Grand Manan and the Great War (Part 24)

Part 24- Grand Manan Society Before the Great War

            In the decade prior to the beginning of the war in 1914, Grand Manan society was going through a transformation not only in technological change affecting local communities and the economy but in how families worked and played. Fraternal organizations were sprouting up all over the island. Social groups and clubs were becoming increasingly active among younger men and women of the island.

Patriotism for the Crown surged following the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 and the new reign of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. This may account for the rise in civic pride and formation of local groups across the island communities. In the spring of 1902 some forty young men from the island signed up as members of the newly formed Ashburton Club, named after the famous Lord Ashburton shipwreck of 1857. A newspaper correspondent reported that their objective “is to advance the social, intellectual and moral state of society in not only its members themselves, but in society in general by public entertainments and lectures…” Of the membership, mention is only made of four brought up in newspaper accounts including Charles W. Duke, Allan Moses, James Murphy and William Flagg, all of North Head. (St. C.C. 15 May 1902)

Their first major initiative was inspired by five teenage girls, Emma Calder, Helen (May) Flagg, Gussie O’Donnell, Lizzie Robinson, Blake Robinson, and Shirley Kent, to establish a new park on the Whistle Road to be called Alexandra Park after the Queen. Duke and Moses took the lead as Park Commissioners and with the help of the young girls sponsored fundraising efforts to prepare the grounds and buy materials for a crosswalk and gateway. (St. C.C. 8 May 1902)

In addition to teas held in Covert Hall at the Church of the Ascension by the young ladies, two of them-Calder and Flagg- were escorted by Club members to Saint John on the ferry where they raised an additional sixty-five dollars by approaching prominent business people in the city. Likewise, Charles Duke collaborated with Edwin Calder, the local customs collector, and, music director, to promote the talent of the cornet band from North Head by putting on several fundraising concerts.

To also aid in the establishment of Alexandra Park, an oil painting of Flagg’s Cove was donated by prominent marine landscapist, William E. Norton of Massachusetts, who was married to a local girl, Sarah Ryan, whose family lived on Whale Cove Road. Auctioned off by the Commissioners in Oct. 1902, it fetched an additional $100.00 for the park. (St. C.C. 15 May 1902)  On Dominion  Day, or as we now know it as Canada Day  on July 1, 1903, the Ashburton Club launched an official public opening for the park ending the day with “a grand hop”, furnished with music by the Brown Brothers Band from Grand Harbour. (St. Andrews Beacon, 9 July 1903)

Stimulating lectures and presentations were not the only activities enjoyed by the members of the Ashburton Club. Just before Christmas, 1905, the organization collaborated with the Cornet Band once again to form the first basketball team on Grand Manan. Their members persuaded Grand Harbour to also build a team to enter competition. (St. C.C. 26 Dec. 1905)

Not to be outdone, the young ladies of North Head did not sit by idly. By July, 1902, the Young Ladies Mutual Benefit Club was formed and spearheaded by Sarah Moses as President, Maud Kent as 1st Vice President, Helen Ingersoll as 2nd Vice President, Mary Burnham as Secretary, and, Florence Dalzell as Treasurer. Their first major project over the coming year was an effort to support the establishment of a public library through a donation of books to be temporarily located in a building contributed by Ebenezer Gaskill. (St. C.C. 17 Sept. 1903)

During the decade before the war, Grand Manan society was also getting used to more music recitals and events from the mainland that could now take advantage of regular and dependable ferry service on the “Aurora” from St. Stephen, St. Andrews and Saint John by way of Campobello and Eastport. Especially after 1905 and for years to follow, special excursions were conducted aboard the “Aurora” around the island. In August, one hundred and eleven people took advantage of the fine weather and moonlight to relax on the trip around Southern Head and up the back of the island back to North Head enjoying music on board.

New fraternal organizations began to flourish as communication and travel became easier. By 1904, Orange Lodge Harbour Light No.55 became organized at Grand Harbour with C. J. Foster, J.D. McDowell, D.I.W. McLaughlin, Burton Cook and Fred Carson among the executive.  It joined the Knights of Pythias already formed on the island in 1896 and the Templars of Honour of the Sons of Temperance, Northern Light Temple No. 5, organized by Dr. G. B. Noyes in North Head by 1887. In October, 1905, Woodward’s Cove saw the establishment of the Mananook Lodge No. 38, A.F. and A.M. with twenty founding members. Sister lodge members from Maine and across New Brunswick attended the inaugural ceremonies. Rev. Abner McNintch, George Dakin, Ward Foster, John Howell, Lloyd Dakin, Frank Ingersoll, W.A. Fraser, LeRoy Ingalls, John Ingersoll and E.E. King were installed as officers.

Likewise, an Independent Order of Foresters joined the other community groups in August, 1903. It was formally referred to as the Harbour Light Court of Foresters headed by a Chief Ranger to provide benefits to its members and society.  Initially their meetings were held in the Grand Harbour school building but by 1905 they enjoyed new meeting quarters in the building at Tatton’s Corner constructed by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F).

Influenced by outside contacts, the most unusual organization to evolve was promoted by Dr. Melville DuVernet Jack in Grand Harbour who practiced medicine on the island since 1892. Partnered with Roland Ashton Guptill from Woodward’s Cove, the two young men formed “a club for training in the Japanese science of wrestling and self defense”. (S. J. Daily Sun 26 Dec. 1905) It seems their efforts lasted less than a year when Dr. Jack announced his departure for a new position in Montreal.

Recitals and musicals were a popular form of entertainment throughout the island communities. Larger events were held at Covert Hall or later at the K.P. Hall. One of the captivating concerts was performed by an island boy. Charles Howell, son of John Howell, a sailmaker, who operated a loft in Grand Harbour, was invited along with students of music teacher, Miss Florence Dalzell, to put on a concert displaying their many talents. The difference for Charles was that he was enrolled in the Halifax School for the Blind, a condition he had lived with since childhood. To the surprise and delight of the audience, he played a solo on the piano. Through a system developed at the school, he could read and play the system of embossed characters on music sheets by learning notes first with the right hand and then the left, memorize the notes and finally play the arrangement. (St. C.C. 12 Sept. 1907)

All of these organizations were to feel the impact of war when many of their young members enlisted or were called up. Over 100 answered the call, thirteen did not return and many other survivors following the conflict would be drawn to new lives in other parts of the world. Grand Manan, like other communities after the Great War, would never be the same.


Library and Archives Canada

Vital Statistics, Provincial Archives of New Brunswick

Saint John Daily Sun

St. Andrews Beacon

St. Croix Courier, St. Stephen