Issue # 16, October 2001
Another year of mining the great riches of Tantramar's history is before us and I can't wait to see what gems my fellow miners will bring up from the depths this year! A few weeks ago, senior miner Al Smith surfaced long enough for air and passed on a special treasure which I am happy to share with you here.
In his hands, Al held a copy of a letter written by Mr. Gerome Noble at Fort Cumberland on October 29, 1757, to his brother James in Ireland around the time of the Eddy Rebellion. This precious document (in beautiful hand- writing!) is owned by Mr. Patrick J. Burns in Vancouver, B.C., a collector of historical documents, who purchased the letter at auction (in St. Louis?). The transcription was done by Mr. and Mrs. Ben Griffin of the Fort Lawrence Heritage Association and we sincerely thank Mr. Frank Trenholm for allowing us to reprint the letter here. Please note that I have left all the spelling errors and the formatting (i.e. no paragraphs) unchanged from the original (in other words, none of these errors are due to Mr. and Mrs. Griffin but are the responsibility of Mr. Noble himself!).
Furthermore, Al's bag of gems also contained a copy of an article from The Springhill Record dated July 28, 1938. It's an article which describes when the ashes of Major Thomas Dixson, an important player player at Fort Cumberland during the Eddy rebellion, were brought from an unmarked grave and re-interred on the grounds of Fort Beauséjour; the gravestone now holds a prominent position at the site of Fort Beauséjour in Aulac.
The Eddy Rebellion has played an important role in the history of the Tantramar region and included in the pages of this newsletter is a "calendar of events" for the month of November, 1776, what was a busy month for Jonathan Eddy and Thomas Dixson in that special year!
And along with this special collection, Al also had a copy of the history of Sackville which he had written for the Amherst paper last summer. I'm sure I'm not the only one who hadn't seen it so I pass on a copy of it here.
The day after I spoke with Al and I sat polishing the precious package in my hands, Colin MacKinnon stopped by and an interesting discussion about the Eddy Rebellion; I soon found myself grasping for paper to write a few notes and within minutes there just wasn't enough paper in the room for me to keep up with him!! Much of those exchanges appear below.
So, as we begin another year of mining the rich ore deposits of Tantramar history, open up your memory banks and spill them in my direction over the next few months; but in the meantime, pay attention to the treasures which follow and, like fellow miners Helen Walton, Sylvia Yeoman and Bob Estabrooks in our last issue, pass on your precious gems to your grateful banker (me!) and I'll cash them in for you at The White Fence (at no charge!).
A Brief History of Sackville, N.B.
by Al Smith
The picturesque Town of Sackville, nestled on the edge of the expansive and fertile Tantramar marshes, is one of New Brunswick's oldest communities. The town has a European settlement history dating back nearly 300 years and aboriginal peoples have used the area for more than 3000 years.
The first permanent settlers were Acadians. In 1708, the eldest sons of five families (Hache, Bourque, Bernard, Richard and Gaudet) from Acadian settlements near Nappan/Maccan (just south of present Amherst, N.S.), pioneered the Sackville area by establishing homesteads from Westcock to Middle Sackville. The settlement prospered and by 1752, a few hundred people occupied the sinuous marsh edge bordering on the Tantramar River. The largest village was "Tintamarre" in present-day Middle and Upper Sackville.
British forces captured Fort Beauséjour in June, 1755, and shortly thereafter, most Acadian residents were expelled from the area. Harassment of British military installations by French "guerillas" and their Micmac allies continued until the fall of Quebec in 1759 which ended all hopes that Acadians may have been able to repossess their lands. The end of guerilla warfare thus led to a greater sense of security for potential settlers.
Nova Scotia's governor Lawrence issued a proclamation in 1758 inviting New Englanders to come to Nova Scotia (which at that time included all of present-day New Brunswick) and take up free land grants. Military personnel completing their enlistments at Fort Cumberland (formerly Beauséjour) were offered land grants in 1760 and some stayed to establish homesteads in the area that was later to become Sackville. Governor Lawrence's proclamation led to the arrival of the New England Planters, colonists to Nova Scotia. The first major "wave" of "Planters" to the Sackville area occurred in 1760-61 when 25 families arrived. Family names such as Tower, Estabrooks, Cole, Finney, Seaman, Robinson, Brownell, Ward and others came to the area largely from Rhode Island. Additional waves of immigrants from New England arrived in 1762-63 (Oulton, Tingley, Ayer, Richardson and others) as well as a group of 13 Baptists from Swansea, Massachusetts, who established the first Baptist Church in Canada.
