New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

Albert County, New Brunswick, about 170 Years Ago

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Albert County, New Brunswick, about 170 Years Ago

James Finlay Weir Johnston toured New Brunswick in 1848 to observe the geology and soil-types, for a report to the House of Assembly on the province’s agricultural possibilities. He also published his findings in Notes on North America, Agricultural, Economical, and Social, in London in 1851.

Johnston found a province suffering from a recession. There had also been crop failures and many people were complaining loudly about the government. Some people were even advocating that New Brunswick join the United States.

We join him in Shepody Bay, as he travels toward Hopewell.

James F.W. Johnston

From Wikipedia


Mists prevail from May to October, and are injurious to the crops as far up as the head of Shepody Bay; but around Salisbury Cove they are more hurtful than in any other part of the country. In July and August the mischief to the wheat crops is the greatest, the united action of the moisture and of the great heat of these months being most productive of rust.

We returned along the western side of the Shepody River, through a picturesque but poorer country, with occasional good farms and settlements; and, lingering on the rich land between the mouth of this river and Shepody Mountain, we regained our inn at Hopewell soon after nightfall.

I suppose it is owing in some degree to the frequent intercourse with the United States which the inhabitants of this upper part of the Bay of Fundy maintain, through their plaster, their grindstones, and their fish, that I found the sense of imaginary grievances arising from the English connection more strong, and the Annexation feeling warmer, about Sackville, and on Shepody Bay, than in almost any other part of the province I had yet visited. I had found it so also at Annapolis, in Nova Scotia, towards the mouth of this same Bay of Fundy — it may be, for a similar reason. I had not observed much feeling on the subject throughout the province generally; and, if the population were polled, a very large majority, I think, would vote against any proposal to disturb the British connection.

As another reason, it was alleged to me by a retired Judge of the Supreme Court, himself sprung from an American loyalist, that old recollections the traditions and narratives of their fathers had an influence upon the descendants of those who, at the close of the American war, left the States, and settled on lands assigned to them in this quarter by the British Government. Tales of happier lives spent in the old colonies, of which the dark days are forgotten, and of possessions which memory represented to old men in brighter colours, have created in the minds of the sons and grandsons an impression in favour of the United States, which is different in kind and in extent, as well as in origin, from that which is entertained by the sons of the original home-settlers in the province. One can imagine, indeed, that upon some minds sentiment may thus sway the reason, and lead sons to desire what their fathers have regretted forgetting their fathers loyalty, and inheriting only their regrets.

Another more direct and personal cause, however, has brought these sentiments into play. The failure of the wheat and potato crops for a series of years has awakened dissatisfaction, and made the farmers see causes of complaint where they had never thought of looking for them before. All the crops, with the exception of the hay, have been good in Albert County this year; and another good season, as one of the county members observed to me yesterday, would amazingly improve the character of the Provincial Legislature in the eyes of the rural population.

The gentleman to whom I was indebted for conducting me the first twenty miles on my journey today, illustrated to me another source of the discontent of his own neighbourhood: “Most of us have burned our fingers in lumbering. We have each our own small mill, on our own small creek, and saw the lumber we cut upon our own farms. On the faith of this trade we have lived dashingly, spent our money, and even contracted debt, instead of laying by in good times. And now, when times are bad, we blame the law-makers instead of our own imprudence. I have suffered in this way; and though I am not ruined, yet if I had stuck to my farm alone, I should have been better off today.” But it is so always, and in every country.

I left my landlord in Hopewell early this morning, to cross Albert County in a northwesterly direction. Four miles of poor grey sandstone soils brought me to the village of Hillsborough, which stands on the rising ground above the right bank of the Petitcodiac, and has extensive flats of dyked marsh below it, which are valued at £7 to £15 an acre. Up this river for thirty miles, rich marshlands of greater or less width occur; and these, with a border of fertile red upland, give a succession of farms of very superior quality.

The Acadian French first occupied this rich tract of country, and on the peninsula between the Petitcodiac and the Memramcook Rivers they still hold much land, and are said to be an improving body of people. Many of them are leaseholders upon the De Barre property, an old grant of the times of the French. I heard much in praise of the wise energy and of the lessons in improvement given them by their old priest, who had recently died. There are few races of men among whom an instructed priest will find more opportunity of promoting the material as well as spiritual good of his flock, than among the French Acadians.

The French on the Petitcodiac were succeeded by Dutch from Pennsylvania; and among the marshlands of this river, and its estuary, this people found a congenial settlement. And though intermarriages, indiscretion, and misfortune have now removed many of the best farms from the possession of the families of pure Dutch descent, yet the features and the prevailing names Steeves, Trites, Sherman, Lutz, Recker, Beck tell how much of the blood of Holland flows in the veins of these Hillsborough farmers. The name of Steeves predominates in the churchyard. A union of the Steeves clan can still carry the day in contested affairs, local or political; and the name is represented in the Provincial Legislature by the head of one of its oldest houses. I had the pleasure of his society yesterday, on my visit to Cape Enrage, and I am sorry to say that I found reason to suspect that my hospitable friend was a rank Annexationist.

