Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Newmans, MacCallums, apples, tobacco, and raspberries

As I noted over on Facebook, it appears that I have a biological family which is pretty cool.

Monday, 16 May 2011 at 07:29

I've been searching for my biological family since the mid 1990s. I had attempted to gain access to adoption records to no avail, they were terse, and uninformative.

I'd submitted my gene sample to some time ago and over the weekend, I was matched with my biological sister. I also have a brother, and my mother is still alive and living elsewhere.

The family history and the 23andme gene-matching appear to be quite convincing that this is the situation.

I spoke with my (adoptive) sister last night about all this, quite confusing, and not at all what I thought it would feel like.

Right now the news is quite stunning, and I am proceeding slowly, this is very new emotional geography to me.

May 02, 1960 - June 04, 2011 - RIP separation!

Over the weekend, I ended a 18,600-day separation between my original mother and myself, thanks to my sister Jolie Pearl and also got to meet her husband Steve, and my gorgeous & intelligent niece Ariel Phoebe Pearl-Butler (upon whom nobody is ever allowed to hit, lest they find themselves without a Facebook account. Do govern yourselves accordingly). ;-)

I'm still processing what it all means, it wasn't the massive emotional event that I had anticipated, rather, it was nuanced, subtle, deep, and the commencement of a relationship. And, very satisfactory, to use my mother's term.

I can't say I've ever been happier than at this time.

Updating the family tree has been interesting. my grandfather, Harry Schwartzman, was a tobacco farmer, he owned in this house, le Maison Antoine-Lacombe, in Joliette, Qu├ębec

The maccallums have a bit of history in Scotland, apparently the family has a castle - I'll be staying here this coming September

On the other side of the world, well actually, in Lachine / Lasalle, my biological grandparents were doing some farming, too; Cecil P. Newman was a purveyor of apples and the ""best commercial raspberry" on the continent".

He was also the first mayor of Lasalle, had a school named after him, and founded oldest Anglican Church still standing on the Island of Montreal - St. Stephen’s at Lachine.

Here's a kind of cool speech given at the dedication of the school - enjoy!

A Note on the Background of its Site and of the Family whose Name it Bears

A talk delivered by Percy C. Newman at the formal opening ceremony of the Cecil Newman School at Orchard Avenue, Ville LaSalle, Quebec, February 3, 1958.

"I have been asked to tell 'a little of the history and background of the site on which your school stands, and of the family whose name it bears'. I would, however, first like to thank the School Commissioners of Lachine for the privilege of telling you something of these things. It is a good idea, it seems, to me, that when we are in school we hear something of what happened in the place where our school stands, and something of the man whose name was taken for our school. Now the schools of the Montreal region usually take the name of their district, or of their street, or of some historical figure, or of some person known locally. The name of your school is the name of a man who was not widely known among the Canadian people generally, but who was known widely indeed among those people in this country and the United States who did the kind of work he did.

As for the early history of this part of the Island of Montreal, I do not intend to dwell on it. Not that I wouldn't like to. Once I thought I knew a fair amount about it. But in recent years, the historians have been changing their ideas about the region. They have found, for example, that it isn't 80 easy to be sure just where Robert de LaSalle had his homestead, and from what point he set out to explore the Mississippi River.

It is clear, though, that the street we now know as LaSalle Boulevard, which used to be known as the Old Lower Lachine Road, was long ago the road of the explorers. In the 1660's the Jesuit priest, Father Paul LeJeun, passed this way.

And in his report to his Church Order in France, he wrote:

“We marched on guard, as in enemy territory, there being no place in which the Iroquois is not to be feared.”

So about three centuries ago, there weren't many dull moments for Europeans near the site of this school.

The land here was rich and it was farmed almost from the time of the first settlers in New France. The interest of the Newman family in it dates from just after the War of 1812. A friend of the family had been here as an officer in the British Army. He described it to the Newmans who lived near Bristol, England. The younger of the family's two sons, Ashburnham Cecil Newman, who was the grandfather of the man whose name is on your school, must have liked what he heard. He came out here in 1831 and bought two £arms which he combined into one. He was then 35. and he knew something about farming, for his family had a lot of farmland near Bristol.

In the 1830's, there were a good deal of woods around here, many open fields of hay and oats and grain, separated by hedges. There were also some fruit trees. In England, the grandfather of Cecil Newman had lived the life of a country squire. Out here, he became a close friend of a man called Colonel Crawford - the Crawford Park district of Verdun was once part of Colonel Crawford's farm. So until the 1860's these two men, Ashburnham Newman and Colonel Crawford, along with their friends, rode to the hounds chasing foxes over the ground where your schoo1 stands.

One of the early acts of Ashburnham Newman was that he, together with two other men, founded the oldest Anglican Church still standing on the Island of Montreal - St. Stephen’s at Lachine.

Besides having his fun with horses and dogs and foxes, this old gentleman did make some changes in the farm. He planted currant bushes and some apple trees.

And from that time, there have been four generations of his family growing apples, four generations of Indians from Caughnawaga helping them do it, and, let me not forget, several more generations of boys and girls slipping through hedges and fences to help themselves to a few when no one was looking.

