Birchell Dudley St Aubry Partleton (1894-1980)

aka Douglas Partleton

more usually known as

Douglas Smith

 

 

This history continues from the the web page for Henry Kemp Partleton (1814-1893) and his son Henry Partleton (b1838). Click here to return to that page.

 

To recap: The story of Douglas begins with his mother Lilian Partleton, nee Kendall, who in 1888 gave birth to a daughter in Barbados:

 

 

The father is not named, and we can say at this point that baby Annie Elise is illegitimate.

 

After the birth of the above Annie Elise Blanche Partleton (who is to use the name Elise), Lilian Partleton has another daughter, Katie. We also understand that Lilian had many, many more children - maybe 8 or 9 more - who were lost in childbirth.

 

And then, six years after the birth of Annie Elise, on 29 August 1894, in Bridgetown, Barbados, Lilian has a baby boy:

 

 

There's quite a mouthful of unusual given names on this birth certificate, none of which Douglas ever used in later life, and a transcription error of the surname into Parlleton, but make no mistake, this is unquestionably the birth certificate of Douglas Partleton (1894-1980).

 

It is thanks to Douglas' granddaughter, Tracy Smith, who contacted The Partleton Tree from the USA, and who obtained the birth certificate from Barbados, that we can begin to reconstruct the history of this branch of the family. Here's our Douglas Partleton who was born in Barbados, on the right of this photograph which was taken in 1915 when he was aged about 21:

 

 

Douglas left a history of his early existence, recounted to his son on audio tape in 1980, and we discover from this fascinating historical record that he had the most extraordinary life.

 

Let's start at the beginning: Douglas Partleton was born and grew up in the port of Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados:

 

 

So, pull up a chair, because we're going to listen to Douglas speaking about his early childhood in a moment, but before we do, just pause a minute to think about your own happy childhood; the love and nurture of your parents; three square meals a day; a secure roof over your head; a nice hot bath and your own cosy bed to sleep in at night.

 

Now we'll set the context for Douglas, because he will reveal some startling facts. Douglas was born into the utmost, absolute poverty. His mother, Lilian Partleton had to make her living as a prostitute, and she abandoned Douglas when he was just four years old into the care of a black woman.

 

Click on the picture of Douglas below to hear the first part of the interview which starts with Douglas talking about his older sisters Katie and Elise Partleton. They continued to stay with their mother after Douglas had been abandoned. The interviewer is Douglas' son, Ricky.

 

 

Douglas knew himself to be illegitimate. Knowing his mother's is Lilian name enables us to locate her birth in the Barbados Parish Registers.

 

What we see below is his mother Lilian's birth record. Yes, indeed, it looks like 'Julian', but we are quite certain that this is Lilian. For one thing, the name 'Julian Georgiana' would scarcely make sense, would it?  And now we see who Doug's granddad was - that's Henry Partleton Jr who emigrated to Barbados from London in c1860.

 

 

Doug's grandmother Selina Ann Matthews had been pregnant, and only 16 years old, when she had hurriedly married Doug's grandfather Henry Partleton (c1838) in the parish of St Philip Barbados in 1861.

 

We believe that granddad Henry had died quite young, leaving his widow Selina with three little girls - one of whom is Lilian - and probably penniless. Selina then married a man of surname Kendall, and she died in 1901 as Selina Kendall.

 

Let's get back to Doug. Click on the picture of Douglas and his wife Jane below to hear him talking about being taken in by the black woman, whose name was Mrs Hewitt:

 

 

 

If you were listening carefully, you may have heard Douglas mention that his mother Lilian lived in Pondside. This was a poor district of Bridgetown on the south side of the city near the harbour mouth, which we see outlined in blue in the map of Bridgetown below:

 

 

The street where Doug was born - Bay Street - is circled in green on the map. Pondside encompassed [and still does] the red light district of Bridgetown. This is the neighbourhood where we find Douglas "running loose", begging for food as little toddler.

 

We have some fantastic photographs to give us a taste of Bridgetown in the early 1900's, exactly as Douglas would have known it. The charming picture below is of 1908: pottery for sale at Chamberlain Bridge, in a relaxed atmosphere, taken from the viewpoint of the purple arrow in the map. Bay Street leads on directly from the far side of the bridge. This bridge would be extremely familiar to Douglas. At age 10 he had to cross it every day to go to work on Roebuck Street:

 

 

Here's Chamberlain Bridge today, 100 years later, much restored, seen from the green arrow in the map, from the other side of the bridge:

 

 

But we are going to go for a stroll which will take us closer to Douglas' home, so let's have another look at that map of Pondside:

 

 

We can get really, really close to Douglas' childhood neighbourhood because the BBC paid a visit to Pondside, when researching the family history of British celebrity chef Ainsley Harriott whose ancestor James was a local policeman in this very neighbourhood. Note the street names circled in the map - Jossamy Lane aka Jessamy Lane, and Nelson Street the red light district, which get a mention, and nearby Queen Street and Jordans Lane which we see on street signs, and the old buildings which were obviously there 100 years ago. Click below to watch the video:

 

Isn't it amazing what strong resonances there are in this video between the life of Douglas Partleton and the family history of Ainsley Harriott! Ainsley's great-great-great-grandfather James Hunte was a local policeman in the 1890's in this small district of Pondside... Douglas must surely have seen him many times! And Ainsley's great-great-great-great grandmother Rachael is thought to be a prostitute just like Douglas' mother Lilian Partleton.

 

Let's explore Doug's neighbourhood a little more... these Barbadian women are on their way to market in Bridgetown in 1908:

 

 

I liked this picture in it's own right and it was only after I had seen it a dozen times that I showed it to someone else and they pointed out to me: "Did you notice what they are carrying on their heads?" Well, yes, baskets... but if you didn't see it yourself, scroll back up and have another look. They are carrying live chickens on their heads.

 

Ho hum. Human life is always capable of surprising us.

 

Here's another photo of the early 1900's. A road out of Bridgetown into the country. Edwardian fashion didn't end in London or Paris:

 

 

So, back to Douglas. He's now 10. The year is 1904 and he secures a job for himself at a local department store, George Whitfield's:

 

 

The above advert is from An Account of a West Indian Sanatorium and a Guide to Barbados by Joseph Henry Sutton Moxly, published in 1885. From it we can see that George Whitfield's store was on Roebuck Street, so let's step into Doug's shoes for a walk down the busy shopping street where he worked:

 

 

I can't see George Whitfield among the shop signs, nor can I see it in the photos below, but at number 7 it will be close to one end of the road:

 

 

 

Here's another picture of a Barbados store. Hey... it's not George Whitfield's, it's Da Costa's on Broad Street, just across the bridge from Bay Street, and it's not 1904, it's 1890, but we can't do miracles here:

 

 

Here's Da Costa's in 1960:

 

 

And here it is now (2008):

 

 

Oh, and let's have a peek inside Da Costa's in Edwardian times. Doug didn't shop here; it was for posh people:

 

 

Click on the picture below to see a bit of old Bridgetown and listen to Doug's account of what happened next:

 

 

Doug didn't care where the Chinamen were going... they offered him a job, and he was going with them. In fact they were going by boat, so let's step into Douglas' shoes, take a walk down to Bridgetown Harbour which we see below in a photo of 1908, and step on to the boat, which could be one of the very ships which we see below:

 

 

In fact the Chinamen had a business on the South American mainland in British Guiana, now called Guyana.

 

Let's check out Guyana on the map:

 

 

It's a 400-mile sailing across the Caribbean to Georgetown, the capital of British Guiana. Click on the picture below to hear Doug's narration of what happened next.

 

 

What Douglas describes as the "Georgetown River", to give it its proper name, is the Demarara River, which we see below:

 

 

Paddling by canoe is still a favoured means of transport on the Demarara River, as we see in the next picture:

 

 

Douglas started working in the older Chinaman's store, where you heard him mention that they baked bread. He was accustomed to sleeping fairly rough and made his bed on some sacks of flour. Unfortunately, as he was prone to do, Doug peed the bed, and you can imagine the old Chinaman's displeasure at his ruined flour. So, after less than a week, Douglas was sent packing back home to Barbados on the next available boat.

