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Restigouche River, New Brunswick


    Tide Head, a village five miles west of Campbellton, on the Restigouche River. In the old days, Tide Head was just a stop on the C. N. R. where they loaded or unloaded freight. It was known as Moffats. Moffats operated a mill there, hence the name. This mill was located on Christopher Brook and run by water power. Water supplied by a dam that stretched from what is now the Pollock property on the west and the Myles property on the east, was constructed of giant cedar logs with a head of about twenty-four feet, sloped on the water side and faced with split cedar, then caulked with moss, located about one hundred feet above the now highway bridge. It was a grist mill and ground grain for the surrounding country. The huge granite grinding stones were there a few years ago and no doubt still are if you care to look by the side of the road. About the year 1900 the mill burned, but the dam was still there when I was a boy and we played around there often. The mill race was opened up to allow the log drive to go through, fish were plentiful there in those days. It was an ideal place for them to hide and we spent many happy hours fishing there. The dam is gone now, hauled away for wood, no doubt.
   The tide coming up the Restigouche River flows up as far as Morrises' Rock, so they changed the name from Moffats to Head of Tide, later shortened to Tide Head. At that time Tide Head was a small village. I am speaking now of some sixty years ago. A. K. Alford ran a general store where what is known as Alford's corner. He was also a lumberman. There was a Post Office kept by H. Gillis. They built a new station there, E. Gillis was station agent, and a Presbyterian Church, a short way back on what is now the Stewart Highway and a little red school house. Let me say something here about that school. Some twenty-four years ago I demolished it to make way for a new one. It should have been kept for a museum. It was a wonderful piece of framing work. Each studding was tenoned and mortised into the sill and the plate at the top, as were the corner posts. The window openings were also mortised and tenoned. The corner braces were also mortised and tenoned but were a masterpiece of joining. The rafters were lapjoined, corner posts and corner braces were held together with hardwood pins. The studding had no pins, no nails anywhere in this whole structure, except the rafters were nailed at the plate with square cut iron nails.
   I drove out the pins and everything came apart without the least bit of trouble. The sills had been made with a broad axe, the rest sawed with a whip saw. One day a fellow came and looked at it and said: "I will give you a hundred dollars for it. I want it for a work shop." I said: "Sold". I met him some time later and he told me he and another man reassembled it in one day and it went together like clockwork. I suppose this school was one of the first buildings in Tide Head and framing of this sort was an art. We will speak of barn framing later on. The people of Tide Head were English, Scotch and Irish, descendents of the early settlers. They were farmers, industrious, hard working and honest people. Sometimes they had their little squabbles but they were soon forgotten and they lived in harmony. They were a God fearing people. They never missed church if they could help it, either in the morning or the evening, as there was service every Sunday. They would walk or drive with horse and buggy and would come for miles. They took great pride in their choir. When I hear the song, 'The voice in the old village choir', I feel sad. They are all gone but I can still hear those voices.
   Our school had just one room and an entrance and cloak room. A wood-burning stove and we were often cold but we would huddle around the stove and we sort of enjoyed it and thought it was the natural thing to do. Some of the children walked as far as four miles. There were no plowed roads in those days and not dressed as they are today - no snowsuits, no leather mitts or long pants but they trudged through the deep snow and bitter cold. Our family walked one and a quarter miles. That was not considered a very long walk. One family by the name of Nellis, our next neighbor, lived a mile further up the road than we did. Winter and summer they walked that lonely road, rain or snow. They were sometimes cold, sometimes frightened, as it was all bush, no houses between and in those days tramps were quite numerous. Most were harmless but some were not. If it was in this age people would not allow their children to walk such a lonely road, however at that time it seemed quite natural to do so. Although people seemed to work harder and longer hours than they do today, they were just as happy. I suppose happiness is just a state of the mind.
   For pastime there would be dances, snowshoeing, coasting, sing songs, concerts, skating and many other things for entertainment and of course the Christmas Tree. Whole families turned out for this occasion. Some families walked miles. People made sure that every child got something from Santa. Everyone dressed in their Sunday best. An enjoyable evening was had by all. Closing day was a great day for the school kids, for them the happiest day of the year. Parents came to see how their children were doing and see their work, writing, reading and reciting. The trustees would bring a little bag of candy for each child and they would go home singing: "No more teachers, no more books," just as they do today.
   I suppose in our village nearly everyone met the trains. The accommodation - a freight train with one passenger car, going to Campbellton from St. Flavie at five P.M. and one fast local train between Campbellton and St. Flavie. Then a suburban freight train that would carry passengers in the caboose, leaving Campbellton, going west, anytime between ten P.M. and eight A. M. We boys usually rode the top of the boxcars, the darker the night the better.
   Sometimes there would be as many as nine( or ten boys running along the top of the cars or hanging on the sides. It was a dangerous pastime. Why some of us boys were not killed was a miracle.
   At one time there were two bridges in the Christopher Brook Valley, below the dam. When the dam was in use an overflow was built in the east end. This would prevent the water from flowing over the entire length of the dam. In the Spring this overflow caused quite a stream, so a bridge had to be built over it, but in the summer when the water was low this stream was just a pond and a home for frogs, so they called it frogpond bridge. It has since been filled in, but frogs are still there and in the summer their songs are lovely to hear.
   Of course a bridge at the west end of the valley spans the brook. The long railway bridge has been filled in, although nothing was removed. The steel trusses and piers are still there, buried under the dump, all except at the west end where you can still see two of the original abutments but the truss has been replaced by a solid span. Moffats beach, as this area was called, was a popular place on holidays and many came from Campbellton and other places to spend the day. It has changed a lot since then.
   At that time it was a green field even under the bridge. The beach was sandy and smooth and at the mouth of the brook there were plenty of trout. You could fish or swim or just bask in the sun or lay in the shade and relax and spend a very pleasant day.

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