One hundred and fifty years ago, in the early years of Confederation, the Maritime Provinces largely consisted of a scattering of small communities. As the country grew and prospered, growing cities absorbed many of these. Some, such as Johnson’s Mills, Minudie and Midgic (to name just a few), are today remnants of once vibrant town-sites with rich histories which supported their own churches, schools, farms and businesses. Today, many others are just names on old maps with only traces of old foundations remaining, if even they can be found. To rediscover and reconstruct these formerly active family centers is not an easy task. But join me today and read about the detective work accomplished by our good friend and long-time contributor, Colin MacKinnon, as he seeks to document one such early community which was once favoured with two names: Fairfield and Fairview. More importantly, view the evidence or “ephemera” (which to me are “treasures”!) discovered by Colin which bring to life the hands of the writers from those communities of so many years ago. This is a story about place and people, a delight to read. Hopefully, others may be inspired by Colin to write about similar villages or town-sites now forgotten in which their ancestral families may have once lived and prospered. The White Fence will always have space for descriptions of such hidden Maritime treasures for all of us to rediscover. In the meantime, sit in your favourite chair, read on, and…
Public Buildings and Community Volunteers at
Fairfield, Westmorland County, New Brunswick
in the late 1800s
By Colin M. MacKinnon
The once thriving rural community of Fairfield (also frequently referred to as Fairview in late 19th century records) rests along a ridge situated about 8 km west of Sackville, New Brunswick, with a wonderful southerly view of Shepody Bay. Few traces remain of the farms that once dotted this rural settlement (see Figure 1). Their presence is only indicated by small mounds encircling long abandoned cellars in the middle of the many blueberry fields that now dominate the landscape. In the later 1800s, Fairfield supported two churches (Baptist and Methodist), had its own school, as well as a community establishment called the “Sons of Temperance Hall” (Figure 2). It also supported its own Post Office likely operated out of a private dwelling from 1885 to 1909. A small burial ground associated with this community is located on the Buck Road and a list of the relatively few surviving memorials can be found on the find-a-grave website under the heading “Upper Fairfield Road” cemetery. The Walling map of 1862 (on view at the Boultenhouse Heritage Centre, Sackville) depicts this area prior to its expansion in the late 1800s which was driven, in part, by the development of a nearby mine that was operated for a time by the Intercolonial Copper Company. Prosperity of this rural community was not to last as the years following the end of the First World War, followed by the great depression, forced many of the following generations away from their farms with a significant departure of many families to New England. Fairfield youth such as Harriet “Hattie” Lois (Mitton) Ayer (1880-1957), a tailor and dressmaker, sought gainful employment and opportunities to the south (Figure 3).
Although there are various censuses that can be researched and genealogical details of some families can be found in the provincial birth/death/marriage statistics, the opportunity to glimpse into the personal lives of these people is largely gone. Fortunately, a small window into Fairfield’s past can be gleaned from a rare collection of ephemera pertaining to the family of Thomas Primrose Mitton (1857-1908). His farm, situated at the southern end of the Buck Road, still stands today, a rare survivor from a bygone era (Figure 4).
Note that in the following transcripts, the spelling has been retained as found in the original documents. Furthermore, a forward slash [/] indicates line breaks in the original text. As Thomas P. Mitton’s father was also named Thomas Mitton (1821-1902), there is a chance that some of the documents presented may pertain to Mr. Mitton senior; the recipient is not always certain. The following account will touch on people and events pertaining to the community’s public buildings, the temperance hall, its two churches, and the Fairview (Fairfield) school.
Sons of Temperance Hall
Information on the “Sons of Temperance Hall” is scant. It is not on the 1862 Walling map but was said to have been situated just south of, and very close to, the Baptist Church on the Buck Road. The building’s date of construction is suggested in the following letter (see Figure 5):
Springvill May 22th 78  / Mr. Thomas Mitten / Sir Mr William Crofsman [Crossman] wished me to let you know that the / lumber for the Meeting house is at the / Station and he would like you would / haul it as the car has to be unloaded / right away yours / James D Livingsten.
