CAPTAIN JOHN ARSENAULT

Capt John and Johnny Walker062 (Source – Theresa Dugas MacKay)

Captain John and Johnny Walker

In his early life Captain John Arsenault, formerly a navigator, now a successful merchant at Alder Point, Cape Breton, was apprised of the fact that the pathways of mortal men are beset with many things calculated to impede them in their race for material success; but he was also taught that the prize is usually won by deserving, persevering and patience, and he succeeded in his chosen work.

Captain Arsenault was born at Magdalen Islands, Gaspe County, Quebec, October 10, 1860. He was the son of Moise and Mary (Richard) Arsenault, both natives of Magdalen Islands also, the father born May 8, 1827, and the mother November 8, 1828. The father was a mariner and followed the sea for a period of forty-five years, principally in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. He had a interesting record, and the following are some incidents which happened in the year 1850. After the seal fishing for the season was over he proceeded with a party of men to Labrador where they spent three months in the cod fishing business. At that time it was necessary to be on constant guard so as not to come in contact with the Esquimaux, who always treated strangers with brutality, but Mr. Arsenault and his crew always escaped their ill treatment; however, their lives were not secure for a moment, and on one occasion while driven by the ice on the Anticosti Island their party found a wrecked ship, and upon landing, found several men hanging on trees with barrels of human flesh near them, on which the natives had nourished. On another voyage Mr. Arsenault and his crew sighted eight ships which had been crushed by the ice and they luckily rescued some of the passengers, others having died of exposure. There were many great hardships to be encountered by a seafaring man in those days in this section of the globe.

Captain John Arsenault received his education in the public schools at Magdalen Islands, Quebec, and in his earlier career he was a navigator of recognized ability, following the sea for a number of years, but in later life he had been engaged in mercantile pursuits at Alder Point, Cape Breton, where he built up a large business. It was in the year 1889 that he moved from his boyhood home to Alder Point, which was then called Little Bras d’Or (meaning golden arm in French). The name was changed when the telegraph office was established there. Captain John ‘discovered’ Alder Point when a friend in North Sydney took him on a horse and buggy ride one Sunday when he was tied up in North Sydney due to weather. When he saw what was later to be Alder Point he is said to have favoured immediateley it as a place for settlement. The surrounding country was at that time thinly settled, but is now fairly well populated and developed, three coal collieries were operating in the district, namely: No. 4, No. 3 and the Colonial. These three mines averaged a daily output of twenty-five hundred tons and employed about one thousand men. The chief industry at the time our subject located there was fishing and farming, which are also carried on today, but mining coal was the leading business. The waters abounded in cod, herring and lobster and there was hatchery and a factory in operation there three months during the year. The government built a breakwater there in 1913, for the accommodation of the fishermen, also put up a storm signal, and dredged the harbour. Many tourists visit this locality every year.

Fraternally, Captain John was a member of the Knights of Columbus. He was a Roman Catholic and a church warden in his parish. Politically, he was a Liberal. He served as postmaster at Alder Point, also as justice of the peace in and for the County of Cape Breton and was in charge of the telegraph office.

Captain John married in the Magdalen Islands, September 8, 1885, to Mary A. Theriault, a daughter of David and Genevieve (Doyle) Theriault of Magdalen Islands. To this union the following children  born:

Mary Teresa, born September 9, 1886 (Mrs Walter Dugas)

M Sheela, born March 1888

John David Henry, born December 8, 1889

Joseph Albert Alphono, born October 4, 1893

John William Garfield, born October 8, 1895

M L Alphonsina, born November 27, 1897

Ludger A, born January 5, 1900

(from notes provided by Norma Day)

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