New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

The First Decade of the 1800’s in St. John

leave a comment »

Presented by

The following is from Chapter VI of David R. Jack’s Centennial Prize Essay on the History of the City and County of Saint John, published in Saint John in 1883.

It is a short and easy read, and touches on many interesting events. My only complaint about it is that it reads more like a table of contents than an essay. Slavery is covered in four sentences; the ‘dog tax’ is termed famous, with no indication as to why; and on-and-on it goes at lightening speed.

The First Decade of the 1800’s in Saint John

Slavery; A public Fast; The St. John Dog Tax; The St. John Grammar School; Rejoicing on receipt of news of Battle of Trafalgar; Germain Street Methodist Church; War with France, and its influence on St. John; Trinity Church.

Prior to the beginning of the nineteenth century, it was not unfrequent to see Negro slaves advertised for sale in the Royal Gazette. Finally, the legality of slavery was tested before the Supreme Court. On February 18th, 1800, the Supreme Court divided equally on this question, the Chief Justice and Judge Upham holding slavery to be legal in this Province, and Judges Saunders and Allen considering slavery to be illegal. On October 16th, 1809, a Negro woman named “Nancy,” was advertised for sale in the Royal Gazette by Daniel Brown, and a good title guaranteed, so that at that time slavery was still deemed to exist in New Brunswick.

In 1800 the war with France was going on with as much vigor as ever, and on the 4th of July of that year a public fast was proclaimed in this Province on account of it.

In 1801, most of the Counties received grants to aid them in erecting court houses and jails. In the same year the Duke of Kent interested himself regarding the construction of a road between Halifax and Quebec. The famous Saint John dog tax was also passed this year, the money realized therefrom to be for the support of the poor. The roads of New Brunswick, about this time, seem to have been in a bad condition, for in January, 1803, D. Campbell reported that there were not ten miles of road in the Province fit for a wheeled carriage, except in the County of Sunbury. In this year a change was made in the boundary lines of the several wards on the east side of the harbour.

In 1805 the St. John Grammar School was opened, with Roger Mets, assistant minister of Trinity Church, master. The school was established by law March 5th, 1805. The original members of the Board, nine in number, who are named in the Act of Incorporation, held their first meeting in the City Hall on the 19th of the same month, and were the following:

    1. The Rector of Trinity Church (Rev. Mather Byles, D.D.), 9 years of membership
    2. The Mayor of the City (William Campbell, Esq.), 11 years of membership
    3. The Recorder of the City (Ward Chipman, Sr.), sat as Recorder seven years.
    4. The Hon. George Leonard, 11 years of membership
    5. The Hon. Jonathan Bliss (Chief Justice), 7 years of membership
    6. The Hon. William Pagan, 14 years of membership
    7. John Robinson, Esq., 23 years of membership
    8. John Black, Esq., 4 years of membership
    9. Hon. Thomas Wetmore (Attorney General), 6 years of membership

The first Clerk and Treasurer of the Board was Ward Chipman, Sr., Esq.

The Grammar School building, which stood on the S.E. corner of Germain and Horsfield Streets, was a plain wooden house of rather squat appearance. It was erected on two lots of land, 80 feet front and 250 feet deep, which were purchased from Thomas Horsfield, Esq., for the sum of £100. Mr. Viets held the position of Master till his appointment in 1814 to the Rectory of Digby, where he died in 1839, aged fifty-four years. One of the teachers, after Mr. Viets, was James C. Brimmer, who died at his residence, Horsfield Street, February 25th, 1825, aged forty-six years. In the early years of the Grammar School, young ladies were admitted.


“During the months of May, June, July and August, the hours of attendance will be from 6 to 8, from 10 to 1, and from 3 to 5 of the clock; March, April and September, from 9 to 12, and 2 to 5 of the clock; December, January and February, from 9.30 to 1, and from 2 to 4 of the clock. Saturday excepted, on which day school will be dismissed at 12 of the clock.”

In 1805, there was also a public fast. In the same year the freedom of the City of St. John was voted to Lord Sheffield for the services he had rendered the country.

Early in January, 1806, the news of Nelson’s great victory at Trafalgar reached St. John, and caused much rejoicing. Admiral Collingwood’s dispatches were published in the Gazette of January 13th. A ball was held at Cody’s Coffee House in honor of the event, which was attended – to use the language of the Gazette – by a “great assembly of beauty and fashion.” There were also celebrations in Norton and Kingston, attended by the inevitable dinner and the drinking of the usual loyal toasts. At this time the assize of bread was regulated by the Mayor, and it may be of interest to the present inhabitants of St. John to know that in 1816 the sixpenny wheaten loaf was required to weigh one pound thirteen ounces, and the sixpenny rye loaf two pounds four ounces.

The old Germain Street Methodist Church, called in old times “the chapel,” which stood on the north-eastern angle of Germain and Horsfield Streets, was built in 1808, and was opened and dedicated to the service of God by the Rev. Mr. Marsden on Christmas Day of that year. It was an unpretentious building, with no attempt at architectural display, and was located a few feet back from the line of Germain Street. A few years ago, to meet the wants of the community, it was enlarged and extended back. The leading Layman, at the time of the opening of the church, was the late John Ferguson, who did much for Methodism in his time. It was through his exertions that the chapel was built. For many years this commodious building was the only place of worship that this body of Christians had in this City.

In 1808 the people of St. John seem to have been under a good deal of anxiety with regard to the war with France, for in January of that year an order was passed that no vessel or boat should be allowed to leave the harbour of Saint John without the countersign. In the same year, on February 12th, Gabriel G. Ludlow, the first Mayor of St. John died, and was buried in Carleton. He had been President and Commander-in-Chief of the Province from the year 1803. In June, Capt. Shore with two companies of Fencibles, was sent to garrison Sydney, Cape Breton. Among the events of this year may be mentioned an accident which happened to the St. Andrews packet Speedy. While lying at anchor, a whale or some other sea monster fouled itself with her cable, and actually dragged her from her anchorage, a distance of more than three miles, to the very great consternation of those on board.

In June, 1809, the l01st regiment, which had been in garrison at St. John, was sent to the West Indies, and part of the New Brunswick regiment was sent to St. John to take its place. During the summer the troops were employed in making a road from St. John to Fredericton. In the same year, a duty was laid on Baltic timber, while that of the colonies was left free; from which circumstance, the trade of the Province rapidly increased.

In the following year, 1810, a tower was added to Trinity Church, during the building of which, Mr. John Venning fell from the staging on the south side of the tower, and was instantly killed. This melancholy accident occurred on May 22nd, 1810. In the same year the organ was placed in the church. It was made in London, Eng., and was brought out in the ship Brothers, owned by the Hon. William Pagan, who for a number of years was a Vestryman of Trinity Church, and who most liberally remitted the freight, which amounted to a hundred guineas. A gentleman now residing in New York, but for many years a resident of St. John, tells the following story in a letter to the Globe of September l0th, 1881:

“One evening, he (old Governor Smyth) came galloping on horseback to where I was, with other boys, engaged in play opposite our school, and asked me if I and Tom Halsell would do him a favor. ‘Oh yes. General,’ each said, ‘with pleasure.’ ‘Well then,’ said he, ‘meet me at the Church at 4 p.m., and blow for me while I practise a certain piece of music.’ Four o’clock came, and all hands were there. ‘Now then boys,’ says the General, ‘blow carefully and steadily, for when I get through, you will see the inside of the organ.’ Of course we did our best. At the finish, the old sinner told us to ‘put the ladder up and go inside, and be very careful not to touch any of the pipes, etc., and when we got into the middle of the organ to cry out, and he would play a little, which would appear like small birds in a wood.’ All went very nicely, until some great partition in the rear lifted, and out came the thundering tones of the great organ, louder than thunder. Tom and I sprang for the door and made one jump in among the pews, not waiting to go down the ladder. The Governor, hearing the noise made by our jump, rushed to us, and we both declared the whole rear of the organ was smashed. ‘Oh boys! Boys! You have ruined me,’ exclaimed the Governor. ‘Well,’ said he, ‘the mischief being done, we may as well go home.’”


Written by johnwood1946

March 6, 2013 at 9:53 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: