Miss Minto represents

I was born and raised in a little place called Clark’s Corner. It’s 20 minutes outside of Minto, but it’s what everybody else calls “the middle of butt-fuck nowhere.” My house is in the woods, and it’s the most peaceful, serene piece of paradise in the entire world as far as I’m concerned.

(Photo credit: From the book Minto Coal by Lawrence Christmas)
(Photo credit: From the book Minto Coal by Lawrence Christmas)

But I went to school in Minto, I hang out with my best friends in Minto, I’ve gotten myself in trouble in Minto, and as of late, I even represent Minto. You can call me Miss Minto, or Miss “Minno” as we Mintonians say.

Minto has a reputation for being a badass village whose foundation has been built on drugs, hockey and welfare cheques. I’d be lying if I said that’s not a little bit true. Minto is the place where teenagers with no future come to either fight or get wasted, adults come to live cheaply, and the elderly stay because they never got the chance to leave. You’re either hopelessly in love with it, or constantly hate it.

***

I grew up seeing Minto romantically. Hard-working, tobacco-chewing, dirty men would slave in the coal mines for hours upon hours each day. In pictures I’ve seen, these men were hardened – real Clint Eastwood types with the boyish faces of Paul Newman; the types forced to quit school in elementary and work to support their ailing families before they hardly even knew what money was.

A busy Main Street would have all classes of people tipping their fedora and panama-style hats to each other or shaking calloused hands. It was lined with little family-run businesses in those days, and not a building was abandoned – there’d be a patriarch pulling out his wallet faster than a cheetah can run.

By the time the last coal mining company in the area, NB Coal, closed in 2010, the entire community had become like a person on death row, hoping his sentence would be commuted. After more than 370 years of coal mining in Minto, hundreds of people lost their jobs. For a village of 2,500 people, the loss was devastating, both economically and emotionally.

When you first get into the village limits, next to the dark green sign with yellow letters that welcomes you to Minto, you’ll notice a bucket from one of the old draglines – a reminder of what the village used to be. There’s a small building on Main Street that used to be a train station – the hub of the community at one time – and it’s now a museum. Inside are photographs of old trains and the miners hard at work, and there is an entire room dedicated the old miners and their stories.

Photo credit: From the book Minto Coal by Lawrence Christmas.
(Photo credit: From the book Minto Coal by Lawrence Christmas)

Everywhere you go around the community there are reminders of what Minto used to be, but hardly anything that points to its reinvention as a village. Buildings have been abandoned and left to dilapidate, businesses are slim (one of our two grocery stores just closed, and there’s only one gas station), and young people are on either on the street or hate their lives – looking for something better than what they’ve been dealt. Their parents have to travel anywhere between an hour and 5,000 kilometers away to provide for them, and their grandparents are made sick because of it.

But I don’t see any of that. When I look at Minto, I see a place that lost its crutch and kept going. I see people lending a hand to those who need it the most. I watch families helping other families raise their kids when times get tough. I hear “Hello!” and “How ya doin’?” between each aisle of the grocery store no matter how well the voices know each other. I feel the energy and vibrations of laughter as people bond over a jam session, a hockey game or a coffee. I witness people make the most of what they have although it’s often so little. I watch people stay, not because they’re confined to this life, but because they believe in it. I stand in the middle of a community that never stops being one.

My grad class voted a country song by Montgomery Gentry as our grad song. It was the first line that did it for us: “Don’t you dare go runnin’ down my little town where I grew up, and I won’t cuss your city lights.”

(Photo credit: From the book Minto Coal by Lawrence Christmas)
(Photo credit: From the book Minto Coal by Lawrence Christmas)

When people hear I’m from Minto, they either ask me where it is, or say how bad they’ve heard it is. It takes everything in me not to explode. But I think that song says it all. You can’t really know how great a place like Minto is until you experience it. You have to be in the middle of a Saturday night hockey game sing-a-long, or tag along with your parents to a kitchen party. You have to watch the boats come into the coves of Grand Lake at sunset on Labor Day weekend and listen to the whoops and hollers of people in a place that doesn’t even qualify as a town. You have to see everybody’s lives unfold as one. Only then will you understand how profound Minto, New Brunswick is.

I always get asked how scary coming to university was since I’m from such a small place. What I’ve realized in my first semester is that it’s my hometown roots that keep me grounded when things get overwhelming; no matter what, I can always go home to open arms and good music. In this crowd of new faces and nameless people, Minto is my little secret.

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  • Show Comments (47)

  • Carla

    incredible! I still love the place and the people. Minto and chipman were my inspiration for Two Little Towns and The Last Train. You sure represent us well!

  • Mandy

    I grew up here. This was the best thing I have ever read to describe how it feels to be from Minto. Wonderfully written. Thank you.

  • Heather

    Great article! I knew your mama when she was way younger then you. I used to hang with your grandparents, sturgeon and Ruth. Loved minto, the ridge, and chipman. Awesome people then, and now. Keep up the good work…

  • Barb Belliveau

    You said this very well! I was born in Minto and moved to toronto when I was six, then moved back to the best place to live when I was 40. I would not want to live anywhere else. Minto is one big family and I’m very proud to live here.

  • Carrie

    beautifully written. I live in Ontario but half of my family lives in or around Minto. This summer I informed five kids that we would be going to Minto NB to visit grandpas home town instead of going up north. We loaded two vehicles three adults and five kids (ages 10 to 19). We travelled two days. I was growled at barked at yelled at and swore at for taking these spoiled kids “to the middle of butt-fuck nowhere” for their only vacation of the summer. We stayed five days I wanted the kids to know the other half of where they come from because they had family they knew nothing about. And I will tell u they were upset with this whole idea. Once we arrived they met cousins and family and were emersed in a place of beauty. After five days we had to say goodbye. I’ve never seen my kids cry like that. They loved the place and the people so much and are hoping to return again this summer but for a longer stay. One is even contemplating university in NB.

  • Arlene

    To make you feel better, I lived and worked in Saint John for over thirty years and whenever I told someone from there that I was from Chipman, they asked if it was near Minto. They knew where Minto was, been to Minto, but never Chipman. We all struggle with our little towns and, sometimes, see what we hold beloved die away and we mourn as one. But we always have our good memories, and in sharing those good memories nothing really dies….just, as long as we hold it dear to our heart. I loved my town enough to move back home after 33 years, once again to become a family unit with the family I left behind, get to know again the same people that I had left behind, go the same church, very much pick up where I left off. I love the life here, and I love the fact that I can travel to Minto for a coffee when I please, and be served politely with eagerness, and thoughtfulness. I like dropping into Foodland for something offered on their sale sheet, and being acknowledged with a Hi or a smile. I like the Dollar Store, and the many things that it can offer in a hurry, saving me from going to Fredericton. I like your town, and just as my own, I pray that it will survive and remain a place to come home to.

  • Ida Belliveau

    Well written and echoes the feelings of anybody who grew up in Minto..A great to come back to for talent second to none and a warm welcome
    ..ida

  • Doug James

    An exceptional article Sarah that shows maturity and insight well beyond your years. You are an “old soul” and it comes out dramatically in your writing. May I ask what you are studying at St. Thomas?

    • Sarah Betts

      Thank you so much for the kind words, Doug! I plan on studying Journalism mainly among a few other things 🙂

  • Rena Geneau

    I’m also from Minto ,moved to Ontario over 30 years ago but as they say,there is no place like home.I spend the summers at Grand Lake.Hope some day to live there permantly. Enjoyed your article very much .Good luck with your education.

  • Ruth Barton

    Once again so well written ,felt and said Sarah. You are one fantastic girl, with a head and heart full of dreams but feet planted firmly on the ground. I know that you will be successful in whatever you commit to. I think you have inherited the brilliant mind and writing ability of your great-grandmother, the work ethic of your parents and grandparents, the musical talent of family on both sides ofyour big wonderful,crasy family and the respect of everyone in your hometown. Love you forever, Love you for Always,Nanny B. xoxo

  • Bonnie

    Sarah,
    Since I have had the pleasure of knowing you, I always knew you would shine in what ever adventurer you always went into.
    For such a young adult your wisdom is far beyond .
    Very well thought out, clear and enlightening.
    Love it!

  • Joyce Tompkins

    Sara a very interesting article and I bet a lot of your family feels the same. I have always had a great time in Minto and treated great! It will be good to see you all. You have done a good job!

  • Kim

    Wow Sara this is just amazing. You have true and natural talent in your writing. I cannot wait to see where life takes you but one thing is for sure your heart will remain in our little town. You are a great representation of our youth not only here in Minto but in our Province. Keep up your hard work !

  • Sue Barton

    Shockingly true…we have a vast array of folks here, of various nationalities and cultures but we’re still all one big family who stick together. Nicely written Sarah.

  • Faye Murray

    Awesome article Sarah! I was born in that little village and lived there for five years before we moved away…returning there to attend MMHS (which my father helped build btw) I have some great memories from there! You summed it all up nicely for many people 🙂 All the best in your college endeavors! With your keen insight I know you will succeed at no matter what you do! xo

  • Dan Yeamans

    Sarah, what an awesome post!!!!!!!!! Minto was transformed by mining coal by hard working people and made Minto prosperous. Now that the mines have been put to rest, we the people, have to come together, get creative, and build this AWESOME village back on it’s feet.
    I am so happy to read your post that when you hear “Crap” about Minto from outsiders, you hold firm. If the roots of any living thing dies..so does the the living thing. Lets not let Minto die.

  • Diana Deap

    Wow! What an amazingly well said commentary on the place that will always be home in my heart. Bravo to you for saying what is in many mintonian hearts!

  • Gus Andries

    Great article Sarah,and the 3 pictures in this article I knew,Welton.Madore.Barton,I lived in Minto for 48 years.now living in Fredericton.I tell people that I am from Minto,and say a Mintoite.All the best in your career.

  • Linda Wuhr

    Sarah you are a gifted writer who I’m sure will do well in whatever you decide to do. You’ve written something that resounds with all of us who love our little town. I was born and raised here and never wanted to live anywhere else. Thank you Sarah for being such an awesome ambassador for Minto and I wish you all the best in the future.

  • Meredyth

    I was nervous to scroll down to see the comments because people have such an opinion about where we come from.

    Instead I found nothing but encouragement and kind words – all from people I know and would recognize if back home.

    Way to go Sarah. Nice to see the glimmer of hope is still present from our old town.

    xo

  • Mary Cote

    Way to go girl ! Amazing artical I grew up in Minno, don’t live far away though. Your going to make a difference any where you go !

  • Brenda Brown

    I enjoyed this article very much.Keep up the good work.

  • Charlene

    Well done! Minto should be proud to call you one of theirs

  • Vicki Barton Goodine

    This is an awesome article and I feel the same way about Minto. I live in Fredericton but my heart is there! I moved to Moncton after graduating, then Fredericton after that and have been here for 27 years.
    I love the people and the kindness and sense of community that is Minto. I love how everyone knows not only who you are, but who everyone in your family is! My kids grew up in Fredericton and did not graduate with the sentiment or nostalgia that we felt when finishing high school from good ole Minto High with the same kids we started kindergarten.
    I love going back… for summer festival, weekends, or family gatherings and especially Grand Lake, which my kids also really enjoy. Minto is a wonderful place to be from!

  • Carol

    You’ve nailed it, Sarah. I grew up in Minto and sometimes felt the same way others did. Now we are contemplating moving back, and every time I go home, it gets harder to leave. Thanks for the awesome article.

  • Theresa Madore Lapointe

    Well Said … My Dad is from Minto he joined the Military But every posting back to NB always allowed us to go and spend weekends in Minto with Relatives even if I ended up in Frederictons High school My heart always returned to Minto. My Parents Retired in Ripples ..just next to Minto. STAND STRONG AND PROUD ALOT OF GOOD STRONG PEOPLE HAVE COME FROM THERE AND ARE STILL THERE! 🙂

  • Marta MacQuarrie

    I have always referred to Minno as my 2nd childhood home. My Mom was born in Chipman and Grampa built a home on Northside Drive when she was very small. We lived in Ottawa when I was little, and we would spend every March Break, every other Christmas and every summer vacation at my Grampa’s house, until his death in 1981. I have life long friends who are fortunate enough to still live there. I have the fondest childhood memories because of those vacations in that tiny little place. This article/essay really hits home for me. Thank you for writing it, for living it, for sharing it.

  • Lori Geneau

    My heart is filled with pride reading this. Sarah, you and I have much in common. You truly see the forest for all the beauty it has to offer, not just for the trees. I lived 23 of my 39 years years of life in that wonderful community and I miss being away from it every day. I joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 2001. I traveled to several European Countries, having the privilege to meet all kinds of people from all over the world and have had the opportunity to live in 5 different Provinces in our great Nation and I have to say, the only place I travel to that I get so excited to get there that I can’t sleep for days leading up to my arrival is MINTO….my forever home.
    Your passion behind our home town will echo for generations to come and I personally want to thank you for representing the place I hold dear to my heart, our community, our home so well.
    Lori. Xo

  • Susan

    Very well written article Sarah! Such a strong sense of voice for your community. You have represented your village incredibly well and I am sure would represent our province equally so!

  • Andy Drost

    Well Sarah, I just got done reading your most incredible writing and I must say, you made this old Uncle of yours shed a tear ( okay, many a tear), I always knew you were one who set goals for yourself and pretty much surpassed everything you set your mind to. I am speechless as you have written everything that I feel in my heart as one who has been born here, grown up, raised Our children and someday I will die here. You have written all the descriptions of what it’s like to live here in Our small piece of Paradise called Minto.
    I am proud of you Sarah , you are an incredible young Lady, thanks for being you! You are Sarah Bett’s and you are going to go far in life, and I can’t wait to see where it leads you! Love ya kiddo!!

  • Theresa

    Sarah what a beautiful tribute to Minto. I moved away 36 years ago and most of my family still call Minto home. I have taken my children home for Christmas and summer vacations and they actually call Minto their home even though they have never actually lived there. It will always be my home and your sentiments stand true. That down home family feeling is what makes Minto a place everyone wants to go back to

  • Miriam Thurrott

    Well said. Only someone who lives/ lived in Minto could understand the pain and the pride of our little town.

  • Michael Gould

    It was really nice to read your article Sarah, summing everything up about our little village that we all love and cherish, and how we enjoy ,telling people where we grew up, and how proud we all are, of this community. I left Minto 18 years ago, as work sent me away, but have missed it ever since, and sincerely appreciate whenever I get a chance to return. Good luck in your studies, and I am certain you will be successful in your future endeavours.

  • Jennifer Stairs Pool

    I went to school and an still friends with your mom … I now live in England and your words captured so many of my own feelings about the sheer power of our community. Brilliant writing 🙂

  • kirk firlotte

    not originally from minto but it has been my home for almost 30 years now.minto has been good to our family and we are all proud to call it home.great article sarah.good luck at unb.just too bad the govt both provincial and federal have forgot about this area but we continue to plug away because that’s what people from minno do…cheers..

  • kirk firlotte

    sorry st. Thomas even better sarah,my old school…

  • corinne madore

    the man in the second photo is my father Louis Madore and you pretty much summed up his generations hard work, love of family, music and good times in our hometown. I will always be proud of Minto and my family there and away. All the family know well Louis’s old wood shed up in the Avon and his dog patches and I now own that fiddle and play it . loved the article.

  • Jean Mignautl

    Great article, you do write very well. While I now live in Ontario (20 years now), I grew up in Northern NB, i.e. Campbellton and Edmundston! My good friend Ron is from Minto, been there a few times and agree that it is indeed charming! He still lives there mostly in spring, summer and fall (by the Lake)!

    I would love to move back to NB some day, probably in the Southern part of the Province, but given the state of the economy there and the dismal Finances of the Province, I can’t see it happening! I love to visit the area in the summer and would only comment that there are nice places all over this great country!

    I have a friend in Ottawa, Donnie who grew up in the Pontiac Region of Western QC, he is actually from a small town called “Lowe”, I’ve only been there once and always remember (with a chuckle) when I told him I was going camping with Scouts in Lowe. He told me “great watch for my old High School when you enter the Village, we call it <>, always have a little laugh when I think of that! Like you he is rooted there in his heart and mind and often reminisces about home. Well done!

  • Tammy Wood

    Well done Sarah. I grew up in Sheffield and my Mom is from Clarks Corner. My Mom, Grandmom (soon to be 90) and sister all live, as we say, at the lake. We love Lakeville Corner, Clarks Corner, Grandlake and Minto area. Good luck with your studies and never forget your heritage and family. Always write from your heart.

  • Irene

    I just read what you said about Minto. That was just wonderful. I too was born in Minto. I went to high school here. I never wanted to leave. Some people will say to my husband. You still live in Minto your crazy for staying. We love our little town. Thanks

  • Winston Bozo Chase

    Well I read them all and I found that any true Mintoite that didnt at least have watery eyes I am 73 years old a Mintoite and living in Fredericton and Told It Well some of the younger ones may not see the meaning of you story but an older Mintoite will be proude of their hertiage from the little coalk mining town MEMORIES you brought them back and I hope I never lose them its life.

  • LOIS E. (PALMER) COMEAU

    I ENJOYED YOUR WRITING ABOUT MINTO ALSO. I WENT TO SCHOOL IN MINTO IN MY ELEMENTRY YEARS , THROUGH TO GRADE 12, AND GRADUATED IN 1973 FROM THE MMHS. I WAS THE “FIRST BLACK BABY ” BORN IN THE MINTO HOSPITAL, WHICH IS NOW, A SENIOR’S RESIDENCE, AND I WAS PROUD TO CALL MINTO MY BIRTH PLACE. I DREAM OF WINNING THE LOTTERY, AND GOING TO MINTO AND PUTTING UP HOTELS, GARAGES, A YMCA, A NEW HOSPITAL, AND MANY MORE STORES AND MAYBE A MALL. I WOULD LIKE TO SEE MINTO COME BACK WITH MORE WORK FOR THE PEOPLE, WHO ARE STILL LIVING THERE. IT IS A PLACE OF QUIETNESS, PEACE, AND PEOPLE GET ALONG THERE PRETTY GOOD. I LOVE THE MANY MUSICIANS MINTO HAS, AND I LOVE IT BECAUSE IT SEEMS LIKE A SAFE PLACE FOR CHILDREN. I HAVE A DAUGHTER AND GRANDSON WHO LIVE THERE AND HER HUSBAND’S FAMILY LIVE UP NEAR THE HOSPITAL, AND HAVE BEEN THERE FOR EVER. MY GRANDSON CAN WALK OR RIDE HIS BIKE ON THE STREETS AND BE HOME SAFE AT A GOOD TIME WITH OUT ANY FEAR OF KIDNAPPING OR SEXUAL ABUSE. THESE THINGS ARE VERY IMPORTANT TO ME. I HAD A TEACHER IN MINTO CALLED (STERGEON BETT’S WIFE) I FORGOT HER FIRST NAME, BUT SHE PLAYED THE ORGAN IN CHURCH AT NEWCASTLE BRIDGE FOR YEARS, AND SHE PLAYED FOR MY DAUGHTER’S WEDDING ALSO, AND I HAD HER FOR A TEACHER IN GRADE 7,8, AND 9.
    THANKS FOR ALL THE MEMORIES SARAH! GOOD LUCK IN YOUR FUTURE ENDEVORS! 🙂

  • Eric Barnett

    My great great grand father my grand father my father worked in the Minto coal mines .i also worked in the Minto coal mines for 33 years. Minto has been good to our family and the people in Minto are hard workers and Good people. The article I read about Sarah Bett’s is great.If you lived in Minto you know how great the people Are.

  • Faye (Hunziker) MacFarlane

    So enjoyed this article and it was so well written. Yes, I still call Minto my home and I am very proud of where I came from. I always loved the saying that “Minto is like a lemon pie – No upper crust” Always heard this was attributed to Mayor Andrea Barnett. Thankyou Minto for all you have given to each of us that grew up there.

  • Claire Quigley

    Thank you Sarah for your post. Wonderfully written. All of your post reconfirms my feelings of Minto, I love our little town and the greater Grand Lake area. We are a town that has lost so much, but yet we have so much to offer. You are a great ambassador for our community. 🙂

  • Debbie Coughlin

    Very well written Sarah! It brought tears to my eyes reading this because you reminded me how special our Village is. I was born and raised in Minto and lived there for 19 years and there is nothing I am more proud of then to say I am from Minto. I live in Antigonish NS now but Minto is still my home.

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