Memories of Murray Harbour, 1919 – 1994, by A. Byron Burns

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Transcribed and submitted by Suzanne Burns -

Memories of Murray Harbour, 1919 – 1994

Memos from (the late) A. Byron Burns (d. Nov. 10 1996)

A. Byron Burns

Note: "Written in 1994, in praise of Murray Harbour as I recall it. Its hard to explain why I should leave a few notes praising the village and district of Murray Harbour but I suppose when one has been subject to the beauty and quaintness of the village since age 5, which would make that 1919, it will be understandable. My first exposure to the village was brief trips on summers and weekends from the railroad station over to Fred Prowse’s house on the cliff. That year my father's railroad run was changed from Charlottetown to Elmira to Murray Harbour Branch line end. The next year 1920 we spent the summer in the lovely birch grove next to the round house." - A. Byron Burns

Transcribed in loving memory of A. Byron Burns by his daughter, Suzanne Burns, July 20, 2000

A. Byron Burns 1914 - 1996
A. Byron Burns was the author of "The Narrow Gauge Railway on Prince Edward Island", published 1996 by Williams and Crue, Summerside, P.E.I. This book recalls "Events, stories and recollections of the author's early association with the railroad and railroad people". A limited supply of this book is still available from the Bookmark, on Queen St., in Charlottetown.

April 1 1994

It was 75 years ago today since we moved into the home at 168 Weymouth St. Charlottetown, PEI. (1) Dad was 44 years old, and I was 5.

1924 – 1926:
I recall the time I was a guest at Edison MacLeod’s home at Kinross, and his older brother Stanley was going to Montague about 9 or 10 miles, so I went along with him. When we got to the village, he went directly to a bootleg outlet. I think he tied up the horse outside, but I cannot say for sure how I ended up right behind the horse and the front wheels, however, somebody came along and lifted me out. I can remember it just like it was yesterday. (A.B.B. 2-9-94)

When they changed the location of the Commerce Bank to the north side, I think they built the new bank on the location of the place where I was rescued from under the horse.

There was an article in the "Graphic" or some paper, mentioning the fact that when you enter the premises you would place your money in a sliding drawer and your bottle or whatever would come out after they retrieved your cash. No names mentioned but several years later in the winter of 1930 I had several good meals there, compliments of the assistant Station Agent Vern Campbell, during our stay in Montague when we operated Montague’s first miniature golf outlet. Doug Judson and I were there in the old Wightman General Store building where Saint Mary’s Hall was later located. We rented it from Warren Wightman, the son of the founder of Wightman’s Store.

My father at that time was 45 years old, and my mother was 43, and my sister was 12. Things must have been quite crowded in a 2-foot wall tent. We had some Indians make garden furniture, and when I look at old snap shots, I see mother sitting on an upturned nail keg at the table. So we lived quite down to earth that summer of 1920. Our stove was a kerosene oil range with oven, and it sure must have been quite a chore for mother to cook and feed a family of four under those conditions. The next summer, 1921, we occupied the building known as Mrs. Dorts Store, and later occupied by Fred White and family, and around 1923 Roy Brooks lived there. 1923 saw us in the house that Louis Herring and Carrie now occupy, at the end of the bridge. Not sure but I think we had a large bell tent on the lot just next to Freeman Reynolds house. There is a house on that lot now, and in back of that lot Freeman’s workshop was located in quite a long building, and there were "Rough Boxes" made in there. I am not sure if any caskets were constructed in there, or not. I was quite young then in 1923 and that would make me 9 years old.

Maybe Jim Herring worked with him at that time…yes he did, I called Elsie and sometimes they made caskets.

I recall a workshop of a Mr. Jim Brooks in back of the original Bell forge that Rankin Bell occupied and operated. Mr. Brooks had a lovely cherry tree on his property and it was a favorite spot for us young boys to call in his workshop and get permission to pick some cherries.

The Schooner "Leo" had been used in the re-enactment of the "Landing of the Hector" in Pictou, Nova Scotia and years later her bones came to rest below the cliff at Fred Prowse's store.

We use to play and swim off her hull, and that is about as close as I ever came to a large schooner. With many bunks in the "foksyl" not sure if she was an original tern schooner or not.

About that time there was a lot of talk regarding a Capt. Cosgrove, but I am not sure what it was all about. I think he was from Georgetown, P.E.I., but had been aboard or worked on a schooner at the Harbour.

If I remember correctly there was a death in the Norman MacAulay home that was questionable at the time. What ever became of the investigation? (2)

During the early 1920’s, the story was around that a railway employee had been under the influence of an "Ouigi" board and went up the tracks digging for gold in the Wilmot area. How true is that?

Lem Baker was a "Jack of all Trades" down at the cape. When I was a young teenager and self-taught mechanic, he was a sort of "Mr. Fix it" during the 20’s and 30’s. I am sure he had a lathe at this home in the cape. The rumor was around that he had developed "Perpetual Motion", which was a popular achievement of that early era. I was sure interested, but never got to see his "Lab" at the cape. I remember trying to design my own up in my bedroom on the roll top desk at 168 Weymouth St. in Charlottetown, P.E.I. I recall drawing an armature and some sort of electric field with a vacant segment somewhere in it and that’s about as far as I could take it. This is 1994 and I have never heard of "Perpetual Motion" since we have entered the computer age.

When Simon Gordon had the fox ranch up in the Starch Factory area, you could hear the foxes barking all the way down at the Harbour.

I remember one time Simon was loading a "High Wheel" hay wagon with lobster traps; it must have been in the spring before the season opened, not many auto trucks in those days of the early 20’s. He must have put on too many rows and could not climb up so my father tossed him up to the top, I recall that quite clear, they must have had some "firewater’ or "Son of Sam’s" moonshine earlier. Not sure if Simon Jordan and Luther were brothers or not. I think Luther was drowned off the cape. The house that Elmer Stewart lived in at the Harbour next to Fred Harris had been built by a widow of a fisherman at the cape after a drowning during the 20’s or early 30’s but not sure of the particulars.

John Hingley, the man that hauled the mail from the Murray Harbour train and station to the Post Office in the early 20’s, had a daughter that came to the Habour and home for the summer vacation and she would take a few of us 4, 5, & 6 year olds up the tracks towards Wilmot to pick blueberries. I recall we also went over with Freeman Reynolds to Murray Harbour north to Clow’s Wharf and Ben Clow’s store. On other occasions Agnes Clements would take several of us up picking blueberries. I recall several trips up the tracks on a Sunday to the Indian Woods on the Jim Bell property, and that was about 1920 or 21. I also recall picnics and tea parties over close by where John Machon lives, the Horse Swing etc. They later moved it further along to Machon's Point road to the end, and the churches would hold their tea etc. there. I think their festivities are held up at the old school grounds.

Frank Vuozza was one of the early Barbers at the Harbour and he had a little building right next to what is now the Irving station, formally owned by John Vaniderstine. Not sure, but I think John Vaniderstine married May Bailey, Capt. Bailey’s widow. Just west of what was known as the Stewart Hotel was a small building and it was occupied by someone in business, because it showed up in an early photo by Elliott Lumsen that was taken of the train at the station and some of the crew.

Well approximately during the 1930’s I boarded with May Bailey and John in the house that is presently owned by Louis and Carrie Herring.

During the mid 1920’s, I remember a passenger on Capt. Freeman Reynolds ferry to Murray Harbour north, who was either a Protestant Minister or a Catholic priest. It was rumored he changed his religion. I knew his name for years and it may come back to me and I am sure he was a priest first. I recall being on the ferry on several occasions when he was on board maybe it was a Fr. O’Meara? I guess the statue of limitations has run out on a thing like that. When the ferry would have a passenger the next morning for the train at Murray Harbour at 7 am, Capt. Freeman Reynolds would tie up at Clow’s Wharf for the night and collect his passenger and freight then cast off for Murray Harbour south.

Freeman’s adopted son Frank and I spent several overnight crossings on the ferry. It was quite an experience for a very young lad in those days. Frank died several years later in the P.E.I. hospital on Kensington Road of Rheumatic Fever.

