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Sketches and Tales Illustrative
Life in the Backwoods of New Brunswick

Published 1845 - Mrs F. Beavan

hen Mum tore the January sheet from the calendar, Cliff and I realized Groundhog Day was going to be on Saturday.

We had a great idea!

On Saturday morning, we packed some jam sandwiches into Dad’s tin lunch pail and filled his thermos with hot cocoa.

We had on so many layers of clothing that we could hardly move.

Mum carried the bricks that had been heating in the oven to the sled and placed them under the bag of straw that was beneath an old quilt.

At eleven o’clock, off we took pulling the sled, down the meadow through the deep snow, to find the spot where the groundhog had dug a tunnel during the summer months. Once there, we sat on the warm straw seat with the quilt over our head and shoulders to protect us from the wind and commenced our vigil to see the groundhog come out at noon. The longer we waited the colder our feet and fingers became.

When the sun started to drop over the hill, we knew it was long past noon and nearing supper time but still no groundhog poked his nose out to tell us if winter was staying for another six weeks or if we could expect spring to soon arrive.

I wonder if way back in 1843 when Mrs. F. Beavan went to England, she told her friends about the groundhog who forecasted the length of winter in New Brunswick? She did tell them the ugliest animals were huge porcupines, and the boldest, were the beautiful foxes, which were extremely destructive to the poultry

Mrs. Beavan not only talked about being here, as in 1845, she compiled a 142-page publication, “Sketches and Tales Illustrative of Life in the Backwoods of New Brunswick - gleaned from actual observation and experience during a residence of seven years in that interesting colony.

One story concerns the frolic to move their home by placing it on two huge trees that had been hewed into a pair of gigantic sled runners. Thirty yoke of oxen, four abreast, were fastened to an enormous pole made of an entire tree of ash. With many shouts of “haw” or “gee” the house reached the site destined for it on the newly purchased two hundred acre lot which I assume was at or near Long Creek.

In telling of life in the 1840 time period, Mrs. Beavan mentions several people.

Melancthon (Lank) Grey wedded his cousin, Sybèèl. When visiting four years after the marriage the author reported that the couple were “getting along in the world” as many skeins of wool and woolen blankets were visible. Lank was called to his meals by the blowing of the conch shell. Since the sound from the shell travells well, it was also used to summon neighbours at a time of distress as well as guide a lost one home through the woods.
The Gordon home had a  frame building joined to the original log-house. One chapter details the tragic death of Kenneth Gordon’s first wife and family members.

Stephen Morris had come from England several years previous and wanted to get a new barn built before the haying season. He worked on hewing at the frame during fine days as well as on the rainy and cold ones. Thus, he became ill with Rheumatic Fever.

Grace Marley, the schoolmarm, was from Ireland. Leonidas van Wort came courting but after an embarrassing situation married his cousin Prudence Prague.

Isaac Hanselpecker remembered the burning of Miramichi during the summer his son, Jake, was born, and how on that day Washington Welford went off to get yoked to Ellen Ross. When the fire started, Isaac headed for the river with his wife and child. Suddenly a horse galloped through the flames with Washington Welford in the saddle, holding in his arms the scorched and blackened corpse of his beloved Ellen Ross.

Although Mrs. Beavan made no reference to her personal life, the website at provides information that Emily Elizabeth Shaw was born 1818 in Belfast, Ireland the daughter of Samuel Shaw, Master Mariner, and Isabella Pringle. Emily's father was a Sea Captain who made numerous journeys between Belfast and Dundalk, Ireland and Saint John.

She and her siblings came to New Brunswick. Her first teacher's license was granted on 18 Sept 1837 in Kings County where she was teaching in the Parish of Norton.

On 19 June 1838 at Sussex Vale, Kings County, she married Frederick Williams Cadwalleder Beavan, surgeon and teacher. Rev. Horatio Nelson Arnold performed the ceremony and the witnesses were George Baxter and D.P. Coffin. They then took up residence at Long Creek, New Brunswick later moving to Mount Auburn, English Settlement.

While farming at Long Creek, Emily also found time to follow literary pursuits and contributed at least ten tales and five poems to the Amaranth, the first magazine in New Brunswick to devote the bulk of its pages to literary materials.

On 4 Oct. 1842 Emily sent a petition requesting to have a teacher's license granted to her, enabling her to teach in Queens County as she 'found it necessary, in order to overcome the first difficulties of settlement, to aid her husband in his endeavours to provide a comfortable home'. Emily wished to set up a "Model School" which was a school used for training school teachers.

In 1843, with their children Alfred Spurzheim and Isabella Barbara, they moved to England where her husband took up the position of his recently deceased father as Surgeon at the Derwent Mines in Blanchland, Northumberland.

