Robert Erwin Clifford (called by my grandmother “Robert Clifford Jr.”, but I’m not sure “Jr.” is really warranted because I think his middle name was different than his father’s) was the brother of my great-great-grandmother Anna Clifford. He was born 11 Mar 1858 in Alburg, Grand Isle, Vermont to Robert Clifford and Agnes McWhirter, both of whom were Irish immigrants. Robert was in the 1860 and 1870 Census reports for Alberg, Vermont with his family, then sort of fell off the face of the planet. My grandmother had noted in her genealogical records “Robert left home and was never heard from again”. So I went looking for him.
The first thing I found was a very small news item in the “Winooski Wavelets” section of the March 4, 1891 “Argus and Patriot” in Vermont. It said:
Robert Clifford, a station agent at Eastman, P.Q., a former very popular townsman, died last week. Lizzie and Nellie Clifford, his sisters, went to attend the funeral.
So this explained why he had “vanished”. He had moved out of the country to Quebec, Canada. It also showed that at least two members of his immediate family knew of his death, even if my line of his family didn’t seem to know he had died.
I found a photo of his gravesite on FindAGrave.com. His gravestone is in the South Stukely Cemetery, South Stukely, Quebec, Canada. Plot: Range 9 Lot 3 No 2. It says he died on 23 Feb 1891 at the age of 32. One source of confusion could have been that his father, Robert Clifford, died 14 Mar 1891, and the son (also Robert Clifford) died 23 Feb 1891, less than three weeks apart. Perhaps the news of the “Death of Robert Clifford” got conflated in my part of the family.
Robert had married Jennie Adeline Dingman on 24 May 1886 at the Stuckley-Sud Anglican Church near Eastman, Quebec, Canada. Jennie Adeline was born 24 May, 1865 to Alvin Dingman and Harriet Melinda Horner, and had three brothers: Hubert, James, and Frank Dingman.
Robert and Jennie had had three children, and I was able to find baptism records for all three of them:
Jennie Francis “Francis” Clifford (28 Jul 1887 – 1942)
Harry Gordon Clifford (b 26 Nov 1888 – 1963)
Inez Winifred Clifford (b 17 Oct 1890 – 1955)
In several of the records that mention him, Robert was listed as a “Station Agent”, which is someone who worked to handle freight stock, handle the track switches, sell tickets, and perhaps might have done accounting or operated the telegraph.
This photo shows the Eastman train station where he worked from at least 1886 to his death in 1891. The photo was taken about 1905:
In February of 1891, Robert was killed in an accident at the train station where he worked. He was on top of a train car that derailed due to ice buildup. The train slid down an embankment and he was crushed in the ensuing crash.
His burial record doesn’t give much more information, except that his wife was one of the witnesses at the funeral:
Jennie and the kids are shown in the 1901 Census for Eastman, where she is listed as a widow. Her father and brother are listed nearby. She is also in the 1911 Census with all three kids. Harry is listed as a “stationary engineer in saw mill”, Frances is listed as a “sales lady in retail grocery store”, and Inez is listed as working as a “domestic (servant) for a private family”. Their mother has her occupation listed as “none”.
Jennie died in Eastman on 14 Jan 1914 at the age of 48, and was buried next to her husband.
A little bit about Robert and Jennie’s children:
Jennie Frances Clifford is in the 1891, 1901, and 1911 Census records for Eastman. There is a record of her going to visit her Aunt Margaret Clifford in Winooski, Vermont from 1917 where she is listed as living at Notre-Dame-de-Graces, outside Montréal with her brother Harry. She is in the 1921 Census for Saint-Jean-sur-Richlieu where she is listed as “single”, so I don’t believe she ever married. There are indications she died in 1942 in Hemmingford, Canada, but so far I haven’t found documents that show this.
Harry Clifford became an engineer, and I was able to find him in the 1921 Census living with his sister Francis in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Québec, Canada, which is just outside Montréal. He was married to Margaret Estella “Maggie” Marshall, and had two children, Robert Marshall Clifford (b 4 Sept 1915) and Dorothy Evelyn Clifford (b 7 Feb 1919 – 9 Jul 1955). Dorothy married Douglas Humphries Pimlott, and they had at least two sons, Peter Clifford Pimlott (1948-2010), and Mark Pimlott (who was born 13 Jun 1950 in my home town of Madison, Wisconsin, USA). Harry died in Ormstown, Québec in 1963. Most members of my Cairns family line were from Ormstown… just an odd coincidence.
Inez Winifred Clifford married George James Brown (1891-1979) at Saint-Jean-sur-Richlieu on 14 Oct 1920. I have not found any children so far for them. She died in 1955 in Hemmingford, and is buried there.