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The Creswicke family: A tale of deadly coincidences (4 photos)

In this week's Remember This?, Mary Harris recounts a frightening tale of three men who shared more than a surname

Three men from the same prominent family had their lives cut short by the identical cause. Henry Creswicke and two of his nephews, Hugh Henry Creswicke and Henry Creswicke Hewson, tragically had more in common than the similarity of their names.

It is certainly not uncommon for family members to share the misfortunes of fatal genetic disorders, but these men met their ends not by natural causes but by suffering the same deadly accident in each case. 

Henry Creswicke Sr. was a wealthy man from an old English family. The Creswickes of Hanham Court in Gloucestershire were reportedly handsome people, well educated and friends of royalty. Henry had trained as a civil engineer and land surveyor and was enticed to Upper Canada by the dire need for proper roads in the fledgling province.

Henry and his wife, Sara, settled first in Oro Township. In 1843, the warden of Simcoe County asked him to take on the position of county surveyor, which required him to walk to Kingston to take a qualifying examination, which he did.

Far away from upper-class England, pioneer life in Oro Township was often as challenging for the Creswickes as it was for any other settler family. An old family story speaks of an incident in those early years when Henry’s small daughters, Matilda and Julia, were out in a field near the edge of a treeline when a large cat, either lynx or cougar, grabbed Julia and made off with her. After several hours of searching the woods, Julia was found mostly unharmed hiding in the hollow of a tree.

By the 1860s, Henry’s work brought him often enough to Barrie that the family made a permanent move into town and built the magnificent home at 23 Theresa St.

Henry and Sara Creswicke also raised two sons, Henry Creswicke Jr. and Alfred E.H. Creswicke. The younger Henry followed his father’s career path and became a provincial land surveyor while Alfred became a very well-respected barrister, and three-time Barrie mayor. 

At six o’clock in the evening in late January 1898, the sun had already set when Henry Creswicke Jr. set out from Barrie along an abandoned rail line to visit a friend in Allandale. The unfortunate man was unaware that the particular track had recently been put back into to service and he never saw the locomotive that struck and killed him instantly as he passed near Anderton’s Brewery at the head of the bay.

In 1881, Alfred E.H. Creswicke and his law partner, William Lount, accepted newly minted barrister Charles. E. Hewson into their firm on Dunlop Street. One year later, Charles married Julia Creswicke and the couple eventually had a family of 10 children.

By 1915, Charles E. Hewson had been appointed judge of the District of Manitoulin and his family had moved to the community of Gore Bay. That spring, Julia Hewson had just returned home from Barrie, where she attended the funeral of her brother, Alfred E.H. Creswicke, when tragedy struck again.

Henry Creswicke Hewson, eldest son of Charles and Julia Hewson, had been employed in the offices of meat packers Harris Abattoir in Toronto and was returning from a visit to Locust Hill, near Markham, when met with a gruesome accident. While attempting to catch an already moving train, Henry Hewson lost his footing and fell beneath the carriages. Both legs were severed and he died from shock and blood loss within a short time.

In 1930, the three sons of Alfred E.H. Creswicke were grown men and embarking on careers of their own. Hugh Henry Creswicke, in particular, was becoming a bit of a rising star in the county. After attending the Royal Military College and Osgoode Hall, H.H. ‘Hal’ Creswicke had become a successful lawyer, been elected reeve of Barrie and was expected to be the next mayor, and had recently been chosen as Simcoe County warden. At 29 years of age, he was the youngest man to hold the post.

All the possibilities of his bright future ended on Sept. 23 of that year. Hal Creswicke had business in Toronto and stopped at the Wellington Hotel to purchase some cigarettes before boarding the 4:40 afternoon train. He seems to have misjudged his timing and was eventually seen running for the train that was already pulling away from the station and crossing Bayfield Street, not so very far away from the spot where Hal’s uncle had lost his life 32 years earlier.

Hal Creswicke, just as his late cousin, Henry Hewson, had done, attempted to board a moving train and slipped beneath the rail cars with the same horrible result. Hal was attended by Drs. Little and Turnbull and moved to Royal Victoria Hospital where he passed away at 7 p.m. 

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.


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.
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