Presumably, the term “Meeting house” would not have been used for a church thus the likely building date of Fairview’s “Sons of Temperance Hall” would have been the summer of 1878. I have no idea what happened to the building but a glimpse of the hall can be seen on a postcard that shows it mostly blocked by the adjacent Baptist Church. In this photograph, Harvey M. Mitton (1886-1970) is standing next to the church steps. Immediately to the left of the church, an exterior wall of a second building can be seen. Sadly, the image provides no details of doors or windows, nor any hint of the building’s dimensions (Figure 6).
The Baptist Church
I cannot add much to the history of this church except for some wonderful surviving photographs. Much to my surprise, the remnants of the foundation, consisting of large hand-cut sandstone blocks, can still be partly traced. Although many of the stones have been moved or are missing, the building was substantial and a very rough estimate suggests it being upwards of 24 x 40 feet in size (Figure 7). While trying to obtain a measurement of the footings, a few shards of coloured window glass were discovered in the dirt. This cobalt blue glass formed the upper left and right panes in each of the gothic style windows while the middle “Y” section, at the top, was of a very dark red hue.
The Methodist Church
I have only a vague recollection of the Fairfield Methodist Church. It was torn down around 1970 in what appears to have been a careful dismantling. I have located the church door and other remnants may yet survive in other buildings (Figure 8). The photograph of the edifice by noted Fairfield authorities, Phyllis and Vernon Estabrooks, clearly shows how the building was framed, a detail that usually does not survive. Of interest, I was told that David Crossman (1822-1896) was one of the original builders. I have digitally “restored” the church to provide a glimpse and maybe a better appreciation of its former glory (Figure 9). A “Quarterly Ticket” (Figure 10) for membership, issued in June of 1877 by the Wesleyan-Methodist Society, to church attendee Rebecca Fillmore (b. 1832), wife of Anthony Fillmore Sr. (1823-1895), suggests that the edifice dates to at least the mid-1870s and possibly earlier.
An interesting document, suggestive of a common problem with remote rural churches, hints at having limited access to a minister on a regular basis. A schedule for both morning and afternoon services at the Fairfield Methodist Church from June 13th to August 29th 1880, allots various times for men in the community to present the church services. The speakers include the Superintendent (possibly Thomas Mitton Sr. or Thomas P. Mitton), George King, John Bickerton, Joseph Bickerton and Burnham Crossman (Figure 11).
One of Thomas P. Mitton’s volunteer activities appears to have been acting as church treasurer as well as coordinating maintenance repairs to the building. On 12 July, 1892, he recorded in a small notebook: “Received from strawberry festival fifty eight fifty six $58.56.” This was followed by an unspecified deduction of $3.64 with $54.92 remaining. This event was presumably a community fundraising event for the church. In July of the same year, he recorded under the heading “Work for Church” 4 days ($2.40), Albert J. Crossman, 3 days ($1.80) and Thomas P. Mitton, 4 days ($2.40).” Further repairs may have been required later that fall to the chimney and window. Under the date, “October 1892”, and heading “bought for Church”, he records purchases for nails, spikes, sheet lead, brick (50), two panes of glass, putty and other articles for $6.33.
Another rare tidbit is a receipt for payment for repairs to the church in 1898. Isaac W. Walker (1854-1930), noted below, was the son of Matilda Walker. He had worked as a sailor when he was young but in later years was employed as a house painter in the Dorchester area. The receipt for payment follows (Figure 12): Dorchester July 26 1898 / Received from Thomas P Mitton / the sum of Ten dollars and / forty seven cents as payment / in full for work / on Methodist Church Fairview / Isaac Walker.
Still heavily involved with church affairs the following year, on the 26th December, 1899, we see Thomas P. Mitton paying a $5.00 bill on behalf of the Fairview Methodist Church to J. C. Palmer (Co.) of Dorchester (Figure 13):
Mr Thomas Mitten Tre’r [Treasurer] of Trustee Board of the / Fairview Methodist Church please pay to Mr J / C. Palmer in acc. For church the sum of / $5.00 five dollars. / WB. Thomas / Sec. to Board. / Dorchester Dec. 26th / 99.
Further details on Fairview Methodist Church members and donations by various households can be gleaned from the census records as well as the annual “Financial statement of the Dorchester Mission of the United Church of Canada”.
