Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Herbert Charles Saunders, Part Two: British Home Child

Upon his arrival in Canada, it is likely that Herbert first went from Halifax to the receiving home in Knowlton, Quebec, routinely used by Miss Louisa Birt of the Liverpool Sheltering Home as a distribution point for uniting the children with English speaking families. He was nine years of age, and was described in his British Home Child file as “good looking” and “very lively”.

He was placed with a Mr. Robert (George) H. Howard near “Alleyne”, Quebec, also described as “Danford Lake, Pontiac, Quebec”, who owned a farm there. This area of Quebec is close to the border with the province of Ontario, with the nearest major centre being Ottawa. Herbert was to work on Mr. Howard’s farm until the age of about twenty, two years longer than the majority of British Home Children usually stayed in their placements. Mr. Howard’s home was described, by an official who visited Herbert, as “an excellent home” with “no young children”. It was reported that Herbert would be “carefully trained” by Mr. Howard, who was “well off”. Although the closest church was “rather far off” in Alleyne, Mr. Howard was described in a genealogy of another local family, the Heeneys, as figuring “prominently” as a layman of the Anglican parish, whose home was always “a home for the clergy”. Herbert was always described in the reports of the officials who visited him as “contented”. It does not appear from the records that Herbert received more from Mr. Howard than room and board, but he is reported that a “Mrs. Heeney” left him “something by will at her death”. This may be what allowed him to leave Mr. Howard’s farm and to join the Royal North West Mounted Police.

The Liverpool Sheltering Home file cites a letter from Mr. Howard in 1906, in which he states that Herbert left him two years before, and that that he had “heard that he had got into the N. West Mounted Police”. He said that he “never hears from him now”. The official who had been Herbert’s main visitor wrote in 1906 that he had heard from another source that Herbert had been “doing well in the N.W. Mounted Police”, and in 1908 that he “was doing splendid duty in connection with the C.P.R. strike”, and that he “earns over $1.00 a day”.

One of the ironies of family history is that although Herbert was abandoned and alone in a foreign country, he may have actually been "surrounded" by family and not have known it. As it turns out, his paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Cross Saunders, had a a great aunt and a great uncle who emigrated in the early 1800's to roughly the same area of Quebec where Herbert was placed. Mary Cross Sully (1787-1883), (along with her husband and family), and Isaac Cross (1799-1859) were in Quebec by 1838. Both had several children who were also prolific with offspring. Isaac has been described as one of the "pioneers" of the Gatineau region of Quebec. Some of the places they and their families lived were Hull, Cascades, Wakefield, and Ottawa county.

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