In the Beginning .... 

     The biblical narrative tells us, as do astronomers, that our world had a beginning. Such is the way of everything and everyone in our world. For each of us there was a time before we were, a time when we began to be, and at last a time when we no longer are in the world. Our generations form a very long line -- past, present, and future. As persons we know only what happens in our own little time, added to what our forebears can tell us more or less accurately in history and folklore. Our future in the world, whatever our plans, lies all unknown before us. As the Scottish sage observed, "The best laid plans oímice and men gang aftíagley"-- which turned out to be a good thing for Will Squires

     I was -- I am -- such a person. It was in the small community of Westridge-on-the-Avon, a small Eastern Canadian town, that I first became aware of myself as a person. But events occurred earlier that had important meaning for all future dwellers in that riverside community that original native Canadians, the Micmac tribe, called Pisiquid, meaning "Where-Two-Rivers-Meet." A high hill, the summit of British Fort Edward in colonial days, overlooks the Avon, the larger river named after the famed waterway in England. On that height stands an aging blockhouse, a small fortress that dominates the landscape on all sides.

     On a clear day, if you look carefully, you may think you glimpse a contingent of the blue-and-white-clad French Rťgiment Royal, as they have disembarked from a sea-going man oíwar anchored on the broad river at high tide. They bravely attempt to scale the hill manned by entrenched British Redcoats.

     This was part of the struggle for possession of Eastern North America during the Seven Yearsí War, as it raged between Britain and France throughout much of the entire continent. What was New France, and is now Canada, became British when troops under General James Wolfe overran Montcalmís French forces on the Plains of Abraham at Quebec in 1759.

     "A day that will live in infamy," cited in the last century by President Franklin D. Roosevelt for Pearl Harbor Day, also describes an earlier day when British troops herded and exiled as many French settlers as they could seize in and around the village of Grand Prť (Great Prairie). That village on the shore of the Minas Basin into which the Avon empties, leading finally to the Bay of Fundy and the Atlantic, is just a short distance from the town of Westridge.

     The unfortunate French civilians were ruthlessly and randomly shipped to several areas along the coast of what is now the United States. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow memorialized the atrocity in his long, tragi-romantic poem, Evangeline, the name of the mythical French girl separated from her lover in the deportation. A statue of the unhappy young woman, erected later by British settlers, can be seen at Grand Prť as the village now stands.

     Acadia (French Acadie) remains the name of the surrounding area of the village, once part of New France, encompassing the lovely Annapolis Valley, as later named, in Nova Scotia. French-speaking descendants of the early Acadians still reside in pockets throughout the region, and the French dialect of the Cajuns in distant Louisiana is reminiscent of the origin of their exiled ancestors from Acadia. A university at Wolfville, Nova Scotia, other institutions in "the Valley," and even a bus line bear the historic name.

     But these momentous events, which shaped the destinies of everyone in that region, happened before I appeared in the community of Westridge. I was called "Will Squires," the name I received from my surrogate parents, and by which I always have been known.

Chapter 1. Land of Hope

     At the turn of the twentieth century came a large exodus of families from Northern and Southern Ireland to North America. Hardship in the "old country" was a compelling motive for the Irish to cast longing eyes across the sea to what they believed would be greener fields of prosperity. But it was in this migration that songs of disillusionment like "The Irish Immigrantís Lament" and the moving Irish-tenor solo, "Iíll Take You Home Again, Kathleen," were born. There was struggle for survival in the New World not foreseen when departing from the Old.

     Among the mass of hope-filled immigrants from Belfast and surrounding Ulster came Jonathan Squires, with his loving and loyal wife Mary and their four young daughters, one an infant, to Westridge-on-the-Avon in the district of Acadia. Jon was a skilled stone craftsman, and in stone he could carve beautiful designs. There was little demand for his trade in Nova Scotia, but he hoped to join his brother in the same profession at Pittsburgh. Short of money needed to complete his journey comfortably and settle in that distant city, Jonathan went to work in the gypsum quarry at nearby Brentwood.

     Hopes were high, the pay was good, and the work backbreaking -- literally so for Jonathan Squires. One day a clanking, growling steam shovel was swinging overhead when a heavy piece of the gypsum ore borne by the machine fell on Jonís bent form, breaking his spine. The artisanís dream of relocating in Western Pennsylvania faded in the succeeding months of recovery, and the formerly tall and handsome Irishman would walk painfully with a slight stoop for the rest of his days.

     Mary was undaunted. Visiting her husband in the hospital, she declared with typical Irish assertiveness and musical brogue, "Itís to Judge William Hamiltonís Iíll be goiní as cook!" The response was predictable: "No, yeíll not, Mary! Iíll be married to no manís slave gell!"

     But the spouse was armed with her ready answer: "Jon, our savinís are gone, and somebídy has típrovide fíthe family. Iíve accepted Judge Hamiltonís offer. Itís a finished thing, so ítis!"

     "Well -- I sípose yímust keep yír word tí the judge. Heís been right good tíus these many days Iíve been down." Although Workmenís Compensation was unknown in Jonathanís day, William Hamilton had stood by the Squires family in their need, ensuring their freedom from want.

     So for the time of Jonathanís long convalescence Mary would be employed at the home of Judge Hamilton. During the hours of Maryís absence, her daughter Margaret would manage the home with the help of her youngest sister Elaine. Two elder sisters had married and moved to Central Canada. Margaret herself was about to marry Ken Olsen, formerly a soldier she had met during World War I. Olsen was a farmer in the west Acadia district. Two other daughters had died in childhood: Kathleen of diphtheria, before there was effective treatment, and Evelyn of meningitis.

     Celebrated throughout the county for his kindness, Hamilton was an elder in Westridgeís St. James Presbyterian Church, where the Squires also were members before the 1925 union of the denomination with Methodist and Congregational elements in Canada. The Irish couple had been members of an evangelical Presbyterian communion since the revival in their Ulster homeland, sparked by the eloquent preaching of American Dwight L. Moody. Both Jonathan and Mary then experienced profound spiritual awakening in their youth, along with elder members of their families.

     William Warren Hamilton dwelt in a mansion at the highest point in the town, a considerable estate gorgeously landscaped with lawns and flowerbeds which, until his latter days, he enjoyed personally caring for. Lofty elms lined the awesome ascending driveway beyond the ornate and intimidating wrought-iron gate fronting the property. He had been the son of a farmer, had done well in the law profession before becoming crown counsel (similar to the "district attorney" in the U.S.), and finally was elevated to judge for the area throughout the region of Acadia west and limited by Halifax County in the east.

     On a trip to Europe, while still a young lawyer, William fell in love with an English noblemanís daughter, Claire Manchester, who eventually came to Canada and married Hamilton. Besides two sons added to the family, George and Albert, there also was Anna, a later daughter and the apple of her fatherís eye. She was early crippled for life by polio, managing to walk painfully with two canes and leg braces. Some dwellers in Westridge retain in sacred memory the moving scene of the doting father, in formal suit and black derby, solemnly entering the church with Anna on one arm and the inseparable walking cane hanging from the other.

     Claire had not followed her husbandís faith, but with his acquiescence remained loyal to her high-church upbringing in England. Anyway, as the whole town concluded, the handsome Claire had a mind and a way of her own. She even hired tradesmen to affix a tastefully designed bronze copy of her English familyís coat of arms over the main entrance to the house. "It so reminds me of home!" she declared wistfully. Though an immigrant to Canada, her heart was still in England. 

     Hamilton voiced no objection.

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