New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

Fredericton and York Co., New Brunswick, 1838

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Fredericton, and York County in 1838: An Inhabitant’s Report

These descriptions are from Notitia of New Brunswick for 1836 and Extending Into 1837, by ‘An Inhabitant’, published in Saint John in 1838. It is usually attributed to Peter Fisher but has also been attributed to Alexander Wedderburn.

These remarks avoid negative comments about early Fredericton and area, as was the case with last week’s blog about Saint John. In this case, however, the inhabitant seems to have been quite pleased with the place and had little to complain about. One criticism of the city was the lack of industrial manufacture, which he thought would right itself once the people adopted a proper spirit of enterprise. There is also a distasteful tract in the description of York County about ‘the better orders of society’ (as compared with the rest of us).

There is one lengthy and emotional outburst in his discussion of municipal politics and the lack of democracy. He compares New Brunswick with Prussia, and concludes that Prussia is more politically advanced. Words such as ‘despotism’ are used and the whole discussion is lively and interesting.

Here are his descriptions:


“The Seat of Government and Capital of New-Brunswick, is situated in the County of York, on the right bank of the river Saint John, about eighty-five miles above its junction with the Day of Fundy. It is the shire-town of the County, and is the second place in size and importance in the Province.”

“Fredericton is built on an extensive plain, encircled with a range of high land in the rear, which rises from the river at the lower extremity of the plain, and closes in to the river above, leaving a level space of nearly four miles long, and a mile broad in the widest part. The river forms a beautiful curve around this plain, and near the centre of the town, at what was formerly called St. Ann’s Point, there is a fine view of the river Nashwaak, which falls into the Saint John, directly opposite that place. The high ground or hills which surround the town form a beautiful inclined plane, well adapted for buildings and other improvements, and on which several public and private buildings are already erected.”

‘The town is laid out in squares of eighteen lots, containing one quarter of an acre each. The streets intersect each other at right angles. Those that run parallel with the river are more than a mile in length, and in parts well built up. The houses are chiefly of wood, and of different heights; there are, however, several fine brick and stone buildings in different parts of the town. This place suffered severely from the fires which raged in the Province in 1825. The Government House was burnt down in September, and nearly one-third of the town on the memorable 7th of October. It has, however, risen from its ruins improved in appearance. “The public buildings in Fredericton are nine in number:- Government House, for the residence of the Lieutenant-Governor or Commander-in-Chief of the Province. This is a spacious sombre edifice, rather contracted in the main entrance, and wanting a cornice. The site of the building is excellent, being near the upper extremity of the town, on a commanding point of the river. It has a fine garden and a block of land attached, susceptible of great improvement.”

“King’s College, situated on the acclivity of the hill in rear of the town, about one mile from the river, is no doubt the finest structure in the Province. It is one hundred and seventy-one feet long, and one hundred and fifty-nine feet wide, with projections. It has a massive cornice with pediments, and is a beautiful specimen of architecture. The principal materials used in this building are the dark grey stones found near its site. These are tastefully combined so as to form a beautiful variegated wall, particularly in the front, where the builder has given scope to his fancy with the happiest effect. The building consists of a basement and two lofty stories; it contains twenty rooms for students, one chapel, two lecture rooms, besides accommodation for the Vice Presidents and Professors – in all, forty-two rooms in the two main stories. In the other stories are accommodations for attendants, servants, and all other purposes requisite for a College of the highest class, which this is intended to be.”

“The situation of the College is healthy, and commands a fine view of the town, with the adjacent country. To the eastward there is a full view of the river and the surrounding country as far as the Oromocto. To the westward is a fine view of the highlands that shut out the river: and in the front lies Fredericton with its buildings and its gardens, intermingled with its trees, &c. with the majestic St. John winding along its front; while on the opposite bank there is a full view of the rivers Nashwaak and Nashwaaksis, mingling their waters with the St. John, and in the distance a boundless forest of trees of various shades and hues. But the nature of this work is too confined to allow any thing more than a faint sketch of this noble structure.”

“On the same range of highlands on which the College stands, and a short distance from it is a substantial stone building, appropriated for the accommodation of the poor; and a few rods farther down the hill stands a building, constructed for a cholera hospital, but which, through the Divine goodness has never yet been wanted for that purpose.”

