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Dictionary of Miramichi Biography

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CALL, ROBERT RANDOLF, businessman, consular agent, militia officer, sportsman, and high sheriff, 1897-1903; b. Newcastle, 12 Sep 1837, s/o Obadiah Call and Margaret Burke; m. 1862, Annie Rankin Niven, sister of John Niven; d. Newcastle, 23 Dec 1903.

Robert R. Call's father was a native of Dresden, Me, who came to Newcastle in 1823 to work as a millwright, and his mother was the daughter of a house carpenter in Newcastle who hailed from Co. Limerick, Ireland. The eldest of seven children, Call studied at the Newcastle Grammar School under John H. Sivewright, took an early interest in business, and married at age twenty-four. People "recognized in him," stated Hedley Parker, "that personal magnetism that tends to the solution of problems," and before he was thirty he had become one of the most influential men on the Miramichi.

In 1861 Call was the manager of the Newcastle Gas Works, in association with Matthew Russell & Bros. In 1865, in partnership with George A. Willard, he established a commission sales business, ship brokerage, and general merchandising firm on the Commercial Wharf at Newcastle. Willard withdrew from the arrangement in 1866, by which time Call was conducting much of the business of the Newcastle waterfront. In 1867 Call was appointed United States consular agent at Newcastle. In 1868 he was named chairman of the County Almshouse Commission, which acquired land and erected an almshouse, or poorhouse, for the most impoverished residents of the county. In the same year, he was one of two businessmen selected to persuade one of the major banks to open a branch on the Miramichi.

In 1872 Call joined with John C. Miller in introducing a steam ferry service between Newcastle and Chatham. The service was begun with a sidewheel steamer named the New Era, of which Call's brother Charles was captain. Two years later, he and Miller bought a larger sidewheeler, the Andover, from a Fredericton firm and placed her in service on the Northwest and Southwest branches. As a steamboat owner, he was a member of the committee of stewards formed in 1881 to arrange for the holding of regattas on the river.

In the 1870s, Call was the principal owner of the Newcastle Gas Works, and he acquired business interests in coal and construction as well. As soon as the Intercolonial Railway was operational he joined in the effort to have a railroad built between that line and Fredericton. In 1883 he was president of the Northern and Western Railway Co., in the name of which Alexander Gibson and Jabez B. Snowball built the line between Chatham Junction and South Devon, starting in 1884.

Call was appointed a lieutenant in the 2nd Battalion of militia in 1865, and when it was decided in 1868 to form a volunteer artillery unit in Newcastle, he was chosen as its captain. In 1873 he was promoted to major. The Field Battery became a long-term interest of his, and he enjoyed an outstanding reputation in military circles. The highlight of his career came in the wake of the Caraquet riots of 1875, when a detachment under his command proceeded on foot to Bathurst. Forty-six men, with horses, sleds, two nine-pounder guns, ammunition, and other essentials left Newcastle on the afternoon of 28 January 1875 and, in spite of deep snow and extreme cold, arrived in Bathurst twenty-eight hours later. They surrounded the jail, where twenty-six rioters were being held, and remained on guard for about six weeks against the possibility of the inmates' sympathizers storming the building. Call was promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1885 and continued in command of the Field Battery until 1896. He was then transferred to the Canadian Artillery Reserve. He was later an aide-de-camp to Lieut. Gov. Jabez B. Snowball. In 1902 he was awarded an Imperial long service medal.

Call was an enthusiastic outdoorsman and salmon fisherman who, as elsewhere noted, was on a successful fishing trip with Michael Adams in 1879. His name is in the guest book kept by Adams in the 1880s, and he later built his own fishing camp at Call's Pool, not far from Camp Adams. The summer before his death, he and William A. Park spent two days fishing at Stony Brook on the Northwest and brought out five salmon and several trout. In July, Hedley Parker was his guest at Call's Pool.

Call was a member of the Masonic fraternity and was worshipful master of Northumberland Lodge in 1866/67. For a great many years he was secretary-treasurer of the board of trustees of St James Presbyterian Church. In the 1890s he began to retire gradually from public life, but he accepted appointment in 1897 as high sheriff of the county. His death came suddenly six years later while he was attending the funeral of a friend. He and his wife, Annie R. Niven, raised four children, two of whom died prematurely.


[b/d] church records [m] Gleaner 24 May 1862 / Advance 8 May 1879, 11 Aug 1881, 30 Aug 1888, 19 Jun 1902, 17 Jul 1902, 26 May 1904; Advocate 23 Jan 1868, 10 Jun 1874, 3 Feb 1875, 8 Mar 1876, 15 Nov 1876, 5 Aug 1896, 22 Sep 1896, 21 Apr 1897, 21 May 1902, 6 Jan 1904, 31 Mar 1937; Commercial 29 Dec 1903; Curtis; Cyclo. Can. Biog. 1888; Fraser (C); Gleaner 22 Apr 1865, 15 Dec 1866, 29 Jun 1867; Hoddinott; Manny Collection (F182); Stanley; World 3 May 1882, 10 May 1882, 30 May 1883, 4 Aug 1883; 26 Dec 1903