In the City

When you grow up in a big family there are expectations. Leaving home is one way to escape those expectations. It can be an adventure to leave home and strike out on your own.

Jane Electa Taylor, she was always called Jennie, was born 12 March 1869 in the small farming community of Tilbury West in southern Ontario, Canada.  In 1871 the population of Tilbury West Township was about 2400 people spread throughout the township. Jennie grew up in this rural environment.

Tilbury West Township in 1882. From Illustrated Historical Atlas of the Counties of Essex and Kent, 1880-1881. Toronto : H. Belden & Co., [1882]. Page 19

Unmarried, Jennie moved to Detroit about 1889 with her two closest sisters, Olivia and Margaret. They rented a room on 303 Grand River Avenue and the 3 of them worked as bakers. These sisters moved from rural environment to the big city to find work. This wasn’t unusual for unmarried and aging woman. They could have stayed at home, but from the stories I have been told they were raised to be independent. These women wanted and needed to find work. Going to a nearby big city for job opportunities made sense. In 1900, Detroit had a population of almost 290,000 people. This was a huge change from the farming community they were raised in.

Margaret and Olivia eventually found other jobs in Detroit. Margaret became a painter of china and Olivia a life insurance agent. I remember my grandmother telling me she had an aunt who painted fine china. Jennie, however, not satisfied with her life in Detroit moved to Fresno, California where, in 1908, at the age of 39, she married to James Barclay.

The China Decorator: Volumes 12-14
Jan 1892, China decorating publishing Company, found at

Why did she move to California? Was it the weather, or the variety of job opportunities available for single women? Was she a mail order bride (ok that is a bit far-fetched)? Did she find work somewhere in Fresno? There were no close family members to draw her there but with the rail system in the United States, it would not have been difficult to get there. She migrated between 1901 and 1908. I would not know where she lived if it wasn’t for her marriage registration that states she was a resident of Fresno. She does not appear in the city directories for Fresno or Fresno County from 1900 – 1908.

It’s almost 2500 miles from Detroit to Fresno. Image from google maps

I like to think she was looking for adventure and the romance of California sparked her move. Whatever the reason, Jennie was fortunate in her choice. Moving to Fresno resulted in her 40-year marriage to Edward Barclay, a raison farmer. Her annual letters home tell of fruit trees and hot weather. She missed home and was continually trying to convince family members to visit. Other than missing family, her letters indicate a contented life. Jennie’s residences came full circle. She started in a small farming community, moved to two large cities, and ended up in another small farming community.

Jennie Barclay letter to her mother’s sister on Vancouver Island, British Columbia


California, Death Index, 1940-199; [index database on-line].Provo, UT, USA; citing State of California. California Death Index, 1940-1997. Sacramento, CA, USA: State ofCalifornia Department of Health Services, Center for Health Statistics.

Department of Agriculture, General Report of the 1880-81 Census of Canada,Volume 4

Printed by MacLean, Roger, and Company, 1885, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada,

US.Michigan. 1900 US Federal Census, Detroit Ward 4, Wayne, Michigan; Page: 13; Enumeration District: 0037; FHL microfilm: 1240748, 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2004, Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900. Washington, D.C.

US.Michigan. 1910 US Federal Census Detroit Ward 4, Wayne, Michigan; Roll: T624_681; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 0061; FHL microfilm: 1374694; 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006, Original data: Thirteenth Census of the United States, 1910 (NARA microfilm publication T624, 1,178 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C.

California, County Marriages, 1850-1952,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 12 May 2014), 004666553 > image 556-57 of 746; multiple county courthouses, California.

California, Fresno, 1887-190, Directory of Fresno City and County 1901, U.S., City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011, Published by FM Husted, Fresno California, Fresno Republican Publishing Company, 1901

Kay Corbett Collection, various letters to and from family members.

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