The White Fence, issue #22

March 2003


Dear friends,

You must have all wondered where I’ve been since last Christmas! Well, I’m quite sure that you won’t be surprised when I tell you that I could not find the White Fence. It’s been buried in snow since Santa flew off my roof last December (laughing quite hilariously I might add!) and only this morning did I see a corner of it appear from under the snow plow’s trailings and remind me that there are people to meet and stories to tell! And so we return to our familiar meeting place and I do have some “mining” stories to tell you about.

Now, as you all know, the Tantramar is mined, by prospectors from across the Tantramar region, on a daily basis. But as many prospectors know, in the course of digging, we often come up with beautiful minerals, many of which are gems while others have little value. During our searches, we don’t push aside piles of stone chips and come up with as finished manuscript. Oh no! A lot of rubble has to be removed before a treasure is found.

Sometimes, a sharp-eyed prospector will pick up something off the ground, something that may have been walked over many times by others but was simply missed or ignored. And that “something” can sometimes be a very special treasure, of significant historical value. And, in my opinion, prospector Colin MacKinnon is one such sharp-eyed prospector! I won’t say any more… just read on (because you won’t believe me!).

And our good friend Al Smith arrived with a box of Did-You-Knows for me to open and for all of us to discover and enjoy. I did on both counts and I think you will too! Thanks Al.

Another discovery is the photo shown below of the hay wagon and bridge.

Covered Bridge over Tantramar

Bridge over the Tantramar (photo courtesy of Carmel Miller)

This is an old post card (~1910) shown to Colin MacKinnon by Carmel Miller. Colin scanned it so I may show it to you (warm thanks to Carmel and Colin). It is the bridge from which Bridge Street in Sackville gets its name. To me that photo encapsulates the history of the Tantramar region: a farmer on a bridge over tidal waters (the Tantramar River), probably riding a ampbell-built hay wagon, with sandstone embankments (likely from a Reid family quarry) and hay from the high marsh. To me, this picture is worth a thousand pages of Tantramar history.


—Peter Hicklin


  • Sackville’s Past 100 Years: Through the Decades Since 1900 by Dr. Bill Hamilton; Anglican Church Hall, Sackville, April 23rd, 8 p.m.
  • Acadian Dykeland Agriculture by Dr. Sherman Bleakney; Anglican Church Hall, Sackville, May 28, 8 p.m. Note: This presentation will be part of the Annual General Meeting of the Tantramar Heritage Trust. Dr. Bleakney is presently writing a book on the history of dyke-building in the maritime provinces.

Membership renewal & fundraising campaign

Please support the Trust’s Annual Membership Renewal & Fundraising Campaign. Take a moment to renew your membership, which includes a subscription to the The White Fence, and consider making a donation to the Trust in support of projects like the Campbell Carriage Factory and the Boultenhouse Heritage Centre.

Stories wanted!

If you have information or stories for The White Fence, please contact Peter Hicklin at 364-5042, or write to the Tantramar Heritage Trust, Box 6301, Sackville, N.B., E4L 1G6.

Did you know…?

Did you know that by 1767 the Province of Nova Scotia had been subdivided into 30 Townships and that the Township of Sackville had a population of 349 persons, 343 from New England? That same year Sackville was given the right to elect a member in the Legislature in Halifax and Mr. A Foster was selected as the first representative.

Did you know that Sackville began developing as a merchant community in the 1840’s? In order to expand their export and import capabilities, the merchants began construction of the first Public Wharf in 1840-41 and the NB Legislature granted £25 for its completion.

Did you know that in the early days of Sackville profanity was considered an offence? On August 25, 1775, William Wood was summoned to appear before judge Charles Dixon and was fined £2 for swearing one or more profane oaths.

Did you know that 1113 gallons of rum were imported into Sackville during the period 1 April 1787 to 1 Apr 1788?

Did you know that the Purdy Shipyard launched a 162 ton Brigantine in 1861 and named it “George G. Roberts” after Charles G.D Roberts’ father who was the rector at St. Ann’s Anglican Church? It seems that the good Reverend discovered a fire in the shipyard just prior to the time that the vessel was to be launched and he raised the alarm. The fire was extinguished with little damage and the Purdy Yard honoured the parson by giving the ship his name.

Captain William Pringle, Master Mariner

In the last White Fence, Jeff Ward introduced us to Captain Amos Pickering Ward who shipped lumber to faraway places from Rockport. At the time Jeff sent me the story of Captn Pick, Colin MacKinnon was digging up information about another captain: Captain William Pringle. Here’s Colin’s interesting story about another sea captain from our area:

Growing up in Sackville, I frequently heard my family point out various places as we went on Sunday drives. The names often referred to early owners of a property on the site who have long gone to their reward. One of these sites that always interested me was the “Pringle Place”. This property is situated on the top of a hill on the north side of the Upper Fairfield Road (now King Street), about 3.5 km from East Main Street in Sackville. Jim & Sue Purdy now reside on this property with its panoramic view of the Burrying Ground Hill and Cumber-land Basin. What a beautiful place for a sailor to have lived! Surprisingly to many people, Sackville in the 1800’s was a bustling sea port and over 115 ships were built here between 1829 and 1872. The sailors to captain and crew these ships were often from the area and Captain William Pringle was one of these men.

Let’s start this story with Captn Pringle’s parents: William Sr. (born ca. 1814 — died ca.1880) and Mary (born ca.1818) Pringle. William and Mary immigrated from Ireland in 1840 and by the 1851 census they lived at the “Pringle Place”. William, aged 37 (?), was listed as a “gardener”. William and Mary had the following children:

  • Jane (born ca. 1840)
  • William (ca. 1841)
  • High (ca. 1844)
  • Mathew (ca. 1849)
  • Mary A. (ca. 1851)

William Pringle Sr. died on 29 February 1880 at the age of 73. He is buried in the Sackville Cemetery. At the time of his death, William Pringle Jr. would have been about 38 years old and probably had already spent many years at sea. It is quite possible he had obtained the rank of Captain by this time. Captain Pringle was married around 1870 to Sarah Jane Cole (born ca.1845 – died 28 October, 1884). She was probably the daughter of William and Sarah Cole. In the 1851 Sackville census, William Cole was listed as a farmer. Captain William and Sarah had two children: Annie Pringle (born ca. March 1872 – died 25 September, 1872) and Willie G.C. Pringle. (born ca.1873 – died 6 January, 1878).

Sarah did not long survive the death of her second child and she died in 1884. They are both buried in the Sackville Cemetery. Captain Pringle remarried Mary (last name not known; born ca. 1817-died 30 December, 1899). About half a kilometre up King Street, off East Main, there is a dead end street to the right: Pringle Street. The second to last house on the left of Pringle Street is believed to have been built by/for Pringle. Captn William Pringle’s obituary stated that after the death of his wife, he took up residence in Sackville. It would appear that after the death of his first wife and children, he moved to a new residence at the end of the Street that now bears his name.

Interestingly, in the 1881 census, we find Captain William’s brother George Pringle (age 21) listed as a carpenter and head of the household at his father’s place. Also still residing at the family home is George’s mother Mary (now 63), Mathew (age 32) and Rebecca (age 24). Perhaps George Pringle built the house for his brother William.

Captn Pringle’s second wife died at the age of 82 on 30 December, 1899. The Captain outlived his second wife by fifteen years and he died on 20 August 1915. His obituary reads as follows:

Captain William Pringle gone to his reward

Died Friday night as he was about to retire — A Highly Respected Citizen — Funeral at 2 O’clock Today

The town mourns the loss of a most highly respected and widely known citizen, Capt. W. Pringle who has been a well known resident for some time died Friday night while on his way to bed. He had been in failing health for about three years, but his death was not looked for at such a time. He as usual ate his supper and had been around the house until his usual bed time and was being assisted to his room by his sister, Mrs. William Fillmore, with whom he resided when he was seized with a fainting spell and died without saying a word. He was 74 years of age.

