New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

The Disputed Territory Between New Brunswick and Maine

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From the blog at

The following paragraphs were written by William T. Baird, and are from his book Seventy Years of New Brunswick Life; Autobiographical Sketches, Saint John, N.B., 1890.

This excerpt includes several topics. Firstly is his treatment of the border dispute between Maine and New Brunswick. His attitudes here were fiercely patriotic and uncompromising; and were very different from those presented by Ganong in an earlier blog posting. This is followed by a description of a vacation trip to the Madawaska with characterizations of the French that would not be welcomed today, but were par for the course at the time. Finally, he returns to his job in a druggist’s shop in Fredericton, before moving on to Saint John.

  Garrison Fredericton

The Garrison at Fredericton

Important in early Fredericton history and formative for William Baird’s youth


The Disputed Territory between New Brunswick and Maine

The rebellion under Papineau having now assumed serious proportions, troops were sent from England to be transported to Canada, overland via Fredericton. Sir John Harvey was then Governor of New Brunswick.

The Legislature of Maine, United States, began also at this time to exercise unwarranted jurisdiction over the land known as the “Disputed Territory,” and by aggressive movement threatened an invasion of New Brunswick.

An area containing three million (3,000,000) acres of land of a superior quality and heavily timbered with large white pine, spruce and hard wood in variety, forming a part of New Brunswick and the north-east boundary of Maine, was claimed by that State as territory belonging to it. The claim was urged with such pertinacity by our American cousins as to cause honest John Bull to hesitate, and that hesitation proved fatal.

Had no concession been made,— had they been told to take the pound of flesh “but not one drop of blood,”—the St. Andrews Railway would in all probability have long since been completed to Quebec, and that rich and fertile belt a flourishing district within the Province of New Brunswick. But the British Government dallied.

That astute lawyer, Daniel Webster, wound the subtle web of diplomacy and prevarication, which is said to be worse than lying, around his victims. The then Rothchilds of America, Baring Bros., succeeded in muffling the arguments of the British Commissioner, Lord Ashburton, and there dropped into the lap of Uncle Sam one of his richest jewels.

Had an earnest protest been made by the Government and General Assembly of New Brunswick against the cession of this vast and magnificent territory, the archives of Paris might have disgorged, as they did later, the only map in existence, excepting one secretly held by the United States Government, showing the true boundary line to be the original one claimed by New Brunswick and the transaction unworthy of a great or honorable nation.

During the period of negotiations between the British and American Governments, a warden, Capt. J.A. McLauchlan, who had been an officer in the 104th Regiment, was appointed over the so called disputed territory, whose duty it was to estimate the value of lumber cut thereon and floated down the St. John River.

These were the glorious days of irresponsible government, when all the officers of public departments were appointed by the crown, the crown receiving from the Province certain revenues, called “Casual and Territorial,” to meet the expenses.

Some of us remember those gilded and happy sunshine days of early life, as we gazed upon the English horses and elegant coaches, breeched and capped by liveried coach and footmen.

Whilst, so far as we know, but little remonstrance was made by the Government of New Brunswick against the cession of this territory, the loyalty of its people was touched, and volunteers, representing the three arms of the service, came nobly to the front. Nor was this spirit confined to New Brunswick. The Legislature of Nova Scotia, in a true brotherly spirit of British loyalty, voted a contingent of 10,000 men, and money, to aid New Brunswick in repelling the aggression of the State of Maine.

It was mid-winter in the year of 1837-38. The regular troops in garrison at Fredericton being the first to move, the Fredericton “Rifles Company” volunteered its services to perform garrison duty, which was accepted. The 36th Regiment went into quarters at Woodstock, supported by the Fredericton Artillery and the Carleton County Militia.

Reviewing a line of volunteers formed on the ice above the Meduxnakic bridge at Woodstock, the gallant old Colonel Maxwell addressed them as “hardy and loyal sons of New Brunswick and as possessing bodies of adamant and souls of fire.”

The Fredericton Troop of Cavalry acted as videttés, stationed on the road between Fredericton and Woodstock to carry dispatches. A battalion of infantry was also organized in York County and occupied the Artillery Park Barracks, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel John Robinson.

Our captain, McBeth, being the first to volunteer, received the pass-word daily from the Governor; and our duty was to guard the garrison, Government House, and principal posts in the town.

A posse of United States officers, found in a lumber camp on the “Disputed Territory,” were taken prisoners by Sheriff Winslow, of Carleton County, and conveyed, well guarded, on a sled to Fredericton.

The House was in session, and I well remember seeing the sled, with the prisoners, driven to the door of the Parliament Buildings, and the rush of members from their seats to view them.

Business requiring; my attention during the day, except at the daily morning parade, my turn of duty came at night. As full private at “sentry go” I took my beat, and the colder the weather, the brighter did my military ardor seem to burn, carrying me over difficulties to which others during the campaign succumbed. For the three months’ service in garrison we received no pay, and rations only for a portion of that time.

The several regiments were conveyed to Canada on sleds, a company arriving and occupying the stone barracks and leaving at sunrise the following morning.

The bloodless “Aroostook War” and the far-famed “Strickland’s retreat” being now matter of historical and poetical record, I will not enlarge. Suffice it that the excitement brought out the best blood of our young men to enroll in the volunteer force and imparted a military spirit to the youth of that day, re-lighted to burn all the brighter in its recital to their children.

A Vacation

My four years’ term as apprentice having expired, Mr. Gale desiring that I should remain with him for a year, I consented. My salary was to be £30, with board and lodging. During my four years with Mr. Gale I had no vacations, and stipulated that before re-entering on work I should have a month’s holidays.

I had been invited by two friends, young men studying French at Madawaska, to make them a visit, and this invitation I now gladly accepted.

Cook Hammond, of Kingsclear, a young man (since well established at “Violet Brook,” where he now lives with his family), furnished a horse. I hired a wagon and we set out on our journey. Reaching the Grand Falls, we employed a Frenchman, whose pirogue we entered to complete our journey. It was the month of July and the weather being warm, I wore a white flannel jacket slightly embroidered. Groups of French were often seen on the banks of the river, the male portions of whom, after a few words in French spoken by Hammond, decamped instantly.

The excitement of Papineau’s rebellion had not yet subsided, and the announcement that I was a Government agent taking the census, to the French mind meant conscription and new “Acadian horrors.”

The simplicity and jollity of the people interested me very much. The ovens for baking were formed of clay on elevated platforms outside their dwellings, and of an oval or beehive shape. The loaves resembled huge knots sliced from a tree and the bread dark but sweet.

At the hospitable residence of Col. Coombes we were made to feel quite at home, to which end the young ladies performed their part charmingly.

Pushing on, we reached the house and beautiful farm of Simonette Hebert, where my friend, Charles Hartt (now a lawyer in New York) was staying.

The settlement of the Boundary Question between England and the United States by arbitration gave to the latter, by a most unrighteous decision, this and other superior farming lands on the western side of the St. John River to an extent of 3,000,000 of acres.

Simonette Hebert was one of the most respectable and well-to-do farmers in Madawaska. Before the division of the county, when jurors were brought from that place to Woodstock, the court was frequently amused by the crier calling, “Simon-eat-a-bear!” three times, as is the custom.

The best way of obtaining a French education at that period was by residing for a time at Madawaska, where capable instructors were found from the Province of Quebec. The late Judge Wilmot and others thus obtained their knowledge of the French language. Hartt’s tutor was an Englishman named Turner, a good scholar, but sadly demoralized by periodical sprees.

Making Simonette’s for a time my head-quarters, Hartt and I sallied out daily with rod and gun to slay the innocent. A little above Hebert’s, on the opposite side, the little Madawaska river entered the St. John. The only house then to be seen was a small log cabin on the lower side of the stream.

A half mile above, on the St. John, lived Squire Rice, a magistrate, and a good sample of a witty Irishman. John Emmerson, an Irish Protestant, lived there also. He was a very worthy man, and from good habits and close attention to business accumulated considerable property. The beautiful houses that embellish the rising village of Edmundston, erected by his sons, are evidence of a father’s thrift.

The glorious sunshine, the deep meadows, and beautiful wild flowers, after a long and close confinement, seemed to me a very paradise, which passed all too swiftly away. At the close of two weeks thus pleasantly spent, Hartt accompanying me, we visited Joseph Hea, who resided at Paul Crocks, several miles below. His tutor was a Frenchman from Old France, named Joliette. The purity of the language as spoken by him was in marked contrast with the patois of the native.

Our new residence, pro tem, was also on the western side of the St. John. The settlement here was more populous, and the Anglais visitors the centre of attraction. We were frequently invited to evening parties.

I had taken with me an octave flute on which I had learned to play, but my pride oozed out from the ends of my fingers in the presence of twenty fiddlers all in a row. The voice and energetic motions of arms and legs, as time was beaten to the scraping of the bows, presented a phase in acoustics altogether novel.

Accepting on one occasion an invitation to [illegible] Gonieau’s, directly opposite to Crocks, we paddled over early in the evening, and found a merry young company assembled, male and female. Having enjoyed the French novelties of song and dance until a late hour, we started to return. Leaving the landing we paddled out from the shore. The night was intensely dark,— neither light nor star to guide our course.

When near the centre of the river we found the canoe lifted as by a fiendish hand, and turned upside down. We soon found ourselves scrambling for life among the branches of a floating tree. After many times sinking and rising among the smaller branches, we reached the trunk of the tree, which was a large one and sustained us nobly. We were also fortunate in finding our craft and a paddle entangled in the branches. Righting the canoe, she was soon bailed out, and we were once more afloat.

Through the jealousy of one “May Rose,” the doors were fastened, and wet and weary we clambered through a window into the parlor.

As if in proof of the old adage that “misfortunes seldom come single,” a step or two only had been taken by Hea when his foot encountered a treacherous rope, placed by cunning hands, causing his nose,— a good Roman one,— to be deprived of a considerable portion of its epidermis. The mirth of Hartt was soon checked, for leaping, as he thought, into a bed of down, he found a bed of thistles.

The period of my vacation having come to an end, with recruited health and bright vistas of the future, I said, “adieu!” to friends old and new, and turned my back upon scenes Arcadian for others more prosaic.

The then central point of Madawaska was the chapel, around which clustered a few dwelling houses, with a single store. The village was on the eastern side of the river and was my first stopping place. I here saw P.C. Amireaux, a genial, intelligent Frenchman, well known in Fredericton.

Our prow again touched the shore at the landing of Col. Coombes, which proved to be the end of my canoe journey homeward. The colonel was in command of the militia of that section above the Grand Falls; a magistrate, therefore an authority in law among the French; spoke the language like a native, and was a fair sample of the solid yeoman of his day in New Brunswick. He well sustained the character of hospitality, for which our people are noted, and in its early settlement often tested their resources.

On arriving here I found that my seat in the wagon had been “spoken for” by a lady, the colonel’s daughter, then living in Fredericton, and wife of Charles Beckwith. It was proposed that I should ride a beautiful and fast-pacing French pony, purchased for Major Magny, of the 36th Regiment. Accustomed to the saddle in my early morning rides to the shooting grounds, I gladly accepted, and any regrets or local remembrances of this one-hundred-and-fifty mile ride have long since been obliterated.

Return to Fredericton and Business

Re-entering the shop, I was now master of my evenings. I joined a class of young men learning to dance. The same teacher, John Reid, had an afternoon class of the elite aristocratic youths of the city. The “setting up” is a good deal like drill, and some of the dances are pleasing and teach graceful attitudes; but the exposure to cold, late hours, and the dissipation associated with balls, leads one to suggest other channels affording more real and lasting pleasure.

I soon returned to my old plan of retiring and rising early, and continued it while I remained in Fredericton.

In the spring. of 1839 [when Baird was about twenty years of age] I visited Woodstock to examine some druggist’s stock, held by Dr. Charles Rice, which he kept in connection with his business as a physician. I arranged with him for the purchase, and expected to be in possession in August following.

Immediately after my return, Mr. Gale took his departure for a tour through the United States, leaving me in charge of the business.

During his absence an order was received for the regiment to leave at three days’ notice. On the books were accounts against many of the officers, which, by working late and early, I succeeded in making up and collecting, while the claims of many others went by default.

A thorough cleansing of the shop, re-labeling bottles, and the preparation of medicines in advance of requirements, had long since, in view of a final good-by, been completed.

I had now remained more than a month beyond the period of my engagement. Still Mr. Gale had not returned. The time was passing away in which I should have been making preparations for the payment of the stock purchased, and I remember feeling deeply mortified at the delay.

More than another month had passed away, when an arrival by the Woodstock stage, at four p.m., set me at liberty. Mr. Gale said he had stopped at Woodstock as he returned, thought it a poor place for me, and offered me employment for one or more years at an increased salary.

I thought it idle talk, considering every moment precious, received from him the amount due me, with a promise of a letter of credit to Dr. Walker & Sons, wholesale druggists, St. John, and at seven p.m. left in the steamer for that city.


Written by johnwood1946

April 2, 2014 at 10:24 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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