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Ancestral Reminiscences

Privacy Level: Public (Green)
Date: 1773 to 1932
Location: Englandmap
Surnames/tags: McEvoy Chesmer Greaves
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Ancestral Reminiscences is Bernard McEvoy's recollection of stories told to him by his parents, his aunt Maria, and his paternal grandmother Sarah Sharpe Greaves.

In this document, McEvoy incorrectly remembers Greaves as Thomas Lindley Greaves; his name was actually John Lindley Greaves.


The information I have with regard to Thomas (sic) Lindley Greaves is chiefly obtained from three sources – his widow, (my grandmother), my Aunt Maria, and my mother, Naomi McEvoy, and from certain acquaintances of my boyhood whose names at the present moment escape me.

Thomas (sic) Lindley Chesmer was a student at Oxford University towards the end of the eighteenth century. I understood that he was the son of a man who had a considerable estate, and who, as was common to the country gentlemen, had sent his son to Oxford to study for his degree. There was at that time in Oxford an exceedingly pretty girl (Sarah Sharpe) who was the daughter of the principal baker of the place. She was a good horsewoman, and no doubt very attractive to the young bucks of the University. Chesmer seems to have become infatuated with her, and eventually made a runaway marriage with her, for which he was "cut off with a shilling” by his esteemed father.

After this, the troubles of the young couple began. Their first few hours of bliss having expired, they looked forward to life. T .L. Chesmer (sic) was so annoyed by his father’s conduct that he changed his name to Greaves and abjured all connection with his own family.

Before that time he had distinguished himself by writing letters to the London papers of a strong Chartist or Republican tendency and he had attracted the notice of the celebrated William Cobbett, who, it will be remembered, had to leave London and go to Canada in short order, having written pamphlets which at that time were considered seditious.

In 1849; when I was seven years old, Grandma, as we called her, lived in a small white house on Camden Street, which led off Spring Hill. There was a terrace of three or four of these white houses with little gardens in front of the usual English style with iron palings. It seemed to me at the time a very comfortable place, and in cases of illness in our family I was sent to Grandma’s to be looked after and to be out Of the way.

So Grandma used to tell me stories of her early life. Among these the first that I remember was that her first child, my Aunt Maria was born in Holland. She said they had to leave London in a great hurry on account of some mysterious cause which Grandma did not reveal, but she told me that in Holland her first child., my Aunt Maria, was born, and the old lady used to say: "Yes, I went full and I came back empty", a phrase which seemed to me very mysterious. She also told me about the excessive cleanliness of the house in which they had lived in Holland, particularly the cleanliness and beauty of the tiled floors and the way in which the streets were kept. She told me of the wide trousers worn by the Dutch and of their wooden shoes.

I think it was from my Aunt Maria, a year or two after this, that I heard that on leaving Holland the young couple had made their excursion into Spain, and I gathered that his reputation as a political pamphleteer had preceded Grandfather and. the Spanish police were on the qui viva to capture him, also that he was in danger of being handed over to the authorities of the Spanish Inquisition as an infidel and a dangerous person, but this is so hazy in my memory that I can only give these simple features.

One of the clearer relations of my Grandmother was when she began to tell me how she and her husband travelled in Canada. I take it that this must have been before the exodus to Holland and the birth of my Aunt Maria, but I listened breathlessly as she told me of the voyage in the sailing ship, the narrow quarters, the landing at Halifax, and the subsequent travel through the forests of Ontario at that time only penetrated by narrow trails.

This seems to fit in with the fact that William Cobbett left London in a hurry in 1784, having ‘listed in the Army, he remained in New Brunswick till 1792 . The pamphlet on William Cobbett that I am forwarding along with these notes was written some time go by my colleague Dr. S.D. Scott, who as a writer on the New Brunswick papers dug up all the information he could about Cobbett.

“Yes” Grandmother would say, “We bought beautiful horses when we got to Halifax. Mine was a fine and gentle bay mare, and your Grandfather's was what would be called in England a hunter, and on these two fine horses we started out on our journey through part of Quebec and down to Ontario. I wanted to go to Asphodel to see my brother Frank, a veteran of the Army who had fought at Waterloo, and had a farm given him by the Government in Ontario. We would ride perhaps forty or fifty miles in a day. There were times when we could not go beyond a walk, and others when we came to a clear piece where we could put the horses to a canter. We frequently saw bears roving the woods and your Grandfather always had his pistol ready but they never attacked us. The places we stopped at could hardly be called Inns. They were very rough and the keepers of them seemed to have very few guests. However; as we were ready to pay for our accommodation they generally supplied us with sufficient food".

