Another fascinating year of exploration into the rich history of Tantramar lies before us and many stories are yet to be told at the white fence! In this episode of our newsletter, we enter Part II of Dick McLeod’s fascination with the horses of Tantramar and read further into Nathaniel Smith’s letter from Fort Lawrence to his brother in Yorkshire in 1774. But I am especially pleased to introduce you to the late F.A. Fisher’s model farm in Frosty Hollow, a farm based on a book by Louis Bromfield and established by Mr. Fisher to fulfill his fascination and love of agriculture. And we also have some interesting developments on one of our very special heritage projects which Al will tell you all about. Overall, the horse, the main source of transportation and power in the older days of Tantramar, is featured in this issue.
But also, I am most pleased to introduce you to a new section of this newsletter: the Heritage Properties Series. There are many fascinating heritage homes in the Tantramar area, some of which still stand and others we’ve just heard about. Our first property of this series will be the building we all know as the “Marshlands Inn” in Sackville. But I want to stress that I want to include many heritage properties from accross the Tantramar area, not just properties in Sackville. So my friends, if you know of, or live in, a home of historical interest to our readers, within our Tantramar area (Dorchester to Sackville to Rockport to Jolicure and so on…), please get in touch with me and we can get the ‘heritage properties’ pot cooking!!
To begin this issue of The White Fence, I wish to thank Mrs. Barbara Fisher who responded to my request for information in our last newsletter and submitted a most interesting story about F.A. Fisher’s “model farm” in Frosty Hollow. This fits in very well with the idea of starting a new focus on special properties in our area for this newsletter. So here’s my summary of Barbara’s interesting story about her husband’s uncle Frederick Arnold Fisher (1880–1957) who obviously shared Dick McLeod’s love of horses as well as farming.
The Fisher model farm at Frosty Hollow
Around the time of World War I, F.A. Fisher (F.A. as he was then known by all) was president of the Enterprise Foundry and lived in the house now owned by Dr. Laing Ferguson on the corner of Main and Queen’s Road (formerly known as Boultenhouse Road) in Sackville. Around 1920, F.A. bought a 750 acre parcel of woodland in Frosty Hollow on which he built three houses and a barn. One house was to serve as a summer home for him and his family, which by then included five children, and a house for the manager of the farm and one for the hired hand. Today, this property is owned by Mr. Bob Kaye who purchased the property after Mr. Fisher died in 1957.
Mr. Fisher’s farm included a cattle barn with a silo, probably built by special design, as was the horse barn. The barn was constructed in the shape of an E without the middle bar. In other words, it consisted of one long building with two shorter ones at either end, one for the stallions and a forge and the other for the riding horses and brood mares. In the center of the long building was a large space for the hay wagons which were driven into in order to fill the hay mow overhead and for the stable manager to pull down the hay at feeding time.
The horses never had to be taken to the blacksmith, the latter simply arrived and fired up the forge in the stallion barn. The visiting farmer typically looked over the barn very slowly and usually said something to the effect: “Well, it’s a fine lookin’ buildin’ but a hell of a lookin’ barn!”
F.A.’s crop production was usually far in excess of that of farmers using traditional methods of the day and that was a source of great wonderment in the farming community. For one thing, F.A.’s methods included an early form of organic farming; every bit of organic waste went back into the land.
There were trails and bridle paths built throughout the Frosty Hollow Farm woods with special paths where the slope of the land was an invitation to canter. The horses were a great passion with F.A. and they always brought home their share of ribbons from the old Maritime Winter Fair in Amherst and other shows in Halifax, Truro and Saint John.
F.A. brought the first French-Canadian Cape Rouge horses from Quebec. Cibella de Cape Rouge was one of the brood mares and Cyrano de Cape Rouge was the stud. With these two foundation horses, he raised horses for general purpose work on the farm. Then he brought in a thoroughbred stallion named “Perlapides” for crossing with the French-Canadian mare to produce a strong flat-boned hunter-type horse. Other breeds of draft horses are inclined to round bone, a trait that they pass on to their offspring, but the french Canadian breed did not and it was a very successful cross. A farmer from Prince Edward Island bought some of F.A.’s mares and bred some excellent hunters from them and competed very successfully with them.
F.A.’s wife was Nora Wiggins, the daughter of the Anglican rector of St. Paul’s church in Sackville (it was for Dr. Wiggins that the present Anglican rectory was built around 1880). Afternoon tea on Sunday afternoons was an institution at “the Farm” as it was known to all. There were always several guests from outside the family circle and, during the Winter Fair, it was the highlight of the week to be included in the “Frosty Hollow Fishers’ Family Gathering”.
