Tag: Samantha Rixon

Phineas Rixon and His Three Wives

Do you have a photo of Phineas? I am writing a family history book, and would love to include his picture, but I’ve never come across one. If you can help, please contact me.

Farmer Phineas Rixon and his wife Barbara had been out doing errands in town. After they returned home, he was getting ready to do chores when he was stricken by a heart attack. The doctor came, but Phineas never regained consciousness. He died two days later, age 78, on Friday, September 9, 1938, on the farm he had operated for almost 40 years.

The local newspaper, The Colborne Express, reported, “the large number floral tributes and friends present [at the funeral] showed the high esteem in which he was held.”1

These few facts about his last days are the most detail I found about my great-great uncle’s long life. Phineas seldom moved far from his birthplace in rural Northumberland County, Ontario, a few miles from the shores of Lake Ontario. However, considering that his first two wives and his daughter predeceased him, and that he married a third time at age 76, his home life must have had its ups and downs.

Phineas (also spelled Phinehas, Phenas, and other variations) was born on May 8, 1859,2 the son of Martha Rixon and probably of her cousin Thomas Rixon.3 His unmarried mother moved to the United States when he was about nine, leaving him and his sister Samantha (my great-grandmother) to be brought up by their grandparents, Thomas and Betsey Rixon, on their farm in Cramahe Township.

It is not clear where Samantha and Phineas lived after their grandparent’s deaths; by then they were teenagers, and they likely stayed with relatives.

In 1878, Phineas joined the militia and was listed as a private in the 40th Regiment Northumberland. He next appeared in the 1880 U.S. Census (as “Fenis Rickson,”) working as a labourer in Michigan. He must have stayed in the United States for at least a year as he was not counted in the 1881 Census of Canada.

At age 24, he married 18-year-old Almeda Warner, daughter of John Warner and Harriet Morden. Phineas’s and Almeda’s daughter, Samantha Almeda Rixon (usually known as Mattie or Medie,) was born in June, 1884. Almeda died of typhoid fever in December, 1897, aged 32, leaving Phineas with a 13-year-old to raise and a farm to run on his own.

Within four years, Phineas had remarried. The 1901 census showed Phineas, 41, married to Mary Leslie, 34. With them were his daughter, Mattie, 16, and Mary’s mother and her two sisters, both in their twenties. He had also moved from Cramahe Township to lot 6, Concession 4, Haldimand Township.4 An advertisement for an estate auction held soon after Phineas’s death said the auction would be held on the John Leslie Homestead, about a mile east of the village of Vernonville, so Phineas and Mary must have lived on what had been her parents’ farm.

Phineas and Mary were married for about 30 years. After she died in January, 1931, he remained single for the next five years. In May, 1936, he remarried. His third wife was a widow, Barbara Jemima (Haynes) Cowey.5

Phineas was buried in Castleton Cemetery, Cramahe, Northumberland County, with his first wife and his daughter. Medie, who was married in 1906 to farmer Claude Tweed and had six children, died in 1915. Barbara, died in 1939, age 73.

Photos: courtesy Gabrielle Blaschuk and Cramahe Township Public Library

This article is also posted on www.genealogyensemble.com


  1. The Colborne Express, Thursday Sept. 15, 1938, p. 1.
  2. Year: 1901; Census Place: Haldimand, Northumberland (West/Ouest), Ontario; Page: 3; Family No: 26. Ancestry.ca, 1901 Census of Canada (database on-line, entry for Phineas Rixon, accessed Aug. 9, 2020,) citing Library and Archives Canada. Census of Canada, 1901. Ottawa, Ontario, 2004, Series RG31-C-1, Statistics Canada Fonds, Microfilm reels: T-6428 to T-6556.
  3. This complex story is recounted in the following two posts:
    “The Ancestor Who Did Not Exist,” Writing Up the Ancestors, April 11, 2017,
    “Martha J. Rixon’s Short and Difficult Life,” Writing Up the Ancestors, May 14, 2017,
  4. Reference Number: RG 31; Folder Number: 74; Census Place: 74, Northumberland, Ontario; Page Number: 7, Ancestry.com. 1921 Census of Canada (database on-line, entry for Phineas Rixon, accessed Aug. 9, 2020,) citing Library and Archives Canada. Sixth Census of Canada, 1921. Library and Archives Canada, 2013, Ottawa, Ontario. Series RG31. Statistics Canada Fonds.
  5. Archives of Ontario; Registration of Marriages 1936; Ontario, Canada, Marriages, 1826-1938, online database, Ancestry.ca and Genealogical Research Library (http://ancestry.ca, accessed Aug. 4, 2020,) entry for Barbara Cowey, citing Ontario, Canada, Select Marriages, Archives of Ontario, Toronto.

