Great Excitement about Fenians: Excerpt #6 from the "Private Journal of Henry Joseph Martin"

Edited by Matthew Farfan

The following is our sixth excerpt from the "Private Journal" of Henry Joseph Martin, a resident of Stanstead, Quebec.

Funding for transcription and research into this unique historical document has been provided in part by the Bélanger-Gardner Foundation of Bishop's University, Townshippers' Foundation, and through the Heritage Online Multimedia Enrichment Initiative of the Quebec Anglophone Heritage Network (QAHN).

larger_martin_001.jpgHenry Joseph Martin (1828-1885):

Henry Joseph Martin (1828-1885) is an obscure man today. This is due in part to the fact that he was such a private, modest man. But in life, Martin was profoundly respected by his friends, colleagues and community, where he was heavily involved in numerous behind-the-scenes ways, giving freely of his time and energy, without expectation of reward.

Martin was remembered by historian Arthur Henry Moore (History of Golden Rule Lodge) as being "of a quiet, even temperament, born to win the hearts of his fellows and to lead them by the sheer force of his personality."

Born and raised in Stanstead, Quebec, Henry Joseph Martin studied to become a civil engineer and land surveyor. After working as a surveyor and draughtsman for several years in the Townships, Martin moved to Iowa in 1861, where he remained until 1864. He then returned to Stanstead for several years until he received an appointment to the U.S. Patents Office in Washington D.C.

After moving to the U.S., Martin maintained close ties to the place of his birth, returning frequently to Stanstead where, among other things, he was one of the leading lights (and several times master) of Golden Rule Masonic Lodge. Martin died of tuberculosis in Washington D.C. in 1885. He was much lamented by all who knew him.

In his lifetime, Martin was known as a meticulous record-keeper. The diary that has come down to us, from which the following is an excerpt, is remarkable in its detail. Within its pages may be found descriptions of everything from local disasters to political events of regional or international significance.

This sixth excerpt in this series spans a three-month period in Martin's diary, and records the mounting excitement and nervousness that prevailed along the Canada-U.S. border during the weeks leading up to the Fenian Raids of 1866. Martin, who is apparently a member of the home guard, is nevertheless far from pleased at having his beloved Masonic Hall commandeered by Albert Knight, the local Member of the Provincial Parliament, for use by two companies of soldiers from Montreal. But by the time of the arrival of the Cookshire Cavalry Company near the end of the Fenian crisis, Martin's attitude seems to have shifted to the point where he is expressing "joy" at the soldiers' arrival in Stanstead.


Private Journal of Henry Joseph Martin

Thursday. March 8th. Cold & windy. Great excitement about the Fenians invading Canada

Friday. March 9th. Cold. Fenian sense increasing

larger_knight.jpgSaturday. March 10th. Windy & cold. Dooing chores etc. Went to the Line & back. James K Gilman received orders to raise a company of Volunteers [...]

Tuesday. March 13th. Rainy. Two companies of Soldiers from Montreal arrived in the eve’, cold, wet, sleepy, hungry, and drunk. I attended on them at the tables until 11 o’clock PM and then took a couple of them home with me to stop all night.

Wednesday. March 14th. Rainy. Albert Knights MPP took by force the lower room of the Masonic Hall for a refreshment room for the Soldiers, against my protest as Trustee and W Master of the Lodge [...]

Saturday. March 17th. Cold & windy with a snow storm in the eve’. Went to the Line. This is St Patricks day when it was expected the Fenians would attack Canada. Guards posted at all points, so one must be at home before 9 o’clock PM or else give an account of himself to the officer of the watch, or be locked up in the guardhouse [...]

Monday. March 19th. Cold & stormy. Dooing choores etc. The Soldiers having a grudge against Mr Johnson the teacher of the Academy, chased him with threats to ride him on a rail, he took refuge in Dr Moultons [...]

larger_knight.2.jpgThursday. April 5th. Pleasant. Boiling sap all day and night. The soldiers were all routed out in the night by a false alarm.

Friday. April 6th. Pleasant. Suggared off. The soldiers routed out again in the night , by a false alarm. They made prisoners of Robert C Parsons and Charles McDougal who were supposed the culprits

Saturday. April 7th. Pleasant. Went to the Line. Parsons & McDougall tried before the Magistrates, & were discharged Rode home with R P Stewart & stoped all night with him. Played Eucre [...]

Wednesday. April 11th. Pleasant. Boiling sap all day & night Heard the Fenians had taken Porto Bello Island off coast of New Brunswick [...]

Thursday. April 19th. Rainy. At a small party at Mr A Knights in the eve’

Friday. April 20th. Rainy. Went to the Line. The Artillery Co left today for Montreal [...]

Monday. May 14th. Cold & rainy. Went to the Line. The Prince of Wales Co of Soldiers left for Montreal, which relieves our Hall of its unwelcome occupants [...]

larger_battle_of_ridgeway.jpgFriday. 1st June 1866. Pleasant. Working mothers gardin Hon. A T Galt telegraphed A Knight MPP that there were 300 Fenians on their way to Stanstead. There was some excitement in consequence

Saturday. June 2nd. Pleasant. Working in the gardin Went to the Line & got some Shirt cloth. The Fenians have taken Fort Erie UC [...]

Monday. June 4th. Walked to J P Bachelders and took Betsey some Shirts to make, took dinner there. Considerable Fenian excitement, heard of the battle of Ridgeway and the contemplated invasion of the Eastern Townships

Tuesday. June 5th. Rainy. Fenian excitement on the increase. Large force of Fenians collected at St Albans Vt to take Montreal. Chooring about [...]

Friday. June 8th. Pleasant. Churning & dooing choores I was on guard all night, heard the Fenians have been robbing & sacking Stanbridge, great excitement here on account of our expecting them here

larger_line.jpgSaturday. June 9th. Cloudy. Every one completely upset on account of Fenianism. Mother went to Compton with Hunter who is taking his family out of harms way, should the Fenians make us a visit. Went to the Line. Slept with J H Judd

Sunday. June 10th. Pleasant. Spent most of the day at the Telegraph Office which was filled with anxious citizens, wating for Fenian news, heard of their occupation of Frelighsburg. The Cookshire Co of Cavalry arrived much to our joy. I was on guard all night and as I was Captain of the guard, I had my hands full.

Monday. June 11th. Very pleasnt & warm. Getting over the effects of last nights duties. Heard of the evacuation of Frelighsburg by the Fenians and the capture of 1000 of them by our forces