Robert Randolf Call - A Man of Distinction

(With thanks to Mrs. Edith MacAllister and John Ullock for their kind assistance.)

During the last two hundred years the Miramichi area has produced a great number of outstanding men. Some of these men, such as Lord Beaverbrook, left to seek fame and fortune elsewhere. Others stayed and made their mark in a less spectacular but nonetheless impressive way.

R. R. Call was one of these men. Yet how many people today are even familiar with the name?

Robert Randolf Call was born in Newcastle, the son of Obadiah Call, who arrived here from the United States in 1823. He was the eldest of seven children.

Military Career

When he was just thirty-one years old he organized the Newcastle Field Battery which he commanded continuously for 30 years. In 1885 he rose to the rank of lieutenant-colonel and he retired from the Battery in 1898. During his military career he was ADC to Lieut.-Gov. J. B. Snowball.

Involved In Ship Building

In 1871 R. R. Call and John C. Miller, who ran the Miller Tanning Extract Company in Millerton and after whom Millerton was named, built the sidewheel steamer "New Era." This was the first of a line of passenger steamers to run on the Miramichi River.

The "Andover" was purchased in Fredericton soon after and placed on the up river and down river route by Call and Miller. This was the only steamer that made the trip to Doaktown.

In 1874 R. R. Call was made a member of the Board of Pilotage Commissioners.

First Telephone Line

The first telephone line in the Miramichi was erected by John C. Miller and R. R. Call in 1879 and ran from Miller's home to his factory, to the Millerton Railway Station and then to the office of R. R. Call on Call's Wharf in Newcastle. (Call's Wharf was the one back of the Napke block on Castle Street. It was at this wharf that the passenger and freight boats on the river docked). This line was eight miles long. Col. Call from his office was able to call J. C. Miller and tell him when his tugboat "Laura" went by Call's Wharf and when to expect it in Millerton.

Active In Business

R. R. Call owned the Gas Works in 1881 and he owned a coal business on the Public Wharf as well as a Fishing Lodge at "Call's Pool" on the Northwest Miramichi.

He appears to have been involved in the life of the up river community. The following excerpt from the Union Advocate of August 3, 1881 is of interest.

"R. R. Call, Esq. has received from William Richards, Esq. a very valuable gold watch, chain and seal in recognition of his valuable services rendered by him in stopping the drift of lumber from the South West Boom on May 21 last. The watch is Waltham in a solid 18-carat gold case engraved with Mr. Call's monogram and engraved inside the cover with the two men's names and year."

American Vice-Consul

Col. Call was the American Vice-Consul in Newcastle. The following item from the Union Advocate of August 8, 1883 refers to his consular activities.

"Congressman John J. Adams, Esq. of New York, a native of Douglastown, William Crawford, Dr. Crawford of New York and Michael Adams, ex-Surveyor General of New Brunswick spent last week at Camp Adams, North West Miramichi. They had splendid sport, killing 108 salmon and grilse in five days.

R. R. Call has been presented by Hon. J. J. Adams, congressman for New York, with a diamond breast pin in appreciation of Mr. Call's kindness to himself and his American friends during their visit. Mr. Call, an American Consul, has with his steamers and in other ways enhanced the pleasure of the visitors from the land of the Stars and Stripes."

Family Life

In 1862 R. R. Call married Annie Rankine Nevin and they lived on Hanover Street in a large house with the back entrance onto Prince William Street. Dr. Park and William Keays were later occupants of the house.

In his book "My Early Life," Lord Beaverbrook speaks very highly of R. R. Call and writes at length about him and about one of his sons who was engaged to his sister Rahno. He writes "Joe Call went to the west to gather a fortune. Within a short period of time, perhaps a week, word came to my father from Denver in Colorado that Joe was dead. He was asked to inform the family. I recall vividly my mother rocking to and fro on a chair upholstered in horsehair, crying in grief and misery over the untimely and tragic death of Joe. I was terrified and added my cries to the general confusion."

Active In The Community

Col. R. R. Call was an active Mason, a Past Master of Northumberland Lodge F. & AM.

In June 1867 he was elected chairman of the Northumberland Country Alms House commissioners.

At the time of his death in 1903 he was High Sheriff of Northumberland County, having been appointed in 1897.

He also travelled widely in Canada and in Europe.

A Sudden Death

The death of Col. R. R. Call occurred at the Newcastle Railway Station on December 23, 1903 as he was alighting from his sleigh. He was on his way to attend the funeral of his friend John S. Fleming.

Many Tributes

Tributes poured in from many prominent people including Hedley Parker, who wrote, in part, "With a forcefulness that was always well-poised and discreet. Col. Call early in life became a prominent figure on the Miramichi. bringing to civic and commercial life a genuine enthusiasm and sincerity of purpose that gave him command of nearly every situation he approached. Men early recognized in him that personal magnetism that tends to the solution of problems and turned instinctively to him in emergencies."

Rev. William Aitken, father of Lord Beaverbrook, in his eulogy said, in part, "His death has cast a deep gloom over the whole surrounding community. He was widely known. In his various business relations, he came in contact with people of all sorts. All liked him. All trusted him. All spoke highly of him. His staunch and upright business habits and with all his kind and obliging disposition rendered him a general favourite. We may truly say that in the majority of homes on the Miramichi his name was a household word."


The funeral service was conducted by Rev. William Aitken and Rev. M. Arnott.

The six pallbearers were well-known residents of the Miramichi. They were: John C. Miller, James Robinson, W. A. Park, Ernest Hutchison, J. D. Creaghan and William Irving.

(Northumberland News, September 24, 1980)

Copyright © Lois F. Martin, 1985. All rights reserved.