Friday, June 7, 2013

The Constable's Daughter

This year The Alice celebrates a significant event in our museum's history, a sesquicentennial! Alice Trainer Miner was born in Goderich, Ontario on September 23, 1863. She was the youngest daughter of twelve (surviving) children born to Louisa Saunders Trainer and Bernard Trainer. Bernard was a carpenter, and also served as Chief Constable of Huron County, which included the town of Goderich.

Alice Trainer, ca. 1878
Early in 1870 Louisa Saunders Trainer died while giving birth to twins (who also did not survive), leaving Alice and her siblings to be raised by their father - with help from his oldest daughter, Matilda. Just nineteen when she took over raising the rest of the children, Matilda (also known as Tillie) had begun teaching school at the tender age of fourteen. At the time of their mother's death the children ranged in age from seventeen (Ephraim) to age four (William). Despite her new role as surrogate mother Tillie apparently kept her teaching job. She is listed in the Province of Ontario 1871 census as "teacher, common school".

Matilda Trainer, ca. 1878
Bernard Trainer was Chief Constable and often quoted in the local press. Trainer played a role in a notorious murder case in Canada and is mentioned in the book Double Trap: The Last Public Hanging in Canada written by John Melady (incidentally a relative of the accused in this case). The museum does not possess photographs of either of Alice's parents, although we have a handful of wonderful portraits of Alice, some of her siblings, and their maternal grandparents James and Jane Saunders.

James Saunders and Jane Woolocott Saunders, ca. 1852
In 1876 Bernard Trainer passed away at the age of 49. In 1887 Tillie moved the girls and their youngest brother William to Chicago, Illinois so they could live nearer to older brothers - James, (listed in the same 1871 census as a law student at the age of 16) and Louis. The brothers had immigrated to Chicago in 1881, and the sisters (Matilda, Bertha, Louise and Alice) with young William joined them later. 

James S. Trainer, ca. 1925
Some time around 1893 Alice Trainer met railroad entrepreneur and inventor William H. Miner. And this is where I leave the story of Alice's youth... I hope to write more about our founder in the next few months leading up to her birthday on September 23.

Alice Trainer, ca. 1893

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