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NOTE: This page has been adapted for the Website from Donald Coburn’s My Line. Use of the first person is in relation to Donald and not the webmaster/author of the site. Subscript index numbers (ex. Moses4) refer to generations after the family’s arrival in North America. Edward Colborne being generation 1.


WILLIAM8 HENRY COBURN (William7, David6, David5, Moses4, Moses3, Joseph2, Edward1) b. 24 Aug. 1875 d. 12 Sept. 1958 son of William and Margaret Jane (Jewett) Coburn m. (1) Mary Ann Jewett b. 2 July 1879 d. 1914 daughter of David and Ann (Donaldson) Jewett of Macnaquac m. (2) 20 Oct. 1917 Jean Florence Burris of Musquodoboit N.S. b. 2 Apr. 1892 d. 29 July 1979 daughter of George and Jane (Dean) Burris.

The following is Burris Coburn’s memories of his father William H.. Burris wrote this a few weeks before his death on 13 December 1991.

William H. Coburn
William8 H. Coburn c1895

My father, William Henry Coburn, was born at Keswick Ridge, August 24, 1875. He was born in the farm home as it was the custom at that time. He was the second son of William Coburn and Margaret Jane Jewett. Although there were only two boys born to William Coburn and Margaret Jane Jewett, William Coburn had several children by his first wife, Emeline Haines. There was Sarah, who married Amos Mitchell and lived at Scotch Settlement. I can remember visiting their home with my father and mother. One thing that stood out in my memory was their grandfather clock. Aunt Sarah died before I was four years old. Uncle Amos died in 1933. Another girl, Henrietta, married Charles Pickard. They had three children: Frank, Benjamin (Benny), and Catherine (Katie). Frank married Margaret Edgar and they had two children, Charles and Katherine. William and Emeline’s youngest child was a son, James.

James worked most of his life in the woods. There is an interesting story about James, who was a cook, along with several other men from the Keswick area. They were working in Northern Maine, around 1899 or 1900, and it was coming Christmas, when a large snowstorm came and blocked all roads so that few, if any, of the men were able to go home to their families that year. Since so many of the men had planned to go home, there was not a lot of food in the storeroom. James was responsible to feed the men, so he got some men to go out looking for meat. Although the snow was very deep, they were lucky and they felled a young deer, brought it back to camp, and with the skills of a good cook, James was able to give the men a good Christmas dinner.

It was later that spring that James contacted the mumps. He was very sick, but did survive. When spring came he went on the log drive, as was his habit. Working one very cold day in heavy rain he got very cold and wet, having just started to recover from the mumps, he became very ill. The mumps went down on him as they sometimes do, as a result of this he died in 1901 having never married.

My grandfather was born and lived all his life in the family homestead. That is the house where David now lives. My grandfather, of course, farmed all of his life and was a large potato farmer. For that period he was often affectionately called “New Brunswick Potato King”. He did however set out apple orchards from the road down to or just below the old crabtree. The crabtree was set out by my great-grandfather, David Coburn. When my grandfather died in 1897 he told my father You look after the orchard and the orchard will look after you; certainly not true today. Well my father certainly followed his father’s advice because he set out orchards down to the woods, as well as in front of the community hall. An interesting note about the time the orchard was set out in the Sam Field (named after Sam Pickard, who the field was bought from, consisting of the field in front of the community hall). Father stayed at the wagon that had the young trees on it. He would be 78 at the time of planting. He selected the young tree, headed it back, as you do when planting young trees, and gave the tree to his grandson, John, who carried the trees to me, John’s father. John was four years old at the time. I, as well as the hired man, planted the trees. I believe this was the last time father helped plant a fairly large number of trees.

Mrs W. H. Coburn
Left: Mary (Jewett) Coburn first wife of William8 Coburn, mother of Edna, Myrtle and Helen.
Right: Jean (Burris) Coburn, William’s second wife, mother of Mary, Burris, Margaret.

