Gauging the historical merits of Gagetown
N.B. haven for artists steeped in Loyalist history
GAGETOWN, N.B. — The Village of Gagetown, in southern New Brunswick, is often described as a tranquil haven for those escaping the rush of city life.
The tiny community, just 35 minutes east of the provincial capital of Fredericton, is steeped in history and a favourite place for visitors who love wildlife, boating, and arts and crafts.
Flo Greig arrived 39 years ago to set up her pottery studio and shop, and now says she can’t imagine living anywhere else.
“I think the beauty and tranquillity of it and the natural ambience that we have here, nestled along the St. John River, and the historical aspect of it has such a draw and a pull. It lends a depth to the place,” she said.
Loyalists arrived in the area around 1784, and soon Gagetown was a bustling farming community and an important stop for vessels plying the St. John River.
“Gagetown is all about heritage,” said Susan Shalala with Queen’s County Heritage. “The heritage of the Loyalists, their family names and the artifacts that still remain and the museums that are built around them are still very rich here.”
The village has three museums, including Tilley House, which is the birthplace of Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley, a Father of Confederation. Tilley coined the phrase “the Dominion of Canada.” The home is a national historic site.
Within a few blocks of Tilley House, you’ll find the old brick jail, a 135-year-old Anglican Church, and the Queen’s County Courthouse, built in 1836. There’s also the loom crofters’ weaving studio, a busy marina, park, restaurants and pubs, a weekend farmers market, and numerous places to purchase the products of talented artisans.
“It’s all within walking distance. You can explore the village on foot,” said Kathleen Fettah, who along with her husband, Frederic, operates the Mission House Bed and Breakfast.
Their home features antique furniture, wide plank floors and a backyard adorned with flower gardens and fruit trees.
She said the village is a popular destination for motorcyclists who enjoy the rural roads and the ability to cross the river on the nearby car ferry.
Shalala said the area is also on a major migratory route for birds, attracting hundreds of species each year. It’s a common sight to see cars stopped on the sides of roads as people take pictures of the birds. Signs promoting homemade items for sale also draw a lot of visitors into Gagetown. The area is considered a mecca for painters, writers and potters.
“We get a lot of people from the eastern United States, a lot from Quebec and Ontario, as well as the other Atlantic Provinces,” Greig said. “We’re not far off the highway so it’s an easy junket in here to see what we have.”
But anyone thinking about visiting Gagetown shouldn’t get the impression it’s just a laid-back place to relax. It’s also hopping with various events and festivals throughout the year.
There’s the Folly Fest Folk Festival in late June, Canada Day and New Brunswick Day celebrations, and the Queen’s County Fair, among them.
There’s also Vintage in the Village, which is a chance to visit about a half-dozen heritage homes, sampling wines and different food at each stop. Tickets for the September event are very popular, and sell out quickly when they go on sale in early July.
Also popular is the annual Christmas in the Village Studio Tour. It’s a chance to stroll the village and purchase handmade Christmas gifts from the various artisans in Gagetown.
“We are not a sleepy little village,” Kathleen Fettah said.
“There is always something happening here.”