To all you Canadians out there, Happy Canada Day. I hope you have a great time with your family and friends, barbequing, swimming, playing games, and all your other activities.
I am thankful for my Canadian heritage, for my ancestors who came to Canada seeking a fresh start, freedom, and adventure. Some were farmers and fishermen; one was a sea captain. Many of them were teachers with a deep love of music, books, and learning. One of these was my great-great grandfather, Richard Augustus Bickerton, who was born in Farringdon, Hampshire, England in 1840 to Richard Bickerton (a builder’s clerk) and Sophia Matilda Eames (former lady in waiting to the queen). Alexander, Sophia, and Frederick soon followed. His mother died in childbirth when Richard was 8 years old, and his father remarried to Charlotte Christmas, who had one daughter, Charlotte. Richard went to school, learned the carpenter’s trade, read books, and played the violin. His father died in 1854, and Richard and Alexander stayed with their Uncle Samuel, working as carpenters until Richard was 21. Then Richard immigrated to Canada and became a teacher. He secured a position as the teacher for the town of March, Carleton Co, Ontario. One of the families he stayed with (John and Catherine Wall, immigrants from England and Ireland, and their eight children, all born on the farm in March) had a beautiful daughter named Catherine Helena Wall, and the two were soon in love. Her mother wanted Catherine to marry a lawyer (so she could escape the rigors of farm life), and she was not happy about their romance. She even offered to pay Richard’s way through law school, but Richard’s dream was to have his own land and farm. So Richard and Catherine eloped. They were married on July 24, 1863 at Christchurch Cathedral, Ottawa (then known as Bytown), Ontario. They then went to Navan (Cumberland Twp, Russell Co.) and, using the inheritance from his father, Richard bought land to start the farm. It turned out to be a good choice for them. Richard and Catherine had 15 children, all of whom grew to adulthood. Richard and Catherine were respected members of their community, and Richard was on the school board. Richard helped to build the church in Navan, contributing money, labor, a handmade pew, and a stained glass window.
A few years ago, my sisters and I traveled to Ontario. We went to Christchurch Cathedral in Ottawa and saw the marriage record for Richard and Catherine. We visited the farm in Navan. The current owners were kind enough to show us around and let us see inside the house. We were impressed with the thick walls of the house (necessary for those cold Canadian winters) and the beauty and orderliness of the farm. We also saw the church our great-great grandfather had helped to build in Navan, as well as the cemetery where many of the family members are buried. It was a wonderful trip and reinforced in me a deep connection to my ancestors, who passed down to me their love of learning, music, gardening, family stories of the past, and books. I am grateful for them.