Friday, 31 May 2019

Happy Birthday, Brad Culbert!

Happy 50th birthday to Brad Culbert! Brad was born 31 May 1969 in London, Ontario, Canada and is now a resident of Mission Viejo, California.

Bradley Steven Culbert's Family Tree:
John Culbert & Mary Ward (great-great-great-grandparents)
Richard Culbert & Jane Eleanor Fairhall (great-great-grandparents)
Myron Manford Culbert & Effie Pearl Taylor (great-grandparents)
Ivan Hector Culbert & Elvira Hutchings (grandparents)
Phillip Myron Culbert & Wendy Roane (parents)
Descendants (Children):
Braden Culbert
Tate Culbert 

Three generations: Brad Culbert with his father, Phil Culbert (right) and his grandparents: Elvira Hutchings & Ivan Culbert.

Monday, 27 May 2019

Midnight Madness: Culbert Shoots Kelly in the Head

At midnight ... while the citizens of the peaceful little village of Centralia were enwrapped in quiet slumber, a shooting affray was being enacted on one of the back streets.

Source: Exeter Times, 22 July 1897, p.4.

William Kelly was a prosperous farmer from the 1st Concession in Biddulph Township near Lucan, Ontario. On the night of 20 July 1897, Kelly stopped at Grafton’s Hotel in Centralia, a small community north of Lucan. 

Kelly then made his way to the home of Billy Taylor and Richard Culbert. Kelly needed help on the farm, and planned to ask Taylor if he could come by the next day to assist.

Billy Taylor and his wife Alice (Porter) Taylor lived with their widowed son-in-law, Richard Culbert of Centralia. Richard Culbert’s wife, Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Taylor died just two months previously.

William Kelly knocked at the back door, and told Richard Culbert he was there to see Billy Taylor. Culbert appeared to be out of sorts and refused to awaken his father-in-law. Kelly, who was somewhat under the influence of liquor [1] became persistent, and Culbert ordered him off the property. Kelly returned to the house later, and tapped on the window.

Culbert seized his revolver and fired through the window at Kelly, putting a bullet into his head. The bullet entered at the lower part of Kelly’s left nasal bone near the eye, breaking it, and passed into the back of his head, lodging near the lower part of his left ear.

Kelly staggered half unconscious to a door step to sit down. Culbert came out of the house, caught Kelly by the arm and walked him off the property. When they reached the gate, Culbert must have realized what he’d done. Culbert examined the limp victim and noticing the hole in Kelly’s head, tried to extract the bullet. Culbert became alarmed at Kelly’s considerable blood loss. He sent his father-in-law, Billy Taylor to fetch the local physician. When the doctor learned what had happened, he refused to go near the place without the presence of a constable.

Source: The Huron Expositor, 23 July 1897, p.8.

A number of people showed up at the scene. Kelly was moved into Culbert’s house and stretched out in an attempt to make him comfortable. Meanwhile, County Constable Davis arrested Culbert and placed him in the Crediton lock-up.

More doctors were summoned. They worked for several hours without success to find the bullet. Further probing would be injurious to the patient so Kelly was moved to his own home. Here, Kelly could await developments, and later, if needed, undergo X-rays in an attempt to locate the bullet.

Apparently, Culbert had been quarrelling with several people during the day and was in a bad mood. However, Culbert claimed to be justified in shooting Kelly.

Culbert was moved to the Goderich Gaol (The Huron Historic Gaol) to await trial.

The Huron Historic Gaol. Decades before Richard Culbert was confined in this jail, James Donnelly, Sr. (patriarch of the Donnellys) was locked up here. Donnelly was held in 1858 for the murder of Patrick Farrell before he was moved to Kingston Penitentiary.

In August, William Kelly had the bullet extracted from his head, and had two teeth pulled, behind which the bullet was lodged. It’s reported that Kelly had no ill feeling toward Culbert and wished him to be released from custody.

In September, a trial was held. Richard Culbert and a number of witnesses were examined. A verdict of unlawfully wounding was reached.

Source: The Wingham Times 1 Oct 1897 p.6.

