THE HARPER FAMILY
Rev. W. G. T. Brown (1873-1951)
W. T. L. Harper (1907-1990)
By D. B. Anderson (1932 – )
After the close of Napoleon s career in Europe in 1815, many British soldiers and some naval men obtained land in what was familiarly known as the Perth settlement.
The little town of Perth did not spring up spontaneously. The site was chosen by the Government as the head of a district lying north of the Midland and Johnstown districts, comprising a great part of the Ottawa Valley in Upper Canada. Men were hired to clear the land and to erect certain buildings necessary for the administration of Justice.
To the Perth settlement from Queens County, Ireland, came James, Joseph and Ephraim Harper, with their sister, Mary Ann. Joseph Harper was born around 1766 at Cootehill, County Cavan, Ireland. He served in the Yeomanry Militia during the Irish rebellion of 1798. He was not a soldier but, like many others, he came hoping to improve his lot and find a future for his children. It is not easy to visualize the long weary journey, weeks tossing on the Atlantic in a small wooden sailing ship, crowded with seasick passengers and without the conveniences of our very poorest vessels of the present day.
He and his wife, Mary Boyle, with daughters Mary, Jane, Ellen and Nancy, arrived in Canada on the “Prince Augusta” on June 2,1818. During the crossing their son, John, was buried at sea. He had been injured on the playground at school and was
afterwards a cripple. Nancy, a child of but six years, who did not suffer from seasickness, as did the others, remembered the tears and sad outcry of her stricken mother that “she had left all her friends in Ireland, and now her one little son in the sea”.
From Quebec the family travelled up the St. Lawrence to Montreal and thence still farther up by boat and portage to either Prescott or Brockville. From the St. Lawrence, the settlers would push their way back through the woods and swamps, crossing many streams that no longer exist, finally reaching Perth. Here the Government had erected some sort of protection on the “island” for immigrant families, where they might remain until the husband and father had “drawn” his land made a trip to it and built some rude shelter of logs and brush.
Joseph Harper secured land in the township of North Burgess on Lot NE 15, Conc. 8 on July 23, 1818. and there he removed with his wife and their four daughters: Mary, Jane, Ellen and Nancy. On January 31, 1819, in a rude shanty in the woods, a son was born and named Ephraim Boyle Harper. Some time later on November 5, 1820, a daughter Elizabeth (Bessie) was born.
Harper was a weaver and, as it was still the day of the hand-loom, he seems to have done a good business among the settlers. Alas, the burden of making a home in the wilderness fell heavily on his daughters. However, the family prospered and soon had not only the work oxen of every pioneer, but horses also.
The girls were good horsewomen. An occasional trip on horseback to Perth and some visits to a more distant neighbourhoods helped to relieve the monotony of life in the bush. Mary and Jane had been to boarding school in Clonmel, Ireland, but Ellen and Nancy were too young to leave their parents before the migration to Canada. As there was no school in the wilds, these two girls were never in school, but did receive some education at home. Later this was supplemented by their brother, Ephraim, while little more than a child himself. Ellen was fond of good reading and had a memory stored with the Bible and Shakespeare, Milton and other great English classics.
In their old age, Ellen and Nancy, who could remember little or nothing of Ireland, had stories to tell of their fun and mishaps in the woods of Canada – stories that had to do with horseback riding, riding colts without saddles and being thrown in mud or snow.
One story of another type of escapade must have come from their very early years. Their father had a large hollow basswood cut into suitable lengths and cleaned out for storing grain. The two little girls thought one of these might provide the thrill of a swift downhill ride. Nancy’s turn came first. She got in and Ellen started the block on its way. Once started, there was no stopping it till the bottom of the hill was reached, while inside the wild screams told of a head being bumped from side to side in the wildly careening log, as it gathered speed down the rough hill.
Mary Harper, born in Ireland November 9, 1802, was the eldest child of Joseph and Mary (Boyle) Harper.In 1822, before she had completed her twentieth year, she married John Deacon. He had come to Canada from Kilkenny, Ireland in 1816, the son of an Irish family of the Perth settlement. (Marriage Bonds of Ontario – 1803-1834)
John Deacon of Drummond, yeoman and Mary Harper of Burgess, spinster, March 25, 1822 at Perth, Ontario.
Bondsmen: Joseph Harper of Burgess and Samuel Churchill of Ramsay, yeomen.
She settled with her husband in the township of North Burgess, afterwards moving to Perth in 1825. In 1842 they moved to South Sherbrooke, where Mr. Deacon engaged in the lumber trade. He later served as Magistrate,Councillor, and Reeve.
To them were born seventeen children, of whom six died in infancy, but eleven lived well beyond middle age. The names of these were: Ellen (Mrs. Sam Mitchell), John, James, Henry, William, Joseph, Thomas, Eliza Jane (Mrs.Thomas Dowdall), Ephraim, Richard and Mary Ann (Mrs. John McMunn)..
