Monday, April 22, 2019

#52 - King's College, Roycroft Hospital and The Battle for Hill 70

Jack McCurrach served in World War I.  Unlike his brother William, he did not make it through unscathed.  But also unlike his friend Dick, he did not die.  He was wounded in August, 1917 in or near Lens, France and spent some 8 months in hospital before being re-assigned to the Stationery and Typewriter Service in London.

Within the postcard collection, the only indication that Jack was overseas for WWI comes in the form of my favourite postcard of them all.  A coloured photograph of King's College at the University of Aberdeen, it was sent by Jack from Nairn on January 25, 1919 to his 5-year-old daughter, Gladys, in Vancouver.

It makes me cry, because of the note on the back:  "My Dear Gladys  Nairne 25-1-19.  Your Granny says to tell you she wishes you and Mommy were here today as well as Daddy.  I hope you are well also Jack and Jim and the others.  We have fine weather here.  I hope I'd soon be back in dear old Vancouver with you all again.  A kiss to you all from Daddy."

The change in address on the back tells a tale of its own.  Nellie was working at a maternity hospital on Haro Street in Vancouver.  The hospital was called Roycroft and would have been a private institution.  By the looks of it, Nellie was also living there and had Gladys with her.

Kings College was founded in 1495 in Aberdeen.  It was the third university to be built in Scotland and the fifth on the British Isles.  William Elphinstone that year petitioned Pope Alexander VI on behalf of King James IV to build the institution to help battle the ignorance he had seen within his parish and in the north generally.  Construction of the chapel began in 1498, it was consecrated in 1509, and by 1514 had 42 staff and students (Wikipedia). George Keith (of the Keiths of Keith Hall), the fifth Earl Marischal, established a second university in Aberdeen in 1593.  

Ahead a little over 300 years, Jack was wounded at Lens, France on August 22, 1917 (if you are interested in looking for the personnel records of someone who participated in the C.E.F. during WWI, check out Library and Archives Canada's search engine here).  At the time he was a member of the 47th battalion C.E.F. and saw little front line battle before getting wounded.  The WWI engagement known as the Battle for Hill 70 took place in August, 1917.  Hill 70, as it was known, is located to the north of the city of Lens in France.  Lens is in the administrative district now known as Hauts-de-France, and within the district of Pas-de-Calais.

Operation Order No. 78 was sent out on July 25, 1917.  The final objective was to force "... the enemy to evacuate LENS, (and with this in mind,) the Canadian Corps has been ordered to capture Hill 70."  The decision to focus on capturing Hill 70 (and not the city itself) was the first big decision for Arthur Currie who had just been promoted to lieutenant-general (Capturing Hill 70 p.3).  The Operation Order, as well as my great-grandfather's experience, tells us that the battle did not exclude the city - rather, targets imperative to communications and troop movements to and from the city (specific trenches and the Lens-Grenay Railroad) were attacked at the same time.

Soldiers in a recently captured trench near Lens (Library and Archives Canada MIKAN 3404807)

Hill 70 was taken in the battle, but the city of Lens remained in the hands of the Germans at the end of August.  Hill 70 and the fighting in Lens ended up with huge losses with Canadians losing 9,000 soldiers and Germans losing and estimated 25,000 between August 15 and 25, 1917 - more than the Second Battle of Ypres.

View next postcard post

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Notre Dame and why we should care.

I was sitting in an Indigo (book store) on Monday, checking out "A History of Scotland" by Neil Oliver and killing time before a lunch date, when the woman beside me asked if I'd seen the news.  I'm always, always leery of people who talk to me when I'm out.  I wonder if they are crazy (like I'm not - LOL) or what they want from me.  I wonder if they want more of me than what I can offer at that moment.  But this time, this nice, older lady just needed to talk to someone about a fire halfway across the world.  She told a couple of other guys - I showed them pictures on the Internet.  

Then everyone I talked to for the rest of the day was sad - heartbroken, even - about this fire in France.  

