Description of Historic Place
This designation includes the portion of the Saint John River bounded by the eastern and western limits of the City of Fredericton and extending from the south shore to the high water mark on the northern bank of the river. It includes the portion of the riverbed granted to the City of Fredericton by the 1848 Act of Incorporation. This bend in the Saint John River includes a significant confluence with the Nashwaak River.
A pivotal waterway in the province, the Saint John River is embedded with considerable heritage value, including its association for millennia with First Nations Peoples. The Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) named the River “Wolastoq”, meaning “beautiful river.” The presence of the “people of the beautiful river” endured even in the midst of French, British and American colonization efforts.
This portion of the Saint John River also has value in its association with post-contact settlement and military history. The quest for control of the Saint John River Valley began in the late 17th century. Joseph Robineau de Villebon, Governor of Acadia, began the construction of Fort St. Joseph, more commonly known as Fort Nashwaak, at the mouth of the Nashwaak in 1691. The garrison deflected an attack upon the Fort by New Englanders in 1696, but Fort Nashwaak was dismantled shortly after Villebon’s death in 1700.
In 1758, Colonel Robert Monckton initiated the Saint John River Campaign in which the British burned all the Acadian villages along the river. The thriving town at St. Ann’s Point (later Fredericton) was burned in February 1759, and at the conclusion of the Saint John River Campaign, the area came under British control.
The ebb and flow of the economy of this area would remain tied to the river through the establishment of trading posts. Inland settlement was only made possible by the navigable waters of the Saint John River, and with the arrival of the Loyalists at St. Ann’s Point in 1783, the river became a hub of activity. The river also helped shape the layout of the City of Fredericton. In 1827, an Act of the Legislature established eleven public landings along Fredericton’s shoreline. In order to provide access to the public landings, Fredericton streets were extended to the river bank. The connection and dependence upon the river spawned such local industries as shipbuilding. The portion of the riverbed that runs along the municipal boundary was granted to the City of Fredericton as part of its Act of Incorporation in 1848.
The remnants of river-crossing structures, its former use as a source of domestic drinking water, the rise and fall of ferry services and the shipbuilding industry, as well as the ever-present threat of flooding reflect the dynamic way in which this portion of the Saint John River shaped the City of Fredericton and characterized its citizens.
Source: City of Fredericton, Local Historic Places files, “Saint John River”
The character-defining elements related to the portion of the Saint John River located along the boundaries of the City of Fredericton include:
- the portion of the riverbed granted to the City of Fredericton through its 1848 Act of Incorporation;
- its association with First Nations Peoples spanning millennia, including known and potential archaeological resources;
- its role in facilitating inland settlement;
- its primary role in trade and navigation;
- the three bridges which connect opposite shores, including the visible piers of the former Carleton Street Bridge;
- sites of former ferry landings.