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Record Of The Elgee Family

By William H. Elgee


Among the members of the Elgee family in the Atlantic Provinces of Canada it has been accepted that the earliest of our forefathers here carrying the name was Alexander, who came with the Loyalists to St. John, in 1783. He and Capt. John MacLean were said to have owned land on King Street, St. John. From there he continued to Grand Lake in Queens County, and obtained a grant of land in Lower Cumberland Bay. His farm was that first above the junction of the two roads, one from Young’s Cove, and the other from Cumberland Point, both leading to Upper Cumberland Bay. The school house in which the writer of these notes began his public education, now called the Edgewater School, is a landmark at that junction, for it sits on the lake side of the road and at the lower line of that lot. The school ground, however, if my childhood memory serves me right, is taken from the farm below the line. I have seen, at the home of Burtis MacLean, at Cumberland Point, a copy of the original grand with Alexander’s name on that lot, No. 10.
The fundamental source of my information about the family was in the recollections of my father, Merrit C. Elgee, 1863-1945, who, in my judgment, had the most knowledge of the traditions and the members of the different generations possessed by any in the connection. He retained in his memory most of the names back to the Loyalist, and,

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in addition to much that I had already gleaned from him, he gave me, when he was nearly 80 years of age, as full an account as he was able, which I committed to paper.
Alexander’s original lot was owned, in my boyhood, by Willard Colwell, and well can I remember, at seven years of age, being permitted in school hours to go to that house to get from Mrs. Colwell a half-pail of water to wet the palates of the twenty children in the school. Afterward one of the sons, Arthur Colwell, returned and carried on the farm well into the twentieth century.
One problem remains unsolved: Was not Alexander very young when he came? We do not know the date of his birth; but we do have the date of his marriage, 1797; and that of his death, 1853. The tradition from my father represented him as a very old man at the time of his death. Even if he lived to be ninety he would have been only twenty on arrival. That also would leave him unmarried until the age of thirty-four, unusual in that day. It would seem improbable that he could begin on a bush farm before the age of twenty; even then how could he do it alone? Who was with him? Mrs. Esther Clark Wright, in her book on the Loyalists, lists others under the names: Algee, Algie, Elgee, but of whom we know nothing, as:
David . . . . to Queens County
James . . . . to Kings? County
John, arrived 1785 . . to Queens County

It seems doubtful that they could have stayed in New Bruns-


Wick and raised children or the families would have met. The lack of any hint of these names in the tradition makes it fairly sure that they did not continue to have any close relation with Alexander. Where were his parents? What were their names? These are unsolved problems.
There are two possible sources of the Elgee name in the British Isles, of which I know, one in Scotland and one in Ireland. My father’s memory held the tradition that Alexander had come from Scotland to the American colonies, and from there to New Brunswick. This is confirmed by the manifest lists of the Loyalist ships, and by the researches of Mrs. Wright in New York, so that in her book he is listed as from Scot./N.Y. Also father said that the Elgees and the MacLeans of Cumberland Bay were from the same part of Scotland; and that Hector MacLean’s son Walter, of father’s generation became captain of one of Vanderbilt’s yachts, visited Scotland, and found the two names in the same cemetery.
In my work in Church History, the minor in my postgraduate study, I found in “The Covenanters”, Vol. II, by J. King Howison, that James Algie was hanged for his faith at the Paisley Cross, on October 3, 1685, along with John Park. They were tenants on a small farm of Kennishead in Eastwald. They would not sign the Test Act. This was in the persecution under Graham of Claverhouse. That form of the name is to be linked with the fact that my grandfather, John, spelled his name Algee, as I have


seen his initials, J.A., on his carpenter’s tools; also the fact that on the original land grant the name is Alexander Algee; that the same spelling is to be found in original church records in Cumberland Bay; and that in the manifest lists the name is spelled both ways.
In Ontario there are people who spell their name Algie; and others Elgie. C.G. Elgie was a well-known lawyer and alderman of Toronto. Father found in an agricultural paper the record of an Elgie family in the area of Sault Ste. Marie.
Robert Algie came from the Niagara Peninsula to Moncton when the Eaton store was opened. Members of that family trace their descent from a brother of the martyr, James Algie, and have a full family tree of that branch. Mrs. Robert Algie has been kind enough to procure for me a copy. The earliest form of the name is there given as Algeo. The record reads:

Jacobo Algeo. Born about 1420. Died 1489. Crawford the historian, Metcalf, and others agree in stating that the first of the name to settle in Scotland came from Rome in the train of Thoimas de Tardas, Abbot of Paisley, in the year 1452. He was a Notary Public and connected with the Monastery. When the Town of Paisley was erected into a Burgh of Bardny by King James the Fourth on 19th August, 1422, the name of Jacobo Algeo appears in the list of the original fenars as the proprietor of the piece of land known as the Blade Yarde.”

During both recent wars, members of that family, from different parts of the Commonwealth, one of whom received the Victoria Cross, have visited Scotland and examined the monument at Paisley Cross carrying the two names


of James Algie and John Park, of which they have a photograph. The church at that place is known as the Martyr’s Kirk. That family has a tradition that every generation must have a James. My photostatic copy of the Algie tree has been accompanied with a few notes by R. Bruce Algie in which he says that the first change in spelling from Algeo to Algie appears in the sixth generation, at about the date of the martyr. He says that as “not all changed their names at the same time”, “it is quite possible that one changed to Elgee which, like Algeo, is easier to pronounce than Algie.” He further says that among the “XIIth generation many moved abroad. Perhaps Alexander was one of them”.
I found some record of the Irish source of the name in discovering that the mother of the poet, Oscar Wilde, was Jane Francisca Elgee. She had become a writer of local reputation under the signature, ‘Speranza’. “She was born in Wexford, Ireland, into the family of the conservative Protestant Irish Elgees”. Her father was a lawyer, and her grandfather was Archdeacon John Elgee, Rector of Wexford, of the Irish Protestant Church. Two different traditions trace this family also to Italy.
So in Ireland we can find the name as we spell it. However, both tradition and history definitely trace our family to Scotland. And, though there is little evidence of the spelling Algie among us in the Maritimes, I have no question that we are of the same family as


James Algie of Paisley Cross, and of Jacobo Algeo, the Notary Public under the Abbot of Paisley, of Italian birth.
My father told me that his oldest brother, Jacob, who had a bit more education than some of the rest, who wrote a copyplate hand, of which I have samples, and who moved out from home early, once in young manhood came home, went either the 40 miles by road, or 10 miles across the lake to Newcastle Creek where Alexander was buried, and found his name spelled Elgee, and straightway succeeded in turning the whold family back to the spelling with an ‘E’. Church records at Lower Cumberland Bay show that this happened between 1866 and 1886.
I now turn back from the name to the family tree. Alexander Elgee, or Algee, married Ann Robinson after he had been here fourteen years. Records of the Robertson family at Cambridge, Queens County, reported to me by Mrs. Victor Robinson, provide the date of Alexander’s marriage to Ann Robinson, daughter of Patrick Robinson, July 12, 1797. That branch of the family tree goes as follows:
Patrick Robinson married Sally Hatton of New York. They came to New Brunswick in 1783. They were buried at Gagetown. They left a family of nine children, some born before and some after arrival, as follows:
Charles, born November 13, 1780. Descendants at Cambridge, N.B.
James Descendants at Newcastle Creek, N.S.
William Married Mary Thorne


John Went to sea. Unheard of afterward
Sarah Married Bookout. Lived in Ohio
Rebecca Married Humes
Mary Married Albright
Ann Married Alexander Elgee, July 12, 1797
Elizabeth Unmarried

The Robinson line, still established at Cambridge, with whose members we therefore have had some acquaintance, and who are our very distant cousins, goes, from father to son across two centuries, as follows:
Generation 1. Patrick; 2. Charles; 1780-1864; 3. John, 1819-1900; 4. George, 1864-1954; 5. Victor, 1898 - , who married Helen Chapman, daughter of Mr. And Mrs. Acel Chapman, also life-time friends of our family; 6. Reginald, 1925 - , who married Lena Wiggins; 7. George Brian, 1951 - .
Another family with whom we have had close acquaintance also belongs in this line.
Of generation 4, Martha Robinson, sister of George, married John R. Belyea also of Cambridge or Narrows. Their children: George; Fred; Rev. Robert; Edith; and Flora long have been our good friends.
The second generation in the Elgee family is as follows: Children of Alexander Elgee and Ann Robinson:
John, born April 4, 1800. Died 1888. Buried at Cumberland Point


