The White Fence, issue #46

May 2010


Dear friends,

This issue contains fascinating flashbacks of special events in the years 1854 and 1894 in Sackville: a ship-launching and James Inch’s reminiscences of 1854 (published in 1904) and another day of shopping at the J.R. Ayer Ltd. Boot and Shoe Company in Middle Sackville on 18 January, 1894. And, with an eye on significant recent events, read carefully the news release on the celebrations of the Canadian Navy’s Centennial celebrations next month in Sackville, with a special emphasis on the corvette HMCS Sackville.

And for those of you interested in researching your family tree, read about the resources that the Boultenhouse Heritage Centre in Sackville has to offer. We may live in a small town but, if you plan it right, there’s never a dull moment!

So find a comfortable chair, and sip on a bit of history while it’s still hot! And, as always, enjoy.

—Peter Hicklin

Sackville in 1854

by Al Smith

Recently, Donna Beal passed along to me a copy of an article from Allisonia (Vol. 1, #3, March, 1904) written by former Mount Allison professor James R. Inch. The document provides details of his impressions of Sackville and Mount Allison on his arrival in Sackville in the fall of 1854. Readers of The White Fence will no doubt be interested in Inch’s reminiscences and I have chosen to divide the long article into three portions, the first being his account of a ship-launching transcribed below (bracketed insertions in italics are mine).

A Ship-launching in Sackville circa 1854

In 1854, “there were a number of small stores situated apart in widely separated localities but it is doubtful whether the aggregate business of them all would amount to as much as is now (1904) transacted by any one of the leading business concerns. There was one flourishing industry, however, which was shipbuilding. There were three ship-yards; Charles Dixon situated near the public wharves and those of Christopher Boultenhouse and Henry Purdy further down the (Tantramar) river. From each of these yards a considerable number of vessels of various tonnage and rigging were launched during the prosperous years of this industry.

The launching of a large vessel was always an event of great interest, not only to the people of the surrounding country, but especially to the teachers and students who occasionally were granted a half-holiday to watch the stirring scene. It was a great privilege, eagerly sought after but granted to but a few of the students, to be allowed on board; for accidents occasionally occurred. I remember on one occasion when a large ship, after having a quick start, stuck upon the ways. After several attempts to move her, about thirty or forty men and boys, including some of the older (Mount Allison) Academy boys, were taken on deck where they were marshaled three abreast and the word of command ran with measured step the whole length of the vessel. On the second or third race the vibration caused by running set the great hulk in motion and the launch was successfully completed. Those who never witnessed a launch can form but a faint conception of the excitement aroused. The interest increased from moment to moment during the preparation. Men with heavy mauls were placed in order under the bilge of the vessel to drive the wedges which loosen the shores. Longfellow (poem: The Building of the Ship) describes the process in a very realistic way:

Then the Master,
With a gesture of command,
Waived his hand;

At the word,
Loud and sudden there was heard,
All around them and below,
Knocking away the shores and spurs,
And see! She stirs!

She starts, — she moves — she seems to feel
The thrill of life along her keel,
And spurning with her foot the ground,
With one exalting, joyous bound,
She leaps into the ocean’s arms!

Then an exultant shout from the excited crowd rends the air;
Hats and caps are flung on high;
Owners and mechanics heave a sigh of relief;
The multitude disperses, and the great event is over.

Reminiscences of Sackville in 1854

by James R. Inch

Transcriptions from Allisonia Vol. 1 #3, March, 1904 (contributed by Al Smith, Part 2 of 3)

Arrived at Mount Allison on August 10th, 1854

I had reached Sackville by stage from Dorchester Island, where I had disembarked that morning from the old “Maid of Erin” (a small steamer) which made two trips a week (from Saint John) to the “Head of the Bay” calling at Dorchester and Sackville alternately. The tide of travel between Saint John and Halifax in 1854 consisted of a tri-weekly — soon after a daily — line of stage coaches carrying mails, and a few passengers. Business communication with Saint John, in addition to the tri-weekly trips on the steamboat and stage, was carried on by one or two sailing packets. I recall the Jane (50-ton schooner built in 1853 by Christopher Boultenhouse) Capt Anderson (Titus) master.

View from the roof of the Ladies’ College in 1854:

The gazer from the roof of the Ladies’ College in 1854 would have seen in the place of the present York Street only a narrow lane terminating where the house of Mr. Pickard now stands [house currently at 90 York Street], and so much frequented by horned animals that the first company of lady students gave this outlet from their residence the significant name of “Cow Lane” — a name that clings to it yet in the mouths of the irreverent. There were only two houses up on that street, that which now forms part of Mr. Pickard’s residence, and a small brick house which was removed in 1893 to make room for the College Residence.

Casting our glance eastward we see in the immediate foreground the pretty residence and grounds of the Founder of Mount Allison Institutions, Charles F. Allison. The only other buildings near Crane’s Corner (corner of Main and York) in 1854 were the Methodist Church, the old store in which Crane and Allison accumulated wealth, the stone residence (Cranewood), then vacant, now occupied by Senator Wood, and a farm house (Thomas Bowser — Yorkshire settler) and barn which stood upon part of the grounds now covered by the mercantile establishment of George E. Ford. The present site of Senator Wood’s store (M. Wood & Sons — located on the site of the current Bank of Nova Scotia), of the railway station, of the NB & PEI railway, and of the skating rink and adjoining buildings was an un-reclaimed bog or marsh frequently overflowed. A solitary house (George Bulmer’s?) occupied a conspicuous position on the hill to the left of the highway (present-day Weldon Street) where now scores of residences are clustered forming a little town by itself. Between the present railroad crossing and the covered bridge there were only nine residences. The Post Office then in charge of the late Christopher Milner, was a small building about 12 x 16 which stood on the site of the present Chignecto Post Printing office. A little window with a swinging pane served the purpose of delivery. A shutter hinged on the top, when lifted into a horizontal position and supported by a brace — was the only protection, in all sorts of weather, which the patrons of the office enjoyed when waiting for their mail. How well I recall the noisy assemblages of academy boys waiting for their letters in the morning. The principal mails usually arrived at night. The breakfast hour at the academy was 7 o’clock winter and summer. After breakfast a crowd of boys would start for the Post Office which was supposed to be open at 8 AM. As the school-bell rang at 8:30 and the students were supposed to be in their school room at 8:45 there was but half an hour for obtaining the longed-for letters. The waiting minutes were occupied with all sorts of horse-play, interspersed with such shafts of wit and repartee as school boys are wont to fling at each other. But as the moments passed and no post master appeared, a few of the bolder ones would act as a deputation to pay a domiciliary visit to the tardy official for the purpose of hastening his advent. This usually had the desired effect, and Mr. Milner would be seen coming with hasty steps, grumbling good-naturedly and denouncing the impious rascals for disturbing him at his morning prayers.

On Main Street looking south one would note as the prominent building in view Coll’s Hotel which stood nearly opposite the present Brunswick House. This was a noted hostelry where stage coaches changed horses, and where for many years Mr. and Mrs. Coll dispensed a generous hospitality to the travelling public. Some of the stores which now occupy the site of the old hotel are located in the old Methodist Church which was moved (in 1876) from Crane’s Corner to make place for its successor and refitted for commercial purposes. The first “Brunswick House” was built in 1855 or 1856 by William MacDonald and was conducted by him as a Temperance Hotel. The only residences I remember in that part of town in 1854 were of Silas F. Black (house beside or just behind the Sackville Harness Shop) and a farm house on the site now occupied by the residence of Mr. W.B. Dixon.

Reminiscences of Mount Allison

by James R. Inch

Transcriptions from Allisonia Vol. 1,#3, March, 1904 (contributed by Al Smith, Part 3 of 3)

A Trek down East Main Street in 1854

Where now stand the shops, foundry, tenement houses and other plant of the Charles Fawcett manufacturing Company was an open field with a boggy marsh in front. The only houses in that locality were a plain structure of two stories on the site now occupied by the handsome residence of Alderman Ryan, a small dwelling nearer the front built against the hillside and a house farther back in the field still used as one of the Foundry tenement houses. Near the entrance to Foundry Street — then known as Fairfield Road, stood on the left a dilapidated black smith shop and nearly opposite an unpretentious tin shop, the chrysalis from which was evolved, by the enterprise of Charles Fawcett and his father, that magnificent industrial establishment whose finished products have been distributed to all parts of the dominion and beyond.

On the main street leading to Upper Sackville there were probably less than half the number of residences which face that busy thoroughfare at present. A conspicuous and picturesque object was the large wind-mill which drove the lathes and saws in Silas Black’s carriage shop (corner of Ogden Mill and Main). Its revolving fans glinting in the rays of the sun as the (Academy) boys took their walks in that direction always attracted attention. A little farther, on the left side of the road (current site on Danny Doncaster’s farm), was the modest store in which Mariner Wood, the father of Senator Wood, laid the foundation upon which was built the prosperous business now conducted by the firm of M. Woods & Sons. A short distance beyond Mr. Wood’s place of business stood a small harness and shoe shop, and a hundred yards farther a tannery. These have developed into the extensive works of the Standard Manufacturing Company and the widely known shoe manufacturing concerns of Abner Smith and son James. On the crest of the hill beyond, overlooking the fine expanse of water known at that time by the un-poetical name of ìMorice’s Mill Pondî, Joseph L. Black had just started business in a little building which stood nearly opposite his present fine store.

The first Sackville newspaper “The Borderer” which was afterwards merged with the “Chignecto Post” was started the same year by Edward Bowes, whose printing office was not more than a hundred yards to the south of Mr. Black’s store.

Shopping at the J.R. Ayer Ltd. Book and Shoe Company, Middle Sackville, 18 January, 1894

Shopping at the J.R. Ayer Ltd. Book and Shoe Company, Middle Sackville, 18 January, 1894

For Navy Veterans and the Love of Rhodies

On 15 May, the town of Sackville recognized the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Navy. But of most significance to the town of Sackville, on this date 69 years ago, in 1941, the corvette HMCS Sackville was launched from her berth in the Saint John Drydock and Shipbuilding Company. The Sackville Town Council of the day travelled the 150 miles in a driving rain as the ship was christened and slipped into the Courtenay Bay. There were approximately 123 Canadian-built corvettes in service during the Second World War and the HMCS Sackville is the only remaining corvette, carefully maintained by the Canadian Naval Memorial Trust in Halifax. And so, on May 15, 2010, in commemoration of the special relationship between this special ship and the community of Sackville, NB, a new memorial garden was unveiled in Memorial Park. The Tantramar Heritage Trust, through this newsletter and its publications, has long recognized the history of shipbuilding and ship-related commerce in the Tantramar area and the town now has a living memorial to remember this significant part of the town’s early history.

In preparation for this important event, the Sackville Garden Club requested the botanical expertise of Dr. Harold Popma who was provided with the necessary funding from the Sackville Garden Club and the Town of Sackville to purchase plants and establish a special garden in commemoration of the Canadian Navy at Memorial Park in Sackville on May 15. Many rhododendrons and flowering Magnolias were donated by Dr. Popma and Sandy and Wendy Burnett in Sackville. Many members of the garden club, as well as former members of the Canadian Navy, donated their time assistance to help Dr. Popma create this garden prior to the May 15 celebrations. But of very special importance was the planting of Navy Lady Roses in the garden by World War Wrens, shown in the photo below.

Valda Fisher and Mary McOuat, both Second World War Wrens. Lt. (N) Deanna Wilson and Lt. (N) Natasha Smith

The honorary planting of the new Navy Lady Rose on May 15th, 2010, at Memorial Park, Sackville, during the celebration of the Canadian Naval Centennial celebration. Seen here are Valda Fisher and Mary McOuat, both Second World War Wrens. Lt. (N) Deanna Wilson and Lt. (N) Natasha Smith assisted as the roses were planted by the Navy Ladies.

The Navy Lady Rose was developed by the Canadian Association of Wrens as a special tribute to the 2010 Canadian Naval Centennial. Dedicated to HMCS Sackville and the special relationship between the Town of Sackville and the namesake corvette, the garden will provide spring colour for the citizens of Sackville for years to come.

Purchased with Garden Club funds, Dr. Popma and volunteers planted Rhododendron olga, capistrano, roseum elegans, haage, mikelli, English roseum, University of Helsinki, Pohjol’s Daughter, two azaleas: Northern and Lemon Lights and the Magnolias: Anne, Royal Star and Leonard Mesell. From his own garden, Dr. Popma donated Rhododendron ramapo, everestianum, barmstedt, Boule de Neige, Grand Pré, Richard A. Steele, and Daupin/Mahogany Red and Azaleas grown from seed, including Schleppenbaccia (grown from seed by Dr. Popma and collected by Sandy Burnett from an 8 ft. plant in his garden). Furthermore, Sandy and Wendy Burnett donated a Magnolia kobus, grown from seed collected and donated by the late Captain Dick Steele. Of the non-rhododendron plants introduced to the garden were two Microbiota plants and eleven Navy Lady Roses.

In total, 48 plants were incorporated into this beautiful garden, many of which have since bloomed and we are not yet in the month of June at the time of writing (26 May)! May citizens of Sackville and visitors to our town enjoy the beautiful flowers of this garden, in commemoration of this special centennial celebration, for many years to come.

Commodore Andrew Smith presents a framed image of the HMCS Sackville to mayor Pat Estabrooks and the people of the town of Sackville on May 15th, 2010, during the Sackville celebration of the Canadian Navy Centennial. Commodore Smith was born and raised in Sackville, graduating from Tantramar Regional High School in 1979; he has served 31 years in the Navy.

Commodore Andrew Smith presents a framed image of the HMCS Sackville to mayor Pat Estabrooks and the people of the town of Sackville on May 15th, 2010, during the Sackville celebration of the Canadian Navy Centennial. Commodore Smith was born and raised in Sackville, graduating from Tantramar Regional High School in 1979; he has served 31 years in the Navy.

Tantramar Heritage Trust: Program of Events for 2010

We’ve an exciting summer (and year) of activity coming up — some of which were already mentioned in the previous newsletter — so here is a list of all our summer/fall activities and please join us for these interesting and educational activities.

  • June 12–13 — We will be holding our popular Museums Across the Marsh event (with six other area museums).
  • Also in June — the Campbell Carriage Factory Museum will open for the season.
  • July 25 to August 17 — Sundays and Tuesdays Under the Sky at the Campbell Carriage Factory — an expanded Heritage Arts Fair, featuring fine arts, music, theatre and literary arts. Also a Heritage Camp with the Town of Sackville’s Summerquest programme.
  • September — watch for our Harvest Tea at Fall Fair.
  • October, November — History Talks on Wednesdays in October and November — to be confirmed.
  • December — watch out for our Christmas events — including possibly a dramatic (!) surprise…

Phone 536-2541 for confirmation of dates, and more events.

Researching Your Family Tree? Check out the Resource Centre

Resource Centre Ron Kelly-Spurles in the Resource Centre

Folks interested in researching their family tree or in delving into local history should check out the Resource Centre at the Boultenhouse Heritage Centre. The Centre started three years ago with a rich collection of materials from the estate of Lloyd (Bud) White. The rapidly growing collection of historical publications, family histories and other documents of historical significance in the region, have been meticulously organized and indexed by Trust volunteer Donna Beal. So drop into the Centre and check out the holdings and if you are interested in volunteering at the Centre, please contact Donna.

Location: Upstairs in the historic c.1792 George Bulmer home that is part of the Boultenhouse Heritage Centre, 29 Queens Road, Sackville, NB.

Telephone: (506) 536-2541, or (506) 536-4620 to make arrangements to view.

Email:, or

Hours: Vary — please phone.

Fees: $2.00 (2 hour session); $5.00 (full day); cost for photocopying; members of the Tantramar Heritage Trust get free access to the Centre, but must pay for photocopying.

Services: Open year round. A comfortable research facility equipped with computer with Internet access, a microfiche reader and photocopier. The Resource Centre was established in 2007. All publications and some of the genealogical and local history material are recorded in a card catalogue. Our holdings are presently being recorded in a database for future easier access. The Resource Centre would be delighted to receive copies of Sackville area family histories not currently in our collection.

Holdings include:

  • Over 170 publications on local and family history.
  • Periodicals of various genealogical associations.
  • Anniversary issues of local newspapers.
  • Genealogical material for over 60 families of Sackville and nearby communities.
  • Westmorland County Census records, 1770, 1820, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891.
  • Westmorland County Marriage records, 1790–1901.
  • Westmorland County Cemetery records — Sackville Parish (2007).
  • Albert County Marriage records, 1846–1887.
  • Microfilm of United Church Pastoral Charge records containing Sackville Stewards records 1799–1813; Baptisms 1800-12, 1816-38; Marriages 1880-95; and Anderson Settlement Church records l875-1901.
  • Picture collection is beginning to develop.
  • Early maps of Sackville.
  • Early business records of Sackville in digital format.


The Tannery and Cecil Grant’s Old Pipe

I have just read the latest White Fence, with the pieces on the Tannery and the interview with Cec Grant. Very interesting. I assume that both Cec and his brother Mait are dead now (?). Cec was a very nice man, and took me under his wing when I first worked in the warehouses at the Store — got me out of trouble several times. He smoked a pipe, spent most of his time lighting it and placing hundreds of ‘dead’ wooden matches on the wood beams that lined the elevator shaft from the top floor to the loading bays. He never used the stairs. Everyone joked about the fire he would start, but it never happened.

I also used to drive on the truck with Mait, as his ‘helper’, which meant in practice that I did the unloading while he chatted up all the women on the road to the shore, and elsewhere. Mait and Cec Grant were very good men, both with a real sense of humour. I went to school in Middle Sackville with the kids and grandchildren of many of the men who worked at Standard, and remember Frank Lirette (I think the next generation spelled the name Lorette at school) walking every day between Sackville and Middle Sackville as quite an old man (at least he seemed old to us!). I think also that one of the Standard buildings in the picture lasted quite a long time and became George Johnston’s first store in the 1940s, and then Gerry Landry took over the spot with a smaller store when Johnston’s was torn down. The “pits” were still there when we were kids (as was a big smokestack), covered over with big boards, and the Middle Sackville kids were told not to go near them because they were “filled with acid” and would leave nothing of us except bones! Probably not true, but it worked, we never went near them.

—Larry Black