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My Ancestors




Margaret Givens-Green

William "Berry" Lewis was born a free black man in Virginia in approximately between 1813-1816. He was the son of Ambrose Lewis, who was a Revolutionary War veteran. Berry married Lucy Clanton, daughter of her Quaker master approximately 1840. They had one daughter, Josephine, in 1842 and then soon after left Virginia to live in Ohio. In Ohio they had six more children, among them the eldest son, John William (my maternal great-grandfather).

In 1859, Berry took his family north to Canada. They settled in Colchester South, Ontario. Berry (his property) appeared on the 1860 Assessment Roll and in 1861 he and his family appeared in the Ontario Census.

While in Colchester, he and Lucy had four more children bringing the total of children to eleven. There are census reports for them through 1881. However, after that they seemed to disappear. There is no census (at least I have not found it) of them after 1881. Their youngest child (a daughter) was named Desdemona. Someone with that name would not be able to hide.

The Lewis children's names were:

1. Josephine (b. 1842 VA- I do not know what happened to her).
2. John William (b. 1/14/1845 OH -my great-grandfather who was the first black man with family to settle at Salem, Michigan in 1879. He married Evangeline Smith (daughter of Daniel Smith, New Canaan settlement - Ontario) in November, 1875 at Grosse Ile, MI). He was a Civil War veteran (served with the First Michigan Colored Troops a.k.a. 102nd US Troops.) He died in Salem in 1941and is buried at Salem, Michigan.
3. Mary Jane (b. 1847 OH/d. 1914 MI). She married James W. Davis, Jr. (brother of Delos Davis - Ontario's first "coloured" lawyer) on Christmas Eve 1862. He was born on March 17, 1840 on the Potomac River in OH. His parents were James W., Sr., and Ann Davis. Mary Jane and James had ten (10) children (from 1891 census):
  • Walter R., b. 1866 - married Susan Hawkins.
  • Frank, b. 1867 - married (1) Abbie and then (2) Elizabeth Hulbert. She had a son and named Oscar, who later lived in Ypsilanti, MI
  • Arthur J., born 1869.
  • Lillie, born 1874, married Charles Campbell
  • William, born 1879
  • Mary A., born 1884, married Daniel S. Woodson
  • Myrtle Davis, born 1886, married William Cobb
  • Pearle Davis, born 1890, married to Oscar Hulburt
  • (Two more children, Albert and Berrie were not listed in the 1891 Census.) I have much more history concerning Mary Jane. She died at Salem, Michigan in 1914.
4. James Lewis (b. 1849 OH) From the InGeneas Databuse (AfriGeneas) I have confirmation that James Lewis, age 25, Colchester, Ontario, born in OH, son of Berry and Lucy Ann Lewis - married - Rachel Ann McCurdy, age 18, from Colchester, Ontario, born in PA, daughter of William and Mary Ann McCurdy
  • Married on December 18, 1873 at Colchester Township, Essex County, Ontario, Canada
  • Witnesses & Residence: George Bissell & George W. Wright - both of Colchester
  • Both James and Rachel were Methodists.
5. George Lewis (b. 1851 OH) - lived there until 1881 and maybe beyond - there is word that he moved out west to California during the Gold Rush and was a cowboy.
6. Nancy Lewis (b. 1855 OH). She married Leander Jones in 1888 (according to 1901 Ontario census) and they had three children: Thomas J. (1890 ONT - 1968 ONT); Charles (1889 ONT ); Louis, 1894 ONT - ). Nancy Lewis Jones died in July, 1915 in Anderdon and was buried in Amherstburg, Ontario.

There is no information on the rest of Berry and Lucy's children:
  • Charles, b. 1853 OH
  • Lucy, b. 1858 ONT
  • Robert, b. 1860 ONT
  • Emmanuel, b. 1862 ONT
  • Desdemona, b. 1866 ONT
In the 1881 Canadian Census, Berry and several family members are listed (Census place - Colchester South, Essex, Ont./Family History Library Film #1375916/NA Film Number C-13280/District 181/Sub-district E/Division 2/Pg. #39/Household # 175):
  • Berry, birth year - 1816, birthplace - USA, age 65, married, African, Methodist - occupation: Teacher.
  • Lucy, age 60, married, African, Methodist.
  • George, 1851, USA, age 30, African, Methodist, Teacher.
  • Lucy, 1858, ONT, age 23, African, Methodist
  • Robert, 1860, ONT, age 21, African, Methodist, Teacher.
  • Desdemonia, 1866, ONT, age 15, African, Methodist
  • Charles, 1853, USA, age 28, African, Methodist, Teacher
  • Nancy, 1855, USA, age 26, African, Methodist
  • Imanuel (Emmanuel), 1862, ONT, age 19, African, Methodist, Teacher
In the 1883 ONT Census, Berry is listed as living in North Colchester Twp. Other sources include: -Illustrated Historical Atlas of the Counties of Essex and Kent, 1881, including Union Publishing Company's Farmers' Directory for County of Essex for 1883-4 - Farmers' Directory of the County of Kent of 1884-5. Publisher: Cumming Atlas Reprints. Publication place: Stratford. Volume/Page(s): 26.

In the 1891 Census there was no listing for this Lewis family.
Endnote
I am Margaret Givens-Green, a great-great granddaughter of Berry and Lucy Lewis. I am at the end of a 10 year project entitled THE LEWISES OF SALEM: THE FIRST AFRICAN AMERICANS TO SETTLE AT SALEM, MICHIGAN IN 1879. In it will be my family history as I know it.
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