The White Fence, issue #4

October, 1997


Dear Friends of Heritage,

First of all, I must announce that the series “Tales of the Horse” by Dick McLeod has been discontinued in this newsletter. And for a very happy reason: Dick’s tales have been published by the Trust and are for sale at Tidewater Books, The Crofter and other locations in Sackville, or the book can be obtained from the Trust. So our Tantramar tales are reaching an ever-growing public. And remember, when you see a copy of “Tales of the Horse – personal reflections”, it will make a perfect little Christmas present for family and friends! Lots of friends!

By discontinuing this series, it will free up some space in this newsletter and now I can tell you Ralph Estabrooks’ stories about Sackville’s earlier connections with the neighbouring Tantramar community of Rockport in winters gone by.

I spent a great afternoon discussing the old days with Ralph Estabrooks last Friday. If any of you have stories to tell, you can reach me at home after 5:00 pm (536-0703) or write to:

Tantramar Heritage Trust
P.O. Box 6301
Sackville NB E4L 1G6

… or I’ll meet you some afternoon at the white fence and we’ll talk…

—Peter Hicklin

Now more about The White Fence:

In our first two issues of this newsletter, we announced, through the reminiscences of Al Smith and Bob Milton, why it was to be known hereafter as “The White Fence”. Since our last newsletter, I received a 1931 Tribune Post clipping from Mrs. Barbara Fisher in which was announced the event of the famous plane crash at “the white fence” in Sackville. First of all, Bob Milton had said it occurred in 1932 when he was in grade 4 when in fact, the crash occurred in November, 1931 (Bob, you must have been in grade 3…). The clipping is reproduced here in full:

Plane Crash During Rugby Game

Nov. 9/31 — A moth plane, owned by Canadian Airways, Moncton, and piloted by Charles Fawcett Jr. was badly damaged when it crashed on the marsh here Thursday afternoon but fortunately the pilot escaped with a slight twist of his ankles. (He also suffered facial burns from the hot oil spewed by the engine during the crash — CWM).

Pilot Fawcett had hired the plane to do some advertizing for Mt. A before the game between UNB and Mt. A and had made several circles of the field. As he flew over the packed bleachers the last time and dropped a football attached to college colors (and also a dummy of a UNB player – CWM) the combing around the engine became loose and began to flap back and was in danger of wrecking the wing. Pilot Fawcett made a forced landing in a gully behind the Ogden school house. He lightened the plane and discharged his passenger, Perry Spicer, Mt. A student, and tried to take off.

Owing to a down draft caused by a high wind blowing over the hill several hundred yards away, Pilot Fawcett had difficulty in getting the plane to rise. When about fifteen feet from the ground he was faced directly by telephone wires and a few hundred feet ahead was a high stone wall. Realizing he could not clear the wires, he brought the plane down in a quick drop, but it struck the mud and tipped over, snapping off the wing and smashing the propeller blades.

Pilot Walter Fowler, who has charge of the Canadian Airways, was communicated with by telephone and came here by plane.

During the airplane episode UNB defeated Mt.A and took the N.B. rugby title by a total score of 13–5. On Nov. 11, UNB won the Maritime title in a game played here by defeating Acadia 13–0.

Although this is not mentioned in the article, this crash occurred where the white fence used to be (at the TCH overpass) and the spot remained forever known as “the white fence”.

With this clipping, Barbara had a note attached with explanations and corrections about this newspaper article from her husband Peter: First of all, “CWM” refers to “Scoop” Moffat, former editor of the Tribune. Furthermore, the plane wasn’t owned by the “Moncton Flying Club” as originally stated in The White Fence No. 2 but by “Canadian Airways” as clearly shown in this clipping. This illustrates that i) Bob Milton had a remarkably clear and accurate memory of this event and ii) that substantiation of distant memories by original reports “can’t be beat”. Again, I thank Bob Milton for bringing this story to our attention and for Barbara and Peter Fisher for finding and providing us the original 1931 clipping of the incident in the Tribune Post. That’s the way to bring history back to life my friends!

Tantramar Heritage Properties Series #2 — The Harbourmaster’s House

Back in the 1870s, Sackville’s harbour-master was Christopher Milner who lived at 30 Squire St. which is now Sandra Cant’s Bed & Breakfast known as The Harbourmaster’s House. The house is actually three buildings joined together with tree trunks serving as supports for the basement! Mr. Milner was not only busy in the Port of Sackville (see below) but he was quite likely always busy turning three buildings into one!

Did you know?