Martha J. Rixon’s Short and Difficult Life

As a parent, I cannot imagine leaving my children behind and moving away forever, but that is what my great-great grandmother did. Martha Rixon left her two children with their grandparents in Ontario and went to live in Michigan. She must have had a good reason to do such a thing.1  

Martha (1834-1875) grew up in a large family in Sophiasburgh Township, Prince Edward County, Canada West. When she was a teenager, the family moved to Cramahe Township, near Brighton. Her father was a farmer and carpenter who had been born in England, and her mother’s family had come to Canada around 1800 from New York State. Martha had an older brother, two older sisters and five younger sisters. 

Martha J. Rixon, the 18-year-old daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Rixon of Cramahe, Northumberland, Canada West, was listed in the 1851 census of Canada.2 Martha was also counted in the 1861 census, single and living with Thomas and Elizabeth Rickson.3 Two small children, Samantha, age six, and Willes (Phineas), age two, were also in the household. Martha was not listed in the 1871 census of Canada, but Samantha and Phineas, listed as S., 16, and P., 12, were still living with their grandparents, Thomas and Elizabeth Rixon.4

After extensive research, it became clear that Arthur Wellington Rixon, the man who, according to a family story, was Martha’s husband and died of typhoid in 1859, probably never existed.5 Martha’s children, Samantha Rixon (1852-1928) and Phineas Rixon (c. 1859-1938) were born out of wedlock. The story about Arthur Wellington Rixon must have been concocted to hide the fact that Samantha and Phineas were illegitimate.

The identity of the children’s father (or fathers) remains a mystery. Both Samantha and Phineas indicated in their marriage records that their mother was Martha and their father’s name was Thomas.6 Phineas identified him as Thomas Rixon. Thomas might have been a first cousin from the Halton area, west of Toronto, however, there is no documentation to prove that he was ever in Cramahe. This Thomas Rixon (1834-1882) was the son of James and Mary Rixon. He married Margaret Hannah Wright in 1868 and they had five children. He became a minister in the Church of England in Arthur, Wellington County, Ontario.Could Thomas’ address in Arthur, Wellington County be a clue linking him to the fictional Arthur Wellington Rixon?

Martha and husband Moses Smith Perkins and three of his children.

Martha’s brother, William John Rixon (1826-1918), was a farmer and a Methodist minister. He and his wife and children moved to Michigan in the late 1860s. Martha accompanied them, leaving the children with their grandparents in Cramahe, and she eventually married in Michigan.8

In those days, children conceived out of wedlock were not uncommon, but that did not make it socially acceptable. It is easy to imagine that Martha’s parents were upset with her for getting pregnant, not once, but twice, and that going to the U.S. with her brother must have seemed like a good option. She probably could not afford to raise her children, and perhaps they were happy living with their grandparents with aunts, uncles, cousins and friends nearby. 

Martha married Moses Smith Perkins in Muskegon, Michigan on August 18, 1870 at a “camp meeting,”according to Moses’ great-granddaughter Roberta Heoring.9 Moses was a fruit farmer and Methodist Episcopal minister.10 His first wife, Sarah, had died, leaving him with eight small children to raise. The 1870 U.S. census showed Martha, keeping house, age 36, born in Canada, right below the entry for M.S. Perkins, in Oceana, Muskegon, Michigan.11

Roberta, who has been working on the genealogy of her family since 1991, has Moses’ diary. In it, Moses noted Martha Jane Rixon’s date of birth – December 29, 1834 in Prince Edward County, Ontario – and the date of her death from a fever at age 39, October 1, 1875. She was buried in Michigan.

Roberta says, “The cemetery is now known as Sammis/Harmon/Eilers Cemetery … located on the corner of the Perkins farm…. I have been unable to find any death records for the early members of the family.… Moses remarried shortly after the death of Martha as he had young children. He later moved his children and wife to Junction City, Kansas.”12

So it seems that, after a relatively short and probably difficult life, Martha was buried in a rural cemetery with members of her husband’s extended family. As far as I know, none of her descendants knows anything about her.