In 1923 when I lived at the Harbour in the house now owned by Louis and Carrie Herring, I was probably walking up the Abney road in my bare feet in those days from where I lived. I picked up a stone and threw it towards the river and it must have landed short of the water and shattered a pitcher of milk that was being carried by either Kate Johnson or Lizzi E. Hawkins. She must have made a quick trip up the bank to the road and saw me. However, all I can recall of that incident was that my mother insisted that I apologize to the lady and pay her both for the milk and the pitcher.

I remember both spinster ladies well but cannot come up both names like I used to. They both lived up on the Abney road, very close to George Herring. It will come to me… maybe Kate Johnson and Lizzi Hawkins. Elsie Brooks will fill me in.(2)

During the 1920’s there was an amazing blind woman lived in the Harbour. Her name was Lexi Penny. What she could accomplish would astound you.

Will Hugh’s residence was one place that I used to visit with my mother and sister. I think I recall a few names of the family, Marion, Edith and of course Silas who became the popular merchant at the Harbour, and I am not sure if there were any others and the father, Will, was a fisherman and maybe a farmer. I remember he rigged up a very small gas engine to power up a dory and that was one of the early powered fishing boats in the Harbour. I thought it was very exciting and it may have been one of the early Bruce Stewart "inspired" 5 hsp. boat engines.

There was lots of fun for a young boy in the 20’s. We would watch the tides and swim as many times as possible on a tide. I learned to swim in the creek in back of George Jordan and Phil Billards with "water wings" and in no time I was with the big fellows off Prowse wharf and under the iron bridge. That reminds me, I remember standing on Prowse's wharf watching the swimmers and Freeman’s ferry was tied up at the wharf side as usual, and suddenly Gerry Prowse jumped in for a swim with the others and before he came to the surface, his lead pencil came up before him. That is something I will always remember. Gerry and Connie (Murdock) were always our friends as long as we were at the Harbour. We knew most of the Prowse family Fred and Pearl (Hobbs), Sam and wife Hazel, and Audrey and Hazel. Not sure what became of Hazel. Joe Prowse and Lories and Will and Albert. Audrey is now Mrs. Jim Dryden, wife of the Ford car dealer in Moncton, NB., Dryden Motors.

We would fish perch off the Prowse's wharf and our bait would be snails we would pull off the piles at the wharf in low tide.

After Sam Prowse left the Harbour sometime around the 30’s, he settled in a small area. It was not far from the Havelock (?) area. When I first knew them in the 20’s, they had an early car maybe a grey Dort or 2 seater Opex touring car or Overland or Maxwell. I recall our family going to Charlottetown over the sandy roads.

In the early 20’s I used to drive Mrs. William Keeping’s cow to the pasture and back for milking and I am not sure if it was 5 cents a week, or a day. However in those early days of my life; I recall the that the name was pronounced Kippin, and one day Will Kippin asked me if I would like to go to the Cove with him on his high wheeled wagon with a load of fish and which proved to be quite an adventure for a young lad, but the main drawback was that he was considered to be stone deaf. That trip consumed the whole morning. He was the father of Dr. Ben Keeping of the Provincial Sanitorium in Charlottetown, and Bessie Keeping, a Nurse overseas in WW1, and Everett of Beach Point, was in WW1 (army) too. Our family were always close with the Keepings in the 1920’s.

Dr. Ben Keeping’s mother and Everett from WW1 and up Bike and Bessie and the daughter.(2)

I have a few snap shots of Fred Prowse and family, his wife Pearl and son Perkins taken sitting on a pile of lumber, which I imagine was taken when their house was constructed in 1920 or so. I have a picture of Freeman Reynolds and the shark and Jim Sharam's [Sherran's] store.

During the summer of 1923 when I was 9 years old Capt. Percy White took me for a weeks trip in the schooner "Muriel" to Pictou, New Glasgow, Trenton, Montague and Georgetown. He was using the "Muriel" as a packet that summer. (I have an account of the trip elsewhere).

Another amazing man I recall at the Harbour was Elliott Lumsen. Elliot lost an arm in a hunting accident out west. The one armed photographer. I remember a Lucy Lumsen - not sure if she was his daughter. He had no fear of going for a swim off Prowse's wharf. The loss of an arm did not bother him.

