From Inkerman House toddler to Victoria Cross mother: Bertha Gray Peters

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“I wish you could have known Dally,“ my mother, Dee Dee, said to me hundreds of times over the years.

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Bertha with pet dog in Victoria, British Columbia, circa 1905.  Family ciollecgtion.

Also: “Dally was so smart!“, “Dally was interested in everything“, and “Dally would have known the answer to that question“.

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Bertha`s father, Col. John Hamilton Gray, who was host and chairman of the historic Charlottetown Conference of 1864, is featured in this sculpture in downtown Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.  Sam McBride photo.

Dally was the nickname used by Dee Dee and her siblings for their maternal grandmother, Roberta Hamilton Susan Gray Peters, who lived with her daughter Helen Dewdney`s family in southeastern British Columbia from 1916 until her death three decades later at age 84.  Her sisters in the Gray family called her Bertie, and she was known in the community as Bertha, which is how I choose to refer to her.  No one in the family recalled the origin of the nickname Dally.

As a boy, I found my mother`s lavish praise of her grandmother somewhat annoying.  My thinking was: she died five years before I was born – why talk so much about someone I am never going to meet?

In recent years, however, my research into the life of her son, Victoria Cross recipient Frederic Thornton “Fritz“ Peters, has given me insight into why Bertha was so memorable to Dee Dee, as well as other family members and friends.  I was impressed that one person`s life could span so much of Canada`s history, and that her spirit and sense of humour held up despite experiencing a stream of disappointment and tragedy during her years as a mother and widow.

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The Gray family residence known as Inkerman House, where two-year-old Bertha was introduced to the Fathers of Confederation who were invited to Inkerman by Col. Gray to an after-dinner party on Saturday, Sept. 3, 1864.  Family collection

At age two in September 1864, Bertha was brought forward and introduced to the Fathers of Confederation her father brought home to the Gray estate known as Inkerman House from the Charlottetown Conference for an after-dinner party.   Eighty years later, in February 1944, she received, as her late son Fritz`s next-of-kin, the U.S. Distinguished Service Cross medal from a delegation of American officers and brass band representing President Roosevelt and General Eisenhower.

Bertha was the youngest of five daughters of Col. John Hamilton Gray and Susan Ellen Bartley Pennefather.  Sister Mary Stukeley Hamilton Gray was three years older, and the other three sisters were much older.   The eldest sister, Harriet Worrell Gray, 19 years her senior, was out of the house before Bertha was born, as the parents sent her as a teen-ager to England to live with, and care for, her aging Pennefather grandparents.   Sisters Margaret Pennefather Stukeley Gray and Florence Hope Gibson Gray were, respectively, 16 and 14 years older than Bertha.

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Painting of Bertha`s mother Susan Bartley Pennefather at age 17, shortly before her marriage to Col. Gray.  Family collection.

After Susan`s death in 1866, Margaret assumed the “mother“ role for her younger sisters.  Florence took over in 1869 after Margaret left home to marry shipbuilder Artemus Lord.  A couple of weeks after Margaret`s wedding, the widower Col. Gray married Sarah Caroline Cambridge, and they would have three children, of whom only Arthur Cavendish Hamilton Gray survived to adulthood.

In addition to tutoring their little sisters, Margaret and Florence did their best to shield them from angry outbursts of their stern father, whose career as a British Dragoon Guards cavalry officer left him obsessed with discipline and punctuality.

In a family of ardent readers, Bertha stood out as the most voracious reader of them all.  In addition to the large family collection of novels, poetry and history, Bertha`s thirst for knowledge led her to read through dictionaries and encyclopedias.   In later years, her wide-ranging knowledge helped Bertha win cash prizes as a solver of difficult crossword puzzles in contests sponsored by newspapers.

Bounding with energy, young Bertha was always up for outings, and encouraged her sisters to organize social events that included her.  Regarding her father with a mix of fear and admiration, she enjoyed participating in discussion of current events and politics at the dinner table.  As descendants of United Empire Loyalists, the Grays were wary of the United States of America, which was slowly recovering from its Civil War in Bertha’s girlhood.   The Grays saw no conflict in being strongly pro-British Empire and at the same time proud Canadians.  Throughout her life, Bertha introduced herself to new acquaintances as a “Daughter of Confederation”,  since her father was a Father of Confederation.

Painting of Margaret Carr Bartley c. 1830, around the time of her marriage to Major Sir John Lysaght Pennefather

Painting of Margaret Carr Bartley c. 1830, around the time of her marriage to Major Sir John Lysaght Pennefather.  Family collection.

A common topic of sister talk among the Grays was the mystery of their grandfather Bartley`s family.  Their mother Susan was born in Jamaica in about 1825, the only child of Margaret Carr and Lieut. William Bartley of the 22nd regiment of the British Army.  As was common for soldiers stationed abroad in that era, Bartley became ill and died in Jamaica.   His commanding officer, Major Sir John Lysaght Pennefather of Anglo-Irish aristocracy, took charge of looking after the widow and baby.  He later married Margaret, who gained the title of Lady Pennefather.  Her new husband insisted on being recognized as Susan`s father.  Communication with the Bartley relations ceased, and Susan did not learn of her real father until told just before her marriage to John Hamilton Gray.

Bertha and her sisters speculated about titles and inheritances they could have missed out on because of the loss of contact with the Bartleys.  This led Florence to take on the role of family historian.  Bertha`s handwritten copies of Florence`s inquiry letters and replies exist today in the Peters Family Papers.

Florence left home in 1876 to marry mining executive Henry Skeffington Poole, settling first in Stellarton, Nova Scotia and after 1900 in Guildford, England.

By 1880 both Pennefather grandparents had died.  Released from caregiver duties,  Harriet married Rev. Henry Pelham Stokes in London later that year.

Bertha’s eldest sister, Harriet Worrell Gray (1843-1882), was 19 years older than Bertha. Harriet looked after her Pennefather grandparents in England, and married Henry Pelham Stokes in her late 30s after the grandparents had both died. Family photo.

1868 dated photo: Sitting: Bertha’s sister Margaret Pennefather Stukeley Gray (1845-1941), who married Artemus Lord and continued to live in Charlottetown. Behind her is another sister, Florence Hope Gibson Gray (1848-1923) who married Henry Skeffington Poole and moved to Stellarton, Nova Scotia with him, and later in retirement to Guildford, England. The man is their cousin Edward Worrell Jarvis (1846-1894), son of Edward James Jarvis and Elizabeth Gray. Jarvis went on to an extraordinary career as an engineer, railway designer, militia soldier, lumber executive and mounted policeman.

The Gray family was comfortable financially but not wealthy.  Years later, she told her daughter Helen that as a young girl she envied Frederick Peters and his brothers at Sidmount House because each boy was treated to his favorite dessert on festive occasions, while she was never presented with a choice.

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Bertha`s husband Frederick Peters with daughter Mary Helen Peters, their first child, born August 31, 1887 in Charlottetown.  Family collection.

All seats of St. Paul`s Church in Charlottetown were filled on October 19, 1886 for the marriage of Bertha Gray and Fred Peters.  The Examiner reported the union of “one of Charlottetown`s most popular and rising young barristers to one of Charlottetown`s finest daughters.“  Following the ceremony, the bride and groom left for a three-month honeymoon in England before settling in their Westwood home purchased from the Hon. Daniel Davies.   In future years, Bertha`s fondness for England continued, as she took every opportunity to travel there for extended stays, particularly in London, in her mind the Centre of the Universe.

The last Gray sister to wed was Mary, who in June 1888 married Montreal lawyer William Abbott, son of future prime minister Sir John Joseph Caldwell Abbott.  Actor Christopher Plummer is a grandson of William`s brother Arthur Abbott.

August 1887 saw the birth of Mary Helen Peters, first child of Fred and Bertha.  She would always be known by her middle name Helen.  The first son, Frederic Thornton Peters, born in 1889, gained the nickname “Fritz“ because of his great interest in toy soldiers and armies.  John Francklyn “Jack“ Peters was born in October 1892, and then the fraternal twins Gerald Hamilton “Jelly“ Peters and Noel Quintan Peters were born on November 8, 1894 – exactly 48 years before the action in Algeria where their brother Fritz would earn the Victoria Cross.  In 1899, after the family moved across the country to Oak Bay on Vancouver Island, another daughter, Violet Avis Peters, was born.

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Children Helen, Gerald (holding cat) and Noel in Victoria, circa 1905

Fred Peters worked in a law partnership with his brother Arthur Peters and Ernest Ings.  He gained a seat in the provincial legislature in 1890, and within a year became leader of the Liberal Party, and then premier and attorney-general.   Despite political success, the family was experiencing financial woes, as the Cunard inheritance received by Fred’s mother Mary Cunard had run its course.   Fred desperately wanted to improve his finances, as he and Bertha expected to continue to live to a style to which they had become accustomed.

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Son Frederic Thornton Peters, known to family and friends as Fritz, in 1901 in Bedford, England.

Bertha came to her marriage with high expectations, and was not pleased to hear of money problems.  Her demands that the children be educated at private schools in England were likely a factor in her husband abruptly resigning as premier in mid-term in October 1897 so as to earn higher income in far-off Victoria, B.C.

In raising the children, Bertha was the strict parent, emphasizing discipline and the importance of living up to the traditions of the family and the British Empire, while Fred was an affectionate, sentimental  father who read stories to his children and tucked them into bed at night.  She saw no need to treat her children equally, choosing Gerald as her favourite and Noel, who had a moderate mental disability, as her least favourite.