Everyone on Facebook was talking about it, too.  And I started to see a few people talking about how you shouldn't care about it because it's the Catholic Church, or because it's a symbol of repression or colonization.  And I realized that these people don't understand my point of view and were making some pretty broad assumptions about why people care.  So I posted this this morning on Facebook:

I'm seeing so much bullshit on the Internet about why we shouldn't care about Notre Dame having a fire - somehow we are bad people for being upset - that we should somehow consider ourselves bad, politically-incorrect people because we are sad about the potential loss of a symbol of colonization and the pedophiliac Catholic Church. But I'm not upset for those reasons. I am upset about Notre Dame because it is a physical representation of our history - one that millions of people see every year. And so many of us have experiences there - or at least have seen pictures and know a bit of what it's about. It ties us to the past, it gives us roots, reminds us of how people can accomplish amazing things regardless of the politics and religion involved. But MOST IMPORTANTLY it gives us a point of reference that we can share with most of the world. It belongs to us all in one way or another. 

If Angkor Wat in Cambodia (the Taj Mahal in India, the Great Pyramids in Egypt, L'anse Aux Meadows in Newfoundland, Tikal in Guatemala, Petra in Jordan, or any other historic icon) was destroyed or damaged in a fire or other disaster, I would be just as saddened - the only difference being that I haven't personally been to Angkor Wat or any of those other places and would be just a little more devastated for having NOT seen them. For me, this has nothing to do with Europe, nothing to do with colonization, nothing to do with religion. Nothing to do with my personal heritage.  This is a piece of the built environment that unites us. I think people are finding that hard to understand because we are now being encouraged to divide instead of unite. We are encouraged to attack Catholics, the wealthy men willing to donate to rebuilt it, the colonizing Europeans. Can we just sit for a moment and appreciate this landmark that so many of us are moved by?

FINALLY!  Finally I dug down to the bedrock of my core beliefs.  I found the answer to that question that so many people have asked me over the past 30 years:

Why do we study the past?

This question covers them all:  why do we care about the built environment?  Why do we care about Neanderthals and Homo Erectus?  Why do we care about the peopling of North America?  Why should we care about slavery?  Etcetera, ad nauseum. 

I can't tell you how many times people have asked my why I did archaeology.  Or why we should care about history.  Most recently (on our local Edmonton news): Why should we care that the Rose Country Inn (1904) was destroyed by fire?  Watch me try to explain it (not very well) here:

The pat answer was always someone else's - you should study history, for those who don't are doomed to repeat it.

And that is a really, really good reason to study history - sometimes it feels like we're forgetting everything that came before.  Sometimes it feels like the lessons of history are being mocked, ignored, destroyed - but that's another topic altogether.

We study history because we can learn from past mistakes.  That answer always covered part of it for me.  And it was reasonable.  But it didn't cover everything about that question.

And then Notre Dame caught on fire.  

And I wrote that piece this morning.

And after that I had an epiphany:


History brings us together.  The Notre Dame fire drew heartbreak from all over the world and joined us all together while we held our collective breath to see how things would turn out.  Because people all over the world know what it is, where it is, and at least loosely know how it fits into the past.  People all over the world can appreciate the craftsmanship that existed at a time when technology was much simpler than it is today.  People can collectively discuss this building from many points of view (even the ones I don't appreciate) and can converse on the topic.  We preserve our built environment and study the past because it provides us a place of common knowledge and emotion.

Notre Dame has stood for centuries.  Perhaps Captain William Fraser of Brackla (maybe a relative) saw it when he was with the 92nd Gordon Highlanders overseas.  Richard Grant almost certainly went to Paris during WWI when he was on leave in December, 1916, and sent three lovely postcards to a family friend in Nairn.  

And perhaps my great-grandfather Jack McCurrach saw it when he was in France during the war.  A place like Notre Dame can connect generations.

I was lucky enough to see Notre Dame cathedral when I visited Paris briefly in 1986.  I couldn't remember if I had gone inside - it was so long ago that I don't have an actual memory of it.  But I knew I'd been there.  And thanks to the few photographs I took on a crappy camera, I now know I DID see the inside.  