Mary (Harper) Deacon died December 28, 1877, her husband on May 12, 1866. They are buried in the Old Methodist Burying Ground, Robinson Street, Perth.
Jane Harper, born in Ireland in 1805, was the second daughter of Joseph and Mary (Boyle) Harper. She married an Irishman from County Cavan, Ireland, named Thomas McCue (1798-June 18, 1880). Their first location was on the 11th concession of Bathurst, but they found the land was entirely worthless and were compelled
to abandon it after a year or two. McCue bought part of a clergy reserve lot in the 8th concession of Bathurst and here they made their home till their death.
Jane had a severe illness when a young girl and was never robust afterwards, although she lived to a great age. Her husband died on June 18, 1880 at 82 years, and she died on June 4, 1891, aged 86 years, both of senile debility. They
had no children.
Ellen Harper, born in Ireland on January 14, 1810, was the third daughter of Joseph and Mary (Boyle) Harper.On September 3,1833 she married an Irishman, Thomas Gallagher, who was born January 10, 1810, in County Tyrone,near the village of Clogher.
He was one of at least seven children born in the house still known as Fardross. They lived there in their youth andthat is where their mother died.This estate has been in the possession of the Glodstanes for generations. How it was in the possession of the Gallagher family for years is not known. They were possibly charged a small rent to care for the place when the owners did not come to Ireland for a period of years. The family was apparently quite prosperous, as the sons received a much better education than the majority of young men of their day. Two of the sons, James and John, remained in Ireland and some of their descendants are still there. Thomas came to the Perth Settlement in 1829, when 19 years of age.
After their marriage they seem to have lived for a time in Burgess, but soon moved to a farm in Bathurst on the Tay River, a few miles above Perth. Here they began to make a home for themselves, though Thomas was never a successful farmer, nor an expert axe-man, a skill which was very much needed in the clearing of forest land. He seemed to have been expert around the small grist and sawmills of the day and his education made him useful also in the office management of these little enterprises.
A good measure of success attended the efforts of the young couple and their growing family for several years, until they were driven from their home and lost the fruits of their labor. It is not possible at this time to know the whole story
of the disaster that was too common in the early settlement of the country. Land was granted by the Government and at times purchased without careful survey of titles.
The occupants of certain farms in the Perth Settlement found that their titles were irregular. Some had the opportunity of re-purchase at reasonable rates and others had not. Apparently, Thomas had not. Fraud, incompetence and neglect had each a share in the condition but, in every case, the settler was the sufferer. The earnings and the hard labour of the family were all gone. It was an awful blow and one of which they hardly ever spoke. There was a story of neighbourly kindness when this happened. The indignant settlers came to the Gallagher’s and said, “We want you to go to a neighbour’s house and do not come out, nor ask any questions, nor know anything that is going on”. Then,from all about, came the men with their oxen, pulled down the log house, moved it across the river to a new site and there rebuilt it and soon the little home was ready again for the family.
They had eight children:
Thomas (August 20, 1834 – December 1, 1856)
John (January 29, 1836 – December 1, 1856)
Harriet (July 5, 1838 – April 14, 1880) – married James Brown.
Ephraim (March 22, 1840 – September 7, 1858)
William (May 28, 184? – June 4, 1917) – after the death of his brothers, he had to assume much of the burden of the farm, though he was quite young at the time. He never married.
Joshua Adams (July 16, 1844 – October 7, 1917) – married Margaret Linton
James Joseph (July 12, 1846 – January 22, 1928) – married Margaret Robinson .
Henry Deacon (August 16, 1851 – May 5, 1909) – married Ida Holmes and lived in Brockville.There was no farm, but the father was not tied to the land as other settlers and, were it not for anxiety about his growing family, he might have continued in other employment. When his older sons almost reached manhood, he rented a farm in the rear of Bathurst. The family, however, had to pass through greater sorrows than the loss of property.
The two older sons, Thomas and John, aged 22 and 20 years, were drowned together in the Mississippi River on December 1, 1856. The rented farm lay on this stream and the two sons, perhaps not thoroughly acquainted with the river, broke through
the ice. Both were strong swimmers and had broken much ice in their efforts to get out. No one could hear their cries and at last they sank exhausted. Nearly two years later, their next son, Ephraim, died after a long illness on September 7, 1858. Their deaths almost killed the mother and indeed she never fully recovered, though she lived to be a very old woman.
Later, Thomas bought a farm near the little village of Fallbrook, about a mile distant from the one he had rented but he continued to find employment elsewhere. He was a man six feet two inches in height, who never worried, never had a headache, never missed a meal and never had a severe accident and so, at a great age was able to boast that he had never had a spoonful of medicine from a doctor.
