The White Fence, issue #6

May, 1998


Dear friends,

So far, my main experience with the Heritage Trust and this newsletter has been, and still is, one of discovery. Now, many things can be “discovered” in the course of one’s life but at this point, my latest discovery is really about myself. And particularly my own role in this process of heritage preservation. I am not writing to you as a creative writer, an editor or an historian; my friends, what I discovered is that, what I really am… is a prospector! I find that with every dig in this Tantramar mine, I keep meeting new miners and, with them, discovering more and more gold!!

Now the latest miner I met up with is Donna Beal, who works in a very deep and rich section of the mine known as the Mount Allison University archives. Oh! my friends, the gold and jewels that Donna is bringing to the surface are quite rich! First of all, I have to backtrack through historical corridors and set the stage for this latest gem that Donna brought up and which I must tell you something about.

When I first came to Sackville in 1969, I recall turning into the Sackville exit lane off the highway and having my first glimse of the “outskirts” of the town. There was the attractive Smith house with a small white bungalow beside it and, to the right of the bungalow, an old grey house which had clearly stood there for longer than it had originally planned. And to my surprise I was told that Mt. A students lived there. Honestly, it really did not appear to me to be in good enough shape for anyone to live in! But this house always got my attention because of an attractive semi-circular hall window on the second floor. It clearly had been an attractive and very respectable house “in its day”.

Now, those three buildings which first welcomed me to Sackville have been replaced by a highway exit, Wendy’s and Tim Horton’s. You know, where the old white fence was… I would not feel as welcomed to Sackville today as I was back then by those three older buildings I saw, for the first time, on the edge of town. And the house with the semi-circular window, demolished in 1988, is the ruby Donna presented me with to show you and tell you about. Reading about it and seeing the attractive picture of it that Donna obtained from Mr. James A. Wilson from Seattle, Washington state, U.S.A. (a distant relative of the original Sackville Wilsons), made me aware of how shiny gold really was! Boy, that white fence was indeed a rich little gold mine!

And on top of that, I received a history of the Read Grindstone dynasty from Mr. Herbert Read, as dictated by his father to Dr. George Stanley in 1971. Parts of this treasure are in this issue for you to read (but see my note on the last page! I ran out of time…).

And then, Colin MacKinnon treated me with a history of the Thomas Lowe Mill in Fairfield which I had never heard of! Oh! dear friends, I must stop now because I think that all this gold is starting to hurt my eyes! So let’s dig deeper into this mine we call Tantramar and, together, as miners and prospectors, we can only discover more and get richer and richer!!

So hang on…

—Peter Hicklin

Did you know?

Did you know that in the obituary of Hector MacKinnon in the Sackville Tribune-Post of 11 January, 1910, it stated that he was “buried in the Old French Cemetary, Westcock” (now think about that for a minute…).

The Wilson Farm

by Donna Beal

In the first issue of The White Fence, Al Smith mentioned the 1-½ storey white house just beyond the end of the fence which belonged to a Mount Allison art professor. The building of Prof. Ralston’s house in the early 1950’s stands out in my childhood memories; probably because not many new homes were being built at that time and my father, with the help of my brother Ricky, installed in it one of the new perimeter oil-fired heating systems. In 1956, Hallet Beal and his sons built a bungalow two doors down. Both houses were moved to other locations before construction began for Tim Horton’s and Wendy’s and the new exit ramp to the highway. But the subject of this account is about the old 1 1/2 story house that stood between the Ralston and Beal homes. I remember it as a two-family dwelling, covered with grey brick siding and showing its years.

At that time it was owned by Jennie (Murray) Estabrooks who lived in one side of it and rented the other half. Before it was demolished in 1988, I discovered that there were bricks inside the interior walls and the front step was a large millstone (see photo). At the time I thought it must have been an old house, but it wasn’t until recently that I learned how old. I also learned some other interesting facts about the house and the people who lived in it and about the nearby field where there was once a White Fence.

