New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

A Trek up the Tobique, and Onward to Bathurst

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Arthur Hamilton Gordon became Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick in 1861, and is known in the context of this blog as an avid hunting, fishing, hiking and canoeing enthusiast.

The following story is from Gordon’s book “Wilderness Journeys in New Brunswick in 1862-63.” He is accompanied on his journey by Gabriel ‘Acquin’, the well known Malecite guide who was the subject of another post in this blog and also by a Mr. W—, one of his secretaries, and Mr. E. C—. They travelled by carriage from Fredericton to Woodstock and onward past Florenceville, arriving at the mouth of the Tobique River. They then proceeded by canoe and on foot up the Tobique. They passed by Arthurette, which Gordon named; and continued past the mouth of the Mamozekel River and up the little Tobique Branch. At the Nepisiguit Lakes they found a tree with the names of Sir Edmund Head and others carved into it and finally proceeded down the Nepisiguit River to Papineau Falls and thence by carriage to Bathurst.

 Tobique Salmon

A Salmon Catch on the Tobique River, c. 1915

From the McCord Museum


A Trek up the Tobique River, and Onward to Bathurst

During the spring and early summer of 1863 I visited various settled districts; and on the 30th of July commenced another extensive journey through the wilder parts of the province, on which I was accompanied by Mr. W—, Mr. E. C—, and Gabriel. Our purpose, which we fully carried out, was to ascend the Tobique to its forks, follow the southern branch to the wild lakes from which it comes, then to mount the northern branch to its source, and, crossing the portage, descend the great Nepisiguit river to the sea. Having often travelled to Woodstock by the great road on the right bank of the river, I determined on this occasion to take the less frequented road on the left bank, and accordingly we crossed the St. John by the first morning trip of the steam ferry. It was a lovely summer day, and our drive along by the broad bright river, through woods and fields, was charming. Near the mouth of the Keswick, the profusion of tiger-lilies in the meadows quite tinged the ground. After passing under the picturesque point called Clark’s hill, and through the rich English-like woods about Crock’s point, we entered on a district new to me.

A little below Woodstock we crossed the river at a picturesque ferry, and got into the usual road. On the whole, the route by the left bank is not so pretty as that on the right, hut I was glad of the opportunity of seeing how things on the side more usually travelled looked when viewed from the opposite bank The road itself was excellent the whole way—very far better than I had expected, and quite as good, I think as the great road.

The approach to Woodstock, from the old church upwards, is one of the pleasantest drives in the province: the road being shaded on either side with fine trees; and the comfortable farm-houses and gardens—the scattered clumps of wood—the windings of the great river—the picturesque knolls—and the gay appearance of the pretty straggling little town, all giving an idea of long settled peaceful English-looking country.

Woodstock itself abounds in churches, brick hotels, stores, and ornamental wooden villas are plentifully scattered round about the neighbourhood. In the evening I went to see the volunteer company on the green to the south of the town. They are very well drilled, and exact in all their movements.

July 31.—“Drove out to the iron mines at five A.M. I had gone over them before, but my object in now visiting them was to ascertain exactly the lines of certain conflicting grants which have been issued. The early morning was lovely before the sun had obtained its full power, but there were distant clouds which hid from us the snow-crowned summit of Katardhen. I entertain sanguine expectations of the success of these works. The beds of hematite extend over great part of the county, and are practically inexhaustible. Of the quality of the iron it is impossible to speak too highly, especially for making steel, and it is eagerly sought by the armour-plate manufacturers in England. On six different trials, plates of Woodstock iron were only slightly indented by an Armstrong shot which shattered to pieces scrap-iron plates of the best quality and of similar thickness. When cast it has a fine silver-grey colour, is singularly close grained, and rings like steel on being struck. A cubic inch of Woodstock iron weighs 22 per cent, more than the like quantity of Swedish, Russian, or East Indian iron, and at least 26 per cent, more than the most of the Scotch brands.

We had a pleasant but exceedingly hot drive to Florenceville, travelling through a country which I like extremely. It is rich, English, and pretty—when I say English I ought, perhaps, rather, to say Scotch, for the general features are those of the lowland parts of Perthshire, though the luxuriant vegetation—tall crops of maize, ripening fields of golden wheat, and fine well-grown hard-wood—speak of a more southern latitude. Single trees and clumps are here left about the fields and on the hill-sides, under the shade of which well-looking cattle may be seen resting, whilst on the other hand are pretty views of river and distance, visible under fine willows, or through birches that carried me back to Deeside.

Florenceville is a tiny village with a large inn. Its site is, I should think, inconvenient, as it is perched, like an Italian town, on the very top of a high bluff, far above the river.

Between Florenceville and Tobique the road becomes even prettier, winding along the bank of the St. John, or through woody glens that combine to my eye Somersetshire, Perthshire, and the green-wooded part of southwestern Germany.

All through the sultry afternoon the clouds grew blacker and heavier, and, when we came in sight of Tobique, seemed truly magnificent in their mass and weight and gloom. We drove up to Mr. N—’s just in time, for as we got out of the carriage, the still sultriness of the evening was interrupted by a furious gust of wind, which made N—’s unfortunate flag-staff reel and quiver and threw all the trees into agonized contortions. This was followed by a burst of thunder and down-pour of rain such as I have seldom seen, and which was only the forerunner of a terrific storm. Every now and then there was a lull, but the thunder and rain continued, more or less, for the whole night.

“August 1st.—Gabriel arrived in the middle of the night by the stage-coach.

About mid-day, after signing a mass of papers, packing up what we meant to send back to Fredericton, buying at the village store the few things we still wanted, and making every other preparation for a month’s seclusion in the woods, we drove up to a point opposite the Indian village, occupying the promontory formed by the junction of the Tobique and the St. John, where we found canoes waiting for us. The bank was everywhere marked and furrowed by the effects last night’s rain, which had, in many places, done a great deal of damage. The Indians were waiting for us at the opposite landing, and received me with a long shout and an irregular firing off of guns, and I then walked through the village and farm. The irregular cluster of wretched houses looked comfortless enough, and all the more so for the miserable assembly of mangy, hungry curs which sneaked about them; but they were, in general, clean and neat within; which, even supposing them to have been specially got up for my visit, at least showed that their owners knew what cleanliness and neatness were. Three houses especially interested me. The first contained a very fine old Indian of extreme age, and his little grandson, together with his nephew’s widow. In the second was an old blind crone, wonderfully patient and good-humoured; and in the third, a sick woman, very gorgeously costumed. We visited the chapel, and then looked at the farms. The reserve is one of considerable extent, but only a small portion has been cultivated or cleared. There was a sort of road, uncertain attempts at fields, and some very good horses. In one house was a tame beaver. Before leaving, “my children” presented me with a sort of address, or petition, asking for support for the priest, medicine for the sick, blankets for the poor and aged, &c. I made them a short answer, which Gabe translated, sentence by sentence, as I went on. This over, we descended the bank, got into our canoes, bade goodbye to our cortege, and pushed off. Our canoes were small, holding only one of us in each, and an Indian in the stern. Mine was paddled by Sabanis, the head man of the village, a very good and worthy Indian, but rather too old for hard work, and knowing little English. E— was taken charge of by Inia, a very dark old fellow, and hardly able to speak anything but Malecite, except a few words of Micmac. W— had young Lolah—a mighty hunter—active, intelligent, and strong, a thorough Indian, and an unspoiled one. Gabe came with Noel, a half-breed, who talked very good English. We had not gone a mile before we commenced the very difficult navigation of “the Narrows.” These are a series of very strong and formidable rapids, where the river, extremely contracted, rushes between steep banks of lime-stone rock and slatey shale for a considerable distance, turning sharply at every few hundred yards. There is a certain excitement in poling up a rapid, and it forms a very pleasant episode in a woodlife, when one has confidence in the eye and hand of the voyageur. It was, in this case, very hard work—the stream being terrifically strong, the sharp turns incessant, and the rocks in the course of the river numerous and dangerous, to say nothing of the precipitous cliffs on either bank; the scenery, however was fine. At length, about four P.M. we surmounted the last rapid, and paused to rest in a lovely lake-like reach, into which the river had broadened out. The narrow gorge through which we had come was composed of abrupt precipices of splintered slate; above the rapids were more rounded hills, though rock showed here and there through a rich growth of wood. Our canoes lay in a rushy inlet, from which rose a grassy knoll, where stood a picturesque group of three Indian children with wreaths of orange tiger-lilies twined round their heads.

We pursued our way up the now broad and undisturbed stream for about another hour, when we camped in a very pretty place, at a turn in the river, and on the right bank. Here we fished with no great success for a little time, and then bathed. The stream was rapid and strong, and carried us down nearly as quickly as the St. John did in the morning; but getting back over the sharp stones and slippery boulders along the edge, to our starting point, was hard work. Great was the pleasure of our first camp supper for this year, and after a smoke we speedily went to sleep. The clouds threatened thunder, but none came.

“August 2, Sunday.—We were lazy, and did not get up till past six, when it was already very hot. Another swim in the swift stream followed by breakfast took up some time, and in the course of the morning we read the service in a shady place up the bank; but the greater part of the day we lay under the shelter of the camp, trying to keep cool. The slightest movement was an exertion, and the day I think the hottest I ever felt in the province. Towards evening, as the sun went down, we strolled gently along a path by the river-side, enjoying the views as we went, all of which had much beauty, and eating the raspberries and Indian pears which grew thickly along the track. During our walk, which lasted a considerable time, we came upon a snake of a peculiar reddish colour, which we killed.

The next morning we were up by half-past four. After passing two more rapids, one of some length, we entered on clear deep water, which lasts unbroken for seventy miles. There is a good settlement above these rapids, and it increases, as well it may, for the land is excellent, and covered, where uncleared, with most luxuriant vegetation, chiefly elm, ash, cedar, birch, pine, thorn, and poplar, whilst the ferns are in many places a good five feet high. I landed in the centre of the settlement, and received an address, signed by about 100 persons, to which I replied, and then gave the settlement the name of Arthuret. The people thought I meant to associate my own Christian name with the chief place in the extensive parish of Gordon, but in fact my mind was dwelling on the little border village where Sir James Graham lies buried. I walked into the School which contained but five scholars. The schoolmistress, however, seemed likely to do well.

After leaving Arthuret and proceeding on our way, the heat became intense, and as it beat down on our unsheltered heads, and was reflected up again in full force from the water, I began to think that it might possibly be too hot. Before I was compelled to make any such humiliating confessions, however, we halted, and took a rest for more than an hour, sleeping most of the time under the shelter of some great elms. The river for the rest of the afternoon continued broad and calm, studded with large islands beautifully wooded, and the banks partially settled here and there. I landed now and then to speak to these settlers. One house, though a mere log hut built on a high bank, showed signs of taste, for it was constructed with a porch, and had a few flowers planted in front of it. The clearing itself only dated from last year.

We camped on a flat grassy meadow, opposite the mouth of the Wapskehegan river—a pretty spot. Across the broad still river was the mouth of the Wapskehegan, one side of which was dense hard-wood forest, the other high red cliffs, crowned with wood, dotted with bushes, and partially clothed by a growth of creepers and climbing plants. In the distance, looking down the main river, were the blue mountains, und a bettor foreground than usual of wood and meadow.

From this point upward the course of the Tobique, as far as the forks, a distance of about eighty miles from its mouth, is remarkably well adapted for settlement, and will, I have no doubt, one day be among the most populous and most flourishing regions in the province. As it is, scattered squatters have at points distant from each other carved out a few acres from the forest. Every year, however, these settlers increase in number. I endeavoured to visit them all on my way up, and did actually succeed in seeing and speaking to a large proportion of them.

Our custom was to stow ourselves on a buffalo skin at the bottom of the canoe, either kneeling Indian fashion, sitting cross-legged a la Turque, or reclining with outstretched feet—the back supported by a bar which crosses the canoe to keep it in shape. For my own part, I carried on my knees my large map and note-book, and a fishing rod and gun formed part of the equipment of each canoe. When I saw a settler’s house, or was attracted by geological appearances, I landed. The latter, however, were rare, the only noteworthy facts the observation of which was permitted by the dense vegetation being the existence of enormous beds of gypsum, and of large quantities of excellent building stone—a grayish limestone. At one place we found a substance, which at first sight bore some resemblance to coal; it was not, however, coal, but a bituminous black earth.

Without inserting a tedious journal of our daily progress to the Nictor, I give one morning’s notes as a specimen of those taken as we advanced:—

“August 4th.—We were up at five A.M. and I went alone with Sabanis some little distance up the Wapskehegan. The red rocks are very pretty, but they soon give place to the usual dense jungly forest. I found the other canoes ready, when I returned to the main river again, and we all started together at 7.35. Burnt land on right bank.

7.50. R.B. Bold red earth bluff. L.B. Bank much undermined by a change in the current, which was washing away the earth, and bringing down the trees, scores of which were lying prostrate in the water. Large and picturesque island, rich with fine timber, especially elm.

7.53. L.B. Burnt land. Beautiful clump of elms on the island. The Malecite name for elm is “Neep.”

8. L.B. Burnt land continues. R.B. High red cliff, densely wooded. End of Island, whereon many walnuts.

8.7 (sic). R.B. Red cliffs, curiously stratified. Low and small brush-covered island. The character of the larger wood almost wholly changed. Up to this point it has been entirely hard wood; here it is almost entirely pine, and other soft woods.

8.22. R.B. Some fine hard wood again, and an island covered with hard wood.

8.38. L.B. Very high and precipitous cliffs; red to the eye, though composed of gypsum.

8.38. L.B. Cliffs really very fine, rising between 100 and 200 feet perpendicularly from the river, which indeed they overhang. They abound with coarse gypsum. We stopped a few minutes on a little island to admire. The cliffs, at least the highest of them, are situated at a turn in the river, and are so crumbling that they must be somewhat dangerous.

8.50. End of island.

8.55. L.B. Burnt hillock.

9.15. L.B. Burnt promontory. R.B. A large quiet brook enters the river, deeply overshadowed by trees and bushes.

9.37. L.B. Rich and beautiful wooded point. River very broad and very lovely.

10.10. A promising little settlement. Numerous islands.

10.17. A very lovely nook.

10.30. Two settlers’ houses, one en either side of the river, M—’s and G—’s. I visited each, which took about half an hour. The heat on shore was tremendous, and walking an exertion.

11.25. R.B. Another settler’s, T—. House and clearing, though both quite new, looked very thriving. T— was out, but his wife (an English woman) and children were at home. I was glad to see that in their cleared intervale they had allowed some clumps of elm to stand. The river makes almost a right-angle in front of their houses, from which (it is situated on a high bank) is a fine view of Blue Mountain, which we had first seen a few minutes previously. On going again, saw and spoke to T— himself, in a field by the river-side.

12M. L.B. A wretched little house and small cleared patch. J— an English settler. He was away but I saw the wife and babies, the youngest of whom, being the first child born in the parish of Gordon, rejoiced in my own name. The woman complained bitterly of the hardships of a new settler’s life and of a freshet in the spring which had overflowed the house.

12.15. Have been fine elms—killed.

12.40. Halted for mid-day rest at a very pretty turn of the river under the shade of remarkably fine cedars and ashes, the latter being a novelty in the landscape.”

The settlers are, generally, barbarously destructive of their noble elms. This destruction of elms is, however, perfectly natural, even when it is not (as to a great extent it is) unavoidable. I remember feeling the force of the reply which a new settler made to my intersession for the preservation of a fine clump. “There will be quite enough black flies without them, sir.” In some cases, however, an effort to retain ornamental trees has been made, and I find the following note among others: “A squatter’s house; B—, a married man. B— is a man of taste. He has left a number of elms standing along the river’s bank, and encouraged a growth of orange lilies about his house.”

On reaching the last house on the river, K—’s, whilst I landed on one bank to visit the settler, Gabriel landed on the other to follow up some traces of a beaver which were clearly visible. Old Sabanis accompanied me, and the delight, wonder, and curiosity he displayed at the sight of some beehives, which happened to be placed before the house, were most amazing. He had never seen the like before, and the idea of putting “flies” (as he considered them) into a wooden house seemed to entertain him greatly, for he chuckled over it to himself for hours afterwards. On returning to the canoes I found E— sleeping in one of them, and dozed myself in another till the return of Gabe, with news of a beaver camp close at hand. So we went inland a short distance, and soon arrived at the beaver-pond, a dreary pool, out or which rose the usual number of dead trees killed by the dammed-up water, their white barkless stems and weird skeleton arms looking ghastly enough. There was a large beaver-house near one end of the pond. We pulled down a piece of the dam, and dug into the house. It was a long affair, and the black flies were most troublesome. At length our patience was rewarded by W— shooting a full-grown beaver, with which we returned in triumph to our canoes.

On the afternoon of the 6th August, we reached the “Nictor,” or “meeting of the waters,” where the Mamozekel and the two branches of the Tobique unite. We landed on a pebbly beach to enjoy the view, which, though on a much larger scale, reminded me somewhat of that from the spot where we last year first met the canoes on the Miramichi. To the north was a rapid river running through fir-woods; to the south a quiet broad stream, reflecting on its surface a park-like scene of intervale and fine timber; and to the south-west a dark lake-like expanse, narrowed at last to the river’s usual width by a large wooded promontory. We now turned up the southern branch, and camped in a thick wood above a pool where some rocks, from which W— caught a fine grilse, jutted into the water. Before going further up this wild and almost entirely unknown stream, we lightened the canoes as much as possible, leaving buffalo robes, spare stores, &c. in a bear-house which we built;—a simple but rather ingenious structure of logs so put together as mutually to strengthen each other, and effectually hinder a bear from extracting the contents. Our next day’s course was one of continued and very steep ascent, during which, while the river became shallower and narrower, the scenery became at every mile wilder and more picturesque, especially near some falls where we were compelled to portage the canoes; and, after a hard day’s work, we camped at length in a melancholy scrubby fir-wood on the left bank. The remainder of our journey to the wild and solitary lakes which exist in this high region will best be described in the words of my journal.

“August 8th.—We left our somewhat comfortless camp soon after six. The river had now grown very narrow as well as shallow, and rushed along in a succession of almost continuous rapids, varied by deep and clear pools, in one of which W— caught a grilse and a large salmon, which, before being landed, very nearly jumped right into one of the canoes. About nine we reached another fork, and taking the left—(geographically the right)—hand branch, pushed up a clear full stream, cutting our way occasionally through fallen cedars, for about half-an-hour, when we arrived at a jam which it was clearly impossible to pass.

We accordingly landed, and set about preparing to portage. Gabe and Lolah, in one of the canoes, went down the stream again to the forks, with the intent of forcing a way up the main river to the lake from which it flows, whilst we and the other Indians walked there. The other canoes, with all our things, except what each could carry on his back, were carefully hidden, to protect them from weather and bears, rather than from anything so improbable as the passage by the spot of a wandering Indian hunter. We then swallowed a hasty meal of salmon, and started with Sabanis, Inia, and Noel. Our walk was long, rough, and difficult: the trail, such as it was, very blind and constantly lost; the heat extreme, and the distance considerable (about ten or twelve miles). The ground was also very uneven, and we twice mounted hills of great height, but so densely covered with wood that we could see little from them. The wood was almost wholly of deciduous trees; the black flies plentiful and tormenting, nor were they slow in making or profiting by the discovery that I had torn one leg of my trousers all to pieces. On the top of one low hill we found an old winter camp of Lolah’s, built of bark, tent fashion, and thence rapidly descended to the shores of Quispam Pechayzo, “The Long Lake,” and great was my pleasure at Sabanis’ observation that “the Saag’m” was the “first white face gentleman” that had ever reached it. A desolate place it was: the water, calm and dark reflected the still black firs that crowded its rocky islets and promontories, and there was an air of eerie stillness and strangeness about everything, not diminished by the wild wailing cry of the loons which flitted fearlessly about its surface. Both K— and I were somewhat knocked up with the work. We made a fire under a great cedar by the water’s edge to drive away flies of all sorts, and sank down to rest. Our real camp we made rather further off from the lake, in a wood of very tall black birch and spruce, unusually clear from all undergrowth and windfall. The remainder of daylight was devoted to preparations for the manufacture of a spruce-bark canoe. The night was wet and uncomfortable.

“August 9th.—As soon as it was daylight the Indians resumed the business of spruce-bark canoe making. We breakfasted, read service, and watched the lake and the progress of the work. Just in front of us was a picturesque pine-covered island; a large promontory prevented our seeing much of the lake, but in the distance at its further end were large high mountains. Soon after eleven the canoe was completed, and a, queer craft it was. A large sheet of spruce-bark turned inside out, and folded at the ends exactly like a child’s paper boat,—kept in proper shape by sticks of willow,—and stitched up at the ends with string of the tough inner bark of the cedar,—formed the whole concern. In this frail bark Noel, E—, W—, and I embarked, leaving Sabanis and Inia behind us. We paddled carefully along, getting very pretty views,—for the shores of the lake are well indented with deep bays,—till we came to what Noel believed to be the portage. The track was better and more level than that of yesterday, and we made good way along it.—Came upon a very pretty little nameless lake, which I christened Lake Lhoks, after E—’s Indian nickname. When we reached the banks of the big lake we found Lolah and Kobleah (Gabriel’s Indian name) camped at the end of a narrow inlet running up some distance, and from which we obtained a beautiful view. The lake here is broad, full of islands, and backed by a picturesque double mountain. The Indians call it Trousers Lakes, from its two long arms. We had felt no wind in the forest nor on the other lake, but here it blew quite fresh, and waves rolled in boisterously. After a hasty bathe and equally hasty feed, we decided that W— and Noel should return as they came, while E— and I went down the main stream in the canoe, as there was not water to allow of its carrying us all.

“We accordingly paddled across the lake and in due time reached its end, where was a large dam. The descent from thence was very steep, the turns continual, the scenery very picturesque, and some of the rapids very bad. Noticed some ferns of a species new to us—a kind of Osmunda—and also some flowers with which I was not acquainted.

“When it began to grow dark we stopped, made a sort of camp on the right bank with the canoe turned upon its edge, and ate our fish ravenously, after which we enjoyed a good sound sleep in spite of a heavy shower.

“August 10th.—It was foggy and heavy when we woke this morning, but we soon got under weigh, going down a river much like last night’s, till we reached the forks, where we paused on the left bank to empty the water out of the canoe and fish a little, in hope W— would join us. Lolah went up the other stream to the portage, where he saw no signs of them, but brought down some tea and other things from the cache. Alter waiting an hour for W—, we went on, and glided gently down till we reached the salmon-pool, where we landed, and had breakfast, whilst Lolah set to work to patch up the canoe, which was sorely cut and strained by bumps in the rapids, and rents from sharp rocks. Just as we were about to leave again, W— overtook us. He and Noel had paddled back in the frail spruce-bark canoe, and, on getting to camp, had found Inia and Sabanis gone. They went after them, but were overtaken by night, and camped in the wood near Lolah’s old camp, close to which were the two Indians. He said the rain in the night had been terrific, and amusingly described their dismay on finding that the cache had been rifled, not thinking we could have got there before them.”

We pushed on vigorously all day, and great was the delight of going smoothly and swiftly down the rapid current, instead of poling up toilsomely against it. We found the bear-house and its contents untouched, and were able to camp at the Nictor itself, where we were more pestered with swarms of sand flies and black flies than we had ever previously been.

“August 11.—Were up and stirring at 4.20, and started up the little Tobique Branch. For some distance this river is rather ugly, but it greatly improves as one proceeds, and at length becomes really pretty. All is at first soft wood, though with abundance of deciduous shrubs and undergrowth. After a time, hard wood is picturesquely interspersed among the pines. The windings are innumerable. On their concave side the trees overshadow the water—the convex one is usually formed by the points of broad shingly beaches of sand and small pebbles, just made for camping places. The water everywhere is very deep and dark, in contrast to the shallow stream of the other branch.

“We pushed on very vigorously all day and camped at Cedar Brook; not a very good camping-ground,—but marked by a particularly fine cedar on the margin of a rushing brook. I sat long over the fire after the rest had gone to sleep, listening to Indian legends told in low mysterious tones.

“August 12.—We started in good time (6.30), and pushed on very well. The river was now narrow and winding, and constantly interrupted by jams of timber, some of which we cut away, and under others of which we crept. I was in old Inia’s canoe, and following, asleep, at the bottom of the next. After passing one difficult place where the boughs of fallen cedars were very troublesome to force a way through, Inia chuckled a long while to himself, and at last brought out what was for him a very lengthy English sentence, “Make him, open eye, me tink!” After passing through a pretty pool we reached a rapid where the trees nearly met above the stream, and where there were plenty of large picturesque rocks. Here we bathed and dined, and after an hour’s rest went on again. The river now became less winding—the shrubs were almost tropical in their luxuriance, and there was an abundance of that new Osmunda which E— and I observed the day before yesterday. Passing through a small shallow lake, we entered a difficult channel of almost dead water among pines, and then suddenly broke into a great lake, possessing more beauty of scenery than any other locality I have seen in the province, except, perhaps, the Bay of Chaleurs. Close to its southern edge a granite mountain rises to a height of nearly 3,000 feet, clothed with wood to its summit, except where it breaks into precipices of dark rock or long grey shingly slopes. Other mountains of less height, but in some cases of more picturesque forms, are on other sides; and in the lake itself, in the shadow of the mountain, is a little rocky islet of most inviting appearance. Strange as it may seem these steep wooded hills rising from the water constantly remind me of the more beautiful of the Greek islands, for there is a strong resemblance between the appearance of the tall dark spruce rising out of the greyish green of the birch trees and that of the black spiry cypresses among the glaucous foliage of the olive groves on the steeps of Mitylene and Corfu. A lovely evening sun shone on us, and our voyage across the lake was most pleasant. W— shot some ducks, as we arrived at the entrance of a little stream, winding through hard wood, just under the shoulder of the great mountain. Up this stream we went, half-wading, half-paddling, and emerged into another smaller lake, some three or four miles long, and shallow, whereas the larger lake is of unknown depth. We pushed up the narrow, shallow, reedy inlet in which the lake terminates, and found a party of Mr. Ferguson’s lumberers waiting to receive us, under whose auspices we camped about half a mile from the lake, in a wood, near a most exquisite spring of delicious and icy cold water. There we supped luxuriously on the wild ducks shot by W—.

August 13.—This morning we ascended the big mountain from the point where the little stream connects the two lakes. It was very steep ascent all the way—first through thick hard-wood—thick, but not much encumbered with under-growth—then over screes of rock and among patches of stunted fir. The flies were maddening, not only in the woods but in the open air at the very top, where one would have supposed the wind would blow them away. In about two hours we reached the summit, from which the view is very fine. The lakes lie right at our feet—millions of acres of forest are spread out before us like a map, sinking and swelling in one dark mantle over hills and valleys, whilst Katardhen and Mars Hill in Maine Tracadiegash in Canada—the Squaw’s Cap on the Restigouche, and Green Mountain in Victoria, are all distinctly visible. I named the hill “Mount Sagamook.” Returning to our camp, we took an affecting leave of our Tobique Indian friends, and walked across the portage (about three miles), through a profusion of raspberries, blueberries, and crowberries, to the Nepisiguit Lake. Here, at the bottom of a deep narrow inlet, we found the new canoes, Micmac in build, accompanied by the two biggest log canoes that I ever saw. On the bank, at some height above the water, is a little cleared space, and a large pine-tree on which are cut the names of Sir Edmund Head, John Ferguson, and others, with the date 1849. We had a pleasant voyage down the lake, partly assisted by a sail. The log canoes were fastened together, as according to pictures are those in the South Sea Islands, by a sort of deck, on which sat the lumbermen, grouped round a big chest, and presenting a remarkably picturesque appearance. To the east of this lake is a rather singularly shaped mountain, which Sir Edmund Head named Mount Teneriffe. We sailed right down the lake, and camped at the outlet where it joins another smaller one.

We spent some days at this spot, which was an almost perfect camping-place. The narrow outlet abounded in fish to so great an extent, that E— once caught forty-one in about as many minutes; and whilst we had a pretty view, we were well screened by bushes on one side, and had on the other a small patch of partially burnt wood, through which some remarkably fine pines were scattered.

Here we fished, we drew, we bathed, we chatted, we idled, we trapped, we made expeditions to shoot ducks and deer, and, in short, had several days of very great pleasure. One day E— and I circumnavigated the lake, paddling ourselves; on another occasion, after wandering about among the great pine-trees, and dining on ducks shot the night before, W— and I made an expedition to ascend Teneriffe. E— was too lazy, or voted it too hot to come with us. We wend down a chain of small lakes connected by short streams, or mere narrow straits, and on the way examined the traps set by W— in which we found two musquash—one living, the other drowned. After passing through several lakes, we turned to the right, up one which makes a sharp angle with the course of the river, and which brought us nearly under the mountain. We had a stiffish climb, the upper part of the hill being all bare rock, but from the top we had a very good view—not so extensive, however, as that from Mount Sagamook, though more picturesque. We came upon some fine pines during our ascent. It was dark long before we returned to camp, and nothing could be more picturesque than its appearance, lighted up by the red flames of a large fire which was itself for the most part concealed from us by the bushes. After devouring our supper of trout, I sat long over the fire, listening to Indian legends.

[He recounts some of these legends, but they unfortunately need to be left out of this transcript for brevity.]

The descent of the Nepisiguit appears to me, on the whole, somewhat monotonous, as its banks present less variety than those of the Tobique, and the forest is principally of fir. We stopped at one place where Mr. Ferguson was about to set a lumber party to work for the first time, and made an expedition into the really primeval and wholly untouched forest, to look at the great white pines. Three that we saw cut down were respectively 135, 122, and 111 feet in length, but I was somewhat disappointed with their appearance. They are so thickly surrounded by smaller trees as to be scarcely visible, and seem thin and spindly in proportion to their great height. At another place, we had a grand beaver hunt, resulting in the capture of two pretty little baby heavers, which we carried home safely to Fredericton as pets.

The country traversed by the Nepisiguit is for the most part rocky, and not very well adapted for settlement, which, indeed, has never been attempted on it above a few miles from its mouth at Bathurst. Among the granitic mountains of the upper part of its course, is one of very remarkable character. It is composed of feldspar, is perfectly bare, of a deep red color, and abruptly separated by a chasm, some seventy feet deep, from the grey syenite rocks covered with vegetation, which are met with everywhere else in the vicinity.

At length, on the sixth day after leaving the lake, we reached the Narrows, a set of rather formidable rapids, between precipices of slate rock, and here, for the first time, we came to grief. The birch barks got safely through, but one of the log canoes struck, and, turning broadside to the rapid, began to fill. Our canoes immediately shoved off to her assistance, and with the exception of a kettle and a pair of boots, we saved everything of value, though all the goods were drenched.

At the Great Falls of Nepisiguit, where we arrived the same morning, we remained a few days. These falls effectually prevent the passage of salmon, and the pools below them are consequently crowded with these fish, and form the best fishing station in the province, though the number of salmon frequenting them annually diminishes. The falls themselves are very picturesque, but fine as they undoubtedly are, I think the narrow winding gorge by which they are approached, and through which the river rushes between high cliffs of every shade of black, brown and red, is far finer, especially when seen by a fading evening light.

After some days spent in salmon fishing, partridge shooting &c., we again started, and leaving my companions to follow me more leisurely, I proceeded to the Papineau Falls, below which I was to find a carriage to take me to Bathurst.


Written by johnwood1946

January 22, 2014 at 10:07 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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