The Old Bathurst Post Office

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On February 20, 1989, the Old Bathurst Post Office in Bathurst, New Brunswick, Canada was designated a Provincial Historic Site and its history shares ties to the Confederation of Canada. The Old Bathurst Post Office is clearly the most significant historic building in the city of Bathurst. 2015 will mark the 130 year anniversary since this iconic building was strategically constructed where the Village and Station Bridges (today's Causeway) meet. For the next 130 years the Old Bathurst Post Office has stood the test of time and throughout time it has become the highly recognizable and iconic landmark of the City of Bathurst. The Romanesque Revival styled structure was commissioned by the federal government under Canada's first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald and designed by Thomas Fuller, the country's chief architect at the time (1881 - 1896). Thomas Fuller (B: March 8, 1823 - D: September, 1898) is one of Canada's most prolific architects and is famously known as the architect responsible for the design of our majestic Parliament Buildings (Library of Parliament & House of Parliament) in Ottawa. Other notable buildings designed by Fuller include the Royal Military College (Kingston, ON), Halifax Armoury (Halifax, NS), and New York State Capitol Building (Albany, New York, USA).

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The Golden Age of Canadian Architecture
The Old Bathurst Post Office is 1 of 81 unique and individually designed post offices constructed as part of a government initiative which was carried out in the early days of confederation and a period considered to be "the golden age of federal architecture in Canada" (1881 - 1896). Today, less than half of the federal post office buildings (34) have survived with 10 in Atlantic Canada and only 4 remaining in the Province of New Brunswick (Miramichi, St. Stephen, Sussex, & Bathurst). Today, these government buildings are most often utilized for their original intent (ie. post offices) but also as town halls, cultural/information centres, military barracks, and/or to house various municipal departments. The City of Bathurst is privileged to own a Thomas Fuller building with ties to our nation's early beginnings. 

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Construction Begins
The strategic property at the corner of Douglas Avenue and Main Street was first acquired from A.J.H. Stewart at a cost of $990. In November 1884, a construction contract was awarded to builder John Black from Hull, Quebec who supervised production. The building materials consist of red brick made locally by a Mr. Heffner and sandstone which was shipped from a quarry in Grand-Anse by way of a schooner. The masonry structure of 2.5 stories was built over a five year period and part of the costs were voted on and raised by the citizens of Bathurst (Pop. 4,800 at the time). In 1889, the cost of the 4-faced clock was $2,000 and the building and grounds were approximately $33,706. Notable architectural details include a mansard roof, Italian bracket and hipped roof, basement cut of solid stone, voussoir arched windows and doors, soffits decorated with serrations, circular and spiral staircases between the main floors, decorative sheet metal ceiling, 4-story tower, half-circle miniature tower, and capped with a 4-sided illuminated clock face.

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For most of its existence the building served as a Post Office and Customs House until 1959 when postal operations moved to a new building and the Department of National Defence purchased it to serve as an armoury for the 2nd Battalion Royal New Brunswick Regiment. The DND utilized the building for 35 years until a new armoury was constructed in 1994. A few years later on March 10, 1997, The Department of National Defence gifted this historic building to the city of Bathurst in exchange for the city’s commitment to preserve and restore the building’s heritage value. Jessica Ryan of the Bathurst Heritage Trust Commission Inc. was instrumental in helping make this initiative happen. The most recent tenant of the property was the Nepisiguit River Company.

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Proactive Preservation
In 1991, a Dutch/Canadian clock designer by the name of Wilhelmus "Bill" Bongers (1933 - 2012), originally from Hoorn, Netherlands, moved to the city of Bathurst. Mr. Bongers, who was often referred to as the "Clock Man", took on the daunting challenge of trying to make the old town clock operational again. Bill Bongers was successful in this restoration initiative and exactly 20 years ago (January 1, 1994), the 4-sided illuminated clock of the Old Bathurst Post Office began ticking once again. 

2013 - Current
In recent years, the City of Bathurst has struggled to find a tenant for this prime real-estate property and so it has unfortunately remained vacant. In December 2013, it was announced that a newly formed non-profit community radio station, Phantom FM 103.3 (Bathurst Radio Inc.) would become the new tenant of the Old Bathurst Post Office.

Their Names Live On

Every headstone tells a story in Halifax's historic cemeteries

Writer: Majorie Simmins      
Photography: Andrew Herygers
Publisher: Halifax Magazine (Metro Guide Publishing)

Writer Majorie Simmins investigates Halifax's historic cemeteries and takes an in-depth look at the 250-year-old Old Burying Ground on Barrington Street, a National Historic Site.

