Mum had gone to Sussex for an eye appointment so Cliff and I were spending the afternoon at Gram's house.
Several years before I was born, she had broken her hip and had been left with some disabilities. She was unable to lean down and pick up a box. She asked us if we would go into the spare bedroom to get the box of pictures that had been pushed under the bed. She wanted it brought out and placed on the kitchen table.
Although I had seen these pictures on many occasions, I never tired of looking at the collection of lumbering photos.
Gramp, his brothers and father had lumber camps. For many years, a photographer by the name of Mr. Blois would visit the camp and take a picture of the group.
In one of the pictures, Gram wore a long dress and a big white apron as she was the cook. The children were left at home under the care of Belle. Gram went wherever Gramp was logging, to do the cooking for a crew of more than twenty men.
We took each picture that had been glued on black cardboard from the box, and she told us where that camp had been. She explained that good lumber land was not always easy to find and sometimes the lumber camps were in deep woods far from home.
As she looked at one particular picture, she remarked, "Your grandfather lost his shirt that winter." Cliff asked, "Did he ever find it?" She chuckled and didn't give him an answer.
In the 19th century, the lumber business in New Brunswick was subject to extremes of prosperity and depression - and nowhere more so than on the Miramichi where the great lumber firms of Gilmour, Rankin & Co. and Joseph Cunard & Co. were engaged in dog-eat-dog competition. The 1830s saw thousands of lumbermen flock to the Miramichi to work for these and other lumber tycoons, but the collapse of the Cunard firm in the late 1840s brought on a depression more severe than any which had preceded it.
In the late 1840s and early 50s, single men and families left the Miramichi in droves heading mostly for the deep woods of Aroostook County, Maine, or to find work in the lumbering industry which was just getting started south of the Great Lakes, in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.
While these were the directions taken by most, a migration also got underway
from the Miramichi to the white pine forests along the Susquehanna River
in central Pennsylvania. "A gold mine of pine," it was said, stood
in Clearfield County, Pa., which drew not only laborers but entrepreneurs
who dominated the industry in the decades which followed. Men bearing Miramichi
surnames such as Flynn, Chaplin, and Murphy made a lasting mark in the lumber
industry in Pennsylvania, and they and the many others who moved there to
work for them
created a Miramichi legacy in the state which is now being rediscovered by some of their descendants.
Among those to join in the migration to Pennsylvania were several members of the McTavish family of the North West Miramichi - men from McTavish Farm, the name given the big sturdy house which John McTavish (1775-1852), a former Scottish soldier, built from stone which had been used as ballast by lumber ships on their return voyages from Britain. This remarkable house was later owned for a time by Lord Beaverbrook and is still occupied today - as a regular family residence.
It was John McTavish's grandson and namesake John McTavish (1836-1876) who first left McTavish Farm to go to seek his fortune in the pine woods along the Susquehanna. The exact date of his departure is not known, but he was living as a single man in Clearfield County when the 1870 census was taken. And it was there in 1873 that he married Matilda Root. The following year a son William Duncan McTavish was born to the couple. On Oct. 21, 1876, tragedy struck this family, John McTavish died as the result of a logging accident leaving his two-year-old son and a pregnant wife. A little daughter was born on Mar. 16, 1877 but she died at the age of three years. Matilda remarried and much of the McTavish family history was left silent until information arrived concerning the estate of a relative, Major Hooper Urquhart who had died in Kamloops, British Columbia in 1939. William Duncan McTavish was apparently an eligible heir to Major Hooper Urquhart's estate. In 1942, his son James Mirrel McTavish traveled to New Brunswick on his father's behalf to obtain the necessary information to verify the claim for the inheritance.
In January of 2000, Gail McTavish Perrone of Malvern, Pennsylvania, a great-granddaughter of the John McTavish who had migrated to that state more than 140 years previously, used the slips of paper with the scanty information on relatives that had been brought back from New Brunswick fifty-two years earlier as a starting point from which to delve into her McTavish roots.
The internet provided her with another clue - the website of Barb Garland-Stuart of Riverview, New Brunswick had many of her family connections. Through E-mail messages Barb informed Gail that the Family Bible of Duncan and Anna Frances McTavish was in her possession. These were the parents of Gail's direct ancestor, John McTavish, the younger, and his date of birth in the Bible.
Gail's goals are to write a family history of not merely names, but to "flesh out" these ancestors and understand their lives as well as determine exactly where John McTavish, the elder, was born in Scotland and how he may have been related to Donald, Tavis, William and Christina McTavish, who were also early emigrants to the Miramichi. She plans to travel to Scotland in October but first she is coming to New Brunswick.
Gail is currently visiting our province until July 20 and plans to meet with Barb Garland-Stuart and actually touch the Bible her ancestors held so dear. She desires to stroll the same paths her McTavish ancestors walked near the big stone house along the banks of the North West Miramichi and learn everything possible concerning the lives they led there in the last century.
If anyone can provide information or advice helpful to her search, contact
her at GMPatDobs@aol.com
* * * *
Armstrong - Murphy: I am desperately seeking information on the families of my grandparents both maternal and paternal on my mothers side. My grandfather was William Armstrong and his wife was Mary Murphy and they both lived in the Saint John area. William was found frozen to death in front of St. Rose's Church, his family parish. The time of this event is expected to be between the birth of his youngest daughter in 1905 and 1911 when his wife and family relocated to the U.S. William and Mary had eight children all of whom were born in the Saint John area. Any information that can be provided will be gratefully appreciated.
-Kathleen M. McCloe, 4086 Adventure Way, Arcadia, Florida, 34266. E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ruby M. Cusack is a genealogy buff.
Send your queries to her at email@example.com.
(Please put Yesteryear Families in the subject line.) Include your name and
mailing address for the benefit of those who do not have access to E-mail.