Edison: His Life and Inventions HTML version

Edison's Pedigree
THOMAS ALVA EDISON was born at Milan Ohio, February 11, 1847. The State that
rivals Virginia as a "Mother of Presidents" has evidently other titles to distinction of the
same nature. For picturesque detail it would not be easy to find any story excelling that of
the Edison family before it reached the Western Reserve. The story epitomizes American
idealism, restlessness, freedom of individual opinion, and ready adjustment to the
surrounding conditions of pioneer life. The ancestral Edisons who came over from
Holland, as nearly as can be determined, in 1730, were descendants of extensive millers
on the Zuyder Zee, and took up patents of land along the Passaic River, New Jersey,
close to the home that Mr. Edison established in the Orange Mountains a hundred and
sixty years later. They landed at Elizabethport, New Jersey, and first settled near
Caldwell in that State, where some graves of the family may still be found. President
Cleveland was born in that quiet hamlet. It is a curious fact that in the Edison family the
pronunciation of the name has always been with the long "e" sound, as it would naturally
be in the Dutch language. The family prospered and must have enjoyed public
confidence, for we find the name of Thomas Edison, as a bank official on Manhattan
Island, signed to Continental currency in 1778. According to the family records this
Edison, great- grandfather of Thomas Alva, reached the extreme old age of 104 years.
But all was not well, and, as has happened so often before, the politics of father and son
were violently different. The Loyalist movement that took to Nova Scotia so many
Americans after the War of Independence carried with it John, the son of this stalwart
Continental. Thus it came about that Samuel Edison, son of John, was born at Digby,
Nova Scotia, in 1804. Seven years later John Edison who, as a Loyalist or United Empire
emigrant, had become entitled under the laws of Canada to a grant of six hundred acres of
land, moved westward to take possession of this property. He made his way through the
State of New York in wagons drawn by oxen to the remote and primitive township of
Bayfield, in Upper Canada, on Lake Huron. Although the journey occurred in balmy
June, it was necessarily attended with difficulty and privation; but the new home was
situated in good farming country, and once again this interesting nomadic family settled
John Edison moved from Bayfield to Vienna, Ontario, on the northern bank of Lake Erie.
Mr. Edison supplies an interesting reminiscence of the old man and his environment in
those early Canadian days. "When I was five years old I was taken by my father and
mother on a visit to Vienna. We were driven by carriage from Milan, Ohio, to a railroad,
then to a port on Lake Erie, thence by a canal-boat in a tow of several to Port Burwell, in
Canada, across the lake, and from there we drove to Vienna, a short distance away. I
remember my grandfather perfectly as he appeared, at 102 years of age, when he died. In
the middle of the day he sat under a large tree in front of the house facing a well-travelled
road. His head was covered completely with a large quantity of very white hair, and he
chewed tobacco incessantly, nodding to friends as they passed by. He used a very large
cane, and walked from the chair to the house, resenting any assistance. I viewed him from
a distance, and could never get very close to him. I remember some large pipes, and
especially a molasses jug, a trunk, and several other things that came from Holland."