New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

Table of Contents, Rev. July 23, 2014

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This blog will continue to grow, but following is a table of contents so far - from the top:

  1. What am I Bid for This Pauper? – July 23, 2014
  2. Trouble at Madawaska, 1831 – July 16, 2014
  3. The Great Fire at Saint John, June 20, 1877 – July 9, 2014
  4. The Poor Fellows Shook as if They Would Fall to Pieces! – July 2, 2014
  5. How to Build a Logging Camp in Around 1850 – June 25, 2014
  6. Risen from the Ashes, Phoenix Square in Fredericton – June 18, 2014
  7. Rocks and Water, Magnificence and Squalor; St. John in 1876 – June 11, 2014
  8. Moncton as Seen by a Journalist in 1876 – June 4, 2014
  9. Events Leading to the Caraquet Riots of 1875 – May 28, 2014
  10. A Dramatic Account of the Miramichi Fire – May 21, 2014
  11. Saint John in the Early 1840′s – May 18, 2014
  12. A Note to Subscribers, and a Memorandum for me – May 14, 2014
  13. The Myth that Kerosene was Invented in New Brunswick – May 7, 2014
  14. A Church with Military Boots and Fixed Bayonets – Apr. 30, 2014
  15. An Opening Salvo in an Ongoing Argument – Apr. 23, 2014
  16. May living worms his corpse devour – Apr. 16, 2014
  17. He don’t look any better than some of our own boys – Apr. 9, 2014
  18. The Disputed Territory Between New Brunswick and Maine – Apr. 2, 2014
  19. Navigation on the Saint John River – Mar. 26, 2014
  20. Shepody as a Hot Investment Opportunity, 1868 - Mar. 19, 2014
  21. To Her Majesty, RE: Reciprocity, 1853 – Mar. 12, 2014
  22. Diary on the Tobique, 1851 – Mar. 5, 2014
  23. Growing up in Fredericton in the 1820s and 1830s – Feb. 26, 2014
  24. Travels From Eastport, Maine, to Fredericton, 1851 – Feb. 19, 2014
  25. The Saint John General Public Hospital, 19th Century, Part 2 of 2 – Feb. 12, 2014
  26. The Saint John General Public Hospital, 19th Century, Part 1 of 2 – Feb. 5, 2014
  27. The Story of the Great Brothers – Jan. 29, 2014
  28. A Trek up the Tobique, and Onward to Bathurst – Jan. 22, 2014
  29. Summer Tourists. A Manual for New Brunswick Farmers – Jan. 19, 2014
  30. A Trek from Grand Falls to Campbellton, 1862 – Jan. 15, 2014
  31. A Trek From Taymouth to Boisetown, 1862 – Jan. 12, 2014
  32. Capt. William Owen’s Journal, Campobello, 1770-71 – Jan. 8, 2014
  33. The Founding of Campobello Island – Jan. 5, 2014
  34. New Brunswick Roads and Railways, 1855 – Jan. 1, 2014
  35. Grand Manan – Dec. 29, 2013
  36. The Shipyard Fire in Saint John, in 1841 – Dec. 26, 2013
  37. Christmas as it Was in Saint John, in 1808 – Dec. 22, 2013
  38. The Saint John Grammar School – Dec. 18, 2013
  39. William Wishart Blasts the New Brunswick Education System, 1845 – Dec. 15, 2013
  40. The Diary of Sarah Frost – Dec. 11, 2013
  41. Pŭlěs, Pŭlowěch′, and Beechkwěch (Pigeon, Partridge, and Nighthawk) – Dec. 10, 2014
  42. The Government of New Brunswick, 1837 – Dec. 4, 2013
  43. The Whales and the Robbers – Dec. 1, 2013
  44. The Ashburton Treaty – Nov. 27, 2013
  45. Glooscap and His Four Visitors – Nov. 24, 2013
  46. The Pioneers of Saint Stephen – Nov. 20, 2013
  47. The Adventures of Kâktoogwâsees; a Tale of Ancient Times – Nov. 17, 2013
  48. The Asylum at Saint John – Nov. 13, 2013
  49. The Liver-Colored Giants and Magicians – Nov. 10, 2013
  50. Smuggling Between Calais and St. Stephen – Nov. 6, 2013
  51. The Two Weasels – Nov. 3, 2013
  52. A note to subscribers – Oct. 30, 2013
  53. The European and North American Railway, 1862 – Oct. 30, 2013
  54. The Origin of the War Between the Mi’kmaq and the Kwěděches - Oct. 23, 2013
  55. Trouble on the Line: The Early Telegraph in New Brunswick – Oct. 16, 2013
  56. The Invisible Boy; Team′ and Oochigeaskw - Oct. 9, 2013
  57. Transportation to and from Fredericton, 1841 – Oct. 2, 2013
  58. The Boy That Was Transformed Into a Horse – Sept. 25, 2013
  59. McAdam: Notes From the Early Days – Sept. 18, 2013
  60. The Magical Food, Belt and Flute – Sept. 11, 2013
  61. European & North American Rly. Staff, 1861 – Sept. 4, 2013
  62. Glooscap and the Megumoowesoo: A Marriage Adventure – Aug. 28, 2013
  63. The Loss of the Royal Tar - Aug. 21, 2013
  64. Robbery and Murder Revenged, Plus a Grand Falls Story – Aug. 14, 2013
  65. The St. John River From Below Fredericton to the Reversing Falls – Aug. 7, 2013
  66. A Proposal for a Wooden Railway – July 31, 2013
  67. ‘On the Early History of New Brunswick’ – July 24, 2013
  68. The Maugerville Settlement, 1763-1824 – July 17, 2013
  69. 1930 Circus Train Wreck Near Moncton, N.B. – July 10, 2013
  70. Horses or Oxen? Pick one – July 3, 2013
  71. The St. John River; Andover to Fredericton – June 26, 2013
  72. Origins of Some Place Names on N.B.’s Eastern Shore – June 19, 2013
  73. The St. John River; Grand Falls to the Tobique – June 12, 2013
  74. Gabriel Acquin – June 5, 2013
  75. The Seigniories of New Brunsiwck – May 29, 2013
  76. An 1841 Trek up the Oromocto River – May 22, 2013
  77. Fredericton’s Exhibition Palace, and Bears in N.B. – May 15, 2013
  78. Murder on Diamond Square Road – May 8, 2013
  79. Acadian Historic Sites in New Brunswick – May 1, 2013
  80. John C. Tracy’s Book, Part 5 of 5 – Apr. 24, 2013
  81. John C. Tracy’s Book, Part 4 of 5 – Apr. 17, 2013
  82. John C. Tracy’s Book, Part 3 of 5 – Apr. 10, 2013
  83. John C. Tracy’s Book, Part 2 of 5 – Apr. 3, 2013
  84. John C. Tracy’s Book, Part 1 of 5 – Mar. 27, 2013
  85. A Retrospective Look at Saint John – Mar. 20, 2013
  86. The Wreck of the England – Mar. 13, 2013
  87. The First Decade of the 1800′s in St. John, N.B. – Mar. 6, 2013
  88. St. John’s Poorhouse and Workhouse – Feb. 27, 2013
  89. New Brunswick Scenes From an Old Book – Feb. 20, 2013
  90. Nice Pictures From Another Old Book – Feb. 13, 2013
  91. Life in the Backwoods of New Brunswick, Part 2/2 – Feb. 6, 2013
  92. Life in the Backwoods of New Brunswick, 1845 – Jan. 30, 2013
  93. The Works of W.O. Raymond – Jan. 23, 2013
  94. The Year of the Fever – Jan. 16, 2013
  95. Hanged for the Theft of 25 Cents – Jan. 9, 2013
  96. Reversing Falls – Pictures – Jan. 2, 2013
  97. Christmas as it was in 1808 – Dec. 25, 2012
  98. Nice Pictures From an Old Book – Dec. 19, 2012
  99. The Saint John Bridge Collapse of 1837 – Dec. 12, 2012
  100. The First Road Bridge Across the Reversing Falls – Dec. 5, 2012
  101. The Mystery of the First Lizzie Morrow – Nov. 28, 2012
  102. The First Murder Trial on the River St. John – Nov. 21, 2012
  103. The March of the 104th Regiment in 1812 – Nov. 14, 2012
  104. Partridge Island – Nov. 7, 2012
  105. Fredericton’s First Bridge Across the Saint John River – Oct. 31, 2012
  106. 1816, The Year Without a Summer – Oct. 31, 2012
  107. Winslow to Wentworth, 1781 – Oct. 31, 2012
  108. Oops! An explanation – Oct. 31, 2012
  109. The Saxby Gale of 1869 – Oct. 31, 2012
  110. New Brunswick’s Third Town in 1838: Saint Andrews – Oct. 31, 2012
  111. Fredericton and York County in 1838 – Oct. 31, 2012
  112. The City and County of Saint John in 1838 – Sept. 26, 2012
  113. The St. Andrews and Quebec Railroad – Sept. 19, 2012
  114. The Studholm Report of Saint John River Pre-Loyalists in 1783 – Sept. 12, 2012
  115. Caleb Jones. Further RE: Ann, otherwise known as Nancy – Sept. 5, 2012
  116. The Wreck of the Martha – Aug. 29, 2012
  117. The Early Settlement of Maugerville and the Sheffield Parsonage Dispute – Aug. 22, 2012
  118. Lieutenant Governors of New Brunswick to Confederation, Part 2 of 2 – Aug. 15, 2012
  119. Lieutenant Governors of New Brunswick to Confederation, Part 1 of 2 – Aug. 8, 2012
  120. The Morrow House at French Lake, N.B. – New Information – Aug. 1, 2012
  121. Sound by Glen Glenn, Revision 1 – July 25, 2012
  122. Ann, otherwise known as Nancy – July 18, 2012
  123. The Fire of October 7, 1825 – Beyond the Miramichi – July 11, 2012
  124. Lemuel Allan Wilmot – July 4, 2012
  125. The Great Fire at Miramichi, October 7, 1825 – June 27, 2012
  126. Robert Rankin in New Brunswick – June 20, 2012
  127. Who Owned the Mill at Tracy, New Brunswick? – June 13, 2012
  128. Signatures of Sunbury County Ancestors – June 6, 2012
  129. Daniel Wood’s Log Cabin, and Little Field Barn at French Lake, New Brunswick – May 30, 2012
  130. Rusagonis and George Garraty – May 23, 2012
  131. Epitaph Transcriptions from a Collection – May 16, 2012
  132. Central New Brunswick Gravestones from a Genealogy – May 9, 2012
  133. Nashwaak River Pictures with Stewart Family Connections – May 2, 2012
  134. More Sunbury County Photographs from a Collection – Apr. 25, 2012
  135. An Indian Burial Ground at Oromocto; and Coal Mining on the Oromocto River – Apr. 22, 2012
  136. “Days of Old” by Katherine DeWitt and Norma Alexander – Apr. 18, 2012
  137. The Wood Cemetery at French Lake, New Brunswick – Apr. 11, 2012
  138. James Glenie in New Brunswick – Apr. 4, 2012
  139. Four Generations of the Stewart Family on the Nashwaak River – Mar. 28, 2012
  140. Three Generations of the Mersereau Family in New Brunswick – Mar. 21, 2012
  141. Three Generations of the Smith Family of Sunbury County, New Brunswick – Mar. 14, 2012
  142. Three Generations of the Wood Family of French Lake, New Brunswick – Mar. 7, 2012
  143. New Brunswick Education in 1883 – Feb. 29, 2012
  144. Riots and Demonstrations in Saint John – Feb. 20, 2012
  145. Making Better Butter – Feb. 18, 2012
  146. York County Place Names, 1896/1905 – Feb. 8, 2012
  147. Sunbury County Place Names, 1896/1905 – Feb. 1, 2012
  148. Stereoscopic slides from Fred Stewart, Part 3 of 3 – Jan. 25, 2012
  149. Stereoscopic slides from Fred Stewart, Part 2 of 3 – Jan. 18, 2012
  150. Stereoscopic slides from Fred Stewart, Part 1 of 3 – Jan. 11, 2012
  151. The Hon. Thomas Baillie: Gone, but not soon forgotten! – Jan. 5, 2012
  152. The Fort at Oromocto, 1780 – 1783 – Dec. 29, 2011
  153. The Great Fire in Fredericton, 1850 – Early Accounts – Dec. 15, 2011
  154. The Morrow House at French Lake, and More – Dec. 8, 2011
  155. The Old Woman House at French Lake, New Brunswick – Dec. 1, 2011
  156. Smith Family Photographs from a Collection, Sunbury County, N.B. – Nov. 25, 2011
  157. French Lake from Before we Remember – Nov. 20, 2011
  158. How Geary became known as Geary – Nov. 9, 2011
  159. Elizabeth (Smith) Secord; N.B.’s First Woman Registered Doctor – Nov. 4, 2011
  160. Phillips Family Photographs from a Collection, Rusagonis, N.B. – Nov. 2, 2011
  161. Mersereau Family Photographs from a Collection, Sunbury County, N.B. – Oct. 30, 2011
  162. Wood Family Photographs from a Collection, French Lake, N.B. – Oct. 25, 2011
  163. Jeremiah Tracy: Pioneer of the Village of Tracy, New Brunswick – Oct. 20, 2011
  164. Two Old Railroad-Inspired Songs – Oct. 16, 2011
  165. Ode to the Oromocto River – Oct. 10, 2011
  166. John Mersereau, Loyalist 2 – Oct. 4, 2011
  167. The Earliest American Railroads and Locomotives – Sept. 14, 2011
  168. The Mersereau Manufacturing Company of Brooklyn, New York, Notes – Sept. 3, 2011
  169. George Morrow of French Lake, New Brunswick – 1801-1868 – Aug. 26, 2011
  170. The Wood Family of French Lake, New Brunswick – Legends – Aug. 9, 2011
  171. The Baptist Church on the Oromocto River in New Brunswick – Aug. 7, 2011
  172. John Wood of French Lake, New Brunswick – 1788-1868 – Aug. 2, 2011
  173. Daniel Wood of French Lake, New Brunswick – 1764-1847 – Aug. 1, 2011
  174. Three Stewarts on the Nashwaak – July 24, 2011
  175. Bunker Genealogy – Five Bunkers – July 20, 2011
  176. Statistics From the 1851 and 1871 Sunbury County New Brunswick Census Reports – July 19, 2011
  177. Historical Development of the Beam Bending Equation M=fS – July 18, 2011
  178. Seth Noble, Maugerville and the American Revolution – July 16, 2011
  179. Columns, the Long and the Short of it – 1729-1900 – July 15, 2011
  180. The Great Saint John Steel Cantilever Bridge – July 13, 2011
  181. The Upper Oromocto River in 1847 – July 11, 2011
  182. Early Glimpses of the Rusagonis Baptist Church in New Brunswick – July 11, 2011
  183. Abraham Gesner’s 1847 Observations of Sport Hunting in New Brunswick – July 11, 2011
  184. It Sounds a bit Too Easy – July 10, 2011
  185. James Buncker – July 10, 2011
  186. Inconsistent Petitions; Changed Self-Interests – July 10, 2011
  187. Abner Mersereau and a Letter – July 9, 2011
  188. Early Glimpses of the Patterson Settlement Baptist Church in New Brunswick – July 9, 2011
  189. The Textile Mill at Geary, New Brunswick – July 8, 2011
  190. Letter of Mi’kmaq’ Chief Pemmeenauweet to Queen Victoria – 1841 – July 7, 2011
  191. New Brunswick in the 1840s – July 7, 2011


