Jesse and Phoebe Durham by Lorna Carter

Jesse Durham was born in 1812 to John and Mary Durham of the Niagara District; he was the grandson of James and Eve Durham; he served in the Rebellion of 1837-38; lived on Lot 19, Concession 11 (2) in Clinton Township, Lincoln County, Canada West in 1842; belonged to the Disciples Church; was a farmer/farm labourer; and had a wife named Phoebe. As there were no children listed for them on the 1842 census, or any thereafter, Jesse and Phoebe seemed a childless couple. However, family connections must have been strong, as many family members paid this couple the compliment of naming children after each of them. Jesse died between the 1861 and the 1871 Censuses, for Phoebe appeared as a widow on the latter.

A childless couple does not produce new leaves on the family tree and, as such, does not receive much notice from researchers. No books on the Durham Family that I have seen show the maiden name of Jesse’s wife, Phoebe, however I believe that she was born Phoebe Crawley.

In 1871 Phoebe Durham lived with Maria Ransbury in the home of Margaret House, widow and tailoress of Clinton Township. They may have been employees in Margaret’s tailoring business. Phoebe Crawley and Maria Ransbury would have been aunt and niece. On this census Phoebe declares her religion as Presbyterian (not Disciple) and her origins as Irish. In 1881 there was a Phoebe Goodman (same age as P. Durham) in the home of Jesse Durham Ransbury and family. The 1891 census finds Phoebe visiting John Weston Ransbury and his wife Anna Crawley, Phoebe’s sister. I have decided that Phoebe was visiting for these two censuses as they list her status as “married”. The only Goodman I can find in the area at that time is Reuben, born about 1810, widowed by 1859, with his children flown from the nest by 1881. Phoebe was about the same age as Reuben’s deceased wife, Hannah.

Through three censuses Phoebe Durham / Goodman is listed with members of the Ransbury family. The significance of this is that it leads us to Phoebe’s maiden name – Crawley. If so, she was the daughter of John Crawley and Mary Adair. From her Adair and Crawley lines Phoebe would have had Irish roots. As a daughter in this family she would be linked to the Ransbury Clan through her sister, Anna, who married John Weston Ransbury, making her the aunt of their children.

Image - Clinton Township highlighted in green on an 1818 map

Clinton Township highlighted in green on an 1818 map

What could have brought Jesse Durham and Phoebe Crawley together? Both lived in Clinton Township; on the 1842 census Jesse had a share in Lot 19 Concession 11 (2); John Crawley (father of Phoebe) had Lot 22 Broken Front (the lakefront); James Durham, the half-brother of Jesse had Lot 23 Broken Front. John Adair, in his position as Clerk of the Township, would likely have had dealings with many families, including Durham. Adair, Crawley, and Durham were amongst the early settlers of Niagara/Lincoln. It is quite probable that these young people would have had abundant opportunities to socialize.

When I first spotted Phoebe as Goodman on the 1881 census, I was shattered. There goes my carefully explained theory up in smoke! But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made that two people who had been widowed for a decade or more should seek companionship. Therefore, I am sticking with my original case for Jesse and Phoebe Durham. One should note that, though Phoebe was buried as Phoebe Durham, this does not preclude her being most recently, Phoebe Goodman. After all, she had been Phoebe Durham longer than she had been Phoebe Goodman. Jesse’s grandmother did something similar (according to some sources). After being Mrs. James Durham for several years, she was buried, not as Eve Brine/Bryant, but as Eve Durham! Phoebe died in the Lincoln County Home on 12 April 1902.

The Ransbury Connection: John Weston Ransbury and Anna Crawley named a son Jesse Durham Ransbury. To learn why we must follow the Crawley line. Anna’s (and Phoebe’s) parents were John Crawley and Mary Adair. Anna married John Weston Ransbury. The latter couple produced Rosanna, Jesse Durham, Maria, and Phoebe, among others. Phoebe Durham would have been an aunt of these Ransbury siblings.

The Barber Connection: Rosanna Ransbury married Jonathan Barber and named a son Jesse Durham Barber. Charles Barber, (another son of Rosanna and Jonathan) and his wife, Lettie Culp, named their youngest son (born 1902) Jesse, but gave him the middle name Ratcliffe after the doctor who delivered him. Their son Charles Lloyd’s youngest son was Edward Jesse. Charles and Lettie’s son John Henry and his wife Roxy Belrose had three sons and named the second Jesse (middle name unknown). If there are more Jesses from these later gene-rations, I am unaware of them.

So while childless, Jesse and Phoebe Durham, if I am correct in my surmising, have left their marks and names to be carried on. Have I built a convincing case? Why else would generations of Ransburys, Barbers, and possibly other conn-ected families, name children after these two people?

Families do matter, and there is usually a logical reason for naming practices, once you put the facts together in the right order!

!!! News Flash!!! I am happy to add that I can now prove my theory (although originally I had Phoebe born Adair instead of Crawley). A new contact, William Jackson, has sent me the marriage certificate of Phoebe Durham and Reuben Goodman. The bride and bridegroom were both widowed. Phoebe’s parents were John and Mary Crawley. We now know that Jesse Durham married Phoebe Crawley.