Now the old fox-hunting gentleman’s grandson, Cecil Newman, unlike his brother and two sisters, did not come into the world in these parts. He was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on October 29,1867 - the year of Canada's Confederation. His father had been working for the Pennsylvania Railroad in Cleveland and - returned here that year to run the farm. One thing Cecil Newman's father did should be mentioned in any account of this farm. He brought to Canada a cooking apple that was to go into countless Canadian pies. From France he introduced the Duchess Apple to this country.

These were some of the things that happened on this land where your school stands before the man who bears its name began farming it.

When Cecil Newman was the age of many of you in this auditorium, he was going to what was then the Lachine Model School. He was in its classrooms during the 1870's. The Lachine Model School was about midway between the present Ville LaSalle limits and the Lachine Canal Bridge at Sixth Avenue. It was on the river side of the street. I believe we still have a picture of it.

It was different going to school in the 1870's from now. Cecil Newman, for example, either walked there - a mile and a quarter - or he got a lift. Usually, I believe, the youngsters this far away got a lift, particularly in winter. Neighbours would take turns in giving each other’s youngsters a ride to school.

A good deal of sharing of this kind was done by people here in those days. But the difference in going to school then wasn't only because there were no buses or cars, this was especially true in winter. For days and days after a winter storm, the drifts on the Old Lower Lachine Road remained as great waves of snow. A horse and sleigh would rise and dip like a small boat on the high sea. It took a long time to travel from here to the Lachine Model School.

I need hardly tell you that in this grade school that Cecil Newman attended, everything was plain indeed beside what you have here. And the teachers weren't nearly as good as those you have. They didn't have the same training as your teachers. The Lachine Model School i8 what people mean when you hear them speak of the "Little Red School House".

There is something about such "Little Red School Houses" that you students are not usually told. You may have heard some older people speak of the "Little Red School House" as though it were a wonderful place to get an education. Actually, we know it wasn’t. And we’re not guessing. A few years ago, an American teacher collected a large number of examination papers written by boys and girls in schools back in the l840’s, and it probably wasn't much different in Canada in the 1870's. This teacher went over the different examination papers and he found they were much easier than in schools like yours. He also found that the answers of the boys and girls were pretty terrible beside those given by boys and girls today.

But, whatever the Lachine Model School classes were like, Cecil Newman, it appears, did his homework well. He passed readily and went on to Montreal High School. He left Montreal High early and entered Royal Military College in Kingston. In 1886 he graduated as a civil engineer. He was 19 and second in his year.

Two years later, when his father's health was failing, he was given charge of the farm. Then, like his father and grandfather, he began to make some changes in its operation. He went much further in fruit-growing than they. The place became the largest fruit farm in the Province of Quebec. Most of the people who helped the Newman's in their fruit growing were Indians - men, women, boys and girls from Caughnawaga. Among them were some highly colorful characters. One of these who for long worked on and near the site of your school, was known as Big John Canadian.

A great jovial fellow, Big John was in his day one of this country's most expert boatmen. Towards the end of the last century and in the early years of this one, he frequently navigated small boats down the Lachine Rapids. Quite a feat! Once he offered to take Cecil Newman on one of these risky trips. There'd be no charge, he said. However, Cecil Newman's mother objected, as mothers are apt to do, and she got her way - also as mothers are apt to. Her son could only view the dangerous rapids from the St. Lawrence shore.

Now, Cecil Newman wasn't only interested in how much acreage was given over to fruit. He was even more interested in finding better varieties of the fruit he grew. He wanted to discover the best that could be developed in the soil here. It is one thing to grow a particular fruit well by seeing that the soil is properly prepared, that the fertilizer is right, the planting right, the cultivating, the pruning and the rest. It is quite another thing to breed plants that will do better than any others. Those who do this are exploring new areas in plant life.

Cecil Newman tried to do this and in trying he became one of the outstanding men of this country at it. By the time the First World War broke out, he was known to research people like himself in every American state experimental farm in those states where the climate is not too remote from what it is here - from the Geneva Station in the State of New York, to Minnesota, to the State of Washington.

In 1931, the leading society of fruit growers in the United States honoured him for his discovery of the "best commercial raspberry" on the continent. Later he developed others superior to it. He went on to find new kinds of apples and other fruits. Today most of the best raspberries, some of the best early apples your parents buy are varieties developed on this farm.

Because of his work, experts in his kind of farming used to visit this farm where your school stands. They came from different parts of Canada, from the United States and from Britain.

Besides agriculture, Cecil Newman was much interested in the community where he lived. When Ville LaSalle was established as a town separate from Lachine, he was elected its first Mayor. For a number of years he was one of the town's aldermen.

He carried on his experimental work until May 1952 when, in his 86th year. he was trying to find new winter apples. He sent some examples to the Dominion Experimental Farm at Ottawa for testing. Two weeks later, on June 3rd. he died.

Speaking on behalf of the Newman family, I would like to say that we are appreciative indeed that the Lachine School Board chose his name for so fine a school as you have here.


2Distraction said...

Hello Neil,

I came across your blog and apparently we (you, your sister, my/our other siblings/cousins) have a grandparent or two in common (Cecil P. Newman). Which begs the question are we siblings or cousins?
I am not very "social network" savvy and have been unable to track down your email address so, I hope that you will receive this comment that we may connect.

Anne Newman

Spamfighter said...

my email address is spamfighter @ gmail . com