New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

Transportation to/from Fredericton, 1841

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The following is from An Account of the River St. John, With its Tributary Rivers and Lakes, by Edmond Ward, published in Fredericton in 1841.

Ward described transportation routes centered on Fredericton. First, he traced the route from Fredericton to Saint Andrews through Hanwell Settlement, Harvey, Brockway Settlement and Digdeguash, with stories along the way. He then follows the road from Fredericton to Woodstock where he was impressed with the beauty of the river but deplored the lack of stream improvements that could allow steam boats to make the same journey. He then travelled to Saint John by steam boat, which he enjoyed. He was also critical of New Brunswick’s heavy dependence upon imports when local production should have been developed instead.

Finally, and since he was in a critical frame of mind, he tore a strip off of Fredericton which had nothing much to recommend it, aside from being the seat of government.

 Woodstock Wesleyan

The Wesleyan Church in Woodstock, built ca. 1885, demolished 2010

Ward’s story follows:


Travels From Fredericton, to Saint Andrews, Woodstock and Saint John; 1841

The present road to St. Andrews, to which I have before alluded, as passing near the Oromocto Lake and Magaguadavic River, commences near the Government House at Fredericton and turning to the left, passes for a distance of five or six miles through heavy hemlock and spruce land, with some portion of swamp, including in that distance the Hanwell settlement, consisting of perhaps twenty families of hardy, industrious and meritorious natives of the Emerald Isle, unfortunately doomed to spend their strength on a hard and unproductive soil, with plenty of excellent land a few miles farther along the line, yet remaining, and likely long to remain, in a wilderness state. Leaving the Hanwell, the road passes through much good farming land with several patches of swamp and barrens, and some ranges of “stony ground” until it comes near the Erina Lake, where Chassey, an active Canadian and several other settlers, have for a number of years been located. Here the soil is good and productive, and the same good land, broken in some places as above, continues on each side of the line to the Harvey settlement. This is a settlement composed entirely of English and Scottish emigrants, Borderers, who having been unfortunate in their bargain with the New Brunswick and Nova Scotia Land Company, were under the particular patronage of the government settled there by way of experiment. They suffered severe hardships and privations for a time, both sexes carrying heavy loads on their backs a great distance through the wilderness; but have now comfortable dwellings, and clearings in the woods, have raised fine crops these two last years, and the neatly thatched “stacks of corn” that abound in the settlement, remind one of the old country. They and the Hanwell Irishmen are first-rate road makers.

Beyond this settlement there is a beautiful district of excellent land, all owned and held in a wilderness state by the proprietors, until the expenditure of the public money on the road, and the labours of the poor emigrants shall quadruple its value; when passing near the Oromocto Lake, we come to the spot where Mr. Ensor, an eccentric English gentleman, some years since made a clearing and built a house, which have since been abandoned. From this point to the Magaguadavic, the land, though much of it is pretty good for agricultural purposes, is inferior in quality to that between Ensor’s and the Harvey settlement. This point is forty-three miles from Fredericton.—Here is the Brockway settlement, still in York County, containing a house of entertainment, a blacksmith’s shop, and a school well attended. From Brockway’s to Digdeguash there are not yet any settlers; there is a fair proportion of good land, but much of it between the two rivers is flat and low, and unfit for cultivation. Beyond the Digdeguash the road passes through two extensive settlements of the Parish of St. Patrick in the County of Charlotte; then crossing the Waweig, it runs through the settlements in the Parish of St. Andrews, to its termination at the Court House in the town of that name on the Peninsula, at the head of the Inner Bay of Passamaquoddy.—The whole distance being about seventy-seven miles.

From Brockway’s to St. Stephens, there is a branch line partly opened. The land between the Digdeguash and Magaguadavic is very much the same as that through which the St. Andrews line passes; from Digdeguash to Saint Stephen the land is much bettor, and mostly owned by individuals. By this line, St. Stephen will be brought within sixty-five miles of Fredericton, the road will be very level; and before many years, will be easily travelled in a day. The whole distance to St. Andrews is now open, and prepared for winter travelling; more than two-thirds of which is turnpiked. And in pursuance of a recommendation from the Legislature, the land in this line of road which remained ungranted, has been laid off in 100 acre lots for actual settlement. It is to be hoped that some farther Legislative enactment will shortly pass, which either by imposing a tax on wilderness land, or in some other way, will break up the shameful monopoly which at present exists in this and the neighbouring Province, whereby the finest portion of the country is held by individuals who will not improve it.

The main road from Fredericton to Woodstock, for eighteen miles is on the right bank of the river, and is quite level for the first five miles after leaving Fredericton, when it ascends, and proceeds along an elevated tract of country, passing several excellent farms, and a large body of intervale and islands of that description, which for a considerable distance are concealed from the sight of the traveler, until at length Sugar Island and others at Keswick Creek, open upon his view, and present a panorama which for richness and beauty is not to be exceeded in the Province. The land over which the road extends is of considerable altitude; and underneath one’s feet as it were, are spread out the beautiful and level country, at the entrance of the valley of the Keswick, while the Ridge of that name, in the rear of the Bluff facing the River, extends away on his left, until it is lost in the distant forest that bounds the horizon beyond it.

It was here, during my tour in 1837, that I first observed the deep ochry tint of the clay, which is met with partially throughout the Province; but no where else of so dark a color. In fact, it is a deep red; and has evidently been brought there during some deluge that swept over the country; as it is found only on the summits of the hills, but rarely in the valleys, and that at no depth. And where the road has been cut down a few feet, you meet with a light colored and friable clay, quite distinct from the superincumbent stratum.

Opposite Keswick Bluff, there is a large body of intervale on the right bank of the River, which has been produced by some counter current, when it was at a higher level than it is at present, similar to that which deposited the strata, upon which Fredericton is built. Here are several fine farms forming a settlement that is called French village. A few miles beyond it, there is an Indian village, consisting of houses built for the Aborigines of the country, and which they inhabit; still retaining however, their native wild and untamable, yet inoffensive disposition. There has been considerable improvement made on this line of road, during the last two years, with a view to confine the post communication to Woodstock on this side of River; but from just beyond the French village, it posses through much poor land; that which is not occupied possessing little inducement for settlers, until it reaches Long’s, sixteen miles from town, where at present the road crosses a rapid and dangerous ferry, and is carried along through Queensbury and Southampton, on the opposite side of the St. John to Woodstock.

Two steamboats until the present summer, have plied regularly between Fredericton and St. John, leaving that place and Indian Town every day; at seven o’clock in the morning, and arriving at St. John between three and four, and at Fredericton about four in the afternoon, when not impeded by the stream, which runs with much velocity when the River is at its height in the spring and autumn. The fare in these boats is very reasonable, being ten shillings in the cabin, and half price forward: and in proportion when passengers embark on board on their way up or down, with a reasonable charge for breakfast and dinner. The night boats are also a great convenience, one leaving Indian Town and Fredericton every evening at six o’clock, and arriving at their destination early on the following morning; but from the circumstance of persons continually coming on board and leaving them on their passage, and the constant conversation that is going on all night, but little refreshing sleep can be obtained. If the tide answers in the morning when the boat arrives at Indian Town, she frequently proceeds through “the Falls” to take in freight at the city; which is quite an exhilarating passage, the tide rushing out with considerable velocity, and requiring several persons at the wheel to make the flying vessel answer her helm. I would advise persons however who are not pressed for time, to take passage in the day-boats, by which means they will enjoy a view of the scenery of the St. John, which it is admitted by all travelers, is not to be exceeded by any thing of the kind in Europe or America.

In 1837, in consequence of encouragement offered by the Legislature, a steamboat was dispatched from Fredericton, and reached Woodstock, sixty miles above it; but owing to the obstructions at the Maductic rapids, which might be easily overcome by diverting the channel of the River at that point, and the want of public support, the project was abandoned; and supplies of provisions; and British West Indies goods, continue to be carried up in tow-boats, and are frequently poled up by the French people in their canoes to the foot of the Grand Falls, where they are carried over a short portage, and again forced up against the stream to Madawaska, a distance of one hundred and eighty miles above Fredericton.

This is but a meagre, although a true account of the steam communication, on a river not to be surpassed for beauty of scenery or fertility of soil and adaptation for agricultural improvement by any place in America; and nothing can more forcibly demonstrate that the energies of the people of this Province have been directed in a wrong channel, than the circumstance, that but one or two solitary day-boats, can with difficulty be supported, and the same number of night-boats find employment: and these only on the first seventy or eighty miles of a River, nearly four hundred in extent; and that those who inhabit the luxuriant districts on its shore, are in a great measure indebted to other countries for the very bread they eat and clothes that cover them; instead of having abundance of surplus produce, with which to supply the commercial metropolis on the sea-board, that contains a population of nearly twenty thousand souls, but who have to look to the neighbouring Province, to Europe and the United States, for that supply of provisions, which with proper management, skill and industry, might be raised within the colony itself.

Before quitting this part of my subject, I would call public attention to the rapid communication, which exists in the summer, and probably will continue during every future winter, between Fredericton and Halifax, the capital of the Province of Nova Scotia, where the steam-boats from England will arrive every fortnight, conveying Her Majesty’s mails. By leaving Fredericton in the morning’s boat, a passenger may arrive in St. John early in the afternoon, and after spending three or four hours or more there, can embark on board another steamer for Windsor, forty-five miles from Halifax and a hundred from St. John; and aided by the rapid tide of the Bay of Fundy, will reach that place in time to take the Coach for Halifax, and arrive there before dinner. He may thus in fact breakfast one day at Fredericton, and dine on the following at Halifax, without any other fatigue than that which will be caused by a ride of forty-five miles over a comparatively level road from Windsor to Halifax.

With reference to Fredericton, which has been for some time the extreme point to which steam-navigation has advanced, when we consider that it is a place where the principal public offices are situated, the heads of departments reside, and is surrounded by a well settled country, it is natural to infer that it is one of much importance, and that here would be employment for a considerable number of persons of various pursuits. By a return made during the last year, it appears that there is a population in the parish alone, amounting to four thousand souls. As the object I have in view is to point out places where the man of property may invest his capital in the purchase of lands, the mechanic and labourer find employment, and the emigrant a settlement, it will be proper that I should state with candour any difficulties that exist here.

As to servants then, a class of persons upon whom the domestic order and comfort of a family mainly depend, those of a good description are much wanted; but it is in vain to expect them, in the absence of those wholesome laws and regulations that prevail in the mother country. At present domestics are hired by the month, without any regard to character or qualifications, merely to meet the exigencies of the moment; and the result is, a succession of changes is continually taking place and complaint is every where the order of the day. As to labouring men and mechanics, the wages they obtain is high: but the mode of payment,—chiefly out of the shop, reduces it probably to its proper level; although it acts unjustly upon those who are not disposed, or are not so situated, as to pay in this way. The result is, that great difficulty exists in having work of any kind completed promptly; and in this respect, as well as others, Fredericton exhibits a state of society not to be equaled in North America.—Employers complaining of those whom they employ; and others who are employed, being dissatisfied with their employment. A remedy for all this is to be found only in a resort to cash-payments. When persons are hired, they should be paid for their labour in cash, and allowed to purchase what articles they want, where that can be done to the best advantage. If those who live in the neighbourhood of the place have any debts to pay or agricultural produce to dispose of, instead of as at present carrying it to a shop where they are indebted, or where an apparently high price is given, payment being mode in goods at an advanced rate to meet it: this should be carried to a public market, and there sold upon the best terms; and the party should pay his debts in money, and make his purchases in the same way.

Were this healthy state of business to prevail, much of the present cause of complaint would vanish,—competition would be introduced, and the exorbitant rate of living must be materially reduced. From its situation, Fredericton ought to be a place of good business, and should be abundantly supplied with provisions; but at present the former is confined to a retail trade, and advances to lumbering parties; while the place is very irregularly supplied with fresh provisions. And although there is a large market-house here, yet there is but one butcher in it, and with two or three bakers in the town, the inhabitants are perfectly unacquainted with the luxury of hot rolls in the morning, unless they bake them in their own families. There is besides a sort of nonchalance pervading the labouring classes of society here, that is quite novel and unpleasant to those who have enjoyed the benefit of conventional regulations that abound in the mother country, the United States, and other parts of the British possessions in this hemisphere. As respects the man of property however, he can obtain land under cultivation in the neighbourhood of Fredericton at a cheap rate, and can have the advantage of good society, and excellent means of educating the juvenile branches of his family.


Written by johnwood1946

October 2, 2013 at 9:49 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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