Grace Ensworth

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Grace Dorothy Ensworth (1894 - 19 January 1947) was an English-Canadian resident of the Twin Cities and the first serious ballet teacher in the Lakehead.

Turn-of-the-century Port Arthur was a small, ethnically diverse town focussed on the primary resource-based industries of forestry and mining, with secondary industries in manufacturing. The local diversity, including immigrants from Ukraine, Finland, and Denmark, meant that a variety of cultural dance forms was part of the community, though training in ballet was not available. It was not until World War I that classical ballet classes were offered by Grace Ensworth, a ballet teacher who moved from England to the Lakehead.

— Sylvia Horn: Inspiring Generations by Jane Nicholas

Early life

Grace Ensworth was born in England in 1894 to Edmund Nugent Ensworth and Eleanor Louise Perrins. (Grace's marriage certificate spells her mother's given name as "Elinear", but this is surely a misspelling)

Sometime before 1918 she immigrated to the Lakehead in Canada.

In June 1924 she travelled from Montreal to Southampton aboard the Melita in England, arriving on 20 June 1924.

From 7 June to 26 September 1926 she took another trip to England, according to border crossing documents in Niagara. She departed 18 September from Southampton aboard the RMS Carmania, arriving in New York on 26 September.

Marriage and family

On 6 July 1927, in Fort William, Grace married Charles Joseph Boyle (19 May 1893 - 8 July 1966), a man born in Orillia, Ontario, [1]. He played music for her students.

At the time of her marriage she was living with Charles at 133 Bethune Street. They are both listed as Anglicans, and also with the United Church of Canada. Charles is listed as a "department manager" (possibly at Chapples?) and she as a "dancing teacher". He had previously been married to a Gladys Andrea Holliday (1894 – 1968) from 1915 - 1927.

Interestingly, the witnesses for the wedding are "C. CHAPPLE" and Grace's mother, Eleanor Louise Ensworth, perhaps the Chapple being related to the wealthy family that had the department store and sponsored the Santa Claus shows she started in the 1940s. (which were later taken over by Sylvia Horn)


Grace Boyle died 19 January 1947, at the young age of 54. [4]


  • Sylvia Horn (1914 - 2005), who ran dozens of annual revues and taught dance in Thunder Bay for 70 years from 1930 until the 2000s. Her legacy is at least three studios currently active and run by former students of hers.
  • Maxine Lecky (nee McKinnon) (1923 - 2018) [2] taught with Grace and then had her own studio until she moved to Edmonton with her husband in 1956. Lecky's Dance Studio in Edmonton has been running for at least 61 years up to 2020 now. [3]. "Maxine McKinnon was born in the city of Port Arthur (now called Thunder Bay), Ontario in July of 1923. At an early age she began studies in ballet, tap, highland dancing and figure skating. She became a very accomplished dancer with a great enthusiasm for her craft. In 1947 Maxine married Harry Lecky. In the mid 1950’s Maxine began teaching part time with her old instructor, Grace Ensworth and in 1954 she started her own studio! She rented the Finnish Hall in Port Arthur and began teaching classes on Saturdays. By the second year of operation she had over fifty students. In 1956, her husband Harry, a salesman for the Carnation Milk Company, was promoted to Sales Manager and was offered a transfer to Edmonton, Alberta. They were unhappy to close down their new studio and also sad to move away from their family and friends."
  • Cecilia Parker (1914 - 1993) was a Hollywood actress with over 60 film credits. "Born in Fort William in 1914, Cecilia Parker showed early promise as a “star pupil” of dance instructor Grace Ensworth. Newspapers called her the “child darling of Fort William entertainment.”" [4]

Grace ran the Chapples Santa Claus show in 1943. Sylvia ran it from 1959 to 1971. Sponsored by Chapples Department Store (a department store locally owned and operated; the premiere department store in Fort William, located where VictoriaVille Mall now sits; existed from 1915 - 1981).

"Chapples founded in 1915 as a family dry goods and ladies fashion store soon expanded to becoming Fort William's(now Thunder Bay) premier department store with branches throughout NW Ontario communities. They later built the "home store" shown above. Sadly Chapples closed for business in 1981 after an incredible run of business for almost 70 years." [5] [6]


[1] The Port Arthur Daily News and Port Arthur News-Chronicle 1915 - 1942

  • Ensworth, Grace M 6 Jul 1927 6 Jul 1927 p.3 To Chas. Boyle
  • Ensworth, Grace NEWS n/a 4 Apr 1929 p.2 Revue Review
  • Ensworth, Grace NEWS n/a 30 Mar 1929 p.2 pic New 1929 revue
  • Ensworth, Grace NEWS n/a 12 Sep 1928 p.5 Back-dance course in NY
  • Ensworth, Grace PIC n/a 9 Apr 1928 p.2 Annual revue
  • Ensworth, Grace PIC n/a 9 Apr 1927 p.3 To give concert
  • Parker, Cecilia NEWS n/a 8 Sep 1937 p.6 Entertains Grace Ensworth

[2] The Port Arthur News-Chronicle Chapples Santa Claus show NEWS 4 Dec 1943 6 Dec 1943 p.5 At Orpheum/Grace Ensworth [7]

[3] Ancestry

[4] Fort William Obituary Index