Aunt Nora’s first love was gardening. She made her preserves in the special kitchen that F.A. had built for her; the counters and cupboards were built by the steelworkers at the foundry and made entirely of stainless steel! In their later years, in the 1950s, he had a greenhouse built attached to the house so that the morning coffee or after- noon tea could be enjoyed in a garden atmosphere.
After F.A. died, Bob Kaye bought the property. It’s interesting to note that Kaye’s father, “Red” Kaye, worked most of his life in the foundry that F.A. ran for so many years. This bit of local history about a property, now for sale, in Frosty Hollow will hopefully make your trips to Dorchester, through the Hollow, a bit more interesting.
And now, I can think of no more appropriate story to follow the tale of F.A.’s model farm than to enter into Part II of “Tales of the Horse” which, by the way, will be published separately by the Trust later this year.
Tales of the horse — part II: The Port Elgin Exhibition
by Dick McLeod
About 1946, I discovered another phase of the horse business that has remained with me ever since. Dovey Ibbitson was my cousin and he had children my age and I spent a lot of time with them as he lived near us for a while. Dovey was organizing a trip to the old Port Elgin Exhibition and invited my brother and I to go. We were given permission, 50¢ for admission, some spending money, and away we went. I was fascinated by the stock exhibits, especially the horses. It was here that I saw my first horse pull and I vowed that I would show horses there someday…
Well, as I went along, I was still dreaming about my promise to myself to show horses in Port Elgin and, by this time, I was going to High School in Sackville and my best friend was as horse-crazy as I was. His name was Charlie Goodwin from Wood Point. I got Charlie convinced to go down to Port Elgin with me but I only had one slight problem… I had only half a team. I mentioned earlier that I knew every horse in the area and a real good neighbour of ours, Henry Cole, had a ringer for my mare. So this required a little thought. I went down to Henry’s and felt him out. He was willing, but his mare had a foal and a 30-mile walk was a little too much. He agreed to let me take the mare and he would bring the foal down in a truck the next day.
I broke the good news to Charlie the next day and this started a week of feverish work shining harnesses, shoeing, painting harness and a wagon. Finally the big day arrived, 14 September, 1948. We left home at 7 o’clock at night and arrived in Port Elgin at 3 o’clock in the morning. There was a heavy white frost and we nearly froze before daylight but I showed the horse team that afternoon and won first prize of $3.00 and a red cardboard ribbon. When the judge awarded me first prize, some of those old-time horsemen almost swallowed their chewing tobacco!! They couldn’t believe that a kid from Westcock had gall enough to come 30 miles to “show” against them. And to beat them was almost more than they could stand!
We left Port Elgin about 3:30 in the afternoon in a light rain and, about halfway home, Henry’s mare started to tire out. She was nursing a big foal on grass and was quite weak. We had to stop and rest her a lot and we didn’t get home until about 1 o’clock the next morning. I once figured it out that, for the work I did, getting ready and the round trip of thirty hours, that $3.00 prize amounted to about 5¢ an hour not counting the feed and the shoeing. I was well on my way to being a millionaire.
Tantramar heritage properties series: number 1.
Ruth Crane Cogswell’s House — The Marshlands Inn
Marshlands was built in the early 1850s by William Crane for his daughter Ruth Crane Cogswell whose portrait hangs in the green parlour of The Marshlands Inn, as we know it today. Two photographs of the Inn are displayed in the front entrance. One shows the house as it was when bought by Mr. Henry Read (see below) in 1895 and the other shows the Inn as it was in the late 1920s (see below).
Mr. Read called his home Marshlands after the Tantramar marshes that surround the town. Between 1905 and 1908, Mr. Read made major alterations by adding the three rooms on the top front and the large room on the top rear, installing six bathrooms;
changing the heating system, from hot air to hot water, adding five fireplaces to the two which were then in the house, changing the front entrance and adding the verandah and sun porch, and creating the pannelled dining room from three storage pantries. The frieze in the dining room is a hand-painted William Morris original. Morris was the father of the Arts and Crafts Movement in England in the late 1800s. The Reads had been in the stone business since the early 1800s with two primary product lines: dimension stone and grindstones. They owned quarries at Wood Point and Wallace for building stone and at Rockport, Ragged Reef, Lower Cove and Stonehaven for grindstones (see photo of Henry Read at the Wood Point Quarry on previous page).
