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Arthur Reynold “Kelly” Foster (1890 – 1965)

Chapter Four – Arthur Reynold “Kelly” Foster (1890 – 1965)

Arthur Reynold “Kelly” Foster (1890 – 1965)

My grandfather was born on the 14th of December, 1890 in a house in Beckles Road. He was baptized on January 14th, 1891 at St. Ambrose Chapel on River Road.

After going to primary school in Chelsea Road at Mrs. Collymore’s where, incidentally, he met Annie Waite, his future wife, he attended Harrison College from 1900 – 1908.

He was a very talented boy who not only excelled in sports, especially football and athletics, but he was also a keen cadet. He enjoyed playing music and acting in the theatre.

Here is an article from the Barbados Globe newspaper of Friday, April 10th 1908.

HARRISON COLLEGE SPORTS

The annual recurrence of an event of any sort comes eventually to be regarded in the light of an assimilation, and all those who have been in the habit of attending the Athletic meetings at Harrison College must have discovered that with them there is no departure from the rule. Yesterday’s meeting, however, was a brilliant exception since in the matter of attendance alone there was a substantial improvement upon what has been the case for several years. The contests were all very keenly fought out and the day’s pleasure proved highly satisfactory. The following are the results –

(A.R Foster’s results are recorded here, not the full list that appeared in the newspaper article.)

Throwing the cricket ball (Seniors)

Foster (93 yds 1 ft ), Hutson, Goodman

Hundred Yards (Seniors)

Skeete (11 &1/5 sec) Parris, Foster

220 yards – Foster, Browne, Skeete

Hurdle Race – Skeete i, Foster, Skeete ii

Quarter Mile – Foster (58 &3/5 sec), Skeete, Browne

Half Mile – Browne (2.14 min), Foster, Hutson

 

 

 

Complimentary speeches and vociferous cheers preceeded and followed the distribution of prizes by Lady Carter. The speakers were: His Excellency the Governor, the Headmaster and the Honorary Secretary, Mr. H.G. Carrington. The Police Band was present during the afternoon and enlivened the proceedings.”

Kelly left Harrison College in 1908 and gained employment in the civil service as a Supernumerary in the Post Office.

On July 25th, 1909, he and Annie Waite, his boyhood girlfriend, were married at the Dalkeith Wesleyan Church .He was eighteen years old, confident, talented and disciplined. He was an accomplished athlete and footballer, a musician with a flair for acting, and, above all else, he must have shown signs of his leadership skills as an outstanding cadet.

As far as I know, Kelly and Annie lived in Beckles Road until 1938 when Kelly was appointed Governor of Glendairy Prison. Prior to that appointment, he had been a clerk in the Post Office, the Public Library and the Registrar’s Office. He had also done a stint as an Officer of Customs. From 1933, however, his civil service career became focused on his police work.

His resume from 1933 onwards reads as follows:

In 1933, he was appointed as the Chief Officer of the Government Industrial School, better known as Dodds.

1934, April to October, he was Acting Governor of Glendairy Prison.

1935 – Junior Inspector of Police.

1936 – Superintendent of Police.

17th August, 1938 – took up post of Governor of Glendairy Prison.

September 1st, 1938 – Justice of the Peace.
September 8th, 1938 – “Appointment announced of Lt. A.R. Foster, Supt of Police, as Governor of Glendairy Prison.” (BHMS Journal. Vol 6. Pg 106)

1945 – promoted to Captain.

1949 – promoted to Major, appointed Superintendent of Prisons.

1952 – awarded MBE.

1954 – Major A.R. Foster retired. His salary at that time was $4080.00 per annum.

His was certainly an outstanding career as a civil servant, and one would have thought that he was awarded an MBE because of the steadfast police work that he performed. However, one would be mistaken in that assumption. Major A.R. “Kelly” Foster was awarded an MBE because of his tireless work in the field of sport! However, as the journalist who wrote the following piece in the Barbados Advocate of January 3rd, 1952 indicates, his contribution as a police officer and his work in the Cadet Corps did not go unnoticed.

REWARDS

“There have been occasions in the past when the list of awards either at the King’s Birthday or at New Year left a sense of wonder as to the methods used to select the recipients. The 1951 New Year’s honours leave no room for such wonderings. Limited as it might be, that list covers a wide and varied range of services all necessary to the well being of community life.

Major A.R. Foster, Superintendent of Prisons, has made his contribution not only in official duties but in the realm of sport. As a prison officer he has been most humane and made the unfortunates who came under his care feel that to err against the rules of civilized society was not necessarily to become an outcast. Where he has maintained outstanding claims to leadership is in football, athletics and boxing. His appointment as Commanding Officer of the Cadet Corps was an indication that his service to the youth of this island was recognized.”

“Major A. R. “Kelly” Foster receiving the insignia of Member of the British Empire (MBE) from His Excellency the Governor, Sir Alfred Savage. In the background is Mr. H.H. Williams, his supporter. Mr. Williams had already been awarded the MBE and in those days you had to bring a friend who had a similar honour to support you.” The photo and information was provided by Paul Foster.

In the early 1900’s, there was only one established sport in Barbados – cricket. As early as the 1870’s, cricket was played throughout the island, by schools, the military, and numerous other teams that represented the planter and merchant classes. The Barbados Cricket Challenge Cup Committee was established in 1892 to regularize play for the annual Challenge Cup competition. All other sports, however, had not benefited from such popular support and, therefore, had not developed the administrative sophistication to promote their growth. Kelly Foster was one of the leading pioneers in the development of football, athletics and “body building”, boxing and water polo.

The Football League started in Barbados in 1910. Four teams played for the Football Challenge Cup. These teams were the Volunteers, Combermere, Harrison College and Kensington Rovers. It was reported in The Globe of May 2nd, that after a round robin series played in March, the final was won by the Volunteers by 2 goals to nil over the Kensington Rovers. The match was played at the Savannah. Kelly would most certainly have played for the Kensington Rovers as he was a founder member of that team.

By 1915, the football fixtures indicated that no new teams had joined the League. In fact, Kensington Rovers fielded two teams along with the Volunteers and Harrison College. By the end of the 1915 season, Harrison College had pulled out of the League because of injuries to students and deliberate rough play against the schoolboys. (The Globe Newspaper) Although Kensington Rovers “A” team won the 1915 Challenge Cup, the game of football was still very much a fledgling sport headed in the wrong direction.

 

Kensington Rovers, Football League Champions, 1915
Cecil Foster (forward), Middle row, left.
Kelly Foster (mid-field), Middle row, second from left.

In 1922, when Kelly was the Hon. Sec. of the Barbados Football Association, Barbados was invited to participate in the Matrinez Shield. This competition was an inter-colonial football tournament played between Trinidad and British Guiana. The Barbados Weekly Herald of Sept 9th, 1922 article suggests that it was unlikely that Barbados could finance such a venture as football did not have enough popular support locally.

By 1931, however, Barbados played in the Martinez Shield for the first time and in 1932 hosted the tournament at Kensington. By this time, the local Football League had grown and football had increased in popularity. The Barbados Football Association, formed in 1910, had finally secured a place for the sport in Barbadian culture. Kelly Foster was one of the pioneers that withstood the early disappointments; the lack of public support, scarcity of funds, and, no doubt, the ridicule of most of the established cricket clubs which did not initially incorporate football as a part of their club activities.

Kelly captained and played for Barbados in the Martinez Shield in 1933 in Trinidad. He was 42 years old at the time and past his playing prime. However, as The Trinidad Guardian reported on October 22nd:

BARBADOS FOOTBALL TEAM ARRIVES IN TRINIDAD.
BIG WELCOME AT WATER FRONT.
FIVE FOSTERS ON THE VISITING TEAM.
(The Five Fosters were Kelly, Colin, Caesar, Leon and Reyn)

The Barbados team, which will take part in the Intercolonial Football Tournament, arrived today in the R.N.S. Crynsenn. They were received with cheers by a large crowd of enthusiasts who lined the water front when they arrived at Customs. Mr. A.R. Foster, the captain and veteran of the side, stepped ashore smiling, with a football. “I think we stand a pretty good chance….(He commented)…..Most of the members of this team have never played Intercolonial Football before, but I think they will win their spurs in the baptism of fire, with a little luck.”

