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Ella Smith: The Smith family

A virtual exhibition on one of Mount Allison University's most fascinating scholars.

The Smith family

James Willard Smith

James Willard Smith was born at Advocate. Cumberland County, Nova Scotia, on 23 June 1858. He was the son of Sidney Smith (1832-1908) and Maria Ann Morris (1838-1909).  At an early age he went to Saint John, New Brunswick to work on the docks and obtained an accounting degree from Kerrs College in 1874. Thereafter he established himself as a ship broker and merchant, At the peak of his career, he participated in the ownership of 40 ships, almost all tern schooners, and had 140 employees. He was described by noted marine historian Stanley T. Spicer as follows:

J. Willard Smith had an extensive shipping business in Saint John and, during, the latter years of the nineteenth century through to the end the end of the First World War, had interests in a number of vessels built in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Among the vessels he had built on the Parrsboro shore area were the Mineola in 1902 and the Lavonia in 1903, both launched in Port Greville by H. Elderkin and Company. A third Elderkin vessel, the Wanola, was purchased by Mr. Smith after her launching in 1899. The last schooner he had built was the Ononette, 483 tons, launched in Hillsburn, N.S. in 1919. [1]

He died on 20 May1925 in Saint John following a long struggle with cancer.  He is buried in the Fernhill Cemetery.  


Frances Louise Hanson

Frances "Fannie" Louise Hanson was born at St. Mary's, York County, New Brunswick on 8 October 1858.  She was the daughter of Robert Hanson (1833-1892) and Susan Seymour (1831-1897).  She was educated in local schools and attended the Provincial Normal School in Fredericton to become a school teacher.  She was married to J. Willard Smith in Saint John, New Brunswick on 20 May 1883.  The couple had six children.  Five of the children attended Mount Allison Institutions in keeping with the Methodist background of the family.  She died in 1923 in Saint John, New Brunswick.


Anne Smith

Anne Louise Smith was born on 7 March 1886 in Saint John, New Brunswick.  She was the daughter of James Willard Smith (1858-1925) and Frances Louise Hanson (1858-1923). She was educated locally and graduated from Saint John High School. She entered Mount Allison University in 1903, receiving a Household Science Diploma in 1905 and a BA degree in 1906. On 5 April 1911 in Saint John, New Brunswick she married Herbert William Read (1887-1977), a native of Sackville, New Brunswick, who had received a BA degree from Mount Allison in 1905. After their marriage the couple lived in Stonehaven, Gloucester County, New Brunswick and operated a stone quarry. While there she was instrumental in establishing a Women’s Institute and later served as a provincial president of that organization. In 1936, the Reads returned to Sackville and opened the Marshlands Inn. She served on the Board of Regents of Mount Allison University for 30 years, the first woman to be appointed to this role by the United Church. During the Centenary of Education for Women in 1954 she received an honorary LL.D. degree. She and her husband had two children: Frances Lillian Walker (1913-2014) and Herbert Comeau (1915-1998). She died on 2 January 1968 in Sackville and is buried in the Rural Cemetery.


Willard Smith

Willard Roy Smith was born on 17 December 1887 in Saint John, New Brunswick on the son of James Willard Smith and Frances “Fannie” Louise Hanson. He graduated from Mount Allison University with a BA in 1908 and completed his studies in civil engineering at McGill University. Upon graduation in 1909 he worked briefly as a land surveyor for the Read Stone Company Limited at Stonehaven, New Brunswick. He later operated the Pulpwood Supply Company Limited out of Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia. He was a veteran of the Second World War. He served as president of the following organizations: Annapolis Royal Historical Association, Annapolis Drama League, Order of Good Cheer, and the Board of Trade. He was an elder in the United Church of St. Georges and St. Andrews. He was married to Gladys Allison Borden (1888-1972) on 25 May 1921 in Sackville, New Brunswick. The couple raised four daughters: Joan, Alice, Barbara and Elaine. He died on 10 January 1955 in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia and is buried in the Woodlawn Cemetery.


[1] Stanley T. Spicer, Sails of Fundy: The Schooners and Square-riggers of the Parrsboro Shore,  Lancelot Press Limited, Hantsport, N.S., 1984, page 40.