The White Fence, issue #14

February 2001


Dear friends,

I must start this issue with the sad reality that heritage in the Tantramar area is presently in a state of mourning. First of all, the Tantramar Heritage Trust has lost a true friend with the passing of Bill Johnstone, manager of Johnstone’s Save Easy in Sackville.

Since the Trust was created, Bill always made our annual Heritage Day the success it was by donating all the food for the Heritage Day breakfast (coming up February 17th, see below) and his generosity made that event one of our most successful annual fundraisers. Bill was also a personal friend; he loved the Tantramar area, especially the town of Sackville, and valued its heritage. Bill recognized the value of heritage homes; his home in Upper Sackville (the late Calvin Hick’s great-grandfather’s Alvin Hicks’ turn-of-the-century house) is a beautiful example of fine architecture from Sackville’s past (and now fully restored by Bill).

We thank and honor Bill with a review of his good works, and the many honors he received, in this issue of The White Fence. And secondly, one of Sackville’s oldest properties, known locally, as the Roger’s House, was demolished last fall. I had received Donna Beal’s detailed research on it and had hoped to pass it on to you in the last newsletter but when I sent it to Leslie for formatting, there was no space left for it! But with both these recent losses in our area, we all lost two very important aspects of this wonderful part of the world: special people and special places. The memorial to Bill Johnstone below was originally compiled by Elaine Smith who prepared it when Bill was awarded the Paul Harris Award at the Rotary Club in February, 2000. I’ve modified and updated it for this publication.

But before I begin with these two significant memorials, I must now turned to my original editorial (which I’ve left largely unchanged from a couple of weeks ago) which was nearly completed when the news of Bill’s passing was announced to me. And I know Bill really wants us to continue with our work (without making too much of a fuss about him – that’s so much the way he was) and make sure that losses of heritage buildings, like the Roger’s House, doesn’t happen too often from this time on! So here’s my original editorial:

I must begin this issue’s editorial with three corrections from the last issue of The White Fence. First of all, in the last issue, I expressed some confusion about a story extracted from The Busy East (July, 1928) about the trade of potatoes between New Brunswick (via Sackville) and the British West Indies and South America which had been typed on F.L. Estabrooks stationary but to which no authorship was ascribed. I did not know where the article had come from and suggested that it would be nice to know where it had originated. In my haste, when I originally received it, I had simply thrown it into my newsletter folder without any notes as to its origins (not a habit to get into; I should have known better!!).

Soon after I mailed out the newsletters to you, I quickly received a call from Al Smith who clarified the source of this article; I had received it from him with some verbal information and instructions (which I had obviously forgotten!). Al had received it from Bob Estabrooks in Amherst who is Conrad’s son and Ern Estabrooks’ grandson and whose father was F.L. Estabrooks! So, Bob, my apologies for not having made note of these important family facts which I should have written down at the time Al told me but failed to.

Secondly, I must note that I also received the history of Cookville from the same source (see The White Fence No. 12); thank you Bob and family! Sometimes there are just too many things to remember and memory lapses like this can happen (especially to me!).

And my third mistake is that I had informed you in the editorial of that same newsletter (issue no. 13) that I was going to tell you the story of the recently-demolished Rogers’ house (which Donna Beal had so ably researched – with some pressure from me that she meet her deadline!!) by Silver Lake. In fact, no such article appeared in that issue of The White Fence; we just ran out of room!! Sorry everyone and especially Donna!

But now to get to the meat of our history. The Rogers’ House in Sackville is of special interest to me because of its connection with another important historic topic in the area: the Campbell Carriage Factory. While Donna Beal researched the information about this house in the archives, I spoke with Ralph Estabrooks about it, another excellent archival resource! You see, according to Ralph, George and “Mrs. Rogers” lived in the house, and, for many years, with their youngest son Abner. George worked at the Campbell Carriage Factory and Abner lived his life in the old home. I met Abner in the Campbell Carriage Factory a few years ago when he was well into his 80s; he passed away in 1999. George had married twice and brought 12 children into the world, all the time working in the Campbell Carriage Factory. Ralph remembers, in George Rogers’ day, the men making wooden carts at the factory with steel rims on the wheels. He remembers the “big fire” between the carriage shop and the blacksmith shop which was used to “heat the tires before they put them on the wheel”. At the time George worked with two black- smiths , James O’Neil and Herbert Beal. According to Ralph, “George Rogers worked for George Campbell his whole working life and he done good work!”

