From Articles by A.S. Bishop and Maime Steeves; Submitted by James West
The history of Coverdale parish would not be completed without some mention of one of its outstanding men in political circles or nearly one hundred years ago James Ryan was born in 1821. His father was Matthew Ryan, a British soldier, who served under the Duke of Wellington during the Napoleonic Wars and who won mention for bravery during the Battle of Waterloo. When the war came to and end, Matthew Ryan came out to the New World and settled in Coverdale. He was a big man, but his son James was even bigger, over six feet tall and weight two hundred pounds, an obvious asset for a school master in those days, which is what young James became. He attended Normal School in Saint John and for several years earned his living in the classroom.
When only seventeen, James Ryan married Elizabeth Trites, a daughter of Jacob Trites, one of the original settlers. He made his home in Coverdale on a two hundred acres farm settled by his father and along with school teaching and farming, took over the Mail Courier's route from Moncton to Baltimore and over Caledonia to Hopewell. The mail was usually carried on horseback, but often parts of the route were covered on foot, and in winter on several occasions, the whole distance was slogged out on snow shoes, the mail in a back satchel.
In early days, Albert County had no County Council such as now. "Sessions" were held regularly instead and Mr. Ryan attended these. He was greatly opposed to taxing the county for the building of the Salisbury-Albert Railway. When the County Council was established, he became a Councillor for Coverdale serving from 1884 to 1890 and in 1886 was County Warden.
He was elected to the Provincial House of Assembly in 1870 as a Liberal representative, along with Dr. Palmer. He was a plain but forceful speaker, making sure of his ground before making a statement, so that it was his boast that he had never had to make an apology. His work as a personal canvasser greatly surpassed his standing as an orator. He missed no one, on different occasions canvassing every house in Elgin, Hopewell Cape and Albert, no small task under travelling conditions of the time. In 1872 he was re-elected, lost the July 1874 election and was re-elected in 1876. In these elections his team mate was Mr. Alexander Rogers. In the House Mr Ryan championed strongly the nonsectarian school law, and many a hard battle he fought for his native country. He enjoyed immensely the clashing of keen wits during the Legislative days and in his old age told many amusing tales.
In 1878 Mr. Ryan was called to the Legislative Council, a position he held for fourteen years until his death. Part of that time he was president of the Council. His death occurred on March 30, and the Council was abolished in September of the same year, 1892. While attending a funeral in Fredericton, Mr. Ryan caught cold which resulted in pneumonia, so often fatal in those days. He was 71 when he died.
Mr. Ryan left five sons: Heber, Sanford, James Jr., Tilley and George; and a daughter, Alberta. James Junior and his brother Tilley moved to Moncton and became well known merchants. James Ryan served on the City Council for a number of years and became the Mayor in 1905. Ryan Street is named for him.
The son mentioned, Mr. Sanford Ryan, born 1854 married on September 5, 1892, Miss Achsah Gallacher. It is interesting to see sons following father in the political field.