The mystery of the Dalhousie Mountain carvings

On top of a hill in Dalhousie, colloquially known as Dalhousie Mountain, there are numerous names carved into rocks...but why?

No concrete explanation, but someone has a theory

Names carved onto a rock on Dalhousie Mountain. Questions remain as to who carved them and why? (Submitted by Mary-Clare Vautour)

On top of a hill in Dalhousie, colloquially known as Dalhousie Mountain, there are numerous names carved into rocks.

Most are weathered and worn from the elements, but names such as "J.D. Howe" and the date "SPT 1880" can still be seen.

However, there is a mystery. What exactly are these names doing on the top of that mountain?

Bill Clarke, the director of the Restigouche Regional Museum, said there's no concrete explanation as to who carved the names or why.

Clarke also said not a lot of research has been done to find out.

"We haven't really done a lot of research on them largely because there's so much else to do."

The discovery

The name “J.D. Howe” and the date “SPT 1880” can still be seen on this rock. (Submitted by Mary-Clare Vautour)

While someone must have known about the existence of the name carvings, their modern day discovery took place sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s.

A crew was working on the mountain, cutting what would become the New Brunswick trail.

Gary Archibald, one of the men working on the crew, said the names were found while bulldozing the new trail.

"We found it by accident," said Archibald.

Archibald said the rocks were covered up by moss when the crew happened upon them.

The crew kept their distance though and informed the local museum.

"We didn't want to open up too much of the mountain to see how many names was there because we didn't want to deteriorate it. The moss had been protecting them," said Archibald.

A theory

“Dalhousie was a summer resort,” said Clarke, largely in part because of the local resort hotel, the Inch Arran House, which opened in 1884. (Provincial Archives of New Brunswick)

Archibald said he hadn't heard of the existence of the stone-carved names before the crew uncovered them.

While Clarke said there is no definitive explanation, he has a theory and it points to a more prosperous time in the town's history.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s Dalhousie was a popular destination for tourists.

"Dalhousie was a summer resort," said Clarke.

Much of the town's reputation as a resort town came from the local hotel, the Inch Arran House, which opened in 1884.

"It predated the Algonquin by a number of years," said Clarke.

"In fact at some point later on, William F. Ganong wrote an article where he essentially called Dalhousie the Saint Andrews of the north."

Clarke believes the mountain was just another site for tourists in the area to visit.

"I suspect some of the people who were vacationing at Inch Arran House would hike up there and add their names to the rocks," said Clarke.

Famous guests

Sir John A Macdonald and his wife Agnes spent much of two summers in Dalhousie during the town's "resort" period. (Pittaway & Jarvis/Library and Archives Canada)

"You had some very distinguished people coming to Dalhousie during the summer," said Clarke.

"Sir John A. and Lady Agnes MacDonald came down and spent a good deal of the summer [of 1887] at Inch Arran House...They were back again the following year."

In 1887, Clarke said MacDonald's government even had a federal cabinet meeting in Dalhousie, which, like it would today, attracted much media attention.

State of the rock

The museum had looked into ways of protecting the names, however, they were advised that protecting the site may not have positive results. (Submitted by Mary-Clare Vautour)

Considering they're on a mountain, exposed to the harsh northern New Brunswick winters, the names are in remarkably good condition.

However, there have been issues with keeping the names in pristine condition.

"There have been some people who, rather unfortunately, carved additional names in some cases over the old ones," said Clarke, "which doesn't help from a historical point of view."

Clarke said the museum has looked into ways of protecting the names; however, they were advised that protecting the site may not have positive results.

"Anything that we did would actually attract more attention to the rocks and might lead to more vandalism than they would otherwise experience," said Clarke.

Do you have any information on the carvings? Help us solve this mystery, email your tips.

About the Author

Jordan Gill


Jordan Gill is a CBC reporter based out of Fredericton. He can be reached at

With files from Melissa Friedman and Susan Bradley