So we may have lost a historic property in Sackville when the Rogers’ house was recently demolished, but the memories of George Rogers and family live on. And when our wish to see the Campbell Carriage Factory Museum becomes reality, the fruits of George Rogers’ and Ronald Campbell’s work, and the unique skills they nurtured, will be there for all to see, admire and pass on to the next generation for whom carriage-building will be an even greater mystery.

We must continue to join in our efforts at The White Fence to ensure that the fascinating history of this great region in the maritime provinces is never a mystery for those who follow in our footsteps.

—Peter Hicklin

In memoriam

Bill Johnstone

Born January 30th, 1949, in Sackville to George and Eileen Johnstone, Bill always remained true to the community that raised him. Named after his grandfather William, who died the day Bill was born, he followed in his father’s footsteps when he took over the family grocery business 26 years ago. In that time, the business doubled in size and currently (year 2000 – editor) employs about 60 people from the community. He was fourth generation in the retail business and started learning the business carrying out groceries in his teens. In total, Bill spent 38 years dedicated to Johnstone’s Save Easy.

It should be known that his childhood dream was to become a cowboy when he grew up; he later changed his mind and decided that the grocery business had more of a future. Always an Entrepreneur at heart, it is said that at an early age, he would fill a grocery cart full of soft drinks and walk down to the Trans-Canada highway and sell the contents of his cart to the workers busy building the highway.

Bill had an excellent relationship with his employees. This was most obvious by the number of people who happily worked there for so long (and are still working there! – editor). He hired young people in the community and gave them an opportunity to develop skills that were essential for their success. A thank you letter from one such employee read: “I hope that someday I might be able to work for someone as nice as you again, you have been great”.

We all experienced Bill’s cheerful greeting whenever we entered his store. Bill’s character was definitely one which was looked up to by many. He had a great impact on many people’s lives; family members and co-workers would all agree that Bill’s strongest qualities included a wonderful sense of humor, a constant desire to help others and the fact that no one could even remember him losing his temper. Bill’s strong commitment to family and religious beliefs were a constant in his life, one that he drew on in difficult times over the years.

Bill received many awards over the years such as the NB Day Merit Award, Family Award of NB in the Business Category, Town of Sackville’s Good Neighbor Award, Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers’ Award of Merit, Southeast Economic Commission’s Excellence in Business Award, and many certificates and plaques of appreciation from numerous groups and organizations. The former mayor of Sackville, Pat Estabrooks, when presenting the Good Neighbor Award to Bill, said: “The list of special events which have benefitted from Bill’s generosity is endless. He has also given quietly behind the scenes for many special causes, often offering food, other products, and funding. Bill always went far beyond the normal contributions made by business people and residents. It has been estimated that he provided approximately 2,000 donations a year.” She added: “Thank you, Bill, for your long-standing commitment to making Sackville a better place to live. You are a town treasure!”

The list of people who benefitted from Bill’s generosity is far too long to mention but I would like to highlight a portion of a thank you letter from an appreciative recipient of his generosity which stated: “Like the Energizer Battery which keeps on running year after year, you continue to give support to community activities like ours over and over; we appreciate your unfaltering support”. Not only did Bill donate to almost every group and organization in Sackville, Rockport, Dorchester, and Port Elgin, he also provided bursaries for deserving students upon graduation from High School, supported seniors in the community with a discount on Wednesdays, provided community groups a location from which to sell tickets, flowers, etc in order to raise money, provided BarBQ equipment for groups wishing to fundraise by selling burgers etc. Bill was committed to playing an important role in the community and this was done on a daily basis.

In closing, I would like to read what one employee said about Bill. “Working with Bill is a little like being a storm chaser. We’re always trying to stay ahead of or behind the tornado. He even talks faster than we listen and before we’ve had a chance to carry out his instructions, he’s already changed his mind! However, just the mention of “storm” brings a smile to our faces and the windblown look melts in our hearts”.

Bill was married to Starr for 32 years and they had three children, Stacey, Troy, and Alana.

On behalf of all of all the members the Tantramar Heritage Trust, I pass on our heartfelt sympathies to the family. But most of all, I extend our warmest thanks to Bill for his support and faith in the THT since its inception. At the 2001 Heritage Day Breakfast, we’ll be thinking of you Bill!


