Skip to content

REMEMBER THIS: Family keeps Glenn family history alive

Fred Glenn left behind wife and six kids when he died in workplace accident at age 48

I consider myself fortunate. My work days are spent at a place where local history is very much alive and thriving. Every day, I get the chance to chat with people who have long made Barrie their home, far exceeding my mere 42 years here.

Many of these people have deep roots in the area, something that is an obvious source of pride for them. They know who their ancestors were, what they did and where they lived.

This story was inspired by chats with Aileen, a bubbly and active lady who has lived all over Canada. I wrongly assumed Aileen was an incomer to our community, but, no; Barrie is where her people came to many years ago, and it is here that she chooses to live again.

Supplied with the surname Glenn, I went to have a look at the old Barrie newspaper collection online. The first news item that I came across was a front-page story with a jarring headline: ‘Fred Glenn Killed by Fall from Roof.’

When I spoke to Aileen, she confirmed this was her grandfather, Frederick Hewitt Glenn, a married father of 10 children, who left a wife and six surviving children behind when he died at age 48.

This is an everybody story. It is a snapshot of the situation of many people in our region in that era. They were just trying to get by, and the family breadwinner was constantly on the lookout for a better employment situation to improve the lot of the family.

Fred Glenn, and thousands of others, went where the work was.

The Glenn family has not forgotten this and has created a beautiful family history for Fred’s descendants to read. This collection of names, photographs and records also includes a few personal letters between Fred and his wife, Everelda Pyette.

Aileen kindly allowed me to borrow these precious items, and they provide a rare and wonderful insight into the life of an ordinary man who worked hard, moved frequently, made many plans and missed his family terribly most of the time.

Fred Glenn came from a family of movers. He was the youngest child of Irish-born parents who had married in England in 1850, likely as they were about to board a ship to Canada. The first of their 12 children was born in Haldimand County, Ont., the following year.

Of Fred’s siblings, three went to Manitoba and one ended up in North Dakota. Most remained in Haldimand County, but an elder sister, Margaret Glenn, married Charles Nelles, who was, by 1901, a labourer in a saw mill in Simcoe County.

It can be no coincidence that Fred was recorded as a mill worker on the registration of his 1900 marriage to Everelda Pyette — a likely case of chain migration.

As Fred and Everelda’s family expanded, Fred took his carpentry skills all over the county to provide for them. A small window of this time can be viewed through the 24 letters written between Fred and Ebbie, as he called his much-loved wife, in 1913 and 1914.

“Now Ebbie it is 10 to 6 so I will have to close now. I have the mail brought to and from here. I pay a school girl $1.00 a month to do it. Now good bye. Kiss all the children for me and tell them it is from me and be good to them. Best respects to all from Fred Glenn.” — Oct. 15, 1913, Cherrywood, Ont.

Most of the letters detail the plans Fred was making to somehow reunite his family in one place. Sometime around 1916, he achieved that dream as he got work as a carpenter for the Ball Planing Mill in Barrie.

Sadly, Fred had his life cut short as a result of an industrial accident. As he was repairing the roof of 122 Cumberland St., the extension ladder on which he was standing collapsed and threw him to the ground. He suffered a fatal fracture of the neck.

His death occurred Nov. 11, 1922. He had pinned a Remembrance Day poppy on his jacket that day, and the family treasures that same poppy today.

Each week, the Barrie Historical Archive provides BarrieToday readers with a glimpse of the city’s past. This unique column features photos and stories from years gone by and is sure to appeal to the historian in each of us.

Reader Feedback

Mary Harris

About the Author: Mary Harris

Mary Harris is the Director of History and Research at the Barrie Historical Archive. The Barrie Historical Archive is a free, online archive that centralizes Barrie's historical content.
Read more