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New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

George Morrow of French Lake, New Brunswick – 1801-1868

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Scan to the bottom of this blog post, and refer to the attached research notes.

By JohnWood1946@hotmail.com

George Morrow was born in Ireland in 1801, and immigrated to New Brunswick in 1819. He settled in French Lake at an early date and became associated with Daniel Wood. He went on to become a logger, a mill operator and a merchant; but these descriptors are too restrictive. In general, he was a business man and invested in anything that would make a profit. He was very successful and amassed a huge amount of land. He had a talent for anticipating economic downturns and adjusted his activity and cash flows to minimize losses. He was also a prominent citizen in Sunbury County; a sort of local squire who had political and economic contacts with which to address any local problem. Friends and relatives would go to him if they had difficulties with government; George could fix it.

 George married Daniel Wood’s daughter Elizabeth on September 11, 1828. Witnesses were George Hayward and Otis Smith.

 Harold G. Kimball in his History of Oromocto waxed romantic about the Morrow property at French Lake. At the time that he was writing in 1966, “the old Morrow Homestead [was] still standing at or near Woodside, but the large fields that were so extensively cultivated, the herds of cattle and choice oxen, and the horses have disappeared.

 It seems that every geographic feature along the Oromocto carries the name of a pioneer; but George Morrow is remembered in place names more than most others. There is Morrow Brook, Morrow Dugway, Morrow Meadow, Morrow Pond, Morrow Road and Morrow Portage Road. For all this, he is barely remembered. Neither of his sons fathered children and the Morrow name is gone. This story is to summarize the record as it appears at the Provincial Archives in Fredericton.

 His Earliest Days in Business

George was active in business by his late 20s. He brought suits in the Supreme Court in 1829 and in 1830 to collect debts amounting to £784. Another suit against Jeremiah Tracy in 1832 reveals that Morrow was already operating as a merchant and outfitter of logging crews and had supplied Tracy with goods valued at £1228. These were very large amounts of money. It was possible to live for a year in Fredericton for £1000, for example.

 Tracy and Morrow were lifelong business associates, sometimes in partnership and sometimes in opposition. It was probably George who organized a petition in 1833 to force the grist mill in Hartt’s Mills to install a fish ladder. Whether George was interested in the fish or in supporting Tracy’s lumber mill upstream of Hartt’s mill is difficult to say.

 Beginnings of the Logging Business

 George Morrow’s logging business began in the period 1833 to 1835, and some details of this are given to illustrate how active he was in pursuing the activity.

 Morrow began with a 100 acre purchase of marsh land at the mouth of Bear Brook on the main Oromocto River about four miles above French Lake. He also bought a 100 acre lot in the Geary area at McDougall’s bridge. Both of these purchases were in 1833 and indicate that he had multiple crews working at different locations from the very beginning.

Jeremiah Tracy’s debts to George Morrow had spun out of control a few years earlier and Morrow had gained influence over Tracy and his mill. Therefore, in 1834, George also bought a 200 acre lot at the northwest quadrant of Oromocto Lake from which he was able to bring logs down the river to Tracy’s mill. Morrow never concentrated exclusively on the northwest branch or upon Oromocto Lake, however, and bought another lot on the main Oromocto from William Ward in 1835.

 These were the first three years of conspicuous activity in the lumber business, including the purchase of hundreds of acres of land at multiple locations and the exploitation of sawmill privileges at the Village of Tracy. Meanwhile, he obtained a five-year, 200 ton licence to remove timber from a 12 square mile tract near Oromocto Lake.

 In 1834, George sued William Scoullar for the return of “sixty nine sticks of white pine” worth £150. Morrow said that Scoullar had stolen the logs from Hartt’s Intervale on the rocky ledge of the northwest Oromocto River between Hartt’s Mill and Pride’s Landing. The logs had bypassed Tracy’s mill and were destined for sale when they became stuck in the rapids over the rocky ledge. In that same year, Morrow also sued Samuel Bunker for debts and merchandise worth £110.

 William Scoullar became a member of the Provincial Legislature and powerful in government. He and Morrow were competitors in the lumbering business but sometimes cooperated in civic projects.

 Again in 1834, Morrow sued George Nevers and John Wood for repayment of a debt. Nevers and Wood owed the debt to Daniel Wood, but Daniel had sold the promissory note to George Morrow. Morrow wanted payment of £408.12 including other amounts for old debts and for goods and services. This suit is interesting in that John Wood was Morrow’s friend and brother-in-law, while Daniel Wood was his father-in-law. The case was intended to make John Wood appear penniless and to save him from other hungry creditors, while at the same time harassing Morrow’s competitor George Nevers. There was a similar suit against James Tapley in 1835. George Morrow was clearly as active in lending and merchandising as he was in lumbering.

 These details from the period 1833 to 1835 illustrate how active George Morrow was in the logging business. Over his lifetime he acquired huge amounts of land, rarely selling any of it. He operated in Sunbury, York and Queens Counties including on the main Oromocto and both of its branches; the Rockwell Stream through Geary and back into the present army camp to the Victoria Settlement area; on the Magaguadavic River in Charlotte County and the Musquash River. He even operated in Saint Martins Parish in Saint John County later in his career. Not all of this logging will be chronicled here, but a few stories emerge.

 Some Events on the Rockwell Stream in Geary

George Morrow accumulated land in the Geary area beginning in 1833 and continued to log the area for the rest of his career. He also had large tracts in the headwaters of the Rockwell Stream in what would become Victoria Settlement. He had relied more and more upon George Hayward’s mill on the Rockwell Stream in addition to the Tracy operation on the northwest branch and, in 1836, he bought Hayward’s mill on what was then known as the French Lake Stream.

By 1837 he asked for another reserve to serve the mill on the Rockwell, but this application failed since he did not properly describe the bounds of the land that he wanted. He supplemented his land purchases in the area in the period from 1839 to 1846 with at least eleven licenses to cut from Crown lands.

 The economy had taken a turn for the worse by 1849 and George sold 100 acres of land and a half interest in the mill, and other facilities to William Smith for £90. Smith later sold part of his share to also raise cash.

 In 1850, George N. Cogswell, Calvin Cogswell and Richard McNeil trespassed onto George’s Rockwell properties and took lumber for the ship building trade. Morrow warned them away repeatedly, but they persisted. George therefore asked the Lieutenant Governor bring suit against them and offered to supply the evidence. Morrow then closed his sluiceway on the dam to stop movements of logs downstream. This caused uproar, however, and George was forced to remove the obstructions since, in general, waterways were supposed to be open for public passage.

 In 1853, George stated that he had not been able to take any timber off of the Rockwell Stream Crown Lands leases except for what had gone to the mill for sawing, in accordance with regulations. There was, however, a supply of dead tamarack lying on the ground to rot which would be useful for knees and ship building. He therefore asked that the lease be amended to allow him to remove this tamarack. This was granted.

 In the early 1850s, George, together with William Smith, donated part of their land near the Rockwell Stream saw mill for the construction of the first steam-powered textile mill in New Brunswick. The story of this mill is told in an earlier blog entry here in JohnWood1946.wordpress.com.

 Some Events on the Musquash River

 George received at least eleven licenses to cut timber from Crown lands between 1839 and 1846, but a recession during 1846 and 1847 brought this to a stop. His last three licences before the recession were in 1845, and all three of these were on the Musquash River. This was in the westward part of Saint John County or in Kings County, possibly in the Lepreau area. Renewal of his licenses became a problem when he learned that his application was being held in abeyance pending an application by the Lancaster Mill Company for a reserve. He complained that a new law governing reserves was being used to prejudice his pre-existing rights.

His activity on the Musquash grew, however, and in 1851 he and John Glasier of Lincoln Parish applied to buy four to seven thousand acres of crown land on the west branch of the Musquash River in blocks of 1,000 acres each. Glasier owned a mill on the stream and they thought that it would take an investment of £400 to clear the stream of rocks and to build dams. In view of this investment, they asked that the timber reserve be sold to them without a public auction. By 1852, Morrow had gained a three-quarter share in the Musquash River mill, but there were two minority owners who refused to pay their share of the government fees (John Glasier had apparently sold his shares). The uncooperative minority owners had forced Morrow to carry their obligations on his account, and he proposed that rights to the mill reserve be split and that he be given exclusive rights to part of it. However, there was no legal means by which Council could split a timber reserve once granted. 

 By 1852, George was still complaining about the potential cost of clearing the stream and building dams. He sent his nephew Thomas Wood and another man to prepare and estimate of what this work would cost, and they submitted an affidavit that it would take £400, not surprisingly, just as Morrow and Glasier had contended. He still had problems with his minority partners and, also in 1852, applied for a new reserve to serve the mill for him alone.

 Late in 1852, Council agreed to grant a new twelve square mile reserve to George Morrow, above the already existing reserve; thus cutting out George’s disinterested partners. George agreed to pay the cost of clearing the stream.

 Morrow could have withheld his partners’ share of the profits and let the matter be settled in court. Clearly, however, he was expecting the Musquash operation to stand on its own as a separate profit centre. He had had to put up with delays in renewing his timber licences and was faced with a £400 expense to clear the stream. The potential costs of a court fight could not be justified.

 Land for Settlement or for Logging?

 The need for additional settlement lands to support a growing population, and the poor state of agriculture in the Province, caused to government to establish a number of new settlements in the 1850s. Victoria Settlement was one of these and was located in what is now Base Gagetown. Another was Roach Settlement in Kingsclear Parish of York County.

 Regulations prohibited these lands to be granted for logging, or for any purpose other than agriculture. Once granted, however, the settler could sell his lot to whomever he pleased. Thus, at a time when good timber was becoming increasingly rare, an opportunity arose to manipulate the system.

 In 1853 and 1854 George bought 20 settlement lots back from their original owners. Eleven of these were in the Oromocto Lake / Roach Settlement area; two were in Victoria Settlement; and seven were elsewhere. The people who sold to Morrow were all from Sunbury andYork Counties and likely all knew George Morrow. It is possible that George put up the money for some of the original purchases. It is even more likely that the original purchases were made with the understanding that George Morrow would buy the lots back from them.

