Aids to English composition - John Caven

John Caven


John Caven (1826-1914)

John Caven was born on 6 March 1826 in Urr, Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland.

In the Scottish Census of 1861, John, listed as a teacher of elementary school, was living with his wife, Catherine, and their two young children (Catherine & William W.) at 32, 34, 36 Dundas Street in Edinburgh, Scotland. Also living with the family, was a young Irish domestic servant, Bridget Duffy, and two lodgers, John Corballie (a student of medicine), and Angelo Curris (an Italian musician).

John married Catherine Maxwell Rigg, their wedding took place in Edinburgh, Scotland on 18 November 1855.

John and Catherine had 5 children that were known: Mary (b. 18 August 1856), Kate E. (b. 8 June 1858), William W. (12 January 1860), John J. (b. 12 Dec 1862), Lucy M. (b. 20 March 1865) and Thomas Paul (b. 9 August 1866). All the children were born in Edinburgh, Scotland, however, there were only Canadian records found mentioning the four middle children: Kate, William, John and Lucy. Mary does not appear in the 1861 Census and must have died some time before that, and Thomas Paul died sometime before coming to Canada.

In 1869, John and his young family immigrated to Canada.

John started his Canadian career in journalism, working at the Charlottetown Herald but eventually returned to teaching.

He was the President of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, a society dedicated to helping needy families. It's mission is “to Live the Gospel message by serving Christ in the poor with love, respect, justice and joy". John was also locally well known as a fine vocalist, and was a regular performer with the Charlottetown Orchestral Club.

By 1879, John was teaching French and English at the Prince of Wales College, he also supervised student teachers at the Model School. His career at Prince of Wales College (PWC) lasted for twenty-one years, from 1879-1901.

John retired in 1901, and third year student, Athol Seaman, delivered an address to Dr. John Caven which was reprinted in the Charlottetown Guardian on 21 December 1901. A portion of the address is highlighted here:

Dear Sir- We have learned with regret that you intend to sever your connection with us, that at the approaching holidays you withdraw from the teaching staff of Prince of Wales College. Twenty-one years, we are told, have you been teaching here, a period that passes understanding for most of us, so long indeed that we have learned to consider you an integral part of the institution. To think of her was to think of you. Your geniality and gentleness lighted up many a lonely moment, and lent a warmth and color to the student life. You encouraged us in our toil, but you made us to see the fuller life of social kindliness... In the memories of those who have been students, student days are the brightest. For students of Prince of Wales, in these twenty one years of associations clustering about Mr. Caven must always be of the most pleasant and agreeable kind. This feeling will follow, does follow you, as you now withdraw the arduous work of teaching, and, go where you will be pleased to believe that you are accompanied by the best wishes of your students. May you long be spared to enjoy the quiet of later life...

Dr. John Caven died on 26 August 1914, and is buried alongside his wife at the Charlottetown Roman Catholic Cemetery. Catherine had died at age 58 on 20 August 1888, and John remained a widow for twenty-six years.

John's obituary was printed in the 27 August 1914 edition of the Charlottetown Guardian:

By the death of Dr. Caven, yesterday morning, Charlottetown has lost its most highly cultured cititzen- one whose ability was proved as teacher, lecturer, editor, poet and singer. The deceased gentleman was an octogenarian. He maintained his health, strength and spirits wonderfully, until within a few weeks of his passage to the unseen world. Educated at Edinburgh and in Rome he came to P.E. Island about forty-five years ago; and was for many years engaged as a professor of literature at St. Dunstan's College and Prince of Wales College, as editor of the Charlottetown Herald and in other capacities, -in all of which his extensive knowledge and power of finished literary expression were exhibited. For many years he was leading member of the choir of St. Dunstan's Cathedral. Dr. Caven is survived by four children, two sons, William in Montreal and John at home, and two daughters, Miss Kate at home, and Mrs. Birlinguet, in Three Rivers, Quebec. All his children were with him at his death. His wife, who was Miss Katherine Rigg, of Scotland, predeceased him twenty-six years ago.

UPEI's Robertson Library Provenance Collection includes the book, Lectures and Essays on Irish and other Subjects, by Henry Giles. The inscription in this book includes a stamp with the name Doctor J. Creamer Jr. and below that, written in pencil, is:

Presented to Prof J Caven.
By his friend Joseph Creamer N.Y.
Ch'town Nov. 25th, '77

Other John Caven books in the UPEI Provenance Collection:

de Quincey, Thomas, Confessions of an English Opium Eater. London: George Routledge and Sons, 1886. [Book includes two of John's signatures, both with the year 1898 listed below the name].

Napolean III. History of Julius Cesar. London: Cassell, Peter, Galpin, 186-. [Book includes John's signature and the date of 1864].

Sallustius, C. Cruspus, Opera Quae Extant. [John Caven's signature appears to be written over top of another unidentified signature. This is one of the oldest books in the UPEI Provenance Collection, published in 1786.]

Wetherell, J.E., editor, Cato Maior de Senectute, Toronto: W.J. Gage & Company, 1883. [Signed to John Caven, With the Compliments of the Publishers, W.J. Gage & Co.]


1861 Scotland Census Reels 1-150. General Register Office for Scotland, Edinburgh, Scotland. Parish: Edinburgh St Stephen; ED: 48; Page: 23; Line: 11; Roll: CSSCT1861_126

1881 Census of Canada. Census Place: Charlottetown Royalty, Queens, Prince Edward Island; Roll: C_13163; Page: 146; Family No: 700

1901 Census of Canada. Census Place: Charlottetown (City/Cité), Queen's (west/ouest), Prince Edward Island; Page: 1; Family No: 2

Death Registration for Catherine Rigg Caven. Prince Edward Island Public Archives and Record Office. Pre-1906 Death Index. St. Dunstan's Basilica R.C. Church., Charlottetown.

Death Registration for John Caven. Prince Edward Island Public Archives and Record Office. RG19/s2/ss6: Death registration books, 1913-1919, p. 196. Entry number, 8382.

“Dr. Caven” (obituary). Charlottetown Guardian 27 August 1914, p.3. Accessed from Island Newspapers on 6 December 2016.

Frederick's Prince Edward Island Directory and Book of Useful Information for 1889-1890. Frederick's Publishing Company, Charlottetown, Queens County, 1889, p.111.

“Professor Caven Remembered", Charlottetown Guardian, Saturday 21 December 1901, page 1. Accessed from Island Newspapers on 9 November 2016.

Scotland, Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013.

Scotland, Marriages, 1561-1910. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013, FHL File number: 993528.

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