HISTORY OF CAMP WHISONG
The original land grant given to George Miller, on March 10, 1825, was for two hundred acres and was shared with Robert Colpitts, Jr. In his petition, Miller requested an additional one hundred acres, which was not granted. The property had originally been petitioned by a Henry Jones many years before and had passed through many hands. We have obtained copies of George Miller’s original petition for the land grant and of the grant itself.
George Miller, originally from Upper Canada, was born on 24 August 1790, death unknown, was a Mennonite Brethren and a shoe-maker by trade. He came to New Brunswick in April 1813, settling in Coverdale in Salisbury Parish. He married Eleanor Geldart (25 August 1799 – 14 February 1866) in 1819. They had 13 children between 1821 and 1843.
Miller served for two years and nine months in the “New Brunswick Fencible Infantry” in the Captain Gibbons Company under the command of General Coffin. This company was formed for the defense of New Brunswick, at the time a British colony, during the American/British War of 1812-1814. Miller was discharged in 1816 when the corps was disbanded. Land grants were awarded to individuals with military service after a successful petition to the Lieutenant Governor of the province. The petition for the land grant was made before William Scott, Justice of the Peace, stating that Miller was a married man “with means and ability to cultivate the land”, and that he had previously cleared two acres of land. It is interesting to note that on the copy of the original land grant, the Pollett River, which is the present boundary line for northeast side of the property, is written as “Paulette’s River”.
The original house consisted of the present “back porch”, most likely the kitchen; the campfire/activity room upstairs was presumably the sleeping quarters. Two of the panes of glass in the porch side window and some of the panes in the upstairs windows are originals. Looking through these panes, the landscape appears wavy, rather than a clear view as through today’s glass.
The main part of the house as it stands today was added between 1854 and 1859. To attest to the affluence of the Miller family, all five bedrooms had built-in closets, whereas most settlers in the area did not have sufficient funds to build rooms large enough to contain closets. Gingerbread decorated the roof peaks, high quality wood was used in the diamond-shaped siding, and the uniqueness of the interior wood is evident throughout the house. A half-spiral stairwell is constructed of oak and walnut; the walnut was shipped from Philadelphia, the oak from near Hopewell Cape. The decorative plasterwork at the ceiling level was not duplicated in area homes and required a specialized tradesman to complete. All the original floors have “graining” done to them. Graining was a specialized trade in 1855, and the craftsman most likely was brought in from another community to do the work.
The property has had the following owners:
George Miller – 1825 – 1898
Charles L. Blakeney – 1898 – unknown
Otto L. Blakeney – unknown – 1931
Karl V. Olsen – 1931
Canadian Farm Board – 1931
Arthur Harrison – 1936 – 1947
Ian Colpitts – 1947 – 1960
Albert Area Girl Guides – 1960
The property presently occupies 103 of the original land grant of 200 acres.
BLAKENEY* FAMILY – 1898 – 1931
Charles “Lewis” Blakeney, born 17 October 1839, his wife Annie, and their six children acquired the house and land in 1898. They were very affluent and Mrs. Blakeney wanted to have the finest house in the area. Furnishings were brought in from England and many renovations were made to the interior.
To help with the farming and maintenance of the property, Carl V. Olsen, called “the Dane” was employed. The Blakeney’s youngest son, Otto L., (1880- 14 May 1939), was never married and inherited the property upon the death of his parents (date unknown). Otto experienced financial difficulty in maintaining payment on the property and with paying Olsen’s salary, thus on February 2, 1931, Olsen took possession of the land and house in lieu of default of payments. Olsen subsequently sold the property on May 12, 1931 to the Canadian Farm Loan Board for defaulting on his mortgage of $1500. Olsen’s whereabouts after this sale and the date of his death are unknown.
Records show that Otto Blakeney from Elgin was a committee member for the fifth annual Colpitts family reunion held on September 2, 1915 at the farm of Ralph Colpitts in Forest Glen. His paternal grandmother was Sarah Anne Colpitts.
Otto moved to Moncton in 1931, and resided at the Salvation Army Eventide Home on Church Street at the time of his death in 1939. He had his fifteen minutes of fame on January 6, 1936. While cutting wood on the Lake family property in Pacific Junction, on the outskirts of Moncton, he discovered three bodies in the snow. The entire Lake family, except for an infant daughter, has been murdered in a successful attempt to kidnap the four-month-old baby. The crime was called the Pacific Junction Murders. Suspects May Bannister and her two sons Arthur and Daniel were eventually arrested and convicted. May Bannister was sentenced to two years imprisonment; the sons were hanged on September 23, 1936.