John Wood

Written by johnwood1946

July 23, 2014 at 9:49 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

What am I Bid for This Pauper?

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From the blog at

What am I Bid for This Pauper?

The 1786 Act to regulate and provide for the support of the poor… required that towns and parishes have Overseers of the Poor. The Overseers would identify all idle and disorderly people, or others who were likely to require public assistance. Their children could be apprenticed out to the age of 21 years in the case of boys, or 18 years in the case of girls, and the paupers themselves would be obliged to take jobs, if any existed. The Overseers might also be authorized to establish poor houses or to put the paupers up in foster homes, the owners of which homes would be compensated. The foster homes were to be chosen on the basis of least cost, but with due regard to the character of the people running them.

This law was rudimentary, but Loyalist New Brunswick was only a couple of years old and everything was rudimentary. Giving children away was objectionable but, overall, the Act seems only to have been antique. The problem was that it remained in effect even into the 1900’s, well beyond those days of rudimentary antique laws. Along the way, the law’s provisions were corrupted and the housing of paupers and the apprenticing of children became a system of selling them off or renting them out to whoever would take them at the lowest price. Overseers sometimes complained that arranging pauper auctions was repugnant to them personally, and reflected badly on the community. They had no choice in the matter, however, since the Overseers were appointed to public service without having volunteered, and could not refuse the duty.

This system gave responsibility for the poor to local towns and parishes, who had to raise their own taxes. Rural areas were therefore less likely than urban areas to have money enough to build poor houses, and everyone was opposed to taxes. Some rural people continued to oppose taxation for poor houses even after it was shown that the systems of contract foster homes and of pauper auctions were actually more expensive. Some of these so-called rural areas were more like suburbs of larger centres. The people of Portland and Lancaster resisted the paying of taxes for the support of the poor, for example.

George Francis Train was an eccentric American industrialist and was instrumental in establishing the Union Pacific Railway and many other businesses. He was also a liberal reformer and a supporter of the vote for women. He had financed a newspaper run by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Stanton, for example. He had even been a candidate for President! He ran afoul of the law on several occasions, was sued, arrested, and threatened with being sent to an insane asylum. Train came to Saint John in 1877 and ran into trouble for criticizing the locals. Then, he showed up in Sussex, where he signed in at the Intercolonial Hotel under his own name, but using his favourite address, ‘Citizen of the World.’ He then took a job at the Sussex Weekly Record where he turned out a one-page article every week criticizing everyone from the rich and powerful to an apparently lazy gravedigger. It was Train who would place a bomb under any complacency which existed regarding the poor law. He did this at the particular expense of King’s County.

Intercolonial Hotel Sussex

The Intercolonial Hotel in Sussex

Where George Francis Train stayed.

Train published his first article about pauper auctions, entitled Is Slavery Abolished? on January 6, 1888. That would have been less than a week following the annual year-end auction in Sussex, and it was a sensation. The Toronto Daily Mail published a commentary on the issue only four days after that, and other newspapers followed suit. The Toronto paper said that “the poor are disposed of after the plan adopted in the Southern States for the sale of slaves. They are knocked down at auction.” They went on to describe the most recent auction. “The number of paupers advertised for sale on that occasion was eleven… There were three orphans of five, seven, and nine years of age; a boy of thirteen; a girl of fifteen; a man of fifty-eight in consumption; a blind woman aged fifty-three; a man aged sixty-seven with one arm; his wife aged sixty; and a man and woman aged seventy-one and eighty-one respectively.”

The purchase of a pauper was actually more of a rental for one year. If a pauper died during that term, then the purchaser would continue to be paid for the rest of the year, and burial costs of $8 would also be covered. “Two expensive paupers, happily for themselves as well as for the community, died last year; so that the cost of keeping them in a state of animation does not now fall upon the people,” according to the Toronto Daily Mail, who got their information from Train’s article.

There was an historical description of this affair, published on March 20, 1965 in the Montreal Gazette. This was a little too recent to quote at length here, but it is clear enough that the information came from public sources, including Train’s article. Most of the paupers were sold on the basis of how much work could be got out of them, and whether they already had clothing and boots. Couples and families were sold separately, or together, to suit the purchaser. The three orphans were siblings and were split up; two to one purchaser and the third to another. The 81-year old man was advertised as not likely to survive the year, which presented an interesting chance of profit. Train went on to note that death might be hastened through under-feeding, over working or housing the victim in an unheated barn or shed. The fifteen year old girl was perhaps intellectually challenged, but wouldn’t be much of a problem otherwise. It was implied in the article that her description was calculated to attract someone willing to bid a low price with a possibility for sex. This was not the only such instance.

These images are disturbing, and I am compelled to point out that there were eleven people auctioned off, and that the number of buyers was therefore tiny compared with the population of King’s. It is also clear that Train painted the picture in bright colours, and that the children, in particular, come off looking like Little Nell of The Old Curiosity Shop or Oliver Twist. It is nonetheless clear that it was a slave auction, plain and simple.

George Francis Train fired his written artillery on the subject, round after round, week after week, and by March of 1888 he was dismissed from his position at the Sussex Weekly Record because his “terrible impeachment of what he calls white n—-r slavery has so outraged town, county, province and Dominion and made things so almighty hot in the Record office….” Local complacency had been demolished. If people hadn’t liked what they saw around them in King’s County then they would probably have kept quiet about it; but this was no longer possible.

Train, being a prominent industrialist, was able to address the Provincial Assembly and to meet with the Lieutenant Governor before finally leaving New Brunswick. He was well received, but that was his last hurrah, and he was gone.

Train’s campaign had raised the conscience of the clergy, and there was no longer a conspiracy of silence among the public. A poor house was needed, but building one was difficult because some people continued to oppose taxation. There were also scandals when paupers escaped their owners and fled, only to drown or to freeze to death in the attempt. A poor house was finally built, however, and the last auction was held in 1898.

Written by johnwood1946

July 23, 2014 at 9:48 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

Trouble at Madawaska, 1831

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From the blog at

Trouble at Madawaska, 1831

It was intended by the 1783 peace treaty that the New Brunswick border go along the Saint Croix River to its source, and then follow a line northward to the highlands separating the waters that flowed to the Saint Lawrence from those that flowed to the Atlantic. The border would then proceed along the highland, or watershed, westward.

This left room for debate. For example, Britain said that the Mar’s Hill, northwest of Florenceville, was about as ‘high’ a place as could be found. This would have chopped off the northern half of the present state of Maine. The United States took the ‘highlands’ to be the Saint Lawrence watershed, which would have extended Maine well into present day Quebec. The American position was more defensible in terms of the treaty, but would have cut off New Brunswick’s access to Quebec City via the Saint John River and made the Madawaska region American. Both sides had a lot to lose, and neither would accept the other’s interpretation until the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842 finally settled the matter.

Competing land claims

Competing Land Claims

The diplomats agreed at an early stage that neither side would interfere with the status quo while negotiations were in progress. That should have meant no public administration, no elections, no granting of land or timber rights, no courts, and no soldiers. That sounds quite ideal, if you wanted to be left alone, but such situations rarely last for very long and even the Republic of Madawaska is now just a, perhaps wistful, memory. But the Republic would be another story for another day.

This story describes the border intrusions of 1831 and the resulting diplomatic turmoil. The State of Maine interfered with the status quo by imposing public administration, but there are no entirely clean hands in this affair. We will meet a British militia captain living in the disputed territory, for example, and also a British Justice of the Peace.

Camp Green River

Camp Along the Green River

W.F. Ganong, 1912 – N.B. Museum

The Maine State Legislature incorporated the Town of Madawaska in 1830. The present Town of Madawaska is still within the state, but it was part of the disputed territory at the time. The town was also more of a region, at that time, and included land on both sides of the present border. The Governor later said that he had interpreted the Act as a declaration of jurisdiction over the area, but that he had had no intention of acting upon it until the border negotiations were complete.

The State already knew where the border was, at least as far as they were concerned, and the ongoing negotiations were likely to reduce their territory. The King of the Netherlands acted as an arbiter of disputes during negotiations, and the State was also unhappy about that. The Governor therefore wrote to the State Department in Washington, enclosing some resolutions of the Legislature about the whole affair. They replied with a copy of a decision by the King of the Netherlands, and American protests about his decision. They promised, however, that the central government would keep the State’s interests in mind, and get back to them in due course. They also said, and significantly, that Maine should not take any steps that might “interrupt or embarrass” the negotiations. All of this was in March of 1831.

Madawaska, having been incorporated into a town within the State of Maine, would require under normal circumstances that a local government be set up. Therefore, a Justice of the Peace in Penobscot County, ordered that the townspeople be gathered together at Peter Ligott’s house on August 20th, to elect town officials and selectmen. Walter Powers posted notices, ordering the people to assemble.

The first of two meetings, the one at Lezard’s house, was raucous. There were 50 or 60 people present, when Leonard Coombs, a captain of militia, and Francis Rice, a local Justice of the Peace both objected to the proceedings. There were threats of arrest and imprisonment, and names were taken down. Nonetheless, Jesse Wheelock, Daniel Savage, John Harford, and Amos Maddocks were elected to town office. Another meeting was held at the home of Raphael Martin, where Peter Lezard was also elected.

A New Brunswick military force began to assemble at Madawaska chapel, almost a month after election activities began, on September 25, 1831. Archibald Campbell, the new Lieutenant Governor was there, and arms were stockpiled at the home of Simon Hebert. The people were ordered to a meeting and, by evening, both Daniel Savage and Jesse Wheelock were arrested. The next day, about 20 soldiers took to canoes and secured the house of John Baker, who fled to the woods. Barnabus Hunnewell, Daniel Bean, and several French settlers were also arrested. About 50 more soldiers arrived, and Baker quit the area altogether, while the troops moved on to St. François in search of more election participants.

There are some interesting characters in this play. Sir Archibald Campbell was Lieutenant Governor and was not a man to be toyed with in military affairs. He was a seasoned commander and was known as the Hero of Ava for his part in the Anglo-Burmese War. John Baker had raised the American flag and declared the Republic of Madawaska, but his flag was taken down and he was arrested, jailed for a while, and fined.

Daniel Savage and Jesse Wheelock were taken downriver toward Fredericton, and were joined along the way by about thirty French prisoners, and two Americans, Barnabas Hunnewell and Daniel Bean. The rest of the Americans had fled to the woods.

The Governor of the State of Maine, Samuel E. Smith, told the Secretary of State that the election activity had been unauthorized, and that he had had no prior knowledge of it. Nonetheless, there were Americans in custody in Fredericton and he, on their behalf, demanded that they receive protection from the government. If Washington would not do this, then the state might have to act on its own. The Secretary replied that he would do what he could, but could be more vigorous in those effort had the problem not been caused by state. The Governor upped the ante, by saying that the state did not support the present negotiations, and that the federal government could not alienate part of the state’s territory without their participation and agreement.

The diplomats took an entirely different tone, since no one wanted the situation to escalate. The Secretary of State wrote to the British Chargé d’Affaires and suggested that, since the intrusion into the disputed territory had not been authorized, it would be appropriate for the Lieutenant Governor to exercise his prerogative and release the prisoners. Otherwise, local passions in Maine might be difficult to restrain. The Chargé d’Affaires agreed and referred the matter to Archibald Campbell, who found that he also had to agree. The prisoners were released on November 8, 1831. The French prisoners all gave bonds, some for trial and some for good behaviour.

In the meantime, another dispute was unfolding. Way back in March, the State Legislature passed a resolve that the Governor appoint someone to survey landholders in the disputed territory to determine their numbers and what title they had to their lands. John G. Deane and Edward Kavanagh carried this out, with only Simon Hebert and his sons Simonet and Joseph refusing to answer. A man then met with them saying that he had come from Fredericton to ask what was going on and on what authority. There was no physical conflict, and the man agreed to accompany them to keep an eye on the proceedings.

There was a flurry of diplomatic exchanges in September and October, even before the prisoners from the previous affair had been released. In the end, all that was accomplished was to establish that the survey was complete and that everyone had gone home.

Principal Reference:

The Administration of Andrew Jackson, Message from the President of the United States … Relating of Capture … of American Citizens by New Brunswick, 1831. This is a collection of correspondence, which the Senate had requested concerning “the capture, abduction, and imprisonment of American citizens, by the provincial authorities of New Brunswick, and the measures which, in consequence thereof, have been adopted by the Executive of the United States.”


There were too many principal characters in the events of 1831 to name them all. Following is a list of some pf them, for genealogists and family historians:

American Government Authorities

  • Andrew Jackson – President of the United States.
  • Martin Van Buren – Secretary of State (1829-1831), Washington. Only a few of the earlier pieces of correspondence from the State Department were signed by Van Buren. He later became President.
  • Edward Livingston – Secretary of State (1831-1833), Washington. Most of the correspondence from the State Department was from Livingston.
  • Samuel E. Smith –Governor of the State of Maine.

British Government Authorities

  • Charles Bankhead – British Chargé d’Affaires, stationed in Washington.

New Brunswick (British) Government Authorities

  • Sir Archibald Campbell – Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick (September 3, 1831 to 1837). He was present at the military response to the election activities.

Madawaska Residents who Acted Against the Election Activities

  • Leonard R. Coombs – A New Brunswick militia captain at Madawaska, who objected to the election meeting, and participated in the militia activities which followed.
  • Simon Herbert – A resident of Madawaska and a New Brunswick militia captain. Arms were collected at his house following the election.
  • Francis Rice – A New Brunswick Justice of the Peace at Madawaska, who objected to the election meeting.

