Central government grants, supplemented by charitable donations from Canada and overseas, assisted the immediate relief effort, but it seems unlikely that anything like the entire capital shortfall was made good. Saint John had rebounded after previous fires because it had rebuilt in wood: clearly, the new city would have to be constructed of brick and stone. There was indeed a construction boom, but this short-term stimulus was followed by a sense of malaise in the early eighteen-eighties. Two instant histories of the disaster were rushed into print, 13 but there seems to have been no modern scholarly study assessing the impact of the event.
The arrival of the United States revenue cutter Gallatin bearing relief supplies had been an especially moving sight, visible testimony that the ravaged city was not alone. One was the decline of the wooden sailing ship, which became apparent in the mid-eighteen-seventies, precisely coinciding with the disaster. Wallace pointed out, in a little-noticed survey article, the shift to iron-hulled, steam-driven vessels had extensive knock-on effects.
Different kinds of skills were needed, and traditional crafts and merchant activities like ship-chandlery became irrelevant as the new ships turned around faster and made less use of port facilities. Any minor repairs have been successfully made by putting the vessel in the slip at low water, and doing the work between tides. However, it was an unhelpful coincidence that the Intercolonial railway, completed in , was establishing its traffic patterns — directed mainly towards Halifax — at precisely the time when Saint John was fighting for its existence.
The question of the destruction of capital is touched upon in the concluding section of this essay. It may be that much of the capital stock destroyed would have required renewal within a few years anyway: machinery will always need to be upgraded, stock renewed. Historians enjoy paradox. It may be argued that the city lacked a satisfactory and an easily developed hinterland, but any such objection should be placed in the context of the obvious fact that the St John river and its tributaries were superbly efficient at floating fallen trees downstream.
Acheson reckons that in the preceding half century, Saint John had handled between half and two-thirds of this outflow. The discrepancy is probably explained by the fact that Saint John possessed a deep-sea fleet, which made fewer but longer voyages. In , its ships averaged almost tons, almost three times the typical North Shore vessel registered on the Miramichi or trading out of Passamaquoddy Bay from St Andrews. As already noted, the city generated its own ship-building industry. In the early nineteenth century, British shipping interests had a low opinion of New Brunswick-built vessels, regarding them as poorly constructed, sometimes dishonestly certified and generally with short operating lives.
Saint John produced seventy-eight percent of the provincial output in the three foundry-based categories. As a result of its booming export of wood products and its burgeoning manufacturing economy, by Saint John was the largest city in the Maritimes: its 31, population well ahead of Halifax, with 20, inhabitants. Given that Halifax was a provincial capital, and that Fredericton and Charlottetown, each with , people, would probably have been little more than large villages without their government functions, it can be argued that Saint John was effectively double the size of its Nova Scotian rival.
As Acheson points out, between and , the population of New Brunswick increased two-and-one-half times, while Saint John quadrupled. Moreover, Hannay was puzzled to note that the North Shore had grown fastest, while the lower St John valley and Charlotte County had stagnated. Indeed, Halifax had begun to narrow the gap in — before the arrival of the Intercolonial Railway — and actually overtook Saint John in A visiting writer, Fred J. The problem lay not so much in the causes of decline as in the limitations of possible responses open to Saint John.
Some academic historians may find the approach adopted in this essay to be old-fashioned, and hence failing to tell the fully rounded story of nineteenth-century Saint John. There is undoubtedly scope for a gendered history of the city: in stereotyped female roles, such as domestic service, home-making and child rearing, Saint John, with its steep streets crammed into a small area, must have been physically experienced in very different ways from Toronto, with its lower density and flat townscapes.
Numerically, Saint John had a gender balance, with 10, women in the 21 to 60 age group in , against 10, men. Other women, no doubt from the further end of the social spectrum, worked in clothing factories. Indirectly, they may have exercised some influence through their presence in the mid-century Temperance movement. Major issues relating to race and ethnicity which are of concern to twenty-first century historians may also be regarded, rightly or wrongly, as largely invisible in the Saint John story. Academic historians concerned with class may be uneasy at the apparently uncritical acceptance in this essay of the local elite and business community at its own definition.
Continuity of prominent personnel one might even call it stagnation is evident throughout much of the nineteenth century — J. Ellis, John H. Gray, John A. Harding, J. Lawrence, Alfred A. Stockton, S. Tilley are all names that straddle the decades. When the Saint John economy did change in focus, as with the shift towards industrialisation after , the new enterprises grew from established local roots.
William Harris had been thirty years in the foundry business when he geared up to making railway rolling stock. In , when Saint John suddenly decided that it should become the provincial capital, signatures were collected to petitions within a few days. Whatever the motives of dominant figures in endorsing Maritime Rights in the nineteen-twenties, Nerbas shows that it was still seen as useful to involve at least one token trades union official to project the idea of an alliance between capital and labour.