Most importantly, though, I can talk to other people about it and come together in community to celebrate it's architecture, mourn the damage, and remind others about why we should care.  We are one - and Notre Dame is part of all of us.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

#51 - Mount Carmel, Two Distilleries, a Mausoleum, and King's College Aberdeen

The two Banffs I grew up knowing were the 20,000 square kilometre Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada, and the town of Banff within it.  I've driven through the park more times than I can count - I consider it part of my backyard.  Named after the town in Scotland, and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it has grown into one of the major tourist attractions in Canada with an annual visitation of over 4 million people and a population of around 7500.  It is one of the most beautiful places in the world.  

Moraine Lake in Banff National Park.  Photo by Florian Fuchs.

I always imagined that to have such a place named after it, Banff must be a large city in Scotland and maybe have some mountains.  But by North American standards, there are no really large cities in Scotland, and the mountains are in the Highlands.  Glasgow is the largest city in the country with a population of nearly 600,000.  

Banff, Scotland, in contrast to my expectations, is a very small northeastern town of about 3800 people situated on Banff Bay on the North Sea.  I've previously posted about a postcard from Scotstown, a small area in the west part of Banff.  History, however, does not rely on the size of a community, and the original Banff has an intriguing past.  As I've come to learn, my family has roots pretty deep into in that area.

According to Wikipedia, Banff's first castle was built to repel Viking invaders (who did most of their Scottish plundering in the 6-9th centuries).  My Ancestry DNA results show a 2% Norwegian and 1% Swedish connection at this time.  Looks like a Viking or two might have slipped in there WAY back.  By 1163AD, Malcolm IV was living at that castle in Banff and 101 years later the first recorded Sheriff of Banff in 1264 was Richard De Strathwan.  Robert the Bruce bestowed a chapel to the Carmelite Friars and confirmed it to them in 1324 along with the land for the erection of a church and monastery just to the south of the community.  In 1372 Banff was granted Royal Burgh status by the grandson of Robert the Bruce: King Robert II - who was the first Stewart monarch.  Banff, along with Aberdeen and Montrose, was one of three major exporter of salmon to the continent of Europe by the 15th century.

Banff is situated to the north and west of the River Deveron (previously known as Dovern) which divides Banff from Macduff and flows into the north sea.  A successful bridge crossed the river in 1779 after the first one failed in a flood.  Upriver from that bridge, in a forested area where the river turns south, is situated Hospital Island, and on the north side of the island is an old weir.  It is at that spot that the Mill of Banff used to stand.

William Robertson (one of my 4x great-grandfathers) was a distiller at the Mill of Banff Distillery (which existed from 1826 to 1863).  This is well documented on at least two of his children's birth records, the 1841 census:

and in a notation in The Annals of Banff (1893) by William Cramond, referring to a grave marker in the Old Church yard in Banff:

Here's the actual headstone:

Photo courtesy of the Banff Preservation and Heritage Society

The Elizabeth referred to on the grave marker is the same one on this death record from 1870:

You'll note that (1) Elizabeth Robertson was born a Fraser, (2) she was the widow of William Robertson (brewer / distiller / vintner) and (3) she died at the Blacksmith Croft at Blairshinnoch Banff, which I have discussed in length before - this was where my 3x great grandmother (Grace Fraser Robertson) and 3x great grandfather (James Steele) lived and where James and his son, Alexander Milne Steele were both blacksmiths.  These documents come together in irrefutable proof that these documents are all discussing the same woman.

To sum up:  Elizabeth Fraser and her husband William Robertson ended up at the Mill of Banff Distillery by at least 1828 and were still there when William died in 1843 (and I can rightly claim that a drop or two of whisky runs through my veins).  

Earlier, in 1824, on Grace Fraser Robertson's birth record, we see that Elspet and William had been living at or near Brackla as that this is where Grace was born (the birth recorded in Cawdor).

"Grace Fraser Daughter to William Robertson at Brackla and Elspet Fraser his wife was born the 23 of April and baptised the 8th of May 1824. Witnesses Mr. Alexr Fraser and John MacLean Excise officer there".  The Fraser name was important at Brackla as what would become the Royal Brackla Distillery was started by Captain William Fraser in 1812.  I am trying to find out if and how Elspet was related to the Captain.  Brackla was the first distillery to be given the Royal monicker and is still in operation as part of Dewars.  It was built on the estate of Cawdor Castle.

