Bulletin Fall 2003
Bulletin - The Newsletter of
the Bemisters of Carbonear
to hold reunion in Corfe Mullen in 2004
201 years after William Willis Bemister left for Carbonear
August 7, 2004 will see celebration of John Bemister’s 257th birthday
spring of 1803 William Willis Bemister set out for
Carbonear as an apprentice for the Poole merchant firm of Geo.
& Jas. Kemp followed by younger brother, Edward, a
From August 6 to
8, 2004 the Bemisters of Carbonear will be
returning to Corfe Mullen for an historic reunion, the first of
its kind in South Dorset - the very heart of the migration to
Newfoundland from the West Country. Several dozen descendants of
William and Edward Bemister from all over North America are expected to
take part in the festivities that will include a celebration of the
257th birthday of William and Edward’s father John Bemister of Corfe
weekend will be based in Poole - only 2 miles from
Corfe Mullen - with its excellent tourist facilities, museums, historic
sites and steeped in the West Country tradition. Special dinners, bus
tours through Thomas Hardy Country and on the trail of the Bemisters, a
lunch at the Lamb’s Green site where William and Edward grew up,
church services at Wimborne Minster and St. Hubert’s and a rededication
of the refurbished gravestone of John and Mary Bemister are among the
highlights of the West Country Weekend in Poole and Corfe Mullen from
August 6 to 8, 2004.
There is strong
local support for the venture and we are assured of a
warm welcome in Dorset. The Wessex - Newfoundland Society’s
Co-Chair, Alan Perry, has provided enormous help with the
planning and tells us that the Wessex Society is very excited about
hosting a special welcome in our honour at Poole on Friday, August 6,
Coast to coast
social events bring out 100+ Bemisters in summer 2002
Vancouver and the Albion Hills Conservation Area , north
west of Toronto, were the sites of highly successful Bemister family
social events in the summer of 2002. The first, a catered dinner
with about 35 participants, was held on June 15 in the beautiful
Albion Hills Park north west of Toronto on a day the rain held up long
enough for outdoor family activities.
In Carbonear on
July 8, Bemisters attended services at Bethany
United Church followed by a stroll through the cemetery and an
excellent Newfoundland buffet lunch at the Lion’s Club - site of the
big celebration at the 1999 family reunion. Some 30 family members and
friends took part in the event- including Bemister descendants from as
far away as New England and Vancouver.
celebration was held on the weekend of August 3 and 4
beginning with a picnic on the Saturday and ending with a catered
dinner on Sunday evening at the Coal Harbour Community Center.
The largest grouping of Bemisters on the west coast is descended from
William Willis Bemister’s grandson, George Bartlett Bemister. But there
are also many descendants of Rev. George and Isobel Paine and
Rev. Charles and Maria Ladner all of whom were represented at the gala
dinner attended by 45 family members. There was also representation
from Edward Bemister’s line through his daughters Elizabeth Susannah
More than 100
enthusiastic Bemisters took part in the three events and
were strongly supportive of the proposed future activities - including
the Corfe Mullen celebration next year.
is the newsletter of the Bemisters of Carbonear and is published on an
annual or semi-annual basis depending on availability of material from
interested family members.
about family births, deaths, marriages, social notes,
achievements and family history are welcome and should be sent to the
307-110 Sandra Street
Garson, ON P3L 1P3
e-mail: lchopkins - at - shaw.ca
please replace -at- with @ when emailing
Telephone: 705 693 9453
-- Corfe Mullen: back to the
have passed since John and Mary Bemister of Corfe
Mullen bade farewell to their son, William Willis Bemister, who
set out for Carbonear in the employ of the Poole merchant firm of
Geo.& and Jas. Kemp. It was the spring of 1803 in the midst
of the Peace of Amiens - a break in the Napoleonic Wars - that provided
just the opportunity for William to take an apprenticeship in the
distant colonial outpost of Newfoundland, far from French privateers
and English press gangs!
younger son, Edward Bemister, set sail for Carbonear in June
of 1812 he unexpectedly found himself in the midst of war with
America and was captured on the high seas by American privateers.