The Rogers (Beal) House

By Donna Beal

The Rogers House

The Rogers House

A pile of rubble is all that is left of the Rogers house that has until recently stood on the first turn of the Pond Shore Road in Middle Sackville. It was the home of Abner “Bub” Rogers, and before him, his father George Rogers. But there is another family that plays a big part in the history of the house and also the history of the early settlement of Middle Sackville. Although the builder and date of the house is unknown, there is documentary evidence which identifies the house as that of William Beal.

William was a boy of 6 years when he emigrated to Canada from Yorkshire, England, with his parents Thomas and Ann (Wilkinson) Beal, and his two brothers, George and John. Thomas and Ann were 37 years old, George twelve, and John two years old.

Their passage to America did not go without incident. They were passengers on the ship Trafalgar which sailed out of Hull, England, on May 31, 1817. It was a 3-masted square-sterned ship with two decks, 267 tons burthen, 96 feet long and 25 feet wide, with quarter badges and poop deck.

On June 28th, the Hull Advertiser reported “The ship Trafalgar, [Capt.] Welburn, from this port to St. John’s [Saint John], New Brunswick, and Quebec, passed through the Pentland Firth the 12th instant, passengers and crew in good health and spirits.” Then on the 2nd of August, the New Brunswick Courier (Saint John) reported: “Shipwreck! – On Friday evening last, about half-past eight o’clock, the ship Trafalgar, Capt. Welburn, went ashore on Briar Island in a very thick fog – the ship will be a total wreck; chief parts of the materials saved… had 159 passengers, which, together with crew, were all saved.”

In a letter to Mr. H. Cochrane, owner of the vessel in Hull, from Capt. J. Welburn in Saint John, NB, 30 July 1817, is the following account of the loss of the vessel:

I am sorry to inform you of the loss of the Trafalgar, on the 25 of July, about half past eight o’clock in the evening, upon Brier’s Island, in the Bay of Fundy, about 60 miles below St. John’s [Saint John]. I had been running up all the day; it being very thick could not see anything; at seven pm I hove the ship to, with her head to the westward, thinking we were well over to the westward, sounding in 40 fathoms; the tide running very strong, and before we could see the land, we heard the surf against the rocks; got sail upon the ship but being so close the strong tide set us upon the rocks; it being high water when we got on, run out a kedge to heave her off, but all to no use. At low water, the ship was dry all round, amongst the rugged rocks, which went through her in different parts; the ship having as much water in the inside as there was on the outside at high water. The passengers were all safe landed that were brought out, and got all their baggage on shore. We are saving all the stores that we can, but they must be taken up to St. John’s [Saint John] to be sold, as there are no people upon Brier’s Island to purchase anything.

The Beal family eventually made its way to Sackville. Thomas Beal purchased a stretch of land in Division C near the Mill Pond (Silver Lake) from James Estabrooks (Corner Jim), whose farm house was located where the Baptist Church parsonage now stands. James Estabrooks was the son of William Estabrooks, one of the New England Planters who settled in Sackville ca. 1762, and was at that time, moving to a house up the road, now occupied by the Trites family.

It is possible that Thomas proceeded to build a new house for his family, but it seems more likely that he would move into the farmhouse vacated by James Estabrooks. And when the boys became of age, he divided the land between them: George building a house on the site of Verna (Mrs. Lloyd) Estabrooks’ house and William building his homestead in an ideal setting among the trees by the lake; John, the youngest, inherited the home place. What actually happened is not known, but the Walling Map of 1862 does picture the three brothers at those locations.

Thomas Beal was a tanner, and his three sons (also tanners) had thriving businesses. One tannery was located between William and George Beal’s residences, and John owned a tannery across the road from his residence which he later sold to the Campbell’s for a carriage factory. Ernest Estabrooks in his historical sketch “Early residents of Middle Sackville”, states that one of his first mercantile ventures was to sell a sheep skin to William Beal for ten cents.

Thomas’s wife Ann died in 1851, and the census of that year records him as a widower living with his son George who was also a widower. George’s first wife Elizabeth died in 1847 at 26 years of age. In 1854, he married Amelia Hicks and raised a family of 14 children, and is the progenitor of most of the Beal families of the Sackville area. In 1873, he sold his property to Joseph L. Black and possibly settled in Brooklyn at that time since his descendants originate from that area.