In the mid twenties when fox farming became a thriving business, father got into foxes. As all fox ranches were registered he had to give a name to his fox ranch. It was known as the Coburris Fox Ranch. He stayed in foxes until 1936 when they were done away with, as they had become a liability to the farm.

Father was always eager to find new and easier methods of doing things. He developed a good size dairy herd, mostly grade Holsteins at first. Then when some of the children, chiefly Edna, got into the Calf Club, he bought some Jerseys. This was later dropped and he moved into purebred Holsteins.

He got into purebred cows when the government was bringing them in from Ontario. He was also involved in establishing a Holstein Field Day for showing top quality animals. This was held at Douglas Field, where Northside Ready-Mix is now located. This was the forerunner to the Artificial Breeding Unit, as well as the very successful livestock show at the Fredericton Exhibition.

When milking machines started to arrive in our area, Fred Coburn had just had one installed. One of the first nights that they were using it, father went over to see it work. He came back and asked how soon should we install one. He had always said he would never have one in the barn, but he saw the merits of this new invention. That was the way he was, if there was a better way to do it, he was willing to try.

It was this philosophy that encouraged him to install home electrical equipment in the home in the late 1920’s. This consisted of a gasoline engine and about two dozen storage batteries. He had the house wired downstairs in the the basement, as well as the cow stable. This was to make it safer in the barn so that we did not use lanterns. This system was fine until hydro came up from Fredericton to Keswick and on to the Mactaquac Baptist Church, where the power dam is now located. Here it crossed the Saint John River to Kingsclear and back to Fredericton stopping short of joining on to the Fredericton system. It remained like this until N.B.E.P.C. bought out Maritime Electric who controlled the Fredericton system. Father’s good friend, Dr. B.W. Robertson, now took out his home electric unit and had his house wired for the new hydro system. Now when father and another good friend and neighbour, Havelock Gordon, saw this new electric system they wanted the same, so it was that in 1934 they canvassed the residents of Keswick Ridge to have the hydro line brought up the Keswick Ridge Road. Some of the people wanted it, others would not have it, as they believed that it was not safe. As a result of this survey, the hydro went as far as Frank Timmins, now Owen Timmins. It would not have been possible if Andrew Sloat had not agreed to put one light in. This ended up as only one 25 watt light bulb. So in February, 1935, our house and barn were wired for the new hydro system.

Our next door neighbour was Fred Coburn (We kids called him Uncle Fred and his wife Aunt Julia). They were Donald’s father and mother. Well no sooner did Uncle Fred’s house get wired and hooked up to the hydro (They got their house wired before we did), they bought a new electric radio, a Rogers, and did it ever work well, so much better than our battery one. Now Uncle Fred got their electric radio in 1935. We waited until 1936 before we got out electric radio, also a Rogers. It had the standard AM Band and a Short Wave Band. Could you ever get stations! We listened every night to Lowell Thomas from New York. We also listened to Amos and Andy, a comedy team, also from New York. This radio was wonderful when the war broke out in 1939. We could listen several times a day to the war news.

It was in 1936 that we got our first electric refrigerator. It was not much in today’s standards, but was wonderful in the mid 30’s. It was the fi rst in the community. In 1929 Uncle Fred had gotten a Maytag washer, it had a gas motor, but we got a Maytag

washer in 1930 that worked off our home generating system. But in 1936 they both were converted to electric, and both machines lasted 30 years.