There is no doubt that the Trinidadians acknowledged that he was in Trinidad as mentor, captain, and player, in that order, of the Barbados team. He was, indeed, Mr. Football of Barbados!

Standing : Centre (White Jersey) Collin Foster, 2nd From Right – L. R. “Reyn” Foster
Sitting: 3rd From Left – Leon Foster, 4th From Right – A. R. “Kelly” Foster,
3rd From Right – S. C. “Ceaser” Foster

Kelly continued to play his part in establishing football as a popular sport in Barbados. He held the post of President of the Barbados Amateur Football Association, circa 1950, and at the time that he was awarded the MBE in 1951, he was the Vice President.

 

Rovers 1st XI, Football Team, 1934 Winners B.A.F.A Cup and Killarney Knock–Out Cup. Back Row: L. A. Smith, S. C. Foster, A. Weatherhead, A. C. Foster, P. Harris, W. M. Foster, E. Goddard, J. Shannon (Secretary). Middle Row: L. E. Foster, A. R. Foster, H. L. Thomas (Capt.), L. R. Foster, H. Walcott. Front Row: H. Cuke, C. Maloney, N. L. Foster, G. E. Field, R. H. Mayers

Although I have not been able to verify whether there was a boxing association in Barbados at the turn of the 20th Century, certainly Kelly was a pivotal personality in the promotion and support of boxing for at least three decades; that is, from the 1920’s through the 1950’s. Daddy remembers his first bout being at the Olympic Theatre in 1926 when he was 11 years old! His trainer was the famous Barbadian boxer, Joe Payne. Boxing thrived in Barbados, particularly professional boxing, and Kelly encouraged boxing at Glendairy Prison. Some of the professional fighters in the 1940’s were ex-prisoners. Boxing professionally ensured that these men could earn a living when they were released from prison. In 1940, for example, at the Yankee Stadium, Jack Sharkey, an ex con, fought on the card that featured the featherweight champion, Lightfoot Kid against Shamrock Babe from British Guiana. The Barbados Advocate of April 6th notes that one of the judges was A.R. Foster. Incidentally, Lightfoot Kid won that bout!

Claude Ramsay, a journalist with the Barbados Recorder, writes the following about Kelly’s contribution to boxing in his article “In the Boxing Arena”

“Major Foster has done more than any one in the island for boxing. Major Foster’s MBE is an honour which he richly deserves.

Joe Payne, Willie Squire, Kid German, Al Browne, Jack Montelle, Kid Edwin, and Sharkey will all bear testimony of the great work and interest Major Foster played in the manly art.

Major Foster was not only interested in professionals, he even took more interest in the amateurs and holds the office of President of the Barbados Amateur Boxing Association. Mr. Foster attended as an official the West Indian Championships in Grenada last year.”

When the Amateur Athletic Association was formed on the 17th July, 1947, Kelly was listed as one of the founding members and a Vice President of the Committee. The association promoted cycling, athletics and body building. More importantly, however, it was recognized by the International Amateur Athletic Association, a recognition which paved the way for Barbadians to participate in the Olympics.

Paul Foster remembers that Kelly encouraged the water polo players to form an association in the 1940’s so that the sport could progress. In Paul’s words, Kelly, the first President of the Water Polo Association, contributed “equilibrium and structure” and presided over meetings in a quiet and encouraging way.

In another newspaper clipping which Uncle Tony had kindly sent to me, the writer has this to say:

“Major Foster, I have known since I was in the 1B at Combermere School. He was then Cadet Officer and leader of the Glee Club.

I was to grow up and see him father Amateur boxing in the Colony and put his guts in to local football. I believe that he shares with Herman Griffith the distinction of being the oldest footballer to represent Barbados.

He still takes more than an interest in boxing and football. He is senior Vice President of the Barbados Amateur Football Association and President of the Barbados Amateur Boxing Association.

He has played a leading part in placing water polo not only on the local sporting map but on the intercolonial sporting map as well.

At any Amateur Cycle and Athletic meeting, there is the silver grey head of Kelly with gun in hand as starter. There has seldom been a public award on which there has been such a consensus of opinion that it has been well and truly earned.”

And what did Kelly have to say about being awarded the MBE for his life’s work in sports? In another of Uncle Tony’s clippings, Kelly responds to the Council of the BAFA.

“Major Foster said that the most pleasing thing to him about this honour was the manner in which it was taken by people in all walks of life and especially sportsmen.

He had done what he felt everyone should do and had made a maxim in life to try always to give a hand wherever he thought it could be of use.

He very much appreciated the sentiments expressed that afternoon and felt that they were not merely from the lips but from the heart.”

Kelly and Annie had eight children; Arthur Colin (Colin), Dudley Keith (Willie or Billy), Lindsay Reynold (Reyn), Walter Michael (Mike), Dorothy Esmay (Dordie), Sheila, John and Roy Anthony (Tony). However, their extended family included Walter Neville’s children. After he went to the U.S. in 1923, his children, Vere, Lisle, Leon, Seymour (Caesar) and Cecily, spent a lot of time with Kelly’s children. Barrie wrote to me confirming that her father, Leon, told her on many occasions that Kelly was a very influential father figure to him and his brothers and sister.

Uncle Charles Baeza apparently went to spend some time with the Fosters during a school holidays and never went back home! He told me that he loved Annie like a mother.

One can only imagine what it must have been like raising a household of eight boisterous children, reinforced by their cousins and friends on weekends and during the school holidays. Discipline certainly had to be maintained and Daddy told me that although his father did not use the rod often, he was not against sharing some licks when it was justified!

The family lived in a bungalow at the top of Beckles Road, opposite the McCLeary family. As expected, the boys were encouraged to play sport, especially football. However, Kelly made sure that the children learned to play music and sing. In the 1920’s he formed a band with his children called Kelly’s Koncert Kids!

 

Kelly’s Koncert Kids
Left – Right: Collin, neighbor McCleary, Willie, Mike, Kelly, Reyn and Dorothy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kelly himself performed vaudeville acts with Frank Collymore at this time at venues such as the Empire Theatre which opened in 1922. Their stage name was the Kelly and Kully Duo.

Later, when he became Governor, Kelly carried his love of music and the theatre to Glendairy prison! Leary, Caesar’s grandson, and Uncle Geoffrey, Colin’s son, both remember going to the prison to attend concerts performed by the prisoners.

1938 and 1939 were bitter/sweet years for Kelly. Rovers won the 1st Division Championship in April 1938 with four Fosters in the side, including Seymour (Caesar), who was captain of the team. Reyn married Mildred(nee Lewis) in June, and during August and September, Kelly was promoted to Lieutenant, made a Justice of the Peace, and was appointed Governor of Glendairy Prison. There was a lot to celebrate about in 1938……

…..On October 4th, however, his mother, Constance, died.

And then in May 1939, he and Annie lost their first son, Colin, when he was only twenty nine years old. This was a severe blow which shook Kelly’s faith to the core. He and Colin had been extremely close. As a boy, Colin was a member of Kelly’s Koncert Kids and he had grown in to a fine musician who played the saxophone and sang with the Rhythm Troubadours. He had won a boxing medal fighting amateur bouts at the Yankee Stadium, no doubt under his dad’s supervision. Most importantly, he and his father had played football together for Rovers, winning the cup in 1934. They had also played together for Barbados in 1933 in Trinidad. In fact, Colin had kept goal in 1931 for the island in the first series of the Martinez Shield that Barbados had ever played in.

To deepen the wound, Colin and Marjorie, his young wife, had three children, Lionel, Geoffrey and Maureen.

Kelly turned to his old friend, Frank Collymore, for solace. Colin’s death and Kelly’s loss caused Frank Collymore to question his own faith. He wrote in his diary on June 15, 1939,

“Either pessimism or agnosticism remains. I choose the latter. Only the waste of things, the waste of life, of aspirations, the coming on of old age, of dotage – and all to what end?”

