The photographs, letters, scrapbooks, and artifacts that make up the Destrubé family fonds provide an intimate window into the lives of a modern, multicultural family at the turn of the nineteenth to twentieth centuries.
The records tell the story of a close-knit, bi-lingual, family with roots in France and England. They reveal the family's struggles and successes as homesteaders in Canada, the many tragedies they faced, and the comfort they drew from each other.
The bulk of the material represented in this exhibit concerns the children of Ernest Destrubé, in particular, the siblings who immigrated to Canada in the early part of the twentieth century--Maurice, Georges, Guy, Paul, and Sylvie.
Ernest Destrubé, “Pumps” to his family, was born in France in 1850. After being wounded in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71), Ernest began a career in banking. He eventually moved to England to be Assistant Manager of the Comptoir National d’Escompte de Paris, located at 52 Threadneedle Street in London. He lived with his wife Elizabeth (nee Farmery, 1856-1897) and their six children--Maurice, Georges, Dan, Paul, Guy, and Sylvie--on Adelaide Road in London.
Following Elizabeth’s death, Ernest married Alice Bauche in 1900. They had a son, Andre, in 1901. After the War, Ernest moved back to France. He lived at Les Clematites, near Beaune, until his death in 1923.
Paul Maurice (Maurice) was born in London in 1885. He followed his father into banking, but decided soon after to take on the adventure and challenge of homesteading in Canada. He left England in 1906 for the US, where he learned farming from an uncle in Missouri, before traveling to Rife, Alberta to stake his claim. His first wife, Margaret (Maggie, née Lebow), died in childbirth in 1918.
After the war Maurice married Pevensey (Pem) Wheeler, a former hospital headmistress and friend to Sylvie. Maurice eventually sold the homestead and moved to Victoria, British Columbia. After Pem's death, he married Eleanor Mary Ellis (née Sandeman) in 1950 and later built a cabin on Piers Island. Maurice died in 1978.
Marguerite Sylvie [pictured top left] was born in London in 1882. After the death of her mother in 1897, she took on the role of mother to her young brothers. Sylvie also made the journey to Canada to help her brothers in Rife.
She returned to England during the First World War to work for the Red Cross, Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD). Sylvie was engaged to family friend, Arthur Fleming [pictured top right], who was killed in action at the front.
After returning to Canada, Sylvie married Bert Spencer. Together they ran a store in Alberta until, in their retirement, they moved west to Victoria, British Columbia.
Georges, Paul and Guy
Leon Georges [b. 1888], Paul Jean [b. 1893] and Charles Guy [b. 1891] were born in London. Guy left England to join his brother Maurice in Canada in 1907, followed by Georges in 1908 and Paul in 1913.
Georges was a talented sketch artist. He had some training in England, but decided not to pursue art as a career. Soon after War was declared, the boys traveled to Edmonton (first Paul and later Georges and Guy) to sign on with the Alberta dragoons, however, the first battalion had already left for the east.
Since they were too impatient to wait for another battalion to be formed, Pumps sent the brothers money to cover the fare to England, where they signed up with the Royal Fusiliers.
Training and Deployment
After close to a year of training in England, Paul, Guy and Georges left for France, all three serving in the same company of the 22nd Royal Fusiliers.
In spring of 1916, Georges was wounded at Souchez. He was shot through the lung and lay wounded on the battlefield for hours until it was deemed safe enough for his brothers to get him. Paul and Guy then carried Georges several hours to the nearest medical care.
Georges was invalided to England and convalesced at Ebbwvale, Wales where he created this sketch of his experience.
Unis dans la Mort comme ils l’etaient dans la vie
Although he made it back to France in January 1917, Georges' return to the front was delayed by quarantine for Mumps. Due to this twist of fate, Georges missed joining his brothers in the Battle at Miraumont, where Paul and Guy were among the several-hundred soldiers killed on February 17, 1917.
In the ensuing months, Georges applied for and was granted a transfer to the Royal Flying Corps. He returned to England for training and spent the rest of the War ferrying planes to and from France.
It was a great, great relief to know that our dear boys were buried together and a cross erected, - this will make it possible to find their dear grave when the war is over and it will be a great consolation to us all.
After the War, Georges married Suzanne Fournier (nickname Mémé). They tried living for a few years in Rife, Alberta but Georges found that the lingering effects of his war wounds made him unable to do the difficult physical labor required on the farm.
He sold his share of the homestead and moved with Suzanne to Victoria, British Columbia. They had two children, Pierre and Francette.
Only a small fraction of the Destrubé family records have been digitized for this exhibit. To see the rest or for more information, contact UVic Special Collections. firstname.lastname@example.org or 250-721-8257
Enter here to view the Destrubé digital collection.