New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

Grand Manan to the Petitcodiac, in 1786

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The following is from an anonymous book entitled The Present State of Nova Scotia with a Brief Account of Canada, first published in Edinburgh in 1786. It describes the part of New Brunswick from Grand Manan to Beaver Harbour, and on to Saint John, Quaco and the Petitcodiac River, with mention also of the Minas Basin.

I liked this account because it is from very early in the Loyalist period. It is general in its observations, however, and I regret that it is not more detailed.

Beaver Harbour 1920

Beaver Harbour in 1920, from

“The southerly winds that sometimes prevail … blow very hard upon the coast”

Grand Manan to the Petitcodiac, in 1786

The line is supposed to commence upon the sea coast, in latitude 45°’ 10′ N longitude 66° 50′ weft of London, at the island of Grand Manan, which lies two leagues from the main land, on the north side, at the entrance into the Bay of Fundy, and has several small rocks or islands near it, on the south side, which form a harbour, where, at certain seasons of the year, the cod and seal fisheries may be prosecuted to advantage. The island is everywhere covered with good timber, but is entirely destitute of inhabitants, except some Indians who land upon it occasionally. It is about fourteen miles in length, and nine in breadth, very steep and craggy on all sides, but covered with an excellent soil, capable of amply rewarding the labours that are necessary for its cultivation; however, it is not yet known whether it is to belong to Great Britain or to America.

In sight of the above island, and ten miles distant from it, is a large and deep bay, which still retains its Indian name of Passamaquoddy, having a great number of islands at its entrance, of various dimensions, the principal of which, called Campo Bello, has several loyalists settled upon it, and some tilled land.

The harbours that lie within the Bay are equal in goodness to any in the world, and alike fitted for carrying on the lumber trade to the West Indies, the fisheries, and ship building. The facility of constructing docks and ships, for the latter purpose, is perfectly obvious, having great stores of good timber everywhere in the neighbourhood of the bay, as well as a very considerable rise and fall of the tide, which, though not so great as at St John’s River, and other places farther up the Bay of Fundy, contributes to render the situation superior to them in a comparative view, when ship building is considered as the principal thing to which the attention of the loyalists in this quarter ought to be directed.

The upper end of Passamaquoddy Bay terminates in a river called St. Croix, which branches out into three distinct channels; and these, making considerable angles with each other, have caused a misunderstanding between the persons appointed to settle the limits of both countries, as the line between them was to be drawn from the head of this river, and it remains undecided which of the three branches is to be called the head. The lands in general that lie round about them are not only very good, but the superior excellence of the timber makes it an object to this country to contend seriously for every foot of territory to which she is entitled.

St Andrews is a handsome town, built by the loyalists, upon the river above mentioned, consisting of 600 houses, the situation of which, though in some respects well chosen, is certainly at too great a distance from the sea, and, besides this disadvantage, has only six feet water in its harbour upon the ebb tide. No place, as has been observed before, in the whole province, is better situated for ship building. They have the cod fishery even at their doors, and possess the singular advantage of being scarcely ever incommoded with the fogs which prevail on many other parts of the coast several months in the year. The inhabitants at St. Andrews, and in its vicinity, amount to upwards of three thousand of all sorts; and no people on the continent are capable of being more usefully industrious in proportion to their numbers.

Beaver harbour is a small port, 3 leagues east of Passamaquoddy, settled by the refugees, about 800 in number, who have built a town upon it, the situation of which seems to be well chosen for carrying on the fishery, if their harbour was not exposed to the southerly winds that sometimes prevail and blow very hard upon the coast.

From this place to St. John’s River, E., N.E. distant 12 leagues, the land appears moderately high and rocky, with a bold shore, entirely free from danger, but destitute of any other than one small harbour, only capable of sheltering fishing vessels against all winds. Off the mouth of St. John’s River, lies a small island, high, rocky, and covered with wood, near to which ships must pass, in going in or out of the river; and, as it lies at a small distance from the main land, is equally fitted to afford protection to the river against an enemy, and for the erection of a light-house, to guide ships in passing up and down the bay, being very conspicuous for several leagues.

The town is built upon the east side of the harbour, within two miles of Partridge Island, which, lying directly opposite to the entrance of the river, breaks off the sea, and perfectly shelters it from all winds.

The river, a mile above the town, by being confined between some rocks that encroach upon it considerably, though of a great depth, has a large fall or rapid, particularly upon the ebb tide. When the flood has risen 12 feet in the harbour below, the falls are smooth, and continue to be passable for about twenty minutes; and the river is navigable from hence upwards of 70 miles for vessels of 80 to 100 tons burthen. In times of great freshets, when the rains fall, and the snows melt in the country, which is commonly from the middle of April to the beginning of June, the falls are absolutely impassable to vessels bound up the river, as the tide does not rise to their level, and the strong current, which runs continually down through the harbour at that season, frequently prevents vessels that are bound in from entering, unless assisted by a fair wind.

