Once again, our friend and colleague Colin MacKinnon enlarges our knowledge of the Tantramar. He informs us that in the 18th century, when not fighting wars or insurrections, soldiers sometimes got bored. And as for many of us today, competitive games served to help alleviate the boredom and enliven daily life.
Read about the ancient court used to play the “Game of Fives” by soldiers at Fort Lawrence and Fort Beauséjour. The game reminded me of squash (once a favourite of mine at Acadia University), handball and racket-ball (also favourites of mine at the Mount Allison gym when I came to work in Sackville, way back then in the 20th century).
And in light of more recent military upheavals, Colin introduces us to Private Arlington Dixon Ward from Rockport, New Brunswick, who fought at Vimy Ridge in April, 1917. This story puts a unique perspective on the tragedies of war, especially for us living in the Tantramar region. Upon reading about “Arlie’s” family and friends along the windy shores of the Bay of Fundy, we become part of the Canadian family that owes so much to those young men who bravely fought for our freedom, exactly a century ago. We should remember them not only on Remembrance Day every November 11th, but every day of the year.
So absorb yourself in the lives of the local military in the 18th and 20th centuries in this region and remain thankful,
The Fives Court
Entertainment at old Fort Lawrence in the mid-18th century
By Colin MacKinnon
While pouring over old maps, photographs, journals and diaries, one often picks out details that perhaps were not of high importance to the original composer. This short note is an example of a drawing that provides an interesting insight into a rather small, and usually overlooked, part of this region’s history. The artistic and talented Captain John Hamilton (1724-1802) of His Majesty’s 40th Regiment of Foot, left us with detailed panoramic sketches of both Fort Lawrence and Fort Beauséjour (Figure 1) made during the tumultuous events of 1755.
The Fort Lawrence drawing is particularly detailed as it shows the outline of the fort, its blockhouses and interior buildings, as well as a straggle of houses and barns immediately southwest of the fortification (Figure 2). Additionally, the legend that accompanies the drawing identifies most of the more significant structures including an odd feature labeled “The Fives Court” (Figure 3). I had noticed this detail many years ago but did not give it much attention other than being curious about the tall, box-like feature that was associated with the name and which appeared as an oddly out-of-place afterthought by the artist. Allowing for some latitude in scale, the Fives Court structure is depicted as being about the same height as an adjacent story-and-a-half house, with a mansard roof, owned by a Mr. Martin (presumably Captain Sennacherib Martin [1723-1781/1782]) suggesting a height of maybe 5 or 6 meters.
What is especially interesting here is that this is no “court of justice”, at least not in the traditional sense, but a playing court for the game of “Fives”. This game, also called “hand-tennis”, is somewhat like racquetball or handball. The Encyclopedia Britannica (1910) describes “Fives” as, “a ball-game played by two or four players in a court enclosed on three or four sides, the ball being struck with the hand, usually protected by a glove.” I don’t know if the game was only enjoyed by the officers and gentry or if the rank-and-file were also allowed to play. In the 18th century, the sport was taken seriously enough that considerable money was bet on competitions. An advertisement dated 10 March 1786, for an event in Wales at the “Brecon Castle Fives Court”, announces a winning purse of 100 Guineas (a huge sum in the 18th century) to anyone in the Kingdom who could beat two men from the town of Brecon. Successful athletes then, as now, are often celebrated; John Cavanagh (d.1819), an Irish house-painter, is said to have been the most famous “Fives”-player who ever lived.
The game was also played at Fort Cumberland (old Fort Beauséjour) as well, although the players may have lacked the formal court that they had enjoyed at Fort Lawrence. This caused some engineering concerns as noted on 7 June, 1760, in the Orderly Book at Fort Cumberland: “Whereas playing the game called fives which has been practised against Lowland batterys and the Magazine beats out the Pointing out of these works, that game for ye future may not be played against them, and the officers of the guards are to give the centrys charge that they suffer it not to be done.” (Will R. Bird, 1928, A Century at Chignecto, p. 211).
As an aside, it is interesting to note that other “activities” were also damaging the fort’s earthworks. The orders of 18 March, 1760, state: “Commanded all owners of swine to put rings in their noses to prevent their damaging the walls”. A further warning was issued on the 2nd May insisting that owners ring their swine (apply a nose ring). These warnings were apparently to no avail for on the 6th of May, 1760, the commanding officer ordered; “centrys are directed to kill swine digging at earthworks” (Will R. Bird, 1928, A Century at Chignecto, P. 210-211). The final threat may have reached the attention of the livestock owners as no further mention of the damage was noted. They may have reflected on similar concerns raised a year previously when hogs were damaging gardens near the fort. A notice for 28 May, 1759, reads: “Whereas Complant has Been made that the gardens are hurt by the Hogs and Small Swine those are owners of them are Either to Shut up or yoak them in order to Prevent them Doing so.” (Josiah Perry, An Orderly Book of Fort Cumberland 1759-1760, p. 7).
Whether the damage to the Fort Cumberland ramparts caused by the “Fives” players and aggravated by free-ranging hogs resulted in their own court being built is not known. Within the area that we now know as Canada, I doubt that the game of “Fives” was only played at Fort Lawrence and Fort Cumberland in the mid 1700’s. However, the former site may have been one of the few places that had an actual court built for that specific purpose. I did find a brief reference to a “Fives Court” in Quebec in 1832, but otherwise, references are scarce. Thus, Captain Hamilton may have unwittingly given us one of the earliest, or even the earliest, likeness of one of these sporting facilities in the country!
One of the Fallen
Pte. Arlington Dixon Ward (1895-1917) at Vimy
By Colin M. MacKinnon
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the World War I battle of Vimy Ridge that occurred from the 9th to 12th April, 1917. Much has been written about the battle, in both minute detail and in-depth analysis. It has been described as one of Canada’s defining events and, in the words of Canadian Brigadier-General A. E. Ross: “In those few minutes, I witnessed the birth of a nation”. My purpose here is not to debate the battle but to honour just one of the three thousand five hundred and ninety eight Canadian soldiers who died over the four day battle. Please read the number again, 3,598! This does not include the additional 7,004 compatriots who were wounded in action. There must have been very few people in Canada who were not touched by these losses. To put this in perspective, Canada’s population in 1917 was 8,060,000. Thus, approximately 1 out of every 760 of this country’s populous were one of the dead or wounded at Vimy!
The soldier I would like to present is Pte. Arlington “Arlie” Dixon Ward who was born on the 18th October 1895, not far from Slack’s Cove, in Rockport, New Brunswick (Figure 1). He was one of six children born to Amos H. Ward (1851-1914) and Sarah Ann “Sariann” McKinnon (1863-1903). Amos and Sarah were married by the Rev. William E. Hall of Sackville on the 7th August, 1889. Amos’s parents were Thompson Maxwell Ward (1820-1880) and Emily Macfarlane (1821-1874) while Sarah’s were Hector McKinnon (1831-1910) and Rosanna Gough (1840-1917). Arlington’s six siblings were: Percy Ward (1886-1960) (Figure 2), Cpl. Parlee Hector Ward (1889-1958) (Figure 1), Edva “Evie” Mae Ward (1892-1967), Averil Iva Ward (1897-1987), Stella Christina (1901-1903) and an un-named baby lost in childbirth in 1903. The Ward homestead was situated on the shore side of the road at Ward Cove, a little more than one kilometre past the bridge at Wilbur’s Cove and not quite 400 m prior to the lane for the Rockport cemetery (Figure 3). As a snap shot of the family in 1901, the father Amos Ward (age 50) was employed as a Stone Cutter. At home was his wife Sarah (37) and children Percy (14), Parlee (10), Edna (9), Arlington (5) and Averil (3). Clearly the common Rockport livelihood of stone cutting, the mainstay of the local economy throughout the 1800s, was still being practiced. Of Arlington’s neighbours, Mariner Ward (aged 42), Joseph Tower (57), James Maxwell (45) and Henry Tower (60) were Stone Cutters while the younger men such as Herbert Ward (22), William Tower (24), Fred Maxwell (38) and Alton Maxwell (30) were sailors. Probably most of the Stone Cutters were employed nearby at the Olive Freestone Quarry where Irvin E. Tower (1885-1961), the son of Joseph Tower (above), was the engineer in charge of the boiler that ran the steam derrick. This is the immediate community where Arlington grew up. By 1911, after the loss of his mother in 1903, Arlington (now 15 years old) was still living at home with his father (age 56), brother Parlee (20) and sister Averil (13). At this time, Parlee was already often away from home while employed as a sailor on a coastal schooner. His older sister Edva (age 21), newly married to Beverly Tower, lived just down the road at the old Tower farm overlooking Slacks Cove (Figure 4). Her husband Beverly was employed as a labourer at the quarry wharf. As a teenager, one can easily imagine Arlington slipping away from school at noon, walking the half-kilometer trail (south-southeast) past the old Hagan place and the cut stone basement for the company store, to see what was going on at the wharf. Or maybe he would go hunting for partridge in the woods, lay in wait for waterfowl on the Pecks Cove marsh or maybe exploring the nearby gypsum sink hole called Pink Rock Lake.
