Women – their profiles

Elizabeth Travis Lyons

Elizabeth Travis was born about 1834 in Northesk, Nortumberland county, New Brunswick. Her father Peter Travis and her mother Elizabeth Kearney Travis settled near Peter’s parents and grandparents at Whitney, NB. Ebenezer and Huldah (Mooers) Whitney were New England Planters who relocated along their eventual son in law, Jeremiah Travis to the Northwest Miramichi river valley about 1780.

Elizabeth grew up near her close knit extended family in Whitney, NB. One of a13 children, Elizabeth married Charles Benjamin Lyons in 1851, she was 17 years old, Benjamin was 29 years old, a lumberman and landowner.

Charles Benjamin Lyons and Elizabeth Travis Lyons c. 1880

In 1852 Elizabeth’s sister Huldah married Daniel Allan Lyons, Benjamin’s brother. The Lyons men purchased land adjoining their parents homestead, and settled down with their families in Carrolls Crossing, NB.

Life was characterized by hard work and no doubt a good deal of worry and stress for both Elizabeth and Huldah. Benjamin and Daniel operated a lumber contracting company, hiring local lumberman to harvest timber during winter months. Speculating on their ability to successfully deliver the wood to market, and that when they did that the price they received would cover the expenditures. The cards were stacked against success and eventually their luck ran out.

Log drive on the Southwest Miramici River c. 1890 Photo courtesy of the Our Miramichi Heritage Family site

Lumber contractors who had paid the harvesters, and successfully driven their wood to the booms, which were controlled by the powerful and wealthy mill owners, were not paid until the mill used the wood. In the season of 1860, after months of toil and effort, worry and stress a storm brought financial disaster for the two families. The storm destroyed the boom which secured the wood, scatterings the logs and wiped out their investment

Log drivers sorting logs on the Southwest Miramichi River c.1890 Photo courtesy of the Our Miramichi Heritage Family site

Like many others Benjamin and Daniel would loose their homes and land, forcing change on the young families. It appears the loss of the property and business resulted in the two families residing for a period with Daniel and Sarah Lyons, Benjamin and Daniel’s parents.

The loss was devastating, but fortunately unlike many other families they were able to pay their debts. Unpaid debts meant prison, or seeking shelter from prosecution. Many families were forced leave to avoid prison, many Loyalist and Preloyalist settlers returned to the US or sought shelter in other parts of the colony.

By 1871, Benjamin had recovered sufficiently to be appointed Justice of the Peace. Eventually Benjamin and Elizabeth and family would move to Chatham where Benjamin worked as a clerk in a law firm.

Sometime around 1890, Elizabeth and Benjamin moved to Blackville, where their daughter Letitia and her family were living. It is possible that Benjamin and Eliza had planned to settle the land grant in Bradlebane, which was granted to Charles Benjamin after Eliza’s death. Elizabeth died in 1891 at the home of Letitia and Benjamin Walls.

Benjamin would live until his death in 1897 on the property in Bradlebane. The land is now owned by Elizabeth and Benjamin’s Great Great Grandson, and Elsie’s nephew Bruce.

Huldah and Daniel remained in Carrolls Crossing area until about 1900 then moving to Maine with their son Peter Lyons. Huldah and Daniel died and are buried in Penobscot county, Maine.

Sarah Ann Munro Walls

Sarah Ann Munro Walls was born Sept 1803, forth in a family of eleven born to Nancy Mitchell Munro and John Munro in Blissfield, New Brunswick. Sarah’s grandparents were New England planters who settled in the colony prior to the Revolutionary War. Sarah and her sister Suzannah(Susan) were married on the same day 2 July 1818, Sarah Ann married James John Walls (Wells) son of James Walls and Charlotte Brown. Susan married John Thomas Bamford, a native of Maine who had arrived in Northumberland county seeking business opportunities in the timber industry.

Sarah and James settled down river at what became Blackville on the south side of the Southwest Branch of the Miramichi River, possibly on one of James’ father’s properties. James and Sarah welcomed their first son John, a few months after their marriage in 1818.

