The 1863 Lake Map. Lot 3. Source: Note Centerline Road is marked "Proposed Road"

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Old Fashioned Christmas Concert - Alma School

     The following story appeared in the West Prince Graphic - Wednesday, December 24, 2008 page 8.  By Blanche (Mountain) Bowness, Alberton (formerly of Alma).
     Always at this time of year my mind flashes back to the Alma School Christmas Concert.
     The teacher would be reminded early and we couldn't wait to do our parts.  We only practiced for a week, and when the night was picked, then there were curtains to hang on the stage.
     And, of course the tree.  No problem, the older boys were only too glad to get away and didn't rush, but always had a nice tree, which the public decorated.
     We always had an organ provided by one of the neighbors.  And of course there were planks and blocks needed for seating.  Marion's (Barbour) would arrive with "Prince" and the wood sleigh with these as they were stored in her dad's granary.  If we were short we could always count on the neighbours for some.
     Rennies Store was full of the Christmas aroma as Blanche and Fred would have in a supply of fruit and candy, as well as a supply of fruit and candy, as well as plenty of dolls, games,, etc., on the shelves.  Then on the day of the concert, we would go over the program and after school pack the treats and also fudge to sell.
     We couldn't wait to arrive at the concert dressed up in our best, ready to do our parts.  Willy and Garth (Dunbar) always sang also Wanda (Barbour) and I.  There were dialogues and recitations, and then we all sand, "Santa Claus is coming, we shall welcome him with glee.  He'll have a gift for everyone upon the Christmas tree.  He'll not forget a single child, how happy we shall be, for Santa Clause is coming."
     And as we helped Santa pass out treats and gifts, we always remembered the little ones not yet in school.  I recall carrying up Preston M (Murphy) and Willard and the others for their treats.  Then as we sang "Farewell Santa".  He would give a little step and blow his horn ending the truly magical evening.
Blanche Bowness, Alberton (c.1950s)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Wild Bear Cubs - 1877

Alberton Pioneer Newspaper March 7, 1877
     On Monday the 5th while Mr. Stephen Jeffery of Lot Three was in the woods his dog discovered a bear which had taken up its winter quarters under the roots of a large tree that had blown down.  Mr. Jeffery having cleared away the roots and bush found a she bear with 2 cubs.  The two cubs were taken by Mr. Jeffery to be raised by him.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Former Abram / Louis Jeffery House burns

     Early yesterday morning the house my father grew up in was completely destroyed by fire. It was moved from Lauretta to the Dock Road in Elmsdale West/ Brockton in the mid 1970's
Below is the article from the Journal Pioneer's website yesterday:

Inspecting the aftermath of a Thursday night house fire in Brockton.
Published on February 24, 2012 by Eric McCarthy/ Journal Pioneer. Photo Eric McCarthy
BROCKTON -- A Brockton woman made her way into her burning house early Friday morning to rouse her granddaughter who was asleep upstairs.
       The pair made it safely out of the house, but all of their belongings were destroyed and several family pets perished.
       Phyllis Nugent said she was in the barn when she heard a smoke detector going off in the house. Upon investigating, she discovered the porch was on fire. Unable to enter the house through the usual route, she entered through the back.
      “I woke her up because the smoke detector was going off by the basement and the kitchen door was closed, so (my granddaughter) wouldn’t really hear it for a while,” Nugent said.
“The other smoke detectors were in the other part of the house. They weren’t getting the smoke yet.”
      Nugent and her 17 year-old granddaughter, Ashley, were able to rescue their dogs and three pet birds during their escape.
      “I lost seven cats and a bird,” Nugent added.
      Ashley Nugent had a cell phone with her and called 911 after the pair were safely outside.
The granddaughter was subsequently taken to Western Hospital to examined for possible smoke inhalation.
      Phyllis said the family moved from New Brunswick last May when they bought the Brockton farmstead. She had lived in nearby Rosebank until 30 years ago. Her husband, who was at work in Saint John, N.B., was notified of the fire Friday morning and was en route.
      Alberton fire chief Kenny Ramsay said the alarm sounded at 7:13 a.m. The house was fully engulfed when the first trucks arrived on the scene at 7:35 a.m. Tignish, Miminegash and O’Leary fire departments provided backup.
      Heavy snowfall Thursday night made it difficult for firefighters to get out of their driveways en route to the fire hall.
      “There was nothing really to save,” Ramsay said in describing the extent of destruction when they arrived. “All we could do was protect the surrounding exposures. There were two vehicles that suffered light heat damage. If it wasn’t for the wind direction it could have been a lot worse. Two other buildings could have been lost, probably, and the vehicles as well.”
      Phyllis said she didn’t know the cause of the fire but thought it started behind the clothes dryer. As fire fighters turned their attention to salvage and overhaul, Nugent said she didn’t know if she would rebuild at that location. She said the loss is covered by insurance.
     Deputy fire marshal Robert Arsenault said Friday he couldn’t determine the cause of the fire but has ruled it accidental.
      He acknowledged that it did originate in the area of the dryer and said it possibly could have been electrical in origin.

