Heritage moments along the storied Route 105
Acadians trace their roots here to 1785
In the northern St John River Valley, Acadian culture and joie de vivre have been invigorating influences for centuries. Most of these deep-rooted francophone families originally settled in New France which, under later British rule, became Nova Scotia and included present-day New Brunswick. That was the start of a wretched period for Acadians.
Many had refused to swear loyalty to the British Crown during the French and Indian War era, 1754-63, causing the Governor of the day to make a fateful decision that saw thousands of Acadians expelled in 1755 — for the most part to the American colonies where they often endured harsh lives.
But following the American rebellion and independence, Acadians were permitted to return to Canada although they were barred from resettling where most had originated in NS. This led to an influx in areas such as northwestern NB and nearby Maine.
In the mists of the falls
With that background, let’s start our trek at Grand Falls (or Grand-Sault, population 5700) which was incorporated in 1890 and is the only officially bilingual town in the province.
The cataract which gives the town its name was the site of transient encampments from the earliest days of the Maliseet First Nation. European settlers arrived in the 18th century.
In 1826, the New Brunswick Courier reported: “On our way to New Brunswick, we were informed that the government of that Province has received instructions from home not to grant any more permits for cutting timber on the Aroostook and Madawaska rivers, until the boundary line should be established.”
That’s background for Grand Falls’ brief stint as a military post at the time of the bloodless Aroostook War (1838-39), a boundary dispute with the United States, which was really all about timber rights and not fully resolved until 1842. (See map above or view a larger version.)
The initial surge of settlement, however, came through the entrepreneurial efforts of Sir John Caldwell, who brought settlers in to run his around-the-clock sawmill operation in the late 1830s resulting in a population mix of French, Irish and Danes.
The surrounding area was settled by farmers in the ensuing decades and, with the develpment of railway links in the 1870s, the town became a popular resort in the vein of Niagara Falls. The falls were dammed in the 1920s for electrical power generation.
The Old Grand Falls Post Office (built 1911), a two-storey red brick building in the Romanesque Revival style — beautifully typical of the federal government's impressive architectural attitude a century ago — is located on the corner of Court and Sheriff Streets and has been handsomely restored and is well worth driving by. (Private property)
The building hosting the seasonal Farmers’ Market and the Grand Falls Museum stands on a piece of land where, in 1889, the Burgess Sawmill was located (facing the current visitor centre at the falls). In 1951 a new building was erected which, for a while, served as a starch factory. Potatoes were the raw product.
Read what happened when Tappan Adney travelled from New York City to the small town of Woodstock, NB in 1887 at the age of 18 ─ already a serious student of natural history and a skilled artist. He documented the area's First Nation cultural knowledge as well as the Maliseet language. Although he went on to make significant contributions in other areas, he is most recognized, locally, for his work preserving the skill of building birchbark canoes.
►The cover illustration of a handsome birchbark canoe in a tranquil setting shown here is by Adney.
More information about Tappan Adney and the Heritage of the St John River Valley as well as other Tappan Adney books can be found at Chapel Street Editions or on Amazon.
New Brunswick is Canada's only officially bilingual province.
Not an easy time for First Nations either
Heading downriver toward Perth-Andover, we come to the Tobique Reserve established in 1802. With a population of approximately 2500 it is the largest of the Wolastoqiyik and Maliseet Nations’ reserves in NB.
In the late 19th century, the provincial government opened a large portion of the Tobique Reserve for settlement by non-Aboriginal peoples but neglected to institute an Order in Council which made the initiative little more than an illegal land grab. Altogether, more than 10,000 acres were lost in the 1892 surrender, nearly two-thirds of the Reserve. The claim was finally settled by the federal government in 2016 for $39 million.
Additionally, the Tobique First Nation and the New Brunswick Power Corporation have a long history of confrontation over uses of the land and waters bordering the Reserve. Issues have focused primarily on the hydro dam at Tobique Narrows on Route 105. There have been protests and road blocks.
Graydon Nicholas, born on the Tobique, served as Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick from 2009 to 2014, the first Aboriginal so honoured.
Ever heard of Larlee?
Perth-Andover is just a little further down the 105 and it is rich in history too. The amalgamated town spans the river. Perth on the east shore is named for the Scottish city while Andover on the west takes its name from an English town.
Originally, much of Perth (then called Larlee, the family name of its first settlers in 1788) was in the territory of the Tobique First Nation as was much of Andover where most land grants went to English soldiers and Loyalists after the American rebellion was settled in 1783.
The annual Larlee Creek Hullabaloo reminds us of the town's history while the Gathering of the Scots reminds us of the founders’ traditions.
Take the self-guided Cultural Walkway Tour for a glimpse into the area’s Maliseet, English and Scottish heritage. (Start at the Village Office on West Riverside Drive in Andover.) Include the seasonal Southern Victoria Historical Museum to explore more of the history of this quaint amalgamated village of 1700 residents.
