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.

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