johnwood1946

New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

Woodstock, the Only Village Between the Green River and Fredericton in 1834

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From the blog at http://JohnWood1946.wordpress.com

This story is from A Subaltern’s Furlough, Descriptive of Scenes in Various Parts of the United States, Upper and Lower Canada, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia during the Summer of 1834, by E.T. Coke.

Coke had been travelling the Tamiscouta Portage running from near the Pilgrim Isles just upstream of Rivière du Loup toward New Brunswick. For the previous blog posting we followed him from the area of Lake Temiscouta, to just above Grand Falls. For this posting he continues his journey from Grand Falls to Fredericton.

Coke tells the story of Mohawk invaders being washed over the Grand Falls, confirming that that story was a tradition even 181 years ago. We also find a family of seven people who consider that their neighbours, seven miles away, are too close to avoid quarrelling. Coke arrives at Woodstock, hardly even a village at that time, and finds a spirited community competing for the best locations, anticipating that the town would grow. This posting ends with his arrival in Fredericton.

Apple Seeds Woodstock

Saving Apple Seeds, Woodstock, NB, 1901

From the McCord Museum

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Woodstock, the Only Village Between the Green River and Fredericton in 1834

Twenty miles farther brought us to the Great Falls, where we again landed, the Portage commencing at the rather dangerous vicinity of about l50 yards above them, the influence of the cataract being very evident upon canoes which must cross the river to gain the entrance of the Portage, situated in a small circular bay. The surface of the river is perfectly smooth and unbroken until it gains the very edge of the rock, when it is precipitated 70 feet in a sheet of amber-coloured foam into a narrow and rocky channel, not exceeding 35 feet in breadth, down which it boils and bubbles for the space of half a mile, and then expands into its original width of about 150 yards. There is a tradition, though seemingly not a very probable one, that several canoes of Mohawk Indians, who had attacked a tribe near the source of the river, and massacred all, excepting two old squaws, were (accompanied by their prisoners) floating down with the current at night, and were to a man dashed to pieces over the Falls, of whose existence they had not even the most remote idea. The squaws aware of the circumstance perished with them, not wishing to survive the destruction of their tribe. Sitting upon the rough crags on the margin of the cataract, we made a late dinner upon the last remains of our shoulder of mutton, sacrificing the well-picked bone to the shades of the old squaws and the Grand Falls.

The river banks formed of a hard rock with light covering of soil exceed 100 feet in height above the falls, and more than 200 half a mile below them. The man who conveyed the boats across the Portage earns a good livelihood by his two-fold occupation of farmer and boat-carrier. Our canoe, with the baggage in it, was drawn along a winding road on a sledge by two oxen, and launched again into the water half a mile below for a quarter of a dollar. Timber was formerly drawn up on the level of the bank, and then launched again into the water down an inclined plane, but this system was soon abandoned as too expensive, and it is now allowed to shoot the Falls, which in the freshets but little injures it.

For seven or eight miles the current carried us on with great velocity over the “White Rapids,” the “Black Rapids” and a series of others, all sufficiently dangerous to encounter without a skilful pilot, and we landed at dusk near a small log hut, the first we saw after leaving the Portage. The banks had continued a hundred feet in height, and covered with a dense pine forest, but we frequently passed groups of woodsmen bivouacking by their fires at the water’s edge after their day’s labour had ceased. Throwing part of the baggage over my shoulder, I walked up to the hut, through whose small window the bright light of the wood fire could be seen blazing cheerfully, and knocking at the door walked in, and found a family of seven, who welcomed me most hospitably. My companions following me, we joined the circle, and, after enjoying a bowl of excellent milk, asked the settler’s history. He had been a comrade of the veteran upon the lake [Tamiscouta], and had been settled there at the same time, when his nearest neighbour lived at twenty miles’ distance. He had now one within six miles, but considered it no advantage, and would rather that people did not settle so near to him, as he should then have no fear of quarrelling. Part of his house had been washed away by the freshets during the spring of the previous year and, although it was 20 feet above the level of the river, the water had stood 5 feet 5 inches in his kitchen which was the only room he had remaining. This summer, too, the bears had destroyed 13 sheep and 4 hogs of his stock, but he had yet 23 sheep remaining, and two cows. The only neighbours, however, he did not appear, in any manner, to approve, were the Americans, whose boundary was within five miles. He said that he had been over amongst some of them lately and told them that they had belter be silent upon the subject of the boundary question now, for that New Brunswick had a governor who had just been most satisfactorily arranging the same kind of a dispute in the East Indies.

As the night was advanced, wishing to obtain a few hours’ sleep. I threw my wet great coat upon the floor before the blazing hearth, as the most comfortable berth I could select; but the settlers wife would so positively insist upon Mr. Reid and myself taking possession of the only bed in the room, upon which, she asserted, “she had just placed new blankets for our express comfort,” that I was compelled most reluctantly to relinquish it, while the settler and his son went out and sought a nights rest amongst the straw in the stable I had heard from the boatman on the Madawaska River that the house was not celebrated for its cleanliness, and a sight of the bed convinced me that there must be very substantial reasons for its fame having spread through a hundred miles of nearly uninhabited country: so I walked out of the house with the intention of sleeping in the open air, and thus avoid giving any affront to our hostess, but the mist rose so thick and cold from the water, and remembering the story of the bears, I thought it more prudent to undergo a night’s tortures within doors. On returning into the house, I found my friend already between the far-famed blankets. The boatman had taken up my comfortable position on the hearth; the children were lying upon a bed at the foot of ours, and the settler’s wife sat in a chair watching the fast-dying embers. I was somewhat puzzled to discover how Mr. Reid had contrived to turn in: for I had no idea of risking myself otherwise than in my clothes. and. after considerable maneuvering took an opportunity, when the settler’s wife turned her head, to spring in and strongly intrench myself up to the chin between the coverlid and upper blanket. My friend had taken up a similar strong position, and was almost choked with attempting to smother his laughter. We were not such old soldiers, however, as to out-manoeuvre the enemy in this manner: for swarms of light infantry poured down upon us in every direction; and most stoically did we bear their attacks for the short time we were awake, but the fatigues of the day soon caused us to be unconscious of everything that was passing [mosquitoes and blackflies?]. Towards morning I was awaked by some heavy weight upon my feet, and at first, took it for a visit of the night-mare; but arousing my senses a little, and feeling it move, I was convinced it must be one of the children; so out of gratitude for our accommodation I could not remove it, but endured the evil, until rising to depart upon our voyage I discovered that it was a large black dog, which had favoured us with his company.

