Monday, January 27, 2014

52 Ancestors: Frederick Purdue, Chaser of Slave Vessels, Friend of Thomas Edison?

Frederick Purdue
Frederick Purdue in 1921
Frederick Purdue (1827-1921) was my 3rd great-grandfather. According to his obituary and some family stories he was quite a colourful character. I've tried to confirm the stories told in his obit but so far no luck. The Bluecoat School has no record of him being a student and I have not been able to find out anything about his sailing days or his adventures during the Fenian Raids. 

Were the stories true? I don't know but I hope so! What an exciting ancestor to have if the stories are true. 

His obituary reads


An interesting personality passed away on Monday evening at the advanced age of 94 years, at his home 94 Seaton St., in the person of Frederick Purdue, who in his early days, had a somewhat adventurous career on the sea. The deceased gentleman, who was born at Andover in the County of Hants England,  in the year 1826, and received his education at the famous Bluecoat School, the pupils of which until quite recently wore a uniform consisting of a long blue coat reaching almost to the ankles, yellow stockings, and buckled shoes. No matter what the weather, they never wore headgear of any kind. On September 23 1845 Mr. Purdue registered in London as a mariner, and spent a portion of his life at sea in chasing slave vessels.

He came to Canada about 65 years ago, located in Prescott, where he married Margaret Cowan. He was subsequently transferred by the G.T.R. [Grand Trunk Railway], in whose employ he was, to Montreal, and afterwards to St. Mary's Ontario, where most of his family were born. He served with the Railway Company for a period of 52 years, being Relieving Agent at several G.T.R. stations in Canada and also across the border. He was quite active during the Fenian Raid, and could tell many interesting incidents connected with his career.
Another cool story about Frederick is that he worked with Thomas Edison at the Stratford Junction Railway Station in St. Marys Ontario. As most people know Thomas Edison was the inventor of many things including the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and a long-lasting, practical electric light bulb. I know from historical records that Frederick did work at the Stratford Junction Station at around the same time as Thomas Edison. And Frederick himself claimed to know Edison.  However as to what relationship they may have had who can tell.

When I was a child I had the opportunity to speak on several occasions with someone who had first hand knowledge of Frederick. And while it was not said in so many words I got the distinct impression that old Frederick was perhaps a bit of a character. One story that stands out in my mind is how every morning Frederick would walk from his house the short distance to a local park in order to do his exercises in full public view. This may not sound strange today but in the late 1800s or early 1900s this was a rather odd thing for a man to do.  So who knows was Frederick just an old guy who was good at telling tales. Or was he a man who had a long and interesting life. Perhaps more research will tell.

1 comment:

Jana Last said...

Wow! What an interesting fellow your Frederick was!