A Life Devoted to Community and Its People

Marianne Grey Otty (1890-1963)

With the theme for this year’s provincial Heritage Week, Discover Our Storytellers , we thought to celebrate not the famous Father of Confederation, or a prominent Loyalist, or well-known politician, but a person whose enormous contributions to our community are becoming  less well known over time:  Marianne Grey Otty. 

Generally known as Molly Otty, she was described as a “great lady, valued friend, and an indomitable spirit.”  Her accomplishments go far beyond that, however: educator, journalist, historian and community leader.

Molly Otty was born 24 February 1890, the daughter of Norval Hallett Otty and Charlotte Frances Gilbert.  Little is known of Molly’s early years, but we know she and her older brother, Allen, attended the local grammar school, the family was active in St. Johns Anglican Church, and Charlotte Otty’s family connections through the Gilberts gave a sense of place and belonging to the Gagetown community. 

In 1907 she graduated from the Kingston Consolidated School as valedictorian and UNB scholarship winner.  Four years later she graduated with honours in English, French, natural science and biology.  Her 1911 Ivy Oration, now in the QC Heritage collection, and is a light hearted vision of the future, even including her prophecy for the year 2000 –a protected natural environment with forests stretching from sea to sea.  A year later, again on scholarship, she completed her Master of Arts from the University of Chicago.

Following graduation Miss Otty embarked on a teaching career serving as principal of the Gagetown Grammar School and of the West Bathurst Superior School.  For several years she worked at the local Bank of Nova Scotia, she was secretary of the Gagetown Women’s Institute for fifty years, served with the Queens County Fair executive, was secretary of the Gagetown office of the agriculture department, and wrote the history of the WI.  The list of additional community participation would fill the page!

Miss Otty was a member of the Canadian Women’s Press Club and her articles appeared in magazines in Canada, the US, and the UK.  “Her facility with language,” wrote Patricia Jenkins, “was enhanced by her nimble wit, her penetrating insight, and her thorough-going interest in every phase of life.”  Perhaps her greatest legacy was as a correspondent for over fifty years with the Daily Telegraph and Telegraph Journal covering everything from “murders to Sunday School events, and from horse races to County Council sessions.”

In December 1957 Miss Otty was honoured with a surprise celebration organized by the Women’s Institute to assist her in traveling to Europe, long a dream of hers.  “More than 200 persons crowded into Soldier’s Memorial Hall,” stated the newspaper, “to see tangible tribute to a woman who has given the greater part of her life to the betterment of the district and its people.”  In France, for the first time, she visited the grave of her beloved brother, Allen, killed in action October 1917. 

Further accolades poured forth at the time of her surprise death in July 1963.  The evening before her death she had attended a “happy community event, in her usual health” and was returned home by friends.  She died peacefully in her sleep that night.  She was discovered three days later when neighbours grew concerned that milk deliveries for three days were left on the doorstep. 

A memorial service at St. Johns Church was filled to capacity and a large overflow of guests stood on the church grounds to listen to the service over a public address system.  Reverend Basil Buckland conducted the service and remarked that “the best memorial is to carry on her work.”  Patricia Jenkins observed, “We shall remember her, and we shall miss her wit, her wisdom, her services to the community, her writing, but most of all, we shall miss her genuine every day kindness, and her smile.”

Indeed her work did continue.  In the 1950s Miss Otty had campaigned for the restoration of the Tilley House as a county museum.  While she died a few short years before its opening, the Tilley House remains the flagship museum of a heritage network that now includes three other heritage sites in two Queens County communities.  Her collections of photographs, documents, scrapbooks, letters and articles were bequeathed to the New Brunswick Museum and are a treasure of Queens County history.  Her dedication to education and youth continues in the Marianne Grey Otty scholarship awarded by the local Womens Institute to a deserving high school graduate each year.

In paying tribute in 1963, Patricia Jenkins said, “It is scarcely fair to try to pay a fitting tribute in a short space to Marianne Grey Otty whose ability ranged from being a crack rifle shot, to history, art, philosophy, government and the church.”  At QC Heritage, we agree.

For more information about Marianne Grey Otty, contact info@queenscountyheritage.com.

Posted in Did you know? | Leave a comment

The Princess and the Cape

In this period of official “days” of celebration for saint this and family that, we get excited about 6 April which is the internationally recognized Tartan Day.  We decided a few years ago to celebrate throughout the month of April. Why should we care? For Queens County Heritage it is pretty significant as the stewards of the tartan production by the Loomcrofters Studio. For everyone, it is an opportunity to celebrate that an easily recognized symbol of New Brunswick – the NB Tartan – was designed right here. Not only the NB Tartan was designed by the Loomcrofters, but the Royal Canadian Air Force Tartan, City of Fredericton, Town of Oromocto, the Lions Club, Fredericton Kinsmen, Highlands of Haliburton Ontario, Victoria County Ontario, Gagetown School and potentially more that we are discovering. And on top of all that, the Studio produced dozens of family tartans from other historical and contemporary designs.

