The Autobiography of my Great-great-great-great grandfather, Charles Adsett 1826-1908

The following story is the autobiography of my great-great-great-great grandfather Charles, exactly as it appears in our family history binder. 


I was born in the parish of North Chapel, Country of Sussex, England on the 24th of May, 1826 and emigrated with my parents (Thomas and Sarah Adsett) and 3 sisters in the Spring of the year 1832 to Canada, leaving Fortsmouth Harbor on the 5th day of April and after a very rough voyage in the ship called “Eveline” (65 days) we arrived in Montreal on the 9th day of June.

Our first move was from Montreal to Little York (now Toronto), part of the way in canal boat drawn by oxen traveling at the rate of 14 miles in 15 hours. From Little York we went to Hamilton by way of Dundas and Beverly Swamp (a rough road it was then), to Preston, our destination, sometime in the latter part of June. I think there were then in Preston 3 buildings and one of them was a tavern, with what was then considered large stables and driving shed, where we, with many other immigrants were glad to take shelter for the time being until we could find or build something better than a stable. But unfortunately some never left the old stable alive, of which my poor dear mother was one and my little baby sister another. But what a sad fix for my poor dear Father to be left in, alone in a strange country with 3 helpless children, the oldest about 7 years, a girl, and myself about 6 years, and the youngest then living, a girl between 4 and 5 years, without friends and very little money left.

 But, thank god, we were not long without friends. My two sisters were soon adopted by 2 kind friends in Galt, and I soon found a place in Preston with a weaver, where I was to learn to weave. In one of the places where we were first adopted there was no family of their own. The weaver started tavern keeping soon after I went to live with him and as I said my father were teetotalers, I could not stop with him and I went to help a farmer (Uncle Sammy Corwall) get in his harvest and while I was there we heard of a place where there was an apprentice wanted to learn the tanning and currying business (Mr. John Bechtel) and we at once decided that I should try that trade. But Mr. Bechtel was not prepared to take a green hand on just then so I had to lay off and rest for a short time. However in November 1832 Mr. Bechtel thought he could find enough work for another hand so I was taken on trial for 2 months and in January 1833 (the trial having proved satisfactory), the indentures were drawn up by Wm Scolick ‘esquire,’ in his office in a part of Mr. Isaac Masters house about a mile from Preston on the way to Galt, between John Betchel, tanner master and Charles Adsett, apprentice, to serve from that date until the 24th day of May 1847 – only 14.5 years from the time I went on trial in November 1832 until I should attain the full age of 21 years.

The last 2 years of my apprenticeship I was promoted to be foreman of the whole workshop. While serving the 14 years I was rented twice to parties who rented the tannery like any of the chattels so rented – the first time to Messrs “Toul and Tilt” and the second time to “Baldwin and Jackson.” However, I went with them each time and came back and finished with the same old master on May 14th, 1847 that I started with in November 1832.

And from being called by my old master “the laziest boy he had ever had about the place” in the last few years of my apprenticeship he told several parties that “I was the best boy he ever raised,” and several times when we were doing business in the country together, he introduced me to strangers as “his eldest son.”

Well, after finishing my apprenticeship, on the advice of my father, I took up 100 acres of land in the township of Woolrich, to make a home for my father while he lived. While on a few Holidays in Guelph, my good old master followed me and persuaded me to hire with him by the year and take full charge of the business in his tannery, which I consented to do, and stopped with him until his death in August 1849. Then I managed the business for the executers until December 1849. My old master appeared to be well satisfied with my management of his business while he was living, but his executors (for some reason unknown to me of any of his family) wished to have some other person run the show for them, so I packed my kit and left the old home and friends, to return no more.

My next move was on an invitation from an old friend in Saginaw, Michigan, Mr. Wm. Baldwin, and older apprentice in the tannery with our old master, Mr. John Bechtel. I left Canada in January 1850 and worked for him until the following September. I returned home, riding on the outside of an Indian pony all the way back from Saginaw City via Flint, Port Huron, London, Woodstock to my home in Woolrich. I was always fond of riding on horseback but I got enough of it this time to do so for awhile, as the pony was very small, and I was obliged to take it easy, and as there were no railroads or express carries at that time, I was obliged to carry my traps on one of the old fashioned saddle bags across the pony’s back, and that with my weight was a little too much for my little pony for such a long distance. That was the way the good old Methodist ministers used to travel in those days and I was sometimes taken for one of that worthy clan. (I have seen the women at the door of their houses and heard them say, “there goes the Methodist minister). But whether it was the trappings or the appearance of things in general, I didn’t stop to enquire.

Soon after I arrived home, I was taken sick with genuine Michigan Ague (malaria) and had it all that fall and again the next spring, and although I had it very hard, sometimes I worked every day, only quitting work while I would be shaking and while the fever lasted after the shaking.

I worked some time at currying for Mr. John Wissler in the township of Waterloo. From there I went to Hespeller and worked for Robt. Forbes, about the best boss I ever had after leaving the old home. Mr. Adam Shaw managed the business for him and Mr. Janes Jackson (an old shopmate) as foreman. I kept on and worked for Mr. John Jackson for some time, and next for Mr. Peter Goue, where I worked until his tannery burned with all that was in it. All my clothes and all else that I had (there were some previous keepsakes of my Mother’s and several others) except the duds on my back (my working harness) were burned. That was on Christmas day 1853. Then I went home and worked for my father on the farm all summer and in October 1854 came back to Guelps and went into business with Messers F.W. Galbraith and Wm. Heather forming a co-partnership of Galbraith, Heather and Adsett. Wm. Heather carried on his business in his old stand , and Galbraith carried on his facing the market square (both of them saddlers), and I managed the tannery that we leased from Mr. John Jackson on Huskinson Street and although we each had our own department or shop to look after it was all one business. Our term of co-partnership was for 5 years and we stuck together until the end of the term and then dissolved partnership and I think that was where we all made a mistake. We were all doing well and should have kept together.

I was married to my dear wife Sarah Jane Kirkland on the 21st day of January 1859 and a happy day it was for me. In January 1860 we moved to our farm in Woolrich Township and bought a smaller farm (40 acres) for my father nearby, but we stopped only about 11 months on the farm, then sold the farm and moved back to Guelph again and settled down for several years doing very little.

I was in the “leather and binding business” for a time with Wm. Heather in his old shop but it did not turn out very satisfactory and we gave it up for a bad job. In the early part of the year 1867 I was offered and induced to take a one third share of what was represented to be a good paying business in a woolen mill near Dundee on the town line between the township Wilmot and Blenheim with Graham Watson and John Tilt. We started doing business April 1st 1867 under the name, style and firm of Watson, Tile and Adsett, and lost nearly all I had made and saved in former year’s farm and all. I came back to Guelph in the fall 1872 leaving my family in Wilmot where my dear wife died in the month of March 1873. Then I moved my children back to Guelph. Miss Rogers kept house for me for awhile.

When I came back to Guelph last fall it was to go into the foundry business with lesser Harley and Heather but after looking over the business and books a short time, I thought they were losing instead of making anything and I declined going in with them. In a short time they made an assignment to Mr. John Smith and he engaged me to look after the business until he could dispose of the business and property as he did not wish to be bothered with it. He rented it to me until he could dispose of the whole affair.

I engaged with James Hough, Deputy Clerk of the court in 1874.

I married Elizabeth Hough in April 1874. She died from heart failure very suddenly while alone near her bed.

I continued with Mr. Hough until his death, when I resigned. I then retired and made my home with my son John in Guelph the rest of my life.

Charles died on March 7th, 1908.

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