February 8, 2014

Black History Month: Canadian Jubilee Singer Josephus O'Banyon

Josephus O'Banyon was one of the singers in the Canadian Jubilee Singers. It is interesting to note that we also find the following names:


Mrs. Bland-O’Banyoun – mezzo soprano, married to Josephus

Ernest O’Banyoun  son of leader, Baritone

With 3 singers to research I had a lot of fun with this biography. As I searched census records and vital statistics, I discovered quite a bit of fascinating information about Josephus.


Simon Peter O'Banyon
Census records revealed Josephus as a 14 year old in 1851 in Brantford Ontario with his parents Simon Peter O'Banyon and Sophia. 1881 found him in Hamilton Ontario and by 1891 he was in Chatham Ontario with his widowed mother Sophia. It was quite a surprise to find him in Indiana in 1900 with wife Maud.

It is interesting to note that in the 1891 census, Sophia O'Banyon is recorded as being born in Ontario, with a father born in Ireland and a mother born in Canada. 

Early marriage records show that Simon O'Banyon married Sophia Wright in July 1832 in Brantford, Ontario. I have been unable to discover her parents. The following anecdote about the O'Banyons is found in Samuel Ringgold Ward's 1855 book Autobiography of a Fugitive Negro.  The anecdote concerns Peter O'Banyoun, at a time when the O'Banyons were living in Brant County. 

"A gentleman of my acquaintance (Peter O'Banyoun), driving a good pair of horses, and traveling at leisure, with his ladylike wife, was one night, in the winter of 1851-52, denied admittance at some dozen public taverns. His lady, being of lighter complexion than himself, on one or two occasions was admitted, and was comfortably seated by the fire, and politely treated - until her darker-skinned husband came in, and then, there was no room for either. It was a bitterly cold night; and being treated - maltreated - after this manner until nearly midnight, they were at length obliged to accept of a room in which they could sit up all night." 

So far I have found 5 marriages for Josephus, four of them to very young women. Here is the list of his marriages:

1. Nancy Butler before 1864. They had 2 sons, one being Ernest (baritone in the Canadian Jubilee Singers) who died at the age of 29 in 1893.  Nothing further is known of Nancy.
2. Mary Elizabeth Goosely, age 19 in 1871 in Nova Scotia. She died in 1884 in Essex Co. Ontario. Josephus was 33 years old.
3. Cassimar Elizabeth Johnson, age 21 in 1884 a few months after Mary's death. She died in 1890. He was 46 years old.
4. In 1891 he married Charlotte E. Bland (also a singer in the Canadian Jubilee Singers). I have not found a death record for Charlotte.
5. In 1898 he married Maud Garrison, age 18, in Indiana. Josephus was now 61 years old.

As a minister, Josephus moved around frequently and can be found ministering in various churches in different countries.


A very intriguing man! And I must admit I am curious about the deaths of 4 of his wives. Such bad luck for him.

6 comments:

Karen Toliver-Springer said...

John Boland was my great great Grandfather of Guelph ont. There could be a connection here.

Tami O said...

Josephus O'banyoun was my great-great-great grandfather. My grandmother, was his great-grand-daughter, Joyce O'banyoun. I am delighted to see this information about our family history. Thank you!

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

Tami, how wonderful to hear from you! I have more information and source records on Josephus if you want to contact me privately.

I will be happy to send copies to you via email. You can contact me at olivetreegenealogy AT gmail DOT com

Sheila said...

I am the one who did the original research over 15 years, on the O'Banyoun Family for a friend. I have a large database on the family including several photographs one of which is that of Josephus and probably the members of the Jubilee Singers. I have shared some of this with Jerry Prager of Ontario, who is working on a book about an AME church that was built on land donated by Simon Peter O'Banoyoun, an escaped slave from Kentucky, and father of Josephus. I also have all of his wives and possibly even a 6th. I have no death date for Charlotte but she was a widow when she married Josephus in 1891. Sheila Macauley, Concord, MA

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

Posted by Lorine on behalf of Sheila

I noticed your blog about Josephus O’Banyoun and tried to leave a comment but somehow, I was not able to figure out how to do it.

Below is my comment.

I am the one who did the original research over 15 years, on the O'Banyoun Family for a friend. I have a large database on the family including several photographs one of which is that of Josephus and probably the members of the Jubilee Singers. I have shared some of this with Jerry Prager of Ontario, who is working on a book about an AME church that was built on land donated by Simon Peter O'Banoyoun, an escaped slave from Kentucky, and father of Josephus. I also have all of his wives and possibly even a 6th. I have no death date for Charlotte but she was a widow of a man named John, when she married Josephus in 1891.

Sheila Macauley, Concord, MA

Kenneth OBanyoun said...

Let me know if you find any information on Simon Peter O'Banyoun. He's my 3rd Great Grandfather.
Thanks for the family blog very interesting would like to know if any photos exist of the Jubilee Singers.

Kenneth O'Banyoun
kenobone@gmail.com