An unusual funeral in Hawick

Among the recent additions to the British Newspaper Archive was this Hawick Express issue of 29 November 1879.

FORESTERS’ FUNERAL – On Sunday last a large number of the brethren of Court Flower of Teviotdale turned out to attend the funeral of their deceased brother, George Cavers. Preceding the coffin, which was borne shoulder-high by four of their number, they went by way of High Street to Wellogate Cemetery, where, after the body had been committed to the grave, Bro. R. Waddell, C.R., impressively read the service for the dead prescribed by the order. Large numbers congregated at various parts to witness the cortege, and at the cemetery many gathered together to hear the service read.

From this report we know that the deceased man was a member of the Ancient Order of Foresters. This was established in 1834, and was a mutual aid society, providing financial support and savings options for members, in an era long before the British welfare state or readily available banking facilities.

A little genealogical digging identified the deceased man as 24-year-old waiter George Duncan Cavers, son of master tailor John Cavers and his wife Sarah Duncan. George had died of tuberculosis on 25 November 1879 at 2 Howegate, Hawick. He grew up in Hawick, but was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, USA in 1855, where his parents had emigrated to. Sadly his father died not long after, and the widowed Sarah returned to Scotland and Hawick with her four surviving young children.

By the 1861 census widowed Mrs Sarah Cavers and her children were living in Langlaw Place, Wilton parish, Hawick. All but the eldest child had been born in America. Sarah Duncan or Cavers later married again, to a Thomas Rattray, engineman. Her daughter Janet Cavers returned to the United States, and married English-born Thomas Binns at Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1876.

This Cavers family was one of those descended from James Cavers and Isabella Coltherd, part of the line of their grandson Thomas Cavers (b. 1791).

Searching for Cavers references in the British Newspaper Archive

I’ve often posted articles found in old newspapers. Thanks to the British Newspaper Archive these are some of the easiest sources to check quickly online, at least for Scotland and the UK. As I write the British Newspaper Archive already holds over 35 million pages from old British newspapers. Now to be fair the archive doesn’t contain all old British newspapers, though it certainly has a lot, and is adding more all the time. And there were few local newspapers, including in the Scottish Borders homeland of the Cavers surname, before the early 1800s. However the archive already has good coverage for Hawick. As well as many years of the Hawick News (started 1882) and the Hawick Express (started 1870), it includes a number of surrounding area papers, as well as many years of the Borders-wide paper the Southern Reporter (started 1855). Elsewhere the archive has good coverage of newspapers in Edinburgh and Fife, as well as in many parts of England.

Having said all that, searching for surname Cavers can be somewhat fraught. Searches are by keyword, not specifically surname, and the word “Cavers” can match both the surname and the parish of Cavers near Hawick that gave rise to the surname. Usually parish references predominate by far. Adding a forename can narrow it down, e.g. searching for “James Cavers”, “Francis Cavers” etc. Another tactic is to restrict the place of publication (an option in the search results form) to just Hawick published papers. Though even then you still have to wade through lots of Cavers parish results.

The quality of the OCR automated character recognition used in the archive text searches is not perfect, and there are often mistranscriptions. This does mean you may miss sought articles when searching by text keyword. But often the search does lead to something you want, the transcript (even with faults), can be good enough to judge an article’s relevance, and you can then click through to read the original newspaper page directly. Note it is also possible to browse newspaper issues directly, without using a keyword search, if you want to access the archive that way. Keyword searches, however, make searching the mass of pages quickly practical, that would be impractical to read fully.

The newspaper references I am posting online in the opening months of 2020 were found by searching for pages added to the online archive in the last 30 days – another handy search option available. This found old Cavers newspaper articles new for me, and hopefully of interest to the blog’s readers.

I love the variety of references that turn up. Obviously reports of births, marriages and deaths. But also advertisements from businessmen, court cases and crime reports, school prize lists and so much more. The content evolves over time, to be more varied and less about elite people later. It is always worth me checking the archive for interesting new Cavers content.

If you are interested in trying the British Newspaper Archive do check out their site. It is a subscription site, but you can subscribe for as short a period as a month, as well as longer. Alternatively the newspaper archive’s database is included in many FindMyPast subscription packages, alongside the other datasets FindMyPast provides access to.

A large cabbage

The British Newspaper Archive has recently been adding more pages from the Hawick Express newspaper. Here is a Cavers reference from there, from the 14 October 1876 issue. George Cavers was born at Hawick in 1848, son of John Cavers or Irvine and Janet Graham. George married Janet Bruce in 1886. He died at Hawick in 1912.

LARGE CABBAGE – Mr George Cavers, green-grocer, &c., received yesterday a very large cabbage, measuring 57 1/2 inches in circumference, and weighing 38 lbs. It is now exhibiting in his window, 30 High Street.

New clues to a Cavers family’s brief time in France in the 1830s

Thanks to the British Newspaper Archive‘s online digital editions of old newspapers I just uncovered a useful clue to a Cavers family’s brief time in France, which had puzzled me before. The obituary below is for John Cavers (ca1833-1920) who was born in France, son of John Cavers and Elizabeth Fiddes. For more details of their family tree see my blog post about this family that moved from Ashkirk near Hawick to farm in Berwickshire.

Berwick Advertiser, October 15 1920

Noted Border Farmer Dead – There passed away at Belville last week one of the ablest and most successful farmers of the Merse, in the person of Mr John Cavers. Born 87 years ago in Alsace, where his father was a gardener for a time, he started work at eleven years of age. At various times he acted as hind (at Belville among other things), as miller at Ednam, and as steward at Highridge Hall, Swinton Quarter, Whitsome Langrig, and Broomdykes. His first venture as a farmer was made at Heriot Bank 28 years ago. After five years he came to Belville as farmer, and there he succeeded so well that he and his sons have since been able to take over Heiton Mains, Kelso, Pittlesheugh, and Thorneydykes (since given up). Mr Cavers, whose wife, as sister of the late Mr James Aitken, of Springwells, died ten years ago, had two daughters, Elizabeth, who died within six weeks of her mother, and Mrs Clinkscales, now of Bo’ness; and six sons, one of whom, John, died abroad; a second Andrew lives in Canada, William, farmer of Heiton Mains; Walter, farmer and proprietor of Pittlesheugh; James, lately farmer of Thorneydykes, but now living at Bank House, Greenlaw; and George, who farms Belville. The late Mr Cavers, whose farming was probably unsurpassed in the County, was for some years a member of Whitsome School Board, and for a longer period a trusted manager of Leitholm U.F. Church. The attendance at his funeral on Saturday – one of the largest seen in this neighbourhood – was a tribute to the respect in which he was held.

And as a postscript to this, Jean Le Youdec has since traced the birth record for John Cavers in France. Quoting from Jean on Facebook:

I have discovered a trace of the birth of this John Cavers in Alsace. His birth was registered in the commune of Hayes in the Moselle on 20th October 1833. His parents are given as John Cavers and Elisabeth Sidder – perhaps a mis-spelling of Elizabeth Fiddes?

Theft of fruit in Hawick in 1889

Hawick News, 1889 September 21

BURGH POLICE COURT
THEFT OF FRUIT
Alexander Forbes, Backdamgate, and John Moore, Baker Street, schoolboys, for stealing plums, pears and apples from the shop of George Cavers, High Street, were fined. Forbes 2s or 4 hours and Moor 3s 6d or 6 hours.

George Cavers (1847-1912) married Janet Bruce at Wilton in 1886. He was the son of John Cavers and Janet Graham, and has living descendants. As a young man George was the Cornet for Hawick.

Hoping to get some old Hawick papers digitised

I’ve just asked the British Newspaper Archive to add a Hawick paper to its archive of digitised papers. More votes supporting this would help. For ages they had no Scottish Borders published papers at all. Then they added the Southern Reporter, but it has very little content re region’s then largest town, Hawick. If we can get a Hawick paper digitised then I will be able to pull out lots more useful Cavers surname references from Hawick and surrounding areas (including Cavers itself). To vote see here. Thank you.

