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Great Grandfather Warren Sears

My great-grandfather, Ralph Warren “Marcus” Sears was born May 24, 1885 on Perth Road in Loughborough, Addington, Frontenac County and brought up Methodist.   He died at on February 5, 1969, living to 83 years and 8 months.

My uncle told me he remembers his grandfather to be an ornery man, with a quick temper and lumps of coal dust in his ears from their coal-fired furnace.  Four or five times a month he might bathe, and once a year he would go to the doctor to get the coal removed from his ears.

I would imagine that his temper stemmed from the hard life he had and his experiences dealing with some of Canada’s most notorious criminals, murderers, thieves, and bank robbers.    Or perhaps just from losing his wife at 34, after they lost their young daughter.  His wife, Emma Rose Turner, died November 24, 1917, leaving him to raise my grandfather a single dad.

In the Census of Canada, 1901, Warren is listed as living with my Great Great Grandfather Samuel Sears, his mother Hannah Buck Sears, his brothers Benjamin Sears, Frederick Sears, sister Alberta Sears.  Their next door neighbours in Loughborough, district 43 Addington, on each side were Ackroyds.  Two doors down, Barney Buck and his family lived, and two doors down the other way John Babcock and his family lived, some other names in my family clan..

Many of the documents of his life we obtained from a researcher Canada’s Penitentiary Museum.  Mr. Sears started his employment at the notorious Kingston Penitentiary (KP) as a guard in February of 1914.  His starting salary was $800.  As he could get his shoes and laundry taken care of for free at the jail, this was probably a good package.

I learned of his connections to Haileybury and Cobalt through correspondence records from the jail, and anecdotes from my father.  We think he may have worked in the mines of Cobalt during the great silver rush of 1905.


Oddly enough, I did not find a lot of books or information on the secretive history of KP, though there are plenty of mug shots and interesting stories of the convicts and prison staff.



Urban Dictionary‘s definition of to Roebuck:

‘roebuck’ is a verb, usually used in the sense that a name is “being roebucked”. To be roebucked means that a name which in a two name company which previously had equal standing is being gradually phased out. This is derived from the company originally known as Sears-Roebuck but is now just Sears, having roebucked the Roebuck, so to speak.

Sears Roebuck and Co ceased to exist in 2004 when it became Sears Holdings .  As Sears possibly Roebucks itself out of the retail market, here’s my notes on the Roe-Buck family name.

From Familysearch:

The Roebuck name is English, originating around Kent and Somersetshire section of England where it has been known for many generation as a very well known and ancient family. The name Roebuck means – a dweller at the sigh of the male roe deer. This could have meant a sigh on an inn, or where deer were often seen.

The first roebucks to come to America came to Virginia. On February 15, 1635 two brothers, George and John Roebuck sailed on the ship, PLAIN JOAN with Captain Richard Buck as the Master. They had taken the oath of allegiance to the King and Conformities to the church before being allowed to sail. They paid their own passage rather than being indentured to some one else for their fare as so many at that time, which shows they we~e people of some means to be able to do so. There is a record of George Roebuck on the quit rent (tax list) in Surry County, Virginia for the year 1704 as paying taxes on 70 Acres of cleared land. The first official census was taken in 1790. It showed two Roebuck in Martin County (the only ones in N.C.).

Captain Richard Buck of the Plaine Joan (Plain Jane) may have been Richard Buckman according to this passenger list.

From Surname Database:

This unusual and interesting name is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and has two possible sources. Firstly, it may derive from a nickname for a shy or timid person, from the Olde English pre 7th Century “ra” and “bucc”, roe-buck. many early English surnames were developed from the habitual use of nicknames, which were frequently bestowed with reference to some fancied resemblance to an animal’s or bird’s appearance or characteristic behaviour other modern surnames derived from the Olde English “ra” and “raege” (female deer), are Ray, Roe, Raye, Reye and Rae. The Development of “Roebuck” as a surname includes Matilda Robuc (1297, Yorkshire), and Richard Rabuk (1379, ibid). The modern surname may also derive from a “sign-name” where the original bearer lived “at the sign of the roebuck”, as in one William atte Robuck, recorded in Parliamentary writs of 1313. One John Roebuck was christened at St. Andrew’s, Holborn, in London, on May 11th 1639. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Adam Rabuck (witness), which was dated 1246, witness in the “Assize Rolls of Lancashire”, during the reign of King Henry 111, known as “The Frenchman”, 1216 – 1272. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax.

According to the Roebucke/Roebuck Family History, The Roebuck Family Guarded the King of England’s Roe Deer around the castle.

Robert Roebuck 1630-1670

A great source of information is the Robert Roebuck web site,

It is said that prior to leaving Wales the family had been in the kings service as foresters or literally guardians of the kings deer, thus the name Roebuck. Was RABUK, ROBUK,ROBUC, and ROEBUCK and they were found mostly in Yorkshire, England, by the 14th century.

In 1746, John Roebuck invented leaden condensing chambers for the manufacture of sulphuric acid.

In 1770s, there was also a class of 44-Gun ships built with the Roebuck name.

H.M.S. Roebuck was the nameship of a class of twenty fifth rates even though she herself was completed before any of the others had been laid down. Roebuck’s keel was laid in Chatham dockyard in October 1770 and she was launched on 28 th April 1774. Measured by her builders at 886 tons, she was 140 feet in length with a 38 foot beam, and mounted 44 guns in total comprising 20x­18 pounders, 22x­9 pdrs. and 2­x6 pdrs.
In 1802, John Arthur Roebuck was born.  He was a radical politician and lawyer, at one point living in Upper Canada before moving back to England and serving in Parliament.
 He championed the cause of self-government for Canada and other colonies of the British empire in his book, The Colonies of England: A Plan for The Government of Some Portion of Our Colonial Possessions.
Canada is not a nation–she is–a colony–a tiny sphere, the satellite of a mighty star, in whose brightness she is lost.  Canada has no navy, no army, no literature, no brotherhood of science.  If, then, a Canadian looks for honour in any of these various fields, he must seek it as an Englishman; he must forget and desert his country, before he can be known to fame.  We must not then wonder if we find every intelligent and ambitious Canadian with a feeling of bitterness in his heart—because of his own inferiority of condition.
I seek to frame a polity which contemplates the colony in its commencement–in its infancy–and onward in its course, till it becomes an established and self-governing community; my polity then seeks to unite thisself-governing state with others, having the same interests and living under the same laws and according to the same rule of government.  Thus my plan proceeds preparing for a continually increasing power and importance–providing a secure and comfortable subsistence for the humble millions who constitute the large majority of the people–and opening a career of honourable ambition for the more aspiring leaders, by whom the peopel will be guided, ruled, and led.
It’s interesting, in Canada’s 125th year of existence as a formal self-governed country, how influential this Roebuck may have been on the original founding fathers and their overseas overseers.
His biography has more information on his Life in Canada as a young man.
The wild country, its great rivers, the vast scale upon which everything was framed, made on me a profound impression. The freedom in which we lived, the thorough liberty of going where we liked, the new scenes, brought with them a sort of enchantment. All efforts would fail were I to endeavour to describe them.The population of the district mostly consisted of the descendants of those Americans who adhered to the side of the mother-country in the War of Independence. These people emigrated to Canada as being still an English possession, and were known as U.E.’s (United Englishmen).

He met another Powell, Sir John Powell, on his occasion of meeting Prince Leopold, the Duke of Richmond, and the Queen of England.

Before I was admitted to the presence Sir John Powell asked me to see him. I went, and found him with two books before him. He said that the Queen wished to have my autograph in those books on the date of my birth.

After some short time, the Duke of Richmond giving me his arm, we were ushered into the presence of lier Majesty. We found the Queen standing near the door with Prince Leopold on her right hand. She advanced and said, as nearly as I can recollect the words, ” I Lave sent for you, Mr. Roebuck, so that I might be able to express to you personally my high appreciation of what you have said and done upon the late trying occasions.  I consider your conduct to have been that of a true patriot, and I am glad to have this opportunity of expressing to yourself my
approbation and thanks.”

I, upon this, expressed my sincere and warm thanks “or her Majesty’s goodness, saying that I was amply rewarded for all that I suffered, and I had suffered, because of what I had done, and which had Avon her Majesty’s approval.

Perhaps one of the most important and vocal Roebucks in history.
Of perhaps lesser importance, in 1839, M.D. Hill and Roebuck were involved in a patent infringement case having to do with a new-and-improved ships head, or bathroom.
Arthur Roebuck (1878-1971), another lifelong politician, cabinet minister and senator from Toronto,  championed the civil liberties and rights of Canadians.
The famous Alvah C. Roebuck of Chicago, IL, was a partner with Richard W. Sears in A.C. Roebuck & Company, later Sears Roebuck, 1893.  In 1894 Alvah was concerned about bankruptcy and sold his share for $20,000.   Roebuck continued to work for Sears, and designed one of the first motion picture projector “magic lanterns”.
Even with the downturn of Sears, market cap is still $1.18B.  That $20,000 share would have been worth quite a bit more after a few stock splits, M&As, spinoffs and the recent $900 million sale of its Craftsman brand.
My great great grandparents have the Sears and Buck names, and although I don’t believe I have any Roebuck relatives, it’s interesting to me that the Roebuck name brings the surname graph relationship together.

The $30,000 Nutt

P.T. Barnum is often quoted as saying “There’s a sucker born every minute.” Barnum’s biographer couldn’t find out exactly where the phrase originated, however it was more likely spoken in criticism against him and his customers rather than by himself.

There may not be a sucker born every minute, but back in the day there might have been a Nutt born every minute. Nutts have 10,300,000 web pages, a Facebook presence of 363,000 pages, and there are 314,000 Nutts in the phone book. Most of the Nutts are in the US, though a few still remain in the UK (mainly Ireland) and a tiny amount moved to Canada.

