Stories to tell: Archives secure project funding

·3 min read

Rev. Charles Smith was a military chaplain in the United States Army during the Second World War.

He received the bronze star for his service and later on returned to his birthplace in Rollingdam, N.B. to reunite with his family. He served as the pastor of the Wilson's Beach United Baptist Church until 1963.

Now his life will be able to be further researched and preserved at the Charlotte County Archives in Saint Andrews. The archives have received funding to organize and further sort through their records, with a focus on telling the stories of four specific lives using a paper trail they left behind.

"These [records] really help us learn more about the families and what life was life in different corners of the province and they shine light on a lot of areas that we didn't know much about previously," said Heather Wilson, manager of the Charlotte County Archives.

"They're really going to help people connect with the past."

Every year, the Council of Archives New Brunswick gives out funding to carry out projects and improve access to its collections. This year, the Charlotte County Archives submitted several funding applications and was approved for three projects, totalling $7,300, said Wilson.

About $3,000 will toward efforts to organize and catalogue documents associated with or collected by the Charlotte County Historical Society. A total of $2,900 will be used to carefully examine, organize and catalogue the personal collections of Smith, Earl Caughey, Jackie Gibson and Rose McKay Haughn. And $1,400 will go toward arranging and processing 47 maps, floor plans and blueprints.

Since the archives is supported by volunteers, Wilson said the funding helps the archives pay temporary help to organize and sort through the files.

Already, they've started to dig into the piles of documents on Smith. So far, they know Caughey was a judge in Fredericton during the mid-20th century and McKay Haughn, who lived in Pennfield and Saint Andrews, was married in 1954. Not much is known yet about Gibson.

The assorted planning documents to be processed include a mixture of maps of Pennfield and St. George, along with floor plans for the Saint Andrews courthouse. There's also some hydrographic maps of Charlotte County in the mid-19th century, which could be of interest to scientists, Wilson noted.

Records from the Charlotte County Historical Society include voter lists, which can help discover the residences of people in the past. Administrative documents from the society itself also make up the 25 boxes of paper to sort.

"We've been going through a rapid development process and we've been trying to catch up with the backlog," said Franklin Cardy, chairman of the board of directors for the Charlotte County Archives.

He said the Charlotte County Archives board is grateful to receive the grants because the archives are dependent on them to get things done, especially because there have been less fundraising opportunities during a pandemic.

Typically, the Charlotte County Archives receives 20 to 60 donations of materials in a year, which can vary in size from a single ledger book to 25 boxes, said Wilson. Last year, Cardy said, the archives had raised enough money to hire one staff member, the archives manager.

In total, the archives has 90,000 manuscripts and it can take at least 30 hours to just sort through documents it's received.

In the next few months, the Charlotte County Archives will also launch a website to make their records more accessible, said Wilson.

"It's going to add to our knowledge of our own past. The whole point of the [funded] project is to make these record accessible for anyone who wants to research them."

The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. L'initiative de journalisme local est financée par le gouvernement du Canada.

Caitlin Dutt, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal