New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

New Brunswick in the 1840s

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Sunbury County New Brunswick in the 1840s: Too much volatility and too little diversificaton


New Brunswick entered the 1840s optimistic that lumbering and shipbuilding would continue to bring prosperity. The economy was volatile, however, and waxed and waned with changing British timber preferences and with changing trade volumes with the United States.

So, within a year, unemployment had grown, emigration had increased and the timber trade was again thought to be in jeopardy. Barter was common by the end of 1842. Another year, another change; and by the end of 1843 prosperity had returned.

Many commentators bemoaned the poor state of agriculture inNew Brunswick, including Sunbury County. Agriculture was not up to modern standards and too many people relied solely on logging for their living. Saint John business interests favoured importing food rather than modernising farming, since this freed up the population to pursue logging.

By the mid 1840s an immigration crisis was superimposed onto this fragile environment. There were 9,000 immigrants in 1846 and 17,000 in 1847. Cholera was imported to Saint John in 1846 and hundreds of newcomers took to the countryside in an effort to sustain themselves.

By the late 1840s the best old growth timber was all gone. The poor state of agriculture; the tenuous long term prospects for the timber industry; the virtual disappearance of trade with the Americans; and the rapid pace of immigration led to a period of renewed land settlement and farming as an alternative to lumbering.

The summer of 1847 was not kind, and the legislature made a special grant to Sunbury County. County Council held a special meeting at the court house in Burton on April 20, 1848 and passed the following resolution:

“Resolved: That the sum granted by the legislature at the last session to provide for the necessities occasioned by the failure of the potato and other crops during the past year amounting to two hundred pounds be divided among the several parishes of this county as follows, vis. Burton twenty five pounds, Lincoln twenty five pounds, Blissville twenty five pounds, Sheffield fifty pounds, Maugerville twenty five pounds.”

Two hundred pounds was a trifling amount for a county of almost 5,300 people. It was enough to show us, however, that the 1840s were certainly not the good-old-days.

Fortunately, the economy turned again and by 1849 there were good harvests; the need for immigrant labour had increased and trade had improved – even in timber. By 1853 someone quipped “It is the first year that I’ve lumbered that a man was ever asked what he would take for his lumber.”


Written by johnwood1946

July 7, 2011 at 10:27 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , , ,

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