During the many summers I spent in Murray Harbour, there were numerous friends I made over the years. My early recollections of the 20’s and 30’s era to name a few, I would start off with Ches Cooper, Ed Jordan, Mars Herring, Ralph Billard, Cy Chapman, Pearly MacLeod, Charlie Kennedy, Marshall MacLeod, Max Cooper, Frank Reynolds, Hubert White, Rube Cahoon, Royal White, {whatever became of Russel Cooper} Waldo Beck, Ross White, Ernie Beck, George Chapman, Bus Brehaut, Pres & Ev, Charlie Beck, Robinson, Clarence Hyde, Fletcher Jordan. As one gets older, new generations emerge, and some of these were a little older than I.

Emmy Cahoon, Garnet White, Wallace Penny, Silas MacKay, Wallace Billard, Vere Richards, Carl Cahoon, Bert Penny, Arnet Nicole, Laurie Gordon, Lewis White.

My early years at the Harbour found me at several locations from 1920 where we lived in a wall tent in the birch grove between the round house and Mr. Hingley’s house. He drove the mail from the railroad station to the post office mornings and evenings and it is the Cy Penny’s property now.

1921 Saw us at the house where Mrs. Dorts had her store.

1922 At Capt. Bow Dridge wharf and sumach tree.

1923 We were where Louis Herring and Carrie live now. Not sure about the summer of 1924.

Mother died in June 1925, and at the time I was 11 years old and recall the passing years. I was at the Harbour for some time. I was boarding with Mae Bailey in the early 30’s. Upstairs in the house we occupied in 1923, I also had a friend out with me from Charlottetown. a Reg Stewart. Several years later, he was in the R.C.M.P., and in 1939 went over seas, and he became the Provost Marshall of all Canadian Forces in Europe. By that time 1935 my father and sister moved into the "House on the Cliff" that we used to visit in the early 1920’s owned by Fred Prowse. Jerry, Joe and Sam were brothers of Fred.

By 1935 Prowse & Sons had closed out and ceased operation. So my sister Thelma and her friend Thelma Teed decided they would open a Tea Room in the old Prowse Store. It was called "The Two Thelma’s" and it proved to be a popular place for the young crowd to congregate. The menu was mostly ice cream and sandwiches with many types of sundaes. A lobster sandwich was 20 cents and that included tea or coffee. Even in those days a Tea Room of that small caliber had entertainment. I remember my friend Cy Chapman entertaining in some way, as I have not seen him since then 59 or 60 years, and I am not sure what he did but whatever it was he was good at it.

It was quite a novelty at the Harbour and I remember one evening, probably a Saturday evening, Wal White was in the area and probably looking for a fight. As far as I can recall, he and Rollie White (Fred’s father) got into some sort of argument out in front of the tearoom in the area where Prowse's gas pumps were located. Apparently my father could see that the discussion between Rollie and Wal was not receding, and by that time a crowd was gathering so Dad went out and picked up Rollie and threw him over his shoulder and took him into the tea room. During the scuffle to rescue Rollie his glasses came off unknown to him at the time and he only missed them the next morning when he went out to the site of the tussle and there they were undamaged. A miracle, as there were 40 or 50 people milling around to see who the winner would be since Wal White was around that night.

It would be about that time that Gerald Prowse had a little store directly across from the old site of Prowse's General Store, and right next to his home the Prowse Hotel property. Well, a bunch of us hangers on at Gerry's Store were in there one afternoon, and one of the well known fisherman wanted a "teddie of rum", and in those days the early 30’s there were not too many cars. He knew I had a bicycle outside the store and asked if I would make the trip to Greek River. I figured there would be a quarter in it so I said I would do him a favor.

To get to Greek River from the Harbour, you had to pedal to Murray River and then head to Findlayson’s Dam and continue on another few miles. I was told when I got to the house on the left side of the road to give my order and then return the same way and look for a very narrow path in the woods on my right, sure enough, there was the path and sitting upright in the center was the green bottle I had ordered. I retrieved it post haste and was on my way back to the Harbour and Gerry’s store to deliver my order to my customer, who was anxiously awaiting my return. I am not sure what the peddling charge was but I imagine it was about 25 cents.

