Seven years ago, Maurice Fowler was searching his family tree. Sitting at his computer in his home in Australia, he typed his great-great grandfather’s name into the search bar. What happened next would spark a trek halfway around the globe to several tiny communities on Cape Breton Island.
St. Clair had written about the Campbell’s widowed mother; about her voyage with her two youngest sons Colin Nichol and Charles James across the ocean from Duntulum, Scotland to Cape Breton in the 1830’s. St. Clair wrote about the Campbell’s hopes for a better life and about how those hopes were dashed when their mother dies in Cape Breton.
With more searches, Fowler would soon learn more about his Campbell relatives. Charles James was an early settler in Baddeck where he became a wealthy store owner, ship-builder and politician. He was a bit of rogue who wanted to ensure he was forever remembered by his constituents. He secured federal funding to see a post office built and had a likeness of his face carved from stone and placed in the keystone above the door. It remains there today, overlooking the main street of Baddeck and property that he once called home. Colin Nichol followed his brother to Baddeck and lived here briefly before leaving for New Zealand and beginning Fowlers branch of the Campbell family tree.
During the research, a plan was hatched. Fowler and his wife decided to travel halfway around the globe and explore the sites of his ancestors. He emailed Jim St. Clair and soon, Cape Breton history was winging around the globe. A bond was formed.
Last summer, Fowler and his wife Anne visited Cape Breton sites once inhabited by the Campbell’s. The gravesite of the widowed mother, the building Charles saw constructed and the land that once housed his home.
“This (connection) would not have happened without the Highland Village,” Fowler told a gathering in Baddeck at a Historical Society meeting in August 2013. The meeting took place at MacLeod House, a senior’s home on the grounds of Campbell’s former home, near Duntulum Street (so named by Charles Campbell) in Baddeck.
Fowler told the gathered crowd that the amount of interest in his great uncle Charlie was unexpected. His wife Anne said it was tremendously moving “to know half way around the world and generations away, that these people are still remembered.”
Written for Celtic Heart by Jocelyn Bethune