Those who Acted in Favour of the Election Activities (both sides of eventual border)

  • William D. Williamson – Justice of the Peace, County of Penobscot. He ordered the elections.
  • Walter Powers – A resident of Madawaska. He posted notices ordering the people to assemble for the election, per a directive by William D. Williamson. One of those who took to the woods when the soldiers arrived.
  • Peter Ligott – A resident of Madawaska. The first election meeting was held at his house, and he was elected as a representative.
  • Barnabus Hunnewell – Moderator of the first election meeting. Arrested for election activities.
  • Raphael Martin – A resident of Madawaska. The second election meeting was held at his house.
  • Jesse Wheelock – Elected a Selectman and town clerk of Madawaska, and subsequently arrested.
  • Daniel Savage – Elected a Selectman of Madawaska, and subsequently arrested.
  • John Harford – Elected a Selectman of Madawaska.
  • Amos Maddocks – Elected a Selectman of Madawaska. One of those who took to the woods when the soldiers arrived.
  • Daniel Bean – Elected a Selectman of Madawaska. He was reported to have been arrested, but was not one of those who were imprisoned in Fredericton.
  • Nathaniel Bartlett – One of those who took to the woods when the soldiers arrived.
  • Joseph Miles – One of those who took to the woods when the soldiers arrived.
  • Augustin Webster – One of those who took to the woods when the soldiers arrived.
  • Charles M’Pherson – One of those who took to the woods when the soldiers arrived.

People who Deposed as to What Happened at Election Time

  • John Baker – A resident of Madawaska and a mill owner, who was present at the election meetings and who later made a deposition describing his experiences. He became known as the ‘George Washington of the Republic of Madawaska.’
  • Phinehas R. Harford – A resident of Madawaska, who was present at the election meetings and who later made a deposition describing his experiences.

Principal Characters Involved in the Survey of Madawaska Residents

  • John G. Deane – Appointed to conduct the survey of the people of Madawaska.
  • Edward Kavanagh – Appointed to conduct the survey of the people of Madawaska.
  • Joseph Herbert – A resident of Madawaska. A son of Simon Hebert. He refused to answer the questions of the survey takers.
  • Simonet Herbert – A resident of Madawaska. A son of Simon Hebert. He refused to answer the questions of the survey takers.
  • James A. Maclauchlan – New Brunswick warden in the disputed territory between Maine and New Brunswick. He objected to the activities of the survey takers.

Written by johnwood1946

July 16, 2014 at 9:28 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

The Great Fire at Saint John, June 20, 1877

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The following despatch was received at the Merchants’ Exchange in this city this forenoon:

PORTLAND, June 21. A despatch from St. John, N.B. at nine o’clock this forenoon, says the fire commenced at York Point Slip and burned south through residences to King street, where it spread and burnt all the public buildings, hotels and the business portion, including the wharves.

The greatest dread is starvation, as not a grocery or provision store is left.

Fifteen thousand people are homeless. All the business portion and full one-half of the residences are gone.

The mayor has called a public meeting for the relief of the sufferers. They need all the cooked provisions and bread they can get.


New York, June 21. Consul Warner at St. John telegraphs to the mayor of New York as follows: “St. John is almost totally destroyed. All the public buildings are burned. Few business houses are left. Fully one-half of the residences are in ashes. Send all the aid you can. Fifteen thousand people are homeless.”

(The Boston Evening Telegraph, June 21, 1877)

Wandering in ashes

Wandering Among the Ashes

New Brunswick Museum

From the blog at

The Great Fire at Saint John, June 20, 1877

It had been dry in Saint John when, at 2:30 in the afternoon of Wednesday, June 20, 1877, a spark fell on some hay at Henry Fairweather’s storehouse at York Point Slip, near Market Slip. No one knows whether the spark originated at the storehouse or whether it blew in from a neighbouring establishment, but it soon grew and become the Saint John Great Fire. They say that fire engines responded almost immediately, but with such dry conditions, such crowded timber structures, and the limitations of 19th century firefighting equipment, it was soon out of control. Within half an hour, fires had broken out at several locations and firefighting reinforcements had been brought in from Portland and Carleton.

The flames first moved southward along the harbour until they reached Market slip. They then spread eastward, all of the way to Courtenay Bay, and again southward until nearly the entire city was ablaze. Only the shore line stopped it from going further.

It was a desperate scene. “Children hastened along crying … as they ran barefooted over the hot sidewalk. Men with picture frames and books rushed past, calling and threatening, and moaning. It was a scene terrible in its reality. People were driven from street to street, and hurled forward, till, with horror in their blanched faces, they turned and saw in their rear the wild flames hemming them in.” Men were “trying to save their business property in the marts of commerce. People sent loads of their more valuable goods to places which appeared to be safe, but which turned out in the end to be of only temporary security. Men had their stores burned at four and five o’clock, and their goods burned at seven and eight o’clock.”

Everything on that peninsula south of King Street burned. All of the properties on the harbour from Market Slip northward past Union Street also burned. Two hundred acres and over 1,600 houses were lost. “Nearly all the public buildings were burned,—the Custom House, Post Office, Savings Bank; all the Banks and Banking Houses except the Bank of British North America; the City Hall, Academy of Music, Temperance Hall, St. Malachi’s Hall, Victoria School House, Wiggin’s Male Orphan Institution, Home for the Aged, Dramatic Lyceum; the Victoria, Royal and all the larger hotels. The churches burned, were Trinity, St. Andrews, the Centenary, Germain and Mission Methodist Churches; Germain and Leinster Street Baptist Churches; St. James, St. David’s, Christian and Reformed Presbyterian. The printing offices destroyed were the Globe, News, Freeman, Watchman, Telegraph, Christian Visitor and Religious Intelligencer; only one office escaped, that of the New Dominion. All the Law, Insurance, Exchange, Express and Telegraph offices, and all the Law Libraries in the city were burned. All the business portion of the city lying on the dock and water fronts; all the wholesale stores and warehouses with their contents of flour, grain, beef, pork, tea and sugar, in fact all the larger stocks of groceries and the entire stock of dry goods, hardware, furniture, etc. were swept away. The value of the property consumed has been estimated at $28,000,000—the number of persons left homeless was 15,000.”

The money figures were larger than they at first appear to be. The $28-million loss in 1877 would be more like $620-million today.

The Victoria skating rink was set aside as a relief center, but those first few hours and days must have been desperate. The fire had begun at 2:30 on a Wednesday afternoon, and had not run its course until early Thursday morning, when smoke was still rising. Despite everyone’s best efforts, it is easy to imagine that many had no food or shelter on Wednesday, Thursday, or maybe even Friday. Nineteen people died in the fire, and more died later from burns, accidents, heart attacks, or other conditions brought on by the event. It was impossible to keep track of the numbers of injured since medical workers were too busy to keep records. Medical help was hampered by the loss of almost all medical supplies.

People did what they could. Alexander Gibson gathered over $1,300 worth of food from Portland and Indiantown on Thursday morning and delivered it to the rink. This would amount to around $29,000 today. A baker who had escaped the fire also delivered between 700 to 1,000 loaves of bread and a selection of cheeses and other supplies. Some railway sheds were taken over to supplement the space at the rink, and you could say that the response so far had been as quick and efficient as it could be, under the circumstances. Much more than this would be needed, however.

This was 1877, the modern age of rapid communications and, within 24 hours of the fire, messages of sympathy and offers of help started pouring in, and the Relief and Aid Society later compiled these into a book. The cities of Halifax and Boston were the first to offer assistance, asking what was most needed. Halifax called a public meeting, raised $10,000, and shipped railway car loads of relief supplies – all on that same day, June 21, 1879.

Halifax and Boston were not alone, however. There were 42 telegrams offering help on the first day after the fire, and these continued until December. Offers came from all along the eastern seaboard of the United States and from other Provinces. Money and supplies also came from as far away as Cognac, France; London, England; Glasgow, Scotland; Belfast, Ireland; Hamburg, Germany; Winnipeg; Saint Johns, Newfoundland, Quebec City; Montreal; Victoria, B.C., Eureka, California; Memphis, Tennessee; Cleveland Ohio; and towns large and small all over Ontario and Maine.

The authorities were under extreme pressure to deal with the catastrophe. It took over a week to formalize emergency measures, and the situation was so dire that the telegrams piled up. Some of those 42 telegrams of June 21st asked what was needed, or whether the City would prefer goods or cash, or who would act as consignee for shipments. Responses were delayed, and several cities followed up on the same day with demands for answers to their earlier enquiries.

For the first few days to a week, relief supplies were handed out to whoever asked, and without question. This worked out quite well because of the need, and also because supplies of cooked foods were being received, and these had to be got rid of. Soon after that, a system was developed whereby applicants were interviewed, and then visited at wherever they were living. Their needs were assessed and tickets were issued so that they could claim what they needed at the rink or one of the sheds. These procedures could also be short circuited if a person had an emergency need that could not wait. On Monday following the fire, 10,000 people presented tickets for food at the rink.

There were various departments to be navigated at the rink, as the supplies were divided up into food, furniture, and so on.

Some protocols were broken. Halifax, for example, offered to send a militia unit to help with security. They then realized that they first had to ask the New Brunswick Lieutenant Governor whether sending troops was acceptable. The following day they changed their tactic and offered volunteers instead of troops, but must have heard from the Lieutenant Governor since they finally sent two Companies of the 97th Regiment.

People everywhere gave what they could, even if they had little to spare:

“Dear Sir, I am not worth a copper but am a great deal better off than a great number of your citizens at this present moment. I forward to you by boat tonight one tent that it may be of some use to someone with a family of children. Please put it where it will do the most good and oblige. Respectfully yours, F.A. Leavitt, Portland, Maine.”

“I send you herein one dollar for the sufferers. I wish it was one hundred, but I am not rich and am, as it were, out of employment, and have earned but little for the last fourteen months. George S. Nutting, Newton, Massachusetts.”

“A little boy hearing of the St. John fire emptied his money box and sends its contents, $1.08. Halifax, N. S.”

“The little children of the Sunday School belonging to Christ’s Church were most eager to have their mite sent, and made up between them $2.73 which is included in the check. E. Baynes Reed, Secretary-Treasurer of Relief Fund, London, Ontario.”

