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Window on the World: The Rivers of New Brunswick

New Brunswick Museum

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Introduction:

New Brunswick Museum, 2003

A steam whistle blows as a tug chugs along pulling a raft of timber. A sailboat drifts by lazily, while two men in a birch bark canoe dip their paddles in the water. A fisherman casts his line out with a snap, barely audible against the buzz of a motorboat in the distance. A salmon leaps up with a splash. On the shore, meanwhile, an artist captures the moment on canvas. The St. John River of the late 19th century was a hive of activity.

Indigenous people call it the Wolastoq, or "beautiful river," and call themselves Wolastoqiyik, or "people of the beautiful river." Europeans changed the river's name to the St. John. This great river, along with the Miramichi, Restigouche, Petitcodiac, Kennebecasis, Oromocto and numerous others, had a profound impact on New Brunswick's development.

For centuries the rivers of New Brunswick functioned as highways, moving people and goods within the region and out to the world beyond. The rivers and their tributaries, along with cultivated lands and forests, provided an abundance of food, materials and medicines. Fishing was a means of survival for some, and a sport for others. Logs were floated downstream to mills, where they were processed and shipped back upriver or around the world. All goods produced on farms or in rural industries ended up on the docks or wharves for shipment.

Numerous inland waterways combined with hundred of kilometres of coastline to give access to the world. In the 19th century, thousands of Scottish and Irish immigrants arrived in New Brunswick, eventually making their way to settlements along the rivers. Along with the immigrants came numerous professionals and skilled craftsmen, who brought with them new ideas and styles of design. Ships carried thousands of people to and from New Brunswick, but they also brought other items as well. Sea-going travellers brought back souvenirs, exotic curiosities and other gifts from their far-off travels.

Rapid changes in transportation technology during the 20th century changed the commercial and social role of New Brunswick rivers. Railways, automobiles, trucks and, eventually, air transportation altered communication and transportation links, leaving the waterways to the almost exclusive use of pleasure craft, sportspeople, artists, Wolastoqiyik and Mi'kmaq.


1970.127
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum
Canoe
Solomon Family Member
About 1900, 20th century
33 x 87.6 x 519.4 cm
Purchase from Aubrey Donnelly
1970.127
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum

Keys to History:

Here since the beginning, Wolastoqiyik, or Maliseet First Nation, have always possessed a physical, intellectual, and spiritual bond with the River Wolastoq. The river, its tributaries, lands and forests provided an abundance of food, materials and medicines. Wolastoqiyik settled close to the river, near obvious food and transportation sources. Some even lived on the river during the warm months. During the spring, summer and fall, they traveled the river's length, using it as a map, with portage routes allowing access to other waterways. Fish, fiddleheads and wild game were to be found along the river's banks. River travel also united the people and allowed contact with neighbouring nations on the North American coast. Lightweight and easy to maneuver, a birch bark canoe was a necessity with this lifestyle.

This canoe, made of cedar and birch bark in the traditional manner, dates to about 1900.

What:

Wolastoqiyik canoes are distinguished by birch bark flaps at the front and back.

Where:

In shallow water, poles were sometimes used instead of paddles to move the canoe along.

When:

The last birch bark canoe was built in 1920, by which time canvas had replaced the traditional bark.

Who:

This canoe was made by a member of the Solomon Family in Kingsclear.

X8957
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum
Purse
About 1860, 19th century
25 x 11 x 20 cm
X8957
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum

Keys to History:

Wolastoqiyik were expert woodworkers, potters, canoe builders, toolmakers and artisans. They produced the durable, practical and reliable products needed to maintain their active lifestyle. Skilled technologists also produced traps, toboggans, snowshoes, canoes, paddles, wooden and ceramic cooking pots, axes, knives, wigwams, fish nets, baskets, spears, bows, musical instruments, all manner of clothing and more. Some stone tools recovered go back as far as 10 000 years!

By the late 19th century, European settlement and changing technologies had disrupted the traditional way of life for the aboriginal population of New Brunswick. Game began to disappear and it became necessary for Wolastoqiyik to trade with farmers for food, or seek employment on farms, in the lumber camps or as hunting and fishing guides. Others turned to the production of traditional decorative pieces such as baskets, which they sold or traded for a dependable source of income.

What:

The ash used to make baskets was pounded and then soaked prior to weaving, making the wooden strips easier to work.

Where:

Wolastoqiyik retrieve the ash used for basketmaking from the many islands that dot the St. John River.

When:

Today, approximately 4 000 Wolastoqiyik continue to use and enjoy the Wolastoq Valley; another 1 500 reside in communities in Maine and Quebec.

