Is there a more satisfying experience to a genealogist, than to walk the trails of ancestors, see the old homes built by great grandfathers, sit, in the Court house where one or more of them dispensed justice when the country of our now United States was in a struggle for Independence from Britain and walk in burial grounds where they now lie?
I had that opportunity in September 1993. Two nephews, Chris and brother Greg Campbell, knowing my love of travelling, proposed a visit to their homes. Greg and wife, Pat, live in Toronto and Chris and wife Alice in Orleans (Ottawa).
The first week Greg, and Pat and two little girls drove me through miles of farm land, which surprised me being so near the huge city of Toronto. Then the two hundred and fifty miles to Kingston and my brother Lloyd and wife Joyce's home.
We left next morning for Waltham, Quebec and the annual Homecoming at the little white church on Ivy Hill where our parents, grandparents and great grandparents worshipped and some are buried.
It was a beautiful fall day. The church was full to overflowing with relatives, neighbors and friends. Not too many of us had died ... attested to by the attendance ... and a day of emotion and joy at seeing each other again was also coupled with meeting our new addition from the Landon side of the family, John Farmer and wife, of Willowdale, Ont, who came armed with proof of relationship to the Landon family of my mother, as well as new paths to follow. I had met John through writing but what a pleasure it was to meet him and share research.
At the church were the Collins family of Annie Elizabeth Campbell and Tom Collins; Pearl, Gilbert and Mary (Conley) Armstrong: descendants of Elizabeth Anne Campbell and Hugh Armstrong; Jeannie Tate, granddaughter of Martha Campbell and Hugh Bennett; Lloyd and I descendants of Robert James Campbell Sr.; Dawn (O'Brien); Oona (Richardson) and her brother who later recognized Chris Campbell as a fellow Military and neither had known they were cousins! The vast Robinson family headed by Amos who is a wonderful 96 now and still herding "the kids" into their places and oh so many faces of friends and relatives from last year which was the first time for me.
John Farmer and I checked the graves of the Landons: my grandmother Minerva and two of her daughters, twin baby sons whose graves are overgrown now, and husband Ed Taylor. When her firstborn son, John, was twelve years old he disappeared one night when he went to the Black river, to catch a pair of geese to take to "Uncle Horace Landon" in Chichester next day. It was assumed by most people be had drowned in the treacherous river. His mother Minerva never believed that. She felt he had run away from his very strict father or was stolen by gypsies.
The Wesleyan Methodist minister at Waltham at that time wrote a hymn and dedicated it to Minerva. It was called "Where is My Wandering Boy Tonight". My daughter Linda sings it. She has recorded it and a tape was played at my brother Jack's funeral three years ago in Foxwarren, Manitoba.
Minerva had a great deal of grief in her short life. In that little church on Ivy Hill many people loved, celebrated marriages and christening and buried loved ones. Who could walk there now without emotion.
Chris and Alice Campbell and I drove home to Ottawa via Quyon and the Ottawa river, crossing it in a small ferry to Fitzroy Harbor to let me see familiar landmarks of both Campbells and Landons at dusk on a lovely evening.
In their Ottawa house I met their son Ian, 6'4" of gorgeous young manhood, second year Carleton University student, and their golden 14 year old daughter Susan, a precision ice skater. Both Chris and brother Greg married Newfoundland girls who come from large families and have the knack of making one welcome, they surely did with we anyway.
Chris and Alice delighted me by handing me a handful of bus tickets and their best wishes to come and go whenever I liked. I spent a glorious three days at the Ottawa Archives. I know a bit of my way around this place now, at first being greeted in French then hearing the unmistakable Prairie accent, they immediately switched to English and were totally helpful.
Went exploring the Parliament Buildings on a rainy morning. Waiting for an English tour to begin heard another Prairie accent and striking up acquaintance with then was delighted to hear both couples were from McAuley, Manitoba, the Pateman brothers, who had gone to school to Muriel Hay of Foxwarren, Manitoba, my home town. Also met another genealogist I have been corresponding with, Bob Campbell of Ottawa, who kindly took me "across the river "to" the Archives in Hull, Quebec, one day. We had trouble finding it, the signs are all in French and the Archives are in an out of the way spot. Once we got there we were given readers we were not familiar with, we're both experienced researchers but these gorgeous new machines taxed us to the extent we had to call for help. It was explained they were new machines which photocopied on the spot, among many other progressive things, so we had a grand time. They will be getting a new Archive building in Hull next year we were told.
Bob is into the Clan Campbell gatherings and showed me the headquarters of the Clan. I wished I might have been able to attend one.
