New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

Historic Sites from the English Period on the Saint John River

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Maugerville Reflections

Maugerville, Reflections along the Saint John River

Dr. William MacIntosh, 1943, New Brunswick Museum

The following is from William F. Ganong’s Monograph of historic sites in the province of New Brunswick, found in the Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada, Second series, 1899-1900.

Dr. Ganong begins with a compact and interesting description of the ‘English period’, followed by a summary of historic sites in the Saint John District, that being the Saint John River.

Some of the accompanying maps did not reproduce well in the online versions, unfortunately.

Historic Sites from the English Period on the Saint John River

This clearly marked and most interesting period of our history, second in importance only to the Loyalist period, has not yet been treated as a whole by any of our historians. Its beginning was really marked by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, which transferred Acadia to England, though it was always denied by the French that the Acadia thus ceded included the mainland, or what is now New Brunswick. No attempt was made by the English to settle any part of this Province until after the capture of Fort Beauséjour (Fort Cumberland) and the expulsion of the Acadians. The first actual English settlement in any part of the Present New Brunswick, excepting a few settlers about Fort Cumberland, was made by a party of New Englanders from Rhode Island at Sackville in 1761. The next year James Simonds established himself at the mouth of the St. John, and in 1763 a large colony from New England settled at Maugerville, on the St. John, constituting the largest and most important immigration to this part of the Province that occurred in this period. About the same time the traders and fishermen from New England, previously migratory, began to settle at Passamaquoddy, and slowly increased in numbers until 1770, when Lieutenant William Owen settled at Campobello with his colony of thirty settlers from England, the most important accession to this region in this period. New settlers from New England continued to arrive at the head of the Bay of Fundy, and in 1763 a few families of German descent from Pennsylvania settled on the west side of the Petitcodiac, while in 1772 the settlers about the Missequash district received a most important accession in a number of families from Yorkshire, England. In 1774, Davidson and Cort, from Scotland, settled on the Miramichi, and from time to time other settlers joined them. At Nepisiquit, about 1766, Commodore Walker established an important trading post, with a branch at Restigouche, where also one Shoolbred was established. On the St. John, settlers continued to arrive from different places, though in no great numbers, and a few came as tenants upon the great grants which were made in this period. During the early part of the revolution all of the New Brunswick settlements suffered greatly from the attacks of privateers, which is a polite name for those vultures who use great causes as a cloak for the most dastardly and cowardly of outrages. After Fort Howe was built in 1778, the settlements on the St. John were safe, and many settlers from more exposed places went there, while war vessels in the Bay of Fundy partially protected the others; but the traders on the Miramichi, Nepisiguit and Restigouche were well-nigh or quite ruined by them. Finally, after the peace of 1783, this period at Passamaquoddy and on the St. John was brought to an abrupt end by the arrival of the Loyalists. They produced, however, comparatively little effect in Sackville and Cumberland, at the head of the Bay of Fundy, and practically none at all anywhere on the North Shore, in which the English period may be considered to have merged gradually into the Post-Loyalist period.