Perhaps it is germane to ask at this point whether the elite, even if self-defined and uncritically accepted, showed itself especially far-sighted in the policies it endorsed. It is generally dangerous for the historian to criticise the economic decisions of people in the past, since it generally turns out that they knew their own business at least well as posterity.
Demands for protective tariffs in the eighteen-forties were surely unrealistic given the small size of the population, but stemmed from a Saint John desire to wall off its own hinterland. The key point about Western Extension, unfortunately, was that there was precious little alternative by way of grand projects that the city could campaign for in that era. Hence part of the problem of Saint John was the way in which the civic community — however defined — swept itself into sudden and determined endorsement of successive miracle projects.
But a similarly negative impression was formed by E.
Harding, a Whitehall civil servant who formed part of a travelling British commission of enquiry into imperial opportunities. It was not that they lacked intelligence, but rather that their city was trapped by a shortage of opportunities. Historians build up arguments through collages of contemporary quotations and other supporting evidence. A word of caution is appropriate regarding this methodology. Those who generated the comments that become historical evidence were rarely objective, and it is often the case that the memorable utterances came from the most partisan sources.
An exploratory, overview essay may join up the dots to generate an unintentionally misleading picture. One example may be the community of Portland, nowadays the North End of Saint John, which for eighteen years from functioned as an autonomous municipality. The available evidence suggests that Portland was not a stellar example of urban self-government. However, this may not be entirely fair, not least because the condemnations come mainly from the main city next door.
The investigating commission of certainly found a shortfall in the provision of infrastructure, but it is worth remembering that Portland contained a far smaller population and tax base than the City of Saint John, distributed over a larger area. One further apology should be offered. The inclusion of a timeline might have added some clarification at some points. However, this seemed a cumbersome addition to an already lengthy on-line publication, and would have involved issues of selection as well as inability to offer assessment of the impact and relative importance of the various dates included.
I write primarily as a consumer of New Brunswick history, an outsider who can contribute — if at all — only at the margins. In this essay, I rely on a relatively narrow range of scholarly work, all of a high quality that makes the reader wish for more. Two books stand out, both published for the bicentenary of the incorporation of Saint John.
Saint John appears although not much in the index mainly as part of the wider story of the coming of responsible government: the cholera outbreak merits a single short sentence, and — for all his emphasis upon the institutions of government — MacNutt showed no interest in urban reform or in the relationship between the province and its largest city.
Ultimately he came to personalise the problem of Saint John by relocating to Ontario. Writing at my desk in Ireland, I am of course uneasily aware that there is much information contained in theses and specialist publications to which I do not have access: a useful reading list from the New Brunswick Museum reminds me of the material to be gleaned from local history works.
Many nineteenth-century travel accounts have been digitised, and sample runs of newspapers can also be consulted. Useful sources include the two volumes of Political Notes assembled by George E. John not grow? Hannay perceived that there was a problem with Saint John, even if he did not go so far as to postulate that Saint John itself constituted that problem.
One major historian who did write about Saint John, J. Since this essay is designed for the Internet, it seems preferable to abandon any plans for necessarily primitive sketch maps and invite readers to open additional screens to consult contemporary sources. Indiantown, not named, is the block of streets north of Marble Cove. The bridge linking eastern and western rail communications also lay almost a decade in the future. Especially useful is Frame 3, which shows the inconvenient pre boundary with Portland, which ran a few metres south of the Straight Shore, presumably at low-water mark.
The geographical problem of Saint John may be divided into two, the city and its harbour on the one hand, and relationships with hinterlands on the other. Johnston called it in 76 — which gave access to the Atlantic Ocean through the Bay of Fundy. The booster pamphlet, St. John and its Business , had to go back to the winter of to cite a closure of thirteen days.
John and navigating the Bay of Fundy, with the tremendous storms they have on that bay in the months of January and February! There were some disadvantages to the extreme tidal fall, which at the west side of the harbour and in Courtenay Bay, east of the main peninsula, left large areas of exposed mud at low water. By , there was concern that silt was extending the low water mark beyond the wharves, and dredging became a priority.
In assessing the problem of Saint John, it is important to note that there is a considerable area of definitional overlap between a harbour and a port. A harbour is a natural feature in which, given adequate area and depth, ships may anchor and trade be carried on. A port is man-made project, which involves provision of wharves, terminals and transport links.
Of course, there is a considerable overlap between the two definitions: Saint John required pilotage from its earliest days, and the transfer of responsibility for this service to the Dominion in marked the earliest intervention of central Canadian authority in the city. At Saint John, the provision of port facilities involved challenges to which local leadership and institutions did not always respond effectively. The challenges may be seen in outline statistics of ship movements. In , vessels entered Saint John, with an average displacement of By , the annual number was , averaging These averages do not tell the full story: the ocean-going steamships were far larger, with an average size over tons, while some ships as large as tons called.
