A series of 250th Anniversary articles for the Tantramar Heritage Trust by Paul Bogaard
It might be the very first petition ever presented to the Town of Sackville, since it was just mid-August of 1762. Ichabod Comstock, Daniel Hawkins and five other of the Township’s earliest settlers asked if they could do an exchange. Under the watchful eyes of the Township’s first Committee, they had each drawn for lots in Westcock overlooking the town wharf, but at the Committee’s second official meeting, they requested these be swapped for lots in “the Middle Village.” The minutes record they preferred lots at the south end of Spectacle Island, “Lying by the Orchard.” This would have been somewhere along Lorne Street, perhaps near where it meets Dufferin, not far from the train station.
In their efforts to re-settle the Tantramar area, British authorities had reserved the Township of Sackville for a select list of subscribers, and a Committee was authorized to distribute their shares. One of the very first decisions – preserved in the minutes of these early meetings – was to divide the township into three villages. So it was 250 years ago this summer, on July 20th 1762, that “upper village” was laid out above the millstream flowing from the millpond we now call Silver Lake, “middle village” would extend from this upper millstream to the lower millstream we know as Frosty Hollow. “Westcock” was to be just where it is today, except that the central “town platt” was to be located there, reaching down to the town wharf just below the home of the late Jake Fisher (a feature of his land Jake loved to point out to all visitors).
The Committee charged with the task of dividing the new township and overseeing the drawing for specific lots, assumed these gentlemen would want their land within division “A,” Westcock. But almost immediately it seemed there would not be enough shares in this division to go round, when unexpectedly this group of seven offered to give back their rights, and let their reserved allotments go to others who had arrived more recently. In return, they ask for shares in the Middle village, “a Proportionable PartÖbeginning at the Lower End, with our Proportion of Marsh as Contiguous as may be.” The usual procedure was for each subscriber to “draw” for a share of lots associated with one of the villages. But these fellows are asking for a favour. In return for their helping to relieve pressure in Westcock, they want to be assured their lots would be located in the “lower end” of Middle village, and that their marsh lots be close by (instead of scattered out beyond the Tantramar).
It seems like they knew the lay of the land. They had, after all, been here longer. It may even be they had set up shelter for themselves, and had begun farming. So, they may simply have been asking to stay, where they had already begun to settle in, perhaps two years earlier. Without further comment, the Committee granted their petition. There is not another case quite like this anywhere in the records that have survived.
From the minutes of later meetings we learn even more about this preferred location. It is to be “at the South End of the Island as far up as the place called the spectacleÖand their proportion of indiked MarshÖcalled the Island Marsh, Lying by the Orchard, and by the Rights granted to [the Cooks and the Bennets].” This marshland is described as “Lying [on either side] of the Rode that leads from the Boyto through the Island. Plus they asked for the “Northwardly End of the Island to make up their Rights of the Upland in the Middle Villiage.”
Now we are not sure what the ìplace called the spectacleî refers to but a good guess might be the highpoint of ground where Crescent Street meets Bridge Street, where 80 years later the bridge spanned the Tantramar. The Acadians living in this area may have appreciated that from this vantage point one could get a grand view of river and the great marsh. For decades thereafter the island was called “Spectacle Island.”
The Acadians are best known for having begun the dyking the Tantramar marshlands over 300 years ago, and elsewhere they’ve been credited with developing orchards, but this may be the only official record of where an Acadian orchard was actually located in Sackville. Though it doesn”t tell us exactly where, next time you are driving down Lorne Street, past the ball fields toward the train stationÖimagine for yourself which sunny slope you would have chosen to raise your orchard. ”
This one petition, imbedded in the Town’s earliest minutes, tells us who the very earliest settlers were, when they arrived, where they wanted to settle, and describes the area in terms of a road over an aboideau, the “spectacleî on the island and an established orchard, all of which must have survived from the earlier settlement of Acadians. Quite by chance, it captures this moment of transition from Acadians to New England Planters.