The Princess Anne Cape, Parlor of Roseneath, Patricia Jenkins and Helena (Biddescombe) Johnson, 1973

The Princess Anne Cape, Parlor of Roseneath, Patricia Jenkins and Helena (Biddescombe) Johnson, 1973

Centuries ago tartans were used as symbols of loyalty to a particular family or clan. Some of the earliest tartan-like materials date to ancient Europe and even China. Tartans in the modern sense were revived by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert after the purchase of land in Scotland in the 1840s and the construction of Balmoral Castle. Drawn to the romanticism of all things Scottish in the mid-19th century, the royal couple popularized the wearing of tartan after it had fallen into disrepute following the defeat of Scottish Bonnie Prince Charlie in the mid-18th century.

Tartan fabric is made up of a series of threads and multiple colours intersecting at right angles across the material. Larger blocks of colour in one direction often overlap threads and colours going in the opposite direction to create variations. While the official patterns have a particular thread count and colour palette, it is also fun to increase or reduce the number of threads to fit a specific weaving project. Colour is more particular and the official palette is always sought, but can be varied as well depending on what is available. Opportunities for custom and unique products is thus almost limitless.

The Loomcrofters were famous for using tartan in the creation of official gifts presented to visiting members of the Royal Family by the province of New Brunswick and others. The first such gift were two finely woven motor rugs in the RCAF Tartan given to then Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh in 1951. In 1967 a City of Fredericton Tartan shawl in mohair and metallic threads was presented to Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. Reproductions (we think they were also spares) were made and displayed in the Loomcrofters Studio for many years and are now part of the QC Heritage collection.

HRH The Princess Anne, Royal Winter Fair, Toronto, November 1974

HRH The Princess Anne, Royal Winter Fair, Toronto, November 1974

Then in 1973 a cape was made for Princess Anne in the colours of the 8th Canadian Hussars (Princess Louise’s). The 8th Hussars was created in 1848 and since that time has undergone a few redesignations. The name also derives from the regiment’s patron, HRH Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll; Queen Victoria’s daughter and wife of Canadian Governor General in the 1870s and 1880s. Anne, Princess Royal is the current Colonel-in-Chief. And so it was that in 1973, prior to the Princess’s marriage to Captain Mark Phillips, the Loomcrofters were commissioned to make an article of clothing as a gift.  Only photographs and cuttings remain of the actual cape. For some reason an official repro, like the other royal gifts, was not produced. In the colours of navy blue, red and gold the resulting material resembles a tartan with its blocks of colour and geometric lines. It is also trimmed with vibrant red clasps.

The cape has been worn by the Princess Royal at least twice that we know of. Once, at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto in November 1974. Known for her thrift when it comes to her clothing, the Princess wore the cape again over 40 years later in May 2017 for the 70th birthday celebrations of King Harold of Norway.

HRH The Princess Royal and Earl of Wessex attend 70th Birthday Celebrations for King Harold of Norway, 2017

HRH The Princess Royal (wearing 8th Hussars Cape) and Earl of Wessex attend 70th Birthday Celebrations for King Harold of Norway, 2017

Now, we at Queens County Heritage aren’t much on ghosts or conspiracy theories. Ghosts are fun for the fall walk but to date we haven’t met one at any of our sites. As for conspiracies, we haven’t found many of those historically either. That said, isn’t it interesting that since we acquired the Loomcrofters Studio, completed the restoration and reopened, two of the royal gifts have resurfaced in two very prominent ways? Firstly, the Queen was photographed for the cover of Vanity Fair in 2016 seated on the RCAF Tartan. Then, last spring the Princess Royal wore the cape in Norway. Are these subtle replies to our queries to the Palace regarding the fate of the royal gifts? Does HM follow our Facebook and Blog pages?

For more information about tartans or the Princess Anne cape, contact info@queenscountyheritage.com

Posted in Did you know?, Remember when? | Leave a comment

New Brunswick Looms a Tartan

Did you know that 2019 marks the Diamond Anniversary of the New Brunswick Tartan? What began as a special gift from the Royal New Brunswick Regiment to their honourary colonel, Max Aitken Lord Beaverbrook in October 1958, blossomed in 1959 into one of the most recognizable symbols of New Brunswick identity. And all thanks to Patricia Jenkins and the Loomcrofters.

Patricia Jenkins with the New Brunswick Tartan, 1960

Patricia Jenkins with the New Brunswick Tartan, 1960

The following is a transcription of a June 1960 article in the Ottawa Citizen in which Miss Jenkins describes the origins and design of the tartan.  The feature Ottawa Citizen magazine article appeared 11 June 1960. The cover photograph features Sharon McQueen, 14, a Saint John band piper dressed in the new tartan. Main article photograph features Patricia Jenkins holding a New Brunswick Tartan motor rug (see 2014.10.4) seated inside the Loomcrofters Studio.

Transcription: A comparative handful of energetic New Brunswick women, most of whom are housewives, are spearheading a revival of the once-flourishing hand-loom weaving industry in New Brunswick. Sparking the drive is Patrica Jenkins, of Gagetown, a talented, pleasant-mannered woman whose recent design of a gay new tartan has given the revival its impetus.

The idea for the tartan came to Miss Jenkins while she was returning by boat from Grand Manan Island off the New Brunswick coast. As director of The Loomcrofters, a hand-loom weaving organization at Gagetown, she had been commissioned by the Royal New Brunswick Regiment to weave a motor robe for presentation to the regiment’s honorary colonel, Lord Beaverbrook.

Sharon McQueen, 14, a Saint John band piper dressed in the new tartan

Sharon McQueen, 14, a Saint John band piper dressed in the new tartan

“The problem was to get the idea out of my head an into cloth,” explained Miss Jenkins. She wrestled with the problem and had soon designed a tartan with symbolic significance. The larger block of the design was forest green, for the province’s vast timberlands. A lighter green stood for the meadows. There was blue for the rivers, lakes and the sea, and gold for the province’s potential wealth. A rich red contained the color of the coat-of-arms and stood for loyalty to crown and country as well as for the proud record of New Brunswick regiments. Beaver brown was included to express appreciation to New Brunswick’s eminent benefactor, Lord Beaverbrook.

When The Loomcrofters turned out the finished robe in this design the effort won wide acclaim. It was presented to Lord Beaverbrook in 1958 and he was highly pleased with it. Premier Hugh John Flemming liked the design so well he announced that the New Brunswick government would adapt it as its official tartan. And, from Scotland, came the word that the Court of the Lord Lyon, which rules on matters of Scottish heraldry, had officially approved it.

For The Loomcrofters, composed of 35 to 40 women, most of whom do the weaving in their own homes, this was not their first big achievement. They were the originators of the Royal Canadian Air Force tartan.

“I’m chiefly interested in having the tartan products produced in this province rather than have the work done outside,” said Miss Jenkins.

One of the big producers is a plant in Moncton, run by John Collie, of Scots descent. Most of the others are in the Gagetown area. Products include scarves, stoles, car rugs, blankets, tams, skirts, purses and shopping bags.

Credits:  Robinson, Cyril, Weekend Staff Writer. New Brunswick Looms a Tartan, Ottawa Citizen: Weekend Magazine, 11 June 1960, Volume 10 Number 25. Photographs by Bert Beaver.

Posted in Did you know?, Remember when? | Leave a comment

Was known along river since turn of the century

11 December marks the anniversary of the 1957 death of one of the most interesting residents of the Gagetown community:  LeBaron (Barry) Hector.  The following is extracted from Marianne Grey Otty’s obituary; for the full article, contact us at info@queenscountyheritage.com.

Miss Otty wrote:

One of the few remaining links with the early days of Gagetown was broken with the passing of LeBaron Hector.  He passed away after a month’s illness in the home he had built on land which had belonged to his forebears who came to Gagetown when Loyalist families settled here in 1784.  Born March 20, 1873, he was brought up by his grandfather, Andrew Hector, and an aunt Miss Ada Hector.  From the time he was a small boy until his last illness, he set a tradition of hard work seldom equalled.

After a boyhood of home chores, he went to work before he was 13 years old for Dr. HB Hay of Chipman at $5 a month.  Grown older, he worked on the farm of George and Caleb Fox, Lower Gagetown.  In those days, before the advent of freight trains and motor trucks, beef cattle were driven to Saint John on foot, with drovers to keep them moving on the road, by land or ice.  “Barry” Hector, agile and fleet-footed, was one of the most skillful drovers along the river, and was sometimes pilot of a head of as many as 100 cattle collected in this area for the Saint John “slaughter house”.  Returning home, he would take breakfast in Saint John, and then, skating or on foot, would be back in Gagetown by supper time.

His first responsible job was to carry mail from Gagetown to White’s Cove, a duty carried out summer and winter for several years, on foot, by boat, or on horseback.

Barry understood horses.  It was his proud boast that he “could put a horse through a knothole” – and to see him at the ice races here in years gone by was to believe it.  He was something of an amateur veterinarian, and in the days before such officials were known in country places, his skill was often called upon.

For several years [he] drove the late Dr. JA Casswell on his rounds, shovelling snowbanks and clearing a track ahead of them across the river, so that some sufferer might get help in time.  Trained nurses were few then; and on one occasion, he assisted Dr. Casswell in amputating the leg of a man weakened by gangrene.

The familiar Hector House on Front Street, Gagetown

The familiar Hector House on Front Street, Gagetown

Included in his lifetime of work, he lit the first street lights in Gagetown, – oil burning lanterns at the street corners. Before the days of electrical refrigeration, he cut ice for half the people of Gagetown, hauling the big blocks by sled to their icehouses, to be bedded down in sawdust for summer use.  From the time the Gagetown Fire Brigade was established back in 1912, he was one of its most active members, no ladder being too high, or tricky spot too difficult.  He worked as deck hand on the river steamers, the “May Queen”, “David Weston” and others, in the days when these craft were the main means of transportation.

When spring freshets brought the shad up river, Barry was there to “drift for shad” by night, harvesting quantities of the fish for home use and for sale.  No home then was without its barrel of salt shad.  He thought nothing of rowing up river as far as Grimross Island and back again in a night to gather shad while they were running.

For ten years, until 1935, he was the first man in charge of the Cable Ferry, placed at the lighthouse below Gagetown.  For several years after that he was employed in Saint John as a gardener.  Returning to Gagetown, he became sexton of St. John’s Church, faithfully performing the many duties connected with the care of the building and churchyard.

But life was not all hard work for Barry.  He always made the most of what he had.  He won for himself a comfortable, well-furnished home, and built up one of the best producing apple orchards in the community.  Horse races were his favourite diversion, and he never missed a meeting of the local driving club.  For years he was known as one of the best skaters on the river.  Equipped with his “long reachers” he thought nothing of a trip to Saint John and back.

He married pretty Jessie Haines of Elm Hill in 1898.  They had five children:  George Hector, radio and television entertainer with the Maritime Farmers’ Orchestra; Miss Eva Hector, Norwalk, Conn.; Mrs. Elma Bernard, Bangor, Me.; Mrs. Rhoda Gordon, Mashpee, Mass.; and Miss Phyllis Hector, at home.  There are also 19 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Dominion from Sea to Sea Began in Queens County

In 1817 Thomas Morgan Tilley married Susan Peters and they moved into a small house on Front Street, Gagetown. Thomas, a storekeeper and carpenter, immediately began expanding the house, finishing a large addition just in time to welcome the birth of his first child, Samuel Leonard Tilley who was born 8 May 1818 in a small bedroom off the main parlour.

Samuel Leonard Tilley and his sister Elizabeth, c. 1830

Thomas MacDonald (1784/5-1862), painting reproduction: Samuel Leonard Tilley and his sister Elizabeth, c. 1830, watercolour on paper, original in the collection of the New Brunswick Museum

At the age of 13, Samuel Leonard Tilley left Gagetown to apprentice as a pharmacist in Saint John. He eventually went into business with one of his cousins, Thomas Peters and the firm of Peters & Tilley advertised themselves as the “Cheap Drug Store”.  Tilley married Julia Ann Hanford of Portland, Saint John, 6 May 1843 and before Julia’s death in 1862, they had eight children.

In 1844 Tilley, inspired by his religious beliefs, had joined the committee of the Portland Total Abstinence Society, working for legislation that would enforce prohibition. The story is told of a brutal murder in the city and Tilley was in the vicinity as a small girl ran for help. The girl’s screams apparently haunted Tilley for the rest of his life since alcohol had been the cause of the murder. When the American Sons of Temperance organization established a chapter in New Brunswick, Tilley soon joined the cause.

attributed to Michael Anderson (1824-1853), painting: Samuel Leonard Tilley, 1840-1850 oil on canvas, gift of Judith Moreira, 2003 (2003.3)

attributed to Michael Anderson (1824-1853), painting: Samuel Leonard Tilley, 1840-1850 oil on canvas, gift of Judith Moreira, 2003 (2003.3) © 2019 All Rights Reserved Queens County Heritage

By 1850 SL Tilley was at the height of his business career and could have easily lived out his life a very contented individual. Early on, however, he exhibited a serious side and following in the footsteps of his Loyalist ancestors, he felt a duty to serve his fellow citizens and became engaged in a number of local activities including teaching Sunday School.

In the 1850s Tilley was moved through the Sons of Temperance to enter provincial politics. He was elected to the Provincial Assembly and he soon adapted himself to the political arena. Part of a new generation that dared question the traditional Loyalist view of strict obedience to higher political officers, Tilley agitated for democratic reforms that would bring more control over provincial affairs to New Brunswick and its elected representatives.

As the 1860s began SL Tilley was interested in the union of all the provinces of British North America. As Provincial Secretary, he envisioned railways crossing the provinces and tracking westward to the vast untapped resources of Quebec, Ontario and even further west. Wealth would flow eastward to New Brunswick and the major port of Saint John.

Tilley attended the Charlottetown, Quebec and London Conferences and even suggested the name of our new nation, the Dominion of Canada. As a reward for his support for Confederation, in 1867 he was given a Federal post in John A. Macdonald’s first cabinet. He later served two terms as Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick.

John Arthur Fraser for William Notman and Son, painting: Alice Starr Chipman Tilley, watercolour over a photograph, 1868, gift of Alice Tilley MacKeen, 1975 (1975.8.1)

John Arthur Fraser for William Notman and Son, painting: Alice Starr Chipman Tilley, watercolour over a photograph, 1868, gift of Alice Tilley MacKeen, 1975 (1975.8.1)

Whether it was the completion of an exhaustive process to which he had dedicated his entire being or the desire to share his success and remaining life with a partner, Samuel Leonard Tilley married Alice Chipman, the daughter of a close friend, 22 October 1867. Two more children followed.  In 1879, Tilley received the great honour of a knighthood from Queen Victoria.

In 1893 Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley retired from official political life to enjoy his remaining years in the company of Lady Alice, and his extensive family. Friends and enemies alike honoured his decades of service and respected him personally.

In June 1896, Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley cut his foot while at his new summer residence at Rothesay, just east of Saint John. At first the cut did not seem serious, however as the days progressed blood poisoning began to spread through his system and he died 25 June at the age of 78. Tilley was widely mourned as a family man and as a leader of New Brunswick, federal cabinet minister, twice Lieutenant Governor and Father of Confederation caused tributes to pour in from around the province, nation and from Europe.

photograph: Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley, c 1880

photograph: Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley, c 1880

Over the years Tilley was honoured with a biography published a year following his death, a monument in King Square, Saint John, a son who followed in his political footsteps, and most significantly for us, his birthplace opened as our county museum in 1967.

All in all, a life well lived for a little boy from Gagetown . . .

For more information contact info@queenscountyheritage.com or connect with us on Facebook.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Someone Before Us . . .

Since the beginning, Wolastoqiyik and Mi’kmaq have lived and worked in the area now known as Queens County.  While possessing distinct languages and cultures, the two nations share a common physical, intellectual, and spiritual bond with the land.  New Brunswick waters, lands and forests provided an abundance of food, materials and medicines. The vast network of waterways and familiar portage routes provided swift communication for much of the year, uniting aboriginal peoples and allowing contact with neighbouring nations on the North American coast.   Wolastoqiyik settled close to the river Wolastoq; Mi’kmaq along the tidal zones of the eastern shore of New Brunswick. The lakes and rivers at the heart of present-day Queens County created a natural transportation and cultural crossroads.

Wolastoqiyik and Mi’kmaq were expert artisans in woodworking, pottery, canoe building and tool making.  Skilled technologists produced the durable, practical and reliable products needed to maintain their active lifestyle. A strong storytelling tradition provided cultural continuity through the sharing of stories, songs, history, personal experiences and social commentary. By the 19th century, however, European settlement and changing technologies disrupted the traditional way of life for the aboriginal population of New Brunswick.

Wolastoqiyik and Mi’kmaq, from the time of their earliest ancestors, developed a way of life ideally suited to the environment of the Maritime region.  They knew their surroundings well and based their knowledge on lifelong observations.  They were always able to tap the most plentiful species of fish and game, grains and seeds, fruits and vegetables.

Pottery sherds

pottery sherds

Pottery shards, stone tools and implements recovered from the local area evoke an appreciation of day to day life.  Clay pots were used for cooking or for storing food and water.  Arrow and spearheads, axes and scrapers reveal a sophisticated and changing society.  Where the items are found suggest the location of camp or community sites.  Implements used to shape and refine other tools convey a highly skilled and inventive people.  Tools made from non-local stone indicate a vast trading and communication network.   And when people make by hand everything they use, the objects often have the qualities of works of art.

Some of the only decorative work surviving from ancient times is that found on pottery.  Pots made from local clay were enhanced with decoration applied with tools of wood, bone, antler or stone.  The decorating tool might be carved with little teeth or wrapped with cord, pressed into the wet clay, dragged across the surface, or rocked back and forth in a zigzag pattern.  Patterns created changed over time and can identify certain periods.  With European contact came the end of traditional ceramic technology as the fragile clay pots were replaced with more durable ones of metal.

First Nations cultures have long made objects that are practical, meaningful and aesthetically pleasing using a variety of complex techniques.  Each finely worked piece is testimony to knowledge that goes back thousands of years. Europeans brought new materials and new tools, and aboriginal peoples quickly adopted the ones they found useful and attractive. Many of the old skills and crafts survived, however, because they met people’s needs better than European techniques.  From these beautifully detailed objects, it is clear Wolastoqiyik and Mi’kmaq strove for excellence in workmanship and maintained an emotional and spiritual connection with what they made.

Quill work box, c. 1850

Mi’kmaq or Wolastoqiyik, quill work box, c. 1850

First Nations used many ingenious methods to make and decorate household items.  Common examples were curves, geometrical designs or pictures of animals that had special cultural significance for the person making or using them.  From these patterns and designs developed the double-curve motif, which is the most popular form used today.  Clothing was made by women from furs or tanned hides.  Needles could be made from bones with sinew used to sew skins and hides and spruce root for birch bark.  Birch bark was used in making all kinds of containers from cooking pots to plates to boxes and baskets, as well as in wigwam and canoe construction.  Birch bark might be painted or decorated with designs by scraping away the darker underside of the bark to expose the lighter bark underneath.  Weaving materials included reeds, cattails, quills and even moose hair.  First Nations people were weaving with plant fibres long before European contact, but the production of woven splint baskets may have been introduced by the new settlers.  Quill work, a painstaking task, was probably first developed by Mi’kmaq women about the time of European contact, and then later adopted by other aboriginal craftspeople to the west.

