The Pinkertons in Scotland

My third great grandparents were William Pinkerton and Martha Moore. They were married in 1839 in Barony Lanark, southeast of Glasgow on the River Clyde. According to the Censuses of Scotland 1841, 1851 and 1861, my third great grandparents were both born in Ireland – William Pinkerton in 1816 and Martha in 1821. The 1841 Census of Scotland tells us that they lived with their first child, Jane, in Hill Square, Barony, Lanarkshire. By 1851, the growing Pinkerton family had relocated to Eastwood, Thornliebank, Renfrewshire, west of Glasgow. And in 1861, the family lived at 34 Abercromby Street in Glasgow.

Until the middle of the 18th century, the economics of this region were based on agriculture. At that time, however, the textile industry exploded as huge fabric mills, print works and bleachfields came into being.

Thornliebank Print Works
The Time House at the Print Works

My third great grandfather William Pinkerton was a blue dyer and a calico dyer – jobs that required skill and experience.  Mill workers worked long hours with few days off. Conditions were dangerous and diseases such as bronchitis, pneumonia and tuberculosis were common.

calico factory
East Renfrewshire Calico Dying Facility, circa 1900


Such hazards did not seem to have a large impact on the Pinkerton family! William and Martha had nine children – the first born when Martha was 19 years old, the last born when she was 42. Jane was born in 1840, followed by great great grandmother, Margaret in 1842. Then along came seven more: James (born 1845), John S. (born 1847), Martha E. (born 1850), William (born 1853), Robert (born 1858), James Alexander (born 1860), and Louise Victor (born 1863). I believe that all but one of these children survived into adulthood. Not surprisingly, however, my third great grandmother Martha Moore Pinkerton died sometime between 1865 and 1869.

In 1869, my third great grandfather married Annie Ferguson in Glasgow. Annie was born in Campsie, Sterling in 1841. She was 25 years younger than her husband and just a few years older than her oldest step daughter. Jane! Annie and William had two more children, Andrew (born 1870) and Annie (born 1872).

There’s someone missing … what has become of my great great grandmother Margaret Pinkerton?



Charles Norvell Shaw

Charles Norvell Shaw is, to me, an interesting twig on the family tree. He was the son of Joseph Marsden Shaw and Alice Engler. Norrie was the nephew of my second great grandfather Charlie Shaw, but they were born the same year: 1866. They apparently were … accomplices … in the previously described Shaw Shenanigans!

Most of what I have learned about Norrie comes from two obituaries that are in Beatrice’s scrapbook. It seems he was a member of the Dresden Citizens’ Band, which was made up of some of Dresden’s well-to-do industrialists and merchants. Perhaps our Norrie did not exactly fit that description — his death notice states that at the time of his death in July of 1896, he was a bartender! But clearly, he was enormously popular, and well loved.


Norrie obit

From one of the posters on the Facebook page Dresden Virtual History Group, I have learned that Reverend T. D. McCullough was the pastor of the Dresden Presbyterian Church from 1895 to 1899. He was known for his ministry to the youth of his community, although only in his 20s himself.

norrie obit

Norrie’s death notice states that his death was caused by neurosis of the spine, which I believe is the old fashioned name for stenosis of the spine. He was only 31 years old.

norrie death

Charles Norvell Shaw was buried in Dresden Cemetery with the inscription, “In my father’s house there are many mansions.”

Norrie Base Drum

This photo is from a composite photo of the Dresden Citizens’ Band provided to me by Marie Carter with the Dresden Virtual History Group. It is dated 1895. I can’t be at all certain that this is a photo of my ancestor, Charles Norvell Shaw — there were quite a few C. Shaws around in those days. It is dated 1895, so if it is Norrie, it was taken a year or so before his death.


After rereading the clippings about the Shaw young men and their shenanigans, I wondered about the Dresden Grand Opera House. Googling turned up nothing, so I contacted the Facebook page, “Chatham-Kent Pictures of Our Past.” They referred me to the Facebook page “Dresden Virtual History Group.” Here, I was welcomed by the amazing Marie Carter and found a treasure trove of photos and information. Marie is unaware of any Dresden Grand Opera House, but she did provide me with some great photos.

The Cast of the Womanless Wedding from Feb. of 1931

It doesn’t appear that any of my ancestors are pictured here, but it’s hard to miss the gent in blackface in the front row! This group performed at the Shaw Theater, over the old creamery in Dresden.

