MARCO POLO PROJECT
Saint John Branch
In the late 1980’s Barry Ogden began a process to have the Marco Polo, at one time the fastest sailing ship in the world, be rebuilt. A Board of Directors was formed and plans were begun to have the ship built in Saint John. Several committees and sub-committees were assigned, each with a specific task; fundraising, design, publicity, and history to name a few.
The Late Vivian Wright and I were co-chairs of a historical research sub-committee. There were twenty-seven volunteers as well as Ruby Cusack as liaison to the Education committee and Elizabeth McGahan as liaison to the Board of Director’s. Our mandate was to find any material in print, art, artifact, etc., that was related to the Marco Polo and preserve the findings in files or forms that could be replicated to be used in a proposed interpretation centre.
One of the plans was to invite any living relative of the builder, a captain, a crew member or a passenger to the launching of the ship when it was built. Several people worked on the genealogical information. The files were kept by the co-chairs and when the late Vivian Wright became ill, she turned her set over to Beth McGahan. Funding for the Marco Polo project didn’t come through and the project was put on hold.
In Oct 2002 there was an article on the Marco Polo in the New Brunswick Reader. This article prompted Ed Hall of Woodstock to ask if James Smith was buried in Woodstock. The research committee was unable to find his gravesite. While looking at the file for Mr. Hall, I realized just how much work the committee had done. Since we stopped working on the project in 1990, I thought that with the internet and much more accessibility to material that perhaps there might be people in the New Brunswick Genealogical Society who are related to people who served on the ship and/or might have time to do some work so that we could find some living family members. Included here is just the work done on James Smith, the builder. If any of the members have information on people connected in some way to the Marco Polo, I would be interested in hearing from you. Please contact Joan Pearce at: email@example.com
Marco Polo Families
Re: James Smith – Builder and First Owner of the Marco Polo – A working paper (material researched and assembled by the late Vivian Wright, assisted by Ruby Cusack in November 1989)
James Smith - Biographical information is given by Esther Clark Wright in her book Saint John Ships and Their Builders (pp.79-87). Many of Doctor Wright’s facts about James Smith’s life were taken from a letter written by James T. Smith in January, 1908 to his son, James Mitchell Smith. A copy of this letter is in the New Brunswick Museum.
James and Margaret (McMorran) Smith are shown in the 1851 Census (Saint John City, Kings Ward) as ages 48 and 45, and in the 1871 Census (Carleton County, Woodstock Parish) as 68 and 64. We don’t have a date and place for their marriage. James Smith died March 5, 1876 at Woodstock. There was a reference to an obituary along with some brief history of James Smith in an article printed in the Carleton Sentinal, March 11, 1876 pg.2, column 4. We do not have a place of burial but research has indicated that James T. Smith, his son, is buried in the Methodist Cemetery in Woodstock.
Their children were: Margaret, James Thomas, Charlotte, Matilda Jane, Elizabeth, Robert, and Samuel.
CHILDREN OF JAMES SMITH, BUILDER OF THE “MARCO POLO”,
**Margaret age 23 in the 1851 census (Saint John City, Kings ward); married Samuel Parks 25 September 1849; died 21 November 1857. See A Sketch of the Life and Character of the Late Margaret Smith Parks by her uncle, John McMorran, 1863 (N.B. Museum). Her husband and all their children were dead by 1863.
Fernhill Cemetery Records
Samuel Parks 39 24 February 1863
Margaret Parks 28 21 November 1857
Children: Anna Parks 10 mos. 1 May 1851
James S. Parks 7 mos.? 3 August 1858
Samuel L. Parks 6 yrs. 26 April; 1860
William Jardine Parks 4 yrs 8 May 1860
Margaret Smith Parks 8 yrs. 26 May 1860
**James Thomas age 21 in 1851 census (Saint John City, Kings ward); married Jane Eaton 24 November 1853; his death was reported in the 9 August 1911 issue of the Woodstock Dispatch. The 1871 Census shows two sons, Sydney Smith age 16 and A.A. E. Smith age 14 (Probably named for his maternal grandfather, Aaron A. Eaton). We have been unable to find any further trace of these two sons and also do not know whether there were other children of this marriage. James T. Smith’s second wife was Isabella Mitchell, and they had a son, James Mitchell Smith (born 25 August 1906;died 3 October 1982). James Mitchell Smith and his wife Hazel had two sons: James Edward Smith, who lives in Kingswood, Texas, and Gerald Kendall Smith, who lives in North Babylon, New York.