The deceased had sailed the seas for about 20 years and during that time had entered many ports throughout the world. After the death of his wife, Sarah J. Cole, sister of Mr. Charles Cole, he gave up his seafaring life and retired, taking up his residence in Sackville, where he has resided ever since. About ten years ago he was engaged by the town of Sackville as commissioner of Water and Sewerage, a position he held until about three years ago when failing health compelled him to give up the position. His thorough knowledge of the workings of the water and sewage system often brought him into service afterwards, as those who succeeded him were not able to execute work as it was required. Capt. Pringle has been one who has made perhaps the best of life and during his many years has accumulated considerable wealth, being one of the largest property owners in the town of Sackville. Two children, a boy and a girl, blessed his marriage, but both died young. He is survived by three sisters and two brothers. The sisters are Mrs. Louis Tingley, New Hampshire; Mrs. William Hicks, California, who is here to attend the funeral of her brother; and Mrs. William Fillmore of this town. The brothers are George of Boston and Mathew of this town.

Among his vast acquaintances there was not one but what could say that the late Capt. Pringle was a man of sterling qualities. He has gone from our midst and while we shall miss him we are glad to know he is finished his work and has been called to his reward.

The funeral will be held from the residence of Mr. William Fillmore this afternoon at 2 O’clock. Rev. Dr. Bond will officiate.

(Sackville Tribune, 23 August 1915)

Mathew Pringle, Capt. William’s brother, remained at the family home and did not marry. My mother, Gladys (Crossman) MacKinnon remembers when she was a young girl seeing Mathew drive by in his carriage. She remembers him with a wispy, long white beard. As Mathew remained unmarried there is a story of Ern Crossman, Willard Crossman’s son, possibly obtaining a piece of land on the promise of one of his daughters in marriage to Mathew. As Mathew remained unwed, the exchange didn’t go through, although as the story goes, “Ern still got the land”. Mathew Pringle died at the age of 86 years in 1935. The following are a few extracts from my “Captains” file on Captain Pringle.

Capt. William Pringle (born ca. 1841 — died 20 August, 1915) Master Mariner Certificate No. 1247. Buried in Sackville Cemetery, first wife Sarah Jane (born ca. 1845 — died 28 October, 1884), second wife Mary (born ca. 1817 — died 30 December, 1899).

No date — Master of the Barque John Black (Registry No. 54543) of 563 Gross Tonnage (545 tons net). Built at Port Elgin, N.B. in 1871.

1870 — The brigt. Vic— Pringle which arrived here from St— on the 2nd inst, left this port yesterday for Dundalk but put back in last even (ing?) and in coming in collided with the —an bark Argo carrying away her — topmast and all the gear attached. (Chignecto Post, 29 Sept., 1870 — parts illegible).

1877 — Brig Otter, Pringle, from Cow Bay to New York, 20 days, with coal, had heavy NW and NE winds the entire passage; split sails, &c; crew badly frost-bitten; Dec. 17th, lost a man overboard; passed large quantities of ice. (Chignecto Post, 4 January 1877).

—Colin MacKinnon, 12 November, 2002

Heritage day

Last month, on 15 February, we celebrated Heritage Day at the Tantramar High School. And what a wonderful day it was, from the great breakfast, the Antiques Road Show to historic Pioneers and Personalities of the Tantramar region! For those of you who missed it, you probably were not aware that we at the Tantramar Heritage Trust have learned how to harness magic in order to inform and entertain. That is correct: the Tantramar Heritage Trust was able to bring to the stage of Tantramar High School fifteen historic figures, from Rene Bernard who built some of the first dykes in the area, to Josiah Wood who read for us the Speech from the Throne when he was Lieutenant Governor. They all looked as if they had just driven in from Amherst by horse and buggy and stopped by to tell us stories and read to us some of the letters that formed an integral part of our interesting history (except for Rene Bernard who didn’t have time to say much because he had a dyke to build and the tide was coming in!). By the way, in the course of writing this, I just received a psycho-kinetic call and was asked to pass on a message to all readers: On behalf of the 15 historic people brought on stage on Heritage Day, Rene Bernard wishes to thank Ma (Charlie Rhindress), Grandma (Dave McClelland) and Auntie (Sandy Burnett) for bringing them back to the land they so loved and re-introduce them to the community. On Heritage Day, 2003, the Tantramar Heritage Trust truly brought history back to life!

