One common (and often difficult) aspect of reporting on history is to inform the readership of things and places that were once important but which are no longer with us, some having disappeared more recently than others. This is the focus of the present newsletter.
When I was a student at Mount Allison (1969-1973), Henderson’s was a regular stop. I got to know the employees over that time and was quite at home getting my medications, prescriptions, cigarettes (yes, I smoked at that time) and treats (chocolate bars, chewing gum etc.). But I cannot dismiss the Corner Drug Store that often provided other brands of the same products. We were very well provided for by two drug stores in those days. But Henderson’s was my regular stop. Al Smith took me back to that time, a time that will certainly mean much to many of you as well.
Then there are the many small hay barns on the High Marsh that dotted the landscape when I first drove into Sackville in September 1969. I remember being so impressed and enchanted by all the little “Marsh Barns” spread out over the full visible scope of the so-called “High Marsh.” This marsh complex was reclaimed from the sea many generations ago to create expansive, productive hayfields when horses reigned for work and travel (hence the need for hay barns). The High Marsh, with its many small hay barns, provided a unique landscape that, to me, made this area so very special. Read Al Smith’s informative update on one of the last of the remaining hay barns which now belongs to us all!
And then there are those rare properties of which many of us have heard but that remain in the distance of history, places that are no longer a part of our social fabric. Shipbuilding was a major industry in the Tantramar region in the 19th century. Christopher Boultenhouse was at the center of it. But that time of wooden sailing ships and the associated shipbuilding industry is no longer with us. Read about the Heritage Trust’s efforts to protect the site of Christopher Boutenhouse’s old shipyard.
You will note in this newsletter that all three articles were researched and written by our good friend and colleague, Al Smith. The Tantramar area and its history are very important to Al and no better local historian could comment on each of the three topics explored in this issue. Like me, get a cup of your favourite hot drink, sit in your most comfortable chair, read on and enjoy!
Sackville’s Historic Henderson Block
by Al Smith
Local historian and researcher Phyllis Stopps was contracted by the Town of Sackville in 2002-03 to prepare Inventory Datasheets on each heritage building in the Town’s central core. Information for this article draws heavily from Phyllis’ datasheet for the Copp-Fawcett Block.1
Built in 1900, the original owners were Arthur B. Copp and Henry R. Fawcett and the building was initially known as the Copp-Fawcett Block. The building was purchased in March, 1913, by R.G. Henderson, a druggist who founded Henderson’s Drug Store, a business that operated in that building for 80 years. Thus it became known as the Henderson Block.
Land for the building was acquired from the estate of Henry B. Allison in 1893 who, at one time, owned the entire block of land between Main and Lorne Streets stretching from Allison Avenue to Bridge Street. The building style, brick trimmed with local stone, was fairly typical of the times and was undoubtedly styled to match the adjoining Copp Block that had been built three years earlier (1897). Those two blocks anchored the west corner of Bridge and Main Streets until the construction of the stone Royal Bank Building in 1909 (see photo above with the Royal Bank to the right of Henderson’s with the Rexall sign).
Arthur Bliss Copp (1870-1949) was a descendant of a Planter family from Stonington, Connecticut, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1759.2 He was a local lawyer who had studied law under W.B. Chandler of Dorchester, attended law school at Harvard in 1892 and graduated from Dalhousie Law School in 1895. He practiced law his entire life but was also active in public life: M.L.A. (1901 to 1912); M.P. (1915 to 1925) for Westmorland, and served as Secretary of State of Canada (1921-1925) in the Mackenzie King government; he became a Senator in 1925, was Mayor of Sackville in 1931, and a founding member of the Sackville Curling Club.
Henry Ripley Fawcett (1846-1935) was a descendant of the Yorkshire family of John Fawcett and Jane Daniels who arrived in 1774 and settled on lands they purchased in Lower Sackville (current site of the Drew Nursing Home). At the age of 14, Henry went to sea for nine years as crew on vessels sailing the Atlantic Ocean and served in the American Civil War as a sailor in the Northern Navy. Eventually returning to Sackville, he went into business partnership with Capt. R.M. Dixon and was a promoter of The Old Colonial Foundry (Dominion, later Enterprise Foundry). He also served several roles in public life: appointed Magistrate for Westmorland County in 1884, was on the Board of Health, served as Clerk to the Commissioners of Marshes, Secretary-Treasurer of Public Schools, and Chairman of the Parish’s Assessors.3 Both Copp and Fawcett were lifelong Liberals so obviously had much in common. Interesting chaps these two gentlemen who established the Copp-Fawcett Block in 1900.
