Peters, Dewdney and Cunard memorabilia displayed in Family Historians interview

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by Sam McBride

I was recently interviewed for the Go Kootenays community TV show about family history in general, and the West Kootenay Family Historians Society in particular.

The reporter came to my home in Castlegar, and got video shots of some of the paintings, photos, letters and other memorabilia that was safely stored for many years by my grandmother and then my mother, and has been passed on to me.  The show can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rsnVAac4SlM or http://shaw.ca/ShawTV/Cranbrook/ShawTV/

Most of the material shown came from two great-uncles: the Hon. Edgar Dewdney, who was a major figure in Western Canada political history in the 19th century (and is best known in the Kootenay region as the builder in the 1860s of the Dewdney Trail from Hope across several mountain ranges to Wild Horse Creek near the current site of Cranbrook); and Frederic Thornton Peters, the subject of my book “The Bravest Canadian — Fritz Peters VC: The Making of a Hero of Two World Wars”.   The file of original letters shown in the footage is part of the collection of letters home that were of central importance in telling Fritz’s story.   The Christmas card with the image of the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Meteor was sent home by Fritz in Christmas 1914 while he was serving as first officer on Meteor.   Just a month later, on January 24, 1915, Fritz earned a Distinguished Service Order medal for heroism in saving lives after the engine room of Meteor was hit by a German shell.  The photograph under glass in an antique frame of a lady in the video is of Mary Cunard, who was eldest daughter of the Cunard Steamship Lines founder Sir Samuel Cunard, and mother of Frederick Peters, Fritz’s father.

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The top hat displayed in the TV report, along with its customized leather bucket that has enabled the hat to remain in good condition for more than a century. The story in the family was that the hat was owned and worn by the Hon. Edgar Dewdney, while he served as Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia in the 1890s

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Original portrait of Edgar Dewdney, painted in about 1884 when he was Lieutenant Governor of the Northwest Territories, based in Regina.  He was uncle and legal guardian of Ted Dewdney, who married Fritz’s sister Helen Peters in 1912.

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Envelope used for letter Fritz Peters sent to his mother Bertha in 1916 when she was staying with her sister Florence Gray Poole In Guildford, England

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The first and fourth panels of 1916 letter from Fritz to his mother.

front of 1914 Christmas card

front of 1914 Christmas card shown in the video

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inside of 1914 Christmas card with image of HMS Meteor. It is signed by Fritz, but with a joke nickname “Mangle Jangle”

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Photo of Fritz’s paternal grandmother Mary Cunard in original frame, featured in the Go Kootenays TV show. Below, close-up of Mary Cunard.

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Memorable Images from Maritimes Book Tour

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Magnificent Cape Breton coast

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Enchanting covered bridge in New Brunswick

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The author signing books at Indigo East Point in Saint John (photo taken by Kathy Wilson of the New Brunswick Historical Society, who came by to chat and bought copies of the book as gifts)

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With help from the PEI Genealogical Society, we were able to find the tombstone of Fritz`s grandfather, the Father of Confederation Col. John Hamilton Gray, at Sherwood Cemetery near Charlottetown Airport.

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Next to the Col. Gray tombstone was one for his daughter Rosie, who died at age 4 in 1874.

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Spectacular pumpkin farm between Fredericton and Alma, NB.

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Legislature at Province House in Charlottetown, where Fritz`s father Frederick Peters and uncle Arthur Peters served as premier and attorney general

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Meeting room in Province House where Col. Gray and other Fathers of Confederation met in September 1864 during historic Charlottetown Conference.

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Views of the extensive collection of models and memorabilia of Fritz`s great-grandfather Sir Samuel Cunard at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic

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McBride doing a slide presentation on the Fritz Peters story at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.

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Author McBride doing interview with CBC radio reporter while signing books at the Chapters Fredericton

Maritimes Book Tour Generates Surge of Interest in the Story of War Hero Fritz Peters

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by Sam McBride

My two-week book tour through the three Canadian Maritime provinces was a wonderful experience, and exceeded all expectations in publicizing “The Bravest Canadian — Fritz Peters VC: The Making of a Hero of Two World Wars“ throughout New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, as well as Prince Edward Island, where Fritz was born and his story is best known.

It was a thrill to meet so many people who came by my book signing sessions and either bought copies of the book or expressed interest in Fritz and the book.  These included several current members of the Canadian military, as well as relatives who told me about the heroes of their own family.

I particularly enjoyed meeting several third cousins for the first time, as well as leaders of the PEI Genealogical Society, the New Brunswick Historical Society and the Cunard Steamship Society who I have corresponded with extensively in the past, but not met in person.   Extremely pleased that my enthusiastic supporter in St. John`s, Newfoundland, Dr. David Peters,  came to my presentation at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, and we had a good chat afterwards.

Several people I talked to noted that next year, 2014, will be present opportunities to raise awareness of the Fritz Peters story across Canada. These are 1) the 150th anniversary of the historic Charlottetown Conference, in which Fritz`s family had a central role; 2) the centennial of the start of World War One, where Fritz Peters earned three major honours for valour; and 3) the 75th anniversary of the start of World War Two, where Fritz again received three awards for valour, including the Victoria Cross and the highest medal of the United States.

I have attached scans of a sample of print publicity from the book tour, and the links below have some, but not all, of the TV, radio and social media coverage.  I did about 10 interviews by phone before i travelled, and then about another dozen while in the Maritimes between September 24th and October 5th, 2013.

 

http://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=1013315&binId=1.1145463&playlistPageNum=1

http://thechronicleherald.ca/book/event/1154374-the-bravest-canadian-fritz-peters-the-making-of-a-hero-of-two-world-wars-by-sam-m

https://www.facebook.com/myWaterfront

http://www.armyrats.com/posts/tag/battalion/

http://www.news957.com/category/listen/rick-howe-show/page/2/

http://www.cbc.ca/player/Radio/Local+Shows/Maritimes/ID/2408922242/

https://twitter.com/ns_mma

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front page of Moncton newspaper, with long story on inside pages

 

 

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from PEI events BUZZ

 

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one of many newspaper listings publicizing the book tour events

 

Book Signings Going Well in PEI, NB and NS

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Our book tour for “The Bravest Canadian — Fritz Peters VC: The Making of a Hero of Two World Wars” has generated a flood of publicity in the newspapers and broadcast media, including several stations of CTV and CBC in the three provinces.  Most of the people who bought books at the book signing sessions said they saw or heard about Fritz Peters in a recent media story.

The tour is winding down, but I am looking forward to returning to Prince Edward Island for a booksigning at the Indigo Charlottetown on Oct. 5 from 11 am until noon, and also meeting with representatives of the PEI Genealogical Society.  With the 150th anniversary of the historic Charlottetown Conference coming up in 2014, there is a great amount of interest in Fritz’s grandfather (and my great-great-grandfather) Col. John Hamilton Gray, who was head of the PEI government in 1864 and served as host and chairman of the conference.  On the evening of Saturday, Sept. 3, 1864 Gray invited the Fathers of Confederation home to his residence known as Inkerman House (named after his father-in-law’s famous victory in the Crimean War) for an after-dinner party, where much liquor was consumed and the conference delegates got to know each other on a social basis.  As they arrived, they were introduced to Gray’s family, including two-year-old Bertha, Fritz’s mother.  Later in life, Bertha introduced herself to new acquaintances as “a Daughter of Confederation.”

My presentation at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic was well-received by about 20 interested attendees who came out for the event despite heavy rain in Halifax.  I had not been to the museum since 1992, and was greatly impressed with his improvements, including a wonderful section on Fritz’s grandfather Sir Samuel Cunard.

 

 

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Maritimes Book Tour of “The Bravest Canadian — Fritz Peters VC“ Begins Wednesday, Sept. 25th in Charlottetown

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Here is the updated schedule of the upcoming 10-day book tour.

 

Prince Edward Island (pop. 140,204)

Wednesday, Sept. 25, 12-1pm – Charlottetown Bookmark store, book signings; 172 Queen St., Confederation Court Mall, Charlottetown, PE  C1A 4B5.  (902) 566-4888

Saturday, October 5, 11am-noon – Charlottetown Indigo, book signings; 465 University Ave., Charlottetown, PE  C1A 4N8  (902) 569-9213

 

New Brunswick (pop. 751,171)

Friday September 27, 3-4:30pm – Chapters Fredericton. book signings; Regent Mall, 1381 Regent St., Fredericton, NB E3C 1A2.  (506) 459-2616,

Saturday September 28, 12-2pm – Chapters Moncton, book signings; Crystal Palace, 499 Paul St., Dieppe, NB  E1A 6S5

Sunday September 29, 12-2pm – Indigo Saint John, book signings; East Point Centre, 41 Fashion Drive, Saint John, NB E2J 0A7. (506) 693-6987

 

Nova Scotia (pop. 921,727)

Tuesday October 1, 12-1:30pm – Chapters Bayers Lake, Halifax, book signings; 188 Chain Lake Drive, Halifax, NS  B3S 1C5.  (902) 450-1023

Tuesday October 1, 2:30-4pm – Chapters Mic Mac Mall, Dartmouth, book signings; 41 Mic Mac Boulevard, Dartmouth, NS B3A 4Y8.  (902) 466-1640

Tuesday, October 1, 7:30pm – presentation, Maritime Museum of the Atlantic; 1675 Lower Water Street, Halifax, NS  B3J 1S3.  (902) 424-7490

Wednesday October 2, 12-1:30pm – Coles Truro Mall, book signings; 245 Robie St., Truro, NS B2N 5N6. (902) 895-4929 

Wednesday October 2, 3:30-5pm – Coles Highland Square Mall, New Glasgow, book signings;   689 Westville Rd., New Glasgow, NS  B2H 2J6


 

Strong Maritime Heritage of Fritz Peters, VC

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Canada has many war heroes, but the only one to receive multiple awards for valour in both world wars, including the highest honour of the Victoria Cross, is a true child of the Maritimes: Captain Frederic Thornton “Fritz“ Peters, VC, DSO, DSC and bar, DSC (U.S.), RN.

Born in Charlottetown in 1889, Peters has a special place in the hearts of Prince Edward Islanders as the only P.E.I.-born Victoria Cross recipient, but he came from a family which also has an extraordinary impact on the history of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

Three sides of his family were United Empire Loyalists who stayed loyal to King George the Third in the American Revolution, and had to move en masse to the Maritimes after the victory of the rebels. Both of Fritz`s grandfathers – Col. John Hamilton Gray and Judge James Horsfield Peters – were direct descendants of United Empire Loyalists, as was his paternal grandmother Mary Cunard. His other grandmother, Susan Ellen Bartley Pennefather, was born in Jamaica, raised in Anglo-Irish aristocracy, and was residing in India when she married John Hamilton Gray, who brought her to his native Prince Edward Island after resigning as a British cavalry officer.

Ancestor James Peters led a large group from Long Island, New York who settled in the future site of Saint John, New Brunswick in the spring of 1783. Later settling in Gagetown, New Brunswick, his sons and grandsons included attorneys general, magistrates, militia chiefs, lawyers and assembly members who would dominate public life in New Brunswick in the late 18th century and through the 19th century.

Judge James Horsfield Peters

Judge James Horsfield Peters

Fritz Peters` paternal grandfather, Gagetown, N.B.-born Judge James Horsfield Peters, married Nova Scotian Mary Cunard of Bushville/Miramichi, who was a daughter of the famous Halifax-based industrialist Sir Samuel Cunard, and they settled in Charlottetown, where James Horsfield Peters was lawyer and agent for Cunards before his judicial appointment. Two of their sons – Fritz`s father Frederick Peters and his brother Arthur – would serve as premier and attorney general of P.E.I.

Fritz`s maternal grandfather, Charlottetown-born Col. John Hamilton Gray, earlier served as premier and had the distinction of hosting and chairing the famous Charlottetown Conference of 1864 that set the stage for the creation of Canada as a self-governing, sea-to-sea country. Gray`s father Col. Robert Gray was a Loyalist from Virginia who helped raise a King`s regiment and was in the thick of fighting against the rebels in the Revolutionary War.

