The White Fence, issue #97

november 2021


Dear Friends,

Join us on an adventure of architectural mystery: the mystery of the brick houses. As though inspired by Canada’s William Murdoch and following the steps of Sherlock Holmes, Paul Bogaard attempts to solve two closely-related Tantramar mysteries, an investigation which could be entitled “Solving the Mysteries of Brick Houses and their Associated Brick Yards.” It combines interesting historical and archaeological research in the Tantramar area (primarily Sackville) in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and describes results of detailed work which, like me, you will read through more than once, with great interest and much pleasure!

Furthermore, in this issue we include an interesting recipe from Marilyn Keller’s mother, Helen McKinnon: Porridge Bread from the Frosty Hollow Tea Rooms, later known as the Frosty Hollow Inn. This porridge bread could have graced the kitchens of some of the brick houses described herein at one time or another. So, seek your favourite chair and with a well-buttered slice of warm bread, indulge your curiosity in the bygone days of Sackville.

On a sad note, it is my difficult duty to report to you the passing of a cherished member and publications contributor to the Tantramar Heritage Trust, Mr. Paul Henri Surette (see the notice in this issue).

—Peter Hicklin

Brickmakers in New Brunswick

The 1774 Report by Robinson and Rispin records that there were already amongst the recent settlers brickmakers with the skills to produce quality bricks from local clays.

Early Brick Houses and Their Brick Yards

by Paul Bogaard

There are two puzzles named in this title. As with most historical puzzles, definitive answers are hard to come by, but we’ve gathered enough information together to provide an account of the brick houses built during the first hundred years or so in the Township of Sackville.1

First is the surprising fact that several brick houses were built in this immediate area, well over a dozen that we know of. I say “surprising” because only two of these are still standing and they are actually outside of Sackville. Not only are the others mostly long gone (as are many others that have not even survived in documents), the historical record tells us that after 40 to 60 years, most of these early brick houses were already being taken down.2

So, if two remain, why did the others last only a generation or so, when I think of brick houses as what you build if you want your house to last?

The second puzzle is: to build a brick house you need a supply of bricks – lots of bricks! Where did these come from? Well, in the two examples still standing we have good evidence that they were constructed of brick made on the spot or conveniently close by. Was that usually true? And does this have anything to do with many of them being pulled down after a relatively short time?


In addition to the two brick houses still standing [see sidebar above] there are others known to have been built before 1800. Four examples are described here:

1. Charles Dixon (like William Chapman) was a Yorkshireman and it is said that, after a few years in a log house,3 he built for his family a two-story brick house in 1788. This was at or near the Dixon house now lived in by Dr. John Murray at 59 Charles Street, Sackville. There is quite a slope from this house down to Crescent Street and apparently Charles Dixon used this to good effect, building up two stories from the low side and one story up from the top of the slope. This house continued to be occupied by his son, Edward, until his grandson, James Dunbar, finally had it removed to build the wood frame house now on the site, in 1847. So, this brick house lasted about 60 years.

Milner noted that Dixon’s purchase included what today is called the Dixon Island Marsh and later that bricks were made on the Island Marsh Road.4 It seems plausible that this road is the one leading out onto Dixon’s Marsh and that location can be confirmed by the Walling map of 1862.5 Taking this as confirmation of its location and that it was Charles Dixon’s own property not far away, it seems most likely that out on that marsh, perhaps close to the Tantramar River (to which that road leads) there must have been a deposit of clay suited to making bricks. And it would have been a large enough deposit to provide for the bricks not only of Dixon’s house (as we shall see) but for several other buildings.

2. Amos Botsford, like Robert Keech, was a Loyalist who arrived early in the 1780s acting as an agent for the large number of Loyalists moving into the Province. He soon built for himself a stone house on Dorchester Island and by 1790 was constructing another house completed in 1792. The latter was “Westcock House”, quite a grand manor overlooking the Westcock Marsh at the head of the bay. This time Botsford had his house built of brick, at least for the main walls (and probably one of the bearing walls through the interior) with stone – called quoins – to strengthen the corners, and above/below the windows. This house was destroyed by fire in 1945.

Westcock House, New Brunswick

Photo of Westcock House taken by Charles G.D. Roberts in 1925. On the back he wrote: “It hurts to see this grand old mansion, about which so many of my childish memories cluster, left thus to ruin.” Photo courtesy of Mount Allison University Archives.

