The White Fence, issue #76

APRIL 2017


Dear friends,

We have quite a variety of stories for you in this issue although there is a common thread to all: Farewell. We say farewell to debt, to Bill Bowser who fought and died for our freedom at Vimy Ridge, to Colin MacKinnon’s great-grandmother Mary Jane (Goodwin) Read who lost her way in Frosty Hollow in 1899, and to Oliver Wry after whom the bog where Mary Jane disappeared was named. Furthermore, this issue of The White Fence helps ensure that we shall never forget those members of our community who support(ed) our heritage, financially or by volunteering their time. We also wish to recognize Joe Boyer from Westcock who devoted his short life to wildlife research and conservation in the Tantramar region and left a permanent legacy. We sincerely express our gratitude to all Heritage Trust members’ financial support, past and present, and for their confidence in our efforts. Via this newsletter, we gladly and fondly recognize those very special members of our community, with great respect and appreciation, for their many contributions to this special part of the country. Thank you all! For further details, read on and

Peter Hicklin

The Anderson Octagonal House Capital Campaign – Final Report

by Geoff Martin
Trust Vice President and Chair, AOH Capital Campaign Committee

We did it! Long-time Trust members will be aware that part of the Anderson Octagonal House project involved the launching of a four-year capital campaign to bring in this project with no capital debt at the end. Most of the costs of the move and rehabilitation of the building were provided by the Town of Sackville’s gift of the house and some in-kind support and financial support of the Government of Canada, Province of New Brunswick and longtime Trust supporter Daniel Lund.

Other organizations and members have been generous, and in each of the years 2013, 2014, and 2015 calendar years, the Trust was able to raise and pay off $20,000 ($60,000 in total) of an $80,000 bank loan. I am happy to announce that our 2016 fund-raising effort was also successful and our local fund-raising yielded $10,660, which was matched by $10,000 as the final matching contribution from our generous anonymous donor. (The surplus of $660 will be used for our donor recognition plan that is currently in development). We can be proud that the financial costs of the campaign were minimal, represented only by some postage and printing over a number of years.

Importantly, the Trust is now debt free, thanks to all of our volunteers and to you who made financial contributions whether large or small. All told, this was a $345,000 project and upwards of $100,000 came from our local fund-raising effort. And it is this private support for our projects that provides the three orders of government with the confidence to make their major contributions. I am sure you will agree with me that, like so much of what the Trust does, the Anderson Octagonal House greatly enhances the Town and our understanding of both our built and human heritage.

In a multi-year effort like this, the organization has accumulated lots of debts to volunteers. Thanks to Leslie Van Patter for doing the design layout for the campaign materials. We would be a lesser organization without her commitment and effort over so many years.

Thanks to Al Smith for providing advice during the campaign and especially as we prepared written campaign materials. Also, thanks to him and to Paul Bogaard for their stewardship of some of our key donors.

The campaign would have been much less successful were it not for our canvassers, a group that included Michael and Vanessa Bass, Lorne Booth, Wendy Burnett, Bruce and Eugenia Coates, Nauman Farooqi, Bob Selkirk, and Donna Sharpe. Frank Chisholm, a life-long “fund developer” for worthy causes and a past Trust fundraising chair, was very generous in sharing his files and his insights with a relative novice.

It is worth noting that one of our long-time supporters has acted as guarantor, anonymously, of the bank loan, and he will be relieved that his faith in our organization has been realized. I am sure that our former and current Executive Directors, Ron Kelly Spurles and Karen Valanne, would say that they didn’t have much to do with this effort but they certainly did provide assistance at key times and for that we are grateful.

Given our unsettled and uncertain economic times, raising significant sums of money for an organization like the Tantramar Heritage Trust is certainly a challenge and that is a good reason for our Board of Directors and membership to be prudent in the projects they take on. I have every confidence that all concerned are approaching these issues with all necessary consideration.


