Vernon & District Family History Society

SHARING GENEALOGY KNOWLEDGE SINCE 1982

Biography of my Great Grandfather, John Passmore By Bob Passmore

The first record of the name Passmore in the "Book of Names" is 1199 AD, Richard Passmore AKA Passemer, origin French passe mere " to cross the sea" or seafarer, sailor, a type of surname common in both England and France.

The coat of arms displays “three water bougets GU". When translated the "blazen" describes three red water bags on a silver shield. Above the shield and helmet, with the eyepiece closed, is a silver stag, standing and gazing.

John Passmore, my Great Grandfather, is shown on the Baptisms Records at Landkey Parish page 36, item # 284, as being baptized at the Anglican Church Landkey, Devonshire, October 23, 1825, "illegitimate son of Mary Passmore", abode Landkey. The next record was obtained from the North Devon Record Office in Barnstaple. It is an Indenture of Apprenticeship, dated November 8, 1834, assigning John Passmore age 9 as an Apprentice to William Wedlake of Bradninch in the Parish of Landkey, Devon.

It is now widely accepted that the name of the village, Landkey, is derived from the Llan of Kea, 'Llan' is the south-western Brythonic (and Welsh) for an area of ground around a church or chapel, which in this case was Saint Kea's hermitage. Kea and a brother Celtic monk, Filia, are known to have worked together in the evangelisation of these parts, probably in the late 5th century. The coming of the Saxons often caused the changing of Celtic church dedications to those of more universally accepted and known saints. However, place names are more difficult to change. Thus Saint Kea's name persists in the village name of 'Landkey' and some 6 miles away Filia's name is contained in the village of 'Filleigh'. Today, the dedication of both parish churches is to St. Paul.

Landkey church, dedicated to Saint Paul, is an attractive building, entirely late 15th century, except for the chancel which was rebuilt in 1870. The interior is plastered and whitened throughout, with ceiled and bossed roofs, and possesses an elegant early perpendicular font dating from c.1400. The North aisle contains three stone effigies of the Beaupels, who held the manor of Landkey under the Bishop of Exeter.

The small South transept is the Acland Chapel, and contains a fine coloured monument to Sir Arthur Acland (d.1610) and his wife. The Aclands, one of the most notable of Devon families, originated within the parish at Acland Barton, from which they took their name in the time of King Henry II (1154-1189).

At the time John was born, a single mother who wished to give up her illegitimate child to the Parish, in order for the Parish to raise the child, was required to provide the name of the man who was the father of the child. Another requirement was that the mother must be a resident of the Parish. Mary, age 23, was born at Middlecott Farm near West Buckland about 2 miles from Landkey. Landkey was the commercial centre for the area and Mary likely obtained employment there as a housekeeper. William Wedlake would come to Landkey for business and shopping as there were no stores at Bradninch. The named father of an illegitimate child was then required to pay the Parish for the cost of the child's upbringing until the child was old enough to work. This was referred to as a “Bastardy Bond ".

I contacted the record office for North Devon about this but no record of this bond can be found. The Record Office stated that this is not unusual because many of these bonds were destroyed when the child was apprenticed out. This frequently occurred when the child reached an age of 7-10. The Record Office stated that it was common for the child to be apprenticed out to the natural father as named by the mother. The father would then be able to cease payments to the Parish. Under the terms of the Indenture dated November 8, 1834, William Wedlake was required to provide "sufficient meat, drink, apparel, lodging, washing and other things necessary for the "Apprentice" John Passmore age 9. John was required to work for his master without pay as an apprentice until he reached the age of 21. For this reason, I am showing William Wedlake as the likely father of John Passmore. A copy of said Indenture is in John Passmore's Journal.

John next appears on the 1841 Census for Bradninch, near Landkey, folio 11, page 17, age 15, as an apprentice living with William [age 50] and Mary {Vickery] Wedlake [age 45], along with their six natural children. The Wedlakes were married April 13, 1814 at Landkey # 7226301 # 10.

This is all confirmed by notes made by Samuel Hugh Passmore a son of George Passmore who was John Passmore's oldest child, those notes state that John was apprenticed to a farmer in Devon. These notes were read at the funeral of George Passmore in 1939. The Wedlake family included a son Thomas who was baptized August 16, 1825 at Landkey, the same year as John Passmore. The notes state that John got into a quarrel with one of the farmer's sons, likely Thomas, and beat him up, rather "severely". Did he kill Thomas? I don't know. He was 18 at the time (making it about 1844). John was tall and strong and fearing the consequences he decided to run away to avoid capture, he decided to leave England as quick as possible by the shortest route.

