Campobello Island is 14 km long and 5 km wide (9 x 3 miles) and is the second largest and the outermost of a cluster of small islands in the Passamaquoddy Bay off of the southwestern shore of New Brunswick in southeastern Canada. Passamaquoddy is said by some to be derived from a First Nation term meaning “place where pollock leap out of the water.”
The Passamaquoddy Bay, which separates Campobello from the state of Maine, is a narrow tiderip inlet of the mighty Bay of Fundy. The tremendous tidal flow of 70,000,000,000 cubic feet (2,000,000,000 cubic meters) of water is experienced twice daily and brings with it sailors, fishermen and fish as it enters and leaves the Bay.
The eastern side of Campobello Island is indented with sandy coves and inlets which provide safe haven for fishing boats and other sailing vessels.
The rugged headlands on the western side have picturesque lighthouses to warn of the dangerous coastline.
The northern and southern ends of the Island are two different worlds. The northern end is much like the shores of Scotland, with its steep ledges, thin topsoil and low hills. The southern end, however, puts one in mind of walking into a tropical atmosphere with the ghostly green grey forests of lichen-hung trees, lush ferns and flowers that grow in the unceasing fog of the Fog Forest at Liberty Point.
A History Of Campobello Island
Northeastern North America emerged from the Ice Age approximately 15,000 years ago. The gigantic ice caps melted from the region and the glaciers retreated. What once had been a great valley of ice became the Bay of Fundy. Mountain peaks were transformed into islands. Today the water that flows by the shores of Campobello Island are glacial and part of the overflow of the Arctic Ocean called the Labrador Current. This current passes down the coast of North America as far south as Cape Cod, where it blends and is absorbed by the Gulf Stream.
During the European Middle Ages, the Micmacs and the Maliseets inhabited New Brunswick. Legend has it that they called the waters off of Campobello Island pes-te-no-ka-tek, said to mean “place where pollock abound,” and they named their island a-bah-quiet, probably meaning “island in the sea.” In 1607, the Island appeared on a map drawn by explorer de Champlain as Port aux Coquilles or “Isle of Clams.”
In 1684, the first Europeans to settle on Campobello Island were the family of Jean Sarriau, Sieur de St. Aubin, who was granted the control of the island. Sarriau built a large house surrounded by a high fence of stakes for defense during this period of great struggle between the French and the English, both seeking control of North America. In 1689, a census recorded a population of four men, four women, eight boys, five girls, four horses and seven horned cattle.
In 1767, Lord William Campbell, then provincial governor, named his friend and secretary, Captain William Owen of the Royal Navy, Principal Proprietary of the Greate Outer Island of Passamaquoddy, which Captain Owen fancifully renamed “Campo Bello” in honour of his patron after his arrival on the Island in 1770 with a ship full of former sailors and indentured servants who sailed with him from England to settle in the new land. There were also a few New England families already on the Island as well.
In those days, land grants were handed down from father to son and the tenants on their land paid the proprietor rent, as was the custom in England. Though the genealogy of the fishermen and other settlers on the Island was mostly unrecorded, Wilson, Newman, Calder, Lank, Cline and Malloch were some of the names of the residents during the early Owen years. Wilson’s Beach was largely inhabited by the fishermen, and the other village, Welshpool, was home to the Principal Proprietary and later, the summer visitors.
In the summer of 1770 a report showed that settlers had planted wheat, oats, barley, rye, peas, clover, hemp, flax, potatoes, turnips, apple trees and plum trees. Land had been cleared and fenced for hay, fifteen houses had been built and plans were underway to build a gristmill and a chapel. The chapel was to be called George Chapel in honour of the King. There were 110 tons of lumber shipped to England with an order of 700 tons more, potash, too, made its way to the English market. Shingles and cordwood were sent to Boston. Rum and sugar from the West Indies landed at Campobello and reshipped to Saint John and there traded for beaver skins.
The Roosevelt Connection With Campobello Island
During the 1880’s, wealthy people had extensive leisure time and the means to enjoy it. They sought out seaside and lakeside resorts to escape the heat of pre-air conditioning cities. In 1881, a consortium of Boston and New York businessmen acquired most of the southern portion of Campobello Island. Their intentions were to develop the area as a fashionable resort. Construction began to build three luxurious hotels. The hotels went up very quickly, the first one completed was the Owen, it being the smallest. It stood on a bluff in the tiny settlement of Welshpool, and was finished by August 1881.
The next summer, about a mile away from the Owen, a larger hotel called the Tyn-y-Coed (Welsh for “house in the woods”) was opened. By the summer of 1883 a third hotel, the Tyn-y-Maes (Welsh for “house in the field”), stood close by the former. The latter two were built in the popular Queen Anne style.
The Campobello venture was aiming specifically at an American clientele, and in its first few years the venture enjoyed a modest success. It advertised in its 1882 literature that by October of the previous year the Owen had accommodated over four hundred persons. A guest list shows that most were from Philadelphia, New York, and Boston, with a few from towns nearby and Montreal.