Who:

Wolastoqiyik skills passed from generation to generation with parents and grandparents providing hands-on training to children.

4047
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum
Box
About 1875, 19th century
14.7 x 21.3 x 21.5 cm
Gift of Miss Roche
4047
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum

Keys to History:

Mi'kmaq First Nation lives along the eastern shore of New Brunswick and possesses a language and culture distinct from those of Wolastoqiyik. Traditionally, spring, summer and early fall found Mi'kmaq fishing along the tidal zones. The colder season brought a move inland to hunt large game such as moose and caribou.

Birch bark canoes and familiar portage routes provided swift communication along the river systems for much of the year. This united Mi'kmaq across their vast territory. Maintaining the natural state of their specific territory contributed to the difference in culture between them and Wolastoqiyik.

In the late 19th century Mi'kmaq produced traditional decorative pieces for sale or trade, such as this quill box.

What:

The quills used are obtained from the Eastern Porcupine, which has between 20 000 to 30 000 quills.

Where:

Traditionally, Mi'kmaq obtained dyes for the quills from natural sources such as bark or plants.

When:

After the porcupine was plucked, the quills were cleaned, dyed and sorted according to size.

Who:

Skills such as quillwork were passed from generation to generation with children receiving instruction from their parents and grandparents.

1989.69.9
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum
Photograph
Log Jam Above Castonia
1911, 20th century
11.1 x 15.3 cm
Gift of Sylvia Yeoman
1989.69.9
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum

Keys to History:

By the late 19th century, the industrial development and use of the river valleys were at their peak. Fortunes were made through the timber, logging and lumbering industries. As the spring thaw began in April or May, the drama and excitement of the spring log drive tested the nerves and determination of all involved. Fluctuating water levels, changing current speeds and the winding patterns of New Brunswick rivers and streams were among the problems and drawbacks encountered. The chief danger of the log drive lay in the formation of logjams in the narrower confines of the rivers or brooks. It took a brave man or group of men to confront and break a jam holding back thousands of gallons of water.

What:

To free a logjam, the key log, the one that caused the problem in the first place, had to be found and dislodged.

Where:

Castonia is located in the timber-rich region of northern Maine, near the headwaters of the St. John River.

When:

Dynamite might be used in the rare cases when all other methods failed to free the jam.

Who:

The job of freeing a logjam was completely voluntary; there were many casualties.

14083.8
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum
Photograph
Grand Bay Mill, Saint John, New Brunswick
1865-1875, 19th century
17.7 x 21.3 cm
Gift of Cecelia Jessie Hilyard
14083.8
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum

Keys to History:

Thriving sawmills and shipyards dotted the riverbanks and coastlines of New Brunswick. The waterways were ideally suited for the wooden shipbuilding industry, providing easy access to raw materials and shorelines from which to launch the vessels.

Throughout most of the 19th century and into the 20th, sawmilling was a summer occupation dependent on the supply of square timber from the forests and rivers. At the beginning of the 19th century, most New Brunswick mills were small water-powered operations scattered about the hinterland, producing boards and other products for their local markets.

What:

New Brunswick mills produced a variety of finished lumber products such as window sashes, doors and architectural mouldings.

Where:

Grand Bay is located opposite the junction of the Kennebecasis and St. John rivers, approximately 10 kilometres from Saint John.

When:

After 1850 mills became larger in scale, converted to steam power and were concentrated in the port communities in response to the growing export market.

Who:

The seasonal nature of milling allowed many employees to participate in the winter logging process and the spring log drive.

X8899.28
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum
Photograph
W.S. Tompkins Farm, Southampton, New Brunswick
1890-1900, 19th century
20 x 25 cm
X8899.28
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum

Keys to History:

Traditionally, New Brunswick agriculture has been seen as a poor cousin of the lumber industry. By 1860, however, farming output and the value of farm products were worth one and a half times that of the lumber industry.

The New Brunswick climate is cool and moist through the spring and autumn, making for a short growing season. Soils are best in the river valley systems and the upland areas of older settlement set back from them. By the mid-19th century, farmers who occupied such land were planting crops best suited to the growing season: hay, grains and root crops. Good pastureland also meant an increase in herds of cattle for meat and dairy production, and sheep for meat and wool. Later in the 19th century, apples and other types of fruit, like blueberries, were being actively cultivated.

What:

The rich soil of the upper St. John River Valley is well known for potato production.

Where:

Southampton is small rural community located in York County, approximately 55 kilometres north of Fredericton.

