Beaubears Island, Miramichi, New Brunswick, CANADA
Beaubears Island lies in the middle of the Miramichi River a few miles from Chatham, New Brunswick. It was owned between 1837 and 1850 by Joseph Russell, a master shipbuilder and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After purchasing the island in 1838, the island’s shipyards were expanded to allow the construction of five ships simultaneously.1 Russell and his family later joined the Church in 1841.
Russell was likely the main contributor in paying off much of the debt incurred by the Saints heading West from Winter Quarters and he presided over a small branch of the Church on Beaubears Island. He had a tomb built to inter seven of his children which still remains on the island today. His children buried there are James, Thomas, Ann, Jannett, Elizabeth, Agnes, and an unnamed girl. An inscription on the tomb originally read “Joseph Russell LDS,” signifying his affiliation with the Latter-day Saints. Additionally, one of his ships, Zion’s Hope, was offered to the British Mission to help bring Saints emigrating from England to the Salt Lake Valley.
Russell became acquainted with Elder Wilford Woodruff when Woodruff served as President of the Eastern States mission between 1848 and 1850. Elder Woodruff made multiple visits to Brother Russell at Beaubears Island and in Utah. Russell sold the island in 1850 and emigrated to Utah in 1853. Elder Woodruff made mentioned of Russell’s passing and his friendship with him in his journal on March 10, 1853.2
A panel telling of Joseph Russell’s dedication and contributions was unveiled on October 15, 2005, a joint project supported by Parks Canada, Friends of Beaubears Island, the local LDS New Brunswick stake, and the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation.
1 Grant Nielson, Joseph Russell, Miramichi Shipbuilder and Mormon Financier, (Pennsylvania: Grant Nelson, 2004).
2 Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff, His Life and Labors, comp. Matthias F. Cowley (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1916), 362.
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Grant Nielson, Joseph Russell, Miramichi Shipbuilder and Mormon Financier, 2004.