Unusually for Canadian ports, which were generally managed by independent commissions, much of the infrastructure had been provided by the City itself, adding greatly to the municipal debt. Although the city was notorious for its fogs an exaggeration, defenders claimed , 91 there was a direct and safe run into the port across the Bay of Fundy from the south-western extremity of Nova Scotia, guided by a lighthouse and fog whistle on Partridge Island.
The Partridge Island installation is claimed as the world's first fog warning, the invention of a Saint John resident, Robert Foulis. The main channel had a depth of between 6 and 15 fathoms Evidently, the port required a higher degree of maintenance than Halifax, largely because the tidal range in the Nova Scotian port rarely exceeded two metres, and so did not require the construction of projecting deep-water wharves.
About half a kilometre wide at its mouth, it broadened into a wide and deep pool, with the result that major port activity concentrated from earliest times in its north-east corner, around the Market Slip. Generally regarded as the estuary of the St John river, it had some features of an inner harbour. The zigzag waterway created three peninsulas, across which the Saint John urban area developed. Originally focused upon the St John river and estuary, the orientation of Carleton steadily altered throughout the nineteenth century to a west-east focus as its waterfront developed into an Atlantic outlet.
While there was economic activity, notably ship-building, along the estuary, known as the Straight Shore, urban settlement mostly spread across the collar of the peninsula north towards Indiantown, a terminus for inland trade. This tri-peninsular topography forms an essential context for understanding the problem of Saint John, and four further aspects of the locale need to be noted. First, the site was very constricted, especially the east side urban core, which was little more than three square kilometres.
The steep and crowded streetscape severely limited railway access to deep water — hence the pressure on the City to permit rails to be laid along the already congested waterfronts. It is perhaps best not even to contemplate the founding of Vancouver — where railway and city began more or less simultaneously. There, the Canadian Pacific was granted over hectares of public land. Second, much of the city area was solid rock. A visitor was surprised to note in that some houses on the crests of the East Side ridge were twenty feet above street level, while lower down, passers-by could peer in to the upstairs windows of buildings dominated by raised carriageways.
The arrival of services, such as water from and gas from meant that the obstacles had to be tackled all over again, trenches dug into rock so that pipes could be laid. As a result, local taxation was high, limiting the ability — let alone the enthusiasm — of municipal authorities to respond to health challenges while simultaneously also modernising port infrastructure. In the case of sewerage, poorer residents simply could not afford the connection charge even where pipes had been installed, and their wealthier neighbours were reluctant to allow free provision of a service for which they had paid no small fee themselves.
Third, the Saint John urban region included several different trading centres. Not surprisingly, the main peninsula was the scene of the principal activity. Some ship-building aside, there was relatively little commercial activity along its eastern shore, Courtenay Bay, away from the harbour, where — as late as the eighteen-seventies — the Intercolonial railway could be granted permission to run tracks along the waterside.
Fler böcker av Joan Kilby
Fourth, the linkages connecting the peninsulas also contributed to the framing of the problem of Saint John. The route to Portland seems straightforward, since its boundary with the City was generally regarded as entirely artificial. The bridge, which had been built around , funnelled traffic along Mill Street.
Nearby York Point became the poorest district in the city, and a stronghold in the eighteen-forties of Irish Catholic immigrants. When the Orange Order decided in to celebrate the Twelfth of July by marching to and from Indiantown, Mill Street became the flashpoint for trouble. Catholics erected an arch across the street crowned by the nationalist symbol of a green bough, this forcing the Orangemen to dip their banners in symbolic humiliation.
Reinforced by upriver contingents on their return march, the Orangemen refused to make a circuitous diversion other routes gave access to Portland, but the obstacle of the mill pond meant of a detour of around one kilometre. There followed one of the worst outbreaks of urban violence in Canadian history. From about , basic communication with Carleton was provided by harbour ferries. In , boats ran every fifteen minutes until 9.
In fact, increased ferry traffic caused by the Fire had temporarily made the service profitable, and the campaign failed. In , a suspension bridge was completed across the St John river at the Reversing Falls. Two earlier attempts to provide a river crossing had failed, the first of them ending in disaster in when the structure collapsed and seven workmen plunged to their deaths. It was also built as a toll bridge, charging fifteen cents for a one-horse vehicle and twenty cents for a carriage drawn by two. The question arises: should the location of the suspension bridge be regarded as part of the problem of Saint John?
The ravine at the Reversing Falls provided both a narrow crossing point and a convenient height about water. However, other possible sites were considered. As already noted, the engineering challenge proved too great at that time, although the distance involved was not notably longer than at the Falls. This was not necessarily beyond the construction technology available by the eighteen-eighties, the more so as the island was joined to the West Side at low water. It also had the advantage — especially in the eyes of West Side representatives — of connecting direct to the waterfront terminus of the Carleton branch railway, which would be bypassed by a railway bridge at the Falls.