Here it was in ca. 1870:

It would appear from Grace's birth record that the family was either living at Brackla in 1824, or they lived nearby and Elizabeth had travelled to the big house for the birth.  They are tightly tied to the nearby parish of Ardclach as that is where William and Elizabeth married and baptized several of their children.  But since William Robertson was a distiller, he may well have been working at Brackla before getting the opportunity at the Mill of Banff Distillery.

To remind you, by 1841, William, Elizabeth, their daughter Ann (20) and 4 other children are living at the Mill of Banff.  The Mill of Banff is elusive on maps - I haven't found one yet that records its location.  The first mention of it I found at Scotlandsplaces is in relation to St. Mary's Well (according to the 1867-1869 Ordnance survey name books, Banffshire, Volume 3 / OS1/4/3/87) which was "... in the grounds of Duff House, Situated near the river Deveron, South of the Mausoleum and near to where the Mill of Banff Stood.  It is said to be a Holy Well."  Also noted in the Annals of Banff (1893, p3), The "... convent stood on Dovern at Miln of Banf in Banf parish."

St. Mary's Well is on the property of the Duff House.  It is west of the golf course that is there now, and to the northwest of the big bend in the river.

The main structure on this small property now is the Duff Mausoleum (directly SE of the turquoise-y fields in the upper middle of the image - one can barely see a white dot which is the roof of the mausoleum).

If you look at the Ordnance map from 1866, you can see the area's history up to that time - in place names alone.

You'll note the Mausaleum is on the site of St. Mary's Chapel.  St. Mary's Well is also there. According to the Canmore National Record of the Historic Environment, the first documentation of this site was in 1321 when as mentioned above, Robert the Bruce bestowed a chapel to the Carmelite Friars (note Mount Carmel beside Bachlaw Bridge, too).

So, the Carmelite Friars used it, a holy well is located there, the Mausoleum for the Duff house is there, a hospital was probably established during some epidemic on the land.  And a Mill and Distillery lived there.

What is odd, though, is that in 1574, James VI granted the lands, buildings and revenues from this land to King's College in Aberdeen (all listed at Canmore under "Duff House Mausoleum").  The Mill of Banff Distillery would have paid taxes on this land that would have ended up at King's College.  

Oddly enough, the only Aberdeen postcard in my collection is of King's College - a simple postcard to Gladys McCurrach - a 5-year-old girl who (in her whole life) had no idea that her ancestors helped pay to keep the place running.  

Saturday, March 16, 2019

#50 - More on Dick Grant

I've written about Dick (Richard Grant) in several posts (40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 47) and an article.  A friend of my great-grandfather Jack's, he sent postcards as he travelled across Canada headed to World War One.  I had no postcards in the collection that were sent from France while he was in active service.

The only information I had about Dick during the war was from his war records and from the war diaries of the 47th battalion.  The 47th Battalion C.E.F. (Dick's battalion) embarked for France from England on August 10, 1916 and were in the trenches on August 22.  By September 16, some of the men participated in a trench raid.

"On the night of the 16/17th September 1916 a successful operation consisting two raids on the enemy's trenches was carried out by the 47th Battalion with the object of capturing prisoners, gaining identification and helping operations in the South; the raiding parties each consisting of one officer and twenty five other ranks simultaneously assaulted two different points of the enemy's trenches at 12.20 AM on the 17th inst.
Raid B party led by Lieut. C.J. Keller accounted for at least nine Germans killed and captured ten prisoners.
Raid C party led by Lieut. J.A MacDonald captured no prisoners owing to the precipitate flight of the Germans in the sector of the trench entered by that party but at least 8 Germans were bombed or bayonetted.
At 12.35 AM returned to the points in their front line from which they had started out.
The raiding parties were assisted by an intense artillery bombardment which commenced at 12.15 AM & continued for five minutes on the front of the sector, box barrages were then formed round the points attacked for fifteen minutes followed by a repetition of the preliminary bombardment on front line for three minutes"

Raid B party included Private Richard Grant:

The parties included bombers and bayonetters.  Dick was the latter.  There is no indication as to whether he was responsible for any of the Germans captured (10) or killed (9), but Dick survived the raid apparently unscathed.

