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.

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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

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Gifts Fit for a Queen

Province’s Royal Gift Completed After Long And Exacting Work

(News clipping found in an order book, Loomcrofters Studio Collection, 23 October 1951)

Two Handwoven Motor Rugs To Be Presented By Premier

By Marianne Grey Otty

RCAF Tartan detail from the replica motor rug, 1951-1952

RCAF Tartan detail from the replica motor rug, 1951-1952

Gagetown, Oct. 23 – (Special)- The glancing shuttle of history wove a golden thread into the traditions of this old Loyalist-founded village of Gagetown today. This was the day on which The Loomcrofters put their last stitch into a pair of motor rugs, handwoven for England’s future Queen, Princess Elizabeth and her Consort, the Duke of Edinburgh which will be presented by Premier J.B. McNair at Fredericton Nov. 6.

Only those who have done intricate weaving can realize the difficulties of the happy task accomplished by Miss Patricia Jenkins and Miss Muriel G. Laurence in producing the two perfectly matched replicas of the coat of arms of New Brunswick which adorn the plain azure lining of the two rugs.

The tops, of Royal Canadian Air Force tartan, originated by the Loomcrofters themselves have been done by Miss Enid Inch. To her the weaving of this beautiful combination of azure, cardinal, cream (crossed out and corrected to white) and dark blue, is an old story, for she has woven over 3000 yards of this particular tartan without an error.

Commission By Premier

It was the first week in September that The Loomcrofters were commissioned by Premier McNair to make the two handwoven rugs as New Brunswick’s gift to the Royal visitors. The suggestion as to what form New Brunswick’s gift would take is credited by the premier to Hon. D.L. MacLaren, lieutenant governor of the province.

The Loomcrofters began this thrilling piece of work on Sept. 5, and now it is finished and awaiting its honored destiny as a gift “fit for a Princess.”

First to be done were the azure blue linings of finest wool. To weave the provincial coat of arms into this background was an undertaking which called for the highest degree of skill, to have copied the crest in needlepoint on a plain woven background would have been difficult enough.

Coat of Arms Used

Design process with sample of RCAF tartan and coat of arms

Design process with sample of RCAF tartan and coat of arms

To ensure absolute accuracy, the provincial coat of arms, which is kept in the vaults of the Legislative Buildings in Fredericton, was placed in the hands of the Loomcrofters for their use. An enlarged photograph was made of this, with the Royal crown placed above the coat of arms. The photograph was then traced on thin paper, to give an outline of the whole in the required size, 20 inches in depth from the top of the crown to the lower tip of the shield.

From the tracing, (handwritten note: Miss L. did this.) an enlarged chart was made on squared paper, somewhat resembling the patterns used for doing needlepoint. Using this chart, the number of stitches of each color required to produce in hand weaving a correct reproduction of New Brunswick’s Coat of Arms was worked out. A trial copy this was then woven in a width of azure blue wool; and after a few changes had been made, the actual work on the Royal rugs began.

After weaving the azure lining up to within 12 1-2 inches of the centre, the weave was changed to a double twill, and the difficult task of incorporating the coat of arms into the cloth was started. This part was made extraordinarily difficult because the pattern had to be put in from the back of the web. What the finished work was going to be like could only be ascertained by dividing the threads of the warp and holding a hand mirror underneath. However, when the web was removed from the loom not an error was found.

Replica motor rug, 1951-1952

Replica motor rug, 1951-1952

To add further to the difficulty of the work, the lengthwise of the coat of arms was placed across the centre of the rugs so that the crown would be upright when the rugs were laid across the Royal knees.

This caused many more changes of color in placing the threads in the design than if the coat of arms had been upright on the lengthwise of the robes.

All Threads Counted

Every thread woven into each coat of arms had to be counted one by one. While Miss Jenkins wove the coat of arms into the cloth, it was Miss Laurence’s part to sit beside her and call out the colors and the number of threads— “red, two threads; ruby, one thread; blue, 13 threads.” Hour after hour this went on. Proceeding at such a careful pace, only about one inch could be done across the rug in a day. The two estimate that it took 66 weaving hours to produce one crest. Their “day” in recent weeks has lasted from 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

In the midst of this work, so weighted with importance and responsibility, the usual activities of the Loomcroft went on, – visitors were met, orders completed and parcels sent out; but hurried though their tension-filled hours were The Loomcrofters sent out word to the school children to come and weave a few threads each in the “Princess’s rug.”

The children came by the half-dozen, both boys and girls, eager to take advantage of the opportunity. “I made one of the lion’s whiskers!” exclaimed one little girl delightedly. This experience will be something for them to remember—a link between them and Canada’s Queen-to-be, for the rest of their lives. Former English women were among the fortunate older people who wove a bit of ermine, or put a jewel in the Royal crown, while The Loomcrofters guided each thread.

There are 14 shades in the coats of arms—three of green, for the sea; pearl gray for these jewels around the curves of the crown; two shades of grey for the ships and her sails; white for the ermine; black for emphasis in border, fur and dividing lines; red, ruby and emerald green for the Crown jewels; and three shades of gold in the British lion and the background. A rich effect has been produced.

The completed rugs, seven feet long and 40 inches wide, are finished with a deep, thick fringe, made by knotting the fringe from the tartan with that of the azure lining.

The presentation to Princess Elizabeth, November 1951

The presentation to Princess Elizabeth, November 1951, with Miss Jenkins and Miss Inch

It was early in October, 1944, that Princess Alice and the Earl of Athlone, then governor-general of Canada, visited the Loomcrofters, and expressed delight in the quality and beauty of the handicrafts they saw there. Among the things they ordered was a tartan for Princess Margaret Rose. It was from a suggestion made by Princess Alice that the idea of the new and distinctive R.C.A.F tartan (handwritten note: in car rugs) was evolved. This tartan, registered in Edinburgh, became the official tartan of the R.C.A.F and was first used by Pipe Band No. 9, at Centralia, Ont.

When H.R.H. Princess Elizabeth and her consort, the Duke of Edinburgh return to England with the Loomcrofter rugs from New Brunswick, we can be sure that Princess Alice will greet the work with the appreciation and understanding of an old friend.

For more information about the rugs or the Loomcrofters Studio Project, contact info@queenscountyheritage.com

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Art Under the Influence – Cheryl Bogart

In these days of Wiis, iPods and other high-tech gadgets of the 21st century it may have been impossible to find that perfect gift for someone on your Christmas list.  Maybe a look back in time can provide some inspiration for next year or at least provide a distraction while your credit card bills start rolling in.

doll, c 1900, porcelain with ribbon and yarn, gift of Elizabeth Worden, 1975 (1975.51.67)

doll, c 1900
porcelain with ribbon and yarn
Gift of Elizabeth Worden, 1975 (1975.51.67)

In the collection of Queens County Heritage are a number of items that at one time or another were Christmas gifts.  How do we know?  Oral histories and family traditions accompany some objects when they are acquired, but often we are even luckier with an inscription or note attached.  Toys and children’s items are rare simply because they were given to be used and handed down from one child to the next, making longevity and preservation difficult.  Items associated with a particular date or person, are even more valuable.  The earliest items that could be classified as toys that we know to be Christmas gifts are a wagon, a book and two dolls.  A porcelain headed doll with a crocheted body was given to Edith by Mary C about 1900. The doll’s head is of German origin and originally would have had arms and legs; however sometime in the early 20th century, the crocheted body was created.  This body is a replacement.  The identity of Edith and Mary C is lost at the moment and shaking the donor’s family tree so far has not dislodged them, but the original gift tag accompanied the doll when it was donated in 1975.   Visitors to the Art Under the Influence exhibition will recall this doll as the inspiration for Cheryl Bogart’s painting, Tied Up.

