New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

An 1841 Trek up the Oromocto River

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An 1841 Trek up the Oromocto River

This description of the Oromocto River is from An Account of the River St. John, With its Tributary Rivers and Lakes, by Edmond Ward, published in Fredericton in 1841.

What can I say? The man obviously did not appreciate where he was. He came within a mile of my favourite ancestor, for example, and did not even drop by for a visit. It seems that he was more interested in fishing. Still, several communities on the river are mentioned and the work is interesting.

Most of the old growth forests in New Brunswick had been ravaged by 1841. The area between Geary and Victoria Settlement had been logged by Smiths, and Woods, and especially by George Morrow’s crews. Poachers also cut logs, and then dared to float them past Morrow’s dam on the Rockwell Stream. In this description, Ward observed that the “land has been neglected, and the farms ruined as elsewhere, owing to the deleterious pursuits of lumbering.”

 Oromocto Lift Bridge

CNR Bridge Over the Oromocto River; About 1915.

This bridge is near the mouth of the river, between the Route 102 crossing and the Trans Canada Highway, Route 7, crossing. The towers, etc., were for lifting the center span for the passage of boats. The bridge is still there, but the lift-span is now fixed in position and the towers are gone.

Edmond Ward’s description of the Oromocto River follows.


Twelve miles below Fredericton, and fourteen above Swan Creek, the Oromocto River flows into the St. John; the country on the River between those places being well settled on both sides of its banks. The Oromocto is the only river of any size, with the exception of the Kennebeckasis, that falls directly into the St. John below Fredericton. It has its rise in two lakes about twenty miles apart, called north and south Branch Lakes; the streams from which form a junction eighteen or twenty miles from the village at the mouth of the Oromocto. There are several minor streams, some of which fall into these branches and others into the main stream. On the South Branch are Shin and Back Creeks; on the North are Hardwood, Yoho and Lyon Streams; and on the main Oromocto, are the Brockwell stream [should read Rockwell Stream], the Rusagonis and Rinny Creek.

The soil on the banks of the Oromocto below the junction of the Branch streams, generally speaking is totally unfit for settlement, as a great part is low and marshy, and (illegible) overflowed: but there are extensive wild meadows that (illegible) an excellent substitute for English grass, in case of (illegible) of other fodder. On the South Branch there is a considerable quantity of good land, both occupied and unoccupied; which runs through a beautiful and level tract called “The Valley”: which is equal in richness of soil and productiveness to the best part of Sheffield. Back Creek, a tributary stream of the South Branch, also runs through a fine tract of good hard-wood land where is a flourishing settlement, called the Patterson settlement, with places for public worship and parish-schools. On Shin Creek, which also falls into the South Branch, about four miles above Scoullar’s mills, I understand there is land fit for settlement, and which is still in a wilderness state. There is also good land on the streams, falling into the North Branch; but the country in their neighborhood has usually been resorted to for purposes of lumbering; and of course no settlements have been formed where that is the case. Around the North Branch Lake however there is already a good settlement; the land is excellent for tillage; and a road has been opened communicating with Fredericton, This is the new road to St. Andrews, which is nearly completed, and passes within two miles of the Lake, and a little farther from the Magaguadavic. This Lake is about ten miles in length and four in breadth, and runs in a direction nearly north and south, and parallel with the road. It is distant about twenty miles from Hartt’s mills, and is settled for half that distance, probably as far as the land is good; and it is thirty-two miles from Fredericton by the new road.

About seven miles from the mouth of the Oromocto on Brockwell stream [should read Rockwell Stream], there is some good land, that might be cultivated to advantage; a road I believe has been opened through it during the last season, and two or three families have settled there. On the Rusagonis there are some fine farms; the better description of land however has been granted. Of the settlements in that direction I shall have occasion to speak hereafter.

