My dear friends,
We begin a new year of prospecting for more fascinating history deep in the rich mine of Tantramar. Now before we grab our picks and shovels to begin our new excavations, I must issue a warning at the very beginning: make sure that you have lots of safe storage space because many large gems will be appearing before you and you will need lots of room to keep it all!!
My fellow prospector Donna Beal has been exploring a rich vein of historic Sackville commerce and, a few weeks ago, she called me to the archival history deposits at the Mount Allison Archives to show me our first gem of this year for this newsletter: a photo along with the story of the old Richardson Store in Sackville. You know, that’s the old abandonned building that has been languishing behind the Sackville Information Center beside the fork in the road where Main Street branches into Salem St. As the photo shows, the Richardson store itself used the be in the very center of the fork in the road!
And our second little gem is silver! Yes, we are indeed mining precious minerals and fellow prospector Harold Black extracted the story of the silver spoons which were instrumental in the founding of Mount Allison University in Sackville. I was first made aware of this fascinating little yarn many years ago; I don’t doubt its truth since I believe that much of our history is peppered with such incidents which are often lost to the history books. So read carefully; someday, who you invite for dinner might change the course of history!
Now dear friends, this month is an anniversary, of sorts, for this region. It was 130 years ago that S.M. Saxby predicted that the high tide of 5 October, 1869, would bring about an atmospheric disturbance that became well known in this region as The Saxby Gale. And so in this issue of The White Fence, are some newspaper stories of the day which described the event. So get your umbrella when you get to that section…
In this issue is an article written by an unknown citizen of Tantramar. While going through some old family papers Mr. Bill Black came across an article which had been written by a family member, Mr. Harold Garnet Black, whom he could not remember. So H.G. Black’s article about Mount Allison’s silver spoons was passed on to us and with little editing, is included in this issue. However, a postscript had to be added for clarification. Your editor would love to hear from any readers who may know something about Mr. Harold Garnet Black, presumably from Sackville.
You will note in this, our first White Fence discussions of winter ’98/’99, that the format of the newsletter has changed considerably. We can now write on larger paper and used both sides so that we can include all we want to tell you without any increase in our mailing cost! For this, we thank Leslie van Patter for her interest and professional talents for making this possible. From all of us: thanks Leslie!
So now, get your light, put on your galoshes and grab your pick and shovel because a new history-mining season is about to begin! And as always, enjoy!
Did you know?
Did you know that the name Sackville was chosen in honour of Lord George Sackville (1716–1785), commander of the British Forces? And did you know that this name for the township of Sackville was officially adopted at a meeting held on 20 July 1762 at an Inn located near Fort Cumberland (now Fort Beausejour) and owned by Mrs. Charity Bishop?
Furthermore, at this meeting, did you know that the first steps were taken towards municipal government for the soon to be established Township of Sackville which was formally established in 1763 and comprised of 100,000 acres?
Did you know that the Town of Sackville (proper) was incorporated on Monday, February 12, 1903? And on that date Senator Josiah Wood was selected for the office of Mayor and the first Town Council consisted of Mayor Wood and the following eight aldermen: Fred Ryan, Albert Wry, Thomas Anderson, Thomas Estabrooks, John Johnson, Amasa Dixon and S.W. Copp.
And did you know, that the Intercolonial Railway was extended to Sackville from Dorchester and opened on December 13, 1869, and extended to Amherst, Nova Scotia, one year later opening on December 29, 1870 ?
The Richardson Store
Newcomers to the town of Sackville and those visiting the Information Center on Main Street may wonder at the location and unusual design of the two buildings situated at the far side of the Mount Allison Parking lot.
Most residents know something of the history of the attractively-decorated octogonal building which is now the Tourist Information Center and Gift Shop. Before August 1987, it was a residence on Bulmer Lane and was quite often referred to as the “Anderson House” for the seafaring family that owned it for almost half a century. But the history of the negected structure next to it, as though patiently waiting for someone to give it some purpose, is the subject of this sketch.
