Nicolas Francois de Ste Croix
Abridged biography of her father Nicholas Francois de Ste Croix by Blanche de Ste Croix - full version
Nicolas Francois de Ste Croix, was born on 3 June 1872 in Bayview Cottage, at La Rocque, 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 Gaspe as "les Forouins", to work as an indentured clerk for a period of five years for that Jersey firm.
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.
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 am the clerk was responsible for sweeping the store and putting the stock all in order. A bell rang for breakfast at 7.30 am. 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.
Trips to Jersey
Our father returned to Jersey twice by sailing vessel. These trips were long, up to six weeks depending on the weather. Nicholas told his sons of this rough voyage. Once, 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.
I remember him telling about being in London at the time of Queen Victoria's jubilee celebrations. It must have been on his second trip back to Jersey. We still have the sturdy wooden chests that were built for Dad to transport his belongings with him. Included were all his prize books he earned at school and church school. Some are in French, others in English.
Our father became manager of the establishment at Caraquet for eleven years until March 1911. Wm Fruing and Co was only one of many such fish businesses Jerseymen set up in New Brunswick along the Bay of Chaleur, in Nova Scotia, and on the Quebec Gaspé 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 Le Gros, our father, and several others, not necessarily in that order.
The Fruing origins have not been completely researched as 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 Philippe 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 his brother 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 La Pointe 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 carpenter 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.
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, in about 1896.
On 27 November 1906 they were married in the bride's home in Caraquet by the Rev J M Sutherland. The bride's eldest brother, Robert, 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, USA 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 was now manager.
Nicholas had been Manager of the Caraquet branch since 1901. Mabel now had to take over the oversight of the housekeeping at Fruing's as did all managers' wives. Prior to this marriage there had been a male cook at the Fruings stand. There was other help such as a maid and a handyman.
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 de Ste Croix. He died in infancy. This brought them much sorrow.
Three other children were born in Caraquet to Mabel and Nicholas: Mary Blanche, 6 November 1908; Frances Helen, 23 January 1910; Nicholas Kenneth, 19 June 1911.
Nicholas de Ste Croix senior died in Jersey on 16 October 1906. Nicholas' sister Maria married a widower, Thomas Watton of La Rocque, and the small farm and Bay View Cottage at La Rocque were sold, Nicholas being the heir. One other piece of property Nicholas left to Maria for her lifetime. This farmland, known as Clos des Abbés' located at Grouville, was rented to Oswald Bree of La Sente; La Roque, by Maria and after her death was sold to Mr Bree in 1948 by Nicholas.
Other young Jerseymen who had come to Canada as indentured clerks for fish firms had moved on to other parts of Canada and the United States. Mabel's brothers had all left Caraquet as young men. Two were in Joliet, Ohio, USA, Irving and Howard, and they suggested that Nick and Mabel go there. Three others had gone to Western Canada, Bert and Artie to Vancouver and Percy was also in BC working as an engineer for Canadian Pacific on the Revelstoke line. Some of the Kerr family went West also. Mabel and Nick decided to move to Vancouver. Bert, who was in the real estate business, located a dry goods business and a home at 625 22nd Avenue, Vancouver. The business was in that area too, on Hastings Avenue. The money Nicholas had from the sale of his property in Jersey was now used to purchase this business and home.
On their way to Vancouver they travelled by way of the United States and visited Irving and Howard Blackhall. These brothers, I was later told by Irving's daughter· Dorothy, urged them to change their plans and remain there in the USA. But the de Ste Croixs were to remain Canadian, even if the way became difficult for many years. Mabel's mother Blanche also went with them to Vancouver and lived with them there until she died suddenly on 2 March 1913. Things did not go well for Mabel and Nicholas in Vancouver. Business in that period began to slump and Nicholas went into bankruptcy, losing his business and his house.
A second son, Gordon, was born in Vancouver on 5 September 1912, six months before Mabel's mother Blanche Glackhall died.
