Some Old Ledger Leaves. Memories of St John as it was in Former Days.

Titre de l'article
Some Old Ledger Leaves. Memories of St John as it was in Former Days.
Type d'article
Contenu de l'article
SOME OLD LEDGER LEAVES. MEMORIES OF ST. JOHN AS IT WAS IN FORMER DAYS. Recollection of an Old Timer ln Respect to the Early Days of the City—How Some of the Well Known Sites of Today Were Occupied. In the year 1861 a series of contributions to the local history of St. John appeared in the Morning News, over the signature of “Old Times." These purported to be, and actually were, transcripts of manuscript which had been written for convenience sake on the blank leaves of an old ledger. This ledger was the property of the Bustin family, but, so far as THE FREEMAN understands, it was not quite clear by which of the Bustins these leaves were filled up, though it is well known that the late James Bustin wrote another manuscript giving his recollections of his early years, which was quite distinct from the story of the ledger leaves. In reading these one is struck with the fact that, while they were “old times” to the readers in 1861, the latter year itself is now old times to the great majority of the citizens of today. Some notations are therefore necessary to make clear to the readers of The Freeman what were matters of common knowledge to the readers of the Morning News at the time these recollections appeared. Otherwise the extracts are given as originally written, this reprint not being from the files of the News, but from manuscript. The account says: The impression on the minds of many of the Loyalists, after their arrival and a brief inspection of what is now the city of St. John, was that the Lower Cove would be the best part of it for business purposes, and many of their number selected lots in that locality, among whom were Dr. Smith, father of Thomas M. Smith, John Clarke, who for so many years of his subsequent life officiated as clerk in old Trinity, (I can now almost see the cloth cloak hanging over the sides of the little reading desk) made his home in that part of the city and resided there till the day of his death. General Arnold, of Great American notoriety, erected a very large store near the south-east corner of Charlotte and Britain streets, and for a short period transacted a large business. The store was filled with a valuable stock of goods, and it, with all its contents, was destroyed by fire. It was said to be well insured. The General was not appreciated by the Loyalists. They could not approve of the course he had pursued during the war. The result was emigration to England. His wife was styled the Fair American, being considered even by the ladies one of the most beautiful women in America. General Arnold also built the house which now stands on the corner of King and Cross street opposite Henderick’s corner, occupied by the Messrs. A. & T. Gilmour and others.* The late Stephen Humbert, Esq., also erected a house in the Lower Cove, but finding that the business was destined to centre in the Upper Cove, and that the Market slip was the grand centre, he removed the building and placed it on the lot in Prince William street, a part of which was (recently) purchased by Messrs. Ennis & Gardner.° In 1795 that house was burned. In the excitement of the moment the babe, who, a short time previous to the discovery of the fire, had been put to sleep in "the cradle, was for a few moments forgotten ; and such was the rapid progress of the flames that, had it not been for the determined courage of the late Mr. Christopher Smiler, father of the late proprietor of the Temperance Telegraph, who, at a great personal risk, found his way to the room where the child lay asleep and brought him out in safety, it is highly probable we of the present day should not have the pleasure of the acquaintance of John. Humbert, Esq. The lot subsequently passed into the hands of the grandfather of the present Samuel Gardner.+ Mr. Smiler was a man of short stature, but the strongest of his size that this province had ever produced. I have heard of great feats of strength having been performed by some of the old settlers, but none that could sur- pass his. He once carried on his shoulders from the Market slip up King square, past the gaol and so on to his residence near the Back Shore, a bundle of hay weighing a quarter of a ton. Between the years 1795 and 1821 a number of fires occurred within the city, but with the exception of one at York Point (when the Drury Lane Theatre with a number of other buildings was destroyed), there were seldom more than one or two houses burnt at one time. Drury Lane theatre stood on the corner of Drury lane and Union street, and was a place of fashionable resort in olden times. The performances were generally by members of the garrison, in which several of the leading persons in the community in those days took part. The first fire to which in my own memory reverts was that of Younghusband house in the corner of Germain and Britain street, Lower Cove. The adjoining premises occupied by Mr. Sancton (father of the two cashiers) and separated from the other by an alley of less than five feet in width, was saved. At the present day with all our facilities for extinguishing fires, such an achievement would be something to talk about. On the 16th of January, 1819, about midday, the old poor house, which stood on the corner now owned by R. F. Hazen, Esq.,* was destroyed. This building was originally a wind-mill, and the first mill erected after the landing of the Loyalists It was erected by what is now called a joint stock company, and stood in a high ledge of rock, which extends from the rear of Trinity Church to the old burying ground. As grist mills driven by water power were