Calendar of Events

May 5 – Spring Clean Up, 9 am to Noon, Boultenhouse Heritage Centre. Volunteers needed. Please drop by for cleaning, coffee, cookies and conversation!
May 31 – Annual General Meeting, 7 pm, Anderson Octagonal House.
June 18 – Official season opening of Campbell Carriage Factory Museum.
July 1 – Canada Day Strawberry Social.
July & August – TBA – Children’s Heritage Workshops at both museums.
July & August – TBA – Under the Sky Events at both museums.
August 13 – Heritage Field Day, Campbell Carriage Factory Museum, demonstrations, exhibits, games, food.
November 4 – Annual Fundraising Dinner

Other events may be added during the year and there are many more details to come on those listed above.

Check our website at for more information. Please contact the Trust office at or (506) 536-2541 or follow us on social media:

Twitter @TrustTantramar

Membership Renewals

Membership renewals for 2017 are now due. You can find your form on the THT website. If you’re not sure if you’re a member in good standing, please contact Karen.

Volunteers Needed

We’re looking for volunteers to help with tasks big and small. If it’s only an hour or two, a one time or long time commitment, we’d love to talk to you about how you can help preserve and promote the heritage of Tantramar. If you can categorize, arrange, bake, shingle, knit, clean, research, decorate, use a computer, hammer or a paintbrush, we have a place for you. Contact Karen to find out more! Email or call (506) 536-2541.

A Generous Farewell

By Bob Bowser
Dorchester Island, New Brunswick

Photograph of Sergeant William Chase Bowser

My great uncle: Sgt. William “Bill” Chase Bowser prior to his deployment overseas in September 1916. Photo taken on Citadel Hill, Halifax with Clock Tower and Halifax Harbour int eh background.

Bill Bowser was one of five soldiers who jumped off the troop train as it puffed and wheezed up the grade at Evan’s Siding between Dorchester and Sackville in the wee hours of Sunday morning, September 24, 1916. The troop train was transporting the 145th Infantry Battalion from Camp Valcartier, Quebec, to Halifax where the Anchor Lines troop ship S.S. Tuscania waited to take them to England for final preparations prior to their deployment to the trenches of northern France. Thanks to the generosity of the local communities of Sackville and Dorchester, all five men escaped military discipline after going AWOL to spend time with their families.

As we come together in 2017 to celebrate Canada 150 there’s another anniversary worth noting. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Great War’s Battle of Vimy Ridge, the battle which is considered to be Canada’s coming of Age. My great uncle William “Bill” Chase Bowser was one of the 140,000 Canadians who participated in this Battle. Bill’s story is similar to many of his generation. Raised in small town New Brunswick (he was born in Dorchester), he worked as a bookkeeper in his father’s mill and woodworking plant, and sang bass in a popular local musical group The Dorchester Quartet. When the Great War broke out, like so many others, he enlisted for King and Country. The “Sackville-Dorchester Boys” joined the 145th which was named the Kent-Westmorland Infantry Battalion. They completed their military training at Camp Valcartier, Quebec, where they developed the reputation of “being the kind of guys you were always thankful were on our side”.

With their training completed in September 1916, orders were received to move the men by troop train from Quebec to Halifax and then by ship on to Europe. Bill and his four army buddies had decided to jump from this troop train as it passed by their homes in order to see their families and friends one last time before their deployment overseas. It was so nice to be back home and everyone was so glad to have them there! The next day the local community of Sackville- Dorchester really pulled together as they took up a collection to purchase rail transportation to get the five to Halifax before they were missed by their officers.

It was a good thing Bill jumped off the troop train when he did; he had missed seeing his family when the train stopped in Moncton earlier that day. Bill Bowser would never return to his beloved Sackville Dorchester. He survived participation in the Battle of Vimy Ridge on Easter Weekend April 9-12, 1917, only to be listed as “Missing in Action” nearby during the Battle of Hill 70 on August 15, 1917. They never found his body. Bill was 27.

Lost at Oliver Wry’s Swale

By Colin M. MacKinnon

Many years ago my father told me a story about his grandmother getting lost in the forest around Frosty Hollow. Dad said,

“Well see, that’s when they first come from Rockport. I don’t really know how old mom was, about twelve. So she moved up when she was twelve. That’s when her mother got lost. See, across the road it was always pasture, hay land, and she went down to get the cows and she stopped on the way, picking berries. Can you imagine, after you drop down there a ways it all looks the same. But Anthony Fillmore found her some time through the night, around Oliver Wry’s Swale.”

