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D.W. Cameron
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Keswick Ridge, N.B., July, 1883. On Thursday, July 5th, left home to attend an annual meeting of the Congregational Union of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, to be held in the “Church of the Puritans,” at Milton, N.S., and proceed by rail from Fredericton to St. John. For quite a considerable distance the journey is monotonous, relieved by very little in the way of scenery. On the train are the “Knights of Pythias,” excursionists on their return from Bangor where they had been testing the hospitalities and courtesy of the Bangor Knights. Though in the main an orderly well-behaved lot, yet want of sleep, or probably Bangor water had disagreed with some of the brotherhood and given them a rather a delapidated appearance especially about the eyes. For a few miles above St. John until the city is reached the scenery is indescribably grand, varied to such an extent as to relive it entirely of even an approach to irksomeness. On my arrival at Fairville, I stopped off and went over to the Lunatic Asylum to visit one of my parishioners incarcerated there. The asylum is on the west side of the St. John River and just before entering (via Suspension Bridge) the young city of Portland, which though a separate city corporation, is really but a suburb of St. John. This institution is at present under the management of Dr. J. D. Steeves, of St. John. Since a former visit about fifteen years ago, the building has been enlarged and improved in a very material manner. The present building is 550 feet in length, besides three wings 100 feet each, making an entire length of 880 feet. Much of the building is 3 stories in height. Under Dr. Steeves management two extensions, in all 250 feet have been added. Between assistants, attendants, help, etc., there is a corps of about 37 altogether in the Asylum and there are just now 370 patients, some of them curable but the great majority incurable. There are 40 acers of land attached to the institution but nearly one half is covered by buildings or occupied for roads, railroads, etc. On the remainder, are grown all the vegetables used by the occupants except potatoes. About 2000 bushels are purchased each year besides what is grown on the premises. Ten cows are required to supply the inmates with milk, being one cow to forty grown persons. As a matter of economy for the province and also for sanitary reasons, the very efficient medical superintendent advocates having the commissioners sell the farm here and purchase say 1000 acers about 10 or more miles out from the city in Fredericton direction, where those who will be benefited by outdoor labor, and also incurables can also be sent, and where they can be maintained much more cheaply than in the Asylum proper. He would have it modelled as far as practicable after the “Dexter Farm,” near Providence, Rhode Island. Through the kindness of my old fellow collegian, Mr. Andrew McVey, the very efficient Superior, and also Dr. Steeves, I had an opportunity of inspecting all the departments and to admire the workings of this so excellently managed institution. I was much pleased with the feeling of kindness towards the patients which characterized Mr. McVey in all his communication with them, and the conduct of the patients towards him manifested in the most unmistakable manner that they were accustomed to uniform gentleness on his part. From intimate knowledge of him in the past and observation of his kindly bearing towards the patients, and efficient management of his department, I have no hesitation in affirming that the commissioners are singularly fortunate in having just such a man in this important position in this surprisingly well managed Asylum for the most terribly afflicted of God’s creatures. Mr.McVey kindly took charge of me, of course not professionally, but as a matter of courtesy, and a remembrance of by gone college days, and carried me over to St. John, where he resides, to partake of his hospitality. At the Asylum the river is crossed by a suspension bridge having a span of 640 feet, built in 1852. It is hung on ten cables; supported on four towers 53 feet high and contains 570 miles of wire. A railway suspension bridge is to be built here immediately. The St. John river which here empties into the harbor along with its branches furnishes 1300 miles of navigable waters, and drains 17,000,000 acres. Directly under the suspension bridge this immense accumulation of waters is forced through a narrow gorge 450 feet wide by about 400 feet in length. Eddying, twisting, foaming, headlong with irresistible force the waters pour. The fall is about 15 feet into the sea at low water, but at high tide the fall is as great the other way, and the river runs up stream with as great force as rapidly as it ran out before. Steamers, sailing vessels, rafts of lumber, etc., pass through this gorge at certain times of the tide. At low tide the bridge is 100 feet from the water. From here through Portland to St. John the drive is rather uninteresting as Portland, except in the sale and use of “fire water” and its concomitants, is rather a tame affair. St. John is the chief city of New Brunswick in point of wealth, population, and commercial importance. Its position is commanding. I knew a school teacher, now a merchant in P.E. Island, who was advised to lecture on Astronomy. After speaking about fifteen minutes he wound up by saying, “why it would take me two hours to tell you all that could be said on the subject of Astronomy, so I’ll now stop” so to give a description of St. John is beyond the limits of my letter. It is very much American but true to the “Union Jack,” or as true as there is any necessity for. Here, besides five Presbyterian Churches, there is one Congregationalist Church with an actual membership of about 100, ministered to by Rev. J. L. Beman, who occupies a place deep in the affections of the people of St. John of all denominations. Chief among the working members of the Church