The White Fence, issue #47

October 2010


Dear friends,

In keeping with my health, much of the contents of the accompanying articles in this newsletter are connected with my (almost) daily walks between our house on Main Street, Sackville, and the Middle Sackville Baptist Church on Church Street, near the Campbell Carriage Factory Museum, in Middle Sackville. This walk has helped make me familiar with this stretch of Sackville known as Middle Sackville. And this familiarity has allowed me to appreciate the former activities of this part of town in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For example, in 1905, the Campbell Carriage Factory, next door to the church, would have been a very active business at that time. And folks not only required horses and carriages for transportation in those years, but they also needed many basics: clothing, food and furniture, just to name a few necessities. This newsletter seeks to inform you of some of the centres of those activities at that time in Sackville, which were probably not dissimilar to the daily activities of many Maritime towns near the turn of the 20th century. I am most grateful to Nev and Janice Garrity for providing me with the 1978 booklet on the history of the Middle Sackville United Baptist Church and for the church to allow me to reprint it here (just the historical sketch and not the many church by-laws as listed in the original document); it is a very fine historical “sketch”, presented here with no editing whatsoever on my part.

You may view this newsletter as a small slice of Sackville history between 1894 and 1905, with citizens shopping at J.R. Ayer’s, J.L. Black’s and Burwash Robinson’s and (presumably) attending the local Middle Sackville church. This church was my main source of inspiration. It is a large beautiful wooden structure with the date 1905 inscribed below the main window, by the original entrance. For a congregation to construct such a large church at that time clearly reflects the presence a much larger neighbourhood than we find there today. See the Sunday School contingent of the church membership in 1947, provided to us by Al Smith (who is in this photo by the way) and perhaps you can help provide us with a few names of the folks on this photo. And read about Burwash Robinson who was clearly a very active member of the business community in this part of town for many years in the early 1900s. I consider this slice of Sackville life, and particularly Burwash Robinson’s role, as Part I of this story. I owe a great debt of gratitude to Mona Estabrooks who really made this article possible (and accurate, especially following a few mis-directed drafts on my part!). Responses on this article from you, the readership, will help define what Part II will look like.

Please note under Correspondence the letter we received from Susan (Ayer) Barylo who demonstrates connections between the Ayer and Harper families in response to White Fence No. 45. Susan provided me with a sketch of her family tree showing the connections between the Ayer and Harper families. However, we noted some problems with the family tree which are marked with a “?” where we lacked some clarity. I submitted the draft shown here to Susan but still await her response for corrections. These will hopefully be made available to you in the next White Fence.

I also wish to take this opportunity to introduce you to a new member of the Tantramar Heritage Trust. Note under Correspondence the letter we received (via THT President Geoff Martin) from this new member, the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, who commented on our April newsletter (no. 45) when we reported on the Harper family’s Tantramar roots. Since Prime Minister Harper and his family will from now on be receiving a copy of this newsletter, it is my pleasure, on behalf of the membership, to welcome him and his family to the Tantramar region via the pages of the White Fence and the activities of the Tantramar Heritage Trust. Please note, Prime Minister, that we thank you for taking the time to write to us, and, furthermore, if you know of any connections that the Harper family may have had with Burwash Robinson’s store and moccasin factory (see below), we would love to hear about it!

In the meantime, have a look at the photos below your letter showing the original land grant made to Christopher Harper in 1809, discovered by my friend and colleague, Colin MacKinnon, for me to include here. These help solidify the historic connection between the Harper family’s history and the Tantramar region.

Welcome aboard our great ship Prime Minister and family and, equally to all THT members, as always, enjoy!

—Peter Hicklin

An Historical Sketch of the Middle Sackville United Baptist Church 1905

Compiled by Margaret Beal and David H. Snell (printed in 1978)

In order to understand the history of our church one must go back in time and location to the early settlement of the state of Massachusetts by the Puritans. A man by the name of Roger Williams arrived in Boston, Massachusetts Bay Colony early in 1631. There he was shocked to discover that the Puritans had come to obtain religious liberty only for themselves. Non-Puritans suffered for their opinions in Massachusetts. Although Roger Williams was a Puritan minister, he believed no government had the right to interfere with the religious convictions of anyone else. Mr. Williams was banned, because of his beliefs, from the colony of Massachusetts to what is now Providence, R.I. In 1639, he became a Baptist and founded the First Baptist Church of Providence, which claims the title “First Baptist Church in the United States”.

One principle of this church was, “Everyone should have liberty to worship God according to the light of their conscience”. Mr. Williams’ teaching soon spread throughout Rhode Island and parts of Massachusetts and Connecticut.

The first Baptist Church to be formed in Massachusetts was at Swansea in 1663. People coming from Providence and other places settled east of this old church and in 1693 formed the Second Swansea Baptist Church. From this church have come several ministers who have removed to other parts; among them are Nathan Mason who went to Nova Scotia. You can trace this in “History of the Baptists” by Benedict.

April 21st, 1763 Mr. and Mrs. Nathan Mason, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Lewis, Mr. and Mrs. Oliver Mason and Experience Baker from the 2nd Church of Swansea, Massachusetts and Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Mason, and Mr. and Mrs. Charles Seamans, and Mr. and Mrs. Gilbert Seamans from nearby churches resolved to move to Nova Scotia (which then included what is now New Brunswick).

These thirteen persons were formed into a church and Mr. Nathan Mason was ordained their pastor. They sailed in a group to Tantramar, Nova Scotia, which was the name then given to the area around what is now Sackville. We find these names listed among the very early settlers in what is now Middle Sackville.

These settlers did not find conditions here altogether to their liking and in 1771 most of them returned to their old homes. During their stay, however, they built up the church to some 60 members. Deacon Charles Seamans one of the original members of the church, was buried here in 1771. His son Job Seamans, was given a license to preach by this church. He went to the States in 1772 and it is alleged that a Mr. Joseph Read was called to the ministry in this church.

We do not have record of what happened to Mr. Read, but in 1781 Henry Alline visited this area. He wrote in his journal, under the date July 31st, 1781: “This day, after visiting some people, I preached in the evening and God was there with such power that some who had known the truth before were almost overcome with joy.” It would seem that the persons here spoken of as “having known the truth before” were the remaining members of the original Baptist Church, who, though pastorless were still interested in spiritual affairs.

The period between Mr. Alline’s visit to Sackville and the close of the century is also one of obscurity. It would seem that the people had no permanent pastor but the religious services continued to be held with some regularity.

In Sackville Baptist Church, an Historical Sketch written by Rev. W.H. Warren, a former pastor of the Church we read: “At the age of 27, Joseph Crandall came as a licentiate to Sackville, in the year 1798. The people received him very cordially — It was decided to call a council to consider the propriety of setting him apart to the work of the gospel ministry’î “The council consisted of Elder Edward Manning and myself, then seventeen years old, chosen and sent from the church; Elder Theodore S. Harding, from Horton; Elder Joseph Dimock, and Deacon John Bradshaw from Chester. We met at Sackville, N.B., on October 4th, 1799 and continued there seven days, during which time the gospel was preached daily, both publically and from house to house, and a revival of the religion was the result, and a time of much rejoicing by the Lord’s people.”

A church was constituted consisting of about twenty members. On Monday, Oct. 8, Bro. Joseph Crandall was ordained pastor over them. Elder T.S. Harding preached the ordination sermon …”. “A host of people were in attendance, and thirteen were added to the church before we left the place”.

It would seem that the twenty persons formed into a church and the thirteen added to their group must have been members of the original church founded by Nathan Mason. This view is confirmed by Mr. Chipman’s remarks, “saints rejoicing and backsliders returning”. These saints and backsliders were plainly the scattered and wandering members of the old church. Also, Elder Dimock describes the same event in similar words.

It seems evident that the members of the original church were gathered together and revived, and that they chose Joseph Crandall as their pastor, called for his ordination, and united earnestly in supporting him. It was the same church, having the old members and the same doctrines and practices as it had from its beginnings in 1763.

In 1839 a parsonage was built a short distance above the present parsonage. The question as to how the deed should be drawn led to trouble. This led to a split in the church.

So, on March 9th, 1839, the second church was organized and the next day they began to build Bethel Chapel. It was open for worship in 1842. In 1844 First Church built Beulah at Four Corners.

In 1848 Salem Chapel was built by the members of the Second Church. This was not considered a separate church but a mission of Second Church. Salem Chapel was opened for worship on July 27th, 1849. In 1850 the Point de Bute and in 1859 the Midgic Churches were organized by members who took their letters of dismission from the first church for that purpose.

Rev. D.G. MacDonald, from P.E.I., comes on the scene with the avowed purpose of uniting the two churches. In 1883 First and Second Churches united and used first Beulah and later Bethel for their meeting place. Both churches voted away the names “First” and “Second” and became fused into one body.

The mission work known as the Salem branch of the church had been growing so rapidly that in 1890, the Main Street building was erected. The work in this field became too heavy for one man and on September 22nd, 1902 the church decided to divide and the present day Main Street Church and the Middle Sackville Churches were organized.

October 6, 1902 an organizational meeting was held in the Middle Sackville meeting house (Bethel), and a “resolution as follows was carried: That the members formerly belonging to the Sackville Baptist Church residing above or to the north of the territorial line mentioned in the above report (Ogden Mill Road) do constitute said members into a church to be known as the Sackville Baptist Church, and further resolved that we at once proceed to the election of the necessary officers to complete the organization of the church”.

Officers were elected at this organizational meeting including seven trustees who later applied to the N.B. legislature for incorporation, and on May 9, 1903 an act to incorporate the trustees of the Middle Sackville Baptist Church was passed.

Mr. R. Earnest Estabrooks is to be commended for the work he did in writing the history of our church. His book is most interesting and a copy is on file at the Acadia Library.

This historical sketch will be concluded by listing all of the pastors of our church from the time of our 1902 organization.

  • Rev. A.T. Robinson 1902–1904
  • Rev. E.L. Steeves 1904–1909
  • Rev. A.E. Estall 1909–1911
  • Rev. David Price 1911–1916
  • Rev. J.W. Brown 1916–1918
  • Rev. E.R. MacWilliam 1918–1921
  • Rev. David Price 1921–1925
  • Rev. N.A. Whitman 1925–1929
  • Rev. O.E. Steeves 1929–1935
  • Rev. Wm. Alton White 1935–1940
  • Rev. W.G. Killam 1940–1948
  • Rev. H.F. Fenwick 1948–1953
  • Dr. Boothroyd 1953–1954
  • Lic. Edgar Patriquin 1954–1957
  • Rev. S.C. Crossman 1957–1961
  • Lic. Allan Barnett 1961–1962
  • Rev. H. F. Fenwick 1961–1971
  • Rev. Gordon Driscoll 1971–1975
  • Rev. David H. Snell 1975—

April 10, 1952 a form of constitution was adopted in a booklet entitled, An Historical Sketch, Constitution and By-laws of the Middle Sackville United Baptist Church. The committee that worked on this first constitution was Rev. H.F. Fenwick, Margaret Beal, Wilfred W. Wheaton, Wm. L. Wheaton, Donald Harper, and James F. Anderson.

After some 20 years it was felt that a revised constitution was in order and the following committee was appointed to work on it: Rev. David H. Snell, Barbara Wheaton, Gerald Wheaton, Lorne Brooks, Fred Estabrooks, Winifred Brooks, Carol Wood, Albert Trenholm, Richard Brooks, and Fred Fillmore. The constitution and by-laws which follow (not included here —ed.) are the result of the work of this committee.

Al Smith discovered the names of 42 of the 65 (?) church members shown in this 1947 photo above. If you know of the members shown here, send in your guesses to the Heritage Trust and once all are identified, the photo with all the names will be shown in a later newsletter. Identify members by row (first row on bottom) and number, from left to right

Al Smith discovered the names of 42 of the 65 (?) church members shown in this 1947 photo above. If you know of the members shown here, send in your guesses to the Heritage Trust and once all are identified, the photo with all the names will be shown in a later newsletter. Identify members by row (first row on bottom) and number, from left to right.

Burwash Robinson Store and Post Office — Middle Sackville

by Peter Hicklin

When I was first hired by the Canadian Wildlife Service (Environment Canada) in Sackville back in 1978, I rented a small house on Harper Lane in Middle Sackville. And across the road from Harper Lane was an abandoned building (see photo taken by Al Smith in 2000 before the building was demolished in 2004). I always had an interest in learning something about this interesting building and, now that I am retired, I have the opportunity to search for answers. What I have learned so far is written below but there is obviously much more to be written about this building and its former owner. Readers who might know more are encouraged to contact me via the Tantramar Heritage Trust ( or me personally at or write to Tantramar Heritage Trust, 29B Queen’s Road, Sackville, NB E4L 4G4.

Abandoned Burwash Robinson store and Post Office

Abandoned Burwash Robinson store and Post Office; photo taken by Al Smith in 2000.

Starting either in the fall of 1902 or early spring 1903, the building first functioned as a General Store and, soon after, the Post Office became operational. Both were run by Mr. Burwash Robinson. My neighbour and friend, 80-year-old Éloi Lirette, remembers Burwash when Éloi was (at least) a 10-year old boy. According to Éloi, Burwash’s store was known locally as a General Store which sold “bits of this, bits of that” (nails, horseshoes, milk, bread, candies (jawbreakers) and gas with a hand pump) and also served as a Post Office. As you look at Al’s photos of the abandoned building presented here, the General Store was on the left and the Post Office on the right.

As a 10-year old boy, Éloi remembers Burwash as a man who was strict with the kids. He informed me that when Burwash was busy sorting the mail and the boys got a little rowdy in the store, he would look at them from the counter and “when he lowered his glasses to the tip of his nose and looked at us, we knew to be quiet!”. But Éloi also informed me that although Burwash came across as “sharp and all businesî, he was well-respected by his patrons such as the elder Lirettes (Éloi’s parents and others of their generation). As a young man, and during an especially mild winter, Éloi recalls working at George Johnson’s store across the road and he remembers Burwash coming into the store and Éloi telling him: “Burwash we’re not going to have a winter”, to which Burwash responded: “stick around!”. As Éloi informed me, Burwash Robinson was “a fair-sized man (remember, these are the memories of a 10-year old boy; see photo at right —editor), with a good sense of humor, but when he spoke, you knew to listen. He was smart with a great memory, well-liked and respected by all”.

Burwash Robinson (left) and Mel Hicks (undated).

Burwash Robinson (left) and Mel Hicks (undated). Photo provided by John and Judy Carlisle

Photo of an original Burwash Robinson receipt

Photo of an original Burwash Robinson receipt provided by Colin MacKinnon

Burwash was a busy man. Apart from the store and Post Office, he also ran a tannery on Harper Lane where he made moccasins which sold widely throughout the Maritimes. And throughout those busy years, Burwash lived nearby in the small house across, and near, Harper Lane (now 352 Main St., Middle Sackville) and was ably assisted by his son-in-law George Creasy and Cecil Grant. (Remember Cecil? see The White Fence no. 44, February, 2010, for Cecil’s memories of his days working at the tannery: “Hair Today, Hide Tomorrow”.) After Burwash retired, Cecil Grant took a job with J. L. Black’s and George Creasy took over the store. George Creasy was (by all accounts) well-liked and the store’s last owner. When Burwash retired from the daily grind, he built a house at 319 Main St., a short walk from his old store; this house was later purchased by the late Charlie Cormier and stands today under new ownership.

While George Creasy ran the business in the early 1950s, Annie Estabrooks (married to Lionel Estabrooks) took over the postal business and opened the small building next door (344 Main Street, now privately owned) as the Middle Sackville Post Office where they also sold candy and children’s clothing. As a young man in 1967, …loi remembers buying his centennial coins from Annie (remember 1967?) in the “new” Post Office. And this small building was the Post Office that I used when I first moved to Sackville in 1976 as new Wildlife Biologist with the Canadian Wildlife Service. When Annie created the new Post Office next door, George Creasy continued to run Burwash’s old store and was its last owner. Mona Estabrooks (Annie’s daughter and presently Assistant Director Alumni Relations at Mount Allison) recalls going to George Creasy’s store as a pre-school youngster in 1962 to get hard candy. She remembers walking into the old store which had two big glass display cases with hardwood tops (where the hard candy was!), on either side of the door. She remembers the store as being attractive, but dark, with poor lighting and dark wooden floors and walls. As the original store was on left side of the building when you entered, that was where most of the wall shelving for food products was located, behind the long glass display case on that side. Mona has a very clear memory of George Creasy walking to the store each morning with a basket of fresh eggs to sell at the store.

When Annie retired (year unknown), Burwash Robinson’s granddaughter, Irene Trenholm, took over as post-mistress. And when Irene retired (year unknown), the Post Office in Middle Sackville was closed and mailboxes were set up at the Middle Sackville Variety Store (on the corner of Main Street and Walker Road).

Similarly, Al Smith has fond memories of this building when he was a young boy. His commentary to me on this subject goes as follows: “I remember the old store well as we used to get our mail there and I would often go up on my bike to get it. The store was a typical old general store with shelving going right up to the ceiling on both sides. The post office was a series of “pigeon holes” behind the sales counter to the right as you entered the old store. I can remember going up for mail in the late 1940s and 1950s but… (it) was moved next door (I think in the mid- to late 1950s) into a new building…operated by Lionel Estabrooks for a number of years. One of the outstanding features of the old store was the two cylindrical old-fashioned gas pumps in front. It was (as I recall) the only place in Middle Sackville where you could get farm gas (marked with a red dye) which was substantially cheaper than regular gas used in automobiles.”

Burwash Robinson’s store and Post Office were clearly an important centre of activity in Middle Sackville in the first 50 years of the 1900s. The building was torn down in 2004 but another generation lives on: Burwash Robinson’s daughter Margaret (Robinson) Estabrooks, at nearly 100 years of age, lives across the street from where Mona now lives in Middle Sackville and, next door to her, lives Burwash’s grandson and his wife — Gary and Heather Trenholm. And the house that Gary and Heather live in was originally owned by George Creasy and wife Hestel… small world!

Burwash Robinson store ad in the local paper (year unknown, but probably around 1915–1920)

Burwash Robinson store ad in the local paper (year unknown, but probably around 1915–1920)

Anyone with memories of Burwash and his store/Post Office please contact me via Heritage Trust email or postal addresses above or to me personally at 229 Main St., Sackville NB E4L 3A7. I look forward to learning more from you about the kind of person Burwash Robinson was and his businesses in Middle Sackville back those many years ago (photos would be especially appreciated!). Middle Sackville was obviously a much busier part of town in those days than the quiet suburban stretch of road it is today. I extend my grateful thanks to John and Judy Carlisle for the photo of Burwash Robinson and Mel Hicks. From the first time I saw this photo, it just made me want to know more about this interesting person about whom we knew so little about. The bulk of the information written above came to me via Mona Estabrooks. On behalf of the readership, thank you Mona for taking the time from your busy schedule and typing up all this interesting information for us to read about! And, as per usual, my grateful thanks to Al Smith for always being so actively interested in Sackville history! And to all, stay tuned for Part 2 as new information comes in!

Program of Events for 2010

  • October, November — History Talks on Wednesdays in October and November; to be announced.
  • The Trust will be holding a second celebration of our HMCS Sackville exhibit, with added details on people from the local community who served on Corvettes, around the Remembrance Day holiday. Please contact us or visit our website for details on this and other upcoming events in the coming months.
  • December — watch out for our Christmas events; including possibly a dramatic (!) surprise…

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

Correspondence — Harpers on the Tantramar

Photo of the Christopher Harper building lot 56 (44 acres) in Letter B Division of Upper Rockport, N.B., granted in 1809

Photo of the Christopher Harper building lot 56 (44 acres)
in Letter B Division of Upper Rockport, N.B., granted in 1809

May 25, 2010

Mr. Geoff Martin
Tantramar Heritage Trust
Sackville, NB E4L 3A7

Thank you for your letter of April 16 and the enclosed article, “Prime Minister’s Tantramar Roots” I sincerely appreciate your thoughtfulness and generosity in sending me a copy of the article and providing me with a one-year subscription to The White Fence. Please pass my sincere thanks along to Al Smith and Donna Beal for their hard work in putting together this wonderful portrait of one family’s journey to and settlement in Canada.

I am very proud of my maritime heritage, and I am pleased to have this article as a reminder of the Harper family’s Tantramar roots. I look forward to sharing more about the vibrant history of our family with my children, Benjamin and Rachel.

Once again, thank you for your thoughtfulness.


Stephen Harper
The Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper, P.C. M.P.
Prime Minister of Canada.

— …Forgot to mention that I read your piece in The White Fence on the Harper family roots and found it very interesting. If you told Stephen Harper that one of his Maritimer relatives was a Liberal politician, he would probably cover it up! As a young teenager, I spent part of one weekend repairing a barbed wire fence between our back field and Donald Harper’s, working all day with him, to keep his cattle in. He was, of course, a lot older than me, but he showed me what to do, outworked me, and laughed when I kept tearing my shirt on the barbs. He said that was the only way a Conservative would ever give up the shirt on his back…

—Larry Black

— …My paternal grandmother was a Harper, descended from the same Christopher Harper that your most recent issue described. The irony in my (family) tree is that descendants of Christopher Harper and Elijah Ayer (both Sr. and Jr.) ended up marrying one another in Sackville in 1913 (see family tree —ed.).

Susan Ayer family tree diagram

A further irony is that the Ayers (1760–61), as Planters, and the Harpers (1774) were brought in to settle the farms vacated by Acadians after the expulsion and one branch of my husband’s ancestors were those Acadians from Beaubassin (Amherst area)!

—Susan (Ayer) Barylo