New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

Table of Contents, Rev. September 24, 2014

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

  1. Which of These Two is the Wisest and Happiest? – Sept. 24, 2014
  2. Fredericton Bridge, a Prophetic Writing – Sept. 17, 2014
  3. A Speech to Distinguished Persons of Stake and Consideration – Sept. 10, 2014
  4. Building an Education System From Almost Nothing – Sept. 3, 2014
  5. Cape Tormentine to the Baye des Chaleurs in the 1600’s – Aug. 27, 2014
  6. The Customs of the Mi’kmaq in the 1600’s and Before – Aug. 20, 2014
  7. Two Documents Relating to the Fenians in New Brunswick – Aug. 13, 2014
  8. The Lazaretto for Lepers in Tracadie, 1862 – Aug. 6, 2014
  9. Thoughts About the Augustine Mound at Metepenegiag Mi’kmaq Nation – July 30, 2014
  10. What am I Bid for This Pauper? – July 23, 2014
  11. Trouble at Madawaska, 1831 – July 16, 2014
  12. The Great Fire at Saint John, June 20, 1877 – July 9, 2014
  13. The Poor Fellows Shook as if They Would Fall to Pieces! – July 2, 2014
  14. How to Build a Logging Camp in Around 1850 – June 25, 2014
  15. Risen from the Ashes, Phoenix Square in Fredericton – June 18, 2014
  16. Rocks and Water, Magnificence and Squalor; St. John in 1876 – June 11, 2014
  17. Moncton as Seen by a Journalist in 1876 – June 4, 2014
  18. Events Leading to the Caraquet Riots of 1875 – May 28, 2014
  19. A Dramatic Account of the Miramichi Fire – May 21, 2014
  20. Saint John in the Early 1840’s – May 18, 2014
  21. A Note to Subscribers, and a Memorandum for me – May 14, 2014
  22. The Myth that Kerosene was Invented in New Brunswick – May 7, 2014
  23. A Church with Military Boots and Fixed Bayonets – Apr. 30, 2014
  24. An Opening Salvo in an Ongoing Argument – Apr. 23, 2014
  25. May living worms his corpse devour – Apr. 16, 2014
  26. He don’t look any better than some of our own boys – Apr. 9, 2014
  27. The Disputed Territory Between New Brunswick and Maine – Apr. 2, 2014
  28. Navigation on the Saint John River – Mar. 26, 2014
  29. Shepody as a Hot Investment Opportunity, 1868 – Mar. 19, 2014
  30. To Her Majesty, RE: Reciprocity, 1853 – Mar. 12, 2014
  31. Diary on the Tobique, 1851 – Mar. 5, 2014
  32. Growing up in Fredericton in the 1820s and 1830s – Feb. 26, 2014
  33. Travels From Eastport, Maine, to Fredericton, 1851 – Feb. 19, 2014
  34. The Saint John General Public Hospital, 19th Century, Part 2 of 2 – Feb. 12, 2014
  35. The Saint John General Public Hospital, 19th Century, Part 1 of 2 – Feb. 5, 2014
  36. The Story of the Great Brothers – Jan. 29, 2014
  37. A Trek up the Tobique, and Onward to Bathurst – Jan. 22, 2014
  38. Summer Tourists. A Manual for New Brunswick Farmers – Jan. 19, 2014
  39. A Trek from Grand Falls to Campbellton, 1862 – Jan. 15, 2014
  40. A Trek From Taymouth to Boisetown, 1862 – Jan. 12, 2014
  41. Capt. William Owen’s Journal, Campobello, 1770-71 – Jan. 8, 2014
  42. The Founding of Campobello Island – Jan. 5, 2014
  43. New Brunswick Roads and Railways, 1855 – Jan. 1, 2014
  44. Grand Manan – Dec. 29, 2013
  45. The Shipyard Fire in Saint John, in 1841 – Dec. 26, 2013
  46. Christmas as it Was in Saint John, in 1808 – Dec. 22, 2013
  47. The Saint John Grammar School – Dec. 18, 2013
  48. William Wishart Blasts the New Brunswick Education System, 1845 – Dec. 15, 2013
  49. The Diary of Sarah Frost – Dec. 11, 2013
  50. Pŭlěs, Pŭlowěch′, and Beechkwěch (Pigeon, Partridge, and Nighthawk) – Dec. 10, 2014
  51. The Government of New Brunswick, 1837 – Dec. 4, 2013
  52. The Whales and the Robbers – Dec. 1, 2013
  53. The Ashburton Treaty – Nov. 27, 2013
  54. Glooscap and His Four Visitors – Nov. 24, 2013
  55. The Pioneers of Saint Stephen – Nov. 20, 2013
  56. The Adventures of Kâktoogwâsees; a Tale of Ancient Times – Nov. 17, 2013
  57. The Asylum at Saint John – Nov. 13, 2013
  58. The Liver-Colored Giants and Magicians – Nov. 10, 2013
  59. Smuggling Between Calais and St. Stephen – Nov. 6, 2013
  60. The Two Weasels – Nov. 3, 2013
  61. A note to subscribers – Oct. 30, 2013
  62. The European and North American Railway, 1862 – Oct. 30, 2013
  63. The Origin of the War Between the Mi’kmaq and the Kwěděches – Oct. 23, 2013
  64. Trouble on the Line: The Early Telegraph in New Brunswick – Oct. 16, 2013
  65. The Invisible Boy; Team′ and Oochigeaskw – Oct. 9, 2013
  66. Transportation to and from Fredericton, 1841 – Oct. 2, 2013
  67. The Boy That Was Transformed Into a Horse – Sept. 25, 2013
  68. McAdam: Notes From the Early Days – Sept. 18, 2013
  69. The Magical Food, Belt and Flute – Sept. 11, 2013
  70. European & North American Rly. Staff, 1861 – Sept. 4, 2013
  71. Glooscap and the Megumoowesoo: A Marriage Adventure – Aug. 28, 2013
  72. The Loss of the Royal Tar – Aug. 21, 2013
  73. Robbery and Murder Revenged, Plus a Grand Falls Story – Aug. 14, 2013
  74. The St. John River From Below Fredericton to the Reversing Falls – Aug. 7, 2013
  75. A Proposal for a Wooden Railway – July 31, 2013
  76. ‘On the Early History of New Brunswick’ – July 24, 2013
  77. The Maugerville Settlement, 1763-1824 – July 17, 2013
  78. 1930 Circus Train Wreck Near Moncton, N.B. – July 10, 2013
  79. Horses or Oxen? Pick one – July 3, 2013
  80. The St. John River; Andover to Fredericton – June 26, 2013
  81. Origins of Some Place Names on N.B.’s Eastern Shore – June 19, 2013
  82. The St. John River; Grand Falls to the Tobique – June 12, 2013
  83. Gabriel Acquin – June 5, 2013
  84. The Seigniories of New Brunsiwck – May 29, 2013
  85. An 1841 Trek up the Oromocto River – May 22, 2013
  86. Fredericton’s Exhibition Palace, and Bears in N.B. – May 15, 2013
  87. Murder on Diamond Square Road – May 8, 2013
  88. Acadian Historic Sites in New Brunswick – May 1, 2013
  89. John C. Tracy’s Book, Part 5 of 5 – Apr. 24, 2013
  90. John C. Tracy’s Book, Part 4 of 5 – Apr. 17, 2013
  91. John C. Tracy’s Book, Part 3 of 5 – Apr. 10, 2013
  92. John C. Tracy’s Book, Part 2 of 5 – Apr. 3, 2013
  93. John C. Tracy’s Book, Part 1 of 5 – Mar. 27, 2013
  94. A Retrospective Look at Saint John – Mar. 20, 2013
  95. The Wreck of the England – Mar. 13, 2013
  96. The First Decade of the 1800’s in St. John, N.B. – Mar. 6, 2013
  97. St. John’s Poorhouse and Workhouse – Feb. 27, 2013
  98. New Brunswick Scenes From an Old Book – Feb. 20, 2013
  99. Nice Pictures From Another Old Book – Feb. 13, 2013
  100. Life in the Backwoods of New Brunswick, Part 2/2 – Feb. 6, 2013
  101. Life in the Backwoods of New Brunswick, 1845 – Jan. 30, 2013
  102. The Works of W.O. Raymond – Jan. 23, 2013
  103. The Year of the Fever – Jan. 16, 2013
  104. Hanged for the Theft of 25 Cents – Jan. 9, 2013
  105. Reversing Falls – Pictures – Jan. 2, 2013
  106. Christmas as it was in 1808 – Dec. 25, 2012
  107. Nice Pictures From an Old Book – Dec. 19, 2012
  108. The Saint John Bridge Collapse of 1837 – Dec. 12, 2012
  109. The First Road Bridge Across the Reversing Falls – Dec. 5, 2012
  110. The Mystery of the First Lizzie Morrow – Nov. 28, 2012
  111. The First Murder Trial on the River St. John – Nov. 21, 2012
  112. The March of the 104th Regiment in 1812 – Nov. 14, 2012
  113. Partridge Island – Nov. 7, 2012
  114. Fredericton’s First Bridge Across the Saint John River – Oct. 31, 2012
  115. 1816, The Year Without a Summer – Oct. 31, 2012
  116. Winslow to Wentworth, 1781 – Oct. 31, 2012
  117. Oops! An explanation – Oct. 31, 2012
  118. The Saxby Gale of 1869 – Oct. 31, 2012
  119. New Brunswick’s Third Town in 1838: Saint Andrews – Oct. 31, 2012
  120. Fredericton and York County in 1838 – Oct. 31, 2012
  121. The City and County of Saint John in 1838 – Sept. 26, 2012
  122. The St. Andrews and Quebec Railroad – Sept. 19, 2012
  123. The Studholm Report of Saint John River Pre-Loyalists in 1783 – Sept. 12, 2012
  124. Caleb Jones. Further RE: Ann, otherwise known as Nancy – Sept. 5, 2012
  125. The Wreck of the Martha – Aug. 29, 2012
  126. The Early Settlement of Maugerville and the Sheffield Parsonage Dispute – Aug. 22, 2012
  127. Lieutenant Governors of New Brunswick to Confederation, Part 2 of 2 – Aug. 15, 2012
  128. Lieutenant Governors of New Brunswick to Confederation, Part 1 of 2 – Aug. 8, 2012
  129. The Morrow House at French Lake, N.B. – New Information – Aug. 1, 2012
  130. Sound by Glen Glenn, Revision 1 – July 25, 2012
  131. Ann, otherwise known as Nancy – July 18, 2012
  132. The Fire of October 7, 1825 – Beyond the Miramichi – July 11, 2012
  133. Lemuel Allan Wilmot – July 4, 2012
  134. The Great Fire at Miramichi, October 7, 1825 – June 27, 2012
  135. Robert Rankin in New Brunswick – June 20, 2012
  136. Who Owned the Mill at Tracy, New Brunswick? – June 13, 2012
  137. Signatures of Sunbury County Ancestors – June 6, 2012
  138. Daniel Wood’s Log Cabin, and Little Field Barn at French Lake, New Brunswick – May 30, 2012
  139. Rusagonis and George Garraty – May 23, 2012
  140. Epitaph Transcriptions from a Collection – May 16, 2012
  141. Central New Brunswick Gravestones from a Genealogy – May 9, 2012
  142. Nashwaak River Pictures with Stewart Family Connections – May 2, 2012
  143. More Sunbury County Photographs from a Collection – Apr. 25, 2012
  144. An Indian Burial Ground at Oromocto; and Coal Mining on the Oromocto River – Apr. 22, 2012
  145. “Days of Old” by Katherine DeWitt and Norma Alexander – Apr. 18, 2012
  146. The Wood Cemetery at French Lake, New Brunswick – Apr. 11, 2012
  147. James Glenie in New Brunswick – Apr. 4, 2012
  148. Four Generations of the Stewart Family on the Nashwaak River – Mar. 28, 2012
  149. Three Generations of the Mersereau Family in New Brunswick – Mar. 21, 2012
  150. Three Generations of the Smith Family of Sunbury County, New Brunswick – Mar. 14, 2012
  151. Three Generations of the Wood Family of French Lake, New Brunswick – Mar. 7, 2012
  152. New Brunswick Education in 1883 – Feb. 29, 2012
  153. Riots and Demonstrations in Saint John – Feb. 20, 2012
  154. Making Better Butter – Feb. 18, 2012
  155. York County Place Names, 1896/1905 – Feb. 8, 2012
  156. Sunbury County Place Names, 1896/1905 – Feb. 1, 2012
  157. Stereoscopic slides from Fred Stewart, Part 3 of 3 – Jan. 25, 2012
  158. Stereoscopic slides from Fred Stewart, Part 2 of 3 – Jan. 18, 2012
  159. Stereoscopic slides from Fred Stewart, Part 1 of 3 – Jan. 11, 2012
  160. The Hon. Thomas Baillie: Gone, but not soon forgotten! – Jan. 5, 2012
  161. The Fort at Oromocto, 1780 – 1783 – Dec. 29, 2011
  162. The Great Fire in Fredericton, 1850 – Early Accounts – Dec. 15, 2011
  163. The Morrow House at French Lake, and More – Dec. 8, 2011
  164. The Old Woman House at French Lake, New Brunswick – Dec. 1, 2011
  165. Smith Family Photographs from a Collection, Sunbury County, N.B. – Nov. 25, 2011
  166. French Lake from Before we Remember – Nov. 20, 2011
  167. How Geary became known as Geary – Nov. 9, 2011
  168. Elizabeth (Smith) Secord; N.B.’s First Woman Registered Doctor – Nov. 4, 2011
  169. Phillips Family Photographs from a Collection, Rusagonis, N.B. – Nov. 2, 2011
  170. Mersereau Family Photographs from a Collection, Sunbury County, N.B. – Oct. 30, 2011
  171. Wood Family Photographs from a Collection, French Lake, N.B. – Oct. 25, 2011
  172. Jeremiah Tracy: Pioneer of the Village of Tracy, New Brunswick – Oct. 20, 2011
  173. Two Old Railroad-Inspired Songs – Oct. 16, 2011
  174. Ode to the Oromocto River – Oct. 10, 2011
  175. John Mersereau, Loyalist 2 – Oct. 4, 2011
  176. The Earliest American Railroads and Locomotives – Sept. 14, 2011
  177. The Mersereau Manufacturing Company of Brooklyn, New York, Notes – Sept. 3, 2011
  178. George Morrow of French Lake, New Brunswick – 1801-1868 – Aug. 26, 2011
  179. The Wood Family of French Lake, New Brunswick – Legends – Aug. 9, 2011
  180. The Baptist Church on the Oromocto River in New Brunswick – Aug. 7, 2011
  181. John Wood of French Lake, New Brunswick – 1788-1868 – Aug. 2, 2011
  182. Daniel Wood of French Lake, New Brunswick – 1764-1847 – Aug. 1, 2011
  183. Three Stewarts on the Nashwaak – July 24, 2011
  184. Bunker Genealogy – Five Bunkers – July 20, 2011
  185. Statistics From the 1851 and 1871 Sunbury County New Brunswick Census Reports – July 19, 2011
  186. Historical Development of the Beam Bending Equation M=fS – July 18, 2011
  187. Seth Noble, Maugerville and the American Revolution – July 16, 2011
  188. Columns, the Long and the Short of it – 1729-1900 – July 15, 2011
  189. The Great Saint John Steel Cantilever Bridge – July 13, 2011
  190. The Upper Oromocto River in 1847 – July 11, 2011
  191. Early Glimpses of the Rusagonis Baptist Church in New Brunswick – July 11, 2011
  192. Abraham Gesner’s 1847 Observations of Sport Hunting in New Brunswick – July 11, 2011
  193. It Sounds a bit Too Easy – July 10, 2011
  194. James Buncker – July 10, 2011
  195. Inconsistent Petitions; Changed Self-Interests – July 10, 2011
  196. Abner Mersereau and a Letter – July 9, 2011
  197. Early Glimpses of the Patterson Settlement Baptist Church in New Brunswick – July 9, 2011
  198. The Textile Mill at Geary, New Brunswick – July 8, 2011
  199. Letter of Mi’kmaq’ Chief Pemmeenauweet to Queen Victoria – 1841 – July 7, 2011
  200. New Brunswick in the 1840s – July 7, 2011


