Energy on the Wilford VanWart Farm and Hampstead, Queens County, New Brunswick

Figure 1a. Wilford VanWart’s barn in Hampstead, New Brunswick, Canada with the St. John River in the distance. This photograph, and those that follow, are used with permission of Margot Stafford, a descendant of Wilford VanWart.
Figure 1b. Wilford VanWart.

The VanWart Farm in New Brunswick’s Queens County is an example of a mixed farm with an emphasis on dairy, fodder, and other riverine resources found in the Acadian Forest agroecosystem. The VanWart family farm was 260 acres in size, or 105.2 hectares, and was situated on the St. John River which provided the possibility of riverine transportation for productions both arriving at and leaving the farm. The VanWart farm was greater than twice the size of the average farm in the Hampstead census subdivision (CSD), the average size being 46.1 ha. Wilford VanWart (b. 1849/d. 1920) was 22 years old in 1871.[1] His father, Jacob VanWart, had died in 1861.[2] Therefore, in 1871, the VanWart family farm was run by Wilford’s mother Catherine, his uncle John VanWart (his father’s younger brother) plus Wilfred and his siblings–his older brother Abner who was 31 in 1871, and his sisters Matilda, age 26, Bethiah, age 23, and Eliza, age 14.[3] The family also had a hired farm labourer in 1871, John G. Holy, who was the same age as Abner, 31. Abner died in 1877 at the age of 37, leaving Wilford to inherit the farm.[4] By 1881, Wilford’s uncle John and his mother Catherine were still living with the family, but his three sisters were not. Wilford married Elvira Jane Fox of Lower Gagetown.[5] When the census was taken in 1881, the couple had two children, Arthur, aged one, and Mabel, just five months old.[6] Ten years later, in 1891, Wilford was the head of the household, and he and Jane had five children, one son, Jacob, and four daughters, Mabel, Nellie, Ida, and Jesse.[7]

Figure 1c. Location of Wilford VanWart’s farm, with thanks to Margot Stafford’s father Brian Till for noting the location. Brian points out that Wilford VanWart also had the first section on Long Island that he hayed in summer, storing the hay in a barn on the island until winter when the St. John River froze. When the river ice was thick enough to support horses and sleighs, VanWart was able to retrieve his hay from the island and transport it to the main farm. This snip is taken from a cadastral map provided by GeoNB. It contains information licensed under the Open Government License–New Brunswick.

Farm Energy Funds*

Wilford VanWart’s family farm was over 57 percent cleared in 1871, meaning it was significantly more advanced than the average farm in Hampstead (38 percent cleared) and the rest of New Brunswick (31 percent cleared). The family also accessed the first section on Long Island in the St. John River which was used primarily for hay (Figure 1c). Lush marshland islands produced more hay per ha than did upland hay.[8] The farm had more land in pasture and hay than did the average farm in the Hampstead CSD. VanWart had 16.2 ha in pasture and 32.4 ha in hay, but for the average farm in Hampstead it was 10.72 ha and 8.87 respectively. This points to the VanWart farm being fodder intensive but, in spite of VanWart’s focus on feed for his animals, his farm had a feed and litter deficit, which was also the case for the greater Hampstead region. In order to meet the demand for feed and litter, VanWart and, indeed, many of his neighbours, must have imported hay from hay producing regions along the Bay of Fundy such as the Tantramar Marshes. At the time, these marshlands were farmed to meet the demands of a hay economy. Hay from the area was transported by ship and train to lumber camps, mines, farms, cities in Maritime Canada, and cities on the eastern seaboard of the United States.[9] Because the VanWart farm was situated on the St. John River, it may be that hay was delivered directly to the farm by ship. In his diary, kept almost 40 years later, 1907-1909, Wilford mentioned a wharf in Hampstead where riverboats stopped daily. He also mentioned purchasing feed by the bag from a Hampstead merchant and sending pork and other products to the village to sell.[10] 

Figure 2a. Area Visualization of Wilford VanWart’s farm in 1871, with more than half under cultivation or pasture. Additionally, the VanWart farm had more land in hay than in pasture.
Figure 2b. Area Visualization of all the farms in Hampstead CSD, Queens, New Brunswick. Approximately one-third of the farmland is under cultivation or in pasture, and there is more pasture than hay, which is a contrast to the VanWart farm.

The livestock intensity for VanWart’s farm was 26.2 livestock units per km2, and the grazing intensity was 1.34 ruminant units per ha of pasture. This was higher than the greater Hampstead region which was 10.0 livestock units per km2 and .73 ruminants units per ha of pasture. Therefore, VanWart’s livestock and grazing intensity was approximately twice that of the greater Hampstead region. Whereas, the VanWart farm had no residues from its fodder crops and pasture, the greater Hampstead region as a whole had 15,410,178 MJ of residues. The VanWart farm had 20 cords of firewood on hand, in 1871. In contrast, the average amount of firewood on a farm in Hampstead was 14 cords, in 1871.

Farm Energy Flows*

In 1871, the VanWart farm produced 1000 bu potatoes, 196 bu oats, 170 bu buckwheat, 30 bu apples, five bu corn, four bu of hops, and two bu each of peas, beans, and turnips. The farm had one hive of bees. The greater Hampstead region produced the same crops, plus some farmers grew rye, Mangel-wurtzel, carrots, and drew maple sugar from the bush. Farmers in the Hampstead CSD reported 138 hives of bees.

In 1871, VanWart reported having two horses over three years old, two colts or fillies, two oxen, 12 other horned cattle, 12 swine, 14 milk cows, and 19 sheep. He slaughtered two cattle, 12 swine, and 16 sheep. He had 600 pounds of butter, 1,000 pounds of cheese, 14 pounds of honey, 102 pounds of wool, and 90 yards of cloth. For every one of these categories, the VanWart farm greatly exceeded that of the average farm in the Hampstead CSD. Perhaps most notable was the VanWart farm’s dairy production: the average farm in the Hampstead CSD produced 348.6 pounds of butter and 207.25 pounds of cheese compared to VanWart’s 600 pounds of butter and 1,000 pounds of cheese, in 1871. In energetic terms, Hampstead farmers produced 790,683 MJ from their butter and cheese, for an average of 4,096.8 MJ per farm; in contrast, the VanWart farm produced 12,320 MJ from butter and cheese. Therefore, the average farm in the Hampstead CSD produced 33.25 percent of what the VanWart farm produced in terms of energy from butter and cheese. The labour of the women on the VanWart farm, Wilford’s mother Catherine, and his three sisters, Matilda, Bethiah, and Eliza, must have contributed greatly to the VanWart family’s prosperity. No doubt, by applying their labour to various farm tasks, they were able to increase the farm’s output. It is probable that there would have been a wharf in Hampstead where the VanWart farm productions would have been taken, loaded on ships, and sold in various markets, perhaps Fredericton, St. John, or Halifax.[11]

Conclusion

Wilford VanWart’s farm was very prosperous compared to the average farm in the Hampstead CSD. Although he used more of his available land as hay and pasture than did the average farm in Hampstead CSD, he still had a feed and litter deficit. He must have met his livestock’s feed and litter requirements by importing hay, perhaps from the hay-rich Tantramar Marshes. Additionally, the VanWart farm had abundant available labour, divided evenly by gender: four men and four women. Their combined labour made the farm a success.

Margot Stafford keeps a Twitter account in the name of Wilford VanWart @VanWartWilford where she regularly posts his diary entries from over a century ago.

Figure 6a. The next generation: Nase VanWart (Wilford’s son) hauling hay from Long Island over the ice.
Figure 6b. Julia (Nase VanWart’s wife and Wilford’s daughter-in-law) feeding chickens on the VanWart Farm.

* For an explanation of terms in this profile, see the farm energy profiles project home page.


[1] “Wilford Vanwart,,” 1871 Census of Canada, RG31, C-10380, Library and Archives Canada (LAC), Ottawa.

[2] “Jacob VanWart,” Ancestry Family Trees, Ancestry.ca.

[3] “VanWart,” 1871, LAC.

[4] “Abner VanWart,” grave marker, Central Hampstead Baptist Cemetery, Hampstead, Queens, New Brunswick, Canada, FindaGrave.com.

[5] “Ida Lottie VanWart,” New Brunswick, Canada, Births and Late Registrations, 1810-1906, s.v.”Ida Lottie Vanwart,” Ancestry.ca.

[6] Wilford VanWart,” 1881 Census of Canada, RG31, C-13181, LAC.

[7] Wilford VanWart,” 1891 Census of Canada, RG31, T-6302, LAC.The couple’s first born son Arthur is not recorded in the 1891 Canada Census. He must have passed sometime after the 1881 census was taken.

[8] Jason Hall, “River of  Three Peoples: An Environmental and Cultural History of the Wәlastәw / Riviere St. Jean / St. John River, c. 1550 – 1850” (PhD diss., University of New Brunswick, 2015), 300-301.

[9] Robert Summerby-Murray, “‘Beneath the Marshes There’: Historical Maps, Dykes, and the Aboiteaux of Tantramar” in Underground New Brunswick: Stories of Archaeology, eds. Peter Erickson and Jonathan Fowler, (Halifax: Nimbus Publishing, 2013), 78.

[10] Margot Stafford, email message to the author, September 3, 2021. Stafford, a descendant of Wilford VanWart, keeps a Twitter account in which she regularly tweets Wilford’s diary entries (@VanwartWilford).

[11] Margot Stafford, email message to the author, September 3, 2021. Although there is no certainty if the VanWart farm had its own dock, or if there was a Hampstead wharf in 1871, by 1907-1909 when Wilford VanWart regularly kept a diary, there was definitely a wharf in Hampstead. The riverboats stopped there daily, and Wilford VanWart often mentioned in his diary that he sent farm productions by riverboat to town to sell.