The Ghost Cloak
When he was only eight years old, Arlington was to lose his young mother in the fall of 1903. Sarah (McKinnon) Ward (Figure 5) took ill due to complications of a premature childbirth and died on the 21st of November. She was only forty years old. Just five days previously, her two year old daughter Stella also passed away from scarlet fever. She was buried in the same grave with her mother in the Rockport cemetery. The family recalled stories of there being two coffins in the house at the same time. A strange story of her death has been handed down to us from Sarah’s sister Christy (McKinnon) Gamble (1881-1969) as recalled by her daughter Reva. At the time of her passing in Rockport, her father at the McKinnon home place in Woodpoint, witnessed an apparition of his daughter. The story, as told by Reva (Gamble) Marshal (1919-1995), goes as follows:
“Sariann was the favourite daughter of Hector McKinnon. She lived in Rockport, below Woodpoint, NB. One day while Grandfather was lying on the couch in the kitchen, the back door opened and in came Sariann (Figures 5 and 6). She was wearing a brown cloak with a hood and as she came through the door she flung back the hood and began to undo the frog fasteners (Figure 7). Grandfather said ‘why Sariann, where did you come from,’ and she disappeared. Grandmother came to the kitchen to see whom he was talking and he told her what happened and said he felt sure something had happened to her. Sure enough, later on that day Uncle Ame came in with the word that Sariann had died, also Stella (her daughter). My own mother (Christy) never believed in ghosts, and yet when I tried to pin her down, all she would say was that father never told a lie in his life.”
Arlington was only 19 when he lost his father on the 1st February, 1914, at age 63. The obituary in the Sackville Tribune provided these details:
“One of the best-known residents of Lower Rockport died with shocking suddenness. Mr.Ward had been in his usual good health, and worked all day on Saturday with his son in the woods getting firewood. He retired about nine o’clock on Sunday night. His son Arlington found him dead soon after ten o’clock on Sunday night, having gone into his room to speak to him. He died of heart failure resulting from nervous dyspepsia.” (Likely angina.)
When this happened, Percy was living in Amherst. With the loss of both parents, Parlee, Arlie and Averil were only able to remain in the home for a short time after this latest tragedy.
When Arlington was a young man, he often followed in the footsteps of his older brother Parlee. As both boys likely went as far as they could in Rockport’s rural one-room school house (usually up to grade 8), Arlington followed his brother’s lead and, looking for employment and adventure, found work as a sailor in the coastal trade. He continued as a seaman, travelling between Bay of Fundy markets and New England until the losses of WW I called for more men. Parlee Ward enlisted on 18 November, 1915, with the 115th regiment in Sackville but was reassigned on 14 January, 1916, to the 145th Battalion. Arlington, who had been living in New Glasgow, just 21 years old, enlisted soon after on the 31st March, 1916. Pte. Ward was assigned military serial number 832524. At 5 feet 8 inches, with a maximum chest expansion of 36 inches, he was a slim and fit young man. In his attestation papers, he was described as having a light complexion with blue eyes and light brown hair. The enlistment was signed by Lt. Col. W. Forbes, commanding officer of the 145th Battalion “Overseas” C. E. F. (Canadian Expeditionary Force). A lovely photograph has survived of a confident Arlie, in his sharp new uniform, with a Miss Lillian Crossman, taken in the spring of 1916 on the Mount Allison campus with St. Paul’s church in the background (Figure 8). The tragedy of the photograph is that within a year of it being taken, Pte. Ward would die at Vimy Ridge, so far from home.
I have summarized Arlington Ward’s military career as interpreted from the typical terse military jargon as found in the records. After enlisting in the 145th Battalion (New Brunswick), Canadian Expeditionary Force, he was sent to Valcartier for basic training where he was laid up for five days in August due to complications from the mumps. On the 25 September, 1916, he sailed from Halifax on board the ship “S.S. Tuscania” (a luxury liner converted to a troop ship) and arrived in Liverpool, England, on the 6th October. The following day, Arlie was transferred to the 9th Reserve Battalion stationed at the Shorncliffe Army Camp (St. Martins Plain, Kent, England). Later that month, he made his sister Edva (Mrs. Beverly Ward) his beneficiary in case of his death (Figure 9). This occurred just prior to his being assigned to the 26th Battalion that was part of the 5th Infantry Brigade of the 2nd Canadian Division. There is a notation in the records that on the 22 November, 1916, he “left for 2nd Ent Battalion”. This, I assume, is the 2nd Entrenching Battalion (more knowledgeable readers may correct me if I’m wrong). At this point, the details become murky, with only a brief entry for 31 March 1917: “arrived unit”. With the 26th Battalion, Pte. Ward found himself on the front lines of the opening day of the assault for Vimy Ridge. On the 9 June, 2017, the 26th were situated just east of Neuville St. Vasst and occupied the first wave, of the left flank, of the 5th Canadian Infantry Brigade (Figure 10). What follows is a portion of the War Diary entry for the 5th Infantry Brigade, 26th Battalion, at Thelus Sec. and Vimy Ridge, for 9 April 1917:
“At zero hour (5 30 a.m.) barrage came down on German front line and Battn [Battalion]. Jumped off. At Zero plus 32 minutes the light signal (3 white Very lights) was fired showing that Bn. [Battalion] had reached and occupied their objective. The casualties in the attack were slight and during the rest of the day the Coys [Companys]. Spent the day in clearing the trench and making shelter for the men.”
Note the portion of the above entry, “The casualties in the attack were slight”! Arlington Dixon Ward, the young lad from the small village of Rockport, New Brunswick, was to die that day. His body was either never recovered, or like so many soldiers, lies in an unmarked grave.
In honour of Arlington Dixon Ward and the others who fell at Vimy and made the ultimate sacrifice, I leave this question as written by Vimy author, Pierre Berton: “Was it worth it? Was it worth the cold and the lice, the rats and the mud? Was it worth the long hours standing stiffly in the trenches, praying that no sniper’s bullet would find its mark? Was it worth it to crawl out into No Man’s Land with a bag of bombs, seeking to mangle the men in the opposite trench before they mangled you? Was it worth that tense, chilly wait on Easter Monday morning…when the world finally exploded and the enemy was driven from the heights at a cost in lives and limbs the High Command and the press described as minimal?”Acknowledgements
I would especially like to thank Jeff Ward for his diligence in preserving the history of Rockport that culminated in his book, Head of the Bay, A History of the Maringouin Peninsula, and thank him for the use of his photos including those of Arlington in uniform. Details about Pte Ward’s short life, as well as his family and information about other local boys who served, are covered in greater depth in his book. I would also like to thank Helen (MacKinnon) Wheaton for use of her photo of Arlie’s brother, Cpl. Parlee Ward.
Note: Pte. Arlington Ward’s British War Medal was sold on ebay in September, 2008. Information on its whereabouts would be greatly appreciated as the family would like to have it back.