Excerpt: The Old Burying Ground has an exceptionally rich and diverse collection of carved art on the gravestones. These include death’s-head skulls (representing mortality and penance), winged heads (signifying ascension), plus bones and skeletons (indicating decay). There is also an astrologer’s potpourri of stars, suns and moons. In order, they represent divine guidance or creation, a soul rising to heaven and rebirth. Animals, flowers, trees, anchors, birds — many symbols with many meanings, not all agreed upon by scholars. Some carved visages have an unexpected folk-art quality. Others, such as recumbent skeletons or skulls and cross-bones, verge on ghoulish.

For more information about Metro Guide Publishing visit: http://metroguide.ca/

Lost & Found in Acadie

Author: Clive Doucet
Illustrator: Andrew Herygers
Publisher: Nimbus

Lost and Found in Acadie contains many threads of history, woven together to create a complex tapestry depicting the history of Acadia and the people that belong to it. Clive Doucet delivers a personal story, and the stories of many others, as he passes through the hundreds of years of Acadian history. The pillars of Acadian society are contrasted sharply with those upholding our society today, and the comparisons are both enlightening and saddening. We come to know the many ways of life that fall into the Acadian experience, and the many Acadians who followed those ways. Within this book, we rove from the initial settling of Acadia, on through the friendship developed with the Mi'kmaq, into the civil war that helped to tear Acadia apart, to the horrors of the deportation and the subsequent attempts to rebuild and relocate history, family, and truth amidst a shattered people.

Clive Doucet is an Ottawa politician and writer with Acadian roots in Cape Breton. For more information about Nimbus Publishing visit: https://www.nimbus.ca/

Tetagouche Falls - Nature Reclaimed

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Story and Photography: Andrew Herygers
Publisher: Saltscapes, Canada's East Coast Magazine

As kids growing up in Northeastern New Brunswick, we had an abundance of time to spend our summer days swimming and exploring Tetagouche Falls, located 10 km's outside Bathurst city limits in the community of South Tetagouche. Generations of the area’s people felt as we did about Tetagouche Falls, beginning with the Mi’kmaq, who first named the river “Tootoogoose.” According to local Mi’kmaq historian, storyteller, and folklorist Gilbert Sewell, “Tootoogoose” means “Squirrel Cliff,” or “Squirrel Jump.” The name refers to flying squirrels that leapt across the river gorge on outstretched pine branches.

At Tootoogoose, the Mi’kmaq wove baskets, sang, and told stories, sometimes about the “little people” or stone cave-dwellers who lived here long ago. It is said that these mysterious dwarves enjoyed playing tricks on the local settlers, and that their mischievousness could only be deterred with offerings. The Mi’kmaq also customarily offered tobacco to the river in exchange for provisions of food and medicinal plants, including indian turnip, sweet rag root, sweet grass, wild raisins, blueberries, cranberries, and fiddleheads. The river and its environs provided a bounty of wild game, such as trout, moose, and deer.

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The Tetagouche River, often referred to as one the purest rivers in New Brunswick, is fueled by a complex network of other rivers, brooks, streams, ponds, and lakes. Home to salmon and brown trout, the river bends and grows from among the Upper, Middle, and Lower Tetagouche Lakes for a distance of approximately 25 miles, eventually emptying into the north side of Bathurst Harbour.

The South Tetagouche Road (Route 180) makes for a memorable drive through a beautiful ascending countryside. The hidden sylph-like river gorge runs somewhat parallel to the road, emerging at times from behind the farm fields on the right. Large, weathered farmhouses and aged barns dot the countryside, offering a nostalgic glimpse into the lives of pioneer mining families who settled here from England, Ireland, and Scotland in the early 1800s. The families cleared land along the riverside, built houses, and planted crops in this landscape they named Patrick’s Landing.

The South Tetagouche Road plateaus near the falls. On the left, a small white church appears, then, after a strong bend in the road, the park sign. Inside the Tetagouche Falls park, follow the road that veers right to the look-off and picnic area, perched high above the falls and gorge. The fenced look-off point is sure to give you a new appreciation for the raw power of nature. Feel the roar of rushing water, mist, spray, and the trembling of the falls. From here, you have a clear view of the falls, hydro dam, and river. Far below the100-foot cliff side, you may hear the cheers of kids swimming in the cool waters, their voices echoing in the deep gorge. If experienced hikers feel so inclined, there’s a hiking trail that begins at the end of the parking lot. The trail, a short 10-minute walk, is the best way to enjoy the area’s wild scenery. The dense fragrance of the pines, the fresh air, and the rocky terrain will absorb you during the descent into the river gorge. Be sure to stay on the designated trail, as the surrounding cliff sides areas are rugged, and not always fenced off. It’s also a good idea to fill an empty container with cold Tetagouche spring water before the hike. When you find yourself at the river, follow the intensifying sounds of the falls upstream. At the pebbly beach, you will find yourself in the open amphitheatre of the spectacular cliffs surrounding the gorge. Piping and a large turbine, once active as part of Tetagouche’s hydro-electric dam, protrude out of the rock cliff, a reminder of the falls’ industrial past. From the pebbly beach, the falls themselves are still obscured behind a rock wall. Mist and spray splashes out from behind this cliff, where a naturally occurring ledge provides an open view of the falls. Another option for a clearer look is to take a swim.

Tetagouche Falls’ mining history began in the 1840s, when prospector William Stevens of Cornwall, England began exploring for minerals in the area. A manganite bearing quartz vein was spotted on the south bank of the river in 1842, and that same year the Gloucestor Mining Association shipped 125 tons of manganese ore out to England. This operation, which also saw some copper extracted, is possibly the earliest example of underground mining in New Brunswick. Mining activity continued at the falls until 1864, when the ore could no longer be mined at a profit and the workings were shut down. It was a decisive moment in Tetagouche’s history, as families chose between returning to their native countries, moving to other mining towns, or staying to adapt to farm life. Many chose the latter, and descendents of the original Smyth, Ward, Payne, and Macintosh families still reside in the South Tetagouche area.

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Throughout the 1900s, the Tetagouche River hosted spring log drives, and powered saw, grist, and carding mills. The Irish and British protestants living in Patrick’s Landing (today’s South Tetagouche) and the Irish Catholics in Kinsale (North Tetagouche) were friendly neighbours who overcame the natural obstacle of the river by constructing cedar log bridges to join their communities. The early Kinsale families of the day included the Powers (Power-Croft Apple Orchard) and the Calnans, who farmed potatoes, corn, various vegetables, and fruit.

In the early 1900s, Tetagouche Falls was targeted as a possible source of electricity by established Bathurst businessman John P. Leger. Leger, who had a dream of bringing electricity to Bathurst, figured that a dam at Tetagouche Falls could power the city of Bathurst for a good part of the year. In 1904, the incorporation of Bathurst Electric and Water Power Company Limited was formed by Act of Assembly leading to the early construction of a hydro-electric plant at Tetagouche Bridge. Even though many people discouraged Leger, he continued to follow his dream, finally acquiring the right to harness power at Tetagouche Falls in 1911. Leger used up nearly all his financial resources constructing the dam, and it was completed the next year. This high-risk gamble eventually paid off for Leger, and also helped accelerate the town of Bathurst into modern times. Tetagouche Falls’ hydro-electric dam was not only the first in New Brunswick, but possibly in all of the Maritimes. In 1919, the Bathurst Lumber Company amalgamated with the Bathurst Electric and Water Power Company, leading to the construction of a much larger dam at Grand Falls, on the Nepisiguit River. The Tetagouche Falls dam continued to power the city of Bathurst until 1921, when the newly completed Grand Falls dam took over the burden.

The dam’s remnants still stand high above the falls, as a reminder of its industrial history. However, over the years, erosion has withered away the vulnerable center portion of the dam, leaving only the side walls and piping. Signs of nature’s powers of reclamation are also evident at the mouth of the river. Here, in 1986, several thousand Bathurst aster (Aster subulatus obtusifolius) plants were re-discovered. These largely forgotten fresh and saltwater plants were originally discovered by ML Fernald and Emile F. Williams in 1902. In 1992, COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada) listed the Bathurst Aster as a species of “special concern,” because its riverside habitat is particularly sensitive to human disturbance. Currently, there are efforts underway to preserve the Bathurst aster, which is known to exist only on the Tetagouche and Middle rivers in Bathurst, New Brunswick. At Tetagouche Falls, nature is reclaiming its rightful place, for all to enjoy and reflect upon. One can only hope that it will remain pure for many more years of appreciation.

“The Tootoogoose Troll

Excerpted from Maude Smyth’s “Tetagouche Falls— A Little Known Natural Beauty Spot.”
An Outline of the History of Bathurst, by Gail MacMillan. The Tribune Press Ltd. Sackville, NB. 1984.

“A family named Smyth settled directly south of the Falls about three quarters of a mile from the river and they were the first to see a “little man” sitting atop a huge rock sunning himself. The rock was by the roadside and can still be seen. A pleasant little fellow he was by all accounts, about two or two and half feet high with an extra large head and shoulders. Whenever members of the Smyth family sighted him they always described him as smiling or leering at them near-sightedly. A favorite trick of this Rumpelstiltskin-type of person was to scare the horses of those travelling the road late at night. It seems that his appearance always spooked the horses and they’d take off at a mad gallop. This wasn’t too bad in the winter time as the sled ran smoothly, or when the traveler was on horseback but in a box cart it was a rather boneshaking ride. It was this horse-scaring trick that finally was the undoing of the little man. Apparently one night he fell beneath the horses’ hoofs. “His dying screams rent the air, the like was never heard” and he was never seen again. But tales of him were told around many a fireside for many a year.””

For more information about Saltscapes Magazine visit: http://www.saltscapes.com/