“The reader will observe that the buildings just described are on the outskirts of the town; those following are in it. Entering from the Cholera Hospital, the first buildings that attract the observer’s notice, are the Scotch Church and Baptist Seminary. The latter is a beautiful showy building, sixty feet long, and thirty-five feet wide. It consists of a basement story of fine cut stone, and two lofty stories of wood, with a clock story’, cupola, ball, and vane. It is well finished, and contains accommodations for fifty pupils of both sexes; a lecture room, chapel, and other suitable offices for literary purposes, with apartments for the Principal, and accommodations for the several attendants, servants, &c. with kitchens and conveniences to accommodate such of the pupils as may desire it with board and lodging in the Seminary.

This building has a juvenile, lively, appearance, and is the lightest and most cheerful looking structure in the town; and being situated in an open pleasant part of Fredericton, it is an ornament to the place.”

“The Province Hall is situated in the centre of the town, it is a wooden building, but having been erected when the Province was in its infancy, and the revenue small, it cannot claim much distinction at present. On either wing stands a low stone building, one being the office of the Secretary of the Province, and the other the office of the Commissioner of Crown Lands and Forests. Two other small buildings complete the group.”

“The other public buildings are on Episcopal and Scotch Church, a Catholic, Baptist, and Methodist Chapel – the latter having a lofty steeple, finished in a neat chaste style. Two stone banking houses, a market, including a court house, a grammar and Madras school house, a tank house and jail, two ranges of barracks, with store houses, hospital, and other military buildings, and accommodations for a battalion of Foot, and a company of Royal Artillery.”

“Fredericton contains two printing offices and a public library, with the following Joint Stock Companies – Central Bank of New-Brunswick, capital £50,000; Bank of Fredericton, capital £50,000 ; Central Fire Insurance Company, capital £50,000 ; Nashwaaksis Manufacturing Company, capital £50,000 ; Woodstock and Fredericton Stage Company; Fredericton Mill Company, £40,000 – with liberty to enlarge to £l 00,000; Nashwaak Mill Company.”

 “The associations for religious, humane, and benevolent purposes, are:- A Branch of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge; the Bible Association of Fredericton and its vicinity; a Branch of the Wesleyan Missionary Society; Temperance and Abstinence Society; St. George’s, St. Andrew’s, and St. Patrick’s Society; with a Saving’s Bank; Church Society of the Archdeaconry of New-Brunswick with several other benevolent, friendly and literary associations.”

“The public seminaries in Fredericton, which may be styled the Athens of New-Brunswick, are:- King’s College; the Baptist Seminary; Grammar and Madras Schools; with a number of Sunday and other schools.”

“Probably there are fewer finer situations for a town, than the site on which Fredericton is built. A noble river in front, with hills of gentle acclivity in the rear, possessing elegant sites for seats and buildings in commanding situations. Blest with abundance of the purest water, and a soil peculiarly favorable for gardens and other rural improvements, with a fine and healthy atmosphere. Being built at the head of sloop navigation, it is the main depot tor goods from the sea-board. The river in front of the town is nearly three-fourths of a mile wide; sloops and vessels from sixty to seventy tons burthen come from the sea-board to this place deeply laden, there being a sufficient depth of water, except at the dryest season of the year, when there is some difficulty in passing the shoals at the Oromocto. Notwithstanding this impediment steamboats and vessels of various descriptions are continually plying between this town and Saint John: the Intercourse and trade between those places being very great and constant. Indeed, the connexion in trade and interest between the two places is so close that they appear mutually to depend on, and support each other. And although to a stranger, Fredericton appears to be a very quiet, retired place, without any of the bustle and noise that enliven a seaport, still it is a great trading town. Its merchants are largely engaged in the lumbering and milling business, and furnish annually a large portion of the lumber that is shipped at Saint John. Fredericton is surrounded by a fine country, the river St. John extends upwards of four hundred miles above it, and with its numerous rivers and streams, offers inexhaustible sources of trade and wealth. For nearly two hundred miles along its banks it is covered with improved farms, and almost a continuous chain of settlements, in a country highly favourable to agriculture.”

