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Hannah Dixon, Second Wife of Matthias Marsh

1791 - early 1840's

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Pioneers of the Bay of Quinte
Matthias Marsh

Why I am Interested in this person.
Wilson and Jennifer Brown, both retired professors from the University of Winnipeg, have been researching "Col" William Marsh, his life as a patriot and a loyalist and the story of his children in Upper Canada and Vermont. The authors currently have finished a book on the Marsh family and it is hoped that it will be published soon.

Wilson has kindly given permission to share the story that they have unearthed about Hannah Dixon, the second wife of Matthias Marsh. Wilson writes in an email that, "I checked a number of posted genealogies that touched on this family.  None seem to know Hanna’s maiden name or the Reeves, and so far as I know, I am the only one who found Eleazar Cobb’s first name.  Most have real trouble with the group."
Authors: Wilson B. Brown, Jennifer S.H. Brown (descendant of Matthias by his first wife, Sarah Richardson)
Wilson and Jennifer Bown, Feb 2013



Summary of Conclusions
Hannah Dixon (or Dickson), was born in New York in 1791.  She married Mr. Reeves (first name as yet undiscovered) in or shortly before 1809, the year their son, George W., was born. Hannah would have been only 17 or 18 when George was born.  Mr. Reeves, however, died , leaving Hannah a widow with a baby (or maybe even still pregnant.)

Matthias’ first wife, Sarah Richardson, died in 1810, leaving him to care for at least six children under the age of 16. Not surprisingly, he would have been looking for a second wife.  About 1811, Matthias, almost 50 years old, married the 20 year-old widow, Hannah.

Matthias and Hannah had fivechildren between 1812 and 1818: Mary, Eliza Ann, Almira, Charles, and James.

How Hannah and Matthias met is unknown.  They must have had prior knowledge of each other and the situation because Hannah came up to Ontario with a very young child, and was, as they say, “young enough to be Matthias’ daughter,” in this case about 30 years separated the new couple.  It seems likely that some friend or family member acted as intermediary. 

After Matthias’ death in 1829, Hannah married for a third time Eleazar Cobb, and the new couple had one child, Loretta, born about 1833, when Hannah was about 42 years old.  Eleazar died before the court case discussed below (early 1840s).


Sources

Census Records.

The 1851 census for the township of Sidney, Hastings Co., Ontario (Canada West at the time), shows a column of names of people living along the shoreline of the Bay of Quinte, very likely in order from east to west, to judge by the last names and various maps of the area. In 1787 two adjacent lots, No. 4 and No. 5, were laid out and granted to William Marsh and John Walter Meyers.  While neither Marsh nor Meyers stayed on their lands for long, the lands went to their children.  The census has a long list of people surnamed Meyers, and then to the west come Webster White (33), his wife, Eliza Ann (32), and a daughter, and 3 young children). Webster was the son of Reuben White and Esther Marsh, the daughter of Matthias and Sarah (Richardson) Marsh.  It is likely their land was originally William Marsh’s land and then Matthias’ land.  Presumably this was the west side of the old Lot 4.

The next two names are Hannah Cobb and Loretta Cobb, followed by Charlotte Marsh, probably in the same house. There is no Eleazar Cobb, so presumably he had died, a conclusion confirmed by his absence from a the court case presented below that he was dead by 1839.  Loretta Cobb, by the census of 1851 was age 18, must be the daughter of Hannah who was, as noted above, young enough to bear children when she married Eleazar.  Charlotte Marsh, 29, was born 1821-22.

The next house held George W. Reeves, age 37, born in the U.S., with his wife Mary Ann, and six children, as well as a small, younger, Irish family named Gallant, the father of which must have been working with or apprenticed to George.

Ontario Land Petitions

Matthias Marsh was considered a Loyalist.  Although he did not fight in the war, he may have acted as a courier for his father and probably brought up cattle from Manchester and Dorset, VT in 1783.  One list of Loyalists has a note that Matthias helped with Loyalist cattle[1] ; in 1783, Col. William himself requested General Haldimand to allow 45 head of cattle he had assembled in Vermont be let into Canada.[2]  Shortly thereafter he spoke of two of his sons being with him in Canada. 

