Letter to Maud from George Edward Kermott (1890)
[The following letter that I titled, “Kermott History Letter to Maud” was typed into computer format by David E. Kermott, May 4, 1997 using Win95, Office 97 Word for Windows from my home in Elgin, IL. This letter was originally written around 1890 by George Edward Kermott (a Druggist, San Diego) to Maud Scott (Kermott) Bond. It is very frustrating that they never mention Edward’s mother’s name or the Cousin that was first mate on the ship that Edward was on. I would greatly appreciate any information regarding this.]
My dear Maude,
Was so pleased to receive copy of father’s letter, although I notice several omissions as well as mistakes which I will try to fill in and correct.
As I was the only grandson he was ever permitted to be with, and being with him almost every day until I was between thirteen and fourteen at the time of his death. These stories naturally made a deep impression on my young mind. He was so anxious for me to receive the knowledge that he could give and so anzious that I should learn, that he often gave me instructions far beyond my young mind to grasp and retain.
My first lesson in astronomy was given before I was six years of age, when he taught me how to locate the north star.
After I was ten, he often would get me out of bed to explain to me some particular event in the starry heavens. Our love for each other was very strong, and although I often tired of his repeated instructions, I never did of his stories of himself or his travels. I always understood he was born at Lochemanor near Douglas. After the trouble with his uncle, he was bound out to a tailor. Being of a very quick temper and being unused to that life, it galled him.
One day when some injustice had been done to him, he flew into a rage, and having a tailers-goose in his hand, let it fly at the tailor, just missing his head.
He fled form the place, arriving at the shipping docks, and secreted minself aboard a merchant vessel. The cook found him, and being desirious of a helper, kept him in hiding until the vessel set sail. After bing out at sea the captain was informed and called him to his cabin. After questioning, the captain learned of his qualifications in mathematics, writing, and astoronomy, he was given charge of the Log Book, and was required each day to take the time, latitude and longitude of the ship.
It was during this first trip that he was taught to swim. One day in the Tropics while becalmed, the sailors were enjoying a swim when the first Mate came along, took hold of grandfather, and threw him overboard, throwing an oar after him. After that, he could swim, and became an expert at it.
During this first voyage while homeward bound, they were shipwrecked off the coast of Algiers, and that was when they were saved from a raft by a Vessel of Mark, finally landing at home after three years. It was then, his uncle learning of his return, and still holding his grudge, he tried to have him taken aboard a Man of War. His escape was as father has told you and that was when he met Mr. Lloyd and sailed on a Merchantman. His meeting with Henry Boyd was then founded, and their friendship and associations lasted for years. It was on this voyage that he was again shipwrecked, and after being in a boat with seven sailors, who were on an allowance of one pound of bread, and one pint of water daily, yet they divided gladly. They existed on a holf pound of bread and a half pint of water for a week until they were rescued by a vessel, homeward bound.
His last voyage was on a vessel of which his cousin was first Mate. After discharging their cargo at St. Johns and reloading, were anchored in the harbor, awaiting the morning tides to sail for home. The Captain came aboard drunk, and for some reason struck grandfather with a rope’s end, at which he said, “That’s the last time you’ll ever strike me.” The captain ordered him put in Irons, but by the earnest request of the cousin, the captain relented. He then made up his mind to dessert the ship, and so informed his cousin, and wanted him to join him with Boyd.
But his cousin, having the promise of the Shipping Board that he would be given command of a new ship at the completion of this voyage, tried to dissuade him, and promised him that as soon as he was in command, he would name grandfather his First Mate, and Boyd his Second. Grandfather would not listen to him, and that night, he and Boyd deserted, as father has told you.
They made their way into St. Johns and obtained work at odd jobs for some time. Then a contractor, who had the job of painting the largest church in town, engaged them to paint the steeple. The day they completed the work, they, with some other young men, congregated in one of the stores in the evening, (which was a usual practice) and while laughing and joking and having fun generally, a swell Englishman came in to make a purchase, and while waiting, listened to their talk. The proprietor was having some trouble with an example in fractions, and turned to grandfather and asked him about it. Grandfather gave him the example immediately, whereupon the Englishman turned to grandfather and said, “Ah, my young man, I perceive you know something of figures.” “Yes sir”, answered grandfather, “and I consider myself equal to answer any question that you can.” “Ah indeed, then perhaps you can tell me the difference between a half dozen dozen and a dozen dozen dozen. “I will”, answered grandfather, “if you will agree to answer a like questions for me”. “Agreed”, said the man. Grandfather asked for pencil and paper and in a very short time, gave the man the correct answer. “Correct, my lad. Now for yours”. Then grandfather said, “If the hands of a clock were exactly over each other?” After working over it for some time, the boys began to guy him. Finally he threw down the pencil and left the place in a rage. Then one of the boys called for a pint of rum and a pound of almonds, and they kept it up until all hands were drunk
In speaking of this, grandfather told me it was the only time in all his life that he was under the influence of liquer. He was so temporate in his habits, that the captain always placed the key to the liquor locker in his keeping, and especially in the tropics, to measure the allowances for each man daily.