Richard Culbert was sentenced to 12 months with hard labour at Central Prison in Toronto.

Source: The Wingham Times 1 Oct 1897 p.6.

Toronto’s Central Prison had a reputation for brutality. Located near the intersection of King Street and Strachan Avenue, the facility was a place where prisoners were severely beaten, even for minor transgressions.

Central Prison in Toronto

Undoubtedly, the treatment he received at the hands of his jailers would have left Culbert a changed man.

Culbert was released from prison in the fall of 1898. He returned to the Centralia area and rented a farm on William Luker’s property. Notice how the reporter tactfully refers to Culbert’s year-long absence...

R. Culbert, who has for the past year been a citizen of Toronto has returned home again, and rented the farm lately owned by Wm. Luker. Source: Exeter Times, 20 Oct 1898, p. 1.

Culbert’s name never appeared as headline news again. In fact, his name appeared only occasionally in the newspapers after that.

Richard Culbert died on 1 November 1928 in Crediton, Ontario. He is buried in St. James Cemetery, Clandeboye, north of Lucan, Ontario.

Place and date of burial from Richard Culbert's death registration.
For details about Richard Culbert's family history, click here to read my previous post.

[1] "Shot in the Eye" The Huron Expositor, July 23, 1897.

Friday, 24 May 2019

Richard Culbert of Centralia (1860s-1928)

Richard Culbert lived in Centralia, Ontario, Canada but throughout his lifetime he lived in other nearby areas too. So why am I calling him Richard Culbert of Centralia?

You’ve already met two other Richard Culberts so I had to find a name that sets him apart from the others. And although he moved around, he was living in Centralia at the time of the incident. But more about that in the next post.

A roll call of Richards:

1. Richard Culbert (1853-1932) the son of our ancestors, John Culbert and Mary Ward. He was married to Jane Eleanor Fairhall and they lived in Biddulph Township on the Culbert homestead near Lucan, Ontario. For more about this Richard Culbert, click here.

2. Richard Culbert (c1813-1894) the brother of our ancestor, John Culbert. This Richard Culbert was married to Ann Jane Harlton. He purchased the property next to John on the Culbert homestead in 1840, following the family’s arrival from Ireland. Later, they moved to Lambton Township. For more about this Richard Culbert, click here.

3. Richard Culbert of Centralia (1860s-1928).

Centralia is a small community in Huron County, north of Lucan. In fact, Centralia is actually much closer to the Culbert homestead (Poplar Farm) than it is to Lucan. I wonder if the locals ever confused Richard Culbert of Centralia with Richard Culbert of Biddulph (son of John & Mary). Surely, the two Richards would have known each other. Whether or not they knew the exact nature of their relationship is unknown. 

I don’t yet know how Richard Culbert of Centralia is related to us but DNA testing proves there’s a connection. So why am I introducing him to you?

1. Because I’m studying our DNA connections to Richard’s family.

2. Because there’s a story about Richard that you won’t want to miss, coming up in the next post.

But for now, let's find out a little about his family.


Richard Culbert of Centralia was born in the 1860s in Usborne Township, Huron County. Richard’s parents were James Culbert (c1820-1898) and Rebecca Hodgins (1827-1912). This James and Rebecca are not to be confused with James Culbert and Rebecca Portis.

Richard's mother, Rebecca Hodgins was from Tipperary but I don't know if his father, James Culbert was from the same part of Ireland. I don’t know the names of James’ parents. 

And now here’s where it gets interesting and/or confusing, depending on your point of view...

Rebecca Hodgins’ parents were Henry Hodgins and Sarah Colbert (1807-1893). Sarah Colbert’s family emigrated from Ireland and settled in London Township in 1830. Sarah Colbert was one of the London Township Colberts with whom we share DNA. Therefore, Richard Culbert of Centralia is related to us through his father’s line (a Culbert) and through his mother’s line (a Colbert). This makes studying our DNA connections with this family challenging. But whoever said genealogy was easy?


Richard Culbert married Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Taylor on 19 December 1891. Lizzie was the daughter of William “Billy” Taylor and Alice Porter of Usborne Township.

