In September of 1820, a little girl was born in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, Scotland. She grew up to be Janet Paton Beaton. Married to John Beaton at 19, she had two children and a newborn baby when she emigrated to Canada in 1841. It was during the sea voyage that an ordinary, white, woollen blanket became part of a story that is both tragic and a testament to the reality of so many young mothers. An outbreak of measles on the boat claimed the lives of at least fifteen children on board including Janet’s infant son, John. Janet was determined to bury her baby on land rather than the common sea burial that was the rule. She held tight to her baby wrapped in the woollen blanket and disguised the fact that the child had died. When the boat docked and the passengers disembarked, Janet and her husband were able to bury their son on land. Janet’s story is a view into the difficult hardships the emigrants faced a they travelled from their homes in the old country to a new home in the wilderness of a new land.
Janet and her young family found their way to the area now known as Clayton where they lived until moving to Darling Township in 1858 where her husband, John, was a school teacher. Janet lived until 1903.
The blanket that Janet wrapped her baby in to conceal his death on the boat, has survived and is displayed in an exhibit of blankets and shawls that belonged to strong, pioneering women in the Middleville and District Museum. It stands as a link to our past and gives us a view into both the tragedy and resiliency that were a part of their lives.
You can read more about Janet and her family on our Down Memory Lane webpage found on our Collection webpage. Down Memory Lane is a page devoted to family stories.
Thanks to the research and writing of Mary Beth Wylie and Darlene Gerow Jones (Great, Great Granddaughter of Janet Paton Beaton) Janet’s story is brought to light.
This journal is written, researched, and maintained by the volunteers of the Middleville Museum.