The house, known in the last century as the “Wilson Farm”, was built around 1800 by Colonel [1] Richard Wilson, and further along the road, possibly on the site of the White Fence, was the Wilson store [2]. Before settling in this area, Col. Richard Wilson, a native of Ireland [3], had a colourful military career. During the French Wars (1756 – 1763) he was in the 22nd Regiment [4], accompanied Wolfe at the taking of Louisburg and Quebec, and was with Earl of Albemarie at the taking of Havana [5]. He settled in North Carolina, marrying in 1767 the daughter of a wealthy planter who gave them 300 acres of land. They had four children but they all died. When trouble broke out in 1771, he joined General Tryon, then in command of British forces in America, and in 1773 was was made Lieutenant in command of Fort Johnson in North Carolina. At the beginning of the American Revolution (1775), a year before his wife died, he received orders to dismantle the Fort. In a raid on the Fort, he lost his home by fire. He was then commissioned as a Lieutenent in Lt. Col. Gorham’s Royal Fencible Americans for the defence of the Maritime Provinces. Gorham had his headquarters at Fort Cumberland when it was attacked by the Americans. Wilson had by now been promoted to Captain and was probably in command at Fort Cumberland for periods of time when Gorham was in Halifax. By the time the Regiment was disbanded at the end of the revolution (1783), Wilson had lost his land holdings in North Carolina [6]. In 1788 he made application for lots in the Township of Sackville, but it wasn’t until 1797 that he was granted seven lots in sub-division Letter B. By then he had married Ann Harper, daughter of Christopher Harper, and had two sons, Harper and Richard. He acquired in 1790, by deed or transfer, 1 1/2 lots from Amasa Killam, an original grantee [7].

Col. Wilson was appointed Lt. Col. of the Westmorland County Regiment of Militia consisting of two battalions. Some members of the Militia whose names bear some historical significance were William Crane, Gideon Palmer, Bedford Boultenhouse, James Estabrooks, Richard Bowser and George Bulmer [8]. Family legend says that “Col. Wilson trained militia down in the field back of his house… and there are buried arms and ammunition down there somewhere.” [9] The field next to the location of the White Fence was known as the Muster Field. The following historical account was in the Sackville Tribune February 5, 1917 (original spelling):

In connection with this property it is interesting to note a gathering of the olden days which has completely passed into oblivion. This was the General Muster, which was held on the Richard Wilson farm. The Muster marked a gala day when everybody from far and near gathered to watch the military perform their manouvers. Several cannon were fomerly situated on this spot and here the families, great and little, gathered around, spread their lunches on the grass and watched the grand officers in their resplendent uniforms, mounted on prancing steeds, and the soldiers going through their drill. The fences were lined with humanity of all classes and grades and of both sexes while the military wheeled and marched and counter marched to the great delight of all assembled. Among the names prominent in the early Musters, Mr. Ford recalls the late Edwin Botsford, Richard Wilson, Henry Ogden and Mr. Chapman.

Col. Wilson died in 1810 at 70 years of age. His wife died in 1825. They are buried in the Methodist Burying Ground, Middle Sackville. Their names also appear on a large Wilson Family tombstone in the Sackville Rural Cemetary [10]. Their son lived in the home place, while his brother Harper built across the road from him [11]. Richard died in 1887 at 93 years of age, and his wife Sarah (Ayer) died in 1895 at 80 years of age [12].


  1. Richard Wilson’s highest rank while in active military service was Captain, but when he was placed in charge of the Westmorland County Militia his title was Colonel Commandant. With the abolition of the militia rank of Colonel in 1808, Wilson reverted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. In 1809, and until his death, his rank was Lieutenant-Colonel Commandant 1 Westmorland, but it is as “Colonel” that he has been remembered by (The New Brunswick Militia Commissioned Officers List, by David R. Facey-Crouther, 1984).
  2. Sackville Tribune February 5, 1917, and The Walling Map 1862, Mount Allison University Archives (MAA).
  3. Richard Wilson’s military record states that he was a native of Ireland while the Wilson family tombstone inscription states that he was a native of Scotland.
  4. Richard Wilson biog. Webster Manuscript Collection, File 110 (MAA).
  5. Obituary for Richard Wilson. Vital Statistics from N.B. Newspapers, vol. 1, 1982.
  6. Webster Manuscript Collection, File 110 (MAA).
  7. Milner, W.C. The History of Sackville New Brunswick, 1934.
  8. Webster Manuscript Collection, File 110 (MAA).
  9. Correspondence with James Wilson, a descendent of Richard Wilson. See Genealogy Index (MAA).
  10. Ayer, Douglas. Westmorland County New Brunswick Cemetary Inscriptions. 1968.
  11. Milner, W.C. The History of Sackville New Brunswick. 1934.
  12. Westmorland County Cemetary Inscriptions compiled by V. Bing Geldart. April 1992 (MAA).

January, 1998

The Thomas Lowe Mill

by Colin MacKinnon

I first heard of the Lowe Mill as a young boy and my earliest memories of trout fishing were on the Mill Brook with dad. In later years, the Boy Scouts of Canada built a camp on the site of the “Lowe homestead” (the camp has been moved and converted to a house on the Lower Fairfield Road) and at that time the remains of an earthen dam, wooden timbers and a shallow basement were clearly visible. It was not until I was much older that I found out how the brook got its name and pieces of this story started to unfold.

Thomas Lowe (born around 1821) possibly came to Canada after 1851 and bought land on what is now known as the Mill Brook. Anthony Lowe married Elizabeth Atkinson of Sackville and Elizabeth’s father had purchased at an auction much of the lands belonging to his father-in-law Amasa Killam. Killam had been involved in the Eddy Rebellion of 1776 when his lands were confiscated. The significance of this is that the Lowe Mill may have been built on land previously owned by Killam although I am not aware if Anthony Lowe and Thomas Lowe were related. Also, in the 1851 census, three “Lowes” lived with Henry Shipley and their relationship with Thomas Lowe is unknown.

The “Tom Lowe Mill Brook” (locally called the “Mill Brook”) crosses the Upper Fairfield Road (King Street) 4.5 km from East Main Street in Sackville. Downstream and prior to reaching the Lower Fairfield Road, the “Mill Brook” joins the “Doherty Brook”. And from there, this stream becomes “Carters Brook” and eventually finds its way to the Frosty Hollow Creek and Cumberland Basin.

In the 1861 census, Thomas Lowe is listed as a Boot and Shoemaker and a Millman. He was married to Levinia (last name not known; born ca. 1824) and at that time had four children living at home while one child was married the previous year. Thomas and Lavinia Lowe’s children were: Jane (born ca. 1847), Ann (ca. 1849), Othelia (ca.1852) and Ella (ca.1859).

In this census, Thomas was listed as owning 120 acres (10 acres “improved”) and his farm and Mill were valued at $1,200. He had one milk cow, seven sheep and had slaughtered $100 worth of pork that year. Also, that year he had made $100 making and selling boots and shoes and $120 in “wooden ware” (not cabinets). By 1881, the Lowe family disappeared from the census records: gone but not forgotten!

Information about the “Tom Lowe Mill Pond” can be gleaned from the writings of Frank W. Wry. Frank was born ca. 1877, the seventh child of William and Arabel Wry. Frank’s boyhood years were spent in the Fairfield area and his parents lived where I grew up at 176 King Street. Late in life, Frank Wry wrote a number of short stories (unpublished) about his early experiences and one of these, titled “The Tom Lowe Mill Pond”, goes as follows:

The Tom Lowe Mill Pond

Tom Lowe came to Canada around 1850. He bought land along the banks of Indian Brook [1]. It was a picturesque, prosperous brook of fast rushing water. Dry weather did not seem to affect its flow. It was always the same. It had originally been the site of a Micmac Indian village.

Tom Lowe was apparently a well-to-do Englishman, and had all the appearance of one. He dressed well; hired others to do the clearing of land, planting of corn, etc. He took great pleasure in riding a fine horse or buggy-riding with Mrs. Lowe to the village store. To see him sitting up in the driver’s seat, with derby hat, long supple whip and driving two lively horses was a grand sight. As a small boy standing bare-footed at the side of the road, I would stare at this marvelous display.

This was the ideal spot for a settler of wealth. Indian Brook, with its deep, wide flow of water and plenty of rainbow trout, attracted many forest animals. Deer, moose and bear coming to its banks, provided an ideal hunting ground. The steep banks offered an ideal opportunity for a saw or grist mill, which was needed. Mr. Lowe built a dam across this brook, backing up a large body of water, which became known as “Tom Lowe’s Mill Pond”. The regular sluice-way was for the over-flow water, which rushed through these outlets, to drop some twenty or more feet to the revolving flat surfaces of wheels. These spun around with great force. The power from these paddle wheels was used to saw logs into timber and boards. Wheat, buck-wheat and other grains were crushed and ground for the settlers. Payment in those days for wheat grinding was simple. The settler would take ten to twenty bags of grain to the mill, and for every bag the mill ground they took a share.; perhaps one bag for three. The arrangement was quite satisfactory.