is James Woodrow Esq., Assistant Postmaster of St. John, and one of the very prominent members of our “Union.” This congregation in point of intelligence and in all things which characterize Congregationalists everywhere, are surpassed comparatively by no congregation in the city, though the Congregationalists residing there gradually drift towards the Presbyterian Churches on the principle probably that the larger body has greater absorbing power than the smaller. But notwithstanding, the cultured and able Congregationalists pastor is greatly appreciated by his discriminating congregation. On Friday morning, on the Steamer Empress we cross the Bay of Fundy and reach Digby in about five hours. The natural approach to the almost entirely enclosed sheet of water, Annapolis Basin, is somewhat remarkable. Steaming up this narrow passage – “Digby Gut” – and into the harbor we are soon cabled up to the wharf. The town of Digby is beautifully located on the hill overlooking the harbor. It has fine boating and bathing facilities. Digby Chickens, Finnan Haddies, and Cherries are the principle exports. A copper mine is being developed in the neighborhood. Leaving the Wharf at Digby we soon reach Anapolis, a stirring town of about 2,000 inhabitants. This is a shipbuilding and fishing town, as well as the centre of commerce for a large extent of territory. An immense business is done here in apples as this is the terminus of the framed “Anapolis Valley.” This town was the first European settlement in this part of North America. It was settled by the French in 1604, under the name of Port Royal. Here was the scene of many exciting events in the early history of the country. The fortifications still standing, and seemingly used as a cow pasture, show signs of the sieges to which it had been subjected in the long time ago. But here from this town to the Atlantic slope there is but one way of shortening the distance between ourselves and Milton, and that is by the oldest of old fashioned stage coaches. When we saw the vehicle which was to carry us over the road we bethought us of the remark of a quondam English fellow traveller concerning a similar carriage. Said he: “In England they would not use such a carriage to carry a criminal to the gallows in.” A St. John paper published the statement that a brindle cow ran into and partially telescoped the rear car of a moving train on the Annapolis Railroad. Whether true or not, in the case of the car, she could have done something like it in regard to our stage and not exerted herself very much either. Leaving here between 3 and 4 o’clock p.m., we reach Caledonia next morning at half-past one o’clock, a distance of 49 miles. In the little “one horse” country tavern our company, consisting of two (over six footers) clergy-men, besides one tall delegate and your correspondent, take quite a little while to get comfortably stowed away. Two of the company take the best room leaving the other two, including your humble servant, to take the other and poorest. As it happens, the two tallest take the front room, in which there is one bed, and one, compared with the tall mans length, rather short bed lounge. Soon a council of war is held to which we are summoned, and from the woe-begone aspect of the tall brethren, I conclude that something pretty bad either had happened or was about to happen. I was completely reassured and very much amused when I found out the trouble to be only this and nothing more than this, that the tall brother was too lengthy for short lounge, or the lounge too short for the tall brother. The discrepancy in length proved conclusively to my mind that either the good brother or lounge had been away from home when their respective measures for each other were taken. After some rather amusing bantering and a seeming disposition not to relieve the brethren from their awkward predicament, but to give one of them an opportunity of practically illustrating that text of Scripture, which reads, “For the bed is shorter than a man can stretch himself in it,” we relented and solved the difficulty by exchanging rooms, and on the same short couch sleeping as soundly and sweetly as the good conscience that I had done a most benevolent act would permit me. But, after three hours and a half of sleep, we were awakened to breakfast and to renew our stage ride. We reached Milton about noon. During our stage ride, we were impressed with the idea that whatever attractions, outside of cheerful company, this route presented are due entirely, not to the art of man, but to the hand of nature. In one place, we were 7 ½ miles from a dwelling of any sort. Twenty hours after leaving Annapolis we reached our destination. Milton, three miles from Liverpool, is one of the prettiest and most hospitable, and before the late depression, the wealthiest village in Nova Scotia. The Congregationalist church in its palm day was numbered among the expensive churches, and before its lofty spire was blown down one of the most beautiful gothic churches of finest finish in any village, in any land. This church formerly owed its existence and prosperity chiefly to the exertion of Hon. Freeman Tupper, whose relations and descendants are here and building upon the foundation which this eminently noble Christian man was instrumental in establishing. In every sense, Milton people are a noble people, and literally vied with each other in their endeavors to make the members of the Union and the delegates enjoy their visit. The present pastor of the Congregational Church is Rev. G.W. Johnston, late of Bangor Seminary, and whether or not in preparation for the Union we know not, but this we do know, that he certainly did what he could to provide another home for some of the delegates by taking to himself to wife the daughter of the Senior Deacon, W.H. Freeman, Esq., and occupying the cozy parsonage. He proves his good sense by his selection. I shall have my own opinion of the man whoever forgets the warm-hearted hospitality of Milton Congregationalists, and other kind friends as well, in this gem among villages.