Though we know very little about the life of my third great grandmother Margaret Maguire (1794-1880), this much has been passed down: Her parents were pretty pissed when she took a tailor, John Robinson, for a first husband in Belfast Northern Ireland.
Tailoring may seem like a pretty noble occupation today. But Maguire’s father, a wholesale butcher who operated a tannery, may not have seen it that way. I guess we should remember that it takes a certain kind of dude to kill animals for a living. And there are sniffs of money and class in Margaret’s family. Maybe they were snobs.
One of Margaret’s brothers was a wholesale boot and shoe manufacturer, seemingly a notch above tailoring. Another was reputed to be an English Army officer. And according to family legend, one of Margaret’s uncles was a retired English officer who owned a large estate either in Scotland or Ireland. We may never be able to confirm any of this. The scant information we have comes from Margaret’s grandson-in-law interviewed by William Boyce Thompson in the 1920s.
Margaret Maguire, who probably never won any beauty contests in her time, is my third great grandmother on my father’s side. She was the wife by second marriage of William Thompson (1806-1849), who as far as we can tell came from Scotland to Canada in his 20s. One of their children, William Thompson (1838-1900), wound up in Montana, where he built many buildings and served as mayor of Butte.
The information on the Maguire family was passed down by John C. Slater, who heard it from his wife, May Ough. May was the daughter of Margaret Maguire’s daughter, Hannah Thompson, She married the infamous Joseph Ough, who may have carved part of the dome in California’s Capitol building. Margaret lived with her daughter and son in law in Sacramento for many years. She’s buried near them in the Sacramento City Cemetery.
Margaret, who was born in Belfast Northern Ireland on August 15, 1794, according to family bibles, apparently had an Irish temper. Slater reported that she never wrote to her family in Ireland once she moved to Canada with Robinson. The couple married in 1815, according to a certificate from the Parochial Registry unearthed by William Boyce Thompson. But by 1925, perhaps to escape family wrath, the couple had emigrated to Cobourg, Ontario, Canada.
We know this because Cobourg records show John Robinson bought a quarter-acre plot, Village Lot No. 5, from Benjamin Throop on December 12, 1825. Also, one of the couple’s children, John, was baptized at the St. Peters Episcopal Church on October 9th, 1825. How about that for authoritative research?
Family bibles–yes, we even have some of those–tell us that Margaret started having kids as soon as she married, a pace she may have later regretted. She managed to have six over 14 years by Robinson. The procession went like this—Mary Jane (1816), Anne (1818), Thomas (1821), Margaret (1823), Elizabeth (1824), John (1825), and James Campbell (1829).
Margaret’s first husband John Robinson died on November 25, 1828, before his last progeny was born, according to the St. Peters Parish Registry, an Episcopal Church. He was only 34 years old at the time. He left his wife with six children under the age of 12. It’s unlikely that Margaret went out to dinner often after that. She may have taken in borders, though, lots of borders, according to a Cobourg census that shows a lot of people living at her house.
That’s when our hero, the first William Thompson, entered the picture. As previously blogged, little is known of William Thompson’s origins—his son and daughter reported to the U.S. Census that he came from England or Scotland. Anecdotal evidence, gathered by Hazel Plate, an assistant to William Boyce Thompson, speculated that he emigrated from Cupar, Fife, Scotland with Thomas Pratt in 1828 and was shipwrecked during the crossing.
The first documentation of William Thompson in Cobourg, Ontario is when he married the widow Margaret Maguire, on December 29, 1831, three years after Robinson died.
There were only about 350 people living in Cobourg at the time, most of them from England. Thompson may have met his wife-to-be through St. Peters, an Anglican church on the east side of town where their children were baptized and Thompson was buried. The couple probably intended to marry there, but the pastor was away when they wanted to tie the knot. Instead, the ceremony was conducted in a church in nearby Port Hope.
Thompson may also have known John Robinson through his membership in the Orange Lodge, the chief fraternal organization in Upper Canada at the time. Its membership was mostly drawn from Presbyterians who had come over from Northern Ireland and Scotland. According to an eye-witness interviewed by Plate in the 1920s,William Thompson’s casket was carried by Orangemen when he was lain to rest in 1848.
Margaret had four children with William Thompson, though one died in infancy. The eldest, Sarah, was born in 1835. William Thompson, the subject of many posts on this blog, was born in 1838 and lived until 1900. And youngest daughter Hannah, with whom Margaret lived in Sacramento for many years, was born in 1841.
It looks like William Thompson moved into Margaret’s house after they married. Genealogists working for this blogger found Maguire living on lot 16, com B and lot 13 com A after the death of her husband. It was on these same lots that William Thompson was first found in an 1832 census.
“It is interesting to note that at this time there were 24 people counted in a 1-storey frame house,” the Cobourg genealogist reports. “Although Margaret had 7 children from her previous marriage (based on your information), this does not account for the number of people in the household in 1832 or 1833 (15 people).”
One can only theorize why so many people, not all of them family, lived with the Thompsons. My great grandfather, J.E. Thompson, wrote that the first William Thompson was a British military officer, though this hasn’t been confirmed. Maybe the family took in military boarders. Maybe not.
The researchers turned up another intriguing bit of content. William Thompson was not in good health for some time before his death. His wife purchased a coffin four months before he died. Numerous records list his occupation as millwright. Perhaps he was wounded in the course of work. Perhaps not.
After her husband died, Margaret moved the family to Detroit, where one of her sons was piloting a ship on the Great Lakes. But Margaret and Hannah were back in Cobourg in 1861, according to the local census. By then William Thompson, Jr., was working his way across the frontier, sending money back to his mother and sister. Margaret and Hannah lived in Cobourg until at least 1866, when Hannah married Joseph Ough.
Very little is known about Margaret Maguire’s Irish years. The Reverend James Bradshaw, working for William Boyce Thompson, found the certificate of marriage for Margaret Maguire and James Robinson. Unfortunately, it revealed few other clues. “You will notice how very scant is the information,” he wrote, “no witnesses are named nor are any details given as to age or parentage or residence.” This could be further evidence of the gulf between Margaret and her family.
“What is more strange still is the particular entry is not dated — the marriage which proceeds has the date 28th March but this could not have been the date of the following entry as the ink in the first is quite a different shade. We had to assume the date mentioned (31st) from the consideration that the entry of a baptism on the opposite side of the same page, has this date and is written in the same shade of ink.”
Bradshaw could find little else about the enigmatic Margaret Maguire. He searched the 1821 public censuses for Belfast and County Fermanagh. There was no mention of a Margaret Maguire born in 1794. He managed to find quite a few Margaret Maguires, but none with a 1794 birth date.
“I went out to the country today to visit the oldest living Maguire whom I know but she has no recollection of any Maguire family who went to America or rather she has no recollection of having heard of such family. She is over 80 years of age…I presume there can be no further trace of your relative in these parts.”