Mr. Lowe built a fine house with a large living room. It contained a fireplace, with pullout drawers from the face of the stone surface; the fire was laid in the centre. In this way, the drawers were surrounded and proved to be excellent ovens. They could be used for baking or keeping the food warm. The interior of the house was well furnished with home-made furnishings of the day. The house also had a wine cellar. On the property was a large barn for cows, poultry, etc. A lawn, garden and meadow surrounded the house.

The spill-way from the sluices was so arranged as to form a passageway close-up under the dam. There was no trouble in walking through this passage. One did not even get wet. The bulk of the water was carried ten feet beyond the dam wall surface before falling on the paddle wheels. This was a big conundrum to people. Heavy gates prevented one from going through this passage to investigate. The twenty-foot drop of water below the sluice-way formed a deep, large pool of water. It would have been a great place to catch fish, but we were never allowed to fish there.

Mr. Lowe was reserved, almost to the point of causing one to feel he thought himself better than the other settlers. This was resented. Other than the usual business conversations with people, he had no particular friend. There would, however, be occasional visitors to his home. They were a lot like Mr. Lowe and not too friendly either.

Mr. Lowe travelled frequently. About twice a year he was away for longer periods than usual; people said to the United States or Europe. In his absence, Mrs. Lowe and Mr. Lowe’s father looked after the place. They were even more inclined to shun people. They were distant with the help around the place and Mr. Lowe Sr. was seldom seen. Some said that he was an artist or a writer.

About three miles from the Lowe home and mill was the old Copper Mine. From time to time it was in operation. This mine was tunnelled into the side of a sandy gravel hill. Several tunnels were used to get the copper out. And at about this time, minerals were being discovered by the settlers in small profitable quantities. Coal mines were opening up for domestic use – a great boom to the heating problem. Some gold and silver was found. Copper mines were paying good dividends, especially the Fairfield Copper Mine on the Upper Fairfield Road.

The immigrants from Europe were arriving in larger numbers. Adventurers of all kinds. At this time, counterfeit gold and silver coins started to make their appearance. Gold was the principal money used. One, five and twenty gold pieces were common, especially to the more prosperous. The less-fortunate had to be satisfied with silver coins. The counterfeit gold coins were found to be about 75% copper, washed or plated with gold. These were not only found locally but reports from the United States and Europe indicated that many of these could be found there as well. The source of these coins was suspected to be Canadian and investigations did show that the copper in them was the same as the Fairfield Copper Mine produced.

Then the Lowe family disappeared. Searchers found the source of the counterfeiting was the fine Lowe home! The tunnels and wine cellar contained all the necessary equipment for this large-scale, skilled operation. Consequently, the home was locked up by the Sheriff and remained for many years just as the owners had left it. In those days, vandals and burglars did not bother it. It was finally destroyed when a forest fire got out of control and burned it to the ground. The mill escaped. For several years, it was operated by private parties until the dam needed repairs. A big storm washed out part of the dam and spill-way, exposing the mystery of the well-guarded section of the dam. As young boys, we wandered around the mill and discovered that the locked gates opened into a passage-way under the dam and into a tunnel between the house and the dam! This tunnel provided for us a secret way to enter or depart without being seen!

A few years after the Lowes’ disappearance, a strange man came to the old house. The papers he showed the Sheriff stated that he was heir to the Lowe estate. He was an Englishman but living in the United States. He never spoke to anyone nor caused any trouble, but wandered up and down the Fairfield Road picking up copper-flecked stones and other pebbles. These he thrust into a drawstring canvas bag. At times he roamed along the Indian Brook also gathering stones. On rainy summer and winter days he sorted and re-sorted these stones which he guarded with great care. I, and other boys, watched this man several times by peeking through the window of the Lowe house and watched with amusement (not knowing the word “pity”).

We moved from this district to the town of Sackville when I was nine years old but I continued to visit this old site for many years. In 1956, Indian Brook nearly dried up as it was diverted into the water supply for the town [2]. I could still find indications of the old dam and the depression where the cellar of the old house had been.

This story is as I remember it. Perhaps some one with a flare for writing will improve on it some day.

Frank W. Wry

  1. Possibly a name mix-up as the “Indian Brook” is closer to Sackville and the water source to the old George Hicks Mill and not the Tom Lowe Mill.
  2. possibly another “slip” as the town water source is the “Fawcett” or “Ogden Mill” Brook and not the Mill Brook.