Elizabeth, (Betsy)
Katherine, (Katie)
Mrs. Chesley

My father’s memory preserved a number of facts with some suppositions about this second generation. Since my family is descended from this John we have the date of his birth in 1800. If, therefore, James was the eldest, born perhaps in 1798, it would seem to signify the tradition of continuing the name of James. The general understanding that he also inherited the original farm would further be in accord with the belief that he was the eldest. However, father understood that he traded the farm for a vessel, a wood-boat, on the Grand lake and the St. John river. He sold, bought a larger vessel, and went to sea. The family then lost all trace of him, and took it for granted that he was drowned at sea. However, father’s brother, Jacob, living in western United States, reported that he had found James’ sons, who said that he had not been lost at sea, but had married a German woman, their mother.
William went to Nova Scotia; and father’s cousin, Ada Elgee Speight of St. John gave him the address of William’s descendants at Black Rock, N.S. Recently also I have further information about this from Ada’s daughter, Hazel Speight. Ada’s record was that her father, another


William of generation 3, being in St. John from Queens County on a hurried business trip, met a ship-master who, on hearing his name, told him that he knew his relatives in Nova Scotia, and offered to take him to see them. Being under the necessity to return to his family and his farm, he was unable to accept.
In 1958 I visited some of these people. After supper on August 29, being at the Baptist Convention at Wolfville, I drove to Cambridge, N.S., and thence to Lakeville. Here I found Elizabeth, widow of Robert Algee, and her son, Raymond. Later I received a letter from Mrs. Malcolm MacLean, nee Della Algee. Her grandfather, William Algee, settled at Black Rock, some miles nearer the ocean. Their tradition is that he was one of three brothers from England who were ship-wrecked; another went to New Brunswick; another to Massachusetts. If you will substitute Britain for England and recognize that there was a ship-wreck whether all three brothers were in it or not, it is not difficult to harmonize this with our records.
On the supposition that this William came from New Brunswick he is of the 2nd generation in the Maritimes. Mrs. MacLean says that he lived until October 8, 1891. He was twice married. His first wife’s name is unknown; his second wife was Elizabeth Lawson from Scotland. William’s only child, apparently, was of this second union, Alexander Bruce, generation 3.
Alexander Bruce also was twice married. By his


first wife, Annie Cameron, his children were Robert, Garfield, Emma, and William Wilbur. His second wife was Annie Goris, and their children were Alexander Bruce, Della, Gertie, Charles, and Dora. These compose generation 4. It is Elizabeth, the widow of this Robert, and their son Raymond whom I have met. I believe there is another son with a family in the area. And it is this Della, Mrs. MacLean, whose letter I have. Her mother, Annie Goris Algee, is living, and has a family record.
There are several circumstances which convince me that we are of the same family. I believe the two traditions do not conflict more than is to be expected in oral accounts subject to the misunderstandings of 135 years. The names Alexander and William speak of the relation. The names Robert and Bruce show a link with Scotland. The date of William’s death, 1891, corresponds closely with that of John in New Brunswick, 1888, as of the same generation. Most records of the New Brunswick name in that period show it as Algee.
Of two other members of generation 2 in New Brunswick, Alexander’s daughters, Betsy and Hannah, father knew only that they remained unmarried and lived together at Salmon river. Salmon river could mean Chipman, N.B., but I knew that the early settlement was at Gaspereaux Forks, five miles above the present Chipman, where the First Baptist Church is still located, while that in the village of Chipman is Second. Perhaps they lived there.


