The White Fence, issue #19

May 2002


Dear friends,

Welcome to another journey along Tantramar’s historic White Fence where you can read young Miss Morton’s understanding of Middle Sackville’s history in 1914 (studiously ignoring that the first great war was igniting in other regions of the world in that fateful year).

When I first became interested in Sackville’s history, it was made clear to me that Upper Sackville and the High Marsh was where Sackville’s prosperity began with the harvesting and selling of marsh hay. And it was also made clear that, in time, the town migrated southwards towards the wharf until Sackville reached its present position. No problem there. But before that, Middle Sackville was a prosperous industrial “hub” for a hundred years. Middle Sackville: an industrial hub?! Yes, I am aware of the J.L. Black enterprises but an “industrial hub” had to include much more. Read what Miss Bertie has to tell us about the many mills which were present then, along with J.L. Black’s and other businesses which did create an industrial center in our town near the turn of the century. But please note that Al Smith found a number of errors in some of the dates shown in Miss Bertie’s essay. For example, she states that “unknown explorers” arrived in Sackville in 1700; actually, French Acadians settled here in 1708. And where she indicates that a mill dam was built about 1760, it was actually built in 1767. And the reference about the chapel bell being in Cape Bauld is probably correct although it likely was not there for long. Because from Cape Bauld this bell travelled to Beaumont and later to Fort Beausejour where it rests today. There are likely other “errors” in Miss Morton’s “essay” and so I ask any of you who see errors in this historic essay project to please notify me and I can then make corrections on our next trip to the White Fence.

And these industrial centers in Middle Sackville were not without their own tragedies. Witness below another news story, but this time at the start of the second world war: in the Telegraph Journal of Wednesday, July 5, 1939, when a great fire in Middle Sackville undoubtedly stirred much grief and serious concerns.

Please note that in her essay Miss Morton presents not only facts about Middle Sackville but also reflects some people’s regrettable attitudes towards certain subjects such as Tantramar’s native peoples. I include all of her remarks here as it reflects another historic fact about certain attitudes held by some of our ancestors near the turn of the century (I can assure you I came close to applying the “delete button” to Miss Morton’s essay here!). Miss Bertie’s not-so-subtle racist views towards native peoples is crude but that attitude was clearly “acceptable” to the printers at that time. Nonetheless, she was knowledgeable about the local history and although the general tone of her “history” is well-known to many of us today, I did find some of the details she presents new (to me anyway!) and interesting.

So, as we’ve done once before, make yourself comfortable and take the July, 1914, Sackville Tribune and the 1939 Telegraph Journal off the table and start reading and picture what Middle Sackville was like prior to WW I. Then read about the tragic fire at the start of WW II.

And please note (again) that this summer, Sackville’s Historic Sites and Monuments Committee will set up an information kiosk about the history of Middle Sackville at the junction of “rails for trails” and Church Street (next to McPhee Lane). It should be ready sometime in June so watch out for it!

Now, before you visit the kiosk and sit down to read your old newspapers, be careful! …because something could drop out of those old publications… In my case, I was having a pleasant chat with Mariner Black when between the pages of Tantramar history fell out a letter of one of Mariner’s ancestors, Mr. S.F. Black, dated July 1862. As I am sure you are well aware, in those days, a lot of shipping/selling and trading took place in the Tantramar region. This letter gives us an inside look of how some of that business was carried out. Mr. Samuel Black was clearly a major shareholder of a ship named “Seamans Bride”, full of cargo, quite likely lumber. Captains were hired to take cargo to “the Continent” and sell it. To increase the profits to the shareholders, the cargo had to be sold but also, at times, the ship which carried it was also sold. And these profits were likely shared between all the stakeholders. But what about the captains of those ships? Many of these captains could benefit by sailing to many ports and do a little trading (and make a few dollars) before the ship they sailed was sold. So have a good look at this letter and you can read (between the lines) all the “wheeling and dealing” that underwent between the shareholders (and, in this case, the captain as well). And when you read about the great fire, note that by 1939, 77 years later, the Black family was still a significant enterprise in the town of Sackville.

I consider McCully’s letter to Samuel Black a most important and interesting letter as it probably illustrates common conflicts between shareholders involved with early shipping of cargo between the Maritime Provinces and “the Continent” in the mid-1800s. Mariner feels that there may have been 20 or more shareholders involved with the “Seaman’s Bride” …. with the uncle of his great-grandfather representing these shareholders. Samuel Black and Patterson McCully & Co. represent so well the many ship owners/builders and agents who populated an important part of our maritime landscape during the previous century.

