Home to Plaster Rock: In Search of Stories

I have lots of stories about trips gone awry. About falling in a temple pond in Kyoto, losing my purse the first day of a cross-continent trip, car troubles in Maine and a night with strangers.

It’s the joy of being a storyteller. Mishaps, absurdities, and everything unexpected can be transformed into story.

This morning I’m on the road again. And I’m hoping for and expecting new stories before I’m done.

There’s my destination, Plaster Rock, a village in New Brunswick, Canada. It is not one of those quaint fishing villages on the Bay of Fundy. It’s deep in the interior, not far from Caribou, Maine.  A place of potato farms surrounded by vast stretches of forest.

The town is having a homecoming for all those who left for more prosperous places, like Alberta, or Ontario, or the States.  For sure, I’ll go the parade on Saturday afternoon. Maybe I’ll stop by the dance Saturday night. I expect loud fiddle music and lots of beer. The last time I went to a Plaster Rock dance, fifty years ago, a stranger swung me round so hard and fast my feet left the floor.

My father’s family has lived in New Brunswick for more than 200 years. My father was born on a farm near Plaster Rock and his father before him. We go back to the 1700s, when Abraham Marston left the United States after fighting in the American Revolution–on the British side.

I’ll meet my cousin there. Wayne grew up in Plaster Rock. Life was tough, and his was tougher and more tragic than most. Our grandfather had hanged himself when our dads were kids, and they grew up poor. The Depression didn’t help. My father left when he was a young man. but Wayne’s father stayed behind. Wayne now lives in Ontario…and he’s a member of Parliament. How did he overcome such hardships and why does is he going to the homecoming too? I want to hear his stories.

My brother’s wife, Patti, will meet us there too. She’s visiting her mother in Saint John and they will both drive over to meet us, a four hour trip. Turns out that Patti is a distant relative of Wayne’s mother. Good company and more stories.

We’ll visit graveyards and homesteads and talk to the old people who stayed behind. Erv from Bangor will meet us. I think our grandfathers were brothers. More stories.

And I expect a few good stories about the journey itself. Today I’ll start the 600 mile trip north to Montreal, past Quebec city, along the Saint Lawrence River to Riviere du Loup, and then over through the deep woods of the provinces of Quebec and New Brunswick to our family’s home.

The last leg of the car trip is on a road voted one of the ten most dangerous in Canada. It’s twisty and hilly, built mainly for loggers. The soft soil and big trucks mean the road is always in need of repairs.

“At least there’ll be no snow,” Patti said over the phone.

“But you must watch out for the moose,” I heard her mother say. “Whatever you do, don’t drive after dark.”

And I promise not to. And coming home, I’ll come the other way, down through Maine. I’ll  see new places, and, of course, I’ll stop at the L. L. Bean outlet in Freeport. Even for someone who loves stories, sometimes it’s just about the shopping.

11 thoughts on “Home to Plaster Rock: In Search of Stories

  1. Margaret
    Can’t wait to hear or read your stories….right up my alley….CANADA……family stories…Enjoy your trip.

  2. Travel stories are right up there along with family stories as some of the best. You are having the pleaseure of finding both!

  3. Margaret, I didn’t get to reading this in a timely way. But I AM ready to hear those stories now that you’re home. Thanks for reminding us how important tales are, and how good it is to return “home”.

  4. I didn’t realize until this summer’s trip to my father’s ancestral home, with my brothers, how important place is in a family. One of my brothers had uncovered the fact that a nearby home, now the headquarters for the local historical society,had been in our family since the 1700s, until the 1900s. No one we know lives around there anymore, but our family name is prominent in shops and plaques. How lucky you are to be visiting people who still live where your family has so much history.

      • My husband, having lost both his parents in the last two years, is now facing losing all family connection to the towns his family has lived in since the 1800s. It’s a wrenching process. Until I visited our ancestral home this summer, I didn’t understand how important place could be.

  5. My family visited New Brunswick in 2008. We learned how important 1776 was to New Brunswick – prior to that, the province didn’t exist. It was settled by loyalists who had left the rebel colonies, since there wasn’t room for all of them in the towns of Nova Scotia. We passed a mural in St. John that celebrated Benedict Arnold, who started off the war fighting on the wrong side, but saw the error of his ways.

    I look forward to reading your stories about the trip.

  6. Margaret,
    My grandfather, the late Harold Marston, was from Plaster Rock. My Dad (his son), John Marston (Ontario), is still alive and well. I got to your wordpress site as I was searching Marston and Plaster Rock, because I was interested in the Marston roots.

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