13 May 2011

George Porter Part 5: The Doctor and Others

... continuing a small series of less-than-exhaustive searches for two mysterious George Porters.

It’s been a while. Poor George Porter and his doppelgangers must be silently resentful at my neglect. What I’ve been doing overall—I think—is examining not only what might have happened to George Porter of Niagara and York (The Carpenter), why and how he disappeared, but also where he came from. A subsidiary interest developed when another George Porter (The Prisoner) appeared. Further characters were introduced here and here.

I’m down to the outer ring of a bull’s eye chart around both the George Porter who was one of the first residents of York, and the George Porter imprisoned in 1814 in Upper Canada’s London District. Do we have potential fathers, brothers, cousins, or a few wretched coincidences? Neither George is to be confused with Pennsylvania native George B. Porter who became territorial governor of Michigan from 1831 until his death in 1834![1]

The Doctor
Very little is known about medical doctor Francis Porter who practiced in Niagara. Canniff says he was from Montreal and trained in Edinburgh;[2] Carnochan says he was a former army surgeon from Edinburgh.[3] He died in Niagara in 1840.[4] His brief, unrevealing obituary included the line, “The beauty of his only daughter was often spoken of.” The daughter was Maria Jane Porter who in 1850 wed George Maxwell, the customs collector at Grimsby.[5] There is no probated estate for Francis to help out in this regard.

The Person of Interest Part:
With no age or date (except year of death) does the doctor’s timeline coincide at all with our George being in Newark by 1792? As an ex-army surgeon, Dr. Francis could have served with a regiment in the War of 1812, or perhaps even earlier in the European conflict with Napoleon. If so, did he come to Niagara with the regiment he joined, or had he retired sooner? Having a daughter born say 1825-1830 seems to indicate he was a mature man by at least the 18-teens. Not likely the father of a grown man in jail in 1814. More of a contemporary, stretching an outside chance of being brothers?

The Drouin Collection on Ancestry.ca has evidence of several Porters in Montreal, but no marriage or likely birth/baptism for a Francis. I say likely because a Francis William Porter “age about 9” was baptized on 7 December 1814 to parents Jacob Porter, a tailor, and Mary Goodhue.[6] Barely time enough to train as a doctor, serve in the army, father a daughter old enough to marry in 1850, move to private practice in Niagara, and die at the age of 35! (Small World Department: Goodhue also happens to be a collateral name in the Montreal family of “my” Dr. William Fraser.)

In another scenario, two Francis Porters were born in Scotland between 1770 and 1800: a) son of John Porter and Isobel Davidson baptized 24 March 1794 in Angus, and b) son of Francis Porter, mother not named, baptized 21 September 1798 in Aberdeenshire.[7] Altogether, Francis Porter still seems like an off-target long shot. His descendants will no doubt chase the Maxwells and think of searching British army records!

England Come-Lately
Lest you think I might not have noticed, why were the following people buried in, of all places, Thorold Township? That’s where George the Carpenter’s widow ended up, as the suspected wife of Luke Carroll. A father-son string of red herrings in Lakeview Cemetery headstones:
George W. Porter died 31 Jan 1911 age 76; born 1 Feb 1835 in England
George Porter 16 July 1868 – 5 Aug 1943 [8]
(There’s more: wives and children). But there is no Person of Interest Part. Same names do not a connection make.

Some might say instead of problem-solving, I degenerated to tilting at windmills. I might say that myself. All I’ve done is expand the possibilities of family origins and connections to a marginal extent. Even in a superficial process, some of those possibilities can be eliminated. The lazy man’s way is mere name collection.

George Porter will likely make one final appearance.
[1] History of Macomb County, Michigan (Chicago, IL: M.A. Leeson & Co., 1882), 89-90.[2] William Canniff, The Medical Profession in Upper Canada, 1783-1850 ... (Toronto, ON: W. Briggs, 1894), 558.[3] Janet Carnochan, History of Niagara (1914, reprint Belleville, ON: Mika Publishing, 1973), 235. [4] Loc. cit.; citing The Niagara Chronicle “of 1840.”[5] Thomas B. Wilson, Ontario Marriage Notices (Lambertville, NJ: Hunterdon House Publishing, 1982), 214; citing The Church (Toronto), 31 October 1850.
 ➠➠ Many of the above books can be viewed on Google Books or Internet Archives.
[6] “Drouin Collection,” Ancestry.ca, digital image (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 20 March 2011).[7] “Scotland Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950,” FamilySearch, database (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 20 March 2011).[8] Lakeview Cemetery, Thorold Township (Niagara Peninsula Branch, Ontario Genealogical Society, 1985); Archives of Ontario microfilm MS 451 reel 50.


Anonymous said...

Francis William Porter was an Edinburgh medical graduate of 1827, his thesis was on De Cynache tracheali is at Edinburgh University Library.

BDM said...

Thanks for that information! It gives a better idea of his age, and certainly seems to eliminate a connection to either George Porter.

Anonymous said...

If Drouin is right and "Francis William Porter “age about 9” was baptized on 7 December 1814 to parents Jacob Porter" a tailor, and Mary Goodhue.[6]" he would have been born in 1805. This would fit very well with him obtaining an MD in Edinburgh in 1827 as this degree seems to have often be gained around age 22. I'm betting this is the Dr Porter who died in 1840.

BDM said...

Dear Anonymous: Your comments are much appreciated!