This page was last updated July 17, 2000



James Edgar Canavit was born December 25, 1852 in Washington County, Missouri, the first child of Antoine and Martha Canivet. James was of course with his parents through the Civil War, as well as their exodus from Missouri to Illinois.

    Much of what is known about the lives of Antoine and Martha can be credited to James and his family. Until I contacted Arthur Hall, I had no idea the man that James Edgar was. I only hope to do him honor by telling his story as best as I can. Most of what I know of James comes directly from The Gin Ridge Clans. I will only place the highlights of his story on this page so as not to steal the mystique behind Arthur Hall's book.

    James told stories of the early days on the Canivet homestead in Missouri. As children, they picked cotton and had to pick a certain amount before the end of the day. James' developmental years occurred during the Civil War, and it appears that because of the war, James probably did not learn how to read and write.

    Martha Singleton was a Presbyterian, and the church was a distance from their home. Antoine, Martha and James would make the weekly trek despite the fact that there were panthers running wild. Walking home required torches and guns for protection from the wild panthers. The story of those treks was told through James's daughter Mary Elizabeth to Arthur Hall on numerous occasions. Obviously, the importance of the story is that it is an excellent illustration of how life was at that time.

    After the Civil War ended, Antoine packed up the family and fled to Illinois. Antoine passed away on April 18, 1868 at his residence after a long illness. Some time after, Martha married Jonah Scalf, who seemed to have been a bit cruel. James, at the age of 19, decided to leave the house and set out to start his own farm in Fulton County, taking his sister Rachael with him (who was eleven at the time) to keep the house.

    James stayed with his farm for about two years, and then went to Schuyler County, Illinois to work for Henry Frakes. On December 11, 1873, James married the boss's daughter, Amelia Evaline Frakes. Amelia was born May 7, 1856 in Brooklyn Township, Schuyler County, Illinois. For the remainder of his life, James attempted a few endeavors to make a living, most of which seemed to be failures. However, he did yield a wonderful family which seemed to be more than any monetary worth can ever amass.

    It appears that James had bought up much of the Frakes' at one time, and also learned something about horses. He had a horse named Le Crete which seems to have been huge in a photo I saw in The Gin Ridge Clans. Later, James bought some land in Missouri with the intent to move there and set up a farm. Amelia refused to move, so James sold the Missouri farm and acquired a general store as part of the sale. He sold all the contents of the store that he could, and brought back the rest to Macomb County, Illinois. There are members of the family to this day who have some of the items from the store! It is believed that James had the store sometime between 1910 and 1918.

    Amelia apparently enjoyed to smoke a corncob pipe. To hide her habit (it was unheard of that a woman would smoke such a thing!), Amelia sewed pockets in her petticoats to conceal the tobacco and pipe. Occasionally, she would burn holes in her pockets trying to conceal her habit from family members and friends who showed up unexpectedly. Amelia also grew her own tobacco.

    When Amelia was 65 years old, James gave her a precious doll. Apparently, when one of her daughters, Mary Elizabeth, gave birth to twins, Amelia desired to have a baby of her own, and thus James gave her this doll. The doll is still in possession of the family to this day.

    Although James could not read and write, he had an uncanny ability to work numbers in his head. It is said that James could figure the worth of a wagon load of grain in his head faster than anyone with paper and pencil, and he was always accurate to the penny! Some speculation exists that James used French numbers in his head rather than English.

    Amelia died on January 5, 1923 at the Chandler Farm in Bethel Township, McDonough County, Illinois. James died August 17, 1934 at the age of 81, while watching a house for a couple who left for a camp meeting. He and Amelia left behind a great legacy: the continuation of the Canavit Family Tree!

Note: All references to The Gin Ridge Clans are copyrighted by Arthur K. Hall. Any reprint or publication or use otherwise is prohibited without written consent of the author. 


Children of James Edgar and Amelia Canavit

Thomas Henry Canavit - Born September 2, 1874 at Brooklyn Township, Schuyler County, Illinois. Died January 9, 1953 at Macomb, Illinois.

John Edgar Canavit - Born September 22, 1876 and died January 30, 1882 possibly of diphtheria.

Ethel Maria Canavit - Born June 29, 1878 in Bethel Township, McDonough County, Illinois. She died February 6, 1963 at Macomb, Illinois.

Minnie Myrtle Canavit - Born July 5, 1884 in Schuyler County, Illinois and died October 10, 1957.

Nelle Mable Canavit - Born July 25, 1886 in Bethel Township, Illinois, and died December 27, 1960 at Macomb, Illinois.

Oral Sylvester Canavit - Born November 15, 1888, and died in June of 1965 in Macomb, Illinois.

Mary Elizabeth Canavit - Born August 8, 1893 in Brooklyn Township, Illinois, and died June 15, 1977. Note: Mary was a major inspiration for Arthur K. Hall, and she passed on many of the stories we have come to know today!



Return to the Main Page

This page and all related pages 1999-2003 by David Scott Canevit, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin