Anyone You Know?

As I’ve been researching additional details about my family history, I’m finding information about various people who touched my ancestors’ lives in some way, which I’m thinking could be of interest to their descendants. I’ve tagged posts in which these people are mentioned and grouped the names on this page below for any descendants who might be looking for them. Clicking on the person’s name will take you to all of the posts in which he or she is mentioned in the text or appears in a photograph. And of course there are the usual photographs of unidentified people from The Family Archives.

Should you happen by this page and find any information of interest about a family member or family friend, I’d love for you to leave me a comment and let me know!

The Halifax Explosion of 1917

Looking north toward Pier 8 from Hillis foundry after great explosion, Halifax, Dec. 6, 1917

“People were packed in our car like flies. Some of them came to the place with noses shot off, eyes put out, faces slashed with flying glass, limbs torn and distorted. One man came in with blood streaming from what was originally his face. On one occasion while we were working around a wrecked building we could see a little baby 50 feet or more underneath a burning mass crying for aid. We could not get within 30 feet of the child and had to watch while it burned to death. Men and women children were lying on the streets and hundreds must be buried beneath the wreckage.” ~Esmond P. Barry, Eyewitness to the Halifax Explosion of 19171


I first learned of the Halifax explosion of 1917 from my mother’s biography of her mother, Velma Jane Moore, who was attending Dalhousie University in Halifax at the time of the explosion:

I remember her telling about the awful Halifax explosion. Wikipedia says that on 6 December 1917 the S.S. Mont-Blanc, a French cargo ship carrying munitions collided with the Norwegian SS Imo in Halifax Harbor. A fire on the French ship broke out and the munitions exploded. The explosion was the largest man-made explosion until the A-bomb, 2,000 were killed by debris and fires and 9,000 injured. I can see why Velma remembered this.2


When my husband and I visited Halifax in July of 2017, we made a point of going to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic to learn more. Once we’d finished viewing the Halifax explosion exhibit and learned the full horror of what had happened, I was struck by just how incongruous the following part of the exhibit seemed. The central image of the little girl flying through the air conveyed a sense of whimsy that was really quite jarring.

Image: The Halifax Explosion Memorial Quilt, Collision in the Narrows Exhibit, Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Halifax, Nova Scotia, July 2017

The following map from the Nova Scotia Archives3 shows where Velma would have been on the Dalhousie campus in relation to the waterfront. The blue shading at the bottom of the map indicates the area that was leveled.

Given the distance of Dalhousie from the waterfront, I wasn’t sure whether the campus would have sustained any damage. A search through the online University archives revealed photographs of buildings that had received some relatively minor damage, mostly broken windows. The Dalhousie Gazette reported that two students were seriously injured. One student lost an eye due to flying glass and another sustained injuries to her face and hands.4 Several people in the Law Library at the time of the explosion suffered minor cuts and bruises.5

Dalhousie University Science Building after the Halifax Explosion of 1917

MacDonald Memorial Library after the Halifax Explosion of 1917

The Dalhousie campus community rallied to help the injured:

Within fifteen minutes after the explosion, probably every student in the higher three years was rendering first aid, and the majority of the students from every faculty were assisting in a variety of ways as numerous as the needs they saw. In a few hours most of the medical and a goodly number of the others had found places of usefulness in the dressing stations, and particularly at the Victoria General and Camp Hill hospitals. . . . The fifth year men were at work for hours at a time, doing things in the operating rooms and wards of the V. G. H. of which specialists need not have been ashamed. Students of the fourth year did dressings, gave anaesthetics, and in many ways made practical application of surgical knowledge recently acquired.6


In the interest of balanced reporting, there was a brief mention in the article that, “There were a few regrettable actions by the students. A very few failed to do their duty as college men and women . . . ” 7

In addition to the medical students, the young women on campus were singled out for particular mention in two different articles:

Dalhousie girls responded nobly and promptly to the call for voluntary helpers. The day of the explosion many of them went directly to the hospitals, emergency and permanent, where, among the horrible confusion and sickening scenes, they did what they could towards assisting the doctors. Others helped in distributing food and clothing, or in house to house visiting.8