“Dear Sir, I have sent this day, through kindness of Express Company, a small package of money—sixty-one cents. It is the donation to St. John sufferers from a little girl in this town, who calls herself little Dot. John Hallam, Toronto.”

“Sir, Enclosed please find $3.37. The sum is very small. I regret our people here are not in circumstances to give much. Robert McArthur, Caledonia, Queens, N.S.”

“Please accept for the sufferers of the fire from Boynton High School Pupils, of Eastport, Maine, $2.38.”

“$1.00 to the little sufferers of St. John, from Percy G. Raymond, 12 years old, one year’s saving. Hebron, Yarmouth, N.S.”

This was in 1877, and Percy, Dot and other children might have been able to tell us their story, even in the 1940’s, if only we had asked.

There were also large individual donations of tens of thousands of dollars. Many of these were bundled donations from the citizens of towns and cities, factories and schools. New York, Boston, Chicago, Milwaukee, and others stand out for their generosity. The goods and money contributed by individuals despite their own unemployment, or recessions in their industries, or simple poverty are the most impressive, however. Small towns with very few citizens sometimes collected extraordinary amounts. And, of course, there were people like Percy and Dot who were not restrained by their limited means.

The cities of Chicago and Boston sent people with experience in handling emergencies to consult. The Boston Journal of Commerce donated one month of free advertising throughout New England for any Saint John business hurt by the fire.

Barrels and sacks of donated supplies arrived by railroad, and by ship. There were potatoes, beef, pork, bread, flour, cornmeal, oatmeal, grain, and biscuits. There were also camp stoves, tents, blankets, and clothing of all kinds and conditions. There were some unusual items such as street-lighting oil, plasterers’ hair, and a bundle of tracts.

Women everywhere were making clothing. One group in Fredericton asked that Saint John send money to cover the cost of materials and supplies, but must have realized that this was not a very appropriate request. They never asked for money again. Thirteen women were busy at the Jarvis Street Baptist Church in Toronto.

The people who were burned out went wherever they could, and many were taken in by luckier citizens, or people from across the harbour in Carleton (West Saint John), or by friends or relatives elsewhere in the Province. People also bunked in railway cars and sheds which had been donated for the purpose. The situation was dire, and that was not sufficient. Railways in New Brunswick and in the States therefore offered free passage to refugees (although they did not use that word). There were also orphans, and the Maine Central Railway gave them free transportation also. Boston took in some orphans.

On the seventh day following the fire, Wednesday, June 27, 1877, there was a meeting at which C.G. Trusdell, an experienced volunteer and General Superintendent of the Chicago Relief and Aid Society presented his plans for organizing relief. The Saint John Relief and Aid Society was established at this meeting, and it only remained for the Mayor to formalize this through a proclamation. Another story unfolded two days later, on June 29th, when the Society took into their possession all of the supplies that were pouring in. At that point, the United States Consul, General Warner, was named General Superintendent of the Society, which sidelined C.G. Trusdell. It appears to me that Trusdell was not very happy with this turn of events. The matter was glossed over in the official record, but “there was for the first few days necessarily some confusion and disorder.”

The donated supplies ran out in the fall except, as always, for a large supply of clothing. The best advice back in June would have been to send money. The lack of stock on-hand afforded the opportunity to scale down the warehousing operation and to move to another building. This freed-up the Victoria skating rink. Thenceforth, supplies were brought in as-needed, on contract.

Reconstruction proceeded quickly due, in part, to many of the major structures belonging to the provincial and federal governments. There was therefore a division of responsibility, and major projects could proceed simultaneously and without interfering with one another. Thirteen hundred new buildings went up within the first year, with further construction taking place for years following.


All of the quotes are from the following, except as noted:

  1. The Saint John Relief and Aid Society, Disbursements of Contributions For the Sufferers of the Fire in Saint John of 20th June, 1877, Saint John, 1879.
  2. Stewart, George, The Story of the Great Fire in St. John, N.B., June 20th, 1877, 1877.

Written by johnwood1946

July 9, 2014 at 9:26 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

The Poor Fellows Shook as if They Would Fall to Pieces!

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From the blog at

John S. Springer had already explained how to set up a logging camp, in his book Forest Life and Forest Trees, … Camp-Life Among the Loggers … on the Various Rivers of Maine and New Brunswick (New York, 1851). Now, with winter closing in, it was time to bring in the rest of the crew, and the teams of oxen. The following is excerpted to describe the logging operation and the work of the oxen.

Oxen Logging

Oxen Logging in the 1800s

(complete with the bobsled described in the story)

From Library and Archived Canada, public domain.


The Poor Fellows Shook as if They Would Fall to Pieces!

The introduction of the team to winter quarters is always attended with more or less trouble; much less, however, of late than in former years. Then, all the chains and other implements connected with the business, together with provisions for the crew and provender for the oxen, enough to last until the swamps, rivers, and lakes were frozen, so as to allow teams to pass over them, were boated in …, which required many trips, and were continued until a late period in the fall.

To the latest trips an additional and most uncomfortable inconvenience is added to the many hardships of boating provisions. This is when the ice makes on our poles while in the act of passing up over rapids. Often our hands become so cold and stiff as to render it very difficult to hold on to the icy instrument. The mariner may stop a moment, even in a gale, while at the yard-arm, to blow his freezing fingers; but not so with the lumberman with a loaded boat in a rapid current: every finger is needed every moment, as life and property would be endangered by paying even slight attention to cold fingers.

Where the nature of the route will allow it, and an early start is desired, our teams are attached to a long sled, lightly loaded, which is dragged over miry, rough roads. In crossing large streams, we unyoke the oxen and swim them over. If we have no boat, a raft is constructed, upon which our effects are transported, when we re-yoke and pursue our route as before. Our oxen are often very reluctant to enter the water while the anchor ice runs, and the cold has already begun to congeal its surface. But an ox hardly knows how to refuse compliance with his master’s wishes, so submissive is he in his disposition.

Of late, since roads have been cut, and even “turnpikes” made a considerable portion of the distance up the main rivers, such as the “Calais and Houlton Road” on the St. Croix, and the “Military Road” on the Penobscot, which connect with other less perfect thoroughfares, and finally terminate in common swamp roads, our conveyances are much easier, and the business of taking the team on to the ground is, and may be safely deferred until frosts and snows admit of a more agreeable mode of travel.

What is called a team is variously composed of from four to six, and even eight oxen. During the months of November and December, after the ground and swamps are frozen, and early snows fall, our team is attached to a “long sled,” loaded with provisions, tools, &c., accompanied with a new recruit of hands. Leaving home and the scenes of civilization, slowly we move forward to join those who had preceded us to make preparations for our reception. After several days’ journeyings, putting up at night at places erected and supplied for the convenience of such travelers, and at suitable distances on the route, we finally reach our new home. Our arrival is no less agreeable to ourselves than welcome to our comrades. But there are incidents scattered all the way along, and seldom do we perform such a journey without experiencing something worth relating.

On one occasion, late in the fall, we started for our winter quarters up river. We had traveled about one hundred miles, passing along up the military road, then south upon the Calais road to Baskahegan Lake [Washington County, Maine, near the Saint Croix and about 40 miles above St. Stephen], which we were to cross, our camps being on the opposite side. We reached the borders of the lake late in the afternoon. The ice was not so thickly frozen as was anticipated, so that the practicability of crossing seemed exceedingly problematical. Having been long on the way, we were anxious, if possible, to arrive in camp that night. The shores of the lake were so swampy that it was deemed impracticable to perform the route around it, and it was finally determined to make an effort to cross upon the ice. We had twelve oxen, which were disposed of in the following order: the lightest yoke of oxen was selected and driven in yoke before to test the strength of the ice, and, in case the loaded teams should break through, to be used to pull them out. These were our reserve. The next in the line of march was a pair of oxen attached to a sled, with hay, &c. Next in order was a four-ox team; these were also attached to a sled, loaded with hay and provisions; and, finally, to bring up the rear, still another four-ox team, with a loaded sled—all of which were strung out at suitable distances, to prevent too much weight coming upon any one point, thus rendering our passage more safe. The word was given, when we all moved forward, intending first to gain a point which ran out into the lake, covered with a thick small growth. The ice cracked and buckled beneath our feet at every step. Proceeding in this way, we gained the point in safety. It had by this time become late, and the last rays of the setting sun gilded the tops of the towering pines, which peered far up in the air above the surrounding forest.

The night was very cold, and the wind swept up the lake with a penetrating chill, which made us button up our garments closely to prevent its too ready access to our bodies. Having gained the point in safety, we were emboldened to set forward again upon the main body of the lake, which was yet to be crossed. Here the ice seemed less capable of sustaining our weight than in the cove, which, from its protected position, had probably congealed sooner than the main lake, which was more exposed to the action of winds.

Here the ice gave more alarming indications of its incapacity to hold us. We had not proceeded more than three fourths of a mile when the hindermost team broke through, sled and all, which was very naturally accounted for, as the teams which proceeded cracked and weakened the ice. The alarm was given along the line, when the other teams stopped; and while we were preparing to extricate those already in, the next team of four oxen dropped in also; and finally they were all in at once, except the reserve pair. Had they kept in motion, probably the foremost teams might have escaped; but, upon stopping, the ice gradually settled, when in they went. There we were on that bleak spot, with the shades of night fast settling down upon us, and ten oxen struggling in the benumbing waters: business enough, thought we.

Standing upon the edge of the ice, a man was placed by the side of each ox to keep his head out of the water. We unyoked one at a time, and, throwing a rope round the roots of his horns, the warp was carried forward and attached to the little oxen, whose services on this occasion were very necessary. A strong man was placed on the ice at the edge, so that, lifting the ox by his horns, he was able to press the ice down and raise his shoulder up on the edge, when the warp-oxen would pull them out. For half an hour we had a lively time of it, and in an almost incredible short time we had them all safely out, and drove them back upon the point nearly a mile. It was now very dark. We left our sleds in the water with the hay, pulling out a few arms full, which we carried to the shore to rub the oxen down with. Poor fellows! They seemed nearly chilled to death, while they shook as if they would fall to pieces.