To the lot of the poor Irish who have come without capital, and have located themselves in this county, poorer land has fallen. The New Ireland Settlement, which my friend Mr. Brown visited yesterday, is generally on the poor grey sandstone soil, with here and there a patch of the good red loam. They do not appear so prosperous, therefore, as many other settlements we have seen.

From Hillsborough we were accompanied by five miles of good red loams, which used to be good wheat land producing twenty to forty bushels an acre. A poorer grey sandstone and gradually rising country then commenced, after which the road ran much through the forest, with only occasional clearings. The settlers are chiefly of Dutch descent the natural increase driven by necessity to seek the most eligible spots in the still uncleared forest. Here, as elsewhere in the province indeed, I believe, from what I have heard, it is very much the same in all parts of North America land speculators have secured all the best land which is readily accessible, and hold it in a wilderness state till a rise in price induce them to sell. Thus the poor men, who cannot afford to give these capitalists their price, must be content with inferior locations, and encounter greater difficulties in providing for their families. The Provincial Legislature has adopted various measures with the view of remedying this state of things. An annual tax on all such granted lands as are still unimproved such as has been imposed in Canada and applicable to purposes of local improvement, is as likely a method of forcing some of this land into the market on reasonable terms as any other that has yet been proposed.

From the higher central part of Albert County, through which we were now passing, several streams run in a northerly direction, and fall into the Petitcodiac. This river, about twenty miles above its mouth, turns at nearly a right angle, and, from flowing west by north, runs south by east down to Shepody Bay. From near The Bend [Moncton], as the small town situated at the angle is appropriately called, and on the south side of the river, a broad belt of elevated flat grey sandstone country extends for twenty or thirty miles. It is interrupted by stripes of richer land, and of more or less extensive intervales, where the streams from the south traverse it on their way to the Petitcodiac.

The crossing of this tract, which we did in a diagonal direction, formed the principal feature in this day’s journey. For some miles before our arrival at the Turtle Creek, one of these cross-streams, it proved to be a poor flat sandy, in many places stony, scrub-pine and larch barren. Here and there naked green spots of limited extent were seen, the sites of ancient beaver dams. The distinguishing physical character of the whole tract is its extreme flatness, which causes the water of heaven to stagnate upon it, and renders naturally worthless many more capable places, which, at some future day, by means of arterial drainage, may be converted into profitable farms.

On the Turtle Creek some marshland and intervale occurred, not equal to the marshes of the Petitcodiac River, yet yielding two tons of hay an acre and again on the Coverdale Creek five miles beyond; but all else was the same scarcely broken caribou wilderness of poor flat country, swampy because it was level, and covered with perpetual scrub-pine, larch, and spruce.

Albert County has many advantages. It is picturesque and beautiful. It has rich red uplands, most fertile dyked marshes, and abundant fish along its shores. Its agriculture is not even in its most favoured spots equal to its advantages; and large breadths of its most fertile wilderness are held as inheritances for future generations. We did not find the autumn ploughing so far advanced, even as among the more northerly French and Scotch of Botsford parish. This may be a result of the constitutional idiosyncrasy of the Dutch population; but the fact that twenty times as many turnips were sown this year in Albert County as ever was known before, argues that, even among them, agricultural progress has begun to find a place.

After a ride of twenty-four miles, we crossed the Petitcodiac, and presently arrived at Nixon’s. In ten minutes after our arrival at Nixon’s we were mounted on a rude un-springed farm wagon, behind an excellent pair of horses, which carried us swiftly to the west along a high road I had traversed before. The wind had been very high all day, and, though in the shelter of the broad wood we had felt little of it, many windfalls had been occasioned by it along this more open road. We saw the electric telegraph broken in two places by fallen trees, in the twelve miles which brought us to Steeves’ and there we met the Company’s wire-mender and his staff, who had been posting from place to place all day, connecting it at the broken points. But finding that, as fast as he repaired one spot, a fresh windfall broke it at another, he had stabled his horses and given up the pursuit till the wind should abate. This is an evil with which, in our open countries, we are unacquainted, but which frequently happens among the forests, and sufficiently accounts for the interruption of electric communication which often takes place between Halifax and St. John.

