Frank MacArthur

The only published history of Cornwall was written by Frank MacArthur in 1964.  His book is entitled The Old Cornwall and the New 1799-1964.  As you will see, Frank published other pieces of work, many through newspapers.  Some of his articles have been included in this history, they can be found in the Cornwall School section.  Frank was born in 1896 and died in 1981.


Frank MacArthur Reveals Philosophy

City man thrives on various careers
By Ruth Beairsto

At 82 years of age Frank MacArthur of Charlottetown has been just about everywhere and done just about everything.
He left his home in Cornwall at age 15 and spent the next number of years working his way across Canada and the United States
Reflecting on his variety of experiences Mr. MacArthur remembers being a hotel manager in Florida, a private chauffeur for a retired tycoon in Massachusetts, a restaurant inspector for Burns Detective Agency and store keeper in a warehouse for a gold mining company in Hyder, Alaska.
During the 1920’s he contracted asthma, which “plagued me all my life,” and caused him to move from place to place seeking the right kind of climate to get rid of his condition.  But he nerer found that ideal climate, he says.
In 1939 Mr. MacArthur began his writing career, which has gained him recognition by a variety of Canadian and American publications.  He received an award in 1973 from the P.E.I. Centennial Committee for his short story Grandaddad’s Futile Trip, first published in 1966.
The story is an account of a day when the 10-year-old MacArthur and his grandfather set out to buy a horse.  Mr. MacArthur says he never did see the horse-but it was the first time he ever saw his grandfather drunk and dancing to an Irish jig.
He says all his short stories are taken from true life experiences.  Mr. MacArthur also wrote a novel about the sea, called The Black Ace.  As well, he has had two books of poetry published.  Legends of P.E.I., first published in 1966, is going into its 9th edition with 2,000 copies sold.  His other book is Rhymes of Prince Edward Island.
Songs he has written include Where The North River Flows and When The Mavis Sings.  The latter was first used in the Maritimes on All Around the Circle.
Mr. MacArthur did stints with several American and Canadian newspapers, including seven years with the Guardian-Evening Patriot as a columnist.
He says he’s had both criticism and praise from politicians, clergymen and educators for his views on politics and religion.
In 1975 he received a letter of recognition from Queen Elizabeth II for a story he wrote for the London Times about Islanders’ loyalty toward the Queen.
Mr. MacArthur quit school when he was 14 and left for western Canada on the Harvest Excursion when he was 15 after he had been rejected when he tried to join the army.
“I signed up and they tossed me out,” he recalls.
In 1919 he married Jeannette Cameron and moved to North River where he served as post master and shipping agent for DeBlois Brothers.  In less than a year his wife died.  He later remarried Etta Cann.
In 1921 Mr. MacArthur left for New Westminister, B.C., where he worked as a bar tender in a hotel.  From there he went to Hyder, Alaska, where he spent two years working for the Premier Gold Mining Company.
In 1922, Mr. MacArthur attended the annual Klondike gold rush commemoration in Vancouver.  There he had the opportunity to meet poet Robert Service, who recited one of his famous works, The Cremation of Sam McGee.  He also met Klondike Kate, who was a well-known dancer and singer at the time.
From Alaska he went to Seattle, and next to Boston where he got a job as private chauffeur to 82-year-old Richard Hapgood, a retired railway tycoon, who lived in Belmont, Mass.
After Mr. Hapgood died, Mr. MacArthur was hired as steward of a vessel taking freight between Boston and the West Indies.  It was during this time in his early 20’s that he contracted asthma.
He spent some time in hospital in Massachussetts and after his release spent some time at his uncle’s dairy farm where he had a close brush with death when he fell through and elevator shaft and hit the cement floor 27 feet below.
It was while he was in hospital recuperating from the fall that he decided to start writing.
Even though his formal education ended when he was 14, Mr. MacArthur had no trouble with his writing skills.  “I only had a miscellaneous education,” he says “I read everything I could lay my hands on.”
And he didn’t read “dime novels” he says.  He read books by such authors as Edgar Allan Poe and Jack London.  From those books he got his inspiration and developed a style, he says.
He first started writing human interest stories, which paid off immediately.  Soon he was writing longer stories, short stories and verses.
Mr. MacArthur was written for publications such as The Atlantic Advocate, The Hilltop, Poetry World, The Atlantic Review, Daily Meditations, Timeless Treasures and others.
He says he did a lot of writing under the pen name of Uncle Joe.
Frank MacArthur was born in Charlottetown Dec 6, 1896 while his mother, Bessie, was visiting the Island.  She and her husband Charles were American citizens, living in Colorado at the time although they later came back to the Island to set up a farm in Cornwall.
Mr. MacArthur had three brothers, but “I’m the only Canadian in the family-real Canadian.  The rest are Americans,” he says.
Speaking as a person who hardly ever had trouble finding a job Mr. MacArthur says he thinks there could be less unemployment if people were less choosey about jobs.
“I think anyone who is willing to go out and not afraid to soil their hands in honest toil can get a job,” he says.

July 4, 1979


Frank MacArthur is the man on the left, this photo is courtesy of Elaine Jewell, date unknown

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