I really wished I had postcards from Dick while he was in France, but my collection ended when he was in England before going to the mainland.  A couple of weeks ago, however, my mother's cousin, who is in the process of moving homes, told me she had found three postcards that I might want (yes, please!).  She thought, perhaps, that they might be from Jack and that they should be reunited with the other postcards.  So she mailed them to me (fitting that they once again travelled through the mail).

They arrived a few days later safe and sound within bubble wrap and cardboard - a wonderful package to open a the end of a long, long winter.  The three are lovely examples of hand-embroidered postcards ("Silks") from France.  You can read more about this special postcard type at the Imperial War Museum website here.  And on the back ... the familiar signature of Jack's friend ... Dick.  I was so excited to get a bit more of his story.

Although I know that these were sent from France during the war, they were never postmarked, so I do not know the dates for certain. Dick died on April 13, 1917, so I can safely state they were sent before then and after he arrived in France in August, 1916.  Looking at the notes written on the back of the cards, though, can narrow it down a bit more.  Only two of the cards have messages.

The first we'll look at can be pretty well dated to mid-December 1916.  It is a Christmas card, and the note on the back reads:  "just a card to wish you all a happy Xmas. sorry that I am not with you.  just got back from leave. had a pretty good time. so I hope that you will have the same at Xmas  Dick"

According to Dick's war records, the only time he went on leave was December 2, 1916 for 10 days.  He'd have been back on the 12th or so, and sent this shortly after.

The next postcard has no writing on the back and no indication of when it was bought or mailed, but I'm thinking that Dick probably bought all three of these postcards at the same time when he was on leave.

I leave the most poignant one for last:

Poignant, of course, because this is a card of remembrance and he died sometime not long after writing this.  And because of the message on the back:  "Dear Mrs McCurrach (Jack's mother, Susanna).  just a P.C. to thank you for the nice box of candys (sic) that you was so good to send me, and I can tell you that it came at just the right time just as we came out o the trenches all wet and cold and I got other two boxes the same night, so we got a big fire going and got the parcels out and I wish that you could have seen us, getting away with that grub. we are getting it a bit hot just now out here and have lost a good lot of the boys.  I had a letter from Jack the other day will try and write him soon.  how is Gladys and Belle.   sorry that I cannot write more so thanking you again and hope to see you soon again. Dick"

Were these the last words Dick wrote to a McCurrach?  I'll never know.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

#49 - Happy Birthday Belle ... and Lumber

This birthday postcard was addressed to Belle McCurrach (Jack's Sister) and signed Gladys and Nellie (Jack having gone to war in February, 1917, it was most likely written between then and August 1919 when he came home). Belle's birthday was in June, so June 1917, 1918, or 1919.  The Postage on the back are two 1-cent Canadian stamps with King George V on them - 1911 or 1912 version, I believe.

Stating "Many happy returns of the day. Gladys and Nellie", the postcard doesn't appear to have been mailed.  Since they lived in the same city, perhaps they delivered it by hand or, for some reason, never sent it to her.

Okay - so all of that stuff is pretty straight forward and maybe a little boring.  The interesting part was when I looked up the address that Bella lived at.  Turns out (thanks to the 1919 Henderson's Greater Vancouver City Directory) that Bella worked as a domestic servant for a man named James Dick in a very swanky part of Vancouver.  Mr. Dick lived directly across from Gustave Roedde - Jack's employer before he went to war.  So I wonder if Jack's being employed by Roedde had anything to do with Belle getting the position as Mr. Dick's domestic servant.

James Dick was part owner (with his brother) of the Vancouver Woodyard, which was located at the south end of the Cambie Street Bridge (at one time known as the Connaught Bridge).  

