Mary Campbell was born in Upper Canada in 1850. Her mother was born in Nova Scotia and her father was born in the United States. John Walden may have been born in Ireland in 1831 and immigrated to Canada sometime before 1860. Mary and John married in 1864 in Waterloo. It is unclear how long John stayed with Mary, but he eventually met and potentially married Sarah Howard (1831-1906). According to the 1871 Canada Census, they were living together in Guelph and were neighbours with some of Sarah’s family members. Sarah is recorded with the last name Walden, both are listed as married, and John was working as a labourer. He is also listed as African and coming from the United States (although he may have been born in Ireland, on many of the Canada census’ from the 19th century, the enumerator would often put a person’s place of birth as from Africa or the United States when the person was racialized).  

In 1870, Susannah Walden was born to John, although the mother is uncertain. However, Susannah’s middle name was Margaret, suggesting she could have been Mary’s daughter. She died two years later from inflammation of the lungs. She had been living in Guelph. John James was born in December 1871 to John and Mary who are both listed as the parents on his birth certificate and marriage license.

1871 John James’ Birth Certificate; Source:


In 1875, Allen Walden was born to John and Sarah, who are listed on Allen’s marriage license as the parents. Francis Walden was born a year later to John and Margaret, who were listed as his parents on his birth certificate. It is unclear what happened to Francis after this, as there are no further records for him.

Mary and John lived in Preston, Ontario from 1881-1895 whereas their child, John James, and Allen lived in Wellington, Ontario together with Sarah Howard (1830-) and her son, George (1858-), as mentioned on the 1881 Canada Census. 

On January 4, 1895 John and Mary entered the Poorhouse. John was committed for sickness and destitution and Mary for being “lame and destitute”. John and Mary were both released on April 15 and taken to live with their daughters in Guelph (this could have meant Sarah Howard’s children from her previous marriage). Mary reentered the House on June 17 of that same year alone. It’s unclear as to where John was living at the time that Mary was re-committed to the House but he died in 1899 of “fatty degeneration of the heart” in Wellington County. Mary stayed at the House for about a year when she was released on May 4, 1896 and sent to a friend’s named Joseph.


Source: House of Industry and Refuge Keeper's Cash Account from the Region of Waterloo Archives

House of Industry and Refuge Keeper’s Cash Account; Source: Region of Waterloo Archives


Mary was once again sent back to the Poorhouse a few weeks later on May 22.



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


 In 1897, Mary spent three months at the Galt Hospital. This time, Mary remained at the Poorhouse until her death on September 17, 1902. She died from having an asthma attack following an amputation of her leg which happened at the Galt Hospital. The first time she entered the Poorhouse in 1896, she was listed as being “lame and destitute” which could have referred to her leg.



Mary Walden’s Death Certificate; Source:


Mary is listed a few times as being “col’d.” which is how “Coloured” was recorded in the Logbook. 



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


Mary and John’s son, John James, moved to the County of Victoria, Ontario in the late 19th century and married Jennie McCullum (1875-1932). He stayed there until his death in 1932, just a few months after his wife died. Allen was still living with his mother, Sarah, in 1901, but he eventually married and had children.