RACHEL PINEO-CORKUM – AN UNSUNG HISTORIAN (July 22/08)

“Over 20 big vessels were built here,” Rachel Pineo-Corkum wrote circa 1950 in her history of Scots Bay. The Bay isn’t as well known for shipbuilding as Canning and Kingsport, so sailing ship buffs may want to investigate this interesting revelation. I’m guessing on the year she wrote this little known history, the guess based on a line reading, “nearly 200 years ago, about 1750, etc.”

Rachel Pineo-Corkum was a school teacher in Scots Bay and I believe the history was produced as a series of lessons for her students. I read the history recently – it’s in the Scots Bay file at the Kings County Museum – and it’s written in a style children could understand and follow. Ms. Pineo-Corkum may have gleaned some of her information for the paper from an earlier work by Abram Jess (The History of Scotts Bay (sic) dated 1941). However, as a resident of Scots Bay with close blood ties to many long time residents, she undoubtedly had access to some of the earlier history and folklore of the village; she undoubtedly wrote some of the history, in other words, by interviewing village people.

While Ms. Pineo-Corkum’s history is one of the earliest written on Scots Bay, she is unsung as a historian. Centreville historian Mack Frail notes that her history has “often been put to use,” but she receives little credit for it. Frail is Pineo-Corkum’s nephew and he’s put together a mini profile of her life, which is included in an article he recently wrote on Scots Bay.

Mack Frail says he doesn’t have all the details on his Aunt’s life but family folklore has it that her parents died when she was a child and she was left in an orphanage in the States. “A relative located her and brought her back to Scots Bay,” Frail writes, where she lived with his grandmother. “Aunt Rachel was a school teacher who married Hardy Corkum in 1918. As well as writing history, she wrote short stories that she sold to magazines. She was an accomplished artist, and was written about in magazines. I never heard that she sold her paintings, only that she gave them to friends and relatives, and many can still be found in local homes.”

In her Scots Bay history, Rachel Pineo-Corkum recounts some of the folklore about hunting and fishing from the early days of the village. She names the shipbuilders of Scots Bay, the Steeles, Tuppers, Lockharts, Ells, Newcombes and Thorpes, who still have descendants living here, and writes about the origin of the village’s name. While modest in length, her history is invaluable as a record of a Kings County outport. To repeat what Mac Frail said about the history, it is often quoted but Pineo-Corkum is never acknowledged as the author.

Let’s hope this will be rectified one day. Hopefully, Mack Frail will eventually be able to fill out the full story of this Scots Bay writer, and she will be recognized for the historian she was.

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