Issue # 9, Summer 1999
Summer is almost here and the history archives at the white fence are getting unbearably warm! Repair work has begun on the Campbell Carriage Factory (Yahoo!!) and I visit as often as I can anticipating a new discovery each time I walk in! It's very exciting to see part of our community's history come to life again.
Over the past year, I've explored different tunnels within the rich mine of Sackville history which were opened for me by miners Margaret Henderson, Bud White and the late Mrs. Mildred Estabrooks (via Ralph). And when I dug into this treasury of Tantramar's history, I came across two veins of historical gold! These are are: i) Margaret's interesting summary of many aspects of Sackville's history (presented to you in part here as a series of did you knows) followed by ii) Mrs. Estabrooks' newspaper article on the centenary of J. L. Black and Sons Ltd. (since Ralph worked there for 21 years) published in the Sackville Tribune-Post on September 15, 1947. I found the newspaper article so interesting (and such an integral part of the town's history) that I present it to you here in full.
So, for those of you who live outside of town, I must warn you that this issue is primarily about the town of Sackville. But you likely see that some of the things that relate especially to the history of the town of Sackville could also apply (or be very similar) to other small towns (and businesses like J. L. Black's) in the Maritime Provinces.
But first of all . . .
DID YOU KNOW?
Did you know that the Ram Pasture, which is now a small salt marsh island in Cumberland Basin, near where the old dump used to be, was a busy port used for shipbuilding and ship repairs? Between 1829 and 1889, 156 vessels were built there! As well, ships were built at yards at Dorchester Creek and a few ships were built at Wood Point at Allen's Creek.
Did you know that Sackville's first Post office was located on Bridge street opposite the Marshland's Inn and that Mr. Christopher Milner was the first postmaster?
Did you know that around 1871, a private bank was opened in Sackville by Mr. Wood and Sons and that in 1884, it was taken over by the Halifax Banking Company? The Royal Bank (formerly Merchant's Bank - Halifax - incorporated in 1869) opened in Sackville in 1883 and The Bank of Nova Scotia first opened in Sackville in January, 1906.
Did you know that in 1856, the newspaper "The Borderer" - the first to be printed between Saint John and Halifax - was established by Edward Bowes who was a former schoolteacher in Upper Sackville? And did you know that after the death of Mr. Bowes, The Borderer was purchased by "The Chignecto Post" which had been founded in 1870 by Mr. W.C. Milner.
And did you know that by 1896, The Chignecto Post became known as The Sackville Post and was a semi-weekly owned by Mr. A.H. MacCready? The Tribune Printing Company was started in 1902 by Mr. C.C. Avard and The Sackville Tribune began its life as a weekly paper and in 1905 it became bi-weekly. In 1906, the Tribune Printing Company moved into its new building on Main Street.
Did you know that in 1820 a school with thirty pupils attending was located at Crane's Corner? And did you know that in 1845 a boys' school was operated by Mr. Barnes at Westcock and, a little later, Mr. James Rogers opened a school near the corner of the Fairfield Road?
Did you know that in 1906, The Argosy listed four doctors in Sackville? These were:
Did you know that, at that time, Sackville also had two dentists? They were:
Did you know that in 1806 William Crane first opened a store at the south end of the Lower Fairfield Road? It was soon after lost to fire and Mr. Crane re-built the store on land that became known as "Crane's Corner" (where The Corner Drug Store- and now Tim Horton's- was/is located). And did you know that Sackville's first pharmacy was opened in 1863 by Mr. Amasa Dixon? It was located at Crane's Corner and customers came from far and wide to purchase goods at this store.
In order to get to Crane's Corner at that time, did you know that there was a ferry boat which ran from Westcock to Westmorland Point? And furthermore, did you know that the Tantramar River was fordable at one point, at low tide, so people could cross to get to Crane's Corner?
Did you know that in 1911, R.G. Henderson located his drug store in the Copp Block (beside The Royal Bank)? It took over the W. R. Rodd Store which contained a book store run by Miss Jane Henderson.
Did you know that many of the large mercantile and manufacturing businesses in this town had their beginnings in Middle and Upper Sackville? For example, did you know that in the early part of this century, farmer George A. Fawcett shipped potatoes from this area to Maine, Boston and other U.S. markets?
Did you know that in 1810, Willliam and John Morice had grist, lumber and carding mills near the present bridge at Silver Lake (known as Morice's Pond at that time)? Farmers came from miles around to have their wool carded at the Morice Mill. The carding machine was bought by the Morices from Amos Botsford who had a small mill at Westcock and who closed his mill in 1812.
Did you know that the Morices also had a motor launch, sailboats and rowboats which were rented for recreational purposes? Did you know that one popular recreational part of Morice's Pond was "Patton's Point" where the picnic grounds were located? And did you know that the Morice's Mill at that time made carts and other farm implements as well as household furniture? They specialized in spool beds.
Did you know that 37 years ago, J.L. Black and Sons Ltd. closed its business in Sackville after 115 of operation? And that 52 years ago, it celebrated 100 years of successful operation in Sackville?
Join me and let's re-live that centenary celebrated half a century ago: Imagine that today is September 15, 1947, and you are in your house looking for a few minutes rest by reading the Sackville Tribune Post. And the headline and cover story read as follows:
Celebrate a Century in Business
The well-known firm of Joseph L. Black and Sons, Limited, this year celebrates its one hundredth anniversary. It has come a long way since the founder, Mr. Joseph L. Black, first commenced business for himself in 1847 in a building 22 x 30 feet in size situated in Middle Sackville on the east side of the highway on land which later formed part of his homestead premises and on which the residence of the present head of the firm stands today. At the time the business was commenced the store contained approximately $800.00 worth of goods. The founder secured this fine assortment for those historic days by putting up $200.00 in cash, which he had saved from the wages of his previous employment, and borrowing $600.00. In the early days of the business, Mr. Black lived in a modest way in a bachelor apartment over the store. The flat contained two rooms - one his bedroom and the other his kitchen, dining room and parlour.
One hundred years has certainly seen this firm progress far. Today Joseph L. Black and Sons Limited is a firm well-known throughout the Maritime Provinces. The company now operates a wholesale and retail merchandising business, a large farm and for many years has been one of the leading lumber operators in Southeastern New Brunswick.
The history of the Black enterprise in the Sackville area really began when Samuel Freeze Black, a grandson of the famed Bishop Black, came to Middle Sackville in 1839 and established a store there. Six years later, his nephew Joseph L. Black came over from Amherst and commenced work as a clerk in his uncle's store. Two years later, in 1847, Samuel F. Black's residence in Middle Sackville burned and he moved to Sackville where he established a store in the building now occupied by the Sackville Harness Company, Limited, and erected a residence to the rear and at one side of the store. Upon his departure from Middle Sackville in 1847, he sold out his business there to his nephew Joseph L. Black. The founder of the firm Joseph L. Black and Sons Limited was an able and progressive man. He not only built up and carried on a large-scale merchandising, lumbering and farming business, but he took an active part in public life as well. He represented Sackville Parish at the first meeting of the Municipal Council of the County of Westmorland which met in Dorchester on the 7th of June, 1877. The following year he was elected to the New Brunswick Legislative Assembly. He represented this area in Fredericton for seven years. Dr. Milner, in his history of Sackville, says of him:"While a member he was indefatigable in the public interest. He was independent, progressive and had reform ideas which brought him into conflict with his colleagues. This decided him to retire".
In the early 1890s the Chignecto Post published a Supplement in which the careers of prominent Sackville business men were outlined. Here, in part, is what the Supplement had to say regarding Mr. Joseph L. Black:
" Very few men are engaged in active business for forty-four years and the number of those who carry on one certain enterprise for that length of time, is so small that when a case is met with, it can hardly be given too prominent mention, but, even if such were not the case, we would still be justified in ascribing to Mr. J.L. Black a leading position in this review of Sackville's business men, for no man is more universally known and esteemed, or is a more truly representative citizen in every sense of the word. He is a native of Amherst, Nova Scotia, and began operations as a dealer in dry goods and groceries forty-four years ago, since which time his business has grown to its present large proportions. He represented this constituency in the Legislative assembly for seven years and he is also a member of the Board of Regents of Mount Allison.
