotia in 1838, was another Padstow registered ship and she crossed from her home port to Quebec at least a dozen times in the 1840s, with other sailings from Malpas and Truro. A crew list from an 1842 voyage has survived and it shows that the Clio was entirely locally manned. The master was Thomas Brown of Tintagel, his mate one Frederick Jenkins of Crantock, the other 17 sailors including such individuals as Richard Philip (second mate) of Portquin, Nicholas Bunt (seaman) of Port Isaac, William Tremayne (steward) of Sticker, and William George (apprentice) of St Teath. These Cornishmen, an integral part of Cornwall's by now increasingly sophisticated and complex emigration trade, were as familiar with the ports and harbour's of North America's eastern seaboard as they were with the coves and villages of their native land.

Padstow was the nearest port to St Teath (~20km) and the George family would very likely have gone through it on their voyage west. Between the two census' on which the George family is found there appear to have been 10-15 crossing opportunities from Padstow. Ships sailed in April, June, and August, and according to immigration records included the Clio, Belle, Voluna, and John and Mary. Unfortunately we do not yet know which exact ship the George family came over on, or when.

An 1841 Cornish newspaper clipping shows the Clio advertising an upcoming journey;

2 JULY 1841, Friday

EMIGRATION. The fine A 1 Ship "CLIO," Thomas BROWN, master, of the burthen of 900 tons, is expected to take passengers from Padstow for Quebec, about the 25th of July next. Apply at Mr. AVERY's Offices, in Boscastle, or Padstow. June 18th, 1841.

Below are a group of known ship arrival records to Quebec from Padstow between 1842-43. The list is incomplete.

Arrival Vessel Origin Passengers Occupation Parish Voluntary Remarks

May 21, 1842

Capt. J. Brown

Padstow 339 farmers, mechanics & labourers   339 proceeded to London District, Port Hope & Peterborough ; a few to Gosford Road

May 24, 1842

John and Mary
Capt. Harvey
Padstow 252 labourers & farmers 19 233 proceeded to Bytown, Kingston, Prescott & Toronto ; a few to United States

June 08, 1842

Belle Padstow 252 labourers & farmers 191 191 farm labourers & mechanics. proceeding to Montreal, Kingston, Prescott, Toronto, Cobourg & Colborne

June 11, 1842

Voluna Padstow 149 farmers, farm labourers & mechanics 8 141 the chief part are going to Toronto ; remainder to Kingston ; a few to United States
July, 1842 Clio
Capt. J. Brown
Padstow         sailed Jun 24

Sept 14, 1842

Capt. J. Brown
Padstow 118 mechanics, farmers & labourers   118 proceeded to Bytown, Whitby and Darlington ; one family are going to the State of Ohio

Sept 23, 1842

Capt. G. Bower
Padstow 71 farmers, labourers & trades   71 proceeding to Kingston, Whitby and Lancaster

Oct 12, 1842

John & Mary
Capt. Harvey
Padstow 53 farmers & labourers 7 46 went to Montreal, Port Hope, Toronto & Whitby
May 19, 1843 Belle (346 tons) Padstow 117       sailed April
May 29, 1843 Clio
Capt. J. Brown
Padstow 310       sailed April 15
July, 1843 Clio
Capt. J. Brown
Sept 23, 1843 Belle (346 tons) Padstow 46       sailed in July
Oct 15, 1843 Clio
Capt. J. Brown
Padstow 227       sailed Aug 28

Comments by A.C. Buchanan, the Chief Agent at the Immigration Department of Quebec of that time, refer to the destination of the immigrants, and confirms we are on the right track.

June 13, 1842

The emigrants from England are from Padstow, Bideford, and Aberystwyth ; they are all able to pay their way to their destination, and many of them have brought out a good deal of money. They all emigrated on their own account, with the exception of one family, eight in number, sent out in the Voluna, from Padstow, by Parish relief.

Sepember 19, 1842

The English emigrants from Padstow, Hull and Plymouth, are all in good circumstances, and, with the exception of two families, going to Ohio, are proceeding to settle in Canada West, principally in the Newcastle, Home and Gore districts.

After they arrived in Canada, William George and his family made their way (probably by another boat) from Quebec City to Montreal and then to Lake Ontario, where they appear to have settled just east of Cobourg.

William George is first recorded in Canda on the 1843 Cobourg assessment when he lived at the south end of Lot 3, Concession 1, of Hamilton township, about 6 km east of Cobourg. The farm had 2 horses, 2 oxen, and 1 cow, and was said to have 70 acres under cultivation. It was worth £107 (at least $120,000 today). This confirms that the George family was in Canada by mid 1843, putting the date of their Atlantic crossing between mid 1841 and mid 1843.

