New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

French Lake from Before we Remember

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William Francis Ganong was multitalented. He was trained as a botanist, but the work chronicled here is more in the area of geography or cartography. His Additions and Corrections to Monographs…are not in copyright and have been cited in a number of books. This blog post is to highlight those sections about French and Indian settlements on French Lake in Sunbury County, New Brunswick. These introductory remarks are followed by abstracts from his work. 

French Lake, Sunbury County, N.B.

It is curious to me why the natives and the French settled at French Lake. ‘Why not?’ and ‘because they wanted to’ would be reasonable explanations, but the question remains.

There are stories going back to the early 1800s that the Oromocto River was a route for the natives to travel from the Atlantic coast to the Saint John River. It is true that the Saint John River is more associated with native settlement than is the Oromocto, and that the river offered a convenient route to the Atlantic. Also, there are Indian artifacts all along the Oromocto River and not all of them indicate settlements. However, the presence of a burial ground indicates to me that French Lake was more than a transit stop and more than a hunting camp. I think that it was more likely used seasonally over some years and that the only question is when? This could have been during the Acadian era or long before.

The presence of the French is also a little mysterious because most Acadian settlements in the Saint John watershed were along the main river. French Lake was not a logical place for an Acadian settlement since they would have been isolated from the support of other communities.

The expulsion of the Acadians began in 1755 but the Acadians on the Saint John River were not molested at first. The situation turned from concern to desperation in the fall of 1758 when English forces landed at the mouth of the river. Acadians from all along the River then fled north to Saint Anne’s which was soon also nearly abandoned by continued flight toward Quebec.

It therefore seems that the French Lake settlement might have been established some time between 1755 and 1758. The English attack on French Lake took place in early 1759 by which time the Acadians were settled long enough to have built a church. I assume that this group saw the emerging danger and moved to the Oromocto as a defensive tactic in the earlier years; perhaps between 1755 and 1757.

The few people that remained on the Saint John River were subjected to horrendous acts of cruelty by the English. A couple of hundred houses, barns and churches were burned and livestock was slaughtered. Six Acadian men, women and children who had not left were scalped and killed, six more were taken prisoner, and five more escaped into the woods. Therefore, when the French Lake settlers launched their ambush on the English they were aware of the situation and were fighting for their lives.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Reference: Ganong, W.F., “Additions and Corrections to Monographs on the Place-Nomenclature, Cartography, Historic Sites, Boundaries and Settlement-Origins of the Province of New Brunswick”; from Proceedings and Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada, 1906.

Section II, Page 78:

227 Oromocto: The Indian Burial-ground here is also mentioned by Gesner in his Fourth Geological Report, (page 26) and is well-known locally.


On the shore of French lake, (around which many Indian relics are said to have been found) in a position shown on a later map (Map No. 18) is a stone cut by curious marks, locally reputed to be Indian carvings. This has been fully described and pictured in the Bulletin of the Natural History Society of New Brunswick, No. XXII, 175.

Section II, Page 107 – 109:

271 French Lake (Oromocto): As a result of a visit to this place in July, 1903, I was able to gather much information about the French settlements from the residents. The lake is very attractive, surrounded by gently sloping upland all around except on the west, where intervale separates it from the Oromocto. The reputed site of the principal French settlement is as noted in the accompanying map (Map No. 17). The residents here point out not only the general site, but an exact spot traditionally called the site of the church (where faint outlines of a possible foundation may be traced), and another (now occupied by a great heap of stones) called the old French burial ground. Many relics have been found here and in the vicinity, such as dishes, blacksmith tools, bullets, coins, etc. These places located by a simple survey in relation to existent buildings and to the great mill chimney (the mill burnt a few years ago) are shown by the accompanying map (Map No. 18). All probabilities seem to me to favour the correctness in general of the local tradition. A curious double line of stones running from near the church site towards the shore is of origin not known locally, but is probably modern.

The ‘marked stone’ shown on the plan is a supposed Indian carving mentioned earlier in this paper. Further, about a mile from the lake is another reputed French settlement called locally French Ridge, (see Map No. 17) where various relics, French and Indian, have been found. Further, according to a resident (Mr. T.E. Smith), ‘about twelve miles from the mouth of the Oromocto there seems to have been an attempt [by the French] to bridge that river with stones, which are visible to the present time, and what is the most curious thing there are no stones within five miles from the place where the attempt was made.’ The site of the ‘French bridge’ was marked for me by a resident (Mr. Leslie Carr), as shown on the accompanying map (Map No. 17), but as Mr. Carr wrongly applies the names ‘Bass Creek’ and ‘Three-tree creek’ to the streams just above, and as Mr. Smith places it at twelve miles from the mouth of the river, it is more likely its correct position is as shown on the separate cut on the Map No. 17. There is also a local tradition that the French fought the English on the Oromocto below French Lake, and Mr. Carr has marked the reputed place on the map. This tradition fits in perfectly with a newly-discovered reference to an encounter between French and English described in Sergeant John Burrell’s Diary of 1759, recently reprinted in Acadiensis (V, 291). Burrell was stationed at Fort Frederick, and his diary reads thus.

‘Wednesday 5th [Sept. 1759]:


our Cornel with two Captens and three Lewts and two Ensn about 85 men went bye ye River this night. Tuesday 11th ye Cornel Returned with ye party of ye Scots up the River brought but a little Plunder for they were beat by ye enemy firing upon ye party as they were in a small creek and kield Ensn. Tirrell and Corporall Shelden, John Ells, Eleser Paks, and Elishu Randell, total 5, and wounded at ye same time Lewt Foster, Leonard, Commins, Isaac Palmer, Vine Turner, Ebenezer Kers, Solomon Maker and Isaac Torrey Total 7 – all of Capt. Parker’s company and one man of Capt. Garrashs.’

It is not, of course, certain that this encounter occurred at this place on the Oromocto, but considering the local importance of the event and that this is the only place to which such a tradition now attaches it seems highly probable, in which case it was probably the residents of French Lake who attacked the English in defence of their homes.


The Oromocto is navigable to large boats to above the Forks on both branches. Hence it is very likely the French settled in the retired position near the forks but I have no evidence of it.


Written by johnwood1946

November 20, 2011 at 3:24 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

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