If there is any one class of Dalhousians which, in the writer’s estimation, is deserving of special mention, it is the young ladies of the University, who so quietly went to work, assisting in the dressing of wounds and ministering to the comfort of patients amid scenes of agony and death to which they were absolutely unaccustomed, and which are known to have shocked the nerves of even those accustomed to surgical work.9


I was proud but not surprised to find Velma listed among the Dalhousie girls who had provided relief to the wounded in the immediate aftermath of the explosion:

Ward work at the various hospitals: Freda Creighton, Bert Colwell, Merle Colpitt, Anna Creighton, Miss Clark, Marion Doane, Gwen Fraser, Ruth Glasel, Miss Harris, Miss Lindsay, Emmeline and Arabella McKenzie, Christine McKinnon, Sally MacDonald, Jean MacDonald, Christine MacCleod, Nell Melrose, Velma Moore, Florence Murray, Eliphail Nichols, Margaret Pugsley, Jean Ross, Frances Russell, Katherine Tattrie.10


However, I found the final article concluding the  Dalhousie Gazette‘s front page coverage of the Halifax explosion to be in poor taste, even for those of the adolescent persuasion:


The Faculty, always so tenderly considerate of the students, felt that, in spite of this catastrophe, it would be shameful to deprive them of the Christmas Examinations, and so, on the twenty-first of January, they played Santa Claus, by presenting us with a series of one hour quizzes. Then, lest we grow blase with inaction, they ordained that lectures should continue through the Examination period. Great was the gnashing of teeth among the afflicted, as the explosion had blown every molecule of many a normally near-vacuum. Everyone agreed that district visiting was much more interesting than the Ablative Absolute, but alas the callous Senate refused to adopt this humanitarian idea.11


For Additional Information:

The Nova Scotia Archives has a wealth of primary sources about the Halifax explosion, “including records accumulated by Archibald MacMechan, professor of English language and literature at Dalhousie University, Halifax NS. Immediately following the 1917 Explosion, MacMechan was requested by authorities to prepare an official history of the explosion and was given the title of director of the Halifax Disaster Record Office, 1917-1918.”12 Dr. MacMechan was Velma’s English professor.

Image: W. G. MacGlaughlin, Looking north toward Pier 8 from Hillis foundry after great explosion, Halifax, Dec. 6, 1917, 1917, photograph, Reference no.: W.G. MacLaughlan Nova Scotia Archives accession no. 1988-34 no. 14, A Vision of Regeneration, Nova Scotia Archives.

1“Eyewitnesses Tell of the Awful Scenes in Streets,” The Boston Globe (Boston), December 7, 1917, 6.

2Kay Brown Gauffreau, “The Ancestry & Life of Velma Jane Moore Brown” (unpublished manuscript, December 2013), 25.

3“Plan Showing Devastated Area of Halifax City, N.S.,” map, 1918, Reference no.: N.S. Board of Insurance Underwriters Nova Scotia Archives V6/240 – 1917 Halifax loc., A Vision of Regeneration, Nova Scotia Archives, Halifax.

4“Casualties at Dalhousie,” Dalhousie Gazette L, no. 1 (January 29, 1918): 1.

5“Casualties,” Dalhousie Gazette.

Photograph of the Dalhousie University Science building broken windows, MS-2-718, PB Box 14, Folder 23, Dalhousie University Archives, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Photograph of MacDonald Memorial Library after Halifax Explosion / PC1, Box 31, Folder 12, Item 2, Dalhousie University Archives, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

6“Dalhousians and Medical Relief Work,” Dalhousie Gazette L, no. 1 (January 29, 1918): 2.

7“Medical Relief,” Dalhousie Gazette.

8“Relief Work among the Women,” Dalhousie Gazette L, no. 1 (January 29, 1918): 1.

9“Medical Relief,” Dalhousie Gazette.

10“Women,” Dalhousie Gazette.

11“Not Even T. N. T. Could Stop the Exams,” Dalhousie Gazette L, no. 1 (January 29, 1918): 1.

