johnwood1946

New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

Fredericton’s Exhibition Palace and Bears in N.B.

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By JohnWood1946@hotmail.com

Two blog postings are combined into one in today’s presentation. First is a description of Fredericton’s Exhibition Palace, built in 1864. This is followed by an article written by W.O. Raymond in 1921 about bears in New Brunswick in the olden times.

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Fredericton’s Exhibition Palace

Once upon a time, a building was constructed on the site of the present Beaverbrook Art Gallery to host the Fredericton Exhibition. That was in 1852 and it was called the Colonial Palace. The building was fitting to its intended use but, in all other respects, was ‘over the top’. Chandeliers in the form of griffins and dragons spewed gas light flames from their mouths, for example. Other adornments included a large statue of Britannia and a display of sixty flags. British strength and ingenuity brought continuous advances in agriculture or, at least, that was the theme.

A Provincial Exhibition would require a larger building, however, and the opportunity to host such an event presented itself in early 1863. A meeting was called and Matthew Stead of Saint John was invited to submit a design for a new building. Stead was an architect and was responsible for many buildings throughout New Brunswick. The resulting ‘Exhibition Palace’ was then designed and built within about a year at the corner of Westmorland and Saunders Streets. It was in the form of a cross with an 80 foot dome in the center. 

 Exhibition Palace

 Opened in October of 1864, the building is often praised as the most magnificent of its kind in the Province. It was also the largest wooden frame building in New Brunswick. Natural lighting was allowed through an abundance of glass and 650 gas lamps were available at night. It was an exhibition hall, however, and the picture illustrates that subtlety was not one of its defining features.

A fire erupted in a shed alongside the Palace in the middle of the night on October 30, 1877. The Palace was soon in ruins, along with a house owned by William McLaughlin. Three other buildings on Westmorland and Saunders and Charlotte Streets were also destroyed or damaged. The elderly William and Mrs. McLaughlin were saved from the flames, but a Mr. Perkins died, of fright they said.

The Palace had cost $28,000., and there was no insurance. The mayor noted that that money had been lost in the fire in the matter of a couple of hours. A replacement building was erected but it also burned, in 1882.

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Bears in New Brunswick in the Olden Times

The following article was written by W.O. Raymond in 1921 and published in the Collections of the New Brunswick Historical Society, Vol. 4, No. 12, 1928, p 350-355.

W.O. Raymond wrote hundreds or thousands of pages about New Brunswick history, but this article is non-typical. He comes across as a relaxed storyteller with no particular motive except to entertain. His story follows:

In my young days stories about bears were often related by the old settlers. The farm of my grandfather in Lower St. Marys had as its lower line the boundary between the Counties of York and Sunbury. A road called the “County Line Road” here ran back at right angles to the River Saint John. The land that bordered this road was pasture and partly overgrown with bushes. Raspberries grew in abundance and cattle roamed at large. Bears were numerous along the County Line Road but were usually so well fed, owing to the abundance of berries, that they were little dreaded. One of my uncles, when quite a small boy, in going after the cows one evening was running heedlessly along the cow-path when he ran slap into a bear lying asleep in a hollow. He tumbled over him and rolled headlong. It was hard to tell which was the most frightened the boy or the bear. Each fled in a different direction.

The bears were, however, partial to sheep and very destructive to the farmer’s flocks, and the government offered a considerable bounty in cash for the nose of every bear, young or old. This helped to stimulate a crusade and the life of bruin became very hazardous ere long. Bears were shot and caught in traps by the score.

On a Sunday afternoon, sixty-five years ago, one of my uncles and his young wife went for a walk out the County Line Road, having their baby with them in her small carriage. They encountered unexpectedly a she-bear and two cubs. Not having his gun and the mother bear being rather cowardly, my uncle chased the cubs up a tree and ran home for his gun leaving his wife with her baby at the foot of the tree to keep the cubs there until he returned. The old bear growled threateningly, and prowled about in the underbrush. The cubs attempted to descend but the plucky young wife stoned them up the tree again and held her ground until the return of her husband with his gun. He shot the cubs and in due time received the bounty from the government, but could not manage to get a shot at the old bear, which kept out of reach of his musket. This plucky young woman was a girl born in our City of Saint John. This story I had from my mother.

In Woodstock, N.B., the home of my childhood, our nearest neighbors were my father’s uncles of the Beardsley family. Most of the men were tall powerful fellows (there were six brothers). Perhaps the most so of all was “Uncle Ralph,” who was tall, well-proportioned, and weighed about 250 pounds. His strength was great, as the following story will show:

The brothers, John and Ralph, one day found the remains of a fine steer that had been killed and partly devoured by a bear. The creature they judged by his tracks to be a very large one. They decided to watch for the bear the next night, presuming that he would return to continue his banquet.

Armed with the old-fashioned flint-lock muskets, they lay in wait beside the remains of the steer. A thunder-storm came on and one of the brothers said, “the bear will come with the storm.” This proved true. A flash of lightning revealed the bear beside the steer and taking aim as best they could in the uncertain light the brothers fired. The priming of Ralph’s gun had been wet by the rain and the gun missed fire, but the ball from Uncle John’s musket passed directly through the bear’s head and he rolled on the ground. John ran forward eager to administer the coup de grace but tripped over a root and fell on his face, the bear rolling directly upon him.

Uncle Ralph seized his musket by the muzzle and swung the heavy brass-bound butt with all his strength upon the head of the bear. The butt was splintered by the might blow, but the bear was not rendered unconscious. Seizing the iron gun-barrel Ralph proceeded to pound the life out of the bear, and did not desist until he had smashed the barrel of the musket into three pieces. He said afterwards that blows on the creature’s head seemed of no use, but that when he pounded him on the nose he soon got the better of him. To his great relief he succeeded in saving his brother uninjured. The bear was a very large one and Ralph Beardsley’s feat was often spoken of in the neighbourhood in my young days. I have something more to say about bears, but would like to interpolate another reminiscence first.

When the Prince of Wales, afterwards King Edward VII, visited Fredericton in 1860, the people of the surrounding country flocked to the capital to do honour to the heir to the throne. There was then no railway and the river road from Woodstock to Fredericton was filled with a constant procession of carriages bearing loyal citizens to the capital to welcome the Prince. The desire to see him was intense. Uncle Ralph was amongst those who drove to Fredericton, and on his return had many stories to relate, and he told them well. One that I recall was that on the day when the Prince opened a park near the Government House, at the upper end of the town, the people had gathered in such crowds that (there being no eminences in the park) only a few could see him. A disconsolate young lady of diminutive size found herself unable either to penetrate the crowd or to see over their heads. She attracted Uncle Ralph’s attention. He saw her difficulty. He had himself a wife who was a little woman and he inquired if he could help her. She told him she had come a long way to see the Prince and that as he was going away on the morrow she would be much mortified to have to go home without even having had a look at him.

“Come with me,” said Uncle Ralph, and he led the way to a tree not far from where the Prince was standing. “Can you climb?” he said. She answered “I can try.” Taking her foot in his big palm and steadying her with the other hand he lifted her in the old time fashion in which ladies were lifted into the saddle by their cavaliers, up to the lowest branch of the tree. “Now climb,” he said. She soon made herself a comfortable seat, and said excitedly, “Oh, I can see him splendidly here; he is only a little way from me.”

“Take plenty of time,” he said, “I will stand guard.” In due course he assisted her down, received her grateful thanks and she went on her way rejoicing.

Soon afterwards he found a man, of the stature of Zaccheus, who had tried in vain to see the Prince. He confided his trouble to Uncle Ralph. “Today is the third day he has been here,” he said, “and I haven’t seen him yet, I shall have to go home without seeing him.”

Constables were now busy keeping the people from climbing trees, but Uncle Ralph again led the way to his tree. He said to the constable “Here is a man who has come a long way to see the Prince, and I want to help him,” and seizing the little man he chucked him high up among the branches, at which the crowd laughed. The constable looked rather apprehensively at the gigantic man, whose smile had in it something of theNemo me impune lacessit’’

He laughed and suffered Zaccheus to remain, with the big man as his guardian. “Take plenty of time,” said Uncle Ralph, “you may never again have a chance to see the future King of the Empire.”

Through the kindness of our corresponding member, Dr. W.F. Ganong, of Northampton, Mass., 1 have had the privilege of studying his photo-stat copy of P. Campbell’s “Travels in the Interior parts of North America in 1791, 1792,” printed in Edinburg 1793. The photo-stat copy is from the volume in the library of Congress. The books are now very scarce and a copy was sold at auction some little time ago for $350.00.

The description of his trip through New Brunswick – up the river to Fredericton, then up the Nashwaak to the Highland Settlement made there by the old 42nd Regiment, then up the Kennebecasis to Sussex, and then west to Passamaquoddy and Grand Manan, is all full of interest.

I shall only venture to give some extracts relating Bears in New Brunswick: These extracts 1 give verbatim without note or comment. He writes on September 2, 1791: “After we had passed Major Coffy’s (Coffin’s) beautiful seat, pleasantly situated on a point (Woodman’s Point) on the west side of the river, we landed. * * * Here I was informed that two men, in coming down the river, had attacked an old bear and two young ones, swimming across the river, which they killed.

Another man, in his boat alone, met a bear swimming across, and struck him with his axe and wounded him; but by the force of the stroke the axe fell overboard. The wound exasperated the bear to such a degree that it was with the utmost difficulty the man could keep him from boarding him and in the struggle he bit one of his fingers; but at last he shoved off his boat and got quit of him.

* * * “On an island, called Spoon Island, there were seven bears killed in one day. A gentleman and his son, near the house in which I then lodged, had been out working at the hay, having pitch-forks and rakes. Seeing a monstrous bear, quite close to the river, they pressed so hard upon him as to drive him into the water. They then thought they had him secure, as there was a boat near them, to which they immediately ran; and having pursued and come up with him, they struck and pelted him with the pitch-forks and shafts till they broke them to pieces. The exasperated monster now, as they had no weapon to annoy him, turned the chase on his adversaries; and fixing his forepaws upon the gunnel of the boat attempted to get in.

“They did all they could to keep him out, but their efforts were in vain, – he got in. So that at last they had nothing else for it, but either to jump out into the water or stay in the boat and be torn to pieces. They chose the former and swam ashore. The bear, now master of the boat whence the enemy had battered him, was so severely galled with the strokes and wounds he had received that he made no attempt to follow, but continued in the boat, otherwise he might have soon overtaken them, and have had ample revenge as he could swim three times faster than they.

“They immediately ran to the house for guns, and when they came back saw him sitting in the boat, and dipping one of his paws now and then in the water, and washing his wounds; on which, levelling their pieces, they shot him dead.

“The landlord of the house I put up at, when this story was told, showed me one of the paws of this bear, which, on account of its great size, he kept as a show, and added that it was as big as a yearling calf. So that one may easily conceive the havoc and destruction committed in a country so much infested with such monstrous and ravenous animals, especially on sheep, the simplest and silliest of all creatures, which fall an easy prey to beasts of far less strength and size. Many of these harmless, yet useful animals, were destroyed by bears in this very neighbourhood, where one man sustained the loss of thirty of his sheep within a short space; and even young cattle often were devoured, and carried off by them; yet they prefer swine, when they can get them, to any other meat.

* * * “After satisfying myself with everything necessary for me to see in this part of the River Saint John, I left my coat in the boat, the day being warm and sultry, and proceeded in my waistcoat and trousers twelve miles on foot. * * *

“I proceeded on the road, which had hitherto continued along the river side, but now struck off from it and led into a thick wood. * * * No sooner had I entered this dreary wilderness than the many stories I had heard of the bears recurred to my mind, which made me so apprehensive as to be at a stand whether to return back or push forward. I chose the latter. My dog, who was along with me and to whom I trusted much in case of being attacked, kept ranging about for game and was but rarely in my sight; so that I had constantly to call on him to keep him in, lest a bear should spring out of the wood on me in his absence; for it being Sunday (as before said) I had left my gun, along with my servant, in the boat, and I began to cut a stout stick with my pocket knife. While bent down at this work, such was my apprehension, that I kept constantly looking around me, lest a bear should seize me by the posteriors.

“After being fortified with this stick I proceeded on without any further concern. Had I been so well informed as I afterwards was, I would have been under no such apprehension, as it is very rare that a bear; no way molested by man, will attack him unless she happens to have young cubs. In that case it is dangerous to go near her den, but no bear would keep her young so near a place so much frequented by her mortal enemies, the human species, as that road was.”

So much for bears in New Brunswick.

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Written by johnwood1946

May 15, 2013 at 10:19 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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