John married Rebecca Barnes and had three children. After selling his tannery to the Campbells, he moved to Shediac. The 1871 census records him as a Hotel Keeper in Shediac. He and his wife are buried in the St.Martins-in-the-Woods Cemetery in Shediac.

William married Prudence Barnes, a sister to Rebecca; they had five children. Many of their descendants lived in Ontario and British Columbia. On January 18, 1879, at 65 years of age, William died suddenly while in the hay mow of his barn. Prudence continued to live in the homestead, and, as she grew older, always had a family member living with her. When her granddaughter Annie Louisa left to get married in 1902, George Rogers came to live with her.

George Rogers was then 35 years old and had been an employee of the Campbell Carriage Factory since he was a lad of about 14 years of age. Two years later, Prudence and her son Charles, who was then living in Saint John, sold the house to George. Prudence probably continued to live in the house until her death in 1908 at the age of 83.

This is where George Rogers brought his first wife Percilla who died at the age of 33. His son Abner was born to his second wife Flossie Estabrooks in 1917. George continued to work for the Carriage Factory until he was about 79 years old. Abner lived his entire life in the house of his birth, and that is where he and his wife Margaret raised their family and continued to live until having to move to a special care home about three years ago, leaving the house vacant.

The Rogers House remained the same in appearance over the years. In 1892, it is pictured as a white Cape Cod-style house facing the south, with an unobstructed view of the lake and Morice’s Mill. There was a summer kitchen at the back entrance with a fireplace. Further up the hill behind the house stood a barn, and a tannery a little lower down on the slope. There was a lane to the house from the main road, since the Pond Shore Road didn’t exist at that time, and a wooden fence surrounded the front yard.

A few years ago, the stone sink and fireplace in the summer kitchen were sold; the sink is now located in a house at King’s Landing near Fredericton. Recently, the house was sold to Mr. Harold Lister of Parrsboro, Nova Scotia, It was dismantled, each piece of the frame labelled and numbered, and is now in storage not far from where it stood for so many years. Hopefully, someone will soon erect a house with the frame of this simple, yet beautiful, old house, and preferably in a setting equally as beautiful as where it originally stood by the Mill Pond.

Sincere thanks to Jean (Rogers) Small and Prof. Bruce Elliot of Carleton University, for their contributions to the history of the Beal and Rogers families.

—Donna Beal, Mount Allison Archives, Sackville, N.B.

And please note…

If you recall, in the last issue of The White Fence I asked for information about a mystery poster from Vince Reinsborough which announced “The Great Catholic Picnic Along the Shore of Maurice Lake…” etc. which was announced for a Monday, 5 September, but no date was given.

I still don’t have any definitive description of this great picnic nor the year when the announcement was made. But Bob Sealy from Sackville kindly figured out what the possibilities might have been because there could only be so many years when the 5th September would have fallen on a Monday! And below is the answer I received from Bob:

“If le Grand Pique-Nique was held in the 20th century, it must have been in: 1910… ’21… ’27… ’32… ’38… ’49… ’55… ’60… ’66… ’77… ’83… ’88 or ’94.

In the 19th century, it could have been held in: 1803… ’08… ’14… ’25… ’31… ’36… ’42… ’53… ’59… ’64… ’70… ’81… ’87… ’92… ’98”.

Thank you Bob! Now this gives us potential time frames to start on. Now can any of you dear readers find more information for me? I can only assume that some of these celebrations occurred during the 20th century when some of you (and your parents probably) attended this great picnic! Any information about this event would be greatly appreciated. Please write or give me a call at the address or phone number in this issue. Thanks!


Celebrating Heritage Week, 2001

Schedule of Events, Saturday February 17, 2001

  • Heritage Day Breakfast — Saturday, February 17, 2001; 7:30–11:00 am, at Tantramar Regional High School, Sackville, N.B.

The Tantramar Historical Society presents: From horse-drawn to horseless carriages

  • 10:00 am “Horse-drawn Carriages of the Campbell Carriage Factory”, Paul Bogaard, Past-President, Tantramar Heritage Trust
  • 10:30 am “By Their Roads Ye Shall Know Them: The Coming of the Motor Age to New Brunswick” Charles Allain, Heritage Branch, Province of New Brunswick

The Historic Sites Identification Project and Renaissance Sackville will host the following:

  • 4:00 pm — Unveiling of the Ford Building Historic Plaque (location: Pizza Delight)

NOTE: No Antique Road Show this year