The Past
A Brief Overview of the Butsons of Canada

(An excerpt from Wesley Johnston's "Butson Family Newsletter"  Issue Number 1,
Fall 1979  Copyright © 1998 by Wesley Johnston)


Only two Butson families are known to have come to Canada: Solomon's about 1840 and Cecil's about 1880. Both came from Cornwall: solomon from St. Blazey, Cecil from Penzance. However no relation is presently known between the two families.

Solomon, his wife Jane Kame/Keam, and their nine children settled at Oshawa, Ontario. Cecil, who became the father of seven children, settled in the area of Midland and Penetanguishene in Ontario.

I. Solomon Butson's Family (see chart)

The family's history is best considered in two geographic groups.

1. Oshawa, Brooklin, Reach, Prince Albert, Port Perry, Lindsay, and Sundridge, Ontario

The family remained in the Oshawa area, moving gradually north. Solomon and Jane, both born in the 1790's, were buried in the 1860's and 1870's between Brooklin and Columbus. Thomas died, apparently unwed, at Oshawa in 1846. Nicholas lived and died near Brooklin; most of his descendants are nearby. Robert is buried in Prince Albert; most of his descendants are nearby.

Henry is lost. (DOES ANYONE HAVE INFORMATION ON HENRY OR HIS FAMILY?) He witnessed Nicholas' first marriage in 1848, was married and had daughters Emma and Mary Jane by his wife Sarah. In 1868, he married Mary Wilson at Reach. He was last thought to be in Lindsay about 1890. His only known descendants are in Chicago.

William died at Sundridge, where some of his descendants remain. His descendants have spread far, many to Canada's west.

2. Hibbert Township

Three branches of the family moved in the 1850's-1880's to the Huron Tract, west of Stratford, Ontario. Mary (Ann/Keam/Kame) is lost. (DOES ANYONE HAVE INFORMATION ON MARY OR HER FAMILY?) Her husbands' names were Hamley and Sherin/Sherein or Schirm. Her only two known descendants live in Staffa. John moved in the 1860's. He is buried in the Staffa Cemetery. Many of his descendants are in the area, though some branches have moved west. James is also buried in Staffa, where most of his descendants are not far away.

But what of Charity? DOES ANYONE HAVE INFORMATION ON CHARITY OR HER FAMILY? She married in 1848 to George Becket. In 1861, they lived in Whitby Township with one child, Clarissa.

Added 8/9/2005 - Charity Keam Butson  

Dau. of solomon Butson & Joan Keam/Jane Kame

  • Bap. 4.10.1829 at St. Blazey, Cornwall, England

  • Marr. George Beckett 21.11.1848 at East Whitby, Ontario, Canada

  • Died 16th November 1899 at Reach, Ontario


  • Thomas George

  • James

  • Charity

  • Elizabeth

  • Jesse

  • John

  • Jane

  • Anna M.

  • Julia Ann

  • Charles William

  • Albert


  • George (b. 1823), Farmer. Lived at Reach, Ontario, Canada.

  •         Added 3/08/2007:

            Hi Dave:
    So glad to be able to add what I know to this website. My name is Kay Brennan (Butson, maiden name) I am the daughter of Donald Duane Butson born January 31,1922 died August 2, is what was given to me years ago.

    Family records of Clythe R. Butson
    Name Relationship Born Died
    Solomon Butson Father January 24 1856 January 8 1925
    Sarah Kemp Butson Mother May 2, 1862 June 17, 1935
    Clythe R. Butson son December 16, 1888 October 21, 1983
    Franklin R. Butson son May 18, 1890 April 21, 1951
    Orrel I. Merrill daughter February 4, 1892 May 12, 1975
    Elizab eth K. Sorensen daughter July 7, 1896 February 21, 1968

    Statistics of Family of Clythe R. Butson & Ruth Camille Sutherland

    Clythe R. Butson Father December 16, 1888 October 21. 1983
    Ruth Camille Butson Mother August 31, 1898 November 16, 1966
    Beverly J. Hoerntlein Daughter April 12, 1917 September 1992
    Robert R. Butson son February 8, 1919 November 12. 1977
    Donald D. Butson son January 31, 1922 August 2, 1994
    James L. Butson son March 7, 1927 May 1, 1993

    Children and Grandchildren of Clythe R. Butson and Ruth Sutherland
    Beverly J. Hoerntlein Mother April 17, 1917 September 1992
    Michael J. Hoerntlein Son March 22, l943
    Mary Kathryn Robertson daughter January 7, 1946
    Nancy Ann Gast daughter July 11,, 1953

    Robert R. Butson father February 8, 1919
    Patrick Butson son
    Richard Butson son
    Karen Alvstad daughter
    Janilee Lowrance daughter
    Camille daughter

    Donald D. Butson father
    Kay Brennan May 15, 1941
    Curtis Butson June 19, 1945

    James L. Butson Father March 7, 1927
    Sandra Lee Snook daughter
    Bruce Butson son
    Kimberly Butson Daughter

    I have no contact with any of my cousins or know where they would be nice to connect with someone. I just had to let you know all of this as in one of the letters that were published years ago my grandfather (Clythe and his children were in the "where are they column")...thanks Dave for this website. I enjoy it. There sure are allot of Butsons.. never realized...I live in Seattle Washington brother Curtis is in Portland Oregon. My grandfather I believe was from North Dakota...

    Kay Brennan Butson

    II. Cecil Butson's Family

    Cecil's children were Lloyd, Albert, Roy, Harold, Vida, Mona, and Ronald. All but Mona remained in the Midland-Penetanguishene area; Mona moved to Hamilton. Albert's descendants own the Butson Motel at Renfrew; his descendants are named Anderson, Butson, and Haines. Harold's son lives in Ottawa. I need more information on this family.


    III. Immigration (Added):

     I have found that the Butson name is much more prevalent than previously believed but little data on the Southern U.S. or West Coast Butsons is published. The probable reason you see so much info on the Butsons of Canada and Northern U.S.,  Australia, New Zealand and Africa is that most, not all, 17/18/19th century emigrants of England, Ireland and Scotland tended to be to other British Commonwealth countries because of affiliation and citizen/passport status. Then, emigration from those countries and especially in North America continued to non-Commonwealth countries.

    Hence there was a migration of the Butson name to Northern U.S. States, mostly from Ontario, Canada and then throughout the States.

    Some British Butsons did emigrate directly to the U.S., however, and we even find some Butsons who fought in the American Revolutionary War and some (5) who fought in the American Civil War, three as Rebels, two as Yankees. Direct immigration to the west coast of the U.S. was very rare but more likely to have occurred when the general population of the Eastern U.S. moved West.

    Added 6/27/2005:  The Census chart (scroll down below) shows that between 1790 - 1830, 12 Butsons arrived in America.

    Top Places of Origin prior to Immigration to America for Butson - 1800's
    Place of
    Butson Immigrants
    England 34
    Hesse - Formed with other territories acquired by Prussia in 1866 (the Duchy of Nassau, the Landgraviate of Hesse-Homburg, Frankfort-on-the-Main, etc.) the Prussian province of Hesse-Nassau. 6
    Sweden 1
    Russia 1
    Germany 1

    Compiled from the New York Passenger Lists.


    Distribution of Butson Families in the US in 1840
    Number of Butson families

    From 1840 Census



    Butson Civil War Service
    Butson Veterans Allegiance Total Veterans of
    the Civil War
    3 Confederate 1,050,000
    2 Union 2,213,363
    5 Combined 3,263,363

    Compiled from the Civil War Service Records

    Also: Strange Butson Hartigan, Lieut. 3rd West India Regiment, served on the Confederate side in the American Civil War of 1860 as Col. of the 3rd Ohio Cavalry. He m. Ellen, dr. of Samuel Sandars, of Lockers House, Hernel Hempstead, Herts. (From Connection of the HARTIGAN family with the EYRE family)

    WWI Deaths:

    William George Butson
    Lieutenant Killed on April 10th 1917
    Buried Bruay Cemetery, France
    Regiment Canadian Mounted Rifles


    IV: Butson Name (1880 U.S. Census), Formatted:

    I received this interesting email (Below) from Wesley Johnston referencing his 1994 trip to Europe and a copy of the soundex (similar sounding name) Census of 1880 (U.S.).

