The Hickox Family of Clyde River


Here is a story submitted by Rowena Hickox Stinson, great granddaughter of Robert and Mary Jane Hickox (Spurgeon, grandfather; Lester, father).

John and Sara Hickox emigrated from Portsea, England (present day Portsmouth) in the early 1800’s – sometime between 1804, the last date for baptism of any of their children, and 1812, when there was a rental agreement for 100 acres of land on the Covehead Road.

John and Sara had 11 children. William, their 9th child, married Elizabeth Stead whose family had immigrated about the same time as the Hickox family had and who were probably neighbours in the Little York area.

William and Elizabeth made their home in Bungay, near Hunter River. Their son Robert married Mary Jane Andrews, in January of 1875. Mary Jane’s family had come from Suffolk in the 1840’s and settled in the Wheatley River area.

On May 28, 1878, Robert purchased an acre of land for $80 in Clyde River on the west side of the bridge from Archibald Henderson. There is no mention of a dwelling in the deed, but I suspect that the house already existed, as $80 would have been quite a bit of money for such a small piece of land at that time. Robert and Mary Jane were living at their home in Clyde River in 1879, and are mentioned on the Cornwall Church Circuit and also as a family for visitation in 1880.

They raised a family of nine children:

  1. Jane  – born Jan 20, 1876 (died Feb.)
  2. Elizabeth Jane – born Dec 30, 1877
  3. Robert Spurgeon – born May 16, 1880
  4. Sophia – born Mar 17, 1882
  5. Mary Ann Beatrice – born Mar 18, 1884
  6. Susan Leah – born Mar 12, 1886
  7. Ada Keziah – born Jan 17, 1888
  8. William Benjamin – born Mar 18, 1890
  9. Beecher – born Dec 28, 1891
  10. Sarah Mabel – born Aug 24, 1894
  11. Jessie Myrtle – born Oct 27, 1896

Robert was a butcher by trade and gives that as his occupation in his will. He was also a shoe maker. His grandson, Lester Hickox recalled seeing shoe lasts that belonged to his grandfather.

Unfortunately, Robert died at the age of forty eight, on May 13, 1897, of Bright’s Disease, a kidney disorder that today is completely curable. His daughter Ada recalled sticking needles in her father’s swollen legs to try to drain the fluid from them. She remembered her father as a very nice, gentle man and claimed that her good opinion of men came from her father.

When Robert died, he left Mary Jane all his worldly possessions – live stock, farm implements, wagons, sleighs, furniture, etc. to use as she saw fit. He also willed to her a 3/4 acre lot of land on the east side of the Clyde River with the stipulation that if at any future time his son Spurgeon wanted to build on it, he would have the privilege of doing so.

Although she inherited his estate, life for Mary Jane as a widow must have been very hard with four young children to care for, including 7-month old Myrtle. Although all the children are listed with her in the 1901 Census, by this time, at least two of the children were out of the nest. Fifteen-year-old Leah was working as a housekeeper for Hector and Bertie Murchison and their four young children (their baby was named Leah), and thirteen-year-old Ada was listed as “domestic” with the Drake family (John and Suzannah) in Pownal.

I recall Ada (Hickox) Matheson telling me that she was expected to do “hard work” even though she was really a child herself. Her first attempt at making biscuits was not successful, and she threw them into the woods so no one would know.

In October of 1905, Mary Jane married John Arthur of Mayfield. The marriage took place in her home in Clyde River, but they went to live in Mayfield. Two of the girls, Sophia and Myrtle, were living with them when the census was taken in 1911.

Mary Jane sold the Clyde River property to her son Spurgeon for $100. Two years later, he mortgaged it to Robert MacPhail. Interest was paid yearly and also an annual rent of $12. The mortgage was discharged in full, in April 1910.

John Arthur, who was 20 years older than Mary Jane, died in June of 1913 and left to his wife all his worldly possessions and monetary assets. She would have been better off than after the death of her first husband. I’m not sure exactly when, but Mary Jane moved back to Clyde River to live in the little house with her daughter Sophia who never married.

The women were active in the community and church. A report in The Guardian of December 1936 tells of a Cornwall Missionary Society meeting held at the home of Mr. & Mrs. Archie MacEachern to celebrate the 51st anniversary of the Society which honoured two of their oldest living members. One of those members was Miss Elizabeth Crosby who received a letter of appreciation and a book and the other was Mrs. John Arthur who received a Life Membership Certificate.