Little more than an hour brought us to Steeves’, where we obtained another conveyance, and turned off to the right to visit and spend the night at Butternut Ridge, a distance of eight miles. After ascending and crossing a comparatively low ridge, in which limestone and gypsum and salt-springs are met with, we descended into the valley of the North River, a tributary of the Petitcodiac, and passed over a broad flat, stony, and swampy barren, through which the river runs. On the succeeding rise, drier land and increasing clearings were seen.

A thick rain had come on before we reached the house in the settlement in which we were to find quarters. The title of Colonel given to our intended landlord made me anticipate comfortable accommodations; but disappointment was the result. It was another of those cases in which people do the traveler a favour by taking him in. The landlord was a thriving man, had a fine family of grownup sons and daughters, and some of the sons, who still lived with him, were already settled on excellent farms of their own. I believe they intended to be civil to us according to their knowledge; but one small sitting and eating room was common to this large family, their three guests, and sundry large chests and supernumerary pieces of furniture. We were wet arid tired, and yet obliged to talk; and because I would not sleep double, I was condemned to a night of vain attempts at ease or forgetfulness. On the whole, I passed no night half so uncomfortable in North America as that which I encountered at Butternut Ridge. And I had, besides the actual bodily experience, this additional grievance — which to a grumbling Englishman is not an unsore one — that, as there was no pretensions to a hotel, and no hanging out for guests, I was not privileged to complain, but was expected gratefully to receive my discomfort, to pay well for it, and be thankful.


Written by johnwood1946

February 7, 2018 at 8:09 AM

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1865: Rise in Support of this Mighty Project! The Confederation Debate

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1865: Rise in Support of this Mighty Project! The Confederation Debate

Following are two documents published in Saint John in 1865 in support of Confederation.

There are a few things that I find striking about these presentations. Firstly, they are addressed to “Gentlemen,” women not having the vote. Secondly, all right-thinking people supported Confederation and, in their view, it would be unpatriotic for others to disagree.

The Canadian Red Ensign

Image from the National Post


Address of the British American Association to the Electors of the Province of New Brunswick


You are called upon to exercise one of the highest privileges of a free people — to determine by votes at the Poll whether a change shall or shall not be made in the Constitution of your Country. It is a matter of vast moment both to yourselves and your descendants that you weigh well and carefully the subject before you and cast your votes irrespective of party or prejudice of any kind.

The scheme for the Union or Confederation of these North American Colonies is not a thing of yesterday. It is a question which has long engaged the minds of thoughtful men. But the difficulties in the way of its accomplishment seemed insuperable, and no active steps were taken towards it until last year, when circumstances occurred that cannot be regarded otherwise than Providential, which placed this great reform within our reach. With the full sanction of the Crown and of the several Colonial Governments interested in the subject, a formal Conference was held at Quebec, which agreed to a scheme based upon the principle of mutual compromise. The grand object was to form a union, not for the exclusive benefit of Canada, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia or Prince Edward Island, but for the general benefit of the whole of these Colonies, and the preservation of the connection with the Mother Country. The scheme so prepared obtained at once the emphatic approval of the Imperial Government. The Colonial Secretary, writing to the Governor General, says:

“Her Majesty’s Government have given to your dispatch and to the resolutions of the Conference their most deliberate consideration. They have regarded them as a whole as having been designed by those who have framed them, to establish as complete and perfect an Union of the whole into one Government as the circumstances of the case and due consideration of existing interests would admit. They accept them, therefore, as being in the deliberate judgment of those best qualified to decide upon the subject, the best framework of a measure to be passed by the Imperial Parliament for attaining that most desirable result.” And again, “It appears to them, therefore, that you should now take immediate measures, in concert with the Lieutenant Governors of the several Provinces, for submitting to the respective Legislatures this project of the Conference; and if, as I hope, you are able to report that these Legislatures sanction and adopt the scheme, Her Majesty’s Government will render you all the assistance in their power for carrying it into effect.”

This circumstance alone is a sufficient consideration to the minds of many intelligent and loyal men to concur in the proposed change in the Constitution; but when to this it is added, that the leading statesmen of these Colonies, and numerous publicists in England and elsewhere, give it their cordial support, an array of authority is exhibited in its favour which no imperfect, partial, unfair, or unjust measure could possibly secure. It is, however, unhappily too true that measures like the one now under consideration, that produce an epoch in the annals of the world, and give a new career of advancement to society, are seldom approached or fully comprehended at the time by a large body of the people most interested in them. There are numerous illustrations of this fact on the pages of history. Prejudice, party feeling, opposition to change, timidity and personal antipathies are most frequently the causes which deter men from accepting the best designed measures. Electors of New Brunswick, guard against such feelings; cast them to the winds; examine this Scheme fairly and impartially; and if you stand true to your country your decision will unquestionably be in its favor. For what does it offer? What does it secure? Among others may be named the following:

