Wednesday, September 21, 2011

John Croswell, Brickmaker

I don't have a lot of mementos from my forefathers, other than scads of photos.  However there is one keepsake that I am very grateful to have fallen heir to.  This is a little wooden box with three bricks - wouldn't fetch much on the open market, but it has great sentimental attachment for me.

These bricks were baked in the kiln owned and operated by my great, great grandfather, John Croswell, who was one of the original family emigrating from England to Canada in 1842.  As a lad of twelve or so, he would have seen his father and baby brother die on board the ship, from ship's fever or cholera.  He would have watched his mother and six other siblings, deal with this horror and then attempt to make the best of the situation in the New World.  But that is the topic for a later blog.

John, his wife Mary Ann and their baby.  I think he is holding a puppy - an interesting prop in a photo of this vintage.

John and several of his brothers were skilled brick-makers.  I am not sure if they had learned the trade from their father, back in England, or if they picked it up from their step father George French, once settled in Ontario.  From what I can deduce, they did have kilns in the Elora/Fergus area in Southern Ontario, where the family settled.  However in the 1880's most of the families joined the exodus to the north, to Parry Sound District, where the boys and their families settled in the Ahmic Harbour area.  Once again John set up shop.  Beside Highway 124, there is a swale, which apparently was originally a quarry for the clay that was transformed in the kilns to bricks. Croswell bricks once graced many older homes in the area.  Unfortunately most of those brick homes have fallen prey to fires over the years, or the brickwork has become damaged and removed to be replaced with the poor substitute of vinyl siding.

The Dunchurch United Church was one such building.  The brick exterior was removed long before I can remember it.  Fortunately some of the bricks were saved, and a friend of my father's made up the wooden box with three fine examples of John Croswell's handiwork.

See the trademark JC imprint.
This one I particularly like. It's like a misprinted stamp, somehow the C got reversed in the mold.  Apparently there were a lot of bricks like this.
Here are a few more shots of John in later life.  I gather he must have enjoyed having his picture taken, because there are very few other relatives of his particular era who left so many photographic markers.

This is obviously a posed photo in a photographer's shop, note the background.  I like the attempt at a casual look.
I see where I get my multicoloured beard from, if only he'd passed on the hair.

In his later years.  The photo is actually with one of his half sisters, who I cropped out in the editing process.
Something tells me that behind that lazy eye, there may have lurked quite a character.  Unfortunately not many stories have passed down through the generations though.

And that is about all I have to say for today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.


  1. Really interesting story. It is great that you know who you came from and his history. I do love that first picture. It is so unlike what I usually see from that era.

  2. very interesting... love the way that everyone "looked" well,,,,, kinda dead in these photos!!!

  3. THese photos are marvellous, and what a great story. You are lucky to know so much of your history (well, maybe you just worked hard at geneaology! :) )

  4. What an interesting story and such a wonderful heirloom to have! Mo

  5. Wonderful story. I am also from that lineage. I am wondering if you know anything of the Croswell family pre-1842 Atlantic crossing?

  6. I have a yellow brick marked with J.C. It was found along with a bunch of others marked the same from the basement of my parents home in Chepstow Ontario Canada. If you would like to see photos please email.

  7. John was my Grandfather (3x removed)John Jr (2x)My Grandmother Mary Florence(1x) moved to Rocanville Sask in the early 1900's. I found your pictures fascinating.Do you know anything about Charles and Rebecca's life in England?


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