Hotel brochures touted the favourable climate, the clean, bracing, salt-tinged, balsam-scented air and the abundant scenic beauty. Brochures also advocated unequalled boating, which included sailboats, rowing, and canoes along with Passamaquoddy Indian guides. Potential guesses were encouraged to come and enjoy an excursion by land and sea, and relief from hay fever. The Canadian and the American press helped to promote Campobello as a summer resort.
Families from New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Ottawa, and Montreal came to Campobello’s hotels by private yacht, steamship, and train for extended summer vacations. Several of the families liked the area so much that they purchased land then either refurbished existing houses or built new large “cottages.”
In 1883 James Roosevelt, his wife Sara and their only child Franklin, from Hyde Park New York, were one of the families that came to vacation at the Tyn-y-Coed. So impressed they were with the Island and it’s atmosphere they bought ten acres of land on a ridge overlooking Friar’s Bay. Thus beginning a Roosevelt family tradition of summers on the island and forming the vanguard of a significant cottage development.
Young Franklin struck up friendships with the men of the sea. Such friends were Captain Franklin Calder, Captain Eddie Lank and Captain Shep Mitchell. When Franklin was ten years old, Captain Lank taught him how to handle a boat. Captain Mitchell taught Franklin how to maneuver among the tides, currents, channels and reefs of the Bay of Fundy and the Passamaquoddy Bay.
In 1900 Franklin entered Harvard University and during his Harvard years he became intrigued with the charisma of his fifth cousin, President Theodore Roosevelt. Too, he was smitten and fell in love with Theodore’s niece, Eleanor Roosevelt. They were married on March 17, 1905.
In 1910 Franklin D. Roosevelt entered the arena of politics by winning the seat in the state senate. At 29 he took his seat in Albany, and soon won statewide. By 1911 Roosevelt was supporting progressive New Jersey governor Woodrow Wilson for the Democratic presidential nomination of 1912. In that same year Roosevelt was once again successfully reelected to the State Senate. In March of 1913 he was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy where his love of the sea and naval experience gained vacationing on Campobello Island served him well. The summer of 1918, during the First World War Roosevelt made an extended tour of naval bases and battlefields overseas. At the 1920 Democratic convention, Roosevelt won the nomination for vice president on a ticket with presidential nominee James M.Cox, but they lost to the Republicans.
In August 1921, Roosevelt and his family were vacationing on Campobello Island, when it was discovered he had contracted poliomyelitis. While recovering from his polio, his wife, Eleanor, kept his name in the public’s mind with her speaking engagements all over New York State.
In 1924, Roosevelt made a dramatic appearance at the Democratic convention to nominate Alfred E. Smith, Governor of New York, for president. He repeated the nomination of Smith in 1928. At this time, Smith encouraged Roosevelt to run for governor of New York.
Roosevelt, not letting his polio defeat him, traveled by car around the state demonstrating how his illness had not destroyed his spirit and will to serve the people. On election day, Roosevelt won by 25,000 votes, even though New York went Republican in the presidential election.
During his first term, Governor Roosevelt concentrated on tax relief for farmers and cheaper public utilities for consumers. The popularity of his program led him to be reelected in 1930 by 725,000 votes. His aggressive approach to the economic problems of his state, along with his 1930 victory, put Roosevelt into the front ranks of contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1932. On election day in 1933, Roosevelt received nearly 23 million popular votes to Hoover’s nearly 16 million. The electoral vote was 472 to 59.
In his inaugural address Roosevelt promised prompt, decisive action, and he conveyed some of his own unshakable self-confidence to millions of Americans listening to their radios throughout the land. “This great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and prosper,” and he declared, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!” Franklin Delano Roosevelt became the 32nd President of the United States of America (1933 to 1945), the only President elected to the office four times.
As President, he led the United States through World War Two, working tirelessly for the economic stability of his country and its people. He frequently spoke fondly of his memories of the peace, tranquility and rejuvenation he found on his beloved Campobello Island. On April 12, 1945, while sitting for a portrait President Franklin Delano Roosevelt suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage and died shortly after.
The Los Angeles Times headlines brought the news to the nation:
“ROOSEVELT DEAD! Cerebral Hemorrhage Proves Fatal, President Truman Sworn in Office.”
“Men will thank God on their knees a hundred years from now that Franklin D. Roosevelt was in the White House,” the New York Times editorialized at the time of his death. “It was his hand, more than that of any other single man, that built the great coalition of the United Nations. It was his leadership which inspired free men in every part of the world to fight with greater hope and courage. Gone is the fresh and spontaneous interest which this man took, as naturally as he breathed air, in the troubles and the hardships and the disappointments and the hopes of little men and humble people.”
Although born against a background of millions in riches, Franklin Delano Roosevelt dedicated his life to improving the welfare of the common man, protecting the millions of under-privileged from economic injustices to the best of his ability. He was the champion of the oppressed, the underdog.