Cleaning up the papers (old post from archives)

Last evening my 88-year old mother (born 1926 deceased 2018) telephoned me to ask that I review with her on the morrow a collection of historical papers which my late father had left behind, documents, letters and photographs going back to 1929.  She hesitatingly admitted that the papers were making her sad. I naturally understood that it was part of my mother’s process of adjustment to my father’s death that she should eventually distance herself from the past in many ways, including the disposal of this material.

My father (who was born August 17, 1918) died at 95 years of age on April 8, 2014.  Sometime afterwards in relation to the administration of his estate we gathered the volumes of financial records which he had stockpiled.  Of course most if not all of it was either superfluous and out-of-date or both.  What however we ended attacking in the basement this morning was the sentimental debris which my father had carted around for a lifetime. It is too trite to dismiss the miscellany as hoarding.  For reasons best known to the deceased certain items were of value and considered to sustain his life. While for example one chap may bank expensive jewellery, another may treasure newspaper clippings of themselves or their grandchildren.  It is impossible for others to fathom the significance of these scraps.  In the end most of it is nothing but rubbish, stuff whose meaning has gone to the grave with the deceased.  While there may occasionally be objects or letters of interest to others it is invariably not of a nature personal to the deceased but rather to the scavenger, say for historical, materialistic or auction purposes.

What however is beyond debate is that the purge of these belongings is refreshment to the survivors, in this case my mother, the widow, in particular. Until their removal from my mother’s house today, the historical papers of my late father were of no intrinsic value to her other than as a reminder of her loss and loneliness.  For months my mother has been intent upon dealing with these papers, a haunting preoccupation which I realized today was far out of proportion to the size of the project.  What should have been a mere hobbyhorse had become a debilitating obsession.

I discovered among these old papers one piece of information which makes the otherwise tedious enquiry worth the effort. Below is a transcription of it, a letter addressed to an unnamed party.  The reference to the Burnett name is not without significance to me as throughout my life I have heard tell of Lady Burnett of Crathes Castle in Scotland, a venue I believe my elder niece and god-daughter, Jennifer (and my late father’s highly cherished grand-daughter), has visited.  My mother tells me that my father’s grandfather (William T. Chapman) was married to Alice Maud Burnett; and accordingly I speculate that the writer (George B. Burnett) was the brother of my great-grandfather’s wife and therefore the uncle of my paternal grandfather, George Chapman to whom the letter was likely written.  It makes sense that George Chapman (who for historical purposes was married to Meta Louise Steeves on January 28, 1916) was the namesake of George B. Burnett; and it explains that my father would have come into possession of the original letter from his father.  The reference in the letter to “your grandfather Burnett” would therefore be a reference to the father of the Burnett to whom my great-grandfather was married. Or, as my sister Linda Christine Micheline Chapman (b. April 8, 1950) has subsequently observed:

Yes, Alice Maud Burnett married William T. Chapman (Our Great Grandparents) who had our Grandfather George Chapman. So George B. Burnett would be Dad’s Great uncle and our Great, Great Uncle.

Crathes Castle, Scotland

P.O. Box 63, 9 pm
Dorchester, NB
January 28, 1952

My dear Nephew,

If you will excuse Mr. Webster for differing with me in some of his spelling as I find it sometimes necessary, I will tell you something of your grandfather Burnett’s 94 years of life. In his youth the use of intoxicants was about equal to that of tea an article that caused the revolutionary war as the crooks of Boston wanted to keep the price high. As you know your great grandparents were Loyalists and suffered great financial loss.  Your great grandfather Burnett’s sword is in the museum in St. John, NB (I loaned it to them).

Your grandfather Burnett was born in central Norton, Kings County (New Brunswick) one of 14 children some of whom went to Upper Canada. He never drank liquor neither did his father but when the Minister was expected to be there and he generally stopped with them great grandfather would enquire as to whether there was liquor on hand and if not some of the boys would be sent to Hampton Ferry to get liquor for the expected Minister.  The meeting house was in the home of a Mr. Pickels. In the lower half was a bar room and on Sunday the ship carpenters came to church. Ships were being built about three miles up the river from Hampton Ferry (no bridge at that place).  The women of the settlement walked barefoot to save their shoes and stopped before reaching the church to put their shoes on.  Some had only one shoe. They kept their bare foot under their skirt in church.  When it was time to begin the service Mr. Pickels would step to the trap door where the stairs came from the bar room and he would call to his son, “Nicholis (sic) close the bar, it’s time to start the meeting” but Nicholis would be doing a good business and it was always necessary for his father to repeat the call at least three times when Nicholis who had been doing been doing a good business would close the bar and the ship carpenters would come up to the meeting.

Your great grandfather Burnett was given about a mile of land along the highway and river and another block in Midland. Your grandfather Burnett was a man of good judgment and was well educated.  He taught singing school for about thirty years generally during winter months and carried the old sword in the sleigh as a defence against wolves. He had also a flintlock muzzle loading pistol. As I recall the days when I knew him I remember that in the various meeting (sic) held in the Country Hall, he very often was not in agreement with the majority and I used to wish that he was.