Early in the First World War she decided to travel to England on her own to be close to her sons in military overseas service, particularly Gerald, who was her best friend and soulmate as well as favoured son.   By the time she arrived in July 1915, Private Jack Peters had died four months earlier in the Second Battle of Ypres, but was listed as missing and believed to be a prisoner of war.   In late May 1916, while staying at a rented  cottage near Dover where she hosted Lieut. Gerald Peters on his leaves, word came from Germany via the Red Cross that Jack was definitely not a P.O.W., so was assumed to have died in action 13 months earlier.  Just a couple of weeks later she learned that Gerald was missing following a June 3, 1916 counterattack at Mount Sorrel, also in the Ypres Salient.   Four weeks later his death was confirmed.

Lieutenant Gerald Hamilton Peters, spring 1916

Lieutenant Gerald Hamilton Peters, spring 1916

Engulfed by despair over Gerald’s death, Bertha went to stay at her sister Florence Poole’s home in Guildford before returning to Canada.   As was common at the time, Florence indulged in spiritualism as a means to contact dead loved ones in the afterlife.  Bertha began participating in séances as a way to contact Gerald, which infuriated her son Fritz who saw her spiritualism and excessive grieving over Gerald as signs of weakness at a time when maximum strength was needed to defeat the enemy.

Returning to British Columbia in November 1916, Bertha couldn’t bear to return to the family home in Prince Rupert because it was full of memories of Gerald and Jack, so instead went to live with her daughter Hel en Dewdney’s family in the mining town of New Denver in the mountainous West Kootenay region of southeastern B.C., while husband Fred continued alone in the isolated port of Prince Rupert serving as city solicitor and city clerk.  After Fred’s death in 1919, she lived permanently with the Dewdneys.

The last time she saw her Fritz was in July 1919 when he came back from England to organize his father’s funeral in Victoria, B.C.   She and Helen had only indirect contact with Fritz until receiving a letter from him in March 1942.

As a widow in her fifties, Bertha tried to earn income by writing novels and short stories, but all were rejected by publishers.    Using recipes and cooking skills from her P.E.I. heritage, Bertha often cooked for the Dewdney family, who generally enjoyed her meals but were on edge because, as a perfectionist, she would erupt in anger if something went wrong with the dinner.

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Bertha, circa 1905

In a family of bridge aficionados, Bertha stood out as the best player, constantly striving to improve.     She rated each community in the Kootenay region by the quality of their bridge players.

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Bertha, circa 1910. Family collection.

Bertha was in good health until a fall down stairs in about 1935 left her a bedridden invalid.   As the only child left in the house after her siblings left for marriage and university, Dee Dee became Bertha’s caregiver and audience for her stories and ideas about history and politics.  Her chores included daily trips to the Nelson library to borrow or return books requested by her grandmother.

After Fritz’s death in an air crash on November 13, 1942, Bertha wrote a flurry of letters to England to find out more about the action in Algeria on November 8th for which Fritz would receive the Victoria Cross and U.S. Distinguished Service Cross.  Separately, she asked Fritz’s friends to fill her in on Fritz’s life between the wars.

She was thrilled to hear from the British Admiralty office that Fritz would receive the Victoria Cross, but later was flabbergasted that the Americans went all out in honouring her with a full presentation ceremony for their DSC medal, while Britain just sent the VC medal to her in the mail.

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Bertha after suffering a crippling fall down stairs at the Dewdney home in Nelson, B.C. in about 1935. Family collection.

Passing away July 30, 1946, Bertha was the last surviving daughter of Col. Gray.  Harriet died in London in 1882, Florence in Guildford in 1923, and Mary in Montreal in 1936.  Margaret, the only daughter to remain in P.E.I., was in excellent health until her death at age 96 in Charlottetown on December 31, 1941.

Inspired by her grandmother Bertha/Dally, Dee Dee became a professional librarian, and was an enthusiastic monarchist and anglophile.  Travelling to England in 1953 for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, she often mentioned in letters home that she wished her grandmother was alive to share the experience.

Today, when people ask me why I buy so many books on England and the monarchy, I lay the blame on my great-grandmother Bertha/Dally!

Bertha left a wealth of family letters in family files through her lifetime, which were subsequently looked after by her daughter Helen Dewdney, Helen’s daughter Dee Dee McBride, and now me.  In addition, in June 2020 I came in contact via Facebook with a lady in Alberta who had lived in the former Dewdney/McBride home in Nelson, B.C. in the 1980s, who discovered about a dozen additional letters in floorboards when they were renovating the house.  I greatly appreciated receiving the letters, which add substantially to our understanding of Bertha’s situation in the very stressful months of late 1916.  Most of them were sent to her from her sister Florence Poole in England, and include discussion of spiritualism, mediums and seances, which children Helen and Fritz disapproved of her practising as a means to contact son Gerald in the afterlife.

envelope of 1916 letter sent by Florence Poole to sister Bertha Peters, part of the stash of correspondence discovered in the 1980s and received by me in 2020.

1911-1916 envelopes and front pages of letters to Bertha Gray Peters. Discovered in 1980s and forwarded to her great-grandson in 2020.

Sources:

The family history writings of Florence Gray Poole and Helen Peters Dewdney, and letters received by Bertha Gray Peters, in the Peters Family Papers; various newspaper accounts; One Woman’s Charlottetown:  Diaries of Margaret Gray Lord 1863, 1876, 1890; census, vital statistics and ship records; and the author’s recollection of family discussions.

 

Cousin E.W. Jarvis Had a Dramatic Life of Accomplishments and Adventure in the Canadian Frontier

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By Sam McBride

Edward Worrell Jarvis (1846-1894) was a nephew of Col. John Hamilton Gray, a first cousin of Bertha Gray Peters and her sisters, and a first cousin, once removed, of Frederic Thornton “Fritz“ Peters.   My relation to him is first cousin, three times removed.

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Edward Worrell Jarvis, son of Elizabeth Gray and PEI Chief Justice Edward James Jarvis.  (Detail of family photograph in Peters Family Papers)

His remarkable career included railway surveying and engineering in England and Canada (including an extremely challenging Canadian Pacific Railway winter survey through the Rocky Mountains in northern B.C. and Alberta), running a successful lumber business in Winnipeg, serving as a Major in command of the Winnipeg Field Battery in the Riel Rebellion of 1885, designing three bridges in Winnipeg (including the Broadway Bridge which opened in 1882 as the first bridge to cross the Red River), being the first registrar at the University of Manitoba, a founding member of the Manitoba Historical Society, alderman in the early years of Winnipeg, and superintendent with the Northwest Mounted Police (forerunner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police), the position he held at the time of his death in 1894 at age 48.   When he applied to join the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) in 1874, the ICE members sponsoring his application included the distinguished engineers Sir Sandford Fleming and Marcus Smith of CPR fame.   For whatever reason, details of his career were missed in Gray family letters and memorabilia, likely because he was far away and out of touch with his relations in the Maritimes, who he would not have known well as he spent much of his boyhood at private school and later university in England after he became an orphan a six years of age.  There is no mention of him in the Canadian Dictionary of Biographies.

INTRODUCTION

One of my favourite images in the family collection that I have inherited is the photograph by G.P. Tanton of Charlottetown dated 1868 of a gentleman and two ladies.   The print is 2.25 inches wide and 3.75 inches high, on heavy paper backing.   The image has excellent black and white contrast in a brown, sepia tone colour.  In most studio photos from this era the subjects look serious and uncomfortable  (not surprising as they had to stay still for many seconds for the camera exposure), but with this photo Margaret Gray, at least, looks relaxed and has a trace of a smile.  The back of the chair she is sitting on is similar to chairs that exist today as family heirlooms.

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Edward Worrell Jarvis with his cousins Margaret Pennefather Stukeley Gray (sitting) and Florence Hope Gibson Gray in Charlottetown in 1868. Photo from Peters Family Papers.

On the back of the print, the people in the photo are identified as Margaret Gray, Florence Gray and Edward Jarvis.  We know from other photographs that Margaret Pennefather Stukeley Gray (1845-1941), who would have been 23 at the time the photo was taken, is seated and her sister Florence Hope Gibson Gray (1848-1921), 20, is standing behind her.

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back of photo print (Peters Family Papers)

The father of the young ladies, Col. John Hamilton Gray, was retired from politics and in charge of the Prince Edward Island militia when the photo was taken.  Four years earlier, Col. Gray was premier of PEI and host of the Charlottetown Conference of 1864 which set the stage for Canada being established as a self-governing nation in 1867.  Gray`s wife Susan Ellen Bartley Pennefather, who died in 1866, was in failing health at the time of the Charlottetown Conference, so daughters Margaret and Florence served as hostesses when their father invited his fellow Fathers of Confederation to his estate known as Inkerman House for an after-dinner party on Sept. 3, 1864.

Margaret married Charlottetown shipbuilder Artemus Lord in 1869 and resided in Charlottetown for the rest of her life.  Florence married mining engineer Henry Skeffington Poole and they settled in Stellarton, Nova Scotia, and after about 1900 resided in England.