Colin’s untimely death was a most devastating blow to Kelly and Annie.

Then on the 3rd September, 1939, Neville Chamberlain, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, announced in a radio broadcast that the country had declared war on Germany. The Second World War had officially begun. In early 1940, Kelly and Annie’s second son, Willie, was one of the young men in the first contingent of Barbadians to join the armed forces. Leon, their nephew, was also one of the members of the group of volunteers.

 

First Contingent of Barbadians – WW2
Front Row (left – right): Leon Foster on left and Willie Foster second from right

It must have been an agonizing period in the lives of Kelly and Annie. The long wait between letters coming from Gibraltar where Willie was stationed; listening to the news daily on the radio; dreading the sealed envelope from the war office; longing for the day that their son would come home.. and knowing that Leon was based in Singapore, the most violent theatre of the war…

On the other hand, there was work to be done and a family to look after. There was still Mike, Dorothy, Sheila, John and Tony living at home, at least until 1943, when Mike married Cynthia (nee Lewis) and Sheila joined the AARC in Antigua in 1944. Meanwhile, Arthur, Willie’s son from his first marriage to Marjorie Munroe, had come over from Grenada to live at Glendairy as well.

Colin’s death and the impact of World War II on the Foster family took its toll on Kelly’s health. In the Report on Prison Activities 1946 submitted by Kelly to His Excellency the Governor, under the heading “GENERAL”, item #1 reads

“The Governor of Prison was granted sick leave from 23rd May to 4th August, 1946, to proceed to Canada in the interest of his health.”

Mummy remembers that he suffered from stomach ulcers and had to undergo an operation in Canada. Daddy traveled with him.

When Kelly retired from the Police Force in 1954, he and Annie moved in to a two bedroom house in Pine Gardens that Uncle Reyn had built for them in Sunrise Drive, Pine Gardens. There, he kept pigeons and game birds in the backyard, continuing a hobby of his that he shared with his son, Reyn, who lived only a house away. Victor Harris, the former Secretary of the Barbados Poultry Association, credits Kelly with getting him interested in exhibiting pigeons and Rhode Island reds. As a boy his family lived in Station Hill. Mr. Harris remembers an inmate, William Jones, who was Kelly’s right hand man at the prison. His task was to look after the live stock and poultry, including the pigeons and game birds. According to him, apart from the layers and broilers, there were pigeons, Rhode Island reds, Hamshires, and Black Manorcas. He knew Jones personally and Jones told him that although there were two governors in Barbados, the inmates only recognized one of them!

Mr. Harris remembers that either Glendairy Prison or the Governor, or both, used to exhibit livestock and poultry at the Annual Exhibition at Queen’s Park.

At the risk of being repetitive, I think that the Obituary that appeared in the Daily News the day after Kelly’s death, summarizes his life and the contribution he made to Barbados better than I ever could. I believe it was written by E.L.C.

ARTHUR FOSTER DIES

The NEWS regrets to report the death yesterday of Mr. Arthur Reynold Foster, M.B.E., 75, of Sunrise Drive, Pine Gardens.

Born into a large family – four brothers and five sisters – “Kelly” Foster was educated at Harrison College, where he gained early fame as an outstanding athlete, cadet and footballer. On leaving school, he assumed charge of the Combermere School Cadet Corps, a post which he held for many years, achieving much success for the school in the Burdon and Martinez Shield competitions.

But it is as a footballer that “Kelly” Foster will mostly be remembered. A founder member of Rovers, Kelly and his brothers did yeoman service for that Club, establishing it firmly as one of the premier clubs in the League. He represented Barbados on many occasions, captaining the team on several tours, his captaincy extending even into middle age. At centre-half or full-back, his was usually the reliable boot in the defence array or the pilot in attack. On more than one occasion he played, as skipper, in Barbados teams which included several of his sons and nephews.

From the mid-twenties to mid-thirties, “Kelly” was a favourite figure on the local stage. The Kelly-Kully Duo (with Frank Collymore) and the Kelly Koncert Kids (with his sons and one daughter) were always certain of enthusiastic response.

A keen boxing fan, Mr. Foster was for many years an official and President of the Barbados Boxing Association and a popular referee. Many a struggling boxer remains indebted to his kindnesses during their difficult years. He was also at one time President of the Water Polo Association and of the Amateur Athletic Association.

Joining the Government Service after leaving school, he rose to be Chief Clerk, Parcel Post Department, Post Office, then transferring to the Government Industrial School. After some years at the G.I.S., he was gazetted into the Colonial Police Force, serving in Barbados, first as Inspector and subsequently rising to the rank of Major when he became Governor of H.M. Prison, from which post he retired ten years ago. At Glendairy he was responsible for the organization of concert parties and the introduction of many advanced techniques in penology and rehabilitation.

Few men have earned the popularity enjoyed by “Kelly” Foster during a long and active life. His health failed him in recent years, but those with whom he had previous association recall him in his prime with deep affection.”

Kelly died on 10th July 1965, a year after his wife, Annie, had passed away. He was 74 years old.

It is fitting to end this profile with an image of the granddad Kelly that those of his grandchildren that knew him would recognize. Uncle Geoff, Colin’s son, describes the occasions that he drove with Kelly to various sporting venues.

“I know that he was the official starter at many meets at Kensington Oval because I went along with him as a young fellow on many occasions. Do you know he was also the founder of the Barbados Water Polo Association? I went to many of the matches at the Aquatic Club which he refereed. I will tell you an amusing story. Granddad was a terrible driver. He had an old Hillman car (M804) and we would leave Glendairy with him raking the gears until he got it in third gear. He would drive from Glendairy to the Aquatic Club in third gear never changing down to fourth where the car should have been driven. He would swear and cuss at anything that got in his way; bus, donkey cart, bicycle etc. The same thing on the way back home.”

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Barbados parish map

Benjamin Gittens, Esquire (1730-1790)

The vast majority of our Barbados Gittens ancestors have very little information of an historical nature written about them, other than births, deaths and marriages. However, there are some Gittens who have played prominent roles in the history of Barbados. As a result, there is a reasonable amount of historical information written about them. This is the first in a series of blogs over the next few months to chronicle the lives of these individuals.

Benjamin Gittens, Esquire (1730-1790)

Judge – Colonel – Planter – Merchant

Benjamin Gittens was baptised November 3, 1730, in the Parish of Saint Michael, Barbados. He was the only child of Benjamin Gittens and Rebekah Smith. His godfathers were John Shurland Esq. and Mr. Thomas Bedford. His godmothers were Mrs. Catherine Simms and Mrs. Margaret Lun. Benjamin’s father was a merchant in Bridgetown, Saint Michael. He died in 1730, the same year as Benjamin was born. It is not clear what the associations were between his godparents and his father, but it is interesting to note that Benjamin’s father left Samuel Bedford and Jane Simms 5£ each in his will, with the remainder of his father’s estate left to the father’s wife, Rebekah.

Benjamin is directly descended from John Gittens Senior, who is thought to be the progenitor of the Gittens family in Barbados. Benjamin’s ancestors were:

Judge Benjamin Gittens, Esquire (1730-1790)

Benjamin Gittens (1701-1730) Father

Capt. John Gittens (1669-1724) Grand Father

John Gittens, Junior (-) G-Grand Father

John Gittens, Senior (1628-1698) G-G Grand Father

On April 21, 1751, at age 21, Benjamin married Ann Elphinstone in the Parish of Saint Michael, Barbados. Over the next 20 years Benjamin and Ann had a family of 7 children all of whom were baptised in the Parish of Saint Michael, Barbados.

