Article extracted from the New Brunswick Reporter
NBR – 1845.04.04 – Reminiscences of New Brunswick – #4

[For the Reporter.]

Various Scenery. – Kennebeckacis. – Dorchester. –

West Cock Church. – Wesleyan Academy, &c.
“I bring back the years that have roll’d away.”

To those who love to view nature, unadorned by art, New Brunswick affords an ample field, as it abounds in scenery of various kinds. It has the majestic River, with its mountain torrents, and the placid stream, bringing their tribute to swell its waters. Here we find the River broken by cataracts, and their expanding into the broad and silent Bay. The wild scenery of the Saint Croix on the border of the Province, and the imposing Falls at the Magaguadavic, near the pleasant Town of Saint George, would in some countries attract crowds of visitors. If we trace the noble Saint John, we shall find it at times contracted to a few hundred yards, and its stream rolling in foam over its rocky bed, and then expanding its bosom richly studded with beautiful Islands, and ever and anon receiving an accession from those numerous streams that are continually augmenting its volume; while along its margin we can trace the favourite seats of the Indian, long before the white man had marked it for his home. Again we trace the spot now reposing in quietness, where the heroic Madam Le Tour was led under the Gallows by the dastard who had betrayed her, where she beheld the remnant of her brave garrison, perish through treachery. But as my remarks will at present be confined to the eastern part of the Province, I will take the reader to the Kennebeckasis, and suppose him to be crossing the Hampton Bridge, early in a fine morning, just as the land fog is rising over the mountains, only disclosing the Valley and River, while the crest of the hills remains obscured, and the sight will richly pay him for early rising. Wending his way along the road at the base of the hills, he will open on a well improved country, abounding in neat houses and good barns, indicating a high degree of wealth and comfort. Indeed the country from near Hammond River to the Finger Board, exhibits a succession of well improved farms and commodious dwellings, most of which are painted and show a degree of neatness and taste that may well vie with any part of the Province. Advancing along the road he will find a neat church, [embosomed] among the trees near Lyons’ Mill Stream. The beautiful Vale of Sussex next meets his eye. Here is a church and some beautiful seats, and the country from thence to the head of the Vale is well improved and has some imposing scenery. Mount Pisgah towers majestically on the top as the traveller ascends the Valley, and the mountain that divides the Kennebeckasis from the Petitcodiac, appears to block u the passage in front. From the head of the Vale to the Bend of the Petitcodiac there is a line of road not exceeded for goodness in any part of the Province. The Village at the Bend will no doubt be greatly improved as soon as the Military road which commences at that place is opened. The distance from that point to the Grand Falls being a little over 160 miles.

Following the Great Road of Communication between Quebec and Halifax, and passing through the French Settlements, which show no great improvement, the neat little Town of Dorchester bursts on the view. This may be truly said to be a City set on a hill, for it commands a view of the country far and near. Passing Dorchester a few miles, and emerging from the woods at the turn of the road, stands a neat little Church. Entering this Church before Divine Service on a Sunday, I was agreeably surprised to find a small Organ and two young men prepared to aid the Psalmody; and during the Service the [chaunting] and singing were performed by a small Choir, assisted by the Rector, in a manner that would have graced Cathedral Service. A few ladies singing the air, while the young lad who performed at the Organ, executed his part in a style that would have done credit to a veteran performer. Near the turn of the road leading across the great [tantamar] Marsh, stands a Wesleyan Chapel with a spire and bell, and not far in advance on a commanding site, we behold the far famed Wesleyan Academy, which it would be wrong to pass without some further notice.*

Sir Walter Scott has observed, that to see a building with effect, we must view it by moon light. Fortunately it so happened that I did not reach it till in the evening. Being in the neighbourhood of the Academy at the time of the September visitation, I was anxious to be present at the examination of the pupils, but did not arrive till the Overseers had nearly concluded their addresses.