 

That Demarara River looks like it would be alive with mosquitos, and soon after having returned to Mrs Hewitt in Barbados, Doug found himself in hospital with Typhoid Fever, which he thinks he might have contracted from a mosquito bite. I've just looked it up and it is in fact caused by drinking water contaminated with faeces. I reckon that's something else you'd find around the Demarara river.

 

There's a clue as to just how poor Douglas was when he reveals that what kept him alive in hospital was drinking lots of milk, and that at age 10, it was the first milk he had ever tasted.

 

So, we move on with Douglas' story, and he's now got a taste for the sea. If you think stories of stowaways only exist in 18th century literature, then listen to Douglas' next adventure... click on the picture...

 

 

Here's what Douglas was talking about when he spoke about "Puncheons"... he's a tougher man than I, if he's figured out a way to sleep on these...

 

 

Here's the dock in Bridgetown where Doug sneaked in amongst those huge molasses barrels into the hold of the ship. This picture is 1911, just a few years after Douglas had set out on his adventure. Let's wait till no-one is looking and jump on board... Step into his shoes:

 

 

Here's how Bridgetown Harbour looks today. Yachts:

 

 

So, back to Douglas in 1904. It was suggested that the 10-year-old stowaway, having been discovered, should help the cook, but the cook disagreed, to put it politely. So Doug passed the rest of the voyage trying to work his passage, helping to handle the sails, climbing the 100 ft mast, and they had no choice on the boat but to feed him. If you have a head for heights, check out the guys high on these masts in Bridgetown; this is where our 10-year-old Doug dares to go:

 

 

But the skipper took enough pity on him during the voyage to take him fishing in a small boat out in the open sea. Of course, at the time he had crept on board, Douglas didn't know where the boat was headed. Didn't know and didn't care. The voyage lasted for 21 days and the destination was....................... Newfoundland:

 

 

Below we see a map of the island of Newfoundland off the east coast of Canada:

 

 

After landfall, Doug worked for the ship's skipper for a while in Labrador and Newfoundland as Doug relates in the clip below:

 

 

It was hand-line fishing, just the two of them, in a small boat like the ones we see below in Brigus,iNewfoundland. Newfoundland is all about fishing, with the 'Grand Banks' just east of the island.

 

 

In return, Douglas was fed and accommodated in the skipper's house. Doug, whom we should note is - at a maximum - only 11 at this time, says rowing the small boat back to harbour when "the wind would come up" was extremely hard work. At a guess, I'd say this probably helps explain why old skip allowed him along!

 

When asked why the skipper took him in, Doug's response was "not out of generosity", but I think the man deserves some credit for not just dumping Douglas at the first harbour.

 

Douglas is now back in the town of Carbonear, and is introduced to Andrew Laing, a fisherman with three daughters but no son; Doug becomes adopted by the Laings and will become a fisherman for the next three years, so let's look at some fishing scenes around Newfoundland of this era in this maritime community while Doug takes us through this chapter of his life:

 

 

So, after 11 years on Planet Earth, Doug has now tasted both milk and eggs! Life is looking up!

 

We heard Douglas talking about Andrew Laing, who took him in, presumably because he could use some help with the fishing. And if you were listening carefully, as I keep asking you to do, like an annoying schoolteacher, you may have detected the note of regret in Doug's voice as he mentioned, as an aside, that, having lived with them them for some years, and accepted their shelter, when he finally left the Laing family he never went back.

 

As we mentioned a moment ago, Andrew Laing and his family live in Carbonear, Newfoundland, where fishing is a major means of earning your livelihood, so it's about time we had a closer look at this place:

 

 

Doug at this age would have surely spoken an accent with a very pronounced Barbadian lilt, which must have surely sounded mighty strange to the folk of Newfoundland!