When I admired the ornate hand-writing in Patterson McCully’s letter to S. F. Black and read Miss Bertie’s essay about Sackville, I felt trans-ported 140 years to the gravel roads of Middle Sackville (just by J. L. Black’s, looking at all the fancy goods for sale in the store’s large windows) and the shores of the Sackville Wharf (where Seaman’s Bride was moored), and…my…what a busy place this was!

Join me, read on.

—Peter Hicklin

…on a personal note

Dear Heritage Trust members:

Newsletter no. 19 came close to not making it to the printers. I thank Mariner and Barb Black for providing us with the fascinating family letter in this issue and the photo of the old store. For a while it was all I had… it was going to be a very short newsletter.

Then Al Smith came through with Bertie Morton’s “essay” and a copy of the article on the J.L. Black and Sons fire of 1939, again through Mariner and Barb.

But dear friends, we’re starting to run out of gas! Just read the back page: we need volunteers! We know that many of you have old letters and diaries and old newspapers in your attics… please bring them out! We’ve been excavating this old mine for a few years now and we need to find some new prospectors and a new seam! This last-minute chaos we have to go through with each issue is not necessary. We’re all in this together. Please search your attics and allow us to have a store of information so that we can be an issue ahead of the game every time a newsletter has to be prepared. I, for one, would be most grateful.

Because before long, I won’t have anything to write to you about and, if this continues, the old White Fence is in danger of toppling over…and I’m not much of a carpenter!

Please contact us with any historical information which might interest your fellow members in for next issue. The White Fence belongs to you!

In friendship,

P. Hicklin

The Sackville Tribune — July 23, 1914

The History of Middle Sackville

Of Greater Interest than the Average Village on account of its Location

Something About Early Settlers

Told in an Essay by Miss Bertie Morton, of the Middle Sackville High School

Middle Sackville, because of its location near the coast of New Brunswick, and near the first settlements in Acadia, has had a history of greater interest than the average village.

The earliest inhabitants were Indians, who were as civilized as the average Indians of that time. There were many tribes in Canada but the Micmac group of the Algonquin tribe, outnumbered all other tribes, in New Brunswick. The houses they lived in were long and narrow, – large enough to hold several families. They were made of tall saplings, planted in a row and bent together to meet at the top. These were covered with bark, an opening being left at the top for the smoke to go out, and light to come in. Fires were built on the ground, each fire being used by two families.

Villages were built on the banks of rivers, on a hill which afforded defence. The men hunted, feasted and fought, for they hated peaceful labor. The women did the work and among many products were: dyed mats, birch-bark canoes, a great variety of pipes and the mysterious wampum. This wampum consisted of beads of different colors, made from the inside of shells. It took the place of money, paper, pen and ink, and was the chief article of adornment. The chief grain food of the Indians was maize or corn, cooked without salt. Dog flesh, and occasionally human flesh were used as food. The dress was skins of animals such as bears and foxes. They painted their faces and tattooed many hideous pictures on their bodies. Indians were very kind-hearted, but suspicious. They worshipped spirits; fearing many of them yet Manitou or Satan had no more terror for them then their own wives.

The first explorers came to Sackville A.D. 1708. Whether English or French we do not know. It was at this time that the name Acadia was given to the Maritime Provinces and eastern Maine. About 1767 a mill dam was built near the site of the present mill known as Upper Mill Dam. Farther down the river one was built known as Lower Mill Dam.

About 1755 the final struggle for the possession of America began. In Acadia, the struggle centered around Fort Beausejour which the English captured changing its name to Fort Cumberland. The English now became more numerous, and the industries and population of Middle Sackville increased rapidly. A mill dam was built on the site of the Upper Mill Dam, the latter having completely disappeared. The mill was built by a Mr. Harper, forefather of the present School Trustee, and was later bought by a Mr. Morice, fore-father of Messrs. Morice, who run the mill today. Mr. Morice added to this property a grist mill, carding mill and machine shop.

