Tag Archives: Canada

Charles Jennette: Called Too Old to Marry

In 1936, at a birthday party in the Adirondacks, the honoree claimed he would be married within two years. He passed away six years later, but during that span, he received more than 100 letters and 9 personal visits from female suitors- became engaged- was dumped the day before the wedding- was the guest of honor at several dinners, birthday parties, and parades- regularly mowed his lawn with a scythe- joined a ski club- and received the Purple Heart for war injuries.

Nothing particularly unusual?unless, of course, at that party in 1936, the birthday boy was turning 99 years old. Review those events from that perspective, and now you’ve got something.

Meet Charles Jennette, for a time the most famous man in the Adirondacks. His greatest fame came in his 100th year, when he became engaged to Ella Blanch Manning, a New York City woman who had attended his 99th birthday party several weeks earlier. Days before the wedding, an Albany headline read “100 Called Too Old to Marry- Man Will Take 3d Wife at 99.”

But after a visit with her daughters, and just 24 hours before the wedding, Ella changed her mind. Already a media sensation (and despite being left high and dry), Charles continued with his post-wedding plans of a boat ride and dinner, remaining hopeful of marriage in the near future. After many interviews, he was only too happy to return to an otherwise quiet, humble life.

Jennette was born in Maine in 1837. The family moved to Canada when he was five, and returned to the US when the Civil War began. At Malone, Charles enlisted for three years with Company A, 95th NY Volunteers, but served only nine months. His time was cut short in 1865 when he was wounded in the Battle of Hatcher’s Run (also known as Dabney’s Mills) in Virginia. He was still in the hospital when the war ended.

In 1866, he married Emily Proulx in Ottawa, a union that would endure for 57 years. When the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898, Charles tried to enlist at the age of 61, but was refused. He lived much of his life in the St. Regis Falls area as a lumberman, toiling in partnership for many years with his son, John.

They ended the business relationship in December 1915 when Charles was 78. In the following year, he built a cottage at Old Forge. In 1921, the 84-year-old was one of only six attendees at the final meeting of the Durkee Post GAR in St. Regis Falls. GAR represents Grand Army of the Republic, the title given to Union forces in the Civil War. Because few veterans remained, the local group was discontinued.

His wife (Emily) died in the mid-1920s. Charles began spending summers in Old Forge and winters in Ilion (near Herkimer). He also made regular visits to family in Tupper Lake. In 1935, he married for a second time (in Montreal), but his new bride died just two months later.

He was generally known as a remarkable old-timer, but fame arrived in 1936 when, at his 98th birthday party, Charles announced he expected to wed again before he reached 100 (because, he said, “over 100 is too old”). Several hundred people attended the festivities.

After addressing more than a hundred female suitors (ages 42 to 72), he made plans to marry Ella Manning. Instead, at 99, he became America’s most famous groom to be jilted at the altar.

After that, it seemed anything he did was remarkable, and at such an advanced age, it certainly was. In 1937 (age 100) he rode in a Memorial Day parade as guest of honor. Shortly after his 101st birthday, he attended the Gettysburg Annual GAR Convention, 72 years after his combat days had ended.

In 1940, on his 103rd birthday, he used a scythe to mow the lawn, and otherwise continued his daily ritual—trekking nearly two miles to retrieve the mail, and taking time to read the newspapers (and he didn’t need glasses!). He made maple syrup every spring and tended a garden each summer.

In August 1940, at Oneida Square in Utica, Charles was honored in a ceremony at the Soldiers’ Monument, which was built in 1891 to memorialize the Utica men who “risked their lives to save the Union.” Seventy-five years after suffering wounds in battle, Charles Jennette became a member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart (which had been formed during WW I).

At age 104, perhaps still holding a marriage possibility in the back of his mind, Charles became the first male allowed to join the Old Forge Sno-Flakes, an all-girls’ ski club. He soon expressed regret at not having taken up skiing “when I was young, say 70 or so.”

In mid-1942, in support of the WW II effort, a photo of Charles purchasing war bonds was widely distributed among newspapers. He continued to attend American Legion rallies and make other appearances. Finally, in December of that year, he passed away at the age of 105.

Photos: At age 99, Charles Jennette with his fiance, Ella Manning- one of many headlines generated by Jennette’s story.

Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

Canadian Friends of Fort de La Presentation Formed

A new organization, Canadian Friends of Fort de La Presentation, is partnering with the Fort La Presentation Association in Ogdensburg, New York to advance the education of Canadians in general and students in particular in shared Canadian and American colonial history.

Through seven decades – 1749 to 1813 – encompassing the Seven Years War, the American Revolution and the War of 1812, Canadian and American history intertwined at the mouth of the Oswegatchie River in what is now Ogdensburg, New York.


“The Canadian Friends will develop educational programs and resources, undertake research to advance historical knowledge and widely share these assets through media, local projects and other services,” said Michael Whittaker, president of the Canadian Friends of Fort de La Presentation. “The forts which once stood on Ogdensburg’s Lighthouse Point, La Presentation from 1740 to 1759, Oswegatchie from 1760 to 1796 and Presentation until 1813, are rooted in Canadian history from the last years of New France through the first 50 years of British colonial rule.”

With recognition as a non-profit corporation by the Canada Revenue Agency, the Canadian Friends of Fort de La Presentation is undertaking a campaign to attract members and donations for which charitable tax receipts will be issued. All communications from the Canadian Friends will be in English and French.

They are already working actively with the Fort La Presentation Association to plan the fourth annual War of 1812 Symposium in Ogdensburg April 27 and 28, 2012. The symposium, featuring four speakers from each country, will attract an audience drawn equally from Canada and the USA .

“We hope to fund the Canadian speakers at the War of 1812 symposium,” said Mr. Whittaker. “I live in Bishop’s Mills and know those of us on the Ontario side of the St. Lawrence River look forward to expanding our co-operation with our friends in New York .”

Two of the historians featured in the recent PBS production, “The War of 1812,” are giving seminars at the 2012 symposium. Four other historians who appeared in the production have presented at previous symposia.

Americas Invasion of Canada: The War of 1812

Although it has taken a backseat to the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War and has been largely forgotten outside the areas it was fought, this year marks the Bicentennial of the War of 1812. In the reissued The American Invasion of Canada: The War of 1812’s First Year (Skyhorse Publishing, 2012), Pierre Berton transforms history into an engrossing narrative that reads like a fast-paced novel.

To America’s leaders in 1812, an invasion of Canada seemed to be “a mere matter of marching,” as Thomas Jefferson confidently predicted. How could a nation of eight million Americans fail to subdue a struggling British colony of 300,000 already enmeshed in a life and death struggle with the armies (and navies) of Napoleon? Continue reading

Quebec Family History Society Goes Online

The Quebec Family History Society (QFHS) has announced the launch of its new website at www.qfhs.ca. The website features several new sections, such as Gary’s Genealogical Picks, research tips, surname interests, and a bulletin board.

QFHS members researching their ancestors in Quebec will benefit from the new Jacques Gagne Church Compilations in the members’ section. Long-time member Jacques Gagne has compiled historical information and the location of records for more than 1,000 English and French Protestant churches across the province, from 1759 to 1899.

The Quebec Family History Society is the largest English-language genealogical society in Quebec, Canada. Founded in 1977, it is a registered Canadian charity that helps people of all backgrounds research their family history. Its members, in addition to researching their Quebec roots, research historical records in all Canadian provinces and territories, the United States, the British Isles, and Western Europe. At the QFHS Heritage Centre and Library, members have free access to a collection of 6,000 books, manuscripts, and family histories, plus thousands of microfilms, microfiche, historical maps, and periodicals, and access to billions of online genealogical records.

American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World

On November 25, 1783, the last British troops pulled out of New York City, bringing the American Revolution to an end. Patriots celebrated their departure and the confirmation of U.S. independence. But for tens of thousands of American loyalists, the British evacuation spelled worry, not jubilation. What would happen to them in the new United States? Would they and their families be safe?

