Call, Robert

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               Miramichi men like Robert Call gone but not forgotten...

In this week’s article I decided to write on a self-made Miramichier who through public service and legendary business accomplishments, was one of the most respected citizens in Newcastle and the Miramichi Valley. This person always intrigued me. Being from a fishing background myself, I have seen the name in many camp logbooks, referred to in family discussions and I have fished in a Salmon Pool on the Northwest that still bears his name.

Robert Call was born in Newcastle on Sept. 12, 1837. He attended the Newcastle Grammer School where he developed his keen interest in the business world. Call was always described as a man of presence with a “personal magnetism that tends to show him as a man of solutions”. Call married Annie Neven at a very young age and they had a family of four children, of which two died as infants.

To look at the remainder of Call’s life it would have to be broken into some of the following categories. Call had many business opportunities on the move. He was president of the Newcastle Gas Company in partnership with Mathew Russell. He developed a brokerage firm on the Newcastle waterfront at Call’s Wharf. At this time Call was influential enough to pursue the major banks to open a branch on the Miramichi. His greatest business success was in partnership with John Miller when he started with a small ferry the New Eva moving goods and people about the river. It was so successful Call and his partner purchased a new boat the Andover to expand the services on the river.

Wayne Curtis described in an article that Call provided two trips per week to Red Bank and two to Quarryville and in between he went to Burnt Church and Escuminac. This would be described as a very busy business schedule for this ferry service. One great accomplishment never duplicated on the river again was when Call sent the Andover all the way to Doaktown. Can you imagine the excitement and majesty of this ship moving through the rapids struggling towards its destination.

His next business venture had to be with railroad construction. On completion of the Intercolonial Railroad to Fredericton, Call partnered with Boss Gibson and Jabez Snowball and built a sub line from Devon to Chatham Junction. We all know what that meant to the Miramichi.

His public service record was just as successful as his business record. He was a member of the County Alms House Commission, secretary-treasurer of the board of trustees of the Presbyterian Church, Newcastle, vice-council to United States and a number of others.

But his greatest service was his service record in the military. Call started out as a lieutenant in the 2nd Battalion of the Militia and rose quickly through the ranks to captain. His greatest military action occurred during the Caraquet Riots when the militia was dispatched to Bathurst. On Jan. 28, 1875, in extreme cold and snow, 46 men, two nine-pound guns, supplies and ammunition took 28 hours of marching to set up the perimeter guard of the jail. They stood guard against a breakout of the prisoners for some six weeks. This alone must have been a tremendous effort in endurance for the Miramichi men to endure during on that march the physical hardships of winter. I wonder if we really know who our heroes should be on the river. For this accomplishment Call rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and was later transferred to the Canadian Artillery Reserve.

With all this going on in the man’s life, he still enjoyed fishing salmon on the Northwest and his name appears often in the Miramichi Fish & Game log books. It was said he enjoyed it so much he eventually built his own fishing camps at Call’s Pool.

As with all work horses there comes a time to slow down and he always attempted to do such. But death claimed the man suddenly in 1903. The Miramichi lost one of its great individuals who devoted his life to making Newcastle and the Miramichi a much better place to live. The tragedy of his life is that we tend to forget who brought the first bank to the community, the first railroad or who sent the Andover on that historic voyage to Doaktown or who inspired men to walk through winters cold to protect this newly developing province called New Brunswick

Miramichi men like Robert Call - gone but not forgotten.

Source: A moment In History by John Copp - Miramichi Leader July 21, 2008

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