As noted in the previous entry, it is always exciting to receive a work of art that is signed and dated. Both of the drawings are signed F.S. Mac, and dated June 1892. F.S. Mac turned out to be Frank Smith MacDonald. Frank was born 20 August 1869, the 7th child and 6th son of Reverend Alexander Black MacDonald (1831-1913) and Jemima MacDonald (1830-1912) of MacDonald’s Corner, and the nephew of Dr. Malcolm MacDonald (1836-1916) from whose house the drawings were purchased in the 1970s. Reverend A.B. was descended from the Donald MacDonald (1763-1842) line of MacDonalds who settled at Coverdale, near present day Moncton and later at Canaan, Queens County. Jemina was descended from the Loyalist Alexander MacDonald line of McDonald’s Point, Queens County. The two families inter-married often in the 19th century, making for a genealogical hornet’s nest!
Reverend A.B. MacDonald’s father and Frank’s grandfather was Alexander Black MacDonald (1794-1880), son of Donald MacDonald. This Alexander married Janet Hendry (1795-1887) in 1818 and had seven children, including Dr. Malcolm MacDonald. Janet Hendry MacDonald kept a journal of daily events in the mid-19th century which was published as part of Those Days are Gone Away in the early 1980s. According to The MacDonald’s of the Washademoak Lake by Kenneth Christie and Marion Reicker, the Reverend A.B. MacDonald family were “remarkably brilliant and gifted in music, writing, painting or sketching, and oratory.” Several of his children migrated to the United States, enjoying careers in journalism, dentistry and business.
Little is known of Frank MacDonald’s early years, however it is expected he attended the local grammar schools and enjoyed the ups and downs of rural life along the Washademoak. As part of a large extended family, the comings and goings of his aunts, uncles and cousins would have provided a lively and entertaining boyhood. In the 1871 and 1881 census records, he is listed as being at home. Some time in the late 1880s young Frank left home; there is a suspicion that he was sent to sea for health reasons, but that is unconfirmed at this point. In the Queens County Heritage collection is a photograph of Frank in one of several MacDonald Family Albums. He is pictured with Captain Calvin N. Morrell “aboard” a ship. The photograph is inscribed on the back: Capt. C.N. Morrell, Frank S. MacDonald, Best Wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, 28 November 1889. Obviously something the twenty year old Frank sent home to his family for Christmas 1889 and clearly a trip and a person he wished to document.
The photograph was made by W.S. Martin, 217 Bute Road, Cardiff, Wales. Given the way the inscription is written on the reverse, it seems Captain Morrell is the mustached man on the left, Frank MacDonald is on the right; the binoculars in the hand of the man on the left would also indicate that is the captain. Both are smartly dressed, Frank in particular with striped pants, gloves, bowler hat and well shined shoes. A visible break in the decking of the ship near the feet of the men shows that the photo was done in a studio with a ship’s deck for a backdrop. That said, however, the cabin looks similar to that of the Highlands, a ship known to be in Cardiff in November-December 1889, and of which Calvin Morrell was the captain.
The Highlands, a 1250 ton barque, was built in Saint John in 1883 by David Lynch, Portland, one of the large and famous New Brunswick shipbuilders. The ship joined the equally famous Troop Fleet after construction and was soon engaged in an Atlantic run from England to Brazil, New York, Poland and on occasion, Saint John. Captain Morrell was born in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, 29 November 1855, the son of Captain Calvin Morrell Sr. According to his obituary supplied to us by great-granddaughter, Sandra Guinan, he began his career as a mariner very early in life and after learning the ropes, was in command of a ship. For many years he was employed by Troop & Sons, the famous Saint John shipping family and company. On 16 September 1882 he married Lois A. Pitman but in the 1891 Census, he is listed as widowed with occupation of Master Mariner of Sailing Vessel and he could read and write. On 5 September 1893 he married Lily Cavanagh (Lillian in the 1901 census), and by the 1911 census, the 55 year old Captain Morrell also had a nine year old daughter, Dorothy, born 1902, and had retired from the sea since he is listed as a Methodist farmer at Yarmouth. Captain Morrell died 16 November 1917 and was remembered as a “highly esteemed and respected citizen. Of genial, good-natured disposition he was liked by all who knew him and his death will be deplored.” The Highlands, known for speed like all New Brunswick built ships, continued in service until 1906, making 10 voyages around the Atlantic, including stops in Saint John in 1891 and on its way to Philadelphia in 1898. Other ports of call included Rio de Janeiro, New York, Liverpool and ports in Poland.
Did Frank participate in some of these other voyages? At this point we don’t know, however it is clear he somehow made it to Cardiff, Wales and posed for the photograph with Captain Morrell. And Frank MacDonald is back home at his father’s house, MacDonald’s Corner by the spring of 1891 in time for the Census, with no occupation noted. In September 1889, Dr. Malcolm MacDonald, Frank’s uncle, notes an interesting expenditure in his day book: $60 to F.S. MacDonald. That doesn’t sound like very much to us, however $60 in 1889 is the equivalent of $1400 in today’s money. In November 1890, a further $20 is to Frank, and finally, $10 in April 1891, totally the equivalent of $2100. Taking the transfers of money and the ship’s itinerary into account, we may be able to piece together the story. The Highlands arrived in New York 11 October 1889 from Rio de Janeiro, and departed for Liverpool, England 2 November 1889, arriving in England 22 November 1889. Some time between 22 November and late December 1889, the Highlands made its way to Cardiff. The ship left Cardiff 31 December 1889 destined for New York, arriving 12 September 1890 via Rio in February 1890, New York in May 1890, and Poland in July 1890. By December 1891, the ship is in Saint John when it departed for Bristol, England. Some time between September 1890 and December 1891, the ship went from New York to New Brunswick, though not on an official voyage.
Here is what is possible given the evidence: financed in whole or in part by his uncle, Dr. Malcolm MacDonald, Frank may have left New Brunswick in the fall of 1889, catching the Highlands at New York, sailing to Liverpool, Cardiff, Rio de Janeiro, Poland, New York, and finally back to Saint John. Was he traveling or working on the ship? The suggestion that he was sent to sea for health reasons fits, but we don’t know. Did he return home because of illness? Again we do not know. He certainly looks fit enough in the 1889 photograph. We’ve been told of a possible travel log kept by Frank, however efforts to date have not found it.
The next thing we know for sure is that Frank is home in MacDonald’s Corner in 1891 and in June 1892, he creates the two drawings. The subjects of the drawings, of course, are still being debated. The motivation for the portraits presents another intriguing mystery. On 8 August 1892 the Saint John Daily Sun noted, “Narrows (Queens Co.) Aug. 5 – An event of more than ordinary interest took place at the Narrows on Wednesday eve., 3rd inst. On this occasion, Dr. M.C. MacDonald and Hulda Cox, both of Cambridge, were united in marriage. Rev. M.P. King performed the marriage ceremony.” This was the long awaited marriage between 56 year old Dr. Malcolm MacDonald and 50 year old Hulda Cox. Dr. MacDonald had boarded with Hulda’s family since the time he began his medical practice in the 1860s. By 1892, Hulda’s father, Marcus (the possible subject of one of the drawings), had died, and her step mother, Elizabeth was quite elderly, dying the next spring in April 1893. Having known each other and lived side by side for so many years, and given the awkwardness of the diminishing household, it was probably logical to make it all legal and respectable! We are sure there is a Valentine’s love story here that may be explored later . . . something for another day.
Given the excitement with which the community and families probably greeted Dr. Malcolm and Hulda’s nuptials, “the event of more than ordinary interest”, it is possible Frank presented the drawings to his uncle and new aunt as a wedding gift. Certainly there was quite a celebration. Dr. MacDonald notes in his day book for August 1892: $31.50 for a new suit, $20 for minister’s fees, and $2 for a “treat for Band”. The previous month, July 1892, as part of a trip to Saint John, he noted $49 for a watch and chain, $4 for a ring, and other expenses for hat, gloves, collars, cuffs, studs, ties, and boots. At about the same time, Frank did the copy of the drawing of the bearded man with the furrowed brow, Marcus Wellington Cox, that ended up in the Belyea household, however he did not sign or date that version. The Belyea version is slightly larger, but was originally framed identically to the drawings from the Dr. MacDonald house.
Frank does not appear in any official record again until December 1893. On 4 Janury 1894, the Saint John Daily Sun reported, “Narrows (Queens Co.) Jan. 2 – People here heard with regret of the death of Frank MacDonald sixth s/o Rev. A.B. MacDonald and Jemima MacDonald, 24th year. He leaves father and mother, six brothers and one sister. His funeral took place at MacDonald Corner today.” Later in the month, 17 January 1894 the Saint John Messenger and Visitor reported, “Frank Smith McDonald [sic] s/o Rev. A.B. McDonald [sic] fell asleep in Jesus eve. Dec. 29, 1893, age 24 years. Rev. G.W. Springer assisted the pastor in the services.” Frank is buried at the MacDonald’s Corner Baptist Church near his many family members. Curiously, there is a glaring error on his tombstone. It is inscribed Frank “L” MacDonald; very odd considering all other references are to Frank Smith or Frank S. According to family lore, the cause of death was tuberculosis, a common ailment of the late 19th century.
Prior to his travels or after his return, Frank was engaged to marry Charlotte (Lottie) MacDonald (1867-1947), the daughter of Joseph MacDonald (1824-1921) and Susan J. MacDonald (1829-1881), and Frank’s second cousin. Lottie never married and eventually went to the United States and worked there for a many years before returning to MacDonald’s Corner in her retirement. She is also buried at the MacDonald’s Corner Baptist Church Cemetery.
The three drawings are currently the only known works by Frank Smith MacDonald; we hope there are others in the community that may now surface. Prior to their acquisition by Queens County Heritage, only a few people were aware of him as an artist at all. In The MacDonalds of Washademoak Lake, Christie and Reicker make reference to Frank as “a gifted artist, for painting scenery and for crayon portraits.” Our two drawings, plus the Belyea version, are three of the crayon portraits. Had he lived it is hard to say what kind of artistic output and development Frank MacDonald might have had. As it is, he was certainly an artist of skill and talent, following in the footsteps of the great Queens County artists, Anthony Flower, who he would have known as a boy, Reverend Abraham Wood and Thomas MacDonald (no relation that we know of). His travels would have opened up other avenues of inspiration. In the end, isn’t it wonderful that from seemingly anonymous initials on an interesting but ordinary drawing, the story of a young man’s life comes tumbling out to us 120 years later?
For more information or if you have some additional tidbits to help our research, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Special thanks to Sandra Guinan and Cynthia Hamilton for providing additional information on Captain Calvin Morrell)