Robson Family Legacy in Fenelon Falls
Submitted by Douglas Robson Black and Laura Black
100 years after the influenza of 1918 destroyed a generation and left three children of Fenelon Falls native Findlay Robson orphaned in a small British Columbia town, his direct descendant is growing up on Cameron Lake in the summertime, a number of generations later.
Named after Cameron Lake, Cameron Edward Robson Black, born in June, 2017, is a 7th generation Robson in Fenelon Falls. When his great-great grandparents, Findlay and Anna Robson (nee Crandell), passed away of the Spanish Flu in 1918, they likely assumed slim chances of survival for their own young children.
The journey to Cameron’s life in Fenelon Falls is unlikely at best, given the tragic influenza and subsequent movements of his ancestors throughout Canada and the U.S. But the Robson history, even pre-dating Findlay, seemed to play a role in his presence in the small town rich with his ancestry.
The abbreviated version of the story goes as follows: Thomas Robson (1824-1917) was the original settler of the family in Fenelon Falls - so far as we can track or tell. He emigrated from Whitby, England after originally starting his family there. His son, William Lithgow Robson (1848-1927) had five children born in the Kawartha Lakes region: Thomas Joseph “Joe,” Findlay, William Henry “Harry,” Ethel and Neil.
Findlay Robson and Anna Crandell (granddaughter of Port Perry steamship magnate George Crandell) married in Lindsay, ON in September of 1910. Shortly after, a business opportunity for Findlay took them to Cranbrook, B.C., where they had three children: Fremont, Helen and Mary. After the influenza of 1918 killed both Findlay and Anna in only four days, shortly before the end of World War I, Anna’s childless sister Augusta Crandell and her husband Charles Henry Elliott quickly arrived to care for the orphans. Further tragedy ensued when, upon arrival, Augusta became ill with Influenza and died in early November. Heartbroken, without a wife or children, Charles accompanied her body back to Ontario via the Canadian Pacific Railroad. Furthermore, Findlay’s younger brother, Neil, who had visited Cranbrook in early September of 1918 for a fishing trip, died of the flu in Ontario two days before Findlay’s death at the end of October.
Findlay, Anna, Augusta, and Neil were all buried at the Fenelon Falls cemetery.
Findlay and Anna’s three young children were sent to Ontario to be adopted by Findlay’s older brother, Joe, and younger brother, Harry. Baby Mary went to live with her Uncle Joe, and older siblings Helen “Pat” and Fremont grew up with their cousin Donald as Uncle Harry and Aunt Sarah became their parents. Harry was a pharmacist in Toronto and built a cottage on Cameron Lake in 1926. The family frequented Fenelon Falls to enjoy summers with relatives as the children grew up.
Helen met Merrill Black and the two were married in 1941. Their son, Stanley Robson Black, was born in Moncton, NB in 1946. Shortly thereafter the family moved to Denver, CO, USA, with six month old Stanley in tow, where Merrill took a new job managing the construction of a microwave communications platform for the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad to pass through the Rocky Mountains. While Merrill and Helen raised their children (Stan and his sister Marilyn) in Colorado, they returned every summer to Fenelon Falls for family vacations. They ultimately inherited the cottage from cousin Donald (childless) in their retirement in the late 1970s and spent their “twilight” summers in Fenelon Falls. Merrill passed away in 1995 and Helen in 2007.
Stan and his wife Elizabeth “Betsy” continued the tradition of Stan’s childhood and joined them every July from Colorado, along with their children Susan and Douglas. After Helen passed away in 2007, Stan and Betsy renovated the cottage for the modern era while maintaining its original character from 1926.
As their son Douglas grew through the years of visiting the cottage on Cameron Lake, so too did his love of the place. As he entered the workforce in his adult years, he dreamed of living close to the cottage instead of visiting it only once or twice a year as he had done throughout the course of his life. On his twenty-fifth birthday, he met Laura who was visiting a friend’s cottage in Fenelon Falls from Markham, ON. The two began a long-distance relationship for nearly five years before Doug obtained his dual Canadian-U.S. citizenship. After gaining citizenship, Doug moved to Whitby, ON and started a job and life in Canada. Married in 2014 in Colorado, Doug and Laura were excited to welcome a baby boy in June 2017. Naming him after the lake where they met and honoring his Papas on both sides, Cameron Edward Robson already loves the cottage in Fenelon Falls.
While Cameron has yet to understand his deep Robson roots in Fenelon Falls, he enjoys many weekends there in all seasons. Every July, Stan and his daughter Susan, along with her husband Ken and their two children Zach (9) and Molly (4), spend time at the cottage with the entire family. Cameron, Zach, and Molly are the next generation and they all love the traditional activities and lifestyle that comes with life on Cameron Lake. In summer 2019 you’ll like find them on the water, getting frozen yogurt, or playing together at the park beach!
- Thomas Robson
o William Lithgow Robson
§ Findlay Albert Robson (Helen’s biological father)
§ Henry “Harry” Robson (adopted Helen)
· Helen “Pat” Marie Black (nee Robson)
o Stanley Robson Black
§ Douglas Robson Black
· Cameron Edward Robson Black