Day 43 – July 19 – St. John, NB to Digby, NS

It would take six hours to drive from St. John, New Brunswick to Digby, Nova Scotia. Or….you can take the ferry and arrive in 2 1/2 hours. Which we did. But the ferry was not scheduled to leave until 2:15 so we did some exploring in St. John after breakfast.

We went to the Loyalist House, which was closed when we were in St. John in 2014. It is the oldest house in the city. Built in 1810 by David Daniel Merritt. A wealthy American who left the USA after it ceded from British rule. Most people feel the United Empire Loyalist disliked the USA and that is why they left, but they left because they preferred to remain under the British system of government by monarchy. The Loyalists were the first settlers of St. John and David Daniel Merritt and his family arrived from New York with all their household furnishings, contents and wealth. His brother was the wealthest man in St. John and when he died David Daniel was his heir. Five generations of the family lived in the house.

The family eventually sold the house and it was bought by the Irving Corporation, who wanted to build a skycraper on the lot. Local historians declared it was the oldest building in the city and it had to be saved. Irving said, “Prove it.” So the house was scoured from attic to cellar to find evidence. A newspaper clipping was found in the kindling box in the kitchen that had an article that said Mr. Merritt’s new house was completed. It was dated 1810. The Irvings accepted that and either donated or sold the house to the St. John Historical Society. Sadly the newspaper article was put back in the kindling box and later burned.

We were given a tour by a nice young lady who had many interesting details about the contents of the house. Pretty much all of the contents were original. The majority of the furniture was made from mahogany. The ships of the day would keep mahogany in the hold for weight ballast and when it was no longer needed they would just toss it on the shore. Woodworkers would go down and collect it to make their furniture.

This is a piano that is also an organ. You just move a switch to change it from one to the other. This is one of two existing in the world. The other is in New York.

Sitting on the desk are two leather fire buckets. Every house in St. John was issued a fire bucket and in the event of a fire in the neighbourhood everyone was expected to take their buckets to help extinquish the fire. Most of the houses in the late 1800’s were built of wood. In 1877 a devastating fire destroyed 2/5 of the city. The fire stopped about a block from the Merritt house. It is told that the servants saved the house by wrapping it in wet cloths. This is a three-story house so not sure how that could be done but they may have put the wet cloths on the roof to prevent embers from taking hold. After the big fire houses and buildings were made predominantly of brick. The hat hanging on the wall is a leather fire hat.

The Merritt family tree.

The dishes were a donated set but the cabinet in the corner had Merritt dishes that are painted with gold and have no indication of ever having been used.

The big fireplace in the kitchen had been bricked over when gas was installed in the house. When the historical society was restoring the house they un-bricked it and discovered all the large cast iron cooking pots that were no longer needed stacked inside. Needless to say they were happy about that.

The rug under the bed in the guest bedroom is original. The Prince of Wales came to St. John and, it is said, did not want to stay in any of the city hotels so asked who was the wealthest man in town and went to stay with him. This would have been his bed.

At one time the Loyalist House had costumed guides and these two dresses were made by the costume department for the women to wear. The crib is for a toddler and the cradle across the room was for the babies.

There were some unique – to us anyway – items in the house.

This lift was strapped to a lady’s shoes when she went out to keep her hem from dragging in the mud of the street.

This is a storm lantern. There were two of them, maybe three because they are not sure if the wood-framed square one below is a storm lantern or something else. All the holes allow the light to come out, but prevent the wind from getting in to blow out the candle.

The slender pointy thing is a hair curler. I don’t think I would want to use it as the handle as well as the curler part are made of iron so would get equally hot. I have no idea how they would prevent scorching their hair.

This is a collar crimper. Collars were removable and put on separate from the shirt. This gadget would press them and crimp them which was the fashion of the day.

This strange item was sitting beside the fireplace. No one knows what it was used for. It would make sense that the round platform could be used to place things on to put in the fireplace but what would the spiked H frame be used for? And it appears to swivel.

After we left the Loyalist House we wandered around a few blocks looking at the old brick buildings. Many have been gutted and modernized inside and are lawyers office, yoga studios, and all manner of other buinesses.

These two churches were directly across the street from each other.

We drove a few blocks over and wandered through the Loyalist Cemetery which was established in 1873, not long after the Americans arrived.

The fire fighters museum was closed in 2014 and when I checked on the web the other day it said it was still closed. When we walked from the Loyalist Cemetery to King’s Square we noticed it was open, but by then we did not have enough time before we had to be at the ferry terminal to go look through it.

The bandstand in the center of King’s Square was donated by the City Cornet Band in 1909. King’s Square was established in 1785.

The Saint John City Market, the oldest continuing farmer’s market in Canada, is a National Historic Site. It dates back to the 1870s with vendors carrying local produce, meats, seafood & crafts.

We had to be at the ferry terminal an hour before sailing so we headed over and got in line. The fog had not lifted all day and was very thick at the harbour. The ferry was supposed to leave at 2:15 but we did not start boarding until after 3.

These two tugs were waiting for the container ship to get close to them so they could escort it into St. John harbour. They both hugged right up to the side of it and kept it in the correct shipping lane as it approached it’s berth.

The lighthouse was casting its beam but the fog was not so thick that fog horns were needed. The further we sailed from St. John the nicer the sky became and by the time we arrived in Digby it was a beautiful afternoon.

Towing in the fish farm.

It was only a 15 minute drive into Digby and our Bed & Breakfast. We got settled and went into town to find some dinner.

Tomorrow we begin exploring new things in Nova Scotia. The roads will not be new as we drove all the way around the peninsula in 2014. There are only about four roads that cross the middle and the places we want to visit again, or for the first time, are on the coast road.

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