There are many things that I remember.  He and your great uncle Christopher Burnett and Justice Wetmore built a suspension bridge at the place where the house is situated in which your mother and I were born in Central Norton. A road was built to the European and North American Railway station at Passekeag a mile through the forest. The government were to take the toll bridge, buy it from them but during the spring of 1863 there was a very heavy ice freshet following a cold winter. The ice jammed and dammed the water so that ice raised the bridge off the abutments and just about sundown carried the bridge away.  It was a heavy financial loss.  I remember when logs came down from the millstream and filled the river from nearby to Hampton Ferry where the Flemings had a mill. These logs were large and your mother and I would find out that had an abundance of spruce gum and we certainly enjoyed chewing that gum.

To cross the River father used 2 boards (when there was a trunk to go) putting the trunk in a wheel barrow. He would reverse the boards and so cross.  Later here was the back freshet when the water from the St. John River came.  It backed the water up and it covered the meadows. I have seen two men on one log cross the meadow using their pike poles as oars and they made fast time.

Your mother’s people the deForests were Huguenots and came to New Amsterdam in 1624.  Jess deForest brought a ship load.  They escaped from the Hell that caused his satanic Majesty to blush when he heard the piteous cries of those who suffered for their belief in God.  In 1924 a large number of the New York descendants of these people visited those places of torture and in their dampness were shown these words scratched on the side of the cells, “Resist, I say resist.” Mrs. Roseveld was one of those who is a descendant and visited those places.

Your great great grandmother deForest married Josiah Fowler and settled in what is known as French Village. The house they lived in still stands (in French Village).  It is all handmade shingles, nails, the brick oven, the carved stair rail.  When your great great grandfather moved to the house nearer the church he gave the slave woman her choice to come with him or be sold with the older house.  She chose the older house.  When she died she was not buried in the churchyard.  Slaves were not to be buried where free people were.  This was before Wilburforces’ advocacy obtained the freedom of everyone in the British possessions, a blessing costing the people of England millions of pound but no bloodshed.  There were 14 in your great grandmother’s family, the same as in your great grandfather Burnett’s.

These are facts and I hope I have not caused you to be tired.  I haven’t used any eye glasses.

Can we retain the freedom so dearly obtained for us and at great sacrifice (even in our time) by the people of our motherland.  Can the newcomers from Europe be loyal to our motherland and the freedom of conscience?

Please accept my very kind regards for yourself, your wife and all your children for whom you have set a good example.

Your Uncle George B. Burnett

Justice Wetmore

Passekeag, NB

Dataset: New Brunswick Marriages PANB RS141B7
GEORGE WM. CHAPMAN, META LOUISE STEEVES, 28 January 1916, —-, WE, F15966 #1319

Family History – George Chapman:

Looking for information on George Chapman, b. 1840, m. Anah Fowler, d. 1909.

Children: Aylmer,Eugene and WILLIAM.
WILLIAM, m. Maude Burnett, children:Eugene, Anah, GEORGE. William ran Silver Fox farm in NB.
GEORGE, m. Meta Steeves, children: Geraldine, Ralph, William, Eric, Doug, Audrey and JAMES ROBERT.
JAMES ROBERT m. Elizabeth Carpenter, children: GARY JAMES and Dan.
Gary James is my father…
Any info appreciated. I have very few dates to put with these names… few spouses and absolutely nothing beyond George & Anah.
Anita Hovey

Related Genealogy

EPHRAIM DEFOREST(born 1742 in Conneticut) married SARAH BETTS

They had one child NATHAN DEFOREST

NATHAN DEFOREST (born 1765 in Conneticut) married ANAH HOYT in 1787. NATHAN passed away in Kingston, King’s County New Brunswick in 1840

ESTHER MATILDA DEFOREST (born 1800 in New Brunswick) married JOSIAH FOWLER in 1821
They had 13 children and one of them was ANAH JANE FOWLER

ANAH JANE FOWLER (born in 1824) married JAMES FOWLER DEFOREST in 1850. They had 6 kids and JAMES passed away in 1861
ANAH JANE FOWLER remarried in 1865 to GEORGE HARDING BURNETT. He was born in 1805 in NB and died 1890. Anah passed away in 1906

GEORGE BURPEE BURNETT was born in 1866 in NB and died 1958
ALICE MAUD BURNETT was born in 1868 and died in NB 1963



They had 7 children Geraldine, Ralph, William, Eric, Doug, Audrey and JAMES ROBERT.


They have 2 children JENNIFER and JULIA HLADKOWICZ


They had 2 children DEAN and OWEN LOCKHART

EUGENIE CHAPMAN married a SPENCER and they had one child ANAH SPENCE

United Empire Loyalist:
Ut incepit sic permanet fidelis
“As she began, loyal she remains”

The motto is Ut incepit Fidelis sic permanet, Latin for Loyal she began, loyal she remains. It refers to the Loyalist refugees from the American Revolution, who settled in the Province of Canada, and for whom the area was separated as Upper Canada.