Next day I took off for Quebec City, a bus ride of six hours so I had lots of time to see the French countryside. Stopped at Montreal for a break. Saw St. Foye where my great grandfather Campbell's land records had been stored, not at all what I thought it would look like. Arrived in Quebec City with only four and a half hours to find the Plains of Abraham and see the old city before, the return bus.
Amazingly enough there was very little problem considering I don't speak French and they don't speak English! We pointed a lot and I kept talking .. which wasn't too difficult ... since I was determined to see the places I'd dreamed of since I was a child at Colonsay school in Manitoba, and was determined to get someone to show we where they were.
The gates to the old city stopped me in my tracks. Not only was I out of breath but in awe to be seeing the very gates my ancestors on both sides of the family had passed through, some in peace, some in war.
It was a formidable walk to get to the Plains. I could see them and kept asking passersby if they could show we where the British Army under Gen. Wolfe had come up the cliffs hauling field guns with them in the dark of night, and in the first light of morning faced the French in that formidable double line of Redcoats and history was made ... I found out I had to simplify that statement a lot!
My best bet turned out to be a Priest. I was sure he would speak English and when he said "speak slowly" I got a trifle huffy, then on second thought approached him again and asked him if his God only spoke French slowly. After a moment he roared with laughter and was able to show me the actual place of the British landing. Despite neither of us speaking the other's language, considerable pantomime was involved. I then showed him the map of the museum I wanted to see near the Chateau Frontenac. He pointed out a short cut and I was able to make it in time to catch an English show of old Quebec in the 1600's and see the over all picture of those historic times.
It was a wonderful day. The sun shone on this great granddaughter of the early settlers in Quebec and another dream was realized. On the bus back to Ottawa there was time to be very grateful for a family who gave me this opportunity, and it wasn't over yet!
On Sept 23 at midnight my nephew Chris Campbell and I took off for Salisbury, Conn, and the home of the Landon early settlers -- by early, I'm talking 1640 fresh from Herefordshire, England. I'd already talked to the town historian by phone and with her help had arranged a place to stay called "Yesterdays Yankee" which was as delightful as she said and typical New England.
We had driven all night. Arriving in the early morning in this beautiful country we were treated to the sight of a flock of wild turkeys, making us feel like the Pilgrims, especially since we were lost! Chris will vehemently deny this but when we passed the same road sign three times my conclusion was that we were lost.
We checked into our Inn finally and on inquiring where we might find my friend the historian, Virginia Moscowitch (Jinny), our hosts said to look out the window and there she was in her house across the street, waving and calling "Hello Eileen", so we both got well hugged and were shown through her gorgeous old Colonial house before starting out to the Library.
This Jinny is what historians are all about. Within a few moments both Chris and I felt we had known her all our lives and adored her. She has humor, knowledge and charm. And thankfully we must have appealed to her because we both felt if we hadn't we might well have been treated to an old fashioned "come-uppance"! In the lovely Library she had boxes of material for us to look through. Chris had wondered what he was supposed to do ... now he was about to find out.
There were documents to be photocopied and sorted into our direct line -- Landons from Southold, L.I., Litchfield County, and Salisbury, Conn -- all originally from Herefordshire, England, and the Huguenot de'Landons.
There were four brothers, Nathan, Daniel, James and John. Here in the New World we find Daniel Landon and Anne Lobdell, their son James Landon and Mary Vaile. It was to this James that King George the Third signed the deed to the rolling acres later to be known as Tory Hill.
Their son, the second James, married Sarah Bishop and they became the parents of eleven children, the eldest son yet another James the third, and his brothers Asa, Samuel, Ezekiel, Thomas and Luther. Now that's perfectly simple and I couldn't believe the fuss Chris was making because he found several James and I only asked when they were born which caused Chris to mumble what difference did it make, they were all dead now.
Chris quickly became an expert on legal papers and deeds, his Military training was to prove a total asset, and he became a first rate record assessor within the few days he was plunged into this world.
That night we worked over this material till 10:00 p.m. at which time he declared time out to get something to eat. This turned out not to be at all easy. Salisbury is a small town and like all sensible townsfolk the last one out turns off the lights. But undaunted, my big handsome city-raised nephew decided we would go find the "bright lights of Canaan" ... another slightly larger town a few miles away.
Take heed that the city limits of Salisbury are the second longest in the U.S.A. and at night with miles of narrow roads cut through heavily wooded areas it all looks the same, result ... lost again! Chris vehemently denying this again finding it difficult when he had to reverse direction again but steadfastly sticking to his story he only wanted to show me wore wild turkeys, to which I assured him no self respecting wild turkey would be out this time of night ... and his subdued voice saying "I know two".
Put two strong minded argumentative Campbells together and believe me the results are far from quiet! I could blame his stubborn father for his untractability but his father was also MY oldest brother! We had a wonderful time if a trifle noisy at times.
