Some Albert County History
By: W.C. Milner
(Excerpts from a History of Albert County, found at the New Brunswick Museum Archives in Saint John. This history was apparently prepared by W.C. Milner from the papers of "Robinson", but never published. Submitted by Dawn Kinnie )
Domestic and Social Life
Remote communities in pioneer days were put to primitive methods of life, making neighbours dependent upon each other, and sometimes forcing a settler into all kinds of employment. Mr. Robert Dickson, of Hopewell, kept an account book from 1776 to 1828, which showed him to be a farmer, inn-keeper, trader, ferryman, vessel owner, carpenter, butcher, solicitor, and engaged in several other employment. He wrote deeds at 2/6 each, sold rum, was ferryman, ran a vessel on the Bay of Fundy, provided meals and lodging, worked on the roads and dykes, kept a register of births, marriages and deaths, and a record of earmarks of cattle. He seemed to possess a universal aptitude, making him a valuable addition to the community. Besides his other employments, Mr. Dickson, must have been somewhat of a blacksmith and possessed a forge for he makes continuously charges for sharpening the shears of ploughs. Primitive saw mills had been introduced by the Acadian French of the "jack-knife" character - the up and down saw operated by water poser: whether Mr. Dickson had one or not, he was able to sell boards at four pounds ten shillings per thousand. He mentions a Mr. Akerly, a millwright, who had build several mills in New York and who had offered to build [sic] a saw mill and grist mill for £300.
Up to 1803, Fort Cumberland was the headquarters of the Counties of Westmorland and Albert. The Court House and Jail were a mile north or the Fort, with which they were connected by a race track, running horses being a favorite sport in those days, indulged in by the farmers around and the officers at the Fort. Mr. Justice Law and Col. Gay were prominent citizens, while Mr. Knapp carried on successfully a large trading business. Mr. Amos Fowler, from whom Fowler's Hill takes its name, owned and ran a schooner between the Fort and Saint John and "Quoddy". Dorchester and Moncton were not then on the map, the location of the settlers in either place being known as Petitcodiac and Memramcook.
Transportation was as great a problem then as it is today. While it was almost altogether by water, there is but little mention of ship building in the early record. In 1782, Mr. Robert Dickson purchased a boat from Thos. Dickson for £16.4.7, and sold one to John Lockhart for £2.0.0 and an anchor for £1.0.0 In the absence of roads and bridges, communication was maintained by open boats and small schooners. Plaster, grindstone, fish, furs and farm products were out-cargoes while outfits for vessels, fishing tackle, farm utensils and household supplies were the homewards ladens-ings. The ports visited were Saint John, "Quoddy" or Eastport, Horton and Cumberland. In 1784, Mr. Dickson credits David Copp with freight or nine oxen to Horton at 16 shillings each. They wore probably for the Halifax market. He credits Mr. Lockhart with eight days' driving cattle to "Petitquajack", three shillings per day. He charges Mr. Lockhart with two teams one day drawing hay, seven shillings, and with one day working on a sled, two shillings and sixpence. He charges Ephraim Church (Fort Lawrence) boating at five shillings. He also sold him one raccoon skin for two and sixpence. Soon after the separation from Nova Scotia (1784) four great roads were legislated for - it was nearly a quarter of a century later before they assumed any tangible shape, but the highway between "Petitquajack" and Saint John was probably cut out before 1800. The records of this are not available, but in 1789, he enters a charge of three pounds against Jesse Converse for driving cattle to Saint John. The shad fishery and grindstone industry at Grindstone Island made considerable business and charges are made for forriage there as well as to Memramcook (later Dorchester) and Petitquajack (later Moncton).
The first settlers began early to look after the education of the boys and girls. There are entries in 1801 showing that a school house was then erected at Hopewell. Mr. Dickson charges Mr. James McElmon in June with three days' work on the school house, 15 shillings. In 1828, the name of Mr. Cochran appears as school master. In 1795, Caleb Bennet is charged £1 for nails for the school house.
The extortion of the officials in the Crown Land office early became a scandal. Mr. Dickson went to Fredericton (then St. Ann's) to get the Converse-Dickson grant. He had to pay £60 for it, besides £6 for traveling expenses, one half of which he charged to Mr. Converne.
In 1779, Mr. Dickson's charges for goods were as follows:In 1779 Abiel Peck was charged with six days' mowing at four shillings per day, which seems to have been the current rate of labor.
Sugar 1/8 per lb. Molasses 2/6 per gal. Green hide 8/-- Tobacco 3/-- per lb. Cheese 6d. per lb. Barley 4/-- per bushel Wheat 7/-- per bushel Oats 3/2 per bushel Potatoes 2/6 per bushel Fox Skins 8/-- Cat Skins 6/-- Maple Sugar 1/-- per lb. Indigo 1/-- per ounce Moose Meat 2d per lb. Pork 6d. Sharpening plough shears 3/-- Moose Skin 8/-- Dressing moose skin 10/-- Cutting coat and buttons 3/1½ Flax 10d. per lb. Cotton 6/-- per yard
Mr. Dickson seems to have done some orcharding for he sold (1810) apples by the bushel to Mr. Sayre (Dorchester Island), John Edgett, Joel Edgett, and Oliver Stiles. He had an extensive "run" for tobacco, which he sold for 2/-- per lb. He charges (1785) John Edgett with two dozen flints at 1/--. Mr. Dickson seems to have been registrar of births, marriages and deaths from charges he made. The book containing these records seems to be missing. He was also registrar of earmarks for cattle. The names of farmers whose marks were registered were: William Bishop, John Lockhart, Daniel DeWolf, Ezekiel Comstock, John Comstock, Justin Pike, Thomas Dickson, Nehemiah Stevens, Oliver Stiles, Jeramiah Kinnie, Bradbury Robinson, Paul Robinson, Jonathan Robinson, Robert Dickson, Abiel Peck, Fred Babcock, Peter ?(W)ickers, Abiel Peck, Sr., Joel Edgett, Sipheran Fitch, Thomas Peck, Thomas Calkin, Elisha Peck, David Piches, James Martin, John Calhoun, John Edgett, John Turner, Joseph Turner, Thos. Hunt.
Mr. Dickson in keeping a house of entertainment was an important factor in the life of Hopewell in its early days. He charged 4d. for a lodging, a shilling for a meal and 6d. for a gill of rum. The gills he sold were multitudinous, but he also sold it by the gallon and barrel. In May, 1784, he charged Benjamin Wilbur with 59 pounds of Bohea tea at four shillings and six pence per lb., one barrel of rum, 32 gallens [sic] at four shillings, an in June another barrel. His popularity was assured for out of fifty customers on his books, not one appears to have been a Prohibitionist. The rum appears to have been of the Jamaica brand, but not to the exclusion of that New England brew which the provident Puritans shipped with Bibles in slave bottoms also to darkest Africa.
Whiskey was then unknown; very little of either gin or brandy was called for. The appearance in the settlement of a modern Prohibitionish would have created as much surprise as if a wild tiger had suddenly appeared.
A case of telepathy occurred in connection with McElmon tragedy. A resident of Hopewell, asleep at night, awakened his wife, and told her he had just seen "Jim", meaning Capt. McElmon, and his two sons go down in his vessel at sea. The news of the loss that came later confirmed his vision.
Another tragedy was the "Brig Alice Gray", Capt. William Daniels, which loaded with stone at Budroes quarry, on the Petitcodiac River, for New York. Off Mount Desert, the weather looked threatening. The Captain was in hailing distance of another vessel, putting for harbor, and said he did not think it necessary for him to seek a harbor and he put out to sea. A storm broke and the vessel was never afterwards seen. Capt. Daniels had with him two other Hopewell men - John Newton Lee and Wm. Fardy.
In 1872, the "Lizzie R.", a three-master, built at Saw Mill Creek by John Russell for Alexander Rogers and others, made her maiden voyage from Saint John to the West Indies, and thence with a cargo to New York. She was there chartered for Sydney, C.B., to load with coal, and after sailing, was never heard from again. Her master was Capt. Armand Starratt; James Hoar, first mate; Arthur Starratt, second mate.
In the old days of wooden ships, it was a time of one tragedy succeeding another, from which Albert County was perpetually suffering. The perils of the sea made widows and fatherless children, and many a hardy mariner when he said "Good-bye" to his family, said "Good-bye" until they meet again when the sea gives up its dead. It is worth while recording a tragedy that occurred on the 22nd of December, 1881 on a reef off Grindstone Island.
Cape Enrage has a lighthouse erected about 1850 and a fog whistle. The first keeper was Capt. James Munson who previously had a gruesome experience. He had been master of a vessel out of St. John, which cleared from that port to the West Indies. The vessel was wrecked at Sea. The crew all died except himself. For twelve days he was alone in the vessel. During that time he had no food. He gave up all hope of rescue and laid down to die, drawing a piece of canvas over him. He had a very vivid dream of his mother coming to him and telling him he would be rescued. This woke him up and starting up, he saw a vessel in sight. He arrested their attention and they took him off. The vessel was bound for Liverpool, England, where he was put in a hospital and recovered.