Until recently, all I knew about the young man in the photo was that he was Edward Jarvis, son of Edward James Jarvis (1788-1852 and Elizabeth Gray (1803-1847), sister of Col. Gray.   As chief justice of Prince Edward Island, Edward James Jarvis was prominent in the community.   The only thing mentioned about young Edward Jarvis in Florence Gray`s notes about the Gray family was that he “died unmarried“.   The Canadian Dictionary of Biographies has a full entry about Edward James Jarvis, but no mention of his son Edward.  When I learned from PEI baptismal records that the son`s full name was Edward Worrell Jarvis, this led to details from various sources of his remarkable life in Western Canada as an engineer, surveyor, businessman, soldier, policeman and civic leader.

 

EDWARD WORRELL JARVIS

Edward Worrell Jarvis was born in Charlottetown on January 26, 1846, and baptized August 22, 1846 at St. Paul`s Anglican Church in Charlottetown.   He was the first child of his father Edward James Jarvis and Elizabeth Gray, but his father had eight children in his first marriage to Anna Maria Boyd (1795-1841).  Nineteen months after Edward`s birth his mother Elizabeth died in childbirth on Sept. 6, 1847.  Edward`s father died in 1852 when he was six.  Though an orphan, he had a large extended family of step-brothers, step-sisters, cousins, uncles and aunts.  He and his Gray cousins were all grandchildren of Robert Gray, a United Empire Loyalist in Virginia who helped organize a regiment in support of the King, and was in the thick of the fighting in the Carolinas against rebel forces in the American Revolutionary War.  Edward’s paternal grandfather Munson Jarvis of Connecticut was also a United Empire Loyalist, settling in New Brunswick after eviction by American rebels.

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This excellent book about the Jarvis-Hanington winter survey expedition for the CPR came out in early 2016.

According to his obituary in a Manitoba newspaper published after his death in 1894, Edward Worrell Jarvis went to school in England and graduated from Cambridge University.   According to the British Institute of Civil Engineers, he worked as an engineer under the tutelage of Walter M. Brydone, chief engineer for the British Great Northern Railway.   Jarvis worked on the Spalding to March railway in England, east of Birmingham, between 1864 and 1867 before returning to Canada in 1868 when he was employed as an assistant engineer by the Government of Canada, under renowned engineer and surveyor Sir Sandford Fleming, on the Intercolonial Railway in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, including responsibility for construction of a 15-mile section and a 12-mile section of the track.

 

 

 

From 1871 to 1873 E.W. Jarvis was in charge of 50 men exploring and surveying 360 miles of the CPR rail line, and then in 1873-74 was in charge of an additional 180 miles through the Rocky Mountains.

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Details of the bone-chilling survey of the Smoky River Pass led by E.W. Jarvis in the winter of 1875 are in Sandford Fleming’s 1877 report of CPR route surveys.

In January 1875 Jarvis led a survey team in a horrific winter expedition to survey the Smoky River Pass north of the Yellowhead Pass as a possible route for the CPR line.   Following instructions from Sandford Fleming (who at that time had decided on the Yellowhead Pass for the CPR, but wanted the Smoky River Pass checked out to see if it could be considered a possible route), Jarvis set off from Fort George (near current site of Prince George, B.C.) with his assistant, C.F. Hanington, Alex Macdonald in charge of dog trains, six Indians and 20 dogs.   The plan was to go through the pass, conduct the required work, and arrive at Edmonton.

In “The National Dream“, Pierre Berton devoted two full pages to the harrowing expedition led by E.W. Jarvis.  “The party travelled light with only two blankets per man and a single piece of light cotton sheeting for a tent,“ Berton said.  “They moved through a land that had never been mapped.  A good deal of the time they had no idea where they were.  They camped out in temperatures that dropped to 53 below zero.  They fell through thin ice and had to clamber out, soaked to the skin, their snowshoes still fastened to their feet.“

ntional deram 001By March 1875 the dogs used for the Jarvis Expedition were dying daily.  Berton notes that “even the Indians were in a mournful state of despair, declaring that they …would never see their homes again, and weeping bitterly.“  Somehow the group managed to make it to Edmonton, where Jarvis found his weight had dropped to a starving 125 pounds.  After a brief break they set off again across blizzard-swept prairie for Fort Garry, south of modern-day Winnipeg, Manitoba.  In total, the expedition spent 116 days on the trail, travelling 1,887 miles – 932 of those miles on snowshoes and 332 of them with all their goods on their backs, as the dogs had died.

Berton posed the question: Why did they do it.  Not for money or adventure, he concludes.  Rather , “each man did it for glory, spurred on by the slender but ever-present hope that someday his name would be enshrined on a mountain peak… or, glory of glories, would go into the history books as the one who had bested all others and located the route for the great railway.“

Later in 1875 Jarvis began working as a lumber merchant in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  According to Berton, he was “doing a roaring business in lumber and starving no more.“  He was later a partner in the lumber business of W. J. Macaulay and Company.  Between 1880 and 1883 Jarvis designed three bridges in Winnipeg:  the Louise and Broadway Bridges over the Red River and the Main Street Bridge over the Assiniboine River.

In the Riel Rebellion of 1885 he was a Major in command of the Winnipeg Field Battery of the Canadian artillery, and was mentioned in despatches.

Among other distinctions, Jarvis was the first registrar of the University of Manitoba, a founder of the Manitoba Historical Society, an early alderman on the Winnipeg City Council, and an officer in the Northwest Mounted Police.

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lumber ad in Jan. 18, 1882 Manitoba Free Presss

 

Jarvis Edward Worrallgrave

Text of tombstone: “Erected by the officers, non-commissioned officers and men of E. Division N.W.M. Police in memory of their commanding officer Supt. E.W. Jarvis who died in Calgary November 26th 1894 Aged 49 years.“  Photo courtesy of the Alberta Family History Society.

 

 

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obituary from Winnipeg Tribune Dec. 4, 1894

Jarvis joined the NWMP in 1886 when the federal government decided to double the size of the force from 500 to 1,000 when they realized that additional policing resources were needed in the wake of the Riel Rebellion.   Jarvis was among 29 new officers appointed in this expansion of the force.  His military service was a factor in his selection as an officer, as was the fact that he was born in Prince Edward Island, because the government wanted the various regions of the country to be represented in the group of new officers.   Superintendent Jarvis was one of five of the new NWMP officers to have served in the Riel Rebellion.   Jarvis` experience with the NWMP is described in the book “Red Coats on the Prairies“ by William Beahen and Stan Horrall.  In addition to his command duties, Jarvis was tasked with reviewing NWMP regulations, and testing new ammunition proposed for the NWMP manufactured by the Dominion Cartridge Co. of Montreal.   He concluded that is was “impossible to shoot well with bullets supplied by the Dominion Cartridge Company“.   When telephone service was introduced for the NWMP between Moose Jaw and Wood River in 1887, Jarvis designed and produced two receivers to be used with the new communication system.   It was Jarvis who put forward the idea of a musical band for NWMP headquarters as a worthwhile form of recreation for the men in the NWMP, who otherwise often turned to drinking and associated misbehaviour when they were off duty.   The men would not be paid extra for being in the band, but they would be excused from tedious duties.   According to Beahen and Horrall, Jarvis was surprised when the NWMP commissioner approved his suggestion of a band.  As it turned out, Inspector W.G. Matthews, who was appointed conductor of the band, was largely responsible for the first Mounted Police Musical Rides, which became an institution with the force that continues to the present day.  The authors note that C.W. Dwight, an NWMP constable from a well-to-do family in Toronto, said in a letter that his Commanding Officer in “A“ Division (Supt. Jarvis) was “a thorough gentleman and his treatment of men at all times considerate and impartial.“

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As an idea-oriented engineer with wide-ranging knowledge and capabilities, Jarvis was asked to make recommendations for improving the NWMP facilities and operations.  In his first annual report submitted November 30, 1886 he expressed a vision for practical improvements to the uniform which are largely in line with how the NWMP and later the RCMP uniforms later developed. “The Police uniform fits too well for a man actively engaged in rough prairie work, and is soon spoiled by duties required a camp fire,“ Jarvis wrote, adding  “I would suggest the issue of a `prairie dress` which would consist of dark brown cord or velveteen britches, long boots and spurs, a heavy blue flannel shirt (over which the stable jacket could be worn when required) and a broad-brimmed hat of soft felt to complete the outfit.  By adopting this, personal comfort and a uniform appearance would be gained, while the regular uniform would be saved for parade and duty in settled districts.  The forage cap is no use at all on the prairie.“

Tragically, Superintendent Jarvis died in Calgary on November 24, 1894 of cellulitis, a type of skin infection that can be fatal.   Because of his popularity, NWMP men from other divisions were allowed time to come to his funeral.   This ended badly, as many of the men gathered for the funeral got drunk and made a public exhibition of themselves, according to Beahen and Horrall.   One officer was found to be completely drunk in uniform in the lobby of the hotel the next morning at 9 am.

Jarvis is buried in the St. Mary`s Pioneer Cemetery in Calgary.  Jarvis Avenue in Winnipeg is named after him, as are Jarvis Creek in Alberta, Jarvis Creek in B.C., Jarvis Lake in Alberta, Jarvis Lake in B.C., Mount Jarvis in B.C., Jarvis Pass in B.C and Jarvis Street in Hinton, Alberta.  A collection of his journals are held by the Archives of Manitoba.

 

CLUES FROM MIDDLE NAMES IN GRAY FAMILY

dally sister harriet gray

Harriett Worrell Gray, eldest daughter of John Hamilton Gray, in 1864.