Perley MacLeod’s father Capt. A.B. would bring the "Cutter" in some weekends, and at that time in our young lives, Perley and I did not realize that local history was in the making regarding the "Rum Running Trade" here on PEI and the East Coast. We were in our bare feet era and climbing aboard the "Cutter" at will. Now that I think of it one of A.B.’s cooks was a Everett White or some such name, and his son I knew from somewhere. I think he had joined the navy. As I they say on second thought, maybe the first time I met the father, he may have been a cook at Campbells Cove Lobster Factory owned by Harry Tidmarsh, and I think he had a son that joined the navy as a cook or was he a bus driver for S.M.T.? Next time I am at the River I should check on that or see Major Butt (Pearly) - he may remember.

The arrival of a strange schooner at the Harbour was always a special attraction to a young boy in the early 20’s. As I look back on those early days of the schooner era some names come to mind and their Capts. and owners if I can recall:

Vessel Capt./Owner
Guinea Will MacDonald
Ada Mac ?
Bonnie Briar Bush Gosbee Brothers
Muriel Percy White
Francis D. Cook Herb Cahoon
Herb Cahoon Milt Chapman
Senator Snoball Capt. Bonnell
Clarisse Alf Chapman
Senora Milt Chapman
Hazel Milt White
Arcadia K. Milt Chapman
J.W. ?
Mona Louis H., Murray River
Fair Brothers Tom Gosbee
Minnie Laura Joseph White
Minnie Laura Capt. Rhuben Penny

The family name "Bell" has been in the district for many years, and I suppose the first family I remember was Alec Bell the Blacksmith. I guess at my age in 1920, it would have been his family of Heber and Orin (twins), Hanford, Rankin, Rubert, Joseph, Dan and Ruth up back of the forge. After Rankin’s father Alec died, he took it over and sometime in that decade, Hanford opened his own forge and eventually his two sons Roy and Aubrey continued to operate it.

One was always assured a good supply of raspberries if they went in behind the church just east of Elliott Lumsden's, providing you could put up with the mosquitoes.

When I was about 11 or 12, Heber Bell and Dad (Arthur M. Burns, died June 8, 1951) decided they wanted to go to Sam Gillis’s close by the Findlayson’s Dam.

I don’t know how I happened to tag along, Mother died in 1925 when I was 11 so it must have been 1926. I was down at the Harbour over the weekend with Dad. Anyway we three went to Sam Gillis’s in Heber’s "Studebaker Roadster" (no rumble seats then), and they went into Sam’s and I sat in the car. They were in there quite awhile and when they came out Heber got in and of course I was in the middle and Dad was on the outside. We started for the Harbour, and got up to where one of the Johnson boys built a garage and service station and where he originated his bus line service, so at the corner, Heber must have fallen asleep, anyway we ended up in the ditch. Heber decided I was elected to drive the rest of the way to the Harbour. I guess I must have gotten my passengers home safe after Heber’s instructions. No police until 1931 and not even Provincial Police.

I recall when I went to apply for my first license in 1930, it was over in the old Province House and Mr. Gallant, I think was the Registrar. He had a severe handicap in one leg and a crutch. He said, did you ever drive a car before and I said yes. At that time I was thinking of a Model "T" with 3 pedals, but I had forgotten about the Studebaker 5 years previous. However I told him yes, and he gave me a license for the Starr car my father had supplied the $40.00 for from Pope Beer.

I must introduce the Winsloe family . I recall a Jock out along Guernsey Cove area and I am not sure of the girls names.(2)

Ed Jordan : What about that "Bucket of Candy"?(2)

What about blind Billie Philpet(?)(2)

See Marion Burgess.(2)

I had many friends when I was growing up in Murray Harbour as a young pre teenager of 7, 8, 9, 10, etc. I will try and recall a few of them.

Ches Cooper was one of the first ones as he lived up by the railroad round house, and that’s when I lived in the tent on the property on the other side of the round house. Marion Herring lived directly across the river from me and it was only a matter of rowing across in a punt or dory. Ed Jordan was another close friend and he was the son of George Jordan. I am not sure what became of Ed. Sometime after I was in the business (Burns Jewellers) in Charlottetown, he and his wife (she is from Nfld), came into the store one Friday evening and that was the last time I saw Ed. He had another younger brother Fletcher who was very musical, and a younger sister Betty and brother, Glen. Betty was living here in Charlottetown in the early 40’s and was married to one of Ed’s taxis bus drivers that drove the Air Force back and forth from the Airport. His name was Windsor Bruce, and I think they settled down in Windsor, Ontario. (I should call and see if any of them are left)

George Chapman and Cyrene (Cy) was another. He left the Harbour at a young age, and ended out in the Canadian western Provinces and ended up in California.