The family is later recorded the 1844 Cobourg census in Lot 6, Concession A of Hamilton township, nearer the lake, and living on 200 acres. It also noted that William worked as a stone mason, the same profession which he held back in England. It is not known if he fully owned the land or rented it.

The following year the family had moved again to a 50 acre farm on the north end of Lots 9-10, Concession 1, in Hamilton township. This lot was much closer ot town. There were 40 acres under cultivation, and 10 acres fallow. It is not known why they moved so often. 

Cobourg was described in 1845 as having a population of 3,347, and contained 12 taverns, 3 book sellers, 6 churches and chapels, and 2 theological colleges. It was undergoing somewhat of a boom period as new settlers streamed into Northumberland county. By 1850, ambitious civic leaders were entertaining the thought that if Cobourg's flourishing harbour were linked by a railway to the markets in Peterborough, it might overtake the larger centres of Toronto and Kingston in size and influence. This led to the construction of the Cobourg and Peterborough Railroad.

This map of the Newcastle district on the right dates from 1848 and would have been similar to one used by settlers to pick lots from. From it we can see there is still very little present near Rice Lake but a few sawmills and trails.

Until the 1840s settlement of the Rice lake area remained scattered. The early settlers established the first inns, taverns and ferry services on the lake. They were the transfer points on the arduous trip from the front to the back townships. The taverns provided an essential respite for weary travelers, when the 12 miles from Cobourg took almost a day's journey. Inn regulations stated that an operator must "provide no less than three decent beds, allow no profane swearing, disloyal songs, talk, or gaming, serve no liquor after 10 o'clock weekly, and not at all on Sundays, except to travelers." Letters written by early travelers in Upper Canada refer to the deplorable conditions of most inns. They complained of poor food, rough company, surly help, and incompetent innkeepers. It was better, they said, to sleep on the floor than to share a vermin-infested bed with several strangers.

William 'Canada' George appears to have moved his family north to Rice Lake between spring 1845 and May 1846. He is first found here on the 1846 assessment and had 200 acres with 2 horses, 2 oxen, 1 milk cow, and 2 calves, although the record has his name misspelled as William Gorge. Next door to the farm were the Hoskin and Shearwin families, both of which were known to the Georges. While the Shearwins had been in the area for a few years, the Hoskins and Georges appear to have arrived at Rice Lake together in 1846. The families knew each other well from back in Cornwall as William's daughter Susannah had married James Hoskin in 1839. Perhaps they even made the Atlantic crossing together.

The first few years in their new land must have been trying for the pioneers. Unfortunately, William himself died soon after the move and was buried on May 8th, 1846 at age 56 (stated as 58 in the church records). He was noted to have been residing in Alnwick township at the time. His grave is yet unknown, but believed to be in Cobourg as that is were the burial record was made.

William's son, William Rush George, was first found on this lot on the 1847 assessment, the years after his father's death. It is not exactly known how he came by the lot from his father, but he was the eldest male child living in Canada at that time, so it is not unlikely that he was the aire. Youngest sibling, Hambley, was still a teenager. Sister Phillipa wouldn't marry until 1848. Younger brother Joseph was in his early 20s but would marry in December of 1847. Mother Susannah would also have been there. Several others siblings were still in Cornwall and would not decide to immigrate for several years.

According to the 1848 census, the William then rented or leased the land and did not own it, and were also found to have only 100 acres, so something had changed. Perhaps William split up the land or sold it to give his brothers their inheritance from their father. It is also at this time when brothers Joseph and Edward George appear in Haldimand township with their own farms.

In her history of the George family, Viva Darling notes that the family settled at Inch's Point on the shores of Rice Lake, on the farm which (at the time she wrote) was owned by Cecil Roberts. This would be Lot 5, Concession 1 of Alnwick, which goes back in the Roberts family until at least 1878.

For more notes on some of the property owned by the George families in the 19th century see George Homesteads in Canada.


William George Sr (1822-1909) was born in St Teath, Cornwall in August 1822 to William 'Canada' George and Susanna Rush. He was baptized at St Tetha on August 30th of that year, and was the couple's fifth child of eight. He would have spent his childhood growing up around his stone mason father, and carpenter brothers and uncles.

William Sr's family journeyed to Upper Canada between June 1841 and 1844 to resettle near Cobourg.