John Wood

Written by johnwood1946

September 24, 2014 at 9:56 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

Which of These Two is the Wisest and Happiest?

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From the blog at

Which of These Two is the Wisest and Happiest?

Mikmaq Wigwam

Mi’kmaq Wigwam, probably at Evandale, N.B., c 1910

New Brunswick Museum

Chrestien Le Clercq was a priest working in the 1600’s to convert the Gaspesians to Christianity, Gaspesia being what he called the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. In 1691, he wrote a book about the Gaspesian people, concentrating on the area from Isle Percée in the north, southward down the eastern coast of New Brunswick. His Gaspesians were therefore the Mi’kmaq.

One of Le Clercq’s chapters described Mi’kmaq wigwams. This was an accurate and valuable work, but along the way he mentioned that the wigwams were mean and miserable, very badly kept, and just as badly arranged. He went on to say that they were so low that one could not stand up in them. There was also a coldness which could not be described, and the smoke was insufferable.

And so, a French man, perhaps a trader, was explaining to the Indians one day that they should live in houses as they did in France. Everyone in France lived in comfort and prosperity beyond anything that the Mi’kmaq could imagine, he said. Le Clercq was translator for this exchange, and recorded it in his book which was translated by William F. Ganong and republished in 1910 as New Relations of Gaspesia, With the Customs and Religion of the Gaspesian Indians.

If Le Clercq did not approve of the wigwam, then the Mi’kmaq man in our story cared even less for his friend’s attitude. Following is his response, which Ganong put in Elizabethan English to match, more or less, Le Clercq’s 1691 French.

“I am greatly astonished that the French have so little cleverness, as they seem to exhibit in the matter of which thou hast just told me on their behalf, in the effort to persuade us to convert our poles, our barks, and our wigwams into those houses of stone and of wood which are tall and lofty, according to their account, as these trees. Very well! But why now,” continued he, “do men of five to six feet in height need houses which are sixty to eighty? For, in fact, as thou knowest very well thyself, Patriarch—do we not find in our own all the conveniences and the advantages that you have with yours, such as reposing, drinking, sleeping, eating, and amusing ourselves with our friends when we wish? This is not all,” said he, addressing himself to one of our captains, “my brother, hast thou as much ingenuity and cleverness as the Indians, who carry their houses and their wigwams with them so that they may lodge wheresoever they please, independently of any seignior whatsoever? Thou art not as bold nor as stout as we, because when thou goest on a voyage thou canst not carry upon thy shoulders thy buildings and thy edifices. Therefore it is necessary that thou preparest as many lodgings as thou makest changes of residence, or else thou lodgest in a hired house which does not belong to thee. As for us, we find ourselves secure from all these inconveniences, and we can always say, more truly than thou, that we are at home everywhere, because we set up our wigwams with ease wheresoever we go, and without asking permission of anybody. Thou reproachest us, very inappropriately, that our country is a little hell in contrast with France, which thou comparest to a terrestrial paradise, inasmuch as it yields thee, so thou sayest, every kind of provision in abundance. Thou sayest of us also that we are the most miserable and most unhappy of all men, living without religion, without manners, without honour, without social order, and, in a word, without any rules, like the beasts in our woods and our forests, lacking bread, wine, and a thousand other comforts which thou hast in superfluity in Europe. Well, my brother, if thou dost not yet know the real feelings which our Indians have towards thy country and towards all thy nation, it is proper that I inform thee at once. I beg thee now to believe that, all miserable as we seem in thine eyes, we consider ourselves nevertheless much happier than thou in this, that we are very content with the little that we have; and believe also once for all, I pray, that thou deceivest thyself greatly if thou thinkest to persuade us that thy country is better than ours. For if France, as thou sayest, is a little terrestrial paradise, art thou sensible to leave it? And why abandon wives, children, relatives, and friends? Why risk thy life and thy property every year, and why venture thy self with such risk, in any season whatsoever, to the storms and tempests of the sea in order to come to a strange and barbarous country which thou considerest the poorest and least fortunate of the world? Besides, since we are wholly convinced of the contrary, we scarcely take the trouble to go to France, because we fear, with good reason, lest we find little satisfaction there, seeing, in our own experience, that those who are natives thereof leave it every year in order to enrich themselves on our shores. We believe, further, that you are also incomparably poorer than we, and that you are only simple journeymen, valets, servants, and slaves, all masters and grand captains though you may appear, seeing that you glory in our old rags and in our miserable suits of beaver which can no longer be of use to us, and that you find among us, in the fishery for cod which you make in these parts, the wherewithal to comfort your misery and the poverty which oppresses you. As to us, we find all our riches and all our conveniences among ourselves, without trouble and without exposing our lives to the dangers in which you find yourselves constantly through your long voyages. And, whilst feeling compassion for you in the sweetness of our repose, we wonder at the anxieties and cares which you give yourselves night and day in order to load your ship. We see also that all your people live, as a rule, only upon cod which you catch among us. It is everlastingly nothing but cod—cod in the morning, cod at midday, cod at evening, and always cod, until things come to such a pass that if you wish some good morsels, it is at our expense; and you are obliged to have recourse to the Indians, whom you despise so much, and to beg them to go a-hunting that you may be regaled. Now tell me this one little thing, if thou hast any sense: Which of these two is the wisest and happiest—he who labours without ceasing and only obtains, and that with great trouble, enough to live on, or he who rests in comfort and finds all that he needs in the pleasure of hunting and fishing? It is true,” added he, “that we have not always had the use of bread and of wine which your France produces; but, in fact, before the arrival of the French in these parts, did not the Gaspesians live much longer than now? And if we have not any longer among us any of those old men of a hundred and thirty to forty years, it is only because we are gradually adopting your manner of living, for experience is making it very plain that those of us live longest who, despising your bread, your wine, and your brandy, are content with their natural food of beaver, of moose, of waterfowl, and fish, in accord with the custom of our ancestors and of all the Gaspesian nation. Learn now, my brother, once for all, because I must open to thee my heart: there is no Indian who does not consider himself infinitely more happy and more powerful than the French.” He finished his speech by the following last words, saying that an Indian could find his living everywhere, and that he could call himself the seigneur and the sovereign of his country, because he could reside there just as freely as it pleased him, with every kind of rights of hunting and fishing, without any anxiety, more content a thousand times in the woods and in his wigwam than if he were in palaces and at the tables of the greatest princes of the earth.

Written by johnwood1946

September 24, 2014 at 9:54 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

Fredericton Bridge, a Prophetic Writing

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From the blog at

The story of “Fredericton’s First Bridge Across the Saint John River” was told in this blog on October 31, 2012 [].

The bridge was controversial, and M.H. Pengilly, reviewed most of the objections to it in her essay called Fredericton Bridge, a Prophetic Writing, in 1885. Pengilly began with an account of her home being destroyed by fire in 1877; which was likely the Exhibition Palace fire of October 30th. She then discusses her fear that spring-flooding could devastate Fredericton and that bridge piers in the middle of the river would make this more likely. Her fear that flooding would be worsened did not prove to be correct. However, the discussion raised other interesting topics such as westward migration and the lack of industrial development at home in New Brunswick. It is interesting that she wanted more local prosperity, while also opposing commercial development.

Burns flooding

Robbie Burns inspects flooding, Waterloo Row, Fredericton, May 1, 1973

Environment Canada at

And, so, here is Ms. Pengilly’s essay:


Fredericton Bridge, a Prophetic Writing

In the year 1877 having lost my home by fire, I spent the remainder of the Summer and Autumn in Fredricton. The home of my friends with whom I boarded was near the bank of the river “St. John,” and my attention particularly drawn to the manner in which it was getting settled down to its Winter sleep. In the morning it would be covered with ice formed during the night, and by noon swept farther down by the rains falling at its head, and at its many tributaries. We discuss the subject and come to the conclusion that by all Appearances and from the experiences of former years, there would be a great ice jam in the Spring, from there being such a body of water, forming so much ice, and stowing down like a reserve force that will carry all before it in the Spring, if the rains should fall and raise the water before the ice should be weakened by the sunshine and warm winds of Springtime. (A few dry winds came just in time to save the city that season.) The water ceased to rise and the ice moved gradually away, keeping within the river bounds. I being more nervous than usual by my fire escapade, my nights were made more sleepless while thinking of the river and as Spring approached I dared not stay so near its banks.

I would not run the risk of being washed away from a refuge to which I had been so lately driven by the fire. I went to the house of a friend five miles above the city. Its elevated position enabled us to see the ice, night and day, (the moon being full). I watched it anxiously as it crowded and jammed itself along. It lodged just below the city and fears for its safety were entertained by many, forgotten now I suppose in their desire for improvement and connecting railways. The water rose many feet above its usual height flowing into the yard of my friend, and when they told me of it on my return. I was very thankful that I had left for higher ground, for I should have had no sleep there. Although I knew I was safe on the hill, I left my bed many times to see if the ice was yet standing still, often fancying I could see it piling up over the banks of the doomed city, for whose safety and that of my friends there I felt more than anxious.

Ice and water is I am sure a more dangerous foe than fire, more rapid in its movements, more difficult to escape from, and against whose losses we are seldom insured. The proposed Bridge brings so forcibly to mind that time of dread and anxiety for the safety of Fredricton that I cannot refrain from giving expression to my thought and feelings on the subject. If the people of Fredricton would consider this matter in a natural and impartial manner, they would not for the sake of money that would necessarily be expended at that time, run the risk of destroying the city by placing a bridge where, if built with sufficient strength to resist the force of the ice in ordinary seasons might in a time like the Spring of ‘78, hold the ice and assist in forming a dam that could not fail to flood the city, if it did not sweep it entirely away. How many cities and towns situated on low lands near river banks have been destroyed by an element so much beyond the control of feeble man. Why then should we thus lend our aid to so powerful an enemy as the water and ice would be, if the proposed bridge when completed should hold the last stone required to make perfect the dam that should aid in the destruction of the city.

This has become so fast an age. The traveling and commercial world can scarcely wait for ferryboats and horses with which to exchange cars and stations. They must needs have bridges or wings. Time to them is so precious, so valuable. Is it of more value than human lives. Is it more essential to the prosperity of a country that railroads should be linked by bridges than that the safety of its cities should be considered. Will the few hours lost by such hindrances be missed at the end of life’s journey, I think not. Could not the traveling public be expedited in a less dangerous, less expensive manner. Would it not be better to expend one half the sum which would be required to build a bridge in adding boats and landings near the stations.

The exchanges would give added employment and so increase the population by drawing to us workers from other countries instead of allowing one to go west tor lack of employment here.

The Bridge that will expedite travel and benefit few while under course of erection will carry the business more swiftly past the city and leave it quiet and lifeless as before. Will it be better to draw so heavily on our government funds for the sake of a year of prosperity, that will subside into added taxation and debt, when we may with much less expense secure quite sufficient by ferryboats leaving landings at short intervals.

Let us do all in our power to increase the prosperity of our cities that they may continue growing and with a new impetus equal to those of the far west, which have been built up by a sacrifice to our Province, as they have attracted from us so many of our most enterprising young men.

Lack of public spirit and a proper protective policy that would encourage the establishment of various manufactories, has left us behind our Sister Provinces. This has in a measure been overcome by the “National Policy” of our honoured Minister of Finance which must eventually become one of the bulwarks of the Dominion.

Let us always strive for the right. Let us expend the public monies in such a manner as shall do the most good to the many.

Let it not be in any sense an individual matter, but such as will extend to our children’s children, and shall add to our wealth and strength without exposing ourselves to the danger of being swept away by the resistless force and mighty power of the ice floating down in Springtime, when the late rains of Autumn may have added so much to its usual weight and quantity. What is the puny arm of man when trying to resist the power of God in the elements. ’Tis true he has brought to his aid the lightning from the sky and with it carries words and sounds across oceans and continents. In forming the Electric light he has been able to make brilliant the darkest night. He is daily using the breath of Heaven to waft his ships across the seas.

He forms channels through which to convey water and make it subservient to his purpose, from water he produces steam to move the mighty engine, the greatest work of the present day, and yet by those elements he is often and in various ways, swept out of existence in an instant, and they who come after him are benefited by his wisdom or impoverished by his lack of judgement or economy.

I hope the people of my native county in the City of Fredricton may never have cause to regret that they have not taken heed to this my prophetic warning in regard to the Fredricton Bridge.

Written by johnwood1946

September 17, 2014 at 9:44 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

A Speech to Distinguished Persons of Stake and Consideration

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From the blog at

A Speech to Distinguished Persons of Stake and Consideration

Children Turnip Field

Children in Turnip Field, Woodstock, 1912

From collectionscanada

Almost everyone was complaining in the 1800’s about the state of Agriculture in New Brunswick. Large amounts of food were being imported rather than being produced locally; the labour force was largely dedicated to logging; farm labour was expensive; and immigrants were passing through with hopes of making better lives for themselves elsewhere. Farming techniques were improving as the 19th century progressed, but not so much in New Brunswick which was falling evermore behind. The following is one of many proposals which were made to remedy the situation, and it is from a speech given in 1825 by Lieutenant Governor Sir Howard Douglas.

The title that I have put on this blog post comes from his opening paragraph, and struck me as indicative of the social structure at that time.


At a general meeting of the Members of the Legislature, and other respectable Gentlemen from all parts of the Province, assembled in one of the Committee Rooms of the House of Assembly on Thursday the 17th of February, 1825, by request of the Lieutenant-Governor, to take into consideration some propositions to be submitted by His Excellency, relating to the improvement of Agriculture, &c. in this Province, when His Excellency was pleased to open the proceedings of the meeting with the following SPEECH:—

The purpose for which I have caused this meeting to be convened, is of the first importance to the Country: And I am delighted to find myself surrounded on this occasion, as I hope to be on every occasion, by those distinguished Persons, from whose station, stake and consideration in the Country, I may expect the most powerful aid in promoting the great objects I have in view, if we are all fully impressed with the expediency and necessity we are under, each in our several stations, of doing all that may depend upon us, to accomplish the purposes which I am now to bring more particularly under your consideration.

The purpose for which we are met is, to enquire whether some encouragement and excitement may not be applied to Agricultural pursuits, to operate, discreetly and gradually, in a manner to relieve the country from the great difficulty and disability under which it is laid by the vast sums which we pay for our food, and from the very disadvantageous effects which this produces on the cost of labour, and consequently in all branches of our industry.

Under ordinary circumstances, the high price occasioned by deficiency in the supply of any article in general demand, operating as a premium upon increased production has a direct and natural tendency to remedy its own evils. This, in fact, is an effect which is working here, though slowly, to cure the malady of which we complain; and if other branches of industry were not in an excited, forced, and somewhat unnatural condition, it would be unnecessary, superfluous, or perhaps disadvantageous, to interfere with the sources and currents of supply, which ultimately accommodate themselves in the most advantageous and fitest way, to meet demand. But there are peculiarities in the circumstances of this Country, which must appear very obvious to all persons who have correct notions of the extent of her business and dealings, compared with the limited Population and Capital we possess, which occasioning powerful competitions in other branches, would appear to demand some additional encouragement and adventitious aid, to draw Labour and Capital in greater quantities, to the cultivation of the Soil.

To consider, properly, the best modes and means by which we may augment the production of subsistence, it will be proper to resolve the question into the consideration of the elements of production, viz. Labour, Capital and Land, and to enquire in what way we can give to those constituent parts of production, the facilities and encouragement they require, to compete with other branches which are obviously under the influence of adventitious excitement.

With respect to Land, we possess it in abundance, and in quality ready to yield what we may in a judicious manner require of it; and it will be one of my main objects to endeavor to lay open to agricultural pursuits, extensive tracts which have long been locked up in reserved superabundance. This measure has in one case been, heretofore, sought and petitioned for; but it was not accorded to, at that, time, in consequence of doubts entertained by His Majesty’s Government, as to the value of the standing produce of that Land for other purposes. But it is an advantage arising from a late appointment to a high situation in the Province, that powers are given, subject to certain conditions and regulations which I may sanction, to throw open portions of those reserves to meet the improving circumstances of the Country, and this will be speedily observed in a way that will open considerable tracts of valuable Land to the operations of Agriculture.

Proceeding, next, to the consideration of Capital, it has appeared to me to be very desirable, that some new measures taken with a view to attract the enterprises of Capitalists, not only to the cultivation of fresh tracts, but likewise to that of the waste Lands of the Province generally; and I entertain the intention of bringing this proposition under the consideration of the High Authorities, elsewhere, upon whom this will depend. But the creation and accumulation of small Capitals, sufficient to enable the working man to enter with advantage on the cultivation of a grant of Land, of the usual extent, is a matter in degree and practicability, much within the influence of our own measures, and it becomes therefore subject of very fit consideration for this meeting, composed of so many distinguished persons, who, returning soon to their respective Counties, may give information respecting those Institutions which are constituted, and likely I trust to be protected, to provide for the safe custody and accumulation of the small savings of the industrious classes of Society.

The greater part of such accumulations may be considered as funds rescued from unproductive consumption, to be laid out productively in various important branches of industry; and whilst, therefore, in this view, the provident Institutions deserve encouragement from all classes, they more particularly suggest to the gentlemen acting in the different Emigrant and Agricultural Societies, and to the employers of Agricultural Labourers generally, the co-operation which may be expected from Savings Banks in encouraging, by enabling, all industrious persons, soon to enter with advantage on the cultivation of the Soil, as proprietors of Land.

The poor Emigrant, for instance, who comes to the country destitute of pecuniary means, and who should always be met and welcomed with a great deal of charitable attention and protection, should be told, that to enter on the laborious enterprise of clearing a Lot, in the wilderness, without Capital, would be to entangle himself in very considerable difficulty. The best course which such a person can pursue, would be to avail himself of the assistance, which it should be a main object of all Emigrant Societies to provide, to procure advantageous employment in which to acquire experience of the climate, habit of Labour, and best modes of culture; and whilst acquiring these, to accumulate his Savings in the Savings Banks, in the manner that any person, who is not burthened with a large family, may soon do, in farm service in summer, and in other pursuits in winter.

This object will perhaps be best pursued by the Emigrant Societies in the different parts, taking active measures to become acquainted with the circumstances and description of Emigrants so soon as they arrive, and entering in a Book, their names, age, trade or occupation, objects, and the means they may possess of pursuing these. From those entries of the circumstances and condition of the Individuals, Emigrant Societies would be competent to give them counsel and protection. If the Emigrant’s desire should be to Agricultural pursuits, which will commonly be the case, but that he has no Capital to commence with, he should be advised to put himself to Farm service, and his attention should be drawn to the facilities which Savings Banks provide for receiving, securing and augmenting his savings; If this measure meet concurrence in its objects and practicability, it will be received as an appeal to the Agriculturists of the Country to keep correspondence with the nearest Emigrant Societies, for the purpose of procuring Labourers of their recommendation.