Richard and Lizzie had two children: Rebecca Culbert (born 6 Feb 1893 in McGillivray Township) and Wesley William Culbert (born 15 Apr 1895 in Usborne Township). Rebecca married Edwin James Walker, and William married Fanny Winson.

Based on his children’s birth locations, Census forms and newspaper articles throughout the years, it’s clear that Richard moved a lot. Although Richard was listed as a farmer on his daughter’s birth registration, he was listed as a labourer on his son’s birth registration, and appears to have remained a labourer for the rest of his life.

Richard’s wife, Lizzie (Taylor) Culbert died of peritonitis 7 May 1897, age 22. Lizzie's death registration shows she’d been living in Centralia, Stephen Township, Huron County.

Just two months after Lizzie’s death, something happened that would have a profound effect on Richard. We’ll get to that in the next post.

In the years between Lizzie’s death and his second marriage, it seems that Richard lived with Lizzie’s family.

Fast forward to 16 April 1913. Richard married for a second time to Minnie Kenny (alternate spelling, Minnie Kenney.) Minnie was born c1886 in Stephen Township to John Kenny (alternate spelling John Kenney) and Mary Hunsicker.

Richard Culbert and Minnie Kenny had four children: Hilda May Culbert (born 1913) who married Thomas Henry Anderson; Mary Edna Culbert (born 1914) who married Andrew Miller; Vera Culbert (born c1920); and Norman W. Culbert (born 1921) who married Marion Jane Clarke.

The 1921 Census shows the Richard Culbert family back in Usborne Township again at S Lot 4, Concession 1. Richard’s brother, Robert Culbert is living with them, too.

1921 Census of Canada. Note the spelling Colbert rather than Culbert. Documents regarding Richard’s surname vary in spelling.

Richard Culbert of Centralia died in his sixties on 1 November 1928 in Crediton, Ontario. He is buried in St. James Cemetery, Clandeboye, north of Lucan.

Come back soon to learn how Richard Culbert shocked the peaceful little village of Centralia. Click here to read.

Richard Culbert of Centralia’s Family Tree:
James Culbert & Rebecca Hodgins (parents)
Descendants (children with Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Taylor)
Rebecca (Culbert) Walker
Wesley William Culbert
Descendants (children with Minnie Kenny/Kenney)
Hilda May (Culbert) Anderson
Mary Edna (Culbert) Miller
Vera Culbert
Norman W. Culbert

Monday, 20 May 2019

The Wildest Town in Canada: Donnelly Songs and Stories by Jeff Culbert

The Port Stanley Festival Theatre kicks off its 2019 summer season with The Wildest Town in Canada: Donnelly Songs and Stories.

The show's creator and star is Jeff Culbert, the great-great-grandson of our ancestors, John Culbert and Mary Ward. Jeff, who grew up in Lucan, Ontario is a talented storyteller, playwright, and musician.

Jeff Culbert
This new show about the Donnelly murders of 1880 presents the story in a unique way: It’s a concert featuring some of the best songs that have been written about the Donnellys over the years.

Songs by Stompin' Tom Connors, Earl Heywood, Maria Dunn, James Boyle and Jeff Culbert, played by a four-piece band featuring fiddle, accordion, guitar and banjo.
The show runs for a week from 21 May - 25 May 2019. Ticket information here.

And if you haven't already read my post about the Culbert family's connection to the Donnellys, click here.

Cousins Jeff Culbert (left) and Terry Culbert at Poplar Farm, the Culbert homestead near Lucan, Ontario. The Culbert homestead on the Coursey Line is located almost directly straight across and a couple of miles west of the Donnelly homestead on the Roman Line.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Walter Berry “Watt” Culbert (1909-1982)

Watt Culbert

If you grew up in a rural area, you’re familiar with “the farmer wave.”

You’re driving down the road and as another vehicle approaches, you wave to the driver as a friendly gesture. It can be as simple as lifting one or two fingers off the steering wheel...

 ... or you can enthusiastically stick your arm out the window. Walter Berry “Watt” Culbert was doing just that on 21 September 1929, and it almost cost him his life.