Facing grave doubts about their futures, some sixty thousand loyalists—one in forty members of the American population—decided to leave their homes and become refugees elsewhere in the British Empire. They sailed for Britain, for Canada, for Jamaica, and for the Bahamas- some ventured as far as Sierra Leone and India. Award-winning historian Maya Jasanoff’s new book Liberty’s Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World (Knopf, 2011), chronicles their stories.

Jasanoff re-creates the journeys of ordinary individuals whose lives were overturned by extraordinary events. She tells of refugees like Elizabeth Johnston, a young mother from Georgia, who spent nearly thirty years as a migrant, searching for a home in Britain, Jamaica, and Canada. And of David George, a black preacher born into slavery, who found freedom and faith in the British Empire, and eventually led his followers to seek a new Jerusalem in Sierra Leone.

Mohawk leader Joseph Brant resettled his people under British protection in Ontario, while the adventurer William Augustus Bowles tried to shape a loyalist Creek state in Florida. For all these people and more, it was the British Empire—not the United States—that held the promise of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Yet as they dispersed across the empire, the loyalists also carried things from their former homes, revealing an enduring American influence on the wider British world.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

War of 1812: Carrying the Great Rope

During the War of 1812, control of Lake Ontario was one of many issues considered critical by both sides. A key position for the British was Kingston, Ontario, about thirty miles north of the vital American base at Sackets Harbor. In an effort to establish domination of the lake, the two sites engaged in a shipbuilding race.

The British finished first and gained control, but American builders quickly completed three new ships (two brigs and the huge frigate Superior, larger than its British counterpart). Their launch required only weapons and rigging, which were en route from Brooklyn via Albany. In 1814, hoping to keep those vessels in port, the British sought to disrupt American supply routes. A prime target was Fort Ontario, located at Oswego on the mouth of the Oswego River.


On May 5, the British fleet launched an attack that was repelled by the Americans. On the following day, an intensified assault featured heavy cannon fire from the British. Eventually, the Americans lost the fort and some important armaments, but most of the valuable supplies had been taken upriver to Oswego Falls (now Fulton) for safe storage. The preservation tactic worked, and shortly after the Battle of Oswego, a plan was in place to resume moving war supplies northward to the waiting ships at Sackets Harbor.

Following the attack, the British withdrew to Kingston, but a few weeks later, they were at the Galloo Islands near Sackets Harbor, blockading any marine attempts at supplying this strategic site. Should the materials slip through, it would dramatically tip the scales in favor of the American forces. By monitoring the harbor, the Brits were preventing that from happening, ensuring their superiority on the lake.

A British attempt to destroy the Superior was foiled, and on May 2, the ship was launched. But it was hardly battle-ready, still lacking guns and rigging. Less than three weeks after the attack on Oswego, the critical supplies hidden at Oswego Falls were once again on the move. They had already traveled from Brooklyn to Albany, and then to Oneida Lake. Now, from Oswego Falls, it was time for the final, dangerous leg of the journey.

A land contingent paralleled the 19 American boats as they fairly sneaked up the eastern shoreline of Lake Ontario. At Sandy Creek, the boats were taken inland as far as possible while scouts checked ahead for the presence of British ships. It was a wise move, for the enemy was indeed lurking nearby. Shortly after, the British launched an attack, but in less than a half hour, the Americans had won a resounding victory known as the Battle of Big Sandy Creek.

Despite the win, it was deemed unsafe to risk sending the valued supplies any farther by water, lest they again fall under attack and be captured or destroyed by the British. Wagons, oxen, horses, and manpower were summoned, both from the military and from local residents. The plan was to move the important supplies the remaining distance by land.

The bateaux (boats) were unloaded, and soon a lengthy caravan laden with guns, ship cables, and other supplies was on its way to Sackets Harbor, about 20 miles north. Only one item was yet to be moved—a length of rope, albeit an important one—and it presented a real problem.

This wasn’t just any length of rope. It was intended as the anchor line and/or rigging for the USS Superior, the huge new frigate that could alter the balance of power on the lake. That meant this was a BIG rope. Most descriptions portrayed it as 6 inches thick and 600 feet long, weighing in at just under 5 tons.

No cart was big enough to handle its tremendous size and weight, but if it wasn’t delivered, the Superior would remain port-bound, and the Brits would own the lake. Ingenuity often yields solutions at such critical moments, but sometimes good ol’ elbow grease is the answer. In this case, it was a combination of the two, but the emphasis was clearly on the physical.

A section of the rope (referred to as a cable) was piled on a cart, and the remaining cable was strung out along the trail. Militiamen heaved it to their shoulders, and like one gigantic, ponderous snake, the cable began moving slowly northward behind the cart.

There are various accounts of the trip, and claims as to the number of cable-carriers range from 84 to more than 200. Some say that discouraged men skipped out of the nasty job after a few hours, and that locals stepped in, literally shouldering the burden. None of the stories differed on one count, though: participants were left badly bruised from the incredibly difficult ordeal.

But, they did it! The cable arrived at Sackets Harbor on the afternoon of the second day. The tired men wore abrasions, cuts, and huge, deep-purple bruises as hard-earned badges of valor. At the close of their incredible 20-mile journey, “there was loud cheering the whole length of the cable,” as the men were greeted with music, drumming, flag-waving, and drink—and the princely sum of $2 each for their efforts.

They should have celebrated with a tug-of-war!

As soon as it was deemed seaworthy, the Superior turned the tables on the British, blockading their main shipyard at Kingston and helping establish American dominance of the lake. It was thanks in no small part to the “can-do” attitude exemplified by North Country pioneer folks.

Top Photo: Fort Ontario at Oswego.

Middle Photo: One of several plaques honoring the cable carriers.

Bottom Photo: Map of Lake Ontario sites.

Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

1871 Canadian Census Now Online

Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter is reporting that Library and Archives Canada has placed the 1871 census online. 1871 marked the first regularly scheduled collection of national statistics. The information covers the four provinces that were part of the Dominion of Canada in 1871: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec.

The online database provides digitized images of original census returns featuring the name, age, country or province of birth, nationality, religion, and occupation of Canada’s residents at the time. The database is searchable by nominal information such as Name, Given Name (s) and Age, and/or geographical information such as Province, District Name, District Number, and Sub-district Number.

The 1871 Canadian Census is available free of charge at: www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/databases/census-1871/index-e.html

You can learn more about the 1871 census at http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/databases/census-1871/001101-2000-e.html

Ogdensburg Founder’s Day Weekend July 23-24

Ogdensburg, in St. Lawrence County, will play host to it’s annual Founder’s Day celebration, French and Indian War reenactment, and colonial trade fair on Saturday, July 23 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM and Sunday, July 24 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM.

More than 250 years ago the roar of cannon fire echoed over the St. Lawrence River on the now peaceful stretch between Ogdensburg, New York and Prescott, Ontario. The final battle of the French and Indian War – the battle that truly led to the French losing Canada to the English – was fought here in August 1760.

Founder’s Day Weekend is the annual commemoration of Ogdensburg’s French colonial history and the Battle of the Thousand Islands. Lighthouse Point features a military re-enactment and colonial trade fair. As many as 500 participants from the U.S. and Canada, dressed in 18th-century clothes, will establish an encampment of white canvass tents.

French and English naval contingents will moor their historically accurate small boats along the shore and bivouac there. The crews will race on Saturday morning, but Saturday and Sunday afternoon the boats with bow guns and muskets in battle on the river. The skirmishing on the water leads into the land battle. Across the width of Lighthouse Point, the opposing forces and their Native allies will maneuver.

Civilian life of the colonies will also be represented as women and children, pipers, dancers, artisans, traditional tradesmen and women, and sutlers, the merchants that followed the armies, set up their shops to furnish just about anything a re-enactor, or 21st-century tourist, could want.

The re-enactment of the Battle of the Thousand Islands and the colonial trade fair are adjacent to the archaeological remains of Fort de la Presentation, built by the French in 1749. When the tide of war turned in favor of the English, the French vacated the fort in early 1759 and continued the construction of Fort Levis downriver on Ile Royal, now Chimney Island. La Presentation was a wooden stockade- Levis was a substantial fortification.

The 1760 Battle of the Thousand Islands began with the capture of the French corvette L’Outauaise by a swarm of English row galleys off abandoned Fort de la Presentation. The battle continued with the successful, weeklong siege of Fort Levis. The English pressed on to accept the capitulation of Montreal.

For more than a decade, the annual Founder’s Day Weekend has honored the shared history of Canada and the United States. Here, where the Oswegatchie River flows into the St. Lawrence, the Fort La Presentation Association plans to rebuild the historic fort as a high-quality, tourist attraction.

Admission: Adults $8- Children 7 to 12 $2- children 6 and under free.

More information is available online or by calling the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce at 1-877-228-7810.

Photo courtesy Sandy Goss, Eagle Bay Media.

Library and Archives Canada Voter Finding Aid

Library and Archives Canada has announced the launch of an updated version of its finding aid to locate electoral districts in its federal voters’ lists collection from 1935 to 1980. This updated version now provides for each of the 892 microfilm reels of the collection, the electoral year, the province, the exact name of the electoral district and the page numbers for each microfilm. This tool will facilitate the frequent consultation and use of the federal voters’ lists collection by genealogists and family historians.

The mandate of Library and Archives Canada is to preserve the nation’s documentary heritage for present and future generations, and to be a source of enduring knowledge accessible to all, contributing to the cultural, social and economic development of Canada. Library and Archives Canada also facilitates co-operation among communities involved in the acquisition, preservation and diffusion of knowledge, and represents the continuing memory of the Government of Canada and its institutions. Genealogy Services includes all on-site and online genealogical services of Library and Archives Canada. It offers information, services, advice, research tools and the opportunity to work on joint projects, in both official languages.

Nouvel instrument de recherche pour les listes electorales federales, 1935-1980

Bibliotheque et Archives Canada d’annoncer le lancement d’une version amelioree de son instrument de recherche pour localiser les districts electoraux dans sa collection de listes electorales federales de 1935 a 1980. Cette nouvelle version fournit maintenant pour chacune des 892 bobines de microfilm de la collection, l’annee d’election, la province, le nom exact du district electoral et les numeros de pages pour chaque microfilm. Cet instrument facilitera la consultation et l’usage de cette collection, tres souvent consultee par les genealogistes.

Le mandat de Bibliotheque et Archives Canada est de preserver le patrimoine documentaire du pays pour les generations presentes et futures, et d’etre une source de savoir permanent accessible a tous et qui contribue a l’epanouissement culturel, social et economique du Canada. En outre, Bibliotheque et Archives Canada facilite au Canada la concertation des divers milieux interesses a l’acquisition, a la preservation et a la diffusion du savoir, et represente la memoire permanente de l’administration federale et de ses institutions. Les Services de genealogie englobent tous les services genealogiques physiques et en ligne de Bibliotheque et Archives Canada. Ils offrent de l’information, des services, des conseils, des outils de recherche et la possibilite de travailler a des projets communs, et ce, dans les deux langues officielles.

Nous sommes tres reconnaissants envers les nombreux membres du personnel de Bibliotheque et Archives Canada qui, grace a leurs efforts soutenus, ont rendu possible la realisation de ce projet. Pour de plus amples renseignements, ecrivez-nous a webservices@lac-bac.gc.ca.

Database: NYs Black Loyalist Refugees

Black Loyalist is a repository of historical data about the African American loyalist refugees who left New York between April and November 1783 and whose names are recorded in the Book of Negroes. In this first stage, the site concentrates on providing biographical and demographic information for the largest cohort, about 1000 people from Norfolk Virginia and surrounding counties.

Working on the principal that enslaved African Americans were not just a faceless, nameless, undifferentiated mass, but individuals with complex life experiences, the site seeks to provide as much biographical data as can be found for the individual people who ran away to join the British during the American Revolution and were evacuated as free people in 1783.

The project emerged from the research of Cassandra Pybus for her book Epic Journeys of Freedom: Runaway Slaves of the American Revolution and Their Global Quest for Liberty.

The site was created by Cassandra Pybus, Kit Candlin and Robin Petterd and funded as a pilot project in 2009 by the Australian Research Council.

Illustration: Certificate of freedom, 1783. Courtesy Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management.