New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

A Church with Military Boots and Fixed Bayonets

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From the blog at

This is an excerpt from James Buckingham’s book “Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the Other Provinces of British North America…,” published in Paris in 1843. It describes Buckingham’s trip from Saint John to Fredericton aboard a steam boat, and his arrival in Fredericton. His description of the Methodist chapel in Fredericton was especially interesting to me; as it was an armed and dangerous looking place, with military guards awaiting the arrival of the Lieut. Governor. This explains the title which I have given the whole chapter.


The Kennebecasis, which James Buckingham described on his trip up the St. John

Pictured is a boat race in 1871 – A Saint John team vs. a team from England. From the web site at


A Church with Military Boots and Fixed Bayonets

On the morning of Thursday the 22nd of October, we left the City of St. John at seven o’clock, during a most violent tempest of wind and rain; and driving through the suburb of Portland to Indian-Town, above the rapid, at the entrance to the river, we there embarked in a steamer for Fredericton. This spot was called Indian-Town, because it was at first wholly occupied by Indians, and the first house built here for them was erected by the father of the present Sheriff of St. John.

We embarked in the steamer New Brunswick, a fine boat, at half-past seven. The tempest of wind and rain rendered it difficult to remain on deck; but the shores of the river were sufficiently attractive to keep us there. The entrance to this river from the sea can only be made at the top of high water. The obstruction is occasioned by a mass or ledge of rock remaining in the channel between the lofty cliffs on either side, over which ledge, soon after high water, the stream presents a rapid, gradually increasing to a cataract or fall, outwards into the harbour; and when the flood-tide begins to set, the rapid or fall runs inward from the harbour to the river with the same velocity, till near the top of high water, when the general level between the harbour and the river is restored; and at slack water, as the pilots term it, boats can pass inward and out ward with safety, but only for a short period, about a quarter of an hour, at each full tide. The rupture made by the river through the mass of rock that impeded its passage to the sea, has left a great chasm, which is very striking, the cliffs on each side being lofty and perpendicular, and the breadth of the stream between them not more than a quarter of a mile across.

As we advanced up the river St. John, the stream appeared broader, and the scenery was very interesting, and in some parts beautiful. On the right hand of our course we passed a promontory called the Boar’s Head, from some fancied resemblance which suggested the name; and near this, saw the entrance of the river Kennebecacis, flowing from the north-east. Here the river St. John expands its width to four or five miles, this width continuing for five or six miles in length, so as to form a sort of lake or bay. The hills on each side are undulated and wooded; and great neatness and care seemed to be manifested on the farms we saw enclosed. There were many small islands in the centre of the stream, which were well wooded also, and on some of these, neat white cottages were seen. On either bank there were occasional villages, with the spire of a small church piercing above the trees, and everything connected with rural life seemed more carefully neat and orderly, than we had been accustomed to see in the United States; though it must be admitted that in the build, equipment, and appearance of their boats and river-craft, the New Brunswickers seemed to us much behind the Americans. Along the banks we observed several long level tracts of land, nearly even with the water’s edge. These are always over flowed in the great freshets of spring, when the melting of the ice and snows swell the river above its bounds. But they produce rich harvests of hay; and we saw on one of those low slips of land not less than a hundred haystacks well and compactly made. This was about thirty miles above the mouth of the St. John.

The prettily undulated and wooded hills on each side the river, looked the more beautiful from their being clothed in their autumnal dress, with tints as vivid as any seen in the American forests. On some of the low marshes we observed herds of cattle grazing, and protected from the overflow of the stream by dykes. The cultivation improved as we advanced, and we saw many of the haystacks fenced around to protect them from the cattle, and roofed over to defend them from rain.

About forty miles above St. John we passed Long Island, with a church and tavern adjoining it, both close to the river, for the accommodation of farmers, who come to it from many miles round. Ten miles above this, we passed the small neat village of Gagetown on our left. Beyond this, the banks of the river become flatter and less picturesque, but the country is more fertile and productive. Maugerville on the left, and Sheffield on the right, are two small villages about sixty miles above St. John, and these are said to be the two oldest settlements on the river.

Fourteen miles above this, we passed the town of Oromocto on the left, where the river of that name enters from the west. This river is navigable for 25 miles above its junction with the St. John; and at its mouth there is a new wooden bridge, with a central opening to admit the passage of ships and vessels. We saw many large vessels on the stocks here, building for the trade of New Brunswick, foreign as well as coasting.

