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Reverend James Thomson a storied descendant of Miramichi

The Reverend James Thomson of Auchtergaven & Miramichi, his ministry, family and descendants.

The adults were complaining about the weather: snow one week with freezing temperatures, rain the next with howling winds strong enough to knock down trees in the upper pasture and blow shingles off the barn roof.

The one outing of the week was going to church but even that had been cancelled. Cabin fever was hitting everyone.

Finally, on Friday, the sun shone brightly and the air was crisp.

As we walked home from school, Cliff and I talked about going skating that evening in Bob's meadow. A full moon and a bonfire, where a group of our friends would gather, sounded like great fun.

When we entered the kitchen to ask Mum, however, she was not there.

It seemed the Rev. A. G. and his wife also had cabin fever. While he visited some members of the congregation, the missus spent the afternoon sitting in our livingroom chatting with Mum.

I could smell corn scallop. I expected they would be staying for supper. Hopefully the Rev. A. G. would tell some of the stories of his youth in Worcestershire, England.

Many ministers sailed across the Atlantic to take up the "calling" on this side of the water.

Although the Reverend James Thomson (1780-1830) was not the first Presbyterian minister to serve on the Miramichi, he was the first to locate in the former town of Chatham, where St. Andrew's Church was dedicated in 1817. That was a year after his arrival (with his wife and five children) from the parish of Auchtergaven, Perthshire, Scotland. His Scottish parish had been in decline, with a dwindling population, but the Miramichi community was entering a phase of rapid expansion. Many new businesses, churches, schools and other community institutions were being established.

In the mix of things, the Reverend and his wife, Catherine (McKay) Thomson, were important players, carrying the torch for a reformist version of Presbyterianism, providing spiritual guidance to a growing flock and taking on practical responsibilities such as management of schools and instillment of sound agricultural practices. They had five more children born in Chatham. The family had six boys and four girls before Mr. Thomson's premature death occurred in 1830, at age 50.

The biographies of some of the Thomson children are as engaging as the lives of the parents. Those of some of their grandchildren are even more so. Three children made their homes on the Miramichi - Dr. John Thomson, a leading surgeon in his day, Samuel Thomson, a lawyer in Newcastle, and Catherine Thomson, who, with her husband Rev. John McCurdy, headed another of the Miramichi's many remarkable 19th-century families.

Grandchildren included Dr. William A. Thomson, also a Miramichi physician; Christina (McCurdy) Haddow, the mother of two research physicians of national repute; Dr. J. Frederick McCurdy, a noted scholar in oriental languages at the University of Toronto; Lady Kate (Thomson) Stavert, wife of Sir William Stavert of Canadian banking and business fame; Dr. George Kerr Thomson, one of the founders of the faculty of dentistry at Dalhousie University; and Jean (Thomson) Aitken, the wife of Lord Beaverbrook's brother Traven Aitken, whose descendants are still among the titled members of the British aristocracy.

These and other members of the extended Thomson family are profiled in a new 86-page book entitled The Reverend James Thomson of Auchtergaven and Miramichi: His Ministry, Family, and Descendants, compiled by W. D. Hamilton with the assistance of Richard W. Turner. The book is published by Miramichi Books, of Saint John, in collaboration with Lightning Demand Press of Miramichi.

Lightning Demand Press (LDP) is a relatively new player on the book scene in New Brunswick. It publishes many books on a demand basis, the most significant of which, from the perspective of history or genealogy, are works of local interest which might not otherwise find an outlet. There are more than a dozen titles in this category shown on the company's website. These include a new edition of Miramichi folk poet Michael Whelan's Poems & Songs, reissued for the first time since 1895, when it sold for 35 cents; a new edition of Black River and Its Early Settlers by A. W. Macdougall, which was originally issued in 1935; and a brand-new history of the Miramichi's Beaubears Island, entitled Fair Winds and Rough Fortunes, by Shawn McCarthy. Copies of LDP's books may be purchased at Books Inn in Miramichi or through the online store at the LDP website:

Query 1773
Lolar-Turner-Coburn: Recently I came across a collection of poems written by Rev. David Coburn. One describes the race of Peter Lolar. He ran from Fredericton to Woodstock, arriving slightly ahead of the stage coach driven by Mr. Turner. Can anyone provide the date and details of this race?

Query 1774
Dickie-Watts-Nice-Neis: Theophilus William Watts, married Susannah Dickie in Nissouri Township, Ont., on June 20, 1847. One of the witnesses was David Dickie. Both Susannah and David Dickie's death records state their father is William Dickie. The Ontario censuses show David with father William, born in West Indies. Susannah was born in New Brunswick in 1829. I seek a marriage record in Kings County, New Brunswick, for William Dickie, born 1786 in West Indies, and Susannah Nice (Neis), as well as the birth confirmation of their daughter Susannah.
Contact Connie Sweetman by email:

Query 1775
Landry-Duplessis: Who were the parents and siblings of Edouard Landry, who married Marie Anne Duplessis (who may be of Indian heritage). They were living in Bouctouche in 1903.
Contact Donna by email:

Query 1776
MacDonald-Crane: Donald MacDonald was born in Scotland, circa 1745, and fought in the American Revolution. He received a Loyalist land grant - the Dugal Campbell grant - in Nashwaak, New Brunswick, and married Hannah Crane. He died in 1850. He was the oldest surviving member of the regiment living in the Nashwaak. I am trying to determine where he was born in Scotland (it may be Ayr) and details about his parents and siblings. I would dearly love to find any present-day relatives living in Scotland. Contact Lin Macdonald by email:

Query 1777
Smith: I am seeking information on the life and ancestry of Joshua (1813-1890) and Charity Eliza Ann (1823- 1889) Smith, parents of Dr. J. Newton Smith. They had a farm in Smithtown, Kings County, New Brunswick, where they raised six children. Contact Kay Dyer by email:

Query 1778
Townsend-McCready: Eliza Jane Townsend, born 1816, married William McCready in Sussex, Kings County, New Brunswick, in in 1832. They later moved to Ontario. Seven of their nine children were born in New Brunswick. Two were born in Ontario. I am seeking information on the parents and siblings of Eliza Jane Townsend and William McCready. Contact Paul Wilson by email:

Query 1779
Hayes-Hodgins-Pooler: I am a descendant of the Hayes family of Tay Creek, New Brunswick. Margaret Hayes, born, circa 1863, married John F. Hodgins. They had nine or 10 children, including Anne Hodgins Pooler. Seeking anyone related to or who has information about the Hayes/Hodgins family, including whether there is any native American ancestry. Contact Elizabeth by email:

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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