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Writer's Corner- New Brunswick


Lost Treasure
By Barry L. Hatt

   The year was 1950 and Josephine (Gilmore) Corning, from St. George, New Brunswick, was working as a teacher under what was known as a Local License, in Clarence Ridge, New Brunswick. She made the grand sum of 50$ per month which did not allow her much money to pursue one of her favorite pastimes, collecting antiques.
   As fate would have it Mrs. Helen Clark, or Mrs. J. Sutton Clark, was rooming at the Seeley house, also known as the Clark house. She heard that Josephine was looking for a roll-top desk and came to see if she would be interested in the one that she had stored at the residence of Helen Gilmore.
   Josephine immediately bought the huge, business type, Mission Oak, roll-top desk for the grand sum of 25$, of which she had to borrow 10$ from her father, Arthur Gilmore, to pay for it. In the desk, which was a treasure to her, Josephine found other smaller treasures; A glass ink-well, a letter opener and scissors in a sheath, a glass container with a round glass roller used for wetting stamps and letters, and a business card that read: J. Sutton Clark, Sardine Factory and Weir Owner, L’Etang, New Brunswick.
   In 1898 J. Sutton Clark built a sardine factory at Lime Kiln Bay, part of L’Étang Harbour, which as stated in the book Canned by John Gilman, “ became the fourth major packer of sardines in Canada.” In Canned we also learn that the business ran for about 15 years until competition wore J. Sutton down and financial difficulties caused the closure of the factory.
   A mysterious fire burnt the factory and surrounding buildings to the ground in 1920, but J. Sutton also owned a large store in St. George, which he operated until his death in 1947.
   The roll-top desk must have been in the factory or in their home in L’Étang as the business card and later evidence indicates.
   It wasn’t until another 30 years passed until Josephine found another treasure that she had overlooked. An antique dealer was interested in buying the desk for the sum of 500$, and showed Josephine how to take the roll front off to fix a slight tear. Josephine noticed the edge of something white as she was cleaning the desk and, using a thin object, fished a letter out from the place where the roller-top goes when the desk is opened. The letter had the name ‘Carrie Hatt’ on the front but no date or address.
   Asking around she found that no one knew who Carrie Hatt was. Several more years passed until she finally asked Braden Hatt, my brother, if he knew who Carrie Hatt was. His reply was “Yes, she is my aunt.”
   Finally after more than 20 years of searching, after she found the letter, Josephine had a lead and eventually spoke to my mother, Olive, who in turn gave the letter to my aunt Carrie.
   Aunt Carrie had married William Ring and for years had lived in Connecticut, returning to L’Étang for the summer, which is one reason why most people did not recognize the name, ‘Carrie Hatt’. The letter turned out to be a letter from Helen Clark to my aunt Carrie wishing her a happy birthday and reminiscing about the days that they had spent together in Sunday school, Helen as teacher and Carrie as student. The letter could be dated as written in 1936 because it spoke of the death of Carries’ mother, my grandmother, Margaret Elizabeth (Danbury) Hatt, in L’Étang, and my Aunt Carries’ role in helping her and the family during the time of illness. My aunt would have been 17 at the time.
    The following excerpt from the gracefully written note shows that it was written in L’Étang, and the depth of feeling that Helen Clark had: “ Carrie dear, how greatly your precious mother is missed, not alone in her home but in this community, where her beautiful character and splendid example were a wonderful example for good to all who knew her. But we must not be selfish enough to wish her back, ours is the loss, not hers. She has gone to spend eternity with her Savior in the beautiful world beyond. Let us try to carry on, my dear, as she would have us and as I saw you doing. Shall never forget your quiet-loving, gentle Christ-like serving of all your dear ones in the home thru all the last days your dear mother was with us, here on earth.”
   Although the letter took more than 67 years to find its way to aunt Carrie, who is now 87 years of age, it was met with great emotion and gratitude. It describes the type of person that my aunt Carrie is and I feel that I got to know the wonderful person that Helen Clark was. To me it was also a testimony to my grandmother, Margaret Elizabeth (Danbury) Hatt, who died at the age of 55, after having 13 children. She left 11 children and my grandfather, Artimus Hatt, behind. This was my first opportunity to get a first-hand, close glimpse of her. Through her I have seen and felt the loving service that all my aunts have continually displayed, throughout my life.
   Josephine has since acquired a 1908 Sears and Roebucks catalogue that showed similar desks for sale from $15.65 to $26.95. The desk she bought has proven to be a treasure chest in many ways. Josephine has already been offered 1500$ for the roll-top desk by an antique dealer, which shows how much more it is really worth, plus she found other treasures within, that are priceless. The desk and contents have given us a look at the long and interesting history of life in L’Étang, and a glimpse of people and life in the early 1900s. Thank you Josephine for this interesting look at our past.

Barry Hatt lives in Dumfries. You may contact him through his e-mail address which is blhatt@rogers.com

THE END

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