He considered no one his superior except in knowledge or requirements, and when he met them, he was willing to learn from them, no matter how high or lowly their station.
Some time after this, he wrote his younger brother, William, to come there, which he did; William married and had one son John, who notified grandfather a short time before grandmother’s death, of the death of his father. [David Kermott Feb 5, 2001 – I think he meant the death of his Mother. Edward’s father died when he was 13 and living on the IOM, Edward, Edward’s brother William, and Edward’s mother then went to live on Uncle John’s estate 5 miles from Douglas]
After teaching school for a while ( of which Dr. Fellows of compound hypophosphates fame was a pupil) he then learned the cabinate making trade.
Going to Annapolis, he met Amelia Ann Payson (of Holland extraction) whom he married. I do not remember whether they had their family there or at St. John. I think it was at St. John.
When keeping company with grandmother, they went to church one Sunday evening, and as they were going into the building, the town bully stood in the doorway making slighting remarks about the young people as they entered. As grandfather was about to pass him, he pointed his finger and made some sluring remakrs, at which grandfather struck him an unexpected blow under the chin which sent him sprawling backwards into the church. He passed on with grandmother and took his seat as though nothing had happened. (This I was told by grandmother) Next day, however, he received a challenge to fight. Grandfather replied that he would no go one step out of his way to fight him; nigher would he take a step to avoid him. (The bully never got in his way.)
With his cainate making, he later combined carriage making, which he carried on successfully. I think all the children were born here exept father.
About the year 1825 or ’30, they moved to Ontario and settled at Lundys Lane, Niagara Falls. Father (Charles Holland) was born there May 3, 1837. Grandfather owned a large business there, and also a large amount of property. At hiis time, between 1837 and ’38, the McKensie rebellion broke out. Grandfather was in sympathy with hime, but refused to take up arms against the government. He was arrested, tried, and condemned to prison, and his property confiscated. During this time, grandmother went through trying times of which I will not take time to write. They then moved to New Market, where he again started in business, and he prosperred, meeting with reverses in later years, the account of which I will also skip. [David Kermott, Feb 5, 2001 – Such as the death of her 10 year old son, Thomas Boyd Kermott]
I was born there 9-19-1859 (typo from ’39), and my earliest recollections were of living in a large three story house with a large two story work shop nearby, and a large barn in the rear of it.
When I was five, we moved to Belle Ewart on Lake Simcoe, where I spent my early childhood, and received the knowledge he gave me.
When I was about eight years of age, grandfather was engaged to oversee the building of a Ferry Boat. The launching was a great event for the whole countryside, as it was the first ever built north of toronto. It was a proud day for me while he took the wheel as I stood by his side on her Maiden Trip across the lake about a month later. Grandfather always stood for the right as he saw it, and always stood ready to help the needy or unfortunate.
The Scripture quotations which he often quotated were indellibly plated in my memory, and are today the first I think of when meditating on God and all His Wondrous Works. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”, is the first I remember. It would take me hours to write all I could tell of the happenings of both grandfather and grandmother. They never got over their lovers’ stage, and were sweethearts until grandmother passed away.
There is one more story I must tell you before I stop. Two Englishmen came to New Market and started a bunk. One day grandfather had occasion to go in on business, and as he was about to speak to one of them the man said, “Take off your hat.” Grandfather removed his hat and finished the business. Sometime after, the man came to the shop and started to give him instructions, when grandfather waid, “Take off your hat, sir.” The man hesitated and looked his surprise. When grandfather repeated the command, and picking up a stick said, “If you don’t take it off, I will knock it off. If XX I have to take off my hat to do business with you, you have to take off yours to do business with me. The man took his hat off, and ever after was very friendly with grandfather. He knew no fear except the fear of doing wrong.
By G. E. Kermott
of San Diego, California.