New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

The Pioneers of St. Stephen

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This is I.C. Knowlton’s account of the pioneer families of Saint Stephen, from his book Annals of Calais, Maine and Saint Stephen, New Brunswick, published in 1875. It will be useful for genealogists and family historians, and anybody else who is interested in St. Stephen and area.

 St Stephen CPR Station

Pioneers of St. Stephen

All the aged people and the old traditions in Calais and St. Stephen, concur in the statement that the first white settlers in each town came from Machias or some place in that vicinity. A few of the first came through the woods, guided by an Indian. The others came by water. For a time, they occupied perhaps in equal numbers, each side of the river; hut eventually only two men, Daniel and Samuel Hill, with their families remained in Calais. The others,—James and Jeremiah Frost, Jacob Libbey and his sons, Ebenezer and Jacob Jr., John Rolfe, Dr. McDonald, Benjamin Getchell and Samuel Millberry, with their families, located in St. Stephen. They came in 1770 and 80, and occupied the land adjoining the river, from Ferry Point to Porter’s Stream. Libbey’s lot was at the Cove. Their object in settling on the St. Croix was to engage in lumbering. Soon after their arrival, Daniel Hill, Jacob Libbey and Jeremiah Frost built a Saw-mill on Porter’s Stream, and began the manufacture of boards and deal. The logs were at first obtained by felling the trees near the stream and rolling their trunks into the water. All the houses of these people were constructed of logs, and were destitute of brick chimneys. They contained very little furniture and few if any glass windows. Their chairs, tables, beds and culinary utensils were of the most primitive style. Yet these rude homes were comfortable, and rendered pleasant by the presence of loving, faithful wives and mothers. The first child born in the new settlement, was Samuel Libbey; and great was the joy of the occasion.—After a time, several families of these earliest settlers located on the fertile Ridges a few miles back from the river, and there many of their descendants still reside.

Hon. J.G. Stevens of St. Stephen, in his able and interesting “’Prize Essay on Charlotte County,” says: “The first settlement of the County began in 1784,” when several persons previously of H.B.M.’s 71st Regiment, with others from Nova Scotia, Massachusetts, New York and elsewhere, united in a Corporate Body called the “’Cape Ann Association,” and obtained a Grant of a large tract of land in what is now the Parish of St. David. The Grant was given to David Clendenin and 147 others. Many of them, and some accompanied by their wives and children, in that year and the next, permanently located on the Grant. Among them were David Clendenin, William Moore, William Vance, Thomas McLaughlin, Reuben Smith, Samuel Thomas, Josiah Hitchings, Francis Norwood, Nathaniel Parsons, David McAllister, and others probably, whose names cannot be ascertained. The descendants of these people still occupy farms in St. David.

In the same years, 1784-85, and probably from the same localities, fourteen other families came and settled near the hank of the St. Croix. probably below Porter’s Stream and down to the Ledge. The names of the men were Edmund Doherty, James Thompson, James Nickerson, Zeb. Linnekin, John McMullen, John Lily, Joshua Babb, Wm. Gallop, John Leeman, Luther Dany, Alex. Patterson, John Jordan, John Young, and John Hopps.

Having erected log cabins in which to reside, these brave pioneers at once engaged in clearing the land of its dense forests, and raising such crops as the soil and climate would permit. Wm. Moore, who appears to have been the most wealthy and energetic nab in the colony, built a Saw-mill and Grist-mill on Porter’s Stream, at the locality ever since called Moor’s Mills: and some attention was soon paid to lumbering. The farms yielded bountiful harvests, the river was alive with fish and the forest with game, the industrious women wove all the cloth needed for garments, there were no taxes to pay and no expensive fashions to follow. their dwellings were warm and comfortable, and the thrifty colonists had no reason to complain of their wilderness homes and enjoyments. They ought to have been and probably were, a contented and happy people.

But the village of St. Stephen owes its origin mainly to a colony led thither by Capt. Nehemiah Marks. He was a native of Derby, Connecticut, and appears to have been a man of marked ability and energy. Shortly after the beginning of the Revolutionary War, he went to New York, and enlisted in the British service as a bearer of military dispatches on both sea and land, with the rank of Captain. At the close of the war in 1783, in company with many other Loyalists, he left the United States and sought a home in Nova Scotia. He was allowed a pension of £96 a year, and had talent enough to win success anywhere. But not finding in Halifax an opening that was congenial to his energy and ambition, and desiring if possible to assist his companions in exile, he left that city and with 104 others sailed in a small vessel to St. Stephen. They landed June 24, 1784, in front of the present “Porter house,” and pitched their tents along the shore, from thence to Marks’ Corner.

Having assisted his companions in building log houses and making other needful preparations for the coming Winter, Captain Marks returned to Halifax to obtain from Government if possible a Grant of land and such other assistance as his people might require. He was successful. King George III, being anxious to have his remaining North American territory well peopled, willingly granted to each actual settler, 100 acres of land, a generous supply of farming tools and building materials, and regular army rations for three years. Not long after, the Royal agents, Messrs. Jones and Morrison surveyed and laid out the land into village lots and hundred acre farms; and one of these was given to each man residing in town.

The colonists were new fairly and pleasantly located, and their future prosperity seemed to be assured. Before their rations ceased, they would have abundant time to fell the trees, prepare the soil and raise a supply of food. But serious obstacles were in the way. Some of the men had been in the army long enough to acquire a decided distaste for the steady habits and hard labor needed in clearing the land and cultivating the soil. Others were unacquainted with that kind of business, and therefore able to accomplish but little, even though diligent. Others were intemperate and therefore worse than useless citizens. The supply of rations seemed to render immediate industry and economy unnecessary. Three careless years passed away; the rations ceased, and hard times began. Little provision had been made for this inevitable emergency; the improvident people had but a small amount of money or means to purchase supplies, and no good market was near. Haggard destitution soon set in. Food, raiment, tools, glass, nails, furniture, became alarmingly scarce and difficult to obtain. Of course, in this privation, there was much sutlering, sickness and discouragement.

But “necessity is the mother of invention” and the spur to activity. By the skillful use of wooden pegs, comfortable houses and furniture were constructed without nails. In the absence of leather, shoes were made of the raw hides taken from the shanks of moose and deer. The hunter and the fisher brought in food. Farming began in earnest, and soon yielded a fair return. Flax was raised and wool grown, and both were manufactured by the thrifty women into cloth and garments. The lumbering business began to be pushed with vigor, and vessels came with merchandize to barter for the timber. The faithful ministry of Rev. Duncan M’Coll, imparted religious hope and faith; and Slowly the Settlement became self-sustaining and hopeful.

The first sale of real estate took place in 1785. when Jacob Libbey sold his farm extending; from the Bridge to Main Street, and perhaps further down, to Nehemiah Marks, for £25, in money, a barrel of beef and a barrel of pork. The land is now valued several hundred times higher; but Libbey was in need of funds and food, and probably felt satisfied with his bargain.

With our well supplied markets on every side. where every needful commodity is kept for sale, it is difficult for us to realize the many deprivations and consequent trials of a new and isolated settlement. In those early days, fish and venison were plenty, but often almost uneatable for want of salt. It was therefore a very joyful day when Capt. Robert Pagon arrived at St. Stephen with a small cargo of salt;—the first ever imported Tradition has not preserved the date, but the auspicious event could not be forgotten. How nice it was, and how grateful these poor people were, to have their potatoes and fish or moose beef, seasoned with salt!

In addition to the persons already mentioned in these annals, the following list of names is copied from old account books kindly loaned the author by G.M. Porter Esq., kept in the store of his father, Joseph Porter, at Ferry Point, Calais, from 1788 to 1791. It was probably the first store in the vicinity, and it received the patronage of the entire community. Few of the people at that time had much ready money; and hence as many as could, bought goods on credit, and therefore their names appear in Mr. Porter’s day-books. The settlements had no legal names and none are found in the store records; but his customers doubtless included nearly all the people on each side of the St. Croix, from Baileyville to Robbinston, including the parishes of St. James and St. David. The early education of these pioneers had in many instances been sadly neglected. Each one knew his own name, but some were not acquainted with the art of spelling. The entry clerk, himself not a Master of Arts, adopted the phonographic style of spelling according to sound: and his careless and faded penmanship is in some places almost illegible. As nearly as possible I give the names as he wrote them, and leave the reader to decide for himself whom they mean.

In 1788, those who “got trusted” at the store were Samuel Andrews, Nathaniel Bailey, John Berry, Dea. Jacob Boyden, Benj. Bradford, Wm. Bugbee, Peter Butler, John Campbell, Peter Church, Esq., Henry Colloff , John Dyer(?) James Dyer, Jones Dyer, Robert Conners, Thomas Fitzsimons, Thomas Grace, James Gozline, David Hitchings, John and David Johnson, Samuel Jones, Thomas Lindsay, John Long, Hugh MacKay, Angus McDonald, Donald McDougal, John McKinsay, John McPhail, Alex. McRa Esq., James McNab, Hugli Malcom, David Mowatt, Samuel Pierce, Thomas Pettigrove, Francis Pettigrove, Joseph Porter, William Scott, Abiel Sprague, James Sprague, Wm. Swain, Thos. Tompkins, Robert Watson, and Thomas Wire.