About this time a stagecoach began to run between St. John and Halifax, and Middle Sackville being on the Post Road, became the most important trading centre in the country. It had four or five hotels or taverns, as they were called; three or four tanneries, and two or three stores. The coach stopped at a hotel kept by Mr. Moses Lawrence, who lived north of the present tennis grounds. It was drawn by four or five horses. The last of the old drivers is a Mr. Miles Hoar, who lives in Sackville. Produce was carried by vessel from St. John to Sackville. One vessel was built by Mr. Thos. Wheaton, and hauled by oxen from near the pound to the river. In the fall of the year, captains would have their vessels hauled on shore and would spend the winter at the taverns. Nor was social life forgotten. The oldest inhabitants tell us of weekly dances, and often social gatherings, to which people would come from far and near.

The first town hall of Middle Sackville was built near the home of Mrs. J.R. Ayer. It was considered a very nice building at that time. All public meetings were held here, also the annual cattle show. The original building is at present used by Mrs. Ayer for a barn. The old French chapel was at the Four Corners. The cemetery was at the Cross Roads. When the French left after 1760 they buried the bell and altar near the present home of Mr. Fletcher George. Many years after a party of French came from Cape Bauld and asked for permission to dig in the field for these relics which had been lain so long unknown to the people who passed over them. The bell is now in the chapel at Cape Bauld.

The ship Albion, which sailed from Hull, England, brought immigrants among whom were Messrs. Christopher Harper, Thomas Scurr, John Atkinson, Thomas Shipley, William Trueman, Richard Dobson; Richard Lowerison, William Pipes, William Chapman, Ralph Siddal and Andrew Weldon. These men have left large numbers of descendents, in this and neighborhood parishes.

Mr. Harper arrived at Fort Cumberland in May and was surprised to find snow on the ground. Here he settled for a few years. His old house had been built by the Acadians. It was burned, and with it, all his furniture, by the Eddy Rebels, of whom we speak later. He now moved to Middle Sackville, and purchased land near Silver Lake. In 1809, he obtained a grant of land from the government, of the Mill Pond and some two or three hundred acres of woodland and marsh. He had two sons, Christopher, who became a captain in the army; and William who located on the site of the residence of Mr. I.C. Harper. Christopher is said to have owned the first two-wheeled chaise in Westmorland County.

When the American colonies revolted in 1776 against England’s authority, a number of the natives of Westmorland and Cumberland counties, of American descent, sympathized with their fellowmen, and started a small rebellion in the neighboring county of Cumberland. The chief event was the killing of four soldiers in Fort Cumberland by a shell from a rebel gun. The rebellion was soon put down. One party of rebels came to Middle Sackville and were taken by their friends to Patents Point – at that time dense forest land. It was in the winter time and to cover up footmarks a tree was dragged along the path. This little company stayed all winter, being provided for by sympathizers, and when spring came, secretly stole down the river to the State of Maine. This was known as Eddy’s Rebellion from Col. Eddy, the leader, and the Upper Road to Point the Bute is still called the Eddy Road.

The Mormons sent a band of missionaries here. These held meetings in the Town Hall and made several converts, who left property and all to go to Salt Lake City. One of these, a Mr. Merritt, became an apostle of the Mormon church. He died recently, and his widow and son came to Middle Sackville soon after to see the place of Mr. Merritt’s birth.

Sackville received a large number of Loyalists embracing the Ayers, Fillmores, Hicks, and Estabrooks, while an immigration from Yorkshire, Eng., brought Truemans, Dixons and Bulmers.

The first Methodist church of British North America was at Point de Bute, the second at Middle Sackville. The latter was a nice brick building, near the home of Postmaster Read. Bishop William Black was the founder of Methodism in North America. He was called a “circuit rider” – he traversed the entire country on horseback. He was also the founder of the Black family whose numerous representatives are scattered over the Maritime Provinces.

The First Baptist church was built in 1763 near the “Bethel” church. Bethel was the second church, a third one being built about this time near Mr. Thomas Wheaton’s home. In 1905, the church building in use now was built. The old graveyard near Mr. McGinnis was the first in Sackville. Buried here we find a large number of Atkinson’s, Bowsers, and Fawcetts, who settled here about 130 years ago. A Mr. Charles Dixon and his wife are buried here. He came with his family in 1772 and died in 1815, aged 88. His descendants in 1891 living and dead numbered about three thousand. The inscriptions on many of these tombstones are obliterated, the oldest visible one being 1792 on the tombstone of William Comforth. Mr. Comforth gave the churchyard to the Methodist church.

In 1830 Elder Tupper, after giving many addresses on Temperance, saw a Temperance society organized — the first of its kind in New Brunswick. The first school house, as far as can be remembered, was near the home of Mr. David Hicks. There was only one at the four corners. The next building was near the home of Mr. Chauncey Sears. After the school was held in a room over the store of Mr. Silas Black, near Morice’s Mill. Next the building now used by J.W.S. Black as a garage was the schoolhouse. At the same time a central school was in operation above the Mill Pond. A school building started on the site of Mr. Richardson’s home was never completed, and the school building was erected six or seven years ago, which is in use now.

The first Post Office in Middle Sackville was where Mr. Obed Stokes now lives – the building is used as a woodhouse. This was in the time of stage coaches. The second was near the home of Mr. Bliss Ayer. The office was then moved to a building near the Standard store from which it was moved to its present quarters.

About 1850, the late J.L. Black built a small store where the Bandstand is. It is used by Mr. Thomas Milne for a woodhouse. As there was no road to Cookville and surrounding country, goods were taken down the Tantramar river and landed at a wharf near Mr. Thos. Wheaton’s. In 1860, Mr. Silas Black sold his store to Mr. Wm. McConnell. From 1840 until 1880 Mariner wood, father of the present Lieutenant-Governor General, kept the leading general store in Sackville near the present old house on Governor Wood’s farm. In 1880, he moved his business to Sackville.

Professor E. A. Bowser was probably the best known of Middle Sackville’s gifted sons, who rose to fame in the neighboring republic, as a teacher and writer. His works are adopted by leading colleges as text books. He died recently in Honolulu.

Middle Sackville was the most important village in the parish until the railway was built through to Halifax. This gradually changed the trend of population and the people moved to the growing town, known as Lower Sackville.

Historic letter

Liverpool 7th Feb. 1862

S.F. Black Esq., Sackville, N.B.


We are in receipt of your favor of the 21st Oct. advising your draft on us in favor of R. Tate & Co. for Fifty pounds which will rather more than cover the balance in our hands but as you expect to be in this country in the course of the next summer it can then be arranged or if we can sell the “Seamans Bride” or have any freight to collect from her it can then be arranged. We are happy to be enabled to advise you of the safe arrival of the “Seamans Bride” at Falmouth on the 29th Oct. We had a letter from Captn Outhouse who says she is in good order excepting the top of some sails which we presume is not much it is likely Captn Outhouse will write the owners with full particulars. The S. Bride is still at Falmouth waiting orders. We have written the consignees of the cargo twice on this subject & have their reply this morning saying that she has not run out her lay days yet and as the cargo is not sold we suppose they will keep her as long as they can without incurring demurrage. We are afraid she will be ordered to the Continent but we cannot help it. We wrote to the Captn that we had a power of attorney to sell the vessel. He appears disappointed at this & wrote us in reply enclosing the letter which he had received from you by his wife we suppose to show us that at that time you appeared to have confidence that all was right. In our letter to him we did not say that you were dissatisfied with his conduct but that you were anxious to sell the vessel. We considered it better for the interest of the owners not to enter into any dispute with the Captn at least until after we can get hold of the vessel and all his effects. You may rely upon us doing all we can to protect your interest along with the other owners but if she should discharge on the continent it will scarcely be profitable for us to give her our personal attention besides the expense would beso great that we fear the owners would not sanction it. Hoping that the voyage may prove more favorable than you anticipate.

We are sir yours truly,

Patterson McCully & Co.

Fire Adds Tragic Chapter to Story of one of Oldest Businesses In the Province

Telegraph Journal, Saint John, N.B., Wednesday, July 5, 1939.

Firm of Joseph L. Black and Sons Organized 111 Years Ago by Samuel Freeze Black; Has Had Colorful History

Joseph L. Black and Sons

Joseph L. Black and Sons

Sackville, N.B., July 4 (Special) The early Sunday morning fire at Middle Sackville which destroyed the main business establishment of Joseph L. Black and Sons, Limited, causing an estimated loss of $75,000, added a tragic chapter to the story of one of New Brunswick’s oldest business establishments. The firm of Joseph L. Black and Sons was organized 111 years ago by the late Samuel Freeze Black who was born in Amherst in 1806 and moved to Middle Sackville in 1828, where he opened a store on the east side of the main highway. He also had a store at Shemogue.

He engaged in shipbuilding and for a time operated his own ships carrying the countries products to outside markets. His nephew, Joseph L. Black, came from Amherst to Sackville and entered Mount Allison Academy which had just been founded by the late Charles F. Allison. After studying at the Academy for a year he apprenticed himself to his Uncle Samuel and later bought him out and continued the business which now bears his name and has been carried on through four generations.

Although the firm’s letterhead bears the date of 1847 in its legend, the business was actually established in 1828, 111 years ago. At the time Samuel Black started his store in Middle Sackville it was the main business section of the district. Mail and stage coaches running from Saint John to Halifax went through Middle Sackville to cross the Tantramar and pass on through Jolicure, Point de Bute and Amherst. The present Trans-Atlantic highway which runs from Sackville across the marshes over the Fort Beausejour and Fort Lawrence Ridges was not in existence.

When shipbuilding declined the firm went into the manufacture of lumber, trading in general merchandise and farming in a very considerable scale. The volume of business has grown steadily and soundly and covers the major part of Westmorland County. Lumber products have been shipped chiefly to the British market with some to the United States and Canadian cities. The average annual cut of lumber is from 2,000,000 to 3,000,000 feet and is taken from freehold property.

First Store The first store occupied by Samuel Black was located on the east side of the main road through Middle Sackville on the site now occupied by a filling station. About 1860, Joseph L. Black built a new store on the opposite side of the street. The new store was 80 feet long and had a 50 foot frontage; it was a three-storey structure with a basement under the whole of it. At that time it was the largest mercantile establishment in Westmorland County. This building was superbly built and had been kept in excellent condition with very material additions added from time to time, until it was completely destroyed by fire last Sunday morning.

The members of the firm before J.L. Black’s death were: President, Joseph L. Black, Senator Frank B. Black and the late J. Walter Black. On the death of J. L. Black, Senator Black was elected president. After the death of J. Walter Black his two sons, on coming of age, were taken into the business. The present stockholders are: Senator Black, and his sons, J. Lawrence and Josiah William Black; and the sons of the late J. Walter Black, Robert S. and John A. Black. The officers of the firm today are: President, Senator Black; vice-president, J. Lawrence Black; director, Robert S. Black and Secretary-treasurer, J. William Black.


Tantramar Heritage Trust Inc. — Notice of Annual General Meeting

All members of the Trust are advised that the 2002 Annual General Meeting of the Tantramar Heritage Trust will take place as follows:

Thursday, May 30, 8 pm, St. Paul’s Anglican Church Hall, Sackville.


  • Minutes of the 2001 AGM
  • President’s Report on the Trust’s activities over the past year
  • The Annual Report of the Corporation
  • Treasurer’s Report for the 2001/02 Fiscal Year & Auditor’s Statement
  • Budgets for the new fiscal year
  • Amendment to the Letters Patent of the Corporation
  • Report of the Nominating Committee & Election of the New Board
  • Other Business

Drawing: Crib Quilt Raffle — get your tickets from any member of the Board or at the door the evening of the AGM

Speakers: Al Smith — Settlement and the Changing Face of Tantramar; Paul Bogaard — The Centennial Monument Proposal

All members of the Trust are urged to attend. Members of the Public are also welcome.

Request for volunteers

The Tantramar Heritage Trust is looking for volunteers. If you can spare a few hours or a week or two then we have activities that could use your help.

We need folks for the following short term projects:

  • Research a topic and write a story for the Trust’s Newsletter, ie the History of the Tantramar River Bridges, the Sackville Exhibition Grounds, Captain’s Corner, Crane’s Corner, etc.etc. The information collected would also be useful for future historic markers and plaques.
  • Co-ordinate Heritage Day activities in February, 2003
  • Assist with construction activities (a few days at a time) at the Campbell Carriage Factory ie, roofing, decking, maintenance etc.
  • Assist with clean-up spring & fall at the CC Factory and Boultenhouse Heritage Centre
  • Assist with Committee work.
  • Photocopying archival records from the CCF Museum
  • Assist with book-keeping & financial records of the Trust

If you have a little time to donate, it would be most appreciated. Please call the Trust office and leave a message at 536-2541, or at the Campbell Carriage Factory (after 1 June) 536-3079 or call the Membership Director Donna Sharpe at 536-1062.

Tantramar Heritage Trust, P.O. Box 6301, Sackville, NB E4L 1G6,,