L'Etang harbor and river are picturesque; they are dotted with small islands with tall birches and spruce growing along the banks, casting shadows on the surface. The shadows shimmering when a soft breeze blows up the river. Sunbeams playing hide-and-seek in a morning mist. The sunset painting her countenance in beautiful colours. A flock of old squaws winging their way between her banks, seeking shelter from a Bay of Fundy storm.
The L'Etang River flows in Charlotte County, New Brunswick. It is fed by the rise and fall of the Bay of Fundy tides and numerous brooks. It has been used a mode of transportation for hundreds of years; supplying our native Indians and settlers with an abundance of food; herring, sea trout, smelt, frost fish, lobster, clams and scallops. Native Indians used it on fishing expeditions to and from the Bay of Fundy. They went up the L'Etang River to Upper L'Etang. Here they had a portage trail to Lake Utopia, which gave them easy access to the Magaguadivic River. Captain George Thompson, a shipbuilder, came to Upper L'Etang at Mill Cove around 1818 and bought Moses Vernon's sawmill. There he built a shipyard and blacksmith shop. Turning out fine vessels, he introduced shipbuilding to L'Etang River that would last for years.
In 1838, passenger pigeons were so numerous on the Pennfield Ridge they caught them in nets rather than shoot them. At night, they roasted along the banks of the L'Etang River.
L'Etang harbour and river were surveyed in 1847 by Lte. A. Mortright, R.N., under the direction of Capt. W.F.W. Owen, R.N. Capt. Owen described L'Etang harbour as on the best in the Bay of Fundy.
As the years went by L'Etang River contributed to the development of Charlotte County.
Wharfs were built along its banks. Sawmills on the river and inland shipped their wood products such as shingles, clap-boards, boxwood, lathes, pilings, logs and pulpwood, down the L'Etang River and to the American market. Such men as Capt. Burn Bradford, Capt. Frank Vickery, Capt. Gilbert Justason, Capt. Frank Leighton, Capt. William Kelson, Capt. James Dickson, with their vessels, were the lifeline to this community.
Harry Wright, a clam buyer from Beaver Harbour, in the 1930's bought 300 barrels per week at 65 cents per barrel from L'Etang.
Scallops were so plentiful you only had to walk along the shore at low tide and pick them up. There were also 27 herring weirs in L'Etang catching thousands of hogsheads of herring. Here are the names of some of the weirs: Den Weir, Rose Rock Weir, Indian Point Weir, Tub Island Weir, Thomas Justason Weir, Mistake Weir, Point Weir, Bobcat Weir, Fox Weir, Walt's Head Weir, Bar Weir, Cricker Weir, Shaw Island Weir, Corken Island Weir, Patterson Weir, Little Sturgeon Weir, Garden of Eden Weir, Chops Head Weir, Fox Island Weir, Birch Cove Weir, Pig Rock Weir, Lime Kiln Weir and Goss' Head Weir.
In the 1950's, there were so many smelt going up Cricket's Brook, the fisherman would run a seine around them, catching sometimes 1,000 pounds, which they sold at Eastport. In the winter months, frost fish were so numerous at the mouth of the brook, before they could go upstream they would freeze in the ice.
Our younger generation will never see the abundance there once was. Old wharfs and stakes give testament to a once-prosperous river. A dam has been built to obstruct her natural flow, and the river has been polluted.
We have not used the L'Etang River as she once used us.
SOURCE: "The Saint Croix Courier" (July 24, 2001) - written by permission.