Watt, age 20 was on his way home when he encountered a wedding procession of cars, heading the opposite direction. They were guests at the wedding of Watt’s first cousin, Edith Marilla Culbert who was marrying Bert McLelland in the nearby village of Ripley.

Watt had thrown his arm out the car window to greet the people in the leading vehicle. The lead car was speeding so fast that it threw up a cloud of dust, obstructing the view of Elton McLelland, the driver of the car behind it. Elton (brother of the groom) couldn’t see Watt’s car for the dust, and Elton sideswiped him. Both cars had their sides sheared off and went into the ditch.

Watt was found bleeding with his left arm almost severed. He was taken to Kincardine Hospital where his arm was amputated.

Years later, Watt’s daughters said, “We were surprised that neither of us ever thought of Dad as someone with only one arm. That was probably because he never complained, and found ways to accomplish things that needed to be done. One thing that amazes us now is how he was able to tie his shoelaces with one hand.”

The Thomas Ezra Culbert family
Watt Culbert was born 15 August 1909 in Huron Township, Bruce County, Ontario, Canada. His parents were Thomas Ezra Culbert (1872-1949) and Sarah Ann Berry (1871-1953) of the 8th Concession, just east of Ripley.

Watt had an older brother, William Henry “Bill” Culbert (1906-1987) and a younger sister, Hazel Ann (Culbert) Charles (1911-2005). Bill was a secondary school teacher at Patterson Collegiate Institute in Windsor, and Hazel was a hairdresser in Lucknow.

When he was 31, Watt married 25-year-old Annie Louise Bowers on 5 July 1941. Annie, born 23 November 1915 was the daughter of Shirl Bowers and Kate Martyn who farmed on the 15th Concession, two miles south of Ripley. Annie attended Toronto Normal School in 1933-34 and taught at SS#2 Culross for four years. 

Watt Culbert & Annie Bowers on their wedding day
The maid of honour in the pink dress is Annie’s sister Dorothy Henrietta “Hetty” Bowers, and the best man (far right) is Watt’s first cousin, George Irwin Johnston (1910-1944). George was the son of Ellen “Nellie” Culbert and Robert William Johnston.
Here's a photo of the same group as above at Watt & Annie’s 40th anniversary celebration in 1981. Left to right: Watt Culbert, Annie (Bowers) Culbert, Hetty (Bowers) McLeod, and George Irwin Johnston.

On 1 August 1938, Watt and Annie opened a dry goods store in Ripley. Known as Watt’s Variety Store, they sold clothing, paint, school supplies, sewing notions, toys, and other items.

Watt's Variety Store in Ripley, Ontario
Watt’s Variety Store was located at 79 Huron Street in a long brick building which included several businesses. In the 1940's if you were to walk from their house on Jessie Street along Huron Street, it was the third store on the west side of Huron Street. The first store was Blue's Bakery, then McArthur's Hardware, Watt's Variety Store, McLennan's furniture, and several more. 
Inside Watt's Variety Store, November, 1952. That's Watt Culbert with his arm outstretched. The woman is Donalda MacKinnon, a part-time clerk at the store. The boy between Watt and Donalda is Watt’s son, Tom Culbert. The little boy making a purchase is Watt’s nephew, Andy Bowers. Photo by Andy’s father, John Laishley “Jack” Bowers.

Watt’s Variety Store specials, 1939

In September, 1941 Watt and Annie purchased the former home of Mr. Dan Ross at 16 Jessie Street in Ripley.

The Culbert family home at 16 Jessie Street, Ripley, Ontario
16 Jessie Street many years later in 2013.

Furniture receipt dated 1941 for a breakfast suite, bedroom suite, chesterfield suite, and a mattress for the house on Jessie Street. All for $237.00! Purchased from McLennan's Furniture store in Ripley. Note that the letterhead also says Funeral and Ambulance Service. This was back in the day when furniture and funeral services were sold in the same store.

Here on Jessie Street, Watt and Annie raised their three children: Shirley (born 1942), Thomas (born 1944), and Katherine (born 1947).