Worrell (or alternate spelling Worrall) was also the middle name of his cousin Harriett Worrell Gray (first child of John Hamilton Gray and Susan Bartley-Pennefather), who was born three years earlier than Edward, in 1843.   We know from Loyalist Robert Gray`s autobiographical notes that he named his youngest son John Hamilton Gray as a tribute to the Hamilton family in Scotland who trained and employed him in their tobacco trading business in Colonial America.  One might assume that Robert Gray`s children John Hamilton Gray and Elizabeth Gray Jarvis also named children with middle names in appreciation for some special assistance or support for them at some time by the Worrell family.   A possible link would be the Worrell Estates near St. Peters Bay on the north coast of Prince Edward Island, in the vicinity of land granted to original proprietor George Burns, who was maternal grandfather of John Hamilton Gray and Elizabeth Gray.   See bio of Charles Worrell at  http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/worrell_charles_8E.html

Hamilton Edward Jarvis Gray (1880-c.1889) was the last child of Col. John Hamilton Gray and his third wife Sarah Caroline Cambridge (1842-1906).   Col. Gray was 69 when his youngest son Hammy was born.  Hammy is listed as a beneficiary in his father`s will dated January 1887, and is not listed on the 1891 British census, though his mother and brother Arthur are on the census, indicating that Hammy likely died sometime between 1887 in Prince Edward Island and 1891 in England, where his mother had moved with her son Arthur.  The fact that Col. Gray would have Edward Jarvis as middle names for his son is perhaps a reflection of his admiration for the father E.J. Jarvis, his son E.W. Jarvis, or both.

 

THE TWO LADIES IN THE PHOTO

Margaret Gray Lord was the only one of Col. Gray`s five daughters to continue residing in Prince Edward Island through her lifetime.   In October 1864 she accompanied her father to the Quebec Conference where proposals for confederation were thoroughly discussed and carried forward.  By the 1930s, she was the last surviving partipant of the historic Quebec Conference.  She was presented to the King and Queen when the Royal Tour came to Charlottetown in 1939.   Through most of her adult life she kept a personal diary, which was the basis for the book “One Woman`s Charlottetown: the 1863, 1876 and 1890 Diaries of Margaret Gray Lord“ published in 1987.  Margaret was active in the Womens Temperance Movement in the early 1900s, perhaps recalling with disdain the inebriation of many of the Fathers of Confederation when her father brought them home for an after-dinner party that followed a late afternoon feast and libations in Charlottetown Harbour.  Margaret enjoyed excellent health until her death in Charlottetown at age 96 on December 31, 1941.

Florence Gray with her grandmother, Lady Pennefather (Margaret Carr Bartley)

Florence Gray with her maternal grandmother, Lady Pennefather (Margaret Carr Bartley), who lived in Aldershot, England and came to PEI to visit her daughter Susan and her family every couple of years.  Circa 1868.  Peters Family Papers photo.

Florence Gray Poole was keen on family history, and conducted substantial research and associated correspondence regarding the ancestry of both her parents.   Tragically, her son Eric Skeffington Poole, a second lieutenant with the British Army, was court martialled for desertion in the fall of 1916 after he was found to have wandered away in a daze from his assigned position in a front line trench.   Despite testimony from medical staff that he was experiencing the lingering effects of shell shock from the Battle of the Somme a couple of months earlier, Eric was convicted and shot at dawn in Poperinghe, Belgium on Dec. 16, 1916.  At the time, Florence`s husband Henry Skeffington Poole was very ill, and she worried that hearing of Eric`s fate would kill him.  She reached an agreement with authorities that she would not contest the execution and they would not publicize it.  Ironically, one of her other sons, Henry Raynaulde Poole, won a Distinguished Service Order (DSO) medal for valour in the Great War, and was an officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) and the French Legion of Honour.  Florence died at age 75 in 1923 in Guildford, England, six years after the death of her husband Henry.

 

SOURCES

Link to Memorable Manitobans web site http://www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/people/jarvis_ew.shtml

link to an article in Manitoba History that focused on the families of Edward James Jarvis and Alexander Ross as examples of Victorians families of their era. http://www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/mb_history/13/victorianfamily.shtml

RCMP memorial web site

http://www.rcmpgraves.com/database/depotdynasty.html

British Engineering Society publication

http://www.gracesguide.co.uk/Edward_Worrell_Jarvis#cite_note-1

Link to Edward James Jarvis, chief justice, PEI in Canadian Dictionary of Biographies

http://ww.w.biographi.ca/en/bio/jarvis_edward_james_8E.html

Link to Charles Worrell in Canadian Dictionary of Biographies.

http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/worrell_charles_8E.html

Facts of interest about Colonel John Hamilton Gray of Prince Edward Island

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John Hamilton Gray

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Col. Gray c. 1860

 

  • John Hamilton Gray was likely one of very few men to have had a father (the United Empire Loyalist Col. Robert Gray) serve in the American Revolutionary War in the 18th century, and a son (Arthur Cavendish Bentinck Hamilton-Gray) serve in World War One in the 20th century.
  • Robert Gray was 64 when his son John Hamilton was born in 1811. John Hamilton Gray was 65 when his son Arthur was born in 1876.
  • In an October 1864 speech, John Hamilton Gray reflected on the great benefits of Confederation for “our sons”. In 1876, after six daughters, Gray finally had a son, Arthur, with his third wife Sarah Caroline Cambridge. He had another son, Hamilton Edward Jarvis Gray, in 1880 when he was 69, but the boy did not survive to adulthood. His first two wives, Fanny Sewell Chamier and Susan Ellen Bartley-Pennefather, each died of childbirth-related ailments.

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    painting of Gray`s second wife Susan in India in about 1842 when she was 17 and they were about to be married.

  • As a soldier, John Hamilton Gray participated in a sensational duel of honour. His pistol shot winged his opponent, who missed Gray in the exchange of fire. To defend the honour of his regiment, he had been issued a pair of dueling pistols as a new officer with the elite Dragoon Guards cavalry regiment.
battle of zwartkoppies and Capt gray capturing the boer cannon scanned aug 13 2014,

Battle of Zwartkoppies, South Africa, April 30, 1845, photograph of colour painting by Major Sir Harry Darrell, 7th Dragoon Guards

 

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Detail of hand symbol pointing to Capt. John Hamilton Gray capturing the cannon at Battle of Zwartkoppies

  • In 1845 Gray received a medal for capturing an enemy cannon in action against insurgent Boers in South Africa.  His colleague General Graham Montgomery-Moore later said Gray would have qualified for a Victoria Cross for that act of heroism, but it was 11 years before Queen Victoria established the Victoria Cross as the highest honour for valour in the face of an enemy.
  • Among the seven Prince Edward Island Fathers of Confederation, Gray was the most fervent supporter of PEI joining Confederation at the Quebec Conference of October 1864 and in subsequent presentations. When colleagues turned against Confederation, he resigned as leader of the PEI government in protest in December 1864.
  • Perhaps the best-known story about Gray is him mentioning to the future King Edward the Seventh that he had daughters born in each quadrant of the world: Harriet on a troop ship in the Red Sea, Margaret at Fort Beaufort, South Africa, Florence in Kent, England, and Mary in Charlottetown, PEI.  He subsequently had two more daughters in Charlottetown: Bertha and Rosie, and finally a son, Arthur.

    Bertha`s siblings, clockwise from bottom left: sister Harriet Worrall Gray (later married Henry Stokes) in 1864; another of Harriet in Aldershot, England, where she was caregiver for her aged Pennefather grandparents; front, sister Margaret Gray (Lord), standing Florence Gray (Poole) with cousin Edward Jarvis at left, 1868; sister Mary "Mim" Gray (Abbott); stepbrother Arthur Cavendish Hamilton Gray, when serving as a lieutenant with the New Brunswick regiment in the Boer War; and sister Florence with grandmother Lady Pennefather. (McBride Collection)

    Clockwise from bottom left: Harriet Worrell Gray (later married Henry Stokes) in 1864; another of Harriet in Aldershot, England; sitting is Margaret Gray (Lord), standing Florence Gray (Poole) with cousin Edward Jarvis at left, 1868; Mary Gray (Abbott); Arthur Cavendish Bentinck Hamilton-Gray, when serving as a lieutenant with the New Brunswick regiment in the 1890s; and Florence with grandmother Lady Pennefather.

  • By phenomenal coincidence, there were two unrelated Fathers of Confederation named John Hamilton Gray – one in PEI and the other in New Brunswick. Even more amazing, each one was known as Colonel Gray – the PEI Gray achieving the rank as a career officer with the British Cavalry, and the New Brunswick Gray for his service with the militia.
  • There is no record of the PEI Gray venturing west of Ontario, but the New Brunswick Gray moved to Victoria, B.C. late in his career and died in Victoria in 1889. Ironically, the New Brunswick Gray is buried at Ross Bay Cemetery in Victoria close to the burial site of the PEI Gray’s son-in-law Frederick Peters and granddaughter Violet Peters.

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    Gray`s daughter Bertha Gray Peters. Known in the family as Dally.

  • Gray and his brother Robert Gray both suffered from gout.  They believed they inherited the condition from their hard-drinking grandfather Lt. George Burns, who was an original proprietor (among the first land grantees after Britain gained control of the island in the 1760s).
  • Gray’s son Arthur Cavendish Bentinck Hamilton-Gray was likely named after Gray’s long-time friend and colleague in the 7th Dragoon Guards, Major Arthur Cavendish Bentinck. In his will, Arthur styled his surname as Hamilton-Gray.

    arthur bentick commanding dragoon guards

    Major Arthur Cavendish Bentinck of the 7th Dragoon Guards.