William NUTT was born abt 1698 in Londonderry, Ulster, North Ireland and d. 26 Oct 1751 in Chester, Rockingham Co NH William NUTT was a weaver and ran the first fulling mill at Londonderry NH and later owned it. A descendant, Charles Nutt, wrote: “I have studied the English records of the Nutt family and I have about concluded that the ancestors of William-1 Nutt were in Ireland, probably Aghadoney, County Londonderry, for two or three generations, coming there from England. They undoubtedly descended from the family to which King Canute or Knut belonged. Back in 1100 the name was spelled Knut, Knot, Knutte, etc., but by 1300 it was definitely Nutt or Nutte…”

This post isn’t about P.T. Barnum or William Nutt, who have some ties to our branch of the Sears family tree, it is about a few closer ancestors, including two of Barnum’s employees, one being Commodore George Washington Morrison Nutt (1848-1881).

Commodore Nutt and his partner

Commodore Nutt was not a sucker. He joined the circus, made a fortune and was the most kissed man in the United States. He associated with the heads of state, Abraham Lincoln, and European royalty. He was sometimes mistaken for General Tom Thumb, another circus entertainer and co-worker. Together, they fought for the same woman’s hand in marriage. Tom won. George Nutt was the best man at Tom’s wedding, which was attended by over 2,000 people including Astors, Vanderbilts, and General Ambrose Burnside. The reception had over 5,000 attendees, and Barnum made $375,000 off them for admission. Tom Thumb’s funeral years later would be attended by over 10,000 people, though not sure if Barnum was there.

Right around the time Barnum & Commodore Nutt where hanging around with Abraham Lincoln, one of his relatives, Benjamin Franklin Nutt, Sr was hung for being a Confederate deserter. His story is a particularly sad & gruesome tale.

Ben Franklin, Sr.

Prior to this event, in 1781, Emmanuel Nutt was court marshaled in New York for desertion. “The Prisoner Emanuel NUTT, being call’d to and put on his Defence says, that when He absented himself from his detachment he was in Liquor that he has been Twenty five Years in his Majesty’s Service, that he had no intention of deserting, but was afraid to return back ’till some of his Friends, had made intercession with the Commanding Officer in his Behalf. “

Yet another Nutt, Martin Van Buren, was a civil war soldier. Martin Van Buren (not the Nutt one) was the 8th president of the United States. Not sure if they were related, though I did find a Captain Martin Van Buren Bates, who at 7’11’ and 470lbs was the largest soldier in the civil war.

Martin Van Buren Bates

Known as the “Kentucky Giant”, he eventually joined P.T. Barnum’s circus too, visited Halifax, Nova Scotia, and met 7’5” Anna Haining Swan. Together they toured Europe with the circus and eventually got married. “Queen Victoria herself gave them two extra-large diamond-studded gold watches as wedding presents.” Martin’s watch chimed the hours and was made of 112oz of gold. They tried to have children, unfortunately both sons died at or shortly after birth. One was registered at 18lbs, another at 22lbs.

Back to my immediate ancestry, David Nutt, who led a much more down-to-earth lifestyle.

David Nutt was born June 8, 1805 in Clarenceville, Bedford, Quebec. According to Mitchel & Co’s Canada Classified Directory of 1865-66, David Nutt was a Farmer, Baliff and the Postmaster or Post Office Superintendent of Clarenceville, Quebec. He served as postmaster from 1861-1884. He owned 100 acres of most likely Loyalist granted land. He was married October 16, 1825 to Elizabeth “Betty” Mitchell. At the time, they had 4-5 teenagers manning the farm. Eventually he would have 10 children.

David’s second wife was Aurelie Ratte. The french name was butchered in some documents as Orillia Rattie. They had a son Henry George Sears (1863 – 1933). Henry married Sarah Barr, and they had William George “Bill” Sears (1896-1978) and Margaret Georgena Sears (1898-1929). Bill Sears had 6 children with his wife Louise May Silver (1894-1980), including Velma A. “Bonnie” Sears Ball. Velma married Alfred Bruce Ball (1917-1991) who lived a life quite parallel to my grandfather’s age. They had 3 children. This branch is still living.

David Sears died October 13, 1885.

One of his daughters was Margaret Nutt, my 1st Great Grandmother. Margaret Nutt married my 1st Great Grandfather William Sears.

There are plenty of places and people with a little Nutt in them. There’s Nutfield, Surrey in the UK. Nutfield Marsh is just to the north. In Clarenceville, Quebec you have Nutt’s Corners, named after the above postmaster.

To stray off topic a bit, Clarenceville, better known as Saint-Georges-de-Clarenceville, Montérégie, Québec, has a long history.

Located in Missisquoi County, and originally owned by France, the area was named Seigneurie de Foucault and settled by the French after 1727. The land was transferred to British rule after the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1763. The area was leased to Colonel Henry Caldwell in 1774 and called Caldwell’s Manor, then sold in 1742 to Joseph Frederic Allard and renamed Allard’s Manor. In 1822 the name was changed to its current name Saint Georges de Clarenceville, briefly Clarenceville. It resides in the Municipality of Noyan.

Missisquoi is derived from an Algonquin Abenaki word meaning “lots of waterfowl”. One of my ancestors is a Quackenbush. Perhaps a tie-in to the ducks in Missisquoi? Next to find out more about Quackenbush…