Allison Mitcham has compiled stories of three remarkable Maritimers
Since Mum was busy ironing, I offered to help Cliff with his lessons. If the truth be known, I really liked playing the role of teacher. His assignment in English involved writing the meaning for ten compound words. I was certain that I could handle this, I wouldn’t need to ask Mum for assistance.
“Backdoor” was easy as this was a door in the back of a building. “Housework” was doing work in the house. Everything was going fine until we came to the last word, which was “milestone” and I didn’t have a clue what it meant so we had to seek help from Mum.
She explained that in years gone by, piles of stones would be placed a mile apart on the roadways to mark the distance to travellers. Gradually people began to say they had reached a milestone when they made accomplishments. For example, a fiftieth anniversary or a sixtieth birthday could be considered a milestone in someone’s life.
Today I have reached a milestone in my life as this is my two hundredth column in the Good Life section of the Saint John Times Globe.
According to the dictionary, genealogy is a record or table showing the descent of an individual or family from a certain ancestor. To those of us whose life has become almost consumed with doing family research, this dictionary meaning seems very cold. Then someone who has not been involved with genealogy might ask, "What is Genealogy?"
Genealogy to me is becoming so interested in the life of these people that you are researching that you want to know every possible bit of information about them. Although these individuals have been gone from this earth for many years, they become real people to us and we share their joys and sorrows as we ferret out the facts. It might be said that we feel like we are walking in their shoes.
Allison Mitcham certainly walked in the shoes of Silas Rand, Moses Perley and William Ganong as she prepared her publication“Three Remarkable Maritimers”dealing with their extraordinary achievements.
Brothers Israel and Oliver Perley and others travelled from Massachusetts by boat to Machias, Maine, and then struck off through the woods with their knapsacks on their backs to the Saint John River Valley. They settled on a large tract of a land which was later called Maugerville. Before Moses Henry Perley was born in 1804, his father was killed in an accident. Although his mother moved to Saint John, yet as a young lad Moses spent considerable time with members of the Perley clan in Maugerville. His older brother died in early childhood. These misfortunes brought him very close to his mother who married Caleb Merrit, whose death occurred when Moses was only seventeen.
Moses Perley became a lawyer and at the age of twenty-five he married Jane Ketchum. Death took its toll on their family with the loss of five of their nine children.
From his mid teens onward, Moses made frequent trips up the river to trade with the Indians and established close ties with the Malecites.
Between 1843 and 1858, he was the provincial emigrant agent, the man most concerned with shaping and carrying out New Brunswick’s immigration policies. Tirelessly he promoted New Brunswick as the potential Eden he envisioned. Later he became fisheries commissioner. On August 17, 1862, his death occurred on board the vessel, ‘Desperate” and he was buried at Forteau, Labrador.
Moses Perley was New Brunswick’s recognized expert on the province’s rivers, natural resources and fisheries and the foremost authority during the mid-nineteenth century on Indian affairs as well as its most able emigrant agent in London, England. Fortunately, he found time to share through writing much of his immense knowledge of the many subjects on which he was the uncontested expert.
Silas Rand was born on May 18, 1810 in Nova Scotia. His father taught him to read and to work the farm. His mother read to him and communicated her own great love of literature. At the age of twenty-three he took his first lessons in English grammar.
In 1846, he decided to become a missionary to the Micmacs. Although at this time nearly all the established religious denominations supported foreign missions, little attention, religious or otherwise, had been directed to the plight of the native people at home. Rand had a compulsion to also record and preserve the Indians’ linguistic and literary heritage.
Silas Rand was a part-time bricklayer, linguist, teacher, folklorist and missionary who defied conventions of his day. As a Baptist missionary he converted few since the Indians had already been converted to the Catholic religion by the missionary priests. Rather, he became a student of Indian languages and native spirituality, treating both with much respect. Today his transcripts of Micmac oral tales are familiar to many.
William Francis Ganong was born in 1864 in Saint John, the eldest of seven children. At the age of seven, the family moved to St. Stephen. Where his father and uncle established a candy factory. William was expected to go into the family business, but at an early age showed an interest in books, map making, and exploring the Passamaquoddy Bay.
Even before he finished his studies at the University of New Brunswick in 1885, he had joined forces with a number of other New Brunswick naturalists and historians who were interested in exploring the environment, past and present. Not only did he study the old maps and interpret them: he made his own maps, hundreds of them.
Ganong’s work formed much of the basis for the establishment of the New Brunswick Museum and especially the archives.
His first marriage was in 1888 to Jean Murray Carmen, sister of his friend and fellow Harvard student, New Brunswick poet Bliss Carmen. The marriage lasted thirty-two years until her death in 1920. His second marriage was to Anna Hobbett.
“Three Remarkable Maritimers - At once scholars and men of action, they shaped our vision of the past and present through their heroic, life-long endeavours - Moses Perley, Silas Rand and William Ganong” by Allison Mitcham is available for viewing at most research institutions in New Brunswick.
This biographical study of Nova Scotia’s Silas Tertius Rand, the celebrated missionary, educator, and student of the Micmac language and culture, and of New Brunswick's Moses Henry Perley, a man of action as Indian commissioner, Fisheries commissioner, Immigration agent and of William Francis Ganong - New Brunswick’s foremost geographer and historian explores the strengths and inspirations of each man in his time, and discusses the three men’s lasting influence.
Ruby is a genealogy buff. Readers are invited to send their New Brunswick genealogical queries to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. When E-Mailing please put Yesteryear Families in the Subject line. Please include in the query, your name and postal address as someone reading the newspaper, may have information to share with you but not have access to E-mail. Queries should be no more than 45 words in length.