New Information: Catharine Brett (1859-1863)

I am fascinated by history… especially local history. No matter how much I read and no matter how much I think I know, there’s always something more that’s out there waiting to surprise me.

Yesterday, Art & I headed off to Fort Malden in the hopes of learning more about Private James Elliott. The museum has been beautifully refurbished and is well worth a visit. Unfortunately the second floor was closed. That’s where they have the Upper Canada Rebellion exhibit – a collection that quite possibly has more significance to Canadian history than the War of 1812, but I fear it might be blasphemous to suggest such a thing during this year of bicentennial celebrations. So we settled for viewing the War of 1812 exhibit on the first floor. Authentic artifacts from Col. William Caldwell, his sons, Chief Tecumseh, and Simon Girty (who, coincidentally, helped to free some of my Quick family ancestors from their Indian captors – a story for a future blog posting) have been carefully and tastefully displayed. We especially liked Simon Girty’s gnarly cane.

Although we had an opportunity to discuss James Elliott with the museum’s collections specialist, we did not manage to learn anything new about James Elliott. The museum’s file on the 34th Regiment is full of information, most of it from secondary sources, but James Elliott’s name did not stand out.

With some time on our hands before dinner at Ricardo’s (located at the back of the historic Amherstburg Echo building on Dalhousie Street), we decided to stroll through the Christ Church cemetery to see if we could find James Elliott’s tombstone, knowing full well that it was unlikely. We tried to read every tombstone this time, even the weather-worn ones, using shadows and our fingertips to detect small hints of detail. James Elliott was nowhere to be found, but what a surprise to find little Catharine Brett’s tombstone hidden behind a dense growth of English ivy!

From my research on and at the Marsh Collection, I know that Catharine was the second child of John and Ann Brett, born in the autumn of 1859 in Clinton, Iowa where her father worked as a shoemaker. Catharine’s name appears in the 1860 U.S. federal census alongside her older sister Cecelia and her parents. By September 1861, the family had returned to Amherstburg where Catharine’s little sister Jane was born on Sept. 9. Catharine was only 4 years old when she died on December 2, 1963 (source: Christ Church burial records). Her little sister Jane had lived a short life and had already predeceased her. No cause of death for either girl has been found.

The bleached-white tombstone is partially worn away and two of the names are misspelled – Britt instead of Brett and Anne instead of Ann – but her birth month appears to be identified as September (which adds to our information) and the month of her death is confirmed as December.

It’s very exciting when you find visible evidence (as opposed to documentary evidence) that your ancestors were here. I think this tombstone is likely the oldest Brett tombstone still standing in Essex County, older than John and Ann Brett’s tombstones in Rose Hill Cemetery. Plus it’s our one remaining link to historic Christ Church.

6 thoughts on “New Information: Catharine Brett (1859-1863)”

  1. Hi – I am Margaret Quick Ardiel & I live in Leamington. Apparently you are also related to the Quicks. I was reading your post about the Pelee Island Phibbs family that was lost thru the ice & I wanted you to know that “Mrs Peter REY” is actually REH. I know this is a fact as my aunt (Daisy Henrietta Freda Quick) – sister of my dad – married Elmer Reh – the brother of Mrs Phibbs who died. Aunt Henrietta told me that her & Elmers wedding had to be postponed due to this tragic event.

    1. Margaret,

      Thank you for this information. It’s a typo on my part. I reviewed the Border Cities Star articles and they spell it REH. I’ll fix the blog post. I came across those stories several years ago but I think about the family often at this time of year – and just about every time I’m driving along Seacliff Drive. It’s hard to imagine driving over the ice but I know it was a common practice before the days of icebreakers.

      I am related to the Quicks. I haven’t explored that side of the family very extensively but I hope to get to it some day soon.

      1. Actually the Quicks are an interesting family – Indian captives, War of 1812, original land grant 1795 in Colchester, etc. Did you know that actually they are Dutch?
        A cousin of mine, Dr. Stuart Quick of Toronto did a draft book several years ago about the family and I donated a copy to the Essex County Library. You can request it – “Beyond the Reserve – the Quick family of Colchester.” When you are ready, it is a good resource.

      2. Yes, I knew about the capture by the Indians but I didn’t know about the book or about the Dutch origin. Thank you for the tip. I’ll go online and reserve it.

  2. Hi Laurie,
    I am in awe of your Brett work thus far. I am descended from John Brett (Tawnavoultry, Streamstown, Co. Sligo) and his second wife Cecelia Brett, daughter of Christopher Brett (Achonry) and Elizabeth Allen. I assume Cecelia to be one of the younger children to this couple as they were married in 1817 and her birth year is recorded as 1838. I read George Brett’s letters and their marriage is mentioned in one of them. George the letter writer mentions Uncles Christy, Patt and George. So I know that your Brett ancestors and mine are linked but I can’t be certain by whom. Is it possible that Jasper (George’s father) was brother to all these men referred to as Uncles or perhaps Cecelia Mowberry’s mother was a Brett too. I’d be very grateful if you had any information on this or at least can point me in the right direction.
    Sincerely, Jackie

    1. Hi Jackie.

      This is very exciting. I’ve only been contacted by a very few distant relatives. Although the Bretts don’t seem to be very plentiful in the New World, they certainly were plentiful in Ireland, and it’s very difficult to make proper connections.

      I’m wondering… do you have a family tree or are you on Ancestry. I’d love to look at your family lineage to see if we can piece together another generation of Bretts – Jasper Brett’s generation.

      If you do, it would probably be easier to reach me by email:

      Thanks for commenting!


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