Whatever the reason, Matthias as a Loyalist could claim acres and each of his children were eligible for a 200 acre grant.  Land petition records show six applications from children by Hannah and testimony confirming the connection.

  1. Almira Marsh.  In a petition of 27 October 1840, Almira (spelled Almirah) states tha her father was Matthias Marsh.[3]  The petition included a letter from Reuben White, son in law of Matthias, stating

      Reuben White of the Township of Sidney in the said District yeoman Maketh Oath and Saith that he was personally acquainted with the late Matthias Marsh of the Township of Sidney, deceased.  That he was the father of Almira, Elizabeth, and Charlotte Marsh whose petitions for grants of land as his children, this deponent understands are now before the Inspector General and that the said Matthias Marsh would have if now living upward of eighty years of age and this deponent further saith that all the rest of his children who have made application as children of U.E Loyalists have now received grants of Land from the Crown as Such and that he always understood that said Matthias Marsh was a UE Loyalist[4]

    Sworn before me at Sidney in the said District this 18th day of November, 1840

Reuben White

Sheldon Hawley[5]

  1. Eliza Ann. Eliza’s petition was filed with that of her sisters, Charlotte and Almira.  The three girls got their land.[6]
  2. Charlotte, Matthias’ last child, born about 1818. Her information and application is filed with her two sisters, Almira and Eliza Ann.
  3. Mary Marsh, born about 1812 in Sidney.  She is identified as a daughter of Matthias in an order-in-council of Nov. 25, 1842.[7]
  4. Charles Marsh applied for a land grant as the son of a Loyalist 24 October 1837, stating that he was 21 years old at the time and that his father was Matthias.  That would make his birthday late in 1817 and before Oct 23 of 1818.  He was living in Sidney when he applied.[8]  He settled at Ameliasburgh and married Mary Anne Logan.
  5. James Marsh, of Sidney, June 14, 1838[9] received land via an order-in-council, identified as son of Matthias, Loyalist. James married Charity Terrill.

Reeves vs Meyers,  Judge’s Bench Books[10]

Ontario judges kept their notes on cases they handled in notebooks, known as judges’ bench books, some of which are in the Archives of Ontario.  They are at points difficult to read because the judge used many abbreviations and was not writing to or for someone else, but many of them are very interesting as much for the genealogical as for the legal and historical aspects of the cases.

Judge Christopher A. Hagerman handled a case in about 1839 (the exact date is not indicated in the book) which explains the relationship of Hannah Dixon to her children and casts light on some of the people involved.  And in itself, it is an interesting historical document.

The gist of the case is this:  After the death of Matthias Marsh in 1829, Hannah remained in the house, and had the right to live there as long as she lived or remained unmarried. With her were the younger Marshes, and, in the shop nearby, George W. Reeves, her son by her first marriage.  When Hannah married Eleazar Cobb, she in effect lost the right to live in the house, but no one objected, given that the marriage would have made her better off and she had the children, still in their teens, to raise.

Somehow, Eleazar and Hannah apparently lost the house and land.  It is probable that they had borrowed money against the property, and then could not pay back the loan.  Often people used “mortgage deeds” wherein they sold their property to the lender, subject to the sale being reversed when they paid the debt. The lender is identified in the judge’s notes only as Mr. Meyers. Plenty of Meyers lived in the area, so it would be hard to tell which one. (The judge did not indicate in his notes Meyer’s first name.)  Whatever the details, Meyers moved to eject the residents from the house and George Reeve’s shop, forcing them out on a Saturday in the cold of February.  The children, a few of whom were around 21, did not know of the sale until the day of the ejectment, when Hannah admitted to them she had lost possession.  The problem for Mr. Meyers and the saving grace for Hannah and family was that she did not have possession of the property when she and Eleazar borrowed against it, possession having expired with her remarriage, so the family was restored to its possession some months later.  (Or so it appears to us from its mention in Judge Hagerman’s book.)  The suit itself involved George Reeves suing Meyers for the pain and costs of being ejected, for which he received ₤180.  

The relationships of the people (except for Loretta) are a necessary part of the explanation of why the lands were confiscated and why they were returned.  George Reeves had a five-acre piece of land in Sidney right on the Bay of Quinte, and he had a shop there in which he made harnesses.  The land was on Lot 5, but it was explained that this had been part of the old Lot 4, and that piece had come through Matthias' son, Abraham and Abraham’s son, Nathan.  The Cobbs had no legal right to sell that either.  Abraham Marsh had sworn in the earlier trials that he owned the land and had transferred it to Charles and James Marsh and George Reeves.