I mentioned previously that there was an early school indicated on the 1862 Walling map. Of this structure I have no information. The later school, situated on the corner of the Buck and Lower Fairfield Roads, stood at least until the mid-1970s (Figure 14). I recall this building being clad in asphalt sheet siding and in a red brick pattern, a style that was once in vogue. Of pertinence to this history are a few letters and notes that shed some light on the administration of the Fairfield School. On 12th October, 1882, a meeting of the school trustees was called for School District No. 7 (Fairview). The notes of this meeting are as follows:
Fairfield School District No. 7
October the 12 1882
The meeting was called to order / by George W Milton with / John Mitten in the chair / moved and seconded that Thomas / Wry and John Mitten be trustee / Thomas Wry was elected for the / ensuing year moved and seconed / that George Crossman be anuditer [auditor ?] / for the next year moved and seconed / that James Wry bill be received / one dolar
Samuel Crossman / Two loads of Wood / 5.50 One load of wood soft 2.00 / William Mitten two loads wood 3.80
Moved and seconded (that there be some money) The head money collected moved and second that we ajurn
William B Milton
John Mitten Sr
Most of these names can be readily identified in the community and a few (with some certainty) can be matched with the names on the Walling map (see Figure 2). The school trustee’s meeting was called to order by George W. Milton/Mitton (probably George Washington Mitton who was a prominent mill operator) (see Figure 15). His establishment was on the Lower Fairfield Road where the so-called “Mill Brook” crosses the street and becomes the Reservoir Brook (site of the old CNR reservoir). Following confirmation and appointment of trustees for the upcoming year, the main order of business was to purchase wood for heating the school.
As we shall see, having a good supply of firewood was a necessity. In an undated letter by schoolteacher Ms. M. E. Fawcett, to Thomas P. Mitton, a fuel shortage at the Fairview School became critical (Figure 16). Her letter follows:
Mr Mitten [Thomas P. Mitton, Fairview School trustee]
No doubt you will be surprised to learn that there was no school yesterday and none today just because there is no wood. For the last fortnight we have just-been getting along as well as we could with picking up chips. But-it-was so very wet & cold yesterday, that unless we had a real good fire we could not stay in the school house without our health suffering. Even now myself and a (great) quite a number of pupils are suffering from colds. I do so hope we can have school tomorrow I cannot bear to “loaf”.
I hope you will not blame me. My hands are so cold now I can hardly hold the pen. I did not send any word to the other trustees yesterday, only sent their children home, And thought that would be enough. I saw Mr. Wry last week & sent word to him Friday night.
Please do try and have some for tomorrow
Your friend in trouble
M. E. Fawcett
The probable identity of M. E. Fawcett is Mary Eleanor Fawcett of Sackville. In June 1886, she obtained her First Class teaching license. Of interest, she was granted $11.76 (3 cents per mile) in travelling expenses to attend school (Annual Report of the Schools of New Brunswick 1886). In the 1891 census for Sackville, Mary Fawcett (1862-1954) was the 29-year old daughter of John and Catherine Fawcett. Her occupation was recorded as “Public School Teacher”. Ten years later she was still teaching in the Sackville area although now residing with her younger brother William Fawcett. In 1905, at age 42, she married 65-year old merchant and widower John Alexander Humphreys of Sussex, New Brunswick.