Here is a photograph of the south end of the Connaught Bridge in 1915.  See if you can spot the lumber industry in BC (yes, I'm being sarcastic).

VPL SGN 996.3

False Creek at that time was an industrial area housing many sawmills, planing mills, foundries, steel works, machine shops, etc.  It was so polluted, it was also known as "shit creek".

I haven't found Vancouver Woodyard on the map, but they are in business by 1909 when their listing in the directory says "with Vancouver Lumber Co."  And the Vancouver Lumber Company is basically all the stacks of wood you see centre right in the photo.

The Dick brothers appear to have done alright for themselves.

I wonder if there was a distinct difference between "lumber" and "wood" at this time in Vancouver.  Perhaps the Dick brothers specialized in the better wood used for furniture and trim, while the Vancouver Lumber Company provided building lumber.  Not sure.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

#48 - Christmas Joy for a Little Girl

Being only 4 days before Christmas, 2016, it seemed right to do a post on Christmas postcards in Jack and Nellie's collection.

Christmas Postcards used to be quite the fad.  As were those for birthdays, anniversaries, and other holidays.

Sometime in my grandmother's early life, she received a postcard to wish her a Merry Christmas.

Written on the back is simply "To Gladys":

This postcard would have to have been sent no earlier than 1914 as that is when Gladys was born.  And since the company that made it (Wolf & Co. N.Y) went out of business in 1931, it must have been sent before then.  

The first Christmas card was sent in 1843 (strangely the same year Dickens published "A Christmas Carol").  The card was created by Sir Henry Cole, the founder of the Victoria and Albert Museum.  All the Christmas letters he received from friends became too much to reply to, so he decided cards would be easier.  He had a friend design them and had 1000 cards printed to fill the need to reply to all of his correspondence.

The first Christmas Card - see article here.

Christmas cards continued to be in postcard format until, in 1915, someone found there wasn't enough room to write a long enough note on a postcard, and the book format was designed (ironic that the Christmas card started to eliminate writing letters, and then expanded to make room for writing a letter!).

Since the postcard format was going out of style, I think we can assume that this card to Gladys likely occurred in the first 10 years of her life (before 1924).  I assume when she was even younger based on the dates of the other postcards.

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Friday, April 22, 2016

#47 - Dick's Journey Across Canada Continued.

We already know that Dick (Richard Grant) got killed at Vimy Ridge, but I still have three more postcards that he wrote (and that, obviously, pre-date his death).  The first one listed here really should have been shared in the last post about him, as it is from the Rocky Mountains.  It is a "General View of New Grade Reduction Loops and Spiral Tunnels, Field, Canadian Rockies."

Oddly enough, I just drove through Field on Sunday with my family, and I mentioned the Spiral Tunnels in this past post.  But to re-cap, the spiral tunnels are train tunnels that loop around inside a mountain.  That way the grade could be lower than it would be on the surface, and it wouldn't be as dangerous for the trains and their crews.  In the first 6 km west of the Kicking Horse Pass summit, the Kicking Horse River drops 350m (1,150 ft), creating a 7 km long stretch of track with a 4.5% gradient called the Big Hill (a good 2.5% steeper than most modern railways).  The Big Hill was used (temporarily) from the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885 for nearly 25 years until the Spiral Tunnels were completed in 1909 (only 6 years before Dick went through them on the train).  When dealing with the topography of the Rocky Mountains, sometimes you have to get creative - and these designers certainly did.  The tunnels still garner a lot of attention and have their own official stop with information panels explaining them.  You can read all about them here.

On the back of this postcard, Dick writes what is possibly the most poignant of all the messages to date.  Not because of what he wrote, but of what he was facing afterward:

"9th (or 8th) Nov 1915 On the train.  We are on our way to Berlin every one happy  Dick"

The second-to-last postcard from Dick to Jack is from the R.M.S. Missanabie, the ship he sailed the Atlantic on.  She was 520 feet long, 64 feet wide, had a depth of 41 feet and a gross tonnage of 13,000 (as noted on the front of the postcard - although another site stated 12,469 gt).  Built in 1914, the Missanabie was conscripted into use by the army and was torpedoed and sunk in 1918 off the coast of Kinsale, Ireland - in the same general area as the Lusitania 3 years before.

