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Petitcodiac - A Village History

An old green pickup drove into the yard. The driver spotted Gramp standing in the doorway of the horse barn and walked over to him. They shook hands and the fellow told him of his ailing mare, who was not eating and was losing weight.

Without hesitation, Gramp quickly made the diagnosis that she was having trouble chewing her food and needed to have her teeth floated. 

After a bit of discussion and road directions the man left.

Gramp put his teeth sharpening kit into the trunk and was about to get into the car, when he noticed the look of yearning-to-go-for a drive on our faces. He suggested we accompany him.

Everything went fine until he turned off the main road and started up the steep hill. This road hadn’t seen a grader in years. It was filled with deep ruts and washouts which caused the car to lurch from side to side and kept us jolting with every bump.

Gramp told us to sit in the middle of the back seat and to hold on tight as the doors might fly open and we could fall out.

Probably the children who accompanied their parents on the forty-five-hour stagecoach trip of years ago from Saint John to Halifax were given the same advice. The coaches were springless and the roads were so rough that passengers often secured themselves with heavy leather straps.

In 1836, the Saint John Courier Stage Coach Company set up a weekly stage coach route from Saint John to Amherst. The first night of the journey was spent at Holstead’s Inn and Tavern in Petitcodiac, one of the five major stops. Here good beds and every convenience were promised. 

Holstead’s was the first such establishment in Petitcodiac. It appears to have been the initial incentive to get the community growing.

According to “Petitcodiac: A Village History” written by John Burrows in the mid 1980s, David Blakeney had a plantation in South Carolina when the Revolutionary War broke out. His devotion to the King made him very unpopular with the rebels. He came first to Nova Scotia in 1782 and then on to Saint John, being accompanied by a wife and six children.

By 1786, he was a “resident of the River Petitcodiac” when he signed a petition for road communication with the City of Saint John. The petition also had a stipulation that no one be permitted to own land that they did not occupy. David and his family are considered to be Petitcodiac’s First Family.

It is interesting to note the official transcript of claims for compensation, cites David’s residence as being Patty Coat Jack. It was 1802, before a grant of 793 acres was finally issued to him on the Banks of the Petitcodiac River.

Many events took place over the years with the opening of businesses, arrival of the railway and tragic fire losses. But the greatest political and social event in the history of Petitcodiac was the picnic held on 16 August 1878 in honour of Sir Albert J. Smith, shortly after the Member from Westmorland County to the Dominion Parliament had been knighted by Her Majesty, Queen Victoria. A large tent had been erected on the picnic grounds. It was capable of holding one thousand people and of seating four hundred persons at the table. Along with those who walked or came by carriage, many arrived by train, including seven cars packed with picnicers who accompanied the honoured guest.

“Petitcodiac: A Village History” by John Burrows holds lots more interesting information. It is available at several libraries within New Brunswick.

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By the way, there has been a change in the date for the May meeting of the Saint John Branch of the New Brunswick Genealogical Society. It will be held on Thursday, June 01, 2006 at 7:30 p.m. in the Lion's Den, Loch Lomond Villa. The  program will feature Wendy Anderson of England speaking on, “Sources for genealogical research in the UK".

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The Telegraph Journal did not publish any queries this week.

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Ruby M. Cusack is a genealogy buff living in New Brunswick, Canada. Send your New Brunswick genealogical queries to her at:  Include your name and mailing address for the benefit of the readers of the newspaper who do not have access to E-mail but could have information to share with you. Please put "Query" followed by the surnames in your query. For more information on submitting queries, visit
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