—Colin M. MacKinnon, Sackville, N.B., 15 January, 1997.

An Historical Note

from The Borderer: June 16, 1870 (page #2)

CAMBELL’S CARRIAGE FACTORY: This establishment is in Upper Sackville, in the vicinity of Morice’ Mills. A large building, 70 feet by 30 feet, contains on the ground floor, the workshop in the end fronting the road, the machine shop in the middle of the building, and in the rear end the horse power for driving the machinery. Upstairs are the store room, paint and varnishing rooms. The building and premises were purcahsed of Mr. John Beal who built and used it for several years as a tannery. There is also a commodious blacksmith shop on the premises. Four journeymen carriage makers and two blacksmiths are constantly employed; there are also three apprentices. The workshops are furnished with hand tools of every description. The horse-power is set in motion by one or more horses, according to the kind of work. Beside the circular jigsaw and lathes that it drives, are an emery belt for smoothing spokes, and a heavy grindstone for grinding the steel springs made in the blacksmith shop.

From 30 to 40 wheeled vehicles and about 20 sleighs and pungs are annually turned out in this establishment. A large amount of repairing is also done. The proprietor superintends the working operations himself, and manages the requisite business transactions. The nucleus of the establishment was begun by Mr. Campbell’s father, the late Ronald Campbell, and is over 20 years standing. Keeping pace with the growth of the country, we predict for it a long and prosperous carreer. Mr. Campbell is a justice of the peace.

Heritage Mystery

The house sketch below was forwarded to us by Sylvia Yeoman; I have left Sylvia’s comments on the sketch (dated 1902). The commentary on the bottom right of the sketch states:

The Old Church House Fort Lawrence, N.S.

So can anyone help us? The field behind the house clearly looks to me like the reclaimed “high marsh” between Sackville and Fort Lawrence. Does anyone know anything about this sketch? If you do, write to me at the address at the end of this newsletter.


Campbell Carriage Factory Artifact Committee Meets

On 15 March, 1998, the members of the Artifact Committee met for the first time in the boardroom of the Canadian Wildlife Service. Seventeen members attended to learn about the task ahead. Project co-ordinator Al Smith showed slides of the interior of the factory and circulated photographs. Everyone got a good feel from the number and condition of the artifacts that must be “rescued”. Committee Chair Rhianna Edwards then explained, in some detail, the methodology which will be used to document and then store all the tools, wood components, etc., that are in the factory. Finally, everyone was given the opportunity to let Rhianna know which part of the project he/she is interested in participating in: photography, drawing, cleaning, bagging, records system development, etc.

Actual work in the factory will not begin until early June but a training session will be conducted before then. And those who expressed an interest in helping to develop the record-keeping system and forms will be starting soon. There is still a need for volunteers and anyone who would like to join this committee should contact Rhianna at 364-0011 or by e-mail at

Heritage Day Celebrations a Success!!

The Heritage Day Celebration held on 14 February, 1998, was very successful. Approximately 300 breakfasts were served in the morning, equalling the number served last year. Member Elaine Smith did a wonderful job of co-ordinating and supervising the meal and we don’t know what we would have done without her! From all of us: Thanks, Elaine!

For the second year, Peter Seitl of Seitl’s Antiques conducted our very own “Antiques Road Show”. In two hours he made 63 appraisals, and a crowd of about 100 watched the fun. Throughout the day, tickets were sold on a poster donated by Thaddeus Holownia and framed by member Rob Lyon. Phyllis Stopps was the lucky winner. The day ended in the afternoon with a session entitled Appreciating Tantramar’s Heritage Landscape. Three presentations were given that illustrated how each layer of human occupation has left its mark on the Tantramar landscape… and how Tantramar continues to leave its impression on those who live here. The speakers were Sandy Burnett (History in the Mind’s Eye), Paul Bogaard (Heritage Landscape Pilot Project) and Thaddeus Holownia (Through a Photographer’s Eye).

The Trust wishes to thank all the members and non-members who joined us that day and helped to make the celebration an enjoyable event.

PLEASE NOTE that the Trust’s ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING will be on 28 May at St. Paul’s Anglican Church at 7:30 p.m. And a final note: Mr. Read’s history of the Grindstone Industry will open next fall’s first newsletter (I just ran out of time Mr. Read…).

Peter Hicklin, 229 Main Street, Sackville, N.B. E4L 3A7