Of the greatest importance in the history of this period is the attempt to settle the Province by the introduction of tenants through immense grants made to officers and others. It is not within the function of this paper to trace the history of this most important and interesting subject, and I can but indicate here a few of its leading points. Shortly after 1760 it was decided to reserve most of the rich lands of the St. John for officers of the Royal service. So markedly was this the policy of Government that it was only through an exception made in their favour that the Maugerville settlers were able to hold the lands they had taken possession of in 1763. In 1765 the St. John and Passamaquoddy were surveyed by Morris, and there began a series of immense land grants to individual officers and to associations of disbanded officers and others. The larger of these grants were established as townships of some 100,000 or more acres, and during 1765 no less than eleven of these townships, those of Francfort, Amesbury, Burton, Sunbury, Newtown, Conway, Gagetown, and one other on the St. John, and Moncton, Hopewell and Hillsborough on the Petitcodiac were granted, with numerous smaller grants in their vicinity. Maugerville and Cumberland had already been granted to genuine settlers, and Sackville was later similarly granted. The history of these three townships differs from all the others in that they were settled before they were granted. In later years other large grants were made, but not again in such abundance and size as in 1765. A condition of all these grants was the settlement upon them of a given, and considerable, number of settlers within a certain time, and there is abundant evidence in old records, such as newspaper advertisements, colonization broadsides, etc., that many of the grantees made vigorous efforts to obtain settlers, offering them most liberal inducements. But settlers were very hard to obtain, and in many of these townships few or none were settled, and in none of them whatever were the conditions complied with sufficiently to hold the land. In some of the other large grants to smaller associations and to individuals, however, settlers were brought and conditions fulfilled, so that the land is held under those titles to this day. The best examples of this are Campobello at Passamaquoddy, and Kemble Manor and a part of Spryhampton, on the St. John, but there were several others of lesser note as well. It was, of course, expected that many of these grants would be settled like the great estates in England, with tenants paying rent to the proprietors; and some of them were, of which Campobello is the best example, in which, indeed, the tenant system persists to this day. In the case of the great townships, however, where the proprietors were numerous, they were probably actuated rather by a spirit of speculation, based on the belief that these lands would advance immensely in value, and could then be sold out at a large profit. But this expectation was never realized, and when in 1783 the lands were needed for the Loyalists, there was no difficulty in securing the escheat of all the townships for non-fulfilment of conditions, and they were regranted to actual Loyalist settlers, as will presently be described. It is rather a striking coincidence that these same lands which the French government attempted to settle upon the seigniorial system, the British Government attempted nearly a century later to settle upon the tenant system, and that the attempt failed in both cases, though the lands themselves are among the richest in America. Thus the great townships on the St. John all became extinct, and even their names are mostly forgotten, though some of them, Burton, Sunbury, Gagetown persist as parishes or county. But would it not be well, as new names are needed in those places, to revive again Francfort, Amesbury or Alneston, Conway, and even the names of smaller grants, such as Spryhampton, Mount Pawlett, Heatonville, Morrisania? In Westmorland, though Monckton, Hillsborough and Hopewell were escheated, the names persist; in this county the old townships of Nova Scotia all became parishes in New Brunswick. The old townships produced, however, one effect which still lasts; their boundaries in many cases became parish, and even county lines, particularly in Westmorland, and in many cases these boundaries have persisted through all subsequent changes.

The settlements and land grants of this period are shown on the accompanying map No. 45, on which those whose locations are not certainly known to me are in dotted lines. One will be struck at once with the fact that both settlements and grants of this period coincide remarkably with those of the preceding Acadian period. There is, of course, no genetic connection between the two, but the coincidence is due to independent adaptation to a similar environment,—it is the nature of the country that determines where the settlements were in the two cases. A second feature is the much larger settlement of the Passamaquoddy and St. John and Cumberland region in comparison with the North Shore, which in this period received hardly any settlers at all, and those mostly from England. This fact is partly explained by the superior quality of the land on the St. John and at Cumberland, and of the fishery at Passamaquoddy, but a far more important cause is found in geographical conditions. Since all travel was by water, and most of the settlers were from New England, the far distant North Shore naturally received but few of them. The third striking fact is the importance of the rivers and harbours in influencing settlement; none of those in this period were away from the margin of waters navigable by small vessels.

The St. John District

Though no complete history of the settlements of this period on the St. John has yet been attempted, there are very satisfactory histories of at least three of the particular settlements by New Brunswick historians, i.e. of the Maugerville Settlement by Hannay, of Kemble Manor by Howe, and of the settlements at the mouth of the river by Raymond; and there are many references to other settlements of the period in the writings of these and other local historians. A most valuable document giving a full return of all the settlers in this district before the coming of the Loyalists has been printed in the collections of the New Brunswick Historical Society; and in the Crown Land office at Fredericton are many maps, grants, etc., relating to the period. The materials, therefore, are fairly ample for recovering the locations of the settlements of this period in this district, and a brief account will here suffice.

The permanent settlement of the district began with the arrival of James Simonds at the mouth of the river in 1762. In the next year the Maugerville colony brought a large number of settlers from New England, and formed the only important single accession received during the period; for, after that, the settlers, coming from the most diverse sources, arrived singly or in small numbers, so that they increased but slowly, though steadily, until the coming of the Loyalists in 1783. The attempt to settle the best lands of the river by large grants on the tenant system, presently to be considered, was almost a complete failure. The settlements of this period extended up from the mouth of the river to St. Anne’s Point, at which and just above until the end of the period, were some sixty families of Acadian French. The positions of the townships will be described in the next section.