Queens County Heritage has a large collection of archaeological and historical objects ranging from stone tools to pottery sherds to basketry and quill work. The items provide insight into the history and life experiences of local First Nations, and demonstrate the creativity and vitality of those that came before us.  For more information on the collection of First Nations objects, visit the Someone Before Us exhibition at the Tilley House or contact us at info@queenscountyheritage.com.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

If these walls could talk

Even though the weather still feels like late summer, the spirits of Queens County are still lurking around. With the addition of the Loomcrofters Studio to the grounds of the Tilley House and the developing heritage hub at that end of Front Street, some ghosts connected to the buildings between the Tilley House and Court House are some of the most interesting characters.

Hotel Dingee advertisment

Hotel Dingee advertisment

While the birthplace of Father of Confederation Samuel Leonard Tilley carries his family name to this day, did you know that after the Tilleys sold the house, it was used as a hotel? About 1884 the Simpson family converted the Tilley House into a hotel and then ten years later, sold the property to farmer William Black Dingee, who operated the “Hotel Dingee” or “Dingee Hotel”. It was during the hotel period that the rather plain looking Tilley House was gussied up with the addition of the long front veranda, the front dormer windows and also the addition of a long wing at the back (now replaced with a modern ell) that held several hotel rooms. We wonder if hotelier William Dingee made an appearance, which name would he prefer. One can guess.

Michelle Daigle as Annie Blanche Babbit Bulyea in 2015

Michelle Daigle as Annie Blanche Babbit Bulyea in 2015

A glimpse has also been seen of Annie Blanche Babbit, a visitor from the West and the daughter of Robert Thorne Babbit, the long-time registrar of wills and deeds for Queens County in the late 19th century.  Mr. RT Babbit worked out of the one storey brick building on Front Street which was built in 1847.  Did you know that Sir Leonard Tilley isn’t the only Lieutenant Governor to come from Queens County? In 1885 Annie Blanche married George Hedley Vicars Bulyea, also from Gagetown, and the couple headed westward to what is now Saskatchewan. A teacher by profession, GHV Bulyea entered politics in the 1890s and as a reward for his work in creating the province of Alberta, he was appointed its first Lieutenant Governor in 1905. The Honourable Mrs. Bulyea has been seen out on a walk in search of her father, to whom she wishes to extend an invitation to her husband’s investiture.  Look for the big hat… and big personality!

Have you ever gotten up from a nap and then gotten lost? This happens to Loyalist Daniel Babbit all of the time. In the 1790s Babbit was a leading member in the Anglican Church and the wider community, working as a blacksmith and farmer and had a family of at least 22 children with two wives. Despite his standing as a fine Anglican convert, there is an interesting part to Daniel Babbit’s story. His grave and those of his wives are missing! While the church records are clear about his burial in 1830, no stone remains and no oral history of location. The story is told that when the original church was torn down in 1880 to make way for the present, larger structure, the builders weren’t that concerned about some of the older graves close to the walls of the old building. With the enlargement, it is supposed that the graves of Daniel Babbit and his wives were built upon! Mr. Babbit regularly appears along Front Street looking for his final resting place.  He’s been known to visit the Tilley House between 2 and 3 am!

Wouldn’t it be nice if your reputation was so impressive that your friends would get together to purchase a colossal tombstone in your honour? That’s what happened to Samuel Hewlett Gilbert. Gilbert was a prominent MLA and is responsible for the construction of the canal at the head of Gagetown Creek. He was also the Grand Master of the New Brunswick Orange Lodge and when he died in 1864, his loyal NB Orange companions erected a beautiful white tombstone in his honour.  When the Gagetown Grammar School moved into a new building in 1870 (the present day Legion), the little one roomed schoolhouse became the local Orange Lodge Hall.

Mary Kingsley Tibbets, first woman graduate of the University of New Brunswick, was the first female principal of the Gagetown Grammar School from 1890 until 1894

Mary Kingsley Tibbets, first woman graduate of the University of New Brunswick, was the first female principal of the Gagetown Grammar School from 1890 until 1894

Last but not least, did you know that the first school in New Brunswick to have a woman as principal was in Gagetown? Mary Kingsley Tibbets, born in Nova Scotia and the first woman graduate of the University of New Brunswick, was the first female principal of the Gagetown Grammar School (present day Legion) from 1890 until 1894. Miss Tibbets moved on to Boston and became head of the English Department of the Hyde Park High School. In 1939 she received an honourary doctorate on the 50th anniversary of her UNB graduation. Despite a very busy schedule as the school year gets underway, Miss Tibbets often visits the site of her first classroom experiences, the old Gagetown Grammar School.