Initially, the Copp-Fawcett Block housed jeweler and optician C.G. Steadman and Co. on the first floor along with a drug store operated by Wallace R. Rodd. The second level was occupied by The Sackville Club and the third floor housed the Myrtle Lodge (Masonic Hall). R.G. Henderson took over ownership of the building in 1913 and the space formerly occupied by C.G. Steadman as a separate storefront was combined with the drug store space to create a combined Drug Store and Book Store. Henderson’s sister Mary Jane ran the Sackville Book Store.
R.G. (Raphael Galbraith) Henderson (1888-1942) was the son of John Henderson (1836-1921), a Campbellton merchant whose family emigrated to northern NB from Scotland in 1842.5 R.G. Henderson came to Sackville in 1912 to take over the drug store business of W.R. Rodd. Unfortunately there was a fire in the building in October 1912 resulting in much water damage. Undeterred, he continued on and the following spring purchased the Block. The young druggist was just 24 when he settled in Sackville where he met Helen G. Ford (1895-1970) whom he married on January 21, 1920.
R.G. Henderson ran the drug store business until his death in 1942. During the remaining war years his wife Helen carried on the store operations with the help of pharmacist Everett Cooke. After the war, their sons James and John Henderson took over. Both sons had served overseas: James (1922-2003) with the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy and John (1921-1970) with the R.C.A.F.6
The building housed the drug store until 1992 but closed when the new Jean Coutu pharmacy opened on Main Street. The Block was purchased by Duane and Susan Pauley (D&S Realty) and once again the storefront was divided into two businesses with the upper two stories accommodating apartments. The commercial storefronts have housed a number of businesses in the past 30 years including: A Touch of Class – Hair and Tanning Salon, Joey’s Pizza, Hometown Jewelry & Gifts, Downtown Diner and most recently Nabi Sushi restaurant.
Unfortunately once again fire struck on the evening of September 8, 2020, displacing nine people living in the apartments and forcing the closure of both businesses at the street level. The fire apparently originated in one of the apartments on the top floor causing extensive structural damage to the top two floors and back of the building with water damage throughout.7 While the historic street façade was still intact, the remainder of the building was apparently beyond repair and the owners had the building demolished on December 4, 2021.
It is indeed sad to see the loss of an historic building that has graced our downtown core for 121 years. At the time of writing it is not known what, if anything, will be built to replace Henderson Block. Hopefully whatever is being planned to fill the void left by the demolition will respect and enhance the historic appearance of the Town’s main business district.
1 Phyllis Stopps, Sackville Heritage Buildings – Inventory Datasheet. 2003. On file at the Alec R. Purdy Research Centre located in the Anderson House at the Boultenhouse Heritage Centre, Sackville, NB.
2 Ester Clark Wright, Planters and Pioneers to Nova Scotia 1749-1775. Lancelot Press (1978), page 81.
3 Kathryn Fawcett Lewis, The Fawcetts of Sackville – Volume III, 2000.
4 Photo from the booklet Sackville New Brunswick, Canada by Charles W. Moffatt (page 64) which shows the drugstore entrance to the left of centre and the bookstore/stationery shop to the right.
5 R.G. Henderson genealogy. Ancestry.ca files of Al Smith.
6 Charles W. Moffatt. Sackville New Brunswick, Canada (1946), page 65.
7 Gail Harding, CBC News web writer, posted September 9, 2020.
The Trust’s Tantramar Marsh Barn
by Al Smith
Just a few decades ago, hundreds of grey, weathered hay barns dotted the Tantramar Marsh, iconic monuments of a bygone era. At one time, 21 Marsh Barns1 were located immediately along the High Marsh Road between Upper Sackville and the Carter Cross Road to Point de Bute. Only a single Marsh Barn occurs along that road today, a building that is owned, restored and maintained by the Tantramar Heritage Trust (THT). That barn, located on the north side of the High Marsh Road, is 3 km east of the Wheaton Covered Bridge.
From scanning 1950 era maps, there were 362 barns on the marshes between Sackville and Aulac2 but by 2010 only 12 remained. In the mid-1990s the Tantramar Tourism Association (TTA) became concerned over the rapid loss of those iconic Marsh Barns as they were considered to be a major tourism draw to the region. Consequently, in 1996, the TTA acquired a six-acre parcel of marshland and a barn on the High Marsh Road. The barn was repaired and rotated 90 degrees to face the road but, unfortunately, a few years later that barn was destroyed by a strong southwest gale.
With the demise of the TTA’s barn, the Trust’s Board discussed the feasibility of acquiring, repairing, and maintaining a marsh barn. In 2009, the Tantramar Tourism Association offered to donate their land parcel on the High Marsh Road to the Tantramar Heritage Trust3 which was coincident with the Scoggins family offering the Trust a marsh barn. The Scoggins barn was about a kilometer east of the TTA parcel and the family wanted it removed from their property located near the Sunken Island Bog. The Trust’s Board approved the acceptance of the offer of land transfer from the Tourism Association and began making arrangements to accept the donation of the barn along with determining the repair and relocation costs. The Trust’s Treasurer Paul Bogaard coordinated the project with assistance from retired engineer Daniel Lund, a long-time member of the Trust. The deed transferring the marshland parcel from TTA to THT was signed on January 25, 2012.
With land secured to accommodate the barn, the Trust contracted Roy Dixon of Point de Bute to repair and relocate the barn. Work got underway in May 2012 replacing the sills and some structural elements. Large skids were placed under the barn and it was moved to the Trust’s property in the summer of 2012 and set upon a firm shale rock base. Final repairs to the roof, doors and barn floor were made by the contractor.
Since that time, the barn has been checked periodically by Trust volunteers and repairs have been made on three occasions: to the doors, boards on the west end, and the eave fascia boards replaced on both ends. For the past two years the tall weeds and shrubs immediately around the barn have been mowed in late summer to improve the appearance of the property and to reduce the fire hazard. The remainder of the six-acre parcel continues to be cropped annually by a farm family in Jolicure.
The Trust has no plans to do anything further with the building with the possible exception of some day placing a small interpretative panel on it. So why is it important to preserve at least one of these rapidly disappearing farm structures? They are as much a part of the history of Tantramar as are the dykes that reclaimed the salt marshes for agriculture generations ago. Up to the latter half of the 20th century the barns served a pivotal role in the annual cycle of hay harvesting from the fertile dykelands. Back then most farmers would have had several marsh barns, designed and built specifically for bulk hay storage. For that purpose they are no longer required as modern agricultural practices have made them redundant. Left abandoned and not repaired, the unrelenting winds that sweep across the Tantramar quickly destroyed them, blowing down dozens each year.
Now mostly gone are the weathered grey structures that were more than just hay storage facilities. They were an integral part of the wide Tantramar Marsh landscape, a landscape that for centuries has inspired poets, artists, and photographers. Gone also are places of refuge for Red Foxes and high perching points for winter visitors such as Rough-legged Hawks and Snowy Owls. The drive across
the High Marsh Road today is very different than it was in the 1950s, but at least there is one of those iconic barns left to appreciate. May it help preserve memories of a bygone era when the Tantramar Marsh was widely known as “the world’s largest hayfield”.
By Peter. E. Gunther4
A worshipping brown cow,
bends to her right fore knee
before a settling roll
onto the frozen ground.
She gives thanks for the small
from the howling
blizzard of Tantramar.
Wet clad tempests
rant against gone
grey boards pounded
to ageing beams
by young Yorkshire settlers
or [possibly] even Gabriel
Now the old barn
has one knee bent.
Its weather cock
plumage long since
stolen by some
Its flesh ripped off
by other foreigners.
Only the skeleton remains
To sink into the mud
1 Calculated from a circa 1950 topographic map of the Tantramar Marsh.
2 Colin MacKinnon, “End of an Era, The Marsh Barns of the Tantramar,” The White Fence, newsletter of the Tantramar Heritage Trust, Issue # 11, Spring 2000.
3 Letter of March 31st, 2009, from Barry Dane, Chair of the Southeast Tourism Association (formerly Tantramar Tourisn Association) to THT President Paul Bogaard.
4 Poem by Peter E. Gunthner published in A Profile Of The Tantramar Marshes, Young Canada Works project, Summer 1978 (page 84).
The Christopher Boultenhouse Shipyard Property
by Al Smith
At the end of Sackville’s Landing Road, an access roadway leads off to the right and connects with the end of a dyke where, in 1856, Charles Dixon built and launched the ship Sarah Dixon. It was the largest vessel (1465 tons) ever built in Sackville. If one walks an additional 1600 feet westward along that dyke you reach the site of the old Christopher Boultenhouse Shipyard. Established in 1840, that shipyard was the largest of the three Sackville shipyards (Boultenhouse, Dixon and Purdy shipyards) and was the site where 45 vessels were constructed and launched over the period 1840-1875.1 Thankfully, a circa 1865 Intercolonial Railway survey (see image below) illustrated the configuration of the shipyard which was used as a basis for the shipyard model presently in the Marine Room at the Boultenhouse Heritage Centre in Sackville, NB.