Next morning we met Jinny and had a meeting at the Library to meet the Director and staff who couldn't have been more helpful. I was able to leave them records and family tree of the Landons in Canada, in return they made it possible for me not only to sit behind the old court house desk where our Landons no doubt made ... and may well have broken ... the laws of those early days, but Jinny took us to the old Revolutionary War burial ground behind the Town Hall. Only found one Landon there but we had a drink from a cement watering trough which Revolutionary soldiers watered their horses from.
Then to the cemetery at Town Hill beside the Hotchkiss school. Near this is another Landon house which belonged to Judge Howard Landon, grandson of Edmund Landon and Sylvia Fitch. This is actually two houses joined together and in the yard is the well which is said to never have run dry. It is now a faculty house of Hotchkiss school. Ashbel Landon, son of the third James Landon and Mary Reed, is buried somewhere in this cemetery at Town Hill but although we found Nelson Landon and Horace and younger ones we could not find Ashbel.
I walked past a heap of dirt and thought it was probably meant for repairs, in fact walked past it several tames in my search for the old tombstones. It was Chris who had presence enough of mind to climb up on this pile to see what was on a marker near the top and then call out "Eileen, do we know an Ashbel?" Which brought me on the run. You bet we knew Ashbel, but I never thought it would be under a great pile of dirt!
Climbing the pile, it was easy to see the marker with Ashbel Landon, b 1768-1846 and Loraine Chapman, his wife. Then yet another James Landon 1804-1887, his wife Jane Heath and second wife Mary Darrow. And then Edmund Landon 1790-1845 and his wife Sarah Lord, 1790-1862. All under that pile of dirt! But now with a little digging around I could see the stones around what could only be a door, one on each end of the pile of dirt. And I realized we had found a crypt which had fallen into disrepair and had been shorn up with a heap of dirt and the marker moved up near the top.
My very first crypt in Canada, thanks to Chris. He and Jinny refused to participate in my trooping around on the top of the pile of dirt and digging with my bare hands when I could see neat outlines of stones which turned out to be doors, on each end of the pile. In the records Jinny gave us we now know a permanent fund has been raised by the Landon and Bissell families which will keep this cemetery in good repair.
I wanted to believe James Landon and Sarah Bishop were in there too but I must stop preconceiving. I get myself in a lot of trouble that way. I've written to Margaret Pearson about James and Sarah's burial place. Some records say they were buried on the shores of the lake, but on Tory Hill there is no lake, only Beeslick Pond.
In another old cemetery called Waltons we thought there would be 14 stones, only 2 are now standing and Jinny was horrified. A friend of hers owns the farm but wasn't home. However I had learned a bit about the value of climbing from Chris and shinnied up the old wooden fences. Sure enough there were the rest of the stones, lying in the grass. There should have been a Landon there but we weren't able to read the inscriptions.
The best for the last -- and now we came to Tory Hill. It IS beautiful, rolling land and a view to cry for. We could see Beeslick Pond across the road and near the gorgeous white Colonial house are the red barns and white fences and registered black Angus cattle belonging to the present owners the J. R. Blus family. Since our return Jinny sent me a clipping that this farm has been sold yet again and is now a Heritage Site so it will always be the Landon "Tory Hill".
That day I just wanted to walk to it and think of all the events that had taken place there. During the Revolution James knew he would lose it all to the Americans so he wisely sold it to the Bissell family, neighbors and related by marriage, although Whigs and American sympathizers.
They could own property when the Tories couldn't. He remained a virtual prisoner in the house till the war was over. The grandson of James -- our same Ashbel under that pile of dirt -- gradually succeeded in buying back the property and one of HIS grandsons, Albert Barton Landon and wife, went to live with James when he became too old to look after the property on his own. It was a good arrangement. James lived to be an old man. He saw the new house built after fire destroyed the original, and was able to spend his last days on Tory Hill. Enough to make one believe in the fairies.
In the records at the Library, the terms Freeman, and Member of General Assembly, were common relating to James Landon. But Captain of Militia, which title referred to this second James of Tory Hill, seemed surprising given his views till I realized he and Sarah had five sons at the ages to be involved in the war he would surely know was inevitable, and you can bet our James wouldn't send them off without training, so a Militia unit was organized and Asa became an Officer in it.
The first born son of James and Sarah's -- the third James, remained with the Militia. Later records show he was dismissed for lack of enthusiasm etc ... like to know what that "etc" covered. He suffered no great consequences except return to civilian ranks. Brothers Samuel, Asa, Ezekiel and Thomas were acquiring land as quickly as possible. Samuel and Asa became spies for the British, Asa married Jerusha Grifface. When he left for Skeensboro and Vermont to join the British in 1777 he was the father of five children.
