New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

1. An Indian Burial Ground; 2. Oromocto Coal Mining

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This blog post addresses two subjects:

1. Indian Burial Ground at Oromocto

Abraham Gesner conducted the first geological survey of New Brunswick and published his findings in 1842. The following paragraph is on pages 25 and 26 of his “Fourth Report on the Geological Survey of the Province of New Brunswick.”

“At the entrance of the Oromocto, the course, dark grey sandstones of the coal field are covered with the red soil and a fine diluvial sand. At the village, this deposit was the ancient burying-place of the Indians. In opening a new road, several skeletons, axes, knives, kettles, beads, wampum, etc. were exposed. Through the politeness of H.T. Partelow, Esquire, I have obtained a number of these interesting relics, which throw light upon the history and customs of the ancient inhabitants of the country. The bodies dug up were carefully wrapped in garments made of beaver-skins; that still exhibit much ingenuity, and superior workmanship. The head of each individual was placed in a copper kettle, and the whole body surrounded by a strong wrapping of birch bark. The mixture of French beads with those made of shells, some with axes, and the copper kettles, are evidences that the French had visited the country previous to the interment of these bodies.”

A blog can be whatever the blogger wants it to be, and mine was never intended as a platform for my random thoughts and feelings, valuable as they may be. However, I find Gesner’s paragraph thought provoking.

I remember when archaeological digs in South America became controversial because the indigenous people did not want their ancient ancestors to be disturbed. There have been similar disputes in New Brunswick and I have usually taken the opinion that much could be learned from the archaeology and that the passage of time should lessen feelings of kinship. However, here we have the contents of graves being traded as curiosities among friends. Furthermore, the graves were not merely post-contact. They were later than that, as judged from the survival of shells, beaver skins and birch bark.

I suppose that Abraham Gesner’s only transgressions were to be writing in the mid-19th century and to have shared the mores of the time. I hope that a greater sense of decency and respect for the deceased and for their Maliseet descendants would prevail if such a finding was made today. On the other hand, we are only the latest generation to think that our attitudes are somehow uniquely modern, and I wonder if someone will be writing a similar commentary about our standards, one or two hundred years from now.

2. Coal Mining on the Oromocto River

I wanted to review early prospecting and coal mining activities on the Oromocto River. However, the primary documents are now lost and the only account that I could find is at Days of Old by Katherine DeWitt and Norma Alexander, published in 1987 by the Sunbury West Historical Society Inc. is based on this same article, but is still a useful source in giving a few additional details.

I therefore recommend these sources to anyone who is interested in the subject.


Written by johnwood1946

April 22, 2012 at 11:29 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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