Mary Gittens (1752 – 1832). Mary died at age 80 and never married.
Robert Gittens (1754 – died before 1759). Robert died before he was age 5.
Rebecca Gittens (born about 1757 – ). Rebecca married Philip Hendy on August 01, 1776, in Saint Michael Parish, Barbados. There is no surviving record of Rebecca’s birth or baptism but she is mentioned in her father’s will. Rebecca and Philip Hendy had five children, at least two of whom survived to adulthood and married.
Robert Elphinstone Gittens (1759 – ). Robert married Elizabeth and there are no surviving records of any children from this marriage.
Ann Elphinstone Gittens (1761 – 1795). Ann died at the age of 34 and never married.
Margaret Gittens (1763 – 1784). Margaret died at age 21 and never married. Margaret is buried at Saint Michael’s Cathedral.
Elizabeth Gittens (1765 – 1834). Elizabeth died at the age of 69 and never married.
Benjamin’s wife Ann died sometime before 1774 and Benjamin married his second wife Elizabeth Lemon on December 4, 1774, in the Parish of Saint Michael. They had two children neither of whom had children themselves;

Benjamin Gittens (1776 – ). Unfortunately nothing more is known of Benjamin’s son Benjamin. It is extremely likely he died at an early age which was very common in the day.
Martha Elizabeth Gittens (1777 – 1855). Martha died at the age of 77 in Bow, Middlesex, England. It appears that Martha immigrated to Middlesex, England. In 1808, while living in England records show that Martha sold a slave and granted another slave, Molly Reynolds, her freedom.
The Gittens surname did not survive in this line of the family as Benjamin did not have any sons who in turn had children. It is unlikely that anyone with the Gittens surname who may be reading this blog would be descended from this Benjamin Gittens. Although the Gittens surname did not survive in this family line it has survived in many, many other lines of the family.

Although we know very little of Benjamin’s early life other than details of his wives and children, his latter life is fairly well documented. Historical records and accounts tell us that Benjamin was a Merchant, a Judge, a Colonel in the Militia, a Planter and a Free Mason. From this information it can be assumed that he was part of the plantocracy in Barbados during his era. The plantocrary consisted of a small group of people who were white, wealthy and who owned significant land holdings. The plantocracy dominated and controlled much of life on the island as they held all of the seats in the appointed Council and the elected Assembly. They also held all of the senior civic and military positions. It was not unusual for person belonging to the plantocracy to hold multiple appointments as was the case with Benjamin.

Benjamin the Merchant

In the will of an unrelated Benjamin Gittens written in 1762, the following reference to Benjamin Gittens was made:

Item. …to my kinsman Robert Elphinstone Gittens, son of my kinsman Benjamin Gittens of the parish of Saint Michael, merchant, the sum of five hundred pounds current money, to be paid to him when he shall reach the age of twenty one years.

From this reference it can be inferred that Benjamin, the subject of this blog, was a merchant in Bridgetown in 1762. However, there is no further information available regarding his activities as a merchant.

It is interesting to note that Benjamin’s father was also a merchant in Bridgetown. Since Benjamin’s father died in the year Benjamin was born, it would seem unlikely that the occupations are directly connected in any way.

Benjamin the Judge

On May 18, 1779, at the age 49, Benjamin was appointed a Judge of the Exchequer. This appointment was followed in July of the same year by a new appointment as Chief Baron of His Majesty’s Court of Exchequer.

In 1783 Benjamin was named as a justice of a newly appointed commission, COMMISSION OF THE PEACE.

In 1784, Benjamin was noted in an advertisement.

To be sold at vendue on 25th inst at the house of Rebecca Hill, Bridgetown, by Benjamin Gittens one of the Masters of the Court of Chancery, by virtue of a decree, a sugar work plantation in Saint Phillip and Saint John called Palmers the property of Hon Samuel Walcott Esq., with the slaves, cattle, sheep etc.

On November 20, 1784, The Barbados Mercury reported the holding of the court of Quarter Sessions for Saint Michael at the Town Hall on 17 Nov.

Present the Hon. Joseph Keeling, Hon. Benjamin Gittens, Hon. Nathaniel Weekes, George Errington, George Walrond, Henry Edey, and Thomas Pare Fowke Esqes. Complaint that the sale of goods by slaves and others in the streets of town instead of in the public market place was a common nuisance. It was ordered that all such sales ought to be restrained to the public market place called the Shambles adjoining the Old Churchyard, and that the constables do take care to enforce the observance of their orders. sd. John Thompson, Dep. Clerk of the Crown & Peace

On 13 May 1787, a notice appeared seeking tenders for a bridge construction project of which Benjamin was the project chairman. It interesting to note that the process for seeking competitive project tenders has not significantly changed in the last 250 years.

Notice to persons inclined to contract for building a bridge over Parrrat’s Gulley on the high road according to Mayo’s map leading from Byde Mill to Haughton Plantation that the Commissioners of the Turnpike Road will receive proposals at their next meeting at the Townhall on June 3 by 10 o’clock. Benjamin Gittens, chairman.

June 30, 1789. Minutes of Council

Present – His Excellency Governor Parry and Ten Members of Council.

…..”The Secretary acquainted His Excellency and Council, that The Hon’ble Benjamin Gittens, Judge of the Exchequer, had requested it may be laid before the Board, that there was a vacancy in his Court, by means of the departure some time since of Robert Ewing Esqr: from this Island; and that he was desirous of a new Commission; and to have William Ford Esqr;, of the Parish of Saint Lucy, appointed a Puisne Baron [means a junior person in rank], in the room of Mr. Ewing; which was allowed; and a new Commission Ordered to be prepared for The Hon’ble Benjamin Gittens, George Walrond, Thomas Walshe, James Polgreen and Willian Ford Esqrs:”

Benjamin the Planter

Benjamin owned Green’s Plantation in the Parish of Saint George. The earliest record associating Benjamin to Green’s Plantation is dated 1778. However there is no other information regarding the term of ownership. The plantation may have been as large as 110 acres.

On the 10th of October 1780 a hurricane struck the island of Barbados causing considerable damage. Benjamin filed a claim for hurricane losses with the Government. His claim totalled 3,232 £. It included 90£ for the loss of 1 negro and 5 cattle, 150£ for furniture and clothes and 2,992£ for the loss of buildings and crops. To compare the relative amount of this claim the value of 3,323£ in 1780 would be about 345,000 £ or about $600,000 Canadian dollars in 2009.

Benjamin the Freemason

Freemasonry was introduced into Barbados by Alexander Irvine in 1740 with the founding of St. Michael’s Lodge 186. In about 1783 the Hon. Benjamin Gittens assumed the role of Provincial Grand Master of Masons in Barbados. We are not sure how long he stayed in this role but we do know that he was the fifth person to hold the position of Provincial Grand Master in the history of Barbados freemasonry. The District Grand lodge of Barbados celebrated its 250th anniversary in 1990.

“The Barbados Mercury”on February 23, 1783

By kind permission of Hon. & Rt. Worshipful Benjamin Gittens, Esq. Provincial Grand Master of Masons in this island, the members of the Royal Arch Body of Saint John and all other brethren of the order in this island are requested to meet at Freemasons Hall on Wednesday 5 March next at 12 o’clock noon in order to celebrate that day in love and harmony. By order of the H.P. John Dummett, Secretary. N.B. Tickets to be had of Brother John Bassell Winter, Treasurer.

Benjamin the Colonel

In the 1770s there were six (6) Regiments of Foot and two (2) Regiments of Horse in the Barbados Militia.

In 1795 (and until 1869) the Regiments of Horse were disbanded and each parish had its own Regiment of Foot (that is, Saint Michael, Christ Church, Saint Philip, Saint James etc).

The Militia was disbanded in 1869.

The Hon. Colonel Benjamin Gittens commanded the Royal Regiment of Foot from at least 1780 to 1787 and likely much longer. The Regiments were divided into four Divisions – that is – the Saint Michael Division, the Oistins Division, the Saint James Division and the Leeward Division. In all they had 442 cannon in the Forts and Batteries in Barbados.

Benjamin Gittens commanded the Saint Michael Division which was the principal Division and had in all 140 cannon. In a document dated May 17, 1780 it was noted that The Hon. Col. Benjamin Gittens provided water vessels for all the forts and batteries in his division, they were;

Saint Ann’s Fort 23 guns

Charles Fort 48 guns

Ormands Battery 10 guns

Willoughby Fort 16 guns

James Fort 9 guns

Grenville Fort 11 guns

Hallets Battery 2 guns

Yatch Battery 7 guns

Valient Royalist Fort 5 guns

Brittons Hill Battery 9 guns (a new inland Battery with 3 x 18 pounder and 6 x 12 pounder guns)

In 1781 the merchants of Bridgetown petitioned the Hon. Col. Benjamin Gittens to have his militia patrol Bridgetown because of a fear of trouble from the slave population. Gittens took the petition to the governing council who discarded it out of hand and admonished Gittens for having taken the petition in the first place.