The Township of Sackville, along with the neighbouring townships of Cumberland and Amherst were laid out in 1762-63, each containing 100,000 acres and the first formal grants were issued in 1765. The Sackville Township held its first meeting on 29 July 1762 when first steps were taken towards establishing a municipal government. The name Sackville was chosen to honor Lord George Sackville (1716-1785), commander of the British Forces. In 1763, the Township of Sackville consisted of 20 families and modestly expanded to 349 persons by 1767. Nearly all were from New England.
Settlement of the granted lands did not proceed as quickly as was hoped for by the British authorities and some New Englanders were wanting to sell their properties and return home. Thus in 1769-70, Lieutenant Governor Michael Franklin went to north Yorkshire, England, to seek immigrants for Nova Scotia. His efforts prompted the "Yorkshire Immigration" of 1772-75 when over 1000 settlers left Yorkshire bound for Nova Scotia. In contrast to the New Englanders, the folks from Yorkshire were mostly tenant farmers in old England and they left for Nova Scotia "in order to seek a better livelihood". For the most part, Yorkshire settlers did not receive grants from the government but they arrived with money and purchased their lands from the New England settlers who were preparing to leave.
The Chignecto region, including the Township of Sackville, felt the greatest impact of the Yorkshire immigration. Families settling in Sackville were: Dixon, Bowser, Atkinson, Anderson, Bulmer, Harper, Patterson, Fawcett, Richardson, Humphrey, Wry, and others. The Yorkshire folk established prospe- rous farms and erected the first Methodist chapels in Canada, including one in Sackville in 1790.
Many of the Yorkshire families found themselves caught up in the Eddy Rebellion of 1776 when a group of new Englanders and sympathizers laid siege on Fort Cumberland. Yorkshire loyalty and assistance to the British forces helped quell the rebellion and prevented the Province from becoming the 14th State in the Union. Following the American wars of independence, United Empire Loyalists came to the Province in 1784 with a few families settling in Sackville; these included Knapp, Palmer, Purdy and others.
The centre of the Town of Sackville, as we know it today, began to emerge around 1840 following the opening of the new bridge across the Tantramar River and the new "post" road across the marsh. Prior to that, the centre of the community was in Middle Sackville clustered around the Mills (sawmill, grist and carding mills) and Millpond which we know as Silver Lake. The Mills were established as early as 1764 and may already have been a millsite used by Acadians prior to 1755. The Morice family operated the Mills and a large woodworking shop at that site from 1821 to 1939. While agriculture was the mainstay of the community, associated businesses included tanneries, leathergoods factories, carriage factories and blacksmith shops. Samuel Black built a large store in Middle Sackville in 1839 which developed into Joseph L. Black and Sons - a large lumber, mercantile and eventually a food wholesaling business.
Middle Sackville was a thriving community in the 1830s while Lower Sackville (the town centre today) consisted mainly of scattered large farms. The man largely responsible for changing that was William Crane, a son of a Planter family from Grand Pré, N.S. He moved to Sackville in 1804 and established a successful store and trading business on the Lower Fairfield Road (near the present Estabrooks Service Centre). When fire destroyed that business he re-established to what is now the centre of the Town and is still known locally as Cranes Corner. His new store was built on the site of the present Sackville Town Hall and in 1836 he constructed his magnificent stone mansion across the street. The mansion is now the home of the president of Mount Allison University.
William Crane had been a member of the NB House of Assembly since 1824 and in the mid 1830s he began to lobby for a new more-direct road to Nova Scotia, rather than the old High Marsh Road into Middle Sackville. When the new bridge and road were opened in 1840, he also secured a postal contract for mail distribution to New Brunswick. Thus stage coaches no longer rumbled through Middle Sackville and a significant shifting of the communities' economic base was initiated.
Coincident with Crane's 1840 endeavours was the establishment of the Port of Sackville and the emergence of a significant shipbuilding industry along with the establishment of Mount Allison University. The first public wharf was constructed in 1841 on the edge of the Tantramar River at the end of Landing Road and was an active trading and business centre until the early 1920s when the Port became unusable due to a change in the course of the River. Shipbuilding had begun in 1824 when William Crane had the 129t Brig "Charlotte" built by the Boultenhouse family. The last vessel built was the 32t Schooner "Three Links" in 1898 and during the intervening years a total of 165 ships were launched from local yards. The three largest yards: Boultenhouse, Dixon-Wood and Purdy were established on the Tantramar River in Sackville beginning in the early 1840s. The largest vessel was the Sarah Dixon (1468 tons) , built by Charles Dixon in 1856 and named after his wife Sarah (Boultenhouse) Dixon.
Sackville as a community began to mature in the 1840s with a shift from an agricultural orientation to a commercial one. The first of two foundries, Enamel and Heating Products Limited opened in 1852 followed by the Enterprise Foundry in 1872. Both foundries produced a full line of cooking and heating appliances that were shipped all over the world. In 1984 the two foundries were merged and the company Enterprise Fawcett Inc. still produces heating and cooking appliances.
The beautiful campus of Mount Allison University, that today contributes so much to the unique character of the Town of Sackville dates back to 1839. That year Charles F. Allison, a business associate of William Crane, proposed the establishment of a Mount Allison Wesleyan Academy for boys in Sackville. The institution opened in 1843 followed eleven years later by the Mount Allison Ladies Academy. In 1862 Mount Allison Wesleyan College was established and was a full degree-granting institution. One of its first two graduates was Josiah Wood, who later became a lawyer, prominent business- man, politician, developer of the NB-PEI Railway, Lt. Gov. of the Province, and possibly Sackville's most prominent native son. In 1886, the name Mount Allison Wesleyan College was shortened to Mount Allison College and in 1913 to Mount Allison University. One of the oldest Art Galleries in Canada, the Owen's Art Gallery, was moved to the Mount Allison campus in 1893.
The downtown business core blocks were mostly constructed at the turn of the century and one of them, the Wood Block, has a Provincial Heritage site designation. Sackville was booming at the turn of the century and, with a population approaching 2000, a move was afoot that it be incorporated as a Town. That incorporation occurred in January 1903. Today with a population of over 5500 occupying a large rural land base, Sackville is geographically the largest Town in the Province.
The twentieth century saw the rise and fall of a number of businesses including boot and shoe manufacturing, stone quarrying, food wholesaling (Atlantic Wholesalers originated in Sackville), several government services and a general erosion of the downtown business core. Nonetheless, Sackville has recently been able to attract a number of new businesses and services to sustain its employment base, and an infrastructure to capture the growing interest in nature and heritage tourism .
In 2003, the Town will celebrate 100 years since incorporation. We will focus on celebrating our colourful past and look forward to the challenges of pioneering the future.
A Hero Takes His Place
from The Springhill Record, Thursday, July 28, 1938
A soldier who saved the Maritimes for the Empire was honored on Sunday, 129 years after his death, when the ashes of major Thomas Dixson, brought from a bramble-covered and neglected grave, were reverently re-interred on the site of the old parade ground of historic Fort Beauséjour with an impressive military service in the presence of thousands of people who witnessed the ceremony in silence. The only cannon left by the French when they were driven out from the fort was heard in a salute which reverberated over the Tantramar marshes. A bell tolled - the bell used to summon the parishoners of the Abbe La Loutre, bitter enemy of the English, in the old Acadian days. Speakers eulogized the bravery of this soldier of other days and recalled how he had braved the Bay of Fundy in an open boat to bring reinforcements when the fort was besieged by American rebels. Participating in the ceremony were more than 500 uniformed troops "paying tribute to the indomitable spirit of old major Dixson. Once more he rests beneath his original tombstone, for it was carefully restored and placed upon a stone base. This was unveiled by Lieutenant-Governor Murray McLaren. A bronze tablet placed on the outer wall of Beauséjour Museum in honor of Major Dixson, by the Historic sites and Monuments Board was unveiled by Mrs. Wycoff Rogers (Grace McLeod Rogers) of Amherst and mother of Hon. Norman McLeod Rogers, Federal Minister of Labor. She was escorted by J. Bacon Dickson, a direct descendent of Major Dixson.