But although it may not be expedient for a person without Capital, to enter at once on the cultivation of his tract, yet it appears to me that some inducement should be applied to excite his industry by a prospect of an advantageous location so soon as he finds himself capable of undertaking it; and in this view I see no difficulty in the arrangement, and on the other hand, great public advantage, in securing for persons thus working for their capital, locations upon the Lots they may prefer, subject to a condition that, within one year, the Emigrant Society in whose Books they may be registered, report favorably of their proceedings, in a manner to give fair expectation that at the end of a further short period, they would be able to enter upon their location, and pay a proportion of their fees, in aid of which the Society should provide some donation or loan.

But when the Emigrant has pecuniary means, or is resolved to enter at once on his Land, the Emigrant Societies will be enabled to let him choose his situation, in the plans of unoccupied Lots reserved for Emigrants, which plans will for this purpose be transmitted to the Emigrant Societies, and to whose recommendation a quick return of location tickets will be made; and I am happy to say that this measure will be observed and promoted with much ability and zeal by the distinguished persons on whom it will severally depend.

When we reflect that one of the greatest difficulties under which we labour in accomplishing the great purpose of independence with respect to our food, arises from the want a working population sufficient for all the operative parts of our industry, and consequently the very high rate of wages and food, which lays the Agriculturist under disadvantages of the most serious description, in a climate where the productive powers of the earth are so long dormant, we must all concur in the necessity of aiding Societies by whose means so many able hands can be procured, and for want of properly supporting which, so many have passed to a foreign land.

An increased competition or supply of labour then will be much influenced by arrangements such as I have indicated; whilst in its modes, intelligence and material means. It may be greatly promoted by Agricultural Societies. These, under the designation of Agricultural and Emigrant Societies, I should wish to see formed in every Country in the Province, and Sub-Societies organized under them to carry their benefits to all parts of the Country. I trust, indeed, that ere you depart, the foundation, or rather the re-organization of such a system will be completed, and I call upon the Gentlemen of distinction from the different Counties who are now present to concur in this measure, and when they return to their respective Counties, to engage to organize such Societies to be composed of persons who would be most likely to co-operate in this great purpose. I feel confident, that whenever Societies shall be so organized in any County, they will meet the provision which I trust will be made by the liberality of the Country for their support and efficiency: and I perceive with much satisfaction that the public spirit of the Country is in many parts exhibiting itself in the form, and for the purpose which we contemplate for general adoption.

For the purpose of improving, circulating and distinguishing the modes and means must favorable to increased production, and of drawing to a focus that information which it may be desirable to possess here in the Seat of Government for myself and for you it will be proper that some provision should be devised for the laborious part of that purpose which will depend upon a Secretary who should be appointed to manage the correspondence of the Central Committee to report proceedings to the general Meeting.

The general meeting should be comprised of all Members of the Legislature; of all Presidents and Vice Presidents of County Societies, and of all members subscribers in the regulated amount. The Central Committee should be named in the general meeting to carry on the correspondence during the recess, and to arrange the general Accounts, but the appropriation of Public Funds should be made direct to the County Societies and subject only to the audit of the Central Committee. These Reports will thus exhibit a general statement of the sums expended and whether commensurate progress has been made in the improvement of agricultural implements, machinery, modes of culture, augmentation of production, and breed of Cattle, all of which should be under the influence of these meetings.

With views such as these, so soon as I discovered, in studying your affairs, the disabilities and difficulties which the Province might have to contend with from deficiency in the supply of food, and aware that it would require pecuniary means, on my part, to put into activity the plans which I then formed, and now lay before you, I submitted to His Majesty’s Secretary of State the importance of sanctioning a small grant from the funds at the disposal of the Crown, to meet the liberality and public spirit with which I am persuaded, elsewhere and everywhere, the great object now under our consideration will be supported. I have great satisfaction in showing how readily this has been dispensed: I will read the terms of it, and hasten to say that the use I shall make of it, will be, to place a sum, which I hope will be annual, at the disposal of those County Societies that are or may be organized to meet the views which I here lay before you.

In communicating this grant from His Majesty’s Revenue to the Agricultural Societies, it is however my duty to state that the continuation of this grant for future years, will depend upon the report which I may have it in my power to make of the advantages which it may have produced; and these will mainly depend upon the liberality and zeal with which this Provision is seconded in the Country generally.

Written by johnwood1946

September 10, 2014 at 9:30 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

Building an Education System from Almost Nothing

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From the blog at

Model School Fredericton

The Model School in Fredericton; Part of the Normal School, abt. 1886

Virtual Gallery of Historic Fredericton at

The history of education in New Brunswick has been the subject of several postings in this blog. For example, William Wishart criticized the system in 1845, including for its unqualified and incompetent teachers. He wanted to see many changes, but especially a teacher training system. []

The Normal School in Fredericton was opened in 1848, and Marshall Baron d’Avery was its first Principal. Wishart would probably not have approved of d’Avery’s appointment, since he was an aristocratic type, and was associated with King’s College which Wishart saw as an elitist refuge for the sons of the powerful. Nonetheless, d’Avery’s opening address to the School recognized the deplorable state of the status quo, and set out a plan to bring the benefits of education to ordinary people of town and country alike.

d’Avery was as critical of the state of affairs and of the teaching profession as was Wishart, and so I have entitled his address:

Building an Education System from Almost Nothing

Education is to the mind of Man what Cultivation is to the Earth; for as good lands are rendered more fruitful, and as poor lands are improved by skillful culture, so by Education does natural talent shine forth in all its brilliancy, and humble mediocrity learn to display its solid and intrinsic worth.

So much has been written on the subject of Education by men of the very highest talent—the pens of its ablest advocates have been so repeatedly and so well employed in its cause, that it would be presumptuous in me to hope to say anything new on the present occasion. I feel that in treating a matter so deeply interesting to all, I could but repeat what has already been much better said, and I shall, therefore, with your permission, chiefly confine myself in this Address to the explanation of the principles upon which I propose to conduct the Establishment which has been entrusted to my care, and I will endeavour to do this as clearly, and yet as concisely as possible, so that all may understand what benefits are expected to accrue to the community at large from the Normal School at Fredericton.

It will readily be acknowledged that the best way of doing a thing, should always be the method employed to do it. Now in Education, more particularly than in anything else, it is essentially necessary that the best way of imparting instruction should be universally adopted and followed; that a system having been fixed upon as the best calculated to attain this end, it should become the system in general use; and it is with this view that the Normal Training School at Fredericton has been established, in order that the Masters and Teachers of the various Schools throughout the Province, may, by attending it during a certain period, receive such hints and instructions in the Art of Teaching, as shall gradually and progressively, but most effectually, bring one systematic method of instruction into general operation.

In order to facilitate the acquirement of this system by the Teachers, a Model School will be connected with the Training School, so as to afford them daily and hourly opportunities of practising the art of imparting instruction—an art, without which all the knowledge of the Teacher will be as nothing, and the possession of which will render a man of but humble attainments a most useful Instructor.

This then will be the chief object and the principle aim of the Training School; to qualify the Teachers upon their return to the scene of their labours, to introduce into their Schools such a system of Elementary Instruction as may best forward the advancement of their Pupils, so that though they may teach but little, they shall teach that little well.

The greater part of them will, from the locality of their Schools, have only such Pupils as cannot devote any very long period to the prosecution of their studies; and it is, therefore, imperatively necessary that the system adopted be the best calculated to impart really useful knowledge to them during the short time that they will remain under tuition. By really useful knowledge, I mean that sort of instruction which will be of daily service to them through life in their present sphere, and which at the same time may serve as a stepping stone to the acquirement of further instruction, whenever their inclination prompts them, or their circumstances enable them to seek it.

In order to effect this, I would recommend the Teachers to confine themselves to imparting the following branches only, viz: Reading, Orthography, Arithmetic, Writing, Grammar, and Geography. I would have the Pupils read fluently and well, and with such perfect intonation and due emphasis, as should prove that they understand what they read. I would have them so perfect in Orthography as to be able to write from dictation without any error, either in spelling or in punctuation.

In Arithmetic, I should wish them to understand, most thoroughly, the first four Rules; to be able to work without difficulty, hesitation, or mistake, any question in Proportion or in Practice; to make out Bills of Parcels; and to solve, mentally, any short sum that might be proposed to them.

Their Writing I would have exceedingly neat, clear, and bold; and their knowledge of Grammar such as to enable them to speak and write correctly.

In Geography, I would limit their instruction to a general acquaintance with the figure of the Earth; with the position of the various Countries, and with the names of their respective Capitals; with the names and positions of the principal Islands, Seas, Rivers, etc.; and I would for this purpose like them to be daily drilled before the Map, so that every boy should, as it were, carry the Map of the World in his mind’s eye, and be enabled in an instant to reply correctly to any question that might be put to him; and this is, for the present, the full amount of the instruction which I am anxious to see thoroughly possessed by every member of the community.

Mere theorists in Education may, perhaps, be disposed to think that I have adopted too narrow a scale, and that it would be easy to effect far more than this; but when we consider the actual state of Education at this time, and the actual position of the greater part of the inhabitants of most countries, I think that we shall have effected a great deal if we can successfully accomplish the little which I have proposed. How far are we from obtaining any such general result in the Mother Country! Let a labouring man in England be asked a very simple question in Arithmetic—the very simplest in Grammar or in Geography—he will reply that he does not understand you. How few among them can read their Bibles or can scrawl their names! How few of those who can write, know anything of Orthography! And shall we be thought to have effected too little, if we succeed in raising the Inhabitants of this Province as far above them in intellectual acquirements, as they are superior to them in social position? I think not. The days are indeed forever gone in which the Education of the people was thought to be a matter of no importance; but in our present anxiety to impart instruction, we must be very careful lest in endeavouring to do too much, we effect too little. We must begin at the beginning; we must creep before we can ran; and by doing a little well, rather than a great deal imperfectly, we shall, I conceive, best and most speedily attain the object in view.

The Model School at Fredericton will be conducted entirely upon this principle. It is not intended as a rival to any existing establishment in the City, nor will it profess to impart anything like a scientific Education to the Pupils. The chief object of it is, that in connection with the Normal School, it may serve as a Training School for the Teachers learning the Art of Teaching; and to effect this, it will be divided into Classes; and beginning with the very lowest branches of Primary Education, it will enable the Pupils to pursue a course of Elementary Instruction such as I have above described. The Model School of Fredericton must necessarily, if it is to deserve that name, and to serve as the Model for the Training Schools in the several Counties, and for the other Parish Schools in the Province, be conducted precisely upon the system which it is desirable to bring into general operation, and it must consequently afford the Teachers just such a variety and such a succession of Classes as they will themselves have to direct.

But although I assume this as the basis of the System of Education which is to be brought into immediate operation throughout the Province, I am very far from wishing it to be restrained within those limits—or indeed within any limits. My desire is, that the Teachers should distinctly understand that their first and principal duty will be to lay a solid foundation of Elementary Instruction, and that if they do this well they will have discharged their duty to the entire satisfaction of the Legislature; but at the same time, every encouragement will be afforded to those who may hereafter carry instruction beyond these limits; provided always, that the solid and essential shall, in no instance, be sacrificed to the brilliant, and that the Pupils shall be most thoroughly grounded in all the lower branches before they are suffered to proceed to the higher ones. A fact which will be ascertained by a searching examination at the periodical Inspections.