On June 28, 1778 France joined the American War of Independence and King Louis sent a message to his representative in Martinique to seize all the British possessions. France successfully took (without warning) Dominica, Saint Vincent, Grenada, Tobago and St Kitts. When Barbados learned of the plan, a Council of War was called by the Governor on 26 October 1778 to plan for the expected invasion. Present at the Council of War were:

4 General officers
1 Judge Advocate
7 Colonels (including Benjamin Gittens)
9 Lieutenant Colonels
9 Majors

Extracts from the Barbados Mercury. Dec 17, 1787 :

Yesterday the Governor received the Royal Regiment of Foot commanded by Col. Gittens, after which his Excellency, the Officers of the Life Guards and the Royal Artillery and Ordinances on duty here dined and spent the remainder of the day with Col. Gittens and the officers of the corps at Free-Mason’s Hall.

The Will of Benjamin Gittens

Benjamin died Feb 8, 1790 at age 60. His will was very detailed. An excerpt follows:

1790 RB6/19/195 the Honourable Benjamin Gittens, Esquire

Item. …to my son Robert Gittens, my riding horse called Favourite with saddle and furniture, my gold watch chair seal and j[space] my gold headed stick, my small sword a silver two hand [space] and a dish and book case.…also …said son Robert…a Negro man named Sam a mason and a mulatto boy named Bob…recompence for a Negro boy who was shipped to this island by me… the residue of my estate

Item… to my son Benjamin Gittens …my horse called Corde and a pair of silver capped pistols a cutean sashmy pair of [space] buckles my gold band buckle and my gold sleeve buttons [space] of silver rummer cups and a Bureau…a Negro man named Johnny a carpenter.

Item. …my chaise and chaise horse shall be kept in repair for the joint and comfort of my beloved wife Elizabeth during her widowhood and for the use of my single daughters.

Item. …to my said wife Elizabeth all the household furniture…she was possessed of before…marriage. …also a wardrobe, together with the bed, bedstead andc[space] in the chamber where the wardrobe is.

Item…the rest of the household furniture and plate herein…to be kept together for the use of my said wife and my single daughters during my said wife’s widowhood and on the marriage of either of my single daughters I direct she shall have equal shares thereof… All the rest and residue of my estate…unto my beloved wife Elizabeth Gittens (during her widowhood and no longer…and shall have her livings and accommodations on my sugar work plantation as in the same manner as in my lifetime. And that do apply the rents issues and profits…in support maintenance and education of my infant children…I my said wife shall pay off and discharge the debts and encumbrances…unto my said wife the sum of £500 current money…unto my daughter Rebecca Hendy wife of Philip Hendy £200 current money…to each of her children Ann Elphinstone Hendy and Philip Hendy £50 and unto my daughters- Mary, Ann Elphinstone, Margaret and Elizabeth Gittens £300, Martha £400…unto my said son Benjamin £500 and the rest residue and remainder of my estate…unto my said son Robert and his heirs…provided such residue shall not amount to more than £800…if the sum amount to more…to my said son Robert £800 and the over…divided equally between such of my children as shall then be living. {Deals with the situation should the estate have to be sold].…appoint my wife during my widowhood and no longer so as executrix…upon the death or intermarriage…appoint my son Robert and my son-in-law Philip Hendy.. 3 August 1779.

Witnesses: John Chase Abra Hartle jnr.

Given at Pilgrim 17 Feb 1790 by H. Frere.

Research Note: Much of the information in this blog was researched from the Barbados Department of Archives and the Barbados Museum Library. The information on Colonel Benjamin Gittens was supplied by Warren Alleyne, BSS, Barbados.

The information contained in this blog is based on genealogical research gathered by the author and is always subject to change as new data becomes available. If you would like to contribute any new information to this blog or suggest corrections please feel free to post a comment to the blog site.

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Second Time Lucky!

Amazingly the family of Barbara Ellen Clincket (Leach) Mair continues to expand, connecting again with long lost family.  This time reuniting with her cousin Mary who Barbara had not seen since 1929….that’s 82 years ago!   Barbara sums it up perfectly in her e-mail….

“Well !  What next?  Not only your own study but now you have inspired many,many others.

      Thank you for forwarding my email address to Mary Horswood who contacted you for help. Mary phoned me and yes, we are cousins. The last time we met was in 1929 in the UK but apparently we corresponded as children till the war.    Mary is even more excited than I am with our new finds as she has been looking for me for sometime. So Cliff once again,many thanks for all your research, work and perseverance.   Bless you.            Mary is coming down south next summer so we shall be meeting up again.    Am learning more about my family!!…..both sides of the big pond.     Carolyn is just as excited, as is my eldest grandson (a Mair) ,who is into computers.    Well ! What next?
        Best wishes to you and Donna         Barbara ( E C Leach)Mair”
Barbara says it best….Well ! What next?
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Edwin "Teddy" Johnson Gittens

Edwin “Teddy” Johnson Gittens

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]

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Gordon "Paul" Johnson (1923-2010)

Gordon Paul Johnson

Gordon “Paul” Johnson

(1923-2010)

Paul was my father-in-law who had lived with Donna and I for the last 15 years. He was very much a part of our extended family and he will be missed by everyone. His obituary follows.

Mr. Paul Johnson of Langley, BC, died Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at Langley Memorial Hospital from complications following a stroke. Paul was 87. Paul was predeceased by his wife Nancy (nee Foreman) in 1993.

Paul was born on February 15, 1923 in Port Arthur (now Thunder Bay) Ontario, the youngest son of John Alexander and Maria Johnson. He was predeceased by his parents and siblings, Ed, Walter, Tom, Ben, Mary Arthur and Norman.

In 1948, Paul married Nancy Foreman in Port Arthur and they raised two daughters, Janet Paula and Donna Susan. Paul had a very long career as a telephone technician with the Thunder Bay Telephone Company that spanned 30 plus years until his retirement in the early 1980s.

One of Paul’s most enjoyable activities was their summer camp at One Island Lake, where the family spent most summer weekends and their holiday time. Paul never tired of the continuous tasks and projects that had to be done to keep the camp maintained.

Paul’s hobby throughout his life was investing in the stock market. In spite of the high risks he really enjoyed the penny stocks and over the years did surprisingly well with his investments.

In 1984 Paul and Nancy moved from Thunder Bay to Surrey, BC, as they wanted to be closer to their daughters and grandchildren who were living in the Vancouver area.

Paul was a devoted husband, father and grandfather. In Thunder Bay he built backyard ice rinks in support of Donna’s and Janet’s accomplishments in figure skating. Every year Paul volunteered countless hours helping the figure skating club put on their productions and competitions.

In his final month in hospital he loved to talk about the camp at One Island Lake, his childhood at the farm in Gorham Township and his travels with Nancy.

Paul adored his grandchildren. He generously supported their university educations and celebrated their successes in life. Over the past years he has been blessed and overjoyed with his three great grandchildren, Ruby and Rocco Forte in Burnaby and newly arrived Gabriel Phillips in Calgary.

Since moving to Langley following Nancy’s death, Paul has been a regular visitor at the Langley Seniors Resource Centre. Lunch on most days and cards on Tuesday and Thursdays were a wonderful welcoming community of friends. Our family would like to thank the Seniors Centre for its caring staff, volunteers and friends.

Paul’s final days were on 3 south at Langley Memorial Hospital. Thank you for the care and support from everyone there. A special thank you to Paul’s GP Doctor Mary Pushie for her professional care and unrelenting support for Dad and all of the family.

Paul is survived by his daughters, Janet Phillips and Donna Gittens, son-in-law Cliff Gittens, grandchildren Sara Forte (nee Gittens) and Michael Gittens, Paula Phillips, Robyn Brown (nee Phillips), and Dale Phillips, great grandchildren Ruby and Rocco Forte and Gabriel Phillips. All reside in the Vancouver area except Robyn Brown, Dale Phillips and Gabriel Phillips who reside in Calgary, Alberta.

Services will be held at 1:30 p.m., Tuesday, September 28, 2010 at Henderson’s Langley Funeral Home, 20786 Fraser Highway, Langley, BC. Burial will be at the Langley Lawn Cemetery, 4393 208 St, Langley BC, immediately following the service. Everyone is welcome to attend

In lieu of flowers donations can be made to the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation at their web site http://www.bcchf.ca/main/?donateNow.

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Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson

Introduction

The Thunder Bay, Ontario area has been described as the oldest area of Finnish settlement in Canada.  One of the earliest or even the first Finnish inhabitants of Thunder Bay was Donna’s (my wife) Great Grandmother Katherine Johnson.  This sketch of Katherine Johnson’s life was published in a book titled “The Bay Street Project” which chronicled the Finnish Immigration into the Thunder Bay Area.

A sketch of the Life of

Katherine Margaret Lannie (Tormale) Johnson

(1847-1937)

Katherine Johnson
Katherine Johnson

One of the first Finnish immigrants to Thunder Bay and perhaps the very first was Katherine G. Johnson, a woman of strong character and convictions who played aprominent role in the early Finnish community.  Katherine Johnson was born on September 18, 1845 in Siikajhki, Oulu. She spoke little of her early life but at the age of sixteen, after competing’ “rippikoulu” (confirmation), left forAmerica. In 1862, after a six week crossing over the Atlantic, she reached New York, from where after a brief stay, she made her way to Cloquet, (Minn.). She was married here to Andrew Johnson and they spent several years trying to run a farm. This venture didn’t prove successful however and the couple moved to Duluth where their oldest daughter, Ann, was born. Here too, times were difficult (oli demokratien aikana) and when the Johnsons heard of work to be had in the Thunder Bay area with the building of the CPR, they moved north in 1876.

Katherine Johnson was fluent in English and Swedish as well as Finnish and had no trouble in adjusting in the growing community at Prince Arthur’s Landing. With her husband she started a boarding house-restaurant-bar on Cumberland St. This was Norway House and was situated on Pearl Street.

The Johnsons, as well as Isaac Erikkila, developed ties with St. John’s Anglican Church. Their son, Johan Alexander, was baptized here, (it is a tradition in the Finnish community that he was the first Finnish male to be born in Port Arthur), their names appear as witnesses in marriage ceremonies as early as 1884, and a daughter attended Sunday School there.

While Katherine Johnson had been a member of the State Church in Finland, it was not until she arrived in Port Arthur that she experienced a religious conversion. She described it like this. Her daughter, Lillian, was attending St John’s Church Sunday School (where her older sister taught).  One Sunday Lillian announced that she wouldn’t be going to Sunday School but would be going to heaven and she died that very day with no sign that she had ever been ill. In the St. John’s records of 1895 is recorded under burials this entry:

“Lillian Amanda Johnson, 8 years old, Norway House, Pearl St.”

Apparently, this experience affected Mrs. Johnson deeply and she decided that it was sinful to operate a bar. Norway House was promptly transformed into a grocery store which the Johnsons operated by ordering groceries from Eaton’s mail order catalogue and then selling them. From this period, the name of Andrew Johnson appears less and less frequently with Katherine , the dominant figure. In 1905, St. John’s burial records include the name Andrew Johnson, who committed suicide at the age of fifty-four.

After her conversion, Katherine Johnson was “on fire for the Lord” and decided to expend her considerable energies in building a church. She sent her children, who could all speak English, to solicit money for the project and she herself requested donations from the companies with whom she did business.  Apparently, it was her daughter, Ann, who approached Joseph King who donated the property for the Wilson Street Church.

However, soon after the Wilson Street church was built, there was trouble of some sort between Katherine and other church members and by 1899, the Apostolic Lutherans of whom she formed a part, moved to Fort William. She donated land on 600 McLaughlin Street herself to the church and her son Alec was one of the church trustees.

The Fort William church was sold December 7, 1910, and by December 27, the first meeting of the transferred congregation was held in the house of Kalle Rahhala at 233 McIntyre Street, Port Arthur.  Names mentioned in the minutes of the meeting are Kusti Beck, Esa Nietula, Mrs. K. Johnson. Kalle Heinaaho, Wilho Kalenuis, Willie Kraft and Otto Maki.

Thereafter the congregation met in the homes of church members until 1912 when land was purchased for $750 at 250 Van Horne Street from Katherine Johnson.  A church building was erected the following year.  The founding members were Katherine Johnson, Alex Johnson, farmer, Johan Koistinen, labourer, Kalle Rauhala, stone cutter, and Kalle Ahonen, carpenter. With the death of Andrew Johnson in 1905, Katherine sold her grocery stood on Pearl Street and moved to 168 N. Cumberland where she had a boarding house. Mrs. Johnson lived here until her death in 1937 and during this time her home was the starting point for a new life and a meeting place for many Finns immigrating to Port Arthur.

Mrs. Julia Mikkila, who came to Port Arthur in 1912, illustrates the popularity of the Cumberland Street boarding house. Mrs. Mikkela had received a ticket to Canada from a distant relative in Port Arthur and as there were some complications she never received the ticket. At a church meeting however, she heard an Apostolic preacher mention that he was leaving for America and she decided to trace her ticket and take the same boat to America as the preacher had intimidated he would in the course of a conversation. She met the preacher on the deck of the Empress of Britain and he gave her an address in Port Arthur where he told she would be welcome, 168 N. Cumberland.

Mrs. Mikkela duly arrived at the Johnson boarding house and after spending two nights there, Katherine Johnson found her a job at the Algoma Hotel where she worked as a maid in the silver pantry for twenty dollars a months. The Johnson boarding house was one of many in Port Arthur and played an important function in the immigrant community. A new settler was welcomed here, was introduced to job prospects, and had a centre where she (or he) could receive mail, talk-to other Finns, and generally start to feel his way in the new world. In the Johnson boarding house, fellow Laestadians were given an especially warm welcome and it appears that within the Finnish community there were several similar nuclei geared for Finns of different classes and convictions.

Katherine Johnson’s prestige within the Laestadian church was considerable and when the Apostolic church was moved to Port Arthur in 1912, it was Mrs. Johnson who sold her property for the use of the Apostolic Lutheran Church of Port Arthur for $150.00. She continued to play an important part in its affair and her impact on the surviving members is still felt.

Katherine G. Johnson died on March 5, 1937 at the age of ninety-one and in many ways her long life was a dual one. On one hand she was very involved in the Finnish community — her church roots were there and her main concern was to help fellow Finns successfully enter the Thunder Bay community. On the other hand, she was an active member of broader Port Arthur society — she ran a successful business; she owned land including the present B Golf Links road; many of her children and grandchildren married Anglo Saxons and were perfectly bilingual. In short, the sixty-one years of this first settler spent in Port Arthur embody a great deal of the Finnish immigrant experience.

This sketch of the life of Katherine Johnson was based on an interview with her grand-daughters, Miss Edith Nuttall and Mrs. Ada Thompson.

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Ivan Clement Gittens circa 1944

Ivan Clement Gittens

A Life Sketch of

Ivan Clement Gittens (1916-1980)

 

Ivan was born April 23, 1916 in the Parish of Christ Church, Barbados the son of Edwin “Teddy” Johnson Gittens and Annie “Sis” Eileen Foster.  Ivan was baptized on May 7, 1916 in the Roman Catholic Church of St. Patrick, in the Parish of St. Michael, Barbados.   What’s unique about Ivan’s baptism is that he is the first Gittens to be baptized in the Catholic Church.

Ivan and Jean Gittens
Ivan and Jean Gittens

 

L to R: Ivan, Hilda and Edgar Gittens
L to R: Ivan, Hilda and Edgar Gittens

Ivan was the oldest of three children.  His brother Edgar Clement Gittens was born in 1918.  Ivan’s sister Hilda Eileen Gittens, was born in 1920.  Edgar and Hilda were also born in Barbados.

