johnwood1946

New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

At the Bend of the Petitcodiac in 1844: Moncton

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

James Alexander set out in 1844 to survey a new military road between ‘The Bend’ (Moncton) and Grand Falls. We join him as he leaves Saint John on a precarious coach trip to The Bend, where he describes what existed there at the time. The story is edited from his book L’Acadie or Seven Years Explorations, London, 1849.

petitcodiac-bridge-1910

Bridge Over the Petitcodiac River at Moncton, ca 1910

From the N.B. Museum via the McCord Museum

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At the Bend of the Petitcodiac in 1844: Moncton

I engaged with a sturdy little sea captain, Arklow by name, commanding the Helen schooner, to take a like supply of provisions, and three of my men in charge of them, from Saint John up the Bay of Fundy to the Bend, whilst I went overland with the rest, one hundred miles, in a hired stage, as I was desirous of seeing the country.

It is right that travellers should expose tricks which may be attempted on them, so that those who happen to come after may benefit. There was an attempt at imposition in St. John’s, which was rather absurd. The landlord of the hotel had, as I said, received me with considerable distinction on my arrival, and perhaps was rather surprised to notice that instead of pursuing the exclusive system, I took my meals at the public table, where useful information is often picked up. When I went to settle accounts at the bar, I looked about and saw on the wall the rate of charges. “Board and lodging per day 6s. 3d.” but my bill was made out at 12s 6d. I pointed out that this was not according to the card the landlord said that he had been expecting me and had kept a room for me. I said I had never written about a room, and now had lived like other people, whereat he was constrained to take off half the amount of his bill, and his revenge was to walk out of his bar with his hands below his coat skirts and whistling, to show his independence.

On the 24th of May, I left St. John’s in a comfortable covered stage, my people being inside, whilst I sat in front, with the driver, to see the country. On our left, after leaving the city, was the estuary or lake at the mouth of the Kennebecasis River, a fine sheet of water, stretching many miles into the country. We crossed the Hammond River, passed a salt spring, and breakfasted at the “Finger board,” where the mail road from Halifax turned off towards Fredericton. In the afternoon we were travelling through the beautiful Sussex Vale with its wooded ridges, rich intervale land below, and an abundant supply of water. We saw a curious contrivance of poles standing in the low grounds; round these poles the hay is heaped in stacks to prevent its being carried off by the periodical floods.

The rocks in Sussex Vale are in all probability chiefly of the Devonian system; generally red or variegated sandstone with salt springs and gypsum. In the Petitcodiac District the carboniferous system appears to predominate.

At ten at night we were descending the Boundary-Creek-Hill, a steep pitch with a turn in it; the horses had snaffles as usual, and there was as usual also, no drag or skid for the wheels. The driver was unable to control his horses, though he had only two to manage; he stood up and, hauled on them and “wo hoed” as much as he could, and then got frightened. I held on as well as I was able expecting a crash; it came, accompanied with a shout from the insides, and I found myself pitched head foremost in the dark down a steep hill, on the left of the road stage and all, and struggling among the legs of one of the horses which was lying on his back.

I scrambled out of my unpleasant position as fast as I could, and climbing over the bottom of the stage, the wheels of which were in the air, I regained the road, where I found the driver (who had jumped off on the right) with the other horse, which had caught on a railing. Thanking God heartily for my escape, which was complete, with the exception of two cuts on the forehead from the horse’s heels, I immediately went down to the men, and called out to them to keep quiet, (they were shouting and scrambling inside the coach), and all would soon be well. The coach was prevented by the trees from going further down the precipice.

The first man, an Irishman, who was extricated, ran at me open-mouthed, and hoped I was not killed. They all got out with difficulty, and were more or less bruised and cut; but providentially none were disabled. I sent a man to the first farm-house for help, and a Mr. Nixon came with his men, and brought a lantern, ropes and an axe. We took the bag gage off the stage, cut away some impediments, hauled the coach up to the road, (fortunately it was not injured), and then got up the poor horse, which was groaning and struggling below. The animal was found to be deeply wounded in the chest, and was left with Mr. Nixon, who kindly lent us another to take us on. He also, like a Good Samaritan, applied hot brandy to our cuts and bruises. This adventure seemed rather a bad beginning for our enterprise; but the age of omens has gone by.