“Fredericton was formed by Governor Carleton in 1785, shortly after the separation of the Province from Nova-Scotia, its central situation having pointed it out as the most eligible place for the seat of government. The wisdom of this selection will be evident to any person acquainted with the Province, and with the adjoining colonies. From this place, as from a centre, roads diverge to the different parts of the Province, which are of easier access from this place than from any other point whatever – the principal places, such as St. Andrews, St. John, Fort Cumberland, Chatham, Bathurst, and Madawaska, lying in a broken circle round it.”

“As a military position it is unequalled, as from the contiguity of the different important parts of the Province, they could be sooner succoured from this place than any other. – It also forms a connecting link between the Atlantic colonies and Canada; and is a safe and convenient place for forming magazines, and equipping troops on their route from the seaboard to Quebec. The importance of this place for those purposes was well realised during the last war, and should not soon be lost sight of. The river St. John seems to have been the old and usual route of the French and Indians in passing from Canada to Nova-Scotia and New-England, long before New-Brunswick was settled; and Fredericton and the villages near it, no doubt, were among the principal Indian stations, long before the country was known to the French and English. According to Douglas, this was the most direct route from New-England to Canada, and was taken by Col. Livingstone and the Baron Castine in the year 1710, when they went in great haste to acquaint the Governor General that Acadia had fallen into the hands of the British.”

“The natural advantages Fredericton possesses from its central position become every year more apparent, and it is only to be wished that the time is not far distant, when her inhabitants will avail themselves of those facilities afforded by the proximity of water power, to establish manufactories and machinery. Indeed, a spirit of enterprise appears to be rapidly spreading in that town, which cannot fail, if properly directed, to produce the most beneficial results.”

“As Fredericton from its low situation appears to be liable to inundation from high freshets in the Spring, and as there is an old tradition that the plain on which the town stands was swept by a great ice freshet a few years before the loyalists came to the country – it may be interesting to future generations to state that a partial inundation took place on the 11th of April, 1831, occasioned by an ice jamb below Mill Creek, by which all the lower part of the town and the front street was laid under water, which came up above the Baptist Chapel in King-street, leaving but a small part of the buildings dry in the front and lower streets. A small park on the margin of the river was denuded of its railings;- no serious damage, however, was sustained. The town from the adjoining heights appeared like a low island, with the buildings partly submerged, and the river in front piled with threatening masses of ice. The jamb broke while the water was rapidly gaining on the town, and in a few hours the river resumed its usual current.”

“Fredericton not being incorporated, most of its internal police is managed by the General Sessions of the Peace for the County. At this Court the appointment of most of the Parish officers are made, – the amount of taxes ordered to be levied for town and county purposes, and such other regulations made as are from time to time necessary for the well being of the place. But it must be observed that the government of the towns in this Province, with the exception of St. John is not sufficiently popular. While the people boast of belonging to a nation possessing a high degree of freedom, they in fact have less share in the government than the inhabitants of what are called despotic countries, for even in Prussia the people have a greater share in the internal government of their towns than we have in New-Brunswick – most of the parish officers in the several towns of that kingdom being chosen by the people, while in the towns in this Province, with the exception of Church Wardens, the people have no voice in the choice of any of these officers. The Court, as was before observed, appoint some of them, and the Governor the remainder. Without wishing to trench on the Royal prerogative in the person of the Governor, it may be asked, who is the best judge of the qualifications and fitness of the several persons required to fill the different stations in the internal police of a town, the people who have grown up with it, or a Governor who is a total stranger to it? – or why should the Sovereign’s representative have the burthen of filling up all public stations, from the highest officer even to a fire-warden or a member of the Board of Health? It is well known, indeed, that a Governor cannot know who are the proper persons for those offices himself, but must depend on the recommendation of one or two persons who engross his confidence, and who by that means in fact have always the nomination of their favorites, and may be said to govern the country. This fact being admitted, the government of our towns may be said to be in the hands of an oligarchy – the very worst kind of government.”