We built up a large fire, and, leaving the principal part of the crew behind to take care of the oxen, I, with several of the hands, started to find, if possible, the camps, where were waiting those who had been previously engaged in making arrangements for the winter. This was esteemed by some rather risky, as it was getting very dark, and we did not know exactly which way to shape our course. But the prospect seemed gloomy and uninviting to remain upon that bleak point all night, and, besides, we wished the assistance of the camp’s crew in taking our teams over next day. Delay was not to be thought of. We therefore started. A squall of snow came up when we were midway across, which completely bewildered us, and we became divided in opinion as to the proper course to steer. Tenacious of my own views, I resolved to pursue the course which appeared to me right, when the others consented to follow. Finally, after several hours of hard travel, we gained the shore, not far from the road which led back to the camp, about half a mile distant in the woods. We were here, again, puzzled to know whether the camp lay at the right or left. Settling that matter by guess, as Yankees often do other things, we traveled along by the shore about one fourth of a mile, when, to our great relief, we came to the road, up which we passed, and reached the camp a little after midnight, hungry and fatigued. We found our comrades snugly quartered and soundly sleeping. Refreshing ourselves with hot tea, bread, and beef, we turned in and slept until daylight, when, after breakfast, all hands started to rejoin those left behind. We were with them in a few hours. Poor fellows! they had had a pretty uncomfortable season, not one moment’s sleep during the night, and scantily provided with food, while the oxen fared harder still. We succeeded in getting out of the ice all but one load of hay, which we left behind. Not venturing to cross directly, we now followed round the lake, close in shore, and finally reached our winter quarters in safety, and without further accident.

The task of taking oxen on to the ground every fall is very considerable, especially when we go far into the interior, as we frequently do nearly two hundred miles. This labor and expense is sometimes obviated by leaving them in the spring to shift for themselves in the wilderness and on the meadows, where they remain until autumn, when they are hunted up. During their wilderness exile they thrive finely, and, when found, appear very wild; yet wondering, they seem to look at us as though they had some lingering recollection of having seen us before. It is often very difficult to catch and yoke them; but, with all their wildness, they evidently show signs of pleasure in the recognition. When turned out in this way, however, instances have occurred when they have never again been seen or heard from. In some cases they probably get mired or cast, and die; in others, they doubtless stray away, and fall a prey to bears and wolves. Bears as well as wolves have been known to attack oxen. An individual who owned a very fine “six-ox team” turned them into the woods to browse, in a new region of country. Late in the evening, his attention was arrested by the bellowing of one of them. It continued for an hour or two, then ceased altogether. The night was very dark, and, as the ox was supposed to be more than a mile distant, it was thought not advisable to venture in search of him until morning. As soon as daylight appeared, he started, in company with another man, to investigate the cause of the uproar. Passing on about a mile, he found one of his best oxen laying prostrate, and, on examination, there was found a hole eaten into the thickest part of his hind quarter nearly as large as a hat; not less than six or eight pounds of flesh were gone. He had bled profusely. The ground was torn up for rods around where the encounter occurred; the tracks indicated the assailant to be a very large bear, who had probably worried the ox out, and then satiated his ravenous appetite, feasting upon him while yet alive. A road was bushed out to the spot where the poor creature lay, and he was got upon a sled and hauled home by a yoke of his companions, where the wound was dressed. It never, however, entirely healed, though it was so far improved as to allow of his being fattened, after which he was slaughtered for food.

After a few days’ respite and as soon as a sufficient quantity of snow has fallen, we commence hauling the logs. As there are several departments of labor, each man is assigned to some one of them. In most cases, indeed, every hand is hired with the distinct understanding that he is to perform a particular part of the labor, and the wages differ accordingly, being regulated, also, by the ability with which they can severally fill those stations.

First, then, comes the “boss,” or the principal in charge. Then the choppers, meaning those who select, fell, and cut the logs, one of whom is master chopper. Next the swampers, who cut and clear the roads through the forest to the fallen trees, one of whom is master swamper. Then comes the barker and loader, the man who hews off the bark from that part of the log which is to drag on the snow, and assists the teamster in loading. Then we have the captain of the goad, or teamster, whom we have already alluded to; and finally the cook, whose duty is too generally known to require any particular description. Every crew is not supplied with the last important character; this deficiency, I believe, is much more common on the St. Croix than on the Penobscot, where the mode of camp life and fare is much better attended to. When we have no person specially set apart to this work, the crew generally take turns, to do which there is an obligation imposed by usage and common consent on some rivers, and each man, therefore, must comply, or furnish a substitute by employing some one to act for him. In those instances where no cook is provided, we take turns, a week at a time, or each man consents to perform some particular duty in cookery; for instance, one makes all the bread, another the tea and coffee, and so on through the routine of camp domesticism. A slight degree of rebellion sometimes manifests itself touching this business, especially before matters receive their regular winter mold. One refuses to cook, another says he “was hired to do something else,” while another says, “I’m d—d if I cook any how.” ….

In the process of taking logs to the landing from the swamp, the first thing in order is to select the tree. The direction in which it is judged likely to fall is determined by circumstances. First, the inclination of the tree as it stands; and, second, the direction and power of the wind. Sometimes this matter may be governed, where the tree stands very erect, by under-cutting one side more than the other; to which an expedient is added, when necessary, by falling one tree against another. Choppers can, if skillful, lay a tree, in falling, with sufficient accuracy to hit and drive a stake into the ground. When, however, a tree stands upon an abrupt hill-side, we are apt to get deceived. It is thrilling business to bring those giant Pines down. The ground trembles under the stroke, while the reverberating echo of its fall, as it rings through mountains and valleys, may, on a still morning, be heard six or eight miles. Before felling the Pine, small trees are cut for bed-pieces, the Pine-tree falling across them transversely, to prevent it from becoming too deeply imbedded in the snow. This also facilitates the barking and loading operation. The proper place being selected, the trunk of the tree is cut off while the “swampers” have been directing their road to the spot. The “barkers”—like whalemen leaping upon the back of their prize with their cutting spades—are at once at work with their axes, hewing the bark from that portion of the log which is to be drawn along on the snow, while the other end is to rest upon the sled. The “teams” next approach the scene of action, drawing after them a short sled, called a “bob-sled;” probably so named from the bobbing motion it has while drawn over the rough ground. It would be an insult to every New Englander’s intelligence to attempt a description of this sled; I therefore pass it, remarking, by-the-way, that, considering the service for which it is designed, it is made very strong, as it is required to sustain one end, or more than half the weight of the largest trees upon a single bar: in some cases several tons burden rest upon a single point. While this bar alone sustains one half the entire log, it is also the only part of the sled to which the heavy trunks of those massive trees are bound; it therefore draws as well as sustains the load, challenging the powers of six and even eight of the stoutest oxen.

In the process of loading, the bob-sled is placed several feet from the side of that end of the log which is to be placed upon it. Then a large skid, from four to eight inches in diameter and several feet in length, is placed near the large bar running under the log. A chain is next attached to the bar, passing now under, then over the log, back to the sled, crossing it. It is then attached by other chains to one or two yoke of oxen, whose united strength is requisite to roll one end of it upon this big bar, to which it is bound with strong, heavy chains. Of late, the tackle and fall has been introduced in loading, which very much facilitates the operation.

The six oxen are now attached to the sled, one pair of them to the tongue; the others are attached by chains in advance as leaders. The teamster now arranges every ox in the most advantageous position, passing through several evolutions with his goad stick; then giving the word of command, they settle to it. Slowly it moves forward, while the vociferations of the animated teamster, the squatting-like posture of the hard-drawn team, indicate the importance and interest of the occasion; and the bobsled, as though it were a thing of life, actually screams out at every joint as if in keenest agony beneath its ponderous load.

The reader has perhaps been present at a “launching;” the nervous emotions experienced in the process described, including the felling of the gigantic Pines, the skidding and hauling, quite equal those awakened at the launching of a vessel. This process is gone through with several times each day during the winter (Sundays excepted); really it is like going to launching every day, and the pleasurable excitement of the labor renders it extremely delightful to most who are engaged in it.

The general custom is to take the whole trunk of the tree to the landing at one load, when its size will allow, where it is sawed into short logs from fourteen to thirty feet in length, to facilitate the driving down river. I have cut one tree into five logs, the shortest of which was not less than fourteen feet. I have seen them hauled eighty-two feet in length, resembling, in their passage to the landing, immense serpents crawling from their lurking-places. Thus we continue to fell, clear, and haul until the “clump” is exhausted, and our attention is again directed to another school of these forest whales, and so on until our winter’s work is completed.

Formerly, Pine-trees grew in abundance on the banks of rivers and streams, and the margins of those wild lakes found in the interior. Thousands were cut and rolled into the water, or on the ice, and perhaps a much larger number were so near the landing as to require merely to be dragged out, thus avoiding the labor of loading, in which case, from the massive size of the trees, it was necessary to cut them into short logs. Such opportunities, however, for lumber have gone by, and the greater portion has now to be hauled from a considerable distance. A greater scarcity is too evidently at hand.

Written by johnwood1946

July 2, 2014 at 9:50 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

How to Build a Logging Camp in Around 1850

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From the blog at

John S. Springer’s book Forest Life and Forest Trees, … Camp-Life Among the Loggers … on the Various Rivers of Maine and New Brunswick was published in New York in 1851. It includes the following description of preliminary arrangements in setting up a lumber camp in advance of the arrival of the main crew. It is the most detailed description that I have seen, not only of camp architecture, but of the mode of life in camp.

Log jam Tetagouche

Log jam at Tetagouche Falls, ca. 1910

Bathurst Historical Museum, via


How to Build a Logging Camp in Around 1850

Arrangements are at once made to locate and build our winter camps. To determine upon the best point is by no means an easy task, it being very difficult to fix upon the location in a strange and imperfectly-explored forest. Wood and water privileges are to be taken into the account; a central position in respect to the timber; the landing, the locating of the main roads, &c., are to be attended to. To combine all these qualities, where we can see only a few rods in advance on account of the trees and thickets, and our work must necessarily cover hundreds of acres of wild land, it must be confessed is no ordinary task. I have seldom taxed my judgment as severely on any subject as in judiciously locating a logging establishment.

These preliminaries being settled, we commence “right merrily” our camp. The top strata of leaves and turf are removed from the spot upon which the structure is to be erected; this is necessary, as we should otherwise be in great danger of fire from the dry turf. While this process is going forward, others are engaged in felling the trees on the spot, and cutting them the length determined upon for our edifice. The work commences by throwing the larger logs into a square, notching the ends together. Thus one tier after another is laid up until the walls attain the proper height, the smallest logs being used to finish out the upper tiers. In form they resemble a tin baker, rising some eight feet in front, while the roof pitches down within two or three feet of the ground in the rear. A double camp is constructed by putting two such squares face to face, with the fire in the middle. The Spruce-tree is generally selected for camp building, it being light, straight, and quite free from sap. The roof is covered with shingles from three to four feet in length. These are split from trees of straight and easy rift, such as the Pine, Spruce, and Cedar. The shingles are not nailed on, but secured in their place by laying a long heavy pole across each tier or course. The roof is finally covered with the boughs of the Fir, Spruce, and Hemlock, so that when the snow falls upon the whole, the warmth of the camp is preserved in the coldest weather. The crevices between the logs constituting the walls are tightly calked with moss gathered from surrounding trees.

The interior arrangement is very simple. One section of the area of the camp is used for the dining-room, another for the sleeping apartment, and a third is appropriated to the kitchen. These apartments are not denoted by partitioned walls, but simply by small poles some six inches in diameter, laid upon the floor of the camp (which is the pure loam), running in various directions, and thus forming square areas of different dimensions, and appropriated as above suggested. The head-board to our bed consists of one or more logs, which form also the back wall of the camp. The foot-board is a small pole, some four or six feet from the fire. Our bedstead is mother earth, upon whose cool but maternal bosom we strew a thick coating of hemlock, cedar, and fir boughs. The width of this bed is determined by the number of occupants, varying from ten to twenty feet. Bed-clothes are suited to the width of the bed by sewing quilts and blankets together. The occupants, as a general thing, throw off their outer garments only when they “turn in” for the night. These hardy sons of the forest envy not those who roll on beds of down; their sleep is sound and invigorating; they need not court the gentle spell, turning from side to side, but, quietly submitting, sink into its profound depths.

Directly over the foot-pole, running parallel with it, and in front of the fire, is the “deacon scat.” I think it would puzzle the greatest lexicographer of the age to define the word, or give its etymology as applied to a seat, which indeed it is, and nothing more nor less than a seat; but, so far as I can discover from those most deeply learned in the antiquarianism of the logging swamp, it has nothing more to do with deacons, or deacons with it, than with the pope. The seat itself, though the name be involved in a mystery, is nothing less nor more than a plank hewn from the trunk of a Spruce-tree some four inches thick by twelve inches wide, the length generally corresponding with the width of the bed, raised some eighteen inches above the foot-pole, and made stationary. This seat constitutes our sofa or settee, to which we add a few stools, which make up the principal part of our camp furniture. Should any of my readers ever be situated beyond the reach of cabinet-makers, but in the vicinity of the forest, I may introduce them into the secret of chair-making without the necessity of any tools except an ax. Split the top part of the trunk of a Spruce or Fir-tree in halves, cut a stick of the right length upon which three or four stout limbs grow; trim off the limbs of a sufficient length to suit your fancy; smooth the piece of timber to which they adhere by hewing, and your seat is completed. I can assure the reader that the instances are rare in which it becomes necessary to send them to the cabinetmaker for repairs, especially to have the legs glued in.

The luxury of a temporary table is now pretty generally enjoyed, with plates, knives and forks, tin dippers for tea and coffee, and sometimes cups and saucers. Formerly the deacon seat was used instead of a table, and a large frying-pan served for a platter for the whole crew. Around this the men would gather, each putting in his bread or potato, and salt fish, to sop in the pork fat; and never did king or courtier enjoy the luxuries of a palace more exquisitely than do our loggers this homely fare. On the St. Croix River, lumbermen generally adhere, from choice, to the original custom of eating from the frying-pan. Bread and beans are baked in a large “Duch oven,” [sic] which is placed in a hole dug in the earth by the side of the fire, and entirely covered with hot coals and embers. In this position it is allowed to remain until the contents are done, when the ashes and cover are removed. I need not presume to inform the skillful cook that this mode of baking is unequaled. Our camp-fire is made on the ground next to the front wall, which is sometimes protected by a tier of large stones, but in other instances we simply set up two short stakes, against which enormous back-logs rest. After supper, each night unfailingly a very large fire is built to sleep by. Some of the wood used is so large that it often burns twenty-four hours before being entirely consumed. The amount of fuel made use of in building one camp-fire would supply an ordinary fire a week.

It is not an infrequent occurrence, of course, for camps to take fire in this exposed situation, but some one generally discovers it in season to extinguish it by the timely application of snow or water. Instances have occurred, however, in which crews have been consumed with the camp. I recollect an instance in which a camp, on one of the tributaries of the Penobscot, took fire during the night while the inmates were asleep, and three out of four men were burned to death. In view of this liability, the roof of our camps are not so strongly fastened down but that, in the event of a retreat being cut off from the door, the united efforts of the inmates can burst it up, and thus make their escape. These things, however serious in some instances, are but little thought of or cared for.

Around this good camp-fire, “With mirth to lighten duty,” gather the crew after the toils of the day, to enjoy, as best they may, our long winter evenings; and around no fireside where there are equal responsibilities, intelligence, and many more luxuries, can be found more real contentment, or a greater degree of enjoyment.

Here rises the voice of song upon the wings of the winter night storm as it rolls past with the sublimity of an Alpine tempest. Here, also, are rehearsals of wild adventure, listened to with all the interest which isolated circumstances usually lend even to little matters.

The first night we lodged in one of our newly-erected camps, its dedication was proposed. It was moved and carried by acclamation that Hobbs should sing us a song, and that “’Nick” should give us one of his yarns,

[A lengthy poem and the yarn are deleted, for brevity]

Having thus finished his story and replenished his pipe, the old man leaned back against the camp walls and enveloped himself in a cloud of smoke, while he listened, in turn, to the various incidents in the experience of others, of which his own had been suggestive.

Finally, after some little discussion as to the precise location which each should occupy on the new bed, all hands “turned in,” to live over again the fortunes of the day in the fantastic dreams of night.

Having completed our own cabin, we precede next to construct a hovel for the oxen, which are yet behind. In erecting this, the same order in architecture is observed as in that of the camp, the timber of which it is composed, however, being much larger than that with which our own habitation is constructed. With the trunks of trees the walls are carried up nearly equal in height, leaving one side, however, enough lower than the other to give a moderate pitch to the roof, which is covered with the same kind of material as that of the camp. In the camp for the workmen there is no floor but the earth; the ox hovel, however, has a flooring made of small poles laid closely together, and hewed down with some degree of smoothness with the adz, and in the final finish the crevices in the walls are plastered with clay or ox manure. A temporary shed is thrown up in front, which serves as a depot for hay and provender.

No little pains are bestowed upon the conveniences designed for the team. With the exception of sporting horses, never have I witnessed more untiring devotion to any creature than is bestowed upon the ox when under the care of a good teamster. The last thing before “turning in,” he lights his lantern and repairs to the ox hovel. In the morning, by the peep of day, and often before, his faithful visits are repeated to hay, and provender, and card, and yoke up. No man’s berth is so hard, among all the hands, as the teamster’s. Every shoe and nail, every hoof and claw, and neck, yokes, chains, and sled, claim constant attention. While the rest of the hands are sitting or lounging around the liberal fire, shifting for their comfort, after exposure to the winter frosts through the day, he must repeatedly go out to look after the comfort of the sturdy, faithful ox. And then, for an hour or two in the morning again, while all, save the cook, are closing up the sweet and unbroken slumbers of the night, so welcome and necessary to the laborer, he is out amid the early frost with, I had almost said, the care of a mother, to see if “old Turk” is not loose, whether “Bright” favors the near fore-foot (which felt a little hot the day before), as he stands upon the hard floor, and then to inspect “Swan’s” provender-trough, to see if he has eaten his meal, for it was carefully noted that at the “watering-place” last night he drank but little; while at the further end of the “tie-up” he thinks he hears a little clattering noise, and presently “Little Star” is having his shins gently rapped, as a token of his master’s wish to raise his foot to see if some nail has not given way in the loosened shoe; and this not for once, but every day, with numberless other cares connected with his charge.

A competent hand in this profession generally calculates to do a good winter’s hauling, and bring his team out in the spring in quite as good flesh as when they commenced in the early part of the season. But as in all other matters, so in this, there are exceptions to the general rule. Some teamsters spoil their cattle, and bring them out in the spring miserably poor and nearly strained to death. Such a practice, however, can not be regarded as either merciful or economical. So far as true policy is concerned, it is much better to keep a team well. What may be gained by hard pushing during the former part of the season will be more than made up during the latter, when the teams are moderately urged and well kept, and then you have a good team still for future labor.

Having completed our winter residences, next in order comes the business of looking out and cutting the “main,” and some of the principal “branch roads.” These roads, like the veins in the human body, ramify the wilderness to all the principal “clumps” and “groves of pine” embraced in the permit.