Abraham, who died soon after, testified that --

“In the Spring of ’37 [he] was in possession of the lot in dispute and upon which the alleged Trespass was committed – delivered possession to Chas. Marsh and James Marsh, and Geo. Reeves – it was supposed that the two Marshes were the rightful owners.  They remained there until it was stated they were turned out by Defendant.

“Charles and James Marsh and Geo. Reeve are heirs of the Widow of Matthias Marsh.  She remained in possession with the others after the death of Matthias Marsh.  She was entitled to the property during her life or widowhood, as understood.  She afterward married Eleazer Cobb and remained with [the] heirs in possession.

“After Defendant had taken legal proceedings to dispossess Cobb & his wife and the other parties in possession  witness gave formal possession of the premises to George & James Marsh and Reeves the defendant [in the earlier case], -- Samuel Marsh occupied No 5 – it was a part of No. 4, of it to C & J Marsh and Reeves, the west part of the East half.  It was understood when he gave possession of the property to G&J Marsh that their mother, Mrs Cox [Cobb] should remain there with them.  She afterward married Eliazer [sic] Cobb and remained with the heirs in the house. . . .  Marsh occupies No 5 – it was a part of No. 4 he gave possession of to G&J Marsh and Reeves, the west part of the East half.  It was understood when he gave possession of the property to G&J Marsh that their Mother Mrs. Cox [Cobb] should remain there with them.”

While Abraham did not say specifically that George was Hannah’s son (although it seems the most logical way he would have been heir), it is stated explicitly later.  Testifying for the defence was the deputy sheriff who had delivered the ejection notice, Mr. Hopkins, and he recalled that Mrs. Cobb then called to her son George Reeves and told him that the man had cause to take possession of the premises.

It is doubtful the Cobbs meant to cheat their lender, Mr. Meyers, but a careful lender might have easily discovered they did not own the land they pledged, and a little notice (instead of the sudden and awkward dispossession) might have avoided much legal trouble.

The three sets of documents serve to confirm the observations made in the Opening Summary.



[1] See entry regarding Matthias in the Loyalist Register, RG 1-515-0-0-2, Archives of Ontario, quoting his offering of evidence to confirm his Loyalist status

[2] Haldimand Papers, Batch 162, SN 162058, 106, 15 September 1783, [William]  Marsh to [Robert] Mathews.     See  also entry regarding Matthias in the Loyalist Register, RG 1-515-0-0-2, Archives of Ontario, quoting his offering of evidence to confirm his Loyalist status

[3] Public Archives of Canada (PAC), Upper Canada Land Petitions, “M” Bundle, 27 October, 1840.

[4] Same as # 3.

[5]  Upper Canada Land Petitions (1763-1865)  Name: Marsh, Almirah  Place: Sidney  Year: 1840  Volume: 365  Bundle: M 22  Petition: 105  Microfilm: C-2219  Reference: RG 1 L3

[6]  Upper Canada Land Petitions (1763-1865).Name: Marsh, Eliza Ann  Place: Sidney  Year: 1840  Volume: 365  Bundle: M 22  Petition: 106  Microfilm: C-2219  Reference: RG 1 L3

[7] Upper Canada Land Petitions (1763-1865).

Name: Marsh, Mary  Place: Sidney  Year: 1842  Volume: 366  Bundle: M 1  Petition: 71  Microfilm: C-2220  Reference: RG 1 L3

[8]Upper Canada Land Petitions (1763-1865), Name: Marsh, Charles   Place: Sidney Year: 1837 Volume: 364 Bundle: M  21 Petition: 42M icrofilm: C-2218 Reference: RG 1 L3.p.42.

[9] Upper Canada Land Petitions   Upper Canada Land Petitions (1763-1865).

Name: Marsh, James  Place: Sidney  Year: 1839  Volume: 364A  Bundle: M 21  Petition: 125  Microfilm: C-2219 “M” Bundle, 1831-1839.

[10] Judges' Bench Books C .A. Hagerman, March-April 1840.