This reflection is tangential to the workings of the farm, but it’s such an important part of the extended Williams family and is so entwined with the Emma Field novels that I want to include it in this series.
In Book One a tragedy befalls Emma’s father. It is, in fact, a tragedy which fell upon the real John P. Williams II’s eldest son, Edwin. This young man attended Victoria College in distant Cobourg (not bad for a farm boy in the 1870s). He later married Caroline (Carrie) Bowerman, the daughter of his father’s good friend and Bloomfield Quaker, Levi Bowerman. Edwin and Carrie settled on a farm north of Picton and had three sons: Merton Yarwood, who wrote The Samuel Williams – Jemima Platt Family history book , Thomas and John Platt III.
The following is an account by Merton Williams of his father’s (John’s son’s) death. “January 1889 started bleak and cold with no snow. ON the night of the 9th, a sleet storm covered the trees and ground with ice, ahead of a hurricane, which coming up the Hudson River, crossed Lake Ontario and struck Prince Edward County with full force!
By 4 AM January 10th, the great driveway doors of Edwin’s old barn had blown open and a part of the roof had blown off! Going over to the tenant house, Edwin returned with his hired man Obadiah Wannamaker, and they together closed the doors. As the centre post was broken, Edwin stepped back and started to roll a boulder against the doors. A gust of wind blew them open, one striking him on the head and hurling him ten feet! Obadiah managed to get him to the house, but in four hours he was dead!”
In June of that year Carrie rented out the farm and took her boys to live with her parents, grandmother and Aunt Lydia, at what they called the “Little Lot” or the “Watson Place”, beside Trout Creek, across from Morgan’s Mill (where Emma had gathered woollen strips from Caleb and where Vera Plank lived). The house was within view of the farm which John P., recently widowed, operated with his youngest son, William Hartwell. (As an aside, John P. married his grandson’s “Aunt Lydia” as his second wife the following January. Are you confused yet?) Merton Williams recorded many lovely details about his life at the “Watson Place” and the admiration he had for both his grandfathers, but what is of greatest interest to me is that Carrie, who I would assume had been “disowned” by the Quaker Meeting for marrying out of her faith moved her three sons to Westtown Boarding School, outside Philadelphia, in the summer of 1894. She had taken a job in the girl’s wing of the eminent Quaker boarding school. Merton describes it as a “well ordered school with electric lights and hot baths, outside swimming and skating ponds, sledding, tennis, soccer, libraries, museum, gymnasium, observatory with astronomic telescope – what a change from No. 6, Hallowell one room school house!” It’s no wonder that Merton and his brother Thomas went on to higher education at Queen’s University in Kingston. Merton also attended Yale and worked as a geologist mapping the Silurian area west of the Niagara Escarpment. He was visiting Quaker relatives in Norwich, Ontario in early August of 1914 as war clouds gathered over Europe. He writes, “I called the house (of his relatives) by phone and on Sunday morning, August 4th, an open carriage called for me and I sat with Anna Haight, garbed in her plain grey silk dress and Quaker bonnet. At the plain, white meeting house, men and women sat apart, facing the high seats occupied by the Ministers and Elders. Subdued and fearful silence was interrupted by simple prayers and exhortation. Next morning the news was broadcast on the bulletin boards – Germany had attacked Austria and England was at war! Canada followed suit. The long, peaceful age symbolized by Queen Victoria had ended!”
Merton Williams reminisces about his many hunting and fishing expeditions with his grandfather, John. P. Williams. He also recounts how he took his grandfather for his first ride in a motorized carriage (automobile). It was with sadness that he, along with his extended family, laid this man to rest in Glenwood Cemetery, Picton in April of 1915.
But one last note about the writing of the Emma Field novels and the John P. Williams family. I had already written the passage about Emma’s marriage in Book Two when Anne E. Williams, a dear family member and great grand-daughter of John P. sent her grandmother Carrie’s wedding dress east to the Prince Edward County Museum. I had written, “Emma wore a dress as richly brown as wet maple leaves on the floor of a springtime woods.” The intricately-sewn dress that arrived was of the finest silk. Lace had been added to it so that a cousin could wear it, years later in a parade, but it was as richly brown as wet maple leaves on the floor of a springtime woods! It’s a work of art and is displayed at the former church of St. Mary Magdalene in Picton.
Carrie Williams (John P. Williams’ daughter-in-law)
with her three sons, Thomas, Merton, and John Platt III.
If athletes can give 110% I can write 13 entries in a series of 12. Stay tuned for one more posting!