 

Below is a great picture of c1911 of Carbonear, taken from the viewpoint of the green arrow. Doug's living with the Laings in one of the houses we see on the near shore in this photograph, indeed, there's every chance that the house is visible in this picture. Living with the Laings, Douglas doesn't have to beg for a living any more:

 

 

Below is a nice atmospheric photo of Carbonear harbour, with Carbonear Island in the distance, from the viewpoint of the yellow arrow in the map:

 

 

 

Looking for evidence of Andrew Laing - who is now effectively Douglas' foster-father, I came across Newfoundland's Grand Banks Genealogy website which contains records of Carbonear, and there you can find the following transcript of a 1904 Business Directory. Directories such as this were the equivalent of today's Yellow Pages:

 

McAlpine's 1904 Directory, Carbonear District:

LAING And. of Fred fish'man South Side
LAING Aubrey of Francis fish'man South Side
LAING Chas of Jn net maker Knight's Marsh
LAING David of Francis seaman South Side
LAING Henry of Fred fisherman South Side
LAING James of John carpenter South Side
LAING John of John fisherman South Side
LAING Jos of Chas fish'man Knight's Marsh
LAING Wm of Jas seaman South Side

 

We have to be careful here because there are quite a few Laings scattered around Carbonear, but there's only one Andrew in sight and I'm fairly sure that the first person in this list is our man. The address given is "South Side", Carbonear. Let's have another look at that aerial view, where I have ringed Lower Southside Road in red:

 

 

Below is a view looking west across the bay, from the viewpoint of the purple arrow; the year: 1905. Doug's house may be in this picture, though unfortunately it's rather low resolution:

 

 

And here's the view from the Southside beach, surely a view very familiar to Douglas as this beach is near to the Laings' house. Step into Doug's shoes, draw a deep breath of that salt air, and listen to those seagulls calling. This viewpoint is from the red arrow in the map.

 

 

 

 

If we want to see a building which Doug would have known, here's Carbonear Post Office, on Water Street near the purple arrow, built in 1905:

 

         

 

Hey, I couldn't resist the temptation. The house on the left is Carbonear Post Office. The one on the right is the Addams Family house. The similarity was just too great for me to ignore.

 

Ok, ok, I know, no more jokes, this is a serious family history website.

 

Here's how Carbonear south side looks today (2008):

 

 

The above photo is taken from the point of view of the blue arrow in the map below:

 

 

Here's Douglas talking about living with the Laings, all of whom suffered with Tuberculosis aka TB or consumption. Note that the people in the photographs are not Douglas Partleton or the Laings, but they are Newfoundland and Labrador fishermen:

 

 

From the Grand Banks Genealogy website, this may be the death record of Andrew Laing's sister whom Douglas mentioned in his interview:

 

Register of Deaths
Book 1
1891-1892 - Book #1
DISTRICT OF CARBONEAR
Page 29, 58, 85 & 108
LDS MICROFILM # 2168727
Date of Death Place of Death Cause of Death Surname Given Names Religious Denomination Age Place of Birth Place of Internment
1891                
PAGE 29                
May-31 Victoria Village [Carbonear District] Consumption LAING Mary Church of England 27? Years Carbonear Church of England

 

After two years living with the Laings, in the winter, when there's no fishing, Doug gets himself an alternative job:

 

 

Newfoundland is surprisingly industrialised. The Wabana Iron Works on Bell Island, where Douglas worked, is well documented. Below we see surface workers digging for ore on Bell Island in c1900:

 

 

The Island is small as we can see from this aerial photograph:

 

 

Here's a bit of the island Doug would recognise, the ship-loading bay where the iron ore ended up:

 

 

And in a postage stamp of 1932, here's a ship being loaded with ore at the same bay:

 

 

Of interest on this stamp is that it isn't a Canadian stamp. Newfoundland in 1904, when Douglas arrived, was a British colony completely separate from Canada. In 1907 it was granted Dominion status - an independent self-governing country in its own right, but still part of the British Empire - the same status as Canada at the time. But In 1934, after years of political corruption and scandals, culminating in a riot involving 10,000 people, Newfoundland voluntarily gave up self-government and reverted to direct control from London. Fifteen years later, in 1949, it became the tenth, and final, province of Canada after a narrow vote of it's inhabitants.

 

Back to Douglas. Things didn't go quite to plan for the young man. The engine which Doug mentioned was something a bit like a steam engine, but powered by compressed air. This was used to haul heavy iron ore mining cars along tracks down towards the loading bay.

 

One day something went a bit wrong:

 

 

How about Doug's comment: "It hurt my back - but not real bad; I was crippled for a little while" !!! Only for a while, we note. That's Ok then!

 

Don't forget that Doug has taken this as a winter job. As you can imagine, temperatures in Newfoundland in the winter are often below  -10 degrees C!

 

Below we see surface mining at Bell Island c1900 and the cars being loaded with iron ore:

 

 

Doug's accident was far from unique at the Bell Island iron ore mine. Here we see the deaths which occurred round about the time he worked there, just a routine part of the business, and we note that they were mostly caused by runaway cars just like Doug's:

 

EMPLOYEE FATALITIES AT WABANA IRON ORE MINE, BELL ISLAND, NFLD.  
DATE NAME ADDRESS CAUSE
October 10. 1898 Edward Power St. Johnís Dynamite explosion
October 10, 1901 Edward Kavanagh Bell Island Runaway car
December 20, 1902 William Glavine Green Bay Runaway car
December 20, 1902 Pat Fitzgerald Bell Island Runaway car
August 17, 1904 William Bugden Bell Island Run over by car
May 12, 1905 Charles Petten Kelligrews Dynamite explosion
May 12, 1905 Peter Doyle (age 14) Conception Harbour Explosion
November 26, 1905 Pat Curran Conception Harbour Dynamite explosion
November 13, 1906 Michael Smith Brigus Caught in machinery
June 1, 1907 Chas Day Old Shop, T.B. Dynamite explosion
July 28, 1907 Hubert Bruce Long Hr. Run over by car
September 2. 1907 Peter Bray Harbour Grace Fall of ground
September 26. 1907 Edward Halleran Holyrood Struck by car
November 25, 1907 Edward Pendergast Harbour Main Fall of ground
January 24, 1908 Edward Gaul Topsail Rd. Runaway car

 

Here's some more iron ore workers at Bell Island in the early 1900's. Doug might have even have met some of these men:

 

 

Here are workers [c1930] who have come from Newfoundland to Bell Island for work, disembarking at the beach:

 

 

Here's Bell Island beach with the jetty and workers coming ashore [c1902]:

 

 

And we come to last bit of the interview with Douglas. After his injury in the iron ore car, he went to a posh doctor's surgery for the first time, but it seems his rough upbringing hadn't prepared him very well with the genteel manners required for polite society...

 

 

So there's no more audio recording for Douglas. A second interview was planned but never took place because Doug died not long after the first recording was made.

 

But there's more to tell. First things first. In 1909, Douglas is 15. He's been in Newfoundland for five years now, but there's more action in Barbados! Just a few days before this page was due to be published, Ancestry.com released immigration lists for people coming into the UK, as uncovered by Terry Partleton:

 

 

What we see above is the good ship Atrato leaving New York and stopping at several places to pick up passengers on her way to Southampton in England. And, about halfway down the list, we find little Daisy Partleton, who is aged between 1 and 12 years old, and who embarks at... Barbados. Daisy's nationality is declared to be 'English', not 'British Colonial' as some passengers were, but we shouldn't read too much into this. Her birth is not recorded in any English records.

 

So now we have a historical headache. Is Daisy a sister of Douglas, as seems likely? Doug left Barbados in 1904; the Atrato sails in 1909. Daisy could have been born after Doug left. There are only four other passengers embarking second-class in Barbados. Second-class suggests that a traveller is reasonably well-off for cash. Is Daisy travelling with the married couple Isaac and Nora Truman, single Englishwoman Clara Brand or colonial male Joseph Knight? Has she been adopted? Is she travelling alone, aged under 12... seems unlikely, even in 1909?

 

Only more research will tell!!! And the birth records are all in Barbados!!! Anyone going on holiday?!!!

 

 

The era into which we are moving puts us on alert that the madness that was World War I was about to explode. Indeed the Atrato which we see pictured above, was sunk by a German mine in 1915.

 

Newfoundland and Canada automatically entered the war as parts of the British Empire, and in March 1915, Douglas is 20 years old, a perfect age to sign up for the slaughter. But fate had decreed that Douglas had left Newfoundland by 1915 and therefore wouldn't join the Newfoundland regiment, which is just as well, because the Newfoundlanders were almost completely wiped out on 01 July 1916, the first day of the Somme. Exactly 801 Newfoundlanders went over the top: only 9% of them survived uninjured. The next day, only 69 answered the roll call. 346 dead or missing, 386 wounded.