**Charlotte age 18 in 1851 census (Saint John City, Kings ward), married 29 August 1849 John Albert Venning, merchant age 27 in 1851. They lived at 45 Orange Street, Saint John in 1871 Directory.
Family as listed in 1871 census (Saint John City Queens Ward, Division 2)
John A. Venning 45 Draper
Clara T. 19
Frank G. 17 Shop Clerk
Fred. C. 15
Albert E. 13
Edith M. 8
Ella M. 6
Walter E. 4
Harry A. 2
The Vennings were living at Queen Square North in the 1894-95 City Directory, and they later moved to Sheffield, Sunbury County. The 1903 Directory for New Brunswick lists:
Fred. C. Venning Farmer Upper Sheffield
H. LeB. Venning Farmer Upper Sheffield
Walter Venning Farmer Upper Sheffield
In 1945 a portrait of James Smith, builder of the Marco Polo, was given to the New Brunswick Museum from the estate of his grandson, Harry LeB. Venning through Mr. Venning’s sister, Mrs. R. W. Gilbert, RR #1, Maugerville, N.B. 27 April 1989 -Vivian Wright
The last will and testament of Harry Le Baron Venning, of the Parish of Maugerville, Sunbury County, Farmer, was written 15 April 1936 and names the following beneficiaries:
His sister, Ella M. Gilbert
His sister, Minnie Gilbert
His niece, Dorothy Barwell
His niece, Ruby Webster
His niece, Edith Clowes
His nephew, Arthur Clowes
His sister-in-law, Mrs. Albert E. Venning
Harry LeBaron Venning died 25 April 1945, and the petition for Letters Testamentary was made by Ella M. Gilbert, Fredericton, Widow, and Minnie E. Gilbert, Parish of Maugerville. 18 May 1989 from Elizabeth McGahan)
From Fernhill Cemetery Records:
John Albert Venning 68 buried May 3, 1892
Charlotte Venning 80 died January 13, 1921
Charlotte E. Venning 2 yrs. 5 mos. Died 1861
Alice Gertrude Venning 11 bur. July 27, 1872
Frank G. Venning 22 bur. March 22, 1877
Clara H. Higginbottom 56 d. September 1, 1905
Harry LeBaron Venning 76 d. April 25, 1945
(Query: Why does Alice Gertrude Venning not appear in the 1871 Census?)
Vital Statistics from New Brunswick Newspapers Volume 18, item 2189, NBC, 19 July 1861
d. Wed am, age 1 yr. 5 mos, Charlotte Elizabeth, youngest daughter of John Albert and Charlotte Venning.
Obituary from Daily Telegraph, Saturday, September 2, 1905 (p.5, col.4) and Monday, September 4, 1905 (p.5, col. 4):
Clara S. Higginbottom, eldest daughter of J. Albert Venning and Charlotte Venning, died at the residence of her mother, Upper Sheffield. Her husband, John H. Higginbottom, traveling auditor of the Grand Trunk, and resident of London, Ontario, was on a business trip to P.E.I. Survivors stated are two sons and one daughter (not named) residents of Ontario.
Obituary from Daily Telegraph, Saturday, January 15, 1921 (p.3, Col.5) and Saint John Globe, Saturday, January 15, 1921 (p. 2, col. 3):
Mrs. J. Albert Venning died Thursday at Maugerville. Survivors are: one sister, Mrs. J.L. Dunn; three daughters, Mrs. Woodville Barker, Mrs. Murray Gilbert, and Mrs. William Gilbert, all of Maugerville; three sons, Harry at home and Albert and Walter in the west. May 1989 by Vivian Wright)
Obituary from the Evening Times-Globe, Monday, April 30, 1945 (p.8, col.6):
Harry LeBaron Venning, Maugerville, age 76, son of the late John Albert and Charlotte (Smith) Venning. Came to Maugerville with parents age 17. Survivors listed are: two sisters, Mrs. Murray E. Gilbert, Fredericton, and Mrs. R.W. Gilbert, Major’s Island; seven nieces, Miss Clara Higginbottom, Sheffield; Mrs. Fred S. Bowers, Fredericton; Mrs. Arthur H. Clowes, Hampton; Mrs. John Webster, Fredericton, and Ella, Hazel, and Edith Lorraine, daughters of the late Walter Venning; one nephew, John Venning of Whitebow, Alberta. (31 May 1989)
(Note from Joan Pearce. I include these two obituaries to show that different information may be obtained from different obituaries in different newspapers.