It would appear from what Grandma said that their chief object was to find Uncle Frank, as we always called him, and that having found him they sailed again for England. I presume that on their return from Canada they went first to London, and from London to Gloucester, where they seemed to set up housekeeping, and Grandfather engaged in writing for the London papers. I had at one time several manuscripts of parts of articles that he had written, or they might have been chapters of works of fiction, but I seem to have lost these about the year 1869. Anyhow, it is pretty clear in my memory that Grandfather and Grandmother and their two daughters became settled in Gloucester until the two girls were 16 or 17 years old, both of them exceedingly attractive as is shown by early photographs and those taken afterwards. I believe that Grandfather died in that city and that his widow and two daughters were left without very large means of subsistence. From information that came to me afterwards I found that looking about for some means of keeping the wolf from the door, Grandma developed her nursing faculties and became a valued person in those old fashioned days in maternity cases, where she established a good reputation among the Doctors of the city, and with the patients she attended she was regarded as a very useful person to call on in time of need.

Nor can it be supposed from their after character that the two girls would be at all behindhand in doing whatever came to their hand as a means of earning a little money.

What made them determine to leave Gloucester and go to Birmingham I do not know, but that they did this and came to the house on Camden Street about the year 1836, seems to be pretty clear, and I suppose that Grandma, who appears to have accumulated by that time a small sum of money, proceeded to make herself acquainted with the medical fraternity in such duties as they could place in her way. I think it is probable that she had some tolerably lucrative "cases".

In the spring of the year 1837 we find this very goodlooking mother and her two exceedingly attractive daughters coming to Birmingham. On that occasion there were two widowers residing in Birmingham, one of whom was Henry Nisbitt Ebenezer McEvoy, (my father), and the other Thomas Mountfort, a little older than my father, who had lost his wife a few years before. These two widowers on one fine Sunday afternoon were walking along Frederick Street, Birmingham. Coming along as if to meet them were Ellen, aged 18, and Naomi, aged 17. My father said to his friend Mountfort: “What fine girls, I’ll marry the one on the left hand”. “And”, said Thomas Mountfort, “I'll marry the one on the right”. This they ultimately did, with the happiest results. I have heard my father tell this story over and over again. My mother was married at the age of 17, and her sister Ellen was married soon after.

I think the maiden name of' my Uncle Thomas' first wife was Woolfield, and my father’s first wife was named Ruth Davis.

I find that I have forgotten to mention another member of the family who must have resided with them at Gloucester, namely my Uncle Benjamin Lindley Greaves. I fancy he was of an impulsive and unreliable nature, and if he resided with the family at Gloucester, though he may have assisted in the upkeep of the domicile, he soon enlisted in the Army from which he was “bought off” by his friends, as at that time the regulation existed that if for family reasons a soldier wished to dissolve his connection with the Army he could do so by the payment of a certain amount of money. I used to see a good deal of Uncle Benjamin (who was a good accountant, and a very beautiful writer), about the year 1855.

From what I remember of the manuscripts of Thomas Lindley Greaves and from the fact that he was the friend of Cobbett I judge that he was a man of original faculty and of good education. His name would probably be found on the roaster of one of the great public schools, either Eton, Harrow, or Shrewsbury, where the sons of the Country Gentry were educated before proceeding to Oxford or Cambridge.

In the year 1905 when I was paying a visit to London I made certain enquiries into the records of the Court of Chancery, and I found there the name of Chesmer, but I have forgotten to what part of the country the owner of the name belonged.

Looking back at my memories after the lapse of some three quarters of a century, I come to the conclusion that Thomas Lindley Chesmer, alias Greaves, was a man of quick temperament and impulsive nature, a bit of a sport, a good dresser, who was accustomed to be admired in any ballroom of the period, but one who perhaps would not be selected for the purpose of carrying out any business or political project requiring patience, solidity of judgment, and continuity of effort. If I thus am going beyond the proper duty of a Grandson I must take the consequences.

My Aunt Maria mentioned above, married a Birmingham lapidary named James Weston, who we understood cut some of the diamonds for Queen Victoria’s Crown. He had a family of five or six children, all of whom I knew very well – but that is another story.


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