Cheryl Bogart (born 1947), painting: Tied Up, 2004, watercolour on paper, purchased in honour of 25 years faithful service by Cheryl Bogart as Secretary, Board of Directors, Queens County Heritage, 1986-2011 (2011.15)

Cheryl Bogart (born 1947)
painting: Tied Up, 2004
watercolour on paper
Purchased in honour of 25 years faithful service by Cheryl Bogart as Secretary, Board of Directors, Queens County Heritage, 1986-2011 (2011.15) © 2019 All Rights Reserved Queens County Heritage

In fact, the exhibition was developed and inspired by Cheryl Bogart’s 2004 painting of this doll.  It seemed to us the most vivid example of artists drawing their inspiration from a variety of sources – the landscape, the people around them, another artist, or an interesting object. QCH purchased this painting for the collection in 2011, in honour of Cheryl Bogart’s 25 years of faithful service as Secretary to the Board of Directors (1986-2011).

Trinity Gallery, Saint John, has described Cheryl as follows:

Cheryl Bogart was born in New Brunswick and continues to live here today. She is a self-taught artist, whose work has matured to a high level of technical excellence. Through the interplay of highly decorative detail and spare irony, a powerful message emerges from each painting which cannot be ignored. Bogart’s paintings have appeared in numerous exhibitions and competitions. Her paintings are in the permanent collections of the Canada Council Art Bank, the University of Moncton and several private and corporate collections in Canada, the United States, Europe and Australia.


“My Paintings are about the passage of time, the laughter, the beauty and sometimes, the despair of our lives. A writer has said that ‘Our lives go by like sparks flying’. I strive to catch bits of these brief and brilliant sparks and to paint them as they shower and disappear around me.” – C. Bogart

The vitality of the historical Queens County art community is clear and continues to this day.  From AG Hoit, Thomas MacDonald, Anthony Flower, Abraham Wood, Susan MacDonald, Caroline Slipp Gilbert, John Millidge, Annie Hewlett Deveber, Frank MacDonald, Morris Scovil, William West, Mary Pratt, Rhoda Chapman to Cheryl Bogart and dozens of other currently working and living in our region. As part of the exhibition, contemporary artist and artisans created their own masterpieces inspired by the historical work from the collection.  The overwhelming response showcased the strength of our arts community in the 21st century and continues the legacy of artistic excellence.

For more information about Art Under the Influence or any of the artists featured in this series, contact us at info@queenscountyheritage.com

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Art Under the Influence – Rhoda Chapman

Rhoda Chapman, drawing: The Country Store, 1980, pen and ink on paper, gift of Dr. James K. Chapman, 1997 (1997.70)

Rhoda Chapman drawing: The Country Store, 1980 pen and ink on paper Gift of Dr. James K. Chapman, 1997 (1997.70) © 2019 All Rights Reserved Queens County Heritage

This drawing is one of a series prepared by Rhoda Chapman for her husband, Dr. James Chapman, for his book, River Boy.  The scene is of the Weston Store, the large stone store/building on Front Street, one of several in the village, and a gathering place for local gentlemen to chat, discuss politics, the price of lumber or potatoes, and so on.  For a young boy growing up in the 1920s and 1930s, it was the source of all knowledge!  Previously owned by the McKeague family, the stone building replaced a wooden structure that burned about 1917.

Mrs. Chapman’s drawings capture the heart of Dr. Chapman’s stories and provide us with a visual representation of his memories.  In an interesting coincidence, this work inspired one of the contemporary artists to create a work for Art Under the Influence.  Without any detailed background history of the work, Kim Stubbs felt drawn to the work: “I immediately feel comfort and a sense of belonging from this work. It portrays the close-knit community I feel today sitting with friends in the village of Gagetown.”  Stubbs in turn created a painting depicting the Old Boot Pub on Front Street, with various local characters sitting around discussing the events of contemporary Gagetown.  It was only when the painting appeared during the final installation that it was noted that the pub is the very same building as the Weston Store of Mrs. Chapman’s drawing!  How’s that for inspiration across multiple generations?!?