The Richardson Store, which stood for over 60 years at the corner of College Street (Salem Street) and Main Street, originated in a square one-storey building constructed by Cyrus Black. The business was established in November 1876 by Charles W. Richardson who did much of his trade with the Academy students housed in the residence across the street (Palmer Hall) and the students housed in The Lodge (the first university building built in 1862, where the old Pathology building — and now university computer department — is located), just a short distance from the store.
In 1892, C.W. Richardson’s son, Frederick Charles, took over the business. In 1901, two years after the death of his father, F. C. Richardson erected a new two-storey building with a thirty-foot frontage. It extended back 70 feet on one side with an abrupt angle on the other side to fit on the pie-shaped lot. The front of the store exhibited two large plate glass windows shaded by roll-up canvas awnings. The old store building, connected to the west side of the new store, was used for storage.
In the Sackville Tribune of December 18, 1902, the business boasted an excellent frost-proof cellar offering the best facility for keeping apples, of which Mr. Richardson handled 500 barrels that year. The store’s chief lines were groceries, confectionery, fruit, crockery and china-ware, flour, and animal-feed.
With the growth of the university on one side and the expansion of the Fawcett Foundry on the other, F.C. Richardson’s store prospered until his death in 1930.
In 1941, the Richardson Store property was sold to Mount Allison University which extended the university property to College Lane and Main Street, a much more well-defined boundary. The store was purchased by Enamel and Heating Products Ltd. for $350.00 plus the additional cost for moving it off the property. It was moved across the street to the foundry property and situated behind the Enamel Shop. The roof was repaired and new shelving units installed thus making the building more suitable for storing the foundry’s surplus and non-current stove patterns. For 45 years, the “store turned storage shed” was hidden behind the foundry buildings and forgotten by those who knew of its former glory. In 1986, when the Enamel and Heating Products Ltd. buildings were demolished and the “Richardson Store”, by now in a delapidated state but still recognizable, was again exposed for all to see. The old store stood forlorn while the former foundry property, now owned by the university, was cleared of debris and made into a parking lot.
The following year, the octogonal house was moved from Bulmer Lane to stand alongside the old store. Now was it a coincidence that these two unlikely buildings should come together like this? The uniting of two distant relatives?
Although the name Anderson has always been attached to the octagonal house, there are those who still remember it as the Richardson House because Horatio Richardson purchased the house from the Andersons in 1901 and the family lived there until after the death of Horatio in 1939. Furthermore, it wasn’t surprising to discover that Charles W. Richardson of the Richardson Store and Horatio N. Richardson of the octogonal house, were first cousins*.
*conversations with Mary (Richardson) Maynes, Moncton, N.B.
The Tribune, Sackville, December 18, 1902. Mount Allison University, R. P. Bell Library.
The Argosy. C.W. and F.C. Richardson Store advertisements, Mount Allison University Archives.
The Yorkshire Antecedents and American Descendents of the William H.A. Richardson Family of Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada and Reading, Massachusetts compiled by Louise Ryder Young. 1984. Mount Allison University, R.P. Bell Library.
The Saxby Gale
If you attended the presentation by Mr. Alan Ruffman on 21 October, you heard all the interesting technical details about a dramatic event in the history of Tantramar. And now, read on about how the press of the day viewed this great storm.
In 1868, S.M. Saxby of the British Navy predicted an exceptionally high tide for 7:00 a.m., October 5th, 1869, that would cause a “marked atmospheric disturbance” around the world. The prediction was printed in the London Standard and widely circulated. The appointed day saw little damage along Nova Scotia’s Atlantic Coast, but contemporary press reports show Saxby’s prophesy sadly accurate for the Bay of Fundy:
From Windsor: About 11:00 o’clock Monday night four dykes at Poverty Point, near Smith Island, gave way and ten minutes afterwards the lowlands for miles around were flooded, and their contents much damaged. The inmates were compelled to take refuge in the upper stories. Many cattle and sheep were drowned. Mr. P. Miles lost 34 sheep. The tide rose four feet higher than it was ever known before ! At Falmouth and Newport the dykes were carried away, and the land flooded. At Horton, and upon the Grand Pre dykes, a quantity of hay was destroyed and numbers of cattle drowned, some of which drifted out to sea. Bridges were carried away or destroyed !
