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).

Cavers people in Massachusetts, USA

Ancestry has recently added Massachusetts parish registers to its online indexes and digital images. Part of my own personal Cavers line has a Massachusetts connection, so I was really pleased to see these new online records.

John Cavers son of Thomas Cavers and Helen Scott emigrated from Hawick to Massachusetts with his wife Sarah Duncan. John was a tailor. John and Sarah had children in Massachusetts, then after John died Sarah returned with her children to Hawick. At least one of her children went back out to marry in Massachusetts. And now I know so much more.

Children that I’ve been able to establish for the couple are now:

  • Thomas Francis, b. ca 1848; d. 1861 at Wilton, house painter
  • Janet, b. 2 Jul 1850 at Boston, Massachusetts; m. Thomas Binns (b. England, son of George & Martha), on 21 Jun 1876 at Lowell, Massachusetts, and had children
  • Ellen, b. 30 Apr 1852 at Chelsea, Massachusetts; d. 15 Oct 1855 at Chelsea, Massachusetts, cause of death “Lung Fever”
  • Sarah F. (or Sarah E.), b. 1 Feb 1854 at Chelsea, Massachusetts; d. 13 Oct 1854 at Chelsea, Massachusetts, cause of death “Disease of Bowels”
  • George Duncan, b. 14 Jul 1855 at Chelsea, Massachusetts; d. 1879 at Hawick
  • Allen (male), b. 1 Oct 1856 at Chelsea, Massachusetts; presumed to have died young
  • Helen, b. ca 1857 at USA; d. 1890 at Wellington Street, Hawick. Executor for her testament was her first cousin Thomas Cavers Hall (my gg-grandfather)

The father John died at Boston on 25 Mar 1858, recorded as aged 29 years 8 months (there is no trace of his birth in the Scottish parish registers), cause of death consumption, married, born Scotland, parents Thomas and Allen (Ellen/Helen?). His widow Sarah remarried in 1871 at Edinburgh to Thomas Rattray. He too was from Hawick: an engineman from Wilton. At the time of this marriage Sarah was living at Silver Street, Hawick, and her marriage certificate names her parents as George Duncan and Janet Thorburn. Census records indicate that Sarah was born circa 1827 or 1829 in Hawick.

The Massachusetts databases on Ancestry throw up some other Cavers references, but checking the original parish registers pages they almost all look as though they are other surnames mistranscribed. The only one that *may* be a Cavers is Mrs Ann Young who died in 1904 at Winthrop, Massachusetts, aged 71, widow of John Young, born Canada, daughter of George and Esther ?Cavers? {that name is hard to read}. But even that one may be another surname really. I can’t find her in my Canadian Cavers records so far.