Their proposal was in fact for a dual-function crossing, combining rail and road, and so finally integrating the two sides of Saint John with a nearly-direct link. Pressure for a Navy Island crossing continued. Lacking any estimate of cost, they abstained from a formal recommendation, but made it clear that the project should be taken forward by the enlarged City authority.
In , the geographer Marion H. Essentially, this approach identified a Canadian hinterland, comprising overlapping sub-regions depending on the nature of the product handled, which extended like an airfield windsock through central Canada and out into the prairies. Central to this approach was what L. Far from Britain and Europe forming part of an area controlled or dominated from Saint John, the city itself functioned more as a sub-metropolitan centre for the English port of Liverpool. Most important of all, Saint John exercised no form of ascendancy over the elongated transportation zone that stretched westward to Alberta — indeed, the city was peculiarly at the mercy of larger, national forces which were perfectly capable of diverting trade through other outlets.
McCann himself regarded late-nineteenth century Saint John as a kind of branch plant of Montreal. At first sight, the hinterland of Saint John divided into two sections, an inland region based on the valley of the St John river and the maritime zone of the Bay of Fundy, including much of western and central Nova Scotia. Acheson estimated that by , the valley counties were home to nearly , counties, while Fundy counties numbered over , — a total hinterland population, exclusive of the 40, people of the city itself — of , However, two other segments of hinterland may be identified.
One was an eastern corridor along the Kennebacasis and Petitcodiac river valleys, through the farming country of Hampton and Sussex that supplied Saint John with much of its food. At its western extremity it was virtually an extension of the St John valley, while generally it formed part of the Fundy zone although cut off from the Bay itself by the narrow rocky strip of St John County , but this specific corridor became the route of the railway to Moncton The Bend and onward to Shediac on the Strait of Northumberland.
The fourth area of hinterland was to the west of the city, poor country with few resources other than timber. Its negative value to Saint John was compounded by the problem that the city shared this south-western quadrant of the province with the ambitious and potentially rival Charlotte County ports of St Andrews and St Stephen. Three general points may be made about these hinterlands. One is that their relationships with Saint John probably functioned at different levels in relation to specific activities.
Second, hinterland zones could expand and shrink, especially in response to developments in communications — mainly railways, although Saint John invested a good deal of emotional energy in the largely fantasy project of a canal through the Chignecto isthmus. The third point is to note a mysterious element in nineteenth-century banking practice.
There was a savings bank network, with fourteen offices across the province in , but the only bank to operate anything like a branch network was the Bank of Montreal. This institution had arrived in the province with Confederation, and by had outlets in Chatham, Moncton and Saint John — a symbolic reflection of the role of the Intercolonial railway in advancing central Canadian interests. One basic element in the problem of Saint John was that its economic and political hinterlands overlapped but were not coterminous. This would be the case, at any rate, before Confederation: how far western Nova Scotia MPs backed the city after in Ottawa is a question that calls for further research.
By contrast, around one fifth of New Brunswickers, mainly in the North Shore counties, lived in areas that had very little trading contact with Saint John, but who elected representatives to the provincial Assembly who could — and sometimes did — oppose its interests. The internal battle lines that characterised New Brunswick politics were also fluid: on certain issues, the city might lose the support of the upper St John valley or of Charlotte County, while the political orientation of Westmorland was always a toss-up between attraction to the North Shore and Nova Scotia on the one hand, and solidarity with the Fundy counties on the other.
John with half the trouble. Nine of the sixteen vessels destroyed had come across the Bay, five of them carrying fish, and one a cargo of salt. Three were based at Westport, the tiny settlement on Brier Island, which formed a direct link on the maritime approach to Saint John, a fourth came from nearby Barrington, a fifth from Canning, further up the Bay. All were small ships, ranging from 27 tons down to In , an official enquiry examined the likely costs of moving the seat of government downriver from Fredericton.
Geography and Governance: The Problem of Saint John (New Brunswick) 1785 - 1927
Although the commission, which reflected Saint John interests, manipulated its estimates, the expense of the projected move proved too great for the idea to be taken forward. However, there was one exception to the generally cautious costings. These too proved expensive and unpopular within the province.
New Brunswick derived two thirds of its public revenue from import duties. This equalled about three metres of material per heads of population, perhaps enough to allow each a new suit for every inhabitant each year. British textiles were generally of higher quality than colonial manufactures, and remained in demand. However, by the early eighteen-sixties, a curious anomaly was developing in the official returns.
Textile imports originated overwhelmingly in Britain and the United States. However, within a few years, the gap between two railway systems would be filled by a line linking Truro and Moncton, and light-weight, high-value merchandise — haberdashery in particular — could be imported to the region via Halifax, paying its tariffs to the Nova Scotian treasury, and distributed direct to country stores across New Brunswick.
It becomes easy to grasp why Tilley rejected intercolonial free trade in a customs union with Nova Scotia would be impossible without some form of political structure to redistribute revenues from imports. That, too, would come to an end once an integrated Maritime railway network allowed goods to be distributed throughout the region directly from Halifax. Twenty years earlier, it had seemed likely that any shift in the balance between the two cities would be the other way about.