Not far from the village, at Tomlinson Lake, an occasional autumn re-creation and hiking event traces the footsteps of the many African-American slaves who sought freedom in Canada via the so-called Underground Railroad which had a terminus near the lake in the mid-1800s.
Incidentally, slavery was never legal in New Brunswick but neither was it prohibited; early newspapers carried advertisements for slave sales and notices of runaway slaves.
Do the loop but watch out for gnomes
Continuing on the 105, you enter Carleton County, formed in 1831. As you progress southward, consider branching off onto Route 565 at Upper Kent and driving the hilly Johnville Loop which is especially spectacular in autumn.
The area was settled in the 1860s as a planned Irish Catholic community and is the home of a huge August “picnic” — said to be the longest-running community supper in the province — at the imposing Johnville church.
A little further along, keep an eye out for the Brennan family’s woodpath (home to gnomes and fairies) and labyrinth. Finishing the loop, you re-join the 105 at the village of Bath where the Meeting House (1904) presents weekly concerts every summer along with art in its well-curated gallery where it occasionally hosts artists-in-residence as well.
Charles Connell, Postmaster General of New Brunswick, caused a scandal by using his own image on a stamp (rather than the Queen's) in 1860. These rare stamps are valued at more than $10,000 today.
In fact, Connell left a timeless legacy by legally, albeit controversially, selecting non-traditional images for the colony's stamps as the locomotive and portrait of the Prince of Wales (at far right in the image) demonstrate.
►Visit Connell House Museum in Woodstock for more information.
Bridge and rail connections
The next major town is Florenceville-Bristol, population 1600, and home of the international conglomerate, McCain Foods. Of particular heritage interest is the Shogomoc Railway Site (pictured above) which includes a visitor centre and a restored 1914 station house. It is believed that one of the cars on the track beside it formed part of the Royal Train during King George VI and Queen Elizabeth’s Royal Tour of Canada in 1939.
There are several interesting heritage buildings further south along Main Street and then, after a bit, one finds oneself on the south side of the amalgamated town with a notable partially covered bridge — the Old Florenceville Bridge, built 1885.
And speaking of covered bridges, the one further south at Hartland, built 1921, is the world’s longest and probably the most fun to drive across. Adjacent to the bridge, the Dr Walter Chestnut Library and Craig Gallery, formerly the Hartland post office, was built in 1912 and worth a visit while you're in town.
Here’s the first of many New York connections that you will notice in the region. Founding father William Orser, a Loyalist from Sleepy Hollow, settled at the mouth of the Becaquimac Stream at Hartland in 1790.
A military post was established the following year on the opposite side of the St John River, a little further north at the mouth of the Little Presqu’ile Stream.
During the late 1790s other settlers from the Fredericton area and the lower part of the St John Valley migrated to the area and development gained further momentum in the early 1800s.
New Brunswick’s first town
For a town of its size, Woodstock, with 5300 residents, boasts what is quite possibly the ultimate collection of Victorian architecture in the Maritimes with 50 listed properties.
Of those, the most notable is surely Connell House Museum (1839) which can be visited all year. Of particular interest here is an exhibit and resource centre for the work of Tappan Adney. An Ohio-born graduate of the Art Students League of New York, Adney is credited with saving the art of birchbark canoe fabrication when, in 1887, he became interested in Maliseet culture.
Promoted as New Brunswick’s first town, the disbanded British troops of a New York area battalion were the real initiators of Woodstock's development following American independence in 1783. (It was originally named Creek Village and the so named downtown gallery and café commemorate this.)
Woodstock is also known for the curious case of Benny Swimm, an area man convicted — and twice hanged — for the 1922 slaying of his former mistress and her husband. According to the attending physician at the first hanging, the convicted murderer’s "neck had not been broken... I advised the sheriff that the only thing to do was to hang him over again."
Sometimes overlooked, Upper Woodstock (originally to have been the county seat) has a good collection of historically significant buildings including the impressively restored Old Carleton County Courthouse (1852, photo above). This was the neo-classical venue for a theatrical re-telling of the Swimm case a few years ago.
Further along, Lower Woodstock is home to another First Nations Reserve and the Maliseet Trail, the starting point for an historic 200km transportation route that includes the beautiful (and accessible) Hay’s Falls about 20km from town. The Maliseet First Nation's "capital" was Fort Medoctec which also served as fur trading centre, not far from present-day Meductic.
Linking the St John River system with that of the St Croix and the Penobscot further south, the Maliseet Trail was an important early highway long before the arrival of colonists. In fact, some say that the trail provides the earliest evidence of homo sapiens in Eastern North America. Certainly, most would agree that the waterway and portage route is a cornerstone of the Maliseet people's rich history.
We locals have always loved to explore.
Drive the 105 for a totally authentic heritage experience.
We’ll be expecting you!