APRIL 6, 1927
MEN AND EVENTS OF 50 YEARS AGO
BERWICK AT CONFEDERATION
The stage coach of 1852, with its six horses and heavy traffic must not be compared with the coach at Confederation. In the fifteen intervening years there were many changes. The railway from Windsor to Halifax had been opened for traffic, and sailing vessels and steam craft were carrying freight and passengers from Windsor to St. John and Bay of Fundy ports, competing with the steamer from Annapolis to St. John. Most people, too, were getting their own horses, and wagons were in common use thus lessening travel by public conveyance. The six-horse English coach had become a two-horse ramshackle carryall the Hudson car had dwindled to a Ford. But like the Ford, it got there just the same, for in the Berwick "Star" of 1866 we find an apology by the editor as follows: - "We hope our western subscribers will pardon us for their not receiving the "Star" at the proper time. On account of unforeseen delay, we did not go to press before the coach left." No doubt the western people were as much disappointed as Berwick would be if it failed to get The Register on Wednesday night.
The post office was in a two-storey building, nearly opposite Eatons hotel, and here the coach dropped the incoming mail, and took on any western bound. The telegraph office was in a back room in this same building. Telegrams were received on a long tape paper on which were recorded the dots and dashes that spelled out the words and could be read at leisure by the operator. J. M. Parker owned this building and there were two stores on the ground floor and a hall above. George E. Lydiard was a partner in the firm of Lydiard & Robinson, who had their business place in this shop. This firm, according to their advertisement in the "Star," which we are now quoting with authority, were "dealers in dry goods, cloths and flannels, hardware and earthenware in great variety." Evidently the credit system is not a modern invention for an advertisement in this same "Star," signed G. E. Lydiard, gives notice that all "accounts contracted before dec. 1st, 1865, not paid by the 15th Aug. 1866, will be left for collection." George Lydiard acquired a smattering of telegraphy while carrying on in business in this office. So accordingly, when the W. & A. Railway was opened for traffic he was the logical man for station agent and was early engaged for that position. As the salary at that time was the munificent amount of thirty dollars per month, the new station agent ran a strawberry patch and vegetable gardens with a few colonists of bees as a side line.
Having thus settled down to a quiet life, George E., after a lot of preliminary looking around, finally concluded to get married. The wedding was a full dress occasion to be solemnized in the Methodist church at 8 oclock p.m. Church weddings did not happen every day and the community was agog for the occasion. The youth and beauty of the country round turned out en masse. The church was prettily decorated for the festive occasion, the lamps trimmed and brightly burning, and packed to the doors with expectant people. The officiating minister was in his place; the bridal party were coming up the stairs when pandemonium broke loose; a column of yellow smoke came up through the register from the hot furnace below and in a moment the expectant audience was coughing and crying in company; some miscreant had put a quantity of cayenne pepper on the red hot furnace.
The elders of the church and guardians of the peace rushed to the vestry hoping to catch the culprit, but the bird had flown, the casement was empty, and in less time than it takes to tell the story the church was empty too. Not daunted by trifles like this the bridal party wended their way to the parsonage where the knot was tied in the good old way by Rev. C. Lockhart, the officiating clergyman. Several of the bad boys of the village were suspected of perpetrating the outrage, but all stoutly proclaimed their innocence. This time at least they spoke the truth the boys were not guilty. The secret was well kept, but after fifty years it may be revealed; it was not a bad boy but a good girl who coolly walked up the aisle in the crush and dropped the "tear gas" through the register from above.