“Should it be asked how this arbitrary system was ever allowed to take root in the province, the answer is easy: when the country was first settled, and towns began to be formed, the settlers being old soldiers, or men connected with the several departments of government, and consequently poor and dependent, were too much in the power of the favoured few, who held the higher civil and military employments, to have any will of their own, and consequently could not resist or break the chain of military despotism that was bound around them. Hence arose the state above described. The times, however, are now altered: the towns are filled with men of enterprise and independence, and more free maxims of government may soon be expected to prevail.”

“It may not be improper likewise to observe in this place, that when towns become densely settled and advanced in trade, wealth, and importance, they should be entitled to a particular share in the representation distinct from the Counties to which they belong, like the towns in Great-Britain and even in Nova-Scotia. On this principle Fredericton and St. Andrews may justly claim one or more members to represent them in the Provincial Parliament, and so also may the other towns when they arrive to a certain degree of importance. And to complete the plan, the right of franchise should be extended to all persons long settled in the towns, who may not be freeholders, but who carry on business on their own account, and possess property to a certain amount. For it is an anomaly in regard to privileges that a worthless drunkard should be allowed a vote and to influence an election because he happens to hold a mere trifling freehold of no use to himself, and a nuisance to the public; while the man who is extensively engaged in business, pays a good proportion of taxes, and contributes to the wealth and prosperity of the town, should be excluded.”

“In sight from Fredericton, near the confluence of the Nashwaaksis with the St. John, is the establishment of the Nashwaaksis Manufacturing Company, known by the name of the Albion Works, which, although not within the limits of the Parish, is so near to it, that it may be considered as an appendage to that town.”

“This Company is incorporated, with a capital of £50,000, with liberty to increase its stock to £100,000. It is divided into two thousand shares of £25 each; it contemplates an immediate outlay of £2 1,000 for the erection of works, to consist of an extensive brewery, cooperage, &c.; mills for sawing planks, boards, deals, &c. with circular saws for cutting laths, scantling, &c.; a grist mill and oat-crushing mill; a foundry and smithy, with a manufactory for turning and boring all kinds of iron work from the smallest dimensions to a thirty-two pounder, and also for fitting up all kinds of steam machinery, together with extensive wharves, locks, ponds, and other conveniences for receiving, containing, and shipping their productions.”

“The works already erected are a brewery, &c. capable of brewing 400,000 gallons annually; mills for grinding, and also for crushing oats; a smithy, and the manufactory for turning, &c. which comprises a powerful and most complete self-acting and other lathes of the very best construction, capable of turning and boring all kinds of work, up to the cylinder of a forty horse power engine; the whole being driven by a steam engine of the most perfect construction. – This part of the establishment, as far as concerns the machinery cannot be excelled, the machines being finished specimens of excellent workmanship. The Company are actively engaged in completing their works, which, judging from the ability of the Directors, will be a credit to the Province, and, it is to be hoped, a source of profit to the spirited proprietors. They have a store in Fredericton connected with the establishment, and expect to complete their works in the spring of 1838.”

York County

“This County commences a little above Eel River, and is bounded by Carleton on the North West and North; by Northumberland and Kent on the North East; by Sunbury on the South East; and by Charlotte on the South West. – It comprises both sides of the river St. John; has eight Parishes, and a population of 10,478 souls.”

“The Parish of Dumfries which adjoins Woodstock, has some fine farms along the banks of the river, and has several flourishing settlements forming a few miles back in the wilderness. The face of the country is generally hilly and broken, but the soil is good and well timbered. The Parish of Southampton, which lies on the opposite side of the river, has a number of fine farms, and is fast improving. It is joined to its lower line by Queensbury, which is a well settled, wealthy parish, having a number of fine islands within its bounds; two fine streams, the Nackisvikik and Mactuquack, run through these Parishes. On the latter stream there is a chain of settlements fast improving; there is a Baptist Chapel and an Episcopal Church in this Parish. Prince William, on the Western side, adjoins Dumfries. The face of this Parish along the river is hilly and broken, intermixed with rich strips of intervale along the river, which are highly cultivated. – There are several fine lakes in this parish, one of which is called lake George, which has a large settlement on its borders. A few miles from this lake lie the Magundy and Poquihoak settlements. Lake George discharges itself into the St. John by a stream called the Piquihoak, which is an Indian name, signifying a dreadful place – and such it surely is. The water just before its escape into the St. John, appears at some remote period to have been pent up by the high banks along the river at this place. Through this it has forced a passage, and tumbles down the rocks and precipices with resistless impetuosity. The passage through which it passes has a succession of falls, is very narrow, and probably from seventy to eighty feet perpendicular, composed of large stones, which appear as uniform as if laid by hand; the whole forming a sublime and imposing appearance.”