I have no details of the family's move to Haney, BC where Nick tried out as a chicken farmer until the spring of 1914 when he, Mabel and family moved all the way back to Caraquet, when Nick went back to a business he knew and became manager until 1920 of the Lower Caraquet branch of W S Loggie, a Canadian fish company.
We have no pictures of our Vancouver home, nor of Haney, just one of a neighbours in Haney. There is one of Mother on the steps with Gordon as a baby in her arms, in Vancouver. Mother has told me "your Father was never the same man after Vancouver". To us he was always the same - all his children respected and loved him.
When the family moved back to Caraquet they lived for some months in Mabel's old home, the Richard Blackhall house in Caraquet, until they moved into the managers' house in Lower Caraquet. It was in that Richard Blackhall home that Austin was born on 27 August 1914, somewhat before he was due. It was in that home that Gordon, who was just under two years of age, developed infantile paralysis which, although a fairly mild case, affected his left leg and foot.
Childhood in Caraquet
I remember seeing snow when we arrived back East, the spring of 1914; of driving with my Father to Pokemouche in a horse-drawn wagon; of the day the gypsies camped on our property and the barn and henhouse being secured against possible theft by them; of a bad storm during which some fishing boats were lost with all the fisherman on board; of our old shed being blown down in that same storm.
I remember the house; it was quite large. There was a pump, but no sewerage nor indoor bathroom and toilet facilities. Our father had a large garden, enclosed by a wooden fence on one side along the driveway and another at the back of the garden. In summer at the east side of the house we had a wooden two-seated swing and a tent where we played. There was always a long row of sweet peas along the west side along the fence. In the early spring Mother used to love to take us looking for Mayflowers (trailing arbutus) in the nearby woods. Later in the spring we would go to the lobster factory with our father when he went to see how operations were going. We were given some cooked lobster bodies and we loved to eat the sweet meat in the legs. I also remember the smell of dead fish, when it was used as fertilizer on the farms.
One summer, when one of the boats called at the Lower Caraquet wharf, I was taken to meet the Captain's little girl who was with him on the trip. There was the time when Kenneth and Gordon were on the long flat wagon on the way to the wharf. John McIntosh the man of "all jobs" was driving. Gorden fell off and the big wagon wheel just grazed his ear. I was scolded that time for not taking better care of my little brother! Kenneth says that I was not with them.
There was the time when Gordon was given a present of a little hatchet. He wanted to try it out, so he asked me to hold a stick of wood so he could chop it. I did and I still have my finger, although it bled where it was cut!
In summer, when the tide was low we were allowed to put on our cotton nighties and go to bathe in a pool which formed between two sand bars at low tide. I remember going to collect for the Red Cross during the 1914-18 war. Pennies!
On Sundays in the summer, the only day our father was not working, I remember going to Caraquet to church in a horse drawn two-seated wagon. That was a six mile drive. Other times we would visit the Sewells at Sewellville, a shorter drive. We also visited Lil and Peter Fiott in Caraquet on a Sunday. He was manager for Robin Jones and Whitman and she was mother's cousin.
We lived in blueberry country, so that was a sideline for W S Loggie. Barrels of blueberries which were bought were then taken and sold to the canning factories. We, as children, could pick enough blueberries for supper not too far afield in a very short time. For the five de Ste Croix children the days were full and active.
In the summer of 1919, Nick took Ken fishing with one of the local fishermen, probably the only time that Nick took a day off! Soon afterwards they both became sick. They had developed typhoid fever. A special nurse was required for several weeks. Then there was a long convalescence, part of which was spent at Youghall at Emma and Will Willis' farm. During this illness the business in Lower Caraquet was taken over by Kerr Loggie, a son of W S Loggie, who had been a Major in the Army during the 1914-18 war, and his friend John Frost. John Frost replaced Nick de Ste Croix as manager and Mabel and Nick were forced to look elsewhere. Mabel was both relieved and bitter. Relieved to get away from Lower Caraquet and bitter at the injustices such actions implied. In those days there were no holidays with pay, nor social benefits of any kind and no severance pay.
