There is a lot of history stored in 90-year-old Rita Pengelley's two cigar boxes.
When she left her cottage home of 30 years on the family homestead on the north shore of Rice Lake, near Bailieboro, to live in the Fraserville nursing home, she kept the boxes. They contain family mementos — a bone letter opener, poetry book and Royal Navy manual, all dating to about 1830, and a few photographs and letters.
The most valued of the mementos, the letter opener and book of original poetry, belonged to a women who could have been her grandmother if she had not died prematurely at 24, after one year of marriage Captain Robert Lamport Pengelley.
There is some regret as Pengelley tenderly describes Harriet Brock Pengelley and the Brocks.
She recalls her older brother Fred one of eight brothers, saying he wished he was the grandchild of Harriet. And you get the impression Rita Pengelley wished the same thing when she says the Brock connection is ''interesting". To be connected with the Brocks would have been a proud thing for any Canadian family whose roots in this country go back to 1832. Harriet was the niece of Sir Isaac Brock of Queenston Heights fame.
But the Pengelleys were a distinguished family in their own right. Originally from Fowey, Cornwall, the captain went to sea at age 9 when mother died. He was probably a powder monkey on one of the three, ships his father, Commodore John Pengelley, took into the Battle of Trafalgar, says Rita Pengelley.
Buried at Palermo
The commodore also took part in the Battle of the Nile according to the family historian and is buried outside the walls of Palermo, Italy. The captain also had three brothers, Commodore Charles, Lt. H. and Lt John, according to a 1823 navy manual, and a sister Mary Anne.
It was because of Sir Issac's connection that the Pengelleys came to Canada. The captain was one of many half-pay Royal Navy officers, who were given large land holdings on the north shore of Rice Lake in South Monaghan and Otonabee townships.
But unlike many of the others, Captain Pengelley was not an absentee land owner who paid other men to perform his settlement duties. He lived on the land, oversaw the building of his house and planting of his fields. In February, 1838, he had the pleasure of petitioning the governor for the final deed to the grant.
In the late 1820s and early 1830s, settlement to the north side of the lake began to increase with the aid of a steamboat which plyed a watery path from Claverton (Gore's landing) or Sully (Harwood) to Bannister Landing and up the Otonabee to Peterborough.
First came in1832
Captain Pengelley first came to Canada in 1832, according to Rita Pengelley, to sell Sir Isaac's land holdings on behalf of Harriet's father ( Sir Isaac's brother) Sir Daniel Delisle Brock, Governor of the Island of Guernsey. Pengelley was engaged to Harriet at the time. Sir Isaac owned 1,000 acres near Guelph and another 1,000 in South Monaghan. Upon retiring from the navy, the captain was granted 700 acres in Somerville Township north of Lindsay, says Rita. He sold all the land, but kept 200 acres in South Monaghan which later became the family farm.
The governor's daughter would meet and fall in love with a navy officer at a ball, perhaps in England or the governor's St. Peter's Port, Guernsey, mansion, Rita Pengelley explains.
Harriet not only came from a famous family, but was beautiful and a talented miniature artist and poetess.
Poem to Robert
She penned a poem for Robert, perhaps on the eve of his departure for Canada or to sea in a ship of the line:
Go envied to my Robert's breast
And there in love and honor stay
Oft will thou to his lips to press
While I alas! am far away.
Should we unkindness start the tears
Or cold neglect his bright eyes dim
Oh! do thou bid him think of hers
Who only lives to think of him!
Robert returned to Guernsey to marry Harriet on Sept. 16,1834 and in March of 1835, they departed for Canada.
The passage was not easy in the days of sail. From Guernsey, they would go to Portsmouth where they 5 would get a ship bound for Canada, taking two months before arriving at Quebec.
In Quebec, the immigrants were received and royally entertained by Governor Sir John Colborne, says Rita.
They made their way to Montreal by steamboat, to Lachine by carriage, to Cornwall by boat, to a place called Dickson's Landing by land and by boat to Prescott, Kingston and finally Cobourg. From Cobourg, the couple may have gone to Port Hope and took a trail north to Bailieboro. They could have gone from Cobourg to Rice Lake and took the ferry across to the mouth of the Otonabee and then west by carriage to Bailieboro.
