Sand Beach and Indian Beach

Sand Beach

Indian Beach

On the western side of Gorhams Bluff there are two beaches, Sand Beach and Indian Beach. Tradition says Indian Beach was once a Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) campsite and some evidence (stone arrow points and chips) has been found there. Sand Beach is a good landing spot with finer sand and deeper offshore water.

During the American Revolution, Col. John Allen, a former resident of the Chignecto District and an officer under the Massachusetts Congress, was the main agent in stirring up the Indians of Acadia to fight against the British. He was driven from the St. John River after an unsuccessful attempt to set up an attacking force, but he managed to take away many of the Indians. In 1776, a number visited General George Washington on the Delaware River, where they were entertained and addressed by him on December 24th. He gave them a letter of instructions to try to drive the English from St. John. He also gave them a flag of the revolutionary party, one of the first copies of the original Stars and Stripes.

For a year and a half, they only took part in minor skirmishes while gathering forces from different parts of the area. In August 1778, Col. Allen prevailed on them to declare open war and to attack Major Studholm’s small force at Saint John, then holding Fort Howe. The English had news of the unrest among the Indians and James White, who had had long experience as a trader, started up the river to try to pacify them. He rode in a small sloop and when he reached the head of Long Reach saw a fleet of 90 canoes coming around the bend of the river (probably around the Evandale area). The war party consisted of about 500 Indians, under the command of Pierre Tomah, chief of the Wolastoqiyik, on their way to attack the English and carrying Washington’s flag and orders.

In a short time, the sloop was surrounded and the plight of Mr. White looked serious. James White had traded with the Indians for years and was respected by them, and was able to persuade them to land and have a conference before killing him, as some proposed doing so at once. They landed on “a beach of fine sand” and at the conference which followed most of the under chiefs showed themselves decidedly hostile toward the English and to be against any suggestion of mercy toward White or a truce with the English. The commanding chief, Pierre Tomah, (who had been baptized some years before on the Restigouche), said that before giving a final decision he needed to consult the “Divine Being". Accordingly, he threw himself down in the "fine sand" while the others withdrew to a distance. The old records say that he remained so for nearly an hour and when he arose he told the other chiefs that he had been counselled by the Great Sprit to remain at peace with King George’s men. The other chiefs did not wish peace and were loud in their demands for the continuation of the war upon which they had started, but in the end Pierre Tomah had his way and the war party rested where it was for a time.

Some days later, after the interchange of messages, the whole party proceeded with Mr. White in peace to Ouigoudi (Navy Island) in St. John Harbour, where a formal peace treaty was arranged and agreed to on September 24, 1778. The war party delivered to the commanding officer of the fort the orders, gifts, and flag they had received from Washington and agreed to remain at peace forever with the English. That treaty held and five years later when Loyalist settlers of Kingston were encamped on the shores of Kingston Creek, the Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) hunted game for them to supply fresh food after their voyage and help them through their first winter.

Whether it was Sand Beach or Indian Beach, it was probably the last place in what is now New Brunswick where armed forces of the United States were mustered against the English and one of the very few places where the flag was carried in a state of war.

This ranks the beach among the important historic locations in New Brunswick, particularly since fighting men and two leaders averted a local war which could have been disastrous for both sides.