Friday, November 25, 2016

FORTS and FORTIFICATIONS: St. Andrews Block Houses

DSCN2372From The Beacon, St. Andrews, NB, June 4, 1891
Well on to eighty years have passed since the block houses were erected in St. Andrews. Three of them were put up, one at Joe’s Point, one at the Western block, and one at the lighthouse wharf, near Indian Point. Their primary purpose was for the protection of the inhabitants of the peninsula against attacks of unfriendly Indians from United States territory, but the Indians never came, although they were frequently seen hovering around the shore on the Maine side of the St. Croix.
In those days these wooden forts were considered almost impregnable against the attack of such an enemy, and certainly the precautions that were taken to strengthen them would justify such an idea. They were constructed of heavy pine logs, seventeen inches square, piled on top of each other, the interstices being tightly closed with tow. The lower section of these bloc­khouses was in one room eighteen feet square, the upper section being twenty­ two square feet, thus projecting two feet all around. The upper room of the fort had two rows of musket­ holes around it, and there were also openings in the projection, so that those occupying the fort could fire down upon an enemy approaching the door or seeking to destroy the building by fire from either side. Racks filled with loaded muskets, encircled the room, above them being a collection of boarding­ pikes, cutlasses and other implements of offence and defense. Two brass four ­pounders completed the armament of the fort, port­holes being provided to shoot from.
Of the three blockhouses, only one ­­that one at the western block—is standing today. The fort at the lighthouse wharf yielded to the march of civilization, being removed at the time the railway was begun. [1847] The Saxby gale proved more than a match for the fort at Joe’s Point, for when the gale subsided not a stick was left upon another.
Western block fort is still in a good state of preservation, but it was robbed of its munitions many year ago. The ramparts around this latter fort were protected in early times by twelve eight­ pound cannons. For years these watchdogs did silent duty, and then when their usefulness was gone, and they were able to bark no longer, they were sold for old junk to the Pembroke iron­works. The present large ordnance were placed at the Fort during the period of the Fenian scare, but they have never been used, except for practice.
The present block­house became one of the possessions of the Dominion government at Confederation, and the militia department has since controlled its destinies and collected the rents therefrom. Within a recent period Lady Tilley has secured a lease of the block­house. It is not known what purpose she intends putting it to. It would make quite a romantic summer hotel. (
Little has changed today and the site is opened annually as part of Parks Canada's Blockhouse National Historic Site. The blockhouse was restored in 1967 and again in 1992 after being damaged by a fire. Charred beams can still be seen and the roof has been replaced. The first floor of the blockhouse has been fitted out with period military furnishings. Visitors can go the second floor where a small cannon is displayed along with other artillery items. In front of the blockhouse is a three gun earthworks battery faced out to the water side with the display cannons and carriages. Two of the original guns on metal carriages are on display in Market Square. (

Getting there is easy. The site is well marked and is open during the summers for tours and visits as one of Parks Canada's sites. Just follow the signs to downtown St. Andrews. When you reach the water you can turn left or right. Take the right turn onto Joe's Point Road and the blockhouse is on you immediate left. The Joe's Point Blockhouse stood at the far end of this road. If you would like to see the site, just drive on to the end of the road. Access may be limited so pay attention to the signs. The blockhouse at the lighthouse is long gone as well, but you can visit this area and the old lighthouse is an attraction itself.

Map picture


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