soon after erected in the neighborhood of the city, one of which was situated at what is now called the Marsh Bridge and owned at one period by Bartlett, father of one of the popular conductors of our railroad, the wind-mill gradually fell into disuse, and was eventually converted into a Refuge for the destitute, and used as such until the period of its destruction. In order to render the poor house as self-sustaining as possible, it was the practice in those days to find some light employment for such of the inmates as were able to work. Picking oakum was one of the principal sources of employment. Several of the inmates were engaged at the work when by accident some of the oakum fell against an overheated stove and ignited, and such was the inflammable nature of the material, and the fearful rapidity with which the flame spread through the premises, that a number of the poor and decrepit inmates were only saved by the imminent risk of the lives of their rescuers. One poor man, whose leg had been amputated a day or two previously, and who occupied a room in the upper part of the house, must have perished in the flames but for the determined heroism of William G. Melick of King street, and one or two others with equally courageous hearts, and who had actually to pass through the fire in one story in order to successfully accomplish what they had resolved to do. Rescued and rescuers have long since passed away. A year or two after this, the valuable property owned by the late Mr. Cudlip, father of J. W. Cudlip, was destroyed; it stood on the ground now owned by Francis Ferguson, Esq., opposite the Custom House.+ The next in order was the first of those great conflagrations with which our city has ever been visited since its foundation, excepting that of which I have already given you an account, which took place 1784. That of which I am about to write took place in the spring of 1824. It commenced in a small cooper's shop about half way down Merrit’s Wharf, and the building was so small and frail that, as I had frequently heard it said, two stout men, had they possessed the thought to have done so, could have pitched the whole affair into the adjoining slip and thereby saved a large amount or property from destruction. This fire extended northwardly to Johnston’s Wharf, now the Ferry Landing, southwardly to Lovitt’s Slip, destroying every store and dwelling house on Disbrow’s and Merritt’s Wharves and on both sides of Water street between Princess street, or, as that locality was more commonly called, Johnston’s Steps, and Lovitt’s Slip, as before mentioned. From Water street it extended through to Prince William street, and consumed every building on the west side of said street, between the corner opposite the Commercial Bank and the premises on the corner of Duke street, which had been but a short time previous the residence of the late Governor Smyth and at a later period that of the late Zalmon Wheeler, Esq, and now owned by Mr. Finn. Some three or four buildings on the east side of Prince William street were also destroyed, upwards of forty large stores and dwelling houses with a number of outbuildings besides a large amount of other valuable property were consumed on this occasion. The first printing office established in this Province was at Hammond River near the new bridge recently erected by Mr. Tomlinson. It was started by Mr. Sowers, who came here a short time after the Loyalists as King’s Printer. As there was quite a settlement in that neighborhood, known as French Village, he judged that to be the place for him, but a short period convinced him that he had taken a wrong position (which is sometimes the case now) and he removed from there to the city, where he established himself with Mr. Ryan in a house on Prince William street nearly opposite the residence of George L. Lovitt, Esq.° Those premises were destroyed at that fire. Previously to 1842, Water street presented a very different appearance to what it has ever since that period. It then possessed a large number of very fine dwellings and some good boarding houses, at which the greater part of masters of ships visiting the port took up their quarters, one of which was kept for many years by Mrs. Arnold, a lady universally esteemed. Same of our best stores were to be found on that Street. With the solitary exception of the venerable; Stephen Wiggins, Esq., of the firm of : Wiggin & Son, there is not another person left who did business on that street. In what is now called j old times, and whilst fires have destroyed the buildings the hand of death has removed their former business occupants. I may here mention that L. H. DeVeber, Esq., is the only dry goods merchant now living in our community who did business in that community then. The only person now doing business on the property owned by father and grandfather is St. Stephen K. Foster. § * This will be remembered by old timers as the Bragg building. It stood on the corner now occupied by the Vassie Building and was a two story structure with double pitch roof. It was a famous building in its time and has a history of its own. It was destroyed before pm Feb 3, 18(??)- E.D. ° This was a little north of Church Street. – E. D. + Now Immigration Agent * This is now the site of the Hotel Dufferin into which the Hazen house was converted. + This is one of the lots which has not been built upon since the fire of 1877. It is that near the corner of Duke steet with the stone wall and iron gages remaining. The Ferguson house was the scene of fine, large hearted hospitability in its day- E.D. ° The present site of the Bank of Nova Scotia- E.D. § At the time Mr. Bustin wrote, Foster’s Corner was at the corner of King and Germain steets, now occupied by Fraser, Fraser & Co.