Monday, May 23, 2016

Favorable Situation!

This brings to mind the observation that TS, Jr. was not so successful as a farmer. But it also attests to the extent of his father's accomplishments. One wonders how much more Jr. received for it, than his father paid the unnamed Frenchman two decades earlier.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Mary and George

I know it's been a while--when I say we've had upheaval in our family, I mean it. Five different residences, a cross-country move, new house and massive renovation, and more children later, I'm finally sorting out Sutherland material. I thought I should start with this photo, posted on Ancestry by a kind user, of Thomas Sutherland's son, George Sutherland (1803-1888) and his third wife, Mary McLean Cross Sutherland. It's very Victorian, isn't it? Note the heavy curtains: they were as much for containing warmth and keeping drafts at bay as they were for decoration. The lack of a mantle or decoration over it suggests how utilitarian that fireplace was; the smoke damage on the wallpaper attests to how frequently it was used.

According to the family history, Mary was "a demure young widow" (aged 24) with a newborn when they married Nov. 3, 1848 at St. Mary’s Church in Froomefield County, Lambton by the Rev. George J. R. Salter. Salter had just only recently been appointed the first rector of Trinity Church in Moore, and St. George's Church, Sarnia. I've seen references which suggest he had a BA from Christ Church College, and his MA from Oxford. He did later give lectures on classical studies to Mechanics' Institutes, so clearly he had a bit of an academic bent. Given George Sutherland's own literary aspirations, Salter must have been a welcome addition to the community.

We know less about the McLeans than we do about the Sutherlands. Mary had only been in Canada somewhere between 4-10 years when she married Rowland Cross in Port Sarnia on April 26, 1843. Apparently, Rowland, a carpenter, met Mary at the home of her father, John McLean, also a settler of Moore Township. I'll try to post more about John later.

Thank you to whomever Ancestry user Ruddyclan is, who appears to have been the original poster of this image.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Great-nephew 1: Joseph Lodowick Sutherland (1834-1901)


When Joseph Lodowick Sutherland (1834-1901) arrived in the United States, the Civil War was already in full swing. He enlisted for the Union almost immediately, serving in Company M of the 1st Vermont Cavalry Regiment. Not surprisingly the war was eventful; while fighting at the battle of Gettysburg he was wounded and taken prisoner. After some time he was released on parole and returned to Washington, working in the war office. There his auburn hair and grey eyes must have caught the attention of Frances McNeal, whom he married in May of 1865. A few months later he was mustered out. Sometime around 1873 they relocated to Illinois, eventually settling in Chicago. In Edinburgh Joseph had been a clothier’s assistant and then a law clerk; likewise, in the U.S. he tried his hand at a variety of occupations—soldier, shirt manufacturer, news dealer—but ended up as the register of the Water Department of Chicago. We know that at his death he had recently relocated to a comfortable home and affluent neighborhood, suggesting the family was respectable and financially secure.

A Fun (and possibly random) Note on Methodology
Independent of probate records, how do I know Joseph Lodowick Sutherland was doing well at the time of his death? Namely, because his obituary mentions his address, 2255 South Park Avenue, Chicago. Just two years before the address had appeared in the news as the home of Dr. H. A. Cross, a dentist. Cross “caused the arrest of Benjamin F. Foster and his wife, Emma Foster, whom he accused of having duped him and sadly shaken his faith in Spiritualism.” Apparently in a séance held at his home “the spirits appeared, one of whom represented himself to be Theon, an ancient Greek god, the father of Hypatia. To Theon he handed $550, and Theon informed him that in return for the gift, he should never want for money.” Cross responded positively to this message giving “the generous Theon a small diamond ring, and three gold lockets.” After which Cross gave Theon jewelry crafted of diamonds and gold. From Cross’s wealth and possessions it is easy to deduce he did not live in poverty, and his home would have undoubtedly reflected his economic status.
While I never cease to be surprised at the variety of known figures who embraced spiritualism in the late nineteenth century, I have the feeling Thomas Sutherland probably agreed with the judge, who dismissed the suit as “out of his jurisdiction and [thus] should be brought against the spirits.”

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Scotch Relations: Joseph Sutherland (1808-1865)

We know that Thomas Sutherland (1772-1850) actively recruited new settlers to his Ontario settlement, placing ads in The Scotsman in 1836, and sending letters to Edinburgh extolling Canadian life which were intended to be circulated among potential emigrants. And we also know TS, Jr. wrote home. One of them –I’m not sure which, though I’d bet senior—even sent a specimen of black walnut, later exhibited at the Edinburgh Museum of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland. Therefore it is also plausible to envision both men mailing missives to family in Scotland and England, all about the triumphs and trials of “roughing it in the bush.” In particular, one can imagine letters being written to Joseph G.H. Sutherland (1808-1865), the son of Thomas, Sr.’s brother, Lodowick (1773-1832). 