We have here no “turnpikes” or railways, but what is often more interesting. No pencilings can excel the graceful curves found in a main road as it winds along through the forest, uniform in width of track, hard-beaten and glassy in its surface, polished by the sled and logs which are so frequently drawn over it. Each fall of snow, when well trodden, not unlike repeated coats of paint on a rough surface, serves to cover up the unevenness of the bottom, which in time becomes very smooth and even. And besides, no street in all our cities is so beautifully studded with trees, whose spreading branches affectionately interlace, forming graceful archways above. Along this road side, on the way to the landing, runs a serpentine pathway for the “knight of the goad,” whose deviations are marked now outside this tree, then behind that “windfall,” now again intercepting the main road, skipping along like a dog at one’s side. To pass along this road in mid-winter, one would hardly suspect the deformities which the dissolving snows reveal in the spring—the stumps and knolls, skids and roots, with a full share of mad-sloughs, impassable to all except man, or animals untrammeled with the harness.

In the process of making these roads, the first thing in order is to look out the best location for them. This is done by an experienced hand, who “spots” the trees where he wishes the road to be “swamped.” We usually begin at the landing, and cut back toward the principal part of the timber to be hauled.

In constructing this road, first all the underbrush is cut and thrown on one side; all trees standing in its range are cut close to the ground, and the trunks of prostrated trees cut off and thrown out, leaving a space from ten to twelve feet wide. The tops of the highest knolls are scraped off, and small poles, called skids, are laid across the road in the hollows between. Where a brook or slough occurs, a pole-bridge is thrown across it.

These preparatory arrangements are entered upon and prosecuted with a degree of interest and pleasure by lumbermen scarcely credible to those unacquainted with such a mode of life and with such business. Though not altogether unacquainted with other occupations and other sources of enjoyment, still, to such scenes my thoughts run back for the happier portions of life and experience.

I have attended to various kinds of labor, but never have I entered upon any half so pleasing as that usually performed in the “logging swamp.” Although greatly jeopardizing my reputation for taste, I will utter it. Positively, it is delightful. I have since had some years’ experience in one of the professions, in the enjoyment of some of the refinements of life, yet, if it could be done consistently, I would now with eagerness exchange my house for the logging camp, my books for the ax, and the city full for those wilderness solitudes whose delightful valleys and swelling ridges give me Nature uncontaminated—I had almost said, uncursed, fresh from the hand of the Creator. To write of those things makes the hustling city seem dull and irksome. Fain would I hie away once more to those pleasant pastime labors.

Happily, all tastes are not alike. Yet there are few who, on entering a beautiful native forest, would not experience delight; the varieties of trees set out by the hand of Nature, their graceful forms and spreading branches interlocked with neighborly affection and recognition; the harmonious confusion of undergrowth; the beautiful mosses, the ever-varying surface—old age, manhood and youth, childhood and infancy—massive trunks and little sprouts; the towering Pine and creeping Winter-green, intermingled by the artless genii of these wild retreats, all combined, serve to explain the attachment of the Aborigines to their forest abodes, and give to savage life the power of enchantment.

Written by johnwood1946

June 25, 2014 at 9:37 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

Risen From the Ashes, Phoenix Square in Fredericton

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From the blog at

Risen From the Ashes, Phoenix Square in Fredericton

The earliest record that I have of Phoenix Square in Fredericton is from 1822, when City Council agreed to build a water tank and engine house for the fire department at that place. This project was completed in 1823 and was called the tank house. It was a multi-use building, and City Council met in the Temperance Hall on the second floor. The fire hall and meeting rooms burned 27 years later, in 1850.

A city market was then constructed and, again, there was a Temperance Hall on the second floor where City Council met. There was also a liquor store, conveniently located two levels below the Temperance Hall in the basement. This building also burned, in 1867, and all we have of it today is a photograph from the New Brunswick Provincial Archives:

Fredericton market 1863

Fredericton Market Buildings, 1863

From the N.B.P.A., via the York Sunbury Historical Society

A new City Hall was then built, on the site of the present City Hall. The high risk of fire continued, however, and this City Hall burned in January of 1875.

Finally, the present City Hall was completed in 1876, using some of the foundations left over from the one that burned the previous year. This was the fourth meeting place for Council that I have been able to discover, and followed the one in the fire station, and the one in the market building, and the one built specifically as a City Hall. Each of the previous buildings were destroyed by fire. This latest City Hall was also a multi-use facility and included a jail, a farmers market and an 810 seat opera house with a balcony. Council met on the second floor, while the main floor was mostly given over to the opera house. The contractor who built the building was H.B. Crosby and O.M. Campbell of Saint John, and the architect was McKean and Fairweather, also of Saint John. A clock had been planned for the tower, but was omitted from the construction of 1875-76.

George Fenety was elected Mayor in 1877 and was determined to have a clock installed in the tower. In April of 1877, he made a proposal to Council, and this was accepted. It was estimated at that stage that the clock would cost $1,164.

Fenety did not like the idea of paying for the clock through a subscription. The clock would be for all of the people of Fredericton, he said, and the costs should be well distributed among the citizens – but also without raising taxes. Fenety offered to act as guarantor for the necessary loan, and proposed that it be paid from the proceeds of concerts, teas and lectures to be held in the opera house. He also donated his $200. salary to the clock fund, and several Aldermen followed his lead and donated their honoraria.

A clock committee was established, and they submitted a report to Council on April 3, 1877. It was recommended that the clock be ordered from London, with a fire bell to be ordered from Boston.

Fenety lost re-election in January of 1878, and summarized all of the background of the project in a report to Council. The report was subsequently published as a book. The pendulum clock was ordered and arrived in Halifax by ship on April 7, 1878. It was then transported to Fredericton by rail, where it arrived on April 9. The clock was installed and struck for the first time on May 1, 1878 at 12:00 noon.

The police department first moved into the building in 1883.

I find it interesting that the auditorium at City Hall was home to Lee’s Opera House. Lee’s was more than an opera house, and also presented plays, concerts, and speeches. It was the Fredericton Playhouse of its day. If Lee’s had not moved to the City Hall auditorium, then they would have lost their home to yet another fire when their original building burned on the morning of August 12, 1893. That building was located on Westmorland Street at a site later occupied by Levine’s Ltd. I believe that this was at the corner of Queen Street. Arson was suspected, but this was never proven. Several other nearby properties also burned.

There were many memorable events in the auditorium at City Hall. John Philip Sousa performed there and other notables also appeared. Oscar Wilde gave a presentation at 8:00 PM on Wednesday, October 4, 1882, and this was a raucous affair. A disgusted lady described how “a gang of young men” from U.N.B. trooped in, five minutes after the start of the presentation wearing sunflowers and other ornamentation. She said in a letter to the editor of a newspaper that they stomped their feet, made cat calls, and responded, without invitation, to parts of his presentation. The students answered in a letter to a different newspaper that the disgusted lady had misunderstood the situation, and that the twenty-five students had only, in fact, indicated their full agreement with and enthusiasm for Wilde’s presentation. This is one of those situations where you would have to have been there, but my guess is that the students’ efforts at letter writing were too clever by half. After the presentation, and before his departure on October 5th, Wilde met at length with Charles G.D. Roberts.

Firefighter Choir Fredericton

Fire Department Men’s Choir, City Hall, 1899

From the N.B. Provincial Archives, via the York Sunbury Historical Society

George Fenety once again contributed to the story of Phoenix Square and City Hall when, in 1885, he gave $100. toward a public subscription to build the fountain. The fountain was his idea, and was intended not only to serve a decorative function, but also be a watering place for horses. The fountain was built and it didn’t take long before the public started to complain about it. The fountain was too large and too close to the stairs, thus interfering with carriage traffic. It was also useless as a watering station since it was too low to the ground and horses would not use it. The cherub on top of the fountain was also judged by some to be in poor taste and later became known as Freddy, the nude dude.

These complaints passed, of course, but the fountain was 127 years old in 2012, and was showing it. The two upper basins were missing, the remaining basin was in bad shape, and the nude dude had seen better days. A specialist contractor was engaged to restore the fountain, and it was reinstalled in 2013. Now, after 129 years, it remains a city landmark.

The cost of the clock was finally paid off in 1888.

Fountain Phoenix Square

The Fountain at Phoenix Square, on Market Day, 1907

National Gallery of Canada, via the Fredericton and Region Museum

Anyone responsible for maintaining heritage buildings, and there are many such people in Fredericton, knows that it is an endless and sometimes thankless task. For example, the auditorium was altered in 1904 to allow for easier exiting in the event of fire, and to install lighting. Following these improvements, two firemen would be in attendance at each performance at the Opera House.

The opera house did not continue beyond the 1940’s, and the farmers market moved out in 1952. The Police moved to new quarters in 1971. The City Hall extension was built in 1971 and 1972.

Some people say that Phoenix Square got its name because of all of the fires that happened there. I do not know if this is true, but the name would certainly be fitting for a place that has risen from the ashes many times over the last almost 200 years.


  1. Government of New Brunswick, Fredericton City Hall, at
  2. Fredericton Firefighters Museum Online, Historic Fires, and What Flames have Undone, at
  3. Canada’s Historic Places, Fredericton City Hall, at
  4. Wikipedia, Fredericton City Hall, at
  5. Open Buildings, Fredericton City Hall and Phoenix Square, at
  6. Fenety, G.E., The City Hall Clock, Addressed to the Citizens of Fredericton, June, 1878, at
  7. Canada’s Historic Places, Phoenix Square, at
  8. Fredericton Heritage Trust, Phoenix Square and City Hall Clock, at
  9. City of Fredericton, Freddy’s Back!  Fredericton City Hall Fountain Reinstalled, at
  10. Belier, Patricia, Oscar Wilde in Fredericton, The Officers’ Quarterly, vol. 12, no. 4, Fall 1996, as reproduced at

Written by johnwood1946

June 18, 2014 at 9:24 AM

Posted in Uncategorized


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