The White Fence, issue #42

June 2009


Dear friends,

In this newsletter, we learn of new events (our new administrator and the Capital Campaign) and finish off an old story: the long trip by sea with Walter Dutton. I now know, better than ever, how important and significant it was to first see the lighthouse! You’ll see what I mean… you’ll never see another lighthouse from a boat or ship in the same light again after reading this story!

We are very grateful to all who participated in Heritage Day on February 14. Check out Ron Kelly Spurles’ summary and you’ll see why the THT’s board of directors was especially pleased! It will allow us to do so much more for our membership.

And Colin MacKinnon introduces us to his great-grandfather Hector and grandfather Charles and the purchasing of a new mode of transportation back in May, 1907, when Charles was getting ready for summer and marriage! You will see that it was probably not much different back then from the day many of us bought our own first car!

—Peter Hicklin

A Warm Welcome to Ron Kelly-Spurles

Ron Kelly Spurles

The Trust is pleased to announce that Ron Kelly-Spurles as been hired as our new Administrator. Ron began work with us in January following the birth of his daughter Anna on December 31st! He comes to us after having run the Festival by the Marsh for four years and remains involved with the Festival on a part-time basis. He holds a BEd and BFA in Drama in Education degrees as well as an MFA in Theatre Directing. Ron is originally from Fredericton (but we won’t hold that against him!) and has traveled, studied and worked in several locations, including Montreal and Illinois.

His past work experience includes several summers at King’s Landing Historical Settlement in Prince William, NB, the Crake fellowship in Drama at Mount Allison University, and he is currently Chair of the Sackville Tourism Advisory Committee. He is married to Patricia Kelly-Spurles who teaches Anthropology at Mount Allison and is the very proud father of Peter and Anna. His mother, Pat Spurles, also resides in Sackville.

“I was very excited when I saw that the Trust was looking for an Administrator”, Ron said. “I have had some interaction with Paul and Al and the other members of the Trust for years, and I’ve always been impressed with the work they do. The position opened up at a perfect time for me, and I’m really excited to be a new member on this excellent team.”

The board of directors of the Tantramar Heritage Trust is very pleased to welcome Ron aboard and introduce him to the membership. Between us and your new baby Ron, we’ll keep you busy!!

The Journal of Walter Dutton — Part III: On board the Sarah Dixon

Continued from White Fence Nos. 40-41

August 29-December 5, 1858

Nov. 29. The wind is against us, so that we can form no idea when we shall be at Melbourne, they are hauling up the chain cable as if in anticipation of soon being there, God speed the time, the other night we saw several whales, spouting up and last night we saw a fog bank, which looked exactly like land.

Nov. 30. The wind still the same, the weather very unpleasant, and windy.

Dec. 1. The wind has changed a little in our favour it is very stormy and rough, so that we can stand on the deck it knocks the vessel about a great deal, but our ship although not a fast vessel is a seaworthy stout ship, she carries a very heavy cargo. 1000 tons of railway irons, 2 steam engines of 20 horse power with their boilers, several hundred cases of plate glass and 2000 firkins (9 gallon casks) of butter, with numerous other things.

Dec. 2. Last night was terribly stormy, myself and Wm. Heap stayed up until 3 o’clock in the morning and went on deck to watch the sea as it poured over the bulwarks and swept the decks, the ship was pitching and tossing until it was impossible to think of sleep, the ship staggered and creaked as if it was about to fall to pieces — we could hear the sliding of the passengers chests and boxes as they broke loose from their fastening and slipped backwards and forward against the sides of the birth. Today is a deal smoother, and we are going along in our right course, and expect to see land soon.

Dec. 3. This morning a little before 4 o’clock I was awakened by Joe who thought the vessel was going down, he asked me to get up and see how things were going on; he is the most timid fellow I ever saw or knew in my life — When I got out on the deck sure enough there was a heavy storm and the wind was blowing frightfully, the lower bulwarks were level with the sea and the water was above 1 yard deep on the deck, but for all this I was a unmoved and calm as if I was on my own hearthstone: The wind and sea is still very high and this morning about 11 o’clock the wind broke the foretopsail yard in two although 20 inches thick and 5 feet in circumference; and it still blows very hard. All the provisions that I brought with me are done, I finished my bacon last week, and the onions last night; the mint I found very useful to use with the pea-soup but I am sorry to say that some prig has walked off the greater part of it some days ago — and this is the only loss that I have had while on board, and I consider that I have fared and got off firstrate, but I had to keep my eyes open. — 4th going along very well.

Dec. 5. Sunday morning — At about 3 o’clock this morning the man on the lookout called out “light on the lee bow” and then the signal gun was discharged off immediately — so I got up out of my bunk and went on deck, and there sure enough was the lighthouse seen — it was a very joyful sight I can tell you and this forenoon at about 11 o’clock we got the Pilot on board — and we shall cast anchor this afternoon after a passage of 99 days — we have heard from the Pilot that the ‘Wm. Jackson’ and the ‘John & Lucy’ have not yet arrived but the ‘White Star’ which left the Mersey 8 days before us, got in 3 weeks ago — They have been round with a testimonial for us passengers to sign in favour of Capt. Salt and his crew, but I have refused to sign it on pure conscientious grounds as this vessel has been neither more nor less than a floating House of ill fame at least in our cabin, and all this under his very eyes, even after he had been repeatedly told of it. We have now cast anchor at 6 o’clock p.m. and are within sight of Melbourne, Williams town, Sandridge, and St. Kilda — it is beautiful weather, and we are in the middle of the Bay. The Health Officer came on board before we entered the heads, — and the Government Inspectors will come on board tomorrow morning after which we shall leave the vessel and its many grievances for ever. I shall not stay in Melbourne more than 1 day, but shall set off to the Ovens, which is distanced 197 miles from here; I shall post this as soon as I get on shore, and write again when I arrive at my destination: I hope this long epistle will find you all well, as for myself, I was never better: I must now conclude and may this God who watches over the land as well as the sea, guide and protect you all my dear wife and children, is the constant prayer of your affectionate husband and father,

Walter Dutton

I wish you were thus far on your journey.


The following was added on 24 February 2009 from information provided by Walter Dutton’s great-great grandson, Stephen Simpson. The information originates from stories passed down in the family.

Shortly after arriving in Melbourne, Walter and his partner Joe (as mentioned in the journal) did in fact make it to the Australian goldfields. They traveled to the Ovens Valley 250 km northeast of Melbourne, in the northeastern corner of the state of Victoria — the alpine region of Australia. The main town at the upper end of the valley is called Bright. Around it sprang up many segregated tented communities housing the gold seekers.

By the time Walter arrived at Ovens, mining in the Valley had been largely industrialized. It is not known if Walter and Joe staked their own claim but they did in fact find gold and deposited their savings in a local bank in Bright. Funds were then transferred back to England in order to keep their families going. Sadly for all of them, the bank over-extended itself and crashed.

At some stage Walter was killed and a native Australian was tried for his murder since he was wearing Walter’s wedding ring. Joe continued to work on both their families’ behalf — his response to the debt he felt owed to Walter’s efforts on his behalf during the passage out on the Sarah Dixon. Walter was buried in Australia — he will be there forever. The fate of his partner Joe is not known.

An Exciting Summer of Activities Planned at Both Museums

The Tantramar Heritage Trust has a busy summer season lined up for our two museums (Boultenhouse Heritage Centre and Campbell Carriage Factory) and final touches are now being put on the schedule of events and activities.

Our summer season will begin in June with the grand re-opening of the Campbell Carriage Factory, celebrating the completion of an ambitious Capital Campaign (as mentioned by Frank, at right) which has seen impressive improvements in the museum. The opening will be held on two Sundays: June 14 and June 21. The 14th will be the formal opening with dignitaries’ speeches and a performance by the Sackville Citizen’s Band, and the 21st will be designed for families, with games and other activities being offered. Both days are open to the public — please visit our website or phone for details. In addition, there will also be several new programs at the museum including “Tuesday Nights at the Carriage Factory in July” (featuring a “Carriage and Wagon Drive-In Movie”, a star-talk with Robert Hawkes, a concert with Janet Crawford and Friends, and an evening of short plays and other entertainments), and “August Weekends at the Carriage Factory” with special guests and events, and more! The Trust is also offering a Heritage Daycamp in August in collaboration with the Town of Sackville. “It’s going to be a really exciting summer”, said Trust Administrator Ron Kelly Spurles. “We are really looking forward to having people visit the Carriage Factory to see how it has been developed. And we’re certain that people won’t want to miss our new series of programming and activities — it will offer something for everyone”.

Capital Campaign

by Frank Chisholm, Chair

In late October, 2008, the Tantramar Heritage trust launched the Capital Campaign, a fund-raising campaign centered on the Campbell Carriage Factory Compound. Since that date, we have experienced a great effort by our canvassers and we thank them for their participation and, in many instances, their patience and perseverance. But more importantly, we also want to thank you, the contributors, for your generosity with this on-going commitment. We are presently two-thirds of the way to our overall goal. This ultimate goal is indeed now on the horizon and, given some possibilities now open to us, certainly attainable! But follow-up is the key to our success in this venture. For those of you who have already honoured your pledge, we sincerely thank you. And for those of you who still plan to contribute, we need you as well. Our sincere appreciation and gratitude to all!

For further information on the any of the Trust’s upcoming activities can be found on the Trust’s website or by phoning 536-2541.

Charlie MacKinnon’s New Carriage

by Colin M. MacKinnon

Anyone who has worked on compiling a family genealogy is aware of the rewards in finding a new name for the ‘tree’, yet at the same time wishing for something more.

black-and-white photograph of Hector MacKinnon

Hector MacKinnon — Master Stone Cutter (born: 26 March 1831 Lake Ainslie, Cape Breton — died: 6 Jan. 1910 Woodpoint, New Brunswick) C. MacKinnon photo

It is so much better when we can find personal bits of information about our ancestors; what they did and how they lived. Such information can surface in the most interesting of places and this is just such a story about “Charlie’s New Carriage”.

My grandfather, Charles MacKinnon (3 November 1882 – 3 August 1952) was born on Mary’s Point, in Albert County, New Brunswick, where his father Hector was a stone cutter. Around 1887, the family moved to Woodpoint where Hector worked at the Read stone quarry and his wife Rosannah (Gough) operated a boarding house for some of the workers. I have been told my grandfather had a sharp mind and was quick to take action. As a young child, and shortly after arriving in Woodpoint, Charles’s sister Christie recalled the following story:

“When they moved to Woodpoint, sailing across the turbulent Bay of Fundy from Harvey in Albert County, they had no beef to eat. Apparently uncle Charlie had been used to better fare in Albert County because one day he asked for meat. When told there was none, he asked where it came from. Grandmother said (very sharply, I gather) from a cow! After a little while in came uncle Charlie. He took his mother to the door and sure enough there was a cow! He said, “take a slice off her, she’s so big Mr. Clark will never miss it, then I’ll take it back to the pasture”.

Wedding photo, 3 September, 1907, of Charles Chesley Earl MacKinnon and Florence Ethel Reid. C. MacKinnon photo

Wedding photo, 3 September, 1907, of Charles Chesley Earl MacKinnon and Florence Ethel Reid. C. MacKinnon photo

As a young man growing up in Woodpoint, Charles loved to roam the woods and was an avid sportsman all his life. One of his earliest jobs, accompanied by his brother Watson, was putting up telegraph poles and lines in New York State. A country boy at heart, he used to tell his family that, “while walking down the streets of New York City, surrounded by hundreds of people, I never felt so alone!” With aging parents, Charles decided to return home and assist in running the household. On his return, he met and married Florence Reid, the daughter of Joseph Bedford and Mary (Goodwin) Reid of Frosty Hollow.