Lodowick, a year younger than Thomas, also relocated to Edinburgh, and had a butcher shop on Charles Street. It seems not all of Lodowick’s sons were interested in the family business, as Joseph was apprenticed to his Uncle Thomas, becoming in turn a merchant tailor. When TS announced his intent to sell his business in 1833, it is improbable that his nephew was secure enough to purchase it. That said, Joseph was established at 93 George Street as a tailor at some point before 1841, and by 1851 had ten men in his employ.

Depictions of Joseph Sutherland appear to coincide with what we know about his uncle TS. Namely, it is written of Joseph:

“Although he began business is a very humble way, he was successful in life, and at the time of his death had established an extensive business, which he carried on successfully for nearly forty years, and was long and honorably known as a man of good business capacity and of the strictest honour and integrity. He was in many respects a remarkable man. His mental agility was of a high order, and he was possessed of great originality and force of character, freedom of speech, sterling independence, and a wonderful amount of humour, combined with a power of mimicry which I have rarely seen surpassed and not often equaled. He was capital company and could tell a good story well with excellent histrionic embellishments, and sang many humourous songs with vigour and telling effect.”

Given this characterization, it is not surprising that so many of his grandchildren had careers on the North American stage.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


I’ve been curious about this, which I presume was copied from a family bible at some time, and passed on to Winning Pendergast who included it in her family history of the Sutherlands:

“John Sutherland Sr.... died on his way home from Black River, Jamaica, W. I. on Board the ship Williams, Captain Wheatley off the Island of Cuba, June 21, 1765 in the 59th year of his age which would place the year of his birth 1706.”

I have found references to a Captain Wheatley, in charge of the ship Williams in the 1770s, which seemed to be doing the Jamaica to Bristol run. Jamaica depended on enslaved labour to produce sugar; England increasingly relied on sugar as it became more available and less costly. Once the Williams emptied its hold, it would have returned to Jamaica with the trade goods produced in England by its increasingly underpaid workers. While some ships also included a third stop at one of the slave forts on Africa’s coast, research by Kenneth Morgan of Brunel University demonstrates that by mid-century Bristol merchants “increasingly favored regular, direct routes instead of multilateral voyage patterns” (4). Black River, Jamaica would have been a likely destination as it was the principal British settlement in the region. I am intrigued that it was also known for producing: “cocoa, ginger, pimento, or as it is called Jamaica pepper, and vulgarly allspice; the wild cinnamon, the machineel, whose fruit though uncommonly delightful to the eye contains one of the worst poisons in nature; the cabbage tree” and other various items. However, Black River was not uncontested, and tensions with Spain in particular would have been a source of some anxiety for travelers and merchants alike.

I’ve generated a list of possible Captain Wheatleys. It wasn’t an uncommon name at the time, and there were a number of seafaring Wheatley families, which complicates matters a bit. I have been able to rule out the Captain John Wheatley who purchased a young enslaved woman who would come to be known as the poet Phillis Wheatley (coincidentally I’ve just published about her). Additional possibilities exist, but I’d have to go into archives on other continents. Unfortunately, as Morgan points out, Bristol‘s in-and-out letter books were destroyed in 1814, and the Bristol customs records in the Reform Bill riots of 1831. Strangely, the best records for eighteenth-century Bristol shipping are apparently in Melbourne. Since I’m not going to Melbourne, I’ve accepted that I’m not going to resolve this one.

That said, given all that I’ve read, it is interesting to imagine John Sutherland in Black River, a world so radically different from Sunbury on Thames. Was it his first trip? I don’t know; if not, he would have brought back tales that might have been passed down in the family of what was understood as the new world. Such a precedent might even explain the willingness of Thomas Sutherland (1772-1850) to relocate multiple times in his life, from England, to Edinburgh, to Canada.

Monday, August 1, 2011


I have to admit, when I began, I had no idea that I would find any accounts of Thomas Sutherland (1772-1850) as an individual. But here a family member provides some insight into Sutherland’s motivation for emigration:

“He was a man of some originality and force of character. He was much dissatisfied with the then unprogressive character of political affairs in this country, and having resolved to try his fortune in newer and less conventional fields, he emigrated to Canada West during the first quarter of the century, and he there founded a district and colony now known as the district of Sutherland on the St. Clair river.”