—Halifax Chronicle, Oct. 8, 1869
From Cumberland: The tremendous tide swept over the whole of the marshes of Cumberland and Westmorland ! When it was considered that almost every farmer adjacent to a tract of (dyked) marsh depends upon it for the principal part of his hay, and that this, after being cut, remains for the most part on the ground in stacks, or in exceptional cases in barns, to be hauled in the winter, the great extent of the losses may be more nearly approximated. But the loss of hay now, great as it is, embraces but a small portion of the damages to the proprietors of (dyked) marshes. The expense of repairing, and in many cases renewing miles of heavy dykes; and the injurious effects upon future grass crops for years, through the action of the tide, to swell up the account of losses ! At half past 10 o’clock on Monday night the dykes overflowed. The water having gradually accumulated on the marshes to the depth of from one to two feet, a wave, similar to the tidal bore, swept up with a rearing noise and a great velocity, carrying almost everything before it; stocks of hay, fences and in many cases, well-filled barns succum bing to its power. Four men who went to Fort Lawrence to secure a schooner sought shelter from the wind in a barn. The tide rising, they abandoned the barn and took to a fence which extended from it to the upland, and by passing along which they hoped to be safe. The waves swept away the fence. Two of the men managed to reach some poles and save themselves. The others were drowned. An old man named Steward, belonging to Minudie, engaged in cutting grass at Minudie Point, was in the habit of spending his nights in a barn there. On the Terrific night, finding the barn afloat and breaking up, he succeeded in clinging to a passing haystack. After being for some time at the mercy of the wind and the tide, hope almost failed as he was being fast borne seaward, when his life-buoy grounded on the top of the dyke, seemingly at the very brink of destruction. He was rescued by means of a boat on the following day. A horse which was in the barn was drowned.
—Amherst Gazette, Oct. 18, 1869
From Windsor: Ten days after the Gale: The floods have abated. On Tuesday the last field was left dry, and now nothing but a barren scene meets the eye in every direction. The beautiful green afterfeed of the dykes is turned into a muddy brown marsh, which produces an unhealthy dismal fog and a sickening smell; fences are lying strewn in every direction; haystacks are racked and ruined, and occasionally the carcass of a dead animal is seen bleaching in the sun. A meeting of dyke-holders voted to repair the Tragothic or Big Dyke. The Town Dyke at Avondale will not be repaired, as the rates are so high that it will not pay them for their trouble. It seemed to be resting on quicksand and was constantly settling. In 1860 it was decided to abandon the structure and build a new one about two hundred yards up the river. Two years were taken to finish the work, and in the meantime, the old aboiteau was kept in repair, which gave much better facilities for working at the new one. When the Eastern Extension Railroad was constructed (1872), a right-of-way was secured by the company over the new aboiteau, and later when the road came into the hands of the Dominion Government, an arrangement was made with the commissioners of the aboiteau for maintaining the work !
*Note: Name of newspaper not given
The arrangement with the railroad has continued into the 1980s. The tracks along the top of the dyke, which protect 820 hectares of farmland as well as a stretch of the Trans-Canada highway just inside it, between Amherst, N.S. and Sackville, New Brunswick.
“The Saxby Gale” in: Maritime Dykelands: the 350-year Struggle. The Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture and Marketing. 1987. Halifax, Nova Scotia. 81 pp.
Mount Allison’s Silver Spoons
spoons instrumental in founding of university
By Harold Garnet Black* (no date given)
Though few people are aware of it, the founding of Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B., actually hung upon a few silver spoons, according to Rev. Charles H. Johnson DD., former archivist of the Maritime Conference of the United Church of Canada.
