Grand Manan and the Great War (Part 18)

Part 18- The Two Carson Boys

            Over the last one hundred years a great many family names on Grand Manan have disappeared from the community landscape. Some of these included families such as Levy, King, Lawson, Fraser, Moran, and Pentz. Another family in this category which contributed to the war effort in 1915-6 was the Carson duo of Roy Livingston and his nephew, John Ronald.

Roy’s father, Robert, born in Londonderry, Ireland, came to live permanently on the island from Saint John about five years after marrying Emily, daughter of Martin and Eliza Daggett, on Nov. 29, 1865. He likely was drawn to Grand Harbour by his occupation as a house joiner which he learned from his father, William. Over the next decade he built a strong reputation as an architect and master carpenter and passed those traits along to his eldest sons, William Standish and John Frederick. By 1900 the family of builders were credited with building many residential homes across the island. Moreover, they specialized in construction of and renovation to churches like the Church of the Ascension and the North Head Baptist Church, the Advent Christian Church in Woodwards Cove, St. Paul’s Anglican Church and Hall and the Grand Harbour School.

Perhaps because of their success, Roy Livingston Carson, born June 17, 1876, the third of five boys and one girl was able to eventually attend Provincial Normal School in Fredericton in 1893 to study as a teacher. During his first year of attendance, his father died on June 26, 1894, after suffering from chronic Bright’s or kidney disease. After returning home, in addition to teaching in the Seal Cove School where he boarded with William and Mary Russell in 1901, he gained an early interest in religious instruction and over the next two years assisted in services at St. Paul’s and also at Trinity Church in St. Stephen. (St. C.C. 6 Aug. 1903) At the end of the school year in June, 1903 Roy gave notice that he planned to attend college where he would take Holy Orders. However, on July 9, 1903, Roy and his siblings were hit again by the sudden death of his mother Emily from an attack of appendicitis. The St. Andrews Beacon reported that the interment “was unique from the fact that Mrs. Carson’s son, Roy L., preached the funeral sermon, and her four other sons acted as pall bearers.”

In early September a newspaper notice announced that he enrolled in Bishop’s College in Lennoxville, Que. to study for the ministry. (St. C.C. 17 Sept. 1903) While there he met and married Claribel Taylor, also a student at the college, in Sept. 1907. By this time Roy was already acting as a lay reader in the Diocese of Fredericton and assisted the rector in Burton/Oromocto and Fredericton Junction. During his stay in the Junction, his youngest brother, Harold, came to visit and offered his carpentry skills to St. Andrews Church in constructing a pulpit. While engaged in this activity he was introduced to Lillian Davis and eventually married in 1910.

Roy and Claribel must have returned to Lennoxville for him to finish his studies and ordination. By 1911 he was assigned to the Anglican parish in Westmount and possibly Phillipsburg near the Quebec/US border. It was from here that they learned of the declaration of war against Germany. By March, 1916, Roy felt compelled to step forward and volunteer to enlist at a Montreal recruiting office and take his medical exam in Sherbrooke. Leaving behind his wife and two children, Roy Jr. and Rhoda, he made his way to Valcartier for training. Upon arrival in England aboard the S.S. Lapland, he was assigned to the Canadian Army Medical Corps, A Section, No. 2, Field Ambulance Depot as a Private. While at Camp Shorncliffe, Roy was transferred to the 115th Battalion and appointed Acting Corporal. By November he was attached to the Military Hospital at Bramshott but suffered from tonsillitis which evolved into a bronchial flu. For the next six months he was in and out of hospital until a full recovery in March, 1917.

By August, Roy came closer to the front when he was taken on at the 2nd Canadian General Hospital at Le Treport, France, a small town located 25 kilometres northeast of Dieppe and centre for three major hospital units and a convalescent depot. Later in the war one more Canadian and two American hospitals were opened. During his assignment he transferred to the Chaplain Service with the rank of Honorary Captain which he held at his discharge on June 7, 1919.

Back at home, Claribel and the children had left Lennoxville in early 1916 when she took a position at Rothesay Collegiate School where she seems to have spent the duration of the war. Possibly before his discharge she attained a teaching position in Windsor, Nova Scotia, at Kings Collegiate School. Certainly by the spring of 1921 both of them were on the teaching staff at the college and resided there until 1926. By June of that year Roy travelled to neighbouring Maine to visit St. Andrew’s-by-the Lake with the Episcopal Church at Seal Cove near Southwest Harbor, Maine. Officially he accepted a permanent position with the church in 1927 just as he turned fifty-two. Roy served the community for the next decade but then suffered a stroke which claimed his life on November 23, 1938.



John Ronald Carson

            Ronald Carson pre-empted his uncle Roy when he enlisted in the 115th Battalion in September, 1915 and left for training at Camp Sussex when he was barely seventeen but accepted as eighteen. Although the public saw the enlistment with other islanders totaling eighteen recruits who left for Saint John in October as pure patriotism, there may have been another personal motive for young Carson. Just three years earlier, Ronald’s father, William Standish Carson died on April 10, 1912 at age forty-five after suffering for seven years with the increasing effects of tuberculosis. For the last twenty years, he ran a successful house carpentry business initially with his father, Robert, and then his brother, John Frederick.

At his death he left behind his widow, Claudia, daughter of John Anson Ingersoll, well respected Captain of the Grand Manan ferry, and Delia (Ingalls). In addition to Ronald their remaining family included fourteen year old Roberta and Claude, aged eleven. With such a young family it must have been exceedingly difficult for Claudia to raise her children in a fishing community. Thus it is not surprising that Ronald saw enlistment as a means to earn a steady allowance that would be available to his mother. Many recruits viewed a soldier’s pay much more attractive than trying to scrape out a living wage in the fishery. In turn they could pledge their pay as an allowance for a widowed mother; in this case, an amount equal to $40.00 per month, far better than the average fisherman.

It was nearly a year before he finally shipped out from Valcartier to Halifax on July 23, 1916, arriving in Liverpool, England, eight days later. The delay in going overseas may have been due to Ronald contracting influenza in April, 1916, and being hospitalized in Saint John Military Hospital and then followed by measles while stationed in Quebec. He barely got to Camp Bramshott for further training before departure for France when he came down with conjunctivitis. Following a complete recovery from the eye infection, he got transferred in November to the 58th Howitzer Battery.

At Milford, England, the artillery training ground, Ronald was soon taken on by the 14th Brigade, a reorganization of the 58th, presumably because of depleted ranks due to increasing casualties from the battle front. By August, 1917, he finally reached the shores of Harve, France, and transported to an area near St. Pol. The town is located 34 kilometres northwest of Arras, the scene of fierce fighting for Canadian troops. At the cessation of hostilities, his unit returned to Kimmel Park Camp in England where he embarked on the SS Belgic for Canada on April 16, 1919 after being officially discharged.

With his return to Saint John it appears Ronald may have only paid a short visit to his mother and siblings in Grand Harbour. While away in the war, his mother, Claudia, married Wesley Newton, widower and merchant, on Jan. 25, 1917. Soon after his reunion on Grand Manan he sought employment in St. Stephen where he took up mechanical work. Here he met and married on Nov. 17, 1920, Jennie Louisa Stuart, a post office clerk and daughter of Robert and Anna (Spinney) Stuart of St. Stephen. Within two years the couple moved to Salem, Massachusetts where Ronald was hired by the New England Telephone and Telegraph Co. as a cable splicer. Later in the decade the couple had two children, Jerome and Claudia. Ronald lived out his days in Salem where he died Oct. 30th 1969.