Folklore carried down through the Fisher family who have long lived on Botsford’s holdings suggested where Botsford might have made the brick for his house. The stone was easier to obtain as there were quarries just down the coast. This location was confirmed by the description of a property transfer still recorded in the Registry Office. Essentially a swap of two parcels from Botsford to the church in Wood Point was made in exchange for two parcels of land he received in Westcock, one of them described as lying just above the “brick yard.” Sometimes historical details pop up quite unexpectedly! The description makes it quite clear that the brick yard was at the mouth of a creek feeding out from the Town Platt in Westcock onto the marsh west of the Tantramar River. Like the Chapmans and Dixons (and thereafter the Keechs and Truemans) Botsford had located a good deposit of clay and the brick yard was established right there, within a few hundred meters of the building site.

Westcock House Keystones

Detail from photo ca. 1940, showing keystones above windows and quoins at corner of Westcock House.

3. The brick house owned by Charles Frederick Allison is a more complex story. He purchased this house, along with most of the ground where Mount Allison now stands, from William Atkinson in 1832. By 1839 or 1840 he had it demolished and replaced – in the area where Convocation Hall now stands – with a wood frame house. The brick house may have been built by William’s father Robert Atkinson or Robert may have obtained the house with the large holding he got from the Killams. Amasa Killam had received the original grant to this area already in the 1760s, but as he was associated with the Eddy rebellion in the 1770s, he had to forfeit his holdings. Robert Atkinson (Amasa’s son-in-law) obtained title from two of Amasa’s children. Curiously, that 1798 transfer actually says Robert was already living there. So, it remains unclear whether Robert built himself a brick house before 1798 (although it would have been odd for him to have built it before he received title) or the Killams had already built it sometime earlier. What is clear is that by 1840, after having lived in it for only a few years, Allison decided to tear it down and replace it about 50 or 60 years after it had first been built.

And there is one other fact that is also quite clear: Milner stated that this house had been built using brick made on the Island Marsh Road.6 What the arrangements with Dixon might have been we do not know, but it will turn out that this is not the only case where bricks were sold from this brick yard. Neither this house nor the Charles Dixon house lasted more than 50 to 60 years and whether that had anything to do with the quality of the clay deposits out on Dixon’s marsh, we will assess, later.

4. One further brick house is known to have been built just before 1800. Soon after they arrived from Yorkshire in 1774, the Trueman family purchased a small farm at Pointe de Bute and then a larger one on the land which they have farmed ever since. By 1797, they had decided to build a fine new house and Howard Trueman has left us an account: “In 1799 the house was built, the main portion being made of brick, burned on the marsh nearby. It fronted the south, and was 27′ by 37′, and two stories high, with a stone kitchen on the west side…. In 1839 the stone kitchen was pulled down and one of wood built on the north side…it is [in 1900] as comfortable a dwelling as it has ever been. Five generations have lived in it.” It was demolished in 1917, having served the Trueman family for almost 120 years.

Painting of the Trueman House.

Painting of the Trueman House by Bessie McLeod shortly before it was torn down. Photo thanks to Genie Coates.

Howard Trueman sketch of house

Detail from sketch provided by Howard Trueman in his Chignecto Isthmus, showing band at second floor, keystones above door, and windows and a hint of quoins at the corners.

This house was almost the same size as the Chapman house and shared some of its features, like the side-wall chimneys. But it also seems to have incorporated some stone over the entryway, above and below the windows, and perhaps at the corners like at Westcock House. The Truemans also shared with both Chapman and Botsford the logistical advantage of providing their own brick from a marsh deposit of clay quite nearby. With the exception of the Atkinsons (or Killams) whose house was located in the middle of town and relied on the Dixon’s Island Marsh Road brickyard, all of these 18th century brick house builders chose sites near enough to good clay deposits that yielded all the brick they needed.


The 18th century brick houses described thus far were all built either by Yorkshire immigrants or Loyalists. But none of them started laying bricks as soon they stepped off the boat. In every case, it took ten to twenty years before they established where they wanted to reside, located a deposit of clay and began planning to construct using brick. Only in Dixon’s case are we told explicitly that they first lived in log houses, but that must have been the common experience in those pioneer days. We also know this was the case for Keillor and Chandler before they erected stone mansions in Dorchester.7 We now consider examples of brick houses built in this region in the 19th century.

5. There were two Planter families who were the first to re-settle the Township of Sackville after the Acadian Expulsion. Both erected brick houses for themselves, but only after having lived in the area for 40 years or more. William Lawrence is described by Milner as building his family house (like Charles Dixon’s) with one story on the uphill side and two stories on the downhill side.8 For that he needed a property near a road with a substantial slope. We drive by such a location whenever heading out to Middle Sackville. On the right-hand side, past the junction with the Ogden Mill Road, Lawrence found such an opportunity. Actually, when they first arrived in the early 1760s, the Lawrence family had been granted a share of the Township in Division A, which is Westcock. Like many Planters, however, they wasted no time swapping and adjusting their holdings so that by the 1780s they had gained a foothold on this desirable property that slopes down to the marsh from the Main Road to Middle Sackville. William Lawrence (and his across-the-road neighbors, the Outhouses) then petitioned the new Loyalist government to grant them the remainder of this land that was as yet vacant9 and those grants were confirmed in 1802 and 1808.