By October of 1825, Sarah just 21 years old was mother of 3 children under 6 years of age . The summer and fall had been extremely dry and hot, at first people thought the black clouds were a harbinger of welcomed rain on the late October afternoon. It wasn’t, it was fire, great rushing walls of flame and heat driving everything from its path. It appears James and Sarah’s property did not experience a direct hit, but her sister Susan Munro Bamford’s family were not so lucky.

At a location on the south side the the Southwest branch of the Miramichi near Doaktown about 25 feet from shore is a rock know locally as Bamford Rock. It is said the Bamford family sought its safety during a night of fire horror, no doubt sharing it with human and beast alike.

The Great Miramichi fire destroyed everything in its path, although the official fatality count was 160 souls the fire’s true toll could well number in to the thousands since many woodsmen were simply undocumented and unknown. The fire destroyed a large swath of the province consuming more than 16,000 sq kilometers, houses and farms leaving the survivors vulnerable to falling temperatures and winter suddenly fast approaching. One can imagine that those fortunate enough not loose life and property would not have been untouched. Food and shelter shared as the entire community struggled to survive, rebuild and thrive.

James success as a farmer appears to have included land dealings, it is likely he also worked in the local mills, possibly in one of those owned by his wife’s brothers in law, Bamford and Mersereau.

In April of 1850 James died, the 1851 census sees Sarah 48 years old heading a household containing 9 of her children and two grandchildren. This pattern continued until Sarah’s death sometime after 1871. Sarah and James raised a large family many of whom continued to live in the Miramichi. My Mother Evelyn Walls Lyons descended from two of Sarah and James’ sons, John and Charles.

Maigret McDougald (Margaret McDougall) McNeil Morrison – The Early Years

Maigret McDougald McNeil Morrison c. 1900

Born: 1 October 1884 Bhreac Brook, East Bay South, Nova Scotia

Died: 1 July 1977 Glace Bay, Nova Scotia

The family of Margaret McDougall and Alexander Morrison:
Jessie L. m. 1st Bernard MacIntosh and 2nd
Allan Joseph m. Isabell Devison
John ‘Hugh’ m. Cecilla Burke
John ‘Fraser’ m. Margaret Currie
Daniel Michael m. Suzie
Flora May m. 1st Carl Nesbit 2nd Lawrence Lelonde
Stephen Francis m. Evelyn Louise Mauger

When Margaret was born her mother Lizzie was 32 years old and her father Allan was 33 years old. Margaret’s family life in the period from her birth to about 1903 appears to have been spent in Bhreac Brook with her family, although the move to the industrial region had already begun. Margaret’s uncle John appears to have been the first in the family to settle in Glace Bay. John McDougall was the first chief of police of the developing town. This no doubt influenced the family’s decision to relocate there instead of seeking employment in fishing and steel making.

Main street Glace Bay c. 1900

Glace Bay of the early 1900s was a boom town, growing exponentially as the economy of the region turned from farming to mining and steel making. Marconi had built his transmission station at Table Head and by 1904 the Cape Breton Electric Company electric trams were serving the growing region. It would take until the 1920’s for the living and working conditions to begin to catch up with the technological and economic progress being made.

The first record we have of Margaret’s move to Glace Bay is her marriage record to miner Stephen McNeil on July 1904. A mere 4 weeks later Stephan died from ruptured appendix. It is possible the young bride/widow returned to her family home until her marriage to local East Bay man and miner Alexander Morrison in 1910 in Glace Bay.

Alexander Morrison c.1910

By 1911 Margaret and Alexander were living in Glace Bay and had welcomed their first child Jesse, named for Alec’s mother Jesse (Sinaod) Mckinnon Morrison. Over the next ten years they had added 5 more children Allan, Hugh, Fraser, Daniel, Flora and Stephen.

But grief would visit Margaret again when in 1922, Alec contracted influenza, developed meningitis and died. Margaret twice a widow left with 6 children would raise her children alone, choosing to never remarry.

The period of Margaret’s life from Alec’s death until her death in 1973 will be covered in future posts. I will add this, 1920s was the beginning of great upheaval in the region. Living and working conditions for miner and steel workers and their families would not improve without blood shed and violence as the labour movement took hold. Margaret and her young family were witness to it all, including the inevitable demise of heavy industry and increased out migration which came with the 1960-70’s.

