October, 2015 · ISSN 1913-4134
So Rhianna Edwards found an old ad … That single find resulted in a most fascinating explosion of information once it got into the hands of Eugene Goodrich! See below for an exciting tale of taverns, inns and hotels that once graced the Tantramar landscape from the now-extinct community of La Coupe on the High Marsh Road to Westcock (as it was then recognized) during the stagecoach days of the early 19th century. Furthermore, the builders and owners of these establishments are described in considerable and interesting detail and convincingly brought to life for us. I will not use further space for this editorial as Eugene’s tale is fairly long and deserves every inch of every page of this newsletter that we can provide for it. I hope that you will find it as captivating a story as I did. And as usual,
‘Bass’ and afterwards Coll’s at Sackville — A tale of two taverns that were actually one
By W. Eugene Goodrich
During a research trip to the Nova Scotia Archives in search of materials on early Sackville schools, Rhianna Edwards, as often happens in such ventures, got “sidetracked by other interesting Sackville tidbits,” including this ad from the Acadian Recorder (at right), dated February 24, 1821. Having noticed that I talk about Bass’ in my Stagecoach Days on the Westmorland Great Road, she sent it to me with the suggestion that I submit it to The White Fence, together with some commentary.
I had indeed mentioned Bass’ in my earlier article about the “Stagecoach Days” but the ad revealed a rare error in that otherwise flawless work (well, nearly so). I had learned from a table of distances in a Nova Scotia farmer’s almanac for the year 1840 that a Bass’ Inn was located in Westcock eight miles from ‘Wells’ at Tantamar’. I also knew from the famous Walling Map of 1862, an exemplar of which hangs in the stairway of Boultenhouse Heritage Centre in Sackville, that there was a ‘W.P. Wells’ Hotel at La Coupe, just about where the High Marsh Road turns off to join what is today called the Point de Bute Road. In addition, I had obtained from the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick a digital image of a map of the Great Roads (the term used for ‘highways’) in 1852 with a scale in miles at the bottom of it. From it, I was able to measure, although not terribly precisely, eight miles in the Sackville direction from Wells’ Hotel. Probably influenced by the almanac’s reference to Westcock in ‘Bass’, Westcock’ I stretched it a bit and placed Bass’ “somewhere in the vicinity of St. Ann’s Anglican Church.” (Bass’ is not on the Walling Map.) However, I also found another table of distances, this one from 1844, giving the distance between stagecoach stops in ‘Tantramar’ and ‘Westcock’ as ten miles. Assuming that the Westcock stop was Bass’, I stretched it even further and raised the possibility that Bass’ Inn could have been closer to Frosty Hollow. But the discrepancy between the two distance tables always bothered me. I will explain how it got resolved later.
The ad that Rhianna discovered bothered me even more because it locates Bass’ London Tavern in Sackville, whereas since writing Stagecoach Days I had discovered yet another almanac with a table of distances, this time from 1835. It, too, lists ‘Bass’ at Westcock ‘ and gives the distance from thence to ‘Wells’ at Tantramar’ as eight miles. But it also supplied another piece of information that proved very helpful in locating Bass’ precisely, namely the distance between it and Weldon’s Hotel in Dorchester: nine miles.
Still somewhat confused but determined to get it right this time, I turned to Paul Bogaard whose expertise in old maps — and many other matters besides — is unrivalled in these parts. Having advanced far beyond the medieval methods of map-reading within my competence, he was able to superimpose the map of the Great Roads onto a Google map and trick it into measuring distances on the historic road with great precision. Measuring nine miles from Weldon’s Hotel (which still stands as the Payzant & Card Building across the street from the Bell Inn in Dorchester) and — starting at the other end — eight miles from ‘Wells’ at Tantramar’, the lines meet just about at the ‘Miller Block’ across the street from the old fire station — in what we would today call ‘Sackville’. Evidently, the almanacs were using the term ‘Westcock’ rather loosely, and they sure fooled me.