Grindstones were shipped to the U.S. and were used to finish Stanley tools, Colt pistols, Remington shotgun barrels and Collins machetes. The Stonehave quarry produced the finest natural abrasive in the world until the 1920s when synthetically-bonded abrasives such as carborundum replaced the natural grindstones.
This was the family home of the Reads until the fall of 1935 when it became Marshlands Inn owned and operated by Mr. and Mrs. Herbert W. Read who passed it on to Mr. and Mrs. Herbert C. Read who operated the Inn until 1984. It is presently owned and operated by Peter and Diane Weedon.
Did you know?
Did you know that the old City Hall and Queen’s park in Toronto were built with stone which came from the Read quarry at Wood Point? And furthermore, Lord Shaughnessey’s residence and other buildings on Dorchester West in Montreal are also made of Wood Point stone.
And did you know the first wheeled carriage, a grass hopper shay imported by Squire Christopher Harper, arrived in Sackville in 1810? And did you know that the first stagecoach arrived in 1840?
Did you know that the most intense tropical cyclone (hurricane) ever to strike our coast occurred 128 years ago this week? On October 5, 1869, the Saxby Gale or Great Saxby Tide struck Tantramar and is thought to be one of the highest (if not the highest) historic tides in the Bay of Fundy. The storm was named after an English naval officer, S.M. Saxby, who had predicted over a year earlier that extremely high tides would occur in the northern hemisphere. What he did not foresee was that the timing of the high tides would correspond with a viscious tropical hurricane that would drive the Bay of Fundy waters to a crest several feet above the tops of the dykes. The intensity of the storm destroyed barns, drowned cattle and ruined a substantial amount of the stored hay crop. There was also loss of human life.
And please note…
The occasion of the Saxby Gale is currently being researched by Mr. Alan Ruffman, of Geomarine Associates Ltd. in Halifax, N.S. . Mr. Ruffman is looking for published materials or other in-depth accounts, or firsthand accounts such as diaries, journals, local histories, vessel logs, records of wharf repairs etc.. Anyone with information they would like to pass along to Mr. Ruffman should contact the news- letter editor and we will ensure that the information is passed along. The research is to be completed in early 1998 and the Tantramar Heritage Trust intends to invite Mr. Ruffman to give an illustrated public presentation about the Saxby Gale at a future meeting of the Tantramar Historical Society.
The letters of Nathaniel Smith
We continue on with the last section of Nathaniel Smith’s letter from Fort Lawrence to his brother Benjamin in Yorkshire, England. We pick up the letter when Nathaniel has just finished writing about the need for new settlers to come to Cumberland, “Especially the poorer sort”. [Note: original spelling left unchanged.]
May 28, 1774:
We suffered greatly in our goods on ship bord by pilaging and so did many oathers. I fear some of our company will bring a dishonour to Old England. When we came nigh the shores we thought it prudant to take a pilate up the bay as our capton was altogether a strainger to the place. Consequently we steard for Hallifax and anquored two miles from the town by reason of the smallpox.
Here two of the eldest daughters of Bryan Kay finished their coarse in a most unhappy way. A scooner belonging to the Governor was ordered to lay along side of us to guard our people from landing for fear of the infection from the smallpox. One of their sailors, I suppose the capton, frequented our vessel and began to affect a frienship, but I fear for no good end, with some of the young girls. Our capton soon perceived the scean and gave a charge some should go with him as he pretended to take them to an Island at about a mile distance for their recreation, our capton having ocation to go to Hallifax. The fellows waited their opportunity and came slily with a small flatbottomed cobble and in very little time took in 4 of them (girls) and the fifth was just stepping down which was one of our girls. But, as Providence so ordered it, I happened to go on deck at that very instant she was going down and cast her by her shoulders and dragged her up. I only turned about to speak a few words to her by way of reproof when instantly the cobble overset with the fellows and four womin all floating alongside the ship. Such shrikes, cries and confusion I never saw before, very few rightly knowing who it was. Rope was thrown but to no purpose. At length they took the longboat and rowed off to take in their dead bodies as they supposed, but the men was saved by jumping upon the bottom of the cobble and two of the womin came to life again, but Bryan’s two daughters was quite dead.
I have little more to say at present but to beg you to remember me and mine at the Hour of Grace as I hope I shall do you, and altho we are in reallaty so far parted in body as never to see each oather again in the flesh, yet we shall be present in spirrit with the Lord, for I find my affections more closely united to you than ever before. I am determined by the Grace of God to set apart for that purpose one hour every day, when possible, which shall be eight at night and which shall be answerable to your 40 minutes past three in the afternoon, which I hope you will at opportunities observe.