The Oromocto is navigable for sloops and wood-boats a distance of twenty miles, – for canoes upwards of thirty; and except during the droughts of summer, the Creeks already mentioned, may be navigated by canoes, Salmon, shad, bass and gaspereau are found in the Oromocto when in season; and all the smaller streams abound with the finest description of trout. The Nerepis road from Fredericton to St. John passes through the village at the mouth of the Oromocto, over which a substantial bridge has recently been erected. At a distance of about five miles from the mouth of the Oromocto, the road divides; – that to the Nerepis and St. John diverging to the left, and the other continuing on to the South Branch, and other settlements in that direction, the front of which are situated about twenty miles from the Oromocto village. This road passes through the Patterson settlement, and intersects the Nerepis road, five or six miles above Mathers’ tavern. This route, as far as the South Branch settlement I have travelled several times; and as it is in excellent order, and generally speaking level, is a most delightful drive, leading to a well settled and fertile country.

The population in the vicinity of the South Branch of the Oromocto, has been estimated at from four to five hundred persons; and there are probably one hundred and fifty farms, comprising three thousand acres of cleared land, occupied by wealthy and independent communities. Between the South Branch road and the stream of the same name, there is a tract of ungranted land sufficient to form three hundred fine farms. Unfortunately there is no road through it; but it is to be hoped the attention of government may be directed to the subject, and that this fertile portion of country will be laid off for settlement. Between the Oromocto and the South Branch settlements, at the forks of the road already alluded to, five or six miles from the mouth of the Oromocto, commences the Geary settlement, a location well adapted to meet the wants and requirements of those who formed it; but the land has been neglected, and the farms ruined as elsewhere, owing to the deleterious pursuits of lumbering. Between the Oromocto and this settlement, are two or three lots of ungranted land of an excellent quality. From the South Branch settlements to Hartt’s Mills on the North Branch, is a distance of about three miles; and the road continues on through the Rusagonis and Maryland settlements to Fredericton. There are several good farms and a large population on the North Branch; but all the cleared land is occupied. In all the settlements on the Oromocto and its tributary streams, it is pleasing to state, there are places of public worship and a number of schools.

About seven miles from the mouth of the Oromocto, on the South-west Branch, is a delightful sheet of water called French Lake, about a mile and a quarter long and a mile broad, with extensive intervale. There is an interesting settlement here, and the scenery in the vicinity of the Lake is uncommonly fine, Its waters abound with trout of a superior flavor, and large size; a very important item of intelligence to those gentlemen of the garrison at Fredericton, who may be fond of angling: as the distance from that place is only nineteen miles; and by stopping at Mrs. Nevers’ excellent house, just below the mouth of the Oromocto during the night, an early drive over a good road in the morning, will carry them to the scene of piscatory sport.

At the mouth of the Oromocto, on its left branch, there is a fine body of intervale, extending about a mile on the River St. John, and opposite to it is Oromocto Island, formed of alluvial deposit, but which is not inhabited; the lots being owned by persons residing on the main land. There is a church and dissenting meeting-house at the village on the right bank; service being performed in the former by the minister of the establishment who resides at Maugerville, and who officiates at both places and Wesleyan ministers from Fredericton, and other denominations occasionally, in the meeting-house. About two miles lower down, and opposite M’Lean’s, are the county court-house and jail. During the last summer the remains of several Indians were discovered near the bridge at the Oromocto, with various copper utensils, and other relics of bygone days; and it is probable that here was an extensive settlement of the former natives of the country, and here the burying place of a numerous and warlike tribe.

On the right bank of the Oromocto, at a short distance from the mouth of the river, the land rises; and between the village and court-house is a most eligible site for a town. Unfortunately the lots are very large; and the seat of government being established at Fredericton, its natural advantages in this respect have not been improved. Owing to a peculiar warmth in the stream itself, the Oromocto generally remains open longer in autumn, and the St. John is navigable to that point earlier in the spring than at Fredericton. – The principal obstructions to navigation also occur above the Oromocto; and when the fine country in its vicinity is considered, and we see the immense improvement that has taken place at Chatham, within the last twenty years, owing to the introduction of enterprise and capital there; it is not at all improbable, that at no distant period, a town will arise at the mouth of the Oromocto, where an enterprising mercantile house carries on shipbuilding to a considerable extent at present; and that here will ultimately be the first place of deposit and transshipment of the productions of the upper country, and the imported goods of which its inhabitants may stand in need.


Written by johnwood1946

May 22, 2013 at 9:29 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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