  1. It secures free and unrestricted trade, not only with all the maritime Provinces, but with the extensive and wealthy province of Canada.
  2. It secures a free market for our manufactures among nearly four millions of people.
  3. It secures the construction of the Intercolonial Railroad at a moderate cost to this Province—a railroad which will not only bind together the three Colonies of Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, but especially benefit New Brunswick, by opening up the country and leading to an increase of the population.
  4. It secures the construction of the Western Extension Railroad, as a great portion of the money required for the purpose can be readily obtained in England if the Provinces are confederated, and can not be easily obtained there without it.
  5. It secures the completion of the St. Andrews line, as the proprietors in England are ready to expend a quarter of a million of dollars at once if Confederation is an accomplished first.
  6. It secures on favorable terms the money ($1,300,000), required by the Province to meet Railway engagements entered into by the Legislature at its last Session.
  7. It secures a broad and ample field for the energies of the people of this Province. No longer cribbed and confined within the narrow limits of New Brunswick, their labors and talents may be exercised freely over one-fifth of the Continent, and under the glorious flag of our fathers.
  8. It secures and perpetuates the friendship of the Imperial Government and the Mother Land, as a measure stamped with their approval and guaranteed by them must recommend their warmest sympathies and support.
  9. It secures the creation or formation of a State possessing at present a population of nearly four millions, and all the elements requisite for their advancement,—a State, a nation, it may be said, to which each member may be proud to belong.
  10. It secures the Provinces against absorption into the American Union; as a State with a population united in sympathy and affection with one common interest, and linked with Great Britain — one of the mightiest nations of the earth — will have a destiny of its own, and a strength sufficient to command respect.
  11. It secures to New Brunswick a revenue which, judging from the past, is amply sufficient to cover all charges for roads, bridges and other usual local improvements.
  12. It secures to the several Provinces Parliaments empowered to transact all local business; and finally,
  13. It secures all these advantages without increased taxation upon the people of this Province.

Electors of New Brunswick! Do not falter at this great crisis in your history. The eyes of millions are upon you watching your action. Your responsibility is great mighty, almost overwhelming; rise to the level of it, and sink all petty considerations. Be true to your country. Remember that opportunities once neglected seldom or never return to individuals, much less to nations. Seize the golden moment. Prophets of evil, croakers, narrow headed and narrow hearted politicians there always are and always will be. Spurn their counsels. Embrace, adopt a measure fraught with such vast blessings to your county, yourselves, and your descendants. Vote only for men pledged to its support, and in a few years all the advantages enumerated will become your birthright and be the lasting inheritance of your posterity. To secure them, act only as British subjects and free men. Act thus, and you secure the applause and approbation of your Sovereign, her advisers, and your Father land.

George E. King, Secretary, and Jas. R. Ruel, President — British American Association

St. John, Feb. 20, 1865


Address to the Working Men of New Brunswick, by the Manufacturers of St. John

As doubts have been expressed relative to our opinions upon the great question of the Union of the British North American Provinces into one Confederacy, and as from many quarters the desire has been expressed to know our views as Manufacturers largely interested in the trade of this country we desire, not as Politicians, but as Manufacturers and Employers, to express to our fellow Working Men our views decidedly upon the matter. Having invested a large amount of capital for manufacturing purposes, and being anxious that this capital shall yield fair returns, we are firmly convinced that it is all important that our earnest and united support be given to this measure of Union.

We have for years been contending for a larger market, and, now that it is offered, we respectfully entreat our fellow working men at once to accept this offer. After a careful study and comparison with the neighboring Provinces we are persuaded that New Brunswick Manufacturers can successfully compete with any of them if we have the larger market in which to sell our productions and already have some of us, in the face of opposing tariffs, successfully sent our manufactures into these other Colonies. How much more can this be done when no hostile tariffs meet us, when a fair field is open to us, and favor is shown only to the energetic, industrious and skillful workman? The immediate and direct benefits to this Province which will result from Confederation in the construction of Railways through it, which will cause many Millions of Dollars to be spent among our Working People, our Farmers, our Storekeepers and our Merchants, ought to influence our people of every class to support this measure. The large amount of money circulating here will enable our rising manufacturers to take a firm stand, and instead of the periodical stagnation of trade caused by the fluctuations of our only articles of export — Lumber and Ships — we shall have manufactures that will be a continual source of prosperity not affected by the changes in the European Market, and giving to our working people employment all the year round. Under the new arrangement with Railway connection with Western Canada, then part and parcel of us we shall draw from that Granary of the West, our flour and wheat, at less than we now obtain them, and thus, with this great back country to supply us with those products which our own Farmers cannot produce in sufficient quantity, we in these Maritime Provinces must become the manufacturing power as in the neighboring Union the Great West is their Granary, while the Maritime States of Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island, &c., are the busy manufacturers for the Growers of the West.