EDIT: Happy to say that the British Newspaper Archive now plans, newspaper condition permitting, to digitise old issues of the Hawick News. See here.

More on James Cavers “Old Dunneram”

I’ve blogged previously about this James Cavers (1765-1863) in Hawick, including him celebrating his 97th birthday, and a link to a painting of him.

I’ve just found another newspaper report about him, which makes entertaining reading. It was published in a Belfast paper, reproduced from a Border one.

Belfast News-Letter, 1861 December 16

AN OLD ALMANAC SELLER – James Cavers (alias “Dundrum”) is still able, in his 97th year, to go about and sell the “Royal Belfast Almanac.” He has now sold publications for somewhere between sixty and seventy years. He tells with great gusto of an old woman, about forty years since, buying three copies of the same year’s almanac. It appears that for a long time the price of the almanac was 2d; but some free-trading vendor coming round was content to take a small profit and sell it at 1d. The old woman, anxious, like many yet, to save a penny, thought she would lay in a supply for three years. It is needless, however, to say she was rather mistaken. – Border Advertiser

Death on a tramcar

Another death report, this time from a New Zealand newspaper, many of which have been digitised. This looks like the oldest son of Walter Cavers and Jane Blair who were discussed, including in the comments, in the previous post. There’s a Scottish birth for this John in Stobhill district, Midlothian, in 1875, registered as “John Cavers Irvine”. And there’s a matching New Zealand death certificate for him.

Wanganui Chronicle, 1917 January 31

SUDDEN DEATH ON A TRAMCAR

A man naimed[sic] John Cavers, who resided at 116 Bell Street, boarded a tramcar at King’s Avenue, Gonville, yesterday about 5 o’clock, and was observed to collapse before the car had gone twenty chains. Dr Wilkin was hastily summoned, but could do not[sic] more than pronounce life extinct.

Deceased, who was 42 years of age, had been, until the 20th inst., employed as fireman on the N.Z. Refrigerating Company’s lighter Dorset, but had recently been working on day wages.

A second report, this time in the Evening Post of 1917 January 31, notes that he was a “married man”, and that the death occurred on 30th January.

Was he John Cavers who married Sarah A. Samways at Canterbury, NSW in 1910, with several children born over the next few years?

Death of a Cavers emigrant to Australia

I’ve just started searching through the online collection of digitised Australian newspapers. Here’s one of the first interesting entries I found. At the moment I don’t know where he fits into Scottish family trees. There’s no obviously matching Scottish birth for him. But checking his marriage certificate (1899, Granville, New South Wales, wife Ada E. Vines) would reveal his parentage. There are quite a few references in the Australian papers to marriages of his children Albert G. and Ada.

The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 1946 October 16

DEATH OF G. CAVERS

Mr George Blair Cavers (69), who died recently at his residence, Eleanor Street, Granville, had lived in Granville ever since his arrival in Australia from Scotland at the age of six.

In his early days he was employed by the Clyde Engineering Co., and was a keen member of the Clyde Cricket Club. For many years he was manager and coach of the Granville Rechabite football teams, winners of several competitions.

He was one of the foundation members of the Granville Presbyterian Church. Always interested in any movement to help the young people of the district, for many years he was superintendent of the Granville Junior Rechabites.

Mr Cavers is survived by his widow, a son and a daughter.

A Cavers marrying in Iowa, USA

Southern Reporter, 1905 August 31

Mr JAMES W. CAVERS, a grandson of the late Mr James Broomfield, Leitholm, and now a well-known inhabitant of Lansing, Iowa, U.S.A., has been married to Miss Martha Intlekofer, of that town.

If I’ve identified him correctly this Cavers was a grandson of Adam Cavers and Janet Clark. For more on his family see the website compiled by his relative.