There is the possibility that William worked as an apprentice on the barque Clio around the 1842. He would have been about 20 years old at the time. If so, it appears he only would have done it for a few years, as he is settled in Canada by 1847.

William Sr's father died in 1846 at age 56. It might have been his death which allowed his sons to purchase their own land in the late 1840s.

A tsunami was recorded January 9, 1847 in Cobourg, by the Star newspaper. Lake Ontario receded 350 feet then came back as one huge wave which swept away everything before it, and was accompanied by a terrible roaring noise. Other Great Lakes tsunamis occurred in 1847, 1863, 1895, 1923 and 1930. They are rarely more then 3 feet high.

William Sr married Eliza Curtis (1824-1872) on August 21st, 1847. The couple went on to have had 5 children between 1849-1858; William (died as a child), John, Thomas, Mary Jane, and William.

The above image is from a register of Newcastle District marriages from 1839-1851 and shows William George Sr and Eliza Curtis wed at Alnwick or Haldimand township, implying that they had already purchased a farm away from Cobourg by then. Her name is misspelled Kirby on this document. The union was witnessed by Joseph George (brother) and James Hoskin (brother-in-law). The marriage was stated as banns rather than a licence.

Eliza was born in the United States around 1824. It is believed her father Samuel is part of the long settled Curtis family of Worcester, Massachusetts. The family appears to have moved to Ontario from either New York state or the Worcester region around 1825-1830. While this particular branch of the Curtis family were farmers, their ancestors had a long history as a founding family of Massachusetts, and were among the earliest settlers to the new world. Many ancestors of this family were also military men, including Captain Samuel Curtis Sr, and Lt Colonel Benjamin Flagg, who distinguished themselves fighting in the Revolutionary War. Colonel Flagg's family home is on the National Register of Historic Places.

William Sr and Eliza George were found together soon after they wed on the 1848 census living in Alnwick township, on Lot 5, Concession 1. This was the same lot William's father had bought when the family moved up from Cobourg in 1846. They did not own the property but were leasing it from someone else. James Hoskin and William's sister Susannah were listed as their neighbors, and were also renting. The land was of poor quality for farming, being somewhat hilly and marshy. Of the 100 acres leased, only 30 were good for agriculture, and of that William was only farming 2 of them, upon which he grew wheat. He also had 4 cows and 5 hogs. At the time of the census Eliza would have been pregnant with the couple's first child.

Based upon the reading of the dates of several census records and agricultural assessments, what appears to have happened is that after the elder William 'Canada' George died in May 1846, the farm passed to his son William Sr, being his oldest male child in Canada. The entire family then continued to live on the farm for the next 2 years, but quickly began to develop lives of their own. William Sr married the next year, as did his brother Joseph. Sister Philippa married in 1848, leaving just youngest brother Hambley and their mother needing to be cared for. The farm was then sold in late 1847 or early 1848, and the proceeds divided amongst the children, allowing Joseph to purchase his own farm in Haldimand township. Joseph then took their mother and youngest brother with him to live. William stayed on the old homestead under lease to the new owners before moving his own family to Haldimand in 1849.

In 1849 William Sr purchased 100 acres of land at Lot 20, Concession 8 in Haldimand township. He was next door on his south side to the James Curtis family, his brother in law, and just down the road from his brother Joseph George. This photo is of the modern day lot.

One of the things which might have helped the settlement of the Rice Lake area was the start of the Cobourg and Peterborough Railway in 1846. Initially it only went as far as Harwood on the shore of Rice Lake, but was extended the rest of the way in 1854 with the construction of a 5km wooden trestle. It was one of the longest trestle rail bridges in North America at the time. Unfortunately the bridge was poorly built and within six years the damage caused by winter ice dams on the lake had destroyed it, and with it, Cobourg's dream of becoming a major port for the region.

The 1851 the census recorded the family living in a log frame house with their first two children. It lists the family's religion as Church of England. The population of Haldimand township was 4,177.

1851 census Haldimand
            William George 30
            Eliza George 35
            William George 3
            John George 1

William Sr's first son, and his namesake, William, died in 1855 at just age seven.

William Sr is known to used his land thusly in the 1851 agricultural census; 50 acres for cultivation (30 for crops, 20 for pasture) and about 50 acres were wooded or wild. Of the crops 10 acres were used for wheat, and produced 100 bushels per year. There were also 4 acres devoted to peas, 5 acres for oats, 1 acre for corn, 1 acre for potatoes, 1 for turnips, 1 for beans, and 5 acres for hay. It also records 3 bulls/oxen, 2 cows, 10 sheep, 4 pigs. The farm also produced 38 yards of linen and flannel per year.

