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A Summarized History of the Immediate Timothy W. Riley Jr. Family in North America

(A Work in Progress)


Timothy W Riley Junior was born in Saint John, NB, on August 25, 1844, the son of Timothy W Riley Sr. and Hannah/Honora (Dinnehy (sp?)) Riley; a sister Mary was born in 1846. TWR Sr. and Honora had emigrated from Ireland, likely County Kerry and perhaps just after an 1843 Irish Catholic marriage. TWR Sr. has been said to have died of ‘ships fever' in April 1847 and Honora emigrated to Boston with the children later in the year. In 1853 Honora married Seth Vickery in Plympton, Massachusetts; the couple proceeded by 1860 to have 4 children, three boys: Hiland Frederick (1854), John Gammons (1855), Seth Leonard (1860) and a girl: Mary Elizabeth (1858). They had separated by 1870 for reasons unknown but the record shows that Seth was in the MA prison system at that time. Seth appears to have died in Carver, MA in 1893 after which time Honora was awarded his civil war pension. Honora died in 1905 in Plympton, MA.


By 1860 at 15 Timothy W Jr. was working in a shoe marker’s shop in Weymouth, MA. (Sister Mary’s whereabouts in 1860 has not been determined but she may have been working as a 14 year old domestic servant; she married in Plympton, MA in 1867).  In June of 1861 he joined (underage) the MA 11th Infantry (the “Boston Volunteers”) and went off to Bull Run and Williamsburg and other Civil War battlefields to the south. He did not like Infantry life and deserted in Nov, 1862. In April of 1863 he joined the US Navy under the alias of John Hennessey for a one year stint. After an honourable discharge he rejoined the Navy under the same alias and finally left military service with a second honourable discharge in late 1866.


Knowledge of his whereabouts between 1866 and 1873 is skimpy at best but it appears most of that time may have been spent in MA (Stoneham likely, at least in part) in the shoemaker’s trade. On March 9, 1869, in Stoneham, MA, Timothy W Jr. married 18 year old Mary Golden who, according to the record, appears to have been born in Blossburg, PA. The 1870 census shows Mary living in Stoneham with six month old daughter Mary Jane Riley; Timothy has not yet been found in the 1870 census, nor his wife in the records subsequent thereto. His daughter Mary Jane died in Stoneham, MA, at 22 from TB; she was single and had worked in a shoe factory.


Our Timothy next appears in 1873 in Digby, NS marrying NS-born Mary Jane Cress. (There is a suggestion in family oral history that TWR may have met MJC while she was keeping house for clients in MA but this has yet to be corroborated). Mary Jane was the daughter of farmer George E Cress and Rebecca C Simmons and appears to have been born on October 30, 1853, the oldest of the three Cress children including a younger sister Suretta (c 1854) and a younger brother George E (c 1857). The 1871 census indicates that George Sr. self-identified that his nationality was Dutch, while in the 1881 census he identified as English; in the 1911 census all the Waldeck Line residents of Germanic background were identified as Dutch.


The most logical background for the family given present information is that George E was likely a descendent of Johann Heinrich "Henry" Gress/Cress/Criss (likely originally Gresel), one of the “Hessian” mercenaries granted land in the Bear River area after their regiment was disbanded in 1784. A second "Hessian", Jacob Chryst (apparently also pronounced Criss), was mustered out in Digby in 1784 and eventually received a land grant at Gilbert’s Cove in that county but to date there is no defined relationship between he and the Henry Criss/Cress family.   Calnek notes that Henry Criss was one of the ‘fresh settlers’ in Clements Township as set out by the 1791 tax rolls, and that Crisses are "yet domiciled in the township” circa 1897. Certainly the location of the family home near the Waldeck Line would support that hypothesis. 


The George E Cress family appears to have lived in the area of 'Bishop’s Corner' which was located generally on what is now the Mary Jane Riley Road about halfway between the Clementsvale (Hessian Line) road and the Waldeck Line. The Lovell Directory of 1871 lists Bishop’s Corner as having a population of “about sixty”; the community used Clementsvale as its postal centre.  George, Rebecca, and Mary Jane are all buried in the small unkempt Waldeck East Cemetery immediately west of the Mary Jane Riley Road. In 2000 the cemetery was located on an overgrown perched hill in the middle of a pit from which the local slate had been removed for construction purposes.