Two hours brought us to the mouth of the Aroostook River, and Stobec, a small Indian village on the opposite bank. Landing where we saw a bark canoe drawn up on the beach, we fortunately met a staff officer, who had been up the Aroostook to check some aggressions of the American lumberers in the forests on the disputed territory, and was now on his return to Fredericton. We proceeded in company through a fertile and from this time well-inhabited country, with fine bold scenery at every turn of the stream, and at night arrived at Woodstock, about sixty miles below the Falls and half a mile from the river, where we found a comfortable little inn kept by an American. The division of the counties, which had only lately taken place, had not been publicly stated more than three or four days, and Woodstock, which had formerly been in the county of York, was now the capital of the mew-formed county of Carleton. At present, it is but a small village, though doubtless, ere many years have passed, it will be one of the most considerable towns in the province, being situated in the most fertile part, and already possessing a large agricultural population. Persons anxious for posts under government and to establish themselves with the earliest foundation of the town, were flocking in from all directions; no fewer than three surgeons and four attorneys had already arrived, though there was neither fee nor food for one of them. The small and formerly quiet village had already divided opinions and clashing interests, and numerous little jealousies and bickerings had arisen. It is a straggling place, settled party upon a creek near the river, and partly upon the high ground where the inn was; so each party wished to establish their own spot as the site of the capital, and derive the advantage of having the public building there.

The evening gun from the American garrison of Houlton, only five miles distant, can be distinctly heard at Woodstock; and. as we were descending the river on the 11th of September, we caught a glimpse of Mars Hill, upon which the boundary monument has been erected. Large as the St. John’s River is, it is rendered utterly unnavigable by the numerous rapids, where, in many places, the depth does not exceed three feet. The beach everywhere was strewed with fine timber, which had been left by the falling of the spring freshets, and which could not now arrive at the port of exportation before the ensuing year, and flat-bottomed provision-boats can with difficulty reach Woodstock on the 3d day from Fredericton The scenery throughout the St. John’s, is of a superior order to the generality of that in America, and becomes bolder and more beautiful as the river nears the ocean: but the land decreases in fertility in an equal ratio every succeeding mile below Woodstock. The Falls of the Pokiok at its junction with the St. John’s seen through a wooded and rocky chasm, and an Indian village with some fine drooping elms upon a bold undulating country a few miles lower down, are exceedingly picturesque objects.

With the exception of Woodstock, it cannot be said that there is any settlement which can come under the denomination of a village between the Green River and Fredericton, a distance not short of 220 miles. In many parts, as at Madawaska, a narrow riband of farms extends along the banks of the St. John, and stretches back from a quarter to a mile inland. Three or four tribes also of Indians have their strange-looking collection of bark-built wig-wams huddled together upon the headlands formed by the junction of the Tobique and other tributary streams: the chief’s house is usually distinguished from the rest by having a flag-staff alongside of it, or the roof being rather more elevated. The costume of the females struck me as much gayer than that of the tribes I had previously seen in the Canadas. Their dress here was generally of brilliant and gaudy colours, with their black hats encircled by a broad silver band. The men, who appeared to subsist chiefly upon fishing in the summer season, had the same heavy and forbidding countenances I had observed amongst the Seneca and Iroquois tribes. I was informed, however, by officers of the army, and agents who had superintended the annual distribution of presents from the British government to the tribes upon the borders of Lake Huron, that fine athletic warriors of the Sac and Fox tribe of Indians, with noble features, used to attend upon those occasions with one side of their face painted sky blue, and the other chequered with vermilion and bright yellow: but all whom I saw fell very far short of the natives of Bengal and Pegu both in stature and countenance.

At ten o’clock on the night of the ninth day from our leaving Quebec, we arrived at Fredericton, 350 miles distant, rejoiced beyond measure that our fatiguing expedition was at an end. The cramping attitude of sitting crouched at the bottom of the canoe for sixteen hours, during four successive days, without being able to change that position, lest the heavily-laden and frail vessel should capsize, was irksome and overpowering in the extreme. But, when our troubles and vexations were over, as usual we laughed heartily at all our adventures; and, taking it all in all, I may fairly say that I enjoyed this journey more than any other portion of my travels on the continent of America. Our provisions had been rather short, and the bread on the 4th or 5th day became so excessively sour, from alternate wet and exposure to the sun, that it was unwholesome as well as unpalatable, and began to affect us seriously. Nor had our night’s rest been sought upon couches of the softest and most fleecy down, but, in the enjoyment of good health, other matters were felt trifling moment, and soon consigned to oblivion.

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Written by johnwood1946

July 15, 2015 at 10:16 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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