Nature gives but also takes back. As a boy growing up in Edmundston, my grandmother used to fill me with stories of grandfather fishing the Two-Mile Brook near our house on the edge of town. Consequently, I spent many hours along that little brook for a “trout-feed” for granny to cook up. I was a very proud little boy at those special meals! When my own son was old enough to carry and use a small fishing pole, I took him to that brook and took a picture of him and I with his first brook trout. I still lovingly look at that photo every so-often. I have not walked the shoreline of that little brook for at least 25 years and likely never will again. And so Al Smith’s story of Bulmer’s Pond Fishing Club struck a chord with me and it will likely also bring fond memories to many of you. Some places will always be treasures in our hearts. And Clare Christie’s article about Fascinating Artifacts may also bring forth many fond memories to many of you while, for me, it was a very interesting learning experience. And furthermore, for many of us, the Tantramar area may be seen as a “Treasure Trove” (see Al Smith’s article about treasure in Tantramar), while for others it was not (see Anna Frances Willis’s 1890 viewpoint of Sackville). While we usually extol the virtues of this very special place that is Sackville, other viewpoints must also be given equal consideration. Anna Willis, the wife of John Willis, a brother to Clare Christie’s grandfather Charles Willis, had a very negative first-impression of Sackville in the few months she was here in 1890. So we must allow Mrs. Willis’s own opinion of Sackville to be given a public airing, even if it is 125 years too late! Whether you have ever fished or not, or ever heard of a Water Ram or Eye Stones or not, or ever found hidden treasure or not, or have a negative opinion of Sackville or not, you are quite likely to find something interesting to read in the pages to follow. And if you do, I urge you (as always) to…
Bulmer’s Pond Fishing Club
By Al Smith
Sometimes a little bit of paradise can be close at hand. Such was the case of a small private fishing club located at historic Bulmer’s Pond in rural Frosty Hollow. Ninety-four local fishermen where members (and shareholders) in the Bulmer’s Pond Fishing Club over its 83 years (1916–1999) of activity. After several years on a waiting list I became a member (the 75th) in 1991. While I was only able to enjoy the privileges of membership for 9 seasons, the memories of those many quiet evenings spent on “the pond” will last a lifetime. Ted Pulford’s watercolour painting of Doug Hamm fly-fishing off Poacher Point well illustrates the serenity of the landscape.
A maximum of 25 members were allowed membership in the Fishing Club during the 1990s but not all were active. The club’s boathouse accommodated four small rowboats for members’ use but rarely were all four on the pond at once. Fishing was best in May, June and September. The usual pattern was to arrive at the boathouse around 7 pm and row up the pond to one’s favourite spot and fish to nearly dark unless of course the daily catch limit of 5 had been reached earlier. It was a quiet setting with the near silence broken only by the occasional slap of the tail of the resident beaver. It was a perfect way to end a busy workday.
I was so looking forward to my retirement years when I would be able to spend more time on the pond, however, that was not to be. From September 21 to 23, 1999 a slow moving heavy rain system, fed moisture from post-tropical storm Harvey, dumped up to 150 mm of rain on the area. The resulting flooding, reported to be the worst in 40 years, completely washed out the dam and spillway pretty much destroying the old millpond that had been in existence at least since 1790.
With the demise of the pond and old mill dam the Fishing Club mulled over various scenarios of restoring the dam but in the end decided to disband.One of the final actions of the Club was to hire researcher and historian Phyllis Stopps to compile a History of Bulmer’s Mill Pond and The Bulmer’s Pond Fishing Club which was completed in March 2012. Club members were each given a copy and one was deposited in the Resource Centre at the Boultenhouse Heritage Centre. Readers interested in the full story should access that well researched document as only a very brief encapsulation of the history is given below.
Bulmer’s Pond Fishing Club was founded in 1916 when Charles W. Fawcett invited a group of Sackville men to establish a fishing club. Sackville businessmen Charles Pickard and Charles W. Fawcett had been leasing the Pond from its owner Seth Bulmer since circa 1891 for fishing. They had established several buildings on the property including a camp and fish hatchery. Charles Fawcett’s partner, Charles Pickard, died in late 1912 and that was likely one of the motivations that moved Fawcett to convene the founding meeting of Bulmer’s Pond Fishing Club on June 21, 1916. A club consisting of 15 members (although only 12 initially took up membership and purchased shares) was authorized with Charles W. Fawcett as its first President.The Bulmer’s Pond Fishing Club took over the lease and all assets formerly associated with Pickard and Fawcett.
Seth Bulmer continued on as operator of the fish hatchery and maintenance of the club’s boats and buildings. As early as 1917 the club began to buy trout-fry from outside sources and by 1920 the local hatchery was no longer in use. The old hatchery was sold for $35.00 to St. Ann’s Church and moved through the “Old Post Road” to the Church lands and used as a Sunday school and later as a meeting hall. Intermittent stocking of the pond continued until 1968 when 4000 fingerling trout were released into the pond. Since that time natural reproduction in the pond sustained an annual harvest by club members of between 300–500 trout plus an unknown number taken by poachers.
A Club House, originally built by Fawcett and Pickard, was located on Centre Island — the largest of four small islands located along the western edge of the pond. The fishing club maintained the clubhouse up to the 1950s when it was abandoned due to disrepair and constant damage by vandals. The milldam and spillway were repaired frequently by the fishing club. The last major repairs were done over a three-year period (1992–94) when the spillway, side walls, raceway and sluiceway were totally replaced. The dam and spillway was in excellent condition when the rainstorm hit on Sept. 21, 1999, but nonetheless a catastrophic failure resulted.
Gone are the quiet evenings on the pond and the chance to catch that big one — even if it was only a twelve or thirteen inch trout. Now there are only memories of chats with fellow fishermen — guys like Jim Purdy, Al Mitchell, Doug Hamm, Don Johnstone, Wally Minshull and George Chambers — all of whom spent many hours on the old millpond. Gone is the serenity of this special place.
- History of Bulmer’s Mill Pond and The Bulmer’s Pond Fishing Club by Phyllis Stopps, March, 2012, 56 pages; Management Committee Reports — Bulmer’s Pond Fishing Club.
- The Maritime Advocate and Busy East, Vol. 28, June, 1938.
Living in Sackville — July to September 1890
Transcribed with notes by Al Smith
The following transcription is a slightly shortened Chapter 43 — SACKVILLE — from a book The Days of My Pilgrimage — an autobiography of Anna Frances Willis published in 1967. Anna was the wife of John (Jack) L. Willis who was working in Sackville at the Merchants’ Bank of Halifax (which later became the Royal Bank of Canada). A copy of Chapter 43 was given to the Trust by Clare Christie of Amherst whose great grandfather, Charles Willis, was a brother of John. Anna Willis paints a very gloomy picture of Sackville, in sharp contrast to Charles Willis’s who moved his family to Sackville on November 5, 1890 to take up a position with George E. Ford as book keeper. Charles and his family lived quite happily in Sackville (see The White Fence #51: The Sea Captains). Bracketed insertions in the transcription are mine. Anna’s discovery of Sackville goes as follows:
After a six hour train journey we arrived, full of excitement and hopes, in Sackville. Let me remark that of all the places that I have ever lived in I think that Sackville was quite the most disagreeable. It is situated on the isthmus between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and is flat and bare. About three quarters of the time it rains and the other quarter it blows. We arrived in the evening and went at once to the hotel, but we could not stay there all the time with two babies, so we began to scour the country in search of a boarding house, but no one appeared willing to take us. It was a “blowing” week and the sand, which dries quickly, was ankle deep on the roads. The sidewalks were formed of boards running lengthwise and the baby carriage, an old one of Aunt Vesie’s, fell into the cracks between the boards about every six minutes. It was a slow mode of getting about.
On the fourth or fifth day I heard of a part of a house to be rented and at once went to see about it. “It won’t suit you,” said the landlord, barely looking up from what he was doing — I think it was tailoring. “But why should it not suit me?” I enquired. “Oh I know it won’t,” he repeated. “Have you any objection to my looking at it?” — “Oh look at it if you’ve a mind to; it makes no difference to me.” So look at it I did. It was on a slight eminence and you could see the sea from both sides (possibly Charles Street, near Landing Road? — ed.). There was a large room downstairs and three funny little attic rooms upstairs. We felt that it could be made to answer and arranged to take it and also to hire furniture from one cabinet shop, whose owner seemed as indifferent as the landlord.
I went up to the house the next morning and cleaned the windows and otherwise began to prepare, but on coming home to dinner Jack met me with the news that he had got board for us in town and much more convenient to the bank. We went back to the landlord who remarked: “Do as you’ve a mind to; it’s no difference to me”. The furniture dealer made the same speech, so we finally moved into Mrs. Gray’s quiet little house. We had one largish room downstairs. Christopher slept with us and Dorothy had a stretcher which slipped under the bed in daytime. Our life was certainly very quiet and many a time I wearied of that one room. Christopher was far from well and I found it impossible to get any food which agreed with him. The milk he could not digest and I could not get suitable meat for broth. I tried to get a chicken and one was given to me, but no one would sell one. They were queer people, mostly United Empire Loyalists descended from old Puritan families and bearing the queerest old Biblical names. Most of them “followed the sea”.
Poor little Christopher; how well I remember he used to take my hand and lead me to the place where the chicken broth was, but it soon came to an end and I could get no more. Both children were very good, but those long rainy days were hard to get through. Dorothy was now three and a half and amused us much with her quaint sayings. Christopher was a winsome little lad and made friends with everyone. Mrs. Gray was very kind but she was ill a good part of the time and the house was “run” by her old mother Mrs. Angwine and her little daughter Jenny.
We heard that at Amherst, ten miles away and a good sized town, there was a brother (Plymouth Brethern — Evangelical Church — ed.), Mr. Angus Morrison. We knew his name well from the depot and decided to visit him. So one fine Saturday afternoon we hired an old white horse and set out. The animal was not as keen to get there as we were and it was almost dark when we reached Amherst. We were at a standstill, as we did not know where to find him. Just then a man passed and we asked him if he could tell us where to find Mr. Angus Morrison. “And what would you be wanting him for?” asked the man. We explained and he said “I am Angus Morrison”. It seemed so clearly the Lord’s leading that we were all amazed. He took us home for tea with him and we then turned for home. Later on we spent a Sunday with him and greatly enjoyed being once more able to remember the Lord.
About the beginning of September we began to wonder what to do for winter; we were undecided as to whether we should remain in Sackville or return to Toronto. After praying over the matter we decided to return to Toronto and trust to Jack’s getting employment in Ontario. The main reason for this was my mother as we felt we could not leave her alone. She had spent the summer in Huntsville, but would soon be coming home. This was on a Sunday. On Tuesday Jack got a telegram asking him to take the position of manager of Trader’s Bank at Port Hope and if he could come at once.
When the General Manager of the Bank heard of this he wired Jack to come to Halifax and see him, so we all went off to Halifax and spent Sunday with the Penningtons. We were greatly impressed with the beauty of Halifax. Mr. Pennington’s eldest son Will took us out in a boat on the Northwest Arm.
We left Sackville on September 18th. It was, of course, pouring with rain and a covered vehicle was not to be got, and as it was we nearly missed our train and the luggage had to be left behind. But how glad I was to be going home; home to good doctors and proper food and our own house.
by Clare Christie
For the past two years the Tantramar Seniors’ College has offered a most interesting, and highly popular, course entitled So You Think You Know The Tantramar. The spring 2014 session included an in-depth look into the history of rural Wood Point, NB, with local resident and historian Bill Snowdon. The outing was on the afternoon of April 30, a gorgeous sunny day. The group of 25 seniors had a wonderful afternoon at Wood Point, following Bill around while he talked about shipbuilding, quarrying and the home-locations of early residents. One of our stops was at a circa 1845 house that he was restoring. In the yard, Bill (and his brother Dale) had laid out lots of old tools, grindstones and an old generator (I think it was) but the two things that fascinated me the most were:
A Water Ram — a pump that used only the force of gravity to pump water. The water came down, built up pressure in the pump, a valve let go and the water ran up the hill to the top floor of the house, closed again and it happened all over so there was a constant little thump, thump. So neat. The pump that Bill has was used for many years at the Barnes farm just up the road from his.
Even more extraordinary were the Eye-stones. They had five stored in brown sugar and they were alive. They are as big as the end of a pencil eraser and look like the end of a conch shell. If a man gets dust from steel or stone in his eye, he lies down, an eye-stone is put in his eye for about twenty minutes, it is removed and his eye is clear! Bill had an old article there about it from Cape Breton’s Magazine — One man in the article kept his in brown sugar, another in white and one of them fed his rum. The sugar has to be changed every year because it gets sucked dry.
Thank you, Bill, for a most interesting afternoon and especially for showing us these two fascinating artifacts from your collections.
Hewson Gold and other Accounts of Treasure Trove in Tantramar
by Al Smith
Childhood memories of visiting my Uncle Mariner’s farm in Fort Lawrence during the early 1950s are vivid. Wonderful memories of his delicious home-made ice cream but also of his stories of uncovering pewter and pottery items while plowing his fields. They were relicts presumably from habitations within the old Acadian village of Beaubassin that was quickly abandoned and burned in early May, 1750. I don’t recall that he ever found anything of great value but it was sure intriguing to a small boy.
Tales of Tantramar treasure have circulated for years but there are very few verified cases of treasure actually being found. One such verified case is described in Colin MacKinnon’s article “Rockport Gold and Other Mysteries” (The White Fence, #36, October 2007) where a treasure trove of coins was recovered from the cliff bank at Peck’s Cove in the mid to late 1930s. Since the recovered coins were from a site on the former Capt. Amos Pickering Ward farm (see article on Capt. Ward by Jeff Ward, The White Fence, #21, January 2003), and a single surviving coin is dated 1845, Colin speculates that the treasure was very likely buried by Capt. “Pick” Ward.
Most stories, however, relate to buried gold from the French era. Author Will R. Bird in his 1928 book A Century at Chignecto describes numerous accounts of Acadian and French gold:
- A man named Bent lived in a house near Fort Cumberland that had been built by the French. In 1834 he noticed a strange schooner sailing into the bay one evening and anchoring just off his property. In the morning the schooner was gone but as he stepped out of his house he noticed the stone front step was moved aside and under it was the imprint of a three-legged iron pot.
- A farmer in the Minudie area unearthed an iron pot of gold while plowing his fields in 1845.
- When the Intercolonial Railway was being pushed through from Sackville to Amherst in 1872 railway workers uncovered a small chest of gold near the Beausejour ridge.
- A farmer excavating a basement on the Beausejour ridge discovered so much gold that he moved away to the USA and lived very comfortably the rest of his days.
- An old Acadian barn remained near the edge of the marsh. A stranger came by one night and asked permission to sleep in the barn overnight. In the morning the stranger was gone and a cavity above the doors was revealed and its contents obviously missing except for a small silver goblet that had been dropped on the barn floor.
- In the mid 1800s a blacksmith living in Jolicure looked out on to his pasture to see one of his cows in difficulty having apparently partially fallen into a cavity. Rushing out to assist her he discovered that she had fallen through a timber covered pit that had been covered over with two feet of soil. Removal of the timbers revealed a proper shaft and some twenty feet down was another wooden platform that contained some mysterious markings. At thirty feet down the diggers struck another wooden platform then water poured into the shaft curtailing any further attempts to go deeper. An auger was eventually used to go deeper which apparently revealed traces of gold, silver and other metals, but the apparent “treasure trove” was never reached. Truly very intriguing as it sounds very much like the Oak Island, NS money pit scenario.
Will Bird states that “there have been at least a score more authentic accounts of Acadian treasure being found”. Certainly there may have been a possibility of buried gold on or near the sites of old Acadian villages. Acadian farmers, who traded with New England, Fortress Louisbourg, Fort Beausejour, and even the British at Fort Lawrence, were most often paid in gold for their produce. Will R. Bird claims that very little of that gold was ever circulated especially in the years leading up to 1755. Acadians apparently took no wealth with them when deported so it is possible that family savings were placed in hiding spots.
In addition to tales of Acadian gold there are stories of French officers plundering anything of value out of Fort Beausejour just prior to signing the terms f surrender to English forces. There is also a story from the Trueman family of locating a small barrel in the woods near the Trueman Mill Pond that may have contained French coinage destined to pay the soldiers at Fort Beausejour. One of the more intriguing accounts of a treasure find possibly relates to a hoard of gold that was being administered by the infamous French priest Abbe Jean-Louis Le Loutre. While I only became aware of this tale of treasure this past year, apparently the story has been passed down for generations by members of the Hewson family.
According to Howard Trueman (The Chignecto Isthmus and Its First Settlers) James Hewson and his mother were Loyalists who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1783. Mrs. Hewson’s husband Richard Hewson was an officer in the British army who had been killed in the south. They initially settled in Wallace but soon thereafter sold their property and moved to Fort Cumberland. Mrs. Hewson opened a small store near the Fort and taught school. In the early to mid 1790s they moved to Jolicure Point having purchased the farm of Spiller Fillmore. James Hewson married Jerusha Freeman of Amherst and had a family of six. The oldest son Richard established the branch of the family in River Philip. Son William inherited the family farm at Jolicure Point. The Amherst branch of the Hewson family is descended from this line.
The farm at Jolicure Point is now long gone but it was located at the bend of the High Marsh Road near the juncture of the Le Coup and Aulac Rivers. The farm itself encompassed much of the Acadian village of Le Coup. Janet (Hewson) Bone, a direct descendant of Richard Hewson provided the following account:
“In the spring of 1800 James Hewson was ploughing with oxen near the site of (the village) of Le Coup when one of the oxen sank into the ground. When he went to investigate he found a large wooden box filled with French gold coins. The wood had rotted and given way beneath the weight of the oxen. James and his wife removed the coins and hid them in the farmhouse. A special closet was later built in the main bedroom to hide the treasure. The family member who gave me this information remembered seeing the closet as a child. From that time on James Hewson showed signs of prosperity. Apparently he made regular trips over the years by horseback to New England carrying as much gold as he could in canvas belts. He went to New England to exchange the gold coins because he knew that if he tried it in New Brunswick questions would be asked. James educated his six children very well, bought large lots of land in the River Philip area and lived very well. The gold coins were speculated to have been money that Abbe LeLoutre buried when he escaped from Fort Beausejour in advance of the French forces surrendering to the British in mid June 1755”
The suggestion that the treasure found was that of Le Loutre’s is sheer speculation but is plausible. Le Loutre did go to France in 1753 and managed to convince authorities that they had an obligation to help resettle displaced Acadian families. He made a plea for assistance to construct dykes and aboiteaux and was granted 50,000 livres from the French court. Le Loutre was involved with the construction of a major aboiteau on the Aulac River at the time of the British attack on Fort Beausejour.
Fascinating stories from old Tantramar — and then there is that mysterious so called “money pit” on Cape Jourimain.
- Email correspondence with Janet Hewson Bone, June and August 2014, March 2015
- Trueman, Howard — The Chignecto Isthmus and Its First Settlers, 1902
- Bird, Will R. — A Century At Chignecto, 1928
- Dictionary of Canadian Biography — Le Loutre, Jean-Louis
- Trueman, William — Round A Chignecto Hearth, 2000
- Milner, W.C. — Records Of Chignecto, Collections of the Nova Scotia Historical Society, Vol. XV, 1911
The Discovery Committee of the Tantramar Heritage Trust gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Mount Allison Faculty Association and the J.E.A. Crake Foundation. With the support of these two organizations, the Discovery Committee will expand the Discovery Loft at the Campbell Carriage Factory and hire an educational intern. Thank you so much for your support.
Summer hours begin on May 19 at the Boultenhouse Heritage Centre and at the Campbell Carriage Factory Museum on June 21. Both museums will be open 10 am to 5 pm, Tuesday to Sunday until Labour Day. Admission is free to members of the Trust — otherwise by donation.
Please plan to attend the Annual General Meeting of the Tantramar Heritage Trust, Wednesday, May 27, 2015, 7 pm in the Great Room of the Anderson Octagonal House at the Boultenhouse Heritage Centre. Look for details of that event in the mid May issue of The White Fence.
Trust Publications Make Great Gifts!
Enjoy reading more about our historic region, add to your research collection, or give the gift of history to someone you know. All proceeds are used to fund projects of the Tantramar Heritage Trust. You can purchase Trust publications directly by visiting one of our Museums or download an order form online.
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