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Charles Frederic Hartt, George Matthew and Loring Bailey

Cambrian fossils have provided some of the most interesting stories of New Brunswick geology. Southern New Brunswick has classic fossil localities where some of the important 19th century discoveries were made, attracting scientists then and now. Saint John has a long history in the development of geological sciences in Canada dating back to the work of city resident and first provincial geologist (1838-1842) Abraham Gesner. Gesner’s work inspired the next generation of local geologists.

In 1857, twenty-year old George Matthew and his friends started the Steinhammer Club to explore the geology around Saint John. Matthew was a self-taught geologist who went on to become one of Canada’s best. Charles ‘Fred’ Hartt, a graduate of Acadia College in Nova Scotia, moved to Saint John to teach in a young ladies’ school run by his father. Hartt had developed an early interest in geology and paleontology and evidently found good companions in the Steinhammer Club. Hartt built a career on studying the local geology and was instrumental in establishing the Natural History Society of New Brunswick in 1862. Hartt explored and studied some of New Brunswick’s most famous and well-known fossil sites.

In 1863, Fred Hartt, George Matthew and Loring Bailey discovered the first Cambrian trilobites found in Canada, near Ratcliffe Brook. Hartt studied and illustrated the fossils and his work was included in the second edition of the classic geology book Acadian Geology, written by William Dawson and published in 1868. Hartt later took the specimens to the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard where Professor Louis Agassiz studied the fossils.

Much of Dawson’s information for Acadian Geology came from the efforts of the Steinhammer Club. Matthew and Hartt were its two most active members. Dawson obviously appreciated their efforts and recognized the leadership of Matthew and Hartt in directing the club’s activities. In 1863 he wrote:

“It is only just to observe, that the completeness of the following list is due to the industrious labors of an association of young gentlemen of St. John, who, under the guidance of Messrs. Matthew and Hartt, have diligently explored every accessible spot within some distance of the city, and have liberally placed their collections at my disposal for the purposes of this paper.” (Dawson 1863, American Journal of Science, v. 35).