We had a young Colonist on board, a native of Woodstock, one of the frontier towns of this Province, who exhibited a specimen of the strong Colonial feeling which is unhappily too general among persons from whose age and experience one might have expected better things. The unpopularity of Mr. Poulett Thompson, as Governor-General of Canada, was very great, at his first appointment, throughout all the North American Provinces; and in more than one place he had been burnt in effigy. This conduct the young Colonist applauded, adding only one regret, which he had no scruple to express openly in the presence of all the passengers, which was, that the people had not burnt Mr. Thompson himself, instead of his mere representative or effigy. I asked him what could justify such a step. He said, “Because he was known to have spoken and voted in the House of Commons for a reduction of the duty on Baltic timber, and this was oppression to the Colonies.” Such are the feelings that are engendered by being brought up under the restrictive or protecting system.

At four o’clock in the afternoon, we reached Fredericton, which had a pleasing appearance from the river, having performed the distance of eighty-five miles from St. John in eight hours and half, and for the very moderate fare of ten shillings each, exclusive of meals.

We were met by several gentlemen at the wharf, and escorted to Jackson’s Hotel, where we found comfortable accommodations. We were afterwards introduced to the Lieutenant-Governor, Sir John Harvey, and his family and staff, as well as the Bishop of Nova Scotia, who was then on a tour through the Province; and we had the pleasure of dining with a most agreeable party at the Government House. Nothing could exceed the urbanity and hospitality of all the leading members of society, who did their utmost to make our short stay in the capital agreeable.

Our examination of Fredericton, which was made in company with some of the residents, who answered all our inquiries without reserve, gave us a favourable impression of the place and its inhabitants, and made us feel a well-grounded hope of its future prosperity. The town is seated on a plain, on the right bank of the river St. John, with hills rising behind it to the south-west. The plain is about four miles long and one mile broad. The river curves round this plain in a convex shape, so as to give increased water-frontage to the town. This is laid out with great symmetry, in squares of eighteen different lots, each lot containing a quarter of an acre. The streets lie parallel to each other in one direction, and are crossed by others at right angles. The longest are those running nearly parallel to the river, these exceed a mile in length. The transverse streets are shorter. Near the landing-place is a fine open square, with grass lawn, and a row of very large willows and poplar trees. On one side of this square is the officers barracks.

As the town recedes from the river, the level is more elevated, and some of the principal buildings are seen on the rising ground. The most conspicuous of these is King’s College, which is deemed the finest building in the Province. It is 171 feet long, and 159 feet deep, and embraces a basement and two lofty stories, with a fine massive cornice and pediments. The edifice is constructed with a fine grey stone found near the site, and affords a very favourable specimen of architecture. In the building there is a chapel, two lecture-rooms, twenty-one rooms for students, and ample accommodation for the President, Vice-President, and servants. The position is commanding, healthy, and agreeable, and the course of tuition proposed is useful and ornamental. There is a Baptist Seminary in a lower part of the town, a handsome little building 60 feet by 35; a Grammar and Madras School, with several private academies, and a number of Sunday schools, so that education appears to be amply provided for.

There are five Churches, the Episcopal, Scotch, Methodist, Baptist, and Roman Catholic, and all are said to have full congregations; and there are several excellent Benevolent Institutions.

The Province Hall, in which the Legislature of New Brunswick holds its sittings, is nearly in the centre of the town. Attached to it are several public offices, but the whole structure is not remarkable for any architectural beauty.

The Governor’s residence is in the northern quarter of the town, and is at once elegant and commodious, with a good lawn and gardens, and pleasant walks along the banks of the river.

Fredericton was first founded as the capital of New Brunswick, by Governor Carleton in 1784, when this province was first separated from Nova Scotia, and the position is well chosen. From it, as from a common centre, the public roads branch off to different quarters; and its central position between Halifax and Quebec, makes it an important military depot.

The country around it is pleasing, and the river St. John extends for 400 miles above Fredericton, its banks exhibiting frequent settlements of cleared lands, farms, and pretty cottage dwellings; and for all this tract of country, Fredericton is almost certain to become the great central mart of trade. The present population is about 5,000, but these are every year rapidly increasing.

The last lectures that I delivered on the American continent were given at Fredericton, in a new and handsome chapel of the Wesleyan Methodists; and they were crowded with large numbers. Here, however, as at Toronto, there was an appendage which might well have been spared, though the etiquette of Colonial rule seemed to require it. In the pews reserved for the Lieutenant-Governor and his staff, were orderly sergeants, keeping possession previous to his arrival, while military sentries with fixed bayonets were placed at each entrance of the chapel; and the concourse of the large retinue of officers, from the Government House and the Barracks, made the aisles ring with the clatter of heavy boots, steel scabbards, and the tramp of numbers, not quite in harmony with the grave decorum of a chapel or a lecture-room. But the entry once over, all afterwards was perfectly orderly and subdued.


Written by johnwood1946

April 30, 2014 at 10:08 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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