Heroes in our Family Tree
Since September was approaching faster than
what we would like to see, we wanted to spend every evening riding our
bikes not listening to relatives who thought it a great time of the year
Usually Mum’s rules were reasonable but this crazy one about sitting at
the table until the guests had finished their cup of tea and had risen
from their chairs was the dumbest thing I ever heard, especially when
some of them had an endless thirst and wanted to talk and talk politics,
farming, the old days and even the weather, while holding their teacup.
I was just about ready to push back my chair and make my escape, when
Gramp’s relative rose from his chair, but he was just getting up
to get another cup of hot tea from the teapot on the stove.
The fellow looked at Cliff and me and complimented us on our mannerly
behaviour. Then for some unknown reason, he asked us, “Who do you
consider to be our heroes in New Brunswick?”
Although Dad often remarked that I had been vaccinated by a gramophone
needle, I was lost for words. Cliff just shrugged his shoulders.
Now that I have left my childhood long behind me and have read books such as “Heroes of New Brunswick” by Arthur T. Doyle, I could carry on quite a discussion with him.
I would tell him about Samuel Leonard Tilley, who was born in
Gagetown in 1818. He quit school at age twelve and moved to Saint John
to work as a druggist apprentice. He was not only a successful
businessman and politician but had the dream of a great railway and of
uniting the Maritime provinces that led to Confederation. He coined the
term “The Dominion of Canada” and was responsible for having the inscription “from sea to sea” on the Canadian Coat of Arms. You can find his statue in King Square in Saint John.
Alexander ‘Boss’ Gibson, the monarch of Marysville, was six feet,
six inches with a white beard, controlled an empire of timberland,
lumber mills, railways, cotton mill, stores and a hotel. He was born in
Lepreau in 1819 to parents who had come from Belfast, Ireland. He left
school at an early age and worked as a lathe sawyer. His is a success
story of unbelievable wealth, yet he cared for his employees. But the
years brought some undesirable changes and the end of the era of one of
the greatest entrepreneurs when he lost his empire and was forced to
retire at age 89.
William Brydon Jack did much to shape and broaden the program of
studies of the University of New Brunswick and the recruiting of
outstanding faculty members. He also worked to improve the standardizing
of the surveyor’s chains and checking magnetic compasses. His wife was
Marian Ellen Peters.
Isaac Burpee was the son of a prosperous farmer, born in 1825,
Sheffield, York County. His ancestors migrated to New Brunswick
twenty years before the arrival of the Loyalists. He established himself
in the hardware merchandising business in Saint John. Politics
interested him and he became involved. He died in March 1885 with the
funeral taking place in the heaviest snowstorm of the winter. Yet the
procession was more than a mile long.
Dr. William F. Roberts created the first department of health in
the British Empire in 1918, which was the year an influenza epidemic hit
North America. Dr. Roberts prohibited for five weeks all gatherings of
six or more people, which meant the closing of schools, churches etc. He
initiated many new programs, with one being the vaccination of each
school child against smallpox. He insisted on compulsory wrapping of
bread, milk had to be bottled and could not be delivered in metal pails,
mandatory pasteurization of milk and several other public health
measures. A monument in front of the legislature in Fredericton
honours him, the man who used his political office to improve the
welfare of society.
Nan MacPherson Robinson was born at Maple Grove, Restigouche
County, the youngest daughter of Mary MacPherson and John
Robinson, whose ancestors migrated from England on the Mayflower. After
attending Mount Allison, the Boston School of Oratory, the Provincial
Normal School, winning literary competitions and being considered to be a
talented public speaker, she moved to Saint John and became the bride
of Edward Atherton Smith, the head of Smith Brokerage Company.
She became involved in the social life of the city as well as becoming a
prize winning golfer, curler, and loved cycling. Her life had a very
serious side which she used at the outbreak of World War I to form the
Royal Standard Chapter of the IODE, raising more than $60,000.
After the war, she took on the task to establish a Tuberculosis
Hospital, a nurse’s home for the Saint John General Hospital, the
Women’s Canadian Club, first president of the New Brunswick Provincial
Council of Women, the Rosebud Day to raise money for the Children’s Aid
Society and a Milk Fund for undernourished babies and the list goes on.
She was considered to be one of the leading public service volunteers of
In his 1984 publication, Arthur T. Doyle also reveals information on the
life of: Milton Gregg, Edward Barron Chandler, Kenneth Colin Irving,
Timothy Warren Anglin, Harrison & Wallace McCain, Charles G. D.
Roberts, Josiah Wood, Antonine Maillet, Pierre Armand Landry, Henry
Ketchum, Rev. Clement Cormier, Louise Manny, Pascal Poirier, Bliss
Carman, Charles Ingraham Gorman, Jabez Bunting Snowball, Margarida
Krause, Samuel Hawkins Napier and Hiram A. Cody.
In 1996, Dorothy Dearborn gathered information on twenty-three of
New Brunswick’s Unsung Heroes - just very ordinary folk who were ready
to help, when they saw the need, with no thought to their own safety.
Eleven year old Eileen Day (Neal) rescued thirteen-year-old Clarence from the waters of Courtenay Bay in 1929.
In 1932, four little boys set out to find the moon at the bottom of a mine shaft in Minto. The youngest was little six-year-old Joe O’Leary who was a tagalong to Cyril Stack, Vernon Stack and Allan Gaudine. When the three older boys fell from the ladder into the shaft, Joe ran a half mile to get help.
Stanley Whitenect and Mrs. Lewis had no thought for their
own safety when they rushed into a burning house on McLaughlan Road in
East Saint John to rescue two children in 1972.
The details and circumstances are given for the forty persons who
received the Medal of Bravery awarded for acts of bravery in hazardous
circumstances presented by the Governor General of Canada.
As we compile our family histories, some of us will find heroes in our family tree who may have not been publicly recognized.
The details we record of school days, occupations, businesses
owned, places of employment, addresses of the buildings called
home, and the experiences of family members will give us a better
understanding of these people we refer to as relatives or ancestors,
whether they were rich or poor and give them their place as our