21 October 2013

A turn-of-the-last-century boomtown!

This early history of Avondale, New Brunswick is an abridged version of a handwritten c1919 manuscript by Samuel G Barter (my great grandfather).

The hamlet of Avondale, population about 100, is located just off the Trans-Canada Highway near Hartland, famous for its covered bridge. Avondale is about an hour’s drive from Fredericton NB and not far from the start of Interstate 95 in Houlton, Maine.

The Valley of Avondale, before the land was cleared, was noted for its grand big pine trees. As the farms were cleared, in places one could see large pine stumps, showing where the trees had been cut ─ stumps as large as oil barrels. (In those days we did not have steamships and the British government had a special claim on all pine trees fit for the making of ships' masts.) The  next most important business was the burning of charcoal ― black circular spots could still be seen in fields in 1919 ― which was made for the iron smelter that was running at Upper Woodstock to melt ore from the mine near Jacksonville.

To get those large pine log, a road was made to haul the logs out which started from the Saint John River and passed along the north side of the Little Presque Isle Stream for a short distance, going on to the west and coming out at Avondale. This stream, the Little Presque Isle  ─ said to be the best fish stream around ─ was formerly pronounced "Little Presteel". The Indian (Maliseet) name was Preskeag meaning "hidden mouth."

In the 1840s, settlers came in over this old lumber road and took up land as squatters. The first house built in Avondale belonged to James Whitney, then about 1850 George Close built a house near the dam. In 1854, James Martin Barter moved up from Saint John and was the first settler in Avondale as true owner of his land.

The old Barter farm in Avondale, about 1910.

As the early surveyors had considered the Valley of Avondale a swamp, the roads were laid out to keep on higher land and there was no real road into Avondale Village. However, on the taking up of farms, a road was surveyed to Avondale and ran north on the east side of the Little Presque Isle Stream.

James Whitney took up the farm where the new road  (now Estey Road) started and got the next farm north for his son John Whitney on what is now called the White Road. Samuel Walton, who had five daughters and three sons, took up the next farm on the west side above John Whitney and afterward got two more plots for his sons. 

Other new settlers came in ─ mostly young men ─ and as they settled they got their wives from Mr and Mrs Walton. First, William Drake married Bella Walton, James Culberson married Eliza Walton, Joseph Laskey obtained a farm from one of Mr Walton's sons and married Sarah Walton. Stephen Shaw married Martha Walton and they succeeded her parents on the "home" farm.

Israel Tracy (from Jacksonville) got the a farm previously squatted by a Mr Murphy and he built on the east side opposite James M Barter's home on the White Road. Then James Barter obtained the farm just north of his property for his son Charles. A Mr Seeley got the next farm north of that.

For some reason, a Dr Jacobs had received a grant of land being the north 600 acres in Avondale, 300 acres on either side of the road. On the west side, George DeWitt obtained the lower 100 acres just above the dam. James Culberson had the next 100 acres north and Almon Rockwell got the upper 100 acres. On the east side, Mr Seeley had the south lot closest to the dam and Dell Hart got the other 200 acres. That took up all the land for settlement in Avondale. In 1860, Charles Edwin Clark and John E McCready came to Avondale and bought out Mr Seeley.

The Little Presque Isle Stream flows out from Williamstown Lake, through Lakeville, turning east for a distance then south into Avondale. On the Seeley land there, beavers had built a dam and turned the three miles of the river between Lakeville and Avondale into dead waters. When Mr Clark and Mr McCready came to Avondale, they formed a partnership and in 1868 built a saw mill on the east side and a grist mill on the west of the original beaver dam and, in the process, rebuilt the dam. 

Mr McCready had his home on the east side and Mr Clark on the west side. In 1870, Mr McCready became Avondale's first Postmaster and Mr Clark was Avondale's first Justice of the Peace. Squire Clark picked a new name for the village to honour Queen Victoria's grandson, Albert Victor who was named Duke of Clarence and Avondale in 1890. So the former Barter Settlement became Avondale.

