Mary Elizabeth Crowley - A Canadian Hero

Mary Elizabeth Crowley

A  Canadian  Hero


My name is Jocelyn Crowley Morris (Streets Ridge, Nova Scotia) and I have been checking out the Crowley Clan site for several years. I hope to attend one of the gathering next year. I fell in love with Ireland after visiting in 2008 (returned again in 2009), and seeing the home town of my ancestors, Dunmanway.

My great, great, grandfather (John Crowley 1789 - 1882) and his son (Cornelius 1824- 1907) (mother - Ellen Nihan) arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1841 and proceeded to walk the 200 miles from there to Streets Ridge, Nova Scotia where they received adjacent land grants.

It is assumed that John's wife, Ellen must have died before he left Ireland because there is no mention of her traveling to Canada with him and in 1846 he married Rebecca (Stewart?), they had one son, John Jr.

Cornelius married Ann Patriquin (1829 -1895) in 1851, they had 10 children (James b. 1852, David b. 1854, Daniel b. 1856, Mary Elizabeth b. 1858 died in 1869, Augustine b. 1860, Catherine b. 1862 died 1869, John b. 1864, Sarah b. 1867, and twins Mary E. and Catherine b. 1870.

In 1869 a fire broke out in the family home. Cornelius was in the village of Pugwash (12 miles away) at the time, where he had a tannery and black smith business. The boys (James, David, & Daniel) were sleeping in the barn loft.

Three of the children (Mary Elizabeth, Augustine, & Catherine M.) we in the bedroom upstairs, 5 year old John was rescued by his grandfather, 2-year old Sarah was rescued by her mother.

Mary Elizabeth upon waking to the screams of her mother, woke her 9-year old brother, Gus, and managed to get him to jump out the window. She then turned to her 7-year old sister, Catherine; however, the little girl fought her. She finally managed to pick her up and drop her to the family below, and then jumped herself. Sadly, both girls died hours later from the burns sustained in the fire.

Later that year the doctor who attended the girls had the opportunity to speak at the Nova Scotia Legislature and put forth a motion to honor Mary Elizabeth for her selfless bravery in saving her brother and trying to save her sister. The motion was unanimously adopted, and a monument was erected at her burial site in Pugwash. So, the daughter of an Irish immigrant was the first Canadian born female to be awarded such an honor by a government in Canada.

The following year (1870), Ann gave birth to twin girls who were named after their sisters Mary Elizabeth and Catherine Margaret.

If not for the bravery of this 11-year old girl, I would not be writing this story to you today. The brother (Gus) she saved was my grandfather.

Augustine married Mary Jane Geehan (1873 - 1946) in 1892; they had 15 children, one being my father Laurence Edward Crowley (1911 - 1968), married Pearl Patriquin (b. 1826) in 1947. They had 8 children, Deborah Jean (1948 died at 7 weeks), Judylee Ann (1950 -), Mary Elizabeth (1952 - died at birth), Jocelyn Marie (1954 - ), Michael John (1956 - ), Mark Ellsworth (1957 - 1977), Bruce (1959 stillborn), Phillip Laurie (1964 - died at birth).

Thought you might find this story interesting and you are welcome to share it on your website or in your next newsletter, if you think it is appropriate and would be of interest.

Originally appeared on Crowley Clan Newsletter, July 2015


Peter CrowleyComment