New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

A Trip From St. John to Fredericton, N.B. in 1870

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From the blog at

A very large tour group visited New Brunswick in July and August of 1870, arriving in Saint John on an ocean steamer. The tour included hundreds of people, and was significant enough that they were greeted by large crowds, including civic officials and the Lieutenant Governor. Letters were written describing the group’s experiences, and some of these were later published in a book entitled Coit Correspondence, or a Trip to New Brunswick, Worcester, Mass., 1871.

The following is letter describes their last day in Saint John, and a trip on a riverboat to see Fredericton.


Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) Canoeists at Nerepis, N.B., c 1900-1910

From the N.B. Museum, via the McCord Museum

A Trip from Saint John to Fredericton, N.B., in 1870

Three eventful days of the Coit Excursion are to be imperfectly sketched in this letter. The Sabbath was observed as becomes the descendants of the Pilgrims. Three services were held on board the steamer, the morning one conducted by our worthy Chaplain, Rev. Mr. Osterhout; that in the afternoon, by Rev. Mr. Bullard. At nightfall, the beauty of the sky and surrounding scenery, together with the softness of the evening air, having drawn great numbers to the upper decks, and a crowd of St. John people numbering a thousand or more to the wharf alongside, it was decided to have the third service in the open air. The exercises, consisting of hymns reverently sung by the great congregation; an eloquent and earnest address to the young by Rev. Mr. Bullard; the following pieces by the Band—“Old Hundred,” “The Prayer from Der Freischutz,” “The Elegy of Tears,” “God Save the Queen;”—and a closing prayer; were exceedingly impressive. The multitude upon the shore evinced their respect for the day and for the occasion, in a manner so marked as to excite general comment. Not a single sound of rudeness marred the sacred hour.

Many of course attended church in the city at places suited to individual convictions and tastes. Not a few went to the Catholic Cathedral, attracted by the announcement that Bishop Sweeny would give some account of the Ecumenical Council at Rome from which he has just returned, and by the rumor that the Brignoli troupe, now in the city, were to perform there Mozart’s Twelfth Mass. Scores returned declaring that they distinctly recognized the great tenor’s voice, and were ecstatic in praise of the music. No doubt it was good; but alas for their ears, the St. John papers dispelled the illusion next morning by stating that the Signor did not sing. Baptist and Methodist churches predominate in the city, and—excepting the single Congregational society—contrary to what one would suppose, there are least Episcopal.

Your readers are aware that St. John was to be our objective point. But we have overshot, being induced to believe that it would never do to miss this opportunity of witnessing the scenery upon the river, and of visiting the Celestial City. Arrangements were therefore made with Mr. Reuben Lunt, the gentlemanly proprietor of the steamer Rothesay, the fastest and best upon the river, by which the excursionists could obtain tickets to Fredericton and back for one dollar United States money;—less than half fare. Conveyed by various vehicles, or going on foot, some two hundred and fifty of our party reached Indiantown, two miles distant, at eight o’clock on Monday morning, and embarked upon the steamer. A considerable company of St. John people, at least forty gentlemen with their wives and daughters, added themselves to our party and doubled our enjoyment all the way, not only by their agreeable society, but also by indicating all points of interest and conveying much information. Of this number may be mentioned John March, Esq., editor of the Morning News, and reputed one of the best phonetic reporters upon the Continent; T.Y. Ellis, Esq., editor of the Evening Globe, strangely like the rebel Gen. Lee in countenance, but most unlike him in his political sympathies during the Great Rebellion; a reporter for the Daily Telegraph; Dr. Fisk; Elder Garrity; Lewis Carvel, Esq., General Superintendent of the European and North American Railway ; Rev. A.S. McKenzie, pastor of the Leinster Street Baptist Church; and John R. Marshall, Chief of Police, who having no duties appertaining to his office to perform in such a company, gracefully discharged those of a fine old English gentleman.