When:

In the late 19th century, some New Brunswick foundries specialized in the manufacture of agricultural machinery like ploughs, in response to rural demand.

Who:

Some farmers worked small plots of land, heading to the lumberwoods in the winter; others farmed near the coastline with fishing as their primary livelihood.

1981.32.1
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum
Strawberry crate
1898, 19th century
24 x 43.2 x 59.9 cm
Gift of Charles F. Belyea
1981.32.1
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum

Keys to History:

In areas of the province with extensive grasslands, such as the river valleys, harvests of hay, oats, buckwheat, corn, potatoes and other root crops reached significant levels by 1860. In 1870, it was estimated that New Brunswick farmers grew enough buckwheat to provide every citizen with 250 loaves of bread or its equivalent in pancakes, a dietary staple. Dairy and meat production also increased. The making of homespun cloth and clothing from wool became cottage industries, creating product surpluses that were marketed beyond the community. Fruit growing, (chiefly of apples and berries) became more prevalent later in the century, when fruit was either shipped fresh or canned.

This crate and its boxes were made in 1898 in a small woodworking shop in New Jerusalem, Queens County, for Charles E. Gorham of Glenwood, Kings County.

What:

The boxes were made by hand with tacks and a tack hammer.

Where:

Kings and Queens counties remain the heart of commercial strawberry production in New Brunswick.

When:

The octagonal shape of the boxes pre-dates the square form, which became more prevalent after 1925.

Who:

Charles E. Gorham, who cultivated strawberries, was most likely well supplied with such containers.

1963.94
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum
Skates
J.A. Whelpley Company
1870-1910, 19th century
42.5 cm
Gift of Helena White
1963.94
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum

Keys to History:

Farming was not the only occupation in the countryside. The rural network also included many small industries that supplied some local needs. The shops of blacksmiths, coopers, shoemakers, storekeepers, woodworkers and tanners dotted the rural landscape, usually in or around riverside villages and hamlets. Some of their products, like barrels and berry boxes, carried the farmer's produce to the urban markets. Other industries were larger in scale, like the J.A. Whelpley Skate Co. in Kings County, which shipped its skates and metal toys to provincial centres as well as to other parts of Canada and the United States.

The J.A. Whelpley Co. of Greenwich, Kings County, produced skates ranging from the "Long Reacher" speed skate, famous throughout the province, to the "Volant" hockey skate. Area residents used the skates not only for recreation but as a means of getting from place to place. New Brunswickers living near or on the province's many river systems followed suit.

What:

The term "Long Reacher" was adopted from the long, straight stretch of the St. John River known as Long Reach, which ran near the Whelpley factory.

Where:

Some of the Whelpley skates were displayed at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.

When:

The Whelpley factory operated from the early 1870s to the first decade of the 20th century and patented no less than 26 different varieties of skates.

Who:

James Albert Whelpley held several skate patents and was once offered $21 000 for the patent he held on his skate design.

1970.80.33
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum
Dip net
1850-1870, 19th century
50.8 x 223.5 cm
Gift of W.A. Stackhouse
1970.80.33
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum

Keys to History:

The value of the fishery to New Brunswick has been tremendous. From Grand Manan in the southwest to the Bay of Chaleur in the north, hundreds of coastal villages and towns sent their vessels to sea. Even the harbour areas of Saint John and Miramichi had a vibrant industry. On the coasts, lobster and herring were landed using traps and gill nets, and then processed and transferred to schooners for shipment. In the Bay of Fundy, with its high tides, herring were caught in brush weirs built from shore, or drawn to the surface and scooped up in a dip net. Salmon, gaspereau, shad and eel nets lined the riverbanks in the spring and summer. In the winter, meanwhile, people tended smelt nets and fishing shacks.

A dip net was used at night in combination with a kerosene torch or lantern to catch herring or gaspereau.

What:

A dip net was used at night in combination with a kerosene torch or lantern to catch herring or gaspereau.

Where:

This net was used in Saint John harbour.

When:

This net dates from the mid-19th century.

Who:

Fishermen used light to draw fish to the surface, and waited at the front of their skiffs to dip them aboard.

1973.57.2
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum
Spear
1900, 20th century
39.69 x 14.38 cm
New Brunswick Museum
1973.57.2
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum

Keys to History:

In the days before adequate refrigeration methods and extensive railroad service, drying, pickling, canning and smoking were the favoured processes. Cod was often dried, boxed and shipped by vessel to Spain and Italy, but it could also be pickled in salt brine, packed in barrels and sent to the West Indies along with barrels of mackerel and herring. Lobster and salmon were canned for markets in Britain, France or the United States. Later, clams and scallops were canned and shipped to the American market. New Brunswickers were also avid consumers and the processes used for the export market applied equally to the province's urban centres.