On leaving Lower Caraquct Nick and family moved into the Fruing house, which was vacant for a few months, until he found work e1sewhere. Blanche and Frances returned to school in Bathurst and Kenneth and Gordon went to the nearby convent. Nick went to work for Richards Lumber, a firm operating on the Kedgewick River, New Brunswick. Mabel and the three boys boarded at the Albert Hotel in Caraquet for the winter, then staying in the spring and early summer in the original James Blackhall home until the whole family moved to Campbellton for a year. Nick continued to work with Richards Lumber Co until we all moved to Charlo a year later when Nick took over as manager of the Continental Lumber Co store there in the late spring of 1921. He stayed with that company until it was bought out by the International Pulp and Paper Co in 1928. The general store was taken over by Reid Bros and Dad stayed on with them for six months to get them established. In 1929 Nick moved to Delson, Quehec, near Montreal, to work as an accountant and paymaster for the National Brick Co. He continued in that position until that company was closed down during the depression of the 1930s.
Campbellton and Charlo days
That year had both good and difficult days. Nick was away in Kedgewick, Mabel was pregnant, all the children were laid low that winter when there was a bad epidemic of measles. Gordon developed diptheria and the baby boy born 28 February 28 1921 was a "blue baby" and died within 48 hours and was buried in Campbellton. All the children enjoyed school days and living in a town and going to Sunday School and Church weekly. Blanche had her tonsils removed in the Soldier's Memorial Hospital there. We had good neighbours, Mr and Mrs Reggie Moore. He was a druggist and they lived in the other part of the semi-detached house we rented. Uncle Howard·gave Mother her first electric washer, a huge thing with a wooden slat cylindrical tub.
We lived for the first years in a company house, no conveniences except for a pump. The house was not far from the beach (Bay Chaleur). It was just below the main CNR tracks but eventually we got used to passenger trains and freight trains rumbling through. Both Dad and Mother worked hard to bring up a growing family. We had a garden, a dog, cat, chickens and rabbits, it was country living. School was 1½ miles away, Church was 1 mile away and for all of us these were good days. Mother had a few good friends and life was good. A fourth son, Richard, was born on 26 June 1927, the year Blanche graduated from Provincial Normal School as a teacher and Frances graduated from Campbellton High School in the same year 1927. Frances planned to go to Montreal to train as a nurse the next year but these plans fell through when Dad's work with Reid Bros terminated at the end of December 1928.
Blanche taught for two years in rural schools in the Miramichi area, teaching all grades from one to eight inclusive. In 1929 she applied for an opening in Roseberry elementry school, The school where she had attended as a grade VI pupil, in Campbellton New Brunswick.
The family followed Nicholas to Delson, Quebec in August 1929. He had been working there in the office of the National Brick Co as an accountant for several months. On the day of the departure, Kenneth, who had come from Bathurst to see his family off, was involved in an automobile accident and was hospitalized in the Soldier's Memorial Hospital in Campbellton. Mother remained with him for a few days until he was discharged and well enough to return to his work as a bank clerk with the Bank of Montreal in Bathurst.
In September Blanche returned to Camphellton where she taught in Roseberry School for a year. In 1930 she was accepted as a teacher in the intermediate department of Delson Protestant School. She was interested in getting into a Montreal school eventually, but Montreal schools were reducing staff by that time, the depression was on its way. Frances took a secretarial course at Sir George Williams Business College and also commuted daily. Gorden went to work at the National Brick Co as an apprentice.