It was gratifying, if slightly embarrassing, to have found the exact location of Bass’ London Tavern, but as so often happens in research, it also raised further questions. The first was the connection between Wells’ Hotel and the “Hewson’s Inn on the Great Marsh” mentioned in the ad. From the statement that Hewson’s Inn was “between eight and nine miles” from the London Tavern I figured it was the same place under a previous ownership. This seemed to be confirmed by a sketch (that Paul had shown me) made by a descendant of James Hewson, one of the county’s early coroners, showing that the Hewsons owned land at La Coupe at this time. But when a search of the records in the New Brunswick Land Registry Office failed to turn up any sales by a Hewson to a Wells, and no family connection appeared in the genealogical records either, I began to wonder. On Paul’s advice I turned to Colin MacKinnon. He was able to show me that Hewson’s land was a little further along the High Marsh Road towards Sackville from Jolicure, near the sharp bend by the aboiteau where the road turns due west towards the covered bridge. He even said that, “a large crop of old pottery turned up at the site,” which seems like pretty good evidence of a tavern having been there. I also consulted Al Smith, who then corresponded with another Hewson descendant. She not only confirmed that, according to family tradition, Hewson ran an inn, but added the further interesting detail that it was actually “Jerushia, James’ wife who ran the establishment, and very successfully.” So”Hewson’s Inn on the Great Marsh” was an earlier and different establishment — I found another reference to it from 1812 — but for purposes of locating Bass’ London Tavern it might as well have been the later Wells Hotel, the two were that close.
The second ‘question’ was not really a question but another little embarrassment: If Bass’ London Tavern was about where the Miller block stands today, then it was also where King’s Hotel stood in 1862, according to the Walling Map. Now, I knew from my diligent reading of W.C. Milner’s History of Sackville that King’s Hotel had only a little earlier belonged to a William Coll, and was called, appropriately enough, ‘Coll’s Hotel’. Milner also mentions Coll’s Hotel in connection with Bass’ in an article he wrote on the first mail routes. Identifying the best places to eat on the route between Halifax and Saint John, he lists (among many others) “The Prince of Wales at Truro, Purdy’s at Westchester, Farrington’s and Coffy’s at Amherst, Bass’ and afterwards Coll’s at Sackville, Charter’s at Memramcook … etc.” Since I knew that Coll’s became King’s and (from the Walling Map) that King’s was located in downtown Sackville, whereas I had placed Bass’ nearly two miles further down the road in Westcock, I read Milner as meaning that first Bass’ and later Coll’s were the places to gourmandize in Sackville. In other words I thought he was saying they were two separate places. But Paul’s measurements were telling us that they were the same establishment under three successive owners, which also fits Milner’s words, perhaps rather better. So, another error in Stagecoach Days was exposed, something that was amply confirmed by a search in the Land Registry Office for evidence that might shed further light on the matter. There I found the deeds both for Abraham Bass’ purchase of the land on which he built his tavern and for his heirs’ sale of it to William Coll, as well as two other deeds of interest for our story.
I also found out a few things about Abraham Bass and his family, thanks to a lot of help from my friends. Being their nosey next-door neighbour, I knew that Vanessa and Michael Bass, although apparently not directly related to Abraham, have his tombstone under a tulip tree in their charming garden where Joanne and I love to walk our cats. Of erosion prone sandstone, it had stood more than a century and a half in the Westcock Burying Ground where time and weather effaced much of the epitaph but fortunately left the names (his wife’s name is on it too) and the year of their deaths — although not the day or month — intact (Milner had seen and recorded them when they were still fresh, so we have them confirmed; unfortunately, he didn’t record either the epitaph or the day and month of their deaths). A few years ago, the stone was replaced with an updated model and since the original was just going to be discarded anyway Michael and Vanessa were able to nab it — and a good job they did, as I would otherwise never have thought of using it for this article. David McKellar, a very accomplished genealogy buff, did some wonderful sleuthing on the family tree, and I just happened to re-read James Dixon’s History of his grandfather, Charles Dixon, for a reason that had nothing to do with this article and was hit between the eyes with some additional and very valuable information that had not registered before. So with the help of all the aforementioned folk as well as our old friend, W.C. Milner, I can now tell the tale of “Bass’ and afterwards Coll’s at Sackville” without further recourse to explanatory interruptions and learned asides — well, maybe a few.
Abraham Bass (1774–1842) and his wife, Margaret (1764–1842) were natives of Northamptonshire, England. Margaret was a niece of Charles Dixon and, according to James Dixon, he was the one who suggested they come to Sackville, which they did about 1810. In October 1815 they bought a one-acre square lot fronting Main Street (then called the ‘Great Road of Communication’) and extending from the Miller Block to about where Allison Avenue runs today. The seller was John Wry, a substantial farmer and frequently appointed pound keeper and hog reeve for Sackville Parish. There the Basses built a two-story brick building that no doubt served as their dwelling as well as a tavern and roadhouse (it is mentioned in one of the deeds and also by James Dixon). Abraham was a tailor by trade and I can well imagine him practicing his profession — for which there was considerable demand — while Margaret ran the tavern, looked after the guests and cooked the meals that made it locally famous. She was ten years older than her husband, an unusual arrangement then as now, and she would have been a little over fifty when they set up the business. But that didn’t keep her from family duties as well. The couple had two sons, James who was fourteen and Henry who was just eight — born when she was in her forty-third year. She must have been a busy woman.
The Bass’ lot was big enough for some barns and other outbuildings (I know from the deeds that they had them) where the horses, a milk-cow or two and doubtless some chickens would have been kept. Taverns in those days supplied almost all their own produce, so we also have to imagine a large garden and probably a pigpen as well. Earlier that year, in May to be exact, Abraham bought a ten-acre woodlot from Charles Dixon. Paul was able to locate it on Stephen Millidge’s beautiful grant map on display at the Boultenhouse Heritage Centre. It was roughly between Frosty Hollow and Lower Fairfield Road and, besides supplying wood for the tavern, it could have pastured a couple of steers for the table and maybe a few sheep as well (there were a lot more sheep than cattle in Sackville in those days).
No doubt the Basses worked hard to make a go of their businesses, but at one point — in 1821, the same year as the ad that Rhianna found — they seem to have run into some financial difficulty, or perhaps they just wanted to do some renovations and/or invest in some stock for the tavern. Whatever the reason for it was, in September they borrowed £395.12s.8d. (the price of a small farm) from Halifax merchant Martin G. Black. As collateral they put up their Main Street property, which proves that they had erected the buildings on it by this time, as they had paid Wry only £30 for the land six years earlier. They certainly paid off the loan, because everything was still theirs, or rather their heirs’, when Coll bought it. One reason may have been that the interest rate wasn’t too onerous. Six percent was the maximum allowed by law, and that’s what they paid. Another probable reason was that their hard work rewarded them. The London Tavern had a fine reputation and I bet they were proud of it. The name suggests a bit of nostalgia for the Old Country and it probably had considerable resonance in Anglophile Sackville. Another bond with England was St. Ann’s Anglican Church at Westcock where the Basses paid for a boxed-in family pew — a common if controversial practice at that time — and socialized with the Anglican county elite like the Botsfords and the Keillors (Paul found the record of this while searching the church archives for information on St. Ann’s in conjunction with his Seniors’ College course on Sackville’s historic buildings). I wonder what the Methodist Dixons thought of that!
In Stagecoach Days I noted that there were references to Bass’ tavern in almanacs for 1840 and 1841 (the latter was a Nova Scotia one, and not properly updated, as it turns out), but none for 1842 or later. The tombstone in Vanessa’s garden explains why. On February 7 of that year Abraham died and only about three months later, on May 9, Margaret followed him. As mentioned above, the day and month of their deaths are no longer legible on the tombstone, but Rhianna found notices of them in the New Brunswick Courier. Unfortunately, it offers no details on how they died, but their common tombstone suggests that they were buried together. Perhaps we may be permitted to imagine them as close in life as they were in death.
I really regret the loss of much of the epitaph. Too many words are missing to even guess at a sensible reconstruction and my favourite recourse, Google, also failed me for once (often, if you plug in three or four consecutive words the whole thing will appear as if by magic, but apparently this one is not yet online. I bet it will be at some point, unless it is a unique text — which I rather doubt). For what it’s worth, these are the words that seem reasonably certain. Even if the sense doesn’t quite come through, the mood is suitably sombre and admonitory (the words in Italics are conjectural.)
Each grave -as musing ……..y
Appears to warn me …. moment …..l?y
While voices from each ……d
Methinks reecho back th ……..und Methinks reecho back the sound Tomorrow thou may[st] ……. [be?] bound Tomorrow thou mayest thence be bound
Prepare to meet thy God
The boys were apparently not interested in tavern keeping. Henry married an Elizabeth MacDougall, took up farming near Murray Corner and fathered five children. His parents would have seen three of their grandchildren, at least occasionally, until they were six, four and one, respectively. James never married (or if he did, there is no record of it), but he, too, was a farmer living in Botsford Parish (I can’t be any more specific than that) when he and his brother sold the premises on Main Street to William Coll in November 1846 (there is no more record of the woodlot.) Did James live with his parents until their deaths, helping out with the business (his ‘mum’ was seventy-eight when she died and Abraham was no spring chicken either, by the standards of the day), or had he moved out earlier? We can only guess, but in any case the heirs must have rented the tavern to Coll soon after their parents’ death, because when they sold it to him in November 1846, it was “now occupied by the said William Coll, Inn Keeper.” The price was £287.10s., a considerable come down from what it had evidently been assessed for as collateral in 1821.
Whatever the reason for the modest price, Coll’s Hotel proved a worthy successor to Bass’ London Tavern. In describing it I can do no better than to crib a few lines from Stagecoach Days, not least because there I quote the testimony of much better sources. As I said, Milner — who knew it from personal experience — mentions Coll’s Hotel several times in his various writings. Of the old stagecoach days in Sackville he wrote: ‘These were the halcyon days for Coll’s Hotel, a great resort for the travelling public, where it was said the lights never went out and the fires never burned low. “ As with other fine establishments, the innkeeper and his wife were not the least of its delights: “The sods of a hundred years will soon cover the host and hostess, but the traditions are kindly that fit them into a pleasant place in the community’s history. “ Professor J.R. Inch, the Principal of Mount Allison Ladies’ College and later University President, also retained fond memories of Coll’s: “On Main Street, looking towards the south the spectator from the Ladies’ College would note as the prominent building in view Coll’s Hotel which stood nearly opposite the present (1904) Brunswick House (it stood where the old fire station still stands forlornly today.) This was a noted hostelry where the stage-coaches changed horses, and where for many years Mr. and Mrs. Coll dispensed a generous hospitality to the travelling public. “ It seems that Mrs. Coll had from an early age been brought up in the finer traditions of inn-keeping. She was a daughter of John Hickman, owner of Hickman’s Hotel in Dorchester, an important stagecoach stop. True to her Dorchester heritage (there was a reason why the village square was known as ‘the devil’s half acre’), she kept her establishment safe from the “Temperance heresy” (as Milner called it) that was raging across the street in the ‘Brunswick’, built as a Temperance hotel. In 1860, when still a fourteen-year-old student at the Mount Allison Wesleyan Academy, Milner took a stagecoach trip from Amherst to “The Bend,” as Moncton was commonly called at the time. The coach stopped for an hour at Coll’s to sort the mails and the young scalawag was happy to note that it was “a very homelike hostelry, not wanting in liquid refreshments.” Perhaps that was another reason why it, rather than the Brunswick, was the preferred stagecoach stop.
I promised to explain the discrepancy between the two distance tables, one from 1840 giving the distance from Wells’ to Bass’ as eight miles, the other from 1844 perversely insisting that the distance from Wells’ to the Westcock stop (which I assumed — wrongly as it turns out — to be Bass’) was ten miles, and now I will deliver. According to Paul’s measurements, ten miles from Wells’ puts you a little beyond St. Ann’s Church in Westcock. With this information in mind I searched through the New Brunswick almanacs again (many of them are now conveniently online) and found a distance table for 1841. It gave the distance between Hickman’s Hotel in Dorchester (which was pretty much right across from the courthouse — where the Town Office now stands) to an ‘Evans’, Westcock’ as seven miles, and from thence to Wells’ at Tantramar as ten miles. Although it wasn’t spot on, owing no doubt to subtle changes in the road that we don’t know about, measuring seven miles from Hickman’s in the Sackville direction got us very near to the house of Isaac Evans, which we know from the Walling Map was just inside the northeast corner of the Hospital Loop Road on what today is Malcolm Fisher’s property — right across from David McKellar’s lovely home. It was almost exactly ten miles from Wells’ Hotel and we know from Milner that for many years it served as an inn. He tells us that “ in 1812 Sackville had a visit in passing of Sir George Murray, Quarter Master General, and Admiral Yeo, in connection with mobilizing the militia … “Tim” Lockhart, representing the artillery branch of the Imperial Service, fired a salute with a brass cannon in front of the house of entertainment kept by the widow Evans at Westcock .” Before you get the wrong impression, let me explain that “house of entertainment” was the common term for a modest inn or roadhouse, in theory one that didn’t sell hard liquor. Such places were the livelihood of many a bereaved widow.
Mrs. Evans (née Lydia Jenks) had been bereft for some time. Her husband, Isaac — originally from Wales — was for many years the ferryman between Westcock Landing and Fort Cumberland, and also on occasion ran a schooner to Saint John. It was on it that he and all his crew met their deaths in a violent storm off Partridge Island that, according to the date of his death on his tombstone in the Westcock Burying Ground, must have occurred in 1798. Milner had seen the tombstone and recorded the date, but it is no longer standing; the Isaac Evans (d. 1904) whose stone still stands was a grandson, son of James. The elder Isaac was just thirty-four at the time of the tragedy.
A search through the deeds in the New Brunswick Land Registry Office revealed that Lydia remained in the house until her death in 1842 and she must have continued ‘entertaining’ the travelling public because one of her sons, the just-mentioned James, who had hitherto been identified in deeds of sale as a ‘yeoman’ (farmer), suddenly (in a deed of 1843) became an ‘innkeeper’. This strongly suggests that he inherited the inn-keeping business along with the house. The clincher is that the dates of all this fit the Bass story exactly. The fact that Evans’, Westcock first appears in the distance tables in 1841, while Bass’ was still going strong in 1840, suggests that Abraham and Margaret decided to retire in 1841 (it’s a shame they didn’t have long to enjoy it) and that Evans ‘, which had been around even longer than Bass ‘, took up the slack.
‘Evans’, Westcock continued to be mentioned in the almanacs until 1848 (inclusive), after which Coll’s Hotel — although not mentioned in any distance tables I have seen — would seem, if we follow Milner, to have become the main Sackville stop. Again, I couldn’t find any deed to prove it, but Milner indicates that it was sold to Arthur King not too long after 1860. So I guess the title of this article should have been “Bass’ and Afterwards Coll’s, and Afterwards King’s: A Tale of Two Taverns and a Hotel that Were Actually One, with a Couple of Asides on Evans’ at Westcock and Hewson’s Inn on the Great Marsh. “ But that might have been a bit too complicated … (editor).
- Goodrich, W.E., 2010. Stagecoach Days on the Westmorland Great Road 1835–1872. Westmorland Historical Society (available at Tidewater in Sackville).
Annual Fundraising Dinner — “Here Stays Good Yorkshire”
Saturday, November 14, 2015
The Tantramar Heritage Trust presents its annual fundraising dinner on Saturday, November 14 at 6 pm at St. Ann’s Church Hall, 65 British Settlement Road, Westcock, NB.
Enjoy a roast beef dinner with all the trimmings, provided by Sandpiper Catering. Ray Dixon, Genie Coates and Al Smith will give short presentations on the Dixon, Trueman and Smith families respectively. There will also be musical entertainment to celebrate the 240th anniversary of the Yorkshire immigration to our region. “Dixon’s Landing” will be operating with beer and wine available for purchase.
Tickets are $50 each, including a $25 tax receipt. This dinner is one of two major fundraising events that the Trust holds each year (the other being the Heritage Day Breakfast in February) and money raised from it is used to keep Sackville’s two museums open and maintained throughout the year, as well as to support the many other activities of the Trust.
To book your tickets or for more information, call Karen at the Trust office at (506) 536-2541 or email email@example.com. You can also get tickets from any board member.
Looking forward to a wonderful evening and hoping that many of you will be able to join us.
A Unique Fund-raising Opportunity for the Tantramar Heritage Trust Dollars for Dollars Campaign
A supplementary campaign to Bringing History Home
A longstanding member of the Tantramar Heritage Trust has recently issued a very interesting challenge to the Trust. He has offered to match dollar for dollar, up to $20,000 total, donations made to the Trust in a special campaign to help to retire the remaining debt on the Anderson Octagonal House. That debt, in the form of a bank loan must be paid off in lump sums of $20,000 due on Dec.1, 2015 and on Dec.1, 2016.
In January 2012, the Trust launched our latest capital campaign “Bringing History Home” with a target of raising $90,000. While the Trust has been able to meet our loan payments on Dec.1, 2013 and Dec.1 2014 we need to raise the capital to meet the final two payments which makes this Dollars for Dollars campaign initiative so attractive.
We humbly solicit your continued support to help us realize this very generous challenge of matching funds for every dollar raised by the Trust in this very special campaign.
Please consider extending your past donation commitment, making an additional contribution, or for some of you, making a first contribution to the Anderson House Bringing History Home Campaign.
The six levels of contribution for the campaign are:
- Deck Hand — up to $150
- Quarter Master — up to $500
- Boatswain (Bosun) — up to $1000
- First Mate — up to $2000
- Captain — up to $3000
- Shipowner — over $3000
At the end of the campaign there will be donor recognition, including for extra donations made in 2015 and ‘16. The chart below shows the Trust’s major projects and how we have paid off our loans.
The capital projects add up to over $987,000 in assets, held by the Trust, and all within our first twenty years.
Several “capital” projects (those outside our normal operations, that leave the Trust with assets) were completed with grants ($100,000+) and donations ($60,000+), including the Blacksmith Shop, Marsh Barn (phase 1), re-roofing & re-painting Boultenhouse, etc.
The following three largest capital projects needed bank loans to allow us to meet payments, while we continued to raise the funds budgeted for that project.
The Tantramar Heritage Trust is a non-profit, charitable organization that promotes preservation of and education about heritage resources in the Tantramar Region. It depends on volunteers, both from the Trust membership and from the community at large, to keep the Trust vibrant and able to support museums and offer programming.
Opportunities for volunteering
- Would you like to become more involved in the activities of the Trust?
- Would you like to work with a terrific bunch of people?
- Would you like to use your talents to help the Trust serve the community?
- Do you have suggestions about helping the Trust to fulfill its Mission?
- Resource Centre
- Museum Guide
- Educational Programming
- Fund Raising
- Strategic Planning
- Heritage Day Breakfast (February)
- Fund Raising Dinner (November)
- Cleanup Days at Museums (Spring)
- Open Houses at Museums (June/Dec)
- Strawberry Social (Canada Day)
- If you are able to commit to an on-going activity, you would decide how much time you are able to give.
- We can fit volunteering around travel plans and work commitments.
- Talk to us about what you would like to do to further the aims of the Trust.
- Have a look at our web page:
- Please call our Executive Director, Karen Valanne, at (506) 536-2541 to discuss volunteer opportunities or
- email the Trust at
firstname.lastname@example.org we will get back to you.