The White Fence, issue #23

November 2003


Dear friends,

Did you think I had gone missing? Well, no… it’s just that chasing history often comes into conflict with life in the present! The present (which as of this moment is now the past seven months!) has been very busy, and, unfortunately, Tantramar history has had little to do with it, other than take a back seat!

But now the fall winds are returning me to that world of early Tantramar, a world which can envelop and fascinate us all. That austere, but comforting power is coming all over me again… The march to understand our past, with its warm embrace, blocks those northerly cool winds blowing at my window, and, as I sit before this editorial page, I feel the warm coal-fired heat of Tantramar history at my side.

The spirit of the late Mr. J.L. (Laurie) Black is also sitting beside me, gently poking my ribs to get my attention. He tells me that it’s 1954, and he has a story to tell the Rotary Club (and us too!). It’s a story which shows very clearly how closely inter-dependent were local businesses and the small communities they were in. Furthermore, the business owners clearly played a “hands-on” role in all aspects of the businesses under their control in the community. I suspect that this story applies to many Maritime towns and businesses of days gone by. Today, in the larger world around us, cities and townships are often just viewed by business (often, by necessity) not as communities but simply as “markets”. Mr. Black’s views, in his “Classification Talk”, nearly 50 years ago, clearly valued the important and close relationships developed between business and community. With respect to this topic you might be interested to return to White Fence No. 19 (May, 2002) where we learned of a devastating fire which destroyed the original J.L. Black store in Middle Sackville.

And then, Colin MacKinnon approaches me with another fascinating story about the aboriginal communities which populated our shores long before Champlain came to them. This time, it’s the Susquehanna — a fascinating tale based on Colin’s sharp eyes and his wish to get to the bottom of the story. Nice digging Colin!

And my sincere thanks to Gwen Black for bringing her late husband’s address to Rotary to my attention. And please note that I transcribed the presentation just as J. L. had written it (with the same spelling, most of the punctuation and use of capital letters) although I modified punctuation where periods were mistakenly typed in for a comma or vice versa.

And Al Smith is trying to get my attention with a boxful of Did-You-Knows to pass on to you. So before the wrath of Mr. Black and Al are unleashed in my direction I better get to work! So, set yourselves in your favorite chair, in a comfortable spot, and let us continue our conversation with Tantramar history. Glad to be back! Enjoy.


—Peter Hicklin


The Tantramar Historical Society will hold its next meeting at St. Paul’s Anglican Church on 19 November for a presentation by Dr. Marc Milner, Chair, Dept. History, University of New Brunswick entitled: “The Siege of Fort Beausejour: What We think We Know.”

On November 10 – January 11, the fascinating display “Charting Chignecto” can be seen at the Owens Art Gallery at Mount Allison along with a display of “The Street Names of Sackville.” Don’t miss it! I’ve already spent about four hours at these displays and have only managed to get through a fraction of it! There’s a lot there to learn!!

It’s early yet, but keep in mind that HERITAGE DAY will be on February 14, 2004, at the Tantramar Regional High School.

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.

Did you know…

Did you know that Sackville’s first traffic lights were ordered by Town Council in August 1946 and installed the following summer (1947)? The lights were recommended by Police chief Jim Bowes and were erected on Crane’s Corner and Boultenhouse Corner. On July 7, 1947, Tribune editor C.C. Avard wrote “long may they flash in their effort to prevent accidents.”

Did you know that paving of the highway from the Sackville town line (at Wry Lane) to Middle Sackville (now Main Street) was not to be paved, as planned, in 1941 because of work to be done on the trunk highways? However, paving resumed in the following years, with the road nearing completion in September, 1944. Tribune editor Avard praised the work in the 28 September, 1944 edition, calling it a “real joy and comfort for the motorist, the pedestrian and to all others who use the road… Of course, there are some people who wouldn’t vote liberal if the road was paved with gold.”

Did you know that Parking Meters were once installed in the Town of Sackville? In the summer of 1950 some 200 Parking Meters were installed on Bridge, Lorne, Main, and York Streets with 50% of the total revenue going to the meter company. Council opposed the operation of parking meters and unanimously passed a motion for a trial period of only one year. The Sackville Board of Trade decided to remove the meters in December, 1951.

Did you know that the cost of parking in downtown Sackville in the summer of 1950 and ’51 was enforced at the rate of five cents an hour, with one dollar fines for offenders!

Did you know that at the 8th May, 1903 meeting of the Town Council, the Streets Committee was authorized to make expenditures on streets and sidewalks not exceeding the huge sum of $300.00?

Did you know that the original name for Enterprise Street was Shipyard Lane? Shipyard Lane was the access roadway to the Christopher Boultenhouse Shipyard – the largest of three Sackville shipyards and connected the shipyard directly to his residence (now 29 Queen’s road and owned by the Tantramar Heritage Trust).

Did you know that three of Sackville’s streets are named after former Canadian Governor Generals?

Did you know that Dufferin Street was named after the Earl of Dufferin: Frederick Temple Blackwood, Canada’s 3rd Governor General from 1872–1878?

Did you know that Lorne Street was named after the Marquis of Lorne: Douglas Sutherland Campbell, Canada’s 4th Governor General from 1878–1883?

Did you know that Lansdowne Street was named after the Marquis of Lansdowne: Henry Charles Petty Fitzmaurice, Canada’s 5th Governor General from 1883–1888?

Did you know that Wright Street in Sackville is named after Dr. James Goldwin Wright, mayor of Sackville from 1960 to 1967 (except for ’62)? He was an engineer, researcher, long-time public servant, superintendent of the eastern Arctic and Secretary of the Northwest Territories Council. He retired in 1953 and accepted the post of assistant professor of Engineering at Mount Allison University. His early research led to the development of the Forest Fire Hazard Index, known as the Wright System, and still used today. Dr. Wright also hired author Farley Mowatt who worked in the arctic as a summer student. Mowatt’s experiences led to the writing of two of his earlier books: People of the Deer and Never Cry Wolf.

Classification Talk — Rotary Club of Sackville (1954)

by J. L. Black

It is, I believe, a rule of Rotary that each member gives before his own Club a “Classification Talk”. Whether we have followed that practice here I do not know but I am going to talk to-day about the Business in which I am engaged. This will constitute my Classification Talk and I hope all the others of you will get even with me by taking your turns.

When our business was founded over a century ago, and throughout more than half its history, it was one of hundreds of similar businesses which were operating all over the Province of New Brunswick. These businesses consisted of three, and in some cases four, complimentary industries one of which was merchandising (and) the others were the basic industries of that area in which the business was located. In our case, it was merchandising, farming and lumbering. In other areas, the fishing and mining industries came into the group either with, or instead of, the ones we had here. Today, due to our changing economy, periods of depression and other causes, this type of business has almost disappeared. Ours is one of the few left in operation.

The Owner or Founder of the business usually started in a small way as a merchant, lumber operator or farmer and with hard work and thrift expanded and built up his business with the type of community industry of which I speak.

On our case, Jos. L. Black started in Middle Sackville in 1847 as a merchant, he gradually expanded his business, acquired farm properties, consisting of both marsh and upland, and lumber properties until he was operating a business of three mutually supporting industries. The Store became the H.Q. of the business, it was there that the Owner had his office and did his buying and his selling and the administrating work for all three operations. Through the store, supplies and equipment for the farming and lumbering operations, were bought at wholesale, and certain of the products from both the other industries came into the store to be sold.

The Farming Operation in our case was a fairly simple one typical of our area. The cash crops were hay and beef. The farm produced oats to feed the horses which went to the woods in Winter, roots for the cattle and hay for both horses and cattle. The ordinary rotation of crops was roots, grain and hay with an area of land producing an average and average of four crops of hay before being turned to roots or grain. Beef for the most part was purchased in the Spring or Fall and either fattened on grass and sold in the Fall or, as was more common, fattened on roots, hay and grain through the Winter and sold in the Spring.

The Lumbering Operation, in what we might call the old days, was very different from to-day’s operation. There were no bulldozers or tractors, it was entirely a seasonal operation with the logging being done in the Winter and the sawing in Spring and Summer. Operators depended on frost and snow on which to move their logs short distances and on water to move them longer distances to the mills which were normally placed on a river bank.

The normal procedure in a business like ours was as follows: The Owner tried to build up by purchase or lease an area of timberland from which he could take a crop of comparatively uniform quantity each year for an indefinite period. An area of 20,000 acres, for example, if kept free of fire and disease would yield an annual crop of 1,000,000 feet and might run to 2,000,000 if it were the right type of land.

A saw mill was located on the river or stream which was the main drainage artery of the Property, a dam was built to form a mill pond and in some cases to provide water power with which to run the mill and frequently another dam was built well up the river to store water for the Spring log drives.

The logging operation was started in the early Winter as soon as there was sufficient frost and snow to move camp materials and supplies to the area which was to be logged. Logs were cut, then as now, by yarding crews consisting of three men and a horse. Logs were piled in the woods from where they were logged by teams to the river bank somewhere below the so-called savings dam and there they waited for the Spring break up.

When the ice broke up and the freshets came the logs were rolled into the river and carried down-stream to the mill pond, helped along by extra tons of water let loose by periodically opening the gates of the savings dam.

Perhaps a typical mill of those days was one which we operated at Aboushagan. It sawed lumber and lathe, nearly all of our local saw mills in those days made lathe out of the waste wood from the lumber. To-day it is sold as slab wood for fuel.

The mill always started its operation shortly after this drive was completed in the Spring. The logs floating in the mill pond were directed by men with long pike poles to the haul-up chain (from) which they went into the mill and out as lumber at the other end. The lumber was piled in the mill yard close to the bank of the river below the dam. From there it had to go to Point du Chene where it was loaded on rail or on vessels for export. One method of getting it to Point du Chene was to haul it there with teams, a distance of about 14 miles; another method was by rafting it there.

A series of long narrow rafts were built in the river by experts who cross-piled the lumber and roped it together in such a way that it didn’t break up easily. When tide and wind conditions were considered to be propitious, these rafts which, as they grew heavier with more and more lumber, had settled to the bottom of the shallow river, were lifted by a flood of water from the dam and floated down-stream with a crew of men on board to keep them to the centre of the stream. It took from 12 to 24 hours to reach the mouth of the river. There, the rafts were moored along the bank of the river and, again when conditions were right, teams of horses were hitched to them in tandem (and) they were hauled out into the Northumberland Strait to Point du Chene. There the lumber was taken out of the water and piled on the wharf or alongside rail for shipment.

I might explain in a little more detail what I mean by saying that the component industries of these businesses were complimentary or mutually supporting. When these businesses were so common in the Province, there were very few Banks and very little cash in circulation. Employees were in many cases paid their wages in household supplies rather than cash. If an Owner of one of these businesses had 100 employees working in his lumber operation and a few men working on his farm, he had a proportionate number of families buying all their house-hold requirements from his store. This was of obvious benefit to the business as a whole and to the community in which the business operated. If the business prospered and expanded, the community prospered and grew larger. If the business became depressed and curtailed its operations, the community was depressed and people who could move away did so.

The situation in this respect is quite different to-day. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why these businesses have disappeared from the scene.

Visitors to Our Shores — The Susquehanna Tradition

by Colin MacKinnon

Over the centuries, the Chignecto border region has witnessed a series of distinct groups washing against our shores. From the early French settlers, to New England Planters, Yorkshire and United Empire Loyalists, this land has felt the ebb and flow of different cultures. Most came to stay, settle the land and make a home. Recent evidence suggests there may be at least one other group of people missing in this list. But did they come to visit or stay?

Sometimes little can be deduced about the lives of aboriginal peoples that existed before the time of recorded history. The archaeological evidence, partly based on stone tools, tells us only a little of the whole story. Much of the interpretation of early peoples is based on their “tool kit” assemblage or, basically, how a collection of stone implements from one place and time compares to another. The type of tool, how it was made and from what type of stone, tells the expert something about the way of life of the people who carried it.

A few years ago, I located a small scattering of worked stone and charcoal fragments along the shores of Cumberland Basin. Radiocarbon dating (graciously provided by David Keenlyside, Canadian Museum of Civilization) from the wood charcoal provided a date of around 3,300 years (+ or – 100 years).

While processing the charcoal sample I sent for dating, David found bone remains and had them identified by Dr. Francis Stewart; a faunal remains specialist. The sample was identified as the knuckle bones, from the paw, of a Black Bear. The Black Bear is a powerful religious totem in many aboriginal groups and this find may suggest a similar significance to the people who sat around this fire so many centuries before.

Even more interesting is the story told by the scatter of stone tools at this site. They were made by a people known to archaeologists as the “Susquehanna Tradition”. Susquehanna people manufactured a unique, and diagnostic, type of broad-stemmed spear points. These spear points, as well as knives and scrapers, were often made from slates, argillite and other stones that came from the Piedmont plateau of the eastern United States. Also, the burial practice of these people is different than that of local Maritime people. The dead were cremated and the bones and ashes were then buried in a secondary pit; often accompanied by red ochre (Tuck 1984, p. 35).

Stone knife, about 4″ long

Stone knife, about 4″ long

Most of the more northerly Susquehanna sites are scattered along the coast of Maine and southern New Brunswick. To my knowledge, this site on the shores of Cumberland Basin represents the only such find east of Saint John, in the Bay of Fundy, and suggests a range extension of the travels, and potential influence, of these peoples. While doing research for this article, Pat Allen, Archaeological Services, New Brunswick, told me that her department recently received reports of Susquehanna material being found in the Tracadie area of the province; thus the travels of these people may be even more widespread than originally thought. The interesting question about the Susquehanna people is their level of impact on the local population. How much interaction took place? All we know is that although the Susquehanna people made their first appearance in the Maritimes around 3,500 years ago, their unique cultural signature appears to have disappeared within 500 years. Two theories have been proposed: one, that the Susquehanna peoples eventually spread throughout the Maritimes and were the ancestors of what became the Mi’kmaq and Maliseet (Wolastoqiyik) people, or that they gradually became extinct (Tuck, 1984, p. 36). Standing at one of my favourite spots, on the ramparts of Fort Beausejour, with a panoramic view of the marshes and basin before me, one can only wonder at the history of this land. The story told by this one small campsite adds another chapter to the history of the Chignecto Isthmus, those little known visitors we call the Susquehanna people.


Tuck, James, Maritime Provinces Prehistory, Ottawa, Ont., National Museum of Man, Canadian prehistory series, 1984.

Stone adze, chipped then ground, about 4.5″ long

Stone adze, chipped then ground, about 4.5″ long

Susquehanna broad points, longest point about 2.5″

Susquehanna broad points, longest point about 2.5″

Christmas gift ideas… — new!

Down Sackville Ways [cover]

Down Sackville Ways

Down Sackville Ways: Shipbuilding in a Nineteenth Century New Brunswick Outport by Dale. E. Alward

This new Tantramar Heritage Trust publication will be available in November. Dale Alward’s 1978 honours thesis records the significant contribution of Sackville shipbuilders to the Maritime marine industry between 1821 and 1898. As the evidence of this vital part of our history is mostly gone, Alward’s exhaustive research brings back to life the “Golden Age of Sail” and records its impact on our community.

Don’t forget…



The Trust has several publications that would make great gifts for the history buffs on your list!