Scarcely had we time for introductions and mutual greetings before the striking characteristics of the shore absorbed our attention. For several miles the river is confined narrowly between limestone rocks, somewhat resembling the Palisades upon the Hudson, while towering bluffs and bold headlands mark their grand outlines against the sky. Passing close under the snout of Boar’s Head we emerge into a broad and beautiful expanse of water called Grand Bay. The same majestic scenery surrounds us but at a further remove. Here we cross the mouth of the first tributary from the East—the Kennebecacis River, i.e. the little Kennebec, noted for salmon and boat-racing. At the head of Grand Bay comes in the Nerepis spanned by a bridge a mile and a quarter long, whose arches were visible to our glasses far down the Bay. Now we round Brundage’s Point making almost a right angle. Every eye is strained and every glass is pointed to behold the Long Reach. There it is, for eighteen miles stretching away, straight as a bee can fly, until it narrows to a silver thread! Along the Reach the banks are steep slopes, presenting frequent cultivated clearings. Near the head of the Reach, twenty-three miles from St. John, is Oak Point, with a light-house at its tip, a mere lamppost with which every point or forward piece of land upon the St. John is extravagantly decorated by the munificence of the Dominion of Canada. Just above, we glide past Grassy Island, seemingly a mere surface of tall interval grass growing out of the water. Next we muse upon The Mistake, where a long landslip parallel with the banks and parting the river, tempted the first adventurers to the left hand course which terminates, after running a three mile rig, in a cul-de-sac—a pretty serious mistake. When will men “seek the right and pursue it.” Presently we pass Bellisle Bay extending on the right 12 miles inland and fringed with highly cultivated farms. Midway between St. John and Fredericton is Long Island, shaped like a crescent, and measuring from horn to horn three miles, with a width at the widest of a half-mile—a beautiful interval dotted with tall elms, across which as we look is seen the line of bushes where winds an encircling arm of the river and in the background an amphitheatre of hills whose fronting slopes are covered with green fields and pretty farm-cottages. On the island itself is a marshy lake where in autumn the ducks do congregate and sportsmen love to prowl. Opposite Long Island a narrow strait leads to Washedamoak Lake, twenty miles long.

And now leaving the wild and rugged scenery we enter upon the interval country. Far almost as the eye can pierce on either hand lie the smiling plains. The tall elms, the yet uncut grass waving in the breeze, the lights and shadows from the broken clouds, the varied tints of trees and grains and grasses, combine to produce a view, the loveliness of which is simply indescribable. Passing the head of Musquash Island, we spy opposite through the trees the Court House of Gagetown, the shire town of Queen’s County. Just here the wind freshens, making us hold our hats on, but not preventing our exchanging salutes with the Grand Lake steamer as she flits by. Indeed, all along, we meet or overtake vessels laden with shingles, deal and hay. Over against Gagetown is the entrance to Grand Lake called the Jemseg, a creek so narrow that in some places two vessels cannot pass each other, and yet so deep that a good sized steamer ploughs safely through. It winds along between the interval and the highlands for four miles, to meet the Lake which is thirty miles long by six wide. Millions of logs annually float down the Jemseg. From our hurricane deck one may see a fine sight: Jemseg, Grand Lake, Thoroughfare, Maquapit, Little Thoroughfare, and French Lake—all strung together like beads upon a string.

And now, one grand stretch of verdant interval on the left bank, and on the right intervals and hills interspersed, accompany us all the way to Fredericton—thirty miles. Off Grimross Island another steamer passes us, the third since we started. Our Blue-nose cousins shout, wave their hats and handkerchiefs, and we uproariously respond. Twenty-four miles from Fredericton, Ox and Major Islands divide the river into three channels. We take the right and approach the little parish of Sheffield. Here a boat hails us and we take on board Judge Fisher and Hon. W. H. Needham, of Fredericton—the latter, a veritable Jack Falstaff. Close by, the Chief of Police points out to me a magnificent farm running six miles back from the river on which his great grandfather, Samuel Upton, settled, coming from Salem in 1767. As we near Fredericton, for twenty miles beautiful farms and farm-houses peep out between rows of elms and shrubbery which border the banks. Twelve miles from Fredericton we pass Oromocto village, river and island. From here to the capital shifting phases of quiet beauty offer themselves to the eye in almost wearisome profusion. But the beauty as heretofore is of nature and not of art. One cannot help remarking that Americans would hardly be content with this “nature unadorned.” Stately summer residences would perch upon every bluff or look out from every glade. “We haven’t the money,” they say.