While no source that we can find says so, it would have made little sense for Lawrence to build in brick until he had clear title to the land, so it seems safe to conclude that he was erecting the uphill-downhill portions of his new house sometime in the early 1800s. Nor do these sources tell us where he got the bricks he needed. Dixon’s Island Marsh Road brick yard was in production by then, but it makes just as much sense that Lawrence found useable clay deposits along the marshy margin of his new grants and had the bricks manufactured himself. William, alas, only lived until 1820 and Milner suggests that several of his children and grandchildren living nearby had all moved into places of their own. So, it seems likely that this brick house, as handsome as it may have been, did not last all that long.

6. The Census of 185110 which notes the construction material for each household’s dwelling, was too late to catch most of the families we’ve already described, but it does note that Benjamin Scurr’s household was living in a brick house. Benjamin was already 63 years of age at the time and passed away only two years later. His son, Thomas, is listed as one of the family in 1851, but by the publication of the Walling map in 1862, Thomas is shown still living in what I take to be their brick home. Milner confirms this by mentioning that Thomas continued to “live in the Scurr homestead, a brick house.”11 The census says nothing about when the house was built, but we know Benjamin married Mary Bulmer in 1809 so it seems unlikely this brick house was built any earlier than that. Mary was still alive in 1866 when their son, Thomas, was head of the household; so the house may well have lasted 50 to 60 years. The house of Thomas’s brother, Charles (shown on the Walling map as being right next door), is still standing today at 24 Harris Drive.

7. Also listed in the 1851 Census as living in a brick house was the family of James B. Anderson. With no indication of when this house might have been built, or even whether James was the one who built it, we checked the Registry of Land Transactions and found that he had purchased this land in 1838 with the brick house already on it. The Registry shows he bought it from James Estabrooks, “that well-known farm in Letter C… a certain piece or parcel of upland with a Brick dwelling house and two barns erected and standing thereon…upland, marshland bordering on lands of the Estate of Valentine Estabrooks late of Sackville.” James was a well-known figure in Sackville’s early history (known as “Squire Jim”). Though he was only a boy when the Estabrooks arrived in 1761, he was soon granted the land on which this house stood.

Milner’s History of Sackville (1994) says: “He lived in a brick house on the place afterwards occupied by the late Josiah Anderson.”12 That connects to the census listing as Josiah was James B. Anderson’s son and Josiah’s own grandson and great grandson are the Charles (now deceased) and Fred Andersons who have been living on this site until today. That is to say that they live in the two-story wood frame house either James or Josiah had built on the foundation of the earlier brick house. Greek Revival in style, this frame house was likely built in the 1850s or, at the latest, when James B. passed away in the late 60s and Josiah married. At least we know when the brick house had been built, because the Andersons saved the Keystone from over Squire Jim’s front door (see photo below). It declares that this house was built (or completed) in 1811. The keystone from the Trueman family’s brick house was also saved (now refitted into a fireplace mantel) and it, too, records the date it was completed. And the photos of Chapman and Botsford houses also feature keystones either over windows, or doors, or both. Built in the decades just before or after 1800, this common feature hints at what was likely a common style. Squire Jim’s keystone also reminds us his house did not last for more than 50 to 60 years.

Keystone from Estabrooks brick house

Colin MacKinnon took this photo of the keystone saved from Squire Jim Estabrooks’ brick house and made the faded carving legible.

8. A more puzzling listing in the 1851 Census is that of William Cole. The Census indicates he was living in a brick dwelling, but also that he had only arrived in Sackville in 1834, so it was unlikely we would be able to tie him into the extended Cole family established in this area long before. However, the Census also notes that he was an “innkeeper” and there could not have been many of those. It was Gene Goodrich, having researched all the innkeepers for his book on the Stagecoach era (W.E. Goodrich. Stagecoach Days at the Westmorland Great Road 1835-1872. Westmorland Historical Society, 2010) who suggested it might be a misspelling of the surname, William “Coll.”

In fact, William Coll (not Cole) purchased an inn (or hotel) located on Main Street, Sackville, in 1846 from the estate of Abraham Bass. This was “a two-story brick building that no doubt served as their dwelling as well as a tavern and roadhouse.”13 Bass had built this brick structure in 1815, so it would already have been well established as an inn and stage stop. Coll seems to have carried on the tradition. Milner 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.”14 Around 1860 this hotel was sold to Arthur King who kept the tradition going even longer. The Miller Block of commercial buildings was built on this site (up from Allison Ave. on Main Street) after a fire in 1912 cleared the way. Whether the hotel building lasted that long, we do not know, but it certainly represents one of the oldest commercial buildings (brick, of course) for which we have records.