W. H. Coburn
William8H. Coburn in his orchard c 1947

I would like to go back to the orchard and how it was developed by my father. The orchard, set out by my grandfather, consisted mostly of Wolf River and Milwaukee. Father had these varieties grafted to McIntosh. This was a new variety and was excellent to eat. Spraying was first started in the early part of the century. This machine got its pressure by someone running a hand pump. Father became very active in the N.B.F.G.A. and by the late twenties and early thirties it became apparent that we needed better spraying equipment; so several New Hardy duplex sprayers were brought in. Several came to Keswick Ridge. We got one as well as Uncle Fred. This machine was to be used until a much larger machine was purchased in 1946. This machine was a Hardy XCVA and was run off the PTO (power take off) of the farm tractor. But in 1954 at the insistence of my father, we bought the first air blast sprayer in the area. The next year many more of these machines were brought into the province. Father was active in forming a large apple storage plant, N.B. Apple Exchange, located on Regent Street. Because of his activity in the Fruit Growers Assoc., he was to attend the Canadian Horticulture Council. He did this for several years.

Father was a very active member of the Congregational Church, later the United Church. He was a very firm believer and I can tell you I never heard him swear or use off coloured language. He held nearly every office in the Church that he could. He was for years the representative to the Fredericton Presbytery to the Maritime Conference and in 1948 was a delegate to General Council. Father was well known for his cheerful smile, and his mild disposition. He certainly believed in trying to help his fellow man. He did this in many ways, especially in the church, various associations, and in his occupation, farming. Father left an excellent example for his family to follow and, as his only son, I hope we as a family have not betrayed his trust.

In 1930 father hired my mother’s nephew, Burris Campbell, to come and work on the farm. Burris was to be with us until 1941 when he went into the army. Burris was a graduate of Nova Scotia Agriculture College. He, being young and having just come from an agriculture school, of course had some new ideas. One idea that father agreed to was tile draining. Some of our fields were very wet. The Department of Agriculture helped lay out the area where the tile was to go. The work was all done by hand, pick and shovel. We have several miles of tile still in our fields laid by Burris Campbell and the extra hired man that was hired on a seasonal basis. Another job that took a lot of time was removing rock from the fields. Hour after hour the men would sit on or stand by a large rock and put a hole one inch wide and 10-12 inches deep into a large rock. This was done by holding a heavy steel drill. It was not a drill that you would use going through wood, only a straight piece of steel made for the purpose and sharpened at the bottom. You hit the drill with a heavy hammer. It took hours. When the hole was the right size, dynamite was put down into the hole and blown, so that the rock could be removed from the field. This was all done by hand and horses. I have heard father and other men at that time say it was cheaper to hire the work done than to do it yourself Wages in the 1930’s were $1.00 per day plus board. Work could start at 5 o’clock and end at 7 or 8 in the evening. No pay for Sundays, but you still had to do chores, that is, the milking and cleaning the stables morning and evening.

Helen9, Myrtle9 and Edna9 Coburn
d/o William8, and Mary (Jewett) Coburn

The Second World War made many changes in the way we lived. Many new things came into our lives. One thing that changed was the airplane. It was from a small 3 or 4 person plane to a large commercial jet. My father passed away in September, 1958. He lived long enough to see a jet streak across the sky. He also saw our first television. Over his lifetime he saw the average home go from candles for light to kerosene and then to electricity.

The telephone came into existence. We went from horse and buggy to a modern car with radio and heaters in them, and when you went long distances you went by airplane. He saw our roads paved and snow plowed in the winter. He did not believe that his children would see the changes that he had seen. He lived a long, successful, and certainly a very productive and interesting life. Another activity that he was involved in, was getting a new school to replace the Keswick Ridge Superior School, which had been built in 1888. The time was 1949, and the idea was to have one large school to serve the areas of Bear Island, Mactaquac, Keswick Ridge, Burtt’s Corner, Birdton, Dorn Ridge, Scotch Lake, Scotch Settlement, Stoneridge, Zealand, and Brewer’s Mills. The school was to be located at Keswick where Highway 105 and 104 join. A bitter debate resulted and the fi nal outcome was two smaller schools located at Burtt’s Corner and at Keswick Ridge. He was survived at the time of his death by his second wife Jean; his older brother David, who was to pass away only about 10 weeks later; four daughters, Myrtle, Helen, Mary, and Margaret; one son Burris. One daughter Edna passed away in 1946.