One of the earliest settlers in Doaktown was Benjamin Davis, a Loyalist who arrived from Queensbury, York County, having come first from Amesbury, Massachusetts.
According to Mrs. Frank Swim's "History of Doaktown" which she wrote in 1902, Ben Davis began the erection of the first hotel in Doaktown in 1807. The history states "The hotel was two years in the course of construction, all the lumber being whip-sawed or hewed. The boards were placed on the roof up and down. "
I do not know the name of this hotel.
The Aberdeen Hotel which was situated in the centre of the village where the Post Office now stands was operated by the Swim family. The hotel burned in 1925. The Daily Gleaner of October 3, 1925 gives the following account of the fire.
The fire broke out about 3 o'clock in one of the several small garage buildings in the rear of the post office, which was in back of the building in which Robert Swim also conducted a general store. There is no explanation of the origin of the fire, the flames quickly spread to the barn in the rear of the hotel whence they reached the main hotel building within a few minutes. At the same time the flames jumped to the building in which Robert Swim's store and the post office were located and soon afterwards the dwelling of Wm. White was also enveloped.
All three main buildings together with the half dozen smaller buildings in connection were all bunched together on the northern side of the main highway running through the village and the volunteer fire brigade made a desperate battle to stop the spread of flames at Mr. White's dwelling, as it was felt that should the fire spread further the entire village was doomed. With the assistance of the water supply from a nearby hydrant they were successful in halting the spread of the flames, but not until all the buildings mentioned had been destroyed and the building in which Wm. Cummings had his home and store and the New Brunswick Tel. Co's Exchange had been scorched and damaged to a considerable extent. Mr. Cummings' building is across the road from where the flames were raging but the heat was so severe that the place glass in the front of the building was destroyed.
While there was no loss of life in the fire, a number of the occupants of the buildings had narrow escapes and scarcely any of the contents of the buildings were saved. Robert Swim was the heaviest loser; he owned the building in which he conducted a store, and the post office and he also owned the Aberdeen Hotel building, which was under lease to Charles Regan formerly of Barnaby River, who had been conducting the hotel for the past 2 years. There were no guests in the hotel last night which is fortunate as persons not well acquainted with the building might have had difficulty in escaping alive, so rapidly did the flames envelop the whole hotel.
It was said at noon today that the insurance would not cover more than 50% of the loss. Some mail matter was destroyed in the post office but its value could not be ascertained."
The Gilks House attained fame in 1939, when their Majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth stopped there for lunch en route from Newcastle to Fredericton.
In 1971 Doaktown businessman William McKinnon purchased the house from Mrs. Percy Crocker. He offered the house along with most of the original furniture to be used as a museum and historic site. Instrumental in the restoration project was his son, William R. McKinnon, then a college student and now an archivist with N. B. Archives.
On July 2, 1973 the Gilks House opened as an historical site. The ribbon was cut by Lieutenant-Governor Hedard J. Robichaud. Among those in attendance who were also present at the time of the historic Royal Visit were W. S. Anderson of Newcastle, former Cabinet Minister; Blaine Murray of Doaktown, a war veteran; Mrs. Gerald Mitchell and Mrs. Isabel Dickinson of Doaktown, who served the Royal couple; Mrs. Fraser O'Donnell of Doaktown, who as a Girl Guide presented a bouquet to the Queen.
Although the Gilks House was well received as an historic site, lack of funding resulted in its closing in 1973. The building has since been converted to apartments.
This hotel burned on April 24, 1942. Every attempt was made to save the building. The Newcastle Fire Department was even called but it was all to no avail.
The Russell House was located on the main street north of the Rexall drug store. It was operated by Frank Russell and later by his daughter. This establishment catered in great part to American fishermen. The building is still standing, but has been converted to apartments.
The various hotels researched for this series of articles will give the readers some idea of the many hotels in operation up and down the Miramichi River in bygone days.
(Acknowledgements: William R. McKinnon, N. B. Archives; Miss Anne Murray, Mrs. William McKinnon, Mrs. Robert Swim, Doaktown; "History of Doaktown" by Mrs. Frank Swim.)
(Northumberland News, June 24, 1981)