Cre­at­ing own suc­cess

Fam­ily of Ge­orge Coles fea­tures many self-made men, women.

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - By Louise Camp­bell

Un­like sev­eral of the other Is­land Fa­thers of Con­fed­er­a­tion, Ge­orge Coles was not a mem­ber of the elite and had lit­tle for­mal ed­u­ca­tion. In­deed, it’s quite a jump from be­ing a farm boy to a key player on the na­tional stage. How­ever, through hard work and ded­i­ca­tion, Coles cer­tainly be­came a self-made man.

Start­ing off, Coles trav­elled to Eng­land to learn the brew­ing trade, con­tin­u­ing a fam­ily tra­di­tion. Ac­cord­ing to the Dic­tionary of Cana­dian Bi­og­ra­phy, while in Eng­land he mar­ried 16-year-old Mercy Haines and took his bride back to the Canada. Back on Is­land soil, Coles be­gan sell­ing pipes and sil­ver­ware he had brought back across the At­lantic. Be­fore long, he had opened a New and Cheap Store in Char­lot­te­town sell­ing im­ported man­u­fac­tured goods and liquor. From there, he founded a brew­ery and dis­tillery, ac­quired a steam mill that he even­tu­ally equipped with im­ported mod­ern card­ing ma­chines and be­came a res­i­den­tial land­lord.

Coles also man­aged a farm that was de­scribed in The Is­lan­der in 1843 as be­ing one of the best man­aged and pro­duc­tive on the Is­land at that time. Fur­ther, it was de­scribed as “a spec­i­men on a small scale, of what may be seen as the ef­fects of the most sci­en­tific hus­bandry in Eng­land.”

Through­out his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer, Coles was a con­tro­ver­sial fig­ure; in­deed, the only Cana­dian pre­mier to fight a duel and per­haps the only one to be con­victed of as­sault. As a mer­chant, he needed the busi­ness of the land renters so he was on their side. His self-as­signed task in public of­fice, there­fore, was to break the power of the land­lords and their agents. To ad­dress this mon­u­men­tal task, he spon­sored re­spon­si­ble gov­ern­ment, univer­sal ed­u­ca­tion and a vol­un­tary land pur­chase act.

Al­though a Fa­ther of Con­fed­er­a­tion, Coles turned against union once he re­al­ized it would not solve the on­go­ing land ten­ure is­sue.

Coles’ public life spanned from 1842 un­til se­nil­ity set in by 1870. His pre­ma­ture se­nil­ity, some thought, was caused by over­work and anx­i­ety, the lat­ter of which was sparked by a wave of ar­son in the cap­i­tal city that al­most claimed his busi­ness premises.

At the time of his death, he was de­scribed in one news­pa­per as “the bright­est star that il­lu­mines the pages of the po­lit­i­cal his­tory of his na­tive prov­ince,” and an­other claimed, “No man in this Colony so hon­estly earned the re­spect and es­teem of its peo­ple.” In­deed, he had be­come a folk hero of Is­landers.

Ge­orge and Mercy Coles had 12 chil­dren, with the fam­ily tree sprout­ing to in­clude 27 grand­chil­dren, 35 great-grand­chil­dren, 24 great-great-grand­chil­dren, 29 great-great-great-grand­chil­dren and, at last count, 25 great-great-great-great­grand­chil­dren.

Ge­or­gianna Louise Coles, the fifth daugh­ter, mar­ried at the age of 21 to Alexan­der Brown, an­other self-made man who reaped his for­tune on a cof­fee plan­ta­tion in In­dia at a young age. Ge­or­gianna and Alexan­der, who be­came a banker, resided in Char­lot­te­town, first on Brighton Road and then in Fitzroy Hall, a 14-room Vic­to­rian House. There they raised their three chil­dren Ella Mercy, Ge­orge Alexan­der and John El­liott.

Like Coles fam­ily mem­bers be­fore and af­ter her, in­deed to this very day, Ge­or­gianna was an ac­tive mem­ber of St. Paul’s Angli­can Church. De­scribed in her obituary as an “es­timable woman,” it was said “her earnest en­deav­ours were to be of ma­te­rial as­sis­tance in for­ward­ing the work of the Mas­ter.”

Obit­u­ar­ies are a prime source of im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion for ge­neal­o­gists and tended in past ages to be quite de­tailed, as you will see through­out this col­umn. Obit­u­ar­ies for men tended to de­tail their busi­ness and po­lit­i­cal ac­com­plish­ments while those for the fairer sex fo­cused on fam­ily and com­mu­nity ser­vice.

