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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.

CHARLES WILFRED8 COBURN  

CHARLES WILFRED8 COBURN (Tyler7, David6, David5, Moses4, Moses3, Joseph2, Edward1) b. 4 Nov. 1869 d. 2 Apr. 1959 son of A. Tyler7 Coburn and Elizabeth (Smith) Coburn m. 1918 Theodora Amy Herring b. 7 July 1888 d. May 1956.

C. Wilfred Coburn
C. Wilfred9 Coburn
at Salt Lake City, Utah c.1897

Wilfred was born at Crock’sPoint in th home of his maternal grandparents Thomas and Sarah (Anderson) Smith. He soon moved with his parents and his mother’s niece, eight-year-old Jane Smith, into the new Coburn house on his parent’s farm.

Wilfred started school at McKeen’s Corner. The school was situated where Brewer’s Store now stands. After 1885 he went to the school across the road from the two Coburn homes. His initials C.W.C. are carved at the highest point in the peak of the south end of that building. His initials are found other places as well. Wilfred worked in the woods on the headwaters of the St. John River. His companions were cousin James Coburn from next door and Walter Chrisitie from the head of the Ridge.

Uncle Wilfred used to recount some of his many adventures. It is too bad we hadn’t listened more attentively. One September in the early 1890’s Wilfred Coburn, his cousin James Coburn and Walter Christie, all in their twenties went away to work in the woods. James was from next door; Walter was from the head of the Ridge. Walter was Annie (Christie) Delucry’s uncle and later became the Potato King of Aroostook County, Maine.

Wilfred and his two companions went by the Intercolonial Railway to St. Jean Port Joli on the St. Lawrence River in Quebec. There they hired a local man with a horse cart to transport them and their packs the twenty-two and one-quarter miles to St.Pamphille, (a 1950 road sign read that way) and from there they walked over the hills into Maine to Big Black Brook, a tributary of the St. John River. There they worked until the next summer, out of contact with the outside world.

The principal tool at that time was the axe. Much leisure time would be spent at the grindstone, one man turning the crank and the owner of the axe applying it to the stone for a razor sharp edge. Men would also whittle axe handles. There was no place to spend money unless the cook had some tobacco in the wangan box, the supply chest for the camp.

There was no place to go in the rest of their leisure time which would be limited to Sundays. Gathering spruce gum was one diversion and wood carving another. One example of carving would be a box to hold spruce gum, carved from a single piece of wood (pine or basswood). This box, made to resemble a small book, would have sliding closures in both ends. It would probably be decorated with patterns of small triangular indents made with the point of a jackknife. Another favourite product was a woodenchain carved from a single stick.

The boys worked all winter and spring in the woods and came out in July with the stream drive to Grand Falls. Wilfred later worked in the Northern Michigan pine forest cutting timber. His companions from this area were his cousin Clowes Sloat and George Hawkins, an acquaintance from Keswick. The name Menominee seems to ring a bell. He later worked along with his brother Tyler in Boston for the wholesale grocery firm of Cobb, Bates and Yerxa. In 1896 the Coburn boys, Wilfred and Tyler, were caught up in Klondike Gold Rush Fever. Seventeen young men in Boston formed a company which included two other boys from Keswick Ridge: Leigh and Charles Albright. They bought a schooner, the Stowell Sherman and provisioned her for the voyage around the southern tip of South America (Cape Horn) to reach the Pacific Ocean and thence to Alaska. It was likely they also carried supplies for the trek to the top of the Chilkoot Pass which is the border of Canada where the Northwest Mounted Police were stationed. Entry into the Yukon Territory was gained only after transporting one thousand pounds for each man to the top of that pass.

The seventeen adventurers were all land lubbers. They hired a captain but he proved unable to navigate. They got becalmed in the Saragossa Sea and the captain died. After many days their water supply was almost gone and they were lost in shallow water which was dangerous for sailing. Then they discovered they were in fresh water, in the outflow of the Amazon River -although many miles at sea.

Wilfred had had enough. He got ashore at the mouth of the Amazon city Belem and secured passage on a tramp steamer to Pensacola, Florida. Because Yellow Fever was then rife in the tropics, he was quarantined on an island there. He jumped quarantineand started for California riding the rods on or under freight cars on the railroad, the hobo’s mode of travel. He has said hobos were the most generous of people; they would share anything they had. Wilfred helped sweep the floor of the arena in Carson City Nevada, where the 17 March 1897 prize-fight was held, when Bob Fitzsimmons beat James Corbett. He was headed for San Francisco and the steps of the San Francisco Post Office where some of his shipmates had agreed to meet one year after his parting from them in South America. Wilfred, as planned, met some of his former associates. He also had the rather eerie experience of seeing the Stowell Sherman sail into San Francisco. It had made it around the Horn after all. It had been sold in Montevideo by his brother Tyler. Tyler had been commissioned by the partners to stay with and sell the schooner. Wilfred worked on farms in the Sacramento Valley and drove horses plowing.The furrows were so long he would hang his lunch on the horses’ hames because he wouldn’t get back to where he started by lunch time. On one farm he lost many of his curios when the hay stack burned where he had them stashed.

Wilfred returned to Boston where he entered into a partnership in a business making food flavoring extracts and syrups for soft drinks. The business flourished.

In 1918 Wilfred married Amy Herring, born in England, who had come to U.S.A. via New Zealand. Amy ran the boarding house that Wilfred called home. Wilfred and Amy lived in Medford Mass. There they adopted three sons: Basil and the twins, Wilfred and Arthur.

Wilfred Coburn retired in 1936 and moved his family to his boyhood vicinity in New Brunswick. He bought the Herb Smith place at McKeen’s Corner. It had a few acres of land and an apple orchard. For a time he kept a cow and had some hens. He used to make some maple syrup down the Ferry road on his brother Fred’s woodlot. He also helped out on Fred’s farm.

Wilfred’s boys went to the Keswick Ridge Superior School. They grew up and they returned to the U.S.A.

After Amy died in 1956, Wilfred sold the place and went to live with his brother Fred and family. Wilfred was always easy to live with and a joy to have as a companion and friend.

Wilfred died at Fred’s in April 1959.