Around the same time, William Sr's younger brother, Joseph George, purchased 100 acres just down from his brother at Lot 15, Concession 9. Joseph is recorded having used his land thusly in 1851; 30 acres for cultivation (27 for crops, 3 for pasture) and about 70 acres were wooded or wild. Of the crops 10 acres were used for wheat, and produced 100 bushels per year. There were also 5 acres devoted to peas, 1 acre for potatoes, 0.5 acres for carrots, 0.5 for turnips, and 5 acres for hay. It also records 4 bulls/oxen, 4 cows, 3 calves, 11 sheep, 7 pigs. The farm also produced 40 yards of flannel per year. Part of this lot is home to Macklin's cemetery of Bethel United Church were a number of George family members are buried.

William Sr's older brother, Thomas George, brought his family over from Cornwall between 1853-55. He chose to settle near his brothers and had a small 20 acre lot located on the same road, halfway between their farms. It is possible that it was originally much larger and what is shown on an 1878 map is a remnant of which Thomas had sold off from over the years. Although as a stone mason like his father, perhaps Thomas simply did not require much land.

In 1861 William Sr's sister Mary Ann and her husband Thomas Bray were found living nearby at Concession 7, Lot 31, near Bowmanton. Their sister Susanna and her husband James Hoskin also lived nearby. Youngest brother, Hambly George, was found living with his wife and newborn son on his own farm, although we have not located the lot yet. Sister Phillipa and her husband George Vosper were the only George sibling who still lived in Cobourg.

The late 1850s would have been an exciting time. All four male George sibling's families lived close to each other with 18-20 young children between them. Their sister's children made for close to 34-38 1st cousins, all mostly under the age of 10. Their in-law families were near as well, each with their own young ones. Family gatherings must have been quite the affair. The farms required alot of work to manage and the children would have helped out as soon as they were able.

An account of some of the early pioneer life in Haldimand township from the Ontario Genealogical Society;

Taking Wheat to Mill

An early gristmill brought into this section is stated to have had a capacity of about forty-eight barrels for the twenty-four hours. Small as it was, it proved a great boon to the early settlers in this locality. In those days when a farmer journeyed many miles to mill, ten bushels of wheat hauled on a jumper was considered a good-sized grist to take with a span of oxen. Often this meant a three or four days’ trip and quite a quantity of hay was required to feed the oxen en route. Arrived at the mill each man had to wait his turn, which sometimes necessitated spending a night there. On one occasion a man and his neighbour threshed out two or three bags of grain by flail and started with jumpers for the mill. When he arrived at the lake shore, one of them relates, he found a boat run up on the beach, and concluding that this would be an easier way of reaching his destination than with a jumper, tied the oxen to a tree, gave them some grain, and speedily transferring the grist to the boat, were soon off. Fortunately we got our grain ground promptly and started on our return journey. It was quite dark however, when we beached the boat a point where we thought we left the oxen. We found that we had mistaken the spot and that they were a mile further on. We eventually located them and leaving the boat as we found it, started through the bush for home. “However,” he would often conclude, “I do not think the owner would have put us in jail had he discovered us. It would have been more trouble than the thing was worth.”

The Old-time Logging Bee

All that was necessary in getting up an old-time logging bee was to tell one of the two of the neighbours and the news soon spread through the surrounding country. Every person who could possibly do so came whether invited or not. There were no cliques of any kind in those days. Old residents, in describing their logging bees, state the first thing was to divide the loggers into gangs, and to lay out the fallow in trees, that is to divide it into sections and give one section to each gang. There was then a race between the gangs to see which could get through first. One man went ahead of each gang to locate where the logs were to be piled, and another drove the oxen. The driver had need to be quick in his movements, as the oxen were so well trained that the moment they heard the click of the chain as it was hooked to the log, they were off, and if a hand or foot were in the way it was in grave danger of being injured. Sometimes the logging was not finished in the one day, in which case the loggers remained all night sleeping on the floor of the shanty or log barn.

And this from Electric Scotland describing eastern Ontario settler life in the first half of the century, and still true when the Georges arrived;

"Everything in the way of clothing was manufactured at home. Linen clothing was made from flax grown on the farm, and home-grown wool' was transformed into woolen clothing; all the operations from sheep-shearing and flax-pulling to spinning and weaving being carried out on the farm. Tools and implements used in cultivating the land and harvesting the crops were made, for the most part, either by the farmers themselves or by local blacksmiths.


