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William & Harriet Perkins of Yarmouth ONT

William Francis Perkins was born in Horton, Kings county, Nova Scotia on 31 Jan 1799 to Eli and Sarah (DeWolf) Perkins. On 3 Dec 1823 he married Harriet Byron Creelman, daughter of William and Harriet (Turner) Creelman of Horton. They had a least six children, possibly more. In 1844, William and Harriet relocated to farmland in Yarmouth township, Elgin county, Ontario. For William, his residence lasted a short time because he died on 19 Sep 1848. Harriet then remarried on 6 Jan 1856 to John Lanning, a local farmer. Harriet would live until 2 May 1879. Because of the move to Ontario, their quiet existence, and William’s early death, not a lot of history survives about this family, but let’s see if more can be added to this story.



First we refer to “The Descendants of Edward Perkins of New Haven, Conn.” by Caroline Erickson Perkins in 1914. For the previous 4 generations, this author has provide invaluable historical glimpses into our Perkins ancestry. This view of William and Harriet represents the last relevant Perkins entry from her book:

“WILLIAM FRANCIS, born in Horton; married Harriet Creelman; lives near Port Stanley, Upper Canada. Several of his children died young. The children of William Francis and Harriet (Creelman) Perkins that grew up were: JAMES, married ; lives at Petrolia, and has several children. ANN, married ; lives near LeMars, Iowa. SARAH, married Watson Welding; they live near Port Stanley Upper Canada. MARIA, married ; no children. ALONZO, born in Upper Canada, married, and lives there.”

Not much insight above. Fortunately, there we have an autobiography written in 1908 by Richard M Varnum, who married Harriet Ann Perkins (called “Ann” above) which includes his first-hand account of his inlaws William and Harriet (Creelman) Perkins. The Varnum family preserved their family history well. There is even a surviving photo, erroneously labelled “Harriet Creedman” which most likely shows Harriet Creelman Perkins with her second husband John Lanning.

“William Perkins, her father, had been dead some years at this time and two of the children were married.  The family had been in closer contact with civilization than mine in my earlier years – – which accounts for any disparity of manners that may be noticed between us.  Her education had been limited as well as my own.”

“My wife’s mother Mrs. Perkins, (at least at that time) was a most estimable woman or lady if that means any more which I deny – – one of earth’s rarest gems, always the same, affable, kind and wise friend in adversity as in prosperity.  I never saw her temper ruffled in the least, during the sixteen years of our acquaintance.  I am tempted to say this much because of the prevalent slander of mothers-in-law and because it is the exact truth.”

William Francis Perkins was undoubtedly named for his uncle, the doctor of the same name, who eventually settled in Jamaica. Kings county land records for William Perkins show his time in Nova Scotia before the move to Ontario. He purchased his first land from his father in 1823. Additional family land came from his remarried mother Sarah Farnsworth in 1828. A few years later his sold this Aylesford land to buy property in Cornwallis and Black Rock. The final sale of the Nova Scotia land is recorded in 1845. We can confirm the year of the move to Ontario as 1844 from the two youngest children since William Alonzo Perkins lists his birth as Ontario in 1845, while Maria Perkins lists her birth as Nova Scotia in 1843.

1823Ely Perkins et uxWilliam PerkinsA1-73Aylesforddeed
1823William PerkinsStephen B DeWolfeA1-72Aylesforddeed
1825William F Perkins et uxJames IllsleyA1-137Aylesforddeed
1827James Ilsley et uxWilliam F PerkinsA1-194Aylesforddeed
1828Sarah (nee Perkins) FarnsworthWilliam PerkinsA1-249AylesfordR of dower
1829Stephen DewolfeWilliam PerkinsA1-257AylesfordR of mtge
1830William PerkinsLawrence HarrisA1-325Aylesforddeed
1830William F Perkins et uxZebulon NeilyA1-336Aylesforddeed
1830James Foreman et uxWilliam F PerkinsC8-530Cornwallisdeed
1830Thomas Dykens et uxWilliam PerkinsC9-56North Mt, Cornwallisdeed
1838William F Perkins et uxRichard LeeC10-473Black Rockdeed
1840William B Almon et uxWilliam PerkinsC11-178Cornwallis Tswpdeed
1842William F PerkinsJohn BurnsC11-522North Mt, Cornwallisdeed
1845William Francis & Harriet PerkinsGeorge Bezanon13-23Cornwallisdeed

Brothers of Sisters of William Francis Perkins
All of the siblings of William Perkins remained near Nova Scotia. James Perkins died young during a fishing accident on Five Mile Island, an area of the highest tides in the Bay of Fundy. The fate of Mary (Perkins) Clark’s family represents a brick wall with her two children remaining unidentified. Mary Perkins married James Illsley, a man who married 4 times and produced 14 children. Mary was responsible for 9 of them. Cyrus Perkins became a teacher and relocated to New Brunswick. Some of this group would eventually settle in Maine. There are likely men with the Perkins surname living there today. Lucilla Perkins married Gideon Cogswell. Many of this line would settle on the West coast including Spokane WA and British Columbia. Some of the more interesting descendants include:

  • Robie Lewis Reid (1866-1945), grandson of Lucilla (Perkins) Cogswell – noted historian, book-collector and lawyer of British Columbia who had a mountain in British Columbia named after him.
  • The Cummings sisters Annie Mannon (1871-1939), Marion Morcom (1885-1974), and Bertha Caubu (1890-1950), great granddaughters of James Perkins, all managed to move from Nova Scotia and marry the richest and most powerful men in the San Francisco Bay Area. A true rags to riches story.
  • Rolla J Olin (AKA Michael Vallon) (1897-1973), great grandson of Mary (Perkins) Illsley, became a Hollywood actor
  • Philip Sydney Illsley (1896-1973), great grandson of Mary (Perkins) Illsley, known of the father of the swimming pool, earned his fortune by developing a revolutionary process of creating swimming pools