It was a beautiful evening. The moon at the full a few hours above the horizon in cloudless splendour threw a softened light on the surrounding landscape of undulating Hill and Vale. The building appeared to rest in a state of perfect repose. All was quiet and lonesome around it. No human object was to be seen. All had entered, while the number of carriages round the lawn and road indicated no ordinary gathering. Entering the vestibule of the Academy, I found the door of the Lecture Room barred by a mass of human heads. Having ascertained that the Rev. Mr. Wood was then on the stand, and knowing him to be one of those gifted persons who have only to open their lips and words will follow, I urged my way into the room which was crowded to excess, and found him earnestly addressing the juvenile part of his audience. After reminding them of the great privileges they enjoyed in having such pleasant accommodations and such diligent instructors to forward their various studies, and after enlarging on t he happy circumstances in which they were placed, he said that he himself would esteem it a pleasure to come at times, and join them in those pleasing and ennobling studies in which many of them were engaged. He then cautioned them on their return to their homes, to be careful and not let their parents sink in their estimation, or to fail in respect to them, if they should sometimes find them deficient in those literary attainments which they possessed. As their parents had passed their youthful days in times when a liberal education was accessible to but a few, and that it was to this diligence and industry of those parents, that they were indebted for the lovely homes and other advantages which most of them enjoyed.

The service soon after closed, and now the scene round the building was very different from what it was when I entered. Now all was life and bustle. The avenues were thronged with human beings. Carriages were departing in all directions, and the whole scene bore a strong resemblance to the Park in New York. In a short time all was quiet, and I found myself alone, when the caution of Mr. Wood to the pupils in regard to their [behaviour] to their parents returned forcibly to my mind, and brought back the times of old.

It is not likely that Mr. Wood himself was fully aware of the full extent of the truth conveyed in his remarks on the difficulties that many of the parents of those pupils had to surmount in early life, or of the many drawbacks they had to encounter to obtain even a common education, when Schools were few and far between, and books hard to be obtain. Add to this, that most persons in their times had to devote the chief part of their time to hard labour, to procure the necessaries of life to combat the difficulties attending the [subdueing] a Wilderness country. If these men were some of the difficulties many of the parents of those pupils had to contend with in their outset in life, what must have been the lot of their grandfathers and grandmothers who formed the first settlements in the Province. Their energies were fully tasked; not for mere necessaries, but the struggle for a long time was for existence itself. When they wanted goods they had not plain roads to travel, and a certain market to resort to for supplies for their famishing families, but to wander through the trackless Wilderness, guided only the blazes on the trees, and to carry their load on their back. Or in the winter, to draw their toboggan or hand sled through the woods, or on the rivers, from 50 to 100 miles, before they could even, find the smallest supply of food. For in those times there was no certainty of obtaining provisions at the end of a toilsome journey. To such pressing straits were the first settlers sometimes reduced, that they had to dig up part of the seed potatoes after they were sprouted, and to use them for food. This was only one of the many shifts they were put to, in order to sustain their families. Those fine roads that are now found in all directions were then unknown; and it was a greater labour for the old settlers to make their way over the marsh through bogs and mire, and often attended with more anxiety than a trip at present across the Atlantic by steam. Let the pupil then, while he views from the lofty windows of the Academy the fine roads over different parts of the rich marsh that spreads its subject plain before him, constant his easy, comfortable lot with that of his forefather, and if he has one spark of goodness in him, he will not fail to acknowledge the blessings he enjoys.

It may be well also for the Missionary, who in his [tour], may sometimes find himself exposed to storms and to indifferent lodgings and fare, to reflect how much pleasanter is his lot than that of the old Missionaries who travelled through the country when the roads were rude and wheel carriages unknown. When his fare was poor; when shelter was uncertain and lodgings often uncomfortable. I have been told personally by an old Preacher who travelled in this Province many years since, that in the most severe weather in winter, he has at night entered a poor house and been treated with the greatest kindness by the inmates; but when he retired to bed, the room was so exposed, that after adding his own clothes to those on the bed, he had laid shivering for some time with cold, and that in the morning after a storm, he has found the outside covering and the floor of the room covered with snow.

This may seem strange to those who are only acquainted with the present comfortable state of most of the inhabitants of this Province, but in the past times of which I treat, people were very destitute of bedding; and some very poor families had even to use boards as a substitute for blankets. A part of the family taking turns in the severest nights, and warming two pieces of boards and applying them alternately to the smaller children to keep them warm. There are persons till living who have witnessed these expedients.
(To be continued)

* It would have extended this article to a far greater length to have given only an outline of this noble structure. I shall therefore only state, that the pupils at present in the Institution, number a hundred, minus one; and that the Managers find they will soon want more room. That the building cost £5,400. The amount given by Mr. Allison was £4,000, leaving the sum of £1,400 still to be provided for.