A, Settlements

A.—St. Annes Point. The return of 1783 shows three families here. The exact sites of their settlement and of those of the French Acadians are not known to me, though possibly some of the early plans in the York deeds would throw light upon the subject.

B.—Nashwaak. In 1783 there were eight families here in the township of Newtown. Here near the old French fort, John Anderson had a grant and established a trading post in 1764. (See map No. 17).

A sawmill, on the site of the present mills at Marysville, was commenced by the Canada Company in 1766.

C.—Burton, (then including the present Lincoln). In 1783 some forty-two families were scattered along the river, of whom several were at the mouth of the Oromocto.

D.—Maugerville. The history of this settlement by Mr. Hannay, in the collections of the New Brunswick Historical Society, I., 63, gives full information upon it. It was composed of New Fnglanders and was by far the largest and most important settlement of the period in New Brunswick.

E.—Spryhampton, Heatonville, etc. (for location see map No. 45). These were not included in the return of 1783, and hence we know less about the settlements here than elsewhere. The map by Morris of 1774, shows several houses along the west bank of the river between Swan Creek and Harts Lake, but none on the opposite side except two at Jemseg. There were several later settlers about Jemseg, however, on leases from William Spry.

F.—Gagetown. The return of 1783 shows some thirty-seven families settled here, some of them on Musquash Island, of whom several, no doubt, lived on the site of the modern village of Gagetown. In 1771 C.N.G. Jadis had a store on the site of Gagetown, burnt that year by the Indians.

G.—Kemble Manor. The history of this grant and its settlers is fully given by Mr. Howe in the New Brunswick Magazine, I, 146. Several settlers upon it were scattered along the river.

H.—Amesbury, now Kingston. In 1783 there were but four families upon this tract.

I.—Indiantown. The Indian house for trading with the Indians was built here in 1779, and there was another settler on the opposite side of the river, of which full accounts are given by Mr. Raymond.

J.—Conway. (Carleton) See the following:

K.—Portland. The history of the settlements at the mouth of the St. John has been so exhaustively and authoritatively treated by Mr. Raymond (in the New Brunswick Magazine, vols. I, II and III) that no further reference to the subject is necessary here.

B. Forts

In this period there were but three occupied forts on the St John.

A.—Fort Frederick. This stood at Carleton on the “Old Fort” site, whose earlier history has already been considered. It was at times in this period occupied by a small garrison, but being found insufficient for the defence of the river and harbour against the New England privateers, was abandoned when Fort Howe was built. Its ground plan is shown on the accompanying map No. 41.

B.—Fort Howe. This fort was built in 1778 for the protection of the harbour and river against New England privateers, which were particularly destructive to the settlers here in the early part of the Revolution. Its site perfectly well known. It stood on the ridge back of Portland, and its name is still applied to the place. A picture of it made in 1781, is extant and has been published (Coll., N.B. Hist. Soc., I, 312 and in N.B. Mag., II, 81.) Ground plans of it are shown on the accompanying maps Nos. 41 and 42, the first made probably by Robert Morse in 1784 to accompany his well-known Report, and the second from the Cunningham map of the harbour of 1835. Its position in relation to the other forts is shown on map No. 37.

C.—Fort Hughes. This was but a block-house, built in 1780. Its site is well known locally and is shown on map No. 43, copied from old plans in the Crown Lands Office.

Map 17

Map 17, St. Annes Point and Surroundings. From Morris, 1765.

Map 37

Map 37. Historical Map of St. John and Surroundings

Map 41

Map 41. From “Plan of City and Harbour of Saint John,” 1781. By Robt. Morse

Map 42

Map 42. From Cunningham’s Plan of the City and Harbour of Saint John, 1835

Map 43

Map 43. Site of Fort Hughes, from old plans.

Map 45

Map 45. Map of New Brunswick in the English Period


Written by johnwood1946

March 2, 2016 at 8:44 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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