We, then, recommend to our fellow Working Men of New Brunswick, to study this question fully and impartially, as we have done, and we are persuaded that they will arrive at our conclusion, which is, to do all in our power to support the men who pledge themselves to carry out this measure without reference to Party, believing that in so doing we are serving the true interests of this, our fair Province of New Brunswick.

[This document was signed by 96 businessmen.]

If any Manufacturers (who may not have been called upon for want of time) wish to sign, the document will be found at the Rooms of the British American Association.

Written by johnwood1946

January 31, 2018 at 8:29 AM

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The Genesis of Prince Edward Island’s Distinctive Property Laws

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The Genesis of Prince Edward Island’s Distinctive Property Laws

Fishing Boats, Souris, P.E.I., 1910

From the McCord Museum

Prince Edward Island was first known as the Island of Saint John and was part of New France. A French grantee undertook some fishing operations in around 1663 but the Island received little attention from settlers. Sovereignty remained with the French following the Peace of Utrecht in 1713, which would have caused some Acadians to relocate there, and there was a small French garrison at what is now Charlottetown at that time. Britain then seized the Island shortly following the Expulsion of the Acadians, which marked the beginning of the English period. Population figures vary widely, but may have been as low as 4,000 people in around 1760.

Samuel Holland was commissioned by the British to survey all of their new American territories, and he began his work on the Island of Saint John in 1764. He had great difficulties because the place was so poor and sparsely populated. The small Fort Amherst was so badly provisioned that they could not host his men and he was forced to scavenge for secondhand lumber from old buildings in order to accommodate his men over the winter. He observed that “There are about thirty Acadian families on the Island, who are regarded as prisoners, and kept on the same footing as those at Halifax. They are extremely poor, and maintain themselves by their industry in gardening, fishing, fowling, &c. The few remaining houses in the different parts of the island are very bad, and the quantity of cattle is but very inconsiderable.” Holland was nonetheless able to make a very detailed description of the Island and to recommend locations for a capital, harbours and fishing stations.

P.E.I.’s land problems were soon begin for, in 1763, before the survey had been undertaken, the Earl of Egmont made an elaborate proposal to the King that he be granted the whole of the Island. He proposed that he become “Lord Paramount” with 20% of the land going to him, and the remainder being divided among 40 “Lords of Hundreds” who would further subdivide the Island among tenant-farmers.

Egmont’s plan was rejected because the proposal for tenant-farms was contrary to policy. He was not discouraged, however, and made several follow-up proposals along the same lines with the support of some very wealthy and influential politicians and military men. All of this was for nothing, and his grant was never made. All that he received was an offer of 100,000 acres to cover his troubles, but he refused this.

Britain wanted to have the Island settled, however, and they therefore defined 26 townships to be distributed to 26 proprietors. It was required that the proprietors be European Protestants or others who had resided in America for some years. Failure to settle the properties within a specified period or to pay the quitrents would result in forfeiture. The proprietors were chosen by ballot, and the whole Island was allotted to them in one day in 1767.

At about this same time the Island was made a British Province, separate from Nova Scotia, the terms of which were odd, to say the least. The government was to allow “liberty of conscience to all persons (except Roman Catholics)” while, at the same time, requiring all offices to be held by members of the Church of England. Catholics were not even allowed to settle, while other Dissenters might be tolerated, but not encouraged in their views.

Very few of the proprietor had settled their properties, even after ten years, and the Province could not pay the Civil Service out of the quitrents since the quitrents were not being paid either. The proprietors therefore cooperated with the Governor to obtain an annual grant from London, which included the instruction that the Governor finally enforce the collection of quitrents. The Governor was indebted to the proprietors for their help in obtaining the grant, however, and their political influence in London was now bolstered by influence upon the Governor. Enforcement of the quitrents would therefore be difficult.

The Governor then appointed his brother-in-law to an office charged with collecting the quitrents and, in 1781, Supreme Court actions resulted in the sale of some of the townships. The proprietors then retaliated with appeals to the Imperial government that their quitrent obligations be forgiven or delayed. London not only agreed, but also instructed the Province to repeal the laws that had permitted the sales and to restore the lands to the proprietors. The Governor had bought some of the confiscated property, however, and was not inclined to agree to these demands. He therefore began a delay tactic by which the sales remained valid, at least for the time being.

One basis of complaint was that there had not been due notice of forfeiture in England, where most of the proprietors lived. In fact, the Governor had written and asked that notices be published, but this was never done. Another issue was that the Governor had bought some of the confiscated land at a bargain price during the American Revolution. He was undoubtedly in a conflict of interests.

