Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Poem for Halloween ~ My Contribution for Bill West's 2013 "Great American Local Poem Genealogy Challenge"

I am more than pleased to participate for the first time in Bill West's Fifth Annual Great American Local Poem Genealogy Challenge. To find links to each of the blogs that are taking part in the challenge this year, tune in to Bill's blog, West In New England on Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 2013.

For Bill's challenge I chose a poem about Nova Scotia (my maternal ancestral home) and about death. This poem, by renowned American poet Elizabeth Bishop, elicits a variety of emotions for me, from the poignant subject (the death of a child) to the stark isolation of Nova Scotia itself.

As family historians, we are often drawn into the events surrounding death and dying. In so doing, we feel compelled to document "the where and the when," while the human need to understand "the why" is ever present in our subconscious.

Bishop was born more than 100 years ago in Massachusetts. However, it was not America that formed her. After the death of her father, the 3-year old Elizabeth was taken to Great Village, Nova Scotia, where she stayed with her grandmother. Nova Scotia is the setting of many of her best poems.

In "First Death in Nova Scotia," she remembers a cousin's body laid out in the parlor, his loss of color and detail dissolving him into the snow outside. 

From Elizabeth Bishop's Questions of Travel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1956), here is:

First Death in Nova Scotia

In the cold, cold parlor 
my mother laid out Arthur 
beneath the chromographs: 
Edward, Prince of Wales, 
with Princess Alexandra, 
and King George with Queen Mary. 
Below them on the table 
stood a stuffed loon 
shot and stuffed by Uncle 
Arthur, Arthur's father. 

Since Uncle Arthur fired 
a bullet into him, 
he hadn't said a word. 
He kept his own counsel 
on his white, frozen lake, 
the marble-topped table. 
His breast was deep and white, 
cold and caressable; 
his eyes were red glass, 
much to be desired. 

"Come," said my mother, 
"Come and say good-bye 
to your little cousin Arthur." 
I was lifted up and given 
one lily of the valley 
to put in Arthur's hand. 
Arthur's coffin was 
a little frosted cake, 
and the red-eyed loon eyed it 
from his white, frozen lake. 

Arthur was very small. 
He was all white, like a doll 
that hadn't been painted yet. 
Jack Frost had started to paint him 
the way he always painted 
the Maple Leaf (Forever). 
He had just begun on his hair, 
a few red strokes, and then 
Jack Frost had dropped the brush 
and left him white, forever. 

The gracious royal couples 
were warm in red and ermine; 
their feet were well wrapped up 
in the ladies' ermine trains. 

They invited Arthur to be 
the smallest page at court. 
But how could Arthur go, 
clutching his tiny lily, 
with his eyes shut up so tight 
and the roads deep in snow? 

Where I discovered this poem:


Little Peter's Grave, Pembroke Cemetery,
 Colchester Co., Nova Scotia

Peter Suther Hamilton

Born 4 February 1945
Upper Stewiacke, Colchester County, Nova Scotia

Died 6 September 1946
of Croup
19 months old

Monday, October 28, 2013

Maritime Monday ~ Lawrence Olsen, Merchant Marine Navigation Student

Pasted to the front cover of a scrapbook once belonging to my grandmother, Mattie Leighton Seavey (1906-1987) was this undated clipping from the Portland (Me.) newspaper, depicting a navigation class for would-be officers in the Merchant Marines.

According to the U.S. Merchant Marine website, this World War I training program began in June 1917, with headquarters in Boston. Within months, there were 43 schools in seaports from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon.

A 6-week program trained 1,500 deck officers during the first 10 months. However, as depicted in this newspaper item, a land-based, 4 -week course was offered to train engineering officers.  A total of 14,000 men received officer training between June 1917 and October 1920. 

Among the students pictured in this photo is Lawrence Olsen (spelled Oleson in the caption), in the foreground on the left, my great grandmother and Mattie's mother, Alice Lovell Olsen's second husband.

I haven't found any evidence that Lawrence ever served in the Merchant Marine. The 1910, 1920, and 1930 censuses all list his occupation as "house painter."

From left to right, the men pictured are:

Augustus A. Scofier
John A. Peterson
Morris Kent
Frank W. Johnson
William H. Mason
Charles A. Gilmore
Capt. Frank A. Wilson, Instructor
Lawrence Oleson (sp?)
William A. McLean
Horace D. Griffin

Monday, October 21, 2013

Mappy Monday ~ The Lost Cemetery on Pig Knoll in Scarborough, Maine

My 6th great grandparents, Edward and Sarah (Mills) Skillings are buried in a "lost cemetery." Pig Knoll lies along the present Running Hill Road in Scarborough, Maine, a two-lane route located near the present Maine Mall and the Portland International Jetport.  It is 167 feet above sea level, is entirely overgrown and dwarfed by the commercial development surrounding it. There is no evidence that it was ever used as a burial ground.

