Home Children (Part VI)—Mary Scott Pearson, ancestor of former Ontario Member of Provincial Parliament Jim Brownell

Today’s article features Mary Scott Pearson who was born in Scotland. Mary’s name appears in the Scottish Census of 1881. The entry indicates that she lived in Glasgow with her sister Maggie and their widowed mother, also named Mary. The two sisters became orphans when their mother died in 1888. The next census (1891) indicates that the sisters lived at the Girls Industrial School in Maryhill, in the County of Lanarkshire.

The Pearson sisters were separated in September 1891 when Mary boarded the SS Hibernian en route to Canada as part of a group of 20 young women recruited to work as domestic servants. The young Scottish women’s transportation and accommodations were arranged by Ms. E. Cameron, an Industrial School official.

As in previous articles, you must first consult our main home children online resource. Enter the surname Pearson and the given name Mary into this database and it will generate only one result for Mary Pearson, age 14, whose destination was Saint John, New Brunswick. The Fairknowe foster home, administered by a charitable organization known as Quarriers, was Mary Pearson’s first place of residence in Canada.

Ten years after her arrival, according to the Census of 1901, Mary was living in Prescott, Ontario, with the family of Patrick MacMillen. She married Curtis Brownell five years later, on March 21, 1906, in Cornwall, County of Stormont. The couple’s first son, Earl Kenneth, was born in September of the following year.

Mary Scott Pearson and Curtis Brownell raised their family in Cornwall, where they lived until the time of their deaths; Curtis died in 1931 and Mary died in 1945.

Jim Brownell, son of Earl Kenneth Brownell, honours his grandmother’s arrival in Canada

Her grandson, Jim, elected Member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in 2003, travelled to Scotland in 2009 when he visited the city of Glasgow, officially representing the Government of Ontario. The articles that appeared in the Cornwall daily newspaper, the Standard Freeholder, on September 23, 2009 and May 25, 2011, describe the journey of Mary S. Pearson and her sister Maggie, and Mr. Brownell’s work to foster a better understanding of the often little-known home children movement.

In 2011, as Member of Provincial Parliament for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry, Jim Brownell tabled Bill 185 in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to have September 28 proclaimed “British Home Child Day.” The purpose of the bill, which received royal assent on June 1 of that year, was to honour his grandmother and his great-aunt Maggie, as well as the more than 100,000 British home children.

Don’t forget to read the previous articles in this series on home children and listen to our podcast!

Happy hunting and enjoy your discoveries!

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