A year on a prison ship in Boston did not make him a happy man!
It is ironic that the first Bemister in the Boston States was there
under duress when we think of how many of Edward’s descendants
emigrated to Boston later in the century beginning with his daughter
Stella Jane and followed by grandsons Thomas, Andrew, Dougald and
Now, 200 years
later, the Bemisters of Carbonear have been fruitful and
multiplied and scattered to the distant corners of the North American
Continent - making a mark in public life and private business, in
arts and culture, in education and athletics, in the sciences and the
professions, in the churches, schools, politics and community life: a
contribution that is and has been remarkable and of which our ancestors
would be proud. Many generations of Bemister descendants have
carried on an honourable tradition of achievement and community service.
201 years later,
in August 2004, descendants of John and Mary Bemister
will be getting together in Corfe Mullen and Poole. It’s still a
dangerous world! Nonetheless it is in a spirit of friendship
across borders that we will gather to celebrate our common heritage in
the West Country of the U.K.
historian extraordinaire, Alan Perry, we have fantastic
support in the local community - including the Wessex-Newfoundland
Society and the Parish Council - which will enthusiastically welcome
back to Poole and Corfe Mullen the descendants of John and Mary
Bemister. We believe this is the first such reunion to be held in
Dorset for families linked to Newfoundland .
Alan Perry has
an honorary doctorate from Memorial University of
Newfoundland as well as an O.B.E. for his long time efforts to promote
interest in and knowledge of the West Country migration to the east
coast of Newfoundland. He and his wife Jill reside in Corfe Mullen and
we are enormously lucky and very grateful to have their wonderful
support for our family history project.
This will be the
trip of a lifetime for many of the expected 50 or so
participants. Few families in North America know as much about
their direct line as we do through the Bemisters and we will visit
sites of vital importance to our ancestors including Wimborne
Minster where they were married in 1785. Lamb’s Green where they lived
and St. Hubert’s Churchyard where they are buried.
others of our ancestors hail from the West Country as well
(for example the Howells are from Dorset, probably Poole, and the
Grants from Sturminster Marshall) - and any who are interested in
genealogy will have an opportunity to research their various family
lines. For those interested in history, what better place to visit than
the pier at Poole from which William and Edward set out for
Newfoundland? The homes of many of the merchants are at hand -
the Kemp mansion and Garland House for example - and the beauty of the
South Dorset Coast is legendary. Then there is the Thomas Hardy
cottage for literary buffs and castles of the nobility - like Sir
Walter Raleigh - for those interested in dungeons - if not
This is the trip
to the old sod you will tell your grandchildren about;
you will learn some history, meet new cousins, renew acquaintances from
previous Bemister events, and have lots of fun. The trip will
produce memories that will last a lifetime. A joining of hands across
the pond. Don’t miss it!
Family History Society to be
success of Bemister social events over the past 4 years
has prompted our organizing committee to look seriously at putting
together a Bemisters of Carbonear Family History Society (FHS).
Since the first small gatherings of Bemisters in the summer of 1997 at
Lorne and Martha Innes’ home in Mississauga and Marie Bemister’s
seniors complex in North Vancouver, interest has continued to build in
our genealogical/family history project.
In 1998 more
than 60 Bemisters got together for a pot luck supper at
Innes’ home - more than 40 of them direct descendants of John and Mary
Bemister - and from as far as Winnipeg and Elgin, IL. This effort
- as with later events - was made possible by the extensive
genealogical research on the Bemisters by several family genealogists
including especially Lorne Innes, Joyce Dobbie and Elizabeth
followed by a major family reunion in Carbonear, NF in August
1999 which brought together 120 family members from 7 provinces and 6
states to a weekend of social activity, family history, cemetery visits
and tours by sea and land. It was a weekend of meeting long lost
cousins and getting in touch with roots that proved to be an enormous
success. Because everyone wanted to keep the project alive,
we organized last year’s well attended coast to coast social
events that are described in this newsletter.
