Title and statement of responsibility area
Wawanosh, Sands, Mern Family fonds
General material designation
- Textual record
- Graphic material
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Statement of scale (cartographic)
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Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)
Dates of creation area
1807 (transcribed 18--), 1827 (copied 19--), 1835-1964 (Creation)
- Wawanosh, Sands, Mern Family
Physical description area
70 cm of textual records
21 volumes of textual records
1 lock of hair
6 drawings : charcoal and Chalk sketches
23 photographs : tintypes
14 photographs : cartes de visite
17 photographs : cabinet cards
15 photographs : b&w postcards
433 photographs : b&w prints
15 photographs : b&w postcards
433 photographs : b&w prints
197 photographs : b&w negatives
2 photographs : b&w slides
3 photo albums (155 photographs : b&w prints)
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Archival description area
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The Wawanosh family was a prominent family of the Chippewas of Sarnia, Kettle Point and Stoney reserves (now known as the Aamjiwnaang First Nation) with several of its members serving as hereditary chiefs in the 19th century and one member, William Wawanosh, serving as the first elected chief.
Joshua Wawanosh (ca. 1781-1871) served as Chief from 1827 - 1844, 1848 - 1853 and 1868 - 1870. In 1827, he and several other Chiefs signed Treaty 29. He converted to Christianity when the Methodist missionary Rev. James Evans visited the district. Joshua Wawanosh and his wife Eliza had one daughter named Elizabeth and four sons - David, Joseph, Thomas and William - all of whom succeeded Joshua as chiefs. David, Joseph and Thomas all died of tuberculosis and in the cases of Joseph and Thomas, this meant their time as Chief was short lived.
David Wawanosh (d. 1867), Joshua's eldest son, served as the chief from 1853 until 1867. He and his wife Elizabeth had six children - Julia, Francis, Agnes, Florence, Minnie and David D. After David died of tuberculosis, his father again took on the role of chief.
William Wawanosh (ca. 1845-1907) was appointed Indian Interpreter in 1870 and served as chief from 1874-1877 and again in 1899-1901. He married Mary Helen Waldron, the daughter of a missionary and they had three children - Charles (known as Chas for short), Augusta and Edward. William changed his name from Wawanosh to Wells and this is the name that he passed down to his children. His son Charles became a clergyman and founded the Wells Academy in London, Ontario.
Agnes Effie Sands Mern (1875-1966) was the only daughter of Julia Wawanosh Sands, (daughter of David Wawanosh) and Daniel Sands. She received musical and vocal training from Sarnia teachers at Our Lady of Mercy Vincent in Port Huron, Michigan; from Profs William A. Harvey and George D. MacComb in Detroit and Prof A. Straub of the Detroit Opera House. She wrote song lyrics, poetry and stories and organized and participated in a variety of cultural events, including concerts of music by well know First Nations musicians including Oskenonton and David Russell Hill and His Onondaga Indian Concert Band. Along with the Indian Confederation of America, Agnes assembled a group of Native Americans to march in the Brooklyn Centennial parade. Throughout her life, Agnes was an active member of the church community, singing in the choir and teaching at the Devine St. Methodist Sunday School. She and her mother also ran a dress making business.
In 1933, Agnes married John Phillips Mern, a retired sailor from the US Navy. John had a son from a previous marriage but the couple did not have any children of their own. They lived in Marcy, New York as well as in the Wawanosh family homestead in Sarnia and travelled throughout Ontario and New York State. From 1936 to 1937 they briefly ran a convenience store in Sarnia called the Wawanosh Post where they sold gasoline and groceries. Agnes Sands Mern died in 1966 in Sarnia.
For additional information about the family, please consult the Wawanosh family tree, which is attached as an appendix
The records of the Wawanosh family were kept by Agnes Effie Sands Mern until her death in 1966.
Scope and content
Fonds consists of records created and collected by Agnes Effie Sands Mern and other members of the Wawanosh family. Included are records relating to the life and work of various family members. In particular, the fonds contains records relating to the work of Joshua, David and William as chiefs of the Chippewas of Sarnia. Also included are the personal records of the family including correspondence, financial records, memorandum and account books and personal records relating to births, marriages and deaths. The records of most of the family members are intermingled, possibly a reflection of how Agnes Sands Mern kept them. Also included are the records of Agnes Effie Sands Mern (which make up the majority of the fonds) including her correspondence, financial records (including the records of the Wawanosh Post convenience store), records relating to her musical and artistic interest and records relating to her work in the Church and her activities organizing cultural events and concerts. Also included are the records of Agnes' husband John Phillips Mern such as his correspondence, financial records, notebooks and personal records relating to his son John P. Mern Jr.
Fonds also contains several sketches of members of the Wawanosh family as well as a large assortment of photographs. Photographs include portraits of family members, ministers and missionaries, friends and others as well as images depicting the daily life and travels of Agnes and John P. Mern. Photographs of John P. Mern consist of several albums documenting his time in the US navy and the childhood of his son. Several photographic processes are represented including tintypes, cartes de visite, cabinet cards, postcards and prints.
Immediate source of acquisition
William Carlton Wells, the heir to Agnes' estate, donated the records to Western in 1969. Additional materials were acquired by Western Archives as gifts and purchases.
Fonds was previously processed and arrangement was imposed. Imposed arrangement was maintained except for arrangement of portraits and photographs.
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Language and script note
Some records are in Ojibway.
Location of originals
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Restrictions on access
Records are available for consultation without restriction.
Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication
Also available at Western University Archives and Special Collections: Minutes of the Chippewas of Sarnia Band Council microfilm M374 (1899-1969) and M1117 (1970-1978). Regulations of the Chippewas of Sarnia (April 1904) can be found VF611.
Standard number area
Name access points
- Aamjiwnaang First Nation (Subject)
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