Teddy and Sis, Ivan’s parents, married in 1913 and lived in the Parish of Christ Church.  The marriage certificate listed Teddy’s occupation as a Clerk.  When Edgar was born in 1918, the family lived at the Garrison, in the Parish of St. Michael.  Teddy’s occupation was now Clerk in Charge.  Family lore tells that Teddy subsequently became a travelling salesman for the Singer Sewing Machine Company in the Caribbean.  Teddy frequently travelled through the Caribbean islands and to what is now known as Guyana.   All evidence indicates that the family was prospering.

The fortunes of the family took a dramatic turn in 1921.  On one of Teddy’s sales trips he contacted ptomaine food poisoning on the island of St. Lucia located about 100 miles by sea away from Barabdos.  When his wife “Sis” learned of Teddy’s condition she immediately sailed to St. Lucia and as family lore recounts, she arrived shortly before Teddy’s death.  Teddy was 34 when he died.  He was buried in St. Lucia.

There is also another account of Teddy’s death according to family lore.  This story tells of Teddy being shot in St. Lucia while attempting to collect a debt he was owed.   The common family belief is that ptomaine poisoning is likely the more probable cause of Teddy’s death.  Ivan was 5 years old when his father died; Edgar 3 and Hilda only 1.

After Teddy’s death, Ivan’s mother moved into the home of her parents Samuel “Clement” and Gertrude Foster, better known as Granny Foster.   The house was named Boylston and was situated in the Garrison, in the Parish of St. Michael.   Also living in Boylston were Ivan’s uncle and aunt, Percy and Kitty Foster and Granny Foster’s sister, Aunt Toosie.  Aunt Toosie was a spinster, who apparently was a strange lady.  She spoke very little and kept much to herself.  Life at Boylston must have been quite a change for Ivan who was only 5 years old at the time.

The Boylston extended family grew between 1925 and 1930 with the births of three children, Paul, Jessica and Maurice to Uncle Percy and Aunt Kitty.  A friendship between the children of Uncle Percy and Aunt Kitty and Ivan and his siblings grew over the years and lasted throughout their adult lives.

Ivan and his family lived at Boylston with his grandparents until 1927 when Boylston was sold to the Government of Barbados.  The house was renamed Savannah Lodge and it was the official residence of the Colonial Secretary.  Sadly, it now sits in a vacant and deteriorating condition.

In 1927, Ivan’s grandparents moved into a house in Hastings, named Ferndale where they lived until Granny Foster died in 1934.  After Granny Foster’s death her husband Clement Foster was so devastated that he would not return to Ferndale following the funeral.  Shortly thereafter Clement Foster found a house on Hastings Beach behind the Savannah Hotel near the Garrison.   In due course the remainder of the family, Sis, Ivan, Edgar and Hilda moved in with him.  They lived together until Clement Foster died in 1936.

After Clement Foster’s death, Ivan and his family moved into a small house on the Hastings road half way between the Sea View and Ferndale, but on the land side of the road. The house was named “Beulah”.  Ivan and Edgar were finished school and working in 1936 and were supporting their Mother and sister, Hilda.   By all accounts the family continued to live together until Ivan immigrated to Canada in 1939.

Percy and Kitty Foster along with their three children, Paul, Jessica and Maurice moved into their own house after Boylston was sold in 1927. The house was a small cottage in Hastings named “Cottage Louise”.   In about 1936 Aunt Kitty and Uncle Percy converted “Cottage Louise” into the Markham Guest House, in order to augment the meagre salary of Uncle Percy.  Markham Guest House received Canadian visitors travelling to Barbados in the “Lady Boats”.  It was through the Markham Guest House that Ivan was to meet his future wife Jean Taylor Francis.

Little is known about Ivan’s life through these years except that he was an accomplished tennis player, a skill which he carried into his adult life in Canada.  Ivan was also a talented cricketer.  He attended Harrison College and completed his education in 1933 at age 17.  Ivan’s military record revealed he then took 2 years of business courses to study accounting.  In 1936, at age 20, Ivan got his first job as the manager in the Radio and Electrical Department of a department store in Barbados.

Jean Francis lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  When Jean turned 18 while attending the Halifax Art College, her grandmother gave her a gift of a trip to anywhere she would like to go.  Jean and her grandmother decided on Barbados and made arrangements to stay at the Markham Guest House.  The story goes that Ivan first saw Jean while she was waiting for a bus in Barbados, and he almost drove up a lamp post.   Ivan found out where Jean was staying and serenaded her under her window that evening.  The next morning he brought a friend along to make a formal introduction. Those were nice times.  He took Jean sailing and dancing.  After Jean had made several trips to Barbados, Ivan proposed to her at the Aquatic Club, which is where the Grand Barbados Hotel is located today. The jeweller gave Ivan a box of rings and Jean picked out one.  Ivan then had to prove himself to Jean’s parents especially as he was Catholic and Jean was Protestant.  Ivan and Jean eventually married in the Protestant church.

Ivan immigrated to Canada on the vessel “Lady Drake” and arrived at St. John, New Brunswick on June 6, 1939.  Ivan and Jean continued their courtship in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where Ivan worked as a supervising clerk in the Credit department of the Simpson Sears Ltd.  The courtship progressed to a marriage in 1941, in St. Andrews United Church, Halifax.  Ivan was 25 and Jean 24.

Also in 1941, Ivan’s sister Hilda married Rupert “Clement” Wood in Trinidad.  What should have been a joyous event for Ivan was not.  Neither Ivan nor the rest of Hilda’s extended family really approved of the marriage.  Apparently it was known that Clement had a tendency to drink too much, as did most young men in Barbados during the era.

After Hilda’s marriage, Ivan would no longer talk to her.  Over time Ivan’s stance softened and they eventually maintained a keep in touch relationship.  When Hilda first came to Canada in about 1966, Ivan and his son Barrie traveled to Toronto to visit with Hilda.

Ivan and Jean’s first child, Edward “Ted” Francis Gittens was born March 28, 1942.  There is some conjecture that he was named after his grandfather Edwin Johnson Gittens.  What is worthy of note is that they both used the common short form for Edward and Edwin which is Ted.  Edward used the short form of Ted and his Grandfather was known as Teddy.

The War interrupted Ivan’s marriage.  On April 30, 1942, seven days after his 26th birthday he enlisted in the Canadian Army in Halifax.   Ivan was classified as a Clerk Store man in the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps.  He was stationed in Halifax until 1943, when he was transferred to Infantry and shipped overseas.  This was just three months prior to the birth of Ivan’s second child, Barbara Jean Gittens, on June 18, 1943.  Jean, Ivan’s wife, suffered with bronchitis and was not supposed to have had any children.   Her health severely suffered after the birth of each of her children.  It was shortly after Barbara’s birth that Jean travelled to Boston where she had 1 ½ lobes of her lung taken out with the hope that the procedure would save the rest of her lung.  This kind of medical procedure was only possible through the financial support of Jean’s parents.

Ivan returned to Canada on June 7, 1945, after serving overseas in WWII for 26 months seeing action in England, Italy, France, Belgium and Holland.  He was awarded the Canadian Volunteer Services Medal and Clasp, the 1939-45 Star, Italy Star, France and Germany Star and Defence Medal acknowledging his active service in war zones.

Ivan was discharged July 16, 1945 to return to civilian life “on compassionate grounds”.  He was described in his discharge documentation as a “tall, slim, well groomed, twenty-nine year old soldier.  He is quite alert, possesses a pleasant manner and is mature.  For two years prior to enlistment he was employed by Robert Simpson Co, as a supervising credit clerk.  He has already made arrangements to resume last civil employment following discharge and doesn’t anticipate any difficulty in becoming re-established in civil life”.