Shaw Shenanigans!

I have a scrapbook — originally a booklet called a “Souvenir of the Canadian Association of Stationary Engineers.” It is full of advertisements for such things as boilers, pulleys, ovens steamfitters’ equipment, etc. as well as photos of public building throughout Eastern Canada. Over these ads are pasted newspaper clippings about everything from football games and bicycle races to obituaries and inspirational stories. Mona told me the scrapbook was Nolie’s, but I think it is a generation older. Nothing in it is dated, but there are references to events that happened prior to and not long after Nolie’s birth. Perhaps is was Beatrice’s? I find it pretty remarkable that no one tossed it, and that it made it’s way from Beatrice, to Nolie, to Mona, to me.

I mentioned earlier that I thought being married to Charles Sylvanus Shaw might not be easy. The clippings below concern the exploits of Charlie Shaw and his buddies. There are references to “Norrie” and “C.N. Shaw” — I think this was Charles Norvell Shaw. He was the son of Charlie’s half-brother, thus Charlie’s nephew and Nolie’s cousin. And there were also mentions of a Sylvanus Shaw — possibly another son of Charlie’s half brother.

The Shaw boys appear to have been part of The Dresden Minstrels who performed at the Dresden Grand Opera House as well as at dinners at “Mr. H. Crowe’s Restaurant.”

mistrels 2

My mother once told me that her grandfather Charlie “got in trouble for being too friendly with Black people.” Given his participation in minstrel shows and the references to “darking up,” I am highly skeptical.

mistrels 1


It seems that even the Presbyterian Sabbath School experienced Charlie Shaw’s theatrical expertise:

minstrels 3





Charles Sylvanus Shaw


Charles Sylvanus Shaw was my great grandfather (Mona’s grandfather, Nolie’s father). He was born in Louisville, Ontario on September 5, 1866 — the only child of Sylvanus Shaw and his second wife, Hannah. (Sylvanus Shaw’s first wife was Mary Jane Hazlett. She and Sylvanus had two children: Joseph Marsden (born in 1843) Shaw Semira Ann (born in 1846).

Chaham 1860
A Glimpse of Life in Chatham, 1860

The extended Shaw family resided in Chatham, Ontario throughout the 1860s. The men were farmers, the women folk were seamstresses .

The 1871 Census of Canada, however, shows a change. Charlie’s father had become an innkeeper!


Ten years later, according to The 1881 Census of Canada, Sylvanus Shaw was still keeping a hotel in Chatham with his 52 year old wife Hannah and 18 year old Charlie.

I don’t know what happened to my great grandfather Charlie between 1881 and 1898, but on September 13, 1898, he married my great grandmother, Beatrice Quaintance. As you can see, he was twelve years older than his bride.

charliebeatrice marriage

Throughout the early 1990s, the young Shaw family was on the move, frequently changing residences, professions and religions. In 1901, Charlie and Beatrice and their baby daughter lived in Dresden.Charlie was painter – or maybe a printer? He was Presbyterian and Beatrice was LDS.

In 1911, Charlie, Beatrice and their three young children lived at 105 Lorne Avenue, Chatham (West Kent). And all five were identified as LDS.

lorne avenue
105 Lorne Avenue, Chatham, Ontario

By, 1920, the Shaws were living in Detroit, Michigan. Again, the Census document is difficult to read, but I think Charlie was a paper hanger. ( thinks he was a “rofer honger”  but I don’t think that is a thing, is it?) And interestingly, The 1920 United States Census didn’t ask about religion. The Shaw’s address in 1920 was 699 McDougall Street, in the heart of downtown Detroit. Charlie and Beatrice’s son, Frank was living with them, as was their younger daughter, Mrs. Gee (my grandmother, Nolie).

I think the Shaws only lived in Detroit for a couple of years, because by 1921, they were living at 417 Aylmer Avenue in Windsor, Ontario. This time around, Charlie was definitely a paperhanger. And in addition to his wife Beatrice, he lived with his son, Frank, and the young Gee family: J. Ronald, Nolie and baby Mona! Everyone except J. Ronald was described as Latter Day Saints — Ronnie was Church of England.


old charlie (2)
Charles Sylvanus Shaw