In this issue, we are advertizing the upcoming Yorkshire reunion in this area. It is therefore fitting to add a note from the 1907 Tribune Post: Did you know that “the late John Wry, who was buried on Sunday in his 87th year, was the grandson of John Wry, who in 1780, came from Yorkshire to Sackville and settled about where Bedford Dixon’s house now stands? He is survived by his cousin even older than himself, namely William C. Wry, who is nearly 88 and is the patriach of the Wry clan” (May 2, 1907).

During the 19th century, after the Yorkshiremen were well settled in, did you know that the Port of Sackville was a very busy place? For example, did you know that between 1824 and 1872, 118 vessels were built in the Sackville shipyards; 42 were square-rigged ships averaging 630 tons of displacement.

The 1850s was the port’s busiest decade with 32 ships constructed. The Sarah Dixon built by Charles Dixon in 1856 was the largest at 1,468 tons. Between 1868 and 1872, the single largest com- modity brought into the port was flour shipped from New York, Boston and Philadelphia. And between 1876 and 1900 did you know that 1880 was the busiest year for ships leaving Sackville: 53 vessels departed including 5 for Britain, 10 for the Caribbean, 16 for the Mid-Atlantic states and 22 for New England? Think of this today when you look at Sackville from Westcock and especially the location of the old port around where the Ram Pasture is today (remember the old dump?). And when you do, a bit of history should come alive right before your very eyes!

I thank Steve Ridlington for these gems about the Port of Sackville.

Did you know that 50 years ago (1 November, 1947), the Dominion Wildlife Service was born. And on April 6, 1950, the name was changed to Canadian Wildlife Service. In 1947, biologist George (Joe) Boyer established the CWS Atlantic Region office in Sackville. He chose Sackville because of its central location in the maritimes and its proximity to extensive wetlands in the N.B. – N.S. border region. He lived in Westcock (in the house currently occupied by John and Ann Wilson) and worked alone in the region until 1949 when Harry Webster established the office in Truro, N.S. and Les Tuck opened the office in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

The Rockport Connection

In the old days, every winter, the township of Rockport was essentially cutoff from the rest of the world. Because, did you know that it was not until 1941 that the first snowplow started to clear the roads to Rockport in winter. So, before that date, how were the people of Rockport supposed to get food and medications during those winter months? My good neighbour in Sackville, Ralph Estabrooks, told me how. Because for a number of years, he was the Rockport connection.

But before Ralph, Joe Johnson’s son (Chum), who lived in the Sackville Hotel with his father, supplied Rockport with basic needs. When Ralph got the job to replace Chum, he had to use a horse and sled (with a closed cabin on the sled… important according to Ralph!) to travel once-a-month and bring basic necessities to that isolated community in winter. And the company he worked for was Rawleigh Products based in Montreal.

Rawleigh Products sold cosmetics, spices, various extracts, liniment, juices, baking powder, fly spray, rat poison and the like. And Ralph’s duties were not only limited to Rockport. He also sold door-to-door every month to customers in Scoudouc, Memramcook, Saint Joseph, Pré d’en Haut and Beaumont. But during the winters of the ’20s and 30s, there were no roads cleared to reach Rockport. Ralph’s 1937 Chev truck (see photo) could get to all the other locations without any problems. It was Rockport in winter which was the problem before 1941. Once the snowplow arrived on the scene, the government was able to plow the road to Rockport so that Ralph’s truck (on which he put on 30,000 miles/year! see photo) could make it through by that time. So the following is the story of how Ralph (and Chum before him) brought the necessities to a Tantramar community when it was cut off by ice and snow.

When Ralph started this job, he and Mildred (formerly Wheaton) lived with Mildred’s parents where Ken and Julia Fillmore now live, accross from the current entrance into Tantramar High School. Mildred’s parents, Irving and Bertha (Bowser) Wheaton raised their family on that property and Ralph and Mildred lived there when Ralph started working for Raleigh Products. He kept his horse in the barn next door on the James Murray property. And, as Ralph is pleased to say, “the barn still stands”.

When Ralph harnessed the horse for the trek to Rockport, he usually left Sackville around 8:30 a.m., went to Dorchester and Dorchester Cape and made it down to Hard Ledge by nightfall. From Hard Ledge, he crossed over to Peck’s Cove and onwards to the end of the road to Rockport. He sold goods to homes all along the way and customers put him up for the night.

His best sellers were Rawleigh’s Red Liniment (“a good seller”), Rawleigh’s Medicated Ointment (60 cents) and Rawleigh’s Aspirin (100 tablets for 60 cents). Lemon and orange juices in 40 oz. jars were popular as well as cans of cocoa powder to flavour desserts and to make chocolate cakes. Ralph’s parting words to me were that he “always had a good day in Rockport… even though the people were poor”.

