New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

A Retrospective Look at Saint John

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The following article was written in 1919 by David H. Waterbury who, at the time, was a vice-president of the New Brunswick History Society (NBHS). The article is from the Collections of the NBHS, Volume 4, No. 10.

Waterbury was a resident of Saint John, and worked as an architect for the federal Department of Public Works. He wrote several articles about local history and, from what I have observed, he was known for a folkloric style. Reading the article now, it seems old-fashioned and overly sentimental. It is also decorated with poems, and they are not good for the same reasons. It is pleasant reading nonetheless, and reveals many interesting facts about early Saint John. I recommend it!

Retrospective Ramble over Historic St. John

By D.H. Waterbury

In lieu of the paper on the proposed subject for which it appears I have been slated and for which I have not, up to the present, been able to obtain sufficient data, I may be permitted to take up a portion of this evening’s meeting with a hurried sketch of what might be called a Retrospective Ramble over Historic St. John, with an attempt at a picture of the site of the city before the advent of the white man, when the Indian roamed over its rocky peninsula hunting, and the wigwam and canoe graced its coves in fishing seasons.

This hilly peninsular headland, its base indented with coves and rocky caves, reared its twin peaks to a height of about 140 feet above the mean level of the sea. There were lateral minor hills and ledges as are indicated by the elevations herein given. The surface was rough –  knobs, boulders and pot holes, swamps and ponds –  but from the sea the appearance of the hills would be softened by the forest growth over them. The geological formation is Cambrian, the oldest formation with fossils which can be recognized. A strip of volcanic rock crosses the southern extremity in a direction north-east and south-west (West St. John is much the same with more volcanic rock in the vicinity of Martello Tower). North of the harbour the oldest rock, chiefly limestone and schist, with intrusions of granite, is found.

The growth over the peninsula was generally spruce, some cedar, little or no pine, as the surface was too rough and slaty for such.

The Coves – The large cove at the southern extremity, at first called Lower Cove, ran inland beyond what is now called Britain street. This is largely a made-up street; Charlotte street extension is also over this cove. The upper cove, including Market Slip, came in beyond Water street, which is a built up and filled in street. This cove was bounded northerly by (now called) York Point. A number of deep rocky caves were on the east side, or CourtenayBay shore. The southern extremity of the peninsula (near BallastWharf) was named Point Debbeig. Beyond York Point, the tide water ran in easterly past the present railway depot, Mill street bridge, and on to the vicinity of what is now Dorchester street extension, and in early days small vessels have gone up this far to load. On the east side also tide water ran in westerly for some distance. A rocky ledge at the north near the centre and west end of City Road, which has been cut through for the I.C.R. track, is all that prevented the peninsula from being completely an island. Water courses and many small rivulets ran down the sides of the hills in the hollows. Four or five of the largest of these streams should be mentioned.

One starting near the northerly side of King Square (where was a cedar swamp extending toward Union street) made its way westerly down through Market street to Germain, southerly to King street, thence westerly and down into Market Slip at Water street. Another rising south of King street, east of Sydney, flowed southerly, crossing Leinster, Princess, Orange and on to St. James street where it crossed Sydney, thence past corner of Britain and Charlotte and emptied into the Lower Cove a little south of Britain street. Still another in this locality, starting south of King Square, flowed southerly to Duke, crossed Charlotte street and continued down, crossing Queen and Harding, St. James and Britain and emptied into the Lower Cove. There were two which rose on the high land north of Waterloo street, one from the vicinity of Cliff street ran south, crossed Paddock and Waterloo, then turned easterly near Union street, continuing between Brussels and St. Patrick streets, crossed foot of St. David street and out to shore of Courtenay Bay there; the second rising on Vinegar Hill (so called) rear of Cathedral, ran not far from the latter, crossed Waterloo, Richmond and St. Patrick streets and on to foot of St. David street and into the bay. On the east side of the peninsula, two or three short rapid streams, one between Elliott Row and King street and at least another, a little south of Mecklenburg street, fell over the bank to the Bay Shore. There were large deposits of brick clay in the vicinity of some of these streams where they ran through hollows or flat places and near the shore. The shoals and reefs at the south or sea end were higher then than now, that is, the natural filling in or silting around them was not so high. The billows of the Bay dashed more furiously over them in earlier times.

The Coming of the White Man – The discovery and naming of St. John River by Champlain, A.D. 1604 – the early French settlers – the story of LaTour and Charnisay – Fort LaTour – the early settlers from the English colonies, Massachusetts, etc., and the arrival of the Loyalists after the Revolutionary War, 1783; these are all matters of history and fairly well described in sundry publications and it is not at all the purpose or ambition of this hurried sketch to attempt any further description.

The first English name of the settlement on the peninsula was Parrtown – called so in honor of the then governor of Nova Scotia, of which province New Brunswick was Sunbury County. The west side was named Carleton, after Sir Guy Carleton, Commander-in-Chief at New York. In 1 783, after the arrival of the Loyalists, the population was about 5000. It may be said that a city was born in a day.

The next year, 1784, St. John was made a city by Royal Charter, the oldest chartered city of the British Colonies.

Then there came the planning of the City, and what an undertaking this was in this almost impossible locality; what courage, faith and labor! East and west, north and south, over rocks, hills, swamps and boulders, roads were run; forests were cleared; rock excavated or reduced, swamps filled, etc. It is said that the expenditure for preparing the surface alone for the city has cost as much as would build a modern city of the size in a favorable locality. After the lines of the streets were run and trees cut down the stumps in many places remained for years.

The Indian Name of the Site of the City – A recorded fact is that about the year 1770 a schooner was built at Upper Cove (Market Slip) and named “Monnequash, the Indian name of the peninsula on which little old St. John now stands.” It should certainly be interesting, if not important, to know the meaning of the word “Monnequash.” I have seen it spelled also Managuashe and Man-ak´-wes. The spelling is phonetic, the Indian language having no alphabet. The spelling of the words by the French and English varied.

The Indians appear always to have had an appropriate meaning for the names they gave localities; natural objects, etc. In this they differed from the white people who, in many or most cases named places, villages or towns in a most absurdly – inappropriate manner. A northerly boundary of the St. John of today is the Kennebecasis River. In Indian the termination “sis” is the diminutive. Kennebec = snake; Kennebecasis = little snake river. Any one who has observed the serpentine or tortuous course of the little river as it winds its way through its beautiful valley in Kings County will readily admit the appropriateness of the Indian name. For a number of years the writer tried to discover the meaning of the word or sentence “Monnequash,” “Man-agu-ashe” or “Man-ak´-wes,” consulting glossaries and taking advantage of any opportunity to question an intelligent Indian; in one or two cases ones who had been educated at mission school; had also the assistance of a friend who had some knowledge of Indian words and customs.

With the suggestion “Hills and Angry Waters” as the meaning, the effort was thought rewarded with success. To anyone viewing the hilly peninsula and the breaking of Fundy’s angry billows over the reefs and the swirl of the harbor or river currents around the coves, the appropriateness of the name would be apparent. A friend remarks, “If it is not the correct meaning, it ought to be.” The opinion, however, that the name alludes to some animal, fish or bird abundant in or frequenting the locality, or to some festival or custom of the Indians, is not abandoned.

An old map showing the place has it “Men-ak´-wes,” and also “Menagoueche,” the first no doubt English, the latter a French mode of spelling the name. A good authority – (Ganong) states the meaning is uncertain. Another (Rand) believes the meaning to be “Where dead seals are collected.” Some later research by the writer gives the opinion that the word or sentence means “Place of his pillow, or where head rests,” but the question is still a speculative one. It would appear that the word or sentence is of such antiquity that the Indians themselves of this period are without real knowledge of its meaning.

A digression might be made here in remarking on the meaning of the name Manawagonish Road. In old maps or prints is found the Indian expression “Ma-na-wa-ko-nes-ek” (place for clams) clearly alluding to the shore and mud flats; not the highway. The long cumbersome word Manawagonish is neither Indian or anything else, and efforts have been made for relief, by calling it at one time Meogenes and later Mahogany, which means nothing appropriate. The Maliseet Indians had a highway or great trail along the coast here before the coming of the white man and a proper name, retaining Indian origin, more euphonious and practical, would be “Maliseet Road” for this highway. It is somewhat remarkable that residents of this part of the province have not, ere this, petitioned the Legislative Assembly to change the unmeaning awkward name of Manawagonish. Maliseet Road is suggested.


The Indian Name of the Site of Saint John City

 Poem 1

Some Elevations –  The highest peak on the peninsula, the southern peak or hill, is near the corner of Wentworth and Leinster streets, rear of Centenary Church, and is about 140 feet above mean sea level. There is little, if any, difference between the heights of this and the northerly peak (north of corner of Carleton and Coburg streets). The depression between the two hills was deepest near east end of Union and St. David streets; running westerly and gradually rising at west end of Union where there was a precipitous drop to the river. The top of Block House hill (so called) was about 138 feet. King Square, near head of King street, is 100 feet above mean sea level, or about 70 feet above Prince William street. Market Square (Upper Cove), at foot of King street, is 30 feet above mean sea level; Queen Square, lower side, 53 feet higher—76 feet. Britain street, where reclaimed, was tide level. About locality of Union Depot is two feet. Haymarket Square is twelve feet and the height of land near Coburg and Cliff, rear of the Cathedral, is 126 feet above sea level.

There has been little reduction, if any, less than three feet, at the two highest points on the peninsula, but nearly every street, east and west, north and south, has had, in some portions, large excavations or reductions, and in others fillings. Some of the notable rock cuttings may be named: Dock street, King street East, where the Block House Hill was cut through about fifteen feet deep; the hill reduced from Elliott Row to Union street, at Pitt; the west end of Union street; parts of Germain, Carleton, Cliff, Coburg, Chipman Hill and many others, all to be seen today to more or less extent indicating the labor and expense exacted in preparing the natural foundation of the city.

Old Wells – To recall the locations of some of the principal public wells supplying water to the City in old times may be interesting. There were, of course, many private wells, generally good spring water. There were three large wells near King Square – one on the east side nearly on a line with the King street boundary of the old graveyard, across the road and a little north-west of the Court House. One north side of the Square, near the corner of Sydney, opposite Park Hotel, and another near the south-west corner of the Square. A well between Princess and Orange streets, near the Sydney street line; one near the corner of Duke and Sydney and one of the most notable on Union street, east of Jones’ Brewery. Water was sold from these wells, in some cases the owners carting the water in hogsheads and selling by the pail.

Much of local interest, romance and story could be related about these old wells if space permitted. There was a celebrated well near Fort Howe; another fine one is near the corner of Millidge Avenue and Rockland Road. The completion of the extensive water system of the City disposed of nearly all of these wells – as also the sewering of the City disposed of the streams which ran down the hill sides.

Some Practical or Approximate Distances – Across the harbor between the present ferry floats is 2700 feet, little more than half a mile. Long Wharf, at head of harbor, to Partridge Island wharf, about 12700 feet, or nearly two and one-half miles. Ballast Wharf to Partridge Island Wharf 7850 feet, or less than one and one-half miles. Courtenay Bay from about end of King street, across directly west about 3200 feet, or over six tenths of a mile; above breakwater 4000 feet. From Marsh Bridge to outer end of new breakwater, Courtenay Bay, about 8150 feet, more than one and one-half mile. From Red Head to Partridge Island about 9700 feet, or little less than two miles.

Land Measurements – Air Line – Union street from water to water about 4500 feet, four-fifths of a mile. Across the city east to west on line with Queen Square 3600 feet, over two-thirds of a mile. From Mill street to Marsh Bridge about 5200 feet, or about a mile. From Ballast Wharf to King Square 3800 feet; from Ballast Wharf to corner Union and Waterloo 4450 feet; from Ballast Wharf to Union Depot 5500 feet. From end of Ballast Wharf to Marsh Bridge 8000 feet, or over a mile and one-half.

Of course surface measurements would be greater. In some cases considerable. The above are approximate air line measurements.

King Square is east and west 400 feet by 350 feet along Charlotte, approximately three and one-third acres. Queen Square 400 feet by 350 feet, a little less than three and one-third acres. The old graveyard is 400 feet by 300 feet, about three and three-quarters acres. These places were at first enclosed, the last enclosures were posts about twenty feet apart with two lines of chains running through them around the grounds now without enclosure.

Some Old Buildings – The first City Hall, on the slope of Market Square. The lower or western half of the basement had space for and was occupied as a general store. The ground floor, entrance from King street, was occupied as a city market and the upper floor was used by the Courts and Council Chamber. This wooden building was taken down in 1837 and a building of brick replaced it. This, however, was destroyed in the fire of 1841.

A celebrated resort was “The Coffee House,” corner of King and Prince William streets.

The Court House, corner of King and Sydney, east of King Square, was commenced in 1824, completed and first occupied in 1830. On King street, near corner of Germain (where west portion of Royal Hotel now is) a two story frame house, called the “Mallard House,” stood, and here the first parliament of New Brunswick met, 1786.

Trinity Church – first church, – was built in 1788. St. Malachi’s Chapel, first service held 1815. A large wooden building at corner of King and Charlotte streets was the first Masonic Hall, afterward the St. John Hotel, a popular resort in its day and of much local celebrity. The first service in the Cathedral was held on Christmas day, 1855.

The space at the southern end of the peninsula, called the Barrack Square, as extensive barracks were built there, was in former days one of the most popular resorts in the city, particularly on days of military functions, reviews, etc. The story of the barracks, practically the military history of early days, would be an important, most interesting and considerable work. The old block house which stood on the hill top, King street east, and the Martello Tower, West Side, were built during the war of 1812.

Changes in Street Names – Waterloo street was not named until after 1816. Before that it was called the Westmorland Road, running from Union street. King street, east of Sydney, was called Great George street. Princess street, east of Sydney, was called Saint George street. St. James street, east of Sydney, was called Stormont street.

Old Ships and Shipyards – The greatest and most important of the industries of old St. John was wooden ship building Some of the finest and most celebrated wooden vessels of the world, in their time, were constructed here, beautiful clipper ships and carriers that made the name of St. John known in all quarters of the globe, that made St. John the fourth port in the British Empire.

A valuable and interesting contribution to the history of this city would be a good account of the shipyards and ships of this period. It would be a work in itself of some magnitude.

This article can only touch on the subject and give the names of but a few of the best known or largest ships from about A.D. 1850 until about A.D. 1883, when the industry was drawing to a close: –

“Tasmanian,” “William Carvill,” “Star of the East,” “Star of the South,” (sister ships); “Tiptree,” 1650 tons; “Uncas,” “Welsford,” “Sovereign of the Seas,” “Lillies,” 1665 tons, “Peter Maxwell,” “Marco Polo,” “Mount Pleasant,” “Queen of the North,” 1668 tons, “Mistress of the Seas,” 1740 tons, “Royal Family,” “Empress of the Seas,” “Adriana,” “Lampedo,” “War Spirit,” “Eurydice,” “Howard D. Troop,” “Marathon,” “Edith Troop,” “Lightning,” 1600 tons, “Prince Amadeo,” 1602 tons, ” Prince Waldemar, ” 1691 tons, “Thomas Hilyard,” “Minister of Marine,” 1648 tons, “Empress of India,” 1700 tons, “Eastern Light,” “Alexander Yeats,” 1589 tons, “Birnam Wood,” “Erin’s Isle,” 1800 tons, “Honolulu,” “Vandalia,” “Favnious,” “Honowar,” “Morning Light,” 2400, etc., etc.

Ship-building yards were at Courtenay Bay, Straight Shore, Carleton, etc., and at times all fully occupied, with not one ship alone under construction but two, three or more. I have it on reliable authority that in one day there were counted thirty-four ships under construction in the yards of St, John, and this may not have been at all the largest number at any one time.

Shipyards – W.&R. Wright built at head of Courtenay Bay, in vicinity of present cotton factory. Here a long wharf ran out called Wright’s Wharf. They are credited with building the largest ship built in St. John.

Nevins & Fraser’s yard was near Marsh Bridge. John McDonald’s opposite, on north side of the creek. Here were built seven ships in one year. Ritchie’s shipyard (John Stewart) was on Marsh Creek south of the bridge. Pott’s built on east side of Courtenay Bay near old Poor House and built also previously at foot of Princess street, Courtenay Bay. Cruikshank & Pitfield built east of the creek and launched into it. James Smith built the “Marco Polo” below Marsh Bridge. There were vessels built near foot of Union street, Manaton’s Field, so called. Fisher’s shipyard was at south end of Charlotte street at Sheffield street. Ruddick, A. McDonald, D. Lynch, Hilyard and Roberts built at Straight Shore. Ships were built near Portland Bridge, so called; near the corner of Mill and Main streets. John Clark built and launched into river below falls. Wm. Olive & Sons’ shipyard was at Market Place. Thos. McLeod’s near Old Fort. James and Wm. Olive, also Stackhouse and McLachlan at Old Fort. W. Ring had a yard at Sand Point. Scammell Bros, built near end of old bridge, Union street, Carleton. Stackhouse & Thomson built in the so-called Wellington Bay, east of Blue Rock. Ships were built above the falls and on the Kennebecasis River. Poem 2

Here it lies, appropriately, in the heart of our city, as the memory of its silent occupants should rest in the hearts of our citizens. For here were laid the mortal remains of the founders of St. John – the framers of its laws; its honored servants and respected citizens; its noble women – our grand-sires and granddames of a century ago.

What can be recorded of this old “God’s Acre” that is authentic? The task is difficult. There are few data. Very many of the old gravestones and head-boards have been destroyed, and day after day, old citizens, from whose memories much could be drawn relating to it, are dropping out of life’s race and are themselves laid away in some silent city.

The case of this old grave-yard is not singular. The history of many other institutions and monuments of our city, if required, would present the same difficulties. How apparent is the necessity for our Historical Society and how zealously should its work be prosecuted, so that they who come after may not have to regret the loss of information and blame the indifference of their predecessors.

For some time after the settlement of the city, the site and vicinity of the old burial-ground was a wilderness, covered with cedar, spruce, etc., and with swamps.

When Paul Bedell laid out the city in 1783, the lots comprising the Burial-Ground (bounded by King, Sydney and Carmarthen streets and by the rear of the Union street lots) were reserved for the purpose, and shortly afterwards the place was fairly cleared and prepared for it.

The first fence surrounding it was undoubtedly the brush or snake fence commonly seen in the country. The place was a little larger then than now, as it encroached on King and Carmarthen streets. The running of the lines of those streets took a few feet from it. The first walk made was one running easterly from Sydney street and ending near the centre of the ground. This was the only one required for some time. In fact the appearance of the Burial-Ground quite up to the time of its closing, resembled a large field dotted with tombstones and head boards. The only ornamentation was the native trees and shrubs.

Further mention of Mr. Bedell will not be out of place. He died in 1796 and is undoubtedly buried here, though no stone has been found that marks the spot.

No engineer today could more creditably set out the city – a work of great difficulty; and to him are due our thanks for our generously broad and straight streets and fine squares. In 1784 the building of an English church was commenced on the southwest corner of the Burial Ground, opposite where the Court House now stands. The frame was prepared and ready for raising. Some persons near the place where the Centenary Church now stands were burning brush from a clearing; the fire spread, gathering strength as it went, passed over the grave-yard, destroyed the church frame and went on for miles over hill and swamp, only ending its career when the banks of the Kennebecasis barred its further progress. Little trace was left of the existence of a burial-ground. In all probability what graves were marked at this time had only head-boards, which would be destroyed.

The oldest stone is that of Coonradt Hendricks, 1784; and his, if not the first, is the first known interment. It will be found not far from the western gate, on the south side of the middle pathway.

At first the stones placed here would be obtained from England. It is not likely that any would be brought from the United States, the “late unpleasantness” being too fresh in the memories of our early citizens. One of the early stone-cutters in St. John was John Milligan – the same who built Burn’s Monument at Ayr, Scotland. Mr. Milligan is buried here, where his monument may be seen. The first grave-digger was a colored man named Edward Burr, who for fifty years served in that capacity. Burr was a character in his way and well known. His sombre occupation of the day was relieved at night by his playing the fiddle for dancing parties.

The intention to build a church on the Burial Ground was abandoned after the frame was burnt. The lots between Charlotte and Germain streets were afterward presented for the purpose, where Trinity Church was built.

There were undoubtedly some interments in Trinity Church ground, but the soil was too shallow for this purpose and the New Brunswick Legislature, in 1789, passed an Act forbidding further burials there.

Bodies were afterward taken up and re-interred in the public burying ground. Re-interments also took place from a graveyard in the rear of a building on Germain street, between Duke and Queen streets, used as a church and city hall. The last one buried in that place was Thomas Horsfield (1819) after whom Horsfield street was named. Bodies were removed from a small burying-place (probably private) on Princess, near Germain street, and from other places and re-interred here.

In 1822, the building of a second Church of England was contemplated, and the Corporation gave the same site (southwest corner Burial Ground) which had previously been given and abandoned. The advertisement for proposals to build this church may be seen in the City Gazette of January 30, 1823.

There were, however, objections made to building here. The terms on which the Corporation had granted the lot required that the fence around the Burial Ground should be kept in repair by the Church. This, some asserted, was too great a task; others objected to the location. Finally Judge Chipman offered a lot of land at the head of Wellington Row, and there St. John’s Church was built (1824) which has long been popularly known as the Stone Church.

The brush or snake fence at first surrounded the Burial Ground was displaced by a close board one, in all probability not “a thing of beauty.”

Of the notable funerals that wended their melancholy way to this final resting place, mention may be made of that of William Wanton, Esq., Collector of Customs of this city for over thirty years. He died in 1816, aged eighty-two years. William Campbell, Esq., second mayor of the city and postmaster for twenty-one years; he died February 10, 1823. He had resigned his position as mayor in 1816 on account of advanced age and was given a pension by the city of £100 per annum. There was no city debt then; which fact, besides the long and faithful services of Mr. Campbell, may account for the pension. The reader, if inclined to diverge, may contrast the past with the present financial condition of the city. William Campbell was a prominent Free Mason, and his funeral procession, like that of Mr. Wanton, was undoubtedly an imposing one. Another interment of note was that of Hugh Johnston, Sr. His body was the last removed from the old ground to the cemetery. In this now historic ground are laid to rest judges, rectors, mayors and chamberlains of our city, British officers and private soldiers. The latter, it appears, were buried in the south-west corner, which, it is likely, was reserved for them.

It is to be greatly regretted that so many of the grave-stones have been destroyed, many wantonly. Many of them, instead of being repaired and re-set, were buried in a trench at the lower part of the ground. The greatest age recorded on any of these grave-stones is that of Richard Partelow, ninety-eight years. Mr. Partelow was the great-grandfather of the Honorable John R. Partelow.

A few years ago could be seen, near the Sydney street gate, a head-board marking the resting-place of Peter Paul. An Indian and his squaw had been buried here. The writer has no information concerning them, but without doubt they were settled in the city and respected.

Consequent upon the opening of the Church of England burying ground at the head of Courtenay Bay, the interments in the public Burial Ground became less frequent. The city was growing rapidly around it and the space remaining for interments was becoming small, although for twenty years longer it was to share with the Church of England ground the honor of providing places for the repose of the mortal remains of our citizens. Then the lots and graves were kept in good condition; the place was a sacred resort. New-made graves were gazed on by weeping eyes. Sad hearts strewed flowers over grassy mounds. Then the rustling of its grass and the whispering of its trees had a sad and solemn sound, and none cared to linger within its gates at night. Now its asphalt walks are pressed by the hurrying feet of men careless of those who rest beneath; the schoolboy romps upon its sward; the night brings not a fear or dread to lad or maiden passing through.

In 1848 an Act was passed by the Legislature closing the ground for burial purposes. For some time the opinion had been held that further burials there would be detrimental to the health of the city.

While the penalty would appear to have been sufficient to prevent anyone from placing a corpse in the place, it is, however, asserted that after the Act, two or three bodies were surreptitiously buried there at night. It is said that the body of Redfern, who was hanged in 1846, was smuggled in there and buried, the body having been covered with lime. This was prior to the closing.

The following records the death of the last woman buried here: “Died, 21st April, 1848, Miss Mary Anderson, aged seventy-five years, one of the first settlers of this Province and for many years a resident of this city, where she was known by the name of Polly Dyer.”

Miss Anderson was born blind. She was very popular and moved in good society. The name Dyer given her was probably her stepfather’s.

The last interment was that of Wm. Henderson, shoemaker, who died April 30, and was buried on the evening of the same day – the last day on which the place was to remain open for burials. Mr. Henderson, whose wife and family had been buried there, prayed fervently on his death-bed that he might die before the closing of the Burial Ground, so as to be laid beside those most dear to him.

One verse from the Newsboy’s Address to the patrons of the New Brunswick Courier of 1851 gives this interesting information:

 Poem 3

 As the address records transactions of the year then just past, it shows that the fence was put up sixty-six years ago. This fence became dilapidated and was removed somewhere about 1890 and the grounds left without an enclosure.

After the closing of the ground, a caretaker was appointed by the city, who, besides a small yearly payment, had the privilege of cultivating flowers for sale. Mr. Henry Ward was the first who had charge, and in his time the grounds were laid out, walks made and beds and flower-mounds built. A walk was made along each side of the grave-yard, near the fence; the centre one was extended; another run to the north-west gate to reach Union street, and other walks were made, both with an eye to symmetry and to accommodate the people passing through to streets adjacent. There have been several changes in the office of caretaker, with a greater or less degree of improvement in the appearance of the place. Flower mounds and beds have increased, walks have been made or altered, and the thoroughfares covered with asphalt. A flagstaff was erected in 1860 on the occasion of the visit of the Prince of Wales, from which on historic days floats out the flag so loved in life by those who repose beneath it. A beautiful fountain and jet, about the centre of the grounds, placed there in 1883, the Centennial year, is the gift of a public spirited citizen, George F. Smith, Esq. The old spot is certainly a beautiful place and readily repays the little care and attention bestowed upon it – yet at least two attempts have been made to take this – one of the few breathing places in our closely built city – from the people.

Many years ago a number of persons, principally interested in property on Elliott Row and vicinity, pushed the Common Council hard to order the extension of the street on the north side of King Square directly through the grave-yard to Elliott Row. Happily this did not succeed, the Council voting “Nay.” In 1850, the temperance societies applied to the Council for permission to build there a Temperance hall; and what so nicely suited their ideas was a part of the old Burial Ground, near the centre gate, fronting on Sydney street. The Council actually voted it to them with but one dissenting voice, that of Thomas McAvity, Esq., ex-Mayor, who was then a member of the Council. At the time it was thought by some a censurable thing for him to object to the project. But that he had a better appreciation of the wishes and sentiments of the citizens generally was quickly proven when a petition for rescinding the order was presented to the Council, so largely and influentially signed that there could be no mistaking the dissatisfaction created by the grant and the order was rescinded. The petition was presented to the Council by the late Walker Tisdale, Esq. It is to be hoped that no other proposal to treat this ground as other than an historical and sacred spot will ever be entertained by our City Council, but that it will be further beautified for the comfort and pleasure of our citizens.

Some years ago the New Brunswick Historical Society had a tree-planting and a number of the monuments and grave-stones re-set and repaired and the head-boards painted and re-lettered. They also copied for preservation all the epitaphs then remaining in this historic plot. On May 18, 1883 (the centennial anniversary of the landing of the Loyalists), a military salute was fired over this old God’s Acre in honor of its patriotic dead ; and in the fall of that year, over one hundred and fifty trees were planted by the New Brunswick Historical Society. While the place has since been looked after so far as keeping the grounds in order, it is believed, however, that there is a gradual disappearance of the grave stones.


Written by johnwood1946

March 20, 2013 at 10:55 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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