Sunday, 15 July 2018

Hulda May (Culbert) Carscallen - The Early Years

Born 23 February 1881 in a log house near Lucan, Ontario, Hulda May Culbert was the first child of Richard Culbert and Jane Fairhall.

Young Hulda May Culbert. Photo courtesy of her granddaughter, Betty (Carscallen) Marmura.

Hulda May was surrounded by adults from the time she was born. Her grandmother, Mary (Ward) Culbert and her mother, Jane (Fairhall) Culbert were great influences on her; developing her curiosity and stimulating her eagerness to learn.

Hulda May began classes at S.S. No. 2 Biddulph (Atkinson's School)  before she was 5 years old, and graduated at age 11.

Her mother was determined that Hulda May go to high school so she saved her egg money to buy her daughter a bicycle to ride to school. Hulda May rode her bicycle 7-8 miles to and from school in Lucan each day. In inclement weather, she stayed with a family near the school. She graduated from Lucan High School at age 16.

Lucan High School. Postcard courtesy of Wendy (Gowland) Boole from the collection of Hulda May (Culbert) Carscallen.
Hulda May was popular with the opposite sex.
Her numerous suitors had become a concern of the whole Culbert family. Her sisters (Ethel, Lela, and Mary) decided that they would "help" Hulda -- by eliminating one of her beaus. One man usually arrived at Poplar Farm on a bicycle; so one evening when he was in the house with Hulda, the sisters sneaked out, and struck dozens of large pins in the seat of the suitor's bicycle! Not surprisingly, this strategy worked. That young man never returned. But there were still several other suitors. [1]
Hulda May Culbert. Photo courtesy of her granddaughter, Wendy (Gowland) Boole.

At age 16, Hulda May began teaching at S.S. No. 1 Biddulph, also known as The Coursey School. It was the first school in Biddulph Township, built in 1840, the year the Culberts arrived in Canada from Ireland. The Coursey School was just down the road from the Culbert homestead on the Coursey Line. Hulda May taught here until 1900, receiving only $275 a year.

She started attending Model School in Stratford, Ontario; a large building next to the Stratford Festival Playhouse. Model schools provided short term teaching training and if the students were successful, it recommended they attend Normal School. Normal School was an historical term for teacher's college.

In 1901, she attended London Normal School, a teacher's college that opened the previous year.
Normal School, 165 Elmwood Avenue East, London, Ontario. Photo by Adam Bishop.

While attending Normal School, Hulda May lived in a rooming house. She used a "buggy service" to get home to Poplar Farm on weekends. Occasionally, she would return with her father Richard when he went to London's Covent Garden Public Market, a journey of more than 20 miles from the Culbert homestead.

Hulda May later taught at S.S. No. 4 Wilmot, also known as Green's School in the rural township of Wilmot in Waterloo County. She received a glowing report for her work at Green's School from Thomas Pearce, Inspector for Waterloo:
"Miss H.M. Culbert has taught in S.S. No. 4 Wilmot, for nearly two years and given excellent satisfaction. I regard her as a very capable teacher -- earnest, energetic and very thorough in her methods of teaching. Her order and discipline are good and the progress of her classes highly satisfactory. In short she is one of our most successful lady teachers."[2]
In the summer of 1903, Hulda May and her brother Arthur Culbert journeyed to Manitoba to visit their grandfather, Frederick Fairhall

Hulda May Culbert with her grandfather, Frederick John Fairhall in 1903. Photo courtesy of Wendy (Gowland) Boole from the collection of Hulda May (Culbert) Carscallen.
Until this time, Hulda May and her brother had only known their grandfather through his letters to them, since he had moved to Manitoba from Biddulph Township the year she was born. Frederick Fairhall began writing letters to Hulda May as soon as she was old enough to read. Some of these she prized so dearly that she kept them for the rest of her life. A man keenly interested in education and religion, Frederick had considerable influence on Hulda May through his letters.

In January 1904, Hulda May began teaching in Dresden, Ontario; about 70 miles (112 km) southwest of Lucan. Her acceptance of this post determined the direction of the rest of her life.

Robert Park, the Public School Inspector for West Kent and Chatham City declared:
"Miss Culbert is a young lady of very pleasant address and most winning manner. She is possessed of far more than ordinary ability, has mastered all modern methods of teaching, and is strictly up to date. It is not too much to say that I consider her one of the cleverest and most successful teachers on my large staff. I cordially and fearlessly recommend Miss Culbert as a teacher whose work will give the highest satisfaction. She will give strength to the whole staff of any graded school where she may be employed."[3]
It wasn't all work and no play for Hulda May. Before the days of media and organized cultural or sports events, young people enjoyed many innocent diversions. 

Hulda May's diaries talk about attending picnics and numerous social events such as Flinch parties. Flinch was a card game, invented in 1901. By 1903, nearly it had become a sensation, selling nearly one million games.
Flinch card game. Photo by Cori Kindred.
Thimble parties were another popular pastime for young ladies.

Hulda May also mentions peanut parties in her diaries.
Source: Exeter Times, 1 October 1903.
Hulda May became a very good tennis player and President of the Tennis Club.

She joined the Epworth League, a Methodist young adult association. Her curiosity about foreign missions (a sign of things to come) was piqued when in 1904, she attended union church meetings in the interests of the British and Foreign Bible Society. 

The first mention of her future husband, the Reverend Charles Rupert Carscallen appears in her journal on 11 July 1904:
"School closed on Monday, June 27th, and I came home on Wednesday. On the preceding Friday I met Rev. Chas. Carscallen at Mr. Aitken's. On Monday he gave us a very interesting address at League on the work in the west. On Tuesday afternoon I had the pleasure of a drive with him and on Wednesday morning he came as far as W -- [perhaps Wallaceburg, where his brother Andrew lived] on the same train . . . On Monday afternoon had a call from Mr. Carscallen on his way home from Toronto. He left on Tuesday."[4]
Hulda May Culbert's future husband, Reverend Charles Rupert Carscallen. Photo courtesy of their granddaughter, Wendy (Gowland) Boole from the collection of Hulda May (Culbert) Carscallen.
It appears that the romance between Hulda May Culbert and Charles Carscallen began to blossom between June 15th and July 5th of 1904. It's said to have "developed with the decorum usual among well-brought-up young people at the time."[5]

Charles Rupert Carscallen was born in Dresden, Ontario on 18 February 1878. He was the son of Isaac Newton Carscallen, a hardware merchant and Mayor of Dresden, and his wife, Jane (Wilde) Carscallen. The Carscallens were a United Empire Loyalist family who settled on Crown land in 1784.

Charles Carscallen (front and centre) with his parents and siblings in Dresden, Ontario, c1886. Photo credit: Eula C. Lapp.
After graduating in Theology from Victoria College in 1902, Charles was ordained as a minister of the Methodist Church. 

Shortly after meeting Hulda May in 1904, he was called back to serve the Methodists in western Canada. He wrote letters to Hulda May and sent books to her. He described to her his growing interest in foreign mission fields, especially China.

By October, 1905, Charles was back in Ontario, and Hulda May was back to "the hustle and bustle of Lucan," as Charles quipped. Things were moving fast. Charles was asked to do missionary work in China so he seized the opportunity to propose to Hulda May. She had to make her decision quickly as Charles was leaving for China before the end of the year. 

Hulda May was in a state of emotional turmoil, not wanting to upset her mother who considered China the end of the earth. At this same time, Hulda May's sister, Ethel Culbert was attending Westervelt Business College in London, Ontario and being courted by her future husband, Norman Scott Brien Gras. 
Hulda May's sister, Ethel Culbert. Photo courtesy of Ethel's granddaughter, Jane (Gras) Heigis.

Hulda and Ethel were close throughout their lives but this particular incident appears to have taxed Ethel's patience. Ethel says:
I was about half way through my course at the Business College when I was obliged to leave and go home to Lucan for an indefinite time to do sewing for my sister, Hulda who had suddenly decided to get married to Charles Carscallen who was pledged to do missionary work in China. This had been a very difficult decision for her to make, because our mother was completely upset about it. She hated the very thought of Hulda going to China, so far away, and she did not like the idea of her marrying a clergyman. Hulda was in such a dilemma that she came to me in London and wept over it all. She begged me to make her wedding clothes, because she did not have enough money to pay for having them made, so I agreed to do this for her. I got nothing whatever for it, had to give up my studies for a time, and had to leave London where I was having such a good time with Norman. [6]

In an effort to smooth things over with Hulda's parents, Charles Carscallen went to Lucan to speak with them. In a letter to Hulda May, he wrote:
By this time, I hope your mother has consented to your going. Your father, in driving me to the station, told me that he thought the matter would be arranged and that I could count on you coming down this week. He had concluded that he ought not to stand in your way and he thought that your Mother would look at it differently too, and perhaps consent. So my dear girl, I hope that by this time the atmosphere has cleared at your home. Hoping to see you Tuesday noon, I am 
           Yours with love,
Hulda's mother finally relented and agreed that if marrying Charles and going to China was what her daughter really wanted, she would not stand in her way.

The wedding was held at Poplar Farm, the Culbert homestead on the Coursey Line near Lucan, Ontario. The ceremony took place on 23 November 1905 with all of Hulda May's family in attendance.
Hulda May Culbert & Reverend Charles Rupert Carscallen. Photo courtesy of their granddaughter, Wendy (Gowland) Boole from the collection of Hulda May (Culbert) Carscallen.
Soon, the newlyweds would travel far, far away. 

Come back soon (click here) to the Culbert Family History blog to see where life takes the Carscallens. 

[1] Eula C. Lapp, China Was My University. Agincourt, Ont.: Generation Press, 1980, 18. 
[2] Ibid., 12.
[3] Ibid., 15. 
[4] Ibid., 16. 
[5] Ibid., 16. 
[6] Ethel Gertrude (Culbert) Gras, Stories From Life. 60. 
[7] Eula C. Lapp, China Was My University. Agincourt, Ont.: Generation Press, 1980, 24.

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