Eugene Goodrich, Professor Emeritus (History), Mount Allison University, in association with the Westmorland Historical Society, has completed three works on aspects of the Tantramar region and southeastern New Brunswick. Here, he's shown recently with the books, proceeds of which support the work of the Westmorland Historical Society. LEBLANC PHOTO
SACKVILLE, NB - A love of history coupled with the desire to preserve historical information for generations to come have inspired one local man to write three books on local and regional subjects.
Over the past three years, W. Eugene Goodrich, a retired professor of history at Mount Allison University, has penned ‘The Intellectual World of Josiah Wood’, ‘Local Government in Early Westmorland County’ and ‘Stagecoach Days on the Westmorland Great Road’; all three books were designed by Leslie Van Patter. Profits from the sale of all three publications help to support the work of the Westmorland Historical Society, of which Goodrich is a member and past president.
He talked recently about the researching and writing of the books and why he chose to take on the projects.
“It really began in 1977 when (then Mount Allison president) Bill Crawford donated two mahogany bookcases filled with about 250 old volumes to the Keillor House Museum in Dorchester. I happened to look through them when I was there once and I noticed that some of them came from a very early date – some from the 1800s, the 1700s, in fact there were some from as early as the 1500s, it was unbelievable,” he recalled.
Armed with a list of titles, Goodrich decided to compile a descriptive catalogue of the book collection, which later was revealed to be that of Josiah Wood. His 33 years spent teaching ancient, medieval, renaissance and early modern European history combined with some proficiency in reading Latin (plus a ‘smattering’ of Greek), giving Goodrich an arm-up in tackling the project.
He admits that of the three books, the one on Josiah Wood is his favourite.
“Josiah Wood was a very interesting man; he accomplished a lot in his life and played a large role in the development of this region. However, for whatever reason, he doesn’t seem to be one of the most popular historical figures of this area; today many people don’t know a lot about him,” he said.
Goodrich noted that Wood (1843-1927) was born in Sackville and was a member of the first graduating class of the Mount Allison Wesleyan College (later Mount Allison University), and among many other credentials, was the first mayor of Sackville, a lawyer, the 13th Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick, a senator, a shipbuilder and retail developer.
“He was also founder, eventual president and the largest shareholder of the New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island Railway Company which ran from Sackville to Cape Tormentine. Most people also don’t know that he dipped into his own pocket to help the young, struggling university and contributed to many worthy endeavours, including the creation of the ‘Swan Pond’, he said.
In addition to Goodrichs’ comprehensive introduction to Josiah Wood, the book contains a complete listing of the man’s extensive book collection and Goodrich’s description of each of his books.
“I didn’t read all of the 250 books, but I did read in them…enough to know what they were all about…and translated all of the titles. Some of them are extremely amusing, some are really quite long. About 20 per cent of the books are in Latin or Greek…of course, some of the titles are far more interesting than others,” he said.
After the completion of the Josiah Wood book, Goodrich began to consider his second project for the Westmorland Historical Society and that began with a comment made by the late Charlie McEwen, also a former member of the WHS.
“Charlie grew up in Dorchester, later went on to Moncton and became very successful in business… like a lot of people he had a soft spot for Dorchester… Some members interviewed Charlie and he told them he wanted to build a replica of a stagecoach and give it to the Westmorland Historical Society…he knew that Dorchester had been one of the important stops on the stagecoach routes…he used to imagine stagecoaches rattling along the old Post Road which had been near his childhood home in Upper Dorchester,” Goodrich recalled.
And although the replica was never built, Goodrich began to develop a keen interest in the role stagecoaches played many years ago in this region. That fascination led to him launching research on his next project, a book about all aspects of stagecoaches in the early years of this area.
“The first thing I discovered was that nobody had written anything about stagecoaches in New Brunswick…there was one publication about transporting mail in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia with one small section about this region, but that is all,” he said.
His subsequent extensive research resulted in the inclusion of many aspects of the era of the stagecoach in New Brunswick including its origins in Europe and colonial America and its late arrival in this province. As well, it includes the stagecoach lines on the Westmorland Great Road; travelling by stagecoach including sections on the roads, drivers and inns along the way; the operation of a stagecoach company including revenues, profits and passengers as well as several appendices which show long-ago stagecoach advertisements, maps and tables showing distance; and financial statements and petitions concerning stagecoaches.
“I gathered all the material – of course there was a lot more than what I had intended in the first place. The more information I found, I just kept adding topics. It was important to include the information on the stage coach lines, but then I began to wonder about other aspects, such as what was it like to travel on a stagecoach, where did the people stay, how did the companies operate, what kind of horses did they use. All of that is very interesting stuff so I included sections on those things as well,” he said.
The original book was published in 2010 but was so popular the WHS had it reprinted just last year, with the section edition also containing additional information Goodrich had since acquired.
“It’s been a popular book; people seem to be interested in reading about stagecoaches,” he said with a smile.
His third book is on local government in early Westmorland County which, Goodrich notes, would be of particular interest to local historians, genealogists and general readers alike. In addition to an annotated transcription of the original manuscript of the only surviving record (minute book) of the General Sessions of the Peace for Westmorland County, it includes a comprehensive survey of the structure and functioning of the government during the earliest period of the counties’ history.
He explained that the General Sessions were the twice-yearly meetings of all the justice of the peace for the county.
“Appointed by the provincial government from among the most prominent men, the justices were responsible for enforcing the laws governing petty crimes and misdemeanours, administering relief to the poor, granting licenses for taverns and stores as well as levying and collecting taxes, and a whole lot more,” he explained.
Numerous other government duties were attended to during these meetings, he added, every from acting as a court of law for criminal offences of a moderately serious nature to the passing of bylaws on a plethora of administrative matters such as ferry schedules and loose livestock.
“This is the time when they would appoint town and parish officers including road supervisors, tax assessors, constables, the town clerk, fence viewers, (animal) pound keepers and hog reeves. Juries were assembled and were expected to try criminal cases as well as make recommendations on such things as tax rates and bridge repairs. But they also heard cases of assault and battery, petty larceny and even ‘bastardy’ (that of fathering a child out of wedlock that would likely become a charge of the parish),” Goodrich noted.
He added that, because members of the jury were required to own a certain amount of property within the region, the document reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of the counties’ most elite residents. This includes the names of all tavern keeps, store owners and ferry operators in the county in addition to the identities of all town and parish officers. Goodrich has also included brief descriptions of individual high sheriffs, coroners and 14 of the 30 justices of the peace who served from 1785-1809.
“We’ve also included a CD of the entire book to make it electronically searchable,” he said.
With work on the three books behind him, Goodrich admitted to being once again well into research for yet another local historical figure, John Keillor.
“I don’t work on it all of the time, but it does keep me busy,” he said.
All three works by Goodrich are available for sale at Keillor House gift shop in Dorchester, Boultenhouse Heritage Centre, the Campbell Carriage Factory as well as Tidewater Books in Sackville.