Beckoning all Bemister’s
May be the last reunion of this generation in Carbonear, says organizer
As far as can be learned, there are no known resident Newfoundland descendents of John and Mary Bemister who still carry the Bemister surname.
However, “a remarkable number of Newfoundlanders are directly descended from the early Carbonear Bemisters who came to the new world about 200 years ago,” said to Cameron Hopkins, national co-ordinator for the 2010 Bemister Family Reunion.
Large numbers of people with names like Howell, Peddle, Forward, Pike, Curtis, Udell, Noel, Parsons, Evely and Drover may not even know they descended from one of the more prominent Carbonear families of the nineteenth century.
About 100 of them from all over North America and the United Kingdom will be in Carbonear Aug. 6-8 for a reunion.
They will be here to help celebrate the 263rd birthday of John Bemister of Corfe Mullen, Dorset, England. Bemister is the several times great grandfather of most of the people who will be attending.
Governor John Guy of the Cupids Colony will kick off the reunion Friday, Aug. 6 at the Royal Canadian Legion, with a proclamation to mark the official start of the reunion. Organizers feel Guy’s appearance will give “a proper recognition of the contribution the Bemisters made to the West Country migration started by John Guy 400 years ago.”
Dr. Alan Perry of the Wessex-Newfoundland Society will be the guest speaker at the Saturday night dinner. In 2005 Dr. Perry hosted the Bemister reunion in Poole and Corfe Mullen, a part of the UK well-connected to the East Coast of Newfoundland.
The reunion program includes walking and bus tours, visits to tourist sites, a church service and a tour of the cemetery where as many as four generations of Bemisters are buried.
William Willis Bemister came to Carbonear in 1803 as an apprentice to the Poole merchant firm of George and James Kemp.
Between them, William and his brother Edward fathered 18 children, and they produced 82 grandchildren, the first being William’s daughter, Maria Ann, born 200 years ago in December 1810.
The oldest living Bemister is a 98-year-old woman in Ohio named Ebby, who is Maria’s great granddaughter.
Many of the Freshwater Noels are descended from Edward’s daughter, Elizabeth Susannah.
Joe Noel, a member of the national organizing committee, said the reunion is “a very good thing for Carbonear and for the province.” Noel is nearly 88 years-of-age.
He is encouraging all the local Bemister descendents to take part in the event.
Hopkins said more than 500 people have taken part in the various reunions held over the last 12 years.
The last Bemister Reunion in Carbonear took place in 1999. With the remaining descendents not getting any younger, Hopkins hinted this may be the last major reunion of the current generation in Carbonear.
“(It could be) a last ... opportunity to meet cousins from near and far in the town that was the birthplace of Maria Ann Bemister 200 years ago,” he said.