Simeon and Hannah (Dawes) Howe and their children moved from the Machias area of Maine to St. George, New Brunswick in the 1830s. We are fortunate to have many items that have been passed down to their descendants that tell us much more about them than just names and dates and places do. Their descendants have been very generous in sharing these items and allowing me to post them here.
In 1837, their daughter, Hannah, completed a sampler which lists all of the family members except Sarah Maria, who was born two years later. This sampler was handed down to Hannah's daughter Adelia (Gillmor) Dick, who in turn passed it to her daughter, Winnifred May (Dick) Simmons. A photo of it was given to me by Bruce and Joan (Simmons) Leonard, of Ontario, who own it now. Joan is Winnifred's granddaughter.
The two eldest sons of Simeon and Hannah, Henry and James, went off to the California gold rush in 1849. The story of that adventure and of their families' trip to California in 1852 to join them was told by James Howe Junior, son of James, and separately by Frank Howe, son of Henry.
The Henry Howe familys California gold rush story (by Frank Howe) came to me from Margaret Hyun, who is a descendant of Henry. Margaret also provided me with copies of the Howe family letters. These letters were received by one of the Howe sisters, Sarah Maria (Howe) Beckwith, from other family members. She saved them and they were passed down in her family. (Sarah Maria was called Maria, to rhyme with "pariah.") The James Howe familys gold rush story (by James Howe Junior) was sent to me by Terry Meehan, a descendant of James. We dont know all of the history of these documents or where the originals are now. Margaret has also given me much background information, for which I am grateful.
The following information, provided by Margaret, comes from Rebecca (Hall) Howe's family bible. Henry Howe married Rebecca Hall in St. George, NB on April 17, 1843. Here is a list of their children, with places of birth taken from the LDS IGI:
Albert Edwin, b May 3, 1844 St. George, Charlotte County, NB
Warren Scott, b. Feb 15, 1846 St. George, Charlotte County, NB
Mary Hannah, b. Jan 30, 1848 St. George, Charlotte County, NB
Henry James, b. Nov 3, 1849 St. George, Charlotte County, NB
Frank Edwin, b. Jan 31, 1853 Redwood City, San Mateo County, CA
Julia Ashbylina, b. Jun 14, 1856 San Jose, Santa Clara County, CA
Frederick Charles, b. Jul 7, 1858 Lexington, Santa Clara County, CA
Ernest Albert, b. Jun 3, 1860 Lexington, Santa Clara County, CA
Edith May, b. Apr 9, 1862 San Jose, Santa Clara County, CA
James married Clementina Seelye at Lake Utopia, NB on August 1, 1843. They had at least the following children (from the 1851 NB census and from James Howe Junior's story):
Hannah, b. 1845 St. George, Charlotte County, NB
Levi, b. 1848 St. George, Charlotte County, NB
James, b. 1850 St. George, Charlotte County, NB
Sally Lee, b. 1853 CA
Mary Lucretia, b. 1854 CA
James Howe Junior was too young to remember the experiences in his story. He must have been reporting it second-hand, as told to him by older family members. The note at the bottom of the story states that it was written about 1900. However, it has obviously been altered since then as Charles Gates Dawes, mentioned in the story as the grandson of Hannah (Dawes) Howe's brother, served as US Vice President from 1925 to 1929. Charles Gates Dawes was, in fact, the grandson of Hannah's first cousin, Henry Dawes. Henry was the son of William Mears Dawes, who was the brother of Hannah's father, Charles May Dawes.
Frank Howe was born after the families arrived in California. He states that the early portion of the story was told to him by his parents. His story ends with a mention of the 60th anniversary of his marriage. That dates the writing of the story for us to May, 1937. Franks wife died the next year, but he lived another ten years.
Frank's story tells us that the two brothers left for California in November, 1849. It must have been December, though, as Margaret has also given me a copy of a document signed by Henry in New Brunswick or Maine on Dec. 7, 1849, apparently just before they left. This document was proof of his American citizenship, which entitled him to the rights provided by "An Act for the Relief and protection of American Seamen."
James says that at the end of the first leg of the families' trip to join Henry and James, they landed at Aspinwall which is on the Atlantic side of what is now the Panama Canal. This city is now called Colon. Frank's version has Accapulco, which appears to be a mistake.
