I’ve written several blog posts regarding the Cannoniers of St Kitts. My husband’s great grandmother was Margaret Johanna Cannonier, born in 1868, daughter of a planter on the Lamberts sugar estate. Her father was John Henry Cannonier, about whom little is known. He was born about 1832, married Madeiran Eliza Cabral in 1865, and died in 1868 just 6 days before daughter Margaret Johanna was born. I have been searching for his family on St Kitts. There are quite a few Cannonier candidates, but how everyone is related is still not clear.
So how do the Cannoniers relate to newspaper publishing? There were two witnesses to John Henry and Eliza’s marriage in 1865 – one was George Goater, another planter who was married to a Susanna Cannonier (perhaps John Henry’s sister or cousin), and the second was H C K Cannonier.
H C K is likely to be the Henry C Cannonier born about 1841, who sailed to the United States in 1917. In the ship passenger list, Henry stated that he was only going to be in the states for three months, and he would stay with “adopted son C E Howe” on Campbell Avenue in Detroit, Michigan. Perhaps not coincidentally, Henry appears on the passenger list directly after two Challenger brothers, Neville and James, who were grandnephews of Eliza Cabral Cannonier through her sister Arcenia Augusta Cabral Challenger. Henry’s residence is listed as “Deepe Bay”, which would refer to Dieppe Bay, a town on the northern end of St Kitts that was home to a number of Cannoniers. I know from old property deed records in St Kitts that H C K Cannonier was involved in a conveyance transaction in the 1911-1918 time frame, so he was certainly still alive and active in St Kitts at that time.
C E Howe turns out to be Charles Joseph Evelyn Howe, another Kittitian who came to the United States, living in Detroit, then Chicago, Springfield Illinois, Houston Texas, and finally California. Henry C Cannonier died of stomach cancer only six months after arriving in the US, in Houston, Texas, living at the same address where Charles Evelyn Howe and his family resided at the time. Unfortunately, Henry’s parents’ names on his death certificate are both given as “don’t know”. A big question is why Henry referred to Charles Evelyn as his adopted son. Charles’s parents were Thomas Charles Howe and Mary Rawlins Clarke Todd. His birth record of 1872 states that father Thomas C Howe was the manager of the Lodge sugar estate.
Looking into the history of Thomas Charles Howe’s ancestors in St Kitts led to a Thomas Howe who married Ann Risden in Basseterre, St Kitts in 1766. The 18th century Thomas Howe is credited as starting the first printing operation on the island. He printed documents for the local government, and in 1746 he founded a newspaper called The St Christopher’s Gazette and Charibbean Courier. Howe also founded something of a family dynasty in the printing and newspaper publishing world.
One of Thomas and Ann’s sons, George Howe (1769-1821), learned the printing trade by working with his father in St Kitts. George relocated to London in 1790, where he worked at the London Times and a number of other papers. In a strange turnaround, he was convicted of shoplifting in 1799 in Warwickshire, and sentenced to death. The sentence was commuted to transportation, and he was sent to Australia as a convict in 1800. George seems to have prospered on the whole in Australia, becoming a government printer like his father, producing the first printed book in Australia in 1802, and publishing the new country’s first newspaper in 1803, the Sydney Gazette And New South Wales Advertiser. Pushing through challenges such as an old printing press in bad repair, shortages of ink and paper, and dead beat subscribers, he was rewarded with a full pardon and emancipation by 1806. After his death, his son and wife continued on with the printing and publishing business.
Was Henry C Cannonier related to the Howes of St Kitts in some way? Or was his position of “adopted father” of Charles Evelyn Howe based on a close friendship? That’s another one for the list of mysteries.
- Old Road Methodist Church marriage records in the St Kitts National Archives courtesy of V O’Flaherty, archivist
- Familysearch.org, Anglican church records (St George Basseterre) 1747-1968, microfilmed 1991
- Familysearch.org, St Kitts and Nevis Supreme Court Registry land records 1866-1990, microfilmed 1991
- Australian Dictionary of Biography, Howe, George (1769-1821) by J V Byrnes, 1966
- Bookhistory.net, George Howe Issues the First Book Printed in Australia, 2020
- Trove newspapers and gazettes, The Howes, Printers, First in Australia, by E M Walker, the Sydney Morning Herald Oct 1 1927