Col. john Hamilton Gray, c. 1864

Col. john Hamilton Gray, c. 1864

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Sir Samuel Cunard

Another ancestor, Loyalist shipbuilder Abraham Cunard from Pennsylvania, met his future wife Margaret Murphy from South Carolina on a Loyalist evacuation voyage to Nova Scotia in 1783, and they settled in Halifax and later in Rawdon, N.S. Several of their sons were deeply involved in businesses that were central to economic development in all three Maritime provinces , most notably Sir Samuel Cunard, the founder of Cunard Steamship Lines and one of the greatest businessmen in Canadian history.

As a boy, Fritz Peters heard stories of his famous ancestors and resolved to live up to their standard of leadership, excellence and public involvement.

The biography titled “The Bravest Canadian – Fritz Peters VC: The Making of a Hero of Two World Wars“ by Fritz`s greatnephew Sam McBride is based on a recently-discovered treasure trove of family letters of the Grays and Peters going back to the 1700s, including 27 letters written by Fritz that give insight into his personality and motivations that resulted in exceptional courage and coolness in battle.

The author will sign books and meet with Maritime genealogy and history buffs in a book tour September 25-Octotber 5, 2013 through Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, including a presentation on Tuesday, Oct. 1st at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax.

“The Bravest Canadian — Fritz Peters VC“ author tour in P.E.I., New Brunswick and Nova Scotia Sept. 25 to Oct. 5, 2013

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by Sam McBride 

I am very pleased to announce a book promotion tour for “The Bravest Canadian — Fritz Peters VC: The Making of a Hero of Two World Wars“ in the Maritimes Sept. 25 to Oct. 5, 2013.   The tour includes 10 events in eight cities and three provinces.

 

Prince Edward Island

Charlottetown – noon to 1 pm, Wednesday, Sept. 25 – Charlottetown Bookmark store, book signing

Charlottetown – 11 am to noon, Saturday, Oct. 5 – Charlottetown Indigo store, book signing

 

New Brunswick

Fredericton — 3-4:30 pm, Friday September 27 – Chapters Fredericton store, book signing

Moncton — 12-2 pm, Saturday September 28 – Chapters Moncton store, book signing

Saint John — 12-2 pm, Sunday September 29 – Indigo Saint John store, book signing

 

Nova Scotia

Halifax — 12-1:30 pm, Tuesday October 1 – Chapters Bayers Lake store, book signing

Dartmouth — 2:30-4 pm, Tuesday October 1 – Chapters Mic Mac Mall store, book signing

Halifax – 7:30 pm, Tuesday, October 1, Maritime Museum of the Atlantic presentation

Truro — 12-1:30 pm, Wednesday October 2 – Coles Truro Mall store, book signing

New Glasgow — 3:30-5 pm, Wednesday October 2 – Coles Highland Square Mall store

 

I am particularly pleased to be in the events program of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, one of Canada`s great museums.  I went through the museum in 1992 and was very impressed. Lots of interesting stuff on the Cunards, the Titanic, Halifax Explosion and the Royal Canadian Navy.   I am going to talk about Fritz Peters`  Maritime heritage, including the Peters, Grays and Cunards who were all United Empire Loyalists or descendants of Loyalists, and prominent throughout the region.  http://museum.gov.ns.ca/mmanew/en/home/whattoseedo/programsandtours.aspx

In February 2013 the book received a Heritage Award from the Prince Edward Island Museums and Heritage Foundation, and in June 2013 it won first prize in the British Columbia Genealogical Society`s Family History Book Awards.

Books are available at bookstores across Canada, or through amazon.ca, amazon.com or amazon.co.uk, or through the publisher at http://www.granvilleislandpublishing.com.

If you have suggestions for the book tour or comments on the book, I would be very pleased to hear from you.  Email BravestCanadian@shaw.ca or Twitter @BravestCanadian.

 

 

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