Friday, August 9, 2013

St Andrews-by-the-Sea, New Brunswick, Canada

St Andrews-by-the-Sea is an interesting, lovely town on a peninsula just over the US/Canadian border which has a fascinating history. In the 18th century the north east coast of Maine was populated mostly by United Empire Loyalists; at the beginning of the War of Independence in 1775 many of them feeling that they would remain under British rule and be safe moved further north. They assumed that the Penobscot River would be the northern border of the US and developed Castine (south of Bar Harbor - see Searsport blog) building a harbor and large fine homes and were all set to prosper. They were wrong! When the boundary lines were drawn the St. Croix River about a hundred miles north marked the border. Believe it or not…the loyalists dismantled their homes put them on barges and ships and transported them to what is now St Andrews-by-the Sea, some of those houses still stand today on the Main Street. The St Croix River is the nearest point of Canada which is 45 degrees north; Maine’s northernmost point is at 48 degrees north - an interesting note Ireland is between 52 and 56 degrees north.

Our RV Park run by the Kiwanis’s for the benefit of the town is at the very eastern end of the peninsula. Just across the road on a lush green lawn is a large Celtic Cross commentating the Irish immigrants who arrived, more especially during the potato famine. On arrival they were quarantined on Hospital Island to recover from their many illnesses; typhoid, whooping cough, diphtheria, cholera, coughing blood disease (TB) and of course starvation. Two other Irish people from Cork were at the Cross at the same time. One afternoon we went to the Town archives where they had an amazing volume of research data to see if there were any Horgan or Cheevers listed - there were none. We were shown the Town 1851 census listing 8,000 people from Ireland, 700 from England, 350 from Scotland, for some reason there was no record of people from Wales. For years afterwards (all documented) the Irish came in their thousands; one member of a family would emigrate, make enough money to send back for the passage of a family member so as such the new immigrants were not a burden on the town and were welcome. We discovered great empathy for the Irish in St Andrews-by-the-Sea.

St Andrews-by-the-Sea was one of the first seaside resort towns developed in Canada with the spectacular Algonquin Hotel built in the Tudor style on the highest point of the town and opened in 1889; it has 234 rooms, offered salt water baths and clean fresh air. The hotel is currently being refurbished as a Conference Center and is due to re-open in September. One day Adele went to a Knitting Club in the RV Park and met a lady who remembers the "rich" people coming to their summer cottages in town and being chauffeur driven about ¼ of a mile to the town shops. They never mixed with the locals, developed their own private beach, indoor pool, outdoor pool and gymnasium. She knew that was how the rich meant it to stay; the 1929 crash and following depression in which the rich lost their money changed that.
We just loved this little town and its friendly people. A great welcome to Canada!

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