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Sunday, May 12, 2013


The Chambers family of NB, NS, NJ, MA

There is another family that may have moved to Nova Scotia from Westchester, NY because they too, were Loyalists. Not much information has been uncovered concerning this family and how they came to be in Nova Scotia. There are other possibilities. This family, the Chambers, may have come from MA when the lands were opening up as free grants in Canada. At least one family by this name went to Hants County, NS.  Still another possibility is that they came directly from Scotland or Yorkshire, again, when the free land grants were available. So far nothing evidentiary has come to light. It has also been suggested that this name was Chalmers, originally, eventually becoming Chambers through a variety of misspellings and mispronunciations.

My grandmother was born Alvina Chambers in New Brunswick. Her father was lost at sea when she was 7 years old. Her Chambers grandparents had already moved or were soon to move to Bath ME. Her grandfather, James Chambers, was a ship builder and was following the industry as it grew bigger and stronger in the USA. The age of iron ships was booming and the building of wooden ships in Dorchester NB was dwindling rapidly. The economy in Dorchester was obviously affected by this. Thus began a time when many young people left for the Boston States, as it seemed to be called when you moved to New England. This must have been a horrible time for my gt. grandmother, Rebecca Cole Chambers. She also had a son, Percy, who was a year and 4 mos. old when his father was lost at sea. My grandmother told the story that the insurance man was at the house when someone came from the docks to tell Alexander that the Arabella was ready to set sail and the tide was right. He had to leave in a hurry saying he would sign the insurance papers when he got back. My gt. grandmother and children stood on the hill and watched his ship sail over the horizon, never knowing they would never see it or any of the people on board again. Because the insurance papers had not been signed, Rebecca and her small children were left with no means of income.

We don’t know how she managed as my grandmother was too young to be aware of ‘grown-up’ things, but it would seem that Rebecca probably received help from her family. She wasn’t alone in this crisis as her older sister, Lucinda, who had married William E. Buck, also lost her husband on that voyage. Life wasn’t done with hurling abuse at Rebecca, however. In April 1889, her 2 ½ year old son died of Scarlet Fever. At some point, Rebecca and Alvina went to Bath ME to live with the Chambers family. We aren’t certain how long they stayed there as Rebecca appears in the 1891 Canadian census as a housekeeper for a family in Sackville, NB.  Sometime in the 1890’s Rebecca moved to East Boston MA to live with her sister, Mame.  From there it was a quick step to the developing town of Winthrop, where my grandmother married and raised a family.

What we know of the Chambers is, at best, incomplete. As always I would love input from anyone who may have more information on this family.  Please tell me of any flaws or inaccuracies that might be found.

What has become a work in progress, to be verified, changed, edited, deleted begins with a man named Robert Chambers. He was probably alive between 1750 and 1820. There is an entry in the Grantbook Database for a Robert Chambers (Vol. A, page 139 Grant #92) showing the original province of registration was Nova Scotia, registration date 1784/10/15 and New Brunswick registration date 1784/12/27, for 200 acres. The location was in Meductic, Sunbury Co. and the comment says Delancy’s 1st Battalion. There is no way to determine if this is the Robert who married Margaret or a totally different Robert. The Robert known as ‘the Old Soldier’ was married to a woman named Margaret, nee unknown. It seems apparent they had a son named Samuel (1783-1873), who was married to Sarah Jane McBurnie.  Records show they had children all born in NS:

*Robert (c. 1805-bef.1871)
James (1807-?)  b. in Wallace Bridge, NS
Samuel (1813-1896)
Daniel (1815-1881)
David (1820-?)
William (1821-?)
Edward (1821-?)
Catherine (1822-?)
John (1823-1904)
Thomas (1830-?)

