A V I E W F R O M C H A R L O T T E T O W N , P R I N C E E D W A R D I S L A N D
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It is not often in these days that one has the privilege to know five generations of one family, but my life has connected with the Fishers in that way.
My father's days at St. Dunstan's College with Dr. Bill MacLellan and Dr. Vince Fisher lead me, in my Boston days, to meet my generation of their families and we have been friends ever since.
But it was my move to Cranberry Wharf that rooted me into the midst of Fisher history. The Fishers and The Hennesseys relationship ties back about 170 years. The Fisher land was across the road to the east from the Hennesseys. By the 1960's the original 100 acres had grown to over 300 and had Lot 36 and Lot 37 meeting down the middle.
The original Joe Fisher came out from England and was a shipbuilder. The Hennesseys were blacksmiths. There is a tradition that ships were built down on the river and there is a hollow in the bank near the wharf that could well have been a ship cradle.
A newspaper item on March 6, 1863 tells "...of the dwelling house of Joseph Fisher, shipbuilder, Ft. Augustus was consumed by fire together with all the household furniture contained therein".
The house I remember, looked like an 1840's house, which is hard to explain: one would have thought that after that 1863 fire they would have built a centre-gable house. Maybe they moved the house that I remember onto the site. Something to think about. The house I knew certainly did have a wonderful stone basement. When I first went there in the early 1960's it was a lonely spot with old Joe - grandson of the first Joe - living by himself just setting on history. It was a step back for me and I wished I had made more use of it.
Now the house is gone, burnt as a Hallowe'en prank fifteen or so years after Joe had left it. I walked up the hill the next morning to view the ashes that were surrounded by the remains of the stone basement. An incredible pattern of hand wrought nails layed out in the ashes as if my an artists hand was all that remained and I cried.
Today I cry again, this time for the land. After Joe left he sold the propety to a Montreal lumber company who cut down more pine than they paid Joe for the land. Yes, they planted new trees and they had even left some, and the wood roads made great walking paths. Once we even borrowed a snowmobile and went all over it. It was majestic. Too bad snowmobiles are so noisy, because they can take you into the most wonderous places.
Alas three years ago the property sold again and the true purge began: a Nova Scotia blueberry growner bought the land this time. He thrashed and burnt just about every square inch of the property; the county line that was never touched since Holland did the survey, the site of the old house where the orchard and the hops still grew, down to the river bank and on to the Cranberry Wharf Road, all the hedgerows and all the new trees that were just coming into maturity. Industrial farming cares not for the landscape.
The same has happened across the river and up the Afton Road where another generations of Fishers lived. Were the Fishers not good farmers or was the land just not good enough? Its hard to say, but they did produce energetic, smart people who have gone all over doing good work. I wish those who come together this week-end to celebrate their heritage a happy and thoughtful time.
Written Thursday, July 27, 2000 at 07:06 PM