 The Homestead Property in French Lake

 George bought 500 acres of land from his brother-in-law Orlo Hoyt and from his father-in-law Daniel Wood in the summer of 1836. This included half of Lot No. 19 plus all of Lots No. 20 thru 23 and was almost the entire Morrow/Wood holding on the hill at French Lake that is remembered to this day. In 1838 he bought 200 acres of meadow land on the west side of the river from William Mills. Some of these holdings would not have been fully exploited by Daniel Wood and would still have been useful for logging. They were, in addition, destined to be cleared for Morrow’s extensive farming operation. Later additions to the homestead holdings were for logging. The main homestead purchases on the east side of the river in 1836 cost George £300.

 There were also additions to this homestead property, some of which were for logging and some of which were not. In 1839 he bought 224 acre Lot No. 24 from Jeremiah Tracy. This increased his homestead holdings to 724 acres on the east side of the river plus the meadowland on the west side. He enlarged the property again in 1845 when he bought half of Lot No. 19 from his brother-in-law John Wood. John was in debt and was selling land practically up to his doorstep. George’s homestead property now stretched from French Lake to Geary, and some of George’s subsequent logging purchases were contiguous with the homestead but were for a different purpose. The General Assembly set aside money in 1840 to build Morrow Road from his house to the South Branch Road.

 George kept a trading post or store on his property, with a creamery across the road. The fields are remembered as having been full of choice livestock. He also owned a schooner called the ‘Lizzie Morrow’ for two-way trade with the West Indies. George’s son George Daniel Morrow later owned a half-share of a 584 ton barque also called the ‘Lizzie Morrow’. Both craft were named after George’s wife Elizabeth Wood.

 Shenanigans in the Woods

 The timber trade led to all manner of disputes and attempts to get around the law. For example, in 1844, Charles McCormick and a man named Hubble were forcibly holding a piece of land on the south branch of the Oromocto River. George Morrow had rights to the land and timber, but McCormick and Hubble were determined to cut it anyway. George could not even gain access in order to do surveys. It seems that someone else had applied for a timber reserve nearby and that the locals feared that the granting of a reserve would take away their perceived rights to cut timber wherever they pleased whether it belonged to them or not. McCormick and Hubble and others in the district therefore decided to get what they could, while they could.

 There were also tax disputes. For example, George asked in April of 1838 for an extension of time to pay the fees on the logs which he had cut during the previous winter. He argued that there were no profits to be had until the logs went down river in the spring and that an extension was only reasonable. This was a matter of running it up the flag pole; but no one saluted and the application failed.

 No one likes taxes, and on another occasion George said that he had paid his timber cutting fees for 1838 but that upon returning to the Crown Lands Office he found that his account was still in arrears. Accounting statements were exchanged and, in the end, he was assessed an additional £143.10.0 on top of the £108.19.0 that he had already paid. He appealed his taxes again in 1843 when he stated that his £148.10 assessment was in excess of what he owed. In 1847 he asked to be allowed to make late payments on what he owed on his Rockwell Stream operation.

 Several of these tax disputes coincide with recessions in the lumbering business.

 The record includes contract disputes of all sorts. In the fall of 1836 Morrow agreed to buy £2000 worth of timber from James Hazen. Morrow was speculating on timber futures and, when he could not repay his debt, Hazen sued him. Hazen inflated his account of Morrow’s indebtedness to a total of £12000, but this double accounting included not only the contract amount but also Hazen’s alleged costs of cutting the timber. In the end, Hazen only got payment of the £2000 contract price. George Morrow arranged bail and final judgement was delayed; during which time George made payment. In the meantime, everyone was seeking timber profits from the woods in a frontier-like fashion, and George Morrow sued Hugh Simmons for the theft of 100 tons of white pine.

 The Sunpoke Lake Properties

 George made five land purchases on Sunpoke Lake between 1849 and 1859. He sold 200 acres of this to Samuel Bunker Jr., but was still left with a substantial holding. This area is on the west side of the Oromocto River between French Lake and Rusagonis. It is subject to flooding in the spring and has never been used except as meadow land. This holding allowed Morrow to control any timber coming down the Rusagonis Stream. Sunpoke Lake then became a holding pond for logs which could only be moved through to the Oromocto via Morrow’s dugway near the present Morrow bridge. George would have collected fees for this service.

 After George’s Death

 George Morrow died without a will on January 26, 1868, and letters of administration were granted to his sons David Morrow and George Daniel Morrow in 1869. There is no indication of a probate having been done.

 It is estimated that George bought 64 parcels of land over the course of his career and that these contained an estimated 8700 acres, plus several thousand additional acres on the Musquash River. Of this, he had sold only 1200 to 1300 acres. He was therefore left with a large estate and, over the course of several years, four lots of land containing 650 acres were transferred to George’s daughter Elizabeth Ann who had married Charles Burpee, MP, JP, on September 4, 1872.

 Attached Reference Material

 The following attachment is a summary of primary and other sources known to the author, plus notes concerning some questions of interest ==>  George Morrow Documents

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Written by johnwood1946

August 26, 2011 at 3:13 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

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