Irish Essex County – Part 2

Further to my St. Patrick’s Day posting, I’ve still got my nose in the archives trying to complete this list. After this is done, I’ll start on the Germans.

Brett – a well known family in Essex County, having been the publishers of the Essex Free Press. John Brett was born in County Sligo, Ireland in 1826 and came to North America when he was a young man. He travelled around a bit before settling down in Amherstburg in 1865. His son Richard was the journalist of the family, working first for the Windsor Herald and the Amherstburg Echo. In 1896 he became co-owner of the Essex Free Press. His great great (?) grand daughter Laurie Brett just sold the Free Press last year, an end to one of Ontario’s most enduring family dynasties in journalism.

Motherwell/Campbell — I never can figure out how to pay tribute to the Irish mothers of Essex County since their family names often did not endure. So I’ve decided to pair them up with their husband’s name so the descendants can find them. Rebecca Motherwell was born in County Sligo in 1806. She married John Campbell, a prominent Windsor businessman. I haven’t been able to ascertain when Rebecca came over from Ireland, though they likely met in Canada since there was no mention that Mr. Campbell had a wife when he emigrated at age 18.

Maxwell/Hosely – The Maxwells were originally English, coming to Ireland at the time of Cromwell. Alexander and his wife Ann (Hosely) emigrated to Canada in 1837, settling in Middlesex Township. Their son David moved to Essex County in 1878 where he was inspector of schools.

Buchanan – County Donegal – John Buchanan emigrated to Canada as a young man, settling in Tilbury West Township in 1855 after living several other places in Ontario and Michigan.

Hanrahan – Edward – came from Ireland to Amherstburg with his wife Margaret Manning in 1849, later moving to Windsor where he worked for the railway, then establishing a hotel on Glengarry called, not surprisingly, “The Hanrahan”

Finlay – John, married Jane Kyle in County Tyrone before coming to Canada in 1846. They first went to Montreal, then Dundas, then Huron County. Son John moved to Pelee Island in the late 1800s where he grew grapes and also struck oil.

******** I am starting to realize that this listing could take weeks to finish. I knew there were a lot of Irish in Essex County, but I didn’t think there were that many. So at this point, I will go out of order and write the biographies of my two Irish families — the Totten and the Irwins. ********

Totten – my paternal grandmother was Edith Totten, born at Maidstone Cross. William Totten, son of Thomas and Mary Totten came to Canada in 1840. He met his wife, Grace Stokes, daughter of John and Elizabeth Stokes. My research shows that William was born in County Armagh, which is Northern Ireland. The Tottens have always been Protestant … some of the early Catholics who did not speak French converted. But this is likely not the case with the Tottens since there were many Irish Catholics in Maidstone and Woodslee at the time. Some early settlers became Protestant because the only Catholic churches in their communities were French. But I doubt that was the case in Maidstone. This and the Northern Ireland address makes me think they were Protestant.

Irwin – my father’s grandmother was Agnes Irwin of Blytheswood/Albuna. I know they were Protestant, because one of the earliest Irwin settlers was a member of the Orange Lodge. William Irwin was born in County Armagh, marrying Eliza Cowan before coming over to Canada in 1834. Three of their children came to Canada with them on a sailing ship which landed in New York City. The route to Essex County was The Hudson River; then the canals to Buffalo; and then by ship across Lake Erie to Detroit. Not sure which route they took from Detroit to Mersea township but it was likely not a comfortable journey because there were practically no roads, the bush was thick and Essex County was notoriously swampy in those days. And there was no house on their 100 acres on the 7th concession. Just bush. William and Eliza’s son Thomas married Agnes Gardiner in 1862. One of their daughters, also named Agnes, married my great grandfather Adam Fenner and lived until her death on the Fenner homestead at the crossroads in Ruscomb.

Wallace — The Wallaces, my mom’s family, were originally Scottish but had lived in Ireland for a couple of hundred years. My ancestors came to Canada from County Tipperary (ggg grandfather was born in 1839), settling first in Tuckersmith Township, Huron County in 1865 where he married Jessie Jane McCartney; then moving to Comber in 1887. My great grandfather John Wallace bought a farm halfway between Ruscomb and Woodslee on the 4th Concession.


Posted on March 31, 2012, in Essex County Families. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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