A Sketch of the Life of
Edwin “Teddy” Johnson Gittens (1887-1921)
Edwin Johnson Gittens was my grandfather.
He was better known as “Teddy” for most of his life. Teddy was born in about 1887 somewhere in the New York City area. He was the child of Edwin Thomas George Gittens and Isabella Gretton (Leach) Gittens both of whom were born in Barbados. Teddy’s mother and her other two sons, Julian Hyde and Clifford Bertram, traveled from Barbados on the steamship “Trinidad” arriving in New York City on October 24 1885. I have always assumed that they were traveling to New York to join their father. I have also thought that it was the family’s intent to immigrate to the USA but that is pure conjecture on my part.
Family lore tells that Teddy was born sometime after his mother arrived in New York and that his mother Isabella died shortly after Teddy’s birth. I have not been able to find any documents to prove Teddy’s birth or Isabella’s death. We don’t really know very much about Teddy’s early life except that the family did return to Barbados sometime before his father remarried in about1892. Teddy’s father’s second wife was Dora Henry Fields. She was 24 years younger than Teddy’s father. Over the next 20 years Teddy’s father and Dora had 10 children.
On July 5, 1913, Teddy married Annie “Sis” Eileen Foster in St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church, Jermmotts Lane, Saint Michael, Barbados. Teddy was 26 and his wife Sis was 27 when they married. Over the next 7 years Teddy and Sis had three children, Ivan Clement born 1916, Edgar Clement born in 1918 and Hilda Eileen born in 1920. Edgar Clement was my father. He was better known as “Bruds” in Barbados.
The family by all apparent signs was prospering. Teddy who was a Clerk when married in 1913, had progressed to Clerk In Charge by the time Edgar was born in 1918. Family lore recounts that sometime after 1918, Teddy was a traveling sales agent for the Singer Sewing Machine Company in the Caribbean. He traveled extensively throughout the Caribbean. It was on one of these sales trips that the family’s fortunes took a dramatic turn for the worse.
In 1921, while on the Island of St. Lucia Teddy contracted ptomaine poisoning. On news of this, family lore tells us that his wife Sis immediately traveled to St. Lucia and arrived just shortly before Teddy’s death. Teddy was buried on St. Lucia.
There is also another family account of how Teddy died. This one tells us that Teddy traveled to St. Lucia to collect some money owed to him and was shot while doing so. Although this account has a bit more colour and would make a better story, it seems Teddy’s death from ptomaine poisoning is the commonly held family belief on how Teddy died.
When Sis return to Barbados after Teddy’s death she and her three children moved back into her parents home where they lived as an extended family for about the next 20 years.
Note: I invite anyone who has any additional information, or knows another version of the family lore on Edwin “Teddy” Johnson Gittens, or anyone else mention in this Sketch to leave a comment in the area below or contact me directly at [email protected]