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Memories of a Miramichi Lumberman
by Arnold J. Somers

Tomorrow was the day to head to the woods to start the winter lumbering.

Dad rummaged through the shelves in the back pantry for a large jam can that could be used to boil water for the making of tea over an open fire.

Mum cut thick slices of bread to make roast beef sandwiches, wrapped them in wax paper and placed them in the metal lunch boxes. In the morning they would be put in an orange crate that held hot bricks covered with an old woolen blanket in the hopes of keeping the bread from freezing before lunch time.

Heated bricks would also be used to put under the jute bags which had been stuffed with hay to serve as a cushion on the seat of the bobsleds.

Gram had a big darn needle and was mending a hole in one of the horse nose canvas feed bag that would be filled with oats and slipped over the horse’s head so they too could have a noontime lunch.

As Gram worked, she started to talk of the days when Gramp had lumber camps and she accompanied him to do the cooking for twenty or thirty men.

The 1994 publication, “Memories of a Miramichi Lumberman” by the late Arnold J. Somers, one of the last of the old time lumber contractors on the Miramichi River, shares many stories, including the four cent winter when in 1919 men were paid four cents for each railway tie or “sleeper” they made by hewing it from a log eight feet long and at least nine inches in diameter to the use of the portable sawmill that was able to cut huge numbers of hemlock trees into railway ties.

Mr. Somers was born in 1916 at his grandfather’s Taylor’s home at Halcomb, South Esk Parish in Northumberland County and spent his first birthday in a camp near the mouth of Parks Brook on the north side of the Little South West Miramichi, where his mother had moved to be with his father, who was working in the woods there.

It is of interest to note the important role played by the cook in the life of the lumber camp not only in preparing food for the stomach but in controlling the behaviour and manners of the men at the table.

The personal chronology of Mr. Somers gives one a look at not only the yearly events in his life, but of his relatives and his business ventures.

The Short and Tall Tales chapter is a small collection of quintessential New Brunswick anecdotes such as are found in every rural community in the province. Here mention is made of Ed Tozer hauling the mail by horse to and from the Little South West and the involvement with the post offices at Halcomb, Lyttleton, Sillikers and Sullivan’s at Red Bank. He was paid $24.00 a month. 

Jim Hamilton owned and operated a woodcutter and a threshing machine powered by a huge gasoline engine that had two monstrous fly wheels on it.

Lumberman Jack Hamilton often made wise decisions. Fellow contractor Wilbur Somers said: "Jack, how do you keep your men from cutting logs under 5"?  I can't seem to keep my men above the limit."  "Well," says Jack, "I tell my men to cut the logs to 6" but not to throw a 5" away."

One of my favourites concerned Willie Payne, who according to the author, had the quickest wit of anyone ever to live in Sillikers. He was asked one day if he had ever been caught in a lie. “No”, said Willie, “but I was often chased out of one lie into another.”

Memories of a Miramichi Lumberman” by Arnold J. Somers is available at several research institutions.

Query 1419
Edge - MacNaughton - Jack: I am continuously on the hunt for the origins of John Edge, "farmer" born circa 1815 in England and entered New Brunswick in September 1832 and settled in Upper Black River, Glenelg Parish, Northumberland County, New Brunswick. About 1838 he married Catherine MacNaughton in St. Mary's Anglican Church in Chatham.  He died 21 May 1896 and is buried in Black River. A possibly apocryphal family story says that four Edge brothers were shipwrecked in the Bay of Fundy, and that three went west and John went north to Black River. I also seek information on Janet Jack, born in England circa1791, entered New Brunswick in 1817, and about 1819 married Alexander MacNaughton (1789 Scotland - 1849 NB).  They too lived in Upper Black River, Glenelg Parish, Northumberland  County.
1110 Coopers Kill Road
Cherry Hill, NJ
08034, USA

Query 1420
Burnett: I am seeking origins of William Burnett 1766-1850 who resided in Norton, Kings County, New Brunswick and of his wife Mary Catherine Rupert.  He was believed to be Loyalist.
2229 Emerald Circle, Morro Bay
CA,  93442, USA

Query 1421
Dugan - Matthews: I am a descendant of Samuel Dugan, who died circa 1856 in County Down, Ireland. He married Mary Matthews 29 Mar 1835 in  Ballyroney, County Down, Ireland. Several of their children died in Davenport and Kortright, New York, USA. Is there a New Brunswick connection to this family?

Query 1422
Ireland - ElSlager: Joseph Ireland and Virginia ElSlager were married either in New Brunswick or Nova Scotia. Their daughter Mary Ann Ireland was born in 1842 in Nova Scotia. She married William W. Clark in November of 1858. 
118 Browns Pt. Rd.
Bowdoinham, ME
04008, USA

Query 1423
Lezotte - Bertrand - Lee - Brady - Hughes: Looking for the birth of Ephraim Lezotte circa 8 Aug 1841, supposedly born in Saint John, New Brunswick. Parents are Antoine and Angelique (Bertrand) Lezotte. He had at least three wives, Nancy Lee, Bridget Brady and Ann Hughes.
513 N. Cherry Ave.
Marshfield, WI
54449-2229, USA

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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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