FROM SCOTLAND TO
The McCubbin family originated in the city of Ayr, Scotland. John McCubbin, Sr. was a tailor, a cripple, cause unknown, who was confined to a wheelchair. He and his wife Elizabeth had two sons, Thomas Hazle born November 14, 1877 and John Stevenson born May 2, 1884.
Tom learned tailoring from his father and worked at his trade in London, England and then had a shop in Rothesay on the Isle of Bute, Scotland. While in Rothesay he met Elizabeth (Lizzie) Shirra Dougall of Kippen, Sterlingshire, Scotland, who was working in a shop belonging to her brother Jim Dougall, a well-known Rothesay businessman. They became engaged and in the spring of 1910 Tom left Scotland to make his fortune in British Columbia.
It was hard to imagine the courage and spirit of adventure that led this thirty-two year old man to leave his family in Ayr and venture into the wilds of British Columbia.
The trip across the Atlantic took about two weeks, with crowded sleeping quarters showing the effectiveness of the Canadian Immigration campaign and the strong desire of the British middle and lower classes to attempt to better their living conditions.
The train across Canada was probably even less comfortable than the ship with nothing in the way of sleeping accommodation or food provided. From Vancouver the journey would be by steamship to Prince Rupert which was about three thousand people. Tom and another Scotsman, Alex Finnie, batched together. They used to catch fish in the harbor and buy a loaf of bread to feed themselves as neither one had employment for a while. Alex Finnie stayed in Prince Rupert working as a bookkeeper until he retired and was a much respected citizen.
Tom finally got work in Kitselas working for Jack Patterson in his general store there. Jack Patterson was Postmaster of Kitselas from 1907 to 1916, so Tom probably got his first experience of handling mail at this time.
In 1909 Kitselas was the largest community between Port Essington and Hazelton and was the port of call for all the Skeena River boats. The railroad was being pushed through from Prince Rupert to Winnipeg and the large crews of railway construction workers swelled the population. There were three large tunnels which had to be blasted out of the canyon rock walls, a massive undertaking.
After about a year in Kitselas, Jack Patterson offered Tom the management of his store at Nicholl which was about eighteen miles east of Kitselas. His salary was seventy-five dollars a month, a high one for those days. A few years later he bought the store.
His fianc�e, Lizzie Dougall, came out to Prince Rupert in June 1912, and stayed there with Tom�s friends, Mr. and Mrs. Carmichael (George W. and Kate nee Boyd). She left behind her a large family of brothers and sisters, twelve in all, in Scotland and with her marriage to Tom on June 12, 1912, started the life of a frontierswoman.
Their daughter Beth writes, "They set off by river boat for Nicholl. Mum told me she had on her light grey wedding suit (hobble skirt). They had to portage around the canyon and a fire burned through the trail leaving black logs to climb over. By the time Mum arrived at her new home, her skirt was black to her knees and in tatters.
Wiggs O�Neill in Whitewater of the Skeena says, "They had the option of walking over a wagon road or staying with the ship. Believe it or not, every man walked and the two ladies (a Mrs. Martin and Miss Sawl) elected to stay with the ship. They sat on top of the pilot house with their legs dangling over the side, cheering all the way through the Canyon." Such was the caliber of our pioneer women.
At first Lizzie and Tom lived in a one-roomed house and then moved into living quarters attached to the store and gradually enlarged them.
Their first child was a son, John "Jack" Carmichael (named after the friends in Prince Rupert) born April 7, 1913 in Prince Rupert General Hospital. Lizzie stayed with the Carmichaels until she was well enough to return to Nicholl. Beth writes that when her mother was pregnant, she was so sick, and Mary Anderson brought her some fresh orange juice which was the first thing she had kept down for days.
Jack still has a letter written by Thomas W.S. Parsons of the Provincial Police and William Noonan, the Station Agent at Nicholl, congratulating his father on his first born.
Norma, their first daughter was born in a nursing home in Terrace run by a Mrs. Donald on September 26, 1915. She was called Norma after her mother�s youngest sister and Dougall which was her mother�s maiden name.
Their second daughter, Beth, was born in Terrace on January 26, 1917, at a farm owned by Mrs. Landfairs and Mrs. French. She was a breech birth and a very difficult delivery. The doctor gave her up for dead, but the ladies put her alternately into warm and cold water and she finally cried. The ladies gave her the name Theodora � loved of God � and wrote a poem about her birth. So she has the impressive name of Elizabeth (after her mother), Theodora Stevenson (her grandmother�s maiden name) and has always been called "Beth".
The children spent holidays at this farm in Terrace, and Jack remembers the lovely crisp lettuce they grew. He also tells how he mischievously squirted milk from the cow at his sisters.
When Jack was four and a half, he bumped into his mother carrying a pot of hot tea, and the pot broke sending the hot liquid over his shoulder and chest. His father got excited and pulled his sweater over his head, and took all the skin off. He went to Terrace Hospital for treatment and it was several months before it healed. He still bears the scars today.
He also went to Hazelton Hospital for a hernia operation when he was ten years old. The doctor�s son Harold Wrinch, a similar age was playing with his bicycle and invited Jack to try it. He had never ridden one before so jumped at the chance even though he was still a bed patient, and rode down a steep hill meeting the Dr. Horace Wrinch coming up to the hospital. Needless to say that was his first and last bike ride for a while.
Anyone who had never visited Pacific would imagine it was a primitive place with very little entertainment. This was certainly not true for the children; they had a wonderful time. There was a good-sized slough about a mile and a half long near the river, fed by a couple of tiny streams. All summer long they swam and boated here and in the winter played and skated on the ice. They built rafts and paddled them and on numerous occasions fell overboard. Jack tells of trying out the new ice on his way to school one day, and falling through it. When he arrived cold and wet at the school, the teacher made him strip down to his long underwear and stand by the pot-bellied heater at the front of the classroom to dry out. He still remembers his terrible embarrassment to this day.
There were also berries to pick in summer, long hikes in the woods and up the mountain at the back of Pacific to a lake. And fishing in the Skeena had to be seen to be believed. They caught so many that it was quite a problem giving them away as there were no freezers in those days. They also used to hike along the railway tracks to the next community of Doreen.
The adults played cards frequently in the evenings. The men always enjoyed a game of pool at Nels� pool hall and games of poker too.
I remember many evenings around the piano or organ in the McCubbin home, having a good singsong with Lizzie playing and Tom accompanying us with his flute.
They had an old government telegraph phone in their home � the only one in the community. They had to turn a handle to crank out so many long rings and so many short rings which signaled who you were calling in Terrace or Hazelton. They used it to order their meat once a week from the Terrace butcher, which arrived by train. It must have been quite a gamble to order enough for unexpected company and not too much that it would go bad in the icebox. Lizzie was a wonderful manager and always put a good meal on the table in spite of her limited supply of meat.
Another problem the ladies had was ordering clothes by mail from Eaton�s catalogue. They would go down to the station all dressed up in their newest mail order dresses, to see a train full of Indian women heading for a cannery in identical dresses.