Timothy’s later years were occupied with an ongoing quest for reinstatement of his Civil War pension, originally issued in the 1890’s and then rescinded. He finally recaptured it, plus several years of back pay, in 1896. He was, to quote one examining physician, “a physical wreck” in his latter years. In late 1901 he ran into trouble with the law when, under the “influence” according to press reports, he attempted, armed with a tanner’s knife, to break into the house in which his estranged wife was living, and failing that did some significant damage to a gentleman neighbour who attempted to intervene. He was acquitted on one charge of what would likely have been attempted murder and a second likely of assault causing bodily harm by not one but two juries of his peers. Timothy passed away from TB in 1909 after a six month period of being bedridden and nursed at a neighbour's home; he is buried in the Clementsvale cemetery. Mary Jane continued to live in the family home (and on his Civil War pension) until she passed away in October of 1939. The road in front of the family home is today known officially as the Mary Jane Riley Road.


Timothy and Mary Jane had 9 children with eight making it to adulthood (oldest daughter Ida died at 14; there was also one stillborn) - four boys and four girls. Viva was the youngest girl, born in 1890, and the youngest child, Boyd, was born in 1892. Of the children the boys tended to stay in Nova Scotia - The oldest George (1874) initially hired out to a farmer in the Grand Pre area of King’s County but eventually took on the life of a peddler selling fish and other foodstuffs door to door. He died in a cabin fire at Mount Hanley on the North Mountain 1947; he never married. John (1880), my GF, lived in NS all his life; a farmer and occasional shoemaker and woods/mill worker, he married Alice Trimper and together they raised six sons – Walton, DuVernet, Alban, Dennis, Doug, and Edmund – and four daughters – LeeEtta, Esther, Ora, and Vera. John died in 1953. The last of John’s children, the youngest girl Vera, passed away in November of 2003 at 83. William ("Bill") (1885) married an Acadian girl, Clara Mae Saulnier, prior to WWI and had seven children, five boys – Herbert, Willie, Cleveland, Roscoe, and John – and two girls, Jennie who passed away in Texas in 2010, and Kathy, who at the time of this writing continues to live an active life in BC. Boyd (1892) was the youngest son and appeared to split his allegiance between Canada and the US. He initially moved to MA after his father died, returned to Canada to spend time in the army during WWI, returned to the US by mid-1920, married one Jessie Irene Rogers in 1921, separated, and then bounced between the two countries for a number of years prior to WW2. According to family oral history Boyd disappeared in the US, likely in the mid-1930s, for 20+ years as a result of amnesia, a condition probably resulting from a severe concussion received in England during WWl. His memory eventually returned and he was reconciled with one of his sisters (Jennie) but it never ‘worked’ and he apparently returned to the institution where he had spent almost a quarter of a century. Information from the 1940 US census, shows Boyd to have been a resident in the state hospital in Tewksbury, MA, in that year; it is likely he spent most of the 1940s and perhaps some of the late 1930s and 1950s in that institution.  


The girls all immigrated to the US and made it their permanent home. Margaret (Maggie) and Lottie went stateside in late 1899 or early 1900 where they took up domestic servant positions in Boston; Lottie (b 1883) then married Horace Howes in South Braintree in 1902 and in 1905 Margaret (b 1878) returned to NS where she married Fred Millner. The couple returned to MA (Fred may have been doing seasonal work there prior to marriage) and was living in Wakefield in 1909 and 1913. Daughter Jennie (b 1887) married Bertis Floyd in NS in 1904 and then immigrated in 1906 and settled in Wakefield where she lived at the same address for the rest of her life. Finally, the record is not clear as to when Viva (b 1890) went south but certainly she was there by 1905 as her first child was born in Nov of 1906, and perhaps she may have emigrated as early as 1901. Interestingly, as often happens with families, the Millners prior to 1910 lived in Wakefield across the street from Viva’s first husband’s family. It is reasonable to speculate that Viva initially met Herbert Goldsmith while living with her older sister.


Margaret had three children – Leslie, Dorothy, and Richard, all apparently deceased by the late 1990’s.  Lottie and Horace Howes had two children, Evelyn and Willard both of whom died in their 20s. Jennie and Bertis Floyd had one son Laurence in 1906 who died in 1966. Available information presently has Viva marrying Herbert Goldsmith c 1909, from which union there were four boys, Francis, Milton, Lloyd, and Ernest, and one girl Nina Mae who died prior to 1920, and likely in 1917/18. Viva and Herbert parted company probably in late 1918, and the boys stayed with their father and were so recorded in the 1920 census.  By 1919 Viva was living with Lawrence Paon (whose family likewise had NS roots) and from that union Arnold Paon was born in 1920.