Postcard image of Bridge Street, Sackville, NB

Donna Sullivan called my attention to this postcard image (year?) that captures what we think was the Inn run by Bass, Coll, and King.

9. Stone houses are also identified in the 1851 Census. There are only two and one was William Crane’s house, the one we know today as “Cranewood” on 113 Main Street, Sackville. The only other stone house was attributed to Thomas DeWolf. The Census tells us DeWolfe was an “Episcopalian Clergyman” and local church records confirm he was the Rector at St. Ann’s Church through this period. The rectory for St. Ann’s was located in Westcock on the Burying Ground Road15 and was the same rectory to which G. G. Roberts brought his family as DeWolf’s successor. The Robert’s family included his son, Charles G. D. Roberts, whose biographer clearly states that they moved into a brick rectory. Existing church records do not clarify this matter so either the census taker mistook a brick house for stone or this biographer mistook a stone house for brick.

There might be a simpler solution to this riddle: that it was a brick house using stone for quoins at the corners (as we have seen in older brick houses) and perhaps around doors and windows. To confirm this possibility, we tracked down a painting completed by Goodrich Roberts some years later. (It was used for the cover of the 2002 edition of Roberts’ The Heart that Knows, edited by Carrie MacMillan.) Unhappily, this artistic rendition of the house (as on the cover) provides little detail and while the colour he chose is suggestive of brick, it doesn’t really decide the matter. We will have to be content with not (quite) knowing, although I think it likely that DeWolf’s rectory was one more brick house. We do know it replaced an earlier rectory in 1838-39 and lasted 40 to 50 years.

Goodridge Roberts painting of Westcock parsonage

From W. Goodridge Roberts’ painting we get a good sense of the size and shape of the house, but not whether it was of brick, or stone, or both. Courtesy of Queen’s University Archives.

10. The last listing of brick houses we can pluck from the 1851 Census is for Joseph Bowser.16 The son of Thomas Bowser, a Yorkshire immigrant, the elder Bowser had purchased two of the original shares of the Township that extended from Lorne Street all the way up York Street. Various Bowsers settled up and down this substantial holding and we can find two J. Bowsers on the Walling map as late as 1862. By the time of the 1851 Census, Joseph was already 60 years old and having married (for the first time) in the early 1820s, that seems a plausible time for him to have erected this brick house. It was on York Street just above Salem where many of us will remember “Hillcrest House.” One of Joseph’s nephews (or son of a nephew?) built that handsome wood frame house with an Italianate tower on the same site in 1880. So, Joseph’s brick house must have lasted 50 to 60 years.

11. There is a second J. Bowser showing on the Walling map, whose house was located inside the corner of Main and York. And with Milner’s help, I think we can link this one with Joseph’s brother, John. Relying once again upon the memory of Cynthia Atkinson who recalled for him the houses she remembered in her younger years, Milner states: “The next [near] (?) Crane’s Corner was the John Bowser House on a side hill, in a garden with cherry trees. The brick house remembered by the older generation was erected about 1825. The old house was then turned into a schoolhouse.”17 Like his brother, Joseph, John built his brick house about the time he married. At some later stage (if I am reading this correctly, always a challenge with Milner…) this house (or his father’s?) became a schoolhouse.

12. In a similar vein, Milner cited Cynthia Atkinson’s narrative of the two-story brick house built by Charles Dixon with which we began. Then she mentions another two-story brick house also attributed to Charles Dixon and here I suggest we forgive either Milner or his informant for repeating the same story. But then there is a third: “Charles Dixon erected a brick house on the site of the A. E. Wry residence. It was demolished in 1848 by the late Christopher Milner.18 In this case, our historian, William Cochran Milner, is not likely to be mistaken, because the Christopher referred to here was his father and the house was where he grew up. Indeed, this was yet another brick house built by another Charles Dixon – Charles Sr.’s grandson, the builder of vessels in the Dixon shipyard. This Charles Dixon trained to be a carpenter and then was away from town for a few years, returning in 1831.19 Assuming he built this brick house upon his return, it lasted less than 20 years!

