Thursday, December 27, 2012

Susan Monk: The First to be Born in Canada

My great grandmother, Susan (a.k.a. “Susanah”) Monk, was born on August 1, 1851 in Ingersoll, Ontario, Canada. This makes her the first of my direct ancestors to be born in Canada. She was the daughter of  Jacob Monk, an American of German descent, and Jane Crawford, who had come to Canada with her parents from the north of Ireland. She was the second eldest of a family of seven children, which also included Henry, John, George, James E., Alexander Washington, and Daniel. Between the ages of one and four, she moved to Decorah, Iowa from Ontario with her parents and brothers Henry and John. By 1860, they were living in Madison, Winneshiek, Iowa, where they were still living in 1870, when Susan was nineteen.

On February 24, 1872, she married farmer and Civil War veteran, Melvin J. Hart in Bridgewater, Clay, Iowa. It was the first marriage for both, and they were married by Rev. Lewis S. Ely. They had five children while living in Iowa: Alva M., Flora Jane, George Leslie, Dell M., and Charlotte, known as “Lottie”. The family lived and farmed in Freeman, Clay, Iowa until about 1898, when they moved to Rock Island, Texas. They were back living in Clay County Iowa by 1905, from where they all, except for Dell, emigrated to Lougheed, Alberta, Canada, Susan's native land.(Please see my blogposts on Melvin J. Hart for a more in depth discussion of their experience coming to Canada). They were among the first homesteaders in the area, and first built a log house, and then later a brick house, on their property.

There are two stories told about Susan Hart in two of the local history books about Lougheed, one in Verdant Valleys In and Around Lougheed, and the other in Cambridge School District Memories. In Verdant Valleys, (p. 293), Elsie Renshaw Cookson tells how she and her family used to pick “wild saskatoons, cranberries and raspberries” with their neighbours, Mrs. Hart and her daughter Lottie. She said that once they had done picking the berries, they had to “wash jars, make syrup, and process the berries in a wash boiler”. In Cambridge School District Memories, (p. 184), Bernice White Tillmar describes how they used to visit “Gramma Hart’s” old log house for “Sunday suppers”. She states that the house had a second floor with “real stairs”, and a “big supply of magazines and pictures”. She also reports that they would visit the house after school, and that Gramma Hart would have “such big, beautiful loaves of fresh bread” waiting for them, and that she had “a pretty little flower garden” by the house. She says that Susan had to carry her water from a well “away down the hill”.

Susan Hart passed away on December 28, 1932 at her home, after being ill for about a year, during which her daughter Flora Jane attended to her. According to her obituary, “she never complained”, and that she “kept a clear mind almost to the last”. She had been a “great worker all her life”, and left behind “a host of friends” to mourn her loss.

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