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Episode 5: A New Life in London

Updated: Aug 17, 2021

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When I first began researching my family history, I envisioned how researching my ancestors would make me feel more connected, whole, with a greater sense of belonging, and that is the case, most of the time. It is easy to approach any history with romantic notions, but especially stories about family. And without a doubt, we LOOOVE to record our greatest achievements, our happiest times. A scroll through my social media posts will attest to that fact. So, it came as a surprise when the stories of some of my ancestors were not only far from flattering, but scary. It is at this point, that I caution listeners – I will be describing the details of an episode of domestic violence in my family. I am doing so to understanding why my family came to Canada, and to appreciate my own relationship to this land. Please remember the mission here -as healthy healed people we can better contribute to peace, caring and sharing. INTRO MUSIC AND WELCOME SEGMENT It was difficult putting this story together, for many reasons. For example, there are four successive generation of father and sons with the name Edward Tolhurst in my family. To make it extra interesting the third generation includes 2 half-brothers with the same name born 10 years apart. Sorting the details out through documents was a tedious task. I am not even sure if I got it right in the end. What I am sure of though is that amidst a chaotic family life my Great-great grandfather, young Edward Tolhurst III immigrated to London, Ontario, Canada to make a new life for himself, and I think he did a pretty good job. I often wonder about that connection: London, England to London Ontario. Why London, Ontario? Did it provide a sense of familiarity, maybe even safety. If you are leaving everything behind and starting a new life, in a far away country, isn’t that the hope, to create a dramatic break from the past. I have often thought about what it would take for me to relocate far from my current home and start over. My primary concern would be language, economic opportunities and a culture that resonates with my existing values. These are my basic requirements for relocating because I could work and form new connections easily. Even with the basics in place it would take a lot for me to pick-up and start a new life somewhere else once I had already created a home. But that is exactly what my Great-great grandfather did. Perhaps home wasn’t that great? Young Edward Tolhurst III was born in England in 1846. His father, my “3-Greats” grandfather, we will call him “Ed. Jr” was a BUSY man. There are many marriage records with his name, that also corresponds to his age in the year and the given locations, and NUMEROUS children follow each one of those marriages. Some of the children and marriages appear to overlap or maybe break off and restart again. At first this collage of women and children that appeared to be associated with the name Edward Thomas Tolhurst Jr. did not make sense until I came across an article in a news paper that provided a window into his life, most likely one of the worst days of his life, but a window, none the less. My great-great grandfather (young Edward) was born on May 17, 1846. He was (as far as I can tell) the eighth child his father had, and there were 9 more to come. It is possible that my Great-great grandfather lived with his 2 younger brothers William and Joseph, and at times their mother, Elizabeth Tinsley. In the year 1860 young Edward was celebrating his 14th birthday. In such a chaotic context, you might think that young Edwards birthday could easily get lost in the shuffle. As it turns out, Ed Jr’s, violent temper would overshadow any birthday celebration that might have been planned. On May 17, 1860, his father would be arrested for stabbing his wife, Emily Huckstepp. I am going to read you a news article published on Saturday May 26, 1860 that covers the details of the court proceedings. The published court record simply ends like that. A court document I obtained indicates that Ed Jr was not found guilty. A later publication on Saturday August 4, 1860. There is so much that is wrong with this situation that I do not even know where to begin. These 2 publications reveal so much about the layers of physical, social, emotional, and psychological trauma. The blatant sexism in the family, the courtroom, and in the media coverage is hopefully obvious to the listener. I couldn’t imagine how this relationship could have resumed. There is no record of any children after 1860. Perhaps this news article put an abrupt end to Ed Jr.’s appeal with the ladies. I hope so. A census in 1861, one year after the stabbing, showed that young Edward and his 2 brothers were staying with a family by the name of Clark. I am assuming here that the Clarks are friends of my 3-greats grandmother, Elizabeth Ann Tinsley (the boys mother). Who as it happened, settled just north of London Ontario with a man by the name of Thomas Clark. File that one for a later episode. Edward, is still 14 years old according to the 1861 census. He was apprenticing to be an “engine smith”. Within the span of the next decade, he moved to Detroit Michigan, in the United States for a brief period, before settling in the area of London, Ontario Canada where he worked as a Blacksmith. He married Emma Downing my great-great grandmother, in 1889. They had 5 children together – one of those children was Emma Georgina Tolhurst my Great grandmother. Later in his career it seems as though he makes his way back to Windsor. The industry here, automobile manufacturing, seemed to be a match for his talents. His son Henry’s family settled in Michigan. And Emma Georgine Tolhurst, my great grandmother stayed in London. Edward settled in Windsor not only for work, but remained there into retirement, and until he passed away at the age of 80 years old. He lived A few blocks away from where I live now. In the introductions to each show, and in a previous episode. I mention Windsor Ontario as a great meeting place. It is no surprise to me that Windsor seems to have served that same function for my great-great grandfather as well. 2 hours from London and right on the border to the US. His children were settled centered himself among them for easy contact. Edward came to Canada for a new life and he appears to have created it. I am rooted to the land in this very neighbourhood, and now I know how and why. And in the spirit of keeping the peace, sharing and caring, I am providing links in the show notes to 4 important resources; 1) Shelter safe – a hub where women can find local supports when experiencing domestic violence. 2) that offers supports specific for men. 3) The Ending Violence Association of Canada, this organization addresses the national problem of gender-based violence, and lastly, 4) The White Ribbon Campaign addressing the changes men need to make to end gender-based violence. You can find these links at Oh hey, before you go, I want you to meet Emma Georgina Tolhurst, otherwise known as Grams. I only picture grams one way – Grey hair in a loose, windblown bun, wearing a delicately flowered dress, paired with lace-up work boots, riding a tractor. She was a farm girl through and through. She ran a roadside corn stand for decades. And I am totally unbiased when I say she grew tastiest corn in London. Ask anyone who bought corn form her and they will tell you. My most vivid memory and window into her life was when I camped out in her yard one summer. It was a big family gathering and my family pitched a tent for the weekend. It was that weekend that I realized the skill and talent involved in living off the grid. Grams farm was built before the grid existed. We used an outhouse, hand washed clothes and cooked outside whenever possible. And her cat Ginger wasn’t just a pet, it was a mouser. She was a tiny woman. But from where I stood, which was about her knee, she was a giant, who could do anything, or would at least try. And anytime I am looking for some grit to get through the daily grind, she is my inspiration. Shelter Safe - If you are a woman experiencing abuse, there is someone you can reach out to any time of day or night. Men and Healing - Vision: A generation of men well-balanced in body, mind and soul, healed from their wounds, living their lives with integrity and resiliency, and who maintain healthy, meaningful relationships with family, friends and community. To this end, we stand on three pillars of service: Male-centered Therapy, Expertise in Trauma, and Emotional Integrity. The Ending Violence Association of Canada (EVA CAN) - a national non-profit organization whose main purpose is to educate and respond to gender-based violence at the national level. The White Ribbon Campaign - Since 1991 men have worn white ribbons as a pledge to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women and girls. S1 Episode 5: A New Life in a New London Kael Sharman

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