Situated at Thomas Cove on the Bay of Fundy near Lake Midway, and about two miles from the village of Sandy Cove, was the home of Ben and Liefy Smith, a brother and sister who originally, it was believed, came from England. They were a curious family, and both were noted for being quite superstitious. Their home was built of driftwood that they collected along the shores of the Bay of Fundy.
Because they lived in a lonely place and did not conform to the village way of life some called them witches. One person who visited the couple some 60 years ago described them as looking hundreds of years old, living in a tiny cottage buried in the trees, surrounded with lichen-covered rocks over which climbed and slipped two blind and ancient gray geese. Benny carried a wand, a clean slender rod, with which he believed he “witched” the passing ships, and brought them to disaster on the rocky coast. Liefy, wearing a patchwork skirt, a kerchief on her head, and shoes, but no stockings, crouched over a pot by the sooty fireplace; the sooty rags she wore blending into the shadows beside the red embers of her fire. Her eyes were dark, shining and deep-set; her nose and chin on their way to matching the classic witch profile. The fireplace and chimney were well constructed of stones stuck together with clay from the beach; Liefy had built with her own hands. Benny’s usual spot was opposite his sister and there the two would sit, the red glow casting wavering caricatures of them, each smoking a pipe and leaning forward occasionally to spit in the fire. They had been well born people, of an English family, and through their masks of dirt and decay, there showed a fineness in their features and their manner.
Shipwrecks were common along the sea coast. Wreckage provided excellent wood for Benny, who carved articles such as butter trays, doll cradles and axe handles, then peddled them in the village.
Liefy seldom left the shore, but when strawberries and blueberries were ripe, she collected them in a small wooden jam pail (see side bar), she would come to Sandy Cove dressed in long skirts and always wore an old-fashioned sun bonnet when selling the berries.
She distrusted the local doctor, the late Dr. Frank Rice, and his wife Laura, because she said he threw germs about to make people sick. She distrusted modern medicine and refused to use a new stove which was donated to her, in part, by Dr. Rice. She would never sell her berries to Mrs. Rice.
If she noticed a wagon wheel track while out picking berries, she would deliberately walk around the track to where it started, believing that crossing it would mean bad luck. Sometimes when they came to the village, children would draw a line along the road and Liefy and Ben would walk in the ditch rather than cross it.
Liefy had two geese - one lived to be 30 years old and couldn’t walk, so she believed it was bewitched.
Back in the old days, people from Sandy Cove and nearby Centreville would often gather and journey to Thomas Cove to visit the strange brother and sister. It was on one such occasion, that a visitor, not seeing Liefy about, asked Ben where she was, and he replied that he hadn’t seen her in about three days. After a short search, she was found upstairs; she had been dead for about three days. Another search revealed a trunk full of beautiful clothes, neatly stored, and a hand-knit white stocking filled with silver ten-cent pieces. This was the only money she ever trusted.
After her death Ben was taken to the Poor House in Digby, where he lived until his death. They are buried in the Sandy Cove Baptist Cemetery.
Even though they lived differently from the other villagers of the area, and some called them witches, they were certainly friendly ones. All the older people in the village today remember them with affection.