The Life of William John Haines

wj haines chart

My 2nd g-grandfather, William John “John” Haines, was the sixth born, to John Hains and Alice/Alise Edith Childs, on 7 March 1856, in Richibucto, Kent, New Brunswick, Canada.  He joined brothers Joseph, Alexander, George, James and sister Mary.  Sister, Lizzie was born a few years later.

john Haines birth

John was just three when his mother died.

A few years after his mother’s death, his father married Jane Clare [online unsourced trees give a date of 29 May 1865; but given the age of their eldest child, they could have been together earlier].

By 1871 the pair had three daughters (the eldest age eight), residing with them in the Parish of Richibucto. Family letters imply that Jane was loathed by her stepchildren, the feeling seemingly mutual.  John’s elder brothers had departed the uncomfortable environment and gone to sea, while his sisters were sent to live with relatives; only John (age 14) and his brother James remained at home, working as laborers.

1871 john haines.jpg

By the age of 18, John joined his brothers at sea, a letter written years later to his sister Mary, indicates he was a runaway. He is listed as crew, rank “boy” on the vessel Ida E, which departed Saint John, 19 Jan 1874.  He was paid $18 a month and discharged in England, 13 March 1874 (Vessel Registration Number J866006, noted as “wrecked”).  John continued to sail until he married in 1882.

Nothing is known of his voyages other than a narrative written by his nephew Ralph Stevens:

Uncle John was my favorite man in those days and I shadowed him at every opportunity.

He told me wonderful stories about his many years at sea in the merchant fleet. He had been all over the world and shipwrecked several times.

[The Steven’s family has artifacts from Asia, that belonged to Mary, reportedly gifts from her brother John].

After seven years at sea, his last voyage was likely as a Merchant Mariner on the Barkentine, Falmouth, which arrived in Boston, 31 May 1881 (according to his sister Mary’s journal):

31 May 1881: I have seen today the arrival of the Barkentine, Falmouth.

1 June 1881: I sat last night till late watching for my brother John to come, but he has not come yet. I do hope he will come tonight. I am lonely tonight, for lonely feelings are creeping over me and all sorts of imaginations coming in my head. Dear brother do come tonight.

2 June 1881: I sat here waiting for brother to come today until I was tired. Then I started for Boston in search of him. I went to number 11 North Square to the Mariner’s house [a historic hotel, built in 1847 which operated as a boarding house for sailors]. Waited for a few minutes till my brother came in. He did not expect to see me.  It was a happy meeting. I threw myself into his arms and it was so nice to have a real brother once more.

North Square circa 1895

John’s family worried.  Brother Joseph who was a patient at St. Thomas Hospital in London, writes to Mary of “Johnie’s” visit in April 1880:

…Johnie came twice with someone half drunk, he spent all his pay day in rum without buying any clothes for himself, so I could not help him when he went away and i had not a cent to much for myself….

letter from joseph

In another letter to Mary, dated 29 September 1880, Joseph writes:

Dear Sister,

I received your letter of the 16th

Stating as usual you were still with the world on your shoulder. I am surprised at some of your letters.  I could understand if Sister Lizzie wrote such Book but without jesting, it doesn’t become you.

Now Mary, you know as well as I can tell you that your step-mother doesn’t like you or me either and no wonder when I threatened to throw her out of the window as she told you and you know that is too strong a language for the laws of any country. Not only that, but before you went home last year to see father you knew very well that you could not meet Jane, as you call her, on any friendly terms whatever . Now tell me what was the use of your going home when you wanted nothing from them. You have a good name, good wages, good head….

[line unreadable]

…and instead of going where you knew you would not be friendly you had for better stay away so whenever you find a person you cannot agree with you should keep away from them….

…you grumble about Johnie being exposed by the family, but you screen him too much. That is really too bad that he has never went home, as he promised me when he left the hospital; the nurse gave him a Bible and I gave him a large quantity of books, some bought and some were presents to me, so that [is] the last I have heard of him, but still I am trying to make myself believe that he is short of funds and that he is working somewhere until he gets on his feet, so as he may go home respectable.

So one thing is this, if you do not like people at home say nothing bad against them let everyone enjoy their own opinion, never say anything to him against home all your relations are ready to tell you, you should have pity on anyone like them, not hatred. Your place was to give them good advice, you must not think because you are not a Minister of the Gospel that it is not your duty to instruct anyone ignorant of salvation….

joseph letter 2

John’s half sister Alice writes to him 27 July 1881:

…be a good boy and don’t drink like a dear….

