Webb family letters
Graeme F. Somerville's
"I take my pen in hand"
Ruby M. Cusack
We had to sit in our seats in the little one-room school during the beautiful warm days of September thus we really looked forward to outdoor activities after supper. The turning back of the clock certainly cut into the evening play hours. Mum seemed to think this was great move as she said the long evenings would give her time to take her pen in hand to write to relatives.
Thanks to Graeme Somerville’s publication, “I take my pen in hand”, the clock has been turned back to the 1800s through the letters of the Webb family to reveal the life and times of a pioneering New Brunswick family.
Noah Webb, the patriach of the family, migrated from Westchester, Cumberland County, Nova Scotia to New Brunswick in the 1820s. The letters of Noah of New Jerusalem (now in the Base Gagetown area) and of his four children James, Reuben, Isaiah and their sister Mary E. (who married Andrew Forbes), as well as a dozen other writers run from 1853 to 1893 and cut deep into the temper of the times. News of marriages in the community, squabbles in the neighbourhood, schooling, buying and selling land, the shortage of cash and the need of credit both when buying and selling produce and supplies are a constant thread through the pages.
In this book Graeme refers to himself as “editor” and consequently the
145 letters have been retyped in their original text with many footnotes
and introductions to each letter. It was customary with many folks in the
19th century to write phonetically and many letters would be one paragraph,
no matter how long the letter might have been. These would make reading
difficult but such problems have been greatly reduced by the editor having
broken up the letter into paragraphs, all the while retaining the original
spelling. Here is a sample of part of a letter of 1857 from Noah Webb in
New Jerusalem to his son Reuben in Hainesville:
|Dear Son, I take this opportunity
of wrighting a few lines to you to let you know that we are in middling
Health at preasant thank you and hope these lines may find you well.
¶ I got a few lines from you dated Aug.11th informed us that you was well which gives us pleasure to and that you hay done well with you.
¶ I saw Wm. Ogden and he told me that you was well and that your crop on Mr. Rice Did well. and that you was building a house I hope you will be care ful about going in Debt above your means of paying.
¶ You expected that I got
a Deed it had not been sent to the record office and I have not settled
the survey yet as I named it to Jhonson
After the word ‘Jhonson’ the editor has inserted a footnote explaining James Johnson had bought from Noah 150 acres, being Lots 7 and 8 in Kemble’s Manor (New Jerusalem).
In the 1850s several members of this Webb family bought lumber and farm land in Hainesville, outside of Fredericton. Consequently many letters deal with stressful transactions between the family members, some of whom were in New Jerusalem and others in Hainesville.
All in all the book gives fresh insight into pioneer life in New Brunswick. As the cover says “I take my pen in hand is a story told in plain unvarnished words through over twelve dozen letters, written at Queens County and York County kitchen tables in the 19th century.”
"I take my pen in hand" is fully indexed and thus makes it easy to find any particular family that is mentioned (and there are scads of them) or any association, place or company. Ten appendices include seven that are devoted to genealogical tables.
Surnames of persons mentioned in " I take my pen in hand."
Allen, Appleby, Armstrong, Atherton, Bailey, Barker, Barnett, Bartholomew,
Barton, Beckwith, Bell, Belyea, Bess, Bill, Billings, Black, Blair, Bleakney,
Blither, Bogle, Boone, Boyd, Brewer, Britain, Brown, Burden, Burgess, Burns,
Burtt, Cahill, Camp, Campbell, Chaloner, Christy, Chute, Clark, Clay, Colter,
Corbett, Coulter, Crabb, Crabbe, Crawford, Crouse, Cunningham, Currie,
Cusack, Daley, Day, DeLong, Dennison, Dibble, Dickie, Donald, Doolin,
Dorn, Douglas, Dunavon, Dunn, Dunnins, Dunphy, Duplisea, Durgan,
Eateman, Edmondson, Elder, Elliott, Estey, Flaglor, Flewelling, Forbes,
Fountain, Fowler, Gilbert, Gillins, Golding, Good, Graham, Graves, Gunter,
Haines, Hainey, Hamilton, Hanson, Harrison, Hartley, Hastey, Herrington,
Hersey, Hill, Howland, Hoyt, Hunter, Hurd, Inch, Ingraham, Jamieson, Jeffrey,
Jenkins, Jewett, Johnson, Jones, Kee, Kilburn, King, Kinghorn, Kitchen,
Knox, Lawrence, Lindsay, Lockey, Lovegrove, Lowery, MacDonald,
MacAfee, Machum, MacKenzie, Martiel, McCart, McCracken, McCrae,
McCready, MacFarlane, McFawn, McKean, McKeen, McKiel, McKim,
McKinnon, McLean, McLeod, Merritt, Miller, Mitchell, Moore, Moorehouse,
Morgan, Neales, Nicholson, Nisbet, Noble, Ogden, Oldenburg, Palmer,
Patterson, Pender, Perkins, Peters, Polley, Prescot, Price, Prime, Pugh,
Purrington, Reed, Reynolds, Rice, Robertson, Rolston, Rushton, Russell,
Saxby, Secord, Scovil, Selfridge, Sharp, Shepard, Short, Skerit, Skinner,
Sleep, Slipp. Smith, Sproule, Stackhouse, Stephenson, Steritt, Stewart,
Stickney, Sutherland, Taylor, Thibeaudeau, Thompson, Tilley, Tracy,
Tredwell, Tripp, Trites, Troop, Tucker, Vallis, VanBuskirk, VanWart, Veysey,
Veasey, Vincent, Wales, Walker, Wall, Wallace, Webb, White, Wiggins,
Wiggs, Williams, Wilson, Winslow, Woods, Woodworth, Worden, Yerxa.
The book is an absolute treasure of information and is fascinating reading.
It is available from Graeme F. Somerville, 84 Beach Crescent, Saint John,
NB, Canada, E2K 2E4. Telephone (506) 632-2020. The cost is twenty-five
dollars plus three dollars shipping.
More books have been added to
Ruby M. Cusack is a genealogy buff living in Saint John. Send your queries to her at: 47 Jean St., Saint John, N.B., Canada, E2J 1J8. Or E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your name and mailing address for the benefit of those who do not have access to E-mail. Please put Family Surname followed by the word 'Query' in the subject line. That is "Smith & Jones" - Query.
Ruby has a "Family History" column in the Telegraph-Journal on Tuesdays