"Merton Margison's Days on Tobique"
(This article on Merton Margison first appeared in the July 31, 1969 edition of The Cataract, a Grand Falls, N.B. newspaper. It was reprinted in The Victoria County Record in 1984. This copy was obtained from a scrapbook kept by Myrtle LeBel, and donated to the Plaster Rock Public School Library. Merton Margison passed away in 1974)
In 1859, Merton's grandparents came to Three Brooks and settled on the Tobique River. There, in a home built of logs, they raised 14 children, of whom Merton's father was the eldest boy. There were no churches or schools at this time and his grandmother, being a devout lady, held regular services and Sunday school in her home.
Merton's father, Joseph Margison, was a young man of 19 when they arrived at Three Brooks. After the death of his father, he remained at home to help bring up his younger brothers and sisters. He was in his forties when he married Elizabeth Linton and lived in a house he had built for them.
Here it was that Merton was born, July 5, 1889. The brown house located originally near the river was later moved down to St. Almo. Merton attended the one-room school house, still standing at St. Almo. After some nine years of studies, at the age of 14, he decided to try his hand at earning a living. His first job was farming. He was well trained, having done chores from a young age at home on the farm. As was the custom in those days, children took for granted their home duties and accepted this as part of growing up.
Wages by that time were almost a dollar a day, and for about two years, Merton worked as a farm labourer in the area. A the age of 16, he went to work his first winter in the woods at Sisson Brook, cutting hardwood for Duncan and Fred Reed. Wages were now 24 dollars a month, plus board. It was about this time that Merton bought his first suit of clothes.
After a hard winter's work, one day in March, Merton and his school chum Herman Reed hitched "Old Dick" to the sleigh and set off for Perth to shop at Charlie Olmstead's store and tailor shop. There the boys were outfitted in the style, three piece suit. Herman paid $13 and Merton paid $14 for his. On the return journey the boys and horse encountered a spring storm and had to stay overnight at Quaker Brook, at the home of Tom Jenkins. The fact that Tom had several pretty daughters may have influenced their decision as well as the snow.
After the death of Merton's father, he took over the running of the farm. It was there he brought his bride, the former Bertha Milbury, when they married in 1914. During the next 16 years, they were blessed with seven children, four boys and three girls.
Many events took place during those early years, such as the building of the railroad in the area. It was promoted by John Stewart who, in later years, was also partially responsible for the bringing the telephone to the Tobique Valley. As a small boy, Merton remembers the first Three Brooks station being erected. It had a ticket office, warehouse, and waiting room, and the big steam locomotives that burned wood in their engines. When they ran out of fuel, the crews would gather up a few fence posts along their right-of-way to keep them going. During those winters the train was unable to continue. It caused great excitement when the first train came up the track in the spring.
In 1915, Merton purchased his first automobile, a Maxwell Buick, built in Terrytown, New York. The car was an open touring model, with two doors to close in the passengers in the rear seats only, and none in the front, as the shift lever and lights were powered by acetylene which was carried in tank installed in the front of the vehicle. When needed, one had to dismount and light the lights individually by striking a match. On windy and wet days, this sometimes proved to be quite a difficult feat. Cars were still driven on the left side of the road and raced at speeds varying from 14 to 25 miles per hour. A good car could be purchased during those early years for between $400 and $500.
During the mid twenties, a great excitement was caused by the first flying machine to come to the Tobique. All the people turned out to see it passing overhead.
In 1949, the old family farm was sold to Fraser Co., and in 1951, their children now all gone, the Margisons moved to Plaster Rock. After the passing of his wife, Merton lived alone until his death in 1974.