An active little village
Richard Titus came to Avondale in the early 1870s from Kings County NB and built a general store on the north side of the White Road near the Smith Road fork.( Mr Titus married one of Squire Clark's daughters, Evelyn.)

Alfred Shaw obtained land from James M Barter and built his home just opposite the schoolhouse (now demolished, at the corner of the Avondale Station Road). Mr Shaw married Mary Barter, eldest daughter of James and Mary Ann Barter. Mary died soon after the house was built and Alfred sold the farm.

On the banks of the Little Presque Isle Stream in 1943
showing the tannery and Avondale bridge.
In 1873 James Fisher, a master tanner from England, established a tannery just below the grist mill of Messrs Clark and McCready. The tannery was a two-storey building about 30ft by 45ft with a water wheel. Mr Fisher also built a nice home up on high ground that he bought from George DeWitt. (That house was bought later by Sam Barter and christened "The Maples".)

Elmira Tracy, who had settled on the farm opposite James Abel Barter (son of James M Barter), went into partnership with his brother Israel Tracy and John Whitney to build a shingle mill near where the White Road forks bu the partnership was dissolved after a few years,.

The first blacksmith shop was on the corner near that mill. It was first operated by Rudolph Fowler and later by Stephen Sherwood followed by Bradford DeLong. Mr Sherwood built a new blacksmith shop and a store in the early 1880s. Sam Barter bought the store and stock in 1891. The blacksmith shop was later owned by a Mr McMurray, next William Wilson, Rennie Rockwell and George Crandlemire who had it when it burned.

A cheese factory was built about 1885, where the bridge is now, by James A Barter, John Whitney, James White and Wilmot Clark. Their cheese won a medal at the 1893 International Exhibition in Chicago. The factory burned on November 18, 1894 and S G Barter built another in 1895 and made cheese until 1901.

In Jane Barter Allen's handwriting:
“Barter Bros Woodworking Factory, Avondale NB.
X marks buildings burnt”
James A Barter and his son James E Barter built a woodworking factory on the old Tracy shingle mill site in 1897 and did a large business until fire wiped out the factory in 1906. But the factory was re-built and afterward sold to Burpee & Wilson. George Burpee had bought the McCready sawmill in 1885 and had added a butter box business. A few years later, Joseph Estabrook purchased the woodworking factory.

There was a company formed, sometime before 1895, to build a railway from Woodstock to Centreville. William Drysdale was President, James A Barter was Secretary-Treasurer. Robert McCready, Wilmot Bullock, Harvard White and Stephen Appleby were Directors. They secured a permit and had a survey for a railroad to run up Long's Creek from Upper Woodstock, thence to Jacksonville and then southwest to Charlotte County. But they sold out to the Connor Company which started to build the Saint John Valley Railroad to reach from Saint John to Grand Falls. This company failed and the Province gave a charter to another company headed by a Mr Gould of Maine. They built a new line, with a different route, starting at Woodstock with stations at Belleville, Avondale, Lakeville and Centreville.

School days in Avondale about 1899.
Jane and Florence Barter (Sam's daughters from his first marriage)
are at the extreme right in the second row.
Social development
The first school was built in 1871 and six years later a new school house was built on the same ground. The Avondale Baptist Church was organized in April 1871 with Rev G G Harvey as Moderator giving the hand of fellowship to thirteen members and Rev E C Cody (Clerk) delivering the sermon. John Edwin McCready was chosen Deacon and Superintendent of the Sunday School. Church services and Sunday School were, at first, held in the school house but the new Baptist church building was dedicated August 7, 1898. The Avondale Cemetery was established in 1881 on land purchased from James A Barter adjacent to the Barter family graveyard.

Looking back on her childhood during a 1972 radio interview, Sam’s eldest daughter, Jane, commented that “This was a going little place in those days.”