Friday, September 18, 2015

The Lansdowne House Letters: The Good Son-in-Law

Throughout his adult life
my father wrote consistently 
to his mother,
perhaps not so surprising.

Myrtle Jane (Pratt) MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Perhaps more surprising 
is that he often wrote 
to his mother-in-law.

Ella Grace(Cossaboom) MacDonald
with My Brother Roy and Me
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

While many of the letters Dad wrote to Nana survived,
only a few of those he wrote Grammie still exist.
Nana saved letters carefully,
but Grammie usually burned hers regularly
in an old oil drum in her backyard. 

Through Nana, Dad's mother Myrtle MacBeath,
his northern letters made the rounds
of the extended MacBeath and Pratt families
in Prince Edward Island.

And through Grammie, 
Dad's mother-in-law Ella MacDonald,
his northern letters made the rounds
of the Lindholm family in Illinois.

(And of course Dad wrote to Mom!
And her letters made the rounds
of extended family and friends
in Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia.)

Sara Margaret (MacDonald) MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Dad had a great relationship with his mother-in-law Ella,
but I rarely heard him call her "Ella."
It was always "Mac" or "The Yard Boss."
And always with great affection.

On Friday, October 28, 1960 
My father wrote:

Dear Mac,

I hope that you can read this 
“writ by hand” letter.  

Uno is asleep, and 
I don’t want to disturb him 
by pounding the typewriter.

A tuckered out Uno ~
who fell asleep reading his weekly mail
just two or three feet
from where Dad was writing.
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

At least after you have struggled 
through this letter, 
you will understand why 
I type as many letters as I can.  

The typing may not be too accurate, 
but at least the letters are clear
and easily understood.

(I should have photographed Dad's letter to Mac,
but it's thousands of miles away in Colorado.)
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Thanks for the dollar 
to help out on the stamps, 
although you really
didn’t need to do it.

(Nana saved envelopes too!)
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

No more developments re the strange light or our poltergeist, 
but the cotton pickin dogs are in full voice right now.  (letter)

Uno and I are still getting along fine.

Don’t worry about not sending me parcels.  
I get lots – more than is good for me from Sara, etc.  

Besides, I am on a strict diet right now 
and would not want to be tempted by candy, etc.  
I am down under 210 pounds, 
and I have knocked a good three inches off my waist.  
It is about 36½ inches now.  

Just before I left home, I bought a pair of pants, 
and the waist was 40 inches.  
None of my pants will fit me now, 
but Maureen is going to take them in 
on her electric sewing machine.

You were asking about a Xmas present for me.  
You really shouldn’t bother, 
but a nice pair of WARM pyjamas would be greatly appreciated.

The McRaes are Protestants ~ good Presbyterians.

I see you are rooting for Nixon – 
oh well, I guess if you were in Canada
you would be a Conservative.

Richard Nixon
Republican Candidate
in 1960 Presidential Election


I am for Kennedy, 
and in Canada, 
I am a good Liberal.

John F. Kennedy
Democratic Candidate
in 1960 Presidential Election

The house that they are going to provide us with 
will be completely furnished, even to dishes.  
There will be no electricity, 
but there will be propane heating and cook stoves.  
Also there will be hot and cold running water, 
and a gasoline fridge and washer.  

The DOT has 110-volt electricity, and Duncan and I 
are going to go halves on a dryer next year.  
We will be very happy.

Look at the mess I am getting this page in.  
I hate ballpoint pens.

Oh yes, on the next page is the map that you asked for.

Well, I must sign off now.  
Tomorrow we expect another ‘last plane’ in.  
This might just be the ‘last plane’ before freeze-up, 
and I have a couple of official letters to get off 
to the Department of Indian Affairs, 
and I also want to drop Sara a line.

Bye for now,

The Hudson’s Bay Post, Department of Transport, 
my school, etc. are all on the end of a long peninsula 
which juts out five miles into the lake.

  The End of the Peninsula
Sticking Out into Lake Attawapiskat
There is a float plane in front of the Hudson Bay Post.
The rock is #28 on Dad's Map (below).
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

The island where we live is just about 150-250 feet 
off the end of the peninsula.  
I have finally determined that the distance 
I have to transverse in the canoe is between 350 and 450 feet.