Here's an aerial photo of the homestead around 1955.
Below: a closer look at the Jeffery home.
     Below: Abram Jeffery and Mary Jane (Smith) Jeffery. Photo taken in the late 1930's. Their son Louis took over the farm in 1918 when he married Annie Jane Cannon of St. Lawrence.
      Abram and Mary Jane built this house sometime in the mid-to-late 1890's (they were married in 1892) on a 50-acre farm located on the Centerline Road in Lauretta. They raised a family of 11 children here: William, Bessie, Levi, Louis, Hannah, Jack, Stephen, Pearl, Harvey, Eliza and Ethel.
      In September 1943 Abram was helping his son take in hay (he was 74 years old) when he fell from the load breaking his neck. They say Mary Jane died of a broken heart a few months later in January 1944 - she was 78 years old.
      Below: the family of Louis and Annie Jane (Cannon) Jeffery: Back L-R: Gladys Kinch (a neighbour); Mabel, Stirling, Wilbert. Front L-R: Gladys, Eileen and Preston. Photo taken around 1942. Missing from photo are the two oldest boys, Gordon and Harold.
     Below: we don't have many photos of the house - here's a photo of Uncle Preston with his father's truck around 1955.
     Below: Here's a photo of the old house taken in the fall of 1971 (processed Mar '72).
      My grandfather Louis died in 1962 in Saint John, NB. My grandmother lived here till about 1965 when my parents Wilbert and Verna bought it from her - they rented the house for a few years, then it was left abandoned and was vandilized.
      One evening in the late 1960's I remember visiting the tenants here with my father and being amazed that they were living by lantern light - we lived 1/2 a mile down the road and had power.
      After it was abandoned my brothers and I, like most children in those days, were always roaming around the community on our bicycles and we'd often go into the house to explore and look around.      There were a few antiques and junk in the house, ie. ice box refridgerator, side board mantle, a few bundles of cedar shingles and I remember there being alof of letters strewn over the floor in the upper hall.
      In the mid 1970's Albert MacInnis of St. Lawrence approached Dad to buy it and move it to the Dock Road. I remember the day it was moved, coming down the driveway and through the road towards St. Lawrence, down the Olde Tom Road and out to the Doct Road. 
     Below: Here are two photos I took of the house in the spring of 2010 - it had changed owners a few times in recent years.
     Below: my brother Kerras and his wife Shirley were by the property yesterday afternoon and took this photo.

Monday, February 20, 2012

World Largest Egg Beater, Lauretta

     Recent History is also important to be included in this blog. 
     For example the little community of Lauretta made the history books when my brother Kerras Jeffery's World's Largest Egg Beater, unveiled on June 5, 2005, was confirmed to be the largest in the world and registered by Guinness Book of World Records.
     Below:  the crowd gathers to watch Prince Edward Island's Minister of Tourism officially launch/open the worlds largest egg beater by cracking an egg against the 14' metal structure.
     Below are two cartoons about the egg beater, drawn by cartoonist Wayne Wright, which appeared in the Journal Pioneer newspaper in the fall of 2005.
     Below: The egg beater in the summer of 2011 - still a delight for tourist and visitor to see.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Mr. & Mrs. John Owen Gordon, 60th Anniverary - 1949

     My father Wilbert and I were visiting his sister Eileen in Summerside one day last week - she was showing us some old scrap books and I found this article telling of the 60th Anniversary of longtime Alma residents John Owen Gordon and Grace Riley.