The notes state that John "hied" away to the nearest port, Plymouth, and managed to get a place as a sailor on a ship bound for Canada He very promptly disappeared when the ship docked in Canada. The next record of him is on the Canadian 1851 census. He is married to Elizabeth Pinnell. Nothing is known of his life and times during the period 1845 to 1851. He likely “covered his tracks" so that he couldn't be traced back to the 1844 incident in England. If caught, he could have been forced to return to Devon and possibly "transported" to Australia or be put in prison.

On the 1851 census for Chinquocousy, Albion Tp., Peel County, Upper Canada, I found Robert Pinnell age 49 with his wife Ann 52 and their single children David 24, Edwin 22, George 16 and Phebe 21, along with John Passmore 25 and his wife Elizabeth Passmore, 20, Elizabeth is the daughter of Robert Pinnell born March 27, 1831 in Brinkworth, Wilts. England. All are shown as members of Robert Pinnell's family. Nearby on the census is Robert's brother John Pinnell, with his wife Margaret and their family. Sarah Pinnell, age 13, is shown on that 1851 census for Chinquacousy as a servant to the Wlm. McKay family. Sarah is a daughter of John and Margaret Pinnell.

There is a marriage recorded on November 18 1851 at Chinquocousy, Albion Tp., Peel County Upper Canada between John Passmore and Ellen Pinnell both of Chinquocousy, by Rev. Boyle, witnessed by Thomas Sharp and George Mitchell. On the same date is the record of the marriage of Edward Pinnell to his cousin Pheobe Pinnell both of Chiquocousy also witnessed by Thomas Sharp and George Mitchell. Phoebe is a daughter of Robert Pinnell and Edward is a son of John Pinnell a brother of Robert. It is likely that these marriages took place earlier and were recorded on above dates. Because of the delayed entry of the marriage data in February 1852, it is also likely that Ellen's name was entered incorrectly and her correct name was actually Elizabeth Pinnell. The Rev. Boyle was a circuit minister for the Methodist Church at the time and didn't record data until he returned to his base church sometime later. This left lots of room for errors. This was when Upper Canada was a Colony of Britain before becoming Canada in 1867

There is no record of what happened to John's first wife, Elizabeth Pinnell or if any children resulted from this marriage.

Both Pinnell families and John Passmore moved to Kinlough in Kinloss Township, Bruce County, Ontario about 1852. When the families moved to Bruce County, Sarah lived with her parents, John and Margaret [Matthews] Pinnell, on the farm across the road from John's Passmore's homestead in Kinlough, Kinloss Township, Bruce County, Ontario, Lot 11 Concession 11. Just down the road was the Robert Pinnell family.

The exact date when John Passmore and the Pinnells arrived at Kinloss is not known. Some clues as to his arrival are found in the book " The History of the County of Bruce" written in 1906 by Norman Robertson, Bruce County Treasurer, who arrived in the area as a teenager in 1856 and kept detailed notes of his experiences and of his conversations with original pioneer settlers. This book, therefore, provides valuable firsthand information about the conditions which the early settlers faced.

The area was known as “Queen’s Bush". It was completely forested with dense groves of maple, ash and pine. Only a few bush trails had been hacked through the forest inland from Lake Huron. The first posting of the availability of land grants was made in 1848. The first settlers arrived in Kinloss in 1850 in the vicinity of “the black horse", now known as Silver Lake. This is where some of my Hayes Cousins currently live and where the annual family re-union takes place. Surveying of the dense bush was not completed until 1852.

The first census of 1851 was taken in the early spring but the census recorder encountered deep snow a few miles from Lake Huron and could not enter far inland into Kinloss Township. He was told that any settlers in the Kinlough area had evacuated for the winter. More settlers arrived in 1851 but the big influx did not occur until the completion of surveys in 1852.

I am assuming that John arrived about 1852 or 1853 with the large influx of settlers when he was about 27. I believe that the Pinnell family arrived about the time when Sarah was about 14. Contracts for the clearing of the nearby Durham Road were placed in 1852 and paid for by the Government of Upper Canada. This provided the early settlers with work and some necessary cash for supplies. The clearing contracts did not call for the removal of stumps or for the laying of any road surface. This meant that it was impossible for wagons to travel along the clearing. There were no horses in Kinloss at this time and only a few teams in Kincardine Tp. that is to the west towards Lake Huron. A few ox teams were in the area and these proved helpful to settlers who could afford to hire them to pull stumps.

Most settlers only had axes, shovels and grubbing hoes to clear the land and break the soil for planting their crops. Potatoes, turnips and some vegetables were planted in the rich soil around roots and stumps. No stores were nearby, so it was necessary to plant next winter’s food, move out for the winter or starve. The terms of obtaining a Patent to the land were the clearing of at least 12 acres within four years, the construction of a dwelling house of at least 18 x 24 Ft. and continuous occupation of the site. The dwelling was usually a flat roofed shanty covered with bows and bark. The walls were bark covered logs with “notch and saddle" corners filled with splints and clay. One door provided access and was usually made of cedar slabs. A grinding wheel, mounted on an outside wall, was a feature of most shanties as frequent sharpening of the axe was required. A primitive plow or harrow was made out of a crotch of a tree forming a "V ", the teeth being forged by the nearest blacksmith.