Mary Jane and Sophia are also mentioned in an article describing good works done by the ladies of Clyde River in collecting goods and money for the Women’s Patriotic Association during the early days of World War I, when Sophia donated $1.00 and a blanket to the effort. Her mother, Mary Jane, donated two pairs of socks, for which the soldiers in the trenches would likely have been very grateful.

Sophia was a teetotaller, and the story has been told that she would not eat rum and butter toffee because there was rum in it! When Sophia passed away in 1936, after a lengthy illness borne “with true Christian fortitude” which “beautified her soul through suffering”, her obituary also stated that she was a woman of strong Christian character, and the Clyde River Baptist Church had lost one of its’ most faithful and devoted members.

Mary Jane eventually went to live with her daughter Leah who had married Elmer MacNeill, and lived in Charlottetown on what is now Nassau Street. She passed away in 1945 at the age of eighty eight.

Robert, Mary Jane, Sophia, and Elizabeth are buried in the Cornwall United Church Cemetery. As an interesting sidebar to this, in the 1990’s when their grandson Lester Hickox wanted to buy plots in the cemetery, there were four empty graves beside the family, and so one hundred years later, he was buried right beside his grandparents.

Their son Spurgeon lived in the house for a time after his mother’s marriage to John Arthur. He had married Kate Ramsay, a Home Child from Edinburgh, Scotland. Kate had been adopted by Allan and Eliza MacLean who lived on the Meadow Bank Road. In the 1901 Census, she is listed as their adopted daughter, and the date given for her immigration is 1889, which fits with the family oral tradition that she came to Canada from Scotland when she was seven years old.

I recall her telling me when I was little about travelling with Mr. MacLean in a horse and wagon (or buggy) and being teased about her accent when she commented on the “wee block lammies” on the hillside.

The MacLeans were good to her. Mrs. MacLean recognized her musical abilities and paid for music lessons – paid by the “quarter”. These lessons stood her in good stead, and she served for many years as church organist in Bonshaw for both the Baptist and United Churches (although she was Baptist to the core!).

There is a lovely family story about Spurgeon and Kate. Spurgeon’s mother Mary Jane had been a midwife who attended the birth of one of the MacLean children – probably Catherine who was born in April of 1905.  It seems that Mary Jane left her shawl at the MacLean’s, and Kate was sent down the hill to return it. Spurgeon walked her home, and the rest as they say… but before they were married, Kate spent some time in the US and lived for a time in the unlikely place of North Dakota. It seems that she turned down the marriage proposal from a Baptist Minister and came home to Spurgeon. They married on July 1, 1908. This story of the shawl was corroborated by one of the MacLean family descendents recently.

Spurgeon and Kate must have lived in the Clyde River house for a while after their marriage, as their son (my father) Lester was born in the house in June 1909. We would say that our Dad was born in the kitchen, because there had been renovations in the house and a former bedroom became the kitchen.

Eventually, Spurgeon and Kate moved to Bonshaw, where Spurgeon operated a lumber mill on the West River. He also had a ferry service from Bonshaw to Charlottetown during the 1930s which transported passengers and freight on market days. It seems that when the Liberals were in power, Spurgeon had the contract. When the Conservatives were in power, Toff Beaton ran the ferry! Spurgeon built a lovely Arts and Crafts style house on a property near the river, off the St Catherine’s Road beside the mill, but unfortunately the house was abandoned somewhere around the 1960s and fell into disrepair – and eventually the basement.

Kate and Spurgeon were active in the Bonshaw community for many years. She organized concerts and fund raisers for the Women’s Institute and was also church organist. Spurgeon was noted as a craftsman and furniture builder, and, in later years, a builder of hand sleighs. They retired to a home in Parkdale in the 1940s where he had a workshop where he built hand sleighs and many Island children received a sled for Christmas built by Spurgeon. He never did build a house in Clyde River that his father had set aside for him.