Family of Harriet Creelman
Harriet Creelman is one of seven daughters born of William and Harriet (Turner) Creelman. Her mother is another in a long time of New England Planters. In fact, both William and Harriet share a common relative, Anna Prentice, making Harriet a half cousin once removed of William. The land records shows the movement of William and Harriet Creelman while in Kings county

1774Andrew Denison et uxMathew CreelmanH2-291Horton Twspdeed
1800William Bishop Jr et uxWilliam CreelmanH4-345New Minasdeed
1801John WallaceWilliam CreelmanH4-372Grand Pre Dykedeed
1806Jonathan CraneWilliam Creelman et alH5-168Horton TwspQ.C.D.
1811Jonathan Crane et uxWilliam CreelmanH6-280Horton Twspdeed
1813William CreelmanElisha DewolfH6-373New Canaandeed
1822Thomas TurnerWilliam CreelmanC6-483Cornwallis Tswpdeed
1825William Creelman et uxRobert TrenholmH8-412Horton Twspdeed
1831William CreelmanGideon PalmerC9-84Cornwallis Tswpdeed
1831Harriet CreelmanGideon PalmerC9-114Cornwallis Tswprelease of dower

The introduction of William Creelman marks the first non-Planter into the family in many generations. Even more profound, William, whose parents arrived from Ireland, represents the first non English ancestor into the Perkins line.  The Nova Scotia Archives Website has a nice description of these Irish immigrants (

“Most people connect Irish emigration to North America with the Potato Famine of the late 1840s.  The majority coming to Nova Scotia, however, arrived in the mid-1700s or between 1815 and 1845, coming not in large groups but quietly, like the snow on a roof. The first wave arrived in the late 1750s, a time when Ireland was largely a country of tenant farmers and labourers, with an economy dependent on Great Britain and its protective tariffs. …They were called the ‘Scots-Irish’ although this is not an entirely accurate term. Most of the northern Irish who came to Nova Scotia in the 1750s and 1760s were third and fourth-generation descendants of Lowland Scots, transplanted to the northern Irish province of Ulster. They are more accurately called ‘Scots from Ireland’ or ‘Ulster Scots,’ since few of them had native Irish ancestry. These immigrants were the founders of Truro and Londonderry in Nova Scotia.  Others settled in Chignecto (on the New Brunswick border) and in Granville, New Dublin (near Bridgewater), New Donegal (Pictou) and in parts of Hants County. Archibald, Allison, Parks, Fulton and Creelman are typical family names.”

The specific lineage for William Creelman remains elusive. Most early Canadian Creelmans trace themselves to the well-documented Samuel Creelman of Colchester County, NS. However, there is no mention of our William. Further research suggests that Samuel Creelman had one or more brothers as noted by “The Irishman in Canada” by Nicholas Flood Davin, 1877:

“In 1756, three brothers, Samuel, Matthew, and Francis Creelman, emigrated from Ireland to Nova Scotia. Samuel settled in Upper Steviack, County of Colchester; the other two elsewhere; and all grew prosperous.”

Matthew Creelman shows up in a single Kings county deed in 1774. Here is the likely story of Samuel and Matthew from David Creelman, a descendant of Samuel, as derived from information compiled by Carol Campbell and “History and Genealogical Record of the First Settlers of Colchester County” by Thomas Miller.

“Samuel lived in Northern Ireland, probably in or near Coleraine, County Londonderry, and whose ancesters came from Scotland. The story prevails that a man whose surname was Ashmore received a contract to transport food to a camp of prisoners. He did this by horse on which were fitted “creels” or saddle baskets. Apparently he developed the reputation as being the “creel-man” and some of his descendants assumed this surname. When this happened we do not know but there are records of numerous Creelmans in Scotland, principally in Lanark County. Sam was married and had four children when he arrived in Halifax, NS in 1761. He probably arrived on the ship Hopewell with 350 passengers. He spent a difficult winter in Lunenburg before moving to Amherst, NS where he received a land grant of 500 acres. A person named Matthew Creelman also had a land grant in Amherst. We can speculate that it was Samuel’s younger brother but we know little except that he disposed of his property and apparently moved away.”

Harriet Creelman’s family prompted the move from Nova Scotia to Elgin county, Ontario with her sister Hannah (Creelman) Oglivie alone remaining in Nova Scotia. Her other sisters, Ann Montross, Olivia Montross, Charlotte Humphries and Sarah Scott, all settled in Elgin county Ontario. The eldest sister Margaret Palmer settled in nearby Lambton county, as did the parents William and Harriet (Turner) Creelman.

Elgin County
Elgin county, Ontario was a much more diverse area than Nova Scotia. Irish, Scottish, Germans are all buying land in the area when William F Perkins and family moved to the region. In addition, a sizable Quaker population settled from Pennsylvania. The county utilized a grid system to allocate the farms, which can be seen in the satellite views today.

William Francis and Harriet (Creelman) Perkins, who lived in relative obsurity, represent transitional figures in their move to a melting pot region of Elgin county, Ontario. There is the introduction of Irish ancestry into a line that had been solidly English. There is the first photograph of a surviving ancestor.  They were the last of our ancestors who embraced a completely agrarian lifestyle.