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Priceless look at rural N.B. life

Published Saturday June 20th, 2009

Supper dishes had been cleared away and Gram and her sister Tillie were sitting at the kitchen table and began to reminisce about incidents that had happened in the month of June in the years gone by.

They first talked of weddings. Then accidents seemed to be the topic.

Tears came to Tillie's eyes as she talked about the saw mill accident in 1905 that caused her Uncle James to lose his leg below the knee and how he died a few days later of infection at only 53, leaving a wife and eight children.

Gram corrected her and stated the accident was in 1904 as Art was only a few weeks old. This started quite a heated discussion.

Without saying a word, Gram went upstairs to her bedroom and came down with a tattered scribbler. Taking her seat, she began to turn pages.

"There it is" said Gram, "June 7, 1904 - Art slept through the night and did not wake until six this morning. We received the sad news that Uncle James died this morning as infection had set into the leg which had been cut off by the circular saw in his mill."

That wasn't the first time Gram had brought out her precious diaries to settle a point and it all came back to me as I looked over a new book The Diary of Flora E. Somerville the Lady of the Narrows edited by Graeme F. Somerville.

Flora Edith Folkins was born in 1887 in West Scotch Settlement, a rural community in Kings County, N.B., just south of the Queens County line. Her future husband, Reginald Lewis Somerville was born in 1876 in Mill Brook in Queens County.

In September 1918, Flora and Reg married and set up housekeeping in a new home built by Reg and now identified as 1587 Scenic Narrows Boulevard in Cambridge Narrows.

From the day of their marriage in 1918 and for the next 45 years Flora faithfully kept a diary recording the significant events in her community, the weather, crops, travellers, relatives, friends, the river boats, people arriving by mail (ie. with the postman) from the Central Railway Line at Codys, births, deaths, marriages, politics, the advent of radio, telephone, paved roads, electricity, television and so much more. From time to time Flora's sister, Nevolia Booth, and their niece Marjorie Jean (Ogilvie) Cochrane, made the diary entries whenever Flora was away.

Flora's Diary is one of those books that can be opened at random to any page and something of interest will pop out. I did this and put my finger on page 144, Aug. 16, 1928. "Reg took Ada, Les and I to Sussex to hear Hon. J. B. M. Baxter and Hon. Mr. Bennett. Large crowd there."

It is no surprise that Flora would mention R. B. Bennett, then Prime Minister of Canada, and J. B. M. Baxter, then Premier of new Brunswick for she mentions elsewhere in her diaries of their strong Conservative affiliation.

Running to more than 800 pages in two volumes, it is the largest published diary in many a year and may become a classic.

From January 2005 to December 2009, Graeme F. Somerville spent forty-eight months on proofreading, adding footnotes and writing the 66 page Index and Biography of Persons Mentioned as a special section in the second volume covering over 500 people and families whom Flora met throughout her long life which came to a close in 1978 when she was 91.

Flora has left us with a priceless look at life in rural New Brunswick for almost five decades of the 20th Century.

Your local library or historical society may have a copy but if you want to have one for your own collection it can be purchased from Graeme F. Somerville, 84 Beach Cres., Saint John, NB, E2K 2E4. Call 632-2020 or fax 634-8515.


Query 1670

Briggs-White - I am interested in finding the ancestors of John and Catherine (White) Briggs. John was born Native circa 1817, their children are George, James, Volenda, Margaret Ann, Phoebe, Mary, John and Harriet Jane. Their son George married Margaret Ann White on Jan. 14 1869.

Bob Briggs, 1 Winton Chase, Andover, Hampshire, SP10 2SE, ENGLAND. Email  - Wrong e-mail address

Ruby M. Cusack is a genealogy buff living in New Brunswick, Canada. Send your New Brunswick genealogical queries to her at:  Please put "Query" followed by the surnames in your query as the subject. For more information on submitting queries, visit

Ruby contributes a "Family History" column to the Telegraph-Journal on the third Saturday of the month.

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