Looking Toward the Father's Island
from Near the Hudson Bay Dock
Josephine Beaver stands with her child in a tikinagan.
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Lake Attawapiskat is a body of water about 25 miles square – 
this is quite a difference from 25 square miles, 
and there are about 200 islands in the lake.  
The one we are on is one of the larger ones.  
Some are only large rocks sticking out of the water.

Another Island on Lake Attawapiskat
The path leads down a hill to the lake shore where I got water for our family in later months.
The island is the left #27 on Dad's map (below).
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

The black dots on the map are Indian houses.


Key to Map:
This map is not absolutely accurate, 
and I would never pass the inspection of a cartographer, 
but it gives you some idea of the place.  

It is in fair proportion, so if you take the distance 
I travel in my canoe as about 350 feet, 
it will give you some idea of the size.

© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

1.  The Father’s House                                16.  Protestant Church (Church of England)                    
2.  Our Shack                                               17.  DOT Power Plant
3.  The Wind Charger                                  18.  MacRae’s House
4.  The Catholic Church                              19.  DOT Weather Office
5.  The Sawmill                                            20.  MacMahon’s House
6.  Uno’s School and the Hall                      21.  Nursing Station                  
7.  RC Graveyard                                         22.  Probable Site of My House
8.  Old Indian Graveyard                             23.  My School
9.  Partially Completed Causeway               24.  DOT Yard Fence
10.  Hudson Bay Dock                                 25.  HBC Yard Fence
11.  DOT Dock                                             26.  Lake Attawapiskat
12.  HBC Store                                             27.  Other Islands
13.  HBC Warehouse                                    28.  Rock Where I Am  Always Going Aground
14.  Bill Mitchell’s House                               29.  Usual Path of My Canoe    
15.  Dept. of Forestry Shack 

If you've been following my northern posts,
you've probably figured out that my Dad liked to draw maps.

He sketched several maps of Lansdowne House,
including this one for his mother-in-law,
each one carefully labeled with a key.

I can remember Dad teaching me how 
to copy a map by hand using a grid of squares.
He also showed me how to shrink or enlarge a map
by using different sized squares.
We first worked on a map of South America
that focused on Chile and major topographic features
of the continent.

I love maps to this day.


Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

Boars Head Lighthouse
Tiverton, Long Island, Bay of Fundy
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Links to Earlier Posts:

TLL:  What's a Teacher to Do?

TLL:  Fun Is What You Make it


1.  Uno Manilla:  
     Dad's roommate; they shared a small two-room shack.
     Uno taught in the Roman Catholic School at the mission on the Father's Island.

2.  210 pounds = 95 kilograms

3.  36.5 inches = 92.7 centimeters (40 = 101.6)
4.  25 miles = 40 kilometers

5.  Duncan and Maureen MacRae:  
     Duncan was one of the Department of Transport employees
     and a very good friend of my father.
     His wife Maureen often helped out Dad and Uno with sewing things
     for them or for their shack cottage.

6.  350 - 450 feet = 107 - 137 meters


  1. I'm intrigued by your Grammie's maiden name Cossaboom -- was she of Dutch heritage?

    1. Yes and no, Debra! She was quite a mixture! Grammie had a Dutch branch that has been traced back to Holland; and she had forebears who were in the earliest Dutch settlement in Manhattan. Grammie's sister Nan spent a lot of time researching the Dutch line. Grammie also had a French line through the Beaus, and she told me that it went back to the earliest Acadians in the Smith's Cove area. I haven't been able to verify this, but Jim (Jim, Ron, Ms SD) told me that many people hid these connections in Nova Scotia because of politics. There is so much I'd like to find out about the family history! Happy Friday to you!

  2. haha sounds like my grandmother, burn everything she does. Has fun doing it too. I guess that is one good thing about being isolated as well, easy to diet haha

    1. LOL! Victoria is not the place to diet, let me tell you! I think Grammie enjoyed that burning in the backyard ~ a little timeout for herself! Have a good one!

  3. That's cool many of the letters and pictures were saved. And that they were shared among the family.
    Good conservative and good liberal - funny!

    1. Oh, politics! Always complicated in a family. Most of us agree not to talk politics when we are together! Happy Friday, Alex!

  4. Lovely catch up with your Dad on Friday, and although I didn't do any map drawings, I so often altered patterns or drafted them with a grid. Hope all is going well with you, while away from home. Down here, rain at home, and snow in the far south.

    1. Hey Jean! We're having a lovely visit in Victoria ~ the people are awesome! My sister Barb and a friend are coming tomorrow to do a week of hiking with a group, so we're going to get together briefly. What a summer! I saw Barb in Calgary, Alberta and in Nova Scotia, and now I'm going to see her in Victoria, British Columbia. This has to be so kind of record! I taught my third graders how to draw shapes with a grid ~ usually for symmetry! I always loved that kind of thing! Have a great weekend!

  5. Hi Louise, excellent post - it brought many memories back! See you tomorrow - hugs Barb

    1. Hey Sis!!! I never know what to think after I finish my posts! By the time I'm down to the last run through, I've lost all my perspective! Writing, visuals, checking facts, layout, spelling, notes, conversions, punctuation!!!! But I love it when even one person enjoys them. Cannot wait to tomorrow morning!!! Safe travels and hugs!!!

  6. Oh this is great! I second his warm pajamas want! Nothing nicer than receiving pajamas as presents, esp if they warm and oversized!!! It's so nice how much correspondence you have!x

    1. Thanks, Kezzie! I could use a pair of warm pajamas here in Victoria myself!!! I have a scary amount of letters, papers, and photos. I'll need to live a long life to get on top of them! LOL Have an awesome weekend, my friend!

  7. Hello Louise,

    I love all the photos here! I liked Ronald Reagan myself, and I am hoping for Justin Trudeau for this election, although am unsure how it will go. I think he deserves a chance, at least, after all, Pauline Marois got voted in and that didn't last long, much to many peoples' relief! LOL! :) I find it cool that people save envelopes, if there is a nice place to store all this neatly I think it is great to have them, and I wish I had all these memories like you do, Louise, but I feel blessed to be able to read yours and am grateful that you share them. :)

    1. Hi Linda! Thank you for your kind words, as always! I was a Trudeau girl way back! I volunteered for him in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, and when he visited, I got to get his autograph! Don't know where it is though! It was quite a thrill! I'd like to see his son win this election too! I am very lucky to have the letters and photos, and I'm thrilled that people like you enjoy them! Have a lovely weekend!

  8. "...I am a good Liberal." HAHAHA I love that line. Your dad's letters are so entertaining. He writes as though he's sitting right in front of you having a conversation. How amazing that he had such a great relationship with his mother-in-law. Now there's something you don't see often!

    1. I'm glad you're enjoying Dad's letters, Martha! He brought up Liberals too; although some of us have strayed from the Liberal fold! Don't work too hard this weekend! Hugs!

  9. That last photo of your mother before 'the letter' has a striking resemblance to Queen Elizabeth....same hair style of that time and facial expression. Who knows? There may be another branch you may want to search!!

    I liked that your father had close ties to his mother and mother-in-law. He obviously respected their opinion.
    So that is where you got your 'map skills' from! A good thing to have learned and I bet it helped in school too.

    Trusting Victoria is treating you both well. Enjoy every second.

    1. I love that photo of Mom; she was beautiful and stylish, as well as she could be, considering she came from a very poor family. Thank goodness for the Royal Canadian Airfare; it paid for her education at Acadia. Genealogical research!!! Arrggghhh!!! I will never be bored! I have endless pursuits!!! LOL And loving every minute! I'm waiting for a phone call from Barb who should be near Victoria by now. Terry is down with a bad cold which I am hoping to avoid. Happy Saturday to the Three Amigos!

  10. Loved viewing the photos of your grandmas and your mom! They reminded me of the handsome photos of mine. Your mom was especially beautiful! No wonder your dad fell for her. LOL Would have loved meeting your parents because they seemed so warm and fascinating, just like you!

    1. Thanks, Susan! You're a sweetheart! Hope all is well with you! Our time here in Victoria is flying by! It's a beautiful city! Take care!

  11. It is so wonderful that your father documented his life so well. those maps and letters are a treasure. He connected with his family so well even though he was far away. Love all the pictures which add so much to his story. I am beginning to realize how unique your childhood was. I can't wait to read your story.

    1. Happy Monday morning, Peggy! Thanks for your lovely comment! Yes, my childhood was unique ~ LOL! Have a lovely week!

  12. Interesting take on US politics of when I was barely out of diapers. And good Presbyterians! :)

    1. LOL! I still remember the election when Kennedy won, and then he was so sadly assassinated which I really remember. Have a good weekend, Sage!


Thank you for your comments! I appreciate them very much.