This one is post-marked Quebec City, but was posted from the ship.  The back reads:  "this is our boat we have got started all right.  started ___ on the 13th with a black crow on board.  we had the crow on our train so we are all right give my love to everyone and kiss Gladys for me  Dick."  Gladys was my then one-year-old grandmother.

It makes me rather sad to read these postcards now - knowing that Dick never came home, that he died in a nasty battle, that my grandmother never knew him, that he was lost to his family.  Just sad.  And that this hero was nearly lost to history's ravages (as were so, so many of them) is sad as well.

#46 - The Awesome Power of the Internet

Originally published 3/25/15

I had an amazing history day Monday.

Two complete strangers contacted me through my previous blog to share information!  How cool is that?  Thanks to those two men I now have more pieces to fit into my puzzle!

One of them, out of the blue, sent a photograph of the Woodpark Asylum.  If you remember, my great-great-grandmother (Helen Steele, nee McKenzie) worked there as I mentioned in this earlier blog post.

Thank you to Neil Gray (who contacted me and shared the picture) and to Russell at Turriff Printing Services whose pamphlet the photo was in and who got back to me when I asked if he knew where it came from (he did not).  The source of the photo is unknown at this time.  As it turns out, Neil works for the company responsible for The Ladysbridge Village development.  They now own the property and the buildings and are converting them into housing - nice looking housing.

In this photo (which is of the same series as the one I shared in that previous post) you'll see Ladysbridge Asylum, and I've circled the Woodpark building here (sorry it's black and hard to see - top centre):

In this photo, it is the building to the right of the picture in the little patch of woods:

What I had read was that it was about a mile distant.  I think it's closer.  

The other person who contacted me is a long lost relative.  He is the grandson of the child my great-grandmother stayed in Scotland to care for before coming to Canada (read about it here).  His grandmother, Peggy Black, is the reason I exist at all.  If she hadn't been in need of motherly care, my great-grandmother would have died on the Titanic.  

To my knowledge, our family had lost touch with her - apparently after she was married, because they knew her married name.  But here is her grandson (with all the research in hand, I might say) passing along photos and information to me.  Bless him.  Here's a photo of Peggy and her husband Bill Black.

I certainly see a family resemblance.

So not only am I learning about my family history, I feel like the family is being slowly brought back together as well.  How blessed am I?

#45 - S.N. Leek and Elk!

When I wrote an earlier post about Atlin and the gold rush, I had this particular postcard in the pile to include with the others in that post.  But then I took a closer look at it ....

The postcard is (obviously) of a herd of elk.  And I assumed it was a herd of Elk from Atlin, because, well, that's where my head was.  But when you are doing history, you have to be a little more on the ball than that.  If you take a look, printed on the front of the card is: "COPYRIGHT 1911 BY S. N. LEEK," and on the back is printed:  "Copyright 1911 by S. N. Leek, Jackson, Wyo." as well as: "Portland, Oregon July, 1912."

Now, just because it is copyrighted by someone in Wyoming and has Oregon printed on the back does not mean that it wasn't bought in Atlin - and it may well have been - but I doubt it.  When I looked into S. N. Leek, I expected to find little if no information on a photographer over 100 years ago - the kind of stuff I normally find.  But this time I got a surprise.

The National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, was established in 1912 - in large part due to the actions of S. N. Leek.  I'll summarize, but if you are interested, the whole story can be read here in the is article by Shannon Sullivan:

S. N. Leek homesteaded in South Park, Wyoming, in 1891.  At that time there were around 30,000 elk in the region - no longer migrating through the area because of human development, the herd stayed in the region for the winters.  Leek became a hunting guide with one of his clients being George Eastman (of Eastman Kodak fame) who gave him a camera.  

Three harsh winters put the herd in danger from 1909-1911 when numbers decreased to less than 10,000.  Local residents started to feed the Elk hay as they were dying in such numbers.  Leek took pictures of the problem, publishing them in magazine and newspaper articles and giving lectures around the country - leading to the establishment of the Elk Refuge.