12Province of Nova Scotia, “1917 Halifax Explosion: Personal Narratives and other materials,” Nova Scotia Archives, accessed July 4, 2018,

Velma’s Professors: Casual & with Gravitas

When I began going through The Family Archives I’d been entrusted with, lo, these many months ago, I wasn’t surprised to find copies of my grandmother Velma’s graduation portrait in academic regalia among the mementos of her Dalhousie University days. Nor was I surprised to find graduation portraits of her friends, as well as candid snapshots of her and her friends enjoying being college students.

I was surprised to find a studio portrait of the Dalhousie University president at the time she attended, Dr. Stanley MacKenzie. My experience attending college was as a nontraditional student at an urban commuter institution, and, believe me, I couldn’t have cared less who the president of the university was.  The only aspect of campus life that had any relevance for me and my classmates was finding a place to park in a relatively safe area so that we could attend classes and still have a car to drive home in.

Now that I’ve done some research into what campus life would have been like for Velma in 1915-1918, including how small Dalhousie was at the time and the role the president’s office played, I suspect that Dr. MacKenzie would have been a fairly visible figure for the average student.

Velma also saved a studio portrait of English professor Archibald MacMechan, of “Decorating Dalhousie” fame. Given how many articles and poems he wrote for the student newspaper, The Dalhousie Gazette, he also must have been a visible figure in campus life at the time.

In addition to the two studio portraits, I found four snapshots of Velma’s professors, ostensibly on their way to or from class. I was surprised to see that two of them were identified on the back with nicknames: “Eben” and “Jonesy.” I assume students used the nicknames among themselves to refer to their professors. I can’t imagine Velma or her contemporaries addressing a professor by his first name, let alone a nick name.

When I gathered these snapshots to begin planning this post, I was struck by the fact that here was yet another unanswered question. To wit: How did these photographs come to be taken? Did Velma lie in wait for each august gentleman with her Brownie camera in hand and convince him to pose for her? I simply can’t imagine Velma doing such a thing; it seems downright impertinent. I truly hope she did just that!

Life Is Good When the Sun Is Shining, and You Get Paid to Teach a Dead Language

Prof. Howard Murray “Howard” Latin prof

Just What Does Jonesy Carry in That Satchel, Anyway?

Prof. H.P. Jones PdD (“Jonesy”) German prof.

You May as Well Take the Photograph: Reality Is Just an Illusion

Dr. H. L. Stuart, Philosophy prof Dalhousie

Eben Strikes a Pose

Dr. Ebenezar Mackay (“Eben”) Chemistry prof – Dalhousie

And Now, the Same Professors with Gravitas

Photograph of H. Murray, L. L. D., 1916, PC1, Box 46, Folder 2, Item 25, Dalhousie University Archives, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Photograph of H. P. Jones, PhD, 1916, PC1, Box 46, Folder 2, Item 20, Dalhousie University Archives, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Photograph of H.L. Stewart (PhD), 1916, PC1, Box 46, Folder 2, Item 26, Dalhousie University Archives, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Photograph of E. Mackay, 1916, PC1, Box 46, Folder 1, Item 2, Dalhousie University Archives, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

“Decorating Dalhousie”

James MacLeod Teaching a Night Class, Dalhousie University, [191-?]

1st Alternative Title for This Post: “Kid, Don’t You Have a Test to Study For?”

2nd Alternative Title: “Prof, Don’t You Have Papers to Grade?”

One of the questions I had when I began my research into my grandmother Velma Jane Moore’s education was what campus life would have been like at the time she attended Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. (My curiosity had been piqued by photographs in The Family Archives, including several snapshots of men in academic gowns standing around in the snow.)

I was fortunate to find that Dalhousie’s online digital archives include scanned copies of the student newspaper, The Dalhousie Gazette from 1915-1918, when Velma attended. What better reflection of campus life than the student-run newspaper?