Obituaries of Former Residents

     I just posted the obituary of Lila Mountain Squarebriggs - she was born and lived most of her life on the Centerline Road (east side of the Western Road). 
     This is the first obituary posted in this blog and provides important information about Lila, her birth date, place and who here parents were.
     Obituaries provide valuable information to researchers when putting together a community history or family genealogy and I'd like to include them in this blog.
     Below is a photo of Lila with Sid Vincent taking a rest from planting potatoes sometime in the 1960's.  Photo cf. the Donna Barbour MacPhee photo collection:

Lila Mountain Squarebriggs


     Peacefully at the Maplewood Manor, Alberton, on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012, of Lila Mellicent Squarebriggs, beloved wife of the late Ralph Squarebriggs, age 95 years.
     Born in Alma, on Feb. 6, 1917, she was the daughter of the late John E. and Miriam Janetta (nee Horne) Mountain. Dear sister to Hattie (late James) Johnston of Summerside; Beth (Preston) Neil of North Milton; and Blanche (late Keith) Bowness of Alberton.
     She was predeceased by her sister, Muriel (late Jack) Nisbet of Saint John, N.B. She will be sadly missed by her many nieces and nephews. Resting at the Rooney Funeral Home, Alberton.
     Visiting hours Friday, Feb. 17, from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. Funeral on Sunday Feb. 19, from the Gordon Memorial United Church, Alberton, at 2 p.m. Rev. Robert Lockhart officiating. Interment will later take place at the Montrose United Church Cemetery. As an expression of sympathy, memorials to the Maplewood Manor Equipment Fund or to the Montrose United Church Restoration Fund would be gratefully appreciated.

Lila Mountain Squarebriggs Obituary appeared in the Journal Pioneer one year later.
     Friends and family were saddened to learn of the passing of Lila Squarebriggs at Maplewood Manor, Alberton on Feb. 15, 2012 at the age of 95 years.  Born in Alma on February 6, 1917 to her parents John E. and Janetta (Horne) Mountain.  She was a devoted daughter, loving sister and cherished aunt to 18 nieces and nephews.  With the exception of several winters in Halifax and Toronto, she lived in Alma, where she helped on the farm and took care of her parents in their later years.  Lila was a member of Montrose United Church, and a firm supporter where she held office in different capacities.  She was a life member of the U.C.W.  She married Ralph Squarebriggs on Nov. 16, 1984 and he moved to Alma.  He pre-deceased her in May 1994.  Lila moved to Alberton in 2004 and she and Blanche shared an apartment which she enjoyed.  About three years later she broke her hip and moved to Maplewood Manor where she was cared for by the loving staff.  She loved music and used to sing with several staff, especially Amazing Grace.  And she used to play the piano at the Manor for past time.  Lila loved to see friends drop in, and was always ready to share a cup of tea or a meal.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

My Interest in History began...

     The following is a letter I wrote to Dr. Ed MacDonald as he began his research and writing of  "If You're Stronghearted: Prince Edward Island in the Twentieth Century"...
January 31, 1999
 Dear Ed:
     I recently read an article regarding your millennium project to write the history of the twentieth century of Prince Edward Island.  I would like you to know of the story of the community of Lauretta – a story that happened this century.
  Presently I am compiling information to publish a history of Lauretta; this community thrived for more than a century – its people contributing to society and both World Wars.  Then it ceased to exist, the community died, leaving not one resident.  After a decade of not one soul living in the community a young family moved in.  Today Lauretta has a population of 15 and will increase again this year.
     This story is similar to others places on our Island, however, Lauretta is seeing a rebirth.
     I grew up next to Lauretta on the Centreline Road in Alma (next to Elmsdale) - my father grew up in Lauretta during the 1930-40s.  During my childhood everytime my father and I drove through Lauretta he would tell me of the people who had lived there.  In a bare field or a patch of grown-up bush he would tell me so-and-so lived there and then tell me their story.  I thought it strange why no one lived in Lauretta anymore.  By 1967 my father’s old home was abandoned but he farmed the fields.  The last family to live in Lauretta were Birt and Violet Smith, their daughter Ruby and husband Lawrence Arsenault.  Once the Smith’s passed-on the Arsenault’s left, sometime in the mid-1970's.  All that remained of Lauretta were 6-7 abandoned house - ghostly remains of a forgotten lost community.
     In the late 1970’s the Land Development Corporation (LDC) purchased a few of the old farms and the fallen-down buildings were demolished.  Within a few years the other abandoned homes were gone and all that remained were pastures and forests.
     In the mid 1980’s a young couple moved to the community, building a fine new house; then my brother built a new house on my father’s homestead; a couple built a retirement home across the road, and so began the rebirth of Lauretta.  Today there are six homes and another to be constructed this spring.  The first pavement came a quarter mile into the edge of the community in 1997.  There are two thriving self-employed businesses operating there today - Gordon’s Transport and Kerras Jeffery Woodworking.  Today Lauretta’s residents are not farmers, their livelihoods have been adjusted to modern times and new ways of making a living.
    It has been impressed upon me that when the average person drives through Lauretta they see only fields and forest.  When I drive through Lauretta I see in my mind the abandoned homesteads I knew as a child and I know the people who once lived there through my father’s stories and realize there are few left alive who remember them.
     There is very little recorded history of Lauretta.  As I learn the genealogies of its past inhabitants I'll be able to piece together its' story.  There have been references in the 1859-1881 Journals of Anglican Missionary, Rev. R.W.Dyer – he refers to the area as the “backwoods”.   There's also the 1926-1964 Journals of sisters Eva and Mary Jeffery whose father Spurgeon Jeffery was a successful building hauler, known throughout Prince Edward Island for his building hauling skills.  He moved the Methodist church from Montrose down the Kildare River out to Kildare Capes where today it is the well-known landmark of Christ Church of the Alberton Anglican Parish.  The Jeffery sisters recorded daily goings-on of the farmstead and building hauling.  In 1931 Spurgeon Jeffery and his family decided to leave Lauretta – they  purchased a farm half a mile east on the Centreline Road in Alma.  Spurgeon moved the entire farmstead including 7-8 outbuildings and barns, the large 1912 Island-ell style house as well as the apple orchard – a remarkable move.
     I have attached bits of information for your interest.  If you have any questions or would like to pursue this topic, please call.
Geographical Names of PEI.
     Lauretta:  5 miles Northwest of Alberton in Lot 3.  Post Office 1897‑1913.  Possibly named for a teacher, such as Lauretta Nelligan, who was teaching at DeBlois Road in 1898. 

1861 Census.
     In 1861 the Census taker wrote that the land in Lot 3 is in general good.  At the west end (Miminigash) the land is very good but the people complain of the roads for which I think they have good reason.  They are almost impassible for a carridge (sic) at present.  The people of Miminigash are very anxious to have a road opened through the centre line of lot 3 which would be very little more than half the distance to Cascumpec which is the general marketplace...

School Records.
     The first reference to the Centreline School, No. 171, can be found in the 1894 annual report of the Prince Edward Island School Superintendent.  He indicates the school has no teacher or pupils and the following years reports the same.   The first school teacher of Centreline School was Adeline Arsenault, she began to teach on July 1, 1896 and taught there until June 30, 1898.  That first year W.B.*Bona* MacLellan was nine years old and there were 55 students enrolled.
     The following is a list of teachers during the first few years:  1896‑1898 Adeline Arsenault;  1898‑1899 Katie Hennessey;  1899-1902 Stephen Jeffery, Class 3 license; 1902‑190? E. Christopher.
Above: Student Sketches by Donna Barbour 1950's
  The Lauretta School closed in the early 1950’s, students were sent to Alma - the schoolhouse was sold to neighbour across the road, Lawrence Arsenault, he converted it to a barn.

Excerpts from Eva and Mary Jeffery Journals.

April 7, 1926
  Drifting and cold in morning till noon, milder down, quite mild in eve.  Peter Burke was here.  Gass looking about putting in a telephone.  Bagging up potatoes all day.  Train blocked since Monday 5th.

April 9, 1926
  Silver thaw, quite a heavy crust, fine day but raw wind.  Finished hauling potatoes, got 1.90 for reds, 1.50 for blues, 2.20 for whites.  I was down to Davids for a few minutes in afternoon.  Wallace Donald and wife and Mary Jane was here in eve.  And Ot Smiths kids for butter.  Trains were blocked all week, first move today, Friday this week.