The common eel fishery is normally not associated with the traditional catch from New Brunswick waters. Two different types of spears were used, depending on the season. The spears had handles ranging from 4.5 to 5.5 metres in length.

What:

Used in the winter months, this eel spear is made of iron.

Where:

This spear was used in the area of Shediac, New Brunswick, near Moncton.

When:

In summer, fishers along the east coast speared eels near shore from flat-bottomed boats.

Who:

In winter, fishers caught eel through holes in the ice in shallow waters.

4449
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum
Stereograph
Salmon Fishing
John Saunders Climo (1833-1924)
About 1875, 19th century
8.7 x 17.6 cm
Gift of Mary Caroline Ellis Estate
4449
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum

Keys to History:

Imperial army officers and government officials brought the British tradition of field sports, such as sport fishing, to New Brunswick. Wealthy anglers from Britain and, increasingly, the United States became established along the salmon rivers of northern New Brunswick. American salmon rivers on the east coast were in decline, victims of pollution and river dams. Beckoned by tourist writers in the United States and, later, Canada, prominent Americans such as New York architect Stanford White took advantage of an improved rail network to leave the crowded northeast in greater numbers in the 1870s and 1880s. The wealthiest formed exclusive sporting clubs, especially on both sides of the Restigouche River, noted for its large salmon and easy access by horse-drawn scows and houseboats.

The fishing camps on the Restigouche River were a rustic parallel to the exclusive clubs in Manhattan. The original camps featured octagonal central lodge rooms where dining and living quarter were located, along with attached bedroom and bath and service wings.

What:

An angler's equipment included a rod and reel and a selection of handcrafted flies to entice the salmon.

Where:

The photographer John Saunders Climo (1833-1924) was born in Penzance, Cornwall (England), and died in Saint John, New Brunswick.

When:

In 1884 the New Brunswick government enacted legislation which leased choice fishing waters on all ungranted crown land at auction.

Who:

Guides used their knowledge of the rivers and fish habits to direct fishers to choice spots along the waterway.

1953.82
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum
Dugout canoe
About 1910, 20th century
563.9 x 118.1 cm
Gift of Charles M. McLaughlin Estate
1953.82
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum

Keys to History:

Dugout canoes were used in salmon sportfishing on the Restigouche and Miramichi rivers as well as in the commercial salmon fishery above Chatham and Newcastle and along the Bay of Chaleur. In the commercial fishery, they were poled or sculled to netstands set on the shore. Dugouts used in the commercial fishery, such as this one, also tended to be larger than the ones used for sportfishing.

What:

Dugouts of this kind were made from two pine logs hollowed out with an axe or adze.

Where:

The dugout canoe was made at Black River on the Miramichi River in central New Brunswick.

When:

Fisher Cyrus Loggie purchased the canoe about 1910, then it passed on to Edward J. Russell. Finally, in 1935, it went to the donor, Charles M. McLaughlin.

Who:

John MacDonald made this dugout log canoe about 1910.

X11694
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum
Photograph
Camp Meeting Grounds, Brown's Flat, New Brunswick
About 1900, 20th century
17.9 x 23.2 cm
X11694
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum

Keys to History:

New Brunswick's river system is extensive. River or coastal steamers ran for good portions of the 19th and 20th centuries along its major waterways, which included the St. John, Miramichi, St. Croix, Petitcodiac and Kennebecasis rivers. Dotting the inland valleys of these rivers were basic cribwork docks or wharves that facilitated the movement of passengers and freight. Here the farmer's produce was piled in barrels, firkins and crates for the next steamer and transport to market at a river town wharf or ocean port.

Passengers embarking at the wharves ranged from the farmer or rural businessman on the way to market or families visiting relatives in the next community, to those making a trans-Atlantic connection in the ports of Saint John, Chatham-Newcastle or St. Andrews.

The river dock was also a point of return for manufactured goods from urban centres and passengers coming home.

What:

Throughout most of the 19th century, wharves consisted of large timber boxes filled with rock and earth.

Where:

Wharves were constructed in the major riverside communities and also in rural areas at major crossroads and points of exchange.

When:

As early as 1788, wharf-like structures appeared along the St. John River Valley.

Who:

Various social clubs and groups also used the wharves to embark on pleasure cruises and picnics in the countryside.

1991.5.31
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum
Model
David Weston
Wellington Vail
1910, 20th century
61 x 44.5 cm
New Brunswick Museum
1991.5.31
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum

Keys to History:

For many years, river steamers were the lifeblood of communication and trade on New Brunswick's inland waterways. Aside from transporting rural residents and their produce to urban centres, they brought the town or city to the country and connected the various communities along the way.

The first steamer on the St. John River was the General Smyth, which made its maiden voyage in 1816. Fifty years later, the construction and launch of the elegant David Weston heralded a golden age in river transportation. Although her speed was an impressive 17 miles per hour, passengers were more likely to note the commodious, almost luxurious accommodations such as marble-topped tables, plush chairs, a circular staircase and a dining saloon that seated 90 passengers per sitting.

What:

The David Weston carried upwards of 200 passengers on her regular runs, and several hundred on special occasions.

Where:

Wellington Vail built the model of the David Weston in Queens County in the early 20th century.

When:

In 1866, the vessel began service between Indiantown, now part of Saint John, and Fredericton, and would serve until its destruction by fire in 1903.

Who:

The vessel David Weston was built by John Retallick of Saint John for the Union Line Steamship Company, and was named in honour of her captain.

1988.47.21
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum
Photograph
Group Aboard the Vessel, Rustler
1890-1900, 19th century
20.1 x 25.2 cm
Gift of Dr. Louise Manny Estate
1988.47.21
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum

Keys to History:

The Rustler was in service from 1891 to 1897, when it was destroyed by fire. It made regular runs between Chatham and Red Bank, both on the Miramichi River, carrying picnickers and sightseers. Contemporaries described the boat as "noisy but fast." Steamer service on the Miramichi began in 1874 and lasted until 1927.

What:

Dr. Manny collected information and stories from those involved in lumber camps, river drives, farming, fishing and basketmaking.

Where:

Red Bank, New Brunswick, is located 33 kilometers inland from Chatham, now known as Miramichi.

When:

This photograph shows an 1896 excursion at Chatham on the Miramichi River.

Who:

The donor, Dr. Louise Manny (1890-1970), is best known as the historian of the Miramichi River.

1953.9
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum
Photograph
Group of Shriners Aboard the May Queen at Evandale, New Brunswick
Isaac Erb & Son (1897-1938)
About 1900, 20th century
20 x 25.5 cm
Gift of Mrs. J.F. Weston, 1953
1953.9
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum

Keys to History:

Travelling salesmen would board the river steamers with their samples, while businessmen found the night boat from Saint John to Fredericton convenient for the next day's meetings. But it was not all work. There were picnic excursions and moonlight cruises, very good food and well-stocked bars. It was a way of life, a gentle form of travel. At least it was for the passengers.

Built in 1869, the steamer May Queen was placed on the run from Indiantown to Chipman, located on the upper reaches of Grand Lake. In 1877, the steamer changed routes, becoming the overnight boat between Indiantown and Fredericton, only to return to Grand Lake a few years later. The May Queen served on the St. John River system for 49 years, a record of durability.

What:

The fare to Chipman was $1.25, while breakfast cost 25 cents and dinner or supper 40 cents.

Where:

Indiantown is located at the north end of Saint John, above the Reversing Falls.

When:

The May Queen traveled the 200-kilometre distance between Indiantown and Chipman in just under 11 hours.

Who:

The boat's crew consisted of a captain, mate, purser, engineer, two firemen, four deck hands, a steward and stewardess, a cook and a kitchen boy.

X362
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum
Wheel cover
Victoria
John Rogerson (1837-1925)
About 1880, 19th century
104.1 x 236.2 cm
X362
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum

Keys to History:

The David Weston remained a favourite passenger and freight boat on the St. John River. In 1897, the owners decided to capitalize on this advantage by constructing another, better vessel. The Victoria, probably named in honour of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, served the St. John River Valley for almost 20 years before its destruction by fire in 1916.

Like all riverboats, the Victoria was designed to carry freight, but her elegant fittings, large size and standards of service made her the queen of the river. Contemporary accounts refer to the boat as "palatial." The dining room menu included salmon fresh from the river, vegetables taken from the passing fields, hot rolls and butter and generous helpings of fruit and berry pie. Deep pile carpeting and gold leaf decorations were featured in the main saloon, along with plush upholstery, solid mahogany furniture and elegant carvings such as this paddle wheel cover.

What:

The Victoria was 63.5 metres long and 9 metres wide, which made it one of the largest vessels on the St. John River.

Where:

In addition to the Victoria's regularly scheduled run between Saint John and Fredericton, she conveyed passengers on daytime and moonlight excursions out of both cities.

When:

Built and launched in 1897, the Victoria made one run to Fredericton that fall but was not placed on regular service until the following spring.

Who:

Edward McGuiggan, a noted Saint John shipbuilder, received the contract for the construction of the Victoria.

1964.83
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum
Tunic
About 1900, 20th century
58.4 x 65.3 cm
Gift of Captain Donald F. Taylor
1964.83
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum

Keys to History:

Captains and crewmen began wearing uniforms in 1886. This tunic belonged to Captain Charles C. Taylor. who captained a series of riverboats serving the St. John River and its tributaries for nearly 50 years. He became Captain of the Olivette in 1895. It is thought that this tunic is from the Star Steamship Company, which operated from 1879 to 1910 and owned such well-known riverboats as the David Weston, the Victoria and the Majestic. Captain Taylor commanded both the David Weston and the Victoria around the turn of the 20th century, so this tunic most likely dates from that period.

What:

Taylor's early rise to the rank of captain and his subsequent career, which was without serious mishaps, illustrates his ability as a master mariner.

Where:

Growing up along the banks of the St. John River, Taylor was fascinated by the riverboats from an early age.

When:

Young Taylor began his career in 1891, when he became a purser on the David Weston.

Who:

Charles Taylor, who was born at Sheffield, Sunbury County, in 1868, was said to be the youngest captain on the river.

1967.20
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum
Ship model
Hampstead
Captain Arnold T. Mabee
1897, 19th century
61 x 27 x 127 cm
Gift of Mrs. L.H. Haselton
1967.20
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum

Keys to History:

For the captains and crews of the steamers, the rivers represented navigational hazards: sandbars, floating debris (including ice in the spring) and the threat of collisions, especially at night. Since the steamers' superstructures were made of wood and since hardwood was used for fuel until the late 19th century, fires were frequent and boilers did sometimes explode. Still, these episodes faded with time, to be replaced with memories of bright, clear days with clean, country air, magnificent countryside and water that stretched for miles.

Built at Hampton in 1894, the Hampstead made daily trips between Indiantown and Hampstead, Queens County, under Captain J. Gillis Mabee. This vessel was relatively small, with a high superstructure that made for challenging navigation. For example, when approaching a wharf, large numbers of passengers commonly moved to one side preparing to disembark. To prevent capsizing, hogheads of sand were rolled to the opposite side of the hull.

What:

The 94-foot Hampstead was the first screw propeller passenger steamer on the St. John River.

Where:

Hampstead, Queens County, is named for Hempstead, Long Island, New York, the former home of numerous Loyalist families.

When:

In 1916 the Hampstead fell victim to a fire, a common misfortune for the riverboats.

Who:

Captain Arnold T. Mabee, son of Captain J. Gillis Mabee, completed this model in 1897 after three years of carving and whittling.

X16252
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum
Coat
Debeuhaui Freebolf
1910-1915, 20th century
85.5 cm
X16252
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum

Keys to History:

Riverboats not only carried passengers to the next village or town, but also served as connections to the world abroad. Clara E. Bridges of Sheffield, Sunbury County, was teaching at the Normal School, Fredericton, when the South African Director of Education visited in 1901. Impressed with the New Brunswick system of education and, obviously, with Miss Bridges, he invited her to join his staff in Pretoria. This she did, travelling by riverboat to Saint John and thence to South Africa in 1902. The following year, she opened Sunnyside School, which she developed from a tin shanty to the premier primary school in Pretoria by the time of her return to Canada in 1922.

Perhaps Miss Bridges wore something similar to this costume on her journey from Sheffield, New Brunswick, to South Africa in 1902.

What:

The suit was made in London of wool in a black and white houndstooth pattern.

Where:

Sheffield, Sunbury County, is located 20 kilometres south of Fredericton along the St. John River.

When:

The tailored look illustrated in this suit is typical of the styles that women were asking for in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Who:

The suit's label bears the maker's Royal Warrant: "By Special Appointment to the Queen."

W576
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum
Drawing
The Governor's House, Fredericton, New Brunswick
William Henry Bartlett (1809-1854)
About 1842, 19th century
12.5 x 18.2 cm
Gift of John Clarence Webster Canadiana Collection
W576
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum

Keys to History:

One of the more famous travelers on the St. John River was His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII. In the summer of 1860, while on a North American tour, the Prince and his entourage traveled on board the Forest Queen from Rothesay, just outside of Saint John, to Fredericton. The party arrived at Fredericton that evening. The next morning the Prince, accompanied by the son of the Lieutenant- Governor, went to the riverbank and spying a canoe, launched themselves for an early morning paddle. Since neither had any experience with canoe paddling, the danger of the canoe capsizing and harming the heir to the throne was quite real.