The Governor was no more popular on the Island than he was in Britain, and the Legislature was drafting a complaint to London when he dissolved their proceedings. A number of Loyalist evacuees then came to P.E.I. following the end of the Revolution and were granted lands including some of the lands which had been confiscated. The eventual fate of those lands was becoming more and more complicated.

An election was called in 1785, resulting in an Assembly that was more compliant with the Governor. This “was not accomplished without a severe straggle, much illegal conduct, and at an expense to the governor and his friends of nearly two thousand pounds sterling.” The Governor was then able to get an Act passed approving of all of his actions in the previous few years — and this was forthwith disapproved by London, who were unhappy with his not having reversed the land confiscations as ordered.

In 1786, the Governor was dismissed and summoned to London for an enquiry into his conduct. He was also ordered (again) to reverse the land sales of 1774. The Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia was then dispatched to the Island to take over the dismissed Governor’s duties while he was away in London. The dismissed Governor continued to resist, and informed London that he had insufficient time to quit his personal affairs and to return to London so late in the year, and that his departure would therefore have to be delayed until spring. In the meantime, he argued, the Nova Scotia Lieutenant Governor was not needed to replace him, since he was not leaving.

In the spring, the Nova Scotia Lieutenant Governor issued an order that that he was, in fact, the legitimate Governor and calling for everyone to obey his directions. The dismissed Governor then issued an order of his own, declaring the opposite.

The dismissed Governor was then commanded to transfer power and to depart for London immediately. Instead, he went to Quebec, and returned to the Island after a while to disrupt the work of his successor. Eventually, he did return to London to find that any political influence that he had had was now evaporated. His fight was over.

The proprietors never regained the land which was sold in 1774, but the complex history of these lots resulted in ownership disputes. The other proprietorships remained in British hands. There were 58,580 acres of completely unsettled land on twenty-three of the proprietorships, and only thirty-six families on another twelve of the proprietorships. None of this land could be bought by local people, because the proprietors would not sell.

Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia joined in Confederation in 1867. Prince Edward Island had been close to joining in the union, and had hoped to negotiate help in buying back the old proprietorships, but these negotiations failed. It was not until 1873 that the P.E.I. joined Confederation with the promise of $800,000. to resolve the land problems.

This history had a profound impact on the Island’s land ownership laws, and, to this day, it is not permitted to buy more than a small amount of land, or shoreline, without being a resident.


Reference: Duncan Campbell, History of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, 1875.

Written by johnwood1946

January 24, 2018 at 7:59 AM

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Saint John’s ‘English Period’, 1758 to 1782

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From the blog at

Saint John’s ‘English Period’, 1758 to 1782

Peninsular Nova Scotia was under the control of the British by the 1750’s, but the rest of Acadia, which the British considered to be part of Nova Scotia, was still disputed between them and the French. The British wanted to encourage settlement in these outback territories, but Governor Lawrence could not do so since settlers “ran the risk of having their throats cut by inveterate enemies.”

Therefore, in 1758, the British captured the small French garrison at Saint John. This commenced the English period in what is now New Brunswick which was followed the next year by the burning of Saint Ann’s, the razing of French Lake, and the spreading of murder and mayhem against French farmers up and down the River.

The following is from G.A. White’s St. John and its Business…, published in Saint John in 1875. It concentrates on events in Saint John between 1758 and the coming of the Loyalists in 1783.

Archaeological Excavation at Fort LaTour

Parks Canada, via the CBC


In the summer of 1758, three ships of war and two transports with two regiments, one of Highlanders and the other of Provincial troops, on board, were dispatched from Boston to recapture Fort LaTour. They landed near Partridge Island and cut a road through the woods to the place where the Carleton City Hall now stands, which was then used as a vegetable garden by the French. From there they advanced against the fort in order of battle, and after one repulse, succeeded in carrying it by assault. They captured 200 or 300 prisoners, and the rest of the garrison escaped across the river in boats, and finally made their way up river. Many, however, were killed in the boats by the shots of the attacking party. The loss of both French and English was heavy, especially of the former,—more than 40 being killed. This ended their occupation of the mouth of the St. John, and soon after the French were driven entirely from the river, except a few families who continued to reside near St. Ann’s. Fort LaTour was occupied and garrisoned by the English and renamed Fort Frederick. A blockhouse was also erected on Fort Howe.

The autumn of 1759 was distinguished by one of the most violent gales of wind that ever was known in these latitudes. The damage done was immense. Whole forests were blown down; the tide rose six feet above its ordinary level and all the dykes were destroyed. A considerable part of Fort Frederick at St. John was washed away. The descriptions given of this storm naturally recall the effects of the great gale and tidal wave which did so much damage throughout the Maritime Provinces a few years ago.

At this period Colonel Arbuthnot was in command of Fort Frederick, and its garrison consisted of about 150 or 200 men. The commandant was very busy in keeping the Indians in order and watching the French, and seems altogether to have had rather an uneasy time of it. He succeeded in removing some hundreds of the French inhabitants of the River to other places. His soldiers appear to have grown tired of the monotony of life at St. John, for in the spring of 1760, in spite of all persuasion, 70 of them openly left in one schooner and 80 in another, to return to their homes in New England. This desertion must have left Arbuthnot’s garrison very weak and he seems about this time to have given up the command of Fort Frederick, for Lieut. Tong was in command of it in July 1760. He represented his fort at that time as being greatly in need of repairs and alterations to make it defensible.

In 1761 the settlement of the marsh lands about Sackville was commenced by colonists from the older English colonies, and in the following year a number of English settlers removed to the St. John River, but in 1764 an immigration on a more extended scale took place. Mr. James Simonds, the ancestor of the present family of that name, with Mr. James White and Capt. Francis Peabody arrived on the site of the present city of St. John on the 16th April of that year, determined to make it their home. Simonds and White erected small dwellings at the foot of the hill, now known as Fort Howe, Capt. Peabody commenced the formation of a settlement at Maugerville in the County of Sunbury. This settlement, which was named after Joshua Mauger, an English merchant who was agent for the Province of Nova Scotia, was composed mainly of colonists from Massachusetts. Although the date of this settlement is generally put down 1766, it is quite certain that it was completely established in 1764, as is proved by a memorandum made in that year by Mr. Grant of Halifax, who gives the number of English inhabitants then living on the St. John at 400. In 1765 the settlement was erected into a county by the name of Sunbury, and accorded two representatives in the House of Assembly at Halifax. Large grants of land had been in the meantime made on the St. John to actual settlers and to influential persons who wished to be great landowners in Nova Scotia. But there was land enough for all and these enormous reserves did not hinder the progress of settlement. In 1766, Ensign Jeremiah Meara was in command of Fort Frederick, which was still maintained as a post, and we find him writing to Halifax to complain of two of the settlers, Israel Perley and Colonel Glazier for injury and violence to the Indians. The latter had a large grant at the mouth of Nerepis, which is named on the plans of that day, Glazier’s Manor.

In 1768 the troops were withdrawn from Fort Frederick, except a corporal and four men, and Messrs. Simonds and White left to pursue their peaceful avocations of fishing and farming, without military protection. This measure seems to have emboldened the Indians to give trouble in a sneaking way, and in 1771 they burnt the storehouse and dwelling of Captain Jadis, a retired officer who had settled at Grimross for the purposes of trade. This act induced Governor Campbell to recommend the erection of a strong block house, properly garrisoned, “to protect a very increasing settlement on the banks of the St. John River, abounding with a most excellent soil.” This blockhouse was afterwards erected at Oromocto.

The first representative for the County of Sunbury in the Nova Scotia Assembly was Charles Morris, son of the Surveyor General of Nova Scotia and, in 1774, James Simonds was also elected a member the county being at that time entitled to two representatives. A Court of Common Pleas had been held in Sunbury from the year 1766, so that the people on the River St. John had all the paraphernalia of government; and, although they sometimes complained of the Indians, seem to have increased and multiplied, and gone about their daily routine of duty with a reasonable degree of assurance that they were safe. But troublous times were at hand.

The disputes between Great Britain and her colonies on this continent, which arose out of the attempt of the mother country to impose taxes on the latter, culminated in the year 1775, and produced bloodshed. The revolted colonists, not content with recovering the independence of their own country, were ambitious enough to attempt to reduce both Canada and Nova Scotia, and at first there seemed to be every reason to believe that they would succeed. The people of Sunbury, or rather the great majority of them, were in sympathy with their kindred in New England, and before the war was over showed their disloyalty by stronger means than mere words. In the meantime the act of a raiding party from Machias, Maine, exhibited the extent of the danger to which St. John and the whole Province was exposed. In August 1776, Stephen Smith, a Machias man and a delegate to the Massachusetts Congress, came to St. John in an aimed sloop and, of course, met with no resistance. He burnt Fort Frederick and the barracks, took the few men who had charge of the fort prisoners and captured a brig of 120 tons, laden with oxen, sheep and swine, which were intended for the British troops at Boston. This sudden raid had the effect of putting the British authorities on the alert, and vessels of war were sent to cruise off St. John to protect the ports in the Bay of Fundy from these incursions. The Governor of Nova Scotia also sent expresses to engage the Indians on the side of the crown.

