Robert Calhoun & Eliza Parke Family Story

I have told bits and pieces of this family’s story in this (poorly updated) blog over the past couple of years.  When there are pieces of the family history that I have already talked about, I will reference the dates of those posts.

In my 4 Nov 2015 post, I wrote about the genesis of this couple.  Eliza was a student or student-teacher and Robert was teaching in the same 2-room Church of Ireland school in Ballinamore, County Leitrim, Ireland, when they met, had an affair, and Eliza found herself pregnant.  Robert was eventually tracked down and they married when Eliza was 8 months pregnant in Feb 1872.  Go to that post for the rest of that story.

Some basics:  ROBERT CHARLES COLHOUN (27 Jul 1847 – 22 May 1925) was born in Gortin, County Tyrone, Ireland (now Northern Ireland) to SAMUEL COLHOUN and CATHERINE MCCULLOUGH.  Samuel and Catherine had 4 girls and then 4 boys.  The eldest boy was Robert.  Robert’s father, Samuel, was a Blacksmith.  Robert must have gotten some training (maybe even went to college) to become a teacher.  This gave Robert the chance to move up in the world, socially.  It also gave him the opportunity to leave Gortin.  He may have been assigned other places before going to Ballinamore in County Leitrim, but I have no record of that.

ELIZABETH ANN PARKE (15 May 1854 – 15 May 1944) was the first child of WILLIAM PARKE and ELIZABETH TAYLOR.  Both mother and daughter were called Eliza.  She was 16 when she met her handsome, older teacher, Robert.  Her father was a well-off farmer with 2 other daughters.

After the disgrace of their shotgun wedding, Robert and Eliza set sail for Canada…at least that’s what I think.  Their son, eldest child CHARLES KINGSLEY CALHOUN, was said to have been born in Canada, though I have never found a birth record for him.  He may have been born aboard ship.  His birthdate was 23 Feb 1872.  The little family settled in the small town of Fenelon Falls, Ontario, Canada.  Charles was employed as a Bookkeeper for one of the lumber companies there.

Fenelon Falls was incorporated as a village in 1874, just 2 years after the Calhouns (who had changed the spelling of their name from Colhoun, the Irish form) arrived.  It was a prosperous port town.  Robert was a smart, educated guy…in fact, he had a reputation in his family of being somewhat smug about his intellect.  He seems to have prospered in this little village.

Robert was said to have never been in touch with his family again after his hasty marriage, so he probably didn’t know that his mother, Catherine McCullough Colhoun, died a year after he emigrated, on 19 Apr 1873.  How sad for both of them.  As a mother, I imagine Catherine in Ireland, wondering where her oldest son was and how her only grandchild might be faring.  Did she even know if it was a grandson or a granddaughter?

On 15 Apr 1874, two years after the birth of their first child, Robert and Eliza had a second.  Their daughter, GRACE CALHOUN, arrived.  Robert was still listed as a bookkeeper in her birth record.

Just a month after Grace’s birth, Robert’s brother, WILLIAM JAMES COLHOUN, married SARAH EMILY ALEXANDER on 12 May 1874.  William and Sarah were both teachers in Gortin, the Colhoun’s hometown. They had a daughter, whose name I have not been able to find, on 9 Feb 1875.

Not only that but in Ballinamore, Eliza’s mother and father had another daughter, FANNY PARKE, on 11 Sep 1874.  Eliza never met her sister, who was the same age as her own daughter.  How strange was that!

Eighteen months after Grace’s birth Eliza and Robert had a second daughter, BERTHA ELIZABETH CALHOUN, was born on 3 Dec 1875. And 18 months after that, on 4 Sep 1877, another son was born…ALEXANDER WILLIAM CALHOUN.   The fast-growing family was certainly keeping them busy.

Back in Gortin, Robert’s brother, William, died of consumption on 6 May 1877.  William’s wife, Sarah, was pregnant with their son, another WILLIAM JAMES COLHOUN, who was born a month later on 9 Jun 1877.

To be continued, tomorrow…

 

 

 

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Little Lies and Manipulations…

In 19th Century Canada, there were rules for reporting events such as births, marriages, and deaths.  The father of a child was required to register that child’s birth within 30 days.  If the father was unable to, the mother was then required.  Well, that didn’t always happen…as anyone who is doing Canadian genealogy can tell you.

In the case of great-aunt KATHLEEN CALHOUN, her parents registered some of her siblings births, but not all.  And they didn’t register hers at the time.  For whatever reason, Kathleen must have needed a record of her birth and her mother, ELIZA ANN PARKE, filled out the necessary form.  Here it is:

CALHOUN KATHLEEN 1886 Birth
Birth document for Kathleen Calhoun

Well, maybe Eliza wasn’t quite telling the whole truth when she signed this document.  She listed the date of her marriage as 8 February 1871.  That wasn’t quite right.  She was, in fact, married on 8 February 1872.  Was this just a mistake?  Probably not.  Eliza was heavily pregnant with Kathleen’s brother, Charlie, at the time of her marriage.  He was, in fact, born a mere 3 weeks later.

Here’s the record of their marriage in Dublin.

Parke_Colhoun_Wedding_1872
Calhoun Parke marriage document

Poor Eliza was probably still worried what her children would think of her if she told the whole truth about the marriage and the move to Canada.  I find this sad, but very much of the time.  I just found it fascinating that Eliza was willing to lie in a government document, though what would they have done to her…really?

The beginning of the Calhoun/Colhoun and Parke story…

Robert Charles Colhoun married Elizabeth Ann Parke in Dublin on the 8th of February 1872. This is the story of their marriage and their family.

Eliza Parke
Eliza Ann Parke, at around age 16

We don’t have any pictures of Robert in his youth, but since he was a good looking man well into his older age, he must have been quite a handsome young man. Eliza was a lovely young woman with brown hair and brown eyes.

Robert was a teacher at the Church of Ireland school in Ballinamore, County Leitrim, Ireland and 7 years Eliza’s senior. According to a note written by her son, Alex, the school is where they met. Given that it was very unusual for someone 16 (the age that Eliza was when she met Robert), she may well have been a teacher’s assistant.

There was some sort of romance between the two, and Eliza found herself pregnant. It appears that Robert had left Ballinamore around this time, and was teaching in Ballyshannon, County Donegal. How frightened Eliza must have been to find herself pregnant and unmarried. According to A Social History of Ireland, 1870-1970:

Within the farming community, the plight of an unmarried girl who became pregnant was critical. With the emphasis on agreed or ‘matched’ marriages amongst those with land in post-Famine Ireland, the increased importance of female virtue was stressed, as ‘an unvirtuous daughter could be the ruination of an otherwise thrifty and farseeing man.’

Frequently girls were cast out by their families and forced to become vagrants, many resorting to the workhouse or prostitution. Women for whom a marriage partner could be found never fully redeemed the disgrace caused to themselves or their families.

We don’t know if Robert knew that Eliza was pregnant when he left Ballinamore, nor do we know when he came to find out. All we know is that at the time of her marriage, Eliza was listed as living in Dublin at 44 Lower Ormond Quay…which at the time was Glynn’s Hotel. Had her parents put her there to remove her from the eyes of the small village they lived in? Probably.

Robert was listed on his wedding documents as living on Church Avenue, Ballyshannon, County Donegal. The only thing on the tiny spur of a road that is Church Avenue is the Church of Ireland church and the accompanying C of I school.

Eliza was said to have a very sweet, accommodating personality. She was the eldest of 3 sisters. Her father, William Parke (age 55), was a prosperous farmer. Her mother, Elizabeth (also called Eliza) Taylor Parke, was about 37 when her 17-year-old daughter got pregnant and then married the schoolteacher, Robert Charles Colhoun.

No matter what he thought of the marriage, or of his daughter and Robert Colhoun, William Parke went to Dublin and witnessed their marriage. He was one of the two witnesses on their marriage document. The other was Sarah Haddock. We don’t know who she was. It is possible that she was the companion to Eliza. She needed some sort of chaperone in Dublin.

Robert was 24 and Eliza was 17 at the time of the wedding. Robert was listed as a Bachelor of ‘full age’; Eliza was listed as a Spinster and a Minor.

Did Eliza’s mother or sisters attend her wedding? We don’t know. What we do know is that Eliza never saw her family again. Either did Robert. They seem to have set sail for Canada immediately after the wedding. Their son, Charles Kingsley Calhoun, was born 16 days after their wedding, on 23 February 1872. He may have been born on the ship or he may have been born when they reached Canada. I have yet to find a record of his birth.

Irish Constabulary…

When I went to Ireland last month, I was really excited to spend some time at the National Archives in Dublin.  One of the things I wanted to do was find a certain Constable (who had married a great-great-aunt).  I had read that one could find RIC (Royal Irish Constabulary) records there, records that would tell where a constable was posted and when, their record of advancement, and when (and if) they were pensioned.

ROBERT HANLEY had married CATHERINE COLHOUN in Gortin, County Tyrone, 30 April 1867. He was listed as Constable on the marriage record…lucky for me because it gave me a place to look.  I wanted to know how long Robert had lived in Gortin, how long he lived there after his marriage, where he might have moved, if he stayed with the RIC…all these things I hoped would help me to find out if they had children.  These children might have had children and I was hoping there might actually be living descendants.

I did find Robert Hanley’s service records and there were some surprises.  First off, Robert was a LOT older than Catherine.  He was originally appointed to the Constabulary on 9 May 1848 when he was 23 years old.  That means he was born in 1825 and was 42 at the time of his marriage.  Catherine would have been 24 at the time of their marriage.

According to the record, Robert’s native county was Meath.

Robert’s first posting in 1848 was in County Clare.  He was there until  20 Feb 1855, when he went into the Reserve Force.  From what I understand, the Reserve Force  was formed to help the Constabulary in any part of the country, fighting rebellion.  That meant that Robert, as a young man, would have traveled a bit around Ireland…sounds like he had a pretty tough job.  By 1 Aug 1857, Robert began doing Revenue Duty.  He was made an A.C.,  Assistant Constable on 1 Aug 1859.  He was moved to County Tyrone on 8 May 1856.  He rose to the rank of Constable on 1 Sept 1860.

When Robert married Catherine, it provoked a relocation.  The Irish Constabulary (which became the Royal Irish Constabulary in that same year, 1867, in recognition of its help in the suppression of the Fenian Rising in that year) had a rule that a man could not serve in his home county, that of his wife, or in any where he or his wife had relatives.  So, on 1 Sept 1867, he was transferred to County Monaghan.  He began receiving extra pay on 1 Oct 1871.

The record shows that after 31 years and 1 month, on 16 June 1879, Robert retired and started receiving his pension of 75 pounds.

That was a lot of information to find. I know a lot more than I did.  I haven’t found any children for Robert and Catherine yet, but I will keep digging.