13 The Dixons had owned all the land from one end of Charles Street to the other – from Charles Sr.’s house on Crescent Street to Charles Dixon the grandson’s house on Bridge. The margins of this substantial holding figure into our final case. Charles Sr. had purchased most of what in the 1770s was still called “Spectacle Island”, that is, all the upland east of the marshy ground reclaimed as Lorne Street, which when flooded leaves all Dixon’s ground as an island. This extended from Dixon’s island out onto what we now call the Dixon Island Marsh, Beale Heights, around through the industrial park and down both sides of Bridge Street.20 The northern portion of this same “island” was owned by William Cornforth, another Yorkshire immigrant, and his holdings extended out to the smaller island lived on by his son-in-law, John Harris. Where the properties of Dixon and Cornforth abutted (a few lots up Squire from Bridge), “Mr. Charles Dixon and Mr. William Cornforth gave a site for a Methodist parsonage of about four acres. A brick house was erected about 1810. In 1850 it was demolished and a wood one erected in its place.21 So, right where these two properties joined, we have at least one further brick house, one that lasted only 40 years. I might add: the Methodists also undertook to build a chapel at the corner of Main and Bridge, said to be brick, but in this case, it was superseded by a wood frame church across Main Street because the brick one proved to be too small.22


Reviewing all these examples still leaves us with the second puzzle mentioned at the outset. Although we have some cases of 18th century brick houses still standing and others now gone, but which stood for 120 years and more, the majority (11 out of 15) only lasted a few decades. Even those that stood for 50 to 60 years were not living up to the longevity that brick should have afforded. Something seems suspiciously wrong and others have noted this in the past.

Architectural historians Peter Ennals & Deryk Holdsworth have noted: “Local wisdom has suggested that the quality of brick made by early settlers from marsh mud was poor and that with time it crumbled and houses using this construction were later dismantled.”23 Since local bricks were not all made from the same clay deposit, but from almost as many different deposits as there were brick houses, it seems possible that not all the deposits were comprised of equally good clay. Some of the clay chosen must have been excellent for they have lasted very well. There may also have been differences in the skills of brickmakers and the success of their “burnings.” But there were stonemasons and brickmakers amongst the early settlers whose skills were honed well before they immigrated to the Township of Sackville.

There is another consideration. The bricks in all these houses would have been “laid” using lime mortar. Portland cement was as yet unknown and lime mortar had been used quite successfully for centuries. Limestone had to be baked to form quicklime (to make lime mortar) and there is not much limestone available in this area. Our excellent building stone is all sandstone. Still, “Limekiln Brook” by Amherst reminds us there must have been enough to provide some of what masons would have needed. They could also have used gypsum – there are substantial quarries along the Petitcodiac and Shepody Bay – that when heated sufficiently became “Plaster of Paris.” This was used to plaster walls (or spread on fields) but it could also be made into a usable mortar. So far, so good.

Problems could have arisen because, for any of these alternatives, an aggregate had to be mixed in which was invariably sand. Throughout much of North America sand is dug out from along rivers or from old riverbeds. But all the rivers in this area are tidal. The Tantramar and Aulac Rivers flow through our magnificent marshlands, all built up by the Bay of Fundy waters. However, the Bay is saltwater and all its marsh building and tidal effects include salt. If the sand used contained a modicum of salt, which might have been difficult to avoid, there would eventually be a serious problem. Lime mortar mixed with salty sand would act as mortar should, at first, but over the years the salt would weaken the mortar and brick walls would begin to falter, even if the clay was top quality.

It would be difficult to prove what problems caused early brick houses to be prematurely pulled down. The offending brick and lime mortar is, after all, long gone. Alternatively, the reason could have been the desire for a more fashionable frame house. Thanks to Ray Dixon we have some brick that came from the demolition of the Charles Dixon house. It looks just as tough as those from the Chapman house (see the photo below), but it is hard to draw conclusions from three bricks.

Handmade bricks

Sackville is flanked by two brick houses still standing, one in Fort Lawrence and one in upper Dorchester, and they are two of the oldest. The Chapman House was built by Yorkshireman William Chapman. He had already built a house (near the Methodist Cemetery in Pointe de Bute) that was burnt down during the Eddy rebellion. By 1780, William had purchased land from the Smith family between Mt. Whatley and the Fort Lawrence ridge. Note the keystones over door and windows.

Chapman House, Fort Lawrence NB

My photo of the Chapman House taken over 10 years ago.

Soon thereafter he had set up a brick yard about 200 m behind the house (as pointed out to me by the present owner) along a creek that joins the Missaguash River. Being a joiner, Chapman was no doubt able to assemble the wooden frame needed inside the brick facade, much as he did a few years later for his father-in-law, Charles Dixon.