This story had always intrigued me and particularly, what and where was the mysterious “Oliver Wry’s Swale”? And who was Oliver Wry?

The following story about Mary Jane (Goodwin) Read (1863-1916) (Figure 1) happened over a century ago. Mary was born on 3 March, 1863, to Stewart Goodwin (1841- 1913) and his wife Frances “Fanny” Carter (1836-1895). Her parents may have met while working on the farm belonging to James and Catherine Anderson as Stewart is listed as a “Labourer” and Fanny a “domestic servant” in the 1861 census. In 1887, Mary married Joseph Bedford Read (1856-1935) of Rockport (Figure 2), the son of John Gideon Read (1827-1907) and Mary Jane Tower (1829-1912). Joseph and Mary had issue: Florence (b. 1887), Myrtle (b. 1890), Russell (b. 1892), Charles (b. 1895), Frances (b. 1900), Arthur (b. 1902) and Edward (b. 1904) as well as two other children lost in infancy.

Photograph of Mary Jane (Goodwin) Read (1863-1916)

Figure 1. Mary Jane (Goodwin) Read (1863-1916)

Photograph of Joseph Bedford Read (1856-1935)

Figure 2. Joseph Bedford Read (1856-1935)

Joseph and Mary Read started their family in Rockport and may have rented at the old Cole house at Peck’s Cove, known as the “Squires”, where Joseph worked as a sailor (Figure 3).

Photograph of old farmhouse known as Squires in Rockport, New Brunswick

Figure 3. Old farmhouse known as “Squires” that overlooked Peck’s Cove in Rockport.

One late December, the schooner Joseph was working on was stuck in the ice in Cumberland Basin and he was not able to get home for Christmas. These types of events may have precipitated leaving the life of a seaman and the purchase of a farm in Frosty Hollow. On the 27 July, 1898, they paid Ainsley and Jane Atkinson one thousand dollars for a 40-acre parcel with house and barn, another 40 acres across the road and a 70-acre woodlot. Ainsley’s wife passed away a year after the sale and her failing health may have precipitated their leaving the farm. The Atkinson place was a good property, situated on the highest ground in the community, and was described as follows:

“Northerly by the post road leading from Sackville to Dorchester, Westerly by the Hill road, so called, Southerly by lands of Seth Bulmer and Easterly by lands of James Adams, and containing forty acres more or less, Second, all that certain piece or parcel of land situate in the Parish of Sackville aforesaid bounded as follows, Southerly by the post road leading from Sackville to Dorchester, Westerly by lands of Anthony Fillmore and in part by the Humphrey lot, so called, Northerly by lands of Henry Cousins and Easterly by lands of Henry Cousins and containing forty acres more or less, reserving the Barn facing the road on the north side of said post road, together with the right to remove the same. Third, all that certain lot of Woodland situate in the Parish of Sackville aforesaid bounded as follows – Southerly by lands of Seth Bulmer, Westerly by the Sterling Brook, so called, Northerly by lands of Seth Bulmer and Easterly by the Base line that divides the British Settlement lots from the lot herein described and containing Seventy acres more or less.” (New Brunswick Deeds, Westmorland County, Book T6, Page 26).

The couple may have originally intended to stay in Rockport as Joseph purchased for $500 a 32-acre parcel, on the 11th March, 1895, from J. L. Black of Sackville. The property was described as follows:

“Northeasterly by the road leading through Rockport, South westerly by lands in the possession of Leonard Tower, Southeasterly by the Bay shore and Northeasterly by lands this day conveyed by Joseph L. Black to Caleb Read”.

Presumably the chance to buy the large Atkinson farm was an offer he could not refuse. Likely to free up some much-needed cash, on 13 July, 1898, he sold the land he had just purchased three years previous to his sister-in-law Edith Alma (Fowler) Read, wife of Master Mariner Caleb Read (14 March 1862 – 18 June 1942) for $460.

Joseph and Mary Read’s new farm, still known today by older residents as “Joe Read’s Hill”, was on a high knoll on the south side of Route 106 between Sackville and Dorchester (Figure 4).