But there are many stories to tell and without any further hesitation, put away that snow shovel, find your favorite chair in a warm, cozy spot and read on. Because, like me, I bet many of you never even knew what a plummet was, let alone what one looked like…

The Beausejour Plummets

by Colin MacKinnon

I have always been intrigued with the “sunken forest” below Fort Beausejour in Cumberland Basin, Bay of Fundy. At extreme low tide, along the erosional face of the ‘red crescent’ that makes up the shore between the mouth of the Missaguash and Tantramar Rivers, lie clusters of old tree stumps. These ancient tree stumps (in a remarkable state of preservation), exposed twice daily by the receding tide, are still anchored in glacial till and surrounded by ancient leaf litter from the forest floor. Wood samples have been radiocarbon-dated to around 4,000 years ago. Predominantly hemlock and white pine, these trees grew in what once was a wooded valley, when sea levels were much lower. Rising sea levels have since created the Tantramar marshlands.

A number of years ago, on one of my forays to photograph the sunken forest, I chanced on a walrus bone embedded in the mud at the bottom of the basin. This bone was identified as a walrus “baculum” and was probably used by ancient visitors to these shores as a “club” (the baculum is presently on display at the New Brunswick museum as part of the ‘Lifelines’ traveling exhibition). Even more intriguing were 48 stone plummets or net weights, found in the same context as the walrus bone. These plummets (pecked and/or ground out of stone) closely resemble in size and shape the traditional carpenters plumb bob used for marking a vertical line. They were probably used as a net or line sinker. There is also a possibility that some may hold decorative, ceremonial or even religious meaning as well.

Dr. William Ritchie [1], following a lifetime of studying native artifacts, made the following observations:

“The remarkable stylistic constancy in the modes or attributes, which undeniably can be demonstrated within a series of points collected over a wide geographical range or from numerous components of the same cultural complex, indicates the reality of a stylistic model in the mind of the prehistoric maker. Clearly they were working not from caprice but from a “cultural compulsive” which impelled them to conform to current fashions or established norms for their particular area and period.”

And furthermore,

“It is further assumed that the typological configurations reflect standardized behavior and the fixation of motor habits, through traditional or culturally approved ways of doing things in the aboriginal society concerned.”

Although his observations were directed at projectile points, the same may be said for plummets. Although there is some notable variation in the collection, I would attribute some of the differences in shape and mode of construction to the base material. Quartzite, for example, is very hard compared to sandstone, which is relatively soft and would presumably be easier to shape. Even with these subtle differences, they all appear to be made with a “model” in mind (see photos). David Keenlyside, archaeologist with the Canadian Museum of Civilization, has helped in interpreting these finds (and providing the carbon date for the walrus bone), had this to say regarding the plummets:

“The similarities in style do suggest a single maker or perhaps one ‘artifact template’ which might be associated with a family, band or community. They kind of remind me of historic bird decoys where ‘sets’ of decoys were made; at other times, various birds/decoys collected from various manufacturing times put together for hunting sets… Must have been similar for floats, weights where multiples were needed.”

These artifacts come from an aboriginal cultural complex known as the “late Archaic”. The term Archaic is a term applied by archaeologists to define a time period characterized by hunting, fishing and gathering cultures and distinguished from the subsequent horticulturalists [2]. This artifact assemblage is especially important to the early history of the border region since we now have confirmed human presence coincident with the formation of our famous marshes at the head of Cumberland Basin, some 4,000 years ago.

Plummet 1

Beausejour walrus “baculum” (elongated object in display box). Atlantic Fisheries exhibit, Canadian Museum of Civilization (CMC). The baculum has been radiocarbon dated to approximately 4,000 years BP (before present).