The town consists of upwards of two thousand houses, many of which are large and spacious, and being built upon a neck of land, almost entirely surrounded by the sea, is thereby rendered exceeding pleasant. The streets have been regularly laid out, are from 50 to 60 feet in breadth, and cross each other at right angles, corresponding with the four cardinal points, every house possessing 60 feet in front by 120 in depth, makes it capable of becoming one of the best cities in the New World, as the ground whereon it is built is of a moderate height, and rises gradually from the water.

No place on the north side of the Bay of Fundy possesses equal advantages with this for becoming a place of general trade; the river extending not only much further into the country, than any other in the province, but likewise has upon its banks large tracts of land, equal in goodness to any in America, for raising both corn and livestock; while its woods, abounding with the best of timber, will enable it to carry on a trade for lumber with the West Indies, and to vie with New England in the ship building business, which was one of its principal branches of commerce before the rebellion. When the woods on the lands near the river are cut down, and a sufficient quantity cleared, a business which, in the hands of the loyalists, is making rapid advances, the quantity of cattle raised in this part of Nova Scotia will certainly be very great, both for home consumption and exportation.

Amongst other advantages possessed by this settlement, it ought not to be considered as the least, that a very considerable property was imported, together with a number of respectable merchants, from New York, at the evacuation of that city, whose unremitting industry and perseverance has embellished the town with a great many fine houses, the harbour with several fine quays and wharfs, and they already possess 60 sail of vessels, some of which are employed in carrying on trade with the West Indies, and the rest in the whale and cod fisheries. Most of the fur trade that can ever take place on this side of the province, must naturally center here, as no other navigable water extends far inland, besides St John’s River. Very good masts for the royal navy are cut at the distance of 50, 60, and 70 miles from the sea, as large as to 32 inches diameter, which are collected by persons appointed by government, below the falls, from whence they are shipped off for the King’s dock yards in England.

The harbour has from seven to ten fathoms water, with good holding ground, and an excellent beach for landing goods, and graving or repairing vessels of the largest size. Opposite to the town, on the other side of the harbour, is a small settlement, called Carleton, built and inhabited by the loyalists, amongst whom are a considerable number of ship carpenters, whose talents have already exerted themselves in building many vessels; whilst the large quantity of fine timber, on every part of the river, equal in goodness to that of New England, and almost any other province in America, is not only a proof of their situation being very properly chosen, but a sure prognostic of the advantages which this place derives from ship building.

To all the above recited advantages may be added the extent of population, which exceeds ten thousand persons of all denominations, among whom are several regiments disbanded at the late peace, that are not only highly respectable for their numbers and their industry, but still more so, if possible, from their forming a very strong barrier to the colony against the subjects of the United States. A small fortification, called Fort Howe, defends the town, but is too inconsiderable to withstand a regular attack; being very small, and entirely destitute of out-works. The river has in it a number of islands, which, even at this time, afford pasture for a great number of cattle; so that, when more land is cleared, a far greater portion of livestock will be raised than the inhabitants can consume, the soil being generally very good and capable of great improvement.

Twelve leagues further up the Bay of Fundy, E.N.E. from St John’s River, is a small settlement belonging to the loyalists, called Quaco. About six hundred persons are here, who have very wisely directed their attention to agriculture, their lands being generally accounted good, whilst, on the contrary, they have no place fit to shelter vessels in, especially when southerly winds prevail. The timber of all kinds is very good, and the country abounds with game.

Eleven leagues east from the last mentioned place, the Bay of Fundy, after carrying everywhere in its course a great depth of water, and continuing from fifteen to six leagues wide, is suddenly divided by the land into two distinct arms, the largest of which, called the Basin of Minas, takes its course nearly due east for almost eighty miles, but having the rise and fall of the tide continually increasing as it advances, so as to be equal to 70 feet perpendicular at its head, and receiving the waters of several rivers, which from thence penetrate considerably into the country. All these rivers have settlements upon them, the inhabitants of which amount to upwards of 4,000. The lands in the environs of Minas Basin are very good, and have store of timber, particularly on the south side, and continue so almost all the way to Halifax, from which it is distant upwards of 40 miles. The other head is called Chignecto Bay, taking its course N.E. from where the separation commences, for about 50 miles, receiving the waters of several rivers which discharge themselves into it, one of them being pretty considerable, called Petitcodiac, where about 2,000 loyalists are settled, and have the appearance of being a thriving colony. Many advantages are held out to persons that are obliged to settle in this province, whose views are not solely confined to trade, but who wish to attend to agriculture, and the raising cattle, as most of the lands round the head of the Bay are very good, having been formerly possessed and cultivated by the ancient French colonists, distinguished by the name of Neutrals, whole industry had been crowned with a degree of success not always equalled, and but seldom exceeded, by the inhabitants of the southern colonies; nor can it be doubted, but that the persons in whose hands they now are, will very speedily render them an object of jealousy to their New England neighbours. There is a small fort, formerly called St Laurence, and now Fort Cumberland, built upon the isthmus which joins the peninsula to the main land, and, though of no great account at present, may, in a more improved state, be looked upon as the key of Nova Scotia, against the invasion of a land army.


Written by johnwood1946

February 18, 2015 at 9:38 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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