Previous discussion on Black Canadians

Started by Kenneth Kwame Welsh, (C) on Friday, November 18, 2011


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11/18/2011 at 1:32 AM

We are adding and continuing our discussion here, as well:

Private User
12/30/2011 at 6:52 PM

Here is another Black Canadian: George "Budge" Frederick Byers: Birth: June 25, 1872 in Charlottetown, Queens, Prince Edward Island, Canada. Death: Apr. 10, 1937 in Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, USA. Life for most was hard at the time, but if you were black, it could be downright miserable. As a young teen, George had no plans to stick around, and as soon as opportunity presented itself, he left to start a new life in America. Life was no easier at first. He lived as a hobo doing odd jobs where he could, before arriving in Boston in 1890, where he began working on the Hub City’s waterfront, loading and unloading cargo and looking after storage. It was hard, physical work, but it helped develop the incredible physique that was to serve the 150-pound Byers so well in his later career. A young sportsman convinced George that he had the makings of a wrestler, and he entered a few bouts, successfully winning a few trophies and pocket watches. It was then that he met George Godfrey - Old Chocolate - another transplanted black islander who made his home in Boston, and he began to learn the finer rudiments of prizefighting. Godfrey was a qualified teacher - he fought many of the best heavyweights of the era, and he took a liking to the young Byers. After keeping Byers solely as a student for two years, Godfrey brought him out as a professional fighter. Byers career began in 1895, and effectively ended in 1904. During that time he fought well over 125 prizefights, many of which lasted 10, 15, or even 20 rounds, participants engaging in often brutal encounters with skin tight 2 to 4 ounce leather gloves which brushed and cut a man’s rib section every time they landed. Fighting as often as two or three times a month, Byers punched it out with the best of them, including some of the greatest prize fighters the professional game had to offer. In 1897 George knocked out Harry Peppers of California to win the Coloured Middleweight Title, and the following year, although weighing no more than 158 pounds, he won the Coloured Heavyweight Championship in 20 rounds against the tough Frankie Childs. In Byers' first four years of competition he never lost a scrap, and in 1899 he was publicly calling out the World Middleweight Champion, Tommy Ryan, to put his title on the line. Ryan, however, as was the fashion of the time, was not going to give up his title to a black man, and he draw the infamous "colour line", refusing to meet Byers, denying him a much coveted shot at the championship. In his time, George was a tremendous fighter - smart, and very clever. "Not for him a cauliflower ear or dented sneezer,"observed Wilf McCluskey in his Ring Ramblings column of 1975. He was the original "pretty boxer" long before Cassius Clay started making his boasts, and photos of the time show how well George looked after himself in the ring. He never hid, and fought the best of his time - he duked it out with every world champion from welterweight through to heavyweight, from Jack Johnson, Tom Sharkey, Bob Fitzsimmons, and Philadelphia Jack O’Brien, the greatest light-heavyweight of all-time, whom he fought to a 6-round draw in Bangor, Maine, in 1902. His nickname Budge, by all accounts, came from the fact that when he was hit, he hardly moved - he didn't budge. Some of his fights were exhibitions, many were all out war - even a few were on the quiet, including a bout in May 1899 against future World Welterweight champion Joe Wolcott, a private affair held at George Godfrey’s gym in front of a select few spectators and wagered on heavily. Byers forced the future champion to surrender after four bloody and brutal rounds, though he refused to talk about it in years to come. With no prospect of a title fight because of his colour, Byers soldiered on until 1904, when he hung up the gloves. Upon retirement he turned to training fighters, and for a short period he was head trainer at the Atlas Athletic Club, and then the Criterion Club. His greatest pupil was the "Tar Baby", Nova Scotia’s Sam Langford, considered by many to be one of the greatest of all time. According to Langford they met when Byers saved Sam from an angry mob one day. From that pont on they became great friends, Langford crediting Byers with teaching him everything he knew about the finer points of boxing. For over a decade the two worked together, George acting as trainer, sparring partner and close friend, traveling the globe and seeing parts of the world that many people - especially those of the working class - did not have the opportunity to see. Byers’ association with Sam also afforded him the privilege of being filmed - the only footage of George Byers in existence is that of him training with Langford in France in 1911, and entering the ring with Sam at Los Angeles in 1910. After Sam and George went their separate ways, Byers settled in Boston, where he continued to train fighters and work at local gyms as a boxing teacher. He took a job on the B and M railroad for nearly 20 years, before he died in Boston City Hospital, either of pneumonia or a heart attack depending on conflicting reports, in 1937. George’s pedigree as a fighter, and a trainer, was first class. He was, for many years, considered one of the best middleweights in the business, and it was common knowledge that only his color, and not his skill or character, prevented him from gaining an opportunity to demonstrate his championship wares. George Byers - boxer, trainer, teacher - and Hall of Famer. As a footnote, it was announced that George was to be inducted in 2008 to the Black Ice Hockey and Sports Hall of Fame in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

