New Brunswick

Remembering the places that disappeared when CFB Gagetown was born

Those who were expropriated from their communities to make way for CFB Gagetown are gathering to reconnect Saturday.

'When you’re basically forced to leave your land, it does something to your soul'

900 families were expropriated from their communities to make way for Base Gagetown.

Connie Denby remembers the pouring rain on the day her family left their home on Labour Day weekend in 1953 — one of approximately 900 families that were relocated to make way for Canadian Forces Base Gagetown.

"[We] tried to be stalwart and move on, but … it was hard," Denby said in an interview with Information Morning Saint John.

Denby is president of the Base Gagetown Community History Association, established in 1998 to compile the history of the communities and genealogy of the families that lived in the 1,100-square-kilometre stretch of land between Oromocto and Browns Flat prior to the establishment Canada's second-largest military base.

People who formerly lived in the area are gathering at the Queens County fairgrounds on Courthouse Road in the Village of Gagetown to reconnect for the 65th anniversary of the expropriation.

A time to reminisce 

Denby said the reunion is a time for people to reconnect and reminisce.

"It's a way for people to stay connected and the people did have a very strong sense of community," Denby said. "They helped one another in any way that they possibly could, especially through hardships or sickness and there was just such a strong bond.

"I think when you're basically forced to leave your land, it does something to your soul that you want to hang on to those memories and be able to go back and visit."

When the expropriation occurred, people from the communities moved to other places in New Brunswick and across Canada, and some even left and set up a new life in the United States and elsewhere.

Despite the distance, people from the expropriated communities still come together to reconnect from time to time.

"It's been one of those things that people take every opportunity to gather together again," said Denby. "If there's a wedding anniversary or unfortunately a funeral, for whatever, people come from far and wide."

Saturday's reunion will begin at 10 a.m. and will feature music and a potluck. Denby said anyone is welcome to attend.

She said this will likely be the last large gathering.

With files from Information Morning Saint John and Information Morning Fredericton