Mr. Black occupies a spacious and convenient premises on Main Street and deals at both wholesale and retail, in flour, meal, feed, oats, hay, staple groceries, dry goods, clothing, hardware, furniture, etc., and carries a very large stock, quotes low prices and assures prompt service.
His tailoring department, conducted by Mr. Snowdon, gives employment to six assistants, so that orders can be filled at short notice, and those desiring a good fitting and an honestly made garment can get just what they want at a moderate price at this establishment.
Mr. Black also makes a specialty of lumbermen's and farmers' supplies and is prepared to fill the largest orders at the shortest notice. He has always made it a rule to deal liberally and fairly by his customers, to give them the opportunity to choose from a very large and complete stock, to sell all goods strictly on their merits, and to quote bottom prices on all commodities dealt in. Employment is given to quite a large staff of careful and attentive assistants, and customers are promptly as well as politely served."
The business expanded rapidly as the years passed. A new store, 34x72 feet in size, was erected in 1865 and in 1890 an additional 26x72 feet was added. The business expanded steadily and new lines were constantly added. By the turn of the last century, the daily sales often exceeded the total stock with which the business was begun. The stock then kept on hand was worth from $25,000 to $30,000.
The late Joseph L. Black did not confine himself to merchandising alone. He established himself as one of the leading lumber dealers in eastern New Brunswick and also interested himself in extensive agricultural projects.
Today the firm owns outright some 23,000 acres of timberland. In some years production from these lands, and purchases of logs from the owners of adjoining lands has totalled from six to seven million feet of lumber. The original $800.00 investment has certainly been multiplied many times.
The chief lumber mill of Joseph L. Black and Sons, Limited, was for many years situated at the head of the tide on the Aboushagan river, four miles from the Northumberland Straits. The firm also operated a second mill further up the river. The early mills were operated by water power and the company produced deals, battens, long scantling, planed and matched boards, lath and shingles. Today the water operated mills have been abandoned and portable mills have now cut the company's logs.
Joseph L. Black was also a leader in agriculture. The agricultural branch of the business was commenced about 1875. He had 90 acres of land in one block under cultivation, 180 acres of heavy-hay producing marsh in the Middle Sackville area, and in addition he cultivated an extensive acreage in Aboushagan. In one year he produced approximately 1,000 tons of hay, some 1,500 bushels of grain, 3,000 bushels of turnips and did a substantial business in the sale of beef cattle to both local and export markets. Other ventures Mr. Black was responsible for were a water-power operated flour mill in Aboushagan and a lobster factory in Cape Tourmentine.
In 1901 it was decided to incorporate the business and a charter was granted for that purpose on May 7, 1901. The officers elected were Joseph L. Black, President; Burton E. Black Secretary-Treasurer, F.B. Black and J.W.S. Black, sons of Joseph L. Black, were both elected Directors of the Company. Joseph L. Black died April 17, 1907, and he was succeeded as president of the Company by his eldest son F.B. Black, later known throughout Canada as Senator F.B. Black. Another son, J.W.S. Black, also took a leading part in the administration of the affairs of the Company and John Baird became Secretary-Treasurer.
J.W.S. Black died in October, 1916, and John Baird, the Secretary-Treasurer, passed away in 1921. The latter was replaced by Bedford Harper. Mr. Harper died some 12 years later and was succeeded by the late G.T. Morton.
The third generation of the family took their places in the business as they completed their education. J. Laurence Black, the eldest son of Senator F.B. Black, and Robert S. Black, the eldest son of J.W.S. Black, were elected Directors of the Company in 1929.
The Company suffered a serious loss in 1939 when their general store, offices and warehouses in Middle Sackville, were destroyed by fire. Partial insurance was carried but the net loss was estimated at approximately forty thousand dollars.
At that time the Company had two stores operating in the town of Sackville, a flour and feed store on Lorne Street and a Hardware Store on Bridge Street. Business was carried on temporarily in these two establishments and a large building was purchased in Middle Sackville from the A.E. Wry Standard, Limited, in which the Middle Sackville business and head office were re-established and where they are still operating.
The Lorne Street business and the Bridge Street hardware store were closed in the early years of World War II because of the serious displetion of the management and staff of the company due to enlistments in the armed forces.
The late Senator F.B. Black was President of the Company from 1907 until his death in 1945. He, too, had a very distinguished career. Under his guidance the Company continued to expand and in addition to merchandising, lumbering and farming, a wholesale grocery business was established. Senator Black's business interests extended far beyond the enterprises of the Black Company. He was President of the New Brunswick Telephone Company, Limited, Marven's Limited and the Maritime Advertising Agency, Limited, and a Director of the Maritime Life Assurance Company and the Maritime Trust Company. Apart from his business endeavours Senator Black had a distinguished career in public life and in the army. He was at one time Mayor of Sackville and a member of the Legislature of the province of New Brunswick. On November 25, 1921, he was appointed a member of the Senate of Canada and he continued to represent New Brunswick in the Upper house at Ottawa until the time of his death. In Military circles his record was no less brilliant. He served overseas in the First Great War as a Brigade Major, Colonel, and Brigade Commander. For a number of years he was Honorary Colonel of the 8th Princess Louise's (New Brunswick) Hussars. He took an active interest in the affairs of Mount Allison, and for a number of years, as was his father before him, he was a member of the Board of Regents of these educational institutions. In recognition of his service to his country, he was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws by Mount Allison in 1927. Senator Black died in February, 1945.
The present officers of the company are J. Laurence Black, President; Robert S. Black, Vice-President, and J. William Black Secretary-Treasurer. All three are grandsons of the late Joseph L. Black.
J. Laurence Black, the President of the Company, was born in 1900, a son of Senator and Mrs. F.B. Black, and was educated at Upper Canada College and the Royal Military College, Kingston. He served overseas during World War 2 and held the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel at the time of his discharge. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the New Brunswick Telephone Company, Limited, and until its sale recently, was president of the Moncton Broadcasting Company.
Robert S. Black, the Company Vice-President, is a son of the late J.W.S. Black. He was educated at Rothesay Collegiate School and MacDonald College. He served with distinction during World War 2 and was retired with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel at the close of hostilities.
The Company Secretary, J. Wm Black, is the younger son of Senator and Mrs. F.B. Black. He is a graduate of Mount Allison University and is presently a director of the Maritime Trust Company and of Marven's Limited.
The history of Joseph L. Black & Sons Limited would not be complete without mentioning John Black, a son of the late J.W.S. Black, who gave his life in World War II while serving with the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps. This young man was a graduate of Mount Allison University and a promising young life was cut short when he fell in France in 1944.
Without Margaret Henderson's and Bud White's interest and contributions I could not have put together this last winter/spring '99 issue of The White Fence. But we are also indebted to the late Mildred Estabrooks who so wisely preserved that story in the Sackville Tribune-Post about the centenary of J.L. Black and Sons and to Ralph who kindly remembered to pass it on to me.
And so my friends, I'm sure many of you have other interesting stories (untold or hidden away) which deal about the history of the Tantramar region. So I would heartily welcome family histories or historic tales from Dorchester, Memramcook, Port Elgin and Cape Tourmentine (to name a few) so that the whole region's history can be better appreciated.
Again, I will need your assistance for information, stories, interesting "did you knows" and historical events that you may wish to present and/or debate. So please call me during the day at 506-364-5042 or at home at 506-536-0703 or write to me (or visit) at the following address:
ATTENTION : SOME DUES STILL DUE
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