My dear wife and all the family joins in our dear loves to you and to all enquiring friends and neighbours.
From your ever loving Brother and Sister.
Nathaniel and Elizabeth Smith.
Tantramar Historical Society
In the fall of 1996, one of the first projects of the newly-created Tantramar Heritage Trust was the creation of the Tantramar Historical Society. The Historical Society was established as the education outreach arm of the Trust and, under the able leadership of Paul Bogaard, the Society enjoyed a stellar first season. The program lineup for the 1996/1997 season included: November — The Campbell Carriage Factory; February — Shipbuilding/Seafaring days of Tantramar; April — Footprints in the Marsh Mud: the Planters, Yorkshire and Loyalist settlers to Tantramar; June — Centering on Sackville, an examination of the forces that led to the location and development of the Town of Sackville in the 1840s.
The Tantramar Historical Society starts its 1997/1998 season on October 15 with a presentation on “The Old Marine Hospital and the Botfords” followed by a late November meeting on The Horse Era of Tantramar. Further meetings of the Society will be held in mid-February (Heritage Week) April and June. Some possible topics that members of the Society are pursuing: a) Acadian and Native Settlements at Tantramar, b) Local Architectural Styles, c) Musical History of Sackville, d) Early Railways in the Tantramar Region, e)The Life and Times of Sir Charles G.D. Roberts f) The Saxby Gale and g) The Boultenhouse Shipbuilding Era.
Watch for notices and do plan to attend; the organizers would love to hear from you of any suggestions for programs and speakers. Please contact Peter Hicklin, the Newsletter Editor, or Paul Bogaard, Chairman, Tantramar Historical Society (536-0454).
The Campbell Carriage Factory to become the Trust’s first major project
In November 1996, the Board of the Tantramar Heritage Trust selected the Campbell Carriage Factory as the focus of its first major project. In January, the Board submitted a written proposal to the Campbells, the owners of the factory, and discussions over the ensuing months led to a formal response from them on September 4th. The agreement between the owners and the Trust will see the transfer of the property (via donation) to the Trust over the next couple of months. The sequence of events to take place this fall will be as follows: securing advice from the Tantramar Planning Commission (re: zoning and subdivision requirements for the property), contracting the survey and subdivision plan for the property, transfer of title to the Trust and commissionning a formal appraisal to determine the value of the property. Once title has been secured, work can begin on cataloguing the many material artifacts and the assignment of research students. Actual restoration work is unlikely to commence until late 1998, or early 1999, once cataloguing and research activities are completed.
A project advisory/management committee is being assembled and will hold its first meeting in mid-October. The Campbell Carriage Factory will become a unique museum to focus on the horse era of Tantramar. A major fundraising campaign will be launched over the next few months to support the restoration of this historic building dating back to 1838.
And a further note…
Effective October 20th, 1997, due to postal changes, the new mailing address for the Tantramar Heritage Trust will be:
Tantramar Heritage Trust
P.O. Box 6301
Sackville NB E4L 1G6
The Trust urgently requires a Chairperson, Membership Committee to keep track of the Trust’s membership activities. If you are interested in helping us out, please call Pat Finney at 536-1938; we need you!
This newsletter can only succeed with your help. We will need your assistance for information, stories, interesting “did you knows” and historical events that you may wish to present in the newsletter, your white fence, where someone waits to hear your tales. So please call me during the day at 506-364-5042 or at home at 506-536-0703 or write to me (or visit) at the following address:
c/o Canadian Wildlife Service
P.O. Box 1590
Sackville NB E0A 3C0
And to all, I wait by the white fence looking forward to hear your tales of Tantramar.
My warmest thanks to Dick McLeod and Barbara Fisher for stopping by this special spot and passing on their very important contributions to this newsletter.
And I look forward to many more of you stopping by the white fence and telling me a story… or two….
The white fence is never a dull spot.
And please note…
As of this month, a “List Server” has been created for the T.H.T. to allow its members to communicate with each other across the Internet. This List Server is an e-mail address which forwards all e-mail it receives to all the members of the list server. In order to use this list server, you must first register. The instructions are as follows: To subscribe, send an e-mail to:
email@example.com with following line in the message body:
subscribe tht_discuss (Your Name, without the brackets)
After you subscribe, additional information, such as how to unsubscribe, will be sent to you.
To send mail to the List Server, send e-mail to:
If you have any questions e-mail