27 April 2012

Historical Toronto: Ships in Drydock

Ships in drydock: that’s how I think of them ... on the cryptic monument occupying quiet space at Front and Jarvis Streets. I’m certain it’s meaningless to 98% of the passers-by. It was to me. It has a bench on each side. People like to sit there, especially when the sun is out. It’s a prime spot for a moment’s restoration amid the St. Lawrence Market bustle ... the elderly, the incapacitated, the bored, can wait for their shopper-companions; a street person will take a break from wheeling her cart of worldly goods. 
Rene Robert Cavalier Sieur de La Salle "Griffin" 1678

Commodore Sir James Yeo Flagship 1814 "St. Lawrence" 1812-15

 The captions above show the circumferential wording on each of the two medallions. Toronto Historical Board plaques at either side tell us the medallions were created by noted sculptor Emanuel Hahn and carved by Louis Temporale for installation on the Clifton Gate Memorial Arch at Niagara Falls. We are told the original intent was to commemorate “early pioneers,” including a passing mention of William Lyon Mackenzie (not to denigrate the man and his contributions to Upper Canada) but oddly, what has all this to do with iconic ships?

A little more investigation revealed an embarrassing history (i.e. what the plaques omit; then again, there’s only so much room on a plaque). The said Memorial Arch was duly built and dedicated in 1938; it was demolished in 1967. Some time later these two rescued art works were reinstalled on what was once our town of York waterfront. Ah-ha, ... waterfront ... ships. The tenuous connection? Not exactly.

The concept of the Memorial Arch, under the supervision of an Ontario government cabinet minister, had two purposes: to celebrate one hundred years of responsible government in Canada, and to welcome visitors entering our country across the Niagara River. The phrase responsible government inevitably conjured unhappy shades of the 1837 Rebellion, provoking some still-tender sensitivities a century later. Criticism arose over some of the monument’s historical allusions. Prime Minister Mackenzie King, despite having been consulted about the design, deplored the inclusion of some American names associated with the Hunters’ Lodges raiders—one gets the impression that the design changed a few times betwixt paper and actual construction!

Clifton Gate Memorial Arch, date unknown, Looking at History
The Memorial Arch was doomed to a lifespan of less than thirty years. Impeding the widening of the Niagara Parkway was a big excuse for removing it. As far as I can ascertain—accounts vary—nearly all the carvings disappeared except for what’s now displayed on Front Street and at William Lyon Mackenzie House. Anyone of historical bent can pursue the details at many websites such as “The Offending Arch” at Historical Narratives of Early Canada:,
and Looking at History:

What I find incomprehensible and disgraceful is much loss of the art. There were four panels of tributes: explorers; Loyalists; the War of 1812 and Tecumseh; and reformer William Lyon Mackenzie (grandfather of the then-PM). The Front Street plaques do not mention that renowned illustrator C.W. Jefferys designed the four large panels. Neither Jefferys nor the equally renowned Hahn lived to see the dismantling.

Let’s have a closer wee look at the subjects on our lonely medallions, which seem to be almost forgotten in the panoply of official heritage plaques.

La Salle (1643-1687) was a very early explorer, the first European to travel the length of the Mississippi River. On a subsequent exploration trip, La Salle became stranded in Texas and was killed there. Le Griffon was a 45-ton barque he had built on the Niagara River above the falls, in order to sail the upper Great Lakes. The ship disappeared on a return voyage from Lake Michigan to New France with a load of furs. Finding Le Griffon is sometimes called the “holy grail” of Great Lakes shipwreck hunters. Indeed, one underwater exploration group believes it recently located the site, but the discovery is in limbo under a tsunami of international litigation. Clearly La Salle and Le Griffon were part of the tribute to explorers.

