Traditionally, January is the time of year for checking past achievements and laying plans for future endeavors. The month is appropriately named for the Roman god Janus. He was depicted as having two heads; one looking backward, the other forward; vigilantly facing both past and future.
In 2003, the town of Sackville will be celebrating its centennial. Four years is not a very long time to plan an appropriate observance of this historic event. Will we be ready?
Let’s go back to the Sackville of 1902–03. To begin, it may not be a surprise to learn that public opinion was strongly divided on the question of the town’s incorporation. Two votes were required before ratepayers gave approval to the idea.
The first attempt occurred in 1902. At a public meeting held in Ford’s Hall on Feb. 20th, strong opposition was voiced by Charles Fawcett. It was his view that
Sackville had too few people and the [… population was] too much scattered to justify incorporation. Along with several others he pointed to the
crippling taxation that would inevitably follow.
A more positive note was struck by Thomas Estabrooks. Speaking in support, he cited fire protection and the provision of improved water and sewage facilities as priority requirements for Sackville. Estabrooks argued that
a town council could make better arrangements to deal with such matters than otherwise would be the case.
He also pointed out that the projected move would give the town
a commercial importance and thereby assist future development. At the end of the meeting incorporation was rejected by a vote of 151 to 108.
A second vote was held Jan. 12 1903. In the meantime, a number of ratepayers had been won over to the idea, as incorporation was carried by a majority of 30 votes: 167 in favour, 137 against. Following passage of enabling legislation a public meeting was held on Mar. 5 1903 for the purpose
of nominating a mayor and council.
There was unanimity that Senator Josiah Wood (1843–1927) be elected mayor by acclamation. One of the first two graduates of Mount Allison, Wood had a well-established reputation as lawyer, businessman, shipbuilder and politician. In the latter capacity he served as MP for Westmorland from 1882 to 1895 when he accepted an appointment to the Senate.
In speeches quoted by the press, it is clear that Wood along with several other leading citizens, hoped that a slate of eight aldermen (as councillors were then called) might also be elected by acclamation. Toward this objective eight names were put forward: Captain T.E. Anderson, Silas Copp, Amasa Dixon, Thomas Estabrooks, Alexander Ford, John Johnston, Frederic Ryan and A.E. Wry.
This action immediately prompts the question: Why? Were there not others in the community willing to offer as candidates? Two reasons may explain this unusual action. The movement toward incorporation had been bipartisan, attracting supporters of both Liberal and Conservative parties; accordingly, there was a desire to keep
politics out of the municipal arena.
Possibly more important was the fact that in March 1903 the province was in the midst of a provincial election. Political leaders on both sides obviously wanted to concentrate their efforts on the latter contest.
the plan was put forward with the best of intentions, it was soon to be challenged. Rumors and counter-rumors spread throughout the community. While Wood was a prominent Conservative, it was suggested that the projected slate was
loaded with Grits. Various interest groups were soon heard from. The major businesses and industries were represented, but where was the representative of labour? Others asked pointedly:
where did each of the candidates stand on the temperance issue?
As Mark Davis informed members of the Tantramar Historical Society at a recent meeting:
In 1903 the temperance movement was a force ’to be reckoned with’ in the community.
When the council election was held, a total of eleven candidates offered for the eight seats. To the original list Charles E. Carter, Robert Duncan, Sydney W. Hunton and Frank A. Harrison were added. In the interim John Johnston had dropped out. The bipartisan slate did very well, as seven of its original members were elected with Frederic Ryan, Amasa Dixon, Albert E. Wry and Silas Copp leading the polls with 309, 296, 292, 281 votes respectively. Rounding out the first council were: Frank A. Harrison, Alexander Ford, Thomas Anderson and Thomas Estabrooks.
On Saturday afternoon April 2, 1903 the first meeting of the newly elected town council was held. Committees to deal with Finance, By-laws, Streets and Lighting, Fire Protection and Police were named; while the division of the town into wards was handed over to the committee on streets for a recommendation. The town of Sackville was in business.
One issue, foreshadowing a hint of council debates in the 1990s, was mentioned in an editorial in the Sackville Tribune :
A start has been made toward getting the civic machinery in working order. The hope is expressed that all subsequent meetings may be held in the evening. Many citizens desire to attend the deliberations of council and it will be impossible for them to do so if sessions are held in the afternoon. For the record, the next council meeting was scheduled in the evening.