William Skitch/Anne Burney (1820)

For many years family legend had it that the name came from a Spanish soldier/sailor washed ashore after the Armada (1588). It is an old story, although it seems unlikely as names similar to Skitch have been found in North Devon earlier than that.

According to Geoff Wallis of Cambridge, the origin and meaning of the surname are in doubt. It is not mentioned in the Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames. The nearest to it are probably Skeats and Skitte. Both are derived from old Norse words, the former from skjotr, meaning 'swift' or 'fleet'; the latter from skyti, meaning 'archer'.

The name appears mainly in Devon and Cornwall, with the earliest occurence in that area being that of Rose Skich who married Johanne Bremrich at Hartland 02 Oct 1575. It is said that in the Stoke Church parish accounts for 1599, there is an item, "Paid Skitch 3d for a Chayne to Tye the Book of Erasmus". Another report is of an entry in Hartland Church records, "Paid Skitch 6d for repairs to pews". The name also turns up at Bideford, Brixham, Barnstaple, Ilfracombe and other villages in the area of North Devon. In the 16th and 17th centuries none of these would have been more than 2 or 3 days' journey from Poughill. In fact, Hartland is only 15 miles from Poughill. From the mid-18th century, the name starts to appear in the south of Devon at such places as Exeter, Plymouth and Paignton.

As to Thomas' origin, Pamela Hunter, an archives assistant for the Cornwall County Council, informed me that there is apparently no record of the birth of a Thomas Skitch in the Poughill or neighbouring parish registers for Kilkhampton, Stratton, Morwenstow or Launcells. However, several of the volumes are missing. He may have been born in Devon. For the moment, it remains a mystery. The burial date may be that of his son, Thomas. There is no way of knowing for certain.

Robert, great-grandson of Thomas Skitch/Elizabeth Harris, was married on 24 October 1821 in Poughill to Honor Smeeth. They had four children: William (1822), Jane (1823), Ann (1825) and Robert (1827).

Ann emigrated to New Zealand in 1842 (Extracts of an account of the voyage, written by the ship's doctor, can be found here.) where she met and married William Thompson the next year in New Plymouth. They had one son, William, before they moved to South Australia in 1845 and had a further seven sons - Edward, Robert Peter, Oscar, two Georges, Albert and James. Ann died in Australia in 1902.

William's obituary states he emigrated from Cornwall to Port Hope in 1850, with his wife and children following the same year, establishing a tailoring business which lasted for three generations.

In the spring of 1851, Robert emigrated to Port Hope, the family following later that year. He bought land in Cavan Township - lot 14 of concession 4, now Millbrook - in January 1857, where he, Hannah and their family remained for most of their lives. Both they and a number of descendants are buried in Gardiner Cemetery outside Millbrook.

Jane and her husband, James Yeo, arrived sometime between 1848-1857, settling in Port Hope. I have done little research on them, but their progeny were such that at one point, it was said that everyone living on the west side of the Ganaraska River was related! James and Jane are buried in Welcome United Cemetery, having died in 1894 and 1915 respectively. Norma Falconer has a Yeo family webpage that links this branch to the rest.

Sandra Doddridge feels that the reason that the other siblings went to Canada was because Ann wrote home with details of her voyage which lasted from 02 July-17 November. It was fairly rough at times and was a very long trip. That might well have put them off from emigrating to New Zealand.

William Skitch Sr.William married Anne Burney in 1841 in Poughill and had the following children before emigrating to Canada: William Robert (1842, Honor Jane (1844), William Henry (1846), John Thomas (1848) and Henry (1849). William arrived in Port Hope in 1850, with his wife and children coming later that year, and established a tailoring business which lasted for three generations. Further children included Alfred (1851), Edward (1853), Ann J. (1856), Thomas Albert (1857), John (1859) and William (1862).

The tailoring business was quite successful, as evidenced by the following entry in the 1886 issue of 'Bradstreet's Reports of the Dominion of Canada:
William Skitch and Sons - Tailors, Port Hope: estimated wealth=$3000- 5000/ credit=fair

The report might have been less favourable had the following incident, published in the 07 May 1880 'Port Hope Guide', ended differently:

ALMOST AN ACCIDENT - Mr. W. Skitch, while driving a horse and wagon over the Walton Street crossing of the Midland Railway on Sunday morning last, was almost run over by an engine. In fact, had it not been for the immediate action of the engineer in reversing the engine it is probable a very serious accident would have occurred.

Henry, himself a tailor, took over the family business upon William's death in 1894. This article, published in the 24 October 1924 'Port Hope Evening Guide' on the occasion of his 75th birthday, makes interesting reading in that it is a good description of daily life in Port Hope in the early days:

MR. SKITCH CELEBRATES - A Real Port Hope Old Boy - Today is the day Mr. Henry Skitch celebrates - for more than one reason. The personal one is that he was born in Bude, Cornwall, England, on October 24, 1849. His father, the late William Skitch came to Port Hope in 1850.
     Mrs. Skitch followed later in the same year with the children. Harry being the baby, we think he is justly entitled to be considered a Port Hope Old Boy. Harry remembers a lot of changes in Port Hope. When he first came, they lived in one of a row of tenements on Brown Street on the ground now occupied by Dr. Clemensha's houses. At that time there were a number of small shops on Walton Street on the same lot. The basement of one of these buildings was used as the town lock-up. There was no Town Hall. Later the family moved to the house on the west side of Englishtown fire hall. Harry's first school was the Round House, on the lot which is now the commons or west end playground. The teacher was Mr. Spotten and the children all took a shilling (25 cents) to pay the teacher, for strapping them and incidentally to educate them. Pounds, shillings and pence were the currency then in use. He graduated from the Public School on Mill Street, the building now owned by Mr. Hagerman, at the foot of Ward Street.
     In 1862 Harry began his commercial career as a parcel boy, working for J. and R. O'Neill, whose department store on the corner of Mill and Walton streets was then most flourishing, in fact was doing so well that later the proprietors determined to push out in the big city - but there came to disaster. The wages, was fair (for the times) $2.50 per month. Later in 1862 he started learning the tailoring trade with the same firm. In those days the Hydro did not operate, nor gas; lamps occasionally but mostly candles were used. Sewing machines had not appeared and all sewing was by hand. There were no railways, no autos, no bicycles, few rigs or horses; most people walked. The first money Harry earned at his trade was for making three pairs of pants, which took a week to manufacture. For this he received 25 cents a pair and he squandered the whole week's salary, 75 cents, for a little coal oil lamp, one of the first used in Port Hope.
     In those days the clothes worn by most people, especially in the country, were made from full cloth, a material made by the people from wool and cotton, great to wear. The tailor and shoemaker went to the homes, measured up the family, camped right in the house until the job was done and then were on to the next. The cordwood came to town drawn by oxen and no coal was in use.
     In 1857 the Grand Trunk was opened. The stone for building the abutments for the viaduct was quarried from the square just west of the Town Hall. Later the Port Hope, Lindsay and Beaverton railway (now the Midland) was opened. Port Hope was in the zenith of her prosperity in those days between 1850 and 1865; fully half of the houses here were built during that period. In 1860 Prince of Wales, the late King Edward VII visited Port Hope. Mr. Skitch was among the children singing patriotic songs of welcome.
     In the spring of 1863, Mr. William Skitch began business for himself in the shop now occupied by Mr. John Ryan. The first grand review of the volunteer militia took place in Toronto on the present exhibition grounds. Capt. A.T.H. Williams (later Col.) commanded the Port Hope company and Mr. Henry Skitch was bugler.
     The Quinlan Block was destroyed by fire in 1866 and the Skitches lost all but the tailor's irons, having no insurance. The same year the Fenian raid took place and the Port Hope Company was called out and served six months in the defence of Canada, being stationed at Sandwich, opposite Detroit.
     The Royal Hotel was the first brick building in Port Hope, erected 1823. The Town Council met in the town room in the building opposite the Royal. The St. Lawrence Hall, Catholic church and the First Presbyterian church were built in 1853.
     Mr. Skitch is glad to be alive today. He would probably give enquirers a number of reasons, beyond the mere fact of this being the anniversary of his birth.

Four days after the above article, Henry died on 29 October 1924. One of his sons, Alfred Burney, continued with the business until his untimely death, reportedly from leukemia, three years later at the age of 46. That ended the family business, although several other relatives were involved in the same occupation in other parts of southern Ontario, western Canada and the northern States.

With the death of Thomas and Elizabeth's 5th great-grandson, Donald Nicholas Skitch, on 26 December 1995, there is no one with the surname remaining in the Port Hope area.




...from the 04 Oct 1902 'Cobourg World'Descendants of Thomas Skitch

Thomas Skitch (1685-1761)
+Elizabeth Harris (1690-1738)
...2 Ann(e) Skitch (1714/15-1732/33)
...2 John Skitch (1716/17-
...2 Thomas Skitch (1718/19-1761)
...2 William Skitch (1720/21-
...2 Nicholus Skitch (1723/24-1725)
...2 Nicholas Skitch (1726-1774)
...2 Humphrey Skitch (1728/29:Poughill-1804)
.... +Mary Tremble (c1730-
........3 Elizabeth? Skitch (1761-
........3 Grace Skitch (1763-
........3 Susanna Skitch (1767-
........3 Robert Skitch (1770:Poughill-1828)
......... +Ann Peardon (1770:Kilkhampton, Cornwall-1854)
.............4 Ann? Skitch (c1795-
.............4 Mary Skitch (c1795-
.............4 Robert Skitch (1799:Poughill-1826)
.............. +Honor Smeeth (1796:Cornwall-1842)
..................5 William Skitch (1822:Stratton, Cornwall-1894)
................... +Anne Burney (1822:Poughill-1881)
.......................6 William Robert Skitch (1842-1929)
.......................6 Honor Jane Skitch (1844-1847)
.......................6 William Henry Skitch (1846-
.......................6 John Thomas Skitch (1848-
.......................6 Henry Skitch (1849:Stratton-1924)
........................ +Phoebe Ann Monaghan (1844:Ireland-1906)
............................7 William Henry Skitch (1870-1940)
............................7 Edward Orr Skitch (1872-1874)
............................7 Florence Leta Skitch (1875-1942)
............................7 Anna Phoebe Skitch (1877-1964)
............................7 Alfred Burney Skitch (1881:Port Hope, Ontario-1927)
............................. +Olive Florence Frederick (1884:Campbellford-1975)
.................................8 Frederick Burney Skitch (1910-1980)
.................................8 Donald Nicholas Skitch (1912-1995)
.................................8 Margaret Vera Skitch (1915:Port Hope-1967)
.................................. +Arthur Edward Bolton (1914:Toronto, Ontario-1964)
......................................9 Peter John Bolton(1944:Toronto)
....................................... +Barbara Elizabeth Jean Kyle
............................7 Vera Margaret Skitch (1883-1893)
............................7 Infant Skitch (1886-1886)
.......................6 Alfred Skitch (1851-1930)
.......................6 Edward Skitch (1853-1940)
.......................6 Ann J. Skitch (1856-1919)
.......................6 Thomas Albert Skitch (1857-1922)
.......................6 John Skitch (1859-
.......................6 William Skitch (1862-
..................5 Jane Skitch (1823-1915)
..................5 Ann Skitch (1825-1902)
..................5 Robert Skitch (1827-1910)
.............4 William Henry Skitch (1804-1844)
.............4 Humphry Skitch (1806-
.............4 ? Skitch (1809-
...2 Robert Skitch (1731/32-
...2 Richard Skitch (1736-



Peter and Barbara Bolton - Port Hope, Ontario
www.alivingpast.ca