Christopher Boultenhouse died in early December 1876 and the shipyard property was “sold under mortgage by the Provincial Building Society, Saint John on June 4, 1877”.2 The seafaring Anderson family likely acquired the property at that time; however, it is thought that no further vessels were ever built there.
The Boultenhouse shipyard property lay abandoned until March, 1909, when the Federal Government (Public Works) purchased a 5.8-acre portion of the property from Captain Thomas Reese Anderson for $800.00. The Federal Government purchased the site in order to construct the New Town Wharf completed in 1911.
However, the new wharf did not have rail access and was only used sparingly until about 1920 when the river channel silted in and consequently ended access to the former Port of Sackville. The site was declared unusable in 1923 and officially abandoned on May 20, 1938.
The property remained on the inventory of the Federal Government until July 5, 2004, when it was transferred over to the Town of Sackville. Shortly after the Trust purchased the Christopher Boultenhouse house in July, 2001, we discovered that the site of the old Boultenhouse shipyard, or a portion thereof, was still owned by the Federal Government and had been declared surplus. When we enquired about the property in January 2004 and expressed an interest in acquiring it, we were told that it would have to be transferred to the Town of Sackville first and then it was up to them how they wished to dispose of it. The Trust arranged for the Town to accept the transfer which was then deeded over to the Tantramar Heritage Trust on February 10, 2006, and registered (PID # 70237409) under the NB Land Titles Act on May 15, 2006.
At the time of the title transfer the Trust really had no immediate plans for any development on the site. However, it was anticipated that eventually a walking trail from the end of Landing Road might be developed along with some interpretative signage at the actual shipyard site. Remains of the 1911 New Town Wharf are still visible and the site is historically significant. Some future archeological investigation of the property may prove informative.
1 Shipbuilding in Westmorland County, NB, THT Publication (2008).
2 Plan of the Estate of the late Christopher Boultenhouse, Registry Office, Moncton, NB
Once we completed The White Fence #98 and were preparing the completion of #99, I, as editor, received the following letter from Mr. Kenneth Lund who noted an “omission” in Colin MacKinnon’s article about the Sackville Rifle Range in issue #98. I am sure that all members of the former Cadet Corp who may read this will appreciate the correction. I thanked Mr. Lund for this new addition to our knowledge of the Rifle Range and asked for his permission to add his letter to the present newsletter. He graciously consented and his letter is presented in full below:
The White Fence
Tantramar Heritage Trust
I have read “History and Archeological Reconnaissance of the Sackville Rifle Range in Sackville, New Brunswick” in your latest edition and write to add a tiny footnote. Both the body of the article and Appendix 1 refer to users of the rifle range during the period 1939-1945. There is a minor omission.
During that period a Cadet Corp was established at the Central School on Allison Avenue. Those of us who joined had the luxury of being excused from our classes early in order to attend. We learned how to stand to attention, stand easy, dress to the right, and march as a unit across the school yard and through the town playground. As the weather got cold, we trained in the armouries and developed a game: blowing on the neck of the person in front of you until his neck grew so cold he broke rank and earned a stern reprimand from our training officer.
We also had target practice at the Sackville Rifle Range in the years 1943-5. I particularly remember the first time. We were given firm safety instructions about where we must stand and then lie down to fire and what line we must not under any circumstances pass. The air was full of excitement and tension as we adjusted the rifle to shoulder took aim and fired. We each fired five shots, pardon me, five rounds as the official language goes. We were all deeply disappointed. No-one hit the bull’s eye. In fact many of us didn’t even hit the target and certainly not consistently.
I looked at my target with disgust: nothing anywhere near the centre. However, two of us got commendations for grouping since all five of our shots had hit the target. Grouping indeed! We thought emphasis should be put on hitting the bull’s eye, not on consistency. None of us would-be sharp shooters was at all impressed.
— Kenneth Lund
Tantramar Heritage Trust
Annual General Meeting
Saturday, May 28, 4 pm
Campbell Carriage Factory Museum
19 Church St., Sackville, NB
Rhianna Edwards, “What Arithmetic Copybooks Teach Us About Education in the Early to Mid 1800s.”
For further information, please contact Karen at the office at (506) 536-2541 or firstname.lastname@example.org