I can only assume that on a cold January day in the 1930s, Ralph with his horse and sled must have been a welcome sight to many a Rockport family.

The Letters of Nathaniel Smith

As we continue our series of the letters of Al’s great, great, great…. grandfather Nathaniel Smith, we find that Nathaniel is now settling into his new home in Cumberland (Fort Lawrence) just across from Fort Cumberland (now Beauséjour) and he writes to his brother and sister back in England of his experiences in his new home. As in my last installments, the original spelling is kept unchanged.

Cumberland, Nova Scotia
20th of June, 1774
To: Mr. Benjamin Smith
Appleton by Wisk
Near No. ‘Allerton.
Yorkshire, Old England.

Dear Brother and Sister,

As I gave an opportunity of sending you a few lines by Christopher Flinloft, without putting you to any expense, and as I could not tell how to let you hear from me sooner and safer I therefore let my former letters bide by me until such times as he returned to Old England and as I had an opportunity I thought proper to let you know a few things that accorded since the date of the other letters. Its amazing to see and hear the various opinions of the people arrived in Nova Scotia. Some hold the land as good, as the account given by Charles Dixon in his letters to England, others think them pretty good but nothing compared to C. Dixon’s account – But a great many, especially the poorest sort, for which I’m greatly concerned, for I cannot see how they are to earn their bread or by what means they must be supported. Those are daily branding C. Dixon with being the author of lies and falsities both to his face and behind his back, and the very gentlemen who have land to sell, and have a desire the Country should be populated as soon as possible, blames Mr.Dixon for his large (economics) upon the Country and its amassing produce. ….TO BE CONTINUED.

The Yorkshire Connection:

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! — Calling all descendants of Yorkshire settlers!!

A “Yorkshire Gathering” is in the early stages of being planned for mid-summer 2000. The original suggestion of such a gathering was first announced in May of this year by Don Chapman (a descendant of the original William Chapman family — Chapman House at Fort Lawrence) of Mission, B.C. Don envisioned that a Gathering 2000 be focused on the Yorkshire settlement of the Chignecto region when 1,000 people migrated of from Yorkshire to Nova Scotia between 1772 and 1775. At that time, when the population of Nova Scotia was only approximately 17,000 souls, this significant immigration of people had a major impact on regional settlement patterns. This is a significant cause for reunion for many families in this area!

The gathering dubbed York 2000 will likely have a Homecoming focus with family gatherings and a two to three day scholarly section with formal presentations. It has been suggested that a span of 7–10 days in August 2000 be promoted as Yorkshire Days. Facilities at Mount Allison University have tentatively been booked for the period 6–12 August, 2000. The Gathering could attract several thousand Yorkshire descendants.

An electronic discussion group was established on the internet last June and currently 40+ subscribers are enthusiastically contributing ideas for the gathering. The organizational structure for York 2000 is still evolving, but we fully expect that the Tantramar Heritage Trust will be taking a lead role in facilitating the event. A Local Arrangements Committee is being assembled this winter and it is proposed that the committee include representatives from the following organizations or institutions: Tantramar Heritage Trust, Tantramar Tourism Association, Fort Beauséjour National Historic Site, Westmorland Historical Society, SE Branch of the NB Genealogical Society, Cumberland County Museum, Amherst Township Historical Society, North Cumberland Historical Society and Albert County Historical Society.

In addition to family reunions and a formal lecture series, some suggested associated events and activities are: establishment of a Centre for Yorkshire Studies at Mount Allison University, the development of a curriculum study unit for schools on the Yorkshire emigration, reenactment of events centered at Fort Beauséjour, bus tours of local historical sites and the establishment of a centralized genealogy database.

Tantramar Heritage Trust members wishing more information on York 2000 should subscribe to the discussion list by sending an e-mail message to: If you are interested in helping out the local arrangements committee, please contact Al Smith at 536-0164. Much more information on the Gathering and on the Yorkshire immigration to this area will appear in future issues of The White Fence.

N.B. Genealogical Society, Southeastern Branch

Tantramar Trust members please note that on March 21, Ms. Linda Evans will speak on Irish Settlement in Southeast New Brunswick. These topics should be of interest to many members and we will try to get some summaries at the white fence.

A special gift

On 31 October, 1997, Mr. Herbert C. Read presented the Tantramar Heritage Trust with the two volumes For Love of Stone, written by Gwen Martin. I’ve read and enjoyed both volumes from cover to cover and wish to announce to all members that these volumes will be accessible to the members once the Trust has office and library space available.

On behalf of the executive of the Tantramar Heritage Trust and the Tantramar Historical Society, thank you Mr. and Mrs. Read for this most generous gift.

—Peter Hicklin