Plummet 2

Plummet 2

Plummet 3

Plummet 3

Plummet 4

Plummet 4

Plummet 5

Plummet 5

Four of the Beausejour plummets. Plummet 2 is particularly well crafted. Plummet 4 still shows abrasion marks from when it was made. Plummet 5 is interesting as there is a “brachiopod” (shell) fossil imbedded in the specimen.

[1] New York Projectile Points, New York State Museum, Bulletin 384, Albany, 1971, pp. 7–8
[2] Tuck, James Maritime Provinces Prehistory, Ottawa, Ont., National Museum of Man, National Museums of Canada, Canadian prehistory series, 1984.

Some significant dates in Sackville’s past

  • 1708: Arrival of first permanent settlers — eldest sons of five Acadian families from Napan/Maccan area (Michael Hache, Rene Bernard, Michael Bourque, Martin Richard and (?) Gaudet)
  • 1755: English forces capture Fort Beausejour and destroy Acadian settlements.
  • 1758: Governor Lawrence issues proclamation inviting settlers from New England.
  • 1760–61: Arrival of first English settlers — “planters” from Rhode Island; Tower, Easterbrooks, Cole, Finney, Seaman, Robinson, Brownell, Ward & others.
  • 1762: First Town meeting was held (20 July 1762). On 29 July 1762, first steps taken towards municipal government — the name of Sackville was chosen for the Township in honour of Lord George Sackville (1716–1785), commander of the British Forces.
  • 1763: Baptists arrived — 13 Baptists from Swansea, Massachusetts headed by Nathan Mason arrived and established a church — the first of its denomination in Canada.
  • 1762–63: Additional waves of immigrants from New England: some family names were: Ayer, Oulton, Tingley, Richardson and others.
  • 1765: First land grant for Sackville township, 32,250 acres, all to New England people
  • 1767: Sackville’s population was 349 persons (343 New Englanders).
  • 1767: Sackville secured the right to send a member to Legislature in Halifax (Sackville had a population of 80 families at the time).
  • 1772–1775: Yorkshire Settlers arrive: Dixon, Bowser, Atkinson, Anderson, Bulmer, Harper, Patterson, Fawcett, Richardson, Humphrey, Wry & others settle in Sackville.
  • 1783–84: United Empire Loyalists came to the Province — among those who settled in the Sackville area: Fowler, Knapp, Palmer, Purdy, Boultenhouse and others.
  • 1784: New Brunwsick established as a Province (separated from Nova Scotia).
  • 1790: Methodist Chapel in Middle Sackville, along with the chapel at Point de Bute, are the first Methodist churches in Canada.
  • 1818: Opening of a new “turnpike road” (Upper Fairfield Rd.) connecting Sackville directly to Dorchester.
  • 1821: John Morice and John Humphries purchase the Mills at Middle Sackville and expand the business, creating an environment for strong economic growth in the area.
  • 1840: Opening of new bridge over the lower Tantramar and “Great” Road to Nova Scotia.
  • 1841: Establishment of the Port of Sackville with first public wharf.
  • 1841: Relocation of the Boultenhouse Shipyard from Wood Point to Sackville, following which other shipyards established (Dixon/Wood, Purdy).
  • 1843: Opening Mount Allison Male Academy founded by Hon C.F. Allison in 1839.
  • 1854: Ladies College (Academy) opened.
  • 1852: Fawcett Foundry (Enamel & Heating)established by John & Charles Fawcett.
  • 1856: First Newspaper “The Border” published by Edward Bowes.
  • 1856: Launching of the ship Sarah Dixon (1468 tons) at the Dixon/Wood shipyard, the largest vessel to be built in Sackville. A total of 165 ships were launched from local yards.
  • 1862: Mount Allison Wesleyan College established later to become Mount Allison University.
  • 1872: Dominion Foundry (Enterprise) founded by Capt R.M. Dixon & others.
  • 1893: Owens Art Gallery moved from Saint John to Sackville, new Gallery opened in 1895.
  • c. 1900: Population of 2000, most downtown business blocks constructed.
  • 1903: Sackville was incorporated as a Town.