John are goin [sic] to cut off your Gulf Shore trade to Miramichi, and along there. Here should also be recorded the near-total failure of its hopes and schemes to establish a trade route through the Chignecto isthmus. Saint John had begun to agitate for a canal across the isthmus as early as and, by the end of that decade, most of the arguments in its favour had been outlined, emphasising the advantages that it would bestow upon the city — trade with Canada, direct access to the Gulf fisheries, improved opportunities to function as an entrepot between the St Lawrence and the Caribbean.
Yet, time and again, the Baie Verte canal scheme went nowhere. This was simply out of range for a channel that could only transport small vessels. A later engineer, commissioned by the British government in the early eighteen-forties, doubted whether such a canal would retain any water at all. Using sea water to make up the deficiency was rejected because the Bay of Fundy contained high levels of mud in suspension, which would cause the canal to silt up.
Westmorland County pressed for a revival of the project in Some New Brunswick representatives in Ottawa insisted that the Baie Verte canal had been promised as part of the Confederation package — a claim that cannot be documented — while the provincial government formally demanded action in The Dominion government undertook a fresh round of surveys, which revealed more inherent problems.
The earlier blueprints had envisaged a canal that was not only shallow but too narrow to facilitate traffic in both directions: most paddle-steamers, for instance, were driven by side wheels, which added considerably to their breadth. More generally, nobody seemed to have taken full account of one of the most basic aspects of the Bay of Fundy, the enormous rise and fall of its tides. Any canal at the head of the Bay could only operate for half the day because it would lose all contact with the sea as low water approached.
Furthermore, tides on the Bay of Fundy rarely synchronised with those along the Gulf coast. Lawrence in and, on the other, that the Baie Verte canal would encourage trade and harmony among the discordant segments of the Dominion. These would have had little reason to call at Saint John but would have sailed direct to New England. Both in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, major canal projects had been overtaken by the railway age, which might have been appealed to as a tactful means of burying the vision of an isthmian crossing. Indeed, few historians could compete in sarcasm with the Ontario MP who claimed public money would have been more usefully spent searching for the lost continent of Atlantis.
When money effectively ran out in , docks had been constructed at each end, and Ketchum had completed sixteen of the seventeen miles of roadbed i. The key question is not whether the Chignecto ship railway was feasible but whether it was worthwhile. Ships of up to 2, tons displacement, feet The ship would then be transferred to the railway, and carried to the far shore, where the process would be repeated in reverse.
In , the octogenarian Senator Amos E. In this, he may not have been typical. From a Saint John point of view, the project may have produced few benefits. In a promotional pamphlet produced in , Ketchum listed fifteen types of trade which he predicted would be encouraged by his isthmian transit, but only eleven of these were specifically linked to Saint John, and some of those appeared to be optimistic afterthoughts.
Peter Mitchell, sitting as an Independent for Northumberland, was a consistent and sharp critic. From Charlotte County, A. In an authoritative article, C. McKay argues that the ship railway almost certainly diverted public funds from potentially more useful projects. McKay suggests that it was only after the project failed that it became incorporated in a Maritime mythology that blamed Ottawa duplicity for all regional ills.
Here, again, he inverts the conventional argument, contending that Ottawa subsidies made the scheme possible, but the failure of overseas investment ensured its ultimate failure. One new element in the case was the potential to generate hydro-electric power, an argument which converted the turbulent Fundy tides into a positive factor, although it was not clear how the two aspects of the canal could be combined. In the light of a century of disappointments, the Chignecto canal was perhaps unlikely of realisation anyway, but its prospects were not helped by lack of enthusiasm in Nova Scotia.
Halifax actively opposed the scheme, while the province as a whole was committed to demanding a causeway to Cape Breton. The upshot of the considerable amount of energy that went into the fantasy schemes of an isthmian transit was simple, and negative: Saint John never acquired the transportation facilities that might have enabled it to extend its water-borne Fundy hinterland into the Gulf of St Lawrence, to annex the trade of the North Shore, Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island.
However, this failure merely echoed the equally meagre fruits which the city managed to reap through its eastern corridor hinterland, discussed below, beyond the railway terminus at Shediac. Lawrence, has such magnificent reaches or lakelike expansion as the St. Raymond in However, closely examined, the St John valley was less than an entirely straightforward asset to the city. As with so many aspects of the story, the elements of success contained their own challenges, and some of these are so basic that they are too easily taken for granted.
Three aspects of the St John valley — relating to vegetation, physical geography and climate — merit exploration. It is not difficult to guess that, in the New Brunswick context, vegetation means trees. In basic respects, the climate and topography of the St John valley were well suited to the shifting of vast quantities of felled timber. Logs were dragged over frozen roadways in late winter to be launched on to tributaries of the St John and floated downriver.