In Bailieboro, the Pengelleys lived in a log cabin, says the family historian. Harriet drew the plans for their house, to be called Brockland Cottage, and traveled to the site to observe preparations. But the winters were too severe for Harriet's "delicate constitution", explains Pengelley, and she died on June 4, 1836. Leaving no children, she was buried three days later at St. Peter's Anglican Church, Cobourg.
The captain returned immediately to his father-in-law in Guernsey.
A diary, which Rita Pengelley gave to the Victoria Hall museum, picks up the captain's stay in Guernsey.
Pengelley always begins his entries by mentioning the weather, a sailor's habit. He chronicles his daily activities in a cryptic style as if writing in a ship's log. He is a decent, religious and sensitive man of principles. Occasionally, he reveals his depth of feeling over the loss of his wife.
On March 13, 1837 he writes: "This day two years left dear Bonair (Guernsey) with my amiable dear and ever to be lamented Harriet. Would to God we had never done so."
He left alone for Canada on June 1. He wrote on the 4th: "This day twelve months it pleased the Almighty to deprived me of my poor dear Harriet, thank God for having then and now given me fortitude to bear my loss with resignation."
He is overcome with remorse again on July 31, after arriving in Canada: "...regret more and more ever having heard of Canada. Oh! that Sir Isic (sic.) had not been killed. I might then have been happy in Fair main (England)." In another passage, he blames himself for ever having brought her to Canada, which hastened her death.
Arriving in Cobourg early Aug. 5, he visited Harriet's grave. He got the 7a.m. steamboat to Toronto, where he settled matters respecting his land.
Off to Rice Lake
Without luggage (it had not arrived from Montreal), he left for Norwood on Rice Lake. He mentioned two steamboats operating on the lake in his diary. On Aug. 9, he arrived at Brocklands. "Very well pleased with what Mr. Thompson (his workman and neighbor) has done." is all he noted in his diary that day. Other neighbors were the Hollands, Grahams, Blacks, Banks and Kennedys.
In Cobourg he stayed regularly with the Browns Saturday night, went to church Sunday and returned later that day or Monday to Rice Lake.
During the next weeks, he occupied himself with building a stable and getting his luggage. He went to Port Hope to meet the steamer carrying it and stayed at the Ontario Hotel on Mill Street near the old towns works shed. His only remark about the hotel was to the point, "No milk for tea."
Pengelley was engaged during August and September getting lumber from Bewdley for his house. The wood, from Falkner's mill, was constructed into a raft and floated across to the north shore to a point now called Pengelley's Landing and hauled up the hill to the house site.
On Oct. 7, he reported the frame of the house was completed and he began hauling bricks across the lake. By December 4, he had started plastering the upper rooms and in late March he had the verandah done.
In the mid 1840s, a fire occurred in Brockland. It was rebuilt using some of the original 17-inch walls and in the 1860s increased in size to 14 rooms.
Although new to the country, the captain undoubtedly was aware of the troubles in Upper Canada (Ontario) with respect to the conservative clique in power and the reformers who wanted a greater say in the government.
He knew trouble, fomented primarily by William Lyon Mackenzie, was brewing in Toronto. Since he was a Royal Navy officer, perhaps he considered offering his support to the government. A December 7, 1837 diary entry indicated he had decided to go to Toronto, but "thought better of it during the night." Coincidentally the rebellion took place during the night of the 7th. He received word two days later: "...heard the Rebels had been routed near Toronto," was all he wrote.
It may indeed be true that time heals all wounds. For as the warm breath of spring brought new life to the lake, Pengelley began to think of a certain unidentified "Miss B—' (possibly Buttars) in Cobourg.
When he went to church on April 29, he did not see the lady and reported sadly in his diary, "...non (sic) of the Misses B— there, disappointed."
In the spring and summer, he attended to his wheat, corn, onions and other vegetables. In June, he went looking for oxen in Peterborough where he made friends with a number of other retired officers.
