Peter Clinch, the founding father of the Town of St. George, landed with a group of United Empire Loyalists at the foot of present-day Clinch Street on November 10, 1783. He received a grant for the land that was to become the town of St. George on February 2, 1784. In 1786 Peter Clinch served as a member of the House of Assembly in Mallard House, Saint John.
Colonel Hugh McKay, a resident of St. George, was a Colonel in the militia for 50 years and served in the House of Assembly for 30 years. As well, he was a Senior Justice of the Court of Common Pleas. At his death on January 28, 1848, he was the oldest and the only, full Colonel of the militia in the province of New Brunswick.
The new town grew rapidly to such an extent that by the mid-1800s five shipyards, ten sawmills and seven granite mills were operating in and around St George.
Growth and prominence brought their own problems, and the town had to build its first fortifications — Fort Vernon on the south side of the basin, in 1812, and Fort Hill, near what is now the town center, on a site still called Fort Hill, in 1866. The cannons from this fort can still be seen, ‘guarding’ the –front doors of the St George Legion Hall.
The town’s first church — the oldest Presbyterian Church in continuous use in Canada — was built in 1790, and the town’s growth Can be charted in the churches that followed: the first Anglican church in 1821 (torn down and rebuilt in 1907: destroyed by fire in 2002 and rebuilt over the following years), The first Baptist church in 1845, and the first Roman Catholic church in 1854.
Published c.1902, the “Granite Town Greetings” was the town’s first newspaper. The granite water-trough at the town pump was completed in 1902.
The town of St. George was incorporated on October 17, 1904. The first mayor of the town was Fred Dewar.
This Granite District was for years the center of the granite industry in New Brunswick. The area came into production in 1872 with the opening of a quarry on the shore of Lake Utopia and the erection of a finishing plant in St. George. “The Bay of Fundy Red Granite Company” was founded by Mr. Charles Ward, a New York artist and photographer, after he became very intrigued by the immense ledges of deep red granite while on a fishing trip to Lake Utopia. This pioneer company had its successes and failures, but the business grew and the granite industry became the leading employer of the area. In 1890, there were six firms in St George manufacturing the different coloured granites quarried near the town.
The typical St. George granite is bright red in colour, but many different shades occur in the district. Specific colours were obtained from various quarries offering customers a wide selection. This granite of high quality was employed mainly for monumental purposes and to a very limited degree, for building. The granite quarried in St. George was acknowledged by retail dealers as being superior, prettier, and more durable than any imported. For this reason, samples of our work can be seen in nearly every Canadian cemetery.
The falling-off of the industry was not due to any fault of the manufacturers, nor defects in the granite itself, but rather the trouble was simply the cost of production. Manufacturers of the area were unable to pay the going wages and compete with foreign granite quarried in Norway. Sweden, and Scotland. After 60 years as a flourishing industry, the Town of St. George granite industry began to die slowly. After World War II there continued to be some demands for gravestones, however, a vigorous industry was unable to thrive on such occasional contracts. In 1953 the last firm was closed marking the end of the St. George granite business.
Though the industry is no longer operational, it has forever left its mark on the community. The St. George post office and granite monuments in area cemeteries continue to remind us of our roots as, “The Granite Town”.
The Lake Utopia Medallion, housed in the New Brunswick Museum in Saint John, is a large, circular piece of granite, obviously shaped and engineered by an expert stone cutter: that bears the head of an Indian chief believed to have been a friend of the explorer Pierre de Mont The Medallion was not discovered until 1862, but is thought to have been cut by a member of the DeMont-Champlain expedition of 1604.
The cost of production brought an end to the granite industry through the ‘forties and ‘fifties, and the last company closed in 1953, marking the end of the industry that lives on in the town’s nickname, the Granite Town. The decline of the granite industry turned the St. George Pulp and Paper Company. In operation from the start of the century and the town’s first source of power, into the community’s biggest employer until it closed in the late ‘sixties.
Mining for tungsten and molybdenum — provided a relatively brief economic boost to the region through the ‘eighties, and as mining declined, aquaculture began its rise as the town’s preeminent industry, St George, then, is a blend of old and new.
The Gorge is worth a couple of visits, as the high tide changes the landscape dramatically. The cliffs on either side are said to be riddled with caves, one of which is said to connect with Lake Utopia. The dam and mill were built by St. George Pulp and Paper, which ceased operations in 1967.
During the Second World War, two military bases were opened near the town: A Canadian Army training base known as “Camp Utopia” and a RCAF/RAF Air base at Pennfield Ridge. By the late 1950s, both bases were closed; Camp Utopia relocated to form Camp Gagetown, later CFB Gagetown, and the airfield at Pennfield Ridge served as the first commercial airport for the city of Saint John.
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