Having made the wedding unique in the annuals of Berwick, the exuberant youth determined to make the serenade memorable. Looking round for suitable weapons for the occasion they discovered the Baptist church bell, that had become cracked through continual use, and had been taken to the foundry near the station fore repairs. Acetylene welding, fifty years ago, was an unknown process, but the idea was to "shrink" on a heavy hoop like a wheel tire, thus closing the crack to again make the bell serviceable. However, the boys were not interested in the future and for the present the bell could be used to advantage. A two wheel-cart was soon obtained, the body discarded, the heavy bell slung under the axle, and manned by willing hands the improvised outfit was soon on the ground ready for business. Hammers and iron bars lustily applied made a medley of sound long to be remembered. Looking back fifty years, as an effective means of salute on similar occasions, one can recommend a cracked church bell with a few hammers well wielded by willing hands. When called to account the following day, before Justice J. M. Parker, who filled in a feeble way the position in the community now occupied by H. A. Cornwall, Stipendiary, these festive youths pleaded "not guilty," and according to the evidence adduced at the examination the only person who touched that bell was Rev. Isaiah Wallace, the Baptist preacher, who was convicted by many witnesses of tapping the bell in question with his cane.
George Lydiard was not the only man to get employment under the W. & A. R. Thomas Margeson, who lived on Main Street in the house now occupied by E. S. Gordon, went to work with the company on the right-of-way and was early promoted to section foreman in which place he served for many years. Mr. Margeson was originally a harness maker and had a small shop on the premises where he lived. Jud Kelley, the village poet, celebrated his translation from the shop to the railroad in the following sonnet:
"Thomas Margeson the harness maker,
Charges high and puts on paper;
If he gets his pay when his works begun
He may take a smaller sum."
Well heres another iconoclast heard from. Just as one thought everything was tranquil and one was free to pursue the even tenor of ones way, reminiscencing. Harbourville-By-The-Sea, who has been throwing gardens of boquets at me, takes a grouch and commences calling names: Calls one a "Tory"; accuses one of stealing the American Reciprocity Treaty and hiding it away; of forcing Confederation on an unwilling people, thus driving the young blood to the United States where they all become millionaires. When one looks around for the reason for all this abuse, one finds that one has neglected to mention the giant ships built on the Harborville shore in ancient days. To make amends one will confess, that as a very small boy, one did see a goodly vessel launched from about the spot where Emerson Spicers house now stands; and does not Harborville-By-The-Sea remember that only a few years ago one assisted at the building and launching of the "Nina C" in Captain Eddie Currys back yard. Why only last summer one helped Captain Ben Bezanson launch his motor boat when Mate Jacksons team of strong horses was unequal to the task. Anyway, since Commodore Billie Perry (another wicked "Tory") has joined the exodus, while Captain Bloom is superannuated, who is going to man these craft that one conjures up? Boyd Parker, Edson Wood and Lem Brown are all busy with His Royal Majestys Mail and it takes all of Fred Ayers time to keep the places filled at the forty-five table.
Probably in early Confederation times Harborville-By-The-Sea was so busy coquetting with Uncle Sam that he has forgotten that the Reciprocity Treaty was abrogated by the United States prior to Confederation, and was one of the principal reasons for the early consummation of the Union. Through enmity against England and her colonies, engendered during the Civil War, the United States to unite her war-torn people took the first opportunity of denouncing the Treaty and have ever since protected themselves to our loss. Thus shut out of the American market and realizing the weakness of the fringe of colonies along the American border, the wicked Tories made every effort to put over the Confederation pact and make a united Canada. Nova Scotia standing alone, shut out of the United States and Canadian markets by a prohibitive tariff with no rail communication with Western Canada, would be about as important a colony as Labrador.
Anyway, come to think about it, one need not feel too badly to be associated with the party of Empire builders who established free schools in Nova Scotia; who were responsible for the Confederation of the scattered Provinces into a great Dominion; who inaugurated and put into effect the National Policy, the seal of Canadas greatness, who built the Intercolonial Railway; thus fulfilling a pre-Confederation pledge and binding the provinces together with iron bonds; who had the vision in the face of almost insuperable obstacles to make possible the Canadian Pacific Railway with its network of feeders covering the continent from Atlantic to Pacific; who, in short, made Canada what she is today the big sister in the great Commonwealth of British nations. Enough said this time; more later.
S. C. PARKER.
(To be continued)