For more information about the above ghosts and the building with which they are associated, contact us at info@queenscountyheritage.com.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Military Mystery and Wartime History

With the 100th anniversary of World War I being commemorated around the world, our ancestors with a military background sometimes their presence felt during the annual ghost walk.  Over the centuries the people of Queens County have been asked to make wartime sacrifices and they have always answered the call for crown and country.  In honour of all those who have served, fought, lost their lives or returned to tell their story, now and again soldiers and civilians, and their families, each of whom was intimately involved or had a brush with military conflict over the centuries, make a ghostly appearance in Queens County.

Some ghost stories are well known to us, others always need a little work.  But the research always turns up some interesting things that get our attention.

Bruce Thomson as the most pious, genial, useful, indulgent, affectionate, generous, gracious, fine, genteel, universally respected, intellectually superior, dignified and in death much regretted James Peters, Loyalist founder of the village of Gagetown greets visitors at the Tilley House in 2014

Bruce Thomson as the most pious, genial, useful, indulgent, affectionate, generous, gracious, fine, genteel, universally respected, intellectually superior, dignified and in death much regretted James Peters, Loyalist founder of the village of Gagetown greets visitors at the Tilley House in 2014

Did you know the first wife of the grandfather of one of Gagetown’s most prominent citizens ran away with a pirate?  That’s right.  The family of Loyalist James Peters largely ignored the story that the wife of his grandfather, Dr. Charles Peters, ran off with a pirate soon after they migrated to New York from England about 1700.  By 1702, the wife, Mary Kate, took up with the already married Giles Shelley, who was a close friend of Captain Kidd.  Shelley even provided for Mrs. Peters in his will, giving her 50 pounds per year “free from the control of her husband.”  The row eventually made it to court when Shelley’s scorned wife sued.  By 1710 Mary Kate had made a timely exit by dying, allowing her long suffering husband, Dr. Peters, to marry Mary Hewlett and found the branch of the family that descends to us.

Did you know that specialty motor boats and yachts were manufactured in Gagetown in the early 20th century?  Uh-huh, you bet.  Lieutenant Allen Otty, the older brother of Marianne Grey Otty, is well known to have written dozens of letters from the front during World War I and tragically lost his life at Passchendaele in 1917.  But before he went off to war in 1915, Allen Otty was a boat builder.  Photographs in the Otty Collection at the New Brunswick Museum show the interior and exterior of the boat shop – a large long building bordering present day Babbit Street, behind the Otty House.  Part of the shop remains as a private home.  The photos show Otty at work and others show completed boats: the Thistle, the Gladys, the Aloha.  A postcard, c. 1910, shows a team of horses pulling a large boat down to the wharf.  Undoubtedly this was one of Otty’s vessels as well.

Private Daniel Hayden, c. 1900

Private Daniel Hayden, c. 1900

Did you know that a Gagetown boy served in the South African War and World War I?  Daniel Stephen Hayden was born 25 December 1879, the son of Irishman Francis and Margaret Hayden.  Young Dan signed up to serve with the Canadian Dragoons during the Boer War with the rank of Private.  A photo in the QC Heritage collection shows a confident young soldier ready for adventure.  After his return from South Africa and the death of his father in 1904, Dan Hayden traveled west and was present in Edmonton the day Alberta became a province in 1905 – probably because his fellow Gagetowners, George Hedley Vicars Bulyea and his wife Annie Blanche Babbit, were the new Lieutenant-Governor and lady.  Hayden worked freight on the railroad and answered the call for duty once again during World War I, achieving the rank of Sergeant.  According to his 1916 attestation papers, he stood 5 feet 9 inches and had a clear complexion with hazel eyes and black hair.  Hayden survived the second conflict, married twice in the 1920s, had a family, was active in politics and community affairs in High Prairie, Alberta, and was a life-long member of the Royal Canadian Legion.  In 1960 he returned to Gagetown for a visit after an absence of 52 years, and died two years later in 1962.

Keep an eye out for these military ghosts.  For more information drop us a line at info@queenscountyheritage.com .

Posted in Remember when? | Leave a comment

Politics makes strange grave-fellows

Fall is usually prime election season.  Whether provincially or federally, supporting this party or that party, or watching the spectacle across the border every four years, politics always incites passion in Queens County.   Looking back over the past three centuries it is amazing to examine the names of those who have stood for Queens County:  from the “family compacts” of Peters, Johnstons and Gilberts to the intensity of the Moore and Jenkins campaigns to the more recent names of Blaney, Carr and Wetmore.  October is always ghost month in Queens County as well and now and again some interesting politicos make their appearance at our annual ghost walk and dessert theatre.


public contract: Gagetown Canal, 29 May 1840

While the ghost walk is always fun and entertaining, all of the stories are based in reality and are inspired by actual events.  In researching the stories and people we always find some interesting tidbits.  We are sure they were all upstanding members of the community and no scandal of note has come down to us, but some facts got our attention.