  • At age 18, John Hamilton Gray’s daughter Margaret Stukeley Pennefather Gray accompanied her father to the Quebec Conference and subsequent Confederation-related events, including a visit to Niagara Falls, in October 1864. By the 1930s, Margaret Gray Lord was the last surviving participant of the Quebec Conference. She died at age 96 on December 31, 1941.

    margaret gray lord

    Margaret Gray Lord

  • Gray idolized his father-in-law General Sir John Lysaght Pennefather, a victorious hero of the Battle of Inkerman in the Crimean War in 1854.   In honour of his father-in-law, Gray named his new estate in Charlottetown Inkerman House, and carefully planted trees along the entrance known as Inkerman Way to represent the order of battle at Inkerman involving British and French forces on one side, and Russians on the other side.

    (c) The Royal Hospital Chelsea; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

    Gen. Sir John Lysaght Pennefather

  • Gray’s roots in PEI go back to the beginning of British control of the island in the 1700s. His grandfather Lt. George Burns was granted land on the northeast coast of the island for his service at the coronation of King George the Third.
  • Gray was named after the Hamilton family in Scotland who hired his father Robert as an agent for their tobacco business in Virginia. As Robert’s family was in financial distress, Robert appreciated the opportunity given him by the Hamiltons for the rest of his life, and named his youngest son in their honour.

Book Signings Going Well in PEI, NB and NS

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Our book tour for “The Bravest Canadian — Fritz Peters VC: The Making of a Hero of Two World Wars” has generated a flood of publicity in the newspapers and broadcast media, including several stations of CTV and CBC in the three provinces.  Most of the people who bought books at the book signing sessions said they saw or heard about Fritz Peters in a recent media story.

The tour is winding down, but I am looking forward to returning to Prince Edward Island for a booksigning at the Indigo Charlottetown on Oct. 5 from 11 am until noon, and also meeting with representatives of the PEI Genealogical Society.  With the 150th anniversary of the historic Charlottetown Conference coming up in 2014, there is a great amount of interest in Fritz’s grandfather (and my great-great-grandfather) Col. John Hamilton Gray, who was head of the PEI government in 1864 and served as host and chairman of the conference.  On the evening of Saturday, Sept. 3, 1864 Gray invited the Fathers of Confederation home to his residence known as Inkerman House (named after his father-in-law’s famous victory in the Crimean War) for an after-dinner party, where much liquor was consumed and the conference delegates got to know each other on a social basis.  As they arrived, they were introduced to Gray’s family, including two-year-old Bertha, Fritz’s mother.  Later in life, Bertha introduced herself to new acquaintances as “a Daughter of Confederation.”

My presentation at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic was well-received by about 20 interested attendees who came out for the event despite heavy rain in Halifax.  I had not been to the museum since 1992, and was greatly impressed with his improvements, including a wonderful section on Fritz’s grandfather Sir Samuel Cunard.

 

 

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Strong Maritime Heritage of Fritz Peters, VC

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Canada has many war heroes, but the only one to receive multiple awards for valour in both world wars, including the highest honour of the Victoria Cross, is a true child of the Maritimes: Captain Frederic Thornton “Fritz“ Peters, VC, DSO, DSC and bar, DSC (U.S.), RN.

Born in Charlottetown in 1889, Peters has a special place in the hearts of Prince Edward Islanders as the only P.E.I.-born Victoria Cross recipient, but he came from a family which also has an extraordinary impact on the history of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

Three sides of his family were United Empire Loyalists who stayed loyal to King George the Third in the American Revolution, and had to move en masse to the Maritimes after the victory of the rebels. Both of Fritz`s grandfathers – Col. John Hamilton Gray and Judge James Horsfield Peters – were direct descendants of United Empire Loyalists, as was his paternal grandmother Mary Cunard. His other grandmother, Susan Ellen Bartley Pennefather, was born in Jamaica, raised in Anglo-Irish aristocracy, and was residing in India when she married John Hamilton Gray, who brought her to his native Prince Edward Island after resigning as a British cavalry officer.

Ancestor James Peters led a large group from Long Island, New York who settled in the future site of Saint John, New Brunswick in the spring of 1783. Later settling in Gagetown, New Brunswick, his sons and grandsons included attorneys general, magistrates, militia chiefs, lawyers and assembly members who would dominate public life in New Brunswick in the late 18th century and through the 19th century.

Judge James Horsfield Peters

Judge James Horsfield Peters

Fritz Peters` paternal grandfather, Gagetown, N.B.-born Judge James Horsfield Peters, married Nova Scotian Mary Cunard of Bushville/Miramichi, who was a daughter of the famous Halifax-based industrialist Sir Samuel Cunard, and they settled in Charlottetown, where James Horsfield Peters was lawyer and agent for Cunards before his judicial appointment. Two of their sons – Fritz`s father Frederick Peters and his brother Arthur – would serve as premier and attorney general of P.E.I.

Fritz`s maternal grandfather, Charlottetown-born Col. John Hamilton Gray, earlier served as premier and had the distinction of hosting and chairing the famous Charlottetown Conference of 1864 that set the stage for the creation of Canada as a self-governing, sea-to-sea country. Gray`s father Col. Robert Gray was a Loyalist from Virginia who helped raise a King`s regiment and was in the thick of fighting against the rebels in the Revolutionary War.

Col. john Hamilton Gray, c. 1864

Col. john Hamilton Gray, c. 1864

21b Samuel-Cunard-App A

Sir Samuel Cunard

Another ancestor, Loyalist shipbuilder Abraham Cunard from Pennsylvania, met his future wife Margaret Murphy from South Carolina on a Loyalist evacuation voyage to Nova Scotia in 1783, and they settled in Halifax and later in Rawdon, N.S. Several of their sons were deeply involved in businesses that were central to economic development in all three Maritime provinces , most notably Sir Samuel Cunard, the founder of Cunard Steamship Lines and one of the greatest businessmen in Canadian history.

As a boy, Fritz Peters heard stories of his famous ancestors and resolved to live up to their standard of leadership, excellence and public involvement.

The biography titled “The Bravest Canadian – Fritz Peters VC: The Making of a Hero of Two World Wars“ by Fritz`s greatnephew Sam McBride is based on a recently-discovered treasure trove of family letters of the Grays and Peters going back to the 1700s, including 27 letters written by Fritz that give insight into his personality and motivations that resulted in exceptional courage and coolness in battle.

The author will sign books and meet with Maritime genealogy and history buffs in a book tour September 25-Octotber 5, 2013 through Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, including a presentation on Tuesday, Oct. 1st at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax.

How Canadian was Frederic Thornton Peters?

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by Sam McBride

F.T. “Fritz“ Peters is excluded from some lists of Canadian Victoria Cross heroes because 1) he spent his adult years based in either Gold Coast colony in West Africa, or England; 2) he served in the Royal Navy and with the British Secret Intelligence Service; or at sea with the Royal Navy; and 3) he rarely mentioned Canada as his nation of birth and boyhood.

A long-time friend and naval colleague, Commander David Joel, wrote in unpublished memoirs that he had heard that Peters returned to Canada for a time in the inter-war period, but he had no details.

The last record of Fritz in Canada was his father Frederick Peters` funeral in Victoria, British Columbia in August 1919, which Fritz organized and attended. His mother Bertha Gray Peters later wrote that her son Fritz would have joined the Royal Canadian Navy if there was one, but when Fritz enlisted at age 15 in 1905 the only navy to sign up with was the Royal Navy, which had a large profile in the Victoria region where Fritz resided due to its Pacific Station base in Esquimalt. The Royal Canadian Navy was still five years away from existence.
The latest publicly available censuses Fritz is on are the 1901 and 1911 censuses. Interestingly, he and his family are included in both the Canada census and the England census for 1901, when the family continued to be based in Oak Bay, B.C. but spent considerable time at Bertha`s stepmother Sarah Caroline Cambridge Gray`s community of Bedford north of London, where the children attended private school. Fritz was also counted twice in 1911, as his family included him as a resident of Esquimalt where they lived, and, as a sub-lieutenant on HMS Otter, Fritz was also included in the 1911 England census. He listed his nationality as Canadian, with “British subject“ in parentheses. Fritz listed his ethnic background as Scottish, as did all of his siblings except elder sister Helen, who said she was of English heritage.

Fritz`s Canadian origins are clearly stated in his Royal Navy file, and his best friends Swain Saxton, Cromwell Varley and David Joel were aware that he was Canadian. While it is true that Fritz did not mention being Canadian in his dealings with Americans in the Second World War, but tended to keep his personal life and background to himself as a matter of principle, and in sync with the top secret work he was involved in. Fritz`s letters home show that he detested self-promotion. Even if he were not involved in secret projects, he would not be showing off a c.v. or talking about his achievements because he thought such bragging was unseemly.

It is true that Fritz would have travelled on a British passport, because there were no Canadian passports until 1949 – seven years after his death. It is only in recent years that the concept of all Canadians being British subjects has faded away.

There are two other measures in which Fritz`s Canadianness stands out. Firstly, his ancestry goes back to an original proprietor of P.E.I., and three of his four grandparents (Peters, Gray and Cunard) were direct descendants of United Empire Loyalists who came to the Canadian Maritimes after the American Revolutionary War. If Canadian roots could be measured in loyalty and length of residence, Fritz was about as Canadian as you could get.

Secondly, Fritz deserves recognition as a Canadian because two of his brothers, Private John Francklyn Peters and Lieut. Gerald Hamilton Peters, died early in the First World War fighting with the 7th British Columbia Battalion. Another brother, Noel Quintan Peters, served with the Canadian Forestry Corps.

And Fritz was always proud to be a grandson of a Father of Confederation, Col. John Hamilton Gray. Fritz’s letters show that he spent time in London researching his grandfather and other Fathers of Confederation.

Also, the name of Fritz Peters is not found in British lists of Victoria Cross recipients from England, so if he is also not on Canadian lists he is overlooked in the overall picture.

If you talk to people in Charlottetown, they will tell you they are proud of him as a Canadian hero, particularly as he is the only P.E.I.-born recipient of the Victoria Cross.

So the answer is that yes, Fritz Peters was most definitely a Canadian!

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New images in Fritz Peters ancestry

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by Sam McBride

During my recent visit to Prince Edward Island I had an opportunity to see, and copy, information and photographs gathering over the years by my relative (second cousin, once removed) Hugh “Pete“ Paton of Charlottetown. Pete is a grandson of Arthur Peters (premier of P.E.I. 1901-1907), who was the younger brother of Frederick Peters (premier of P.E.I. 1891-1897), who was Fritz Peters` father and my great-grandfather.

Several years ago Pete came across paintings of Thomas Horsfield Peters and his wife Mary Sharmen at a gallery in New Brunswick and photographed them. I was thrilled to see them, as they are the first of the pair that I have come across. For many years large framed photographs of their son, Judge James Horsfield Peters, and his wife Mary Cunard hung on a wall in my mother`s house. About a dozen years ago through internet forums I acquired images of Thomas Horsfield Peters` parents, the United Empire Loyalists James Peters and Margaret Lester.

The new images of Thomas Horsfield Peters and Mary Sharman fill empty spaces in the pictorial Fritz Peters family tree going back three generations. You can see that the only ones with blank spaces in the tree are Susan Duffus (wife of Sir Samuel Cunard, and mother of Mary Cunard); Lieut. William Bartley (first husband of Lady Pennefather, and mother of Susan Gray, wife of Col. John Hamilton Gray, P.E.I. premier and Father of Confederation); and Mary Burns (daughter of original proprietor Capt. George Burns and mother of Col. John Hamilton Gray). I do not have an image of the United Empire Loyalist Robert Gray (father of John Hamilton Gray), but I do have his signature featured in his box on the tree. I have photographs of Lady Pennefather`s second husband, General Sir John Lysaght Pennefather, who became young Susan`s stepfather.

One would think that there would be paintings of Susan Duffus Cunard because of the prominence of her husband as a steam travel magnate, but to date I have not been able to locate any images of her. She died at age 33 after having nine children with Sir Samuel. As a prominent Loyalist who formed an led a regiment in the American Revolution, there should be paintings or sketches of Robert Gray, but I have not come across any.

Click on the family tree image below, and it will be much bigger on your screen and easy to read.

Fritz family tree updated june 2013

Peters Family Papers: Family History Documents

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Photo collage above: clockwise, from top left — Col. John Hamilton Gray, c. 1860; sisters Margaret Gray (sitting) and Florence Gray, with cousin Edward Jarvis at left, in 1868; and lower photo is their elder sister Harriet Gray, dated 1864. (McBride Collection)

by Sam McBride

The following documents are transcriptions of handwritten letters or notes about the Peters and Gray ancestors going back to the 1700’s.  Some are first-person accounts and other documents are copies (in handwriting) of correspondence among cousins.

#1 – Notes on the Gray ancestors by Florence Gray Poole

This letter, written in about 1919 by Bertha’s older sister Florence for her children, has interesting information about 1) John Hamilton Gray’s grandfather George Burns; 2) Gray’s grandmother Mary Stukeley’s family in England; 3) Gray’s mother Mary and his brothers and sisters; 4) Gray’s experience in the British military, including service in India and South Africa; 5) Gray’s attitude towards politics on Prince Edward Island

This is the first page of the Florence Poole document, as copied in her sister Bertha Gray Peters' handwriting.

My grandfather Robert Gray, who had raised and commanded a Regiment for the King in the American War of Independence, married, in Prince Edward Island, when about 60 years of age, Mary Burns, daughter of Major Burns.  Of the Burns family I know absolutely nothing, except that my great-grandfather (Major Burns) was on the Guard of Honour of the Coronation of George the Third, and that he and other officers who formed the Guard were given large grants of land in the North American colonies, his share being the north shore of P.E.I.

My father used to say that he (Burns) had been a very “fast man about town”, and I know he had been a “four bottle man”, and my father and his brother blamed his ability to dispose of unlimited port for their inheritance of gout.  Major Burns’ wife, my great-grandmother, was nee Stukeley.  She belonged to a very old family in Huntingtonshire, where the places Stukeley Magna and Stukeley Parva took their names from the family.  Her marriage to Major Burns was a romantic one.  She met him when she was on a visit to Bath, and was persuaded by him to a runaway marriage.  She and her sister were co-heiresses to their mother, and each had what was then looked upon as a large fortune.

Major Burns laid out some of the money in fitting out a ship with a Lancar crew (probably bought slaves) and took them out to work on his property in Prince Edward Island.  The descendants of the Lancars lived for many years in what was called “The Bog” in Charlottetown.  I have an original letter from Squire Adelard Stukeley of Stukeley House (my great-great-grandfather) written to his daughter Mary (“Molly”) at Bath, complaining of her not writing to him.  He mentioned her “brothers” – I believe they were both soldiers who were subsequently lost off the coast of South Africa in a troop ship.  I also have a miniature, found in this letter, which is supposed (from the dress and date) to be a likeness of Squire A. Stukeley (Bishop Courtey pronounced it to be a “Cosway”).

Then too I have a letter from my great-grandmother to her daughter Mary Burns, afterwards Mrs. Gray.  I am sorry I cannot send you copies of these letters, but unfortunately they are stored with all our furniture, but when we get access to these letters I will have them copied for you, and will send you a copy of the miniature.  My sister in law Miss Poole met a Mr. Prentice whose mother was a Stukeley.  He was interested in hearing of Adelard’s daughter, and said that her sister married an Orme of Yorkshire, and that her descendants are living there.  He also said the Stukeley pedigree, of which he had a copy, dated from the 12th century, and he very kindly sent me a drawing of the Stukeley coat of arms.  I tried to get a copy of the pedigree, but my sister in law had met Mr. Prentice at a County Archaelogical Society, and he did not turn up at their next meeting.  I have his letter to her, with the information I have given you; it is stored with the rest of my papers.

My father’s mother died young, leaving two sons and three daughters — the eldest, Uncle Robert, lived nearly all his life in London.  He managed the Worral and Fanning Estates.  He died unmarried at age 94.  One daughter, Aunt Elizabeth, married in P.E.I. Chief Justice Jarvis and left one son, who died unmarried.  Another daughter married a W. Cambridge (uncle of my stepmother) and had several children, all dead.  Aunt Stukeley lived in Ebury Street in London and died unmarried.

My father was sent to England very young as his father had been promised a commission for him.  I suppose the Stukeleys had forgiven his grandmother’s runaway marriage, as he stopped often at Stukeley House.  I remember his telling me he was taken to see an aged nurse who welcomed him as “Miss Molly’s boy”.  For a few months my father was in a Hussar regiment (18th I think) and there was a cornet in the 7th Dragoon guards, and was nearly 20 years a captain in that regiment.  Promotion in those days was by purchase, and as many of the men were rich it was unusually slow.  My father married when very young a Mrs. Chamier, sister of Sir William Sewell.  She died shortly after their marriage, and he was a widower many years until he met my mother, a young girl of 17, in India, she was just out from school.

Florence Gray with her grandmother, Lady Pennefather (Margaret Carr Bartley) - McBride Collection

My grandmother (Pennefather) used to tell me that my father was a very distinguished man, and his entertainments etc. much talked about in the Cantonment.  The men in the regiment were a very smart set.  My father’s principal friend was Capt. Bentund (father of the present Duke of Portland).  Sir George Walker and Sir Harry Darrel were also great friends, and many tales were told of their joint escapades.  The only one of my father’s brother officers who came to Canada was Gen. Sir Graham Montgomery-Moore, who commanded in Halifax.  I knew him well there, and he liked talking of the old days in the 7th D.G.  He told me that when as a young Cornet he stood before his Captain, he thought him the realization of his idea of a soldier!  Capt. Hamilton Gray was a “splendid figure”, he said.  He also told me my father fought a sensational duel and “winged his man”.  In those days dueling was encouraged, and every man who joined a crack corps like the “Black Horse” was given a pair of dueling pistols to uphold the honour of the regiment.  Soon after my father’s marriage the regiment was ordered out to South   Africa, and my eldest sister was born in a troop ship in the Red Sea!

Photograph of Sir Harry Darrel's depiction of the action in South Africa where Col. John Hamilton Gray led a charge of mounted policemen against a gun emplacement.

