The Diary of Alexander
The woodcutters worked steadily at cutting
Dad’s pile of firewood. At noontime they came stomping into the house. Quickly
and without conversation, they devoured a roast beef dinner.
When they had eaten their full, they pushed back their chairs and talked.
The hot tea and molasses cookies seemed to loosen their tongues. A heated
discussion took place on the exact date of death for one of the neighbours.
Finally they suggested Wilfred ask his wife to check, as she kept a very
accurate diary of local happenings.
Way back in time, a young Queens County schoolteacher named, Alexander
Machum Jr., who taught in a number of communities in Queens County and Springfield
in Kings County, kept a journal from 17 September 1845 to 23 July 1849.
Among the events he recorded were eighty-three deaths, twenty-three of these
being accidental including nine by drowning, and five cases of frostbite.
In 1953, an area in Queens County of New Brunswick was taken over to establish
Camp Gagetown. During the demolition of a building that once housed a store
in New Jerusalem, Captain Mervyn Thurgood of the 3rd Brigade, Black Watch,
discovered among a quantity of old papers in the back room, the one hundred-year
old journal of Alexander Machum Jr. He transcribed the diary and turned
it over to Professor J. I. Little of Simon Fraser University in British
David McKinney arranged to get a complete transcription of the twenty-nine
pages from Professor J. I. Little and has placed it on his website at http://personal.nbnet.nb.ca/davmc/1001.htm.
The first entry in the diary reads, “Sept. 17, 1845 - Mr. William
White had his plums stolen: they broke the trees considerably, and daubed
the sign-board all over with coal-tar: they traced the plum pits up to, or
above Reid's and the shingles on which the tar was down to the big bridge.”
“Mar. 6, 1846 - Martha Moore, aged 13 years 5 months and 3 days,
died, at my father's of consumption, her mother died the day she was born,
since then she lived with Mother.”
“April 20, 1846 - Jacob Spragg died of typhus fever, aged 20 years,
5 months, after an illness of only 3 weeks. His sister was to be married on
23rd inst. but they postponed it till the 30th expecting that he would be
better - hence they have to postpone it still further.”
“Jan. 17, 1847 - A Mr. Hardenbrook was found frozen to death near
Mrs. Jas. B. Lyon's, Long Reach. He had been to St. John, and was returning
home and most probably he got overcome with the fatigue and cold and
sat down to rest, and fell asleep. He was not addicted to intemperance, it
“Aug. 1, 1847 - Died at his residence on Friday last, John Appleby,
aged 83 yrs. He had received two paralytick strokes - the last of which he
got about a month ago. Rev. J. Bartholomew attended his funeral and gave the
attendants a very pathetic and affecting exhortation. He was buried on Bricker's
Hill August 1st 1847.”
“Jan.18, 1849 - At Half past 4 o'clock P.M., Elizabeth F. Inch and
I were joined in the bonds of wedlock at her father's, by the Revd. Christopher
Milner. My Brother James and Miss Sarah Ann Porter being our attendants.
There were about 60 persons in attendance. The day was clear and cold. On
the 19th an exceeding cold day we, with a company of about 35 persons assembled
at my father's where we remained till the 21st Sabbath - when we went to
His last entry, “July 23, 1849 - A son of Mr. Robt. Bulyea, aged
about 13 years, was kicked by a horse, yesterday evening, in the bowels,
of which he expired this morning. How uncertain is our mortal existence!”
The very interesting diary of Alexander Machum Jr. provides an
insight into rural life in the 1840s. It can be read on David McKinney’s
website at http://personal.nbnet.nb.ca/davmc/1001.htm.