The obituary for Mary Vic­to­ria Coles, the eighth daugh­ter, did not shed much light on her life, but sure pro­vided de­tails of her death. Ac­cord­ing to the write-up in The Guardian on May 3, 1900, she took ill at the Bank of Nova Sco­tia. Thanks to the ad­min­is­tra­tion of “restora­tives,” she re­cov­ered enough to be taken to her home. By the af­ter­noon, though, “it was ev­i­dent that the cur­tain of death was fall­ing and the end not far dis­tant.” And fi­nally, “de­spite all that sci­ence and ten­der nurs­ing could ac­com­plish, her spirit winged its flight at the ush­er­ing in of the even­ing hour.” She left be­hind her hus­band, Ge­orge D. Long­worth, and two chil­dren, Charles and Min­nie.

Mov­ing to the next gen­er­a­tion, the afore­men­tioned Charles was revered as a prom­i­nent Char­lot­te­town res­i­dent and in­flu­en­tial busi­ness leader. Like his fa­ther, he was en­gaged for many years in the lob­ster can­ning and ship­ping in­dus­try. He was a direc­tor of the East­ern Trust Com­pany and vice-pres­i­dent of the Cana­dian Cham­ber of Com­merce. He was also in­volved in his church, St. Paul’s Angli­can, and was for­mer chair­man of the Char­lot­te­town Board of Trustees.

Grand­daugh­ter Florence Lois Welsh, daugh­ter of Jane Haine Coles, met her soul­mate in Cap­tain Thomas G. Tay­lor. They were de­scribed, in her obituary, as ver­i­ta­ble “pals” and, in­deed, it was him “with whom she was en­gaged in pleas­ant con­ver­sa­tion up to the mo­ment that her spirit fled.” Florence was very ac­tive in com­mu­nity life, vol­un­teer­ing with the Ladies Aux­il­iary of the YMCA, the Ladies Aid of the Prince Ed­ward Is­land Hos­pi­tal, and the ladies board of the Cun­dall Home, de­scribed in the Dic­tionary of Cana­dian Bi­og­ra­phy as a home for “friend­less young women and girls where train­ing in in­dus­trial and Chris­tian ways” would en­able them to lead use­ful and re­spectable lives.

Sadly, one grand­son died an un­timely death in Van­cou­ver. As re­ported briefly in the Van­cou­ver me­dia, “With his throat slashed by a ra­zor, Ge­orge Coles, 50, was found dead in his room here to­day. Pa­pers left in­di­cated he was a na­tive of Prince Ed­ward Is­land.” Ge­orge was the only child of Ge­orge and Mercy’s youngest son, Charles Haine Coles and his wife, Mary Eliza MacGowan.

Great-grand­daugh­ter, No­rah Black­wood Long­worth, be­lieved life was meant to be lived and she did so to the max. Never mar­ried, No­rah did not hang out with peo­ple her own age, as they were mostly sat­is­fied to stay at home. She had more fun so­cial­iz­ing with peo­ple 10 to 20 years her ju­nior. No­rah loved the horses and spent a great deal of time at the race­track. When she died in 1995, at age 89, both the P.E.I. Colt Stakes As­so­ci­a­tion and the P.E.I. Horse Own­ers As­so­ci­a­tion were well rep­re­sented at her fu­neral.

Gerda Clare­mont (Tay­lor) DeBlois, an­other great­grand­daugh­ter, also stressed en­joy­ing life along one’s jour­ney. She led a very ac­tive life un­til she lost her sight at age 93, en­joy­ing golf, bad­minton, swim­ming, bridge, trav­el­ling and spend­ing fam­ily sum­mers in Kep­poch, as she had been do­ing since child­hood. With a strong sense of duty, she held ex­ec­u­tive po­si­tions with the St. Paul’s Women’s Aux­il­iary, the Sal­va­tion Army, the P.E.I. Hos­pi­tal Se­nior Ladies Aid and the Belvedere Golf Club. Gerda’s hus­band, Noel H. DeBlois, a highly es­teemed busi­ness­man, be­came pres­i­dent of fam­ily-owned whole­saler Deblois Limited in 1958 and chair­man of the board of the com­pany in 1964.