The funeral service was read by R.T. Flemington padre of the New Brunswick Rangers as troops stood with arms reversed. As the service ended, a firing party fired three volleys and a trumpeter sounded the Last Post. Flowers were placed on the grave by Hon. Norman Rogers, and others, including descendents of Major Dixson. The pallbearers who carried the ashes to the new grave were prominent members of the Canadian Legion: A. G. Gunn, president of the Moncton Branch of the Canadian Legion; C.B. Burden, Frede-ricton, president of the New Brunswick Command of the Legion; G.C. Burden, secretary of the Springhill, N.S. branch of the Legion; Robert Algie, past president of the Moncton branch; H.B.C Dixon of Aulac, legionaire and descendent of Major Dixon.
Lieutenant-Governor McLaren in unveiling the monument said: "This memorial is placed here in its appropriate setting and amid surroundings of incomparable beauty, to the memory of Major Thomas Dixson. It includes the original headstone of his grave whereon is inscribed:
"This memorial is to do honor to a distinguished soldier who served his country so faithfully and so well, I am honored in being privileged to unveil this public recognition of one who rendered important and valued service to the state".
Other speakers included the Premier of New Brunswick, A.A. Dysart; K.J. Cochrane, M.P. for Cumberland; Brigadier L.F. Page, D.S.O., officer commanding District No. 7, Saint John; who represented Hon. Ian Mackenzie, Minister of National Defence and Dr. J. Clarence Webster, C.M.B. the Chairman who reviewed the career of the heroic soldier who lived in this part of the Maritimes so long ago. A very large group of distinguished persons were present..
Hon. Mr. Rogers, the principal speaker said in part: "By his life and action, Major Thomas Dixson speaks to us of duty, valour and self-sacrifice. These are the qualities out of which national character is shaped to fine ends. It is for us to see to it that these qualities are wrought firmly into the character of this young Canadian Nation."
Mr. Rogers cited the inscription on the memorial tablet, which reads:
"In honor of Major Thomas Dixson, who, during the siege of Fort Cumber- land by rebels under Jonathan Eddy, in 1776 made a perilous journey to Halifax to save Nova Scotia for the Empire".
Formed in a square in front of the Museum, the Military units were inspec- ted by Lieut-Governor McLaren, who at the conclusion of the ceremonies also took the salute as the troops marched past the saluting point.
Also marching were members of the Canadian B.E.S.L. The Sackville Band of the New Brunswick Rangers played martial and religious music while a touch of color was added by a party of 14 members of the R.C.M.P. in charge of John Bird of Moncton. These officers looked after the vast crowd and directed traffic. In their splendidly capable manner they ensured both order and safety for what will long be remembered as a memorable day.
A Canadian Broadcasting network transmitted the proceeding to all parts of the Dominion. It was announced on Sunday by Dr. J.C. Webster, C.M.G., that construction of a new wing for the Fort Beauséjour Museum will be connected immediately, having been given this assurance two weeks ago by Hon. T.A. Crearer, Minister of Mines and Resources. He paid tribute to H.R. Emerson, M.P., K.J. Cochrane, M.P., and Hon. Norman McLeod Rogers for therir interest and influence in persuading the federal government to vote monies for this purpose. The museum, built two years ago, is already overcrowded.
Tantramar Historical Society Meeting
Mr Johnson will overview French colonization in general, moving on to Atlantic Canada and then zeroing in on the growth of settlement in the Chignecto Region finishing with the unfolding of events leading to the fall of Fort Beauséjour in 1755.
If you have items which you think may be of interest to the Trust, please call Al Smith (536-0164) or the Trust office at 536-2541.
Currently, both apartments in Boultenhouse are rented and property manager, Director Ray Dixon, has completed a number of minor repair and maintenance projects. The apartments will continue to be rented until 2005 when the first floor will be retro-fitted to become a Heritage Center while the upstairs will continue to provide rental income to help with operating costs. But eventually, it is hope that the entire building will be used as a Heritage Center.
This Heritage Center will house displays on shipbuilding, the Port of Sackville, agricultural and manufac- turing heritage as well as descriptions of early settlement and the early families which originally settled into the area. The back ell two stories(the original kitchen and servants' quarters) will be renovated to become a home for the Trust (i.e. an office; possibly by 2003) with the upstairs rooms to become a center of family history (a Genealogy Research Center).
This is an exciting new project for the Trust and one that you will hear much more about in future visits at The White Fence. In the near-term, our main focus is to complete the Campbell Carriage Factory Museum before embarking on the development of the Heritage Center.
Al Smith, Projects Director
| Return to
main page of