“The Parish of Kingsclear, which joins Prince William, has nothing peculiar. The country is hilly, and interspersed with several streams on which there are a number of good mills; there is a fine strip of intervale in this parish usually called the lower French Village, which is overflowed in high freshets, and very fertile. The French have a Catholic Chapel at the head of this village; here is likewise an encampment of Indians, consisting of a number of small huts arranged in lines near the chapel, to which the Indians resort at stated times for religious purposes. They have a small block of land contiguous to the chapel, but they make no approaches to “permanent settlement.” The Baptists have likewise a Chapel in this Parish, but no settled minister.”

“The Parish of Douglas, on the opposite side of the river, extends from Queensbury to St. Mary’s, near the river Nashwaak. The Madam Keswick, a large stream, with several branches, intersects this parish; this is an old and extensive settlement, having been formed shortly after the peace of 1783, by the disbanded York Volunteers, and Royal Guides and Pioneers. The soil along the creek, where there are large strips of interval is very rich, and the settlement has a beautiful appearance along the banks of the stream. The only drawback to this place is its exposure to injury from early frosts, which is indeed common to all settlements along the valleys of small rivers. There are two churches in this settlement belonging to the Episcopalians, and a chapel belonging to the Baptists. The Keswick Ridge and several other fine settlements are contiguous to the Madam Keswick. From the mouth of this stream nearly to the Nashwaaksis the land is high, but well cultivated; a short distance from the Nashwaaksis the country becomes flat and the soil light, but it is highly improved. There are several mills on the Nashwaaksis. It has also a settlement a few miles up along its banks; Cardigan, a Welch settlement, lies also near it. This is an extensive settlement, and is joined still further in the wilderness by the Tay Creek and other settlements. The land in those districts is generally favorable to agriculturists. The parish of St. Mary’s follows Douglas on the eastern side, and extends to the county line. The river  Nashwaaksis runs through this parish, and falls into the St. John opposite Fredericton. This stream was also an asylum at the conclusion of the American revolution for a number of worn out veterans. Among others the remnant of the old 42d Regiment settled here; many of their children are still among the principal farmers, and a few of the old men are yet living; indeed, it seems as if the old Donalds will never wear out. This stream is settled nearly to its source, and has some fine islands in its bed, with beautiful plats of interval highly improved. – The road from Fredericton to Miramichi passes along this river. About five miles above its confluence with the Saint John, it receives the waters of the Penniack, a considerable stream with a settlement along its banks, and a large establishment of excellent mills. Near its mouth there is also a range of mills on an improved construction, which cut during the last year about two million feet of lumber. An association has lately been formed, called the Nashwaak Mill Company, having a capital of £40,000, with liberty to increase the same to £l00,000, who own the last mentioned mills, and are making improvements &c. to carry on the milling business on a more extensive scale.”

“The Parish of Fredericton joins Kingsclear, and extends to Lincoln in the County of Sunbury; it includes the town of that name already described, with a back settlement called New Maryland, and another on the Rushagoannes. The road from Fredericton to St. Andrews passes through these settlements. The lands in the immediate vicinity of the town are not much improved; having been reserved for the College, they are nearly all untenanted; the settlers in this County not caring to lease lands which are hard to clear, when they can obtain lots for themselves. A great proportion of the land in the town platt belongs likewise to the College and Church, or is reserved for government purposes, which has always been a great impediment to the growth of the place.”

“York is a County of great importance – joined with Carleton, it embraces a line of more than two hundred miles along the river St. John, and the two Counties furnish the major part of the lumber shipped at the port of St. John. They abound with navigable rivers and streams and with almost inexhaustible resources of timber. Fredericton is the principal town of the county, the seat of government, and the second in importance in New-Brunswick.”

“As the New-Brunswick and Nova-Scotia Land Company own a large tract of land in this Province, which lies in the County of York, I shall, before I close this sketch of the County, give a short account of their improvements. This tract has been erected into a separate Parish called Stanley, after the name of the principal settlement. The Company has made a good wagon road from Fredericton to that settlement, thereby opening a communication with the seaboard as well by land as by water. A large tract of land is already under cultivation, with a population of several hundred souls.”

“The germ of the Company’s future principal town, also called Stanley, (in honor of Lord Stanley, the Colonial Minister of the day,) is pleasantly situated on the main stream of the Nashwaak, about thirty-five miles above its confluence with the St. John. It has already good saw and grist mills, several stores, and a number of good dwelling houses; a school house, which also answers for a church, and other works in progress. Materials are also collecting to build a small church on what is called Church Hill, an eminence which overlooks this miniature town. A number of small lots have been laid out contiguous to the village, on which houses are built, and small farms improved.”

“The Company has another town laid out on its land, called Campbelltown, situated on the Miramichi river, a few miles above where the road leading from Fredericton to Chatham turns off, at what is called Boies Town. A small improvement has been made, and a few houses built, but it is still in its infancy.”

“The total number of settlers on the Company’s land exceed sixty families, among whom are several persons of property and intelligence, sufficient to form a good society, by which means many of the privations attending a new settlement in the wilderness will be avoided; for when a number of families settle together at once in the wilderness, they are a mutual help and comfort to each other, and carry many of the advantages of their former mode of life with them. They also have the blessing of each other’s society, and are enabled to form schools, and provide the means of religious instruction; it also prevents their children from sinking into a state of debasement, that a solitary location, or a settlement among none but the lower order of emigrants must naturally produce. For when a man whose early life has been spent among the better orders of society, settles with a young family either alone or among the lower order of emigrants, he finds himself and wife uncomfortable for the want of suitable society, and the prospects of his family in regard to education and suitable settlements in life blighted; and although he may be willing to sacrifice his own comfort, still he cannot make up the loss to his family; for should he even he so fortunate as to create a valuable estate, it could not compensate his family for the loss of their prospects of settling according to their former expectations. A number of substantial persons forming a good settlement at once is also a great advantage to poor settlers in their vicinity, as it furnishes them with employment near their homes, and gives them a participation in the benefits of schooling and religious instruction, with the other privileges attendant on wealth and society. They will also be benefited by the intelligence and superintendance of the former class, and will be a mutual blessing and help to each other – one class bringing comparative wealth and intelligence, and the other furnishing labour, with the knowledge of those many rude arts and contrivances so necessary in forming new settlements.”

“The above village which may be considered as the nucleus of a chain of settlements, had not a tree felled for the purpose of cultivation prior to August, 1834; it now exhibits a succession of small improved farms, with comfortable dwellings, filled with families actively engaged in agricultural and other occupations; all tending to improve and enhance the value of the Company’s lands, which now comprise a block of 500,000 acres. Such settlements cannot be too much encouraged or fostered, as they promote the vital interests of the Province by raising up a class of Agriculturists, who are much wanted. It, is painful to add that, in consequence of a late change in the proprietors of the Stock of this Company in England, a stop has been put to the improvements in progress on the above mentioned settlement; but it is to be hoped that when new arrangements are made, the settlements will not be allowed to retrograde, nor the settlers be disappointed in their expectations of a permanent establishment.”

“At the extreme verge of the County of York, where it touches the line of Northumberland, a small Village has been as it were created by a Mr. Boies. This man has built a small town of his own, which bears his name. It consists of a cluster of buildings on the banks of the Miramichi, at the point where the great road passes from Fredericton to Chatham, about four miles below Campbelltown. Among the buildings are an extensive store, with out-buildings; a tavern; tradesmen’s shops; good mills ; and almost every building necessary, to form a good trading establishment. He has also provided a schoolmaster, and a building, for Divine Worship, which is open for any of the Ministers of the Most High, whatever may be their peculiar faith.”


Written by johnwood1946

October 3, 2012 at 9:45 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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