Con­tin­u­ing along that fam­ily line, Gerda and Noel’s son, Thomas Des­brisay DeBlois, great-grand­son of Ge­orge Coles, was also a prom­i­nent city busi­ness­man. Fol­low­ing in his fa­ther’s foot­steps, he served as pres­i­dent of Deblois Likely Ltd. and ex­ec­u­tive vice-pres­i­dent of DeBlois Broth­ers Ltd. It ap­pears that Tom was ac­tive in both busi­ness and com­mu­nity roles. For ex­am­ple, he was pres­i­dent of both the Cana­dian Gro­cery Dis­trib­u­tors In­sti­tute and the In­de­pen­dent Whole­sale Gro­cers Ltd. Lo­cally, he vol­un­teered with St. Paul’s Angli­can Church, the P.E.I. Di­vi­sion of the Cana­dian Bi­ble So­ci­ety, the

Sal­va­tion Army ad­vi­sory board, the Ro­tary Club of Char­lot­te­town, the ad­vi­sory board for the Cana­dian Na­tional In­sti­tute for the Blind, the Char­lot­te­town School Board, the YMCA and the board of gover­nors of St. Dun­stan’s Univer­sity. Truly an ac­com­plished man, Tom was mar­ried for 56 years to Mary Gla­dyce Law­son and was fa­ther to Tom, Rob and Peter.

“Ge­orge Coles is rec­og­nized within our fam­ily as a Fa­ther of Con­fed­er­a­tion to whom we are re­lated. It is a source of pride that we are de­scen­dants of his,” said Rob DeBlois.

Rob’s older brother, Tom DeBlois, re­mem­bers hear­ing a story about Mercy Coles danc­ing with Sir John A. Macdon­ald dur­ing the 1864 Char­lot­te­town Con­fer­ence and sav­ing a glove which she wore that even­ing. Sadly, when the Coles home on Cum­ber­land Street was dis­man­tled, those who were in­volved were not aware of the sig­nif­i­cance of the glove and it was de­stroyed. Rob fig­ures the story was re­counted by his grand­fa­ther, Noel, whom he de­scribes as a mas­ter sto­ry­teller.

Like many kin­folk in the gen­er­a­tions be­fore him, Rob DeBlois is a suc­cess­ful busi­ness­man. In fact, there are prob­a­bly few Char­lot­te­town res­i­dents who have not tasted the baked goods from Buns & Things Bak­ery, owned and op­er­ated by Rob and his wife Elaine (they have two adult chil­dren, El­iz­a­beth and Bill). Rob credits much of his busi­ness savvy to lessons learned from his fa­ther who, in turn, learned a lot about busi­ness from his fa­ther, Noel, and his un­cle, Ge­orge D. DeBlois who to­gether be­gan DeBlois Broth­ers Limited in 1915.

“Pri­mar­ily, I learned to treat staff, cus­tomers and sup­pli­ers with re­spect, to be fair and hon­est in all deal­ings and to give back to the com­mu­nity in which I work and live,” said Rob. “Any suc­cess I en­joy is due to the sup­port re­ceived from cus­tomers and the hard work and ded­i­ca­tion of the peo­ple who work with me.”

Great-great-grand­son Derek Bun­tain, from the Vic­to­ria Coles line, hangs his hat in many in­ter­na­tional lo­cales, but he cer­tainly feels very much at home at the Red Shores Race­track where he races a num­ber of horses dur­ing the sea­son. At the 2013 Prince Ed­ward Is­land Stan­dard­bred Horse Own­ers As­so­ci­a­tion (PEISHOA) awards, Bun­tain’s horse Mal­abrigo, who was un­de­feated in 2012 and earned over $82,000 in her sopho­more campaign, was named three-year-old pac­ing filly and pacer of the year. In ad­di­tion to rac­ing suc­cess, Bun­tain is an ac­com­plished busi­ness­man.

It ap­pears that through the years, Coles’ de­scen­dants, like their fa­mous fore­fa­ther, take their des­tiny into their own hands and cre­ate their own suc­cesses — gen­er­a­tions of self­made men and women.

PHOTO SPE­CIAL TO THE GUARDIAN BY GAIL MACDON­ALD, RED SHORES

Derek Bun­tain, far right, and his wife, Diane, pose with his horse, Mal­abrigo, in the Win­ner’s Cir­cle at Red Shores Race­way in this Oc­to­ber 2012 photo. Also pic­tured are Angus Bun­tain, For­rest McWade and Mark Camp­bell.

PHOTO SPE­CIAL TO THE GUARDIAN BY LOUISE VESSEY, LIGHT AND VI­SION PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

Rob DeBlois, a descen­dant of Ge­orge Coles, and his wife, Elaine, dis­play some sand­wich trays pre­pared at their bak­ery Buns ’n’ Things.

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