The Deex Family
England, 1856: On the 19th of January John Hatt Deeks appeared in court and was sentenced to six months hard labor for larceny and receiving stolen goods (From the Book of Indictments Q/SPB 26 1853-1866). So young John, as he called himself, was only 15 or 16 years old and was late of the parish of Easthorpe at the time of his conviction. With the garrison town of Colchester near by where he was probably tried, he was likely given the chance to join the army instead of serving the sentence. Family stories told over the years indicate that Jonathan, just prior to coming to America, was serving in the British military and stationed in Canada. The only regiment that went to Canada at that time was the (17th of Foot) Leicestershire Regiment later given the title Royal. They had just returned from the Crimea and the old soldiers that remained in the regiment were a tough lot. Unfortunately, army records were only retained to support pensions and as our boy absconded, his records would have not been sent forward. As suspected, no records of him have been found in old War Office Records. The regiment no longer exists as it was amalgamated into the Anglia Regiment. While in Canada Jonathan deserted and slipped over the border into the US and he ended up in the Union Army. (Information about Jonathan's run-in with the law was researched and provided by Frank Clark.) Jonathan, along with a boyhood friend, was posted to Canada after joining the British Army. Considering Jonathan's colorful past, it's not surprising that he was involved in an altercation with a British officer, in which the officer wanted Jonathan and his friend to step into a mud puddle so the officer could pass. Because of this confrontation in 1863, he and his friend crossed the US border and joined the Union Army in Connecticut. They fought in the Civil War at Richmond and Petersburg at the time of the evacuation of these cities by General Robert E. Lee. When the war ended, they along with everyone else, walked away. On their way north, they came to a fork in the road and one said, "I'm going left", the other "right"; -- the boyhood friends never saw or heard from each other again. Shortly after the close of the Civil War Jonathan came to Berea, Ohio, where he started work in one of the smaller quarries near "The Rocks". He was actively engaged in quarry work in Berea for half a century, and was an employee of the Cleveland Stone Company for over thirty years. Jonathan married Anna Marie Gabel and they had eight children; seven boys and one girl.
Many residents of Berea worked in sandstone quarries along the Rocky River. John Baldwin began excavating sandstone sometime in the 1840s. The sandstone was made into grindstones which were used to sharpen tools. It was also used as building material. By the 1880s the Cleveland Stone Company was the only excavator of sandstone in Berea. It also had several other sandstone quarries in other communities in Ohio. Stone quarried in Berea was used in numerous prominent buildings across the United States and Canada. Berea became known as the “Grindstone Capital of the World.”
The Deex Name
There is disagreement by some Deex family members about the spelling of the family name. Some believe the spelling of the name was changed from Deeks to Deex somewhere along the line. Others believe that the name was always spelled Deex. The stories about the change, however, differ. Not one story is more or less plausible than another so I will tell the stories that I have accumulated.
This first story is as I remember my mother, Marion Deex, telling it: "Jonathan was caught trying to stow away on a ship headed for America and was thrown in a dungeon. Some days or weeks later Queen Victoria was touring her dungeons and took notice of Jonathan since he was so young (only about 16 years old at the time). Queen Victoria didn't like the idea of having a sixteen year old boy locked in the dungeons with hardened criminals. She reviewed his case and called him before her to impose a more suitable punishment which was: He would have his name changed from Deeks to Deex so as not to shame the rest of the Deeks family and then he was to be sent to Canada and serve as a border guard between Canada and the United States. At some point Jonathan illegally crossed the border and was able to become a citizen of the United States." Now, since the record of John Deeks being in prison found by Frank Clark verifies that he was in prison or at least headed that way when he was 15-16 years old at least verifies part of my mothers story. The part about Queen Victoria and the dungeon? Well, who knows.... but it is interesting....
This is what my sister, Carol Small, remembers: "Jonathan was in debtors prison in England. Queen Victoria reviewed his case and called him before her to impose a more suitable punishment which was: He would have his name changed from Deeks to Deex so as not to shame the rest of the Deeks family and then he was sent to Canada and served as a border guard between Canada and the United States. At some point Jonathan illegally crossed the border and was able to become a citizen of the United States."
This story was related to me by Oliver Deex: "Jonathan married a girl that was not acceptable to the rest of the family. The marriage caused a rift in the family at which time Jonathan changed his name and emigrated to America."
This story was related to me by Arthur Deex "Jonathan Deex (spelled that way) and a boyhood friend joined the British Army and were posted to Canada." Now this story has merit because Arthur has Jonathan's birth certificate which indicates a spelling of "Deex".
This is what a relative on the non Deex side of the family said: "Wasn't he "WANTED" for something in England?"
I personally believe that Jonathan changed the spelling of his name to Deex when he entered the United States. I also believe that the Deeks/Deex spellings were interchanged by various persons recording information of Jonathan's family in England. If you look at the 1851, 1861, 1871 and 1881 England census records for what I believe is Jonathan's parents and siblings, you can see discrepancies in the spelling between the census'.
My mother, Marion Deex, told me that if I ever came in contact with anyone in the Unites States with the last name of Deex that I was related to them because all Deex family in the states were decendants of my great grandfather, Jonathan Deex. In my research I have found my mothers statement to be true.
View the census records by clicking on the links below:
Thanks to Arthur Deex, Ollie Deex, Carol McCartney and Frank Clark for their contributions to the Deex family tree.