Pioneer Days of Birch Ridge

 

By Mrs. Emily Gallop

 

            After the disastrous fire in St. John in 1877 many people were left homeless so were obliged to seek homes elsewhere. A few strayed to the northern part of the province. One man worthy of mention, John Robertson, arrived at Red Rapids in April, 1878 to begin his adventure in to the country south which had been surveyed into lots by Johnson Brewer. Traveling on foot with a pack on his back he wended his way into the wilderness a few miles. Here he planned to make his future home, and began cutting down trees, the first step toward making a log cabin.

            The first trees he cut were birch and they grew on a ridge and so from this fact he named the place Birch Ridge.

            The next mentioned people will be two boys, Henry and James Gallop, fourteen and eighteen years of age, who with packs on their backs, started from Three Brooks and followed the trail to their lots. They worked a week and then returned to their home for more provisions. Some time later, the family came to their new home.

            Many others, left homeless by the fire previously mentioned, followed Mr. Robertson’s footsteps and arrived to make further settlement. Among these were Richard Gillespie with a family of two and Richard Skinner; they, too, came in 1873.

            In March, 1879, Robert Crawford arrived, his family of five coming in April. They got mired coming in and spent their first night with Mr. Robertson. Several others also settled here. The hardships the settlers endured were many and varied. The sick were cared for by Doctor Theophas Drought who made his medicine from roots, and barks of trees. Doctor Drought was an Irishman. He cared for many but sometimes another doctor was consulted at Andover.

            As the settlers had no implements to work with they improvised crude ones of their own. The first churn was made by Richard Skinner. It was made of wood. This churn was a great invention for the people and as it was the only one, it was taken from home to home to serve the people’s needs in that line. The brooms were made of birch saplings. The first barn was built by Richard McCready.

            Now as hard as these people worked to build their homes, they still had spirit left for some amusement and many an evening was spent in different homes dancing and singing. The music was furnished by fife and drum. The drum was made by William Crawford.

            In those days it was a rare treat to get a letter and a journey of fourteen miles had to be made to the post office. The first post office in Birch Ridge was kept by Thomas Knowles and the first mail carrier was Levi Campbell. He used a dog team.

            These people, handicapped as they were, still kept their religion. The services were held in homes, Mrs. Peter Gauter used to lead these services. Many others helped in this good work. The first confirmation was in an old log school house where four were confirmed. Mrs. Harry McAlary was one of the candidates.

            The first school house was a log building and the first school master was John Stevenson. In 1888 the Episcopal Church, St. Bartholomew’s was started. It was finished and consecrated in 1890 by Bishop Kingdon. The first clergyman was Reverend Leo Hoyt. A Baptist church was also erected within the next few years with Reverend Charles Henderson as minister. As the settlement was much increased, it seemed necessary to have a store to provide for the peoples’ needs and so Mrs. Adelaide opened a small store.

            The stork, too, even found this small settlement and the first child, a girl, was born to Mr. & Mrs. Howard Campbell. When the first settlers were here, horses were few, therefore most of the work being done by oxen.

            The surrounding forest was alive with game animals. Moose and caribou were very common while the brooks teemed with trout affording a good means for food.

            And so the people struggled on, toiling from dawn to dusk to build their homes and clear the land, and we know they must have always had in their minds these words:

            “count those days lost whose low descending sun

            views from thy hand no worthy action done.”

 

 

 

 

Transcribed by Patty Corey, May, 2005, from an original copy belonging to Mrs. Gallop’s son, Delbert.

 

Notes:

Mrs. Emily Gallop was born Emily Barnes on March 15, 1878, and married to Henry Gallop, born in 1865. Their children were as follows: Edna, Ivy, Harold, Allen, Delbert, George, Lawrence and Gerald.

Edna married Charles Skinner, Harold married Dorothy Wright, Delbert married Dorothy (Crone) Corey, George and Lawrence both lived in US, Gerald married Jean Zwicker, and later in life, Lorna Sisson.  Henry Gallop passed away in 1932, and Emily married Ed Tomlinson. Emily (Barnes) Gallop Tomlinson passed away in 1972, and is buried in St. Machutus Cemetery in Arthurette.