Street, John A.

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John Ambrose Street was born September 22, 1795 and died May 5, 1865. He was a lawyer and political figure in New Brunswick. He represented Northumberland County in the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick from 1833 to 1842 and from 1843 to 1856. He was born in Burton, New Brunswick, the son of Samuel Denny Street and Abigail Freeman, and was educated there and in Fredericton. He studied law with his father and was called to the bar in 1817.

Street lived in Newcastle from 1823 to 1845. He served as registrar of wills and deeds for Northumberland County and as a member of the county board of health. In 1823, he married Jane Isabella, the daughter of William Hubbard, who had represented Sunbury County in the provincial assembly. Street was first elected to the provincial assembly in an 1833 by-election held after Joseph Cunard resigned his seat. In 1837, he was named Queen's Counsel.

Although there had always been a level of rivalry between the communities of Newcastle and Chatham, the enmity reached a political level when fights broke out between John T. Williston of Chatham (supported by local entrepreneur Joseph Cunard) and John Ambrose Street of Newcastle (backed by the prominent lumber baron, Alexander Rankin of Douglastown). The Rankin and Cunard factions literally fought the election in the streets of Newcastle and Chatham with sticks, stones, coal and other missiles, and the event became known as “The Fighting Election”.

After pre-election violence which included broken windows and doors and other damage to the stores and houses of the various factions, John T. Williston was declared victorious over Street on January 8, 1843.

Street did not take his loss lightly and demanded a scrutiny. All through January and February there were accusations by Street and his supporters written in the Chatham Gleaner. Finally, the bickering and skirmishes ended for the time being when 45 people wrote to Fredericton stating that they had been forcibly prevented from casting their votes for Street. Williston's seat was declared vacant in March and a by-election was called for July 17th.

Now the fighting began in earnest. John T. Williston was supported by Joseph Cunard and his employees and John Ambrose Street was supported by Alexander Rankin and his employees. It was the north side of the river against the south side.

The 300-strong Williston party is reported to have arrived at the Newcastle Court House on voting day intending to intimidate the Opposition but the Rankin men were forewarned and forearmed. They threw rocks which they had concealed underneath sods. The Cunard party was finally overpowered and fled in three different directions. The first group cut through the woods, coming out that night at Lamont's Mill; the second group came out the next day at Millbank and the third group ran to the wharf to board the steamer St. George. The Street supporters were in hot pursuit, throwing pieces of coal. So Captain Graham steamed down to Chatham with his passengers, the decks of the vessel covered with coal.

Up to 40 persons were injured in the incident and James Ryan, a respected tarvern owner, died of injuries, leaving a widow and ten children.

When polling day arrived in Chatham. it is said that Cunard had a force of about 1,000 men while Rankin had 500. Because of the strength of numbers, election day was uneventful and an uneasy truce was declared. John Ambrose Street was declared elected and remained a member of' the House of Assembly until 1850.

In 1851, he became a member of the province's Executive Council as Attorney General. Street ran unsuccessfully for reelection in 1856, 1861 and 1865. He died in Saint John at the age of 69. His brother George Frederick, also a lawyer, served as a judge and a member of the Legislative Council.

SOURCE: Biography at the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online

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