After providing competent Teachers for the various Districts of the Province, it appears to me that the object most in importance is, to excite in the minds of parents a sufficient interest in the education of their children, to make them grasp eagerly at the advantages thus placed within their reach. At present there is no inducement of this kind offered to parents sufficiently tangible and direct to induce them to make any sacrifices, or even any continued exertions for so desirable an object; they send their children to School, but suffer their attendance to be interrupted by the slightest impediment that may offer, and think that they have done enough for the improvement of their minds, by giving them the name of an Education, though the substance be entirely wanting, through their own indifference; an indifference which is the more to be wondered at when we remember, that in this Country, the blessings of Education offer, even to the humblest individual, every prospect of emancipating himself from the narrow and restricted circle of action in which he is born, provided his natural talents be such as to enable him to profit by the opportunities which are afforded for their cultivation.

I shall now proceed to point out what occurs to me as the most forcible method for dispelling this apathy, and for removing this indifference; and although I am obliged to confess, that upon the most economical scale which can be adopted, it will involve some extra expense, yet I feel assured, that not only will no portion of the Public Funds, appropriated to the cause of Education, be more usefully employed, but that this comparatively trifling addition will increase the efficacy of what has been already so liberally applied to this most important purpose, one hundred fold.

The plan I would recommend is that of fostering superior talent, wherever it may be found among the juvenile population, by opening for it a path from the lowest to the highest of our Educational Establishments, by means of exhibitions from Schools of one grade to those of a higher; such exhibitions being not merely honorary, but of such a pecuniary value as would enable the successful Scholar to avail himself of the advantages they offer. Thus, for example, supposing each County to contain, on an average, 80 Common Schools, and one Grammar School, I would propose that each Grammar School should be endowed with two exhibitions for two years, to be competed for by Candidates presenting themselves from the Parish Schools of the County; that such competitions should take place at each yearly visit of the General School Inspector, whose duty it would be to examine the Candidates brought forward by the respective Masters in each of the respective Schools, and to report the names of the successful competitors in each County, before he proceeded to the next.

I would further suggest, that four other exhibitions for three years should be attached to the High Schools of the Province—one to the Collegiate School, and one to the Baptist Seminary at Fredericton—one to the Grammar School at Saint John, and one to the Wesleyan Academy at Sackville; to be competed for, as they fall due, by Candidates from the various County Grammar Schools. This endowment would, with the addition of some small contribution from their parents, according to their means, constantly keep four Scholars in the enjoyment of facilities for cultivating their talents, while a small additional Grant would famish an annual exhibition, of three years duration, in King’s College; by means of which, a clear way would be thrown open to the humblest individual, possessed of the requisite talents, to attain the highest literary eminence in the Province.

The benefits which would result from such a plan as I have proposed, would be very great, and by no means confined to the parties availing themselves of the exhibition. Although, even were they thus limited, the expenditure would not have been made in vain; for it is certain, that a never ceasing stimulus would thus be furnished to the Teachers of all classes, as each would be ambitious to number among his own Pupils as many of the successful candidates for these honours and emoluments as possible, whist much more zeal would actually be evinced both by the parents and by their children in their efforts to obtain such a standing in the Schools to which the latter belong, as would give them a chance of promotion.

I have no hesitation in asserting that the increase of energy and activity that would be thus infused into the Schools throughout the Province, would be productive of immense benefit to the cause of Education. Its blessings, which formerly fell only to the share of the few, would be placed within the reach of all who choose to seek for them. The gates of the Temple of Knowledge, which once opened with so much difficulty to the studious but favoured Scholar, would be thrown back wide upon their hinges that all might enter; and the waters of the Fountain of Wisdom, of which in other days a few pale Students alone were seen to sip, would now be quaffed in deep draughts by any and by all who thirsted for them.

Having thus detailed the views which I entertain as to the course by which I think it would he wisest and most advantageous to commence the great work of systematic instruction, and those which appear to me beat calculated to further the great cause of Education, I shall conclude with expressing a fervent hope that they will be so fortunate as to meet with the approbation of His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor and Council, and with that of the Members of the Legislature of the Province.

I sincerely trust that my anxiety to commence operations with the essentially necessary only, will not be mistaken for an apathetic disregard of the advantages of a more extended Education, and that I shall be understood to have adopted a limited scale of instruction, merely from feeling an intimate conviction that it is the best adapted to the present urgent wants of the community, and the best calculated to effect the objects which the Legislature had in view, when the formation of the Normal and Model Schools was resolved.

To the Teachers I would address a few words on the very great importance of the duties which they will have to discharge. Theirs, which is no common task in any Country, will be a very arduous one in this Province, if they faithfully and conscientiously follow out the plan which I have traced for their guidance. Elementary Instruction is, of all others, the most wearisome and the most uninteresting; and this is, probably, the reason why it has hitherto been left in the hands of persons who were rarely competent to impart it; but the real value—I may say the absolute necessity—the vital importance of a well laid and truly solid foundation, is now universally acknowledged. The early instruction of the young is no longer entrusted to the ignorant, and in many ways, incompetent persons, who formerly conducted our Elementary Schools. Men of first rate abilities do not now disdain to bend the tree into the position in which they wish it to grow, and they find their reward in the important fact, that they are by this means spared the ungrateful labour which formerly but too often fell to their lot, I mean the fatiguing process by which the Pupil was made to unlearn all that he had previously so painfully, but alas, so fruitlessly acquired. They are now thoroughly convinced that the safety of the superstructure mainly depends on the early and skilful construction of the base, and this point now engages their attention in proportion to the facility which they find it affords to their future labours.

Let then the Teachers of this Province undertake these onerous duties with a due sense of their importance; let them bear in mind that to their diligence, to their zeal and attention, are confided the well-being and future success of the rising generation, and above all, that it is to them that the Pupils will look up for examples of good moral conduct, and from them that they will receive those early impressions, which, as they are good or bad, will so materially influence their success in life.

It has been said, it is indeed daily repeated, that there is no royal road to learning; but a little reflection will convince us that the broad path of skilful and judicious instruction, which, avoiding all the narrow bye ways that so often mislead the unwary Student, conducts him by a gentle ascent to the point which he wishes to reach, is indeed, a royal road, and it is along this road which the benevolent kindness and liberality of the Legislature have opened to all, that I wish to see the Teachers conduct their Pupils.

In terminating this portion of my Address, I would solicit the attention to the words of an eminent writer on Education.

“Education” says he “has very many and very important ends to accomplish—it is desirable that the Pupil should be taught thoroughly; that is, that he should have as exact and definite a knowledge as possible.”

“It is desirable that he be taught permanently; that is, that the truth communicated be so associated with his other knowledge, that the lapse of time will not easily erase it from his memory. It is important also, that no more time be consumed in the process than is absolutely necessary; he who occupies two years in teaching what might be as well taught, with a little more industry, in one year, does his Pupil a far greater injury than would be done by simply abridging his life by a year; he not only abstracts from his Pupil’s acquisition, that year’s improvement, but all the knowledge which would have been the fruit of it, for the remainder of his being.”

It will be found that the secret of teaching most thoroughly, permanently, and in the shortest time, that is, of giving to the Pupil in a given time the greatest amount of knowledge, consists in so teaching as to give the most active exercise to the faculties of the mind.

Let the Pupil understand everything that it is designed to teach him; if he cannot understand a thing this year, it was not designed by his Creator that he should learn it this year; but let it not be forgotten that precisely here is seen the power of the skilful Teacher; it is his business to make a Pupil, if possible, understand. Very few things are incapable of being understood, if they be reduced to their simplest elements; hence the reason why the power of accurate analysis is so invaluable in a Teacher; by simplification and patience it is astonishing to observe how easily abstruse subjects may be brought within the grasp of even the faculties of children; let a Teacher then first understand a subject himself—let him know that he understands it; let him reduce it to its Simplest form; and then let him see that his pupil understands it also. I would further recommend the frequent repetition of whatever has been acquired; for want of this an almost incalculable amount of valuable time is annually wasted. Who of us has not forgotten far more than he at present knows! What is understood to-day may with pleasure be reviewed tomorrow. If it be frequently reviewed, it will be associated with all our other knowledge, and be thoroughly engraven on the memory; if it be laid aside for a month or two, it will be almost as difficult to recover it as to acquire a new truth. If this be the case with us generally, I need not say how peculiarly the remark applies to the young; but above all, let me insist upon the importance of universal practice of everything that is learned. No matter whether it be a Rule in Arithmetic or a Rule in Grammar; as soon as it is learned and understood, let it be practised. Let exercise be so devised, as to make the Pupil familiar with its application; let him construct exercises himself; let him not leave them until he feels that he understands both the law and its application, and is able to make use of it freely and without assistance. The mind will never derive power in any other way, nor will it in any other way attain to the dignity of certain and practical and available science.

The business of the Teacher then, is, so to communicate knowledge, as most constantly and vigorously to exercise the original faculties of the mind. In this manner, he will both convey the greatest amount of instruction, and create the largest amount of mental power. We are, as it were, the pioneers of this work in this Country—let us by all the means in our power second the efforts and the wishes of the public.

There is one more point on which I must particularly insist; I allude to the fitness or unfitness of the Teacher for the task which he has undertaken. This is a most important consideration, and one which I shall feel bound to select as a test of the rank which the Teacher is to obtain. I have already remarked, I now emphatically repeat, that I shall not consider superior attainments as sufficient of themselves to entitle a candidate to his certificate as a first Class Teacher. These certificates will be granted with the utmost caution, and to those candidates only, who shall have fully proved their perfect fitness for the duties which will devolve upon them—their qualifications as judicious imparters of instruction, and as strict, but mild and temperate disciplinarians.

It now only remains for me to return my grateful thanks to His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor, for the very cordial support which I have received from him in this the outset of my arduous undertaking. I have also great pleasure in acknowledging the friendly co-operation of those Members of the Council and of the Legislature, to whom I have had the honour of communicating my views; and as I trust that the whole of them will do me the justice to believe that in forming the plan which I wish to follow, I have been actuated solely by my anxious desire to carry out their intentions in the most efficacious manner possible, so do I hope, that relying on my zeal and assiduity, they will not refuse to lighten my labours by the pleasing consciousness that I am favoured with their approbation.

I trust that I shall have an early opportunity of visiting most of these Gentlemen in their respective Counties, and they may rest assured, that no effort shall be wanting on my part to secure to their Schools all the advantages which can result from an improved and well conducted system of Education1.

The operations of the Model School will commence this afternoon, and I shall feel very great pleasure in receiving any Gentlemen who may favour us with a visit; and also in affording any additional information which it may be in my power to supply.


  1. I here allude to those visits of Inspection to the various County Training Schools, which will, I think, be essentially necessary to their proper management, and which it will, I conceive, be a part of my duty to pay, in order that the System may be effectually carried out.

Written by johnwood1946

September 3, 2014 at 9:53 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

Cape Tormentine to the Baye des Chaleurs in the 1600s

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From the blog at http://JohnWood1946,

Cape Tormentine to the Baye des Chaleurs in the 1600s

This is a description of the east coast of New Brunswick as it was in the mid-1600s, written by Nicolas Denys, a Governor of Acadia. Denys was the founder of St. Peter’s and Englishtown (St. Pierre and Ste. Anne), Nova Scotia, and of Bathurst (Nepisiquit), New Brunswick. Denys’ book was translated and republished by William F. Ganong as The Description and Natural History of the Coasts of North America, (Acadia), Toronto, 1908.

For information, one league is a variable measure, usually around three miles, and one fathom is six feet.