The family lived in the National Brick housing circle in a two-storey brick house. There was a lot of land, tall trees, and in the spring of 1930 a garden was planted and hens were raised. The house had one drawback, the upstairs was poorly partitioned and did not provide enough bedroom space for our large family, one reason why Kenneth eventually moved to Montreal. Dick slept in one end of his parents room, which was the full length of the house. Delson was a small friendly village with good train service to Montreal, a small United Church, an Anglican Church, a Baptist Church, a Roman Catholic Church and a two department Protestant School. Most of the workers at the National Brick Plant were experienced brickmakers brought over from England some years before.
The family entered into the life of the village. Austin attended school there for two years, one year with his sister Blanche as his teacher. Dick entered grade I there in 1933. Austin and Gordon were active in Rover Scouts. Blanche began a CGIT girls group and led it for two years. She attended Leaders Training at Cedar Lodge at Memphramagog for two summers. Frances got a secretarial job in Montreal. Gordon bought a bicycle, Ken a motor bike then a second hand car. Blanche made two more attempts to get a teaching position in Montreal Protestant Schools, both unsuccessful.
Then the depression hit the National Brick Plant and it was closed. Gordon was out of work and Frances' job was short-lived. Nicholas was kept on at the office until all the books were put in order and then it was closed. Blanche taught school during four of these depression years in Chicoutimi on the Saguenay River. When it was closed and the pupils were bused to a larger school in the next town Blanche moved to a school in Shawbridge.
In the spring of 1934 the family moved to Montreal after a tough two years of the depression in Delson. Dad, Frances, and Gordon were without work, Austin had dropped out of school. Mother and Frances sold home baked goods to bring in some cash. Gordon and Austin collected buckets of coal for fuel from the rail tracks until they were stopped. Blanche's and Kenneth's income, though limited, helped. The family, undaunted, began to get established in the big city of Montreal and from then on life looked brighter.
The family residence was in Notre Dame de Grace, first on Harvard Avenue then on Hampton for seventeen years. Family relatives and friends lived in the vicinity, other Jersey connections lived in Montreal.
Gordon found work the first day there as a delivery boy for Capes Drugstore. He used his own bicycle. He soon moved inside as a clerk. He remained there until he moved on to wartime work at Nordyn, a firm making Harvard trainers for the Commonwealth Air Training Program.
Shortly after the move to Montreal, Austin's life as a salesman began by selling subscriptions to magazines, travelling into the rural regions of Quebec. Then he worked in the stockroom of Moirs Chocolates as a shipper and from there to the same at Coristines, a firm of wholesale merchants.
Frances could not get back into secretarial work, not having enough experience. She took on a job as a domestic in a private home for several years. She was encouraged by them to take a nine month practical nurses' training, while still living with them and working part time. When she graduated she specialized in baby nursing, taking care of new born babies for a month or two after the mother and baby were home from the hospital.
Dick was first enrolled in Herbert Symonds School on Girouard Ave (this building was demolished and replaced with apartments around 1983). Then he moved to Kensington School and then to West Hill High School. Both these schools have also been rebuilt into apartments.
Blanche took on a summer camp in her summer holiday break in 1937 and did not return to teaching. Instead she began a career as a social worker. She worked at Camp Chapleau, as director of the girl's camp in the summer and as girl's worker at Iverley Community Centre the rest of the year.
Nicholas was now at an age when it was more difficult to get employment, especially in a depression. However, he did some work for Stinson Reeb, checking and auditing of accounts for a short period. He did not remain inactive and in the summer he soon found the NDG Garden Club and joined as a member, and from then on until he was 88 years old he always had a garden plot. He won cups and prizes in the annual competitions and also in the West End Horticultural Society shows. Dick also became interested and won some prizes. Nicholas was very proud of his garden. He walked daily to where the plots were located on Terrebonne Ave. Later, also to where the new plots were located near Fielding Ave. Mother and Dad processed a lot of garden produce for winter, canning beans, tomatoes, etc during those years
Mother was happy to live in Montreal, she enjoyed her church activities, her friends and her family. She had some illnesses, such as anaemia and menieries disease which caused her problems for some years.
The family got through the financial depression and World War II. Dad even made his contribution to the war work when he worked at the check-in gate at Canadair for about two years.