Frank's story states that one child in each family died of Panama fever during the families trip to California to join Henry and James. James Howe Junior mentioned only that the oldest child of Henry and Rebecca died. That was Albert Edwin. Its likely that Albert was the only one who died, since James would have reported it if one of his siblings had died as well.
The story by James notes that one of the sons of Henry and Rebecca was left behind in New Brunswick with his grandmother, Hannah Howe. This was Henry James, born in 1849. The Howe family letters tell the story of the son left behind. Poor little Henry did not get to join his family in California until 1859. At that point an acquaintance of the parents who was visiting from California agreed to take Henry along with him on his return journey. It was difficult for his grandmother to look after him, especially after her husband, Simeon, died in 1857 and Hannah went to live with one of her daughters still in the area. As Hannah stated in a letter to Maria dated July 19, 1859:
I got a letter from Rebecca to day she say Henry got safe to them and was not sick at all on the voige, wasnt that fortunate for him. she says he is not so large as they expected and does not look like the other children, but looks some like Mary Hannah. ... poor little Hen he wants to see his Grandmother a ready and would like to see the other folks too. if ever my heart was full of praise and thanks given to my heavenly Father it was when a way was provided for that boy to go to his parents. Oh I thought that provision exceeded every other blessing or mercy that had attended my path through life. he was a very great source of trouble to me situated as I am since your Fathers death. but still I felt willing to live and do all in my power for his best interest and comfort, and now I do not expect ever to see him in this world again. I still feel interested in the little fellow and ever shall and hop he will grow up a usfull intelligent Man and an ornament to society.
Hannah (Dawes) Howe may have seen young Henry again after all as she went to California by train for a visit in 1875 when she was 78 years old.
James notes in his version that once Simeon and the families of Henry and James had crossed Panama, they discovered that their tickets were worthless, and Simeon was only able to arrange their passage on a ship by promising the agent to pay once they reached San Francisco. The land registry books of Charlotte County, New Brunswick contain records that likely explain how he raised this money. Simeon gave his son-in-law, Henry Seelye of St. George, power of attorney to sell his real estate, in a document dated Dec. 28, 1852, at Pulgus Ranch, county of San Francisco. In May and June, 1853, Henry Seelye sold property in New Brunswick belonging to Simeon for a total of 65 pounds.
Simeon Howe died intestate in St. George on Aug. 4, 1857. His sons Henry and James signed over to their mother their rights to Simeons real property in a deed dated Oct. 29, 1860. This document was apparently signed in San Francisco. The Henry and James Howe families were both of Santa Clara County at that time. The daughters, Hannah, Lucretia and Harriet, signed over their rights to the property to their mother in a deed dated July 12, 1861 in St. George. There is no record of Maria or Pratt signing over rights to the property. For Maria, that may be because of her age (about 18) at the time of her father's death.
Very soon after, on July 27, 1861, Hannah (Dawes) Howe sold a piece of property to John OBrien. This was likely the last of the Howe familys land in the Charlotte County area.
Franks version of the story states that Henry Howe went to the Cariboo gold rush in British Columbia with his brother-in-law. This was Henry Seelye, who with his wife Lucretia moved to British Columbia from New Brunswick about 1861. A Saint John, NB newspaper reported on that 1863 trip to the Cariboo and on the terrible conditions there in a story in the April 21, 1864 issue.
Another of the sons of Simeon and Hannah, Albion Pratt (called Pratt), moved from New Brunswick to Wisconsin about 1856. He joined the Union Army there to serve during the American Civil War. He died during or after the Battle of the Wilderness in Virginia in May, 1864. Pratt had a photograph of himself taken, apparently in his army uniform, and a copy of this photo was saved and passed down in the family of his sister, Hannah (Howe) Gillmor. A copy was given to me by Bruce and Joan (Simmons) Leonard (as above), along with copies of the documents Hannah (Dawes) Howe submitted in order to receive a pension based on Pratt's army service. The documents make it clear that the circumstances of Pratt's death were a source of much grief to her.
Hannah (Dawes) Howe's obituary appeared in a local New Brunswick newspaper, the Saint Croix Courier of St. Stephen, soon after her death on June 13, 1883. Though this obituary states that Hannah was a Mayflower descendant, we have not been able to find that connection. The relationship with William Dawes is correct as presented in the obituary, and so is the relationship to the May family, except that William Dawes married Mehitable May, a daughter of Samuel May of the same family, not John May. For more information on William Dawes and the Dawes family, please visit www.wmdawes.org.