I cant imagine the courage it would take to remain true to his allegiance to King and country and leave this prosperous area to risk his life at Bennington, as well as spying for Burgoynes army, guiding the army through the bush where his best team of oxen were confiscated by the Hessian General von Reidesel who Asa referred to as "Red Hazel", and at the defeat of the British at Saratoga he and Samuel fled to Canada, joined later by Jerusha and the children at St. Johns, Quebec for a merciless winter.
The two older boys, Asa Jr. and Heman, were involved in this turmoil. Somewhere in my records it is said "Asa never saw another glorious Conn. or Vermont fall again". Had he returned he would have been branded a traitor.
We followed his trail to Bennington, Vermont, seeing the Battlefield where he fought near the Walloomsac rivers with a force of around 1000 men including Canadians and Indians in his unit, under the command of Lt. Col. Baum, their mission to take the much needed supply stores on the top of the hill. General John Stark and Col. Seth Warner commanded the American army the day of Aug 15, 1777, and scored a decisive victory over the British. We saw where the British "grounded arms" near the Walloomsac River. Asa escaped and joined Burgoyne again only to meet defeat at Saratoga two months later. Had he been caught he would most assuredly have been shot so escape to Canada was the way to go.
There is no question as to the courage of the men under these circumstances, but the suffering of the women left to protect and provide for themselves and their children is surely equal. I doubt James, Asa's father, would see Asa's wife and children suffer for food as some must have, but the rigors of winter, travelling up Lake Champlain in boats to St. Johns, and the first winter in Canada where many were under canvas due to lack of adequate housing must have been a nightmare for women and children. Jerusha's small son died in that first winter of "nine months of blizzard and three months of cold weather" before spring set in and the drawing of lots for their new homes at Augusta, Ontario, took place.
Lloyd and I have traveled the country roads around Augusta, talking to people to find directions, finally finding Carpenters cemetery just at dusk. He took one side and I took the other. His soft "Eileenie come here" brought me on the double and there was Heman Landon Jr., whose father Heman Sr. was the little boy of Asa's and Jerusha's who saw his dad go off to war at Bennington.
Heman Sr. was involved in the Revolution and in the war of 1812-15 where he commanded a Militia unit. He died of smallpox near Fitzroy Harbor, Ont. in 1832.
Heman Landon Jr. b.1792, whose records show he was in active service with the Militia in the war of 1812 and as such was a United Empire Loyalist in his own right, lived last at Brockville, Ont., (Oswegatchie) where he was a Justice of the Peace and acted as delegate for the Temperance League in 1846, died in 1849 .... and here was his burial place.
If only he could talk to us what stories he could tell of his grandfather Asa and his father Heman Sr. I just wanted to sit at his grave and think of all he had seen and done when this country was young. Here in Brockville we also met Dwight and Pat Landon, Realtors of Brockville, who took us out to yet other burial grounds, Gosford, and New Dublin where Dwight's ancestor, William, brother of Heman Jr., and his descendants are buried. Dwight's parents, Harold Landon and Sophia Bartoh are buried in New Dublin, Augusta. It doesn't take much imagination to realize the hard work and hardships all these pioneers overcame. The denseness of the forests alone where trees had to be cut and stumps pulled to build shelter for families and beasts, made me know why Asa felt the loss of that good team of oxen, no wonder he held von Reidesel responsible and tried so hard to collect.
I freely admit emotion when considering their lives. I've seen my own parents struggle with wheat crops barely high enough for the binder to catch, which had to supply a grist for the winter as well as necessities such as clothing, and coal oil for the lamps. Wooden houses with no insulation so cold that water froze in the stove reservoirs at night. Only the root crops stored, in the cellars and the jars of home canned fruit and jams to feed the large families of our times kept us going till the next year and hopes for a better crop.
On the prairies we were all accustomed to no money. We had cattle, pigs, chickens and turkeys to feed us and thank God for the versatile wives and mothers like ours who made our clothes out of hand downs, kept our stomachs full of good wholesome food, and fathers who worked to provide it. They kept us believing we could be whatever we wanted to be if we were willing to work for it.
In our ancestors' days their babies died of childhood diseases. Those old cemeteries are full of the heartbreak of mothers who loved their babies as we do now, young mothers dying as well, in our days we had inoculations at school against diphtheria, scarlet fever and small pox, our children and grandchildren now are protected against all these and much more, but in turn face the perils of aids.
Following our ancestors is a course in history which we can use to realize our impact on the future. If we preserve our memories our descendants will someday measure their progress as we are doing, and it will continue for all time.
For the present, thanks to good family and friends, their sharing and caring, and our eternal seekings let's continue to put the pieces together like patchwork, meeting each other in friendship and hope for a better future, and with luck some of us may find people like I have who help make it all possible.