He was worried for his homeland, Jersey, when the Germans occupied it for over five years. His sister Maria still lived there, as did some cousins. He was able to correspond with a cousin in England but had only two short Red Cross messages from Maria. Letters from Jersey were most welcome after Jersey was freed in 1945. Maria died in 1947, a few months before she planned to visit him and the family. He was her only heir.
Kenneth had married and left home again in the mid 1930s. After Gordon married in 1940 and Austin in 1942 there were still Blanche, Frances and Dick at home. Nick was still working at Canadair, Blanche was now working at Iverley Community Centre and at Camp Chapleau in the summer. Frances was doing private baby nursing and working in the summer at Camp Chapleau and Dick was attending West Hill High School. In 1945 Dick entered McGill University where he spent the first two years in residence at Dawson College, a temporary extension of McGill located near St Jean, Quebec. He too left home to take a job as a Mechanical Engineer at Ford Motor Company in Windsor, Ontario in 1950. In 1951, when changes were taking place in the housing market, Nick, Mabel, Blanche and Frances moved to a small upper flat in a new housing development in the north western part of Notre Dame de Grace. It was not very satisfactory.
In 1354, Blanche and Frances jointly bought a semi-detached house further west in the same area at 4940 O'Bryan Avenue. Nick helped with some of the initial down payment. The other members of the family contributed in many ways. The girls paid up the 25 year mortgage by 1968, several years before each retired. At this time, 1954, Nick was 82 years old and Mabel was 71. Both Mabel and Nick. were very happy to have a permanent home again and they enjoyed the remaining years of their lives there, both continuing to contribute all they could. In 1955 the family presented them with a television on their 49th wedding anniversary.
In 1956 on 27 November they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. First there was a family reception dinner in their honour at the Berkley Hotel on Sherbrooke St West. The family presented them with a mantle clock with chimes, suitably inscribed with their names and date. The next day the family organized a reception at home for relatives and friends. They were a fine looking couple. Dad said "When I left Jersey years ago I never dreamed that anything like this would be happening to me".
Except for his illness with typhoid fever in the early 1920s he enjoyed good health. He had always worked long hours. When unemployment hit him in the depression, he soon found an outlet for his energy in gardening. His work there and the walks to and from the garden kept him healthy. He was in his seventies when he worked at Canadair. In the late 1940s he suffered a slight heart attack but was soon back at the garden. He gardened until he was 88. At the house on O'Bryan he guided me in building up the flower border there.
In later years he developed arteriosclerosis and this sometimes affected his walking but he was always tall and straight. Later still he sometimes had trouble swallowing. He helped Mabel in the house when he could. He continued to attend church regularly every Sunday. He enjoyed visits from the family especially his grandchildren. He never travelled far from home. He always extended a warm welcome to everyone. His eyesight was good, wearing glasses mainly for reading, his hearing and memory were failing somewhat but not abnormally. He loved to sit outdoors in the summer, often dosing off in later years. He enjoyed a daily routine of reading, playing solitaire, cribbage and watching TV. He subscribed to the Jersey Post all his life and enjoyed seeing the Jersey folk here in Montreal, talking about their early years in Canada and sometimes lapsing into a little Jersey French with them. He died suddenly of heart failure on 1 March 1960.
Mabel was always a beautiful woman and always very proud of her appearance and dress. She bore eight children, two died in infancy. She bore her last child in her 44th year. In her fifties she was very thin. In spite of many hardships Mabel was happy to be living in Montreal where there were relatives, where she made friends, where she had church interests and activities and where she saw her family getting established and making progress and where she could be in touch with each of them. The depression years had been difficult for her, in providing meals for a large family involving careful shopping and a lot of planning and preparation.
In 1961 she became seriously ill and underwent surgery for the removal of a large abdominal tumour. She had a strong will and a lot of fight but eventually the cancer ended her life on 11 January 1964.