Bathurst 1860

Bathurst in the 1860s, founded by Denys in the 1600’s

New Brunswick Museum, via the McCord Museum


  • [From Cape Tormentine. to Cocagne, and onward to Richibucto, with a description of the “conceited and vicious” Mi’kmaq Chief Denis:]

Continuing farther [from Pictou, N.S.], following the coast about twelve leagues, one comes upon Cape Tourmentin. It is a great point which advances into the sea, and is only two leagues and a half from Isle Saint Jean [PEI]. This is the narrowest place in all this strait. The coast is only hills and very dangerous rocks, which are far out from shore. In front of it some are visible, while others are uncovered only at low water. This point is between two large bays bordered with hills and rocks. All over the top is hardly anything but Pines and Firs, and some few other trees. Having doubled this point and made about ten leagues along this coast, one comes to another river into which longboats enter. It is necessary to keep close in the channel, and having passed a little island, one is well under shelter, and finds water enough. The anchorage is in front of a large meadow which makes a cove of reasonable extent where one is placed in shelter. I have named this river the River of Cocagne, because I found there so much with which to make good cheer during the eight days which bad weather obliged me to remain there. All my people were so surfeited with game and fish that they wished no more, whether Wild Geese, Ducks, Teal, Plover, Snipe large and small, Pigeons, Hares, Partridges, young Partridges, Salmon, Trout, Mackerel, Smelt, Oysters, and other kinds of good fish. All that I can tell you of it is this, that our dogs lay beside the meat and the fish, so much were they satiated with it. The country there is as pleasing as the good cheer. The land is flat and covered with trees which are very fine, as well in their stoutness as in their height, of all the kinds which I must have already named. There are also great meadows along the river, which runs about five to six leagues inland. The remainder is only navigable by canoe, and many more Pines than other trees are found there.

Continuing our route we went into the river of Rechibouctou, which is about ten leagues from the latter of which I have just finished speaking. This river has great sand flats at its entrance, which extend almost a league. In the midst of them is a channel for the passage of vessels of two hundred tons. After one is inside there is found a basin of great extent, but shoal in some places. Vessels cannot go very far into this river, but longboats navigate there for nearly three leagues. Two other rivers fall into this basin, of which one is little and the other rather large. By the latter the Indians go to the River Saint Jean, twice portaging their canoes in crossing from one river to the other [from head of Richibucto and by portage to Salmon River, and down the latter to Grand Lake]. From the head of the latter they proceed into a large lake, and then reach another river which falls into that of Saint Jean. They employ two days in making this passage when they do not want to tarry; this latter hardly ever happens, for they are never much in a hurry. It is by this means that the Indians of the River of Saint Jean and those of this place often visit one another. With regard to the little [Aldoane] river which is on the right in entering, it serves, with the aid of another portage, for communication with Miramichi, which is the establishment that I have in the Baye des Chaleurs. The Chief at Rechibouctou, named Denis, is a conceited and vicious Indian. All the others of the Great Bay fear him. He has upon the border of the basin of this river a rather large fort of stakes, with two kinds of bastions; inside is his wigwam, and the other Indians are encamped around him. He has had a great piece of wood placed upright to the top of a tree, with large pegs which pass through it in the manner of an estrapade and serve as steps for ascending to the top. There from time to time he sends an Indian to see if he can perceive anything along the coasts. From this place one can see far out to sea. If any vessels or canoes are seen, he has his entire force brought under arms with their bows and arrows and their muskets, places a sentinel on the approach to ask what persons they are, and then according to his whim he makes them wait, or has them come immediately. Before entering it is required that they make a discharge of their guns, as a salute, and sometimes two. Then the leader enters, and his suite after him. He never goes out from his wigwam to receive those who come to visit him. He is always there planted upon his haunches …, his pipe in his mouth if he has any tobacco. He never speaks first. He expects that he shall be paid a compliment; and sometime later he replies with the gravity of a magistrate. If he goes to the wigwam of some Indian, on arriving he has a musket discharged to inform the other Indians, who come out from their wigwams, and go to meet him with their muskets. Then he lands from his boat and sets foot upon shore, and all the Indians who are there discharge their muskets. Then they accompany him to the wigwams, [and] when he goes inside they again fire each one a shot from his musket. Such is the manner in which he makes them receive him, more through fear than through friendship. They all wish for his death; he is not liked by a single one. If they are delinquent in their duty, he beats them, but not when they are together, for in this case he could not do it with impunity. But when he catches them alone he makes them remember their duty. If the Indians make a debauch, he is never of their number, [but] he hides himself; for in drunkenness they are as great chiefs as he, and if he were to say to them something which made them angry, they would murder him. At such times he is wise, and never speaks of his greatness. It is well to observe that the Indians of the coast use canoes only for the rivers, and all have boats for the sea. These they sometimes buy from the Captains who are about to leave after having completed their fishery; but the greater part they take from the places in which the Captains have had them hidden on the coast or in the ponds in order to make use of them on another voyage. But when the proprietors, or others having a right to them, recognise them, they make no more ceremony of taking them back than the Indians do in making use of them. To return to Chief Denis, his country of Rechibouctou is beautiful; the lands are good, and not too low nor too high. The hunting there is plentiful, and also the fishing for Mackerel, which are very large. As for the woods, they are like those of other places, intermixed with Firs and Pines.

  • [Along the sand flats between Richibucto and Miramichi, including the Kouchibouquac River, Miramichi Bay, and the Nepisiquit River where Denys established Bathurst. Miscou, the Baye des Chaleurs, Caraquet and Shippagan areas are also described:]

Setting out from Rechibouctou to go to Miramichi, on the left one finds great flats of sand which advance far out into the sea; and the same [is true] of all this coast, which it is necessary not to approach too near for a space of eight to ten leagues. After this one comes to a great bay which enters more than two leagues into the land, and which has fully as much of breadth. All this bay has also flats, of which the greater part are uncovered at low tide. The sea there is very dangerous in bad weather, because it breaks everywhere. There is nevertheless a little channel which leads into the [Kouchibouquac] river, but it is very crooked; and it is needful to know it well in order to enter. Even then it is only passable for longboats of a dozen to fifteen tons, at high tide. The entire extent of these flats includes even to the mouth of the river of Miramichy, of which the entrance is very narrow because of a little island which is on the right in entering [and] which closes the opening. This being passed, one reaches a fine river, a cannon shot broad, which is rather deep. The two sides are of rocks somewhat elevated, upon which there are fine woods. One finds, nevertheless, some little low coves where it is possible to approach and land with boats or canoes. This river has five to six leagues of length through which vessels can ascend, and there one finds two other rather large rivers, which empty into it, and both come together in a point which forms a fork. But it is possible to ascend them only in canoes because of the rocks which are scattered here and there [This is an error. It is more navigable than described]. That which is on the left in ascending goes towards the Rechibouctou river. The other which is on the right leads in the direction of the Baye des Chaleurs. From the head of this river, one goes, by means of a canoe portage, into the river of Nepigiguit which is in the extremity of the Baye des Chaleurs. The Indians have told me that on the upper parts of these rivers the lands are fine and flat, that the trees are fine, large, and in open formation, and that there are no little trees which hinder them in the hunting of the Moose. They are of the same species of woods that I have previously named. In the valleys where the waters make a swamp, there are a great many Firs, but small and very dense. As for the lower part of the rivers, where they make their fork, on the left there are rocks, and on the right is a flat country where there is a great meadow, of more than two leagues in length and a half league of breadth in one place, and of three-fourths of a league in another. There are some little trees on it, much removed from one another. On it are found also a great quantity of Strawberries and Raspberries, and here collects so great a number of Pigeons that it is incredible. I once remained there eight days towards the feast of Saint Jean, during which every morning and evening we saw flocks of them passing, and of these the smallest were of five to six hundred. Some alighted on the meadows, and others opposite upon a point of sand on the other side of the river. They did not remain on the ground more than a quarter of an hour at most, when there came other flocks of them to rest in the same place; the first ones then arose and passed along. I leave you to imagine whether they were not killed in quantities, and eaten in all fashions. If the Pigeons plagued us by their abundance, the Salmon gave us even more trouble. So large a quantity of them enters into this river that at night one is unable to sleep, so great is the noise they make in falling upon the water after having thrown or darted themselves into the air. This comes about because of the trouble they have had in passing over the flats, on account of the paucity of water thereon; afterwards they enjoy themselves at their ease when they meet with places of greater depth. Then they ascend into the rivers, which extend far inland; these descend from some lakes which empty one into another. On all these lakes is found abundance of Beaver, but little Moose. As for the hunting of small game, it is also very good and very abundant. Shellfish are not wanting there; the flats are always full of them. The Indians live on those rivers in much greater numbers than on any others.

To leave this place, it is necessary to pass all these flats, then to follow the coast as far as the Isle of Miscou, which is distant therefrom some ten to twelve leagues. The coast is well-nigh entirely of sand. There occur many coves, great and small, in which are meadows, and ponds of salt water formed by the sea in rising. There are also found some large streams; and in all these places the hunting for birds of all kinds never fails. The coast is all filled with woods like the others, with the exception that the Cedars are more common there. Two leagues before coming to the Isles of Miscou, one finds a large cove, which is the passage of Caraquet, ending at the Baye des Chaleurs, where there are islands of which I shall speak in the proper place.

After having made two leagues along the coast, one finds another little entrance for longboats, which is between the two Isles of Miscou. The entrance is dangerous in bad weather, because of a bar of sand which breaks furiously. From the two sides of the islands there are points of sand which make the entrance narrow, but immediately one has passed inside, then it enlarges. On the right in entering is the small Isle of Miscou, which has four or five leagues of circuit. Having passed the point, there appears a part of it which is like a great extent of land without trees. This is only morasses all filled with heaths. When one walks upon them, they are made to tremble for more than fifty paces around him. There the Wild Geese come to produce their young, and to moult during the spring. Those which moult do not lay eggs that year, and the others which do not moult lay eggs. I shall tell you the details about it when I come to speak of the peculiarities of the birds of this country.

In continuing the route, after having passed the morasses, one comes to land all covered with Firs intermingled with some little Birches. After this a long sand point is met, which makes a cove of considerable size. It is there that the vessels anchor, which go to make their fisheries under shelter of the two islands. One can say that he has there his ship in safety. I have seen as many as five or six ships here making their fishery. They make flakes upon this point of sand, for there is no gravel on it, a matter which I shall explain more at length when I come to speak of the fishery. Fresh water is far removed from this place, but, as a recompense therefore, some two hundred paces from the coast, opposite or about the middle of those woods of which I have just spoken, there issues from the bottom of the sea a spring of fresh water as large as the two fists, which preserves its freshness for a circuit of twenty feet without mixing in any manner whatsoever, either by the flowing or the ebbing of the tide. Thus the spring of fresh water rises and falls with the tide. The fishermen, to obtain their water, go there with their boats full of barrels, which they fill with buckets as if they were drawing from the basin of a fountain. At the place where this extraordinary spring occurs, there is a fathom of water at the lowest tides, and the water is salt all round like the rest of the sea.

The large Isle of Miscou has seven to eight leagues of circuit; it has several large coves, near which are some meadows and ponds into which the tide rises, and where is found a plenty of hunting of all kinds of birds. There occur here also many Partridges and Hares. There are four streams which empty into the sea, of which two can carry canoes, the others not. The woods are as in other places, but there are, however, more Firs. The land is sandy, but is nevertheless good. All kinds of herbs thrive very well, and when I had an establishment [on Shippegan Island] there, I planted many nuts of Peaches, Nectarines, and Clingstones, and of all kinds of nut fruits, which came on marvellously. I also had the Vine planted there, which succeeded admirably. But two years later D’Aunay dispossessed me of it by virtue of a Decree of the Council, although I had a concession from the Company, in consideration of which he made an arrangement with the one who commanded there for me. Inventory was made of all the merchandise and provisions which I had there, for the value of which he gave his promissory note payable the following year, with the risks of the bottomry. [He is speaking of 1647.] But of this I have never been able to recover anything. Thus, just so long as there is no order there, and one is not assured of the enjoyment of his concessions, the country will never be populated, and will always be the prey of the enemies of France.