George Routledge of London published Emily's first book in 1845, titled Sketches and Tales Illustrative of Life in the Backwoods of New Brunswick, North America, gleaned from actual observation and experience during a residence of seven years in that interesting colony.

It was reprinted in New Brunswick in 1980 as  Life in the Backwoods of New Brunswick.

This publication which gives such an interesting glimpse into life in the 1840's is available at several libraries in New Brunswick. It can also be read online at

Query 1252
McKenzie – Hamilton: Hugh McKenzie born circa 1800, married Catherine Hamilton in 1832 in Pictou, Nova Scotia. He lived in Blacklands, Restigouche County from 1834 until his death in 1842 and had five children named Ann, Catherine, John, Janet and Barbara. Seeking information on Hugh’s birth date, place and parents.
94-1061 Aoku St.
Waipahu, HI
96797, USA

Query 1253
Pitt - Painting: Family members are trying to locate paintings done circa 1880 by Emma Jane Pitt, who was born in 1857 at Holderville, New Brunswick. If you have any information please contact:
476 Pearsonville Road,
Pearsonville, NB
Canada, E5P 1S6
Telephone 1-506-433-3569

Query 1254
Lester: I am looking for any descendants of Alexander E. Lester of Saint John, New Brunswick. He was born about 1843 and at the age of 18, in 1861 enlisted in the Union Army and fought in the American Civil War. He was killed in action at the Battle of Gettysburg on 02 July 1863.  Any information greatly appreciated.
3 Prince Road
Quispamsis, NB
Canada, E2E 1L3
Telephone 506-849-6433

Query 1255
Clark - Fritch: I am interested in parental  information on a Harriet E. Clark born 14 Sep. 1824 in New Brunswick who married Charles Wesley Fritch born 22 Nov. 1818 in Norton, Kings, NB. They were married 11 Oct. 1843 in Oxford County, Ontario. Charles's brother George M. Fritch married Harriet's sister. There seems to have been a Clark-Fritch connection in New Brunswick. I haven't been able to find any mention of Clark parentage on microfilm or gravestones.
3214 Beam Rd.
Creston, BC
Canada, V0B 1G1
(250) 428-5016

Query 1256
Jones - Wilson - Hawkes: James W. Jones (1878-1951) married Angelina Wilson (1883-1925) in 1903 and they had sons Austin Leonard and Elwood . Elwood Jones married Hazel Hawkes in 1931 and I am looking for their descendants.
1092 Route 845
Kingston, NB
Canada, E5N 1K6

Query 1257
Macdonald - Ryder: Andrew Macdonald was born circa 1850 in Salem, New Brunswick and married Sarah Ryder. He had a brother John and possibly Howard. I am looking for information on Andrew's parents. Family oral history has Andrew's father's name as either David or Daniel.
14 Old Standish Rd.
Buxton, ME 
04093, USA

Query 1258
Benn: Does anyone know if there are Benn family monuments in the MacKenzie Corner Presbyterian Cemetery, Richmond Parish, Carleton County?
778 Farmington Avenue
New Britain, CT 
06053, USA
Email -

Query 1259
Smith - Folkins: I am looking for information on my great grandfather Joseph Richard Smith, who married Sara Elizabeth Folkins on 4 Aug. 1851 in Studholm Parish, Kings County, New Brunswick. Any information about him and his parents would be appreciated. 
287 W. Sabal Palm Place,
Longwood, Florida
32779-6056, USA

Query 1260
Gilbert: My wife is a descendant of Col. Thomas Gilbert who went to Nova Scotia in 1783 and settled in New Brunswick. Does anyone have information to share?
8 Anchor Lane
Dover, DE
19901, USA

Query 1261
Hoyt - Crabb: Joseph Hoyt married Mary (Polly) Crabb sometime after his arrival in 1783 in Kingston. The youngest son, Isreal, was born in 1790.  We have no records of their marriage or the names of their four daughters.  His daughter Elizabeth married Mark Short in 1822. Any information would be appreciated?
133 Cherry St.
Middleboro, MA
02346, USA

Query 1262
Cox - Dykeman: Gilbert Cox, (the son of Dennison Cox) born 25 Nov. 1844, his wife Rebecca Ann (Dykeman) born 1846, their children Mary M. born 1864, James D. born 1866, Gilbert born 1867, and Robert born 1870 were living in Guys Ward, Carleton, Saint John, New Brunswick in 1872.  I can find no record of this family after this date. Any information will be greatly appreciated.
46 Candlewood Lane
Saint John, NB
Canada, E2K 1Z4

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Ruby M. Cusack is a genealogy buff living in New Brunswick, Canada. Send your New Brunswick genealogical queries to her at:  Include your name and mailing address for the benefit of the readers of the newspaper who do not have access to E-mail but could have information to share with you. Please put "Query" followed by the surnames in your query. For more information on submitting queries, visit
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