Florence Marjorie O’Donnell Lyons

Buckwheat and River Rocks – The Blog
R.G.O’Donnell’s Store – Carroll’s Crossing, New Brunswick c.1950. (Robert O’Donnell was the youngest brother of Florence O’Donnell Lyons).

My Dad had few memories of his mother and two of them involved food. The first was her sending him to the river to collect river rocks to place in the barrel of buckwheat flour to keep it from spoiling. His second memory was the taste of her Buckwheat cake. I make no claim about the effectiveness of My Grandmother’s method for keeping her flour from spoiling on warm spring days. I suspect my Dad’s memory was missing critical information.

You see my Grandmother’s life was cut short by septicemia and flu. Blood poisoning from a splinter of wood in her finger, from scrubbing wooden floors left her with heart damage. A bout of flu complicated by the heart problems, 3 years later, her life ended. Florence Marjorie O’Donnell was born 13 April 1899 and died just a few months shy of her 36th birthday, when My Dad was just 10 years old. Florence was the forth child born to Alice Ann Lyons and Maurice Medley O’Donnell she lived, married and died all within the tiny central New Brunswick riverside community of Carroll’s Crossing. Florence’s family roots run deep in New Brunswick and like her New England Planter, Loyalist and Irish progenitors before her, she used Buckwheat to feed her growing family of 5 young boys.

Is this Florence Marjorie O’Donnell Lyons? Sadly, we have no known photo of Florence…this is a photo cropped from one containing one of her sons and her husband, Tully.

Buckwheat, a commonly used ‘false grain’ (its seeds can be processed in to flour and Groats), came to the Americas in the 1600’s, possibly earlier. Buckwheat had major benefits to European settlers, it is nutritious, has a short growing season and likes nitrogen poor soil. In the early years of the province it could be said the three staples of the New Brunswick diet were buckwheat, molasses and butter. And that is small wonder, they do taste wonderful together…

Buckwheat was once so widespread that almost every farm in New Brunswick grew a crop of buckwheat. Of course in those areas where the soil was poor and the growing season short it was a logical choice. That areas where wheat, oats, hay also grew well, buckwheat was grown for personal consumption proves role buckwheat played in feeding families. From farmhouse tables to Lumber camps buckwheat was eaten. Interestingly buckwheat was not sold as much as bartered. The market being limited to citizens of towns and lumber camps since most folks with any farming capacity grew their own. In the mid 1800’s New Brunswick farms produced enough buckwheat1 to provide the equivalent to 250 loaves of bread in pancakes for every man, woman and child in the province. Buckwheat pancakes were eaten several times each week. By the mid 1930’s far fewer were eating buckwheat but in communities where the combination of lumber work, a short growing season and nitrogen poor soil, buckwheat remained staple in many homes including those lining the Miramichi River. It would take until the mid 1950’s for buckwheat to lose its hold on most rural communities.

Southwest Miramichi River, at McNamee, NB c. 1920

When my parents married, my Dad did not have access to his mother’s recipes, he had only memories. My Mum’s family did not have a tradition of buckwheat cake, pancakes yes, but not cake. Over the years My Mother hunted up recipes for and made many versions of buckwheat cake. Of course none of her efforts could quite compare with his young boy memory of his mother and the love she put in to her buckwheat cake.

Buckwheat, like many pseudo grains, when milled results in a heavier and darker flour than wheat flour. Cooks quickly learned that using a mix of buckwheat and wheat flour (when it was available) produced lighter baked products. In short they began stretching the wheat flour (which had to be purchased) with the buckwheat which could be grown or acquired thru barter. I suspect this complicated my Mum’s hunt for a suitable buckwheat cake recipe. My Dad was sure his mother used only buckwheat. I suspect my Grandmother used what she had available to her, which during the 1930’s might have included some wheat flour. Eventually, Mum gave up trying to satisfy an impossible task and decided this recipe was the one she would serve her family, and yes it includes wheat flour.

One final point before we look at the recipe, despite her early death Florence managed to engender a strong love for food in her boys. Three of her sons would go on to careers as cooks.

Buckwheat Cake:

1 c all purpose flour
1 c Organic buckwheat flour
1/2 c white sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c whole milk
1 egg
3 Tbsp softened butter or margarine
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and grease a 9 ” x 9″ square baking pan.
2) Measure and sift the dry ingredients together into a bowl.
3) Cut in butter/margarine, add milk and egg. mix until incorporated. Do not over beat which will cause the cake to have a tough texture. Bake 30-40 minutes or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Serve with butter and Molasses. Enjoy!

Florence’s Personal Profile:

Parents: Maurice Medley O’Donnell and Alice Ann Lyons

The Maurice M. O’Donnell and Alice Ann Lyons O’Donnell family:

  1. Frances Stilman m. Florence Julia Storey
  2. Clara Rebecca died young
  3. Weldon Medley m. Evelyn Storey
  4. Ethel Genevive m. Wilfred Knight
  5. Florence Marjorie m. Hollingworth Tully Lyons
  6. Edgar died young
  7. Keyes Charles Earl m. Hazel Jane Amos
  8. Christine Ann m. Edgar Bell
  9. Robert Gregory m. Margaret Amos
  10. Grace Murial m Harold Ward
  11. Louisa m. Ralph Craig
  12. Lillian Kathleen died at ~20 years

Florence O’Donnell and Hollingworth Tully Lyons family:

  1. Marple Lawrence m. Madeline Rhynard (divorced)
  2. Gerald Hollingworth m. Elizabeth MacDonald
  3. Leonard David m. Lillian Delores Harris
  4. Bernard Wellington m. Mary Priscilla Lyons
  5. Willard Bruce m. Evelyn Margaret Walls
  6. Rex Daniel died in infancy
  7. Clarke died as a teen from polio

When Florence was born her mother Alice Ann was 27 years old and her father Maurice Medley was 32 years old. Florence’s father Maurice O’Donnell was a merchant, running a small community store. A middle child in a large family, Florence was reportedly a happy sweet natured girl with a tiny physical stature, although with a tendency to chubbiness at the time of her marriage.

On 21 March 1917, 18 year old Florence married Hollingworth Tully Lyons, Tully was 29 years old. Tully and Florence appear to have settled on a portion the original land grant of Jeremiah Lyons which Tully had inherited from his Great Uncle William Lyons. Tully and his father David built the house in which Tully and Florence would raise their family, around the time of their marriage. The two generations would live in the one household, by 1921 their family had grown to include Marple and Gerald. Christina Lyons, Tully’s mother died no long after, leaving David to reside with his son and the growing family.

The challenges for Florence and Tully were many, but like most families at the time, challenges were eased by the support of their close knit family and wider community. David was not an easy man, aging and intolerant of the rambunctiousness of young children he did not make life easy for Florence. With Tully away for weeks at a time working in the lumber woods, it fell to Florence’s to manage the house and raise the children which had grown to include Bernard, and Leonard.

In 1924, Tully suffered a broken leg courtesy of a out of control team of horses. In addition to the real risk of infection, resulting in permanent injury or worse, the meager income they had known dried up. We know Florence did work outside of the home, doing housework, and helping to provide for her family.

In the fall of 1925 Florence gave birth to Willard two weeks later, still nursing her son, disaster struck again. Florence woke one morning with extreme abdominal pain and was quickly diagnosed as requiring immediate surgery for appendicitis. How would the baby fare, still dependent on his Mother’s milk? Florence must have been frantic facing the unknown of risky surgery all while fearing for her newborn’s well being. The task of weening the tiny baby fell to Alice, Florence’s Mother. Alice arrived, filled a bottle with cows milk placed a nipple on it and began to pace with the child in her arms. Each time she passed the dining room table she dipped the nipple in to the sugar bowl and then into Willard’s mouth. As she would remind him later, as soon as the sugar was gone his crying would begin again. Finally, after nearly 24 hours of pacing with the fractious child, Alice’s effort paid off, he took the bottle and drifted into an exhausted sleep.