Watt sold Watt’s Variety Store and retired on New Year’s Day in 1982 after serving the community of Ripley for 44 years.

At the time they retired, Annie commented, “Years ago the store was opened every Wednesday and Saturday nights and the streets were lined with people. But today you could shoot a canon down the street.”

Photo of Huron Street in Ripley as it looked in October, 2015. The building on the right with the blue front is where Watt's Variety Store once stood.

The building that housed Watt’s Variety Store still stands today. MacAdams’s Mini Mart has taken the place of Watt’s Variety Store and the furniture store.

The Culberts admitted they would miss the store but they planned to enjoy their retirement “even if we don’t know what we’ll be doing.”

In the summer of 1982, Watt was at the family cottage at Bruce Beach on Lake Huron, about seven miles from his home in Ripley. He was getting the cottage ready for use after renovations. Shortly after this, he began to feel unwell. He was taken to Kincardine Hospital, and then to University Hospital in London where he died on 31 July 1982, age 72. Watt was just six months into his retirement.

Transcript of Walter Berry Culbert’s obituary:


Walter B. Culbert passed away in University Hospital, London, on July 31, 1982.

He was born on August 15, 1909 in Huron Township, the son of the late Thomas E. Culbert and Sarah Ann Berry.

Walter owned and operated a Variety Store in Ripley for over 40 years.

He was a faithful member of St. Paul’s Anglican Church and served his church in
many ways. Also he was a member of the village council for several years.

He is survived by his wife, the former Annie Bowers and two daughters, Shirley
(Mrs. George Sled) of Stouffville, Katherine (Mrs. Ken Kirkland) of Milton, and one son Thomas (Marjorie) of Ripley. Also surviving, a sister Hazel (Mrs. Roy
Charles) of Lucknow, a brother William(Olive) of Richmond Hill and seven grandchildren.

The funeral service was held in the MacKenzie and McCreath Funeral Home, Ripley on August 3, 1982 with lnterment in Ripley Cemetery.

Pallbearers were: Bill McLeod, Roy Jackson, Don Peterbaugh, Donald Bowers, Morgan Johnston, and Lloyd Needham.

Flowerbearers were: George Johnston, Gordon Roulston, John Wain, Murray Culbert, Jack Scott and Don McLay.

Annie died 19 years later in 2001, age 86. Watt and Annie are buried in Ripley-Huron Cemetery, located at 1 Park Street in the southwest part of the village of Ripley.

Watt and Annie had been long-time members of St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Ripley. The church was built in 1891, and attended by generations of Culberts. St. Paul’s was deconsecrated and closed on 24 June 2005. Nonetheless, it still stands today at 10 Jessie Street, just down the street from the Culbert's house.

St. Paul's Anglican Church, 10 Jessie Street, Ripley, Ontario

The beautiful stained glass window (above) overlooked the altar. It bore the inscription: In memory of Moses Wall aged 85. Died Feb 28, 1891. (erected by his family). Moses Wall (1806-1891) and his wife, Ellen Greene were the parents of Margaret Wall who married Watt’s grandfather, Henry Culbert. (Henry Culbert was the son of John Culbert and Mary Ward.) The stained glass window was removed when the church closed, and is now in the possession of a member of the Wall family.

Henry Culbert (1837-1920) was a devout Anglican, as was his son, Thomas Ezra Culbert. Thomas Ezra Culbert was caretaker of the church until his son Watt Culbert took over these duties in 1940, and continued until his death in 1982.

Below is an appreciation letter for Watt’s work with the church...

Walter Berry Culbert’s Family Tree:
John Culbert & Mary Ward (great-grandparents)
Henry Culbert & Margaret Wall (grandparents)
Thomas Ezra Culbert & Sarah Ann Berry (parents)
Shirley Ann (Culbert) Sled
Thomas John Culbert
Katherine Margaret (Culbert) Kirkland

Walter Berry Culbert (1909-1982)

Note: Thanks to Shirley (Culbert) Sled and Katherine (Culbert) Kirkland who provided information and photos of their father, Walter Berry Culbert.