An Unsuitable Uncle

The strange story of Charlie Harwood who married his niece and my Great Aunt Mabel and lived in Bragg Creek, Alberta.


Charlie Harwood was born on 13 May 1874 at Wollston in Nottinghamshire. He grew to be 5ft 7.5 inches with brown eyes and dark brown hair. Like his father he was a bricklayer by trade, but in December 1892 he joined the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. He was part of the Tirah Expeditionary Force to the North West frontier in 1897 and also served with the South African Field Force 1899-1902.

However his service included two instances of desertion. He was sentenced to six months imprisonment for “failing to appear at the place of parade” while on active service. He returned to the Regiment on completion of his sentence but was in trouble again in 1904 for being absent and was discharged.

Charlie returned to Nottinghamshire and married Hannah Broomfield on 4th April 1904 in Eastwood, Yorkshire. He left for Canada without her almost immediately afterwards.

My Great Aunt was Mabel Sarah Lockwood and she was born in 1878 in Fulham. She was the eldest in a family of 8 children consisting of five brothers (one died in infancy) and three sisters. Three of her brothers were killed in WW1.

Mabel married when she was 30 years old on 25 September 1902 in Fulham to Frederick Hyatt who at that time gave his occupation as an Insurance Agent. The following year their son Victor Frederick was born.

The family left on The Corinthian bound for St John’s in New Brunswick in 1905. However, at some stage between then and 1908 they travelled to Calgary and settled there. Fred was a staunch socialist and became a militant Union Leader in Calgary.

One morning in 1909 Fred Hyatt reported that his wife and child were missing. The Calgary Herald reported this at the time but the next edition of the paper revealed that Fred had found them both at the house of Charlie Harwood. He asked Mabel to return home with him and when she refused a fight ensued between the two men, who were quickly arrested and jailed. They were fined for their behaviour the following morning. Fred then took his son Victor and returned to England to obtain a divorce citing Harwood in the papers.


RESPONDENT THRASHED. A remarkable letter was read to Samuel Evans the Divorce Court, during the hearing of the petition Mr Frederick Hyatt for dissolution of his marriage. Mr. Charles Harwood was cited as co-respondent.   The petitioner said his wife made a verbal admission, and when he asked her to put in writing she wrote -“I am glad that at last you have come your senses and know that I meant what I said when told you I had left you for ever. The man 1 am with now is the man 1 ought have married. Hyatt added that he gave the man a hiding, and ended with police court. His lordship granted decree nisi .

On learning that her husband had been cited as a co-respondent in a divorce case, Hannah Harwood now filed for their marriage to be annulled on the grounds that Charlie was actually her natural Uncle. Birth certificates were provided to the court showing the family relationship. It was alleged that Charlie was a ‘man of domineering nature and insisted on marrying his niece, telling her that the marriage would be a good one’.   In his letter to the Court, Charlie denied he had known she was his niece.

Mabel and Charlie then married and lived for a while in Calgary. Charlie enrolled for the Canadian Expeditionary force at the outbreak of WW1 but there is no record that he was required for active service.

Charlie bought some land in Bragg Creek which is about 40 kilometers outside of Calgary and made a home for his family. By now they had a little girl, called Verna Lois and they lived in a while he built their log cabin on land he had bought in 1916 and patented in 1922. He played the violin and sang and wrote poetry.

Mabel died from pneumonia and heart disease after the great flood of 1932 when she was washed into the Elbow river as the waters swept through their home. She is buried in Burnside Cemetry in Calgary, but there is no headstone. Charlie, however, has a military headstone in the same cemetery. On his death he was still receiving a pension from the Army.

The headstone is not Charlie’s most important memorial.  Back in Bragg Creek he has a road, Harwood Street, named after him.



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