* Note: there are various spelling of this family name: Blakeney, Bleakney, Blakney. We used the one most prevalent from our research.
CANADIAN FARM LOAN BOARD – 1931 – 1936
The Canadian Farm Loan Board held the property from 1931 to 1936. How this property was used during that time period has not been accounted for as yet. The Board advertised the sale of the property and held a public auction in front of the Post Office in Petitcodiac on April 9, 1935. There were no sufficient bids therefore the property was withdrawn from the auction to be sold by private contract without further notice being given.
ARTHUR HARRISON FAMILY – 1936 – 1947
Arthur Roy Harrison, born 25 April 1897, at Rowland Mountain, father James William Harrison, mother Esther “Abigail” Douthwright, purchased the property from the Canadian Farm Loan Board for in 1936 for $1800. Arthur and his wife Pearle raised seven children. They were married on 5 July 1922. The eldest child, Marion, inherited the property and lived there with her husband Ian Colpitts and their family until about 1959. Guiding members from Albert County were invited to camp on the property as they wished.
IAN AND MARION COLPITTS – 1947 – 1960
Marion and Ian were married at the farm house on 7 December 1945. A bride at 17, Mariondescended the spiral staircase in her wedding gown. They raised a family of five children and farmed the land until farming began to prove unprofitable. Ian left for work in Ontario(date unknown). Marion missed him so much that when a cousin dropped in for a visit on his way to Ontario, Marion and the children quickly packed up their suitcases and went with him. They never returned to live there again. Guiding members continued to use the property with the Colpitts’ permission. The Colpitts’ and their daughter Anna Staples vacation nearby and often visit the Camp.
BECOMING CAMP WHISONG – 1960
Shirley Stiles, a Guider from Elgin and who had once lived at the farm, suggested that Albert Area (as it was known at the time) Girl Guides investigate purchase of the property from the Colpitts, to be used as a Camp. On 28 December 1960, Albert Area became the proud owners of “Camp Whisong”. In order to raise sufficient funds for the necessary renovations, Girl Guides held hay-box and bean hole suppers, among other things, as fundraisers.
CAMP HERMIT THRUSH
Elizabeth Post from Lakewood, Colorado visited Camp Whisong in 1995. She told us that she owns about 20 acres of land on the northeast side of the Pollett River. Her parents owned the property and turned it into a girls’camp in the 19-teens. She is the daughter and niece of campers from the U.S. who camped there circa 1920.
Girl Scouts from New York camped at Hermit Thrush in the summers prior to the 1950’s when the property was sold to an American couple who used the solitude to compose music. The camp had a few cabins with metal bunks and soft mattresses but no windows, and was accessed via the long walk down Camp Whisong’s lane, across the lower interval (approx. 10 acres) and then crossing the Pollett River, and climbing the cliff on the other side. The girls arrived in the area via the Elgin Prong railway, getting off at Bleakney Station (near Whisong). Stone steps leading up the cliff and a stone fireplace chimney are all that remain today.
On 25 August 1930, many hundreds of descendents of the Colpitts Family gathered for a Family Reunion at Little River, Albert Co. at the original homestead. During one afternoon of the reunion, the Girl Scouts from New York who were camping for the summer at CampHermit Thrush musically entertained the family. Later that evening, they returned to provide a rousing campfire with songs and skits.
THE ELGIN PRONE
The train that ran from Petitcodiac to Elgin from 1876 to 1955 was called the “Elgin Prong”. According to David Nason, “the Petitcodiac and Elgin Branch was a more modest project that the Albert Railway, really just a spur 14 miles in length running southward from Petitcodiac to the market town of Elgin. The local inhabitants, who were frugal in the extreme, built it. …the line was opened on July 1, 1876. However, the conductor was not paid and he operated the line in hopes that it would earn him enough to pay his costs. ….Though the line showed a modest surplus these first years, it was closed each winter. In 1890, it was placed into receivership, reorganized and renamed the Elgin and Havelock Railway Company. The line was never a money maker and was sold to the Dominion Government in 1918 and CN assumed operation. On March 15, 1955, the original 14 mile section from Petitcodiac to Elgin Corner was abandoned, and has subsequently become a hiking/ATV trail.
Blakney Station was built in 1920 but listed as a flag-stop. Station really only a platform.
It was a fun tradition to have a friendly ghost to watch over the old house when the Guides were not in residence and to play tricks on them when there were camping there. CampWhisong had a ghost and it is up to you to decide just how much is true and how much has been added to over the years.