Marshall MacLeod was another good friend and so was Clarence Hyde (John Dillinger)... not sure if it was from the Horace Hyde family or not. I must not leave out Ralph Billard or Perley MacLeod (Major Butt). Perley made the "Readers Digest" many years ago as a Harbour Pilot in British Columbia. Charlie Kennedy must not be left out, Waldo Beck, Ernie Beck. It is strange how long lost names come drifting back from the distant past to enter the list of "I wonder what happened to." Russell Cooper, Pearl, Janette. I think Hazel settled in Boston area. The family of George Jodan settled somewhere. I have not seen Gwen or Fletcher in many years. Several of them were quite musical. Another name that comes to mind, is Ross White and not sure if he was Milton White's son or not. The names Verna Brooks, Blanche Penny and Ruby Reynolds of Murray River and some people I have mentioned may still be around the Harbour that I have lost contact with over the years. Perley MacLeod is back after many years absent from the west coast. Clarence Hyde comes to mind and I think he may have moved to Saint John, New Brunswick area. Some of Phil Billard's family are still around - I understand Florence is at the River. I have not seen Wallace in a few years, and he was at Boothbay Harbour, Maine. The last I heard of him he would always look me up when he came back to the Island. If Beatrice and Evelyn are still around,they would be in their mid or late 80’s. Helen Lelacheur's brother and sister are still around and come from away each summer like always. The Frank Jackson family was always quite close to our family from the 20’s. Frank and my father were great friends, and I got to know the daughters Cass and Muriel but didn’t meet the brother until I was in business years later. Cass married Ruben Cahoon, one of my early childhood playmates at the Harbour. I am not sure when Muriel married but I think someone from Nova Scotia.

Pictou Carnivals:
The early 1930’s saw the start of the annual Pictou Lobster Carnival and boat races. I recall attending at least three during the early 30’s.

The first one I went over from the Harbour in Prowde's Lobster smack. The next year, I went over with my father, Capt. Milt Chapman and son George, in Phil Billard's 25 foot open lobster boat, and also along as a passenger was Florence Billard, her sister, and her husband Dave.

The next year I left Charlottetown in the Fisheries patrol Boat with the Provincial Minister of Fisheries, J. J. Larcabe and son Jim. There was also the Hon. Big Jim MacIntyre from Tracadie, and that was about 1933.

Murray Harbour had a great number of retail stores during my early years. Prowse's General Store seemed to be where the action was, probably due to their fish processing and factory operations down on the Murray Islands and they has gas pumps out in front of the store. The first store they had was in the flat roofed building and later it was modified to a slanted roof and added a third floor which was before my time. The employees at that time, 1920, were Fred Prowse, his brother Sam and a younger brother Gerald.

1934 saw me in Moncton at the C.N.R. Shops. I just got in as an apprentice Boiler Maker but did not stay long as I discovered the vacancy in the Electric Dept. had been taken, so I returned to Charlottetown and worked for Patterson’s Jewellery store as an apprentice in watch repair in 1935.

In later years I had purchased the property close by a canning factory that had burned down on "Fish Alley", and it was about that time that Capt. McGuire decided to beach his schooner, the former "Nellie J. Banks", and it so happened it was on our shore property. I started to build a cottage there in 1955.

-- End --

Murray Harbour, 1928 Cummins Atlas

(1) Burns, Arthur (Arthur M. Burns, d. 1951, Byron's father), baggage master, C.N.R., h 168 Weymouth - 1924/25 McAlpine's Directory

(2) Many notes such as this were interspersed throughout the text. They likely were intended to remind Byron of items he wanted to check out further before putting them down on paper. This document came from a notebook that he kept, and never completed, though it appears his intention was to finish it eventually. What he did leave for Suzanne was a precious memory, and an interesting history of the times in Murray Harbour for the rest of us.

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