In September, he began calling on the Commodore John Roche family. The commodore's eldest daughter caught the captain's attention. By Sept 18, 1838, Pengelley seemed to have forgotten his Miss B—in Cobourg. He recorded after an evening with the Roches, "...think Miss R— (Lydia Eliza Emily) very sweet, interesting young lady."
Rather than visit Cobourg on weekends, Pengelley went to Peterborough. He visited the Roches and walked with Emily. By October, he was probably thinking of marriage and wrote on the 23rd "again addressed Miss R— on the subject."
He persisted and finally on Dec. 10 reported "dear Emily consented to make me happy on Wednesday" and two days later he announced "united to my very dear Emily." Only their first child lived, Theodore Robert, born Sept. 4, 1840. Other children, two another boys and three girls, born between 1843 and 1849, died at or soon after birth. They and their parents are, buried in the family cemetery located in a field behind the house. Theo and many of his children are also there. Rita lived beside the plot in a cottage put there by her brothers and looked after it.
Deeply religious, the Pengelleys were also devote supporters of overseas missionary work. Their main charity was the Inland Chinese Missions. Family albums in the hands of Pauline Northley (nee Pengelley) and donated to the Victoria Hall collection by Rita contain many identified photos of Chinese in traditional dress.
Theodore was given the best education. At seven years old, his father got him a private tutor, Joseph Medlicott Scriven, composer of the hymn, What a Friend We Have in Jessus. Scriven came to Canada in 1844 from Ireland and taught in a Port Hope private school. He met Emily's niece Eliza and was to marry her. They had both converted to Plymouth Brethren and when Eliza was baptised in Rice Lake, she got a chill and died of pneumonia. Eliza was buried in the Pengelley graveyard. When Scriven died in 1886, he was buried with her. Emily Pengelley had six brothers and a sister. One of the brothers did not endear himself to the captain when he stole a horse from him, according to Rita.
Like his father, Theodore parried twice. His first wife Caroline Moore Gillette died and left Caroline (Carrie), He then married Fanny Swan and they bad eight boys and one girl (Emily Marguerite).
The youngest in the family, Rita was born in 1890, about 20 years after her eldest brother John. About her grandfather, who died in 1875, she reported her second eldest brother Fred as saying he was "a dear gentle old man when he died." He was a proud man and may have treated his neighbors formally because his class and education, she suggested.
The boys were given good educations, she says, but just before she was to enter high school in Port Hope, her mother became ill, so Rita came home to cook and keep house.
After she grew up, she went to Vermont to study to be a nurse. She worked there a while, then went to work at Toronto's hospital for the incurable. She was a private nurse for a family in Port Hope before returning to the old homestead at Rice Lake to live in the cottage and play on the 1850s piano her father brought from Boston for his first wife. The piano is now part of Victoria Hall's collection.
Theodore's first son Robert John, born 1871, had no intention of being a farmer and cleared out early, leaving the farm to Jim (1875-1949).
Jim worked the farm with the help of Fred, a year older, who first trained to be an Anglican minister, then became a surveyor in British Columbia and served in the Boer War, before settling down. Rita says Fred was like a father to her and she lived with him in the cottage after Jim married.
The farm now belongs to Jim's daughter Pauline and her husband Melvin Northey. They have five children; a daughter died in an accident and is buried in the family graveyard. Jim's other daughter Sylvia married Desmond Bailey and they have one son.
Claude Audbrey (1884-1917) worked on the farm until he joined the army in the First World War and was killed in Belgium.
Frank was born 1877 and Arthur Lome in 1879. Arthur, who became an Anglican minister, died in 1922 and is buried in Philadelphia. His only son is an officer in the U. S. air force.
Isaac Brock was born in 1882 and died in 1972. His son Michael has a cottage near the old homestead. The eighth son, Olympus Roy was born 1887 and still lives in a private home a few miles from the farm.
It is difficult to think of Rita Pengelley as a granddaughter of an 1834 pioneer settler of this country. From that settler, an old and distinguish family has branched out across Canada and the U. S., hopefully carrying with them the history of the family and Rice Lake.
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