EARLY HISTORY OF PLASTER ROCK
By Mrs. Alice M.
Rock some seventy years or more ago had only two families. The first family was
three brothers by the name of Day. One brother had a house on the east side of
the Tobique River
where now stands the Fraser Co. main office. The other two had a house near the
present site of the Primitive Baptist
Church. At this time there was very
little cleared land, the area being covered by small trees and scrub growth.
The second family to settle here was the family of Henry Ridgewell, who arrived
in 1882. He procured land for a farm extending from the present Lloyd Everett
property to the north, to the present Hathaway Garage property to the south.
There was only a small field of cleared land on the east side of the road (main
highway now), and the road was little better than a trail extending from Linton
Corner to Weaver Corner, a distance of four miles. The main road at this time
from Perth went back to Plaster Rock by Linton Corner around to Sisson Ridge
where there were six families living, namely Lintons, Gallops, Briggs,
Burgoynes, Margisons, and Rollins’, coming back to the river at Weaver Corner.
Mrs. Henry Ridgewell were parents of the late Arthur and George Ridgewell. Their first home was a log
house on the bank of the river near the present site of the new Regional
High School. After four years or
more, they got lumber and built a frame house near the corner, where the taxi
stand is situated. This house was only torn down recently by the owner, S. C.
Campbell. Soon after Mr. Ridgewell came, a road was cleared through but only
the settlers used it, and it was strictly a wagon road with grass growing in
the center. Mr. Ridgewell’s oldest son Stephen and his wife came later and
settled near the Primitive Baptist
Church site. A few years later this
family moved to a farm near Presque Isle, so that the Ridgewells and the Day’s
were the only families for some years.
settler was a man by the name of Fox who built a shanty were Grey’s house now
stands. He made the first shingles, hewing them by hand of cedar blocks. These
were very good shingles and would last for many years. The only work here
besides clearing land was at the rock quarry located at the cliffs on the east
side of the river. This rock was crushed and hauled by teams of farmers from as
far away as Maine who used this
powdered rock as fertilizer for the land. After the arrival of the railroad,
which was built by John Stewart of Andover, Victoria
County, N.B.,the rock was
shipped out in flat cars.
mill was built, the settlers along the Tobique had to travel to Perth
and Andover for their supplies.
They would take a team and a farm wagon and bring back a three month supply
consisting of three or four barrels of flour, a barrel of pork, two bags of
sugar, etc. This trip would take two days. There were a few peddlers who came
up along the river carrying shoes, groceries, dry goods and literally
everything from a paper of pins to a grindstone, loaded on a high wagon. It was
a four or five day trip to Nictau and back. The peddlers bought butter and eggs
in return for the groceries. The price of eggs in the summertime was as low as
seven cents a dozen, twelve cents being a top price. Butter was fifteen cents a
pound, eighteen cents being a top price. Among those peddlers were John Friffis of Lower Perth and Seth
Salmon of Kilburn. There were a few pack peddlers who carried dry good, linen,
thread, laces, etc. on their back. Some times these pack peddlers were
accompanied by their wives who also carried packs. These people were mostly
didn’t have to go to Perth for
their mail as has been stated. It was delivered from Perth
to Nictau by a mailman with a team and express wagon. He also carried
passengers. This was done previous to 1877. The mailman was then a James Inman
of Lower Perth, who traveled the road for over thirty
years, first twice a week, then three times, a two day trip. When winter roads
were impassable by team, he could leave it behind along the way and go on by
horseback, snow shoes or on foot, and somehow the mail always got through.
Later, this route was taken over by Barney Armstrong of Perth.
These men were very generous in carrying extra parcels back and forth for the
1898, Fred Hale and his brother Judson, of Woodstock
and others carried on lumbering operations on the head of the Tobique, and
after traveling the river they decided that this would be a good site for a
mill with its high banks and would save rafting and running their lumber down
the river to Fredericton, the
nearest mill. The first saw mill was built then in 1898-99 by the Hale
brothers, and along with the mill, a cook house, boarding house and store.
Later they built several houses on the east side of the river, near the mill,
for the families of their employees. Among these families were Charles Thomas,
Woods manager, Glazier Dickinson, Bookkeeper, and Walter Shaw and family, all
from Carleton County.
office was kept in the store where it stayed until the winter of 1927 when the
store burned. The next store was built on the west side of the river, now the
main part of town. The main road through town was completed after the mill was
built and many new houses sprang up along the roadway. The railroad was already
near completion and the first bridge was built. This first bridge was taken out
in 1934 in the spring freshet by the heavy ice jams, but was shortly replaced
only to meet the same fate in 1950, some sections landing now below Fredericton.
In the year
1904, two Fraser brothers from Fredericton
purchased the Hale property. These were Archibald and Donald Fraser and it was
the latter who was to have such an influence on the growth and expansion of the
town. They brought several families with them from Fredericton
to operate the mill. A year later, Archie moved to Edmundston to build a pulp
and paper mill there.
after the mill was completed, around 1900, James McNair, father of former
Premier J. B. McNair, built a general store on the west side of the river, the
town’s first commercial venture other than the mill enterprises. This store was
later bought by Alfred Green of Perth
who ran it for some years and then sold out to the Farmer’s Co-operative Company. This is the
present United Farmers Store.
church erected in Plaster Rock was the Presbyterian (now the United Church of
Canada) which was completed and dedicated in 1907. Donald Fraser was a member,
worker and large contributor for this church, and was vitally interested in the
welfare of the mill families and the town in general. The second church was the
Church which was built and
dedicated in 1908, on the present site of the Alexander Fraser grocery store.
This church was burned in May, 1920 when the roof was ignited by a spark from
the Orange Hall burning in back of it, along with the parsonage on either side
of it. This present United Baptist
Church was erected soon after and
dedicated in 1923. Before these churches were built, services were held in the
mill and later the school building which was soon built were used. The first
Sunday School was organized and led by Fred Hale, a returned missionary, with
Miss Ida Dickinson as organist.
school was built on the site of the present Elementary School. This was a one
room school with only one teacher who taught up to sixty pupils. The first
teacher was the late Mrs. Wesley Crone (then Miss Gertrude Flanders of Maple
View). Later a second building was erected back of this school, with two rooms
and another teacher added. A few years later these buildings were sold for
residences and a large two story building was completed, known as the Plaster
Rock Superior School
in 1917. This building served the community until 1949 when it burned, being
replaced by the modern Donald Fraser
of brick for the elementary grades. The Tobique
Valley Regional High
School was built in 1947, and the schools have a
teaching staff of thirty teachers.
in 1893, there were only three families in Plaster Rock, we now have a
population of 1500 with some 400 homes and public buildings, including six
churches, a modern hospital of brick, new Post Office (built in 1955), also of
brick, two fine doctors and excellent nurses, twenty-three up to date stores
and five garages and service stations.
first native settlers to move into Plaster Rock other than those brought by
Hale and Fraser Co.’s after the mill was built was Wash Turner and family from
Reid’s Island, who built a small place and operated a
meat store. A few years later (two or three) he built a large building of two
and one half stories on the East side of the main highway near the bank and on
the corner where the road branched to go over the river. This was used for a
hotel and boarding house which he, his wife, a son and two daughters carried on
until years later when he took ill and his wife had passed on. Charley Beny of Fredericton
came along around 1906 and rented a large room in the front of the building and
started a grocery store. When he became too ill some years later to attend to
it others took it over and it is now used as a clothing store by S. C. Campbell
who has also purchased the building.
well-known family was Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Wright of Three Brooks, a farmer and
a woodsman, who left his farm in charge of his son, Charles, and moved to town.
He and his were well known and highly thought of as woodsmen and sportsmen’s
guides. They also entertained in sports camps along the Wapske
stream and others. Another member of the family was Norman Wright, who also
moved into town and built a large house soon after the Fraser Co. took over
which was in 1904. He was also a well known sportsman and guide, who had been
entertaining sportsmen for some time before. He was also a fish and game warden
for fifteen years or more before going into the employ of the Fraser Co. as
woods manager in 1905, which job he held for twenty-five years before becoming
ill and not able to carry on. His family are still
living in town here in business for themselves. The sons are S. L. Wright who
owns and operates a large grocery store and Malcolm Wright, who with his
partner, Harold Everett own and have a large hardware, furniture, electric
stove and garage business.
early settler was Arthur Ridgewell and wife who had
been living in St. Stephen and who also built a large house opposite the Turner
Hotel on the west side of the highway and kept boarders.
Notes on Alice M.
Mrs. Alice Wright was born Alice Maude Flanders in Saint
John, N.B. on Oct.
20th, 1875. When she was just 17 months old, her
parents, John & Elizabeth Flanders, moved their family from Saint
John to Maple View, Victoria
Wright, who died in 1940, and then later in life, she married his brother,
Marshall Wright. Alice died Dec. 26, 1965, at the age of 88.
This article was written shortly before her death in 1963.