By 1789, the following additional names are found in the Day-book:—

Bray, Brady, John H. Brewer, Henry Brown, Esq., Colin Campbell, Carlow, John Cooper, Thos. Delydernier, Dr. Samuel Emerson, Robert Fawcett, John Foster, Dr. Gordon, Henry Gouldsmith, Eben Greenlaw, Joseph Hale, John Hamlin, James Hannah, Benjamin Henderson, Humphrey, Job Johnson, William Kilby, James Lane, Thomas Lashure, Nin. Lindsay, William Mabee, Jacob Mabee, Hugh McPhail, Morrison, Andrew Murchie, McCallum, Jacob Norwood, Eben Owen, Alex Patterson, Joseph Parker, Daniel Kay, A.M. Simpson, Barna Simpson, Daniel Soames, Daniel Swett, Ed. F. and N.J. Robbins, Wm. Tower, Matthew Thornton. Samuel Turner and Robert Verder.

In 1790, the following additional names are found in Mr. Porter’s Account books:—

Thomas Ball, Isaac Bailey, John Barber, John Bohannon, Neal Brown, Jona. Caldwell, Hugh Campbell, Geo. and Peter Christie, John Colvin, Roberson Crocker, Silas Cummins, Joseph Dunham, John Fairbanks, Alex. Furguson, Wm. Frazier, Moses Fisk, John and Jeremiah Frost, B. Getchell, James and Wm. Grant, Thomas Grimmer, John Hall, Martin Haman, John Hasty, Daniel, Joseph, and Samuel Hill, Robert Hitchings, John Hopps, Wm. Jackson, Joseph Lawler, Robert Livingstone, John Loyall, Peter McDarmed, Neal McBean, Rev. Duncan M’Coll Duncan McCullum, Daniel McCormic, James Maxfield, Thomas Mitchell, John Murchie, Samuel Millberry, James and .John Noble, Robert Pagon, John Pettigrove, Abraham Pine, Benj. Pomroy, Dennis and Miles Post, Angus Rankins, Capt. Ed. Ross, Sibley, Mikel Simpson, James Stewart, Stickney, Ralph Taylor, Charles Thomas, Isaac Titcomb, Tyler, James Thompson and Jacob Young.

No estimate of the population of St. Stephen can be made from these names, as quite a number of the persons mentioned did not reside in this Parish. But if the tradition is truthful, that in 1790, there were only sixteen white residents in Calais, then there must have boon several hundred in St. Stephen and vicinity. In fact, during many years, the English town, in every respect was far ahead of her humble American sister. The list of names however is valuable because it approximately determines the date of the settlement of the ancestors of many persons now residing in this part of the country.

For several years the colony appears to have been destitute of domestic animals. The first oxen were brought from Robbinston; the date uncertain. A while after, Capt. Marks imported a cow from Halifax. The first horse ever seen in town, was driven into St. Stephen, in 1795, by Wm. Moore of St. David. Robert Watson, the father of the present Bank Cashier, was the first owner of a horse. This was near the beginning of the present century.

William Buchanan whose house stood near the present residence of F.H. Todd, Esq., came from St. John in 1783, and engaged in getting out “’King’s masts”; that is, tall, straight pine trees more than three feet in diameter. Other lumbermen not long after began getting out and shipping “ton timber”; that is, large pine logs roughly hewn square. Others split and shaved shingles for exportation. The mill on Porter’s Stream manufactured boards and deal. In a few years, a brisk trade sprang up; and the often returning vessels brought an abundance of the needed merchandize.

At first the little fleet engaged in this exporting and importing, were owned in St. Andrews, St. John and elsewhere; but in 1797, Alexander Gooden or Golden, built a small schooner in St. Stephen, and two years later, Joseph Porter built another. These were the first vessels built on the river above Robbinston.

In 1800, Capt. N. Marks died. And here properly ends the pioneer age of St. Stephen.


Written by johnwood1946

November 20, 2013 at 1:41 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. I have MITCHELL and ROLFE In Eastport Maine,N.S. Campobello, Lubec, ST Stephens

    James Follis Mitchell Jr.

    June 15, 2014 at 3:37 PM

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