Along the way
there has been an enormous expansion of knowledge about
the Bemister family and a discovery of long lost branches such as the
Shepherds and Ladners. This whole rediscovery has been great fun
for all - and has both been made possible by our genealogical efforts
and has allowed us to build the family tree in ways we might not have
thought possible only 5 years ago
One of the
outcomes has been the opportunity for several Shepherd
descendants to visit Carbonear and St. John’s in the past couple of
years - and not only pay respects to their direct ancestors - William
Willis Bemister and Ann Howell - in Carbonear Cemetery, but to
meet numerous living relatives as well. We did not know the
Shepherds five years ago let alone be able to meet them! And Ian
Scott’s web site played a pivotal role in this connexion.
Marilyn and Virginia to run into descendants of
Juliana Bemister and Robert Joyce in Carbonear cemetery and know that
they are 5th and 6th cousins is truly astonishing. But in these
matters you have to give serendipity a chance! Organizing
reunions and social events, publishing a newsletter, building the
family tree, recording family history all build a legacy that will
amaze and delight our children and grandchildren.
organizing committee believes the time has come to
formally organize a FHS. A founding meeting will be held in the
new year to adopt by-laws and elect a more formal Board to manage the
business of the Society. In practice there will be little
difference to most members - but we will be able to better delegate
tasks, provide a more effective means of participation for our widely
separated membership, maintain a web site (which will surely become a
major means of communication in the future), take care of older
gravestones which have fallen into disrepair, and build on our
genealogical project - on the web and otherwise. And of course,
Bemisters who would like to help out to let us know how they
would like to help - from being on the Board or committee, to
contributing to the genealogical side of things, to donating
money. It helps to keep up the mailing list and all
contributions will be appreciated.
We expect to
have a Board of about 8 members whose meetings will
largely take place by phone, and with most of the society’s work being
carried out by local committees as we are doing now. (As many as
20 members have been part of our organizing group - based in Toronto,
St. John’s, Carbonear and Vancouver.) We have been working on a
consensus basis and it has been very easy to make decisions - agreeable
as we are!
has decided to create a category of Honorary Life Member
for all Bemister descendants (and spouses) who get to 85 years of age -
as did John Bemister of Corfe Mullen. So Sandy Hurbison of
Nanaimo and Bill and Wesley Soper of Carbonear will be our first
Honorary Life Members - and their cards will be mailed out early
in 2004. Theirs will be free, but for $10 or more your membership card
will be mailed to you too!
They Lived By The Sea
2nd Edition of Carbonear family
history book to be published in 2004
edition of Elizabeth Squires’ book has sold out.
The product of 40 years of research was launched in Carbonear at a gala
event sponsored by the Carbonear Heritage Society only two years ago.
The 400 page compilation of stories about 19th century Newfoundlanders
sold out quickly.
The book is
not primarily a genealogy - although there are
genealogical charts in it - but rather a story book about
numerous Bemisters and others who did indeed live by the sea in the
Carbonear - Harbour Grace area in the 1800s. It contains the very best
published material available about the early Bemisters and truly a
treasure to pass on to those who come after us: an attractive high
quality coffee table book and an outstanding research tool.
The index has
nearly 3000 references of which more than 100 are
Bemisters and hundreds more are closely related to Bemisters. For
example, Rev. George Paine, Rev. Richard Shepherd, Rev. Charles Ladner
and some of their descendants have entries. Huge numbers of
persons mentioned in the book are related to present day
Bemisters - and as a noted book publisher said, “it makes an
important contribution to Newfoundland social history.”
Squires is now taking orders for a second printing
which will take place later this year. However publication is dependent
on pre-publication orders and “Feedback from those who have read the
book has been most gratifying,” according to Elizabeth. “I don’t
think most people realize what interesting lives our ancestors lived or
how perilous life was in Newfoundland in the 19th century.”