Before long Florence would recover and in 1932 give birth to their youngest son Clark. In 1933 while working at the home of Stanley Lyons scrubbing floors, Florence picked up a splinter of wood in her finger. The small injury became septicemia, attacking her heart and leaving her with permanent heart damage. Three years later a bout of influenza would end Florence’s short life, her boys would loose their dear Mother and the only female presence in the home.

Florence’s ancestors in New Brunswick include Irish immigrants, Pre-loyalists. Anglican missionaries and United Empire Loyalists. Florence’s O’Donnell family arrived from Limerick Ireland sometime prior to 1812 when Patrick O’Donnell’s married Lydia Price, the Granddaughter of Rev Walter Price, a well known Missionary. Florence’s Mother Alice Ann’s family includes descendants of Elizabeth and Jeremiah Lyons, Jeremiah and Huldah Travis, as well as other Loyalist families.

A sad foot note to Florence’s death, Lillian, Florence’s youngest sister died 14 March 1932 at age 19 years, from a Scarlett Fever infection. A mere 19 months after Florence’s death, the family would loose her brother Keyes on 6 Oct 1936, leaving another young grieving family.

Evelyn Margaret Walls Lyons

Parents: William James Walls and Edith Elizabeth Walls

The William and Edith Walls family:

  1. Dorothy Elizabeth Walls m. Charles Evert Morehouse
  2. Male child died in infancy
  3. Elsie Letitia Walls m. Cecil Mitchell Morehouse
  4. Ruby Louise Walls m. Barrett Clemant Chatterton
  5. Royce Victor Walls m. 1st Charlotte Underwood and 2nd Viola Marion Coughlan Stewart Walls
  6. Howard Stewart Walls m. Eva MacRae Weaver
  7. Benjamin Luke Walls m. Joyce V. Arbeau (Divorced)
  8. Lyman Chester Walls died in infancy
  9. William Theodore Walls m. Ellen Marguerite Campbell
  10. Isaac Luther Walls m. Dorothy Elizabeth Elliott
  11. Evelyn Margaret Walls m. Willard Bruce Lyons
  12. George LeRoy Walls m. Anna Mae Storey

Married: 24 August 1949 to Willard Bruce Lyons

Died: 5 January 2006 Fredericton, NB

When Evelyn was born her mother Edith was 40 years old and her father William was 50 years old. Born second youngest in a family of 12, Evelyn grew up surrounded by brothers since her sisters Dorothy, Elsie and Louise were the first born and much older, 22 to 18 years separated Evelyn and her sisters. A good student Evelyn finished high school and taught in a one room school in the small Miramichi community of Doyles Brook before marrying Willard Lyons on 24 August 1949.

Evelyn’s family have deep roots in the Presbyterianism, two of Evelyn’s uncles and one of her brother’s were ordained ministers. When her husband Willard heard the call to ministry, Evelyn did not hesitate…she jumped in with both feet. Willard and Evelyn spent 31 years serving 6 rural UCC communities of faith in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

Evelyn’s family heritage is long standing in New Brunswick. The Walls family originated with James Walls born 1769 in the Orkney Islands, Scotland, who arrived in New Brunswick prior to 1790. James married Charlotte Brown d/o of another Davidson’s settler William Brown, both of Evelyn’s parent were descendants of James and Charlotte.

Evelyn’s maternal Grandmother Sarah Letitia Lyons Walls was d/o Charles B. Lyons and Elizabeth Travis who were descendants of Loyalist Jeremiah Lyons, and Loyalist Jeremiah Travis whose heritage includes early settlers to Connecticut and New York. Jeremiah Lyons was Great Grandson of Mary Hoyt and her husband Thomas Lyon of Rye who’s first record in the colonies dates to 1620’s in Connecticut.

Evelyn’s paternal Grandmother Dorothy Gibbons McKinnon was d/o Charles Bill McKinnon and Sarah Leach. Charles’ parents were United Empire Loyalists. Gregor McKinnon was born in the Isle of Skye Scotland, and had settled in North Carolina prior to the revolutionary war. Jane Sharpe Pearson McKinnon was born in the Connecticut and came to New Brunswick with her first husband and family at the end of the Revolutionary war.

Evelyn and Willard had four children, three sons and one daughter, all of whom currently reside in New Brunswick.

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