Yeo (1782-1818) was a naval officer appointed commodore and commander-in-chief on the lakes of Canada in March 1813. He arrived in Upper Canada just after the invasion of York, knowing it was crucial to protect the Kingston shipyards and the lake lifeline to troops in Niagara. In practice, Yeo’s position was subordinate to Sir George Prevost, the army general and British North America governor-in-chief. Prevost and his army officials caused no small problems for the naval commander, not to mention the general’s blunders at Lake Champlain. The great warship St. Lawrence was launched for Yeo in early fall of 1814, a newly effective threat to the American navy—only long enough to serve for a few months before winter came. Word of the war’s end followed soon after. So we know where Yeo and his flagship belonged on the ill-fated Arch.
James Lucas Yeo was a brilliant officer whose selfless devotion to duty contributed in large measure to his early death. He deserved well of his country, and he has justly earned an honoured place among the heroes of the War of 1812.[1]

I love surprises in my neighbourhood.

In memory of the invasion 199 years ago on April 27th.

[1] John W. Spurr, “YEO, Sir James Lucas,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online ( : accessed 30 March 2012).

© Brenda Dougall Merriman, 2012

17 April 2012

The Tolstoy Connection

A morsel of validation! A family emigration story from Latvia gets a helping hand from local history.

The Family Story:
Janis (John) Jurikas (1880-1954) was originally given passage money by a member of the Tolstoy family in London, in order to reach Canada.

My Earlier Thoughts:
The intriguing story may have some truth although Count Leo Tolstoy, the renowned author, was apparently never in England (he died in Russia in 1910). Count Tolstoy was known for his generous sponsorship of group emigration for Russian Doukhobors. Some of those groups came to western Canada in 1898 and 1899.(1) I could not ascertain that any of Leo Tolstoy’s children or descendants happened to be in London at an appropriate time for Janis Jurikas. If the financial assistance took place, perhaps it was before he went to England.

What is certain is that John entered Canada at least twice. Iwan [sic] Jurikas, a general labourer age 26, came to Halifax 12 April 1907 on the ship Sicilian from Glasgow — also with a Johan Tukum (probably a cousin), age 28 and a carpenter.(2) Their destinations were Port Arthur and Fort William, Ontario, respectively. Then Iwan Jurikas, a “Lish” [sic: possibly a corruption of Lettish] native born in Russia, age 29, previous occupation painter, arrived in Montreal via Liverpool on the ship Cedric in April 1910.(3) John or brother Paul, or both, were in New York by 1912 when Victor Freibergs married their sister Marija.

Recently Found:
"It is interesting to note, that within the boundaries of the Russian Empire, Limbaži was considered a place of exile, to which the government sent unruly freethinkers-noblemen. And so in 1899 Lev Tolstoy's associate, lawyer Bodyansky, was sent to Limbaži. He had already sold his estates and bought land in Canada for those being persecuted by the Czarist regime. After Bodyansky's departure to Canada from the "Limbaži exile", his children remained on good terms and in contact with students in Limbaži. They sent to Limbaži a variety of Tolstoy's writings. The gendarmerie in town questioned and arrested a number of people. After that, some of the oldest students - Daugulis, Jurikas and Eglitis - were also exiled from Vidzeme province."(4) [emphasis added]

The reference to Bodyansky more than likely means the nobleman and “Tolstoyan activist,” Alexander Mikhailovich Bodyansky, later associated with Doukhobor settlements in Canada.(5) The movement espoused “communalism” and certainly begs for a bit more background in my Jurikas family history, especially regarding Tolstoy's social theories. Did his group help subsidize individual emigrants to spread his ideals? In 1899 Janis Jurikas was about eighteen-nineteen years old. It's not difficult to imagine the impression such free thinking would make on young men thoroughly unhappy with alien domination of their lives and culture.
Janis Jurikas ca.1948

About a decade of John's life in Canada and the United States remains unaccounted for. Whether he worked to spread Tolstoyan ideals is not known. In 1921 he travelled from the U.S. to meet his brother Paul who was working in Vladivostock, where they prepared to visit a liberated Latvia. John dedicated himself to working the family farm near Limbaži until he and his family were removed in the infamous Soviet confiscations and deportations. His widow and daughters were allowed to return in the 1960s to occupy the sadly neglected old family home once again.

