Name that tool … our latest mystery object!

I’m trying to identify a knife-like tool that once belonged to a Peter Lesley MacFarlane (son of William MacFarlane and Christina White) from Nashwaaksis or Douglas.

The gentleman that asked me about it (this is not a museum item), said that it belonged to his ancestor, Peter.  The 1911 census lists a Peter MacFarlane in Douglas who was 38 years old.  He was married to Maud (c.1879) and they had a son named Donald who was 7 years old when the census was taken.  The 1901 census lists his birthday as February 10th, I confirmed with the owner that this was his Grandfather’s birth date.  Coincidently, Peter was born exactly 100 years before I was!

Three arms pull out and each has a sharp blade. Each blade is a different size.

According to a 1903 birth register and an 1899 marriage registrar found on the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick website, Maud’s maiden name was Hill and she was the daughter of Thomas and Jane Hill.  The 1903 birth register is probably for Donald though his name is not on it … odd.  Later, I found a birth register for Roy Leslie MacFarlane, born in 1914 … a little brother for Donald!

Unfortunately, neither online census record mentions Peter’s occupation but the marriage register lists him as “farmer” and the birth registrar lists Peter as a “labourer”.

One arm as Peter's initials scratched on it.

According to the New Brunswick Cemeteries database on the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick website, “Maudie” died in 1926 and was buried at the St. John the Evangelist Anglican graveyard in York County.  The listing does not mention her husband but it does mention her son, Donald Hazen McFarlane.  Another listing reveals that Donald died in 1939 and was buried at the same graveyard.

The graveyard database also revealed that Peter died in 1935.  That is nine years after Maude.  That would explain a 1927 marriage record for Peter MacFarlane and Ella Ellis, a nurse from Somerville, Massachusetts.  He was listed as a widower and Ella was a widow.  In the cemetery records, “Ellen” and Peter are both buried in the Douglas Rural Cemetery in York County.

According to the owner, Peter made this tool. It's not very big, but it's pretty heavy.

Peter was one of the MacFarlane’s from the McFarlane’s Wagon Works family.  Archives Canada has an extensive collection of textual records for their business (1915-1926, No RCIA 159571).  The fond description gives a good summary of the business, as does Ruth Scott’s book “Nashwaaksis; 1765-1973 A History.”  In short, the company was started by Scottish immigrant and blacksmith Peter MacFarlane (1803-1872).  His grandson, William eventually took over the family business and the factory was located on the “MacFarlane Brook” in Nashwaaksis.  I believe that MacFarlane Stream empties into Nashwaaksis Stream.

The Clan MacFarlane and Associated Clans Genealogy website has a lot of Peter’s (1803-1972) genealogy online.

Do you have any ideas of what this object is?  If so, please leave your ideas in the comments below.  Thanks in advance!

I have not explored the following records, but if you are interested in learning more about the MacFarlane family, the York Sunbury Historical Society has these stored at the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick:

MC300-MS77 York-Sunbury Historical Society Collection Description (page 288)  – Tape Recordings #52 Mr. E. Leslie MacFarlane – Concerning the MacFarlane Wagon Factory in Nashwaaksis, Fred.; Aug. 8

MC300-MS41 York-Sunbury Historical Society Collection Description (page 201) – Business Records #14 Ledger of [McFarlane Wagon Company], Nashwaaksis, York County; 1897-1914

MC300-MS41 York-Sunbury Historical Society Collection Description (page 201) – Business Records #15 Day book of McFarlane Wagon Company, Nashwaaksis, York County; 1923-1929

MC300-MS28 York-Sunbury Historical Society Collection Description (page 189) – Indentures of Sale #8 Indenture of sale of The New Brunswick and Nova Scotia Land Company to Peter McFarlane, Douglas Parish, for land in Douglas; January 19, 1848

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4 responses to “Name that tool … our latest mystery object!

  1. Hi, Ruth,

    If I’m not mistaken, the one with the folding blades is a medical instrument intended for blood letting. Commonly called a fleam. Some very similar ones are illustrated in the Wikipedia article.

  2. hmmm fleam sounds very plausible. could it also be a farriers tool for cleaning hoofs?

  3. okay looked at Bill’s wiki article and yes that is exactly what it looks like, a fleam

  4. If you’re interested in learning more about the McFarlane’s Wagon Factory, the Fredericton North Heritage Journal published an article about the business in their 2012 issue. It includes diagrams of the interior of the factory and some family history.

    The Fredericton North Heritage Associate website:
    http://www.frederictonnorthheritage.com/News.html

    Enjoy!
    Ruth

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