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The North West Miramichi

May 24 was a school holiday. The teacher said it was a day to think about Queen Victoria. To us, it was the day to go fishing.

Dark clouds loomed above, which meant heavy rain, according to Mum. But we had no intention of letting a little bit of rain ruin our day.

The brook was high, due to all the rain we had in the last week. Mum was certain we would drown if we fell in, plus high water made for poor fishing.

Dad suggested we go to Bob's meadow to what appeared to us to be just a ditch running through the field near the "Giant's Grave." He said Thelma caught her first fish there and it was a foot long.

I knew if we mentioned fish hooks we would get a lecture so I slipped into the back pantry and removed Gord's bottle of hooks from the catch-all drawer and put it in my pocket.

With a can of worms and our fishing poles, off we went, with no intention of fishing in the ditch, but hiking farther up the meadow to Amor's little brook. We were concerned Gram might spot us so we travelled along the woods until we got to the gravel pit.

Bad luck was waiting for us. Cliff got a bite and yanked his pole, causing his line to get tangled in the alder bushes. I leaned out over the brook to grab the bush and pull it toward us but I lost my footing. I stepped into the brook's cold water, which was higher than my rubber boots.

Just at that moment the heavens opened and it started raining.

We began to run but my rubber boots sloshed at every step, slowing me down.

By the time we burst through the back door, water was running off us as if we had fallen into the brook.

Mum brought towels and helped us change. We went into the kitchen and sat down by the oven door. My teeth were chattering so much, I could not talk. I wrapped Dad's red-and-black mackinaw jacket around me.

Doreen Menzies Arbuckle designed a mackinaw dust jacket for The North West Miramichi, a 463-page book on the history of that region. Published in 1978, it includes historical accounts of the Menzies, Sinclair, Curtis and Mullin families.

The chapters on the general history from 1534 to 1973 are informative for the novice or experienced researcher.

In 1787, the New Brunswick Legislature passed a Militia Bill, which stipulated that men from 16 to 50 years of age must enlist with the captain of a company as well as muster twice a year. A company was to consist of 50 men plus officers. There were strict regulations as to the supplies each soldier was to have in his possessions - probably at his own expense.

The New Brunswick's Guide Association was organized in Fredericton in 1899. By 1900, a 10-year ban on moose hunting had been lifted - inviting men on holidays to come to the Miramichi to hunt and fish.

Weather is a frequent topic in the book. The year 1816 went down in history as the "year without a summer."

William Davidson was the pioneer of the masting industry. In 1773, he enlisted skilled craftsmen from Great Britain to help build the first schooner in Miramichi.

William Martin was born circa 1741 and his wife Mary, circa 1729, in Scotland. In November 1773 they came to the Miramichi with daughters Jean and Mary Ann. It appears daughter Jean eloped with Robert Forsyth.

The Menzies line in New Brunswick commenced with John, who arrived in 1819. Twelve years later, he married Mary Ann Forsyth. They were the parents of 13 children. More than 20 pages, which includes several photographs, are devoted to this family.

The author offers several glimpses of the Miramichi by looking at education, punishment, road and bridge maintenance, industries, railways, health and welfare, strong drink, community place names, fires and floods, religion, churches, social life, recreation, local words and ancestry.

Photo: Courtesy Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, P226-39
Mrs. Stavart, Lou Harley and Paul Kingston, in the boat, are being pulled by Mr. Clark and his horse. The group was en route to Call's Pool in Northwest Miramichi, circa 1910.
Click to Enlarge

Photo: Courtesy Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, P6-16
A group of people aboard steamer Rustler (1899) are docked at Newcastle Wharf. Present are: Howard Crocker, Mrs. A. E. G. McKenzie, Mrs. C. D. Manny, Traven Aitken, Charlie Mitchell, Flos Sinclair, Jessie Fleming, Mrs. James Robinson, Mrs. John (Burky) Niven, Mrs. E. A. McCurdy, Ritchie Park, Byron Call, Celia Harris, Mrs. James Falconer, Mrs. Osburn Nicholson, Mrs. Emma McMillan, Mrs. J. L. Street, Mrs. John McKane, Bessie Bell, Mrs. Charles Butcher (Thomson), Randolph Crocker, Fanny Miller and Fred Yorston.

Query 1794
Donovan - O'Brien: Michael Donovan, contract farmer from Ireland, was born circa 1828, died 1904, Bath, Carleton County, married Mary O'Brien. Their son, Dennis William Donovan, was born in Johnville. on Oct. 03, 1863 and went to Emporium, PA., USA. Seek to corroborate family informants. Also seek other issue of Michael, and his Irish genealogy. Contact: Katherine Donovan Smith, email

Query 1795
Spence - Stymest: Looking for documentation of the parents of Samuel Spence, born Sept. 26, 1788 at Hersoyon, near Stromness, on the island of Pomonah, Orkney, Scotland. Married Deborah Wildly Stymest Dec. 28, 1815 in Saint John. Deborah was the daughter of Jasper and Milcah McKeil Stymest. Samuel was reportedly a "whaler," but after marriage was a carpenter, cabinet maker and master builder. In 1825, he moved his family to New York. In 1838, they moved and settled in the southern tip of Illinois. He died there on Oct. 31, 1855. Contact: Tom Palmer, email

Query 1796
Bowes - Smothergill: William Clarke Bowes, Jr., born in New Brunswick, circa 1846, went to St. Croix, West Indies, about 1866. There he married Julia Smothergil. Their son Archibald Bowes was born in 1888. I have found reference to there being an Archibald Bowes, who was a prominent Saint John tinsmith in the 1800s, where his building remains standing as a Historical Place. Need documentation on the Bowes family and information on the possible relationship between William Clarke Bowes, Jr. and Archibald Bowes. Contact: Daniel Smothergill, Syracuse, N.Y., email

Query 1797
Carey: Ellen Carey, with three children from County Kerry, Ireland, was listed as an indigent in Saint John, New Brunswick, in 1842. The indication was that her husband had deserted her and the three children. This could possibly be my ancestor Ellen Gore Carey and her three daughters, Catherine, Mary Ann and Bridget. Looking for information on what happened to Ellen Carey and her three children. Contact: Lawrence Roberts, Fayetteville, Pa., email

Query 1798
Shanks: Captain Walter Shanks, born Dec. 18, 1818 in Salt Coat, Scotland, emigrated to New Brunswick in 1885 on the S/S Manitoban. He was preceded by his son Walter and his wife Elizabeth plus their three sons Walter, Alan and Doug. I believe they settled on the Keswick Ridge. The home they built, later the Jacob Grant house, was destroyed, along with the Baptist Church beside it. Does anyone have any information on this family? The captain and his wife are buried in Douglas Parish, Keswick Cemetery. Contact: Gordon Shank, Calif., email

Query 1799
McNulty - Barry: John McNulty, born June 13, 1837 in Ireland, died September, 1909, in New Brunswick. He married Ellen Elizabeth Barry on June 11, 1861. I have found the family on the 1871 to 1901 census. Would like to know if land records, newspaper articles, directory listings or wills/probate records exist for John McNulty. Contact: Sheila Watts, Victoria, B.C., 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

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