Chronicles

The Restigouche-With Notes Especially On Its Flora
by: By G. U. Hay, 1896 via The Tribune  

        This is an article by G. U. Hay, written in 1896 and printed in Bulletin XIV of the Natural History Society of New Brunswick under the titled "The Restigouche-With Notes Especially On Its Flora."

        We are very much indebted to Maureen Penn of the Campbellton Centennial Library, who went out of her way to obtain a photocopy of this from Saint John. This ran over several weeks in The Tribune (Campbellton) in April and May, 2005 and the editor's notes, contained within square brackets, are from The Tribune.

        Amongst the many plants referred to in this article, Hay makes mention of the groundnut. Groundnuts (which now have the Latin name Apios americana) are probably the most famous edible wild plant in eastern North America. Early European explorers and colonists of North America often depended upon the groundnut for their survival. The groundnut belongs to the bean or legume plant family (Leguminosae). The tuber is easily dug up, and when cooked tastes somewhat like a sweet potato. It has three times the protein of a potato and was a favourite of First Nations people, who often purposely planted the tubers along riverbanks in order to have food when they passed by on their travels. In fact, groundnuts growing along a riverbank are an indication that there was once a favourite camping spot of First Nations people close by.

        The Restigouche-With Notes Especially On Its Flora
By G. U. Hay, 1896

        Last summer, in company with Dr. W.F. Ganong, I made a trip down the Restigouche in a canoe. On the morning of the 25th July, we started from St. Leonard's Station, about thirteen miles above Grand Falls on the St. John, and made the portage through to the headwaters of the Restigouche, twenty-five miles, arriving there about four o'clock that afternoon.

        Twelve days after we reached Campbellton after a most delightful trip, in almost uninterrupted fine weather, and upon a river that has no superior in romantic and picturesque scenery, even in this province of beautiful rivers.

        Twelve years ago, when I stood on Bald Mountain at the head of the Tobique and looked over the expanse of virgin forest, amid which the Restigouche threads its way through a wild and deep valley seaward, I had a desire to know more of a river that is alike the sportsman's paradise, the delight of artists, and almost a terra incognita to naturalists. With an appetite sharpened by twelve years of waiting, I became a willing partner in last summer's excursion.

        For the first twelve miles of our portage through from the St. John to the headwaters of the Restigouche we had a good road. Our portageurs-three men in all-drove ahead on a stout wagon drawn by two horses with our canoe and baggage, while we brought up the rear in a light wagon. The remaining thirteen miles we made mostly on foot over a very rough road.

        The morning was bright and beautiful, and for two or three miles we drove along the banks of the St. John until we came to the Grand River, up the ridge bordering on whose valley we were soon winding by a succession of hills that brought us gradually to the northern watershed of New Brunswick. The view from one of the highest of these hills is strikingly picturesque. Behind us lay the broad valley of the St. John flowing with sweeping majestic curves from it shone in the northern wilderness, passing the quiet villages of St. Leonard's and Van Buren, and then continuing in a long, quiet stretch as if preparing for the rush and leap at the Grand Falls.

        On the opposite side of the St. John lay the highlands of Maine. On our right was the narrow gorge of the Grand River, and on our left the valleys of the Siegas and Quisibis with the lofty peaks of Green River and Quisibis Mountains in the distance. Except the narrow settlement we were going through, all around was an unbroken wilderness.

        Along the Grand River Settlement there were three grades of settlers, nearly all French, or descendants of French, for the Province of Quebec and Madawaska County. The first grade included the oldest settlers, with passably comfortable houses, a considerable acreage of land reclaimed from the forest, with fields showing a more or less scientific attempt at cultivation. The second grade showed a link between the modern and the settler of bygone years. There was the frame house, and near by the tottering remains of the old log cabin where the "rude forefathers of the hamlet" dwelt, now a picture of ruin and distress. For what more distressed picture is there than an old house, which in its day merely served the purpose of shelter? The last or frontier settlement is on the verge of civilization, and we are standing before the last hut before plunging into the forest. And this hut is typical of a dozen that we have seen in the last few miles. Not a vestige of a tree or shrub around the bare and comfortless hovel; a half-starved geranium in the only window that fronted the roadway; a group of shy children that refused our advances and scattered to the rear of the house on our approach; a dog that growled sullen defiance and betook himself to the door where he showed his gleaming teeth in a very unmistakeable way.

        It is not to be wondered that we bade goodbye to civilization (?) on that hot July day, and betook ourselves to the grateful shade of the forest with the liveliest relief and satisfaction. A great city is not the only place where we meet with extremes of wealth and poverty, of high and low life. As we entered the woods and saw those aristocratic elms and maples and pines, we were impressed with their magnificence, and could not help thinking that if those poor settlers, when they carved homes for themselves out of the wilderness had thought that they had other wants to satisfy than mere physical wants, they would have left standing one or two lordly forest trees and reared their humble roofs with their grateful shade. It seems to me that the Giver of all blessings would look down upon such a habitation as that and pronounce it "good". How much better is man, both physically and intellectually, with trees as neighbours and companions, beneath whose cool shade he can rest himself and smoke his pipe in contentment as he surveys his growing acres, and thank God for them all.

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