Homestead of Joseph and Mary Jane Read in Frosty Hollow, New Brunswick

Figure 4. Homestead of Joseph Bedford Read and Mary Jane (Goodwin) Read, situated on “Joe Read’s Hill” in Frosty Hollow, New Brunswick.

At the bottom of the hill, to the north of the farm and across the highway, was a low and wet area that supported an abundance of the large bog cranberry (Figure 5). In September of 1900, Mary Read put on a white apron and made one of her frequent trips to the bottom of the field to collect the milk cows for the nightly chores. As they had only lived in Frosty Hollow for a short time, she would not have been familiar with the dense woodlands that bounded the periphery of the farm. On this trip, she planned to spend some time picking a few cranberries in the wet area that bordered the woods and then, at dusk, bring the cattle up the hill. How or why she ventured into the forest is not known, but when she did not return home that evening, a search party was organized by the men of the community.

Photograph of densely forested lowlands where Mary Read got lost around 1899.

Figure 5. Densely forested lowlands where Mary (Goodwin) Read got lost around 1899. “See across the road it was always pasture, hay land, and she went down to get the cows and she stopped on the way, picking berries. Can you imagine, after you drop down there a ways it all looks the same.” (Jesse MacKinnon, 1985)

Mary was lost throughout the night and must have wandered around in the dark for some time. Her anxiety was compounded as she had a nursing baby (Francis) back at home that she was worried about. Anthony Fillmore (1854-1929), a close neighbor and hunter who knew the woods, eventually located her early the following morning. She was found over 1.5 kilometers from her home near a desolate place called “Oliver Wry’s Swale” (45° 53’ 07.12” N – 64° 25’ 41.23” W) (Figure 6). Frightened, exhausted and cold, she likely covered a far greater distance than this in her wanderings.

Map of Oliver Wry's Swale

Figure 6. Oliver Wry’es Swale, situated deep in the forest between Frosty Hollow and the Lower Fairfield Road, south-west of Sackville, New Brunswick.

Thankfully, the baby was fine, Mary’s young daughter Florence fed the child whole cream with a spoon while their mother was missing.

Oliver Wry’s Swale is a 3.45 hectare (8.5 acre) oblong shaped wetland (approximately 380 m long and 140 m wide) surrounded by dense woods and consists of a north-south oriented shallow peat deposit. The bog is dominated by a thick and water sodden bed of Sphagnum moss with scattered clumps of Labrador Tea around the edges and dense patches of cotton-grass in the middle of the open expanse (Figure 7).

Photograph of Oliver Wry's Swale

Figure 7. Oliver Wry’s Swale, 3.45 ha (8.5 acres), in situated between Frosty Hollow and the Lower Fairfield Road, south-west of Sackville, New Brunswick. (45° 53′ 07.12″ N 64° 25′ 41.23″ W)

I first found my way to the swale on a dreary and rainy fall day in the mid 1970s, following another story from an incident that happened many years ago, of a man who used to walk the roads through Frosty Hollow and could frequently be seen sitting by himself, on a large rock, across the road from the old “Frosty Hollow Inn”. The man went missing and his body was found by searchers near an old camp, immediately south of the swale. On my visit that overcast day, the remnants of this small, woodcutters cabin still stood in a grove of tall Red Spruce and reports of Oliver Wry’s Swale being haunted appeared quite plausible as I stood near the site where the unfortunate person was supposedly found.

As previously mentioned, I also wondered, who was Oliver Wry? It was just by chance that I stumbled on a headstone in the Sackville Rural Cemetery named to Oliver M. Wry (27 October 1846 – 30 January, 1920) and his wife Lalia Burma Chase (1850 – 1928) (Figure 8).

Photograph of tombstone for Oliver M. Wry and his family

Figure 8. Memorial for Oliver M. Wry (1846-1928) and his family. Situated near the eastern boundary of the Sackville Rural Cemetary.

Oliver died of a kidney ailment known as “Brights Disease” along with heart complications. He was the son of Newlove Wry and Hannah Wry. Also on the stone were the names of two of their children: John N. Wry (1870-1898) and Effie Wry (1891-1918). Other children of Oliver and Lalia were Georgina, Grace, Lena, Clarence, Isabella, Effie and Warren. Conveniently, this turned out to be the only Oliver Wry in the Sackville census records that I could find and thus I assume who the bog was named after.

He may have at one time owned the land around the bog or had conducted logging operations in that area. The late Otis Campbell once told me a story about Oliver Wry (as told to him by Oliver’s son Warren). Oliver was hauling logs for the Johnson family out of Second Westcock (the Johnsons had large land holdings in the area as well as a sawmill on Johnson’s Lake). John Johnson was having a brow of logs hauled to the Evan’s railway siding at the top of the hill, behind Frosty Hollow, on the Second Westcock Hill Road. Apparently Oliver Wry was going easy on the horses as he was not carrying a full load of logs. The foreman, Joe Johnson (presumably John Johnson’s son Josiah), who had a reputation as a hard taskmaster, said “Take your load out and don’t come back”. A similar story, regarding the hard-driving Johnson, concerned a young lad Jerry and his concern over the horse busting through deep snow under heavy loads. He suggested to the team boss “Jacob” that they should take a break and give the animals a chance to rest. Jacob sternly said to the young lad that if the horses did not break the trail, then he would have to do their work for them! A short poem, or “ditty” as they were called locally, has survived from this event: “So Jacob said to Jerry boy, I’ll tell you what we’ll do. We’ll let the horses stand a while and shovel a mile or two”.

Often when you see a young person’s name on a tombstone, the natural inclination is to wonder what happened. For Oliver and Lalia’s young son John, we find the following sad notice in the St John Daily Sun, 29 September 1898:

“Schooner Sackville Packet arrived at Sackville on the 21st from New York, and the captain reported that while at New York one of the crew, John N. Wry, was drowned on September 4, while bathing. The vessel was lying in City Island Harbor. The man went in with a life vest on and played in the water about a quarter of an hour; then took off the vest and swam about one length of the vessel. He appeared to be seized with cramps, and cried out: Oh boys!” These were the only words he spoke. A life vest was thrown him, but he took no notice of it, and sank before a boat could reach him, and did not reappear. Wry was 27 years old, unmarried, and was a son of Oliver Wry of Sackville”.

I have also tried to track descendants of this family to see if any photographs or stories have survived but with little luck. I did find an undated obituary notice (probably around 1970) for Clarence Wry, another son of Oliver and Lalia. Clarence Wry, age 85, had been living in St Stephen and operated a convenience store there for 12 years.

But what of Mary Read? When Anthony found her, she was still wearing her white apron wrapped in a tight bundle. Inside were the cranberries she had been picking when she got lost. Although she survived her ordeal, it had a lasting effect and according to family tradition, “she was never the same
after”. Sadly, Mary died in 1916 of Tuberculosis at the comparatively young age of 53, leaving seven children at home.

Every family has interesting stories and I encourage readers to record theirs. If they are not written down, and shared, they will be lost. I would like to acknowledge my father, the late Jesse MacKinnon, for instilling in me an appreciation for history and to my aunt, Helen (MacKinnon) Wheaton, for sharing some of her recollections about Mary’s tribulations in the Frosty Hollow woods.

Sackville’s First Birdman

By Tony Erskine
(edited by Sandy Burnett)

This fall will mark the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the Dominion Wildlife Service (now known as the Canadian Wildlife Service [CWS]) and of the selection of Sackville as its headquarters in Atlantic Canada (17 Waterfowl Lane, Sackville, NB). In recognition of the occasion, The White Fence is pleased to publish this article by Dr. A.J. “Tony” Erskine, retired CWS Research Scientist and administrator, profiling George Frederick “Joe” Boyer, the first research biologist at the CWS in the Tantramar region.

In November, 1947, by implementation of Order-in-Council P.C. 37/ 4333, the federal government reorganized the Department of Resources and Development, charging the newly re-named Dominion Wildlife Service with responsibility for national wildlife management. Earlier in that same year, George F. (“Joe”) Boyer, a UNB graduate student, was hired by the department to conduct summer migratory birds research in the Chignecto region.