As recently as 1959 I have obtained further information to confirm this hypothesis. In Fredricton, nursing in one of our homes, I find Mrs. Alexander F. Hopkins whose home is in Gaspereau Forks. “Father said that two great aunts of our name, Betsy and Hannah, lived at Salmon River. You would not know of them?” “Yes, I have often heard my father talk of them.” What a discovery! She knows the six-room house which was their home, and which I since have seen. It was repaired as a hunting lodge, and now is owned by Oran Wallace of Fredricton. It is four miles up the Gaspereau stream where the woods are creeping in upon the old settlement. Mrs. Hopkins’ understanding is that these Algee women made their living by hand weaving of woolen cloth in the homes of the neighbourhood, a lumbering area, where heavy woolen cloth was in demand. In the church records there is the entry that in 1871 Hannah Algee and Betsy Algee each gave one dollar toward the salary of the Minister, Rev. J. E. Hopper, who was settling for one year. Of course, each such gift would probably be equal in value to twenty dollars to-day.
Katherine or Katie, seems to have been something of a character. Tragedy entered her life early, for, while unmarried, she gave birth to a son. I do not know his name. Then, on the basis of some principle of independence, or because he was a ne’er-do-well, she refused to marry the child’s father, and reared the boy herself.
We know something of Katie’s later years. In the church book of First Grand Lake Baptist Church, at Lower


Cumberland Bay is the record that Catherine Algee was baptized on May 5, 1866, by Elder Strang. If this is our Katherine, and we know of no other, she would probably be over 50 years of age and ten miles from home. For we know that she made her home and died at Newcastle Creek on the north-western side of Grand lake, 18 miles below Chipman.
Father knew this and also that Alexander, her father had been buried there. So, on a brief holiday trip in 1933 I took father, mother, and my family, from Jemseg, circled Grand lake, and stopped at Newcastle Creek to enquire and to look at the cemetery. We found a wooden grave marker which had been driven into the ground, had rotted off, and been driven in again, on which were the two initials, K. E. Father was prepared for this discovery, so we had found the place where Katie was buried, and evidence of spelling. Later, on October 2, 1951, being in the area attending a district meeting, I went back and hunted out Mr. Harry Flower, the caretaker. He said that he had seen that board but did not know for whom it stood. His wife recommended that I enquire of Mrs. Rupert Sypher of Minto. I did so, and my further knowledge of Katie comes from Mrs. Sypher.
Katie spent her last years in a home which had been a Robinson home at Newcastle Creek. This, I feel sure, was an uncle’s or a cousin’s home among her mother’s people. The record of the Robinson family, her mother’s brothers and sisters, says that James Robinson settled at

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Newcastle. Into this home a boy, Leonard Akerly, son of Mr. And Mrs. Menzies Akerly, was received after the death of his mother. Katherine he called Aunt Katie, as many people did. So Mrs. Sypher has supposed that he was a nephew, but I can find no evidence which makes this probable.
A little later Frances Chapman, 1836 – 1916, came to this home to work. Here, once again, Mrs. Victor Robinson, whose maiden name was Chapman, has given me help, for this Frances Chapman was her grandfather’s sister. Leonard Akerly and Frances Chapman were married and Mrs. Sypher (Bertha) was their youngest child, and accordingly grew up also in this Robinson home. Leonard Akerley, her father, was drowned when she was very small, so she scarcely remembers him. But she remembers Katie well. So here is a living memory, only once removed, from Alexander himself.
Katie lived to be very old. Mrs. Sypher remembers how deeply stooped she was. She would sleep in her chair with her head almost between her knees. She died when Mrs. Sypher herself was, as she considers, about 17 years old. It was in March, snowy, wet, and slushy. She had to stay at home from school to help care for Katie. Mrs. Sypher was born, as I find by subtracting her age from the date of our conversation, in 1874. Therefore the date of Katie’s death, when the girl was 17, was 1891. William Algee, perhaps her brother, in Nova Scotia, died the same year.
Katie belonged to a very strict generation. Mrs.