We reached the scattered village at the Bend of the Petitcodiac River in the middle of the night, and put up at a small inn among civil people. There I tarried for three days, for an easterly wind accompanied with rain, prevented the schooner with my supplies coming round.

At the Bend (which is in 46° 6″ 15″ of N. lat., 64° 44′ 45″ E. long., with 18° of W. variation) it is interesting to watch the tremendous flow of the tide from the Bay of Fundy. It sometimes comes in with a bore or line of foam several feet high, and rising sixty feet (and sometimes even ninety), covers with an inland sea where was lately extensive mud flats.

I reconnoitred about the Bend, and my first walk was to the Mountain Settlement, through which it appeared that our military road must pass. The long hard wood ridge, called here the Mountain, rises about two hundred feet above the level of the low and fertile lands of the surrounding country, and it is distant from the Bend seven miles. There are two mountains, Lutz’s and Sleeve’s Mountain; the former is nearest the Bend. The houses are half way up the gentle ascent. Lutz, the first settler, established himself there thirty years ago; he has upwards of two hundred acres of beautiful land, which he would not part with for £500. There were in 1844 twenty-three families on Lutz’s Mountain, and about half that number on Sleeve’s Mountain, S.W. of the other. More westerly is Butternut Ridge, with a very thriving settlement, and north easterly is Irishtown.

I fell in with a tall and well-made young man, named Anderson, belonging to the Lutz’s Settlement; we walked on together, and I found him intelligent and communicative.

It appeared that the people of the mountain settlement, a stalwart race, had been rather wild till this last spring, when a preacher visited them, and they began to think of their souls. I asked Anderson if they had a clergyman, and he said none at all (though there were two or three hundred people there); “but we have got our bibles,” he said, “and two good schools and this spring many have been baptized, from the age of fourteen to forty.”

The road was very bad towards the neglected and almost unknown Mountain Settlement. It was wet, and full of holes, which were filled up with roots, and the trees, which consisted of hemlock, spruce, maple and birch, grew close to the edge of the road. At a small clearing, where there was a log hut, there was a venerable tar, an old sailor of Nelson’s, named Jimmy Mina, who had here anchored himself. An old woman kept house for him. He had sailed as he said, on board the Bellyruffen (Bellerophon), and in talking of her he said, “I could love that ship!” On ascending the ridge, there was a scattered line of log-houses at long intervals, whose occupants cultivated land of great fertility. The view from the Mountain Settlement was extensive, embracing much forest, the white houses at the Bend of the Petitcodiac, and the distant range towards Nova Scotia, called the Shepody Mountain.

During another walk I had taken to fill up the time till our provisions arrived, I went to a farm house near the Bend to ask about the roads in the neighbourhood, of which I made a survey. The farmer gave me a rough reception, and desired me to be off, and that he had nothing to give me: it turned out that he mistook me for a soldier who was deserting.

The schooner having at length arrived, and as I had obtained all the information regarding the forest that was known to the people about the Bend and the Mountain, and having ascertained the existence of two large swamps, which it was desirable to avoid, I determined on a course of N. 52° west, so as to steer between them through the thick forest, for the N.W. angle of Westmoreland.

I took my point of departure for the Military Road on the 28th of May, from a hemlock tree between the Free Meeting-house and school at the Bend, and we chained the road to the Mountain Settlement, whither I had transported my supplies in a waggon to save my men’s backs the first day. We established our quarters for the night at Jeremiah Lutz’s, where we slept under a roof,—the last time for a considerable period.

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Written by johnwood1946

February 8, 2017 at 8:58 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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