On a farm at Limavady, about 15 miles east of Londonderry, Ireland, in the late 1700’s, lived Joseph Allison, a Presbyterian (at least nominally). A friend of Joseph’s, it seems, had given his wife a dozen silver spoons. One day, when the land agent came around to collect the annual rent from the farmers in that area, he collected it from Joseph’s two neighbours but not from Joseph himself because he was not at home at the time. Upon his return, however, Mr. Allison learned from his neighbour that their rent remained the same as in the previous year, and he therefore assumed that his would likewise remain unchanged.
When the agent returned the next day, Mrs. Allison invited him to dinner so that after dinner the rent business could be attended to and the proper papers made out. Unfortunately for the visitor’s sake, Mrs. Allison had set the table with the new silver spoons. When the men sat down later to prepare the necessary papers, the land agent told Mr. Allison that his rent would have to be raised.
As might be expected, the latter stoutly protested against any such increase, explaining that his neighbour’s rent had not been raised. To this argument the agent calmly replied: “Anyone who can afford silver on his table can afford to pay more rent!” Instantly, the incensed Joseph Allison picked up the papers and tore them into shreds, declaring with some vehemence: “I’ll emigrate before I’ll pay more rent!”
And go he did, for his were no idle words. Soon thereafter, he and his family packed up and started for Philadelphia. But the ship on which they sailed was wrecked off treacherous Sable Island and luckily, the passengers and the crew (and the silver spoons) safely landed and were later taken to Nova Scotia.
Remembering that another Limavady man was a Presbyterian minister at Grand Pre, Joseph Allison took himself thither and afterwards bought a farm on the Gaspereaux where the river was bridged for the first time by a sunken bridge on the main road between Annapolis Valley and Windsor.
Joseph Allison’s oldest daughter married Colonel Jonathan Crane, whose brother William built the well-known “Crane House” opposite the Methodist Church in Sackville. A son of Joseph married an Anglican lady from Canard, Nova Scotia, and settled there. Their son Charles Frederick Allison who left school at fourteen and, after clerking with relatives for some years at Grand Pre and Parrsboro, finally located in Sackville where he afterwards became William Crane’s partner and successor.
As all Allisonians know, it was this Charles F. Allison who founded the Mount Allison Academy which began its educational work on January 19, 1843, and who, a decade later, was also instrumental in establishing “an academy for ladies.” He died in 1858 and so did not see the realization of his dreams of a university for the creation of which he had made provision in his will, and whose first class ( two graduates: Howard Sprague and Josiah Wood) was graduated in 1863. It is worth noting that Mount Allison University was the first in Canada to give a Bachelor of Arts degree to a woman in 1875.
Who would ever imagine that the founding of Mount Allison University rested on so slight a thing as the gift of a dozen silver spoons. But such did fate decree! The spoons says Dr. Johnson, are now in the posession of Mrs. Erroll Mitchell of Halifax. The writer opines that it would be a most happy ending to the story if some day this historic silverware in a handsome case could grace some suitable spot in the present institution.
Again, as most Allisonians are now aware, five of these same silver spoons were presented to the University by Chancellor Ralph Pickard Bell on Founder’s day, 1961, and are on exhibit for all to see on the first floor, by the stairs, in Mount Allison’s Ralph Pickard Bell Library. Two spoons were presented to the University by Ernest Allison Bell, two by Mr. Ennol Allison Mitchell and one is “on loan” from Allison Hope Strachan. And the story Mr. Black wanted all to know about is available at the library (pamphlet: The Case of the Silver Spoons), just by the spoons display.
Yes, like the story of The Saxby Gale, it’s a story that has been told before, but certainly one that local historians never tire of! Thank you Mr. Black, wherever you may be !
And Mr. Read and Mrs. Henderson: your contributions will appear in the Christmas edition of The White Fence.
Membership dues for 1999 are now due. Please send $10.00 to Tantramar Heritage Trust, P.O. Box 6301, Sackville, E4L 1G6.
Your friendly (but harried) editor,