Take the Honourable Thomas Gilbert for example.  For decades in the mid-19th century he campaigned for a canal to cross Grimross Neck that would allow steamboats to come up Gagetown Creek to the wharf and then continue to the main channel of the river instead of back tracking and going around the island.  A canal would also shave about 4 miles off the trip between Saint John and Fredericton, saving precious minutes.  The canal was eventually built in the 1860s after Gilbert died and remains to this day.  But guess whose property had to be purchased by the province to construct the canal?  You guessed it…. the Gilberts.


Roseneath, c. 1940

Then take the case of the Johnston family.  Hugh Johnston Junior was born on Grimross Neck in 1790.  It is believed his parents were on their way to Fredericton when Hugh Junior made an unexpected appearance.  Years later, the Johnstons built a fine house in Gagetown called Roseneath, known to us the Loomcrofters house.  By this time, Hugh Junior was a prosperous businessman, serving in the legislature, but making his home in Saint John.  Hugh was married twice, first to the daughter of a provincial judge and York County MLA.  His second wife was Harriet Millidge, the daughter of a prominent Saint John politician for whom Millidgeville is named.  Harriet’s portrait is the fine oil in the gold frame that now graces the parlour in the Tilley House.  For Hugh and Harriet, caring for two large residences had its advantages:  fall, winters and springs in Saint John and summer excursions to the country.  There was an additional advantage as well, by owning upwards of 10,000 acres in Queens County, the Millidges could claim residency while Hugh Junior served as MLA for Queens even though their primary home was in Saint John.


April Wilson as the ghost of Margaret Lister Peters, wife of James Peters, 2013

Today these things raise a few eyebrows and such juicy political gossip is rarely kept behind the scenes.  In the 18th and 19th centuries it was not as difficult, especially when the people in power were related to one another.  Fathers, sons, cousins and through judicious marriages by daughters, sons-in-law, all served in the legislature and on various committees and councils making for a happy family of decision makers.  This is most evident with the James Peters family.  Peters (1746-1820) himself was an MLA for twenty-five years and his sons: Valentine was a Queens County judge, Charles a New Brunswick Attorney General, James Jr a prominent businessman in Saint John, Thomas Horsefield a prominent lawyer in Chatham and married to the daughter of Samuel Cunard of the shipping line fame, Harry a Queens County MLA for whom Petersville was named, Benjamin Lester became mayor of Saint John, William became clerk of the legislature and finally the eldest child and only daughter, Sarah, was married to Thomas Wetmore, a Saint John MLA and later Attorney General of New Brunswick.  A legislative council meeting must have felt like a Sunday family dinner.

All of the above ghosts have made their appearance over the years.  As you pass by St. Johns Anglican Churchyard, Gagetown, you might want to keep an eye out.

For more information contact us at info@queenscountyheritage.com.

Posted in Remember when? | Leave a comment

Antiques Identification and Appraisal Clinic Coming to Chipman

Ever wondered if that old thing in the closet is worth anything? What is that thing Grandma kept in the cupboard? Why did Grandpa give me this thing? How is this old object used? When was it made? Who used it? Queens County Heritage and friends in Chipman can help you out!

Antiques Identification Clinic

Antiques Identification Clinic

On Saturday, 6 June, 10am to 4 pm Queens County Heritage in partnership with the Village of Chipman will be hosting an Antiques Identification and Appraisal Clinic at the Heritage Center, Chipman. Bring along your treasures for an evaluation by experts.   Three items may be evaluated for a charge of $15.

The experts include museum curators and antiques collectors, dealers and auctioneers.

“There is so much curiosity out there for heritage objects,” says QC Heritage Executive Director, Susan Shalala. “What is it? How was it used? Who used it? This is an opportunity for the public to share in the excitement of discovery that we experience every day as we research museum objects.”

These “Antiques Roadshow” type events are not unusual these days says QC Heritage President, Bruce Thomson, “We’ve done this type of event several times before and we are always thrilled to see the amazing and unusual items that come through the day. It is quite an education for us.”

And the appraisals? Thomson smiles and says, “For museums the value isn’t monetary. It is the story of the object, how and where it was used, who used it and when, that is important.” But people like to know the value of their items, he adds, “So we’ve brought in experts who can give people an idea of their treasures’ worth.”

Very large items are discouraged and those that are in poor condition, however Shalala says almost anything else is acceptable. “In the past we’ve had everything from fine ceramics to artworks to jewellery to tools to furniture and everything in between.”

Participants can set up their treasures on tables, chat and peruse the other treasures while the experts make the rounds. “While you might not speak to an expert immediately, the three or four experts are on the constant move around the room so it usually isn’t too long before you speak to someone,” explains Thomson.   He and Shalala will be keeping things organized. “A tiny bit of patience is required, but it is so interesting and fun we encourage people to come and stay for a while.”

Lunch and snacks will be available so come along and spend the day… you never know what you’ll see next!

For more information contact Queens County Heritage at 488-2483, info@queenscountyheritage.com or follow us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/QCHeritage

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment