Nicholas Francis de Ste Croix

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This account of life in Canada following the emigration of Nicholas Francis de Ste Croix was written by his daughter Blanche, and is extracted from the full version on the family website

Nicholas Francois de Ste Croix and his life in Canada

Background

My father, Nicolas Francois de Ste Croix, was born 3 June 1872 in Bayview Cottage at La Rocque, Grouville, Jersey. He was the son of Nicolas Francois de Ste Croix and Mary Anne Godfray. He came to Canada in 1888 on a three- masted sailing schooner. We think it was the "Hibernica", belonging to William Fruing Co, known in the regions of New Brunswick and the Gaspé as "Les Forouins", to work as an indentured clerk for a period of five years for that Jersey firm. He had completed the Sixth Standard of the Grouville Central Schools with distinction.

Working days

He began to work for this fish company at one of its establishments which was then located at Point Alexandre near Lameque and Shippegan, New Brunswick. In the summer season he worked at their stand Le Goulet or "The Gully", which was near a more convenient harbour for the fishing boats. We have heard our father describe their working days in the summer at this location. This was the same work pattern as at other of the firm's stands and at all such establishments in the Jersey fishing businesses set up in Canada in those years.

These apprentices were young Jerseymen aged 15 and 16. This apprenticeship was not easy. They contracted to reside in the company house under the supervision of the manager. There was compulsory attendance at daily prayers. Drinking and gambling were forbidden. In summer a rising bell rang at 5 am and from 5:30 the clerk was responsible for sweeping the store and putting the stock all in order. A bell rang for breakfast at 7:30 After breakfast and a 15 minute break he returned to work until 1 pm. One hour for dinner, then he returned to work until supper. After supper it was back to work for two hours in the company office. I have often heard our father and Fred Alexander talk about these early days at Le Goulet where in summer it was work from sunrise to sunset.

Quiet Adventurers

Marion G Turk in her book, The Quiet Adventurers in Canada pointed out two important facts. "In early times the Channel Island economy was strictly limited. There were only so many positions to fill, so many fields to farm or pastures to graze. Thus, as families expanded, it was inevitable that the oldest son would inherit most of the property and that the other children would pursue their fate elswhere."

"From these islands in the 18th and 19th centuries poured out very many young folk for whom no place could be made in the island economy. These young adventurers removed to many parts of the world, some as indentured servants, others as sailors, clerks and traders. They went to England, France, Spain, Italy, Africa, India, Brazil, Argentina, Honduras, the West Indies, China, Japan, the East Indies, Hawaii, Australia, and New Zealand; but most of all they went to Canada.

"The first Channel Islanders in Canada were probably those who went to the Grand Banks south of Newfoundland to fish for cod. Contrary to what most historians appear to think, the Islanders contributed a great deal to Canadian history."

Long, rough voyages

Our father returned to Jersey twice by sailing vessel. Nicholas recalled the long voyage of six weeks and told his sons of this rough voyage. One time, Dick recalled him saying, they were afraid of not making it to the port in Jersey. They had no food left except hard tack (biscuits) and salt pork. They arrived home on Christmas Eve. On his last trip he returned to Canada from England by steamship, a much faster trip.

Manager

Our father became manager of the establishment at Caraquet for eleven years until March 1911. Wm. Fruing & Co. was only one of many such Jersey fish businesses Jerseymen set up in New Brunswick along the Bay of Chaleur, in Nova Scotia, and on the Quebec Gaspée coast. Fruings dealt mainly in cod. The first manager at Le Goulet was George Alexander, when this stand was first set up in 1840-41. He was followed by Thomas Ahier, Charles Brien, Philippe LeGros, our father, and several others, not necessarily in that order.

The Wm Fruing & Co origins have not been completely researched and apparently no documents are available in Jersey. Some documents have been stored in the New Brunswick Archives. Some documents are said to be missing.

L'Abbé Robichaud, who has researched those records that are available writes in his book, Le Grand Shipagan, that the company was started by two brothers, Philip and William Fruing, who had been adopted by Charles and Philipps Robin. After having gained experience as managers with the Robins they set out to set up a business on their own about 1831-32. When Philippe died the business was left to William and his brothers-in-law Joshua Francis, John Frederich and George Alexandre.

Joshua Alexandre was the first manager of the Fruing stand at La Pointe Alexandre. Fruings had set up establishments at Caraquet, New Bandon, Shippagan, Grand Anse, and Grand Greve. The stand at LePointe Alexandre had been moved from there to Lameque between 1902 and 1905. Le Goulet was closed in 1902. The establishment moved to Lameque was considerable for it consisted of many buildings; a salt shed, a shed for green cod, a shed for dry cod, a wharf, a marina, a carpentry shop, a blacksmith shop, a store and a residence for the Jersey staff. There was also a small cemetery.

This company dealt only in cod and business with local fishermen was on a barter basis; goods, and supplies were exchanged for fish. The business ran into trouble. Nicholas de Ste Croix resigned before Fruings finally went in the red. It was bought by one of its competitors, Robin, Jones and Whitman for $20,000.

Marriage

Mabel Blackhall told of first meeting Nicholas de Ste Croix at Pointe Alexandre when she went there to visit her cousin Minnie, whose husband Charles Brien was the manager of that branch. Mabel would be in her early teens age l3, in about 1896. On 27 November 1906 they were married in the bride's home in Caraquet by the Rev J M Sutherland of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The Caraquet Protestant Church never had a permanent minister in residence and was served usually in summer by a student minister of either Anglican or Presbyterian faith, so that marriages, funerals, and baptisms for Caraquet were performed by a minister serving that Presbytery or Parish of New Bandon. The bride's eldest brother, Robert Blackhall gave her away, her father Richard Blackhall having died in March 1904. Her niece, Marion Blackhall was a flower gir1.

On their honeymoon they visited the groom's uncle Philippe de Ste Croix and family in Bellows Falls, Vermont, and then on to Joliet, Ohio, to the bride's brother Irving Blackhall. On their return, they travelled by way of Montreal. They took up residence at the Wm Fruing residence in Caraquet, where Nicholas had been manager of the Caraquet branch of Wm Fruing since 1901. As in all the company's residences the young Jerseymen who worked for the firm lived at the residence. Mabel now had to take over the oversight of the housekeeping at Fruing's as did all managers' wives.

Mabel's Mother, Blanche Blackhall, on her return from a visit to her sons Irving and Howard, came to live with Mabel and Nicholas at Fruings. On 3 September 1907 a son Nicholas Bertram was born to Mabel and Nicholas. He died in infancy of spinal meningitis. This brought them much sorrow. Mabel was always of the opinion that this had been contracted from a young Jersey clerk, who had developed TB, and was living at the residence at the time. He was eventually returned to Jersey and died there soon after his return.

Three other children were born in Caraquet to Mabel and Nicholas de Ste Croix, Mary Blanche (6 November 1908), Frances Helen (23 January 1910), and Nicholas Kenneth (19 June 1911).

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