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Sypher remembers how strongly opposed all the Robinson women were to playing cards. Her mother, while working there as a girl, found them. Being unacquainted with cards, and thinking how pretty they were, she showed them to the older women. They were horrified and burned them. The girl was puzzled between the piety of destroying the cards and the lack of honesty in taking what belonged to another, a problem of ethics which that generation sometimes failed to face.
Alexander had still another daughter whose first name father did not know. All that he could recall was that she married John Chesley and lived in St. John. Charles Elgee also, of generation 4, in Fredericton, has childhood memories which strongly confirm this connection. When he was a small boy his father William, of generation 3, visited John and Alfonzo Chesley in St. John where they had an iron foundry. He remembers the relationship as being that of nephew and uncle. Since Mrs. Chesley was of generation 2, she would be William’s aunt, and her husband his uncle by marriage. This relation is plainly indicated by the fact that Charles has Chesley as his second name.
There are very few of the Chesley name now in St. John, or even New Brunswick, I believe. I have communicated with Mr. John (Jack) Chesley in St. John, and with his cousin, Mrs. W. R. Harrington, whose maiden name was Chesley. They can trace their family back to the grand-parents, but know nothing of the generation before

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That, and it would be through a great grandmother that we might expect to trace the Algee name.
Father understood that John Clesley had charge of the light-houses down the coast; and Charles thought an Alfonzo Chesley from St. John, who perished in a prairie fire, was the brother. I doubt both of these identifications. I consider them to be examples of natural misplacement of incident in an oral tradition. The facts are true but falsely placed. The Alfonzo many years later in the fire is evidence of a family name being carried on. Mr. Jack Chesley tells me that the John Chesley in charge of the light-houses was two generations younger than we supposed. So I still have failed to find Mrs. Chesley’s first name. But of the basic facts there can be no question.
Finally we come to John, the last member of generation 2 to be considered, not the latest in birth, but left to the last for convenience, since my family are among his descendents. John Elgee or Algee, 1800-1888, married Phoebe Smith. Their children were:
Generation 3

William, born 1821
John, born October 13, 1823
Ann, born 1824

I know little of Phoebe’s family except that she was a sister of William Smith, and an aunt of Asa Smith

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who lived beside my father, in the house next below the Lower Cumberland Bay Baptist Church in my earliest childhood.
John and Phoebe lived on the whole farm next above the same church, the place of my birth, and two miles below Alexander’s original lot. Father understood that this farm had been acquired from a Langley family. And John Langley’s name appears there in the copy of the grant which I have seen.
I have postponed giving the account of the last days of Alexander, the pioneer, until this place because it is so closely connected with his grandsons that they must be on the scene before it can reasonably be told.
I have said that Alexander gave or sold his original farm to his son James. On the other hand he obtained more land, the farm third below his own which, in my boyhood, was occupied by David Phillips and his son Rufus, and perhaps the farm first below his own, next below the school, where in my memory Howard Phillips lived. In the grand these properties are designated with the name Wiggins. On what I have called the Rufus Phillips farm, Alexander had a house which I have seen, since it was that part with gabel to the road standing in my youth.
Now when his grandson William was planning to be married, William’s father, John, divided his farm with him, giving William the upper half, whether by gift or sale I do not know. This was the farm next above the

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church. On this upper half William began to build a house.
At this time it would seem that Alexander’s wife had died and he was alone. He said to his grandson William, “Don’t bother to build. Come and take care of me, and I will give you my farm”, the Rufus Phillips farm. William agreed and did so.
The story continues that the old man lived only a year. He died in July. He had been feeling fine. They had green beans for dinner. He ate heartily and died before night. He was buried at Newcastle Creek on the other side of Grand lake. I draw the conclusion that his wife was already buried there among her own people, the Robinsons.
I feel sure that the above story is correct, although I now have evidence to make me suspect that father was wrong in the date. He believed that Alexander died about 1845. I now would place it in 1853. Charles Elgee, a younger son of the above William, tells me that James, his oldest brother, the oldest of the family, was born in 1853. I also have this date from his grave stone and in other records. This dates William’s marriage and the beginning of his care of Alexander perhaps in 1852, and the old gentleman’s death in 1853.

NOTE: There is much more of this record, it is 117 pages long. I don’t think I will type it all out due to the fact the most closely related Alger branch of my family is mostly mentioned only on pages 8, 9, and 10. If you are interested in the rest of this book, please send me an e-mail, there is a lot of information in it. - Jessi