Private User
1/12/2012 at 8:44 AM

Here is another Black Canadian: Sarah Byers Godfrey: Birth: 1832 in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada (had ties to the Mi'kMaq Indians). The Micmac (Mi'kMaq) Indians were the first inhabitants of the island. In 1720 the first French Acadian settlement was established, some in the Three Rivers area. In 1758 the land was taken by England . The new regime ordered the deportation of the Acadian people, however some did manage to remain. The island was officially named Prince Edward Island in 1799 in honor of Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent, who was then commander-in-chief of British North America . Sarah married William Godfrey in November of 1864. William and Sarah’s three oldest children, Thomas, Mary Ann and George were all baptized on the same day, the 14 June 1853 at St. Dunstan’s Basilica (Sarah's mother, Mary was a converted Catholic, her family was originally Anglican). William and Sarah had another five children, all of whom were born in Charlottetown. The only early newspaper reference for this family appears in the Examiner in September of 1855. This short article reported that Frederick Byers had been convicted for assault on Sarah Godfrey and had been “fined 2s6d and costs or 1 month imprisonment.” Aunt of George "Budge" Byers (1872-1937) the boxer, who moved to Boston, MA. THE BYERS FAMILY VIEW FAMILY TREE: By the middle of the second decade of the 19th century slavery had probably come to an end on Prince Edward Island. There were, however, many former slaves among the small black population in the colony. One family of this community was that of John Byers (1770-1821), known as "Black Jack", who was identified in 1796 as “a Negro of Colonel Robinson”; the master was undoubtedly Joseph Robinson, at that time an assistant judge of the Supreme Court. Byers and his wife, Amelia, had probably come to the Island with Robinson after the American revolution. John and Amelia Byers were two of four slaves brought to Prince Edward Island with Colonel Joseph Robinson. Robinson’s other two slaves were probably John’s brother’s Sancho and Peter, who were hanged on Gallow’s Hill in Charlottetown within 12 days of each other in 1815 for stealing bread and money. John and Amelia’s four children were baptized at St. Paul’s Anglican Church. In these baptismal records, it is documented that John was a “Negro of Colonel Robinson.” The Royal Gazette newspaper published a “Report of the Select Committee on the Petition of American Loyalists”on the 8 January 1833. In this report Joseph Robinson stated that he had come to PEI in November of 1784, along with twenty other Loyalist families, sailing from Shelburne, Nova Scotia. While in Shelburne, he had saw several proclamations posted throughout the town that offered lands to Loyalists upon arrival in PEI. Joseph made application for land and was put in possession of 500 acres on Lot 32, but never did get a deed for the land, although he had made several applications to Governors Patterson, Fanning and Desbarres. John and Amelia were therefore settled on PEI with the Robinson family in Lot 32 by 1784. John and Amelia’s children were all born on PEI, with their first child William "Black Bill", born in 1789. Amelia had herself and four of her children baptized all at the same time in 1795 at St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Charlottetown. In this baptismal record, it is documented that Amelia was a native of Virginia. On the 24 October 1828, Amelia Byers filed a land petition: “Of township 34, St. Peters Road, native of Virginia, a widow with two children and 40 years of age wants pl 522 in Charlottetown...” It was ruled in court, within a few weeks of her application, and ordered that “A license of occupation do issue.” One of John and Amelia’s children, William, married Mary Shepard, the daughter of David and Kesiah Shepard. This was the first union of what would become the two most prolific black families on PEI. The 1861 and 1881 census documents five Byers families living in the Charlottetown area. The 1901 census documents only two Byers families living on PEI. Many of the Byers descendants eventually moved to the New England area with the exodus of other Islands in the late 19th century. One notable descendant of the Byers family is Benny “Budge” Byers who achieved notable success in the boxing ring in the late 1800s. Today, there are descendants of John and Amelia Byers still living on the Island, although there are very few individuals with the name “Byers.” Surnames appearing within the descendants of John and Amelia Byers: Braddock, Brown, Gallant, Gauthier, Godfrey, Hartinger, McKeigan, McPhail, Rhyne, Wakefield, & Williams. Father: William Byers b. 1797 in Charlottetown, Queens, Prince Edward Island, Canada. Mother: Mary Millicent Shepard b. 1803 in Charlottetown, Queens, PEI, Canada. Nov. 1864 - Marriage to William Godfrey I in Charlottetown, Queens, Prince Edward Island, Canada. Death: July 21, 1887 (Age 55) at City Hospital in Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, USA. Direct Descendant of John Byers - 1st - Generation: John Byers & Amelia: William Byers; Direct Descendant of William Byers - 2nd - Generation: William Byers & Mary Shepard (Stepmother): Sarah Byers; Direct Descendant of Sarah Byers - 3rd - Generation: William Godfrey, I & Sarah Byers: William Godfrey, II. On Wed, 16 November 1870: The Islander states that Dr. Jenkins, one of the Coroners for Queen’s County, held an inquest on the body of Wm. Byer’s (Black Bill’s) wife, on Monday the 7th inst. It appears that she and her step-daughter, Sarah Godfrey, had an altercation some months ago, when Sarah shied a brick at the step-mother’s head, and so well directed was the blow, that the latter never recovered from its effects. She sunk into a lethargic state from which death only relieved her on the 4th inst. The jury, having heard the evidence adduced, and the opinions of medical men, returned a verdict that “the deceased Mary Byers came to her death from a blow of some blunt instrument inflicted by Sarah Godfrey, under great provocation.” A warrant of commitment, on a charge of wilful murder, was thereupon issued by the Coroner: but up to the present time, the accused has succeeded in evading the officers of the law.

Private User
1/12/2012 at 8:50 AM

My Great, Great Grandmother Sarah Byers Godfrey had two birth years (1820 & 1832). I don't know which one is correct although 1832 was listed in the Boston, MA death records.

1/12/2012 at 9:05 AM

Carol, please add their profiles to the Black Canadians project. This is AWESOME work! Don't worry about the birthdates or death dates, just now. We'll work on that research later. lol

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