Our reception at Fredericton was very cordial. The wharves were thronged. Handkerchiefs fluttered from fair hands in every window. His Excellency, the Lieut. Governor, His Worship, the Mayor, the United States Consul and many citizens were in waiting with carriages. Presentations over, the whole party were invited to the Governor’s residence, where a most delightful hour was divided between the elegant drawing-rooms and the charming gardens in the rear of the mansion. The Governor took each excursionist by the hand and presented each lady with a pink. There was little time to linger. A jovial Briton and myself seize a barouche and elope with two ladies. A whisk through the principal streets, a passing glance at the fine Cathedral, at the little and dingy Parliament Buildings, at the not palatial Queen’s hotel, at the Methodist church with a huge hand pointing heavenward with its dexter finger from the steeple top, and we were up the hill, and through the birchen grove, and knocking for admittance at the University of New Brunswick. Dr. Jack, the President, soon appeared, and politely conducted us through the building. There was little to see within, except a good refracting telescope, a respectable museum, and some pretty hard looking dormitories. But the view from the roof of the portico, including the city directly in front, around which the river bends in a long semi-circuit, the far off amphitheatre of hills, and the Nashwaak at whose mouth Latour built the first fort in Acadia, is magnificent indeed. The Doctor presents us a catalogue, we raise our hats, and our horse raises his feet in a mad race to the boat. We have spent two hours in Fredericton, and are ready to start again at 4 p.m. A greater throng than welcomed us shout good-bye, the city band strikes up, and ours replies as we cast off from shore. Our reception has been more enthusiastic than Prince Arthur’s.

A cold, bracing wind made it glorious to promenade the deck on the downward sail. As it grew dark the company gathered within and listened to songs, readings, and excellent speeches. By 11 o’clock the Coits were home again upon their own boat, delighted with their trip.

Next morning many of our friends came on board to bid us farewell. His Worship, the Mayor, in a neat speech, bade us Godspeed and good bye. Our honored president, Mr. Geo. R. Peckham, called upon Mr. Mecorney to respond, which he did most felicitously. Capital speeches were also made by Mr. O.D. Wetmore, a Prince William Street Broker, and Mr. John Boyd of the London House. It was pleasant to hear Mr. Wetmore utter such sentiments as these: “No one now doubts that your forefathers were right,” and “We claim a share in the heritage and in the name of George Washington.” With three cheers or three times three, for the Queen, the President, the Mayor, the Coits, the citizens of St. John, the lady excursionists, the pretty girls of St. John, and two or three “tigers,” we steamed away from British soil, the Band playing “God save the Queen.” “The Star Spangled Banner “followed hard after, however, and the wind blew it straight into our cousins’ faces.

The wind blew high, and by the time we reached New River, where two tides meet, the condition of most of our party was woeful enough. Frequent libations were made to Neptune over the rail. In the ladies’ cabin things were in a general state of upheaval. Coits, for the first time, looked wretched.

“Man delights not me, no, nor woman neither,”

was in large type on scores of faces. Your correspondent meanwhile, deeply penetrated with the ludicrous phase of the scene, sat over-coated and alone upon the hurricane deck, experiencing only a sort of delicious intoxication.

We reached Eastport at last; fishing parties scattered over the Bay; cod and haddock enough for one breakfast were caught; a dance is in prospect this evening, and we start for Mount Desert at midnight.

Oh, these Eastport girls!—I mean—“Those evening Belles.” It is late and my mind wanders.


[Likely either Abner H. Davis of Worcester, or A.H. Davis of Webster, both members of the party.]


Written by johnwood1946

February 11, 2015 at 9:46 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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