After much waving of arms, shouts and commands to return, the nonchalant adventurers reached the opposite shore and then turned around and paddled back, much to the relief of the royal officials.

What:

The Governor's House, currently known as Old Government House, is the official residence of New Brunswick's Lieutenant-Governor.

Where:

W.H. Bartlett made four trips to Canada between 1836 and 1852; drawings from his early visits were published in London in 1842.

When:

The mansion was built between 1826 and 1828 to replace an earlier residence that burned down in 1825.

Who:

This drawing of the Governor's House is by the noted British artist, William Henry Bartlett (1809-1854).

1970.10
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum
Chair
(Attributed to / Attribué à) James Knox and Willi
About 1875, 19th century
103 x 59.5 x 52 cm
Gift of Florence Allison Coombes
1970.10
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum

Keys to History:

Wherever there are trading seaports such as Saint John, St. Andrews or Miramichi, there is constant exposure to the world. Early in the 19th century, numerous immigrant craftsmen, including Thomas Nisbet, Alexander Lawrence, and Daniel Green, arrived in New Brunswick and established themselves as cabinetmakers. These men showcased the latest styles and foreign influences in their fine-quality furniture. Their legacy extended into the later half of the century with several cabinetmakers producing superior quality items in the latest fashion.

The sale of such exceptional pieces was not limited to the urban centres of production, but extended up the river valleys into the interior of the province. Prosperous farmers, lumbermen and businessmen of the interior decorated their homes with many of the same items found in the homes of the wealthy coastal residents, such as this chair, thanks to the easy shipment of goods by riverboat.

What:

The chair is made of walnut and maple with a needlepoint seat.

Where:

Knox and Thompson produced an extensive list of fine furniture for the Maritimes market.

When:

Established in 1848, the Knox and Thompson firm seems to have gone out of business around the time of the Great Fire of Saint John in 1877.

Who:

This chair is attributed to James Knox and William Thompson, who operated a furniture business in Saint John in the mid-19th century.

1975.54.2
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum
Chest of drawers
Lordly, Howe and Company
About 1875, 19th century
197 x 105 x 46 cm
Purchase by Webster Museum Foundation
1975.54.2
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum

Keys to History:

Albert J. Lordly and Jonas Howe produced fine furniture under the name of Lordly, Howe & Co. in Saint John. Lordly's sons later joined the firm, thus establishing a family tradition of cabinetmakers. Born in Nova Scotia, Lordly was living in Fredericton in the 1840s, later relocating to Saint John. Howe, for his part, also came from a distinguished family of craftsmen and for a time operated a business with his brother, John D. Howe. Their parents, John and Jane Howe, had come from Ireland in the 1830s.

The cottage-style furniture produced by Lordly and Howe was noted for its grained finish and hand-painted floral and vine decorations. As evidence of their popularity, examples of their work can be found throughout the St. John River Valley and beyond.

What:

The chest of drawers is made of walnut and pine, with the makers' mark stamped on the back.

Where:

The Lordly and Howe factory was located at the end of Union Street, on Courtney Bay in Saint John.

When:

The Lordly and Howe partnership began in 1869, thus making this chest one of the partners' earliest pieces.

Who:

Albert J. Lordly trained his partner's brother, John D. Howe, who in turn trained Alban Emery, another outstanding New Brunswick cabinetmaker.

XX-2425
This artefact belongs to : © Musée acadien of the Université de Moncton
Photograph
Capitaine Augustin Landry
About 1890, 19th century
11 x 5.9 cm
XX-2425
This artefact belongs to : © Musée acadien of the Université de Moncton

Keys to History:

New Brunswick's extensive network of waterways and its participation in international trade led many to foreign and exotic locations around the globe. Augustin Landry was born in Pokemouche, New Brunswick, in 1836. The family moved to Shediac in 1856, sailing down from Pokemouche in a barge piloted by Augustin. Three years later, he signed on board a ship owned by David Taylor of Memramcook, carrying cut stones from the Beaumont quarry on the Petitcodiac River to New York.

In 1863, he bought his first schooner, the Lilly, in Richibouctou and began transporting cargo between Prince Edward Island and the mainland. He got his "brevet" or captain's certificate in 1873 in Liverpool, England. By 1894, it was reported that he had sailed around the world many times, although it may have only been twice. He left Shediac in 1892 to settle in Chester, Pennsylvania, where he continued his seafaring career.

What:

Capitaine Landry collected several curiosities from his travels, including foreign coins and "a fish with its eggs fished from the Cape of Good Hope".

Where:

Capitaine Landry is buried in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Yeadon, near Chester, Pennsylvania.

When:

Capitaine Landry's first long voyage was in 1866, aboard the C.Y. Thompson bound for Spain.

Who:

Capitaine Landry was the first Acadian to obtain a diploma from the Maritime School in London.

1891.2
This artefact belongs to : © Musée acadien of the Université de Moncton
Chinese slippers
About 1891, 19th century
5.7 x 4.7 x 10.6 cm
Gift of Capitaine Augustin Landry
1891.2
This artefact belongs to : © Musée acadien of the Université de Moncton

Keys to History:

Capitaine Augustin Landry of Shediac collected souvenirs from his overseas voyages for the curious back home in New Brunswick. He donated items consisting mostly of foreign coins and "a fish with its eggs fished from the Cape of Good Hope" to the Musée acadien. His most interesting donations, however, were three pairs of Chinese slippers and a pair of Chinese sandals. Two of the pairs of slippers still have the museum's original labels glued on the shoe. These read: "Pantoufles chinoises. Capitaine Landry, Shédiac."

The Musée acadien's original register notes the pair of slippers shown here were worn by "grand Chinese ladies . . . their feet deformed so that only the big toe fits in the shoe, the rest of the foot being repressed back in the leg." This would have been a rather shocking piece of information for inquisitive 19th-century New Brunswickers.

What:

Traditional Chinese values dictated that the feet of young girls should be bound to keep them very dainty and beautiful, symbols of gentility and class.

Where:

Shediac, New Brunswick, a noted shipbuilding and fishing center, is located 20 kilometres east of Moncton.

When:

Capitaine Landry donated the slippers to the Musée acadien in 1891.

Who:

Capitaine Landry assured the Musée acadien that he "saw these noble [Chinese] ladies walking with this type of shoe."

1951.20
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum
Painting
Prince's Beach
Frederick H.C. Miles (1862-1918)
1908, 20th century
70 x 242.5 cm
Gift of Fred G. Heans, 1951
1951.20
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum

Keys to History:

Frederick H.C. Miles painted this view of the St. John River in 1908. Entitled, "Prince's Beach," the painting captures the activity, beauty and romance of life along the river valleys in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

What:

Prince's Beach is named for a beautiful elm that caught the attention of the young Prince of Wales in 1860, while he was traveling to Fredericton aboard the Forest Queen.

Where:

The painting shows the view from Westfield, Kings County, across the St. John River toward Hardings Point, approximately twenty kilometres from Saint John.

When:

Along with his father, John Christopher Miles, Frederick H.C. Miles operated the Saint John Academy of Art from 1884 to1896.

Who:

Frederick H.C. Miles was the son of John Christopher Miles, another well-known New Brunswick artist.

Conclusion:

Rapid changes in transportation technology during the 20th century changed the commercial and social role of New Brunswick rivers. Lumber camps and log drives continued to exist for a few decades, but gradually disappeared. The riverboat era ended in 1946 when the D.J. Purdy was pulled from service on the St. John River. Railway, automobile, truck and, eventually, air transportation altered communication and transportation links, leaving the waterways to the almost exclusive use of pleasure craft, sportspeople and artists.


Bibliography



Finley, A. Gregg ed. Heritage Furniture. Saint John: New Brunswick Museum, 1976.

Foss, Charles H. Cabinetmakers of the Eastern Seaboard: A Study of Early Canadian Furniture. Toronto: M.F. Feheley Publishers Limited, 1977.

MacBeath, George. New Brunswick's Old Government House: A Pictorial History. Fredericton: New Ireland Press, 1995.

MacBeath, Dr. George and Capt. Donald F. Taylor. Steamboat Days on the St. John 1816-1946. St. Stephen, New Brunswick: Print'N Press, 1982.

Pelletier, Gaby ed. Micmac & Maliseet Decorative Traditions. Saint John: New Brunswick Museum, 1977.

Simpson, Valerie. Women's Attire. New Brunswick Museum, 1977.

Taylor, Captain Donald F. The Early Steamboats of the St. John River. Saint John: New Brunswick Museum, 1980. 66 pages.

Taylor, Captain Donald F. From the Splash of the Paddle-Wheel: True Tales of the Steamboat Era. St. Stephen, New Brunswick: Print'N Press, 1985.

Whitehead, Ruth Holmes. Micmac Quillwork: Micmac Indian Techniques of Porcupine Quill Decoration: 1600-1950. Halifax: Nova Scotia Museum, 1982.


© Musée McCord Museum