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Margaret Stewart

I know very little about Margaret Stewart. I’m fairly certain that her parents were Irish and that she and possibly her family came to Canada from the United States – some information suggests that she may have come from New Jersey, New York or Pennsylvania – but beyond that I know very little.

Her 1893 obituary, it is obvious, was written by someone who had no actual knowledge of her life, and nothing substantive can be derived from it. Compounding my difficulties in researching Margaret Stewart is the absence of a death registration. I have reviewed Reach Township, Ontario County death registers, but to no avail. I may re-examine these registers for a wider period of time and under several different surnames, including Ferguson, which was the married name of Margaret’s daughter, Amy. Amy arranged for the re-interment of Margaret’s remains, possibly from another location within the Pine Grove Cemetery in Prince Albert. Perhaps at that time, the death registration went astray.

It may also be useful to check the 1893 death registers in the jurisdictions where her children lived:

  1. William Simpson Porteous, Port Perry area
  2. Mark Porteous, Winnipeg, Manitoba
  3. George Porteous, Guelph, Ontario
  4. Robert Sidney Porteous, Stratford, Ontario
  5. John Porteous (location unknown)
  6. Amy Porteous (presumbably living with her mother)
  7. Silena Porteous (presumably living with her mother)

I’m trying to learn more about a Maud Stewart, a boarder at the home of Margaret’s son, Mark Porteous, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. I’m hoping that Maud may be related to Margaret and Mark and that further investigation may yield some clues as to Margaret’s origins. See my speculations: _Stewart_Mystery_ (TBA).

New Speculations as to Margaret’s Origins

I’ve been reviewing the 1871 and 1881 Ontario censuses, looking for Stewarts (as well as Stuarts, Stewards, etc.) of Irish ethnicity, who were Presbyterians and had at least one family member born in the USA. After all, we know that Margaret Stewart was US-born, of Irish ethnicity and attended the Presbyterian church in Port Perry following the 1870 “hospitalization” of my Wesleyan Methodist gg-grandfather, George Porteous.

What caught my interest in the following 1881 census excerpt is the location: Moulton, Monck, Ontario. We know that my g-grandfather married his second wife, Agnes Clark Moir, in Moulton in 1892. Is it possible that he visited relatives, perhaps cousins, in Moulton on a regular basis and met Agnes there? Might those cousins have been Stewarts? The family headed by Wm Stewart has one US born child, William, who was born circa 1875. Perhaps William in turn had relatives in the US and his youngest son was born there.

The odd thing is that there are 3 Williams in the family. It’s possible that Rebecca was a widow who already might have had children and that the youngest William in the family (age 5) was the child of both William Sr. and Rebecca, but the other William (age 17) was from Rebecca’s previous marriage. It would be necessary to obtain William and Rebecca’s marriage registration in order to test this hypothesis.

Extract: 1881 Canadian Census
Census Place: Moulton, Monck, Ontario
Source: FHL Film 1375890, NAC C-13254
Dist: 144
SubDist: C
Page: 2
Family: 9
Name Sex Marr Age Origin Birthplace Religion
Wm STEWART Male M 35 Irish Ontario Church of England
Rebecca STEWART Female M 43 Irish Ireland Presbyterian
Elizabeth STEWART Female 24 Irish Ontario Presbyterian
Robert STEWART Male 19 Irish Ontario Presbyterian
William STEWART Male 17 Irish Ontario Presbyterian
James STEWART Male 15 Irish Ontario Presbyterian
John STEWART Male 8 Irish Ontario Presbyterian
Wm STEWART Male 6 Irish USA Presbyterian

A Prince Albert/Port Perry News Item

I suspect that the following news item pertains to Margaret Porteous. There were one or two other Porteous families in the area, but I don’t believe any of the other households were headed by a “lone woman”:

From the North Ontario Observer, Nov 16, 1882 edition

The Essence of Meaness

Some contemptible creature or it may be creatures quite beneath the level of the common thief, raided Mrs. Porteous’ poultry yard near Prince Albert on Thursday night of last week and stole a turkey and three geese. Under any circumstances the perpetrator of so contemptible an act of prigging deserves a generous dose of the “cat” but what should be done to one who robs the hen roost of a lone woman whose daily supply of bread depends on her own exertion and industry. Parties who could be guilty of so despicable an act the meanest of all acts of stealing are not fit to live in civilized society.

Census Extracts

Following are verbatim excerpts from a number of censuses, all of which were recorded in Reach Township, Ontario County, Ontario, Canada

Census Name Birthplace Religion Age Origin Date
1861 Margaret Portis Upper Canada Wesleyan Methodist 36 (next birthday) blank 14 January 1861
1871 Margaret Porteous United States Wesleyan Methodist 46 English 2 April 1871
1881 Margrat Portous Ontario Wesleyan Methodist 56 Irish 4 April 1881
1891 Margaret Porteus United States C. Presbyterian 66 Father and mother born in Ireland 6 April 1891

Margaret’s tombstone has the following inscription:

Died Feb. 22, 1892 – aged 68 yrs, 11 mos

Staff at the Pine Grove Cemetery in Prince Albert, Ontario where Margaret is buried have indicated that Margaret’s daughter Amy made several of the Porteous family tombstone arrangements, including the reinterment of Margaret, who may have been in another section of the cemetery. Using the incorrect tombstone date, we come up with a date of birth of 22 Mar 1824.

Death Announcement

A February, 1893 announcement in the Port Perry Star indicates she died 22 Feb 1893, aged 68 yrs, 2 mos, 11 days. Using this information, we would arrive at a birth date of 11 Dec 1824.

Above: The Port Perry Presbyterian church that Margaret attended and where her memorial service was held

Other Information

A 1930 obituary for Margaret’s first known son, William Simpson Porteous, indicates that he was born in Markham Township, York County, Ontario; from other sources, we know that his date of birth was Sep 30, 1846. Is it possible that Margaret and her family came to Markham Township from the United States and that she met George Porteous there, rather than in Reach Township? My guess is that they were married late in 1845 in Markham Township. Margaret would have been about 21 years of age at that time.

Margaret’s husband, George Porteous, was committed to the Whitby Jail on December 1, 1870. On or about December 28, 1870, he was transferred to the Toronto Insane Asylum where he died in July, 1898. Despite the conflicting census data, I suspect that Margaret’s parents emigrated to the United States from Ireland and that they later moved to the York County area of Ontario. Based on Margaret’s religion on the 1891 census, she may have been raised in the Presbyterian Church.

Of course, this is all conjecture, and I have yet to break down my “brick wall”.

Written by Doug

January 24th, 2012 at 7:02 pm