For the short sketch of the life of one of Woodstock's most esteemed and enterprising citizens in former days the writer is largely indebted to his nephew Mr. George U. Hay, principal of the Victoria school St. John, and also to his daughter Mrs. W. S. Corbett of Woodstock. The reminiscences that follow the sketch were written by the late Mr. Hay for the Carleton Sentinel and appeared in that paper in November 1879. It is to be regretted that he did not place on record more of his recollections of Woodstock's early days.
Among the men who came to Woodstock in its infancy and by energy and perservance helped to build it up was Robert A. Hay. He was born in Digby, N. S., March 15th, 1808, and died at Woodstock Dec. 10th, 1882. His father, John Hay, died in 1817, and that year the family removed to New Brunswick. The family consisted of an elder brother, the late William Hay who lived in St. John and afterward at Norton, Kings County, and a younger sister, Mrs. Thomas C. Upham who is still living at the age of 82 in Boston. He married Jane McKean of Richmond. Two children survive him Mrs. W. S. Corbett and Mr. Brundage Hay, both of Woodstock.
Mr. Hay came to Woodstock when only fourteen years of age. He was fond of relating that coming in sight of what was then a mere hamlet on a beautiful evening in early summer, its picturesque situation so impressed him that he determined to make it his home. No citizen was concerned more in the growth and material progress of the city of Woodstock than he. In early life he engaged in the mercantile and lumbering business and was the head of the firm of Hay & Brundage. He afterwards purchased the foundry of the late Nelson Baker, enlarged it and carried it on with advantage and profit to the town and himself. He was about the first to employ the use of steam in his business. The old foundry situated bewlow the creek did quite a large business in its day and was the precursor of Small & Fisher's foundry. He took an active part in all public works, and was the chief promoter of the first railway that entered the town the Woodstock Branch, whose president he was for several years. Failing health compelled him to retire from active business pursuits many years before his death, but his interest in the public affairs of the city of his adoption remained undiminished until a lingering and severe illness brought his active and useful career to a close.
Mr. Hay's early reminiscences of Woodstock are as follows: "On the 26th day of July 1821, I landed in the Parish of Woodstock from a small boat towed by one horse from Fredericton; we were only 3 1/2 days on the passage, which was then considered pretty good time.
It may not be uninteresting to some of your readers to know who some of the first settlers in this parish were, so I will begin at Bull's Creek and continue up to the parish line. First was Captain Bull, a fine, hale, pleasant old man full of fun; he was a whig in politics and took delight in teasing his tory neighbors, but they all respected him and never had any social party without inviting him as they knew it would be a dull affair unless he was present.
The next was old Mr. Rogers, a very quiet inoffensive man, who owned the farm on which Mr. Charles Bull now resides.
The next was Charles Ketchum, a first rate, honest man, and a good neighbor, but a high tory. It was said that tory notions were so strong in him that he would not sleep in a room in which the picture of George Washington hung on the wall.
The next was Rev. Parson Dibblee, a good man and much respected by all who knew him; he was the first minister of the Gospel in this parish; he owned a large tract of land reaching from Rogers' up to the glebe or church land.
Next above the church land was the Griffith property; a small part of this land had been sold to Dr. Samuel Rice, who had recently removed here from Houlton, and built a fine house, at that time the largest in the parish. Dr. Rice was the only doctor in the parish for a number of years. He could be seen every day, rain or shine, jogging along on horse back, with his saddle bags well stored with medicine for his patients for you know that there were no apothecary shops here in those days, not for many years after. Dr. Rice was a very kind man and a good doctor. At the time I refer to the Griffith farm was occupied by Benjamin and Robert Griffith; their father, Major Griffith, had died some years previous but their mother was still living.
The next was the Bedell farm, occupied by the old squire and his sons. William J. was then married, the other sons were not married but lived with their father. The young men kept a small store, owned a tow boat, and carried on lumbering pretty largely for those times. The old Squire was a first rate man who, in the absence of Parson Dibblee, read the service in church, and he did most of the marrying. He was one of the best of neighbors, kind to his family and everybody else, always pleasant and willing to lend a helping hand to the poor; but one had to be careful on approaching him not to touch "church and state;" if they did he would fire up in a minute; he was a high tory and a good man.
The next was the Peabody farm, at that time occupied by the three brothers James, Charles and George; this property had formerly been owned by a man named Clark who had sold out.
Next above was the farm owned by William Dibblee ("Uncle Bill") an old bachelor who lived with his mother, a very old woman; this property is now owned and occupied by Mr. Charles W. Raymond. Then comes the John D. Beardsley farm now occupied by Mr. Charles Beardsley; then the Jackson property and then the Slocomb property.
Next we come to Michael Smith's ("Uncle Mike") a fine property at present owned by Mr. William D. Smith. Mr. Smith was a very kind, good and inoffensive man, who had no enemies but many friends; he raised a large family many of whom are still living.
Next was Squire James Upham, also a first rate man, and adjoining him was his brother William Upham ("Uncle Bill") as he was generally called. He had no family but consoled himself for that want by the use of his fiddle, which he was very fond of.
The next farm was owned by the late George Bull, a son of old Captain Bull. This property formerly belonged to Captain Jacob Smith, and was sold by him to Mr. Bull, his son-in-law. This property joined the one owned and occupied by Captain Jacob Smith, who lived himself in the house on the south side of the creek now known as the old waggon shop, but at that time a very respectable house. Captain Smith was a fine, healthy, robust old man, always ready for a trade, very active in business, very fond of a good horse and loved to ride at a Jehu pace. There are many funny anecdotes told by his furious driving in the early days of the settlement, when there were no roads. They had many very fine horses in those days; Woodstock has always been noted for good horses, but I think the horses then were quite equal to those of the present day. The property on the north side of the creek was owned by Captain Richard Smith, son of Captain Jacob Smith; he was also a very good kind of man but, unfortunately was troubled with the palsy, which caused his death a few years after.
Next came Mr. Anthony Baker the property is now owned, as I am told, by Rev. Thomas Todd.
Captain Thomas Phillips owned and occupied the next property. The Captain kept a small store, carried on considerable lumbering, and had a tow boat. It must be remembered that it was no small matter to own a tow boat in those days; I do not think there were over five or six on the whole length of the river from Fredericton to Wakefield; and these boats were very small and would only carry about sixty barrels.
David Jackson occupied the adjoining property and next above is the property lately owned by Mr. Charles Marven, but at the time I came to Woodstock not occupied at all, so far as I know.
We now come to the property owned by the late Colonel Richard Ketchum, now owned by Mr. John Fisher; the upper line of this farm is also the parish line. The late Colonel Ketchum was a man of a great deal of push and energy, always full of business. He ever took great interest in the welfare of the country and was always ready to lend a helping hand to the new settler and others whom he thought worthy of his aid; he had a large family who have all passed away.
All of these people of whom I have written were loyalists and the most of them high tories, and notwithstanding their many privations they appeared to enjoy themselves and to be as happy as people are in the present day, except only when Captain Bull would stir up their bile by speaking favorably of General Washington; then you might look for a breeze especially if our friend Charles Ketchum was round. There is another thing that I must mention of these old settlers, of course in those days at their social parties or social gatherings the bottle went freely round and as a natural consequence, their words flowed pretty freely, but no man can say that he ever saw any of them intoxicated, they would have considered that a disgrace.
W. O. Raymond