Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Past Lives: Waterside

Times change, and when faced with adversity or dwindling communities, rural dwellers frequently move to more urban areas and leave their homes, schools, and churches behind.  Eventually most abandoned buildings fall prey to vandals and nature.

Waterside is a tiny community of farms and cottages on the shore of the Bay of Fundy in Harvey Parish, Albert County, New Brunswick.  First settled in 1805, by 1898 Waterside was a farming community with one store, three sawmills, one church and a population of 255.  Major landowners included families by the names of Anderson, Ackerley, Chandler, Downey, and Copp.

On present-day County Road 915 is the Waterside United Baptist Church Cemetery.  The original building was constructed in 1854 as the Baptist Meeting House of Roshea.  Later the United Baptist Church was built on the site in 1899 and dedicated in 1900 with a membership of 154.  In January of 2012, the church was struck by lightning and burned to the ground.  Its foundations are still visible but it's unknown as to whether it will be rebuilt.

A short way down the road is the boarded-up Waterside School.  At one time it served the communities of Waterside, Little Rocher, Anderson's Hollow, Roshea, and Dennis Beach.  However as the "consolidation" movement gained momentum and enrolment declined due to families moving out of the area, many rural schools were closed.  Waterside School closed its doors in 1967 and students now attend Riverside Consolidated School in the town of Riverside-Albert.

The area is now sparsely populated with fewer than 100 people but is known for its local wineries, scenic beaches, and the Cape Enrage Nature Preserve.

Photo courtesy of Phyllis and Melven Dewolfe, circa 2010

Thursday, 15 September 2016

It's Who You Know

My father's stories of his youth in the small city of Cornwall Ontario had an undercurrent of his parents' savvy in how they dealt with people.  His mother was able to get him into a French school when normally it was against the rules, because she knew someone at the school board.  And she also got him a job working as a machinist for the company that built the Saint Lawrence Seaway in the mid-1950s.

Due to a shortage of trained workers, men were brought in from elsewhere and they stayed on site or at the homes of many local folks.  One of the men who boarded with my grandparents was Peter Gauthier, who ended up being Dad's boss on the job as well as a good friend.

Early in the construction phase, a large building was erected near the Moses-Saunders dam site for storage and maintenance of machinery, as well as the fabrication of steel rebar supports.  Dad was a member of a group who were responsible for measuring and threading the rebar supports to order.  He worked at this for one and a half years until construction was completed.

Afterwards Dad's father found him a job at the Cortaulds chemical plant where he worked, to do quality testing on cellophane at a new facility next door.  In this job there were four teams that worked six-hour rotating shifts: three on, one off.  The shift schedule wreaked havoc with a young man's social life - he was unable to pursue much of a relationship or hang out with his friends.  So after less than a year Dad decided to quit and join the Royal Canadian Air Force with hopes of becoming a pilot which would provide him a steady job and income.

For almost two years he trained on various aircraft at Centralia Ontario, Moose Jaw Saskatchewan, and Gimli Manitoba.  One summer he had some leave time, and offered to drive home with one of his fellow students who was Dutch and wanted to see some of Canada.  The man found it hard to believe that it would take three days to drive from Moose Jaw to Cornwall, but Dad gave him a tour that he wouldn't soon forget.

Despite Dad's best efforts he failed an advanced flying course on jets, which disqualified him from the pilots' program.  However he retained fond memories of the experience and later in his life he often spoke of the first plane he flew, which was a yellow DHC-1 Chipmunk.

After his stint in the Air Force he returned home to Cornwall and made plans to marry and settle down, but that is another story.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Rural Mysteries

This is not related to my family but I found it intriguing nonetheless.  Recently I came across a post in a New Brunswick genealogy forum by someone asking for help with a mystery.

The rural community of Pokiok - from the Maliseet "a narrow place" - is located on the west bank of the Saint John River in Dumfries Parish, 60 km west of Fredericton.  A stream of the same name empties into the Saint John nearby and was known for its waterfall and gorge before it was flooded as a result of construction of hydroelectric installations in the 1960s.

Approximately three kilometers west of Pokiok is the intersection of Allandale Road, which leads south past Brown Lake to the former farming settlement of Allandale that at the turn of the 20th century had a population of 125.  On the east side of the road is a little cemetery with only two visible stones.  The larger stone is relatively recent and reads:

Site of Saint Dominic's Catholic Church
circa 1864 - 1979
In Memory of the Souls Interred Here
May They Rest in Peace
Erected and Maintained by Woodstock Council #2234 K of C

The other stone is much older and reads:
In Loving Memory of Our Children

Who were these people, and what happened to the site?

The only record concerning this site that seems to be available is a single mention in the New Brunswick Provincial Archives, where the cemetery is referred to as Saint Dominic's Catholic.  Despite exhaustive online seaching and attempts to contact the Catholic Diocese in New Brunswick I've been unable to find any other information on this now-defunct church.  If there were other stones here once, they are now missing or buried.

Archival maps and land grant indices show that there were four grants around Brown Lake to families with the name Simmons; most likely brothers.  According to census and burial records, they were Anglican of Scottish descent and many were buried in Barony which is 10 km away, so why would some be interred in a Catholic cemetery?

Possibilities include: 1. If they died from a communicable disease, burial would have to be swift to minimize the risk of passing the disease to others, and the Catholic cemetery was the closest burial ground available.  2. At that particular time the family was unable to travel the distance to Barony to bury their dead.  3. Some of the Simmons men married Catholic women, their children were christened in the Catholic church and so were eligible for burial in the Catholic cemetery.

Whatever the case, two stones and a few remote cottages are all that now remain of a community that housed families who were determined to make a living in the forests of New Brunswick. (Forests which, at the time of this writing, are in the process of being clear cut.)

Photo courtesy of Tim Scammell, 2016