From Ontario To British Columbia
James Stewart was a broad-shouldered stocky man, who lived a life that embraced possibilities and adventures. Born to William Stewart and Mary Loftus in West Flamboro, Wentworth Co., Ontario and baptized on Jan. 6, 1847. James was their first son as a couple but not the first child to the household. Mary Loftus had been married previous to Felix McGowan, and they had three children. As well as three McGowan siblings, on the Stewart side three more brothers and two sisters joined the family for a total of 9 children.
William Stewart was Presbyterian and Mary his wife Catholic; all the children are raised Catholic, which caused some issues in the family according to stories told by a cousin. That’s a story for another day!
The 1861 census reveals that the family had relocated to Normanby Twp., Grey Co., Ontario. Normanby will be home to James for the next 40 years.
At the age of 28 James married Mary Curran, who was living with her parents Edward & Jeanette in Normanby. Together they bought 100 acres on Con 3 Lot 32 and farmed the land.
Mary died after eight years of marriage and is buried in Mount Forest, Wellington Co., in her parent’s plot. They did not have any children, and James must have felt the loss deeply as he did not marry again.
James and his mother Mary, both widowed are living together in the 1891 census for Normanby, James is still farming the land. He must have been ready for a change though.
Around 1902 James left his farm, friends and all that was familiar joining many gold seekers heading west. His first stop on his journey was Fairview, B.C. and while there he was joined by his sister’s adopted son James Cody. James Stewart opened a store in Fairview, and his nephew worked with him.
1906 finds both the James have relocated to Hedley, BC., a mining town. Gold was found close to Hedley in 1898 at Nickel Plate Mountain. 1903 saw a flurry of activity with men digging tunnels in the mountain. At its peak, the population of Hedley was 1,000 people but in 1915 it was in decline as there were under 400 people calling it home.
In Hedley, James was a setter at the diamond drill camp as well he owned a general store.
Here are two of the of ads that I found in the Hedley Gazette which was the local paper that was in publication from 1905-1917.
The newspaper was one of the best sources of information about James and his life in BC. For instance, I learned that in 1915 had him installing a new floor and shelves in a store upgrade, as well James regularly gave to the Patriotic Fund to support troops in WWI. There were trials as well, in 1909 he had a small roof fire that was quickly spotted and extinguished thankfully, and in 1916 $12.00 stolen from the till in his store. James’ nephew, James Cody left for Vancouver, B.C. to fix his varicose veins and after went to Helena, Montana to visit family. He wrote back to his uncle and is noted by the newspaper. James lived an active life at the age of 67 years old he was still working at the diamond drill camp. He was injured when sitting on the edge of a tram car when the cables switched, and he was “sent spinning on the track.” Thankfully both James’ recovered from their conditions.
I was also able to learn about other family members from the newspaper. In 1914, it was reported that James’ sister Margaret Cody is traveling to see her son (and brother). After her visit she is heading to Yorkton, Saskatchewan to visit another brother. I love small town newspapers!
Reading through the columns of the paper life in Hedley was relatively normal for the times. The community hosted gatherings; there were women’s groups and dances.
James was far from most of his family in a time when communication was not easy or fast. I am sure he had great friends and enjoyed his life in Hedley. James lived in Hedley until his death that took place at the hospital in the nearby community of Princeton, Jan 23, 1921, at the age of 74 years. Hedley at this time was in decline. According to the papers filed with his estate due to the closing of the mine at Hedley and the general business depression James’ estate owed money. He had property in Hedley and also in Fairview, B.C., which at this time had become a ghost town. His property was not worth very much and the administrator of his estate was having a hard time selling it. James Cody offered to buy one of his lots in Hedley for $250.00.
In 2015, a descendant of James’ brother, David Stewart made the journey to Hedley. Mary Stewart traveled over 11 hours to see the community and learn more about his life. It was a memorable trip and incredible to see where James called home. The fact that the miners lived at the top of the mountain and had a community there was jaw-dropping to see first hand.
James didn’t leave any direct descendants, but we his family remember him and his exciting life. He endured loss and day-to-day struggles but continued to adventure on and explore new horizons.
1852 census West Flamboro, Wentworth Co., Ontario; William Stewart; Family Search index https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MWT2-XMG
1861 census Normanby, Grey Co., Ontario; Family Search Index https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MQ78-K1T
1891 census Normanby, Grey Co., Ontario; Family Search Index https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MWLM-6CT
Hedley Heritage Museum, Tenacity, the Story of Hedley, Then and Today- http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/histoires_de_chez_nous-community_memories/pm_v2.php?id=story_line&lg=English&fl=0&ex=00000834&sl=9272&pos=1
Penticton News, Hedley Boys http://www.castanet.net/news/Penticton/119516/The-WWI-Hedley-Boys
Hedley Museum – http://hedleybc.ca/go-to/hedley-heritage-museum/
Princeton & District Museum & Archives – http://www.princetonmuseum.org/Princeton_Museum/Home.html
Fairview, B.C. information kept at the Oliver Archives – http://www.oliverheritage.ca/
Hedley Newspaper available on-line and ran from 1905-1917 http://historicalnewspapers.library.ubc.ca/info/collection/hedley
Royal BC Museum which has b/m/d records for British Columbia http://search-collections.royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/Genealogy/BasicSearch
History of Fairview, B.C. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairview,_British_Columbia
Photo of James Stewart is a copy of a tintype that was owned by Mary McIntee. Mary McIntee’s obituary http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/statesmanjournal/obituary.aspx?pid=172811956
From the Letters of Administration –
At the time of his death James owned Lot 3 Block 24 Map 107 Hedley; N1/2 Lot 12 Block 4 Map 27 Ellis Subdivision Fairview & Lots 10,11,17 & 20 Block 4 Map 27 Ellis Addition Town of Fairview; Lot 18 Block 24 D.L.’s 1975 & 1976 Group 1, Similkameen Division, Yale District Map 107 – James Cody to purchase for $250.00.
Patricia, Your way of presenting your family history is always so interesting and I learn so much. I marvel at how our two families moved from their birth places, yet in many ways stayed in contact with one another enough that we can follow their trails.
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Thank you for your kind comments Dani Lee. I love that we have collaborated for the past 20 years. It makes the genealogy journey so much more fun doing it with a cousin!
An after thought on my words above. I believe that Mary Loftus McGowan Stewart is the reason they stayed in contact. As an example of that, John McGowan, second child of Mary Loftus and Felix McGowan, named his first male child, James (not too hard as his wife’s father’s name was also, James, but I always felt it was a tribute to James Stewart, too as he really never knew his own father. His next two sons were named, William and Alexander (not Irish names!).