I recently came across the cabinet card of Grace Milwood Corbould (1886-1969) at Vancouver’s History Store. A week later, upon returning to the shop, I found the smaller card of her elder sister, (Marion) Claire Corbould (1884-1966).¹
These girls were two daughters of legendary New Westminster figure Gordon Edward Corbould (1847-1926) and his wife, Arabella Almond Down (ca1853-94), whom Gordon married in 1877. Sadly, Arabella died in 1894 at the relatively young age of 41. GEC married widow Charlotte M. E. Wright in 1901.
The G. E. Corboulds were a large family: Gordon Bruce, Lillie May (who predeceased her father in 1922)², Nella Alma, Grace Milwood, Marion Claire, Monica Vera, and Charles Edward B. The girls outnumbered the guys in the brood by a ratio of about 2:1. All the kids were by GEC’s first wife, Arabella.
A quick bio of Dad Corbould (GEC) seems in order. He was born in Ontario and first practiced law there in 1872. He was admitted to the B.C. bar in 1882. Two years later, he entered into partnership with Angus John McColl, who later was made chief justice of B.C. One-time B.C. Premier, Sir Richard McBride, served his articles with GEC. Plainly, Gordon Edward had a talent for making connections. In addition to that (or because of it, more likely), he went on to have a political career at the federal level, successfully contesting a New Westminster by-election in 1890; he was returned to the House of Commons in the 1891 general election, and remained a Conservative MP until 1896.Grace M. Corbould married a gent with the improbable name of Vyvyan (sometimes spelled Vivian) Chard Brimacombe (1881-1949) in 1907. (I’m assuming that the cabinet card of Grace was made prior to that, since she signed it with her maiden name). VCB was a banker and was the manager of a branch of the Bank of Montreal upon his retirement. He served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the Great War and, when he was demobilized in 1919, had the rank of Lieutenant. The Brimacombes had three boys: Robert Douglas, Edward Chard Corbould, and Rafe Sherme.
Claire marrried Frederic (later, he changed the spelling to the more conventional “Frederick”) William Anderson (1883-1955) in New Westminster in 1910. Anderson was a civil engineer. Like his brother-in-law, Vyvyan (and most other young men), he served in the Great War. What remains unclear to me is when exactly he was demobilized. According to his wartime personnel records, it was in 1918. But it seems also that he was elected to the provincial legislature for the riding of Kamloops during the 1916 general election.² Whatever the explanation for this apparent discrepancy [see Ken’s comment below], he was re-elected in 1920 and continued as a Liberal MLA (and as Government Whip) until 1924. After his political career was over, he took on federal government employment for the Harbour Commission, serving as Resident Engineer in ca1927-30 on a North Vancouver “subway” project which resulted in the Pacific Great Eastern railway line (now the CNR) being submerged beneath the traffic of Lonsdale and St. George’s avenues. Where exactly the Andersons went after leaving North Vancouver in the early 1930s isn’t clear to me, but there are a couple of clues that they settled in the Ladner district (Frederick died in Boundary Bay in 1955; Claire died in Ladner a decade later).
While in North Vancouver, the Andersons lived in what appear to have been pretty tony digs: 1617 Grand Boulevard (what today still looks very nice – the Gill Residence). They had two kids: a girl, Frances Marion, and a boy, William Patrick.
I’d hoped in this post to be able to find enough information to give a more complete treatment of the lives of Grace and Claire Corbould. One of the chronic frustrations associated with writing this blog is the woefully scant number of women whose lives have been fully explored. The fact remains that if you were a Canadian woman born in the 19th or early-to-mid 20th centuries, and didn’t have a remarkable parentage and/or do pretty remarkable deeds (one exception which comes to mind is E. Pauline Johnson), there isn’t much of a publicly-available historical record remaining for researchers to explore and share.
This proved to be true of Grace and Claire. Although the women in the Corbould clan patently outnumbered the men, the guys in the family got what ‘press’ was available. We are left with little more than the gazes from the photographs of these sisters with their remarkably voluminous Corbouldian hair.
¹The portrait of Grace looks to be untouched and is in pristine condition. It has Paul L. Okamura’s signature mark beneath it. I suspect that Claire’s portrait was likewise made by Okamura, but I think the card has been cropped with scissors for some reason, either by Claire or the receiver of the card. As a result, the signature mark is lost. If you are interested in seeing other photos by Okamura, see here. If you are interested in learning more about Okamura’s story, see here for a very good article written by Jim Wolf for British Columbia History.
²Lillie May, like Grace and Claire, made a good marriage. She was wed to a man named E. O. S. Scholefield, the second B.C. provincial archivist. He predeceased Lillie May in 1919. There is an interesting little connection between the Scholefields and the Andersons, however. While an MLA, F. W. Anderson had a copper beech tree planted adjacent to the provincial library on the grounds of the legislature in memory of Scholefield and also ensured that EOSS’s widow received a provincial government pension. See this article by Terry Eastwood for B. C. Studies, p. 60.