The first Boer War was going on then, and my father performed an act of gallantry which would in these days have won a Victoria Cross.  The general described it to me.  The regiment was drawn up in line in a place surrounded by Kopjes, concealed Burghers were potting them on all sides, and a machine gun in a narrow lane was turned on the unlucky cavalry and they were simply mown down, unable to charge or use their sabres.  My father took four mounted police men and galloped to the gun, spiked it and cut down the gunners, and two of the police men were killed.  Sir Harry Darrel who was an artist painted two pictures of this incident, and for years one hung in the D.G. mess.  I have a photo of it, which is fortunate as your Uncle Arthur had the original, and it, with everything else he owned was destroyed in the Halifax explosion during the war.

There was a long period of peace after the war in South Africa, and every one of the wiseacres prophesied that there would never be another war.  My father tired of inaction, and having also kept memories of the fine sport in P.E.I., sold out of the service just the year before the Crimean War and went back to P.E.I.   A year later when war broke out he was desperate and did his best to get back to his regiment, but he had received ₤9,000  for his Troop, and in those days a man who sold out could not get back in.  Then he went on my grandfather Pennefather’s staff hoping to get out to the seat of war, but the “extra” A.D.C.’s had no chance and peace came before he could arrange to enter another regiment.  Highly disgusted, he returned finally to P.E.I. where he ended his days.  He tried to take an interest in politics, but I don’t think he ever cared for a politician’s life.  The only thing that interested him was the Confederation of the Maritime   provinces.  My mother’s death occurred soon after Confederation and he retired from “The House”.

#2 – A short account of his life by Col. Robert Gray,

King’s American Regiment

This short autobiography by John Hamilton Gray’s father Robert has interesting information about 1) his roots in Scotland, among many Grays near Glasgow, 2) the origin of the “Hamilton” name, in honour of the mentor who helped him get established in business, 3) the loss of his property in Virginia in the Revolutionary War, and 4) details of his arrival as a Loyalist in the Maritimes and how he was rewarded with land and appointments.

As it may afford some satisfaction to my dear children to know something of the early life of their father, I have put in writing the following brief memoirs:

I was born on the 7th Sept. 1747 (old style) in Dunbartonshire, Parish of Kirkentilloch1 in my father’s house, a place rented by him but which had belonged to my ancestors, but sold through reverse of fortune by my grandfather to Robert Gray, a distant relation.  My father’s name was Andrew, my mother’s Jean (of the Grays of Lanarkshire, cousins).  In a circuit of many miles both in Dunbartonshire and Lanarkshire, many of the principal families were Grays and nearly related to my family by blood or marriage.  My father being far from affluent, I was articles for four years to John Hamilton Esq. of Dowan to go to Virginia where his four nephews (sons of Thomas Hamilton of Overton) carried on an extensive mercantile business.

signature of Robert Gray.

The same Thomas Hamilton raised a regiment during the American rebellion (now called the Revolutionary War) and was distinguished for his gallant conduct at the battle of Camden where he was severely wounded.  He was afterwards for 22 years His Majesty’s consul for Virginia, and was godfather to my youngest son John Hamilton, and to my deep and undying regret died in London 1816.  These gentlemen, the Hamiltons, being anxious to open an establishment in Norfolk, Virginia, I was taken into partnership and for four years carried on a successful business by sea and land, until the breaking out of the American rebellion.  Towards the end of the year 1776 all business being at a standstill, Lord Dunsmore the Governor of Virginia, having removed the seat of government from Williamsburg to Norfolk, I entered a corps of volunteers which he was forming to co-operate with His Majesty’s 14th Regt-of-foot in checking the progress of the rebels.  In the course of this service I was dangerously wounded, being shot in two places, the rebels having obtained the ascendancy by land.  His Majesty’s loyal subjects and the troops embarked on board the shipping in Norfolk Harbour.  The Town was soon afterwards burnt to ashes by the damned Rebels, and all the valuable property in our warehouses consumed in the flames or plundered by the enemy.  I remained in Virginia with Lord Dunsmore on the fleet carrying on a predatory war against the enemy till the month of July when we sailed for New York where Sir William Howe had arrived with a large army.  There I met Col. – now General – Fanning, who being about to raise a regiment for His Majesty, appointed me to command a company and also to be paymaster to the King’s American Regiment.  I remained with the Regt in various parts of North America, from Rhode Island to Georgia both inclusive.  I was in several actions at the siege of Rhode Island and commanded the Fort-of Goal-Island when it was cannonaded by the French fleet under Count D’Estaing.  I was also honoured with the command of Port Georgetown when it was evacuated.  At the end of the war 1783 the Regt being reduced I was placed on half pay.

In the autumn of 1783 I arrived inHalifaxand in the following spring was sent with a commission of “Surveyor of Land” to superintend the settlement of the Loyalists in thecounty of Shelburne,Nova Scotia, where I was employed for three years having 13 deputy surveyors under me.

In 1787 I received pressing invitations and flattering promises from Gen. Fanning who had been appointed Governor of Prince Edward Island.  I arrived in Charlottetownon the 11th July that year, and was appointed Judge of the Supreme Court – a member of His Majesty’s council and private secretary to Gen. Fanning.  In 1790 I went to London by way of Portugal on private affairs and returned at the end of the year.  In 1792 I was sent to London with full powers to conduct the defence of Gen. Fanning and other Crown officers against complaints preferred against them and having successfully performed my mission returned in 1793.  Next year I had the principal share in raising a corps of men for the defence of theIsland, which I commanded until the Peace of Amiens in August 1792.

#3 – “Relating to my Mother” by Florence Gray Poole

My mother, Susan Ellen Bartley, was an only child.  Her father, a Lieut. In the 22nd Regiment, died at a very early age (about the year 1825) when quartered in Jamaica.  His widow married Major Pennefather, also of the 22nd Regt, and afterwards General and G.C.B.  There was no second family, and Maj. Pennefather treated my mother as his own child.  I believe she did not know of the “step” relationship until she married.

Painting of Margaret Carr Bartley c. 1830, around the time of her marriage to Major Sir John Lysaght Pennefather

One of my grandfather’s brothers, Sir Robert Bartley, was a distinguished soldier in the Peninsular War.  There is a monument to his memory in some English, or Irish, cathedral or church.  I remember a print of it hanging in my mother’s bedroom in Prince Edward Island.  I have tried by writing to Notes and Queries to find out where this monument is but without success.  The man who answered my question knew all about Robert’s fame and wrote that he died at sea on his way home, but did not know where the monument is.  It would be interesting to find it.

The only Bartley relation I ever saw was my “Great Aunt Jessie”.  I was taken to see her when a small child in Dublin.  It is a pity that my mother did not correspond with this aunt, as I have been told that she lived to a great age, and either not knowing or forgetting that she had four grand-nieces in Prince Edward Island, left her money, or a fair amount I believe to her companion!

One of the Bartleys married a Cowell.  Their grandson Major Cowell was Governor to Prince Alfred (the Duke of Edinburgh) and afterwards when Sir John for many years “Controller of the Household” to QueenVictoria.  Sir John was with the Duke of Edinburgh when he visited Canada.  I remember his coming to see my mother, incidentally bringing the Prince to the great wonderment of the P.E. Islanders.  We knew Sir John’s sisters, one married a Major Beadon, but I have never met any of the present generation.  One of Sir John’s daughters married Admiral Curzon-Howe.  I think I have told you now all I know.

Your great-grandmother’s maiden name was Carr.  She and her sister were orphans when very young and were brought up by an uncle at his place inTipperary “Little Island”.  Another uncle was named Senior – any of their descendants of whom I have heard were soldiers.

My grandmother’s sister married a Carr cousin.  His grandson I have known since we were children.  Lt. Col. Lawless R.A.M.C. is the only survivor of a family of cousins.  He has interesting miniatures of the Carr family.  One (an aunt of my grandmother) has a romantic story.  She was a beauty and toast in Dublin…

#4 – Letter from Florence Gray to G.E. Lawless

This letter was written by Bertha’s sister who had taken an interest in the family history.  She is corresponding with a distant cousin.   The main focus of this letter is the Bartley side of the family. Florence’s maternal grandmother was Margaret Carr, who married Lieut. William Bartley and had a child Susan before he died of illness while serving inJamaicain the 1820’s.  Margaret later married William’s commanding officer General Sir John Pennefather and became “Lady Pennefather”.  Susan married John Hamilton Gray.

I am afraid I cannot tell you very much about your mother’s people – I wish I had listened more attentively when  my grandmother discoursed about her “young days”, for of course during my 30 years in Canada I lost sight of my Irish connections.  Our grandmothers, Margaret and Ellen Carr, were sisters; their parents died when they and their brother Richard were young.  The girls were brought up by their maternal uncle Morton of “Little Island” Tipperary, Richard being sent to a London Counting house to make his way.

From what my grandmother used to say, I think “Little Island” was a family place of some importance, and the girls went out a great deal.  Your grandmother married her first cousin William Carr; my grandmother married Wm. Bartley, Lieut. In the 22nd Regiment and went to Jamaica, where my mother was born and my father died very young.  His brother officer Major Pennefather brought my grandmother and her child home, and a year later they were married.  My mother was sent to a French convent while her parents were in India.  She used to spend her holidays with your grandparents, and she and your mother, both called Susan after their grandmother, were great friends.