    One comment he made that really interested me was about Butsons looking alike. I, too have observed that feature of most all Butsons I've ever met.....especially the Canadian Butsons....they seem to have an English/Irish look of pointed or sharp features, a lot of blue eyes, freckles, large teeth, large smiles, thick hair (dark, mostly), fair to olive skin, and prominent noses. Seems like when you look at old photos of any Butson surname family members, especially in feel you recognize them....even though you may never have met. I know descendants are suppose to have similarities, shared traits, etc., but Butsons seem to carry more alikeness down through the ages than the norm. Or am I just full of it?

    Also, in this note, the similar sounding names (e.g. Butzen, Bodson, Budson, Butzon, Butzin, etc.) that are listed, brings to mind that a lot of our ancestors could have originated in Central Europe (Germany, France, Belgium or Holland)....prior to the English/Irish lines. Has anyone done any research on our "Continental" namesakes?

    Additionally, I am having difficulty surfacing Australian and New Zealand connections to the Butsons of St Blazey, Cornwall England... Any research out there, shared with us here, would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks again to Wesley Johnston for sharing with us.

    "Hello David,

    Here are all the Butsons (or others with the same Soundex code) in the 1880 US Census. The Belgian ones in PA are interesting to me. When I went to Belgium for the 50th anniversary of the Bulge in Dec 1994, I found that not far west of Stavelot was a country restaurant called Ferme Bodson (Bodson Farm), which really was a farm. I stopped to see them, and that old woman looked very much to me like a Butson, at least the ones in Canada. I wrote to a woman in France whose name they gave me, but we were not able to link up.

    These are sorted by Age (descending) within Surname within State."

    Wesley Johnston


    (Added): (This is a complete U.S. Census of all Butsons (or similar named) living in America in 1880).
    It's interesting to note that the derivatives Butzen/Butzin/Butzien/Butzon are Germanic, Budson seems to be Belgique, and a large African-American family of Buttsons lived in Delaware.

    These are sorted by Age (descending) within Surname within State.


    BUDSON George Other 34 M W NY CA

    BUTSON R. Other 66 M W CA CA

    BUTSON James Self 40 M W England CA

    BUTSON Elizabeth Wife 34 F W England CA

    BUTSON J. H. Self 28 M W England CA

    BUTSON J. Wife 24 F W England CA

    BUTSON J. W. Son 1 M W CA CA

    BUTTSON John Self 59 M B MD DE

    BUTTSON Mary Wife 48 F B MD DE

    BUTTSON George Son 21 M B DE DE

    BUTTSON Thomas Son 20 M B DE DE

    BUTTSON Austrela Dau 16 F B DE DE

    BUTTSON Samuel D. Son 13 M B DE DE

    BUTSON John Self 28 M W WI IA

    BUTSON Priscella Wife 23 F W WI IA

    BUTSON Frank Son 2 M W IA IA

    BUTSON John Self 57 M W England IL

    BUTSON Duzilla Wife 45 F W NY IL

    BUTSON Martha M. Dau 8 F W IL IL

    BUTZEN Walter Father 78 M W Germany IL

    BUTZEN Peter Self 72 M W Germany IL

    BUTZEN Margareta Wife 66 F W Germany IL

    BUTZEN Joseph Self 40 M W Germany IL

    BUTZEN Caroline Wife 38 F W Germany IL

    BUTZEN John Self 38 M W Germany IL

    BUTZEN Veronica Wife 37 F W Germany IL

    BUTZEN Peter Self 36 M W Germany IL

    BUTZEN Annie Wife 34 F W Germany IL

    BUTZEN Maggie Dau 16 F W IL IL

    BUTZEN Nick Son 16 M W IL IL

    BUTZEN Peter Son 13 M W IL IL

    BUTZEN Peter Son 12 M W IL IL

    BUTZEN Martin Son 10 M W IL IL

    BUTZEN Mathias Son 9 M W IL IL

    BUTZEN Mary Dau 8 F W IL IL

    BUTZEN William Son 7 M W IL IL

    BUTZEN Lizzie Dau 6 F W IL IL

    BUTZEN Margarethe Dau 4 F W IL IL

    BUTZEN Joseph Son 3 M W IL IL

    BUTZEN Nicolaus Son 2 M W IL IL

    BUTZIN Fred Self 53 M W Germany IL

    BUTZIN Fredrica Wife 43 F W Germany IL

    BUTZIN Emile Dau 20 F W IL IL

    BUTZIN Fred Son 16 M W IL IL

    BUTZIN Alice Dau 14 F W IL IL

    BUTZON Christine Wife 47 F W IL

    BUTZON Louis Self 43 M W IL

    BUTZON Dora Self 34 F W Germany IL

    BUTZON Robert Son 21 M W IL IL

    BUTZON Louise Dau 17 F W IL IL

    BUTZON Martha Dau 15 F W IL IL

    BUTZON Henry Son 13 M W IL IL

    BUTZON Lena Dau 11 F W IL IL

    BUTZON Theodore Son 11 M W IL IL

    BUTZON Theodore Son 9 M W IL IL

    BUTZON Arthur Son 8 M W IL IL

    BUTSON Rebecca Wife 59 F W OH IN

    BUTSON Samuel Self 52 M W OH IN

    BUTSON William E. Son 19 M W IN IN

    BUTZEN Charles Self 53 M W Germany IN

    BUTZEN Minnie Wife 52 F W Germany IN

    BUTZEN Charles Son 17 M W Germany IN

    BUTZEN Millie Dau 9 F W Germany IN

    BUDSON Thomas Self 41 M B NC LA

    BUDSON Frosine Wife 35 F B LA LA

    BUDSON Thomas Son 1 M B LA LA

    BUTSON Isaac Other 48 M W England MI

    BUTZEN Susan Other 22 F B VA NYC

    BUTSON James Other 35 M W England OH

    BUTSON Earnest G Son 10 M W OH OH

    BUTSON Ada G Dau 8 F W OH OH

    BUTTSON Ruth Other 68 F W NY OH

    BUTZIEN Augusta Other 19 F W Germany OH

    BUTSON John Self 27 M W England OR

    BUTSON Alvira Wife 25 F W OH OR

    BUTSON William B. Other 24 M W OH OR

    BUTSON Blanch Dau 9 F W OH OR

    BUTSON George Son 4 M W OH OR

    BUTSON Sadie Dau 2 F W OH OR

    BUDSON Esther Self 59 F W NY PA

    BUDSON Elizabeth Wife 55 F W Belgium PA

    BUDSON John Self 55 M W Belgium PA

    BUTZEN Catharine Other 35 F W PA PA

    BUTSON Thomas Self 34 M W MS TX

    BUTSON Kate Wife 30 F W MS TX

    BUTSON Washington Son 9 M W MS TX

    BUTSON Thomas Son 7 M W MS TX

    BUTSON Clarance Son 5 M W MS TX

    BUTSON Esun Son 2 M W MS TX

    BUTSON John Self 44 M W England VT

    BUTSON Sarah Wife 38 F W England VT

    BUTSON John Son 13 M W VT VT

    BUTSON Henry Son 11 M W VT VT

    BUTSON Ella J. Dau 9 F W VT VT

    BUTSON Charles Son 7 M W VT VT

    BUTSON Fred Son 6 M W VT VT

    BUTSON Robert Son 2 M W VT VT

    BUTSON Edwin Other 1 M W VT VT

    BUTSON John Other 61 M W England WI

    BUTSON Thomas Self 40 M W England WI  (Example of Census listing, below)

    Personal Information
    Name:   Thomas BUTSON
    Age:   40
    Estimated birth year:   <1840>
    Birthplace:   ENG
    Occupation:   Farmer
    Relationship to head-of-household:   Self
    Home in 1880:   Lima, Grant, Wisconsin
    Marital status:   Married
    Race:   White
    Gender:   Male
    Spouse's name:   Mary BUTSON
    Father's birthplace:   ENG
    Mother's birthplace:   ENG
        Year: 1880; Census Place: Lima, Grant, Wisconsin; Roll: T9_1427; Family History Film: 1255427; Page: 225B; Enumeration District: 113; Image:


    BUTSON Mary Wife 33 F W WI WI

    BUTSON Jane Dau 14 F W WI WI

    BUTSON Susan Dau 12 F W WI WI

    BUTSON Isaiah Son 10 M W WI WI

    BUTSON Mary A. Dau 7 F W WI WI

    BUTSON Thomas A. Son 5 M W WI WI

    BUTSON Charles W. Son 2 M W WI WI

    BUTZEN Jacob Self 53 M W Germany WI

    BUTZEN Elizebeth Wife 49 F W Germany WI

    BUTZEN Jacob Son 22 M W WI WI

    BUTZEN Mary Dau 20 F W WI WI

    BUTZEN Lena Dau 16 F W WI WI

    BUTZEN Lena Niece 14 F W WI WI

    BUTZEN Martha Dau 13 F W WI WI

    BUTZEN Anna Dau 11 F W WI WI

    BUTZEN John Son 9 M W WI WI

    BUTZIN Louisa Mother 71 F W Germany WI

    BUTZIN Christan Self 45 M W Germany WI

    BUTZIN Charles Self 43 M W Germany WI

    BUTZIN Lena Wife 43 F W Germany WI

    BUTZIN Carline Wife 42 F W Germany WI

    BUTZIN William Other 23 M W WI WI

    BUTZIN Augusta Dau 16 F W WI WI

    BUTZIN Lizzie Dau 16 F W WI WI

    BUTZIN Hellena Dau 14 F W WI WI

    BUTZIN Herman Son 14 M W WI WI

    BUTZIN Emma Dau 12 F W WI WI

    BUTZIN Martha Dau 11 F W WI WI

    BUTZIN Wm. Son 10 M W WI WI

    BUTZIN Charlie Son 8 M W WI WI

    BUTZIN Emma Dau 6 F W WI WI

    BUTZIN Emil Son 4 M W WI WI

    BUTZIN Freddie Son 1 M W WI WI


    For Butson Births, Deaths and Marriages in England 1837 - 1911,  GO HERE, scroll down and type in Surname BUTSON and select "All Types, All Districts and All Counties" - and then select "Find"


    US/UK Census Chart 1790 - 1930

    U.S./U.K. Census Records matches for Butson  
    2,518 total matches found in Census Records
      Title matches |
      1790 United States Federal Census   
      1810 United States Federal Census   
      1820 United States Federal Census   
      1830 United States Federal Census   
      1840 United States Federal Census   
      1850 Slave Schedules   
      1850 Slave Schedules   
      1850 United States Federal Census 33    
      1851 United Kingdom Census Sample 60    
      1860 United States Federal Census 36    
      1861 England Census 252    
      1870 United States Federal Census 58    
      1871 England Census 302    
      1871 Wales Census   
      1880 United States Federal Census 49    
      1881 England Census 256    
      1881 Wales Census 10    
      1891 England Census 283    
      1891 Wales Census 10    
      1900 United States Federal Census 203    
      1901 Channel Islands Census   
      1901 England Census 343    
      1901 Wales Census 20    
      1910 United States Federal Census 54    
      1920 United States Federal Census 113    
      1930 United States Federal Census 367    
      Colorado State Census, 1885   
      Darlington, Ontario Census, 1901   
      Iowa State Census, 1895 10    
      Kansas Census, 1850-90   
      Michigan Census, 1827-70   
      Nevada Census, 1860-1910   
      New York Census, 1790-1890   
      Ohio 1910 Census Miracode Index   
      Pennsylvania 1910 Miracode Index   
      Tennessee Census, 1810-91   
      U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedules Index   
      U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedules, 1850-1880   
      Wisconsin Census, 1820-90   

    For a large surname list of Australian "Butsons" go here

    The Present

    This column is intended as a record of vital and other events of Butsons and Butson descendants.

    • Thomas Butson, of New Zealand, until recently had a regular column in the New York Times, after having previously worked for a newspaper in Ontario. One Ontario Butson descendant still has a copy of a book review of "The Memoirs of Pancho Villa" from the 25 September 1965 Toronto Daily Star by Tom Butson. Perhaps this was his piece.
    • Hugh Butson, of Ontario, was the subject of an oral history interview on his experiences in World War I.
    • Alton Thomas Butson, of Miami was the only Butson in recent years to appear in Who's Who. He is a Mathematician.
    • "Johnny Butson. Thanks to Nils Nordberg I can tell you that Johnny Butson appeared in a 1929 series of Sherlock Holmes stories, with Butson taking the place of Harry Taxon as the Watson replacement."
      Quote from 'Pulp and Adventure Heroes'

      On Tuesday, 27th May 1997, the 19th Reunion of the VC & GC Association began with an afternoon reception at St James' Palace given by HRH Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, for holders of the Victoria Cross & George Cross.