Ellen (Harper) Gallagher died in Fallbrook, near Perth, on October 3,1897, when she was 87 years and nine months old. Her husband, Thomas, died four years later on December 22, 1901, when he was nearly 92 years.
Mary Ann (Nancy) Harper, born in Ireland on October 2, 1811, was the fourth daughter of Joseph and Mary (Boyle)
Harper. She married Henry Sleigh (Sly) from South Crosby, on March 12,1835. They had one daughter, Mary Jane Sleigh (December 17, 1836 – July 14, 1910).
Mary Jane married William J. Keays on May 30, 1860 (1833-November 7, 1897). They had the following children:
William J. (1862-1929) – married 1) Angeline Churchill (1861-Apr. 17, 1891) buried Old Methodist Burying Ground
2) Susan Jones.
Annie H. (Mrs. Alfred J. Bell) 1885-1945 – buried in Elmwood Cemetery with her husband.
Ellen Jane (Jennie) (1867-1918) – married 1) E. James Foley 2) Howard Buffam.
Ephraim D.(1871-1911) – married Elizabeth F. McNaughton – buried Elmwood Cemetery.
Minnie M. (Mrs. Frederick Leighton) 1876-1905 – buried in plot with mother, father and brother, Harry.
Henry (Harry) (1879-1952) – unmarried. Buried in Elmwood Cemetery with mother, father and sister, Minnie.
After the death of her husband, Henry Sleigh (Sly/Slye), Nancy married John Bowes on February 27, 1850. It is said he left for the United States the day of their marriage and never returned.
One child, John, was born on June 20, 1850. He married Ann Elizabeth Bell (Sept. 21, 1853 – July 27, 1934).
To them were born three children:
Esther Wilhelmina (Nov. 22, 1878) – married John Crosbie. No children.
Harriet Ann (May 1, 1880 – Mar. 6, 1963) – married Rev. Dawson D. Elliott. No children.
Alfred Anson (Mar. 23, 1883 – Mar. 31, 1965) – 1) Ida Margaret Warren.
2) Margaret Rebecca Wilson.
One daughter, Helen Margaret (Apr. 26, 1943 – Aug. 15, 1945).
For many years, John was assessor in the township of Bathurst and was widely known and respected. He died on November 14, 1931.
Mary Ann (Harper) Sleigh/Bowes died on October 31, 1895. She is buried in a marked grave in Elmwood Cemetery.
HARPER, Ephraim B. M.A. D.D. was born in 1819 in Ontario, was received on trial in 1841 and died in 1902, 1844 Thorold, 1846 E.Flamboro, 1846 Stamford/Niagara, 1851 Bathurst Tp., 1851-1855 Elm St. Toronto West circuit, 1866-1869 Chairman Ottawa, 1870-1872 Norfolk St. Guelph (Wellington Co.)
Ephraim Boyle Harper, the only surviving son of Joseph and Mary (Boyle) Harper, was born the year following the arrival of the family in Canada on January 31, 1819.He married Susannah Street, second daughter of Samuel Street, on May 20, 1846 at her father’s home in Thorold, Ontario. They had eight children, Cecil, Laura, Bertha, Selina (Sept.4, 1852-Nov.11, 1856) and Samuel (Aug. 1847 -Oct. 5, 1849). Only Cecil, Laura and Bertha lived to maturity..
Ephraim was accepted for the Methodist ministry and served almost all the leading pulpits of Methodism in Canada,winning honors in Hebrew, Chaldee, Arabic and Syraic, having a working knowledge of fourteen languages. He died on February 6,1902 at the home of his son, Cecil, in Nantasket, Mass., and was buried at Norval, Ontario.
Elizabeth (Bessie) Harper, youngest child of Joseph and Mary (Boyle) Harper, was born in the township of North
Burgess November 5,1820. She moved to the township of Bathurst with her parents about 1832.
Close by the Harper home, on Lot 22, Concession 9 of Bathurst Township, lived Michael Foley and his family, among which was his son, Thomas.
In the year 1834, Thomas Foley (1817-1894) sailed from Ireland with his parents, Michael and Margaret, and his siblings, Matthew (1810), Mary (1815), Catherine (1825-1913), Ann (1825), and Peter (1831). A brother, Patrick, had arrived before them in 1832. A sister, Margaret, was born in Upper Canada, Bathurst Township in 1836.
His father, Michael, was born in County Carlowe about 1783 and his mother, Margaret (Cherfer/Cheverus) was born in County Wexford in 1789. Although in their forties, his parents faced the unknown of this wild country and were looking forward to something better than what they had left in Ireland. After a number of years, an impressive stone
house was built, which stands to this day high up on the hill.
