Fifty Years Ago.
DEAR SIR:—It would be wrong to pass over, without special notice, that much cherished institution of Westmorland "General Muster" This was ostensibly a grand military display, but was in reality a great social gathering instituted by the people long beyond the memory of the writer. From the highest to the lowest in the land, all were its patrons.
Sackville was the centre and place of meeting. One of the long days of June or July would be looked forward to with pleasureable anticipations. “General muster is on the fifteenth," you would hear at every turn, and preparations would be rife. It was not only a day for military drill but a day of business for business men; a social reunion, a day of pleasure and relaxation for all. Mothers, yes, and grandmothers and grandfathers too, would contribute their smiles of approbation, and would not fail to be on the ground. The busy, jolly, innocent girls of the times would be all aglee, the holiday bonnets, and hats, and frocks, and ribbons must be put in holiday trim, their earnest prayers for a pleasant day were never forgotten; their cheerful happy faces beaming with anticipation served the swains for pleasurable emotions until the approach of another general muster day.
The man too had their work to do; their wives and their sweethearts must be provided with carriages or chaises, or waggons, or carts, or horses that will carry double, or some way of going must be provided, there could be no excuse. It sometimes taxed their ingenuity in many ways. If a bashful, aspiring youth should be driven to the last resort or taking his sweetheart on behind, his situation would be a trying one; she must put her arm around him or tumble off. You know we had no railroads in those days for relief in such cases. On the field it may be said the entire people were assembled; from the white haired veteran to the babe at the breast. Aged persons will call to mind the day with pleasurable emotions, and the gloom will pass from their grave and care-worn faces as they ponder over the thousands of pleasing scenes and innocent enjoyments the day afforded; many too, may feel sad that these days of joy and mirth are fled. The shrill file and mellow drum, the tramp, tramp of the militia, the bellowing of our dangerous little cannon, not safe at either end, the reunion of relation and friends, the life-giving fiddle, the dance on the green, the promenade, the joyous laugh &c., &, rendered the occasion one of profit to business men, or recreation to the weary, and of real enjoyment to the gay pleasure seekers.
The military spirit which seems to have retained its place in the breast of the people may be attributable to their being in the neighborhood of the old fort at Westmorland Point. Most of the people had grown up partakers in a greater or less degree in the martial training of the regular soldiers. The militia officers' personal acquaintance with those of the regular service would necessarily cause them to imbibe many of the notions of the old veterans, who had so recently seen war.
Whatever is the cause of our people retaining their fondness for military drill and field exercises beyond that of other parts of the Province, it is an undoubted fact that such was the case. The Honorable Senator Botsford at that time Lieut. Colonel commanding the 2nd Batt. of West, Militia, and Major David Chapman, his second in command, were gentlemen well up in military tactics, and fond of military display. The most difficult movements of field exercise were familiar to them. The influence of these gentlemen, with that of some of the older officers of the line, was perhaps the cause of our fondness for military drill so long after every thing of the kind had died out in other parts of the Province.
It must not be supposed that "General Muster'' day was not a respectable gathering of the people. It had the patronage of all classes and creeds. Especially were the most exemplary women approvers, and honored the occasion with their presence. I say women—far in these days of showy lady cooks, and lady waiting maids &c., one involuntarily falls back upon the time-honored, lovable name of women, that name by which moat of our mothers loved best to be called.
The stiff steel-cased ladies of these times may look better to some eyes, than the lithe, supple, free-stepping women that Omnipotence thought were finished when they came from his hands, but it must be an acquired taste. Our good queen Victoria thinks so.
But we are off the subject; some meddlesome law or something else, over which the people had no control put an end to general muster day in about the fifteenth year of her Majesty's reign. The day was no local affair. Amherst, Moncton and other towns were always represented. Even St. John and Halifax arranged to include the day if business or pleasure called them to Sackville about that time.
There are few persons who recollect the day, but can tell of some profitable investment, or amusing scene, or laughable anecdote, or picnicing event coming under their notion. Very many of the people of Sackville regret the loss of General muster day.
Sept 1887 X.X.