Penetrating the thick bush in search of available land was indeed daunting. Carrying in supplies was even harder. The primary mode of transport was by sleigh over both winter snow and summer mud around and over the stumps in the clearing for the Durham Road. The sleigh runners were hewed out of selected logs possessing the requisite curve and were thick enough to withstand the bumping over stumps and rocks. On top of the log frame a box was mounted with wooden pins and wedges. An axe was always carried to repair any breakdowns. Another conveyance was the "jumper". This was made out of ash saplings bent into the shape of a runner and pulled by hand, mostly in the summer. It was flexible enough to twist about trees and stumps.

When the first wheat became ripe, it was mowed by hand, stooked, dried then threshed by hand. This separated the grain from the chaff, with the grain filtering through a sieve into a container below. The first grist mill was opened in Kincardine Town, about twelve miles distant on the shore of Lake Huron. Cousin Burt Hayes tells of how his Great Grandfather hauled his grain to the mill. First he would throw a sack of grain over his back and lug it about 3/4 of a mile. Then go back for another sack and pack it 1/4 mile past the first sack. Then go back and get the other sack and haul it about a mile and then continue leap frogging until he reached the grist mill. The return trip was a little easier since the resulting flour only filled one bag.

By 1855 a rough road was laid on the Durham clearing by blasting and pulling up the stumps. Primitive bridges were built over streams and corduroy roads laid over swampy ground. Sink holes in the swamp were common and these could swallow a wagon if the settlers were not careful. Corduroy roads were built using small logs about 12 Ft. long, laid side by side to form a bumpy surface. The new road enabled the use of wagons, pulled by the few horses, which had been brought into the area in the last few years. Now that more settlers had arrived in the Township of Kinloss, side roads, paid for by the Township, were built, including the Kinlough road that connects to the Durham road that runs west to Kincardine and east to Durham. The building of these side roads was contracted out to nearby settlers which provided them with much needed cash.

About 1852 this primeval forest is what greeted 29 year old, John Passmore, and his future 44 year old father-in-law John Pinnell. They settled on adjoining lots in Kinlough, Kinloss Township. They were both from farming country in England so they were probably used to hard work but these conditions must have shocked them. Sarah, a daughter of John Pinnell and John Passmore's future wife, was only about 14 at the time. John would have set to work clearing land and chopping down trees for a shelter. Once his shelter was up, more land had to be cleared for planting his first vegetables and grain.

When Sarah Pinnell, the young girl next door, was about 18, she married John Passmore on September 24, 1856. The wedding date was included in the notes read at the funeral of George Passmore in 1939. There is no official record of the marriage of John to his first wife's cousin, Sarah Ann Pinnell. Local historians state that many marriages were not recorded during the 1850's in the wilds of Bruce County Ontario. A "circuit minister" would perform the marriage at the bride’s house and may or may not write it down in church records when he returned to his base of operations. Only about 75% were actually recorded No record of this marriage has been found. Their house was a small one story log house about 18 x 24 feet where their first child, George, was born on March 7, 1859.

In the 1860 Kinloss Agricultural Directory, John had cultivated 12 acres with 3 acres in pasture and 85 acres in bush. John and Sarah are shown on the Kinloss Township 1861 Census, at Kinlough Lot 11, Concession 11, with their first 2 children George and my Grandfather Edward. His wife, Sarah is shown as 21. The census shows that John's farm was 110 acres, 15 cultivated., 3 acres in pasture and 85 in wood, value $400. Next door is Simon Corrigan who built a saw mill and hotel on the SW corner of John's land.

In the Bruce County Directory for 1867, John is still shown on Con 11, lot 11, but the north eastern corner of the lot [size 6, likely 6 acres] is owned by Simon Corrigan. Simon is shown as Mill owner and Proprietor of Hotel, Kinlough. In John Passmore's Journal there is a picture of a mill and a Hotel [or large house] with the inscription “Simon Corrigan" plus some other unreadable words. The house is now the home of Joan Barr who is an author of the History of Kinloss and whom we visited on both trips to Kinlough.

With a sawmill next door, John would have been able to haul wood to the mill for both cash and to make into lumber to build himself a new barn and outbuildings. Ten years later, on the 1871 census, they are still in Kinlough with three additional children, religion - Wesleyan Methodist, living in their one story log house.

Sarah died August 15, 1876 leaving John with the six children, the youngest being Sarah Margaret 10 months and John Henry only 4. The death of Sarah Ann Is entry # 23 on the coroner's report- cause of death, enlargement of Liver 15 Aug, 1876, age 39. Her burial site is not known.

