History is best told by those who lived it. Our dear friend and contributor, Al Smith, was born and raised, retired, and is living in Sackville and is best- qualified to share two fascinating stories from Sackville’s past, one of which he played a part in. After reading the first story in this newsletter and dipping into a jar of honey, you might just think of what may be missing…white clover, possibly. Al’s second story reaches back to 1856 when Sackville got its first community newspaper. The Borderer went through a number of transformations before evolving into the “The Trib” as I knew it when I first arrived in Sackville in 1969. In 1964, The Sackville Tribune-Post told the story of the production of honey in Sackville. But not any more…“The Trib” no longer graces coffee tables in Sackville every week. Learn here about Sackville’s “Bee-man” and this town’s newspaper history. If these topics prompt your interest, read on.
Sackville Beekeeper Philip Bishop
By Al Smith
In 2020, New Brunswick had just over 300 beekeepers operating approximately 14,000 hives.1 Most kept bees as a sideline or hobby but about 20% did so commercially, some with more than 1000 hives.2 Beginning in the mid-1960s, beekeepers started to rent out hives to blueberry farmers to enhance pollination and crop yields. That additional rental income made beekeeping a much more viable commercial venture. However, back in the 1940s through to the mid-1960s there was only one full time beekeeper in the province, Sackville’s Philip Bishop.
Born in Greenwich, Kings County, Nova Scotia, on June 24, 1899, Philip was a sixth generation descendant of a Planter family (John Bishop) who relocated from New London, Connecticut, USA, to Cornwallis Township in Nova Scotia in 1761.3 Growing up in the Annapolis Valley, he acquired an interest in bees at a very early age. In 1913, he obtained a half interest in one hive of bees and gradually built it up to a full time business by making his own equipment and increasing his stock of bees.4 In 1937, Philip relocated his beekeeping business from the Annapolis Valley to Sackville, New Brunswick, establishing six apiaries in the Tantramar area.5 Philip built a home on East Main Street (currently 262 Main Street) that served as the headquarters for his business which he very successfully operated until his death in May, 1965.
Philip was diminutive in stature but large in wisdom, ingenuity and resourcefulness along with being a bit of a character. I got to experience his many interesting ways first hand during the summer of 1960 when I was employed by Philip as an assistant beekeeper. So my story on the business of being a beekeeper relies heavily on the memory of those few months. I was his first employee although his wife Dorothy had worked by his side for many years doing the books for the business and helping in the packaging of the product. By 1960, Philip was 61 years old and realized that he could use help during the busy summer period.
So as soon as school finished in early June, 1960, I began my first, full-time summer employment with a salary of $35 per week. The first task at hand was dismantling, cleaning and sterilizing all the stainless steel extraction equipment and the holding tank. That was done intermittently along with working with the bees. In addition to his home property, Philip had five other sites in the Border region where he deployed his hives: Charlie Carlisle’s farm in Upper Sackville, the Farm Annex property at the Dorchester Penitentiary, Ben Wallace’s property in Westcock, Trueman Farm in Point de Bute and in a small valley immediately south of the Nappan Experimental Farm in Nova Scotia. All were accessed on a regular schedule using Philip’s Volkswagen bus/van.
The summer of 1960 was a good honey year with a nice mix of warm sunny days and intermittent rainfall that produced a really good clover crop. We tended 160 hives that summer and, as I recall, Philip estimated that his harvest that year would be close to 11 tons. By the time I arrived on the job in early June, Philip had already placed most of his hives out in the locations mentioned above. Apparently most beekeepers at that time would annually purchase packaged bees in the spring from Florida or from other suppliers in the southern states. Philip did have a few queen bees that he purchased that spring from Florida, but most of his colonies were over-wintered on his home property, a procedure that he had been doing for over 50 years. He had a well-designed overwintering building where he packed them in eight-colony, special winter cases. It was just one of many ways that Philip managed to keep expenses down and make the business profitable.
All hives were checked on a weekly basis. A hive consisted of several rectangular boxes stacked vertically, usually up to four high. Each box contained eight removable frames that each held a sheet of honeycomb foundation upon which the bees would build their cells for brood-rearing and honey storage. The bottom one or two boxes were brood chambers where the queen resided and the colony’s bees were reared. A device called a Queen excluder was placed between the brood chamber box and the boxes above so that worker bees could pass through and deposit honey in the upper boxes but not to the much larger Queen bee and the Drones (males) which were confined to the brood box(es). The upper boxes (known as “supers” in beekeeping jargon) were where all of the hive’s surplus honey (that was not needed in the brood chamber) was deposited. Those boxes would be removed when filled and replaced with an empty one.
