Sunday 19 March 2023

From Rochdale to Guelph with Ethel Foulds

Sometimes, old postcards reveal themselves through curious coincidences. That was certainly my feeling when British purveyor of postcards Paul Sutton-King, whom I follow on Twitter, tweeted a pic of a real photo postcard of a fancy wedding cake that he had picked up in a flea market in Cheshire. Imagine my surprise to see that the recipient was one Ethel Foulds, resident of 98 Surrey Street in Guelph! Paul kindly shared the card with me and I began my investigation.

The usual sources soon revealed the basics. Ethel Jean Foulds was born in Acton, Ontario, on 23 March 1907, the daughter of William Edward and Eleanor Barwise (née Wilson). William was a Lancashire man, born in Littleboro in 1875, who had emigrated to Canada abord the Tunisian in 1904. He took up work as a tanner in Acton, home of the substantial Beardmore & Co. tannery. He married Eleanor there on 4 January 1905. She too had just arrived in Acton from England, making me suspect that they were bethrothed there and had married once William had got himself set up on the other side of the pond.

(S.S. Tunisian, courtesty of Norway Heritage.)

Nor were the Foulds the only former inhabitants of Rochdale, Lancashire, to relocate to Acton at that time. From the Acton Free Press (22 July 1926), we learn that Mr. and Mrs. Edward Tweedale, plus daughters Phoebe and Sarah, arrived in Acton in July of 1906 with the intention of settling there. On arrival, they stayed at the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Sunderland Taylor, who were themselves former Rochdale people. In fact, Mrs. Taylor was none other that Ruth Hannah, née Tweedale, who married Edward in England in 1890 (Acton Free Press, 13 June 1912). They immigrated to Acton in 1903, where Edward took up work at the Acton Tanning Company. Had he spread the good word about Acton to the folks back home? It seems that, by 1907, Edward had made six trips across the Atlantic in the previous two or three years, so something was certainly going on (Acton Free Press, 26 September 1965).

(The fates of these families also illustrate that long-distance travel was not without its hazards. Mrs. Tweedale died only six weeks after her arrival in Acton in 1906. She had suffered from "lung trouble" for some time and her doctor thought sea travel would be good for her (Acton Free Press, 30 August 1906). Apparently not. Mr. Taylor died in 1912 after a "prospecting trip" to a paint factory in Victoria, British Columbia, where he met with a fatal dose of lead poisoning (Action Free Press, 13 June 1912).)

In any event, the Foulds family had better luck. By 1907, they had upped sticks and moved to Guelph, where William is listed as a machinist. He is later listed as a member of the 'Quarter-Century Club,' that is, employees of at least 25 years employment, with the International Malleable Iron Company (or IMICO, locally known simply as "Mall'able Iron") of Guelph, starting from 1914 (Daily Mercury, 29 January 1952). He was raised a Methodist and is listed as a member of the board of the Paisley Memorial United Church (Daily Mercury, 29 July 1927).

(Former Paisley Memorial United Church, now the River of Life Church.)

The Foulds maintained ties with the Old Country. Ships' records show Ethel Foulds and her mother Eleanor traveling from Liverpool to Quebec abord the Virginian on 13 May 1914. Significantly, the message on the back of the wedding cake card sent to Ethel states: "Eva Mae // Cake // April 29/14." I suspect that the two had taken a trip to Lancashire to visit relations there, during which time they attended a marriage featuring the wonderful cake. Unfortunately, I have not been able to track down what wedding it might have been. Was Eva Mae the bride? If any Yonners can ferret this out, please let us know in the comments!

(R.M.S. Virginian, courtesy of Norway Heritage.)

It seems that William continued work with Mall'able Iron until shortly before his death on 10 July 1947 (Mercury, 11 July 1947).

The City Directory of 1914 gives the Foulds's address as 98 Surrey Street East (since demolished), where the postcard in question was sent that very year. Around 1917, the family had moved to 25 Wood Street in the Ward, near Tytler School. The house has recently been heightened and expanded, as can be seen in this Street View image from 2009.

Finally, around 1925, the Foulds relocated to their 'forever' home at 149 Kingsmill Ave., a 'shotgun' house located close to the Eramosa river. Since the area was developed around that time, the Foulds were liklely the first occupants of this house.