As for the other members of the family of Robert and Mary Jane Hickox:

  • Elizabeth Jane (Libby) married her cousin George Hickox. They had twin daughters who died at birth, but they adopted two daughters later on.  Libby was living in Clyde River at the time of her marriage in 1902. She is buried in Cornwall United Church Cemetery.
  • Mary Ann Beatrice (Beatie) married Edmund Waller whose family had imigrated from Australia in 1873. They lived in Charlottetown where Edmund was employed by the Dominion Express Company and later the Canadian Express Company. (These were Bill Waller’s parents.)
  • Susan “Leah” married Elmer MacNeill from Fairview. They lived in Charlottetown on Nassau Street and raised a family of six. Elmer was a carpenter and was one of the workers who constructed the United Church in Cornwall. Leah made the best sugar cookies known to a child. (Leah’s daughter Kathleen was married to Ivan MacNevin.)
  • Ada Keziah was listed as a domestic in the 1901 Census. She had gone to live with her aunt, Margaret Heartz (sister of her father) when she was nine and lived with her for two years. She returned home for a short time and then went to live and work for her cousin, a son of Margaret Heartz, who had just gotten married. She was paid $3.00 per month, much of which went to help her mother. I recall her telling me she had to do “hard farm work”. Ada married Jack Matheson, a farmer, on June 18, 1908 and they had a large family of about fourteen children.
  • William “Benjamin” and his brother Beecher left PEI sometime after 1910 and went to the west on a Harvest Excursion. They purchased quarter sections of land there and farmed for a time near Gravelburg, Saskatchewan. Ben eventually gave up farming and became the custodian of a school in Briarcrest, about 25 miles SE of Moose Jaw. He never returned to PEI, but several years ago, his grandson Ron and his wife Bernadette came from Prince Albert to seek out some of the places his grandfather would have known.
  • Beecher went west with his brother but return to PEI and lived in Montague, where his wife Ina Halliday was a school teacher. Beecher worked as a cook on ships with the Coast Guard. He died in 1966 and is buried in Montague Community Cemetery.
  • Jessie Myrtle and her sister Sarah Mabel (Sadie) were both baptised in 1899, two years after the death of their father. She married George MacNeil and had four children. Her daughter Irene was raised by her sister Sadie, as Jessie died in 1925 of tuberculosis. (Jessie Myrtle’s daughter was Norma MacNeill Campbell, married to Heber Campbell.)
  • Sarah Mabel (Sadie) married Clint Goodall and lived in Cherryfield, NB, just outside Moncton. They had a farm and market garden, and during the Second War, Clint would take the truck into Moncton and round up service men who were there on leave and bring them back to the farm, where Sadie would have a hearty home cooked meal prepared. They were very welcoming people, and a visit to their home always began with big hugs. They had no children of their own but raised Irene MacNeil who was Sadie’s niece.

I’m not sure just when Mary Jane (Andrews Hickox) Arthur left Clyde River to retire to the home of her daughter Leah MacNeill, but I imagine it would have been some time in the early 1940s, taking away the last presence of the Hickox family in Clyde River. The family was there for perhaps close to seventy years, from the mid 1870’s to the late 1930s or early ‘40s, and from there their descendants have gone far and wide, carrying the influence of that little house with them.

The house was lived in until perhaps the mid 1970s, when it was pulled down or fell down and replaced by the bungalow that still stands on the property.

No Comments

  1. Malcolm Matheson on February 14, 2016 at 9:54 am

    Rowena, thank you for writing this article. Ada & John D Matheson are my Grandparents and I now see where many of our family given names originated. Grandma Ada did not forget her family.

    • Rowena Stinson on February 14, 2016 at 6:14 pm

      Malcolm – I have a picture of the Matheson children which you might be interested in having. You could also probably identify some of them. There are about 6 in the picture

  2. Malcolm Matheson on February 15, 2016 at 9:08 am

    Rowena, would you like to email or facebook. If you are in PEI, I have cousins in Charlottetown.

  3. Cynthia Hickox on May 12, 2016 at 9:45 pm

    Dear Rowena,
    I have just read this walk into the past and I am thrilled to now understand where the pieces fit. I could never figure out why our great grandmother was called Arthur, – now it all fits! I even read some of the details to Ann over the phone. And she was so excited too, Thanks for “doing” this, Cynthia.

  4. Ron Hickox on July 7, 2016 at 7:44 pm

    Dear Rowena
    I am still interested in getting family photos. If other people read this then maybe we will be able to fill in more of the missing peices. To all who read this, Benjamin was my grandfather.

  5. Kathy Birt on March 10, 2018 at 8:30 am

    Hi I have autumn pictures of Linwood Road in Clyde River. I plan to use one in a book of Island landscapes and seascapes. I could show it to you if I had your e-mail. I took several pictures of the Lindwood Road in spring, summer and fall while living in Clyde River. I used to walk on that road for exercise.

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