April 12, 1926
  Drifting nearly all day and quite cold.  Frank Barbour was here for eggs.  Train blocked again.  Dance at Alma School...

May 10, 1926
  Cool cloudy day.  Went down and cut Daves wood up.  Shovelling snow on roads.  Ben Smiths boy was here.  Augustin was here.  Saw first wagon pass today.

August 6, 1926
...Gass and Grady was here and put in telephone.

August 7, 1926
  Telephone men was here and put up wires.

August 9, 1926
...First talk on phone.

August 10, 1926
  Fine day.  Two car loads of telephone men and their wives and kids here.

October 21, 1926
  Cold rainy day.  Father went to the corner to get a horse shod.

October 25, 1926
  Rain to day all day.  Father went to the corner to Black Smith Shop.

November 3, 1926
  Fine day...Mother was down to Joe Dunbars to Institute Meeting.

December 7, 1926
...Eva and George went to the corner and mailed order to Eatons.

February 1, 1927
...Frank Barbour was here for eggs and paid rebate cheque 41.47.  Minus called up on phone and Joe Dunbar...
March 3, 1927
  Fine bright day.  Jim called up on phone wanting mother and father to go down.

March 19, 1927
  George was to the grist mill.  Mary was out to the corner with him.

April 6, 1927
  Rain today.  Frank Barbour here for eggs.  Hauled out 100 bushels of while potatoes to Fred Rennies.  Mother and Eva and Father was down to Jim Dunbars to Institute meeting.

May 7, 1927
...Went for a little drive in roadcart.  George went to the station looking for the chickens.

August 18, 1927
  Fine day.  Father was out to Fred Rennies.  Me and Eva and George was out to the ice cream social this eve.

August 24, 1927
  Rain in afternoon.  Terrible rain at night, swept away the mill dam at Gordons.  We were all out to Donalds to a farewell party for Mrs. Donalds.

August 9, 1929
  Fine day.  We were all out to church meeting about having picnic.

November 7, 1929
  Fine day...Mildred Dunbar and Francis Kinch here selling perfume, roses.

November 18, 1929
  Fine, cool day.  Earth quake.  George and Eva went to St. Louis...

December 12, 1929
...Burt Smith was here with school bill.  Joe Dunbar was here book for Bible Society...

December 30, 1929
  Big storm all day.  Train got off track.

December 31, 1929
  Fine day. Breaking roads.

February 17, 1930
  Drifting all day forenoon.  Breaking roads in afternoon.  Train stuck, shoveling.

March 21, 1930
...Eva down to Joe Dunbars to hooking, called in for Nettie.  Got telephone fixed.
May 27, 1930
  Rain last night.  Ben Dunbar here for to get his house lifted.

August 1, 1930
  Had doctor again, gave her (Mary) a drug at 11 o'clock, woke up at 4 and took drink and went back to sleep again, very weak, died at 8 or quarter to 8.  Had Jims wife and Jen and Martha and Kate laid her out.  Martha and Joes wife stayed all night.

September 28, 1930
  Fine day.  Me and George and mother to church in afternoon, harvest thanksgiving service.  Minus here in eve.