Robert (1805-1871) m. Catherine whose last name I have seen written three different ways.  There is Millard, Millar and Miller to choose from. The difficulty was that I found families listed using all three spellings, all in the same time frame and all in roughly the same location. Since the early census reports usually only report head of household and not any names of children, I haven’t been able to sort out which family name should be hers.
Robert and Catherine had children:

          Edward (1826-1918) m. 1852 Eliza Leggett (1826-1884) – 9 children
          **James. C.  (1830-1913) m. 1852 Sarah McPherson (1831-1913)  
                              – 8 children
          George (1834-?)
          Elizabeth (1836-?)
          Margaret (1838-?)
          John (1839-?)
          Sarah (1842-?)
          Robert (c. 1845-1891) m. 1870 Bridget Delahunt (1854-1891) -6 children

**James, C.  (1830-1913) m. 1852 Sarah McPherson (1831-1913)
James and Sarah settled in Dorchester NB, sometime after 1855, as their first son, Alexander, was b. in 1855 in Wallace, NS. James (age 20) and his brother Edward (22) show up in the 1850 census for Bath ME. They were living in the Dwyer household as mariners. This must have been a boarding house as there were several people living there not related to the Dwyers. James and Sarah  had gone to Dorchester so that James could work as a ship’s carpenter.
James and Sarah had children:

                    ***Alexander (1855-1887 lost at sea) m. 1878 Rebecca Ellen Cole  (1854-1944) 
                                          - 2  children
                    Emma Jane (1860-?) m. 1883 Edwin Hicks (1857-?) – 2 children
                    Nancy Lavinia (1863-?) m. 1882 Beverly Thomas Vincent (?-?) – 6 children
                    John (1864-1864)
                    William (1865- c. 1930) m. Elizabeth Blasland (?-?) 8 children
                    James (1867-1869)
                    George (1870-?)
                    Ella May (1874-1946) m1. c. 1891 Percy George Turner – 2 children
                                                           m2.  1904 Walter Tavenor (1873 in NS –1957 in Hillsboro    
                                                                      Twnshp, NJ – 1 child
Ella May Chambers Turner Tavenor and Rebecca Cole Chambers in Winthrop MA

As already mentioned, Alexander was lost at sea. Rebecca and her daughter, Alvina, eventually made their way to Winthrop MA, by way of Bath ME and East Boston MA. Rebecca became a domestic to Dr. Lull. He was a physician who had a practice in Boston and possibly one in Winthrop. He owned property in Winthrop when the town was just beginning to develop. Rebecca cleaned his offices and homes and through him, she was able to purchase a home. Eventually she bought another home with a large lot of land with a barn on it. This is the home my mother was born in. The value of the piece of property today stands in the $900K to $1M. If she only knew!!

A five year gap, between the births of children usually says there was another child. If so, this child has not been found. Emma Jane is the next in line and she married Edwin Hicks. They moved to NY, NY and it is reported that Emma died in Brooklyn, NY.

Nancy Lavinia is known by Lavinia and rarely by Nancy. She married Beverly Thomas Vincent and they moved to St. John, NB. They had 4 daughters and 2 sons.

William married Elizabeth, who was from Bath ME. Their first child was born in Bath in 1894 and the rest were born in NJ.  They lived in Jersey City, NJ where William was working in the ship building industry, as a carpenter.

George left NB with the rest of his family and went to Bath ME. After that, very little verified information can be found. It is believed he lived in Winthrop for a while, then Boston. It is thought he was married but no marriage records for him have been found.

Ella May (1874-1946) m. Percy George Turner about 1891. They had one daughter in CT and another in ME. At some point after the second daughter was born, Ella May learned that her husband was a bigamist. He was already married and had another family. As the family story goes, she was traumatized by all this, spent some time in Winthrop, but never told her two daughters about the problems she faced.  We then believe she went to NJ where her brother Will was living in the late 1890’s. We also believe that her parents, James and Sarah moved to NJ about the same time. She married again in 1904 and had a son. They lived in Westfield NJ.

John and James both died young. John was about 3 mos. old and James was about a year and a half old. The brothers were buried in Dorchester, NB.

In Jul 1913 James went to Jersey City to visit his son Will. It’s believed he got off the train at the wrong station and he attempted to cross the tracks, became confused and was hit by a train.  His funeral service was Jul 15 1913. The Westfield Leader reported the death of Sarah on Aug 27 1913, saying she had been ill for 2 years. It also stated that she was 82 years old, a native of Nova Scotia and that she had been the mother of 13 children. So far only 8 children have been identified. Since James and Sarah were married in 1852 and the first recorded child was born in 1855, it’s possible that 2 children could have been born in that 3 year gap. The names of these 5 children may never be known.


 1910 census Westfield NJ showing James and Sarah Chambers

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