and Tales Illustrative
Life in the Backwoods of New Brunswick
Published 1845 - Mrs F. Beavan
When 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
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
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
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
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
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,
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 http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/beavan/backwoods/backwoods.html.
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.
LORNA McKENZIE XIXIS
94-1061 Aoku St.
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:
BARBARA F. PEARSON
476 Pearsonville Road,
Canada, E5P 1S6
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
Canada, E2E 1L3
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.
Canada, V0B 1G1
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
1092 Route 845
Canada, E5N 1K6
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.
Benn: Does anyone know if there are Benn family monuments in
the MacKenzie Corner Presbyterian Cemetery, Richmond Parish, Carleton County?
BARBARA BENN SPADA
778 Farmington Avenue
New Britain, CT
Email - email@example.com
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.
JOSEPH W. SMITH
287 W. Sabal Palm Place,
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
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.
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