She ends with a poem:

They say the years since we last met
Have wrought sad change in thee
That it was better to forget
Our youth’s fond history
But I would gladly clasp that hand
And view those eyes once more
One moment by thy side would stand
As I have in days of yore

letter from sister Alice.jpg

In 1881, John, now age 25, writes to his sister Mary and admits to five years of a “wild and reckless life”, but he has changed:

__ Hains  Feb th

Dear sister,

i now write to you to let you know I am well in present hoping to find you the same.

our dear Joseph died [24 Jan 1881]  a few days before i arrived in London but you must not fret for him, for he is happy now dear sister.

i hope you will forgive me for not writing to you before but i have had a wild and reckless life this last five years. i have not cared for anyone as myself and cared not which course it steered but have come to myself at last and can see the changes.

i have reason, that woman [Jane Clare Haines] who came into our home some years ago has been a bitter enemy to me. She is a feared that I will come home as she cast up to me the last time I was home that i had come home to rob them of their rights, but what they call their rights, is mine.

You must write to miss rice [his deceased brother Joseph’s nurse in England] for she is a dear friend and sister to you and more and i hope some day she will be more than a friend to me.

So no more from your brother Hains, miss rice will tell you all in her letter about Joseph’s have some books and watch and some money which he left for you.

letter John to Mary Haines.jpg

The following 27 October, Nurse Louise Rice writes John from the St Thomas Hospital.  She is happy to hear he is doing better and is hopeful that Joseph’s spirit can see that; she thanks him for the invitation to the United States; but she likely won’t come there, she is old and feels he would be happier with a wife closer to his age:

My Dear John,

I received your kind letter a few days ago.  I was so pleased to hear from you and to hear that you are doing so well. I do hope dear boy that you still continue to do well and that God will bless you in your every undertaking, how pleased our dear Joseph would be if he was here to know how you were trying to get on and improving every day, he always used to speak of you as if he was very fond of you and he used to be so worried about you.

So I am sure now you will try to make up for any pain or anxiety you may have caused him for his dear spirit may be capable of knowing if you are doing well. I hope dear boy you will read and know the bible as he did, for I don’t think there was a part but what he knew and you know he must live close to God by constant prayer for without his continual help he cannot keep right or do right  for we are luck poor ___ creatures of ourselves of be trust only to our own strength we are sure to fail.

I am so very sorry dear if I have caused you any anxiety through not writing sooner. I have written to your sister Mary and explained to her the reason. I have been___ ____ _____ lately for we have to work very hard for there are so many people sick, if was very kind of you dear to ask me to come to the United States and I have no doubt the voyage and change of air should do one good but I don’t think now I shall ever come there, and you my dear boy will be much happier if you get someone else more suited to your own age for I am getting quite an old lady now and you must look upon one has an elder sister and I should be so pleased to hear that you had got a nice good little girl for your wife to share your happiness and help you through what ever may be your lot in life and I do hope and pray that God will bless you now and always.

I have been yesterday to dear Joseph’s grave. I sent your sister a little mignonette off his grave. I thought very much of you today, of the time we went to the cemetery when you were here in London. Now I must conclude, hopng you are well with fond love, from yours affectionately, Louise Rice


Louisa was just four years older than John, a night nurse at the Hospital.

Louisa Rice 1881.png

Mary writes often of John in her journal; John married her dearest friend from home Jenny Ferguson: story here.

8 June 1881 – I went to Boston. After doing some shopping I went to Chelsea to see brother John. He is well and working with cousin James Emroe [Aunt Patience Haines son].

4 July 1881 – I did expect brother John to see me today, but he did not come. But I only hope and trust that kind providence will guide him in the path of duty not vice.

3 August 1881 – My brother John came to spend the afternoon with my sister and myself.

28 August 1881 – My brother John came to Nahant today, while I went to Lynn and missed him. But he came back to Lynn and cousins Joshua, Jane and family went to camp meeting. It was perfectly lovely. Remarks and chalk drawing were by Rev. Mr. Wait. He drew a little boy flying his kite and then the Holy Ghost came to him asking him to give his heart to God. But he thought he would wait a little longer. The next time he thought, not now, and on and on till he was old and then it was too late. He was on the brink of eternity before he knew it. He had tumbled head long down into the fiery furnace. My brother liked it very much, I wish I could go more often.

5 Nov 1881 – I went to Chelsea to meet my sister and look at some rooms. We are going to furnish a house.  John and Lizzie are going to keep house. We found rooms we all liked very much. Three delightful rooms up [on the] third flight. We expect to be already in our own home by eight next Tuesday, dear mother’s anniversary, and take tea together.

15 Jan 1882 – I went to Chelsea this evening, and had a pleasant evening home with my brother and sister. We read verse aloud in the bible and it was like dear old times at home in the happy childhood hours with my dear departed brothers [James and Joseph are deceased].

26 January 1882: “John came over from Chelsea this evening. We had a lovely time together. Jenny Ferguson my dear friend came down from Richibucto. She was here tonight.  Just came on the boat today. I am so glad to see her. She is my dearest friend”.

