Levi Carroll was a well known and celebrated man who lived to be almost 100 years old, spending the last few years of his life in the Poorhouse. He was born into slavery in Maryland in 1804. He escaped slavery at a young age, around 15 years old, and made his way to Upper Canada where he made a new life for himself. He settled in Gore District, which encompassed Halton, Wentworth, Waterloo, and Wellington Counties until 1851, and married Lucrecia Brook (1802-1852) on February 22, 1846.



First Schoolhouse built in Waterloo, Ontario in 1820. This became Levi Carroll’s home in the mid-1800s. Source: Kitchener Public Library Archives


On the 1851 Canada Census, there is a third person listed as living with Levi and Lucrecia in Waterloo. Charles Carroll (1834-1886) is listed as their son and was born in the United States, suggesting that Lucrecia and Levi may have ran away together or met each other on their journey to Canada. Lucrecia died in 1852 while giving birth to their daughter, Elizabeth Ann. After his wife’s death, Levi went on to marry Anna Emile Timlet in 1854. It is unknown of how long their marriage lasted or whether Anna Emile died before 1861 because in the 1861 Canada Census, Levi is living in Berlin, Ontario (present-day Kitchener) with Elizabeth Ann, his child, and a black couple, Henry (1824-1895) and Mary Scott (b. Lawson, 1839-1914). There is no further mention of his second wife, Anna. Charles, Levi’s son, moved to Toronto to start a family. In 1861, Levi is listed again as being a labourer. As well, on this census there is a death listed for a female age 24 with the cause being “P. sore throat”. It’s unknown to whom this is referring. Later that same year, Levi married Margaret M. Johnston (born Moore; 1821-1890) on October 1st and her and her daughter, Emeline Johnston (1854- 1943), move in with Levi. It is unclear what happens to Levi’s daughter, Elizabeth Ann, because she is not present in any following Canada Census with Levi. Margaret and Levi had a son together, John Carroll, in 1865.

In 1871, Levi, Margaret, Emeline, and John were shown living together in Berlin. Levi and his family members are often listed as “African” as their nativity in order to identify them racially. 


Source: ancestry.ca

1871 Canadian Census; Source: ancestry.ca


In 1881, John was no longer living with Levi, Margaret and Emeline, which suggests that John died or moved away at a young age. However, there are two new children that are living with them: Melissie (1872-) and Bismarck (1876-). These two children could be Levi and Margaret’s children, however they could also be a niece and nephew from a relative.

On April 14, 1884, Emeline married James Aylstock (1844-) in Berlin and Levi was mentioned as the witness on the marriage licence.


Source: ancestry.a

Emeline and James’ Marriage License; Source: ancestry.a


Margaret, Levi’s wife and Emeline’s mother, died in 1890 and in 1891, Levi, Emeline and her son, William James Aylstock (1885-), were living together. In this census, Levi was listed as a 92 year old gardener and widower. Emeline was listed as being married still, although it is unclear as to what happened to her husband, James.

Due to depleting resources, Levi (#1448), Emeline (#1449) and William (#1450) enter the House of Refuge on March 12, 1895. All three of their names have “(cold)” beside them, highlighting that they are Coloured. The cause of their pauperism is destitution.


Source: Register of Paupers, Vagrants, and Idiots received at the House of Industry and Refuge

Register of Paupers, Vagrants, and Idiots received at the House of Industry and Refuge; Source: Region of Waterloo Archives


Levi died on July 15, 1897 of old age. Due to his lack of funds at the time of his death and the fact that he outlived all of his wives and some of his children, Levi was buried in the House of Refuge Cemetery. 


The News-Record is indebted to Mr. Bachman for the following interesting reminiscences of the history of Levi Karl, the colored gentleman who died at the House of Industry on Thursday Last. Though generally reported to be a centenarian, Mr. Bachman stated that the figures of history would hardly bear out this statement, according to narratives related by Karl himself about his boyhood days. He was born in slavery and stated he remembered quite distinctly when the British, under Rear Admiral Cockburn, worsted the Americans, and advanced upon Washington. He relates the fact of being carried away by his master and hidden away in a large storehouse to escape from the British. As he was only about 5 or 6 years old at the time, he could hardly have reached the century mark. About 60 years ago he first came into this vicinity and was engaged by a Weaver family, who presented him with the land near the High School, on which he lived for many years. After the death of his wife, about 8 years ago, he became involved in difficulties, and for some years was an inmate of the Poor House, his step-daughter and her son being also committed. A son of Karl’s, a sailor, met his death on Lake Erie, during a gale and shipwreck many years ago. – Source: New Record July, 17 1897 from the Kitchener Public Library Archives.


After presumably being abandoned by her husband, Emeline remained at the Poorhouse until her death on February 16, 1943. She died of a heart stroke.


Emeline's Death Certificate, Source: ancestry.ca

Emeline’s Death Certificate, Source: ancestry.ca


William was discharged from the Poorhouse on September 1, 1897. He was married to Jemima Lawson on April 3, 1909 and five months later they had their first child, Addie Mabel. William was listed as being a farmer on the marriage license. William and Jemima had five more children: Mary (1911-), Lloyd (1912-), Howard (1914-), Frank (1918-), and Thelma (1921-).


Source: ancestry.ca

William and Jemima’s Marriage Certificate; Source: ancestry.ca


The family moved around Wellington and Maryborough for work from 1911 to the early 1920s. William died in Listowel in 1927.

Addie ends up moving to Toronto and becomes the first black woman to be ordained as a minister in the British Methodist Episcopal Church in 1951.


For more information on Levi Carroll, please visit Joanna Rickert-Hall’s story on Levi. Joanna is a local historian and educator on Waterloo Region settlement history.