Lashed together to form rafts, these passed easily over rapids including the Reversing Falls at Saint John itself , since they had only a shallow draught and their value was not greatly affected by damage in transit: fifteen percent of timber was allowed as wastage. Since there was no alternative means of getting timber out of the Aroostook country, until railways penetrated the interior in the late-nineteenth century, the configuration of its river system made Saint John the only city in British North America that could tap into an American resource area without fear that Washington would impose restrictions on its access — although this advantage was purchased at the threat of war in the late eighteen-thirties.
But there were downsides to sitting at the exit point of a staple bonanza. The rapid rise of the New Brunswick timber industry had been powered by British tariff protection. John, like a dear little weeping widow, will dry up her tears, and take to frolickin agin and accept it right off. The nature of resource exploitation within the timber economy changed too. Millidge believed Saint John would have lost its shipbuilding industry even without the shift to iron steamships.
Careless even regarded the exhaustion of timber supplies as a disadvantage to Saint John as New Brunswick entered the new era of railway technology. Sailing ships needed anchors and chains, and could incorporate metal fittings when suitable timber became scarce. Sager and Panting believe that local foundry manufacture began to supplant imports of finished iron products around Its development was not necessarily inhibited by the monocultural nature of its valley hinterland. The early nineteenth-century logging industry concentrated on felling pine trees, which were mainly exported as logs.
Around , the emphasis shifted to spruce, which was more suitably sold in machined form, as deals. The result was the first phase of provincial industrialisation, with a boom in the erection of sawmills. As early as , J. In , a spokesman for the provincial lumber industry estimated that spruce and fir could be successfully harvested every ten to twelve years, provided nine inches 23 centimetres of stump was left for regeneration. As late as the early twentieth century, the National Transcontinental, crossing the province from Edmundston to Moncton, was projected to run through country that had no doubt been tapped by loggers but was so thickly forested that it was barely known to surveyors and cartographers.
Aside from its role in the ecology and the economy of New Brunswick, the dense tree cover of much of the St John basin had one major implication: where there were thick forests, there were few people. The St John basin functioned superbly in generating a staple which was processed in the city and exported from its harbour. The city had to be supplied with food and fuel; in turn, it provided rations and other necessities to logging camps in the interior, and operated as a gigantic wholesale depot for country stores in small communities upstream.
To those familiar with the topography of New Brunswick, what follows may seem elementary, but sometimes the most obvious aspects of any historical scenario are precisely those which become overlooked. Four basic aspects of the St John river — three of them geographical and one climatic — contributed to the problem of Saint John, not least by complicating its interaction with the new and alternative transportation technology of railways.
The three geographical features relate to the overall course of the St John river, to the four lakes or fjords along the eastern side of its lower reaches and to the obstacle of the Reversing Falls. The climatic element is of course that permanent context to Canadian history, the winter, which froze the river for forty percent of the year.
Most of us, it may be ventured to suggest, make mental maps which simplify the world around us into straight lines and right angles. In the Atlantic region, Nova Scotia and, to a lesser extent, Prince Edward Island are easily encapsulated as rectangles. So, too, are the populated areas of southern Ontario and Quebec. New Brunswick can be squeezed into a square, in which the informally designated North Shore happens to consist of coastline most of which faces east.
In this imagined cubist cartography, the St John river flows at right angles from the interior, and especially downstream from Fredericton. In reality, this is not the case, and the peculiarity of its course may provoke wider reflection upon the formative nature of Canadian topography.
In central Canada, the St Lawrence and the Ottawa rivers take remarkably direct routes, as do the Richelieu and the Saguenay. The same is true in Manitoba, with the Red River flowing from south to north, and the navigable parts of the Assiniboine draining from west to east. A boat sailing upstream from the city will indeed travel for about 80 kilometres in a generally northward direction, through scenically impressive stretches with local compass variations. However, around Gagetown our boat will find itself heading west, along a latitudinal section past Fredericton which extends for over kilometres — a fundamental reorientation which historians seem not to have noticed.
Then, south of Woodstock, the route turns north again, perhaps struggling with shallow water, until it encounters the impressive obstacle of Grand Falls, kilometres upstream. One key point here is that the fertile lands of Carleton County, around Woodstock, were potentially closer to Passamaquoddy Bay, directly to the south, than to Saint John at the mouth of their shared river.
Its plans to run through the disputed Aroostook country helped stoke the boundary dispute in the eighteen-thirties, while as late as , its promoters attempted to curry favour with the imperial authorities by portraying it as a step towards the union of the provinces. The temporary northern terminus at Canterbury was within twenty miles 32 kms of Woodstock, to which it was linked by a daily stagecoach. Carleton County farmers were already sending hay, oats and butter to the coast over the incomplete line. Meanwhile, freight trains would run three times a week, carrying flour, pork, molasses, sugar and tobacco to Carleton County customers.
The process would be gradual. John by strong ties, more especially by the lumbering business, and it will take years before they are able to shake themselves clear of such entanglements. John and back again. Andrews, in connection with the upper country. John with the St. Andrews is destined at a very early day to take the commercial position of St. Five years later, T. Anglin returned to the theme in the Saint John Morning Freeman. Andrews Railroad was scarcely opened to Canterbury when the business men of that upper country, who formerly came to St.
John to make all their purchases, began to be missed from the hotels and places where they usually resorted. Andrews Road extends, assuredly it every day more and more turns away from St. John and the Province. John received was the construction of the railway from Woodstock to St. That took away from St. John a large amount of the trade which it had with the up river counties.
How could Saint John protect its Valley hinterland? There was a talk of a seventy mile kilometres spur line heading off to Saint John fifteen miles 24 kilometres north of St Andrews, but the Head Quarters scoffingly dismissed the scheme as too late. Andrews will not turn back seventy miles to St.
Fredericton had to wait until to hear the locomotive whistle, and its connection then was by-product of Western Extension, to which Fredericton investors themselves connected a branch-line. It is worth pausing here to take account of another of the basic facts of New Brunswick life, the closure of the St John river every winter. Figures supplied to J. Fredericton was isolated as early as November 5 some years, as late as December 16 in others. The average date was November 16, but usually the river froze during the last ten days of November.
By April, the shops were becoming empty of goods. Fredericton, it would seem, would have welcomed a railway, and it may seem puzzling that Saint John did not secure its own interests by backing one. Of course, Fredericton was not entirely cut off when the St John was frozen. The legislature generally met through the winter months, and in November the capital was linked to Saint John, and the wider world, by the telegraph. No doubt they carried far fewer passengers, but the New Brunswick winter hardly invited travel for pleasure.
With a titular nod to the new technology, Charles L. Atherton ran covered sleighs each way between Fredericton to Saint John every night except Sunday, with connections through his No Surrender Royal Mail stage to Woodstock. Golding, who took over the Atherton livery stables in January , drove the lieutenant-governor to Saint John in the impressive time of five hours and twenty minutes.
But an alternative route existed. This will soon make a path for our boxes to come. Newspaper advertisements show that Saint John sourced much of its food supply year-round from across the Bay in Nova Scotia and from the United States. Nor was the city cut off from its immediate neighbourhood in winter. One old-timer recalled pre-railway days when Kings County farmers brought country produce to market by sled.
At various times between and , an Intercolonial railway came on to the British North American agenda. Saint John was determined that, if the Intercolonial was to be built at all, it should run down the St John valley. However, as Albert J. Beneath its complacency there lay a vein of insecurity. The dream turned into disappointment, and New Brunswick begged to be relieved of the burden it had shouldered. Lack of enthusiasm for a rail connection upriver was linked to another feature of St John valley topography. The eighty kilometres of river north of the city were marked by three wide fjord-like bays — Kennebacasis Bay, Belleisle Bay and Washademoak Lake — each extending north-eastwards inland around fifty kilometres.
Further upstream, a fourth stretch of water, the fifty-kilometre long Grand Lake, which gave access to potential coal reserves, was linked to the St John by the ten kilometres of the Jemseg river opposite Gagetown. As early as , Saint John interests planned to improve access through this route. Unfortunately, in the railway era, these magnificent waterways became part of the problem of Saint John.
The fjords were so wide that it was next to impossible to build any line down the east side of the valley and so enter the city from the north. It was not until that the Valley line was seriously considered, as a feeder to the planned Courtenay Bay port facilities. The scheme involved constructing not only a second bridge over the St John river, to bring the line from the west bank over to the Kingston peninsula, but a further crossing of the wide expanse of Kennebacasis Bay.
Even in peacetime, this involved expenditure from dreamland, and the fantasy did not survive the harsh economies of the First World War. Its duplication of the more direct route from Fredericton opened back in helped ensure its financial failure. There was never much chance that the Intercolonial might run down the St John valley.
Since it was conventionally viewed as a project to link Quebec to Halifax, any route that included Saint John would add unnecessarily to the distance. In any case, the British, whose financial guarantee was required to secure access to low-interest loans, refused to endorse any route close to the American frontier. Hence, it became all too clear that the Intercolonial would run along the North Shore, a route that was of no benefit of Saint John, and one that the city consistently opposed.
Unfortunately, in terms of the generating revenue, it was Saint John or nothing. John it will be of little use to the Province, as it will merely pass through it, contributing indeed by the amount paid for passage or freight to the maintenance of the road, but doing little more. Known as the Central Route, it was envisaged as crossing the province diagonally from the north-west, to meet the Saint John to Shediac railway around Sussex, about eighty kilometres east of the city. John will be a benefit to the Commercial capital or otherwise. However, at that stage, the St John basin still functioned as a single unit, focused upon the city, for the transportation of timber.
