The Boyle Family Bible
Organization: Heritage Gaspé/Heritage Gaspésie
Address: 580 Montée Wakeham, Gaspé, QC G4X 2A1
Region: Gaspé - Magdalen Islands
Contact: Jim Caputo, gaspecoast(a)sympatico.ca
Description: Leather-bound Bible first owned by Charlotte McKinnon Boyle of the Gaspé and passed down through successive generations of the Boyle family.
Year made: circa 1855
Made by: Unknown
Materials/Medium: Leather, paper
Colours: Black, parchment
Size: 25 cm x 17 cm x 7.6 cm
Photos: Jim Caputo and Karen Molson
The Boyle Family Bible
Jacqueline Hyman and Jim Caputo
We can only imagine her delight when Charlotte McKinnon Boyle (1792-1876) was given a small leather-bound Bible by “her affectionate daughter, Ellen Arnold, Gaspé Basin, July 2nd 1855.”
Cherished by Charlotte, this Bible has been in the Boyle family of Gaspé for over 150 years. Charlotte McKinnon Boyle was the daughter of Neil McKinnon of New Carlisle, a soldier from the Queens 44th Regiment of Foot. McKinnon and his wife, both born in Scotland, settled in New Carlisle in 1785 and acquired land there as well as in Port Daniel on the Gaspé Coast. Charlotte McKinnon's husband James was the son of James Boyle, the first Boyle to settle in Gaspé in the late 1700s. James Boyle and his family applied for, and were granted, their land holdings in Gaspé from the Crown in the early to mid 1800s. They may have been United Empire Loyalists but there is no definitive proof of this.
When Ellen Boyle Arnold (1822-1898) gave this Bible to her mother, she was married to the Reverend William Arnold. His first wife, Maria O’Hara, was the granddaughter of Felix O’Hara and his wife Martha, early pioneers of the Gaspé. The O’Hara family were prominent citizens, and many held important government positions. When he married Ellen Boyle, William Arnold had been left with four daughters whom Ellen continued to raise after his early death. He was 20 years older than Ellen and in the eyes of his family, above her socially. In spite of their concerns, she proved to be a supportive wife and good mother to his children. Reverend Arnold was one of the early Anglican clergymen in Gaspé and travelled great distances under difficult conditions and inclement weather to minister to his parishioners. It was after a particularly arduous trek that he became ill and died. He ministered to Native people in his district as well as to white settlers. Both he and Ellen were known to be very kind to the aboriginal peoples. During his last and fatal illness, his Native friends and followers camped by his property called Spring Grove as a sign of respect.
Spring Grove was located on Arnold’s Bluff, which is near what is now the Gaspé Museum. Built of stone, it was grander than other homes of the era. Its foundation is now part of a home for the elderly in Gaspé proper. Some time after William died, when the upkeep of such a home proved to be beyond the resources of Ellen to maintain, she sold the land and property to her brother-in-law John Short of Gaspé (see author's note). Ellen then left Gaspé to live in Quebec City for a time, and is reported to have returned to her parents’ home situated in Wakeham, Quebec, at a later date.
Charlotte McKinnon Boyle and James Boyle also had a son named Felix (1823-1908). Felix Boyle became the first permanent Anglican minister on the Magdalen Islands. He married one of his sister's step daughters named Maria Arnold. Tragedy struck Felix in the Magdalen Islands when Maria and their young daughter, named Magdalen, died. Distraught, he left his post and moved to Quebec. Eventually he remarried, had more children, and served again as an Anglican priest. When he passed away, he was one of the oldest members of the clergy in the Diocese of Quebec. His remains rest in the cemetery in Frampton, Quebec.
As years passed, the Bible was passed along to other family members. On December 29, 1877, it was given to another son of Charlotte McKinnon Boyle named John Arthur Boyle. The Bible then was passed to Ernest Boyle and then to James (Jim) Caputo on August 8, 1988. Ellen Arnold is Mr. Caputo’s Great grand-aunt. It was the custom in the 19th century to press treasured mementos between the pages of the family Bible. The Boyle Bible still preserves a lock of hair from an unknown family member. Remarkably, the hair could be over 150 years old.
The Boyle family is representative of the many English-speaking people who settled the Gaspé coast. Like the Boyles, the English-speaking community was comprised of militiamen, farmers, homemakers, clergymen, whalers and master mariners, fishermen, masons, carpenters, and others who did whatever else it took to survive in the harsh Gaspé climate.
This story of one family who served their God and church is an illustration of the intense spiritual life of Quebec’s early settlers who sacrificed in order to have structures built to worship God and provide the necessary funds for the salaries of its ministers. Today in Gaspé one can see the physical remnants of the early church buildings of these hardy pioneers and reflect on their dedication and commitment to spreading the Word of God in Quebec's far-flung communities like the Gaspé. All of the hands - calloused or soft - that have held this Bible, and passed it down through five generations of the Boyle family, are the hands of people who settled the Gaspé and created its rich history.
Oral history interview and correspondence with James Caputo by Jacqueline Hyman, December 2012.
Edith B. Mills, Remembrance, 1932.
Note: Interesting family connections – as one studies the histories of the early English families of Gaspé, often one finds interesting, if not, confusing circumstances and relationships. The Boyle/Short family connection is one such example. John Short was the son of the Reverend Robert Short, one-time Anglican parish priest of Percé. Robert Short the elder married Jane Hall Boyle, Ellen Boyle’s sister. To make the genealogy a little more interesting: Mary Charlotte Boyle, another sister of Ellen’s, married John Short, Robert Short’s son.
To Learn More
Kenneth Annett, The Annett Family of Gaspé, 1980.
John Mason Clarke, Sketches of Gaspé, 1908.
John Mason Clarke, The Heart of Gaspé: Sketches in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, 1913.
Margret Grant MacWhirter, Treasure Trove in Gaspé and the Bai des Chaleurs, 1913.
Charles-Eugéne Roy & Lucien Brault, Historical Gaspé, 1934.
Mario Mimeault, Gaspésie, 2005.
Jacqueline Hyman is a writer and lives in the Eastern Townships. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Eaton Corner Museum in Cookshire-Eaton, Quebec. Jim Caputo is a retired school teacher and is president of Heritage Gaspé/Heritage Gaspésie.