Ivan was re-employed by Simpson Sears Ltd after his Army discharge and resumed his position of supervisor in the credit department.  Over the succeeding years with Simpson Sears Ivan was sent from one department to another to clean up financial messes… the term “trouble shooter” was not used during this time.   He was also a buyer for the departments he managed and made many buying trips to Montreal, where his brother Edgar lived.  It was always a very exciting time for Edgar’s family when Uncle Ivan was coming for a visit.

Ivan must have enjoyed his military experience as he re-enlisted in the Canadian Army Reserve Force, (Princess Fusiliers) on October 28, 1947.  The enlistment was for a three year term and he served at the rank of Quartermaster.

Ivan and his family continued to live in Halifax.  Ivan and Jean’s third child, William Alexander ”Barrie” Gittens was born June 24, 1946, in Halifax.

Jean’s bronchitis continued to impact on her health.  She found the climate in Barbados much better for her bronchitis so she and her children lived off and on in Barbados from the time Ted was born until 1950.

In 1950, Ivan was transferred as a departmental manager to a new Simpson Sears Ltd. store which opened in Vancouver, British Columbia.   Jean and the children returned to Canada moving to Vancouver to join Ivan.    Shortly after the family’s arrival in Vancouver Jean became pregnant but lost quadruplets in 1951.  Jean’s health failed due to her bronchitis after losing the quadruplets.  She and the children again returned to Barbados where the climate improved her health.  Ivan remained working in Vancouver.  Jean and the children returned to Halifax in 1953 at which time Ivan was able to transfer with Simpson Sear’s Ltd. back to Halifax.   At the time Ted was 11, Barbara 10, and Barrie 7.  The family then remained in Halifax where the children finished their schooling.

Ivan had a great personality and was well liked by everyone.  He was also a great mathematician.   His daughter Barbara said that “Dad often helped me solve a difficult math situation in Quantitative Chemistry.  Difficult Math Problems were a hobby of his.”  Ivan was an avid reader and was always improving himself.   Barbara remembers when her Dad joined the Toast Masters Public Speaking Club.  Barbara said” He would study hard for every speech.  He really should have gone to University.  If he had more money in his pocket, it is certain he would have achieved a great deal.  Getting married to my mother and having to provide for 3 children when the war was over, was extremely difficult.  Back to Toastmasters:  Ivan ultimately rose up in the ranks until he he became President of the Toast Masters Club for the Eastern Seaboard.  Mom was ill so I went to the farewell party in Dad’s honour.  His family really didn’t know what he was doing with the Toast Masters as he never talked about these achievements at home.”

Ivan also loved to sail.  He and a friend had a 30 foot sailing boat called a Rouey which sailed out of the Armadale Yacht Club in Halifax.

In 1965, Ivan’s employment with Simpson Sears ended abruptly.  Ivan’s daughter Barbara recalled “It was a sad day for all.  I remember it well as I was writing my final exams at Dalhousie and he would pace back and forth all night long.  It was a difficult time for all of us. Ted was living with Nanny in Wolfville so he did not see it, but the rest of us sure felt it.   Dad took several jobs after that but not in the retail business. If several of us had not been going to University I think Dad may have started up something on his own. He would have been good at it.  He later worked for a Prefabricated Housing Company in Sales and did very well there, but never seemed to get too into it.  Maybe it was still hurtful to remember what some people did to him at Simpsons.  He worked for the Prefab Housing Company until he retired, in about 1971.”

Ivan and Jean moved to New Glasgow, Nova Scotia in 1965, shortly after Ivan left the employ of Sears.  They lived there for about 6 years before moving back to the Halifax area.

Ivan died November 6, 1980, in Etobicoke, Ontario following a rampant Cancer that killed him in three months.  Barbara had him come up to Toronto for another consultation, but they only confirmed the inevitable.  He died on his granddaughter, Jessica’s second birthday, at about 2:00pm, he was 64 years old.

Following Ivan’s death Jean stayed in the Toronto area and lived with her daughter Barbara.  Jean regularly returned to Nova Scotia to visit with her son Barrie and his family often staying for months at a time.  Her daughter-in-law Rosanne said that Jean was a wonderful person and the family really enjoyed the visits.  It was because of these visits that Jean’s two grandsons really got to know their grandmother.   The grandsons to this day have very fond memories of their grandmother.

Jean died in February 1996, at age 78.  She was buried alongside Ivan in the Riverside Cemetery in Etobicoke, Ontario.

 

The children of Ivan and Jean:

1.      Edward “Ted” Frances Gittens married Sandra Judie McCabe in 1965.    They have two sons Andrew Edward McCabe Gittens and James Alexander Gray Gittens.  Tragically, Ted died in a private airplane accident in 1972.  Sandra raised the two boys and never remarried.

2.      Barbara Jean Gittens married  Gotham Clements in 1970 and they lived in Ontario.  They have two children, Scott Charles Edward Clements and Jessica Barbara Jean Clements.  Barbara is now divorced and resides in Toronto, Ontario.

3.      William Alexander “Barrie” Gittens married Rosanne Deveau in Halifax in 1971.  They have two children, Michael Allen Gittens and Mark Ryan Gittens.  Barrie and Rosanne live in Nova Scotia.

Authors Note:  This sketch of Ivan’s life was made possible with significant contributions from Ivan’s daughter Barbara Clements who lives in Toronto and Paul Foster who lives in Barbados. 

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Book chronicling the Haynes family

I learned that there is a new book to be soon released chronicling the Haynes family of England and Barbados written by Dr. E Stewart Johnson. The book will be released on September 28, 2011 but can be pre-ordered from the publisher. I ordered my copy.

The book is called ‘Reading to Barbados and Back’ reflecting its three parts. ‘Tudor and Stuart England and the Commonwealth’ traces Lt-general Robert Haynes’s putative forebears in England of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, beginning with Richard Haynes and his wife Thomasine in Reading, and each of their children and grandchildren. ‘Barbados’, deals with the ancestors of Lt-Gen Robert Haynes in that island. ‘Back in England’ covers the return of the general, with several of his siblings and children, to England.

The book (ISBN 978 1 84624 611 1), published by Book Guild Publishing, Brighton, UK, is available from bookshops, online retailers or directly from the publisher (TEL: +44 (0)1235 465577; EMAIL:[email protected]). Do please feel free to pass on the information to any whom you think might be interested.

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Victor Gittens

James William Gittens – Slavery to Freedom

The story of James William Gittens was researched and written by Victor Gittens.

Victor Elsworth Gittens was born in Barbados and still resides on the island with his wife, Jeanne and children Graham and Jenna. He lived for a short while in Jamaica from 1968 to 1971 while perusing a degree at the university of the West Indies. His family research started in 1973 and has been carried out in spurts over a period of 30 years. He currently is retired and continues to maintain a keen interest in Caribbean history, politics and society.

JAMES WILLIAM GITTENS

The History of one Family from the days of slavery in Barbados and its continuation in the twenty first century.

The story of James William Gittens is a very well written account of one Barbadian family whose earliest know ancestor was James William Gittens (1787-1835). James William Gittens was baptized on October 28, 1787, and described as a black slave of the Honourable Joshua Gittens of Pilgrim Plantation. The research and story suggests that James William was probably not just a slave or servant of the Hon. Joshua Gittens, but rather his child, born of a relationship with one of his favoured female servants.

One of the things that makes this story so very interesting is that the narrative traces the early development of Barbados and identifies the socio-political and economic context in which the family of James William Gittens and his descendent arose.

Here is the link to the story http://www.myheritage.com/site-172270221/james-william-gittens

Then open the Word document.

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Unknown little girl

Unknown little girl

Can you identify this young girl?

This picture was found when Louise Williamson’s family was going through the papers of her late aunt Isobel “Jeanne” Gittens who passed away in 2005, in Barabdos. She has passed it along to me to see if by chance anyone on the mailing list might have some idea who the child might be.

On the back of the picture is inscribed with the following, CAM..next 3(?) letters blanked out…..Photographer, cor, Queen and Orange sts, Lancaster PA.

I am guessing that the picture was taken circa 1880 and we know it was taken by a photographer who was located at the corner of Queen and Orange Street in Lancaster, PA.

If anyone could provide a better estimate of when the picture was taken by the dress style of the young girl that would be helpful.

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