Old St. Andrews



James Rait, Merchant



In 1878 James Lorimer, editor of the newly created "Bay Pilot" newspaper penned the first of 12 items he titled "Jottings on the Street." He began at the upper end of Water Street with an article titled "Rait's Store," and over the course of the next two weeks worked his way down to the lighthouse at the far end. Though Rait predated Lorimer, his fame was still alive in the memories of the old-timers of the area. Rait was a very prominent shipbuilder, importer and businessman in the early history of St. Andrews, whose store was located just a lot or two from Harrriet and Water, and who epitomized to Lorimer the energy and prosperity that characterized St. Andrews in the early part of the 19th century. The maps reproduced here show that between 1844 and 1880 an enormous change had taken place in the Town. By 1880 gone were the huge wharves on the upper end of the Town that used to extend out farther than whole blocks. From the founding of the Town in 1783 to the middle part of the century the whole province benefited from preferential tariffs on lumber exported to Britain, and the business of wooden shipbuilding was almost on a par with the triangle trade between the mother country, the West Indies, and the Maritimes. In 1821 however and again in 1842 Britain increased tariffs substantially and New Brunswick lost a great deal of its prosperity. James Rait, along with James Allanshaw, MP, John Ker and John Wilson all lived during the heyday of St. Andrews. They owned shipyards and did a huge export / import business. Mr. Rait was President of the Charlotte County Bank and a director of the St. Andrews and Quebec Railway. In the days when a hundred wooden ships anchored in the harbour were a common sight, Rait employed a hundred men at his wharf. Unfortunately, no photographs of this time are known to survive. Sometime in the 1840's Mr. Rait left St. Andrews for Jamaica, from which he had originally come via Great Britain.