"There were no stoves in the early days and most of the fireplaces were built of a mixture of clay and straw. In the chimney was placed a cross-bar of wood or iron, and from this were hung the pots and kettles used in cooking. The pots were for cooking potatoes or pork and the kettles for baking bread. These kettles were usually about two feet in diameter, with an iron lid, and coals were placed above and below for baking. In some places brick or clay ovens were built outside the house.

"But," continued Mr. Riddell, "despite all the hardships of those days, and even if the larder was not always too well filled, they were the happiest period in our lives. Neighbours were always welcome in each other's homes to whatever the board could provide. We had our simpie pleasures, too, one of these being found in the `husking bee'. At these bees lads and lassies occupied alternate seats. if one of the lads found a big red ear of corn lie had the privilege of kissing the lass next to him, and it is surprising how many big red ears were found. The husking bee, held in the evening, was usually preceded by a quilting bee in the afternoon, which was attended by women only, the men coming later for the husking. The latter was followed still later by a dance at which home made cheese, cake, and punch were served. (Whiskey was then only twenty-five cents a gallon.) How late did we keep it up`? That depended on the company and the state of the roads, but the boys generally managed to get to bed by midnight after first seeing the girls home. John Grieves' place, lot twenty-seven on the second of Haldimand, was a favourite place for these old-time social gatherings."


Wild fruit abounded, and this was gathered and either preserved by using maple sugar or dried for future use. Walnuts, hickory-nuts, butter-nuts, chestnuts, and beechnuts were stored up for winter. Honey was obtained from wild bees and maple sugar was made in large quantities every spring. Game was plentiful and each settler had a store of venison and squirrel salted down in barrels made of the hollow trunks of trees. Tea was scarce, a luxury to be used only on state occasions. These first settlers used, as substitutes, sage, sassafras, thyme, spicewood, hemlock, and a wild herb called the tea-plant. "Coffee" was made from peas, barley, acorns, and roots of the dandelion. Physicians were almost unknown, and these pioneers collected and dried medicinal herbs and stored them for time of need.

One of the first civilizing arrivals for pioneers was the establishment of post offices. In 1857-58 small, one-man stations were set up at points along the main road to Cobourg at the future sites of Bowmanton, Fenella, and Roseneath. In the years to come hamlets and towns would grow up around them. Previous to that the only post office for the region was in Alderville on the Indian Reserve.

There was a great fire in Cobourg on December 10th, 1856 which caused quite a bit of damage.

There was an event on nearby Rice Lake in summer 1859 which would have drawn some attention. A boating regatta was held, and prizes given for various classes of craft. Many locals and people from Cobourg came to watch and a brass band accompanied the affair.

In Cobourg in 1859, a Dr William King was publically executed for murdering his wife by poisoning. He was the only criminal to be executed in Northumberland county and was a well-known doctor of Brighton. No less than 10,000 people attended what would prove to be the last hanging in Ontario.

In the autumn of 1860, during his first Canadian visit, 19 year old H.R.H. Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (1841-1910), was taken by train from Cobourg to Rice Lake to view the beautiful scenery. He was scheduled to cross Rice Lake by train over the Cobourg-Peterborough Railroad bridge and to visit the Rice Lake Indian Village, established in 1829 on the north shore. The bridge, however, was rumored to be unsafe and so the prince was taken off the train at Harwood and asked to board the steamer Otonabee. Nervous officials covered up by explaining it was done in order "that he might have a good view of the fir-covered islands which picturesquely dot the lake and also the beds of wild rice in blossom." This event would have been quite exciting and Harwood was very close to where the George families were living.

It appears that sometime before 1861, William Sr sold his land and moved his family to a 50 acre farm near the Alderville Indian Reserve. It wasn't very far from the old lot, but was closer to the new hamlet of Fenella, which was just named in 1860. What the exact reason for the move was is unknown. By 1878 the old William George Sr farm was owned by a J Blezard. William Sr's five children would have grown up here through the 1860s.

This 1878 map shows the local landowners around William George Sr. Note the farm next to the Georges is J Curtis', William's brother-in-law, and M Smith, owned by his future daughter-in-law's family.

The new farm bordered the lands of the Alderville Indians. They were a band of Mississaugas, a sub-nation of the Ojibwas, who had moved there in 1837 from Rice Lake. The band was converted by missionaries to Wesleyan Methodism in 1826. They numbered about 40 families, totaling 200 people. One of the Alderville Nation's more famous sons was Fred Simpson, a marathon runner who traveled to London in 1908 with the Canadian Olympic team. Fred was a contemporary of William Sr's grandson, Arthur George.

