The Centennial Countdown Begins: Anniversary Highlights from 1903 and 1953

Some time ago a question was raised in this column: In 2003, the town of Sackville will be celebrating its centennial. Will we be ready? In recent weeks there has been some evidence that both the town and various community organizations are gearing up for this once in a lifetime opportunity.

By way of example, a most imaginative endeavour was outlined in the announcement by the Town, the Sackville Garden Club and Andersons Greenhouse to create Sackville In Bloom for 2003. One major reason why the town has become a destination for tourists is its physical appearance. This is evident in many ways; from the hanging flower pots down town, to the care and maintainence of public parks. The Sackville In Bloom project is one in which every homeowner and business can participate. Since 2003 is now a matter of months, not years, away the time has come for all local organizations to decide how they will mark the centennial.

In the final countdown to 2003, its also important to take a historical look at the events of 1902–03 and the debate concerning incorporation. Further enlightenment may also be found in the towns celebration of its Fiftieth Anniversary in 1953. But first, lets go back to the Sackville of 1902–03. In the beginning, public opinion was strongly divided on the question of incorporation. Two votes were required before ratepayers gave approval to the idea.

The first attempt occurred in 1902. At a public meeting held in Fords Hall on Feb. 20th, strong opposition to incorporation was expressed. Charles Fawcett spoke for many when he declared that Sackville has too few people and the [… population is] 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 noted 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.

For the remainder of 1902 the debate continued. A second vote was held Jan. 12 1903. By this time, a number of ratepayers had been won over to the idea, as incorporation was carried by a majority of 30 votes: 167 in favour to 137 against. Following the passage of enabling legislation by the province, 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 a 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. Later, he was to round out a lengthy career in public life as the lieutenant-governor of New Brunswick from 1912 to 1917.

Although an active member of the Conservative party, it was a compliment to Wood that he enjoyed strong bi-partisan support. Always an advocate of local causes, he was at the time, one of the most respected individuals in the community. Although primarily a man of business, he had many extra-curricularinterests. One of these was music and he was reputedly a master flute player. Josiah Wood and his wife Laura S. Trueman frequently entertained at their stately home Cranewood, which still stands on East Main Street. Ive been told that an invitation to one of the Woods soires was much sought after and Sackvilles social event of the year. During 2003 an effort should be made to salute Hon. Josiah Wood, not only as the first mayor; but as one of Sackvilles most outstanding citizens.

In speeches quoted by the press, its clear that Wood along with several other leading citizens, hoped that a slate of eight aldermen (as councillors were then called) might 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 Albert 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 in favour of incorporation crossed party lines, attracting supporters from both Liberal and Conservative parties; accordingly, there was a desire to keep politics out of the municipal arena. Incorporation even earned the approval of both A. H. MacCready and C.C. Avard, publishers of the two rival newspapers, the Post and the Tribune. This was a remarkable feat, when it is remembered that these two individuals were seldom in agreement on any topic! But 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.

Although the plan was put forward with the best of intentions, it was soon to be challenged. Rumors and counter-rumors spread throughout the community. It was suggested by some that the projected slate was overloaded with Grits. Various interest groups were soon heard from. It was noted that the major businesses and industries were all accounted for, but there was no one representing labour.

Still others asked more pointedly: Where did each of the candidates stand on the temperance issue? Implied in the latter question was the fact that some of the proposed candidates were known to be soft on the use of alcohol. This may be difficult to comprehend in the 21st century. Not so in 1903. Those opposed to liquor in any form constituted a formidable lobby, and the temperance movement soon found some nominees.

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 bi-partisan 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.

Lets now fast forward a half century to 1953. At the first meeting in January of the newly elected town council, Mayor Herbert A. Beale gave notice that two special committees would be struck. One was to organize a ceremony to mark the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The other was commissioned to develop plans for the 50th Anniversary of the town.

When the latter committee was formed, Alderman Dr. Lloyd Duchemin, who represented the North Ward, was named chair. The committee was designed to provide as wide a representation as possible with 15 members from different businesses and organizations. Included were: Max Crawford, Lloyd White, Cedric Gass, John Raworth, Herman Lund, John Tapley, Chester Estabrooks, Donald Rogers, Fred Rand, George Chambers, Ned Cummins, Harold Melanson, James Mann and Mayor Herbert A. Beale.

As long time residents of Sackville will know, Dr. Duchemin, who lives on Salem Street, retired from Mount Allison in 1974 following a distinguished academic career. During the course of a conversation with him regarding the events of 1953, I probed for the reason why the 50th Anniversary celebrations were remembered by so many as extremely successful. One lasting impression remained with him: The program as developed by the committee had the strong support of the citizens, and that was the secret of its success. During the course of the year Dr. Duchemin resigned, in order to accept an overseas sabbatical leave. Only two other members of the 50th Anniversary Committee survive: Lloyd Bud White and George Chambers.

While celebratory events were held throughout the year, an ambitious program was drafted for Aug. 5, 6 and 7, 1953. Street parades, dances, band concerts, boat races, baseball games, an amateur show and fireworks were all considered and most were carried out. A special edition of the Sackville Tribune Post was scheduled to coincide with the anniversary.

The opening day, Wednesday Aug 5, was declared a civic holiday by town council. It was to begin with a grand street parade; to be followed by boat racing on Silver Lake in the afternoon, a fly past by aircraft from the Chatham air base and to end the day, fireworks. Unfortunately, the worst fears of towns people, guests and performers alike materialized. Wednesday began with a gentle rain and the parade actually started. Then the rain became heavy although intermittent. Finally, the heavens opened and a downpour ensued. The remaining events of the day had to cancelled or rescheduled on Thursday and Friday.

Sackvilles anniversary was well covered by CBC Radio. Their commentator, Doug How, who grew up in Dorchester, was already renowned as an outstanding on-the-spot reporter. What follows are his impressions, as recorded for the CBC Radio program Canadian Chronicle. Not everything went perfectly. The weather for opening day was profoundly unkind. It rained all day. They didnt know whether to hold the parade or not; however, it did go on. One feature was a grotesque, spiderish, instrument of mobility, a 1903 Oldsmobile. Somebody had to help it up the hill and everybody got a laugh The fly past consisted of two small propellor driven aircraft barely visible in the clouds.

The mere presence of a 1903 Oldsmobile in the parade is intriguing fifty years later. Are there any readers who have memories or pictures of this vintage automobile? More to the point will there be a 1953 Oldsmobile in the 2003 parade? Any volunteers?

The weather was more cooperative on the remaining two days and some rained-out events were rescheduled. Other interesting attractions on Thursday did not depend on the weather. The major industries of the town including the Enterprise Foundry and Enamel and Heating Products Limited held successful Open Houses. Thursday evening concluded with an Amateur Night in Charles Fawcett Memorial Hall.

The Rotary Clubs Childrens Parade was the featured event on Friday and the celebrations concluded with the postponed fireworks. The air force redeemed itself when an impressive fly past of 24 aircraft, including Furies, Harvards and Avengers, took place. Sackvilles 50th anniversary receded into history on a high note. It is to be hoped that the same may be said for its forthcoming centennial!