13 February 1882: “I had my two brothers, John and Alexander, and my dear friend Jenny call”.

15 February 1882: “I went to a party in Lynn in company with my brothers, cousin and Jenny”

17 February 1882: “I had dear Jenny and John to see me tonight and also dear Minnie. We will meet tomorrow night to go to church.”

23 February 1882: “I left Boston and am now in Chelsea of a little vacation of two weeks. Jenny, Albert and I went house hunting. We found a house we all liked, we decided to take it and will move in on Monday.” [89 Matthew Street].

2 March 1882 – “I cut today Jenny’s wedding dress and coat”.

3 March 1882 – “We finished Jenny’s wedding dress and coat”.

6 March 1882 – “I went to Boston today with John. He bought his suit of clothing and marriage certificate. And I completed the wedding wardrobe for Jenny and helped to put the house in order”.

7 March 1882 – “What a busy day we had yesterday. John and my dear Jenny Ferguson were married. She wore cardinal satin trimmed with a darker shade of goods, velvet I mean, neck filled in with lace and tea roses. John was in full dress. They looked so happy. The room was full of people.  They were married by our Pastor Reverand Mr. Good [Hood?].  John and Jenny walked into the room arm in arm. Our cousin Albert and Miss Annie Stickeny stood up with them. John looked so happy. It did my heart good to see him. We had a very happy evening. Some of the party stayed all night”.

24 March 1882 – “My dear brother John was baptized. How nice it was to see him. He seemed to be in real earnest”.

28 March 1882 – “I went to Chelsea to spend the evening with John and Jenny”.

2 April 1882 – “I went home to my brother’s, and took tea; and spent the evening with him and his wife”

3 April 1882 – “Brother John and Jenny, my new sister, came over to spend the evening with me. This is my last evening in Boston for a long time for tomorrow we are to leave for New York, and from there to Europe” [Mary was traveling as a nurse with the Dana family soon after Longfellow’s death]

John became a citizen of the United States on 4 Dec 1890 (cousin James Emero signed as a witness):

Naturlization WJ Haines

John and Jennie had eight known children, the first born about nine months after the marriage: Edith, John Galatis, Alexander, Ella May, Margaret Elizabeth, Joseph (who died as a child), Minnie and Jennie.

The 1884 through 1890 city directories place the family in Chelsea, Massachusetts.  On 2 November 1892 the family purchased a home, and 5,000 square feet of land, on Wordsworth Street, in East Boston (on the corner of Homer near Bennington – the southwesterly portion of lot #256) – they were enumerated there in 1900 and 1910.


After raising their family, John and Jenny separated.  A letter dated 20 March 1976 from Jennie’s granddaughter Ruth (Walsh) Frawley, to another granddaughter, Marian Haines (daughter of John Galatis) reads:

My mother did not seem to have much love for her mother; but her father was her pride and joy. John her father was a part time minister in the Congregation church at Orient Heights and a Chemist.  He invented disinfectant and had a small lab in the backyard [note: city directories do confirm that William John Haines reported his occupation as “chemist”, working from home, from 1906-1908] . Jenny sold the formula to Cabot Chemists and that was the last straw. So they separated. Never legally divorced, as in those days it would have been a disgrace, my mother felt, despite her tyrannical ways, her husband was very much in love with her.

My mother was nineteen and Minnie Haines Collins was 15 and Jenny Haines Johnson was 13. When Jenny and John separated and gave up the homestead, my mother took Minnie and Jenny, her two young sisters to live with her.

After the separation, in 1920, John moved to Vallejo, California and ran the family Chicken Farm: story here.  Below he is pictured with his sister Mary and nephew (Mary’s grandson, Ralph Stevens).

Mary Steves her brother W John Haines nd grandson Ralph Stevens

When Mary died in 1924, John returned to Boston where he resided with his son John’s family and a few years later with his daughter Ella’s family, then was placed in a rest home where he resided until his death, 21 October 1939.

the letter from Ruth (Walsh) Frawley continues:

 Approximately 13 years later I can remember Minnie meeting my grandfather John at the train. He was returning from California, from a 4 year visit.  Then he lived with us for many years. When I was 16, which must have been 1934, my grandfather had a shock and John Marshall and Bill Collins [sons-in-law] decided that he should go to a rest home. I was furious and too young to do anything about it. As a youngster, I thought those places were a place to get rid of people. 

haines obit

“Certificate of Death” #71; Registered No. 8936 lived at 206 Neponset Ave. Boston cause: cere. hemorrhage & art. sclerosis Buried at Mt. Pleasant Cementary ‘Q’ section, plot #566 Grave head stone: 1853-1939




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