Elizabeth this will be the last edition of They
Lived By The Sea and later in
the year she hopes to bring out yet another book with more social
history about our Carbonear - Harbour Grace ancestors. So this is
the last chance to place an order and give your children and
grandchildren a gift of memories that they will treasure and pass on to
future descendants of John and Mary Bemister.
ordering information write to us or e-mail to:
lchopkins -at- shaw.ca
replace -at- with @ when you write (this method reduces
unsolicited mail from automatic mailers to our addresses)
web site to promote 2004 Family Reunion in Corfe Mullen
Bemisters of Carbonear have a Web site! In 1803 when William
Willis Bemister came to Carbonear the only net he was interested in was
the one that might catch fish. 200 years later we are promoting
our return to the “old sod” with a site on the Internet - http://nfld.welcome.to
Thanks to Ian
Scott of Charlottetown, PEI, we will have a web connexion
through his web site - Bemister@HomePort
- to Reunion 2004. Typing http://nfld.welcome
to will get to the appropriate links. Eventually this will
develop into an independent Bemisters of Carbonear web site with lots
of genealogical information, pictures, material from reunions,
newsletters and so on.
Right now the
site will be used to promote the reunion in Corfe Mullen
and will carry all of the latest information available. We hope
that increased use of the WWW will make our communications more
effective and economical. And we are sure that Capt. Willis
Bemister - who was Ian Scott’s great great grandfather - would be
impressed by our use of modern technology!
Committee members and contact people for our Corfe Mullen event in 2004
are as follows:
On July 20, 1857 Capt. Willis Bemister made port in New York as master
of the Orient. It was just 12 years later on July 5, 1869 that Capt
Willis died in New York while in port as master of the brigantine, Two
Brothers. He was only 50 years old.
we had never been to
Feature Article by
Helen Lodge -
a 4th great granddaughter of William
Marilyn and Virginia set out to find ancestors in Britain’s oldest
and uncover more relatives than
they imagined - living and dead !
In the beginning...
began on April 9, 2003. No, I guess it really began
decades ago in my mother's childhood when she began to record her
family history while interviewing visiting relatives. We have
always known about our Shepherd and Bemister ancestry. (But we
had no idea we were “lost.”) But we got serious about researching our
roots in the mid-80s and we found, to our astonishment, that Rev.
Richard Shepherd and his wife Maria, along with a lot of their family,
had ended up in Perry, Ohio!
We had just
always assumed that they finished out their life wandering
around Canada. This meant a summer trip to Ohio to check it all
out and then my mother began researching Methodist Church records to
follow his trail. We even had the opportunity to visit
Sutton-on-the-Forest in Yorkshire, England (original home of the
Shepherd family) on research trips in 1993 and 1996. But we had
never been to Newfoundland.....
I guess I should
introduce us. My name is Helen Lodge. I live in
Nevada, MO and I am descended from Richard Knight Shepherd, one of four
sons of Rev. Richard and Maria Shepherd who survived the Civil
War. My sister, Marilyn, our mother, Virginia - both from Cedar
Rapids, IA - and I try to travel for a couple of weeks each summer to
research various branches of our family tree. We have had a great
deal of fun through the years in libraries and courthouses, wandering
through cemeteries, and doing a lot of research by correspondence in
the "pre-computer" days. But we had never been to
For the past few
years, we have been concentrating on my maternal
grandfather's lines and the mystery of the parents of my great-great
grandfather, William M. Smith. We finally identified his family
in the summer of 2002 after a lot of work and perseverance (mostly on
the part of our mother), but that is another story.
So, we talked
about where we wanted to go for the summer of 2003 and we
knew we wanted to concentrate on the Shepherd branch of the tree.
And we had never been to Newfoundland......
The Net catches more than fish.
About a year
ago, I found information on the internet that convinced me
that there would be lots of Bemister information and a grave or two to
visit. Little did I know how much information awaited us about
our family! So we decided to go to Newfoundland.......
On the evening
of April 9, I was “surfing the net” in preparation for
our trip. I typed in "Bemister" and "Carbonear" in the search
engine on my computer, and suddenly, up popped a Bemister reunion
website! Well, you can imagine my shock and delight! I
quickly e-mailed the webmaster, Ian Scott, and the next day I got a
wonderful email from him. He passed my query on to Cameron
Hopkins, and it was then that I found out that we had been “lost”! Many
of you will remember Ian from the Carbonear reunion in 1999 - he is the
great great grandson of Capt. Willis Bemister - Maria’s brother.
Now, you all
know Cameron, (or if you don't, you should) and I have
since observed that he is like the Bemister Shepherd (no pun intended),
finding all the lost Bemister sheep and returning them to the family
fold. He put me in contact with two Shepherd cousins, Sara
Shepherd from Georgia, and Monica Knight from New York.
absolutely thrilled to find that a copy of a journal written by
Richard about 1830 existed and we were able to get a copy, and also a
picture of Maria herself.
A change of plans
and I continued to talk, and through his encouragement,
decided to change the dates of our vacation to coincide with his
annual trip “home” to Newfoundland. And then we went to
169 years later
met us at the airport and took us under his wing,
all the sites up and down the coast and in St. John’s, and, after a
couple of days of seeing the area, off we went to Carbonear! We
met Bert and Gertie Parsons, toured Carbonear, drove down Bemister’s
Hill, and visited the interesting Carbonear Museum. We were
delighted to participate in the Sunday Church service, reading to the
same congregation that Rev. Richard Shepherd had preached to 169 years
We got a guided
tour of the Carbonear cemetery, and met Mary Elizabeth
Squires, the author of the wonderful book, “They
Lived by the Sea.”
We were thrilled
to see and explore the area where it all began for Ann
Howell Bemister, and for Rev. Richard and Maria Bemister
Shepherd. Cameron arranged a lunch for Bemister descendants
- with delicacies like cod au gratin, fish and brewis, and cod tongues
- and it was thrilling to meet a lot of our cousins. We even met new
cousins by coincidence in the cemetery, and by design in a St. John’s
pub! Thanks to everyone who took the time out to get together! I
can’t describe how much it meant to us to meet so many new cousins.
And now, back
home, as school has started and the reality of life has
returned, I often sit in my office, put on one of my new CDs of
Newfoundland music, and dream about the whales, the puffins, the Avalon
coast, Carbonear Island and all the other places that we saw. I
think about all my new cousins and remember the fantastic week we
had. I am so glad we were “found” and the three of us are all
very happy that we have finally been to Newfoundland!
preserve memories of Bemister events
include photos taken during the 2002 Bemister Family
Reunions in Vancouver, Carbonear and Albion Hills, ON and also a photo
taken at the luncheon in Portugal Cove in Newfoundland in July 2003 in
honour of our New Found Shepherd cousins from the US.
Note that the
picture taken at Portugal Cove includes Connor Tucker
O’Brien - age 3 weeks! He is descended from Edward and Susannah
Bemister through Mary Amelia and at that time of the picture was
perhaps the youngest living Bemister. He is an 8th generation
Bemister (G8) in the New World - maybe the first on Edward’s side of
the family and therefore a 7th cousin to 8th generation Bemisters on
William Willis’ side, for example, the younger generation Bemisters in
Vancouver descended from George Bartlett Bemister!!! Note too the
wonderful banner - Bemisters of Carbonear - produced by Ken Bemister
for the Vancouver event - which will find use internationally!
Also we have a
picture of Sandy Herbison of Nanaimo, BC with her son
Bob. Aunt Sandy is the granddaughter of Rev. Charles and Maria
Ladner and at 93 is the oldest living Bemister - and the first honorary
life member of the Bemister Family History Society.
The photo of
Alan and Jill Perry of Corfe Mullen was taken in St.
John’s in October 2002 while they were attending a meeting of the
Wessex - Newfoundland Society..
The picture of
Helen, Marilyn and Virginia was taken at a location of
great historic significance to Newfoundland and also of great
significance to 19th century Bemisters.
The first one to
register for the 2004 reunion or for a membership in
our FHS who can tell us what that significance is, will receive as a
prize, a 2004 Newfoundland pictorial calendar. And recognition in
the next issue of the Bemister Bulletin!!!
Cameron Hopkins - for the Bemister Bulletin
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