Edward Skillings had acquired about 110 acres in this part of Scarborough in the 1730's. This land included plots located near the crest of Running Hill. He was at times both a farmer and a fisherman. He had married Sarah Mills in Kittery, Maine in the early 1730's. She was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the daughter of Benjamin Mills and Lydia Fernald. They attended the Scarborough Congregational Church. Edward and Sarah had 13 children, all born in Scarborough.

Edward died in Scarborough on November 3, 1779, possibly of smallpox. There is no record of when his wife Sarah died. Both were buried on Pig Knoll.

Pig Knoll (43.6301 N - 70.3589 W)


Descendants of Thomas and Deborah (?) Skillings of Cumberland Co, Maine (

Find-a-Grave memorials for Edward and Sarah (

Henley, Thomas Shaw, Descendants of Thomas Skillin of Falmouth (Now Portland), Maine and Allied Familes. (Tavares, Florida, March 2010).

Libby, Charles Thornton. The Libby Family in America, 1602-1881 (Portland, B. Thurston and Co., 1881), p. 83.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Friday's Faces From the Past ~ Everett Deyarmond Family in Burnside 1953

The handwriting above this picture is my great grandmother's, Melvina Jane Hamilton Bustin (1886-1974). Everett Deyamond (1876-1942) was her cousin, she being the daughter of Peter Suther Hamilton (1852-1929), and Everett being the son of Margaret Rebecca Hamilton (1857-1937). Burnside is a small community in the Stewiacke Valley of Nova Scotia.

Having come across this wonderful "family gathering" photograph, I sent it to Judy from the Stewiacke Valley Museum Facebook page.  She kindly passed it on to one of the people in the photograph, a young girl in the photo, Mrs. Freda MacKay Rogers. Mrs. Rogers identified everyone in the picture, and also was able to date the photograph at 1953 or 1954.

Here is an alphabetical list, by surname, of everyone in the picture:

Berkelow, Maria Deyarmond
Deyarmond, Adela Roode
Deyarmond, Art
Deyarmond, Dick
Deyarmond, Eldridge
Deyarmond, Frank
Deyarmond, Jean Cox
Deyarmond, Lance
Deyarmond, Lester
Deyarmond, Mary Graham
Deyarmond, Terry
Deyarmond, Wayne
Fisher, Curtis
Fisher, Velva Deyarmond
Goff, Doris Whidden
Graham, Betty Deyarmond
Graham, Gordon
Hamilton, Albert
Hamilton, Stella
Johnson, Ella Deyarmond
Johnson, Herman
Johnson, Von
MacKay, Alice Deyarmond
MacKay, Ian
MacKay, Freda
MacKay, Norman
MacKay, Robert
Stevenson, Deanna
Stevenson, Laura Deyarmond
Stevenson, Linda
Stevenson, Lloyd
Whidden, Foster
Whidden, Frances
Whidden, Gary
Whidden, Harry
Whidden, Nettie Deyarmond
Whidden Philip
Whidden, Roy

Albert Hamilton and Stella Hamilton are my great great uncle and aunt, respectively, siblings of my great grandmother, although, in one way or another, I am related to all 38 people in this picture.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Bustin's Fine Furniture, Ltd. of Saint John

My daughter, my mother, my son, my dad, and me at
Bustin's Furniture
Summer 2000

In my start-and-stop genealogy journey, one high point was the trip I took to Canada in 2000, with my two children and my parents. On my list of places to visit was Bustin's Fine Furniture in Saint John, New Brunswick. 

At the time of this visit, no one in my family (at least of those still living) knew how our Bustin line connected to this Bustin family. I was hopeful that someone in the store with family ties could give me some clues. Unfortunately, although they were as welcoming and friendly as could be, they did not have any ideas.

It has only been recently that I have connected the dots, so to speak.

On the store's website, under the heading called  "Our Story," the history of the business provided valuable genealogical facts.

Charles Leon Bustin (1870-1927) and Sam Withers opened Bustins & Withers on 99 Germain Street in Saint John in May of 1905.

Charles L. Bustin's father was the 2nd son of Hugh Bustin (1820-1900). Hugh Bustin and my 2nd great grandfather, Samuel James Bustin (1818-1897) were brothers.

Hugh Bustin died on this date in 1900.

Bustin's Furniture, 99 Germain St., Saint John, New Brunswick