If you take a look at his book found at this link, you'll see the photo that is also this postcard along with many other photos of elk and hunters and such.

(Personally, I find it strange that the people who want to help preserve animals are often the ones who also want to kill them - I mean, I understand it, but they seem like different goals.  They aren't, but it feels like it, you know.)

Anyhow, why is this postcard in this collection??  Well,  I don't know.  Maybe someone went to Wyoming.  

The fact that Portland, Oregon is printed on the back makes me think that someone went to Oregon - which is probably more like it since family members do live in Oregon - and they've been there since 1908.  The fact that 1912 is printed on the back makes me think that perhaps Nellie and Jack headed to Oregon when they got married - or perhaps the summer after.  Why they would have bought a postcard of Elk, I don't know - unless perhaps it was part of a fundraiser for the Elk Refuge.

When I was a kid, several times we went down to Yamhill Oregon to visit Uncle George and Aunty Gladys - two unmarried children of Uncle Alec - an incredibly old, deaf man who scared me (he died in 1973 at the age of 89 when I was 4, so when I knew him I was really little and not used to the elderly - and, well, he was grouchy!).  Alec had come to Oregon from Scotland and was one of my Great-Grandmother's brothers.  He and his wife, Helen (ore Ellen or Nella - depending on which census you are looking at - I bet she had a thick accent and the recorders couldn't understand her) had 7 children, I believe.

I have some wonderful memories of the visits we made to Oregon to see Uncle George and Aunty Gladys.  They had a farm and we got to collect eggs and play on the hay bales.  But the barn is what I remember the most - George had dairy cows and I remember that old, dilapidated barn (you can just barely see it in the photo below).  One year, a distant "cousin" of mine (don't ask his name, I don't know it) were plopped on the back of a rather sedate bull of George's.  Here's proof (and an image of me as a grubby farm kid):

Funny where one old, unused postcard can lead - from Atlin to Wyoming to bull riding in Oregon.

#44 - The Rest From the Gold Mines

As a continuation of the last postcard post:

So before we continue with the story of Dick Grant headed to war, it would probably be better to go back and see the rest of the cards that ended up in our collection from the Atlin area.

Since I didn't know most of the story before, and since these cards are not post-marked, I really didn't know where they fit into the story.  But now I do - before Dick signed up with the 47th.

So here are some postcards from the Atlin and Discover, B.C. area.  None of them were postmarked, and most of them did not have much of a message if any at all, so really I was just dealing with images - except for this first one.  But now that I know who was up there, I have some answers (and way more questions).  For now I am (reasonably) assuming that these cards are associated with the Grant brothers.

Message on back reads:  "Thanks for PC this is what is left of Atlin after the fire.  it was a good thing that it was not Discovery. well how are you always getting along. is Jack done of the garden yet.  we are very busy up here and the weather is very cold yet but we will soon get the summer how is Van looking I just try and come down this winter to see what you are all doing.   __ __ one that I am asking for them  RG."

The fire that burned Atlin started in May 1914 - it wasn't the first time the town had a major fire.  The town had a major fire in August, 1900 as well, with damages estimated at $43,000.  The 1914 fire, though, took most of the town's buildings and did more than twice the estimated damage at $100,000.  

On the back of this one is written simply "this is one of Atlin."  In the corner it says "Publ. By H.E. Brown, Atlin, BC"

On the back of this one is a note stating:  "what do you think of this lot"

These "real photo" types of postcards were very popular at this time.  A photographer likely had the dogs and sled set up and took pictures for tourists or locals.  These two photos were taken at the same spot from two slightly different angles.  If you look closely, you'll see some snowshoes in the trees behind the last dog.  

I have been in touch with one of Richard Grant's descendants (well, one of his sister's descendants, as he had no children), and am hoping to get a picture of him.  If I do, I want to see if it happens to be the man with the hat and glasses (front in top one, back in bottom).  If it is him, we can see that it was not just two bachelors mining in the wilds.  And it looks like they might be having a grand time.