The exit and entrance for ships is between the large island and this long sand point of the small island. It is necessary to coast along the large island to take the good channel, which has everywhere a fathom and a half and two fathoms of water. Setting out from this place, it is necessary to enter into the Baye des Chaleurs and to make the circuit of it, in going to Isle Percée.

Written by johnwood1946

August 27, 2014 at 9:26 AM

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The Customs of the Mi’kmaq People in the 1600’s, and Before

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From the blog at

The Customs of the Mi’kmaq People in the 1600’s, and Before

William F. Ganong was a reliable judge of such things, and he said that the following paragraphs were of high value to anyone wanting to know about the customs of the Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqiyik, and other Algonquin peoples.

This is a chapter from the book Description geogrphique et historique des costes de l’Amérique septentrionale: avec l’histoire du pais, written in the 1600’s by Nicolas Denys, Governor of Acadia. This English translation if from William F. Ganong’s version of the same, The Description and Natural History of the Coasts of North America (Acadia), Toronto, 1908.

Mikmaq Group

Mi’kmaq Group at Dorchester, N.B., ca 1904

Postcard, New Brunswick Museum

Following is Denys’ work, as translated and edited by Ganong. End Note Number 1 is sufficient as a general introduction.


Concerning the ways of the Indians, their polity and customs, their mode of life, their disposition, and that of their children; of their marriages; their method of building, of dressing, of speech-making, with other particulars.1

 It remains for me now to set forth the ways of the Indians, their characteristics, their mode of life, their marriages, their burials, their work, their dances, their hunting, and how they governed themselves in former times, as I have been able to learn it from them, and the way in which they did things thirty-seven to thirty-eight years ago when I was first in that country. They had as yet changed their customs little, but they were already making use of kettles, axes, knives, and of iron for their arrow-heads. There were still but few of them who had firearms.

They still lived long lives. I have seen Indians of a hundred and twenty to a hundred and forty years of age who still went to hunt the Moose; the oldest, who neared a hundred and sixty years, according to their account, no longer went. [These exaggerations were likely given to Denys by the Indians themselves.] They count by moons.

Before speaking of the way they live at present, it is necessary to look into the past. Their subsistence was of fish and meat roasted and boiled. To roast the meat they cut it into fillets, split a stick, placed it therein, and then stuck up the stick in front of the fire, each person having his own. When it was cooked on one side, and in proportion as it cooked, they ate it. Biting into it, they cut off the piece with a bone, which they sharpened on rocks to make it cut. This served them in place of knives of iron and steel, the use of which we have since introduced among them.

Having eaten all of it that was cooked, they replaced the meat in front of the fire, took another stick and went through the same process. When they had eaten all the meat from a stick, they always replaced it with more, keeping this up all the day.

They had another method of roasting, with a cord of bark from trees, attached to a pole which extended across the top of their wigwam, or from one tree to another, or upon two forked sticks stuck in the earth. The meat was attached to the lower end of the cord, through which was thrust a stick with which it was twisted several turns. After it was let go, by this means the meat turned a long time first one side then the other to the fire. When it turned no longer, the cord was again twisted by means of the stick through its middle, and again allowed to go.2 The surface of the meat being cooked, they would bite the outside, and cut off the piece close to the mouth, continuing thus until the whole was eaten. They also roasted it upon coals.

As for fish, they roasted it on split sticks which served as a grill, or frequently upon coals, but it had to be wholly cooked before it was eaten. All the children do their cooking like the others, with split sticks and upon the coals.

All these kinds of roasts were only an entree to arouse the appetite; in another place was the kettle, which was boiling. This kettle was of wood, made like a huge feeding-trough or stone watering-trough. To make it they took the butt of a huge tree which had fallen; they did not cut it down, not having tools fitted for that, nor had they the means to transport it; they had them ready-made in nearly all the places to which they went.

For making them, they employed stone axes, well sharpened, and set into the end of a forked stick [where they were] well tied. With these axes they cut a little into the top of the wood at the length they wished the kettle. This done they placed fire on top and made the tree burn. When burnt about four inches in depth they removed the fire, and then with stones and huge pointed bones, as large as the thumb, they hollowed it out the best they could, removing all the burnt part. Then they replaced the fire, and when it was again burnt they removed it all from the interior and commenced again to separate the burnt part, continuing this until their kettle was big enough for their fancy, and that was oftener too big than too little.

The kettle being finished, it had to be used. To this end they filled it with water, and placed therein that which they wished to have cooked. To make it boil, they had big stones which they placed in the fire to become red hot. When they were red, they took hold of them with pieces of wood and placed them in the kettle, they made the water boil. Whilst these were in the kettle, others were heating. Then they removed those which were in the kettle, replacing them there by others. This was continued until the meat was cooked.

They had always a supply of soup, which was their greatest drink; they drank little raw water formerly, as indeed they do at present.3 Their greatest task was to feed well and to go a hunting. They did not lack animals, which they killed only in proportion as they had need of them. They often ate fish, especially Seals to obtain the oil, [which they used] as much for greasing themselves as for drinking; and [they ate] the Whale which frequently came ashore on the coast, and on the blubber of which they made good cheer. Their greatest liking is for grease; they eat it as one does bread, and drink it liquid.

There was formerly a much larger number of Indians than at present. They lived without care, and never ate either salt or spice. They drank only good soup, very fat. It was this which made them live long and multiply much. They would have multiplied still more were it not that the women, as soon as they are delivered, wash the infant, no matter how cold it may be.4 Then they swaddle them in the skins of Marten or Beaver upon a board, to which they bind them. If it is a boy, they pass his penis through a hole, from which issues the urine; if a girl, they place a little gutter of bark between the legs, which carries the urine outside. Under their backsides they place dry rotten wood reduced to powder, to receive the other excrements, so that they only un-swathe them each twenty-four hours. But since they leave in the air during freezing weather the most sensitive part of the body, this part freezes, which causes much mortality among them, principally among the boys, who are more exposed to the air in that part than the girls. To this board there is attached at the top, by the two corners, a strap, so arranged that when it is placed on the forehead the board hangs behind the shoulders; thus the mother has not her arms encumbered and is not prevented either from working or going to the woods, whilst the child cannot be hurt by the branches along the paths. They have three or four wives, and sometimes more. If one of them turns out to be sterile they can divorce her if they see fit, and take another. Thus they are able to have plenty of children. But if a woman becomes pregnant whilst she is still suckling a child, she produces an abortion.5 A thing which is also ruinous to them is that they have a certain drug which they use for this purpose, and which they keep secret among themselves. The reason why they produce the abortion is, they say, because they cannot nourish two children at the same time, forasmuch as it is necessary that the child shall cease suckling of itself, and it sucks for two or three years. It is not that they do not give them to eat of that which they have, for in chewing a piece of anything they place it in their mouths and the infant swallows it.

Their children are not obstinate, since they give them everything they ask for, without ever letting them cry for that which they want. The greatest persons give way to the little ones. The father and the mother draw the morsel from the mouth if the child asks for it. They love their children greatly.6 They are never afraid of having too many, for they are their wealth. The boys aid the father, going on the hunt, and help in the support of the family. The girls work, aiding the mother; they go for the wood, for the water, and to find the animal in the woods. After the latter is killed they carry it to the wigwam. There is always some old woman with the girls to conduct them and show them the way, for often these animals which it is necessary to go and find are killed at five or six leagues from the wigwam, and there are no beaten roads.

The man will tell only the distance of the road, the woods that must be passed, the mountains, rivers, brooks, and meadows, if there are any on the route, and will specify the spot where the animal will be, and where he will have broken off three or four branches of trees to mark the place. This is enough to enable them to find it, to such a degree that they never fail, and they bring it back.7 Sometimes they camp where the animal is. They make broiled steaks and return next day.

After they have lived for some time in one place, which they have beaten [for game] all around their camp, they go and camp fifteen or twenty leagues [perhaps 40 or 60 miles] away. Then the women and girls must carry the wigwam, their dishes, their bags, their skins, their robes, and everything they can take, for the men and the boys carry nothing, a practice they follow still at the present time.

Having arrived at the place where they wish to remain, the women must build the camp. Each one does that which is her duty. One goes to find poles in the woods; another goes to break off branches of Fir, which the little girls carry. The woman who is mistress, that is, she who has borne the first boy, takes command, and does not go to the woods for anything. Everything is brought to her. She fits the poles to make the wigwam, and arranges the Fir to make the place on which each one disposes himself. This is their carpet and the feathers of their bed. If the family is a large one they make it [the wigwam] long enough for two fires; otherwise they make it round, just like military tents, with only this difference that in place of canvas they are of barks of Birch. These are so well fitted that it never rains into their wigwams. The round kind holds ten to twelve persons, the long twice as many. The fires are made in the middle of the round kind, and at the two ends of the long sort.

To obtain these barks, they select all the biggest Birches they are able to find, and these are the thickness of a hogshead. They cut the bark all around the tree as high up as they can with their stone axes; then they cut it low down, also all around; after that they split it from above downwards, and with their knives of bone they separate it all around the tree, which ought to be in sap to loosen readily. When they have enough of it, they sew it edge to edge, four pieces together or five together. Their thread is made from root of Fir8 which they split in three, the same as the Osier with which the hoops of barrels are tied. They make it as fine as they wish.

Their needles are of bone, and they make them pointed as awls by dint of sharpening them. They pierce the barks, and pass this root from hole to hole for the breadth of the barks. This being finished they roll them as tightly as they can that they may be the easier to carry. When they strip them off the wigwam to carry them to another place, since they are dried from the fire which had been made there, they heat them again to make them more supple. In proportion as they heat, they are rolled up; otherwise they would break through being to dry.

At the present time they still do it in the same way, but they have good axes, knives more convenient for their work, and kettles easy to carry. This is a great convenience for them, as they are not obliged to go to the places where were their kettles of wood, of which one never sees any at present, as they have entirely abandoned the use of them.

As to their marriage, in old times a boy who wished to have a girl was obliged to serve the father several years according to an agreement.9 His duty was to go a hunting, to show that he was a good hunter capable of supporting well his wife and family. He had to make bows, arrows, the frame of snowshoes, even a canoe—that is to say, to do the work of men. Everything that he did during his time went to the father of the girl, but nevertheless he had use of it himself in case of need.

His mistress corded the snowshoes, made his clothes, his moccasins and his stockings, as evidence that she was clever in work. The father, the mother, the daughter, and the suitor all slept in the same wigwam, the daughter near her mother, and the suitor on the other side, always with the fire between them. The other women and the children also slept there. There never occurred the least disorder. The girls were very modest at that time, always clothed with a well-dressed Moose skin which descended below the knees. They made their stockings and their shoes from the same kind of skin for the summer. In winter they made robes of Beaver. The modesty of the girls was such in those old times that they would often hold their water twenty-four hours rather than let themselves be seen in this action by a boy.10

The term being expired, it was time to speak of the marriage. The relatives of the boy came to visit those of the girl, and asked them if it were pleasing to them. If the father of the girl was favourable to it, it was then necessary to learn from the two parties concerned if they were content therewith; and if one of the two did not wish the marriage, nothing further was done. They were never compelled. But if all were in agreement, a day was chosen for making a banquet; in the meantime the boy went a hunting, and did his very best to treat the entire assembly as well to roast as to boiled meat, and to have especially an abundance of soup, good and fat.

The day having arrived, all the relatives and guests assembled, and everything being ready the men and older boys all entered the wigwam, the old men at the upper end near the father and mother. The upper end is the left in entering the wigwam, and a circuit is made passing to the right. No other woman entered save the mother of the boy. Each one having taken his place, all seated themselves upon their buttocks …, for that is their posture. The bridegroom brought in the meat in a huge bark dish, divided it, and placed it on as many plates as there were persons, as much as they could hold. There was in each plate enough meat for a dozen persons. He gave each one his plate, and they devoted themselves to eating. The bridegroom was there also with a great dish of soup, which he gave to the first one that he might drink his fill. He, having sufficiently quenched his thirst, passed the dish to his neighbour, who did the same. When it was empty it was filled again. Then having drunk and feasted well, they took a [comfortable] posture. The oldest of them made a speech in praise of the bridegroom, and gave an account of his genealogy, in which he was always found descended from some great chief ten or twelve generations back. He exaggerated everything good that they had done, as well in war as in hunting, the spirit they showed, the good counsel they had given, and everything of consequence they had done in their lives. He commenced with the most ancient, and, descending from generation to generation, he came to a conclusion with the father of the bridegroom. Then he exhorted the bridegroom not to degenerate from the worth of his ancestors.11 Having finished his speech, all the company made two or three cries, saying hau, hau, hau. After this the bridegroom thanked them, promising as much as, and more than, his ancestors; then the assembly gave again the same cry. Then the bridegroom set about dancing; he chanted war songs which he composed on the spot and which exalted his courage and his worth, the number of animals he had killed, and everything that he aspired to do. In dancing he took in his hands a bow, arrows, and a great shaft in which is set a bone of a Moose, sharply pointed, with which they kill animals in winter when there is a great depth of snow. This sort of thing [they did] one after another, each having his song, during which he would work himself into a fury, and seemed as if he wished to kill everybody. Having finished, the entire assembly recommenced their hau, hau, hau,12 which signifies joy and contentment.

After this they commenced again to eat and drink until they were full. Then they called their wives and children who were not far off; these came and each one gave them his plate from which they proceeded to eat in their turn. If there were any women or girls who had their monthlies, she had to retire apart, and the others brought to each one her portion. In those [old] times they never ate except alone by themselves; they did no work, and did not dare touch anything, especially anything to be eaten. It was necessary they should be always in retirement.13

They have thus developed into a custom the recital of their genealogies, both in the speeches they make at marriages, and also at funerals. This is in order to keep alive the memory, and to preserve by tradition from father to son, the history of their ancestors, and the example of their fine actions and of their greatest qualities, something which would otherwise be lost to them, and would deprive them of a knowledge of their relationships, which they preserve by this means; and it serves to transmit their [family] alliances to posterity. On these matters they are very inquisitive, especially those descended from the ancient chiefs; this they sometimes claim for more than twenty generations, something which makes them more honoured by all the others.

They observe certain degrees of relationship among them which prevents their marrying together. This is never done by brother to sister, by nephew to niece, or cousin to cousin, that is to say, so far as the second degree, for beyond that they can do it. If a young married woman has no children by her husband at the end of two or three years, he can divorce her, and turn her out to take another. He is not held to service as in the case of the first; he simply makes presents of robes, skins, or wampum. I shall tell in its proper place what this wampum is. He is obliged to make a feast for the father of the girl, but not so impressive a one as on the first occasion. If she becomes pregnant he gives a great feast to his relatives; otherwise he drives her out like the first, and marries another. This wife being pregnant, he sees her no more. As to these matters, they take as many women as they please provided that they are good hunters, and not lazy. Otherwise the girls will not accept them. One sees Indians who have two or three wives pregnant at the same time; it is their greatest joy to have a large number of children.

For all these festivities of weddings and feasts they adorn themselves with their most beautiful clothes. In summer the men have robes of Moose skin, well dressed, white, ornamented with embroidery two fingers’ breadth wide from top to bottom, both close and open work. Others have three rows at the bottom, some lengthwise, and others across, others in broken chevrons, or studded with figures of animals, according to the fancy of the workman.

They work all these fashions in colours of red, violet, and blue, applied on the skin with some isinglass. They had bones fashioned in different ways which they passed quite hot over the colours, in a manner somewhat like that in which one gilds the covers of books. When these colours are once applied, they do not come off with water.

To dress their skins, these are soaked and stretched in the sun, and are well-heated on the skin side for pulling out the hair. Then they stretch them and pull out the hair with bone instruments made on purpose, somewhat as do those who prepare a skin for conversion into parchment. Then they rub it with bird’s liver and a little oil. Next, having rubbed it well between the hands, they dress it over a piece of polished wood made shelving on both sides just as is done to dress the skins for making gloves upon an iron. They rub it until it becomes supple and manageable. Then they wash it and twist it with sticks many times, until it leaves the water clean. Then they spread it to dry.

For the skins dressed with the hair, these are only treated with the livers, with which they are well rubbed by hand; they are passed repeatedly over the sticks to dress them well. If they are not then soft enough, more of the livers is added and they are once more rubbed until they are pliable; then they are dried. All of those robes, whether for men or for women, are made like a blanket. The men wear them upon their shoulders, tying the two ends with strings of leather under the chin, while all the remainder is not closed up. They show the whole body with the exception of their privy parts, which are hidden by means of a very supple and very thin skin. This passes between their legs and is attached at the two ends to a girdle of leather which they have around them; and it is called a truss [brayer].14

The women wear this robe in Bohemian fashion. The opening is on one side. They attach it with cords in two places, some distance apart, in such a way that the head can pass through the middle and the arms on the two sides.15 Then they double the two ends one above the other, and over it they place a girdle which they tie very tightly, in such manner that it cannot fall off. In this way they are entirely covered. They have sleeves of skin which are attached together behind. They have also leggings of skin, like stirrup stockings, without feet; the men wear these likewise.

They also make moccasins of their old robes of Moose skin, which are greasy and better than new. Their moccasins are rounded in front, and the sewing redoubles on the end of the foot, and is puckered as finely as a chemise. It is done very neatly; the girls make them for themselves embellished with colours, the seams being ornamented with quills of Porcupine, which they dye red and violet.

They have some very beautiful colours, especially their flame-colour, which surpasses all that we see in this country of this nature. It is made from a little root as thick as a thread.16 As for the leaf, they are not willing to show it, something which is unusual with them. Such were approximately their summer clothes. During the winter their robes are of Beaver, of Otter, of Marten, of Lynx, or of Squirrel, always martachées17 that is to say, painted.

Even their faces, when they go to ceremonies with their fine clothes, are painted in red or violet; or else they make long and short rays of colour, according to fancy, on the nose, over the eyes, and along the cheeks, and they grease the hair with oil to make it shine. Those who are finest among them look like a masquerade. Such are their fineries on their days of holiday-making.

End Notes:

These are selected notes from Ganong, edited for this blog:

  1. Our author is, of course, describing the Mi’kmaq tribe of Indians which occupied all of Nova Scotia, and the entire extent of his government from Canso to Gaspe. As he was intimately acquainted with them through his long experience as fur-trader and fisherman, this part of his book has a high value, and we would there were more of it. Most of his statements are in agreement with one or the other of the several works we are so fortunate as to possess about these Indians. Of these the following are of particular value. The references in Champlain’s writings are all too brief, and confined to some account of their hunting and burial customs. But Lescarbot (in his Histoire de la Nouvelle France, Paris edition, 1612, cited) gives a systematic though condensed account of them, all the more valuable in that it is made from observation before the Indians had any extensive permanent contact with the whites. Nearly contemporary are the valuable observations of Father Biard, fully given in the Jesuit Relations for 1611-1614 (Thwaites’ edition, II, III). Most extensive of all, however, though later than Denys, is Le Clercq’s Nouvelle Relation de la Gaspesie (Paris, 1691), a work almost entirely devoted to these Indians, whom he calls Gaspesiens. His book is not only an invaluable repository of fact about them, but it has a literary merit and a pleasant humour unfortunately absent from Denys’ book. There appears to be a certain connection between the works of Le Clercq and Denys, for the former describes many matters in a way strongly recalling the latter; and I believe that Le Clercq in writing his book used that of Denys, but more as a source of suggestion than of information. He gives many matters in far greater detail than Denys, and includes many topics which Denys omits altogether. In fact Lescarbot’s and Le Clercq’s works are attempts at orderly complete treatments of the Indians, while Denys, though perhaps aiming at completeness, shows his lack of scholarly training in his important omissions and defective proportioning of subjects. But he makes some amends for this in his more minute account of many interesting matters connected with their daily life, in which feature his work surpasses that of any other writer. There is also some matter of value in St. Valier’s Estat present de l’Egltse (Paris, 1688; Quebec edition of 1856 cited), and in Dieréville’s Relation du Voyage du Port Royal de l’Acadle (Amsterdam, 1710)—the latter an independent book based upon personal observations made about 1700. Another systematic work, which must, however, be used with some caution, is an Account of the Customs and Manners of the Micmacs and Marlcheets, Savage Nations, by a French Abbot [Maillard], (London, 1758). Of modern accounts, based upon traditions, &c, the best is Silas Rand’s Lectures, delivered in Halifax in 1849, published 1850. Other works of lesser worth are mentioned by Bourinot in Trans. Royal Soc. of Canada, IX, 1891, ii, 328. Of course there are many other accounts of these subjects both by early and by recent writers, but in all cases, I believe, they include no original information. The Mi’kmaq in their customs were very like the Maliseets and other Algonkian tribes to the south-west, so that works treating of those tribes have a value also for our present subject. Among these the most valuable are references in the Memoirs of Odd Adventures, by John Gyles (Boston, 1736; reprinted Cincinnati, 1869), and the Journal of Captain William Pote, Jr. (printed New York, 1896), while the modern writings of Montague Chamberlain in the magazine Acadiensis give material from personal knowledge and tradition.
  2. Our author’s account of cooking methods is much the most detailed we possess.
  3. Le Clercq, on the contrary, says they drank water with pleasure in the summer.
  4. A custom mentioned also by Le Clercq, who gives a great deal more information about the treatment of the young children. The method of carrying the children here described was well-nigh universal among the Indian tribes, and is described by most early writers.
  5. Mentioned by most of the other writers on these Indians. Also the high value placed on fecundity, or upon having many children, is mentioned by all writers on these Indians.
  6. Their love for their children is noted by several other authors.
  7. That it was the duty of the women to go and fetch home the game killed by the men is stated by others. We may doubt, however, whether the women could find the game from such scanty directions.
  8. The black spruce, used by the Indians for such purposes to this day (Ganong’s, day, 1908).
  9. This term of service was apparently a year; it is thus given by Le Clercq, whose account otherwise agrees closely with that of our author, while Lescarbot, Diereville, and Gyles thought this time was one of marriage but of continence.
  10. There is substantial unanimity among all the early writers as to the modesty of the Indian women and girls.
  11. The grace and force of these Indian orations made at marriages, funerals, and upon other public occasions are emphasised by most of our early writers.
  12. Most of our early writers mention this expression of approval or applause, though it is sometimes written differently.
  13. A very widespread aboriginal custom. For our Indians it is mentioned, with more or less additional detail, by others.
  14. In Canadian French brayet is now anything put on to cover the person in bathing.
  15. Le Clercq gives a similar account of their dress, adding that the men wear it somewhat as in the pictures Hercules wears the lion’s skin. Lescarbot makes precisely the same comparison, and adds that the women wear theirs somewhat as in the pictures of Saint John the Baptist.
  16. This plant was without doubt the small bedstraw, the variety called in the older, and as well in the newest, works Galium tinctorium. Kalm states that the Indians used the roots of this plant to dye their porcupine, quills red, and that the colour stood the weather well.
  17. This word is apparently of Micmac origin, but I have not been able to find its equivalent in modern Micmac. The word is said to be still in use among the Canadian French.

Written by johnwood1946

August 20, 2014 at 9:44 AM

Posted in Uncategorized


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