Photo courtesy Roberta Heoring.

Sources and comments

  1. It took me a long time to figure out who Samantha’s and Phineas’ mother was. I couldn’t figure out whether the Martha in the 1861 census was children’s mother or their aunt, but things became more clear after I hired professional genealogist Gabrielle Blaschuk to help. I have written a more complicated version of this story which explains how I reached these conclusions. If you would like to see that version of Martha’ story, contact me at janhamilton66@gmail.com.
  2. “1851 Census of Canada East, Canada West, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia,” database, Ancestry.ca(http://www.ancestry.ca, accessed Dec. 24 2009), entry for Thomas Rixon, Cramahe, citing Year: 1851, Census&nbspPlace: Cramahe, Northumberland County, Canada West (Ontario), Schedule: B, Roll: C_11739, page 129, Line:
  3. “1861 Census of Canada,” database, Ancestry.ca (http://ancestry.ca, accessed May 8, 2017), entry for Thomas Rickson, Cramahe Township, Northumberland, Canada West, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, citing Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Census Returns For 1861; Roll: C-1055-1056. In 1861 census, Martha was listed as age 21, which was undoubtedly an error. The 1851 census listed Thomas’ and Elizabeth’s nine children: William, 26 ; Catherine, 22; Rhoda, 20; Martha, 18, Ormacinda, 16; Kezia, 15; Phebe, 11; Mary, 9; Sarah, 5.  For Martha to be 21 in 1861, she would have to have been 11 at the time of the earlier census. Names are another complication: Samantha was usually known by her nickname, Mattie, and her grandmother, Elizabeth Rixon (nee Thompson), was usually called Betsey.
  4. 1871 Census of Canada,” database, Ancestry.ca (http://ancestry.ca, accessed May 8, 2017), entry for Thomas Rixon, Cramahe, Ontario, citing Library and Archives Canada, Census of Canada, 1871, Cramahe, Northumberland East, Ontario; Roll:C-9984; Page:34.
  5. Janice Hamilton, “The Ancestor Who Did Not Exist”, Writinguptheancestors.blogspot.ca, April 11, 2017, https://www.writinguptheancestors.ca/2017/04/the-ancestor-who-did-not-exist.html.
  6. “Ontario, Canada Marriages, 1857-1924,” database, Ancestry.ca, (http://www.ancestry,ca, accessed Nov. 24, 2008), entry for Samantha Rixon, 1879, Shannonville, citing “Registrations of Marriages, 1869-1922, MS932, Archives of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.” “Ontario, Canada, Marriages, 1801-1928, 1933-1934,” database, Ancestry.ca (http://ancestry.ca, accessed May 10, 2017), entry for Phenas Rixon, 1883, Northumberland, Ontario, citing Select Marriages. Archives of Ontario, Toronto; Registrations of Marriages, 1869-1928; Series: MS932; Reel:47.
  7. Find a Grave, entry for Thomas Rixon, https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=175238549&ref=acom, accessed May 11, 2017.
  8. William Rixon, labourer, his wife Mary Cardinell and three children were listed in Oceana, Muskegon, Michigan in the 1870 U.S. census. William later moved to California, and that is where he died.
  9. Roberta Heorman, “Re: Martha Rixon/Moses Smith Perkins,” email message to Gabrielle Blaschuk, Jan. 2, 2017, forwarded to the author, May 4, 2017. 
  10. Roberta Heorman, “Michigan Biographical Sketches,” http://perkinsresearch.com/1870MIMen31.html, accessed May 11, 2017.
  11. Martha’s name is not indexed on Ancestry, but it is visible in the image of the census page. 1870 United States Federal Census, Oceana, Muskegon, Michigan; Roll: M593_692; Page: 349A; Image: 417246; Family History Library Film: 552191, M.S. Perkins; digital image,  Ancestry.ca (www.ancestry.ca, accessed May 9, 2017), citing National Archives and Records Administration, 1870 U.S. census, population schedules. NARA microfilm publication M593.
  12. Roberta Heorman, “Re: Martha Rixon wife of Moses Smith Perkins”, email to the author, May 11, 2017.