Many years ago Camp Whisong was a thriving farmstead owned by the hardworking Blakeney family. Their youngest son Otto lived on at the farm after the death of his patents. The Blakneys employed a hired hand named Karl Olsen, nicknamed “the Dane”. He lived in a small house a distance from the main farmhouse. The Dane was rather mean and not much liked in the community, and did not get along with Otto. About a year after the parents’ death, the Dane told Otto that since he hadn’t been paid and he did all the work, he was going to take ownership of the property and was kicking Otto out.
As the story goes, apparently Otto died a short time later. He so missed his old hone that he started coming back to visit, entering through a bricked-up door in the basement. Otto came back to visit for a long time, even after the Girl Guides took over the property. If things were missing and suddenly reappeared, Otto did it. If the stove plugged up and house filled with smoke, Otto plugged the flue. If you put on a stew to simmer overnight, Otto put out the fire.
One night a group of Guiders were sleeping in the house. They were all settled down for the night when all of sudden there was a tinkling noise in the bathroom. One Guider shouted “Otto, at least close the door”, and the bathroom door suddenly slammed shut and the toilet flushed! No Guider had left her sleeping bag for the rest of the night!
And then there was the time the Rangers were staying at the camp to do some repair jobs before closing up for the winter. They were all down in the basement installing a couple of support beams. They were using a shovel to hammer with and making a lot of noise. When they heard someone in the driveway, they dropped the shovel and ran upstairs to see who had arrived. There was no one outside! Puzzled, they went back down to the basement, but the shovel was missing and nowhere to be found. They closed up camp for the winter and went home. The first thing the Guiders found in the spring was the shovel standing upright in the earthen basement floor. Otto had returned it!
Otto liked to hide toilet paper, camp hats, potato peelers, etc. He liked to rattle windows at night, walk around in the attic when people were sleeping in the house, and loosen guy lines on tents. He made leaves shake on the trees when there was no wind and move shadows around the campsite after midnight.
We haven’t heard a sound from Otto since we had the house raised and a new concrete basement installed a few years ago. Perhaps he doesn’t like all the renovations we’ve done to his old house. He should be pleased, thought, we’ve named a little beach on the PolletRiver after him – Otto’s Beach.
If it is ever your pleasure to pass through Pleasant Vale on your way to Meadow in Albert County, turn to the right after you have passed the home of Frank Shaffer, and cast your gaze westward up the valley of Workman Brook. There, a little to the right, like the rump of a prize hog, is what we used to call the Boar’s Back, and a little to the right of that, somewhat like the depression made by a giant meteor, is the “Goosemeat” and far up on its rim can be discerned the cleared fields of the Harrison Homestead.
On your left, it’s rugged cliffs covered with timber of spruce and fir, stands Zaccy Mountain, like some wired monster Sphinx from the land of the Nile, guarding the beautiful valley beyond, it’s fore-paws clutching the same roadway on which you stand.
If you inquired, someone would tell you it was named for Zachariah Jonah who cleared a farm on its western heights, which again is forest land. To its last settler, the last Luther Goodall, and to Agnes (Harrisson) I dedicate this poem.
When I was a little feller,
And my world had just begun
Luther lived on Zaccy Mountain
Over toward the rising sun.
He was tall and dark and handsome
And he lived up there alone
And spent his time a-whistling
When he wasn’t picking stone.
‘Cross the valley to the westward
Just a mile or so away
Came Aunt Aggie to the homestead
For to see our folks one day.
Never did a sweeter singer,
Ever try to reach old Zack
For she sang across at Luther
And he tried to whistle back
Now I’m hunting men of science
Who are very seldom wrong,
Just to figure out what happens
When a whistle meets a song.
As I stood there in the dooryard
With a slightly open mouth
I could see a little whirlwind
In the valley to the south.
With a twisting song and whistle
It went crashing up the hill!
(If you look you´ll see the bushes
Gently swaying up there still).
Like the breathing of a blizzard
And the groaning of a gale
I could hear it mixing music
With a whistle and a wail.
If you´re ever up the valley
On a peaceful day in June
You will hear the wind above you
Play the queerest kind of tune
Half a song and half a whistling
Like the waves upon the beach,
And I´ve christened it the “Whis-Song”
For it is a part of each.
If the mind is prone to wonder
When the outer man is old,
I will climb old Zaccy Mountain
In my search for inner gold;
For the memory´s dearest treasure
Shall be always bright as noon
I shall hear old Luther whistle
And I´ll hear Aunt Aggie´s tune.
by Arthur R. Harrisson