One of the major projects of the Tantramar Heritage Trust has been not only the conservation of the Campbell Carriage Factory, but also the corporate records of the business. These documents contain a treasure trove of information about the day to day workings of the operation that is a valuable resource to the historian and genealogist. One day, while gleaning over the records and noting many useful ‘references’ for file, I came across entries of both my grandfather and great-grandfather. On 6 May, 1907, Charles MacKinnon was purchasing a new carriage for the then princely sum of $75; however, the purchase was accomplished by 11 promissory notes.

I suppose like many young men, he wanted to make a good impression for his bride-to-be and that meant having ‘wheels’; not the motorized type, but a carriage from George Campbell & Sons. Charles was married later that same year (3 Sept. 1907) to Florence Read and I suppose the new carriage transported the happy couple on their honeymoon.

Charles and Florence had eight children; the youngest was Arnold (1908–1911) and he died very young. We never knew the date of his death but the Carriage factory records shows where Charles pays for a “Coffin and Attendance” on 12 September, 1911. What a sad day, for this must have been the funeral expenses for his young son.

This short note exemplifies the importance of preserving old records, even business records, as it tells us ever so much more than a name and date in a genealogical tree. This note also emphasizes the importance of supporting heritage institutions, archives and libraries as these types of documents are so easily discarded as ‘unimportant’. If you happen to have old records, gathering dust and taking up space, please consider donating to the Tantramar Heritage Trust for others to enjoy and learn from.

Hector MacKinnon entries for 1903 and 1904 (for repairs to carriage and pung) and 7 January, 1910 (the time of Hector's death), for "Coffin and Attendance". The entry reads "Cash per Charlie" as his son paid the funeral expenses. THT Archives #1998.06.01, Andrew MacKinnon photo

Hector MacKinnon entries for 1903 and 1904 (for repairs to carriage and pung) and 7 January, 1910 (the time of Hector’s death), for “Coffin and Attendance”. The entry reads “Cash per Charlie” as his son paid the funeral expenses. THT Archives #1998.06.01, Andrew MacKinnon photo

Charles MacKinnon entry in the Campbell Carriage Factory records. Note the new carriage purchased 6 May, 1907, and the two entries for "Coffin & Attendance" on 10 Jan., 1910 and 12 Sept., 1911 (his father and his infant son, respectively). THT Archive #1998.06.01, Andrew MacKinnon photo

Charles MacKinnon entry in the Campbell Carriage Factory records. Note the new carriage purchased 6 May, 1907, and the two entries for “Coffin & Attendance” on 10 Jan., 1910 and 12 Sept., 1911 (his father and his infant son, respectively). THT Archive #1998.06.01, Andrew MacKinnon photo

Latest publication Selling Well

The Trust launched its 18th publication Lord of the Land — The Reign of Amos “King” Seaman in February 14, 2009. As of March 31, we had sold 146 copies! With assistance from the author, Jamie Heap, the publication got excellent exposure in the Amherst Citizen, Sackville Tribune Post, Halifax Chronicle Herald and The White Fence. Since launch day, Jamie has made several presentations on the life of Amos Seaman; his promotional efforts resulted in good launch-day sales and a continuing strong demand for the book, especially in the Amherst area. Pugsley’s Pharmacy in Amherst purchased a quantity of the books and the Cumberland County Museum will offer the book via a consignment agreement with the Trust.

The Trust’s publications program is part of our continuing education and outreach activities providing a printed record of our history to all members of the Tantramar Heritage Trust and the general public. We are very appreciative of the public’s response to our publications. Our book sales now constitute the highest revenue line (except grants) of the Trust’s multi-faceted operations. In the past fiscal year (1 April 2008 to 31 March 2009) 593 publications were sold for a total sales revenue to the Trust of $8,523. We thank you all for your continuing interest, commitment and support!

Heritage Day 2009

On 14 February last, the Tantramar Heritage Trust catered to 321 people for the Heritage Breakfast and over 125 attended the afternoon presentations. The total revenue for everything (including book sales, raffle, breakfast tickets, membership renewals and Antiques Roadshow) amounted to $4,285.90! Overall, that special day brought in approximately $3,100.00 in profit to the Trust! Thank you all for participating!

Fundraising Dinner Postponed

We apologize for any inconvenience, but the Committee organizing the dinner that was to be held on May 2 has decided to postpone it until the Fall — there are just too many conflicting events these weeks.

We’re looking at either September 26 or October 3, and a date will be set soon. The event will remain the same — below are details. Tickets can be purchased anytime, but must be bought in advance of the dinner.

The annual fundraising dinner will be held at St. Paul’s Anglican Church. The theme this year is “Railroads”, and there is an exciting speaker lined up — Jay Underwood, author of several books on the railway including Ketchum’s Folly , an history of the ill-fated Chignecto Ship Railway, Full Steam Ahead , a biography of Wallace, Nova Scotia-born locomotive designer Alexander Mitchell, and Built for War , a military history of the Intercolonial Railway. Jay will speak on “The human history of the Intercolonial Railway through the Tantramar; the civil engineers who laid the rails, and the locomotive engineers who rode on them”. There will also be an original short play on the railroad, a silent auction, and other surprises. There will be a delicious roast turkey dinner (with all the trimmings and dessert) catered by Laurie Ann Crossthwaite of Sandpiper Catering (who catered last year’s “Rum Running” dinner).

Donations for the silent auction are also being collected. If anyone has any items to donate, please contact Wendy Burnett at, or phone the Trust office at 536-2541.

The ticket price is $50, and this will include a tax receipt for $25. Tickets can be reserved and/or picked up at the Trust office at Boultenhouse Heritage Centre, 29 Queens Road. You may also reserve by email: or call 536-2541.

Where have all the marsh barns gone?

by Colin M. MacKinnon

Marsh barns by dirt road

Not that many years ago a number of barns lined the High Marsh Road; none have survived. C. MacKinnon photo

Marsh Barns of the Tantramar
Year Number of barns
1955 362
1963 274
1979 100
2000 28
2009 20

It is hard to believe that it has been nine years since I wrote the short note on the decline of Tantramar’s Marsh Barns (“The Marsh Barns of the Tantramar; End of an Era”, The White Fence No. 11). This update has been prompted by the collapse of two more of these iconic structures over this past winter and the re-surfacing of a fantastic photograph taken from atop the CBC towers on Cole’s Island. As best I can trace the story, Mr. Moe Smith, the regional CBC engineer, asked an employee (possibly Hedley Estabrooks) to take the photograph from the top of the tower, and we are indeed fortunate that he did. The picture shows upwards of 70 barns straddling the Tantramar River (see photo below).

What is deceiving is the gradual attrition rate of these hay barns. Should one venture on the marsh today there are still a number of buildings to be seen. From year to year, the mind quickly forgets ‘what has been lost’ and everything looks normal, as if there has been little change. However, at the current rate of decline, the last of the Tantramar marsh barns is likely not that far in the future. Enjoy them, while you still can, before they are gone completely from this heritage landscape.


Topographic map of the Tantramar, c. 1950, indicating the general area covered by the photograph below (small rectangular icons indicate barns).

Photograph taken from atop the CBC towers on Cole's Island c.1945. View is looking north along the meander of the Tantramar River. There are upwards of 70 marsh barns in the photograph; also note the covered bridge across Tolars Canal along the extreme right of the photo!

Photograph taken from atop the CBC towers on Cole’s Island c.1945. View is looking north along the meander of the Tantramar River. There are upwards of 70 marsh barns in the photograph; also note the covered bridge across Tolars Canal along the extreme right of the photo!

Cumberland 250 — Celebrating Our Heritage

Cumberland Genealogical Society invitation to celebrate Cumberland County’s 250th anniversary

Cumberland Genealogical Society invitation to celebrate Cumberland County’s 250th anniversary