December 2022 Branch Update

Preserving. Educating. Promoting. 

Monthly newsletter, e-TRAILS,  to the Family History Community.
Greetings members and friends of Essex Branch,

December is upon us and so too the busiest time of year. We hope you plan to spend time with the people who are important to you. We wish you a wonderful December and hope you have time squeeze in a little genealogy.

Is your membership expiring soon? Want to learn more about family history and have access to thousands of Essex County records? Then now is the time to renew to continue on with all the great benefits of membership OR join for the first time. To learn more, go to the Ontario Ancestors WEBSITE

We wish to send you a warm welcome to new members to Essex Branch. We look forward to getting to know you and your research interests.

We hope you find this communication interesting and helpful. As always, we encourage you to browse our Essex Branch WEBSITE and join our Essex Branch FACEBOOK GROUP for more resources, guidance and information.
Educational Opportunities 
Ontario Ancestor’s November Presentation
Thursday, December 1, 2022 (7:00 P.M.)

TOPIC: When You Do not Sync – Tracking Your Documents Between Online Trees and Desktop Software

SPEAKER: Linda Debe
Keeping up with the enormous number of documents and images from Ancestry and other
pay sites can be overwhelming. Attendees will learn how to use a simple but effective process to see at a glance what items have been downloaded, or what documents have been entered into a genealogy program that doesn’t sync with Ancestry. Now genealogists can see everything on each person’s profile page.
For more information and to register, click HERE.

Essex Branch Presentations 

Our monthly educational presentations are held virtually. Our presentations are free and open to the public. Simply register at the links below.
Don’t forget that past presentations have been recorded and archived for you on our
YouTube Channel  which is free and open to everyone. 

DATE: February 15, 2023, Wednesday (7:00 P.M.)
TOPIC: DNA Does Not Lie
Jane Teskey has been using DNA testing for many years to assist with her family history research. Along the way, Jane has encountered results which range from interesting to shocking. She will discuss potential results that your family may not be ready for.
Everyone is welcome to join us virtually. Register HERE.

Additions to Our Family History Collection
at The Windsor Public Library, Local History Branch
Hopefully you know that the Essex County Branch has a collection of books, maps, family histories, documents, records, etc. which is housed at the Local History Branch of the WPL (Brock Street, Windsor).  Now that the libraries have reopened, and business is pretty much “back to normal,” you can visit our collection in person. There have been a few new additions to the collection that you might want to look at. They include:

355.3 Deaths
WWI & II Essex
The Masonic War Dead of the Essex County District during the Twentieth Century
Lotz, Gene Alfred, Very Worshipful Brother Reverend

931.1 Johnson
Grayer Family Genealogy
Johnson, Edward Milo

921.7 Johnson
The Mystery of New Canaan: An Early Black Settlement of Colchester Township
Johnson, Edward Milo

We realize not everyone lives local or can get to the library in person so for the past few years we have been focusing on building and expanding a section on our website for members to access from home, no matter where you live. This is one of the benefits to membership. Recently, the My Centennial Ancestor Project material has been added to this area, called the Members’ Library.

Several years ago, Essex County Branch partnered with the city of Windsor to promote this certification project. Applicants were required to provide evidence to qualify for this certificate. We have provided an excerpt from the project applicant kit below and the research/evidence provided by applicants has been archived in our Members’ Library. There are 10 volumes and each packed with approximately 500 pages of information (groups sheets, family histories, photos, church records, funeral cards, marriage certificates, baptismal certificates, obituaries, etc.) Have a browse in the Members’ Library OR check out the index in our Featured Resource section on our Home page. Anyone can search the index HERE.




1892 Windsor Centennial Ancestor Certificate

My Centennial Ancestor

Military History in a Small Cottam Building

That small log building close to County Road 3 at the easterly edge of Cottam could tell us much about area history if it could reveal its secrets. Said by some to be the oldest building in the Cottam area, it played a role in Gosfield North’s military history. There was a company known as the North Ridge Rifles and the men stored the powder for their muskets in the basement of that little building. 

Since the Essex Free Press of July 1898 lists the surviving members of the North Ridge Rifles after the Fenian Raids, we know it is more than 100 years old since the raids began in 1871. As for the North Ridge Rifles, it is reported that it was formed because the people of this area were afraid the border would not be protected during the Civil War of 1861 to 1865. The mayor of Windsor wrote to the Governor General of Canada to ask for two companies of soldiers and a battery artillery to be sent to Windsor as defense of the border. Apparently, there were a large number of volunteers from surrounding communities. 

In December 1861, Squire W. H. BILLING was appointed to form a company of soldiers. It became the North Ridge Rifles and was composed of the tallest men with the best shooting skills. Steven G. BROOKER was the first to enlist. Later Squire BILLING received commission as captain. 

It is interesting to note that Squire BILLING, as church warden of Trinity Anglican Congregation, was assisting with plans for a church building. He held a meeting to discuss the plans at his home in August 1865. Much of the construction labor was done by volunteers but the Fenian Raids, according to Gosfield North Township history, interrupted the work. 

