By Caitlan M., Research & Publication Co-ordinator
In 2013 the museum received a box of jumbled up letters, receipts, and other pieces of papers which turned out to be a truly amazing donation as these papers were either written by or sent to a Henry family member. This became known as the Thomas Henry Correspondence Collection. Since receiving this collection, the idea of using the collection to help further understand the lives of the Henry family was always there but the time and resources were not available then.
Jump forward to a few months ago, a grant was received to hire a person to go through and create an annotated book. However, this book will only focus on the letters from a family member to family member. The idea is to go through and give the letters context; explaining the other names throughout the letter, the location from where it was sent from, any business ventures and all the other details.
For example there is a letter written from Thomas Simon (T.S.) and John Henry to their father, Thomas Henry. It was written in September of 1879, the sons mention they were not able to attend the Toronto Exhibition and later in the letter make a point of saying Thomas was there “to enjoy the Old Pioneer conflab.” This is all really interesting as the Canadian National Exhibition or CNE was originally called the Toronto Industrial Exhibition and its opening year was in 1879. Although his sons mention that Thomas was only at the exhibition to enjoy a conversation with the York Pioneers; a group of men formed to preserve York County’s early history, a history Thomas would have been a part of since he was a substitute in the War of 1812. The York Pioneers were at the Toronto Exhibition as they were moving a log cabin – the Scadding Cabin (originally known as Simcoe Cabin,) to its now permanent home.
I have also been making a point at looking at census records to see how the family continued to move around. Take George Guy, grandson to Thomas Henry, we have two letters written by him – from 1878 and 1879, both are written from Winnipeg. George was born in East Whitby, he headed west to find work sometime around 1878 and was able to purchase land in Morris, Manitoba. What’s interesting about him is two things happen in most of the census records; his location changes and his occupation changes.
- 1881 Census: Location: Morris, Manitoba. Occupation: Cultivator
- 1891 Census: Location: Morris, Manitoba. Occupation: Gram Buyer
- 1905 Census: Location: Buffalo Ward 25, Erie, N.Y. Occupation: Carpenter
- 1910 Census: Location: Buffalo Ward 17, Erie, N.Y. Occupation: Watchman – public school
- 1920 Census: Location: Buffalo Ward 12, Erie, N.Y. Occupation: Engineer – public school
- 1925 Census: Location: Buffalo Ward 12, Erie, N.Y. Occupation: Janitor
- 1935 George dies, buried in Buffalo.
Although I am unsure why George moved around so much, I can’t help but wonder if it was to move closer to his new occupations.
The book will be published sometime in 2018 with the transcriptions of each of the letters and all of the annotations.
Transcription of above letter:
Postcard sent to Thomas Henry from T.S. and J. Henry (punctuation added during transcription)
Georgetown Sept. 8th 79
I am here today with Thomas. We are both well and healthy. We hope you are awe well as could be expected considering your age. I did attend the Toronto exhibition but expected to go to Ottawa the week after next. No doubt you was at Toronto to enjoy the Old Pioneer conflab to see Lawrence and the Princess and you could look ? on the Bay and imaginette great chougesuce(?) 1812 when you was a big boy in tall muddy York as you called it an you have a log cabin in the ? city. Did you see it? I understood it is well put ?
*If you can add to this transcription or note any corrections, please leave a comment.