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Elizabeth W. McGahan's

Whispers From The Past 

Selections from the Writings of New Brunswick Women

Mum was very protective of her Waterman black fountain pen. She didn’t want me to use it as she was concerned I would bear down too hard and damage the gold nib. Tonight she made an exception when I told her of wanting to write, in my best penmanship, about the Valentine’s Day Party. I went on to explain that maybe in the years to come, someone would want to know the details of what we did to celebrate this occasion in our one-room school.

When Ken heard my idea and reason for recording the event, he burst out laughing.

In 1986, Dr. Elizabeth W. McGahan, of the University of New Brunswick - Saint John, gathered twenty unpublished writings from school girl compositions, diaries of young women, letters of mothers, minutes of women’s associations, notebooks of working women, recollections of personal experiences of ordinary women for her publication, “Whispers From The Past”.

The girls who attended the private Saint John school ‘Witanstede’ under the guidance of founder and principal Jessie I. Lawson contributed to the school paper, ‘The Witan”.  Ann Caryle wrote in 1916 of her first day in attendance having been home schooled by her mother in the West Indies until her father was transferred to this smoky city. Dorothy Tremaine reported on their annual sports day at Netherwood.

Ellen McTavish, later the wife of Timothy Warren Anglin, attended the Academy of Sacred Heart, Saint John in 1858.  Her letter to Bishop T. L. Connolly requests he again give them instructions on the virtues of St. Agnes on her festival day.

The diary of Ida J. Harding written in 1877 to 1880 has notes on her family, friends and neighbours. She was in Carleton, across the harbour from Saint John when the great fire broke out on 20 June 1877. On 29 May 1878, she attended with Annie, the ceremony for the placing of the cornerstone of the new City Hall. Since it was raining, they watched from the third storey of the Magee building. Interesting to note, Ida made mention of her mother getting her teeth on July 13. For Christmas, Ida received a mink cap and muff.     

The letters of thirteen-year-old Clara Winifred Fritz to her mother were written while on a year long trip to Indochina with her father, who was the Captain of the Troop vessel.

The diary of sixteen year-old  Emma Alice Pitt of Holderville written in 1873 overflows with news of family, friends, neighbours, the weather and much more. Throughout the writings, one gets the feeling that “F” was one of the fellows she admired.

Emma Forrester of Portland, Saint John was filled with rage in 1839 when she wrote a letter to Lewis Durant concerning the ill treatment her son had received at his hands, from the lack of proper sleeping quarters, sufficient food and the heavy and severe chastisement upon a sick and debilitated youth.

The letters Mary Louisa DeWolfe Moore, wife of John Warren Moore, a well known New Brunswick furniture maker of St. Stephen, wrote from 1879 to 1882 to her daughter, Emily, the wife of Senator Albert Nash of Harrington, Maine hold personal information of her children, their little ones, the neighbours and what she considers to be poor judgements made by her husband in his financial investments as well her wishes to the dispersal of some pieces of her furniture.

The Minutes of the Daughters of Israel which formed in Saint John in 1899 tell of the appointing at their first meeting a committee to look into any cases of the poor or sick, to assist them and where immediate help is requested, to report to the president. 

The “Haven” located on Broad Street in the South End of Saint John cared for the needs of young unwed mothers. The group’s seventh Annual Report of 1893 was written by A. S. Carmichael.

In 1912, Amanda Clark sent off a letter to Bishop Casey petitioning him to send a priest to say Mass at Havelock at least once a month. She also suggested he send Catholics to the area who might be interested in farming.

Elizabeth Innes’s diary and notebook starts in 1837 and continues with the occasional informative entry of community events and deaths, until December of 1844. She states she nursed 168 women in their confinement.

Eliza Donkin relates her experiences of leaving ten siblings in a country home to taking up residence with her mother’s brother, John Kerr in his handsomely furnished mansion on Prince William Street. His wife was the daughter of John Ferguson.

The author states, “These women were not recognized in their time as professional writers. . . The writings contain comments largely on the routine parts of life. They are not the dramatic echoes so typically recorded from the chronicles of the time, but rather, the whispers from Everywoman.”

Whispers From The Past - Selections from the Writings of New Brunswick Women by Elizabeth W. McGahan is available for viewing at several  research institutions.
Query 1436
Ponford - Dunham - Oliver: I am interested in anyone who is related to Joseph Ponford born 1780 and also Joseph C. Dunham, whose parents may possibly be John Dunham and Elizabeth Oliver.
88 Quail Hollow Dr
San Jose, CA.
95128, USA

Query 1437
Flewelling - Johnson: Wishing to obtain, occupation, date of death  and place of interment for Frank Murray Flewelling, born Oak Point, Kings County, New Brunswick in 1889. I also seek information concerning his wife Helen Johnson. The family moved to Calgary area where it is said he died.
149 Douglas Ave.
Saint John, NB
Canada,  E2K 1E5

Query 1438
Parker: David Parker married to Sarah - last name unknown. He was a private in the King's American Regiment. He was located in several counties of the St. John River Valley. Their children were David, John born circa 1803, Elizabeth and Samuel. I am interested in any ancestor or descendant information.

Query 1439
Parks - Cotton Mill: In the 1870's John H. Parks and William Parks owned Cotton Mills on Garden Street, near the Railroad Depot in Saint John. I seek information on the mills and their owners.
1184 Winrose Drive
Collierville, TN 
38017, USA

Query 1440
Carson - McMorris: Benjamin Allan Carson married Theadosia Jane McMorris on 14 Apr 1897 in Saint John, New Brunswick. They had three girls, Clissie Harriett, Mabel Adelia, and Phillis Violet. I am looking for information on this family.
6 Raynes Lane
Summerville, NB
Canada, E5S 1V1

Query 1441
Courtney - Berry: According to the Saint John Marriage Register, Andrew H. Courtney and Susan Ann Berry were married 29 Feb 1844. Can anyone provide information on their parents and a date of death for Susan Courtney? Any information on this family is greatly appreciated.
1860 Ashton Brook Lane
Buford, GA
30519, 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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