Everyone has a Story, this one started over 100 years ago!
My dad, Henry Atcheson Thompson, lost both of his parents at the young age of 7 in 1908. My grandmother, his mom, died of TB at age 28 and their father left shortly thereafter. Before dad’s mom, Alice, died she made arrangements for her three young sons, Henry, Sheriff and Richard to go off to live with her well to do family which included her parents, two sisters and one brother and one great Auntie who all lived together. The boy’s relatives kept the boys for just 2 years when they decided having young children around was too much work and worry for them. The three boys were sent off to London to Fegan’s home for boys and the Auntie gave written permission for the boys to be sent to Canada.
Like so many, my dad never talked about his young life; he died in 1983. The family information I have found out about the BHC and my dad and his two younger brothers has only come about since 2010. I found and met my two first cousins living in BC and luckily met them for the first time. They were 73 and 75 years young. They have been instrumental in helping me put some of the pieces together about my dad’s young life.
My cousins shared the stories their dad, Sheriff told them of my own dad’s hardships and the torture he endured in his farm placements in the Port Perry, Ontario area. At age 75 my dad tried to write a letter to his youngest brother Richard about their younger years but before he could send it off Richard had died.
This is part of the letter dad wrote at age 75 about being 9 years old for his brother Richard who would have been 5 at that time:
“So I heard our three Aunties say to each other, we will phone London to see what they have for homes for the boys! They got an answer back and said yes we have a place for boys. On the next day, they told the three of us, we were going on a railway trip! I asked our Auntie May are you going with us and she said yes, oh we were excited to go with her to the train. The guard came out and said well are these the boys and my Auntie said yes. Now we did not know that we had tickets on our coats. We three climbed up in the train and looked back asking Auntie are you coming with us but she just said no. We started to cry. The guard said come in the train and don’t cry I am with you. We were sitting on the seats but our little feet never touched the floor. The train took us to London where there was another man who said are you the three boys from Southport and I said yes we are brothers. This man took us to Fegans Home for Boys only.
When we three went into the orphanage there were so many boys, about 300 boys, all with NO hair on their heads. Yes that sure scared us and we three started to cry. The head man said oh don’t get scared just come along with me. They took us in a room and cut our hair off and fed us one slice of bread with butter each. We were still frightened to death. The three of us lived there at Fegans with all the other boys for approximately 3 years when they come to us and asked if we Thompson boys would like to go to the Farm? We said yes of course! Well they sent me by ship with my youngest brother Richard, across the ocean to Halifax then by train to Toronto where a farmer came for us and I went to Uxbridge, Ontario, Canada . We had no idea where we were going or for how long. Sheriff was too sick to sail with us in 1914 and had to wait at Fegans another year before he was sent to Canada too. I stayed on farms over 7 years; I was to go to school and be fed and treated fairly but the farmer was very strict and made me sleep in the old barn and eat with the animals. I did not get any proper education or any of the things I was promised. Eventually my brothers found me and rescued me after I turned 18.
I have had a very hard, difficult, life because we never had a chance in life; no parents to take care of us, lot of sickness, short of money, and being sent away by our family, then shipped off so far from our family. Our mother’s family never really wanted us back in their lives again.”
Photos of Fegan Bricks and Building, courtesty of Ali Thompson.