Throughout the summer it was necessary to check the brood chambers regularly to ensure that no large swarm cells were present. If one was found it would indicate that the colony was producing a new Queen bee which would eventually cause a swarm to occur and thus the loss of a good percentage of the bees in the colony. The upper boxes (the “supers”) were checked regularly as the summer progressed and when all honeycomb cells in a box had been filled and capped, that box would be removed from the hive and taken home for extraction of the honey.
Philip’s extraction facility (known as the “honey house”) was attached to his residence in Sackville. The extraction process began with removal of a frame from the “super” and uncapping the cells in the honeycomb. Most beekeepers at that time were using an electrically heated uncapping knife, a procedure that was labour intensive and time consuming. Philip invented and built his own unique uncapping machine. He made it from a diverse array of used parts including bicycle sprockets and chain, used motor-piston rods and a hand crank. Each of the eight frames from a full “super” would be passed through the machine then placed in a box in the extractor, a large centrifuge. Once the centrifuge was loaded and balanced, the hood was closed and the machine, run by an electric motor, extracted the honey from the honeycombs by centrifugal force. The honey was then pumped up from the extractor into a two-ton capacity, stainless steel, holding tank.
From the holding tank, the honey passed through filters down to a large, lever-operated, valve. From there, honey was poured into one-pound tubs for retail sale in food markets. Some five and ten-pound buckets were also filled for special orders from local customers. Filling the tubs was one of the more challenging assignments that I had that summer. In previous years, it was a task that Dorothy Bishop had done but she was finding it more difficult so asked me to take it on. The procedure was to place the empty tub on the scale under the holding tank’s lever valve and fill it so that you had a perfect one-pound quantity. The trick was to judge when to quickly shut the valve so that the final long “lick” of honey would perfectly fill the tub. Once filled, the tub was passed to Philip who checked that the weight was precise and he then capped the tub and passed it to Dorothy who packed them into boxes for distribution. It took a bit to get on to, but soon the production line was working smoothly. Philip had always packed his own product, steadfastly resisting selling it in bulk to packing companies who, in the early 1960s, were paying producers about 13 cents per pound.
Honey coming into the “honey house” was checked weekly for grade colour by Philip. Honey gathered in June and early July was mostly graded as “No. 1 White” as it was sourced mainly from white clover. However, as the summer progressed and the bees were gathering from Golden Rod and other mid- to late summer flowers, it took on a much darker colour and was graded as “Golden”.
By early August, product was delivered to local stores as well as to Atlantic Wholesalers for distribution to their network of food stores throughout the Maritimes. Philip had built up a very loyal customer base over the years and had no problem selling all that he produced. At the end of August we delivered some five, ten and twenty-pound containers to a number of farm families in the Sackville and Amherst areas who were annual customers.
Philip had been in the business for so many years that his “Bishop’s Pure Honey” was known to consumers to be a superior product. As a Beekeeper, he was recognized as one of the best. He served as secretary-treasurer of the Maritime Beekeepers Association for many years.6 He was also the Maritime correspondent for the Canadian Bee Journal and wrote occasional articles for Gleanings in Bee Culture and The American Bee Journal.7 Journalists from the national magazine The Family Herald visited his apiary in the summer of 1964 and published a feature story on him entitled “Bee King of the Maritimes”. That story was reprinted in The Sackville Tribune Post on October 15, 1964.
Philip became terminally ill during the winter of 1964/65 and died on May 12, 1965, at the age of 65. His wife Dorothy left Sackville a year later and moved to Pennsylvania, USA, to be close to their son, Dr. David Bishop. The home property on Main Street was sold to David and Jean MacAulay. The “honey house” was converted to a garage. The only remains of the beekeeping business today is the storage barn that housed Philip’s home-made brood boxes and “supers” and the much smaller building where his bee colonies were overwintered.
Philip Bishop was a full-time bee-man for 45 years, a fiercely independent and rugged individual who defied the odds and made a good living from beekeeping. Working alongside that energetic and resourceful gentleman in the summer of 1960 was one of the highlights of my youth. This story has been in the back of my mind since August 2003 when Peter Hicklin and I visited the home of Ralph Estabrooks on East Main Street as it was then called (now Main Street) with his daughter Ann Hubert. Ralph had passed away earlier that year and Ann was cleaning out the house and wondered if the Heritage Trust would be interested in any items. On a shelf in the basement Ralph had saved two empty Philip Bishop, two pound, honey cans. The photo at the beginning of this article is of one of those cans.
Oh, by the way, I forgot to mention that Philip had given me a raise in late July to $37.50/ week.
1 Alan Cochrane, “What’s the Buzz on NB beekeeping”, Moncton Times and Transcript, March 7, 2020.
3 Al Smith’s Bishop Family Tree, Ancestry.ca
4 “Local Man Featured in Magazine Article: Bee King of the Maritimes” – originally published in The Family Herald and reprinted in The Sackville Tribune-Post, October 15, 1964.
5 Charles W. Moffatt, Sackville New Brunswick –- The Official Book On The Most Central Town In The Maritime Provinces, 1946, page 76.
6 “Funeral Tomorrow For Philip Bishop”, The Sackville Tribune-Post, Thursday May 13, 1965.
7 Dorothy Bishop, “July 6, 1981 letter to Barbara Fisher”, Mount Allison Archives, Barbara Fisher fonds accession 2004.2.
Trust Announces its 37th Publication
The Tantramar Heritage Trust is pleased to announce the publication of Compendium III of The White Fence Newsletter. Printed in April, 2021, the book is the third in the series of compendiums that compile past issues of the Trust’s popular newsletter and is complete with an index. A 250 page book, Compendium III contains newsletter issues 61 to 90 that were published over the period October 2013 to April 2020. The book is a treasure trove of 65 historical articles that were researched and written by 23 contributors.
It is available from the Trust Office, or from one of consignment stores. Price $25.00.
Trust to Launch New Capital Campaign
At the upcoming 2021 Annual General Meeting (AGM) for the Tantramar Heritage Trust, a new Two-Year Capital Campaign will be launched seeking to raise just over $40,000.
The campaign will hopefully provide funding to complete four significant renewal projects at the Boultenhouse Heritage Centre:
•Replacement of all the 100+ year-old windows in the second story of the Boultenhouse house (summer or fall 2021).
•Replacement of the 25+ year-old furnace and oil tank with a Heat Pump system (fall 2021).
•Complete upgrades to the apartment on the second floor of Boultenhouse house (spring 2022).
•Complete full exterior painting of Boultenhouse house and the trim on Anderson and Bulmer houses (summer 2022).
Detailed information and a donor card will be made available to the membership during May and fully explained at the AGM. We sincerely hope that friends and members of the Tantramar Heritage Trust will support this new campaign as well as they have in the past.
When Sackville Had a Newspaper(s)
By Al Smith
As I write this article in March, 2021, it has been a year since The Saltwire Network decided to stop the publication of many of its weekly newspapers including The Sackville Tribune Post. The curtailment of the “Trib” ended 164 years of continuous newspaper coverage in Sackville.