The Keech House is said to have been built in 1796 by the Loyalist Robert Keech. Like the Chapmans, Keech relied upon clay deposits located nearby. Once again, this was about 200 m behind the house where the creek at the boundary of his grant joins the Memramcook River. He had his bricklayer arrange them in a special pattern, so that the darker ends of certain bricks produce what is known as a “Flemish Bond.” These bricks have darker ends because they were fired longer, almost burning their ends, and then laid with the burnt ends out. From this we also learn that the walls were at least two bricks wide so that the bricks with burnt ends could reach across the width of the wall, helping to bind it together. Colin MacKinnon provided this combination of the Keech House and a close-up of the arrangement of bricks with darker ends showing. The mortar has been re-pointed, that is, new mortar has been added.

Keech House bricks

One grand old house we all know well is “Cranewood” constructed around 1836 (records differ), and it was built using two colours of sandstone. That’s quite unusual. The well-known stone houses of Dorchester: Keillor House (1815), Bell Inn (1818), Chandler House (1831), like the buildings at Fort Beausejour/Cumberland and the Keillor, Siddal and Etter Houses on Aulac ridge are all from local quarries that each produced a distinctive colour. Where Sackville’s later stone buildings (MtA, downtown, Train Station) are of two colours, these colours are known to have come from different local quarries. William Crane’s choice of two colours seems also to have been quite intentional, because it is known he had part ownership24 in the one productive site in our area that could produce both of the colours found in his house – almost an advertisement for his quarry at Mary’s Point.

Cranewood, Sackville, NB

Cranewood, showing smaller, lighter coloured stone scattered among the larger, darker sandstone.

Robinson and Rispin, from their tour through Nova Scotia in 1774, report that recent settlers have “a very fine clay, that will make any sort of bricks…When it is ready for making… They have a mould that holds three bricks, which the one carries off whilst the other molds them. They burn their bricks with wood and the bricks have a good appearance.”25 These techniques had been followed for centuries and followed these British settlers to their new land holdings. Having located a suitable source of clay, they would dig out a quantity and leave it over winter to help dry out and make it easier to work. It is said a skilled team of brickmakers could turn out 2,000 a day, let them dry and then fire them a week later. One of the larger houses in our area might require 20,000 to 25,000 bricks. If the walls were two bricks wide, it might take twice that number. The lower brick I received from the current owner of the Chapman House (can you see the two finger marks, lower left?). The other two pieces of brick, and an old piece of lime mortar, are from Charles Dixon’s house. None are crumbling.


There are likely other buildings of brick and/or stone we have not accounted for from these earlier decades. Fleeting comments in Milner’s History of Sackville (1994) reveal that other buildings were erected, especially along the stretch of Bridge Street near where Squire Street joins it, but they no longer stand and we could not trace them. As anyone can see strolling around Sackville, however, this was not the end of construction with brick and stone. In the 1880s, Mount Allison erected its first stone building (Centennial Hall) and has been relying upon stone and brick ever since. The commercial building at the corner of Main and Bridge declares it was 1886 when it was constructed of brick (with stone at corners and reinforcing openings) and so it has continued for decades. When at the turn of the century Hammond built his grand “Queen Anne Revival” house on York Street, and others on Salem and Park Streets, he resurrected the use of stone in residences but he did not spark a trend that has continued.

These are the buildings we live with, daily, and they provide much of the character of our community. Except for Cranewood, all our earlier brick and stone dwellings are now gone. This article is one small attempt to reach into the past and remind us that long before university and local businesses, there were more than a dozen brick dwellings, and they had been impressive enough to have caught people’s attention, adding greatly to the early stature of our young community.


1. I say “we gathered” because this remarkable array of detail only came together with the help of many others: Colin MacKinnon, Gene Goodrich, Al Smith, Genie Coates, Ray Dixon, Bill Snowdon, Donna Sullivan, Phyllis Stopps, David Mawhinney, Carrie Macmillan, Juliette Bulmer, and Jane Tisdale each contributed crucial pieces. There are still a few gaps, and mistakes, and those are all mine.
2. Perhaps that does not strike you as short lived but my own house is now 60 years old and it has only needed a bit of maintenance. Sackville has many frame houses that are 150 to 200 years old.
3. This is the story told to W. C. Milner by Cynthia Atkinson as she remembered it from about 1820, pages 4-45 In: Milner (1994). Milner recounts this narrative twice.
4. W.C. Milner, 1994. History of Sackville, New Brunswick. The Tribune Press Ltd, Sackville,
New Brunswick. (pages 26 and 45).
5. What Milner says is that Charles Richardson lived near the Island Marsh Road and the Walling map locates that family’s house right next to Dixon’s Island (p. 44 In: Milner [1994]).
6. W.C. Milner, 1994. History of Sackville, New Brunswick. The Tribune Press Ltd, Sackville,
New Brunswick. (pages 28 and 44-45).
7. See E. Goodrich’s In Search of John Keillor: A Historian’s Odyssey, Westmorland Historical Society, 2016. (pages 194 and 217).
8. W.C. Milner, 1994. History of Sackville, New Brunswick. The Tribune Press Ltd, Sackville,
New Brunswick. (pages 24 and 45).
9. Ibid. (page 39).
10. The Census of 1851 unfortunately is the only census to do so, but along with Milner’s History of Sackville, New Brunswick (1994) (and the Registry of Deeds where we could find listings) these were the best sources for putting together documented cases of early brick houses.
11. W.C. Milner, 1994. History of Sackville, New Brunswick. The Tribune Press Ltd, Sackville,
New Brunswick. (pages 136-37).
12. Ibid. (page 141)
13. From “‘Bass’ and afterwards Coll’s at Sackville – A Tale of Two Taverns That Were Actually One” by W. Eugene Goodrich, in The White Fence, issue #69, Oct. 2015. All issues of The White Fence can be found on the website of the Tantramar Heritage Trust (
14. W.C. Milner, 1994. History of Sackville, New Brunswick. The Tribune Press Ltd, Sackville,
New Brunswick. (page 101).
15. I realize that looks like a mistake but it is the folks responsible for providing new civic addresses that made the mistake – it was never named “Barren” Ground Road!
16. 1851 Census (page 72).
17. W.C. Milner, 1994. History of Sackville, New Brunswick. The Tribune Press Ltd, Sackville,
New Brunswick. (pages 25 and 44).
18. Ibid. (page 45).
19. James Dunbar Dixon’s 1891 account of this Charles in his History of Charles Dixon, One of the Early English Settlers of Sackville, Sackville, NB. (page 170).
20. As we explain in The Struggle for Sackville: the British Re-settlement of Chignecto, 1755-1770 by Amy Fox and Paul Bogaard (Tantramar Heritage Trust, 2012), the 1½ acre residential lots for downtown Sackville were surveyed in Westcock and 6 to 8 acre lots for farm residents were surveyed in Middle and Upper Sackville. What we consider downtown Sackville today was distributed in large grants, leading to the large purchases of the Dixons, Bowsers and others and only subdivided into downtown parcels in later years.
21. W.C. Milner, 1994. History of Sackville, New Brunswick. The Tribune Press Ltd, Sackville,
New Brunswick. (page 58).
22. The Methodists had cycled through all the choices for building material: a stone chapel in Pointe de Bute and a small log chapel in Middle Sackville, superseded by the brick chapel at Bridge and Main, and finally the wood frame churches across the street on Main. If we count their recent move to the existing building next door, it is brick once again.
23. P. Ennals & D. Holdsworth, “Looking Backward and Moving Forward: Early Building Patterns among the Yorkshire Settlers of Chignecto,” In: Yorkshire Immigrants to Atlantic Canada: Papers from the Yorkshire 2000 Conference, ed. Paul Bogaard (Tantramar Heritage Trust, 2012), page 173, note 16.
24. Thanks to Gwen L. Owen’s remarkable pulling together of details about each of the quarries in New Brunswick, in her For Love of Stone, Volumes I and II produced by the NB Department of Natural Resources and Energy, Mineral Resources Division, Miscellaneous Reports Nos. 8 and 9 (1990).
25. John Robinson & Thomas Rispin, “A Journey through Nova Scotia containing a particular account of the county and its inhabitants…” (York 1774) p. 11.

Paul Surette 1946-2021

Paul Surette

Described as “one of the great Acadian Historians and Writers of our Time,” in his official obituary (see below) Paul researched and published numerous books on Acadian history, primarily in French and had recently informed Paul Bogaard that he had many other books planned and some “in preparation.” Unfortunately, we will never see those. Paul Surette’s research and publications for the Tantramar Heritage Trust involved two atlases and the third one on Beauséjour villages was never completed. The two atlases he researched and published for the Trust are as follows:

Atlas of Acadian Settlement of the Beaubassin 1660 to 1775: Tintamarre and Le Lac (2005).
Atlas of Acadian Settlement of the Beaubassin, 1660 to 1755: Mesagouche and La Butte. (2015)

We are grateful for his connections with, and contributions to, the Tantramar Heritage Trust. He will
be sadly missed.


Dieppe, NB – Paul Henri Surette, 75, passed away peacefully at the Dr. George-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre of Moncton on Thursday, November 4th, 2021.

Born in Dieppe, NB, he was the son of the late Gilbert Surette and the late Émilie Surette, born LeBlanc.

Paul Surette, one of the great Acadian historians and writers of our time, left us. Author of several books, atlases and other publications on Acadian history, Paul was the happiest in front of an audience ready to listen to him!

Paul will be sadly missed by his wife, Hélène Camiré Surette of Dieppe; his son, Joël Surette of Dieppe; one daughter, Marjolaine Surette of Victoriaville, QC; one brother, David Surette (Charline Léger Surette) of Binbrook, ON; as well as several cousins, nieces and nephews.

Porridge Bread (from the Frosty Hollow Inn)

by Marilyn J. Keller

Frosty Hollow Inn

The card reads: “Frosty Hollow Inn, 3 Miles west of Sackville NB Route 2” (year not marked).

In these pandemic times, bread making has become a very popular hobby, so I thought it would be timely to share this recipe for Porridge Bread which came from the Frosty Hollow Tea Rooms, later known as the Frosty Hollow Inn, owned and run by John “Jock” & Lillie (Raymond) Wiggins.

My mother, Helen McKinnon, the daughter of Charlie & Flossie (Reid) McKinnon, was born in Frosty Hollow and grew up there. My grandparents lived across the road and just up the hill from the Frosty Hollow Inn. In 1941, when she was only 13, Mom started working at the Frosty Hollow Inn as a waitress on weekends. It was during World War II and the older women were getting better-paying jobs elsewhere. Two years later she started working there full time. She would start at noon and couldn’t leave until all the dinner dishes were washed at night, so sometimes it was 11:00 p.m. before she could leave. When she wasn’t busy in the restaurant or the kitchen, she was expected to make the beds. She worked 7 days a week and got paid 50¢ an hour. But the tips were good. Most of the customers were wealthy Americans, some of them arriving in a Rolls Royce with a chauffeur. Mom worked at the Frosty Hollow Inn until she got married at the age of 20 to my father, Manning Wheaton, the son of Bliss & Annie (Milton) Wheaton of Middle Sackville.

Jock, the owner of the Inn, gave Mom this recipe. It is moist and delicious, especially with baked beans and ham.

Pour: 3 cups boiling water
over: 2 cups rolled oats, ¼ cup shortening
Stir until shortening melts. Let stand about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, dissolve: 2 tsp sugar in 1 cup lukewarm water
Sprinkle on this: 2 pkg dried yeast
Stir into the oatmeal mixture: 2/3 cups molasses, 4 tsp salt
Add the yeast.
Beat in 2½ cups flour. Then work in 5½ to 6 cups more (8 to 8-1/2 cups total).
Let rise 1½ hours. Punch down, let sit 15 minutes, and shape into loaves or rolls.
Bake in a 375° oven, 30 to 35 minutes for bread or 15 to 18 minutes
for rolls.
Makes 2 loaves or 3 dozen rolls.

Can you contribute to our museum collections?

We’re always looking for items, original documents, and photographs made and/or used in the Tantramar Region that are unique and important to the area’s historical record.

Some of the areas we’re particularly interested in right now are: tanneries; shoe and boot makers; the foundries; local shops, bars, and restaurants; shipbuilding and sea captains; and the Sackville Paper Box Factory.

Our criteria for accepting items are as follows:
• we don’t have another item like it
• it’s in good condition
• it has a provenance (so we know who, when, and where it was used it or made it and any other background information or stories about it)
• we have space to store and/or exhibit it
• we can afford the cost of its storage and care and take care of it properly
• ownership can be transferred to us (the person giving it to us owns it!)
• there’s no possibility of this item causing any damage to the rest of our collection (watch out for bugs and mold!)

If you have something you think we’d be interested in, we’d love to hear from you. Just contact Karen at the office at or (506) 536-2541.

Thank you to CANB!

Many thanks for the extreme generosity and support of the Council of Archives New Brunswick (CANB) for awarding the THT three fully funded grants for a total of $2,438.44.

Demonstrating archival equpment

Annika Williams can be seen in the photo above utilizing our new imaging centre to copy a 1930s drawing of Enamel and Heating Ltd.’s Plant #2. Annika arranged and described archival fonds and learned archival principles and best practices under Kathy Bouska (our Collections Chair) as part of the Mount Allison Experiential Learning Program.

With this funding we purchased: a high-resolution digital camera; a tripod with a 90 degree column mechanism for taking directly overhead photographs; a remote for camera shutter release; a computer capable of processing images from a high-resolution digital camera; and a few archival supplies for document storage.

The first four items have allowed us to take in-house digital images for preservation of oversized or fragile (or both) photographs, documents minimizing their handling and increasing their accessibility to researchers, not only on-site but also for those who need a copy (especially when they can’t visit our archives in person). This set up will make it easier to include images from our archives in our exhibits. We also really needed the computer for the archives to do processing, archives administration, and to upload our RAD compliant finding aids to Archives CANB.