The following article won first prize in an essay contest organized by the Ontario Genealogical Society.
The Black Sheep in Our Family
by Alan E. Richards
Are you ready for a story of bastardy, bigamy, larceny, and insanity?
It is the story of my grandmother's grandmother, and most of it happened in the Port Hope-Lindsay area of Ontario, back in the days when Port Hope was a wild lakeport with at least 17 taverns and hundreds of sailors, lumberjacks and immigrants drinking in them. Lindsay was not quite as rough, perhaps, lacking only the sailors.
It is the story of Ann Bullied, who came to Canada in the 1840s with her parents, Richard Bullied and Elizabeth Ware, from the parish of Winkleigh in Devonshire, England. Ann was the second youngest in a family of 10 children, some of whom emigrated before the parents, and some of whom stayed in England. They were all poor but respectable people.
Ann's troubles seem to have begun after she met William Parkin, a mysterious figure whose name appears on very few documents, and who seems to have vanished into thin air in the 1850s. Ann and William were married in 1850 in St. John's Anglican Church, Port Hope, on 8 April 1850, but for some unknown reason, Ann's maiden name was recorded as Palmer; Ann's older sister was the wife of Matthew Palmer of Hope Township.
Within a year, their first son, Albert (my ancestor) was born. The 1851 census of Port Hope is not extant, so William, Ann and Albert are not recorded in that year. Ann's parents and the Palmers are living in Hope Township, just outside the town.
In 1852, the first incident involving police and the courts is recorded in a return of convictions in the Port Hope Guide: William
Parkin, prosecutor, Samuel Bullied (Ann's younger brother, who would have been about 21 at the time), defendant; the charge, assault. Samuel was convicted, and ordered to pay a fine of two shillings and sixpence or go to jail for 15 days.
The question, of course, is why did William and Samuel get into a fight? Did it have something to do with the troubles Ann would find herself in over the next few years?
Ann had three more children, all girls, over the next 12 years, and family gossip said they had three different fathers. When each girl
married, however, she listed William Parkin as her father in the marriage record.
It was the family gossip that led me to the Affidavits Of Bastardy, Northumberland and Durham, at the Ontario Archives. Bingo! On one such document, Ann Parkin of Port Hope swore that she had given birth to a female child on 27 May, 1859, and the father was Charles George Fox of Hope Township. When I reported my discovery to a distant cousin who had passed on the family rumors to me, she checked the birthdate and exclaimed: "Oh dear, my very own grandmother." She then clammed up about the family history, and did not answer my next letter.
But the facts were beginning to emerge, and a check of census records indicated some interesting events. In 1861, I found Ann listed as a widow, age 27, tailoress, living with her parents in Port Hope. Also in the house were Albert, age 10, and Mary, age 3. Another daughter, Cecilia Victoria, who was about 7, was missing. Ten years later, the 1871 census recorded Ann, age 38, still listed as Ann Parkin, living with her parents just outside Port Hope. This time, however, she is listed as married, occupation washerwoman. Also in the house are Albert, now 20, Mary, 12, and Matilda, age 7, all shown (with ditto marks) as Parkin. Right next door are Thomas Goheen, 28, laborer, and his wife, Anne, 30. Here's where the plot thickens: Ann Parkin and Anne Goheen are the same person.
On 4 September 1866, Thomas Goheen, 22, son of John and Ophia, married Ann Perkins (a common misspelling of Parkin), 26,
daughter of Richard and Elizabeth (no surname given), in a Bible Christian ceremony in Hope Township. The witnesses were Daniel
Zufelt and Ann Goheen, Thomas Goheen's half brother (probably) and his sister-in-law, Mrs. Nelson Goheen (née Ann Lytle or Little). Thomas also had a sister named Ann, but she would have been only 16 at the time of the wedding. Marrying Thomas Goheen proved to be an even worse move than marrying William Parkin. However, they were still together at the time of the 1881 census, living in Cartwright Township near Blackstock with the youngest girl, Alice Matilda, 17, and Elizabeth, 8, all listed under the name Goheen. Elizabeth is something of a mystery, but recent research indicates she was a half-sister or foster-sister of Ann's other daughters; she went by the name Lizzie Day, so she was neither a Parkin nor a Goheen.
