Ernest Dixon 1891-1986
Sharon Moore of Ireland dropped in to Promises of Home to say that one of the boys in this photo that appeared with William Edwin Hunt’s story is her great grand uncle, Ernest Dixon. Ernest is believed to be the one second from right. Sharon’s family recently discovered that Ernest was a British Home Child. Sharon has found relatives in Canada, descendants of Ernest’s sister, Ellen.
Sharon writes, “I truly believe that history and ancestors have a way of taking us places in order to find them, My sister emigrated to Canada in 1988 and lives in the Halton Hills, not too far from where Ernest was sent and lived as a young man.”
Thanks to Sharon for sharing the information used to write his story.
Like many child immigrants, the event that led to Ernest’s coming to Canada was the death of a parent. He was born on May 25, 1891, into a hardworking, successful Irish family, the youngest of six children. When Ernest was ten, his mother died. By this time, all the Dixon children, except for Ernest and one sister had grown up and left home.
Ernest’s father struggled after the death of his mother and ended up living at a home for destitute men.
Ernest was sent to Smyly’s Homes for Children.
Fifteen year-old Ernest Dixon arrived in Canada on May 3, 1906 on the S.S. Tunisian. He was employed as an apprentice by Clarke & Demill, a manufacturer of woodworking machinery in Hespeler. They reported that Ernest was “a quiet, good lad doing well and learning his trade as a lathe turner.”
After he reached the legal age of eighteen, and officially left the care of Smyly’s, Ernest continued to work for Clarke & Demill. He boarded with his employer but spent most evenings at the place he considered his Canadian home, The Coombe. There, he played and socialized with other Irish boys.
At age twenty, Ernest enrolled in a drafting course at Galt Business College where he joined the football and lacrosse teams. An inspector from Smyly’s described him as “quiet and steady, careful of his earnings” and noted that he was “thinking of buying his own home.”
Smyly’s continued to monitor Ernest’s progress long after his eighteenth birthday. In 1916, he married Ethel Hodgeson and settled in Hespeler where he lived until 1924 when he moved to Detroit to work as a machinist in an auto plant.
Ernest and Ethel had no children. Ernest died on June 15, 1986 in Grosse Point Farms, Michigan.
Ernest’s niece, Bertha, immigrated to Canada in the 1940s and visited him in Michigan often. He was fondly known to her and her children as Uncle Ernie.
Note: Smyly’s introduced children to Canadian life more gently than most other organizations. Some stayed at the transition home in Hespeler, The Coombe, for months to allow them to integrate into the community gradually. Smyly’s usually placed child immigrants in homes and farms within easy monitoring distance.
Promises of Home – Stories of Canada’s British Home Children by Rose McCormick Brandon is available here.
Kindle edition available at Amazon.
I have really enjoyed this book. I think it’s wonderful how many positive stories there are in it about the Home Children and their experiences. Ivy Sucee, Founder and President, Hazelbrae Barnardo Home Memorial Group