The first newspaper in New Brunswick was established in 1783 just seven months after the arrival of the Loyalists into Saint John (then called Parrtown). William Lewis and John Ryan set up their press and printed the Royal St. John’s Gazette and Nova Scotia Intelligencer. That small format, weekly newspaper, was just eight by thirteen inches in size and printed in three columns.1
Sackville’s first community newspaper,2 The Borderer, was established in 1856 by Edward Bowes which, at that time, was the only newspaper between Saint John and Halifax.3 Bowes who was originally from Halifax, had some experience in printing before moving to Sackville in the 1840s to become a teacher in the Upper Sackville School.4 He gave up his teaching job in order to establish the newspaper, which he published for 12 years until his untimely death in 1868 at age 55.5 Initially, Bowes published the paper from his home in Middle Sackville and later moving the newspaper to a facility at the corner of Charles and Bridge Streets.6 Typical of the times, the paper was heavily aligned with a political party and in covering local news he was influential in promoting the Conservative party. After his death, the paper was carried on by several people until it was amalgamated in 1879 with Sackville’s second newspaper, the Chignecto Post.7
With W.C. Milner as editor, the first issue of the Chignecto Post was published on May 19, 1870, from offices located on Bridge Street opposite Marshlands. After taking over the assets of The Borderer, the name was changed to Chignecto Post and Borderer and published weekly until 1896 when it changed to a semi-weekly newspaper.8 The Chignecto Post continued publishing twice-weekly until 1946 when it was amalgamated with The Tribune. There was apparently another newspaper called The Sackville Free Press that started around 1895 by a chap named John Gay but it was purchased by The Chignecto Post in 1897.9 A. H. McCready was the Post’s editor and owner from 1896 onward.10
The Tribune commenced publishing in 1902 in a facility on the second floor of the Copp Block on Bridge Street. C.C. Avard is credited with starting The Tribune with financial backing from Senator A.B. Copp. With the establishment of the Tribune building on Main Street in 1906, the newspaper offices were moved there (across from the parking lot beside the Post Office—editor). Starting out as a weekly, The Tribune changed to twice weekly in 1907. Both The Tribune and The Chignecto Post (also known just as “the Post”) published twice-weekly on Tuesdays and Fridays, so the Town had four newspapers weekly from 1907 to 1946. With amalgamation of the two papers in 1946, the name changed to The Sackville Tribune-Post and two issues were published weekly until June of 1957 when the switch was made to once-weekly paper.11
Currently we have no local newspaper and the likelihood of it ever returning seems remote. Personally I miss the “Trib” and the weekly Wednesday tradition of having to go to the Post Office to pick up the latest issue. We have lost more than just a newspaper, we have lost our sense of community. No longer is there coverage of community activities, sport events, upcoming events, and happenings. We are also losing a printed record that for years has been microfilmed and archived – a treasure trove for historical researchers. As the Joni Mitchell song goes, “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone” – pity!
1 D.J. Dickie. How Canada Grew Up, 2nd edition, June, 1927, page 9; J.M. Dent and Sons Ltd. Toronto.
2 The Mount Allison Academic Gazette was published three years earlier in 1853 and was a semi-annual academic journal whereas The Borderer was a weekly community newspaper.
3 W.C. Milner. History of Sackville, New Brunswick (1994 reprint). The Tribune Press Ltd., page 83.
4 Helen L. Bateman. Home Is Where One Starts From (1984). Chedik Printing Ltd., ISBN 0-9691734-0-7.
5 W.C. Milner. History of Sackville, New Brunswick (1994 reprint). The Tribune Press Ltd., page 83.
6 W.W. Sears and D. McKay. “Printing Plant Produces Variety” (1968). This Is Sackville. Tribune Press Ltd.
7 W.C. Milner. History of Sackville, New Brunswick (1994 reprint). The Tribune Press Ltd., page 83.
8 Helen L. Bateman. Home Is Where One Starts From (1984). Chedik Printing Ltd., ISBN 0-9691734-0-7.
9 W.W. Sears and D. McKay. “Printing Plant Produces Variety” (1968). This Is Sackville. Tribune Press Ltd.
Sunday, May 30, 2 pm Annual General Meeting Anderson, Octagonal House
Guest speaker: Rhianna Edwards, “Trueman Arithmetic Copybooks: Providing Clues to Early Education on the Chignecto.” Limited attendance in accordance with COVID-19 safety protocols. To book your seat, please contact Karen at the office by calling (506) 536-2541 or by email at email@example.com.
Sunday, June 20, 12-5 pm
Official Opening of Campbell Carriage Factory Museum for the summer.
Entertainment, games, blacksmithing demonstrations and the very popular Annual Plant Sale.
Thursday, July 1, 2-4 pm Canada Day Strawberry Social, Boultenhouse Heritage Centre
Join us for games, tours, music, and delicious homemade strawberry shortcake.
July and August
Make It Workshops Heritage-themed children’s workshops (details to be announced).
Under the Sky Events Community events at our museums (details to be announced).
Sunday, August 8, 12-5 pm
Heritage Field Day at the Campbell Carriage Factory Museum.
Blacksmithing demonstrations, live music, dancing, snacks, artisan demonstrations, tours, and much more.
Please note that all events are subject to change in order to keep our visitors and staff safe during the pandemic. We follow a COVID-19 operational plan and all guidelines set out by the Government of New Brunswick.
To keep up with what’s happening at our museums, follow us on Facebook or Instagram (tantramarheritagetrust) or Twitter (@TrustTantramar) or contact the office at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to be put on our email list.