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James & Mary Perkins of Petrolia, ONT

from “Topic Oil and Gas”, 3 May 1966, vol. 7, no. 110, pg. 8
JAMES PERKINS and his family, together with Mrs. Perkins’ brothers Isaac, Jean and James VanSickle, all of U.E. Loyalist stock, first settled in Oil Springs, and when oil fields developed at Petrolea, moved to the new fields. Mr. James Perkins, together with his sons and the Van Sickle brothers were among the early and permanent pioneers active in oil producing and drilling operations. Cyrus, the eldest son, was one of the first drillers to go to the foreign fields. He went to Germany with Bergham and McGarvey as lead drillers, taking as assistants George McIntosh, Jack Martin and other drillers. Jacob Perkins and his family followed, three years later, and these men were the pioneers in opening the Austrian and Galician fields, of which more will be written later in this series. All of the Perkins brothers were practical drillers and oil operations naturally with Eli, the youngest brother, also was in Austria for a few years, but after his father’s death returned to look after their extensive Petrolea interests. In 1885 James Perkins and his wife went to Austria to visit their sons and he was induced to visit Carlsbad baths but these proved too severe for his declining health. He never recovred from the effects of these and only lived a short time after his return to Petrolia. Mrs. James Perkins survived all her large family. Mary, her daughter, wife of Lloyd Harris, Canadian Ambassador to England, but passed away at London. Mrs. Perkins was 95 at the time of her death in 1927. She will always be rememvered for her long and active life, devoted to her church and charity. A noble woman and model mother.

from Commemorative Biographical Record, pg 518
James Perkins was born in Nova Scotia Jan. 25, 1825, and in 1846 came to Elgin County, Ont., where he engaged in farming until 1863. He then removed to Oil Springs, Lambton County, and engaged in the cattle business, and in both lines was most successfully engaged until his death, on Nov. 19, 1895. He owned considerable property in Enniskillen township, his first purchase of land being Lot 20, Concession 11, which is now owned by his son Cyrus F. Mr. Perkins was a member of the Petrolia council for many years and politically he was a Reformer. In fraternal connection he was a Mason. Both he and wife were identified with the Baptist Church, of which Mrs. Perkins was a member. On March 14, 1850, Mr. Perkins married Mary Vansickle, who was born Jan. 11, 1832, daughter of James and Susan (Minor) Vansickle, and still survives. The children of James Perkins and wife were as follows: Susan Mrs. O. Smith; Cyrus Francis, of Galicia, Austria, where he is an oil producer and a mineral valuator for the government; Jacob, an oil operator; J. Eli; and Mary, deceased, who was the wife of Loyd Harris, of the Massey-Harris Co., Brantford, Ontario.

Family of Mary Vansickle
Mary’s grandparents, Isaac and Jane Vansickle, are considered true “Loyalist” as opposed to the Perkins line which are accurately “New England Planters”. Isaac took the family from Morris County. NJ and settled an area called Jerseyville. The British government allowed individuals loyal to the crown to petitition for free land in Canada to made up for their financial losses during the war. It is interesting that Isaac remained in New Jersey for 15 years after the end of the war because most individuals found it necessary to go to Canada sooner. Here is Isaac’s petition:

Humbly sheweth that your Excellency’s petitioner resided in Morris County in the State of Jersey in America before the breaking out of the Rebellion, that he joined the Royal Standard in the year 1775 and served his Majesty as a private in the Jersey Volunteers commanded by General Skinner until the end of the same-  that he came to this Province in the year 1797 where he has since resided. Wherefore your Excellency’s petitioner most humbly prays that your excellency may be pleased to order his name to be inserted on the United Empire list.
General Skinner

Brothers of Mary Vansickle
The biography above indicate that brothers Isaac, Jean and James were also in the oil business.  Jean refers to Eugene who spent time as a foreign oiler in Borneo and Australia before settling back in Petrolia. Jamie Vansickle, great-grandson to Eugene, stills resides in Petrolia, and was kind enough to show the Perkins clan around town. Isaac and James remained in Petrolia holding jobs peripheral to the oil business. Isaac settled into Idaho with his last occupation as locomotive engineer.

Children of James and Mary Perkins
Each child has an interesting account, so only

  1. Susan married Nate Smith, a farmer. They raised a large family in Michigan.
  2. Cyrus went to Poland before settling in London, England.
  3. Jacob went to Poland where he remained.
  4. James Eli stayed in Petrolia, Ontario. His family continued in the oil business in Casper, WY.
  5. Mary Catharine married Lloyd Harris, a prominent Ontario business and political figure. She died shortly after the birth of her daughter.

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