Top 10 Historical Events in Albert County in Review - #10 Founding of Fundy National Park in 1948


The Tenth Top 10 Historical Event in Albert County was Founding of Fundy National Park in 1948. The following is an excerpt from “The Salt and the Fir: Report on the History of the Fundy Park Area” by Gilbert Allardyce.  The Museum has a typed copy of the unpublished 160 page report in the museum collection. It should be noted that the founding of the park was the primary impetus behind the creation of the Albert County Museum, to help keep alive the memory of the communities lost in the creation of the park. 

  1. First European Settlers in 1699. 

  2. The Acadian Expulsion in 1755. Ending 57 years of Acadian colonies in Albert County, this includes the Battle of Petitcodiac, September 4, 1755. 

  3. Arrival of the Steeves family in 1766. 

  4. The founding of the county 1845. 

  5. Development of Commercially Viable Kerosene from Albertite by geologist Abraham Gesner in 1846 which led directly to the petroleum age and the modern world and indirectly to saving all the whales. Thanks Albert County! 

  6. The Saxby Gale of 1869, which brought untold destruction of property and the loss of a number of lives. 

  7. The Birthplace and Hometown of Canada's 11th Prime Minister RB Bennett (b1870), who founded the Bank of Canada, the CBC and numerous other important Canadian Institutions. 

  8. The Tom Collins Axe Murder Triple Trial which directly lead to Canada's Double Jeopardy laws. Double Jeopardy is a procedural defence that forbids a defendant from being tried again on the same (or similar) charges following a legitimate acquittal or conviction. 

  9. Winning the Victory Loans Competition of 1919 by raising a greater percentage over their set goal than anywhere else in the Province. The county raised $347,600.00 with a goal of $110,000.00. That's triple the amount! (In today's dollars that is $6.2 million and that's from less than 9000 people!). 

  10. Founding of Fundy National Park in 1948.


    By Gilbert Allardyce

    The creation of Fundy National Park in 1948 completed a historical process which had begun long before. Since the closing decades of the last century the community of Alma Parish in Albert County had been gradually returning to the wilderness from which it had emerged in the 1830's. Provincial and federal officials, inspecting the populated areas that were to be expropriated for park lands, found four old and deteriorating villages connected by unpaved and primitive roads---a region of exhausted resources, shrunken population, and encroaching forests. Along the Bay of Fundy, no human settlements remained between the Goose River at the western boundary of the Park and the Point Wolfe River near the center of the coastal shore. The village of Point Wolfe, long a bustling lumbering village at the mouth of the Point Wolfe River, was now little more than a "ghost town", its sawmill silent, its wharves rotting away and its two remaining families struggling to continue the life of a deserted community. Up the river valley, as over much of the Park hinterland, the outlines of old clearings and fields provided mute evidence that other men--whose history was now lost, or perhaps never recorded--had gone before. "It seems too bad", a farmer resident of Point Wolfe has written, "that records of the pioneer settlers of the Point Wolfe River basin have been lost. No one seems able to discover the smallest fact of those long ago days. Five miles up the river is the old McGorman Clear. At one time at least twenty acres were cleared there, grown up of course long ago in second growth birch. Nearer the mouth is the Kilpatrick Clear, marked for years and years by one little old apple tree that managed to survive the rigours of winter untended by the hopeful hands that planted it there.” (Maimie Steeves, Moncton Times, August 11, 1950)

    Between Point Wolfe and the Alma River at the eastern border of the Park, most of the remaining population resided in the little village of Alma West, with only scattered homesteads existing at Herring Cove toward the sea and the old settlement of Hastings further inland. All the rest, with the exception of a few isolated cabins near the lakes and rivers, was empty and silent. Along the Bennett Road leading inland beyond Hastings the old farms had gone to ruin; and the hardy Irish settlement along the old Shepody Road at the northern boundary of the Park had long since vanished--and the road itself became virtually impassable. Over all of the land that would become Fundy National Park, only about fifty families were left to make up the final human exodus from the area--fifty families in eighty square miles!