Thomas Goheen, by the way, was a black sheep in his own right; his ancestors were United Empire Loyalists, and his many cousins
and brothers in the area were unlikely to disgrace the honorable name. Not so, Thomas.
In 1885, for instance, he was arrested at Mount Horeb south of Lindsay and taken to jail in Cobourg on a charge of stealing grain. In 1888, he was in jail again on a charge of larceny.
But this is Ann's story. In 1882, Ann's name appeared in the Bowmanville Statesman, in the Cartwright news: "CADMUS - Mrs. Goheen, the Cadmus fortune-teller, has removed from Robinson's Hill Cottage to the house lately occupied by Mrs. Bigelow. She says it gives her pleasure to make 'a great removal' but still she made 'money in abundance' while at Cadmus." It's too bad Ann could not have foretold her own fortune.
Family tradition, whispered from generation to generation, came to me as this story: one September, the daughter with whom Ann had been living near Pontypool "dumped her off" at the Lindsay Fair. Ann got drunk and was thrown in jail. She died the next day and was buried in a pauper's grave outside the jail walls.
The story has some elements of truth, but not many. For one thing, it does not mention the bigamy trial that seems to have been the key to Ann's strange behavior. Here is the story that emerges from official records:
On 12 December 1888, a bill of indictment was brought against Thomas Goheen for bigamy. Jail records show that Thomas, age 55, went to jail on 10 December and was released 14 June 1889.
On 13 December 1888, Ann Goheen was convicted in the Lindsay courthouse on a charge of vagrancy. She may indeed have been arrested for being drunk, but the Lindsay Fair is not in December, and the arrest of her husband - whether or not she preferred the charge against him - probably had something to do with it. Ann was sentenced to four months at hard labour. She was released only to be charged again and sentenced to 10 weeks hard labour the following April.
Both Ann and Thomas were released from jail 14 June 1889.
However, that same day, Ann was arrested again on a charge of lunacy and returned to the jail. The bigamy trial came up a month later, on 14 July. Thomas pleaded not guilty. The jury was called and sworn. An official account of the trial states the witnesses for the Crown were Ann's four children, Mrs. R. J. McLaughlin, Mrs. C. Bowins, Mrs. M. Martin and Albert Parkin. Witnesses for Thomas were "Mrs. Goheen" and Rev. James Greener, a retired Methodist minister. No account of the evidence or circumstances exists, but Thomas was found not guilty. A newspaper account gives this explanation:
QUEEN VS. GOHEEN - Bigamy. There were grave doubts from the evidence whether or not the prisoner had ever been married to the woman alleged to have been his first wife, or if he went through a marriage ceremony with her, whether a man to whom she had previously been married was then living. The jury after a brief consultation gave the prisoner the benefit of the doubt. It appears Ann's daughter had not "dumped her off" in Lindsay, for she was with her mother at the bigamy trial. But who was the "Mrs.
Goheen" who testified for Thomas? Was she his new wife? Was Rev. Greener the clergyman who married them? If so, no record of the marriage has been found.
However, it seems Thomas had hired a clever lawyer, for the record of the marriage of Ann and Thomas does exist. But whether William Parkin was alive or dead, we may never know. Thomas, it seems, went free and vanished from the Lindsay area. He does not appear in the 1891 census.
Ann went back to jail, where the final chapter of her tragic life was recorded in a Lindsay Watchman article on 5 September 1889:
DIED IN JAIL - An inquest was held in the jail on Tuesday morning, by Dr. Pool, on the body of the late Ann Goheen who died there the preceding day. The fact of her death was telegraphed to her friends near Pontypool, by the coroner, but they sent a reply that they could not come, and so she was buried the same afternoon at the expense of the county. The jury besides finding a verdict of "died from natural diseases" added a rider, in which they stated that, while believing the jailor does everything possible for those sick under his care a special nurse should be provided for cases of fatal sickness and death. The immediate cause of death, as showed by Dr. Kempt, acting as jail surgeon, was paralysis, which for some time rendered her completely helpless and, as a consequence, a most loathsome object.
Ann was buried in Riverside Cemetery in Lindsay, not outside the jail walls. However, the cemetery register records only her name and the plot number - no home address, no next of kin, no funeral home. Just Ann Goheen. Not even her maiden name, Bullied. Not even her age. So history records my great-great-grandmother as an adulteress, a lunatic, and a "most loathsome object.” I still think history can be wrong.