My great-grandfather through his son, Nelson.
The Canadian Florist
William Mathew Harburn was likely born on November 5, 1868, although documents vary widely on the exact date and year. This date is on his naturalization papers, and therefore, most likely a direct quote from him. His parents, James and Sarah Sadler Harburn, lived in Hibbert Township, Perth County, Ontario at the time. William, their first son, was followed by five more siblings.
William married his neighbor and member of the same Wesleyan Methodist church Jane Leary in Hibbert Township in 1894, moved near Hensall, Ontario, and had 11 children, ten of whom survived to adulthood. William was a carpenter and flower farmer, providing local florists with product.
When he immigrated to Flint, Michigan, on August 8, 1919, by boarding a train on the Grand Trunk Railroad, he had his wife and younger children. Two of the older Harburn children had come to Flint a year earlier to prepare for the large family’s arrival.
In Flint, William ran another flower farm, this time for the Chevrolet plant downtown. The Teddy Roosevelt environmentalists were concerned about the factory polluting the Flint River, so the Harburns set up a farm along the river to prove the water was “fine” (Spoiler: It was not fine.). He then ran a store at 1411 Third Avenue, Flint, for many years. After the marriage of his son, my grandfather, in 1936, he and Jane befriended my grandmother’s parents. The Harburns and the Wilsons lived down the street from one another and visited often.
William retired in Flushing, Michigan, in 1935, and passed away on November 24, 1940, of heart disease. He is buried in Flushing City Cemetery.
Matthew, William’s middle name, is a legacy name for several generations in this family.
William’s parents are recorded in Canada censuses as being born in England.
“William M Harburn,” ID#62465901, Flushing City Cemetery, Flushing, Genesee, Michigan