New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

Travels from Eastport, Maine, to Fredericton, 1851

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The following is from the book Adventures in Canada, Being Two Months on the Tobique, New Brunswick (An Emigrant’s Journal). An unidentified man travelled from England to New Brunswick in 1851 in search of a new home. He subsequently died and another person, known only as M.C.S., compiled the traveler’s letters and journal into the book which was published in London, in 1866.

In this segment, the traveler is on his way from Boston to Saint John. We join him at Eastport, Maine and follow him to Fredericton.

This description of Saint John and Fredericton is not as detailed as some others of the same era. It is also dismissive in some places, referring to Fredericton as a scattered village, for example. A different voice and a different perspective can be helpful, however.

 Forest Queen 

The Forest Queen carried Edward, Prince of Wales, to Fredericton in 1860.

This was about the same era as the traveler’s arrival. From the website of the York-Sunbury Museum


Travels from Eastport, Maine, to Fredericton – 1851

And now we are off again for St. John’s in the Creole, swiftly paddling through intricate channels, between rocky and beautiful islands—it is like sailing over a lake, so smooth is the water, while land surrounds us on all sides. While walking in East Port I saw a female with a bearing and majesty of figure sufficiently imposing for a Spanish donna, or a bandit’s bride at least. Her hair fell in rich masses, black and glossy, down her neck and shoulders, from under a low-crowned and most becoming lady’s black hat—her costume was highly picturesque, but I can only describe it by suggesting that she had put on two gowns, and had then cut the upper one full two feet shorter than the under,—altogether a more striking figure I never saw: she was an Indian squaw, and very ugly. [Rather a mixed impression, I would say – J.W.] These Indians are quite civilized, clean and neat in their dress, the men clothing themselves like whites, the squaws in a variety of picturesque costumes, such as I have described.

I was much impressed by the great improvement in the personal appearance of our female passengers, after we had left some Yankees, and received a number of Maine and New Brunswick people. In Boston I was as much struck by the utter absence of personal attraction in all the females I saw, as I was now with its frequency and eminence of degree. Here were the fine figure, fresh complexion, and winning expression which distinguishes the Anglo-Saxon race, and which is entirely absent among the haggard, care-worn, pallid, ugly faces of Massachusetts. [Insufferable! – J.W.]

The ancient pine forests stretch down to the water’s edge, clothe the hills with an impenetrable scrub through which in every direction fierce bush fires are spreading, filling the air, as in Australia, with a thick smoky haze which renders the most distant country very indistinct.

I have just encountered and fled from a charming flirtation with a charming lady whoso appearance had convinced me before that she at least was a lady in the true sense of the word, and not as many of the occupants of the cabin doubtless were—Irish servant-girls dressed in the finery which is so loved in America. I had so admired her looks that I was very glad to see her walk past with a stool in her hand, when of course I sprang forward, begging permission to carry it for her. The calm self-possession with which she received this act of “devilish politeness” showing that such attentions were a matter of course with her, confirmed my opinion of her position in society, while the saucy-jolly tone with which she said, “I’ll trouble you to carry it a little further, though,” when, like a muff, I was putting it down in an evidently unsuitable place, was decidedly irresistible—and when she answered with her sweet ringing voice to the objection I made to the place she chose, that it was in the sun, “Oh, but I like that,” I could have fallen at her feet, and offered to devote my existence to her. However, instead of doing so, I put down the stool and walked away, fearful of nothing but that she should think me a forward fellow who had shown her civility with the sole purpose of obtruding myself upon her—whereas I had really only done so out of a sheer spirit of politeness. So I lost an opportunity I might have used to make the acquaintance of a charming lady.

Well, as the sun declined, we approached St. John, and the nearer we came, the more beautiful, the grander became the coast scenery, till it reached the climax at the harbours. High forest-clothed hills, and a lake-like scenery—such is its kind. I admired it far more than I expected. An old shrewd Aroostook farmer, to whom I observed that it was very pretty country, said it would he much more so, if it was “more leveller.” Well, here I am in St. John’s, a fine-ish town, but I think not so far advanced in excellence of building as Melbourne, which, however, it strikingly resembles in some of its features. When I beheld the British flag waving over me once more, I experienced a feeling quite new to me, an “amor patriæ” I dreamed not of possessing,—an exultation and a swelling of heart I had hitherto believed all affectation when others talked of it. I thought it so no more when I felt the thrill of delight that crimson banner gave me.

If I was struck by the beauty of the Maine females in one steamer, I was astounded in St. John’s; in fact, it is notorious for the beauty of its women. There is an exhibition of industry here, a little Crystal Palace, got up in imitation of that in London, which I visited yesterday, and which has drawn great crowds into St. John. There was nothing very remarkable in it; there were some pictures, however, by a native artist, a young man of 20, which were very good indeed, and showed, I have no doubt, great talent and high promise of future excellence. There was besides an exquisite coloured drawing by an English lady, Elizabeth Murray. There was a large procession of various orders, but chiefly of the firemen, a fine body of about 800 volunteers of all classes, divided into several corps. Besides this, a fountain was set going, and Sir E. Head delivered an address, which I could not hear.

Mr. — I find a very useful friend. He knows everybody, and has gained me many acquaintances—indeed, there is no difficulty in forming as many acquaintances as you please in St. John’s, so free are the New Brunswickers from the cold reserve which strangers attribute to the English. Mr. — introduces me constantly to different people—some, men of property in the interior; others, lending men in St. John’s; informing them of my desire to obtain information about the colony, and never neglecting to inform them of the fact of my having been some years in America, which I observe always makes me an object of greater interest. Forthwith they shake hands with me—express the utmost willingness to forward my views, as far as they can, and launch into conversation with the fluent rapidity so remarkable amongst them—especially the Blue Noses. I am about to visit a barrister and a wealthy man of note here, a Mr. —; also a Mr. —, who knows more of the province than any man in it, a naturalist, chief of the Indians, angler, and an official in St. John’s. I must acknowledge that I am highly pleased with the good nature and the cordial welcome I receive on all hands, which, as an utter stranger, I could never have dreamed of meeting with. The fact of my possessing letters to Sir E. Head goes a good way, I suspect, in establishing my position, or in removing suspicion of my respectability, while Mr. —’s friendly offices have been of great service to me. I have already had invitations to the houses of people in the interior, which will be of much advantage.

Last night I had a long talk with a Blue Nose (or native) on the steps of the hotel, whom I had never seen before, but who entered into conversation with all the readiness of his race. He is an exception to the general rule in rating Johnstone’s work much higher than others. He acknowledges the general opinion to be entirely against it, but believes that future experience will show his representations of the country to be far nearer the truth than is generally believed.

I have just received a letter from —, promising another, and reiterating his request that I should closely inspect the Tobique; remarking that it’s success would probably have a most serious influence on my own prospects in the country. I am now preparing for a systematic investigation of the best parts of the province, starting to-morrow, and commencing with the iron ore at Petersville. I must finish now as my time is limited. Give my truest love to all, not forgetting Nora; and remember me most kindly to the —’s and —’s. I may have another chance of writing to you from Fredericton, but cannot promise. Dearest —, good-bye. I am always your most truly loving brother,—.


September 11th—For the last two or three hours we have been swiftly steaming up the glorious St. John River to Fredericton—glorious indeed, if a mighty stream flowing between noble rugged hills clothed with deep forests of nature’s planting, can be so. As we ascend the river, the landscape loses much of its rude magnificence, but assumes a richer character. Long low islands, covered with stacks of hay, or still shaded by the graceful elm and butter-nut trees, divide the stream; and the rich flats, colonially called “intervales,” are spread from the margin of the broad current to the still forest-clad hills, which now recede further into the wilderness; numerous farms are scattered among fertile fields; cattle browse along the grassy banks: the energies of man have turned the gloomy forest to a smiling habitation. But my sympathies are still more strongly enlisted with the forest: with what impatience did I not long to plunge into the vast woods that I saw around me. I can admire the rich and fertile tracts; I take interest in agriculture; and can appreciate the great charm of a farmer’s life; but the truth is I have spent so many years amongst wild lands, boundless plains, or nocturnal forests, that my inclination leads me to the wilderness, rather than to the abode of man—a yearning which none of the delights of civilization can ever, I believe, entirely subdue.

At 8 P.M. the steamer lay alongside the “makeshift” wharf at Fredericton; out poured the crowd of passengers, dispersing themselves through the scattered village. I betook myself to a very fair hotel by the water-side with a fellow traveler. The scenery immediately about Fredericton is tame; there is a considerable extent of cleared land between the river and the old forest; but there is here none of either the boldness or the richness of the lower parts of the river. A strong N.W., cool and refreshing, has dispersed the thick smoke fog, which had obscured the air since I landed at St. John, tempering the warm sun, and producing a day of weather which could hardly be surpassed. Clouds of dust drive through the streets, however, which make walking highly unpleasant.

14th, Sunday—The piercing nor’-wester, which has been chilling us all day, is a kind of gentle hint of what the winter is preparing for us; still it is fine bracing weather, a clear and deep blue sky with glorious sun. I attend service at the church which at present supplies the place of a cathedral. Dr. Field, Bishop of Newfoundland, preached a sermon which left his hearers in no doubt of his theological bias—which is very high church. I accompanied Colonel — to his house and was introduced to his daughters, natives of Canada with all the brilliancy of complexion which so distinguishes North America ….Yesterday I presented myself at Government House. I dined there in the evening and dined there with the Bishop of N.F.L. and N.S., Colonel Haynes, Colonel Lockyer &c. A very pleasant evening I spent there.

[The diary then continues at the Tobique.]


Written by johnwood1946

February 19, 2014 at 10:08 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. Thanks John, that is very interesting!


    February 19, 2014 at 6:23 PM

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