Leeds & Grenville Families – Martha Elizabeth Moore Bellamy

Living through Canada’s first years

When Canada became a country on July 1st 1867, Martha Elizabeth Moore was seven years and nine days old, living with her parents, an older brother, five older sisters and one younger sister in Bruce County, Ontario.

Her father, George Henry Moore was born in Drummond township, Lanark County in 1821, the son of a Napoleonic War veteran and a daughter of two Loyalist families, the Buells and Sherwoods of Leeds County.  Her mother, Sally Nichols, came from families long residents in the British Colonies before the Revolution.  The Nichols had settled in Bastard township, the Smiths in Elizabethtown.

Soon after the marriage in 1848 of George and Sally, performed by her brother Hugh Nichols, a Baptist minister, the young couple left for Bruce township where the lumbering business was opening up.  They lived on a fifty acre farm in Elderslie township but George worked in lumbering along the Saugeen River.

Tragedy struck in October 1864 when Martha’s father died of pneumonia.  It is said that a fall in the river while at work resulted in his illness and death.

Sally had obviously kept in touch with her family as her older brother, Eldad Nichols came to Chesley from his home in Toledo after her husband’s death.  Eldad was married with a grown family.  His mother, Rhoda Smith Nichols lived with him and his wife, Clarissa.  To assist his widowed sister he brought the two youngest of her children, Martha and Anna home with him.

Anna returned to her mother but Martha stayed in Toledo until her marriage in 1881.  She went to the one room stone school located next door to her Uncle Eldad’s.  She told of going home for lunch and watching the more rural children playing in the school yard while she washed the dinner dishes.

At the age of twenty-one Martha married Warren Munsell Bellamy who was ten years older than she was.  The Bellamy’s ran the mills at the pond two miles west of Toledo with the groom’s parents, grandparents, brother and sister all living close by.  Warren was a farmer and lover of good horses.

Warren and Martha took the train on a wedding trip to Bruce County where she saw her mother and siblings for the first time in so many years.  Her mother had supported the family with weaving and the small farm.  By this time her brother, Cornelius was married and running the farm.  Her sister Anna was still at home.

In October 1822 Martha’s first child, a son George Benjamin was born.  In the next ten years two daughters were born who did not survive.  Then on August 26th 1892 she gave birth to a healthy son who was named Harold Chauncey, followed two years later by Herbert James and in another two years by Edward Hall.  In 1898 the last baby arrived, a daughter Jessie Irene, who lived to be one hundred and one years old.

A few stories of Martha’s married life have survived.  Native Indians camped each year in a spot on the creek near their home.  A special kind of grass grew there which they used for basket making.  Martha had several in her home which she had purchased.

One day Martha hitched the driving horse to the buggy for a shopping trip to the village.  No doubt George was helping his father with the farm activities   Nine year old Harold was left in charge of his younger siblings, including baby Jessie who was two.  Martha was not amused when she returned to find her four children out on the mill pond on a raft the boys had constructed.

When Warren installed a manure carrier in the cow stable, the boys decided to try it out before it was used for its intended purpose.  Harold went first and although never very tall, received a terrible gash on his head as the carrier went down the track.

Vivian Wood Hill wrote of going to visit Martha’s family.  She was around the age of the younger boys.  She wrote “How we loved to clamber along the mossy ledge of the [mill] flume… the foaming spray wetting us to our chilly little hides! … Some times we’d descend… to the depths beneath the Mill and watch the creaking old wheel … and the boys with devil’s daring, would grasp the slippery spokes and ride around through the gurgling dancing spray… coming up again wet as little choking gasping rats.”   Did Martha know everything her young ones were up to?

Later Warren, Martha, George and the two younger children moved to a farm closer to Toledo, leaving Harold and Herbert then still teenagers on the home farm.  Warren and Martha later moved to a neat little white house right in the village.  That property was put in Martha’s name when purchased, not what was usually done in that era.

When Canada joined the Mother Country in World War I, Edward enlisted and was soon among the soldiers shipped to England and then to France. The years of 1917 and 1918 were times of change for the family.  George and Jessie were both married in 1917.  The following year Herb was married and both George and Jessie added grandchildren to the family.  Edward was killed in a trench on the battle field in France in July 1918.

Herb stayed on the family farm and Harold went west on harvest excursions, worked in Perth and at other jobs until Kemptville Agricultural College opened and he enrolled in the first class held there, graduating in the Class of ’22.  Here he met Ethel Gardiner from Ramsay township, a student in the Home Economics class.  They married in 1926 and settled on a farm near Bellamy’s Mill.

When Harold and Ethel’s third child was born, Ethel was very ill.  After two weeks in the hospital, she and their older son, James went to stay with her mother.  Baby Lorna was cared for by her paternal grandparents.  Warren, almost eighty and Martha just ten years younger took on the task of looking after the new born.  Harold made the trip from the farm to the village daily to bring them fresh milk along with looking after the farm and two year old, Warren although George’s wife Lorraine was a great help there.

Martha’s husband Warren died in December 1932.  She continued to live in the village of Toledo where her guests included members of the Bellamy family and on one occasion one of her sisters came for a visit. She was very independent.  She papered the hall, a full two story wall.  She laid a plank from the upstairs hall railing to the window sill over the stairs to wash the hall window.  She cleaned her own stove pipes.  In the summer she walked the almost two miles to Harold’s and went berry picking for the afternoon then if Harold was still at chores she walked home.

Her granddaughters, Lorna and Myrtle spent many Sundays after church and part of each summer holiday with her.  She was not a “huggy / kissy” grandma, treating the girls more like people.  They sat with her on the veranda discussing passers by on the way to the Post Office a couple of doors down.  When she was busy, they slid down the banister, walked the railing around the stairs, looked through piles of family pictures and albums, looked at the big family Bible and through her stereoscope.  They inspected her knick knacks and remember a small rounded plaque with the names of the two babies who didn’t survive during that ten years between the births of George and Harold.  When her grandson, Warren started High School in Athens he stayed with her as no buses ran by their place.

In 1946 Martha faced another disaster when her home in Toledo burned to the ground.  She got out of the house safely but ran back in to try to rescue something and received major burns.  So many treasures were lost that day.  One which few people had seen was a portrait of her husband’s great grandfather who had fought on the “other side” during the American Revolution.  She had placed it behind a mirror in a dresser saying “no Yankee’s picture was going to hang on her wall”.  After a stay in Brockville General Hospital she completely recovered and through time her hair grew back and the scars on her arms disappeared.  Most of the rest of her life was spent with Harold and Ethel in their home near Brockville, then near Rocksprings and lastly near Greenbush.  During that time she knit socks and made many quilts in the “Crazy Quilt” pattern.  One of her often repeated comments was that “They promised to take me home but they never did.”   She also mentioned that she wished she had named one of her sons, Bruce after the County of her birth.

Martha passed away on 20 September 1953 at the age of 93 leaving her children George, Harold, Herb and Jessie and ten grandchildren.  Some of the latter still remember this busy, spry lady with stories of the past to tell.  Now there are many great grandchildren, great great grandchildren and great great great grandchildren.

Written by Myrtle Elizabeth Bellamy Johnston, youngest granddaughter of Martha Elizabeth Moore Bellamy with fond memories of the times spent in her home and listening to her talk “family” with her son, my father.