Aged 31 and a veteran of overseas service during World War II, he was mature for a summer student, and he needed to be. He received only the most cursory briefing from Robie Tufts, Chief Migratory Birds Officer for the Maritimes, who was retiring after a career spanning close to 30 years, based in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

Clearly Joe’s performance must have met expectations, for when the Dominion Wildlife Service came into being that fall, he was confirmed in a permanent position. Sackville became the base for his operations, partly because of its central location and partly because of the presence of Mount Allison University where it was hoped that a lone government scientist “might rub shoulders with other biologists occasionally.”

Economy being all-important in the new agency, Boyer established an office in his own home in Westcock, located on the Burying Ground Hill overlooking the dykelands at the head of the Cumberland Basin. That location kept the focus on water birds foremost in his mind.

The marshes of the New Brunswick/ Nova Scotia border were recognized as a major regional waterfowl production area. The dykelands, some dating back to the days of Acadian settlement, had declined in importance as sources of marsh hay after World War I. Some coastal dykelands (John Lusby, Coles Island, and Ram Pasture marshes) were abandoned and drainage efforts further inland at Midgic and Jolicure were neglected, resulting in an expansion of wetlands attractive to nesting ducks.

Boyer’s initial assignment was to study waterfowl production in just such regional marshes. The work was linked to broader, continental studies by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which reflected concerns dating back to the 1930s, when widespread Prairie drought had greatly reduced continental waterfowl populations. While monitoring many wetlands in the region, Joe concentrated his research efforts on the area between Sackville and Midgic, on the grounds that it was accessible year-round by road.

His work in 1948 and 1949 put the Midgic Marsh on the map in terms of Canadian waterfowl studies. Despite such a promising start, however, completion of his research was a challenge, as demands from Ottawa competed for his time and attention. He often found himself reporting on seemingly irrelevant topics; e.g., the fact that between 1932 and 1943, Prince Edward Island had paid bounties on 46,327 skunks and 1,092 Snow Owls. He felt a real sense of relief when, in 1950-51, he was granted educational leave to work up his waterfowl studies into a thesis that earned him the degree of Master of Science in Biology at the University of Illinois.

Returning to Sackville, Joe Boyer found himself frustrated again by the diversity of demands placed on his time. A brief summary of his field schedule for 1952 illustrates the point.
• March-April: monitor spring waterfowl migration.
• April-May: monitor Woodcock singing-grounds.
• May: waterfowl pairing surveys.
• May-June: monitor effects of forest spraying for spruce budworm on birds.
• July: assess efforts to control predation on young salmon by shooting mergansers.
• July-August: capture/band flightless young ducks and assess brood production.
• August-September: oversee student bait-trapping of waterfowl for banding.
• October-December: monitor/ enforce seasonal waterfowl hunt across the Maritimes.
• January-February: organize mid-winter waterfowl survey; prepare annual reports.

In addition to these seasonal duties he was required, year-round, to: visit/inspect migratory bird sanctuaries; respond to enquiries from the public; and complete the routine monthly reports required by CWS headquarters.

Boyer continued dashing from one task to another until the spring of 1956 when, fed up, he resigned. After an unsuccessful attempt to find work in waterfowl research in England, he returned to Canada in 1957 and took up a position in the CWS Ontario office, where he continued to work at just as frantic a pace.

In 1960, CWS undertook a reorganization exercise. I had recently been appointed to the Sackville office at the time and looked forward eagerly to a meeting of Eastern Region biologists (all seven of us!), to be held at Ault Island, near the St. Lawrence Seaway. I was especially keen to meet Joe Boyer, who had been so active during his years in the Maritimes.

I was surprised to find that he looked much older and more worn than his 44 years. Nevertheless, it came as a complete shock to all of us when, early on the last morning of the meeting, he dropped dead of a brain haemorrhage while out hunting with Chief Ornithologist Dave Munro and another colleague.

I asked if I might have his papers and notebooks from his Sackville days, and in due course a carton arrived, filled with materials, including the draft of his Master’s thesis. I updated that document and in 1966 it was published, with Boyer as author, as CWS Occasional Paper no. 8. My later compendium on waterfowl population studies in the Maritimes (CWS Occasional Paper no. 60, 1987) was dedicated to him and to another colleague, Charlie Bartlett.

Today, the conference room in the CWS regional headquarters in Sackville is named in memory of Joe Boyer — a belated recognition of the pioneering work he did here.