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Art Under the Influence: Mary Pratt

Mary Pratt (born 1935), drawing: Hon. William John West, Q.C. of Coles Island, 1969, graphite on paper, gift of the Honourable William John West, 1975 (1975.34.1a)

Mary Pratt (born 1935) drawing: Hon. William John West, Q.C. of Coles Island, 1969 graphite on paper Gift of the Honourable William John West, 1975 (1975.34.1a) © 2019 All Rights Reserved Queens County Heritage

In 1969, the Honourable William West’s daughter, well-known Canadian artist Mary Pratt gave two drawings to our collection.  One of her father, shown here, and one of her father’s judicial colleague and fellow Queens County boy, the Honourable Arthur Reid Slipp.  Mary Frances Pratt, was born 15 March 1935 in Fredericton, New Brunswick and specializes in still life realist paintings.  She attended Mount Allison University, studying Fine Arts under such famous painters as Alex Colville and Lawren P. Harris.  While at Mount Allison, Mary met her husband, prominent Newfoundland artist, Christopher Pratt and following their marriage, she moved to Newfoundland.

For over 50 years Mary Pratt has moved audiences throughout Canada with her paintings.  Exhibitions, awards, publications and even a stamp in 2007 are among the successes of her career.  Her paintings have been exhibited in major galleries throughout Canada, reproduced in magazines such as Saturday Night, Chatelaine, and Canadian Art, and featured on billboards, in cookbooks, and on the covers of books and magazines. Her paintings are featured in many prominent public, corporate, and private collections, including those of the National Gallery of Canada, The Rooms, the New Brunswick Museum, Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Vancouver Art Gallery, Art Gallery of Ontario, and Canada House in England.  Queens County Heritage is fortunate to possess the two 1969 drawings of her father, Judge West, and his friend, Judge Slipp.

To see the works in person, contact us at info@queenscountyheritage.com.

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Art Under the Influence – William West

Honourable William John West (1892-1985), painting: West Bros. Sawmill, Coles Island, Queens Co. 1897-1927, 1951, oil on panel, gift of the Honourable and Mrs. William John West, 1972 (1972.473)

Honourable William John West (1892-1985) painting: West Bros. Sawmill, Coles Island, Queens Co. 1897-1927, 1951 oil on panel Gift of the Honourable and Mrs. William John West, 1972 (1972.473) © 2019 All Rights Reserved Queens County Heritage

The Honourable William John West (1892-1985) is better known as a provincial Minister of Justice and provincial court judge, but he is also an author and artist.  His West Brothers Sawmill at Coles Island quickly became one of the highlights of Art Under the Influence.  Some were surprised that such a professionally accomplished gentleman had an artistic side while others were intrigued by the painting itself, but perhaps most importantly, the work stimulated so many memories of those who remembered the mill or had heard about it.

William John West was the son of Wesley West and Amelia Small and was born on the West farm at Coles Island.  In his youth, West worked on the farm, in the family sawmill, and even clerked at the local country store.  During World War I he served with the Canadian Army reaching the rank of Lieutenant.  Following the war, West returned to university, graduating from Mount Allison University and Harvard Law before settling into a law career in Fredericton.  He married Katherine McMurray, a stenographer from Fredericton, 22 November 1933.  Katherine was a gifted musician and artist and they had two daughters, Mary and Barbara. In the 1950s William West entered the political realm, rising to the office of New Brunswick Attorney General from 1952-1958.  From there he was appointed a judge of the province and had a distinguished career in New Brunswick courts from behind the bench.

In retirement, the Hon. West wrote, The Wests of Coles Island, a family and community history along with his own autobiography in 1982.  William West died in 1985 but his artistic legacy, along with that of his wife, carried into the next generation with his daughter, Mary West becoming one of the leading Canadian artists of the late 20th century.  Mary will feature in our next article and is more familiar to audiences as Mary Pratt.

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