I have been researching the Rochester Family of Ottawa and Rouses Point for over twenty years. Building on the work originally done by Lloyd Rochester of Ottawa and published in 1977, I have traced the Rochester brothers back to Easington in Northumberland. Easington is in the parish of Belford just south of Berwick upon Tweed. George Rochester and brother John Rochester made their way to North America in 1819. I am fairly certain that the path to Rouses Point, New York was through Montreal. George settled in Rouses Point and some of the family moved across Lake Champlain to Isle La Motte Vermont in the mid nineteenth century to farm. John Rochester Sr. moved to Bytown (now Ottawa) in 1827 and became a wealthy land owner, brewer, and lumberman. His son. John Rochester Jr., served as a Member of Parliament (1872-1882), and Mayor of Ottawa (1870-1871).
I have always wondered what brought the two brothers and their families from Northumberland in England across the Atlantic to the then tiny village of Rouses Point? Was it the construction of Fort Blunder? Why not Montreal? Why leave Easington?
Genealogical research has many twists and turns and some times you just get really lucky.
While researching the Rochester family and going through old newspaper records I found the following. From the Newcastle Courant, 1819.
“Newcastle Courant, January 23 1819 On Saturday last, George Rochester, living at Easington, near Belford, was sent home by his uncle to bring him a gun, which another person was desirous to purchase. On his way back, Rochester fell in with some of his companions, who were amusing themselves as soldiers. When Rochester passed them they shouted out, “The Frenchman was running away” He immediately turned round, and levelling the piece, quite unconscious of its being loaded pulled the trigger, and shot dead a fine boy, named Edward GREY, about 10 years of age. His left hand was nearly shattered off, and some of the shot entered his left side and passed through his heart. An inquest was held on the body on Monday last, by T.A. Russell, Esq. and the jury, after long deliberation, brought in a verdict of Chance Medley. It appeared in evidence, that the uncle, a few days before, had been shooting sea fowl, and had very imprudently, taken home his gun without unloading it. The coroner severely reprimanded him for this unpardonable want of caution.”
Now there is some interesting detail here. George Rochester the young lad with the gun was George Rochester Sr.’s son. His uncle John Rochester Sr. was the owner of the gun. Chance Medley is an old English law term to denote homicide.
So it is now clear that the Rochester brothers had no choice but to leave Easington after this unfortunate incident in January 1819. They are arrived in Rouses Point some time in the spring or summer of 1819 as John Rochester, George Rochester’s son was born at Champlain, New York on September 16th 1819. Jane Yeaman, George’s wife would have been pregnant at the time of the shooting and the trans Atlantic crossing.
Now we know why they came to America.