William Sr's mother Susanna died in 1861 at age 70. It is not known who she was living with.

The American Civil War (1861-1865) broke out between the secessionist Confederate south and Union north over the issues of taxation and slavery. The war had a direct effect on the people of British North America for many years. Many in fact had predicted a Confederate victory, and anticipated an attack on British soil by the Union army, which they thought would seek territory in compensation for the loss of the south. But the period was one of booming economic growth for British North America. The war in created a huge market for agricultural and manufactured goods, most of which went to the Union north. 

In 1861 the census recorded William Sr's family living in a log house, in Haldimand township, Northumberland county, near Fenella. This is the first time they are listed as Methodist, which perhaps is not surprising given the Methodist mission and churches on and around the Alderville Reserve. The population of Haldimand township was then 6,164.

1861 census, Fenella
            W George 30 Farmer
            E George 40
            J George 12
            T George 9
            M J George 9
            W George 5

By the 1860s, Cobourg's 'boom' years of earlier decades were over. Economic prosperity quickly turned to despair as the community teetered on bankruptcy. Cobourg's dire financial straits were largely due to the town's substantial investment in the failed Cobourg and Peterborough Railroad combined with the escalating construction costs of the new town hall. Despite the Civil War raging in the United States, many of Cobourg's residents opted to relocate to the U.S. where economic conditions were somewhat better.

Around 1867, according to Registry office records, the Crown began to sell the Rice Lake islands.

The Dominion of Canada was formed July 1, 1867 with Queen Victoria signing the British North America Act. While the BNA Act gave Canada more autonomy than it had before, it was far from full independence from the United Kingdom. Foreign policy remained in British hands, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council remained Canada's highest court of appeal, and the constitution could be amended only in Britain.

William Sr's brother Joseph George appears to have moved his family to a farm near Cobourg in the late 1860s. The exact lot is unknown. This photo to the right shows Joseph George from around that time.

Many other George family photos which date from that time in Cobourg were found by modern descendant Joe George III. Unfortunately not all of them have been identified. They may very well represent images of Joseph's siblings, including our ancestor, William George.

Joseph's sons Thomas Allan and William Edward had their own farms by 1878 just to the north of town.

By 1870, five Methodist churches were spread around Alnwick township. One was built on the Thackeray farm (established 1866), Merrill's (1857) and of course at Alderville (1838?). There was also a church on Joseph Sherwins's farm (amalgamated with Thackeray's in 1884) and one on John Linton's farm (Ebenezer ?). Other churches in the township were the Church of England (1863) north of Roseneath and Presbyterian (1862) in Roseneath. The present United church in Roseneath was built in 1881-82. Cemeteries were located at Thackray's, Merrill's, Church of England and one at Alderville. The George family appears to have used Thackeray's church and burial ground in later years.

Also by 1870, log schools were located at Alderville (from 1838), on Lot 8, Concession 1 (1854), near Roseneath on Lot 19, Concession 4 (abt 1840), at the north-end on Lot 20, Concession 6, and in Haldimand at Lot 18, Concession 9. The closest schools to William Sr's family would have been the Reserve (which seems unlikely), or the one to the south in Haldimand at about 3km away. William's brother Thomas' family might have gone to the one just north of Roseneath.

William Sr lived near Fenella in 1871

1871 census, Fenella
            William George 40
            Eliza George 45
            John George 19
            Thomas George 17
            Willam George 14
            Mary Jane George 13

Eliza died in 1872 at just age 48 years old and was buried in the Bowmanton cemetery. It is not known how she died. Bowmanton was a village at this time, but it later died out and was reforested in the 1920s. From the land records we can see that the Bray family, of William Sr's sister, owned land in the Bowmanton area. The road which directly connected Bowmanton to Fenella used to be the main route to Cobourg for the area, but is now partly reclaimed..

Cobourg reinvented itself as a wealthy American tourist destination starting in the late 1870s when they encouraged Civil War veterans to come and build large summer homes for vacationing. The trend continued, with homes getting larger and more grand, until around the First World War. At one time it was said that every admiral in the American Navy had spent at least one holiday season in Cobourg.

From 1873-1885 there was a severe economic depression in North America. In some places, like Canada, it lasted well into the 1880s earning the nickname the 'Long Depression'. The cause was the Panic of 1873, a credit market crash formed by runaway railway and real estate speculation. It probably can't be underestimated the effect those hard times had on the families of Haldimand township.