To improve his finances, John took out a mortgage for $400 on one half of the farm (50 acres north 1/2 lot Con. 11, lot 11) with National Investment Co. of Canada on Dec. 20, 1876 -Dec. 29, 1876. On May 30 1881, he sold the remaining 49 acres to a Mr. MacDonald for $600. This was likely done to raise money in order to feed his family. In spite of occupying the land since 1852, it was only ceded to him from the crown January 1877. Perhaps when the first mortgage was registered in 1876, it was found that he had never obtained title to the land, so he went about registering it in January 1877. It was not uncommon for settlers to delay applying for patent title for their land, because of the cost and the distance to either Southampton or Durham where patents were recorded. The settlers had squatters’ rights to the unregistered land.

Between 1876 when Sarah died and 1881, John likely had a stroke or some sort of a breakdown which resulted in the notation on the 1881 Kinlough census that he was “deaf and dumb". He was likely unable to work the farm or earn an income. His need for money is apparent by the mortgaging and splitting up his property in 1876/7. He retained only 50 of his original 100 acres. This disability and apparent need of money, may explain the entry In the Index of Deaths, Kinloss Twp. “John Passmore # 134 , Dead by hanging from a ladder, in Anglican Church Kinlough, 14 July 1882. D.A. McCrimmon Coroner 23-7-1882."

Image - John & Sarah Passmore John & Sarah Passmore.jpg

The only known picture of John and Sarah is faded and damaged. He is sitting and Sarah is standing. He appears to be a tall handsome man with deep set eyes, a high forehead and no apparent beard or mustache.

His will, drawn up three months before his death in July of 1882, named Nathaniel Pinnell (the brother of his late wife) as Executor. In it he left one Dollar each to his sons George and Edward and his daughter Mary Jane, all of whom were over 18 and not living with John at the time of his death. The net proceeds of the estate were to be used to support his three younger children, John Henry, Ann Marie and Margaret Ellen. The value of the estate was estimated at $277.00. The mortgaging and selling of the property which took place in 1876 and 1881 must have reduced the value of his estate to almost nothing because the property was taken over by the Village of Kinlough on April 1st 1883, likely for lack of payment of taxes.

I have not been able to find out who raised the three youngest children but it was likely the Pinnell family next door. Ann Marie was married by the time that the 1891 census was taken and Sarah Margaret Ellen was living as a lodger with her older married sister Mary Jane Black on the 1891 Kinloss Census. John Henry can't be found on the 1891 census but he was married in Bervie in 1892 and had two children. His wife and two children are on the 1901 census with his older brother George and his family near Glammis, Ontario. George's wife was a sister to John's Henry's wife.

I would like to assume that both George, age 22, and my Grandfather, Edward Passmore, age 21, who were elsewhere working when the 1881 census was taken, were contributing to the upkeep of the family while their father was disabled and at home with three young children. Also that the reason for their small $1.00 inheritance was because they were earning their own income and that the greater need was for the three young children. I would hope that the reason was not that they had been disinherited because of a family problem as mentioned in the Lucknow Sentinel article relating to the inquest to his death. This article indicates that he was an angry old man who had driven his family away.

I looked up the 1901 census for John's homestead and found that there was a Methodist Church on lot 11 Con 11, seating Cap. 150 with a Sunday School with 40 seats. There is also a 10 room building on 3/4 of an acre. This could be Simon Corrigan's Hotel now the home of Joan Barr.

One thing that is common to almost all of my ancestors, including John Passmore and John Pinnell, is that they could not read or write. They emigrated from the most advanced and powerful nation at the time and yet received almost no education there. The British Empire was at its apex at this time. They arrived in an undeveloped country in the back woods and had to suffer through extreme difficulties in order to survive and raise their families. Yet one of the first things they did was donate land to the Township for the building of schools and supplied lumber and labour. They served on boards which developed the schools and brought in teachers. This promoted the rapid increase in literacy in Upper Canada with the result that improved technology was established on Canadian farms and later in the business community. This technological improvement surpassed any corresponding improvement in England during the same period and for many years to come. We all owe a great deal to them for their determination to improve the standard of living for their families in Canada that was not available to their lower class ancestors in England.

John Passmore took his own life by hanging himself from a ladder in the Anglican Church of Ascension at Kinlough just a few hundred yards from his homestead. The Coroner's report is in his file. There is no record of his burial. In any case he could not be buried in consecrated ground because of the circumstances of his death.

His was a very eventful but extremely sad and short life. Several hundred descendants owe their existence to John and Sarah. When you look at the war records of some of them, including my dad and brother, his descendants contributed greatly to our present wonderful freedom and democracy!