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"Crew --- A Dorset Newfoundland Family."

A compilation of some facts concerning
our Crew ancestors at Elliston

 

April  1989 :

"Crew --- A Dorset Newfoundland Family."

George Crew (1786-1869) left Dorset at the age of 16, most likely indentured as an apprentice to a well established Bonavista area fisherman. Married in 1807 to Elizabeth Steed (1790-1872), George soon afterwards became one of our pioneer settlers at Bird Island Cove (now Elliston) where he converted to Methodism in an era when one resident is quoted as having said, resembling our modern day terrorists; "With orders from the Established Church in England he would shoot all Wesleyan and have no guilt feelings about it!"

George's obituary in the Provincial Wesleyan, a Methodist magazine, describes him: "Possessed of more that average intelligence, he employed himself for the spiritual benefit of his fellow creatures and for upwards of half a century conducted religious services in the cove in which he lived, on those Sabbaths when it was not the preacher's turn to be there."

About 1815 a "cousin" Robert Crew (1798-1879) came out from Dorset to join him, married Mary Linthorne (1797-1849) of Bonavista and stayed on in Newfoundland as George's neighbour. Perhaps Robert was accompanied by William Minty (1798-1876) from Dorset, who married George's daughter.

Up to 1823 George Crew and a mysterious George Brown, who disappears from our records, are the only two Methodists, but in the year 1825 nearly the entire community, excepting only a few die-hard Anglicans are listed as Methodist Class Members, largely through the exertions of George Crew.

At present we have several SDFHS members researching these Crew cousins; We believe George was the son of Joseph & Susannah, baptised Okeford Fitzpaine, October 08, 1786, the youngest of eleven children born to this couple. The following siblings of George were baptised at Sturminster Newton: Mary (1763); Thomas (1765); Joseph (1767); Mary (1770); Robert (1772); Sarah (1774); Robert (1775); James (1777); James (1780), and (Sarah 1782).

A family traditional story "that an older family member visited from England for a while" is substantiated by the Slade Co. files (then headquartered in Poole and with several branches in Newfoundland). The Slade Co. "credit rating" papers list a Robert Crew, Sr. servant with George Crew in 1825. The Slade papers also describe the economic situation in 1825-- for George Crew, "Bad with him as the rest, but I consider that he deals fairly and I hold him in favourable consideration." Robert Crew, Sr. is also listed as one of the two Roberts in the Methodist Classes of 1825. No doubt this is George's brother, then 50 years old, who returned to England.

George Crew tried, in vain, to have a surviving daughter named Susannah, the first having died at an early age-- his second Susannah died of a quinsy throat epidemic in 1830 along with her four year brother, Thomas, and her married sister, Mary Minty. Another son, Joseph, then aged 18, was sorely afflicted by this epidemic. This sad time in George's life is vividly depicted by Rev. William Wilson in his "Newfoundland and Its Missionaries", describing George and his wife, Elizabeth, returning from the funeral of Thomas and Susannah only to await the death of their married daughter Mary Minty.

Looking into the records for the two Roberts, Senior and Junior, we could very easily fall into the genealogist's trap of making them father and son; This is not the case. They were referred to as senior and junior only by the Slade mercantile firm. Perhaps it was at this time the younger Robert acquired the nickname Robin, by which he is henceforth known. Of Robin's family roots we have many traditional stories, none of which are proven. The first: "when Robin was a baby in Dorset, his father died of an adder bite." The second: "Robin's younger half- brother, John Hunt, was a missionary to the Fiji Islands." (This story kept us occupied for several years researching the Rev. John Hunt, a veritable "Saint", from Balderton, Nottingham. Robin's widowed mother probably did remarry a Hunt, but no connection with this John Hunt can be found.) The third: "that Robin came from Buckhorn Weston near Wincanton". The Buckhorn parish registers were checked over 30 years ago by the late Mr. NC Crewe, Newfoundland Archives Research Officer. The only reference he found was to a Mr. Crew's farm in Sweetman's "History of Wincanton". More recently I have had the Wincanton register checked for me by Diana Brooker, society member, Yeovil, but to no avail.

In 1835 George's son, Benjamin, then 18, died from a fall over cliff at the Seine Rock. His only remaining son, Joseph, who survived the 1830 epidemic, married Amy Abbott in 1836 and lived just barely long enough to continue George's family line; Joseph died in 1842. Small wonder that the Rev. James Dove, when preparing George's memorial in 1869 could truthfully write: "---Death to him was no King of Terrors. In dying time he proved the faithfulness of the promise, as he had done aforetime in the fierce fires of affliction, for it had pleased the Master to try him in the furnace of family bereavement, like Job he had had to mourn the loss of many children, three only of a large family, with an aged and sorrowing widow surviving him.---"

George was often referred to by the fond appellation "Skipper Crew", which title in Newfoundland carries underlying connotations of respect. Fonder still were the writers of the Methodists magazines who referred to him as "Father Crew".

Robin's progeny is more fruitful but there are misfortunes: his nine year old son, Abel, drowned in 1849; his wife died about the same time.

George's family still have their misfortunes: his grandson, George Ellis Crew, died in 1884- "---He had got, in the winter, a quinsy throat; his aunt, Mrs. Thirza (Crew) Baker, a doctor woman, ordered ice poultices; they were applies; his throat got infected; his palate rotted away; he went mad with pain and hunger; dying strapped down with rope on a settle---."

About the year 1910 Canon Jabez Crew, a descendant of Robin, made a trip to Durham, England, presumably for his ordination, and returned to Newfoundland with the mistaken idea that an `e' should be placed on their name. In a short time everybody adapted to this new way of spelling their name and today all descendants across North America spell their name incorrectly- "Crewe".

George Ellis Crew's son, Reuben, died in the "Newfoundland Sealing Disaster" of 1914, while separated from their ship and lost on the ice floes. A survivor describes the scene: "Reuben drew his son's head up under his guernsey for him to die on his bosom". The father died soon after and thus clasped together they were brought into St. John's.

So far our researches reveal that George's father, Joseph Crew, married Susannah Bridport, at Sturminster Newton 06 May 1760 witnessed by George Bridport and William Newman. The IGI shows one listing only for Bridport viz: George Bridport married 12 April, 1740 to Elizabeth Brickel, at Long Burton. Our family researcher, Mr. NC Crewe, some 30 years ago, lamented that "perhaps the answers may never be known," but, now with so many family historians in our society, we can be more optimistic.

Other families who seem to be connected in Dorset, were Trowbridge, Ridout and Inkpen. What disasters or fortunes are experienced in their family backgrounds? And what became of our Robert Crew, Sr. after his return to England?

 

 

Contributed by Thomas Cole (February 2012)

Page Last Modified March 05, 2012 (Don Tate)

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