Just before this move, Ethel Foulds made her own appearance in the City Directory, as a shoemaker in the employ of the nearby Northern Rubber Company. Incorporated in 1919, Northern Rubber manufactured a variety of rubber footwear.

Identified for heritage designation, the iconic building is being renovated for condos as part of a larger redevelopment of the site.

As it happens, there is a panoramic photo of employees of the Norther Rubber plant, taken in 1934.

("Northern Rubber Employees, 1934." Courtesy of Guelph Civic Museums, 2005.14.2.)

Amazingly, someone included a sticky note that points out an employee in the fourth row named "Ethel." Could this be Ethel Foulds?!

It appears that Ethel Foulds remained with the company until it folded up its tent in 1941. Thereafter, she is listed as an "operator" with the Aberfoyle Manufacturing Company. More specifically, it appears that her job was that of "quiller," which, I gather, refers to someone whose job is to operate a machine that winds yarn onto spools.

I don't have much information on the Aberfoyle Manufacturating Company. The 1943 Canadian Trade Index lists its products as mercerized bleach and dye, and cotton yarns. Its location was later reported not in the town of Aberfoyle but at 69 Metcalfe Street, today 69 Huron Street, in Guelph. A stone's throw from the Northern Rubber Plant, this facility was also in easy walking distance of Ethel's home.

(This plant later became part of the W.C. Wood Company, makers of fridges and freezers.)

At this point, the trail came to an end. Ethel Founds disappeared from the City Directory around 1950. At the same time, her mother, Mrs. Eleanor Foulds (widow of William), was suddenly recorded as a resident of R.R. (rural route) 5 in Rockwood, not far from Acton. What happened?

Records from Woodlawn Cemetery in Guelph revealed that William's widow Eleanor died in 1953 and was buried alongside him. Cemetery records also reveal the final resting place of Ethel Jean Foulds, who died in 2001 and is listed as the wife of one Harry Walker. Indeed, an Ethel Walker appears as a resident of R.R. 5 of Rockwood at the right time. Ethel had married and her mother had moved in with her son-in-law!

Unfortunately, there were at least three Harry Walkers in the region of Rockwood, and no record of their marriages resides online. However, the Acton Free Press mentions a Harry Walker "of Rockwood" as a pall bearer at a funeral, accompanied by several brothers. This Harry Walker was born in 1889, farmed in Eramosa township, and had married Jennie McLean in 1919. Jennie died in 1943, which would have made Harry available for marriage around 1950. This Harry Walker died in 1965, and his obituary in the Mercury (3 December) turned up the facts that he had the brothers mentioned in the earlier article and had married the former Ethel Jean Foulds in August 1949. Voilà!

A further look at the Guelph City directories showed that Ethel Walker (wid. Harry) had taken up residence at 149 Kingsmill Avenue in 1967, the old Foulds household. Ethel likely kept possession of the house, rented it out upon her marriage, and returned to it afterwards. She is not listed with an occupation and instead seems to have enjoyed a long retirement.

Harry Walker was buried with his first wife Jennie McLean in Stone United Church Cemetery in Erasmosa Township. Ethel Jean Walker (née Foulds) was buried with her parents in Woodlawn Cemetery in Guelph.

If you have any further information about Ethel Foulds or her family, in Canada, England, or elsewhere, please let us know in the comments below!
Speaking of coincidences, shortly after finding and tweeting the wedding cake postcard addressed to Ethel Foulds, Paul Sutton-King reported this: Yes, another random postcard found in England was addressed to Ethel Foulds, this one sent from Acton!

The transcription goes as follows:

Acton Sept 20, 1920
Dear Ethel:
You will be thinking I have forgotten you all, but I have not. I got your lovely card when I came home last Sat. I got some lovely cards for my birthday. will any of you be down for the Fair Wed. love from Alice
At a guess, this postcard may have been sent by Miss Sarah Alice Tweedale, daughter of Edward Tweedale, whom I mentioned above as another emigrant from Rochdale to Acton.

It seems likely that the young Ethel Foulds enjoyed postcards and may have kept and collected those that she received. At some point, this collection may have found its way to relations in the Old Country, who have since dispersed it there. So, keep your eyes peeled, Britishers, and report any more finds!