“Decorating Dalhousie” was the leading article of the May 18, 1916 edition of The Dalhousie Gazette. Initially, the intent of the article appears to be commentary on the way in which the recently-built science building and library on the new Studley campus reflected the character and tradition of the University:

Dalhousie, it must be borne constantly in mind, is a little sister of Edinburgh, and the Dalhousie tradition is overwhelmingly Scottish. Strictly in accordance with that origin and that tradition, the new Dalhousie rising at Studley is architecturally severe. Indeed the features of of the two new buildings are rugged plainness of rough stones and the honesty of straight lines. The Laboratory has even been denounced for its resemblances to a jail or a factory; the only concessions to a sense of the beautiful are the pillared porches of the two entrances. All has the air of “Caledonia stern and wild”.1

Science Building, Studley Campus

In Dalhousie, the essentials have always come first, the beef and the potatoes before the mustard and the pudding, the mathematics and classics before the “music, French and washing, extra.” This does not imply that that extras are not valuable, or that they should be omitted altogether. Dalhousie has her two new massive buildings at Studley, perfect fortresses of learning to the eye, capable of standing a siege, “pensive citadels” as Wordsworth might call them; . . . 2

I found the preceding passage interesting and enlightening; it seemed to describe a place where Velma would have been comfortable, given her upbringing on the Economy Point farm and her affinity for hard work. Moreover, my own memories of her are that she was not a woman who suffered fools gladly.

However, “Decorating Dalhousie” then takes an unexpected turn and begins to suggest ways in which the severe aspect of the new campus might be softened and beautified:

Concrete is not romantic, but it offers wall spaces and ceilings, ample and virgin-white, which simply cry aloud for the brush of the artist. In the Physics lecture-room, for example, how fine it would be to see the walls covered with Burne-Jones’s “Six Days of Creation!” The dreamy Celtic angels with their wonderful wings and divers spheres might perhaps arouse the dullest to the notion that there was something more in Physics than strings and strains and stresses, measurements, formulas and examinations.3

In the mathematical room, there should of course be a fresco of Archimedes in the sack of Syracuse, so intent on his geometrical problem that he paid no heed to the plundering soldier who was about to cut his throat. This would point to the obvious moral of concentration, regardless of the consequences.4

By the time I reached the apogee of this flight of fancy, my reaction was pretty much, Kid, don’t you have a test to study for?:

Those lunettes, (or whatever they are called)–those semicircular spaces over the windows of the Big Lab–are just the place for portrait busts of the Scientific Professors done up as Della Robbia bambini. I seem to see them all in while and blue majolica, swathed and swaddled more or less (to symbolize the toils of laboratory work) and stretching out their little hands in benediction over all who shall enter the doors beneath them.5

The only byline I could find for “Decorating Dalhousie” was a set of initials: A. M. M. I checked the masthead of the Gazetette to see if I could identify this student was who wasting time writing fanciful drivel to amuse his classmates, all of whom should have been studying for tests or writing papers. There were no names that matched A. M. M. Then I saw the name Archibald MacMechan under a poem that immediately preceded “Decorating Dalhousie.” Of course! I’d see his name in The Family Archives. Archibald MacMechan was Velma’s English professor:  A. M. M.

I therefore believe this august gentleman to be the perpetrator of “Decorating Dalhousie.”


Postscript: From everything I’ve seen in the Dalhousie University archives, Dr. MacMechan was an accomplished and well-respected member of the academic community. In poking gentle fun, I mean no disrespect.

Photograph of James MacLeod teaching a night class Dalhousie University Archives, [191-?], PC1, Box 12, Folder 48, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

1“Decorating Dalhousie,” The Dalhousie Gazette XLVIII, no. 11 (May 18, 1916): 1.

Photograph of Dalhousie College Studley campus, [after 1915], PC1, Box 38, Folder 52, Dalhousie University Archives, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

2“Decorating Dalhousie,” 1.

3“Decorating Dalhouse,” 1.

Image: Edward Bourne-Jones, Six Days of Creation, 1870-1876, Harvard Art Museum, Cambridge, MA.

4“Decorating Dalhousie,” 1.

Image: Death of Archimedes in the sack of Syracuse,

5“Decorating Dalhousie,” 1.

Image: Andrea della Robbia – Glazed terra-cotta reliefs of swaddled babies, Gallery of the Ospedale degli Innocenti.