In October 1881 William purchased the 50 acres of the west half of the lot from Mulholland and Kennedy, giving him 100 acres of total land. The new land was much more desirable for farming and the purchase occured only a few months before his son William Curtis George was married.

Many of the younger George generation appear to have left Haldimand township during this period. William Sr's sisters Mary Ann and Phillipa moved their families further west in Ontario.

Most of brother Thomas' children went to the US

Some of brother Joseph's children went to the US. Joe George minister.



In 1873 the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement is formed and also opened a branch in Canada. The late 19th century saw the growing influence of these type of anti-alcohol and anti-tobacco movements.

On July 26, 1874, Alexander Graham Bell displayed his invention, the telephone, to his family on the outskirts of Brantford, Ontario. He went on to demonstrate it in Boston the following year.

Sometime during the 1870s, William Sr and his son Thomas jointly bought 75 acres of land near the town of Roseneath. Lot 15, Concession 3. Thomas farmed this land as shown by the 1878 map, and the 1881 census. The land was owned by both Thomas and a William George, but it is unclear if the William referred to was the father (Sr) or the brother. The assumption is that it was the father helping his son. Thomas' farm is also found on the 1901 census but it is unknown how long it remained in the family. Many of Thomas' descendants are buried in the nearby Centenary United cemetery.

Land records show that in 1877 William mortgaged his 50 acres (called the east half) of the lot to William Dundas for a term of 3 years and $150 (about $22,000). William himself also leased land from the Reserve at times during this period.

William George Sr lived on the farm near Fenella in 1881, with his son. They probably still worked the farm together.

1881 census, Fenella
            William George 59
            Willam George 23

Telephones came to Cobourg for the first time in 1882.

In 1883 a large volcano in Indonesia exploded called Krakatoa. The eruption is so large it destroyed the island. The eruption darkened the sky worldwide for years afterwards, and produced spectacular sunsets throughout the world for many months. Weather patterns continued to be chaotic for years, and temperatures did not return to normal until 1888. The George families still farming around Haldimand township would certainly have felt it's effects.

First electricity in Cobourg by 1890

1891 lived with his son William's family

Canada's first Prime Minister, Sir John A Macdonald died in June 1891. He was the dominant figure of Canadian Confederation, and his state funeral was held on June 9, attended by hundreds of thousands of Canadians. 

1901 lived with his son's family

In 1901, Queen Victoria and her era passed away.

William George Senior died in Fenella, Ontario, on February 27th, 1909 at age 85 and was buried with his wife in the Bowmanton cemetery. His Will records that he had assets totaling $2,880 (at least $190,000 today, not allowing for modern real estate prices) at the time of his death. This mostly comprised of the farm at Lot 19 which he left his son William. He had other assets which totaled about $380 ($25,000 today) in value which he also left to William, mainly furnishings and personal effects. He had no cash. He asked that his daughter Mary Jane (Minifie) be paid $100 per year for five years by his son from his estate, or given her death, paid to her children. William Sr's Will can be found here.


William and Eliza's children:

John (1849-1890) married Selestia Hess and moved to Wyoming. Not much else is known, but family photos part of the Joe George III collection from Wyoming could suggest the had children.

Thomas (1852-1911) married Margaret McDonald and stayed in the Haldimand area. Farm by Roseneath. Had 8 children. Many of the Georges found around Alnwick township are from Thomas' family.

Mary (1854-1900) married Richard Minifie and stayed in the Haldimand area. Had 6 children.


William Walter George (1858-1942) was born near Fenella, Ontario on April 15th, 1858, the fifth of five children. He was named for his father, and the first born of his family who had sadly died a few years before at just age seven.

Around 1860, while still an infant, William's family appears to have moved to a farm along the Alnwick Indian Reserve. They would remain here for many years. This photo shows the east side of the lot from the main road which cuts diagonally through the property. The old farm house no longer exists.

Growing up, William had a lot of family living in the area through his aunts and uncles. However, as a teenager some of them started to leave with the onset of the Long Depression.

William's father and his older brother Thomas George are recorded co-owning land near Roseneath in 1878, although only Thomas would farm there.

Lived in Fenella in 1881

1881 census Fenella
            William George 59
            Willam George 23

William's father purchased the 50 acres of the west half of the lot from Mulholland and Kennedy in October 1881, giving them 100 acres of total land. The new land was much more desirable for farming and the purchase occured only a few months before young William was married.

William married Mary Louisa Smith (1864-1900) on January 2nd, 1882 in Alnwick township. He was 24 while she was only 16 according to the marriage record. They were wed by Rev. George Jacques, who locally worked closely with the Alderville Indians.

Mary's family, the Smiths, owned the neighboring farm west from the Georges. The couple had 8 children between 1882-1900; Sarah Jane (died as an infant), Arthur. Mary, Frank, Clara, Harrison, John Edward, and twins James and Merial (died as an infants).

The family lived with William's father (William Sr).

Found at Fenella in 1891

In 1891 census, Fenella
            William George 68
            William George 32
            Mary George 27
            Arthur George 5
            Mary George 3
            William George 1

William appears to have taken over the farm from his father in the 1880s in all but name. In 1892, the directory of Haldimand and Alnwick townships indicates that William was also leasing land from the Alderville Indian Reserve directly adjacent to his property.

Matthew Smith, father-in-law and neighbor to William Curtis, died in 1895, and his land was granted to a number of his descendants, including William, who helped care for his widow.

Mary unexpectedly died, possibly due to complications from childbirth, in July 1900 when the twins James and Merial were born (who both died as well). Her death certificate cites kidney disease as the offical cause however. She was just 36 years old. Records state she is buried at Bowmanton, but her grave has not been found yet.

The loss of the mother on a family farm would have left a large hole, and it would appear to have been a life altering event for the George family. William suddenly had to look after six children spanning the ages of 5 to 15. His own father was likely to old to be much help at that point, and in fact from the 1901 census we find that the family had someone (actually his niece) to help out domestically. However, even this appears to have been difficult. William's eldest son, ~17 year old Arthur, would soon travel west to Manitoba looking to re-settle with Smith relatives, and his two oldest daughters, Mary and Clara, would be married off in the coming years at quite young ages as well. His son Harrison left home as a teen and was working as a labourer in 1911.

Found at Fenella in 1901.

In 1901 census, Fenella, Conc 10 Lot 19 Haldimand Twp
            William George 43
            Arthur George 15
            Mary George 13
            William Frank George 11
            Harrison George 7
            Clara George 9
            John Edward George 5
            William George Sr 76
            Mary L Menifee  20 Domestic

But by 1911 the farm at Fenella had completely changed.

In 1911 census, Fenella
            William George 55
            William Frank George 21
            John Edward George 15

On July 28th, 1914 World War I erupted, and Canada, as a British colony state, was drawn into it.

William remarried in 1915 to Lillie Sherwin in Cobourg. She was 30 years his junior.

The Temperance movement finally succeeded in banning alcohol and Prohibition blanketed the province of Ontario from 1916-1927. After it ended, alcohol slowly became available beyond the retail outlets of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario.

In the fall and winter of 1918 the Spanish Flu pandemic spread across the world. Globally it killed at least 22 million more than died in WWI - and perhaps as many as 100 million. People took to wearing masks and staying indoors. Even the harsh winter temperatures could not stop the spread of the Flu. The virus was different in that it affected young adults, who are generally hardy enough to fight off such infections. 30,000-50,000 died in Canada (the equivalent of 1 in every 180 people). The streets of the time would have been eerie, as there were as few as possible outside, and everyone who was wore a facemask. In some communities, it was a criminal offence to shake hands. Gatherings of more than six people were banned. 

US Prohibition


William George died on July 22nd, 1942 at age 84. It is not known where he is buried. His second wife Lilly died in 1955 and it is possible they are both buried at the Centenary United Church Cemetery, but it only appears to be Lilly. William might be with his first wife at Bowmanton.


William and Mary's children:

Arthur George (1886-1976) was the second of ten children. He moved west between 1901-1905 at age 17 to the town of Springhill, Manitoba and met Ethel Dagg. They married and had 11 children. For more on Arthur's move west and his family see Arthur George's Family.

Mary Emma George (1888-1922) married Henry Sherwin. They moved to Saskatchewan Had 5 children.

William Frank George (1890-1980) married Minnie Jewell. Stayed in the Haldimand area. Had 3 children.

Clara George (1891-1978) married Eldrige Sherwin. Stayed in the Haldimand area. Had 1 child.

Harrison George (1893-1977) married Pearl Isaac. Occasionally would head west to visit his siblings in the 1950s. Had 1 child.

John George (1896-1955) never married. Moved to Saskatchewan


The George family continues to be very fruitful, today numbering many hundreds of descendants in Canada alone. It was said that one of the old George homesteads near Roseneath was kept in the family well into the 20th century.


Shown here are some of the locations of the George family in Haldimand.