(1) Dave Obee, Destination Canada: A Genealogical Guide to Immigration Records (Victoria, British Columbia: Dave Obee, 2010), 11.
(2) “Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935,” digital image, ( : accessed 26 March 2010), Sicilian (1907), entry for Iwan Jurikas.
(3) “Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935,” digital image, ( : accessed 26 March 2010), Cedric (1910), entry for Iwan Jurikas.
(4) Vecie Limbaži [Old Limbaži], full reference to follow, kindly translated by Antra Celmins; email correspondence Celmins to Merriman, 18 March 2012.
(5) John McLaren, Despotic Dominion: Property Rights in British Settler Societies, 226, digital image, Google books ( : accessed 17 April 2012).

© Brenda Dougall Merriman, 2012

11 April 2012

Frasers Part 20, A Property Puzzle

Catherine McIntyre was born ca.1777 in Scotland; married John Cameron before about 1803.[1]
Margery McIntyre was born ca.1785 in Scotland; married John Fraser 17 August 1808.[2]

Following on my previous Fraser post, I was assembling information on points of intersection between John Fraser and John Cameron. The hypothesis is that their two wives were sisters. The women provide almost no clues themselves; their husbands might tell us more. To be continued later, but one piece of information loomed larger than others: is it a stepping stone to brothers-in-law, or a roadblock? I haven't convinced myself of the overall importance of the point, but it needs addressing. Or maybe I should say it took me into a tangent on maps. What genealogist can resist maps?

From G.R. Rigby, A History of Lachute (Lachute, QC: Giles Publishing House Ltd, 1964).
The two men had contiguous properties on the River Rouge Road by St. Andrews, Seigniory of Argenteuil, according to the metes and bounds description in two land documents of 1845.[3] John Cameron was transferring properties to two sons—all lots then being measured in arpents. Lot 29 was three (frontage) by twenty-eight (depth) arpents, a shape typical of French river lots. The rear of lot 29 abutted the boundary line between the seigniories of Argenteuil and Deux Montagnes. Lot 28 was three by thirty arpents. The latter is the one of interest; John Fraser's land was named as one of the “bounds.” The date of Cameron's acquisition of the properties has not been determined yet, but it was obviously prior to 1845.

Bouchette's 1814 map is the classic post-conquest map of Lower Canada. The line from D to E on the right signifies the boundary between the old seigniories, later counties, of Argenteuil and Deux-Montagnes. It looks to me like there are no more than a dozen lots on the south side of the River Rouge.
Cameron's lot 28 was “ ... bounded in the front by the said River Rouge, in the rear by a certain Grignon, on one side by the land of John Fraser and on the other by the above designated land which is Number twenty-eight, where the donor currently lives, ...”.[4] [emphasis added] This seems to place John Fraser on lot 27. 

Probably Bouchette, 1814

The second map is not dated, nor is its source cited, on the website in question.[5] I believe it's a portion of the 1814 Bouchette map which Rigby adapted in a line drawing for his book.You can see the boundary line again. The roads and layout of lots along the Rouge look the same. I scarcely need to mention the lack of lot numbers!

So where would lot 28 be, according to this?!

Were lots numbered in one consecutive series along one side of the river and continued over to the other side? Or did the north and south (sometimes called east and west) sides have their own separate numbering? Did the numbering extend into the Deux-Montagnes seigniory (because the river did)?
Bouchette, 1831
Here is Bouchette again in 1831, a good generation after settlement.[6] Houses and buildings are shown! ... how accurate would they be? But again, no lot numbers. However, I know from the 1861 census and specific land records that John Fraser's land included lots 21 (acquired in 1824), 22 (1806), and 23 (1818). Therefore I'm having some trouble with contiguous!
Cadastre map St-Andre East parish, no date
 All Quebec properties were re-numbered in the cadastral reform of the second part of the nineteenth century. The cadastre map shows many more than a dozen lots each side of River Rouge, within the old seigniory and parish limits.[7] Did something change between 1831 and ca.1870? Or were Bouchette's smaller number of squarish-looking lots simply the surveyor's artistic licence? The cadastre numbering, continuing from the Côte du Midi section, ascends numerically from the village along the south range of the river and continues from east to west on the north range.

Then John Fraser's original property numbers became lot 592 (formerly lot 21), lot 593 (22 ), and 594 (23). The highlight shows his lot 594 (23). How do I know this? Because with time and patience, professional researchers in Quebec were able to access both the registered notarial documents and the seigniorial records. We need to go through the same exercise with John Cameron's seigniorial record(s).

