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Section 28

Its People and Institutions as I knew them about Sixty Years ago.


Wednesday, September 29th, 1897


Here o’er this land in ages past,
Once swept a desolating blast,
And left its records hid away,
Which, since deciphered, have revealed
The secrets which long years concealed,
And brought them to the light of day.

The red faced children of the land,
Who held the past in full command,
In stories which their fathers told,
Assert this truth: - in ages past,
Far from the south, a fearful blast
Wild, o’er this land in fury rolled.

The lightnings flashed, the thunders pealed,
The forest, awed, in terror reeled,
And towering pines of mammoth size,
Like grain before the reapers’ knife,
Gave up to death their ancient life,
A wild and wasteful sacrifice.

Here in my boyhood on the hill,
Their crumbling forms were lingering still,
From north to south they silent lay,
Their pitchy knots upon the ground,
Like bones of giants scattered round,
Defied the wasting of decay.

And rising like a funeral mound,
In field and forest they were found;
To those who wandering went astray,
They were a compass to their feet,
Directing to their last retreat,
In night or dark and sunless day.

The light and heat of ages past,
Were in these relics treasured fast,
Like jewels in their caskets rare;
And when our fathers settled here,
They gave their hidden gifts to cheer
The lonely nights and frosty air.

It was the old folks’ great delight,
To gather round their fires bright,
With blazing knots of pine aflame,
On winter eve; or winter morn,
To spin the yarn and shell the corn,
Before the tardy daylight came.

By these odd lights in days of yore,
We children conned our lessons o’er,
For then there was no paraffine,
Nor oil brought here from Arctic seas,
But tallow dips were sometimes seen.

Yet strange, I cherish those old nights,
Among my boyhood’s chief delights;
Before the blazing hearthstone there,
How oft with those long gone to rest,
The loved now dwelling with the blest,
I’ve bowed with them at family prayer.

Tho’ wasting ages long have passed,
Since to the earth their forms were cast;
Their crumbling trunks in yellow mould,
I’ve paced a hundred feet in length
In measure of their ancient strength,
Their giant size of ages old.

Succeeding years have come and fled,
And left their stories with the dead,
But nature, peaceful in her moods,
The tangled wilds has laid aside,
And robed the hills and vales in pride
Of verdure of her new-born woods.

NOTES: - Many years ago a dreadful storm swept over this valley, east and west, which prostrated the forests, and in many sections was followed by fires. This is handed down in the traditions of the Micmacs, and is confirmed by legal documents still extant in Windsor, Hants Co. The scarcity of wood and timber for building purposes was the cause of much litigation, which is shown by those old documents. The pine knots were a great boon to the early settlers in the Valley. They were fat with pitch and were very heavy, and burned with great brilliancy. I was in my teens before I saw any other lights for the household than pine knots and tallow dip. Sperm oil lamps never had a place in Berwick. The tallow candles were partly superseded by the introduction of burning fluid, a chemical mixture of spirits of turpentine and alcohol, burned in lamps without chimneys; and this gave place to the mineral oil now in use. The uniform position of the remains of the old pines was an unerring guide for travellers in the woods.