Why the soldiers kept their powder for their musket’s loaders in the basement of the little building is not known. Nor do we know where the men met for training. Since the company name is North Ridge, we assume they did not meet at the site of this building since it is east of Cottam.  

The Free Press has a list of those who lived on Talbot Road in Gosfield North Township in 1860 and 1861, as written by William MILLEN of Cottam. It was handed to his grandson, W. A. MILLEN in 1905 who gave it to the Free Press in 1960. 

We cannot list the names here because we are not able to read some of them. We do see that William E. WAGSTAFF owned the northwest part of 268, on the south side of Talbot Road. Mrs. Elton FLINT, who now lives on the property where this little building stands, told the Free Press that a Major from the English Army obtained the farm as Crown land and that his name was WAGSTAFF. 

This record we have of 1860 says that W. E. WAGSTAFF named the village (or hamlet) Cottam after a village in England. It reports also that WAGSTAFF was the first Cottam postmaster. This record contradicts the “legend” in the Gosfield North history that a young Indian caught a deer where the two roads, (Belle River and Talbot) intersected and yelled, “Got ‘em,” and that is how Cottam got its name. 

If we may digress here, MILLEN’s report of 1860 says Squire BILLING surveyed the north part of lot 275 into village lots and named it North Ridge. Also it states that the Squire was the first postmaster of that hamlet. His further claim is that North Ridge had the first post office in the north part of Gosfield.  

MILLEN reported there were no settlers in Gosfield south of Talbot Road. However, his prior paragraph affirms his list to be of parties who own the land on Talbot Road in the Township of Gosfield North in the years 1860 and 1861. Do we interpret that to mean there were no settlers on the south side other than those who lived along Talbot Road? 

He went on to write, “All there was living in Gosfield North, north of Talbot Road, was Mrs. William BROOKER, John BROOKER and Stephen BROOKER.” He continues to define lots owned on the 9th concession, mentioning David HENSMAN, William MILLEN (presumably himself) John MILLEN, Charles and William HELKIE and two others which we cannot decipher. 

Then the writer notes that the Belle River Road in 1861 was opened for 1 1/2 miles from Talbot Road and he added that Benjamin GALL kept the first store in the township. We are not certain the first letter of the surname is G. 

MILLEN concluded his report with, “There are only eight descendants of the owners of the lands on Talbot Road in North Gosfield in 1860 that own any of those lots on Talbot Road today.” Unfortunately, he never indicated the date when he wrote this report. 

That was a long digression. Now back to the little building when Major WAGSTAFF owned the land. He grew grapes and stored the wine he made in the cellar. He passed the farm to Arthur FLINT who in turn left it to Elton FLINT. It is Mrs. Elton FLINT who gave us the story of the little old building which led to all this rambling about history of Cottam and North Ridge.  

She tells us that the rear of the farm was the swampy home of reptiles and fur-bearing animals. Some of the animals were trapped and sent to Windsor alive, in crates, on the Leamington-Windsor street railway to be sold for their fur. And there is another story for another time.  

This article appeared in the Essex Free Press newspaper on January 5, 1994.

Norma Bridgen-Sandor has granted permission to share some of her Cottam connections. Norma descends from the BRIDGEN and QUEEN families, early inhabitants of the community of Cottam in Essex County.