    Thus government bulldozers and Park work crews finished what over a half-century of economic decline had begun: The destruction of a community and the return of the forest. Certainly it was easier for modern men and machines to level the old villages to the ground than it had been for the early pioneers to build them up out of the wilderness. The things which gave the park its awe and beauty were the same things that made settlement so difficult: the rugged hills, the rocky terrain, the precipitous river banks, the rapid streams and plunging waterfalls. The men and women who laboured on this difficult frontier did not leave a history of heroic acts and decisive events; their story is rather one of sacrifice, hard work, and endurance. They were a simple and coarse people set upon a difficult and complex task: the making of civil society out of deep woods and rocky coast. Maimie Steeves has called them the people of "the salt and the fir", men of the sea and woods, a population dependent upon lumbering and the timber trade. Cutting and hauling logs in the winter woods, driving them down the rivers on the spring floods, sawing boards and sailing them away aboard schooners through the summer, and finally returning to the forests to begin cutting again in the fall, such was the annual cycle of life in the area. Itshaped the lives and consciousness of the population, and determined the pattern of their roads and villages. So deep did it make its imprint on the area that even today, over twenty years after the Park Service first set out to uproot the traces of man from the area, one can still find the remains of mill sites, driving dams, timber wharves, and lumbering tools. But almost every other physical trace of human history has vanished. In our generation, when men are so much concerned with the process of industrial growth and development, perhaps there are things to be learned as well from the study of a community that declined and disappeared.

    The origins and growth of the settlements in the area, we now recognize, were related to a certain stage of economic development in New Brunswick, a period when Canada was still very much a coastal society. It was an era of wooden ships, sea communication, and the Atlantic timber trade. When steel ships replaced the wooden schooners, when railways and modern roads opened up the interior, and finally when the big timber along the coast was exhausted, that era came to an end, and the economic life of Alma Parish dwindled away. When it was over, the settlements had nothing left to sell except their scenery.

    The history of the Fundy Park area is therefore an easy one to summarize. More difficult was the making of it by the pioneers themselves, and difficult as well is an understanding of what was lost by their ancestors when the populated regions were returned to silence after 1948. A former inhabitant has written:

    “No one realizes more fully than the former residents of Alma West, Point Wolfe, Hastings and Herring Cove, all former farm settlements of Albert County, just how much of a sacrifice was made when these eighty square miles bordering on the quaint village of Alma became a national park and a sanctuary for wild life. Of course these people were paid for their properties, and most now have better homes, and more modern facilities and better cars than in 1948, but who is to evaluate their loss or gain. Only they know the intrinsic value of what they gave up when they left their homes.” (Muriel Cooper, “Then and Now at Fundy Park” The Atlantic Advocate, vol. 50, no. 8, April 1960, p. 73.)

    Maimie Steeves has remarked to the present writer that in the years following the demolition of the old villages, she found it difficult to bring herself to return to the lost community of her earlier years. Certainly there were those who opposed the coming of the Park from the beginning, and after the issue had been decided there were some who circulated petitions to preserve the old buildings, especially the two churches which had served their ancestors over several generations. But in the end everything--except the little cemetery that can still be seen at the junction of the roads to Point Wolfe and Herring Cove—was transported, demolished or burned. According to some opinion, there could have been no other way. By 1948 the community within the Park area had reached the end of its time, and while government officials found some homes in neat repair, most buildings were deteriorating toward ruin, and were ready for the machines and wrecking crews that levelled them.

    In the ceremonies that officially opened the Park, the Federal Minister of Resources and Development, Robert H. Winters, declared the area to be “the gift of the government and the people of New Brunswick to the Canadian People as a whole.". It should be remembered that this gift to the larger community of the Canadian nation meant the end of the much smaller community that had inhabited the Park lands.