 

 

Douglas in 1915, we discover, was in Canada, and there he joined the 24th battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force as a sapper [engineer] and went to Europe to fight for King and Country. He was in France and Belgium. The 24th battalion were certainly stationed late in the war in France on the Arras-Cambrai road, area described by Canadian author J.F.B. Livesay:

 

"It is a melancholy scene. Down the Cambrai road through Vis-en-Artois, past Dury on the left and Vellers-lez-Cagnicourt on the right, all is desolate. It is a typical No Man's Land landscape. The countryside is pitted with shell-holes and scarred with trenches. Avenues of trees along the road show only blasted stumps. There is not a green thing. Everywhere is the debris of war, the litter and the ruin. Broken lorries, shattered remnants of an armoured car, the twisted rails of a light railway, scrap-iron of all descriptions, ammunition boxes piled high these things cumber the roadside. Everywhere are horses in various stages of decomposition. Here and there are rows of our dead, awaiting burial parties. Over all is a brooding stench of decay and stale gas."

 

These are Canadian soldiers at the Hell on Earth that was the Battle of Passchendaele in Belgium.

 

 

Sappers like Douglas, in addition to fighting, were presumably involved in constructing trenches and laying trench mats as these Canadian soldiers are doing:

 

 

And when Doug survived the whole experience, he got a letter from George V thanking him for his contribution to the effort.

 

In Douglas' case, despite the terrors of the first world war, being in the army may have been a good thing for him, and given him some structure and stability in his life. Here's his discharge certificate of July 1919:

 

 

If you were looking carefully, you will have spotted that our Douglas has re-invented himself as Douglas Smith! I'd say this is not a surprising move for a man who, from the evidence we have heard, carries his unhappy childhood as a burden. Joining the army was the perfect opportunity to make a clean break with this.

 

Henceforth Douglas Partleton is known as Douglas Smith.

 

Examination of Doug's discharge certificate shows that in 1915 he had signed up at the small town of Lindsay, Ontario, near to Toronto, a long way from Newfoundland:

 

 

I know our gentle readers like to look at pictures, and here is one of Lindsay, Ontario, at the turn of the century. Step into Doug's shoes a few years later, in 1915:

 

 

After WW1, Douglas must have returned to Canada for a while, but in due course crossed the border into the USA. I believe immigration rules were less strict in those days, but there seems to be a general feeling in Doug's family that his paperwork of that time, in the name of Douglas Smith, might not have borne close scrutiny! Whatever his means of getting in to the USA, eventually Doug became a naturalised American citizen on 01 January 1941.

 

In the United States, Doug's South American experience seems to have to have proved useful because got himself a job with the Ford Motor Company and was employed in the late 1920's bringing rubber on boats from South and Central America to Chester, Pennsylvania:

 

 

Here's the Ford plant at Chester, which we see below [it closed in 1961], though it's only an assembly plant and - one might assume - would have no use for raw rubber. Presumably someone in Chester was making tyres for Ford:

 

 

Here we see Doug in Panama on business in the 1930's... though I'm bound to say that I feel rather sorry for the poor mule.

 

 

On one of these trips to South America in the 1920's Douglas contracted malaria and was hospitalized in Chester PA. There he met Jane Whittaker (given name Anna Jane Whittaker, 22 December 1907 - 05 May 1991) who was a student nurse at the hospital. They were married in Lester, Delaware County, Pennsylvania on 27 September 1930.

 

Below we see Doug and Jane on honeymoon in California:

 

 

That's some car!

 

Douglas and Jane had a son, Douglas Kendall Smith, on 30 July 1933 in New York City. In 1934 they moved to Long Beach, California, where they had their second son Eric Anthony Smith [the interviewer on the voice recordings] on 18 April 1939. This, of course, is the year in which WW2 commenced, and when America joined the war, Douglas served in the merchant marine running trips to Russia and India.

 

In 1945 Doug and Jane opened a successful barbeque restaurant in San Diego, seen in the picture below, which they ran until Doug's retirement.

 

 

Here are Douglas and Jane - looking very American - in 1965 in San Diego:

 

 

Douglas passed away on 02 October 1980 in San Diego, shortly after the audio recording of his fascinating story had been made.

 

If you'd like to hear the whole of Douglas' interview of 1980, which is about 45 minutes long, click here.

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