Betsy Crinklaw, my great great grandmother, born in Minto, Scotland in 1807, was the third child of James Crinklaw and Elizabeth Watson. In 1836, in St. Thomas, Ontario, she married James Stevenson, also a Scotsman who had immigrated to Canada. They had four daughters, all born in London Ontario within six years. Then the family up and moved to Nebraska where a census in 1880 lists James as a teacher and Betsy as a housekeeper. In a letter from James to a relative just before his death, he describes “Bess” as a hard worker and gardener in 1880. She died in Neligh, Nebraska at the age of 86.
The only one of the James and Betsy Stevenson girls to stay behind in Ontario when the rest moved to Nebraska was their second daughter, Mary, who married Peter Porterfield and became my great grandmother. Now, all of the photos that I have of the Stevenson’s make them look pretty severe. Betsy, as an old lady, was a bit scary. Even as a young woman she looked like a guy in drag. James Stevenson had eyes that bugged out of his head. But Mary, my great grandmother, their daughter looked quite refined. And my grandmother, Mary and Peter’s daughter (photo below) was a beautiful young girl.
My father passed on to me a leather Mason’s apron that belonged to James Stevenson. It is not very big and pretty fragile but it is intriguing to possess something that belonged to my great great grandfather in the mid 1800’s, maybe 175 years old.
I also have the Western Union telegram sent from North Bend Nebraska from his daughter Margaret (Caddick) to her sister Ellen (Thorson) announcing the death of their father, James. It spares no words. “Father dead. Buried on Wednesday.”
Ellen’s nephew, James, also ended up with a poem written by James Stevenson the year before he died. It was found tucked in his daughter, Ellen’s family Bible. It is a long ode with lots of Scottish brogue, entitled, The Dying Christian Scottish Father. Copies were made and distributed to various family at the time of his death but I have the original, typed on pinkish paper and signed by James Stevenson, himself.
You can also read a letter that James Stevenson wrote just a couple of months before his death in 1880 in the next post.