As this relative remained in Scotland, this note is additionally intriguing: he’d never met Thomas Sutherland, who was long dead when he wrote this, and yet the stories about TS must have been tremendously compelling. In regards to his politics, I’m assuming this is in reference to the radical reforms of the 1820s. (Otherwise, the only thing I’ve encountered is the possibility that he actively identified as a Jacobite.)

Surprisingly, another record of TS’s emigration survives. According to one who had read his letters home to Edinburgh, “he took a large lot of miscellaneous goods with him, the greater part of which he advantageously sold at Toronto; but he does not recommend emigrants to follow his example in attempting this kind of trading speculation. From Toronto he removed to a fine tract of land, consisting of about 1500 acres, lying on the river St. Clair, which is at the extreme west of the settlements. This land he purchased a great bargain, and he mentions that he could already sell it for double what it cost. He describes the climate, even during the winter, as agreeable, and speaks with a great degree of gratification of his removal to and settlement in this delightful portion of the province.”

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sutherland’s: A “Truly Happy Community”

Upper Canada Militiaman 1837-1838

The Upper Canada rebellion had consequences for Thomas Sutherland and his community. While it was a time of significant stress, he also profited financially, renting at least two properties to Her Majesty’s Troops (who later had to pay repairs to the tune of 14 pounds, 5 shillings). It also seems likely he made money feeding and watering (or wining) the troops. In exchange, they enhanced the community’s lively social life. From a letter dated Sutherland, Moore, River St. Clair, 5th March, 1839:

…I was told, in Toronto, “you are going to the land of Swamps and Indians”—I found it that of smiling Farms, good old English faces, and good old English hospitality….. The River St. Clair with a rapid current and clear green waters, winds through high and picturesque banks from Port Sarnia to its entrance into the Lake. The whole distance, with the exception of a reserve of 4 miles for the Indians, consists of flourishing farms, with here and there a pretty English cottage, breaking the uniformity of the rude but comfortable log house…..

….Most truly does the motto of the Albion, “caelum, non animum mutant,” &c. [those who run across the sea change their sky but not their state of mind] apply to the English part of Canada; loyalty burns in every heart, hospitality reigns in every family, and now that little temporary quiet has again revisited it, happiness beams in every face.

The officers of the Volunteer Corps assembled under Col. Wright, hastened to take advantage of the opportunity to give a Ball and supper. I was really surprized [sic] on entering the room to find it tastefully decorated with evergreens, and with the Union Jack and the Ensign of Old England hanging in graceful folds around it; much less did I expect to see such a numerous assembly of pretty and well dressed women; I had seen nothing of the kind since I had left home and fancied myself once more in merry old England, enjoying her winter revels. The dance was gaily kept up till daylight, when we all entered our sleighs and drove home.

The week after, a wedding took place near us, and after the pretty blushing bride had received the nuptial benediction, we sat down to an excellent dinner where, as on similar occasions, the glass and joke passed merrily round, until we were summoned to the ballroom, where we were soon engaged in threading the mazes of the gay quadrille; then came the supper—that glorious termination of a well spent day—and with it the song and blessings on the twain that day made one, and then the heartfelt “Hip, hip hurrah,” and then to bed and they to bliss.

Hardly had we resented from our previous pleasures when the gallant Colonel who commands the frontier gave a dinner party to the officers of his corps, followed in the evening by a ball; and here let me pause to expatiate on the feed; the cooking was worthy of an artiste; and long shall I revel in memory on the inimitable curry, the fish and venison.—The ball was delightful; the music good; all gay and goo humored; and until three o’clock, with the pleasing interruption of an excellent supper, we danced and sang and sang and danced.

Capt. Fisher, the worthy adjutant of the regiment, then took up the ball; and as he excels in the field, so was he found a “trump” in the ball-room. All his anxiety was to promote the hilarity of the evening, and what with his good music, good wine, and hearty welcome, not to omit excellent supper, he amply succeeded. At three o’clock we separated, to wish to return again.

Several more parties are, I understand, talked of, though not yet decided upon; and thus, in enjoying themselves in causing enjoyment to others, does this truly happy community pass its winter. There is none of the cold formality or starched ceremony of would-be great people; a hearty welcome a spare bed, and a set at the mahogany, or, rather, black walnut, await you wherever you go: and for myself, I can only say, that I came here a stranger, and was received as a friend.