All Our Born Days: A Lively History of New Brunswick's Kingston Peninsula


223 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography
ISBN 0-920187-01-3






Reviewed by Richard Wilbur

Randall White is the author of Voice of Region: On the Long Journey to
Senate Reform in Canada, Too Good to Be True: Toronto in the 1920s, and
Global Spin: Probing the Globalization Debate.


The rash of bicentennial publications in 1984, both in New Brunswick and in Ontario, no doubt reflects continuing interest in local history, but the end product too often is terrible. This book is an exception. It shows how a teacher-cum-historian can plumb the depths of a community and an era — far more than can most so-called professionals. Doris Calder knows her subject area, the Kingston Peninsula just north of Saint John, and she knows where to find the colour material (i.e., oldtimers) and obscure diaries. And she can write. Her superb study is often a microcosm of mid-nineteenth and early twentieth century rural Canada. The role of the country doctor was partly based on the reminiscences of Dr. A.T. Leatherborrow, still practising at 95 when the author talked to him. The gripping tale of how the Pickett brothers fatally quarrelled over their patrimony was taken from newspaper clippings and private scrapbooks. One of Calder’s best sources for a variety of topics was the diary of Benjamin Crawford, which she discovered in the Ontario Public Archives. Before leaving his native New Brunswick, Crawford recorded a detailed account of farm life in the peninsula, and then Calder added to this from her own family’s sources. As is to be expected, some of her chapters pay overdue homage to Kingstonites who left wonderful legacies. James Whelpley invented the “Long Reach Speed Skate” about 1870 and then built a factory which from 1891 to 1893 produced 65,000 pairs. This type of skate enabled some locals to win several World Speed Skating titles. Captain Billy Pitt’s idea of stretching a heavy cable across the river and then adapting a motor to pull a ferry along it is still used today. Doris Calder’s brother, the renowned photographer Freeman Patterson, provided some illustrations and, while they reveal his artistry, other photos taken much earlier by amateurs give better support to this local history gem. It deserves a Canada-wide readership.


Calder, Doris, “All Our Born Days: A Lively History of New Brunswick's Kingston Peninsula,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024,