Frosty Hollow monument marks ancient Mi’kmaw portage route

James Upham says a stone sign on a country road between Dorchester and Sackville is a reminder, “slow down and take a few moments to actually pay attention to those around us.”

Moncton historian and educator, if you take a close look at the sign on this national monument that was unveiled in 1952, you’ll see that this section of Route 106 is worthy of recognition.

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It is the site of an early Mi’kmaw carriageway connecting the two rivers in what is now called Frosty Hollow.

“If you’re going from Beaubassin or Sackville and you’re going to Dorchester, that’s probably where you pick up the canoe, shoulder it, and start walking,” Upham said.

The Canadian Board of Historic Sites and Monuments designated this site in Frosty Hollow as ‘historic’ in 1943. (Khalil Akhtar/CBC)

The plate reads: “This route connected Beaubassin with Westcock and the valley now known as Frosty Hollow by the Memramcook and Petitcodiac rivers and was an important link in the communications system between Acadia and Quebec.”

designated heritage site

Upham said that a very brief dedication is to let us know that this is an important path.

“People have been through exactly where we are right now, they know exactly how to use this region’s river systems and trails to literally paddle and walk from that point to Quebec City.”

Tom Johnson, geographic information systems coordinator with Mi’gmawe’l Tplu’taqnn, created an interactive map of Indigenous place names across New Brunswick. (Presented by Tom Johnson)

Mi’gmawe’l Tplu’taqn Inc., a nonprofit representing nine New Brunswick Mi’kmaw communities. Tom Johnson, who works with the company, says transport routes often follow those used by animals.

“Transport routes were used to travel all over the province and to the central Turtle Island, which is now Quebec,” he said, pointing out that routes around the Petitcodiac River would be particularly well used.

“Anyone traveling from Nova Scotia passes through the Isthmus of Chignecto and then crashes into the Petitcodiac River.”

Johnson, whose family is from Neqotkuk in northwestern New Brunswick, created an interactive map with Native place names and historical details.

Users of Johnson’s interactive map can click on different communities and waterways to see Native names and their meanings. He explains that descriptive place names are part of how navigation information is transmitted. (Place Names in Lnu New Brunswick/

He describes the Petitcodiac River as a “big time and effort saver” thanks to the tidal bore that will propel canoes up to 30 kilometers to the next port route near Petitcodiac twice a day.

“Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqey have been on this land since time immemorial, from the times of the last Ice Age,” Johnson said.

“For hunting, traveling from one area to another, and just socializing. These communities were small and it was not uncommon for men to travel to other communities to look for brides.”

There are two other monuments in New Brunswick reminiscent of a network of waterways and transport routes, including one on Route 106, one northeast of Petitcodiac, where there is a carriageway connecting the Petitcodiac River and the Canaan River.

The other is along Route 970 in Baie Verte, where there is a road connecting the Missaguash River and Baie Verte.

Portage routes restored

Tim Humes of Miramichi is so fascinated by the history of these ancient harbor routes that he is co-leading a project with Canoe Kayak New Brunswick to rediscover and restore six ancient harbor routes in New Brunswick. “Rivers or waterways were old highways, and landmasses that connected were bridges.”

Tim Humes is leading a project with Canoe Kayak New Brunswick to restore six ancient harbor roads across the state. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Robert Doyle is researching and writing a book on New Brunswick’s ancient transport routes. She shared with CBC News what she learned about the 8½-mile trail through Frosty Hollow.

In his as-yet unpublished book, Doyle cites a statement from 1753 by two French missionaries detailing the route through Frosty Hollow and describing how it was used to maintain communication during the struggle between France and England for control of eastern North America. .

Doyle writes: “This crucial communication route the French currently use between Québec City and Fort Beauséjour was mostly via rivers and the port roads connecting these rivers.”

Humes describes it as “pretty surprising” that people are navigating nearly 100 trails across the state based solely on verbally transmitted information.

Located on Old Frosty Hollow Road on the south side of Route 106, this monument marks a former transport route that was part of a larger network connecting Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to Quebec. (Khalil Akhtar/CBC)

These early Europeans would rely on Native guides to get around, Johnson said. He said most of the information was passed down orally, but also embedded within very revealing Native names.

He cited the Petitcodiac, Memramcook, Shediac, Scoudouc, and Richibucto rivers as examples of Mi’kmaw-rooted names, and said that therefore most of the rivers in New Brunswick retain the Mi’kmaw and Wolastoqey names.

A reminder of our place in history

Upham knows that most people don’t stop reading roadside monuments, but he argues they should.

“This is a place where some really beautiful things historically have happened over the centuries and possibly more millennia,” he said.

“Here we are literally at the crossroads between different modes of transport and different perspectives on the world and historical eras.”

The site in Frosty Hollow was designated a federal heritage site in 1943 and the monument was unveiled in 1952, but Upham said it was in the 1920s and 30s that people began to evaluate and think about what deserved recognition.

“They just fought in World War I. They had the Spanish flu, this terrible pandemic. They’re in a situation similar to the one we’re in, where there’s been a lot of change.

“And one of the amazing things they did at that point was that they built these real monuments. ‘Okay, we’ll look around and try to figure out how we got here? What got us to this point?'”

Moncton historian and educator James Upham often cycles on old country roads and imagines what paddling and transport would be like in the state. (Vanessa Blanch/CBC)

Upham said that even though the economy was “in a dire state”, in the 1930s and 40s people continued to build monuments like the one in Frosty Hollow.

“These people were trying to tell us, slow down and look at them and pay attention,” he said. “You can smell the same smells they will smell, you can hear the sounds they will hear.”

Upham argues that monuments like this remind us of our place in history and provide a “fascinating” perspective on the world we currently live in.

Upham says the monuments erected after the First World War give us an insight into what people thought was important during this difficult period in history. (Khalil Akhtar/CBC)

“We’re standing by a creek. Someone was the first person to get out of that creek and try to figure out where it was going. A little later someone was the first to think, ‘Okay, I’ll try.’ Now in a canoe.’ That would take courage.

“If we take our heads off our phones for a minute, step out of our door, and look around, we’re literally surrounded by thousands of fascinating things waiting for us to look at all the time.”

Knowledge Morning – Moncton10:03History forces us to rethink an ordinary country road between Sackville and Dorchester

Local history communist James Upham takes us to Frosty Hollow.


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