Twenty years later, that situation began to change. The story was outlined in evidence to a visiting British commission on Empire development by a lumber industry spokesman, J. Fraser Gregory, in John waters had, of necessity, to come to St. John to reach foreign countries for shipment. John River, manufactured at St. John, or at any point within the Province, and shipped back into the United States, was duty free. However, the arrangement had been gradually undermined by the extension of railroads into northern Maine.
In the eighteen-sixties, railway construction had not been especially linked to the exploitation of timber resources. Presumably locomotives became more powerful, and roadbeds better engineered and maintained. Whatever the causes, twenty years later timber could be as profitably hauled by rail as by water, especially in the value-added processed form of deals. Massive sawmills sprang up on the American side of the border: one, at Van Buren, could handle forty million feet a year, all of it freighted out by rail.
The American sawmills also dammed the rivers flowing into the Saint John, either to generate power or to store their logs, thus making it impossible to gain access to the main river at all. John River, until they are being shut up. Floating logs downriver from northern Maine, processing and trans-shipping them onward to United States markets made good business for the city, especially with the exemption of New Brunswick timber products from the American tariff.
Once again, the trajectory of the St John valley hinterland was towards contraction, not expansion. Although they are perhaps the best-known tourist feature associated with Saint John, it seems surprisingly difficult to discover much about the impact of the Reversing Falls on river traffic, and hence almost impossible to measure the relative importance of Indiantown and the main harbour. Thus, although the Falls obstructed access from the harbour, they also stabilised navigation upriver and protected agriculture on the intervales.
But once people ended up in the water, their chances of survival were slight. Although they were open for only five percent of any twenty-four hour period, and for just sixty percent of the year, the Falls were able to handle the massive volume of timber floated down the St John river.
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According to Wynn, most of it arrived during the six weeks after the opening of navigation, towed downstream in huge rafts during May and June. Awkward though the Falls must have been, it is noteworthy that no attempt seems to have been made to circumvent them. Lumbermen talked of blasting out the Split Rock in , but no action seems to have been taken. In the mid-century period, the St.
Light freight was carried on the street railway which connected Indiantown to the core city area from until , and again from However, it seems to have been abandoned at an early stage. Yet, presumably there must have been customs, informal protocols, that determined the order in which traffic crossed the Falls, and the intervals between each transit. Unfortunately, because the Falls formed part of the deep background of daily life, movements of vessels were not generally reported in the press. The St John Sun ran occasional paragraphs in the mid-eighteen nineties, but it is not easy to determine whether the paper was noting the humdrum or highlighting the unusual.
Its reports do suggest that tugboat captains were the experts on navigating the turbulent waters. Chadwick through the Falls one May evening in , and it took the combined efforts of Captain and Hercules to pull her upstream two days later.
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The schooner was probably carrying a heavy cargo, but how the crew of Captain managed to abort the Saturday attempt was not reported. The glimpses are illuminating, but represent only a tiny fraction of the traffic through the Falls. River steamers operated from Indiantown, but some also braved the Falls. In , the Union Line advertised that its steamer to Fredericton, the Forest Queen , would load in the harbour during the summer months.
Sizeable ships also navigated the St John river, some heading straight out to sea. At least 45 potentially sea-going ships were constructed in Sunbury County in the mid-nineteenth century. Fredericton had visions of its own ship-building industry, and of direct trade with the West Indies. The campaign was a success. Two customs officials had been collected at Saint John to supervise her unloading, and no doubt they enjoyed a pleasant river cruise.
In , lumber baron A. Randolph was reported to have cut 28 million feet of timber in the upper St John country, and was planning to process 20 million feet of it at Indiantown. In May , for instance, one schooner was loading laths there for Boston, and two others had taken aboard cordwood to supply lime kilns at Rockland on the coast of Maine. However dramatic, the Falls could be managed by navigational skills — even if we now seem to know little about them.
Far more vessels passed the obstacle than might appear — journalists rarely regarded Falls traffic as newsworthy, while port authorities had no reason to keep permanent records of shipping that paid no customs duties. Thus as would probably have happened with the Chignecto ship canal, had it been completed some trade to and from Fredericton ignored the port of Saint John altogether after In addition, topography imposed a double handicap. The underlying zigzag course of the river meant that its upper stretches, around Woodstock in Carleton County, offered tempting pickings for the railway enthusiasts of St Andrews and St Stephen.
The huge fjord-like lakes on the eastern bank immediately above the city made it impossible to build any railway directly inland from the most populous part of the city. On the plus side, the closest of those inlets, Kennebecasis Lake, gave access by water to a fifty kilometre stretch of farming country, from Hampton through to Sussex, which supplied Saint John with much of its food. When the city decided to enter the railway age, at the end of the eighteen-forties, it set its face against seeking to secure its valley hinterland with iron rails and locomotives, and invested its hopes and enthusiasms and, even, some of its money in a railway towards the east — the only direction from which any railway line could have access to the core city area — towards and beyond its agricultural hinterland.
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