Even if John Fraser and John Cameron were located on adjoining lots, am I putting too much weight on proximity to infer a relationship? After all, a man has many neighbours! It can be argued that Fraser and Cameron are no more or less “associates” than all the settlers along the river bank.

Still, how could lot 28 border with John Fraser's lots 21 to 23?

A thought almost too grim to contemplate: What if the John Fraser mentioned in Cameron's document was my other John Fraser? ... the blacksmith “of St. Andrews.” Instead of hammering happily away in the village, did he have a farm where he practised his trade? Not too likely, I think. Not only had he died or disappeared shortly before 1842, his widow could not be found in that census. She spent her later days living with a brother on one of her father's original properties. It wouldn't hurt to investigate all the lots from 20 to 29. Much easier said than done, in two sets of complicated records. It's either an extended visit to BAnQ in Montreal or hire a researcher again.

[1] 1851 Census Canada East, County of Two Mountains, District 11, parish of St. Andrews, stamped p. 41, John Cameron household; Library and Archives Canada (LAC) microfilm C-1147. “Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection) 1621-1967,” digital images, ( : accessed March 2012), baptism of “Jean” Cameron, 18 July1803; citing St. Benoit Catholic register (Saint-Benoît, Quebec) 1799-1805.
[2] St Gabriel Street Presbyterian Church (Montreal, Quebec), 1808 register, p. 47, Fraser-McIntyre marriage; Archives of Ontario (AO) microfilm MS 351 reel 1.
[3] A transcription of the John Cameron notarial document was provided by third-party Cameron researchers; the citation is incomplete until they provide details or unless I can see the original documents: District of Montreal, County of Two Mountains, notaries J.Geo. Lebel and F.H. Leclair of St. Hermas, document no. 944 (20 January 1845).
[4] Ibid.
[5] “The Seigniory of Argenteuil,” Comte d'Argenteuil ( : accessed 21 March 2008).
[6] Joseph Bouchette, Topographical Map of the District of Montreal (London: James Wyld, 1831); digital image, David Rumsey Historical Map Collection ( : accessed 9 April 2012).
[7] “Collection numérique de cartes et plans – Impression,” Bibiothêque et Archives nationales de Québec ( : accessed 2 August 2009).

08 April 2012

April Ancestors

For the sake of brief entries, I am not footnoting the facts in this ongoing memorial. Sources have been noted either in other blog posts or in my family history books.

11 Apr 1912 Victor Karl Freibergs, son of Otto Freibergs and Ilse Hendricksons, and Marija Jurikas, daughter of Janis Jurikas and Katrina Tukums, were married by Rev. Isaac Sturges, the Latvian rector at St. Cornelius Russian Orthodox Church In New York City. The wedding took place at 442 West 47th Street and was witnessed by John J. Kalnins, the Latvian Consular Agent in New York. An original marriage document signed by all parties is in my possession. St. Cornelius, located on Governors Island in Manhattan, was later called St. Cornelius the Centurion, a chapel of New York's Trinity Episcopal Church. Victor was then living in Port Arthur, Ontario (now Thunder Bay) where he and his bride took up residence for most of their lives. They were my maternal grandparents. 
12 April 1808 John Fraser, son of Duncan Fraser and Catharine Robertson, was baptized at Killin, Perthshire, Scotland. John came to St. Andrews East, Argenteuil, Quebec, about 1830-1831. Little is known of his life (and nothing about his death) except he practised as a blacksmith in the village and may have had family relations on either side of the Ottawa River. His brother William became a respected doctor in Montreal. John disappeared from the radar about 1839 after the conception of his last child. Further details were posted here. He was my great-great-grandfather.

22 April 1906 Victor Freibergs arrived in Canada at the port of Saint John, New Brunswick on the Lake Michigan. Within a very short time he was bound for Montreal by train, arriving there the next day. He found a boarding house to stay in while seeking employment. Like many immigrants, he had to deal with the Russian Consul in Montreal to sort out his status and prepare for Canadian citizenship, a process that went on for some years. Victor never returned to his native Latvia.