The Summerville Family

Christopher Summerville (1822-1901)

Christopher Summerville was born in Ireland to James and Jane Summerville. We don’t have a birth record but according to his tombstone he was born in February 1822 in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Ireland. Little information is available about the family’s life in Ireland. We do know that Christopher married Elizabeth Humphrey in the early 1840s, and began a family. Their first 3 children were John, born about 1842, Ann born 2 June 1843 and Jane born about 1845. Life in Ireland in the 1840s was hard and the family was likely impacted by the Great Famine. Like many other Irish citizens they decided to emigrate to Canada to find a better life.  The Summervilles are found in a list of “Destitute emigrants forwarded to Montreal per steamer”, landing in Quebec on 19 June 1846 with a destination of Toronto noted. From Toronto the Summervilles and other  emigrants were sent North into York region.

In 1852 the family is found on the Census in East Gwillimbury, living near David Willson and John Morris (links) in a one storey frame house. Christopher is listed a labourer and his religion is Church of England. Young Jane has died – we do not know exactly when, or where she is buried (perhaps she is interred in the Burying Ground in an unmarked grave). Following their arrival in Canada the Summervilles welcomed two new children to the family: Hugh, born 13 September 1849, and Jane, born about 1851. In the 1861 census they were joined by Sarah Elizabeth, born 20 May 1854, Christopher, born 10 September 1856 and Mary, born about 1858.

The family lived on 1 1/2 acres located at Concession 3 Lot 9, East Gwillimbury, purchased on 2 July 1866 from Charles Doan for the sum of $500. Charles held the mortgage on the property with prinicipal and interest of 6% due in November 1866. It appears that Christopher was not able to fulfill the terms of the mortgage, and the land was sold to William Joseph Hewitt on 20 November 1866. Hewitt paid the balance of the mortgage to Charles Doan the following week. We only have a copy of the transaction but the copy book shows that both Charles and Elizabeth signed with an X as they could neither read nor write. It appears that the Summerville family remained on the land – the 1881 York County Directory shows Christopher as a tenant the same location.

After Elizabeth’s death in Christopher remarried on 2 July 1887 taking 22 year old Sarah A. Pearsall as his bride. The couple had a son Albert Walker born 29 June 1888.

Christopher died on 31 March 1901 at his home at the age of 79 years, 1 month. Cause of death was listed as general debility, old age. According to the Newmarket Era he was laid to rest on April 2 1901, near his first wife Elizabeth, and three of their children.

His tombstone reads:

Not lost but gone before

After Christopher’s death Sarah and young Walker decided to seek their fortunes in Western Canada. Both died in 1906 and are buried in Winnipeg.

Notable Descendants:

  • Globe columnist Joseph Bascom St. John
  • William Summerville, MP, cornet soloist
  • Don Summervile, practice goalie for the Toronto Maple Leafs and later Mayor of Toronto, who defeated Nathan Philips only to die after suffering a heart attack during an exhibition hockey game.

Elizabeth Humphrey Summerville (1820-1886)

Elizabeth was born around October 1820 in Ireland, according to her death record and tombstone. Beyond that we really don’t know anything about her family. The List of Emigrants documenting her family’s emigration to Canada shows her as a tick under the column of adult females but does not give her name. The 1851 through 1881 census lists her with her family, wife born in Ireland, of the Methodist faith. 

Elizabeth died 2 November 1886 at the age of 66 years, 1 month after suffering from an abscess on the liver lasting 10 days. The informant was her husband Christopher who signed with his mark. The Newmarket Era on 5 November 1886 reported her death.

She is buried next to her husband Christopher. Her headstone reads “Mother’s Done” and features a carving of two clasped hands, representing a farewell to earthly life and a greeting to eternal life.

This is emphasized in the inscription:

Thou art gone to the grave,

but we will not diplore thee

Tho sorrow and silence encompass the tomb,

The Saviour hath passed thro

its portals before thee,

And the image of his face was

thy guide thro’ the gloom

Ann Summerville Lepard (1843-1911) and Arthur Lepard (1839-1889)

Ann Summerville was born in Enniskillen Ireland on 2 June (death record and 1911 census) or 10 June (1901 census) 1843. She emigrated with her parents and brother and sister in 1846, settling in the village of Sharon. On 25 January 1866 at the age of 22 she married Arthur Lepard. Arthur was born in September of 1839 to long time East Gwilllimbury residents William Lepard and Sarah Traviss. The couple settled on Lots 11-12, Concession 6 in Holt, East Gwillimbury to farm and raise their family of 5 children – Sarah Elizabeth born 1867, William John born 1869, Arthur Franklin born 1870, Mary Jane born 1873 and Ada May born 1877. Tragedy struck when Arthur died on 8 August 1889 after suffering from consumption for 4 years. Ann would have been running the farm with the assistance of her children both before and after Arthur’s death. By 1901 William John had taken over the family farm and Ann had moved in with her daughter Mary Jane, her husband Henry Sawdon and their family in West Gwillimbury. She died at their home Lot 5, Concession 6, Bradford, West Gwillimbury on 2 July 1911 due to an intestinal obstruction and heart disease. Ann never remarried and is buried next to her husband Arthur.

Jane Summerville Thomas (1851-1884),  Harrison Thomas (1846-1878), Maude Evelyn Thomas (1878-1879)

Jane Summerville was born about 1851 in East Gwillimbury, the second of the Summerville children to be born in Canada and the second Jane in the family. On 9 June 1874 she married Harrison Thomas, a farmer born in East Whitby, Ontario in 1846. In the 1871 census in East Whitby Harrison is shown as married to an Elizabeth, with a marriage date of December 1870 noted, No information could be found about Elizabeth so we can only presume she passed away before the 1874 marriage to Jane. It is interesting to note that Harrison declared himself to be a bachelor in the marriage record. The family settled at Lot 12 Concession 7 East Gwillimbury and soon became parents to Gertrude Ethel born 25 May 1875 and Maude Evelyn born 10 April 1878.

Tragedy struck the family soon after the birth of their last child. Harrison had been suffering from consumption for almost a year when he died on 5 December 1878. Then young “Maudie” died on 28 March 1879, just shy of her first birthday. The cause of death was noted to be “teething”. In the 1881 census we find Jane living in Uxbridge with her brother John and his son Herbert. John found himself in a similar situation when his daughter Annie Gertrude died in 1875 and his wife Artemesia in 1879. Sadly Jane died not that long after on 9 June 1884 leaving Gertrude Ethel an orphan. She is buried next to her husband and infant daughter.

Mary Summerville (1858-1886)

Mary was the youngest Summerville child, born around 1858 in Sharon. She is found on the 1861, 1871 and 1881 censuses with her family. She is not shown as having a profession and likely helped her mother with household tasks. Mary also fell victim to consumption, dying on 28 January 1886.

Her obituary in the Newmarket Era hints at a more complex medical history:“Deceased was a young lady of amiable disposition and a great sufferer, being afflicted all her life with a peculiar disease that medical science could not remove. Mr. Somerville has been a resident of Sharon for over thirty years, and the family have always had the sympathy of the community in their affliction”

Mary is buried next to her brother Christopher and tombstone has a floral wreath and bow motif. She is honoured by a poignant poem:

Safe in the arms of Jesus

Why do we mourn departing friends

Or shake at death’s alarm

Tis but the voice that Jesus sends

To call them to his arms.

The graves of all his saints he blessed

And softened every bed

Where should the dying members rest

Christopher Summerville Jr. (1856-1884)

Christopher Summerville Jr. was born on 10 September 1856, according to the information on his tombstone. He is found in the 1861, 1871 and 1881 censuses residing with his family and was employed as a carriage maker or waggon wright. Before he was able to marry and start a family of his own he was felled by the disease that took several other members of his family – consumption. 

Christopher was a member of the Odd Fellows Lodge and according to his obituary was “Interred yesterday by Pyramid Lodge, with Odd Fellows’ honors”. He likely belonged to the Odd Fellow Lodge in Newmarket. The History Hound wrote this interesting article about the Odd Fellows in Newmarket:

Christopher’s  headstone does not contain the usual IOOF symbols – a three link chain symbolizing Friendship Love and Truth and a hand containing a heart symbolizing charity.

Instead his tombstone has a motif of carved roses on either side of a central bow.

Part of the inscription is now illegible but what we can see reads:

Who sleep in Whose spirit now with Him are blest According to His word