“I John H. Fluck do swear that I will keep a correct record of all money spent and expences incured (sic) in building the Medford Dyke… and generally do the duties of clerk to the best of my judgement and ability.” This statement was sworn before commissioner Leander Rand on 29 May, 1893, and was the initial step in constructing a dyke on Bass Creek in Medford.
Work began immediately on the dyke. As required, John Fluck (pronounced fluke) kept a detailed account book and the first entry, also dated May 29, shows that the dyke body paid for 10 hours of manual labour on that day. Fluck’s account book, a school exercise scribbler, has been preserved to this day and is in good condition; the ledger is now at the Kings County Museum, the gift of a donor who wishes to remain anonymous.
In recent times remnants of the old Medford dyke were still visible. Marine history buff Leon Barron of North Alton tells me that remains of the dyke walls, a few pilings and some of the sluiceway were visible just below the highway when he explored Medford beach a few years ago.
The Medford or Bass Creek dyke was built over a four month period. Compared to the might Wellington Dyke on the Canard River, it was minuscule but of no less importance. That the Bass Creek marsh was dyked originally by the Acadians is possible since these people had scattered farms in the Medford area; however, while no records exist to confirm this, the Planters who took up Acadian lands generally maintained existing dykes.
When the Medford dyke was built 110 years ago, John Fluck entered in his ledger the cost of manual labour, the amount and cost of materials that went into the dyke and sluiceway, and other expenses. These entries give us a peephole into the past and reveal some amazing facts about the late 19th century.
For example, the going rate for hard manual labour in 1893 apparently was ten cents an hour. Labourers were often called upon to work a 10-hour day. George P. Baines was one of those labourers and we find entries after his name reading, “To five days and one hour’s work @$1.00 – $5.10;” and “To five days and six hours – $5.60.”
Building a dyke required among other things timber and tools. Thus we find that John Fluck purchased two buckets at 25 cents each, three kegs of spikes at $2.60 per keg, an axe, including the handle, for $1.00, three pounds of wire nails at five cents per pound. Other purchases included tar, oil, oakum (a loose fibre used for caulking) “sawn timber for sluiceway,” and one of the largest purchases, “six thousand, 200 feet lumber.”
Some outside help may have been brought in during dyke construction. Fluck’s ledger has one page devoted to “Rufus Borden’s board bill” at the rate of $3.00 per week. Most likely Borden was a specialist in some phase of dyke construction. He was on hand during construction from June 2 until September 1.
On September 5 a committee of three men was selected to appraise the completed dyke. Selected were Rufus Borden, Levi Eaton and Stanley Eaton. Apparently, these three examined the work to determine if it was up to the standard set by the dyke commission.