It is not certain if the school conditions precipitated a departure by Ms. Fawcett but an interesting job application by Emma Goodwin (1869-1945) has survived for the school term starting in January 1886 (Figure 17). The best match to this name is the daughter of Stewart Goodwin and Fannie Carter of Wood Point, New Brunswick. If correct, she was not teaching in 1891 and on the 13th March 1895, she married 24-year old Burnham Tower (1871-1938) of nearby Rockport. It is interesting to note that she had taught previously at Fairview; her letter follows:
Wood Point / Nov. 23rd 1885 / To the Secretary of Trustees / Dear Sir / Hearing that you were in need of a school teacher for the term commencing Jan- / uary, 1886, I hereby make ap- / plication for the situation. / You remember me as teacher at Fairview a little over two years ago; I now hold a license / of the Second Class. / Should my application prove / satisfactory, please answer by return mail if possible as / I wish to hear before deciding / on some other school. In re- / ply, please state terms. / Yours truly / Emma Goodwin / Wood Point / Sackville / N. B. / To Mr Thomas Mitton
This turnover of teachers may have been an issue in rural schools as we see in the following note regarding a search for yet another candidate (Figure 18). In this letter, Leander Crossman advises Thomas Mitton that Miss Ogden is willing to teach at Fairview. This is probably L. Alma Ogden who was a teacher, age 20, in the 1901 census for Sackville, New Brunswick. Leander’s note follows:
Mr Mitton / I was up to Beach / Hill yesterday and Miss. / Odgen is going to take / the school at $75.00 for the / following term / Yours Truely / Leander Crossman
We know with certainty that the above letter dates prior to 1907. Sadly, Leander Crossman (1855-1907) died while employed at the nearby copper mine. He is the only person known to have been killed there while working as a “blaster”. His father, David Crossman, we have already met above as one of the builders of the Methodist Church. Leander was also the father of well-remembered and respected Sackville centenarian, Mabel (Crossman) Tingley (1888-1898). Details of Leander’s funeral are as follows:
Funeral of the late Leander Crossman, Dorchester, April 15 . The funeral of the late Leander Crossman, the victim of a recent fatal explosion at the copper-mines, took place on Saturday last and was very largely attended. There was more than 70 teams in the long procession. The religious exercises were in charge of Rev. C. H. Manaton. At the house, brief scripture lessons were read and prayer offered. Rev. S. S. Poole assisted Pastor Manaton at the grave. A full service with memorial sermon was held at the Methodist Church. Fellow workmen and friends contributed some beautiful floral offerings. It was a sad day; the grief-stricken children, now fatherless and mother [less] have the deepest sympathy of all.” (Chignecto Post, 18 April, 1907).
These surviving documents provide a rare glimpse into the people and activities in late 19th century Fairfield as well as emphasizing the importance of preserving such ephemera. These short anecdotes are probably representative of similar events within many contemporary rural settlements. Sadly, the recipient and guardian of many of these papers, Thomas Primrose Mitton, “a kind hearted man” who “enjoyed the esteem of all who knew him”, died of a kidney ailment at a comparatively young age; he was only 51 years old (Figure 19). His obituary, transcribed from a newspaper clipping, reads as follows:
Fairview Feb. 18. – After a protracted illness. Mr. Thomas P. Mitton passed to the other shore, on Saturday last. Mr. Mitton had been to the Moncton hospital, if possible to secure relief, but his case being pronounced hopeless, he returned to Dorchester by train, and while being driven by one of his sons to his home in Fairview, passed away before his home and family had been reached. The deceased had lived on the old homestead, where he was born for many years, and was the father of quite a large family. Mr. Mitton was a kind hearted man, and enjoyed the esteem of all who knew him. He leaves a wife, four children, one brother and one sister to mourn their loss. The funeral services were conducted by Rev. B. O. Harman, of Dorchester.
Special thanks to Donna Fillmore, Pam Hicks, Pauline Hicks, Marilyn (Wheaton) Keller, Andrew MacKinnon, Gladys (Crossman) MacKinnon (1926-2014), David Mawhinney (MtA archives), Ralph Mitton, Everett Mosher, Phyllis Stopps, Karen Valanne (THT) and Don Ward. For those researching Fairfield families, the Vernon and Phyllis Estabrooks collection held at the Boultenhouse Heritage Centre is an important source of genealogical material.
The author would be very interested in seeing other items (such as photographs, ledgers and letters) regarding the farms and people from this community as well as other rural settlements in the Tantramar region.
Saturday, February 16, 2019, 2 pm
Celebrate Heritage Day in Sackville
Sackville Town Hall
The Intercolonial Railway: Ties That Bind
by Susan Amos
How vision and politics gave birth to Canada’s first national infrastructure project with a particular focus on New Brunswick and how the Intercolonial impacted life in and around Sackville
Memberships for 2019 and a selection of our publications will be available!
Light refreshments will be served
All are welcome!