Alonzo Wilson BRIDGEN, Norma’s great-grandfather, was born on July 14, 1857, in Frontenac, Ontario, the son of Samuel Henry BRIDGEN and Ann FORD. Samuel Henry along with a brother Robert may have immigrated to Frontenac from Armagh, Ireland. Alonzo’s siblings were: Mary (1830-1911), Margaret Jane (1836-1930), Sarah Melissa (1840-1913), James Ford (1842-1922), Samuel Ford (1845-1912), Isabella (1846-?), Matilda Adaline (1849-1914), Esther Aletha (1852-1923), and Ellen “Nellie” M. (1854-1892). By 1882, Alonzo was living in Colchester North, Essex County, Ontario and had married Jennet QUEEN, from Maidstone, Essex County, on August 30, 1882, in Essex Centre, Colchester North. Alonzo and Jennet’s wedding portrait is below.
Jennet QUEEN, Norma’s great-grandmother, was born on September 17, 1864, in Maidstone, Ontario, the daughter of Andrew McDowall QUEEN and Meney “Minnie” Ann STEWART from Scotland. Sources suggest the surname may have originally been McQUEEN. Norma has been able to trace her QUEEN/McQUEEN line back to the Portpatrick Parish in Wigtown/Wigtownshire, Scotland to around the 1770s. Perhaps the family dropped the “Mc” when they emigrated from Scotland around the 1860s. Jennet’s siblings were: Robert (1857-1925), Margaret Jane (1859-1876), John Stewart (1861-1948), David S. (1863-1946), Mary (1866-1872), William (1868-1943), Meney “Minnie” (1871-1957), Lyman Whelan (1873-1958), and Andrew (1875-1968).
Above photo: Andrew and Meney (STEWART) QUEEN’s family. Back row left to right: Andrew, David, Lyman (seated), Andrew McDowall (in wall portrait), and Johnny QUEEN; seated front row left to right: Jennet, Will (bachelor), Meney (STEWART) QUEEN, Meney Ann, and Robert QUEEN. 
Alonzo and Jennet raised their family in a small log cabin on Lot 5, Concession 8, of the former Gosfield North Township. Norma currently lives on this family property and the log cabin still stands. Norma shares this photo of the cabin. 
Above: Portrait of Alonzo Wilson BRIDGEN and Jennet (QUEEN) BRIDGEN’s family. Back row left to right: Andrew John BRIDGEN, Minnie (BRIDGEN) TICE with husband, George TICE, Mary, Samuel “Sam”; front row left to right: Ester, Robert “Bob”, Alonzo Wilson, William “Bill”, and Jennet (QUEEN) BRIDGEN.
Norma descends from Alonzo and Jennet’s son Andrew John BRIDGEN who married Ethel May HAGGINS (Below left), whose son, Delmer Leroy BRIDGEN married Ila Evelyn McLEAN (Below right), Norma’s parents. Norma’s mother had a collection of family photos, documents, clippings, certificates, funeral cards, etc. The information Norma shared with us is a work in progress and she notes that there may be more information found or to add. She would like to connect with any other researchers connected to the BRIDGEN or QUEEN lines at [email protected]. We are grateful that Norma has shared a bit of her family history with us. Thank you, Norma. 
Cottam, December. 27, 1899
Walter JAMES has returned from the south.
Cecil JACKSON will leave next Tuesday for Minneapolis, where he expects to find employment.
Bob MILLEN is all smiles over his Christmas present – a baby girl!
Mrs. Henry SPEECHLEY had the misfortune to fall and break her arm just above the wrist last Saturday. Dr. J. W. BRIEN reduced the fracture.
Among those spending Christmas here are: Will HILL of Chicago, Laura THIBEDEAU and Edith JAMES of Alma College, Henry SEXTON of Windsor, and George LOYST of Napanee.
Will TILLEY and Jesse WHITE are the only two from Cottam going to South Africa if they can pass the muster.
A quiet wedding took place on Christmas day when Robert HOLT was married to Miss Amy SEDGWICK, daughter of John F. SEDGWICK, both of Cottam.
Court Cottam I. O. F. will meet on Saturday night. All members are requested to be present.
On Friday evening last a number of the younger members of the English Church went to the home of John F. SEDGWICK and presented Miss Amy with a handsome clock and rocking chair as a token of the kindness she has shown in playing the church organ of late years. Dancing was kept up till a late hour when all dispersed to their several homes.
Walter NOBLE was elected trustee for S. S. No. 15 today. A. FLINT is retiring.
Another wedding in Cottam last night, Mr. MOORE of Leamington and Miss GASCOYNE of Olinda. 
Source: The Evening Record December 29, 1899, page 7.

Cottam, December 19, 1900
Mrs. Thomas WAGONER is on the sick list.
Mrs. James BAIN left on Monday for Guelph, receiving a telegram that her father, Robert JOHNSON, was not expected to live, having received a paralytic stroke.
Gosfield North Grits intend giving an oyster supper and banquet on the evening of January 9. Prominent speakers will be present, and a good programme will be given.
The Christmas entertainment, of the M. S. S., will be given in the town hall on Monday evening next. All are invited.
Leroy PHILLIPS of Olinda has purchased the HANES farm on the B. R. R. The price paid was $2,250.
E. MARKS and John SMITH are busy pressing hay in this neighborhood.
Frank WHITE of the Leamington Business College spent Sunday at home.
At the raffle last week William CLARK won a three-dollar rooster, and the next day the dear bird was killed in a scrap.
Alvin KAY had the misfortune to get his ankle badly sprained on Saturday. He is able to be out on crutches.
Source: The Evening Record December 20, 1900, page 3.
In the December 27, 1894, issue of The Evening Record on page 2 (below) we noticed mention of “BROOKER” as a location in the local news column right after the COTTAM news. We found this interesting as the BROOKER family is mentioned in the article Military History in a Small Cottam Building. A google search revealed the Brooker Baptist Church which is still functioning after more than 140 years. You can read a bit about the church history HERE.
If you have ancestors from the Cottam and/or Brooker area, we would be interested in hearing about them. Email us at [email protected].

We hope you enjoyed this issue and as always, we welcome your comments and feedback and of course, any family photos, documents or information you might have to share. 

Finally, we wish to acknowledge that the land on which we gather, live, work and play is the traditional territory of the Three Fires Confederacy of the Ojibway, Odawa and Potawatomi peoples and Huron/Wendat peoples. 

From the Ontario Ancestors – Essex County Branch Operating Team
Pat Clancy                     Cindy Robichaud
Michele Watson             David Hutchinson
Linda Urquhart               Tammy Richards
David Thompson

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