Your grandparents were very well off then, and I well remember my mother’s grief when she heard of your grandfather’s loss of fortune and a little later of his death.  I do not know the particulars, but remember that my father and mother often spoke of “Uncle William” having been exceptionally honourable.  My grandmother often talked of another uncle called Senior, I think he was in the Service.  I know some of his sons and grandsons were soldiers.

I only met one first cousin of our grandmothers, a perfectly delightful old lady, Mrs. Fitzgerald.  She spent a winter in London when we were in Crawley Place.  Her son, or nephew, Capt. Fitzgerald (known to us as Dicky) afterwards commanded the 69th Regiment.  I have tried to find him.  I think he must be dead.  I have a photo of a very good looking Anna Maria Morton, granddaughter of Morton of Little Island.  She married a man in the service whose name I forget, and went toIndia, I think she was the last of the Mortons of Little Island.

          My grandmother and her husband Gen. Pennefather objected to the “step” connection known.  I believe that my mother did not know of it until she married.

Susan Bartley Pennefather Gray

This has been rather hard on us, as we have never been in touch with our grandfather’s relations (with the exception of the Cowels who claimed cousinship), and your sister in law tells me that our grandfather’s youngest sister died a few years ago, leaving a large fortune to her companion as she had “no near relations”.  The silence about our grandfather was so marked that I fancied all sorts of things and was relieved when dear George told me that when he first went to Newfoundland 40 years ago he dined with the Governor (whose name he did not remember) and the subject of Jamaica coming up, the Governor told him his dearest friend “young Bartley of the 22nd regiment was buried there, and that he was the nicest fellow he ever knew.

#5 –  Letter from Prentice to Miss Ellen Poole      March 25, 1899

62 Shrewbury Road,Birkenhead

Dear Miss Poole:

I have read with great interest the notes you have kindly sent me about the Stukeleys and you will be glad to hear that I can give you their pedigree back to about 1150 and a good deal of information about the family.

A.S. Stukeley (Adlard Squier Stukeley) the father of Mary (Mrs. Florence Poole’s great-grandmother) was brother to my progenitrise Margaret Stukeley, so curiously enough Mrs. Poole and I are far away cousins.

The Stukeleys came originally from Great Little Stukeley in County Huntington and one of the family about 350 years ago marrying the heiress of the Fleets of Fleet in County Lincoln settled at Holbeach, close to where they owned considerable estates, their residence was at Stukeley house, where my mother was often resident with her grandmother Mrs. Sturton (her husband was Private Secretary to the Marquis of Rockingham when Prime Minister and first cousin of Mary Stukeley) and my cousins the Stukeleys still live at Holbeach.  The Stukeley house has, I am sorry to say, changed hands.  Dr. William Stukeley the famous antiquarian was of the Holbeach branch and was born there.

It has always been a mystery to us what became of the other Stukeleys after leaving Holbeach, as they were supposed to be fairly well off and they seemed to have suddenly disappeared, the information contained in Mrs. Poole’s notes evidently solves the mystery.

Mary Stukeley’s (baptized at Holbeach 13 March 1744) sister Sarah married Walden Orme of Peterborough and left issue, something about them I might be able to trace.

There is a splendid old church at Holbeach where most of the Stukeleys were buried, and in it remain some of their monumental inscriptions.  I was there about 4 years ago.

As I think Mary and Sarah Stukeley were the only surviving issue (of a large family) and eventually co-heiresses of Adlard Squier Stukeley they would carry the arms of Stukeley quartering Fleet in to their husbands’ families. …it is just possible therefore that failing surviving male issue of the Burns and Gray being the descendants of Mary, your brother’s (he means Henry Poole) children may be entitled to quarter these arms with those ofPoole.

#6 – Helen Dewdney’s family history notes     c. 1950’s

Judge Peters was my grandfather.  He died when I was three years old but I remember him perfectly.  He seemed to always be in bed.  A fine-looking man with quantities of white hair.

Helen Peters in about 1895 in Charlottetown when her father Frederick Peters was premier of Prince Edward Island.

His youngest daughter Maggie – who adored him – was always fussing over him.  The old doctor was generally in attendance, but Maggie insisted on another opinion.  He was 85 – had Aunt Maggie never heard of old age?  …The judge was very fond of his dogs.  He had three of them.  One bit a grandchild and Aunt Janie was upset and said “the dog must be shot!”.  “What!”, cried the judge, “if any shooting is to be done, it won’t be a dog.”  So nothing was shot.  But I think he must have been pretty nice.

He was very fond of his daughter Carry (Caroline), and when she was going to marry a Bayfield he thought it would be a kind gesture to have the wedding in the Bayfield Church.  It was Anglican as was the Peters’ church, but very “low” whereas St. Peters was very “high”

#7 – Notes of Helen Dewdney                              c. 1970

She was apparently writing on note paper while waiting in a doctor’s office.  She had just read a book called “My First Hundred Years” (not sure of the author or date of publication, but it would be some time before she died in November 1976)

“…She called her Father ‘Papa’ and her mother ‘Mamma” just as my mother did, except my mother always referred to her mother as ‘my dear little Mamma”.  Dear little momma, my grandmother, lived in London with her father and mother in one of those old-fashioned London houses.

Her father was General Sir John Pennyfeather.  She was the only child.  I have her picture painted by a wonderful artist.  Only 16, a beautiful face, with dark curtains of hair on each side making her look about 30.  At 16 John Hamilton Gray met her and married her.  He was much older than she and an officer in the army.

He took her to various places, and she had a baby in so many different places.  I don’t think there was one born where another was.  First there was my aunt Harriet.  Later my great-grandmother Lady Pennyfeather adopted aunt Harriet and left her everything she had.  Lady P lived till she was 98.  Her eyesight and hearing were perfect, but she did admit the stairs tired her a little.  Aunt Harriet married when she was older.  I never did know what age.  When I was young it wasn’t considered quite nice.  I never knew my mother’s.  In any case she died a few months after Great-grandma, and everything went to the husband as the child died too.  So we don’t have many mementos of Great-grandma.  Well, anyway, after Aunt Harriet came Aunt Margaret who lived and died in Charlottetown– much loved and living until she was 98.

Then came Aunt Florence who married Henry Poole a mining engineer.  Six children they had – three boys and three girls.  I remember staying with them once when I was 7 or 8 along with Fritz my brother (who was) 2 years younger.  He cried so much they were obliged to send him home to theIsland(P.E.Island) where we lived.  I remember feeling it a pity he had no bravery.  Funny isn’t it… he lost his life and received the V.C. in Oran in Africa, his seventh decoration.  No bravery, eh.

Uncle Henry Poole was 6 ft 3 inches or so tall and had a beard and moustache.  I was simply terrified of him.  He was a very honorable man and brought up his six children with a very high sense of honour.  He was a very good father.  If he loved one more than another it was Edward, who was brilliantly clever.  He passed first in Kingston, became a mining engineer and went up to some lovely spot up north where almost immediately he contracted typhoid and died very quickly.  A young man he scarcely knew happened to be there.  “Stay with me,” said Edward, “till it’s over”.  It seemed so sad – so young, and he must have put so much effort in being first and all.  Just seems like wasted.  Uncle Henry was walking along in a railway station and he received this telegram: “your son is dead, what shall we do with remains?”  He fell in a dead faint.

Edward’s twin sister Dorothy was beautiful, not just pretty.  I knew her when she was 19.  She stayed with us in Victoria.  Great dark eyes and hair reddy brown wavy luxuriant.  Lucy her sister was rather plain, but if there was a crowd anywhere laughing and talking vociferously, you’d know Lucy would be in the middle.  Uncle Henry would say “The men come for Dorothy but stay for Lucy.”

After Florence, John Hamilton Gray and Susan Pennyfeather had two more daughters: Mim (who married Abbott) and Mother.

The Pooles for a while lived in Stellerton, a mining town in the East.  They also had a son Ray who had a son and daughter; Evelyn who died; Dorothy who died; Eric who died; Edward who died.  Lucy married a man called Kenneway who was quite well off and in later years became stone deaf from the guns in a war.  Someone once asked me which war was it, the first or second?  I said it was the Boer War … I forget I am so old.  The Kenneways had a son who was killed in war and a girl Monica.

…The judge (James Horsfield Peters, father of Frederick) must have been a dear, but quite an autocrat around the home and I think at times he bore down on Sarah the cook a bit.  Sarah would sniff and say she’d better be leaving , she couldn’t stay in a place where she didn’t give satisfaction.  I am sure she never would have left.   She loved Grandmama and Grandmama would slip a five dollar bill in her hand.  “Oh Sarah, pay no attention to the judge.  You know how he is.  He’s just like that.  He’ll get over it.”  And Sarah allowed herself to be comforted by just about the sweetest person who ever lived – Mary Peters, born Mary Cunard.  Granted the five dollars came easily (her father Sir Samuel Cunard died a millionaire), but the sweet and lovely way she did it to Sarah was her own.  When she died, she died in Sarah’s arms.  You can see in her photograph that she was overweight and probably no exercise – in those days they just didn’t know…

My mother used to love going over to the Peters house.  It was so different from her own.  There were always 3 puddings on the table, because Fred was so fond of one thing, and Uncle Spruce and Uncle Thom could not be without their so and so.

…The Mellish family was in Hodsock Priory, Worksop, Nottinghamshire.  There was Henry Mellish, Agnes Mellish and Evy Mellish.  The last I heard of the place it was empty.  So sad.  I always thought Cousin Aggie was so pretty.  They were Father’s relations – Cunards