Excerpts from Rev. R.W.Dyer Journals 1859‑1881.
August 29, 1861
   Off again to the Western Road Station.  I enjoy going to this Station; the poor people, though few in number, always attend prayers ( or 'the Preaching' as the people call it ) well.  July 31, 1861 Report
   The condition of the inhabitants generally throughout the Parish (and also throughout the whole Diocese ) is at present in rather a precarious state owing to the last land commission not having been yet settled.  At present the majority hold their lands on leases of 999 years at about one shilling per acre, subject to a government tax of about 5 shillings per 100 acres.  Of such a system they all sadly complain.  When the Commissioners have settled their Commission the people are in hopes of getting their lands free by being allowed to purchase.  If so, it is the opinion that the inhabitants generally of this parish, as well as the whole Island, will be in a much better condition.
   Their employment is chiefly agricultural.  Some whom have farms near the seacoast carrying on the herring, cod and mackerel fishery but not to a very large extent.  A few carry on merchandise; some others have grist mills for the convenience of making flour and meal, and a few carpenters, waggoners and smiths sum up the occupation and employment of the whole of Prince County.
May 19, 1871
 A man came all the way from Miminegash [at that time half of Lauretta and St. Lawrence were included in the area of Miminegash] for me to go and see his poor, sick mother‑in‑law, Mrs. Simmonds, ‑ they thought that she would not live the day out.  I started about one o'clock, took my horse as far as Mr. Dunbar's when I found that the remainder of the road was too bad to take the horse, so I left it at the Dunbar's and walked 2 or 3 miles ( into Lauretta ) through mud and water, sometimes over logs, sometimes over mounds and stumps and go to the poor house.  Found Mrs. Simmonds low.  
  I had some religious conversation with her.  She seemed perfectly resigned to the will of God, trusting alone in Jesus for her soul's salvation and seemed to be waiting the Lord's time, willing to live or die.  I then administered the Sacrament to her.  Oh, she seemed very happy, in all her poverty.
  Although having come so far, ‑ 11 or 12 miles ‑ they could offer me nothing to eat, for I believe they had no food in the house.  Still, 4 of the children had gone into the woods (for it was in the backwoods that they lived) to pick a few berries.  They were what they called Mountain Tea berries ‑ a red berry.  Before I finished the Service, the children had returned with the berries and they gave me a few of them to eat.
   Wishing them God's blessing, I started back through the same road as I came.  Called to see a widow woman with 4 or 5 small children.  The woman was out amongst the stumps with her little boy, trying to plant some potatoes.  I promised to send her some potatoes. 
  I then walked on to S. Jeffery's, who was so kind as to give me something to eat.  Had prayers with the family and baptised 2 of the children and then left for home.  Arrived a little before 9 A.M., quite fatigued.  Thank God, I am home at last, safely.


     I've always wanted to put together a book on the history of the two communities I grew up in - Alma and Lauretta.  I was always saying I'll do it someday - it might be when I retire.  Last week I was talking to my brother Kerras about the history of the communities and he said why don't you start a Blog with the information you've already collected and start the community history going now and not wait and that the blog would generate feedback and likely new information to build upon the research so far.  That was the best advice I've had in a long while!!!   So as soon as I got to my computer I formed this blog... The History of Alma & Lauretta: Sister Communities - they are small farming communities in western Prince Edward Island.

     In the fall of 2003 I saw this painting by Nan Ferrier (of Tyne Valley, PEI) and had to have it.  It's titled, Alma Corner.  When I go home to Alma I drive up to this corner on the Western Road and turn left/west onto the Centerline Road and in the road to Mom and Dads where they still live.  Today, 2012, the only building that remain at the corner in this painting is the little Anglican Church up the road a short distance.
     I grew up on our family's homestead farm on the Centerline Road in Alma and just up the road about a mile was my father's childhood home in Lauretta.  
     In the early days of settlement throughout the Island the school system determined that no school would be any further than 3 miles apart so the children wouldn't have to walk any further than 1-1/2 miles to school. - this created alot of schools and around each school a community grew - that's why Prince Edward Island has so many communities that seem to be a short distance from the next community.
     Alma is located on two major road - the Western Road and the Centerline Road.  Alma borders on the communities of Woodvale and Elmsdale (north/south) and by Montrose and Lauretta (east/west) and located about 4 miles from Alberton.  The community covers an approximately 5 miles in diameter.  At one time Alma had the following public buildings: a whistle-stop train station; a school; a Baptist church; an Anglican Church; three corner stores; a post office; a cheese factory; and dance halls.  Today only one of these survive - the Anglican Church.  Settlement in Alma began around the 1850's.
     Lauretta is located mainly on the Centerline Road with two smaller roads going off into the woods.  From one side of the community to the other is no more than two miles.  Lauretta is bordered by the communities Alma and St. Lawrence (east/west) and by St. Edwards and Elmsdale (north/south).  Lauretta was a very small community - it had a school and a post office (likely in a resident home).  By the early 1970's every house and building in the community had completely disappeared - not one was left.  Many of the farms were bought by the government and used as community pastures.  Settlement in Lauretta began sometime in the 1860's.

     I hope you enjoy this blog - any information you have to offer or correct is welcome.