At the age of thirty, Thomas married Elizabeth Harper on May 25, 1847 in St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church in Perth, in the presence of his brother Patrick and sister Catherine. Although Elizabeth was a Methodist of the Church of England and Thomas was Roman Catholic, the difference in religion was not considered to be a significant factor until much later in life.
Thomas and Elizabeth lived in a log house on Lot 21, Concession 9 next to his father, Michael. They had six sons and four daughters, all of whom grew to maturity.
Ellen, born May, 1848, never married.
John Harper, born August 26, 1849, married Esther Annie Clayton (1860-1929). He died in Innisfail, Alberta on June 3, 1930.
Thomas Harper, born April, 1851, never married. He died November 14, 1887.
Michael Harper, born January, 1853, never married. He died March 31, 1894.
James Joseph, born January, 1855, married a distant cousin, Ellen Jane Keays. He died March 27, 1891.
Matthew Levi, born September 13, 1856, married Jean Orpha McMartin. He left his wife and baby daughter,
Hilda, in Perth to make his way out to Western Canada, taking part in the Klondike Gold Rush a few years later.
He died March 13, 1936 and is buried in Ocean View Cemetery, Burnaby, B.C.
At the time of Thomas Foley’s death on July 25, 1894, there was religious bickering with his sister, Catherine (Foley) Smith, who insisted he be buried in the Roman Catholic cemetery of St. John the Baptist at Perth. Only his wife, Elizabeth, sons Aaron and John, and spinster daughters Ellen and Caroline were mentioned in his will dated June 8, 1893.
Mary Ann, who married George McLellan, was living in Perth at the time of the birth of her son, Laurence, in 1899 but later moved to Vancouver, B.C.
It was on December 29,1899 that Elizabeth (Harper) Foley died after a few days illness from pneumonia. She was buried in Elmwood Cemetery, Perth, beside her children Thomas, Michael, James and Eliza Jane. Her son, Aaron,was buried in the same plot at the time of his death from tuberculosis in 1900 and daughter, Caroline, also died from tuberculosis in 1905. Their graves are marked by three tall tombstones, engraved with their names.
Sadly, the family were separated from their father by religion, both in life and death.
Joseph Harper’s first wife, Mary (Boyle) Harper, it would seem, was some years younger than her husband. Her death took place many years before his. His second wife was Mrs. Jane (Bowles) Churchill, widow of Samuel Churchill, of Lanark – who had six children. On March 10, 1835, the marriage was performed by Rev. M. Harris (Bathurst Courier,March 13, 1835). His daughter Mary Ann (Nancy) married Henry Sleigh just two days later, on March 12, 1835.
Joseph Harper and his wife Jane (Churchill) sold the farm at North Burgess to a William McLean on May 13.1841.
They then purchased 66 2/3 acres of Lot northwest 21, Concession 6, in the township of Bathurst on October 2,1843 from a William Glascott for £140.00. Glascott had secured the land from the Crown. When the family moved from North Burgess to the township of Bathurst, the Post Office was named Harper and the hamlet familiarly known as Harper’s Corners.
His wife, Jane, though younger, predeceased him and, when a very old man, he was left without his once substantial property. He died at the home of his daughter, Jane (Mrs. Thomas McCue) on November 21,1874 at the age of 108 years, where she and her sister Nancy had cared for him most tenderly. His death and age are recorded in the United Church Archives, Christ Church Cathedral, Ottawa, Ontario.
His remains were interred in the St. James Church burial ground in Perth, Ontario. The Rev. R. L. Stevenson officiated at his funeral service.
At the time of Joseph Harper’s death in 1874, his son Rev. Ephraim Boyle Harper was Wesleyan minister at Port Hope, Ontario. Two of his grandsons were Judge Deacon and Thomas Deacon, MPP for North Renfrew. A nephew, the son of his sister Mary Anne, Rev. William Bennington Curran was minister in the Church of England in Galt, Ontario.
(Pembroke Observer, December 4, 1874).
Received from: Dolores Anderson
A post office in Bathurst Township, Lanark County, Ontario 7 miles west of
Perth, the county seat, nearest bank and railway point. It contains a
Methodist church and public school. Stage daily to Perth. Pop, 60.
Joseph Warren, Postmaster
Butler John, butcher
Leighton Miles, blacksmith
Marguerat Henry, cabinet maker
Rae George, agricultural implements
Warren Joseph, general store
…from 1898-99 Eastern Ontario Gazetteer and Directory
HARPER, a post settlement in Lanark County, Ontario, 7 miles from Perth, on the C.P.R. It contains 1 Methodist church, school, telephone office, blacksmith shop, cheese factory, 2 stores and 1 private bank. Pop. 60 ...from Lovell’s 1906 Canada Gazetteer
Bathurst Township one room schoolhouse
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