The White Fence, issue #1

January, 1997


This is the first of many newsletters to keep you in touch with Tantramar’s past. Its main objective is to provide us with a medium where we can exchange stories and inform each other about Tantramar’s fascinating history. An equally important objective is to make available a space where we can communicate, where we can exchange stories about this area, its history and its interesting people. That is why the sub-title of this newsletter is “the white fence” and why I’ve asked Al Smith to write the first article on the topic of the old white fence which used to be along East Main Street until 1961. Let me explain: every community in Atlantic Canada has its “white fence”. When I first came to work in Sackville in the mid-seventies, my favourite “white fence” was the Post Office. The late Bud Milner always had a story to tell me; Bud knew that I was new to the area and every day he helped to “break the ice”. He told me who I should talk to if I wanted to know about this and that, who’s who and why things are the way they are in Sackville. I managed to first meet many of my neighbours in Sackville alongside Bud and Ken in the Post Office. I want this newsletter to be your “white fence,” your favourite place to exchange stories about the Tantramar area just like Bud turned a new page for me every day in the Post Office back then. And so, during your time at this white fence, there are two very special things that I hope you will experience as I did when I first moved to this town: learn and enjoy!

Another regular feature will be the “end column” that we will begin with The Letters of Nathaniel Smith, Al Smith’s great great great great- grandfather whose letters about early settlement in this area have been preserved and which date back to 1774. The first installment is at the end of this issue. So just read on… and learn & enjoy…

—Peter Hicklin

Did you know?

Over the last couple of years, I have been visiting with Mrs. Clementina Godfrey of Sackville who celebrated her 101st birthday last July. She has regaled me with the most interesting bits of Sackville history, especially stories about Happy Hill where I now live (top of Main Street across the corner of Main and Ogden Mill). In the course of our discussions, she talked enthusiastically about the former Once-in-a-While Club in Sackville and a presentation she made about this club to the university in 1985. Her presentation at was entitled “Did you know?” So I would now like to introduce you to a new section henceforth to be known by that designation.

Recently (November 20, 1996), the Sackville Tribune-Post presented us with a short and fascinating historical glimpse of the Campbell Carriage Factory in Middle Sackville. This is an especially interesting part of town history and on 27 November, 1996, Mr. Darrell Butler, Chief Curator of The New Brunswick Museum, following his visit to the carriage factory on 13 October,1995, gave a fascinating and well-researched presentation about the carriage factory to 52 Tantramarians who attended the first meeting of the Tantramar Historical Society.

He spoke to us about a time when the car did not exist and the horse was the main means of transport. But did you know that during the years that the Campbell Carriage Factory was probably at its busiest (between 1885 and 1902), four other similar businesses also co-existed in Sackville: there were horse-related businesses (blacksmiths, wagon, sleigh and cart-building and repairs) run by i) Silas Black at the corner of Ogden Mill and East Main, ii) Fillmore and Wheaton’s shop in Upper Sackville, iii) B.C. Rayworth’s in Willow Lane and iv) R.B. Taylor’s on Main Street where Home Hardware is now operating. From what I can understand, there was no shortage of business!

But there remains little evidence of those enterprises. Mr. Butler made it clear during his visits to the Campbell Carriage Factory that “it is very rare to see a craftsman’s work building preserved in such a relatively untouched condition. While the countryside still abounds with mid-nineteenth century houses, this is not the case with blacksmith shops, woodworking shops… . The Campbell Carriage Factory is one of the very few left in such condition in Canada.”(Letter to the Heritage Trust; 17 October, 1995).

For this reason, the Tantramar Heritage Trust wishes to make the preservation of the Campbell Carriage Factory its main conservation project. This unique property was purchased by Ronald Campbell and his son George from John and Rebecca Beal on 9 October, 1855. The main factory building was originally built of hewed beams and post-and-beam construction around 1835.

Did you know that the business operated continuously for 130 years, always under Campbell men, until finally in 1949, the business closed its doors. The main building was the wood working shop and today some of the tools used still lie on the benches and others are stored in racks, or in chests. There also remains some casket hardware since the family had also begun a funeral or undertaking business during the years they built wagons and sleighs.

The paint shop on the second floor is still visible and an extension on the eastern part of the building (i.e. toward the marsh) no longer exists, although it would have contained a wide elevator for raising and lowering carriages and wagons between the paint shop to the ground below!

Did you know that the factory also made cobblers’ benches, home furniture, picture frames and churns? They rented horses and driving wagons and also sold hay, lumber, shingles, tobacco, molasses, socks, fine boots, candles, yarn goods and glass and did shoe repairs and possibly made boots! (Margaret Henderson, 1965). Mr. Butler’s final words were: “It is important to the heritage community of New Brunswick and Canada that every effort be made to preserve and thoroughly study and document the Campbell Carriage Factory”.

The White Fence

by Al Smith

I remember the white fence of childhood days growing up on East Main Street (now Main Street) near the Trans-Canada Highway. There used to be a little white fence at the dip in the road where a creosote culvert provided drainage for the farm fields to the north. That was the place we used to bike to, a rallying place to talk, dream, and think about growing up.

The White Fence is gone now, ripped out in 1961 with the construction of the TCH and replaced by the overpass cutting across the highway. Today, as I cross over the new bridge to accommodate the new four-lane TCH and witness daily the beehive of activity at Tim Horton’s, Wendy’s, MacDonald’s, Esso and Irving, I am reminded that even in Sackville, time and change bring transition and opportunity; essential, I guess, if Sackville is to meet the challenges of the 21st century. But still my childhood memories come haunting back.

Gone forever is the little white farmhouse perched on the knoll just before the white fence ; it was sacrificed with the construction of the Tantramar Regional High School in the early 1970s. All that remains is a single old apple tree that once was the pride of the orchard. I knew the farm as the home of “Money Art”, that fabled old gentleman who, it was said, was wealthy beyond belief. To us kids, it was hard to believe that this kindly old man with his very modest dwelling and rusted-out 1949 Ford, could ever be rich. On many a cold winter’s morning, I would catch a ride into town with him and he would drop me at the High School en route to delivering his milk to the local dairy. I remember his sparkle, his zest for life and the smell of his barn clothes as I would stare at the road through the rusted floorboards of his old Ford and wonder why he would not buy a new car! The other half of “Money Art” was Vera who made the best fudge in the community and amply treated all the neighbourhood kids on Halloween.

Across the gully from “Money Art’s” and past the white fence was the newest house in the community, an attractive little story-and-a half belonging to an art professor at Mount Allison. It too is now gone, moved to a new location on Ogden Mill Road in order to make room for the southbound access ramp for the new highway.

The intersection that we see today at Main and the TCH is a far cry from the tranquil meeting place at the white fence where so many stories were exchanged.

One can now stand on the overhead bridge where the white fence of 40 years ago used to stand and marvel at the volume of traffic on the new four- lane highway and the hustle-and bustle at Tim Horton’s and McDonald’s. In the distance, one can enjoy the calm of the Waterfowl Park. Time and change are leaving their mark on Sackville and in a way that this view from the intersection is a microcosm of a larger dynamic that is changing communities everywhere as they hurry to catch up with these changing times. But, one cannot help but wonder if “Money Art” would approve.

The Letters of Nathaniel Smith

by Al Smith

My great (four times repeated!) grandfather Nathaniel Smith emigrated from Yorkshire, England, in 1774 to establish a new home for his family at Fort Lawrence, Nova Scotia. Like many other Yorkshire families, Nathaniel had purchased some land in advance of embarking to North America. He booked passage on the brigantine Albion (188 passengers) that departed from Hull on March 11, 1774, and arrived in Halifax on May 10 and at Fort Cumberland on May 17, 1774. In the mid 1980s, a collection of letters written by Nathaniel to his relatives in England were recovered in Suffolk, England. The letters, in poor condition, were re-written by the owner, Jennifer Crabby, and studied by Anne Calabresi at Yale University in 1986 and recently (1994) reprinted by Ron Atkinson in Smith Family History in the Atkinson Lineage. Nathaniel’s letters relate many interesting facts and experiences of an emigrant farming family to 18th century Nova Scotia and we will excerpt passages from his letters as a regular feature of this Newsletter.

May 29, 1774:

It is through His kind Providence I am writing and our passage is safely landed in Nova Scotia, America with many difficulties which would had I but the time relate in full but firstly shall acquaint you with the struggle and shall let you know some were afflicted with sea sickness. Secondly the smallpox brought out amongst us which carried off Charles Blankey’s wife, and three children belonging to other people. Thirdly we had three weaks of excessive stormes and dreadful horicanes but were in no great danger of suffering save upon Sable Island which sertainly would have been the case if our Capton had not been before the ship, in his rekoning two hundred miles, as the Isle is the distance from the Cape called Sable. He begun to sound expecting to see we were nigh the shores and about the dead of night could find not bottom. Again about two they sounded on the Starboard side and found only eleven fathom. All was in an uprore expecting we were just upon the rocks. Instantly they sounded on the Larbord side and found it thirteen fathom — by that means they know it right to steer to the left and, as the goodness of God would have it, we escaped the most daingerous place in all the passage from the Lande end of England to the Continant of America. Two brigs have lately perished here and it is more than probable the Adamant is one of them. Their is report the ships crew and passingers escaped to the Island, whether or no that is true God only knows. How great will be the distress of poor John Wheldon’s family if he have suffered as I greatly fear he hath.

letter to brother Benjamin in Appleton-by-Wisk, Yorkshire

—to be continued—

Heritage week, 1997

The Tantramar Heritage Trust wishes to salute Heritage Week 1997 (10–17 February) with a special Tantramar Heritage Day on February 15 at the Tantramar high School with i) a hearty Heritage Week Breakfast, ii) a Tantramar Antiques Appraisal and iii) guest speakers on the theme of: Down East to Far East: Tantramar’s Sailors in the 1800s. See below for details:

Saturday, 15 February

Tantramar High School

  • 7:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.: a hearty Heritage Week Breakfast at the High School cafeteria. Tickets: adults $5, children (to 10) $3 available from members of the Trust or at the door. For information call Elaine at 536-0164.
  • 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon: Tantramar Antiques Appraisals in the High School Lobby where antiquarian Mr. Peter Seitl will appraise and share information in an open forum with the audience about the value and history of antiques brought in by members of the audience and
  • 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.: In the High School auditorium, four guest speakers will speak on the theme Down East to Far East: Tantramar’s Sailors in the 1800s

All of the above will be open to the general public. The speakers are sponsored jointly by the Tantramar Heritage Trust and the Westmorland Historical Society.

We need your help

This newsletter can only succeed with your participation. We need your assistance for information, stories, interesting “did you knows” and historical events that you may wish to present and debate with the members.

We also need a Newsletter Committee to help make this newsletter as interesting and widely read as possible. We very much need your help. If you wish to assist, call me at work at 506-364-5042 or at home at 536-0703 or write at the following address:

Peter Hicklin
Tantramar Heritage Trust
P.O. Box 313
Middle Sackville NB E0A 2E0

It does take a bit of time to put a newsletter together three times a year but it’s especially interesting and great fun. So join the team!