John Gibbons life started out with sorrow and tragically ended early. His mother died suddenly while he was an infant and he was to contract tuberculosis and die at the early age of forty-seven. John was born in Ontario, probably in 1836 (this date is based on the ages given on his marriage certificate and in his will). The exact birthplace is not known, however, it is likely that he was born in Adjala township in Simcoe County since his father owned land there during that time period. John was the youngest of Patrick Gibbons and Bridget Burke’s four children. This was an Irish Catholic family and Adjala was settled in the early 1820’s by Catholics arriving from Ireland during this time. Often the small hamlets they founded wee named after towns they had left in the “old country”, however, Adjala was named after the wife of the Shawnee chief Tecumseh, who Canadians consider a hero because he helped to fight off the British in the War of 1812. The Gibbons family stayed in Adjala after the death of Bridget, John’s mother, until he was five or six. At that time, his father, Patrick, bought a large tract of land further east in King township in what is now the town of Newmarket, north of Toronto. Patrick remarried about this time and eventually four more children were born into the family.
John, or Henry, as some relatives remember him being called, is listed in the 1852 census for King township – he is living with his father and stepmother and four step-siblings in a one-storey log cabin. His three oldest siblings have already moved out of the house. We are not given any indications as to whether or not John had attended school or if he could read or write. It was stated that would turn fourteen on his next birthday.
The next we hear of John is in the 1861 census. He is now about twenty-four and is living with his father’s brother, his Uncle Michael Gibbons. About 10 years earlier, Michael had bought 100 acres in the Queen’s Bush which is now Wellesley Township in Wellington County (just north of the town of Linwood). Michael had 50 acres in crops – wheat, potatoes, turnips and peas and 50 acres of woodlot, many of which were covered with sugar maples that he tapped for maple syrup. Of course, these were the days of oxen and ploughs, not tractors, so I’m sure John was a big help. Sometime during the next six years, John struck out on his own and moved fifty miles south to Norwich in Oxford County. It is possible that John was working for a man named Redmond Sage. Redmond had married Ellen O’Callaghan, a sister to Elizabeth who John married in 1867. According to Sacred Heart Catholic Church records in Intersoll, they were married on October 8th by Father G. Volkert. The witnesses were Phillip Crotty and Mary Jane Kelly. John was thirty years old and Elizabeth was 24. Interestingly, the newspaper account states that they were married on the 17th rather than the 8th.
Elizabeth, or Bessie, as she was nicknamed was the fourth child of John O’Callaghan and Bridget Syron’s ten children. She had six brothers and three sisters. Bessie was the first of the children to be born on Canadian soil. The family had recently emigrated from Ireland and she was born on the 25th of October 1843 in Lachine, Quebec, which is a just west of Montreal. The 1843 birth date is the date on her death certificate, however, ages on her marriage records indicate it may have been 1844 and the 1901 and 1910 census both state that she was born in October 1842. At this time, I have not been able to find a baptismal record for her in Quebec that would verify one year or the other. Bessie’s father was working as a butcher supplying meat to the men who were building the Beauharnois Canal on the St. Lawrence Seaway. They lived here for the first few years of Bessie’s life and then relocated to Norwich, Ontario where they raised cattle and farmed for about fifteen years. When she was about twenty, her father moved the family about twenty miles west to Ingersoll where he bought a business. However, Bessie obviously kept contact with friends and her married sister, Ellen, in Norwich as this was where she met her future husband, John Gibbons.
Within a year of the marriage, John and Bessie had a daughter; they named Mary Ann, born August 4th, 1868. There is some confusion as to where she was born. Family tradition says it was in Goldstone, a small hamlet in northern Wellington County. However, she was baptized in Ingersoll and her marriage certificate states that was where she was born. Regardless, the family did move to Gold stone around this time where John ran a small store for about three years (1868-1871). In 1871, they moved to Fergus for a few years and John was listed as a merchant and innkeeper in the census that year. Also living with them was Margaret Syron, a twenty-three year old woman from Ireland. I assume this was a cousin of Bessie’s on her mother’s side.
By 1875, they had moved back to Goldstone and their second child, John Patrick, was born there on the 22nd of March. According to town records, John purchased the Goldstone Store in 1879 and ran it until his death four years later. He also served as the Postmaster and innkeeper. This store continued to operate for over a hundred years until 1983.
John and Bessie’s third child was born in Goldstone on October 21st, 1877. Although she was named Bridget Elizabeth, presumably after her two grandmothers (Bridget Burke and Bridget Syron), she was nicknamed Lizzie. Sadly, John contracted tuberculosis around 1880 at the age of forty-four. He battled it for three years but when it became obvious to him that he wasn’t going to make it, he wrote his will in February of 1883 and died two months later on April 20th. This is the text of his will:
I, John Gibbons, of the Village of Goldstone in the Township of Peel in the County of Wellington and Province of Ontario, Postmaster, Of the age of Forty-Six years being weak of Body but strong of Mind do make publish and Declare this to be my last Will and Testament - in manner following…
To Wit - My Estate and Property - I value at Twelve Hundred Dollars…
First: that my funeral charges and just debts and the charges attendant on the Execution of this my last Will and Testament - shall be paid by my Executors hereinafter named the residue of my Property and estate - I dispose of as follows.
Second: I give and bequeath to my Wife and children the use of my Estate and Property for the term of four years at the expiration of the said term of four years my Executers hereinafter named shall if they think it prudent - dispose of the property and divined it as follows - to my Wife Elizabeth Gibbons one fourth if she shall remain my Widow. To my Daughter Mary one fourth to my Son John one fourth to my Daughter Elizabeth one fourth. Should my Wife marry again before the expiration of said term of four years then her share shall be divided equally among the remaining heirs. Should they disagree by any fault of theirs such as disobedience of the children to their Mother or cruelty of the Mother toward the children my executors shall then dispose of said Estate and Property and place my Children under the charge of my Sister Mary or some other Christian Guardian and when the youngest heir shall have arrived at the age of twenty one years then if any of my property shall remain after paying for their Education and instruction my Executors shall divide it equally amongst the living heirs. I wish it to be distinctly understood that the Organ in my House is not a portion of my property but said Organ belongs to my Daughter Mary.
Third: Should my Wife marry at any future time she shall then give up all control over my Children and my Executors shall then place them under some other Christian Guardian's care.
Fourth: Should it be necessary for my Wife and Children to leave this house it is my desire that my Executors shall then take charge of my children and place them under the care of some Christian Guardian.
Fifth: My Estate and Property - being composed of the North West corner of lot number Thirteen in the Tenth Concession of Peel containing one half acre more or less with store and house and stable thereon store goods and household furniture.
Sixth: It is my desire that my body shall be buried in Calvary Cemetery in Newmarket.
Seventh: I hereby name and appoint as my Executors for the administration of my part my brother Luke Gibbons of the Township of King in the County of York, my Brother James Gibbons of the Town of Ingersoll and my Sister Mary O'Brien of the county of Simcoe the above document containing one Sheet of folia is my last Will and Testament in witness Where of I have set my hand and affixed my seal this Twenty Second day of February in the year of our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred Eighty-three.
Signed: John Gibbons
Witness: Michael Gibbons (his mark), Luke Gibbons
Accompanying front page:
I certify that the within Instrument is duly Entered and Registered in the Registry Office for the North Riding of the County of Wellington, in Book Z3 for the Township of Peel at 11:20 o'clock a.m. of the 25th day of March, A. D. 1886. Number 5600 and known as Book B. General Registry as No. 346. Signed by the Registrar.
This is a picture of the actual handwritten Will:
Of course, the most interesting points of the will are John’s attempt to control Bessie’s future and that he left his organ to his oldest daughter, Mary Ann. At his death, the children were 14, 8 and 5, and Bessie was 39. The wording of his will is curious in that he made a point of saying that Bessie would lose control of the children if there was any “cruelty to the children” or if she were to remarry. It makes one wonder if this was a normal stipulation in a man’s will during this time or if there was discourse between John and Bessie or a streak of jealousy in John’s contemplation of Bessie’s possible remarriage.
I have been unable to find any record of John’s burial. He stipulated in his will that he was to be buried in Calvary Cemetery in Newmarket. Since this was seventy miles away, I wonder if his wishes were followed. Also I have not found any cemeteries named Calvary in Newmarket. The Catholic cemetery there is St. John Chrysotom’s and is where John’s father, Patrick had been buried a few years earlier.
Within a year of John’s death, Bessie sold the store and eventually moved to London, Ontario. We don’t know why she picked London instead of returning to her family in Ingersoll. However, five and half years after John’s death, Bessie remarried – to Patrick Quigley on August 9th, 1888 in St. Peter’s Cathedral in London. Patrick was from Ingersoll, a labourer, son of Edward Quigley and Ann Kelly and had also been widowed. Both were said to be forty-three. Obviously the terms of John Gibbons will were not executed as Bessie did not lose custody of her children.
In the 1891 census, Patrick is listed as an unemployed moulder and Bessie’s son, John is the only one employed in the family. He is was sixteen and working as a printer for a newspaper. Both Patrick and Bessie and the three children are listed as being able to read and write. The city directory states that they are living at 469 Grey Street. By 1893, the directory lists Bessie as this same address and Patrick at 389 Central Avenue about a mile away. It appears that they have separated. John is living on Horton Street. Four years later, Bessie is still on Grey Street and only daughter, Lizzie, is living with her. Daughter, Mary Ann has been married to Thomas Henry Monogue for a few years by now. About 1898, Bessie, her two grown children, John and Lizzie, and her married daughter and son-in-law, Mary Ann and Thomas all move to Hamilton. Bessie bought a house at 211 Emerald Street and when her youngest daughter, Lizzie, married Arthur Armstrong, they moved in with her. It appears that Patrick Quigley and Bessie were never divorced. Both the 1901 and 1911 censuses state that Bessie, son John, and daughter, Elizabeth and her husband Arthur are living together in Hamilton. For a time, Bessie worked as a nurse at Hamilton General Hospital.
Bessie died at home on Emerald Street on the 13th of April 1922. She was "laid out" in her home and then taken to Ingersoll, where she was buried in a family plot owned by the O'Callaghans. The cause of death was listed as ateriosclerosis secondary to myocarditis and the physician was F.S. Harper. The newspaper obituary states that she died on Friday, April 14th, in Hamilton, however, the death certificate states she died on the 13th. The obituary stated, “Mrs. Elizabeth Quigley, a highly esteemed resident of Hamilton for 22 years, passed away yesterday morning at her residence, 211 Emerald street north. The deceased lady was the widow of Patrick Quigley, formerly of London, Ont., and was a regular attendant at St. Patrick's church. Two daughters, Mrs. Arthur Armstrong, Mrs. Thomas Monogue, and one son, John, all of this city survive. The funeral will take place from the above address, Monday morning at 8 o'clock, to St. Patrick's church, for funeral mass. Interment will be made in Ingersoll, Ont.” Depending on what year she was really born, she would have been between 77 and 79 years of age. Interestingly, Bessie’s grave, states, “Bessie O’Callaghan, wife of Patrick Quigley….”. Considering, they had been separated for over twenty years, this seems an odd statement to put on the stone, of course, we don’t know the nature of their relationship throughout those years, it may have been an amicable one.
As stated earlier, Bessie had three children – all by first husband, John Gibbons. Here is some of what we know about them.
Mary Ann - Oldest of the three children. She married Thomas Henry Minogue. A separate biography is written on her. Some photos of her throughout her life:
John Patrick – John lived most of his life with his mother or his sister, Lizzie, and worked at many different jobs, such as waiter, hotel clerk, bartender and cook. Unfortunately, either because of genetic influence or maybe from emotional problems brought on by the early demise of his father, John suffered from alcoholism. His death certificate states that he died from complete exhaustion due to mental illness while he was a patient in the Ontario Hospital. He died on Feb. 28, 1931 at the age of fifty-five and was buried in Holy Sepluchre Cemetery in the same plot as his sister, Lizzie.
Bridget Elizabeth – Always known in the family as “Lizzie”. Lived with her mother and brother until 1901 when she married Arthur Armstrong. They never had any children. Arthur owned a grocery store on King Street for many years. Lizzie died at the age of 65 on the 2nd of February 1943. Earlier that morning, her sister, Mary’s husband (Thomas Henry Monogue) had died also.
Written by Patricia Monogue Balkcom, great-great granddaughter, December 2008 with past research help from Al Pryor.