      Colonel Dick BUTSON GC OMM CD* ( Canada )

      (An interview with Dr. George Butson, GC OMM CD)

      Captain Eugene Burden, in Port Lockroy,  Antarctic Peninsula Region (1946 – 47)

      By Dr. George Burden

      Family tradition always had it that my great-uncle Captain Eugene Burden had carried

      scientists to the Antarctic Ocean in the 1940s, and that he had brought a film crew down

      to provide footage for the 1948 British film, Scott of the Antarctic. Perhaps this

      information provided me with the impetus I needed to brave the waters of Antarctica

      aboard Karlsen’s Shipping’s MV Polar Star during December 2001. In any event I knew

      that I was not the first member of the family to “burden” the Antarctic with his presence,

      so to speak. Since I was one of the few on Polar Star who did not get sick in the thirty

      five-foot swells past Cape Horn, I figured some of the family’s maritime heritage must

      still run in my veins.

      Most of my discoveries about Captain Eugene were made by serendipity after my return

      from the Antipodes. By coincidence a good friend of mine, Joseph G. Frey, Chairman,

      Canadian Chapter, had written an article for The Medical Post, and interviewed Dr.

      Richard Butson, Honorary Chairman, Canadian Chapter, who, as a newly minted medic

      was the ship’s doctor for the Newfoundland vessel MV Trepassey. I recognized the latter

      as the name of the converted sealing vessel Captain Eugene had skippered in Antarctica.

      A little on-line search revealed that in 1946 and 1947 he had carried research teams of the

      Falkland Islands Dependency Survey (British Antarctic Survey) to the very waters I had

      just explored. He had even made regular supply stops to two of the places I had visited,

      Port Lockroy and Deception Island.

      Port Lockroy has an active British post office and I found that my great-uncle’s vessel

      was commemorated on a 4 pence stamp minted by the British Antarctic Territories in

      1993! We had landed there December 14, 2001, directly on the ice and exactly on the

      ninetieth anniversary of Amundsen’s discovery of the South Pole. The base, which was

      abandoned in 1962, has recently been restored to its appearance in the 1940's. At that

      time it was part of Operation Tabarin, and was founded to monitor the activities of

      German submarines in the South Atlantic. It must have looked almost exactly the same

      as when Captain Eugene first visited here.

      My next step in my quest was to track down Dr. Butson, who participated in mapping the

      last 1,000-miles of uncharted coastline left on Earth, for which he was awarded the

      prestigious Polar Medal, as well as the George Cross for extreme bravery. Joseph Frey

      was able to arrange an interview with Dr. Butson’ who now is retired and lives in

      Hamilton, Ontario.

      Dr. Butson was delighted to take my call and wove me some great yarns about the season

      he spent aboard MV Trepassey. She was a converted sealing boat, wooden-hulled and

      stabilized with sails, though driven by a diesel engine. Quarters were cramped and

      Butson describes how he shared a cabin with the Third Engineer, whose main

      qualifications seemed to have been working on trains in Newfoundland before signing

      on. The engineer wore his boots in the bunk and warned Dr. Butson to “keep his

      distance” at night.

      Like Polar Star, the Trepassey hit high seas when she passed Cape Horn and began her

      crossing of the Drake Passage. Almost everyone was seasick but the ship’s cook seemed

      even more ill than this would warrant. Captain Eugene asked Dr. Butson to have a look

      at him and an incarcerated hernia was discovered. As surgery was impossible and an

      untreated hernia would have been fatal, Butson took the desperate measure of pressing

      forcibly on the hernia and reduced it, thus saving the crewman’s life. (No doubt the

      doctor ate well the rest of the trip.)

      Captain Eugene was a master mariner who could handle a vessel in any kind of waters.

      In his later years he taught navigation in St. John’s. Prior to the First World War he

      navigated frail wooden schooners all over the world and during the war he served as an

      able seaman on a British destroyer. In 1918 the British Crown awarded him a medal for

      his role in the daring rescue of the survivors of the SS Florizel disaster. After the war

      Captain Eugene piloted a tern schooner to Antwerp and there saw his old destroyer.

      Hailing her, he was invited aboard and met his former captain. “Who’s the master of that

      schooner?” queried the captain. “I am” replied Captain Eugene. “What! You mean you

      can navigate and spent the war as an able seaman on my vessel? If I’d known, you’d have

      had a commission and been posted on the bridge. Why didn’t you tell us?” “You never

      asked” was his terse reply.

      Word must have eventually spread for at the outbreak of the Second World War he

      received a commission as lieutenant-commander. For much of the war he acted as

      harbourmaster in St. John’s forming up convoys for their perilous dash to England.

      Captain Eugene’s ability as a navigator and his exposure to the ice and stormy waters of

      the North Atlantic gave him the experience to handle the treacherous seas of the

      Antarctic. In fact the only recorded misadventure on board MV Trepassey was a small

      fire which occurred off Stonington Island, well below the Antarctic Circle. Three vessels

      were at anchor in the bay, one American, the Port of Beaumont; one hailing from the

      Falklands, the Fitzroy and the third was Captain Eugene’s ship. Since American vessels

      are “dry” an invitation was extended to the Yanks to come over and celebrate a bit.

      Unfortunately the celebrations got a little out of hand and someone started a fire. Luckily

      the blaze was quickly extinguished, as was the party. The British base on Stonington

      Island was called Trepassey House, in the tradition of naming bases for the vessel that

      first transported the materials and staff to found the station.

      Captain Eugene was a bit of an entrepreneur. Dr. Butson recalled that he purchased three

      surplus American vessels for the bargain price of sixty thousand dollars. Shortly

      afterwards the British offered him sixty thousand dollars for one boat, leaving him with

      two free ships. On another occasion he decided to augment his stamp collection. The

      British operated post offices in several of their bases, canceling or franking stamps with

      the rare and thus highly desirable British Antarctic Territories postmark. Prior to one

      visit, Captain Eugene addressed several dozen letters to himself. On arrival at the base he

      took them to the postmaster who franked each one, then handed it back with a fresh

      British Antarctic Territories cancellation mark.

      Dr. Butson confirmed that there was a cameraman on board Trepassey, a Canadian

      named Moss, who was tasked with getting background footage for the movie Scott of the

      Antarctic. Most of the movie, he said, was filmed on a glacier in Switzerland, but

      footage of the northern portions of the Antarctic Peninsula were worked in to add

      authenticity (though this was many hundreds of miles away from the Ross Sea from

      where Scott actually embarked on his ill-fated voyage). Ironically I already had a copy of

      this movie at home and watched it once again in an altogether new light

      Another destination shared by Captain Eugene and I was Deception Island, an active

      volcano which sank long ago into the Antarctic Ocean. Skilled captains can pilot their

      vessels into the crater via a break in the cone called Neptune’s Bellows. Polar Star

      entered here and we cruised around the caldera, where superheated waters bubble and

      steam along the shoreline. The last eruption of this volcano occurred thirty years ago and

      destroyed several bases.

      Captain Eugene guided MV Trepassey into the same caldera more than fifty years ago.

      Dr. Butson relates that they discovered three men, gaunt and in rags whose station had

      burned and who had spent the season in a lean-to, subsisting on penguins’ eggs and seal

      meat. Their first request was for a tot of rum.

      No doubt my great-uncle had many other adventures now lost to history. Still, it was an

      incredible thrill for me to find I had retraced my Uncle Eugene’s steps and to speak with

      someone who had shared his Antarctic adventures. I’m now trying to track down a first

      day stamp issue with his ship on it. I’m sure if he were alive he’d have a good chuckle

      that the British Antarctic Territories postal service would mint a stamp commemorating

      his vessel. Perhaps it was a means of showing appreciation to one of their best customers

      of the 1940s!

      Captain Eugene’s memory began to suffer in his later years,




      For outstanding achievement as the Regimental Medical Officer of the 1st Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment.


    NEXT: What's The Purpose of All This?

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