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Retrieval Number: 7428
F.A. Dixon day book and cash book, 1887-1892.
Mount Allison University Archives, Albert Anderson family fonds.
May be reproduced only with permission of Mount Allison University Archives

F.A. Dixon day book and cash book.

By the later nineteenth century, an increasing level of professionalization had emerged within the Commissioners of Sewers. While marsh records might still be found in the back of farmers’ account books, as in this document, a more systematic approach was being promoted. Provincial government agencies, notably the Department of Agriculture, frequently made reference to the appointment of Commissioners, along with other agents and inspectors. This signaled a growing awareness that the intensification of marshland agriculture was of benefit not just to farmers in the Tantramar region and the Town of Sackville, but also to the provincial economy. The development of a professional expertise in land drainage and dyking had its origins in the appointments of Commissioners in the 1820s with some evidence that Commissioners were being elected who did not own any part of the marsh in question. The suggestion is that these men were elected on the basis of their expertise and some accumulated technical or management skill. As early as the 1830s, a small group of Commissioners were involved in the management of many of the sewer districts, reflecting on the one hand the fragmented nature of landholding but also an awareness of a collective institutional response to agricultural intensification. The Dixon day book presents a small window into marsh agriculture at a time when the Tantramar landscape was being transformed by the demands of export markets. While it would be an overstatement to suggest that the activities of the Commissioners of Sewers were solely responsible for a specialization of agriculture (and the consequent decline in some elements of a mixed agricultural economy), between 1861 and 1871, the amount of improved land in the Sackville Parish had increased by 20%, the quantities of grains (wheat and oats) declined marginally, numbers of oxen and swine declined, and numbers of horses and cattle increased slightly. Hay and potato production increased, representing the expansion of a dyked marshland hay economy that would come to dominate Tantramar’s geography by 1921.

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