Obituary from Daily Telegraph, May 2, 1892, “Home Affairs”:
Mr. J. Albert Venning Dead- The death from congestion of the lungs occurred at Upper Sheffield on the 30th ult. Of Mr. J. Albert Venning, a well known watchmaker and jeweler here, and in his youth was employed at the old London House. He engaged in business with Mr. Walter Beard and after the latter’s death formed a partnership with Mr. J. A. Magilton. Later on he conducted operations alone. In 1885 he removed to Upper Sheffield where he has since resided. The deceased was highly esteemed for warm-heartedness and other good qualities, and his death will be much regretted. The funeral takes place tomorrow afternoon at 3:00 pm from the residence of Mr. James L. Dunn, Wellington Row.
Obituary from the Daily Sun, May 2, 1892, “Local Matters”:
Death of J.A. Venning- The death occurred at Upper Sheffield, Sunbury County on Saturday of J. Albert Venning, for several years a well known dry goods merchant of this city. Deceased was born at the Miramichi and was a son-in-law of the late W.N. Wetmore. ( Note from Nancy Fisher. This surely cannot be correct, as he married Charlotte Smith, daughter of James Smith.) After working in the London House, he went into business with Walter Beard and on the death of that gentleman, Mr. Venning took Mr. McNaughton into business with him. In 1885 he retired and went to Upper Sheffield to reside. The funeral will take place tomorrow afternoon at 3:00 o’clock from the residence of James L. Dunn, Wellington Row.
Funeral Notice from the Daily Sun May, 3, 1892, “Local Matters”:
The remains of the late J. Albert Venning were brought down from Upper Sheffield in the David Wheaton yesterday afternoon, and the funeral will take place from the residence of James L. Dunn this afternoon at 3:00 o’clock. Mr Venning was a native of Sackville and a son of the late W.N.Venning.
Family as listed in the 1891 Census, Sunbury County, Parish of Maugerville, pg. 13:
Venning: J.A. 68 Methodist Farmer
C. Fred 33
Alfred 31 (This must be supposed to be Albert E.)
Also (Parish of Sheffield, pg.2):
Barker: C. Woodville 38 Methodist Farmer
Marilla (?) 36
William H. 10
(From Nancy Fisher 31 May 1989)
Walter E. Venning served with the Royal Canadian Dragoons in the Boer War. His next-of-kin was given as Mrs. J. A. Venning of Saint John. While in service he was injured by being stepped on by a horse. He left South Africa in early December, 1900 and arrived in Halifax January 9, 1901. (From Dan Johnson 21 June 1989)
Matilda Jane age given as 14 in 1851 Census (Saint John City, Kings Ward) On 5 October 1854 married James L. Dunn of the firm McMorran & Dunn address given as 7 Leinster Street in the 1871 Directory. Family as listed in the 1871 Census (Saint John City, Queens Ward, Division 1):
James L. Dunn 49 Merchant
James P. 10
Ethline 10 ½ mos. Born June
The 1894-95 Directory shows M.J. Dunn, widow, living at 6 Wellington Row.
Fernhill Cemetery records:
James Lindsay Dunn 71 buried 21 April 1893
Matilda Jane Dunn 92 died 27 November 1928
Alice Maud Dunn 9 yrs. 17 November 1867
Annie L. Dunn 11 yrs. 5 December 1867
Samuel Thompson Dunn 4 yrs. 6 December 1867
William B. Dunn 7 yrs. Buried 25 February 1880
An Ada M. Robertson, widow of George M. Robertson, is also buried in this lot. She could be the Ada who was three years old in the 1871 Census. Buried 1952/01/18 age 84.
** Elizabeth age given as 10 in the 1851 Census (Saint John City, Kings Ward) died 26 September 1861, funeral held from her parents’ country residence, Bay Shore, buried in Fernhill.
**Robert age given as 7 in 1851 Census (Saint John , Kings Ward), age given as 24 in 1871 Census (Carleton County, Woodstock Parish); occupation listed as storekeeper.