Family lore has Daniel Cameron heading to Canada at sixteen, probably with monetary help from the Baptist church, for its hard to imagine that he could afford his own passage. Somehow our young protagonist landed in the tiny hamlet of Clarence, Ontario where he got a job with a lumber company. To begin with he hiked deep into the Canadian woods with an Indian guide to mark trees. He also did plenty of actual cutting:
Daniel Cameron second from left
Clarence was a small community that had been going since the 18th century and as was the case in most Ontario towns most of the people were either Scottish or French. There were few enough people around so that intermarriage between French Catholics and Scottish Protestants was common, albeit the conversion always seemed to favor the Protestants. As it happened Daniel fell for the product of one such marriage, a lovely girl, Susan Louisa Blais, the daughter of Fabien Blais and Louisa Taylor. The Blais children were brought up Baptist and even Fabien himself eventually converted. Now Fabien’s wife, Louisa Taylor, was the daughter of Isaac Whitney Taylor (b. 1791 in Massachusetts) and Elizabeth Thompson (b. 1804 in Ireland) and one of twelve children. Three of her sisters — Elizabeth, Susan, and Anna — married three Scottish brothers, William, James, and John Erskine. After Louisa Taylor married Fabien Blais, they bought a farm next to James and Susan Erskine.
Fabien Blais and his wife Louisa Taylor had nine children, of whom four died before they could marry. In 1868 Louisa and her two year old son, William, died within 10 days of each other, some say of Diphtheria, others of Smallpox. Grief stricken, Fabien sold the family farm and moved to Nepean with some of his children. He left his daughters, Susan and Laura, with their uncle and aunt, James and Susan Erskine, who raised them. All of the Erskine children died young so the girls filled a void. Tragedy struck again when their brother, Edwin James Blais, fell through the ice on the Ottawa River as he was crossing alone to go to a New Year’s Eve party in 1880.
It gives me shivers just to think about it! Susan’s elder sister, Elizabeth, married Duncan McIntyre, who was a witness at Susan’s and Daniel’s marriage. He and Daniel Cameron were best friends. After Elizabeth was killed in a buggy crash, Duncan married another sister, Laura, who survived until 1909. Life was fragile and it is no wonder that the small community was full of devout Baptists.
The Clarence Baptist church in 1991
Daniel and Duncan McIntyre, who was reportedly a delightful if unsteady sort, attempted to open a grist mill and store, but the business soon went bust through McIntyre’s mishandling (or so I understand from neutral sources). Hardworking Daniel learned his lesson and that was the last time he attempted such a business venture. He went straight back to the lumber company where he became a clerk. After the financial scare, life settled down. Daniel and Susan had a daughter Leila Erskine in 1885, a son James Erskine in 1892, and a daughter Hazel Stuart in 1897. The year Hazel was born my great grandfather Daniel was promoted and moved to Burlington VT. The family joined him within a year and it was there that their youngest son, my grandfather, Daniel Herbert Hilton Cameron was born June 17, 1900.
Stay tuned for the next installment, in which Daniel senior becomes treasurer of the Robinson-Edwards lumber company, buys a nice house, and becomes a naturalized American citizen.