In 1776 a bold attempt was made to capture Fort Cumberland, in which some of the inhabitants of Sunbury took part. The leader in this attempt was Jonathan Eddy, a native of Massachusetts, who had lived some 12 years on the marshlands about Chignecto, and represented Cumberland County in the Assembly at Halifax. He conceived the idea of winning reputation by the capture of Fort Cumberland in the Autumn of 1776; went to Boston, where he conferred with the Council of War there and, receiving some encouragement, he chartered a small vessel at Newburyport and, with a few followers and some arms and ammunition, he proceeded to Machias, where about 20 men joined him. At Passamaquoddy he obtained a few more, and going up the St. John River as far as Maugerville, he was joined by a company of twenty-five men, a captain, a lieutenant and sixteen Indians, which brought the number of his force up to seventy-two. Eddy embarked his men in whale boats and canoes and in a few days reached Shepody, where he surprised a picket guard from Fort Cumberland, capturing Capt. Walker and thirteen men. At Sackville they captured a sloop laden with provisions; and lying close, several persons who came down from the fort to the sloop, amongst others the engineer, were taken. Eddy’s successes induced about a hundred of the inhabitants, of the marsh district, to join him in attempting the capture of Fort Cumberland, which was commanded by Colonel Gorham.

The fort was summoned, but the demand to give it up was promptly refused, and an attack which Eddy subsequently made was repulsed with loss. This attack was made on the 12th November, and the investment of the fort was continued until the 28th, when Eddy and his troops were attacked by the garrison and by a detachment from Windsor under Major Bott and compelled to retire. Late in December they reached Maugerville dispirited, worn out with fatigue and half starved.

This taste of warfare does not seem to have satisfied the disloyal people of Sunbury. Several public meetings were held at Maugerville at which resolutions of sympathy with the people of New England were passed, and Asa Perley and Asa Kimball were appointed a committee to go to Boston and solicit assistance and munitions of war from the people of Massachusetts, to enable them to rebel against Britain successfully. The result of this mission was that Colonel John Allan, who had been obliged to fly from Cumberland for his disloyal plots, was sent by the Government of Massachusetts, to act as Colonel and superintendent of the Eastern Indians, and to raise the necessary force to take possession of the country on the St. John River and hold it for the United States. In April, 1777, Allan left Boston with some supplies and in May took his departure from Machias with a party of 43 men in whale boats and canoes. They arrived at St. John in safety and effected a landing. Allan appears to have gone at once to Aukpaque, an Indian settlement above Fredericton, where he engaged in conferences with the inhabitants and the Indians, leaving a detachment at the mouth of the river, who made their headquarters at Simonds’ House at the foot of Fort Howe. On Monday, the 23rd June, the British war sloop Vulture entered the harbor and Allan’s men were at once attacked. The latter being protected succeeded in inflicting some lose on the British as they landed from their boats, six of the latter being killed and wounded out of a force of forty men. A few days later the British war ship Mermaid arrived, and on the approach of this additional force the rebels fled to the woods, where from their knowledge of the country, they expected to be able to maintain themselves. This, however, Capt. Hawker, who commanded the British, resolved to prevent, and he was about making dispositions of his forces to dislodge them, when a detachment of 120 men from Fort Cumberland landed and took them in flank. The main body of Allan’s party retreated to Grand Bay, where their boats were, and Capt. Dyer, who was left with a rear guard of 12 men to observe the motions of the British, was so closely pursued that he had three men killed and two wounded. Allan’s force then retreated up river, the British pursuing them. Allan, who had succeeded in gaining the good will of the Indians and promises of aid from them, was on his way to the mouth of the River, when he met his retreating force, in five boats. He at once turned and fled with them, and on the 1st July arrived at Maugerville. On the following day he reached the Indian settlement of Aukpaque where he had been received with so much ceremony and consideration by the Indians a short time before. There, all was terror and confusion for the British were still in pursuit. The Indians abandoned their settlement for the time and fled and the sequel was that Allan, abandoned by his Indian allies and with his own men on the verge of mutiny, had to make a hasty retreat to Maine, by way of Eel River and the Schoodic Lakes, arriving at Machias Aug. 2nd, 1777. Thus ended this bold attempt to gain possession of the River St. John.

On the 24th September, 1777, Mr. Franklin, the Indian Commissioner, made a treaty with the Maliseets and Micmacs at Fort Howe, St. John, and from that time the Nova Scotia Government experienced no difficulty with them. The post at Fort Howe was held by a small force under the command of Capt. Studholm. He commenced the export of masts from St. John for the use of the navy, and the first cargo of these arrived at Halifax Nov. 22nd, 1780. During the following winter a second cargo was got ready at St. John, consisting of upwards of 200 sticks for masts, spars and bowsprits, and they were shipped on board a transport in May, 1781. These operations, inconsiderable as they were, naturally drew workmen to St. John, and mark the beginning of the trade of this now busy city. New England privateers were, however, very active on our coast at that time and threatened to strangle the infant commerce of our port. In May 1781 they captured a schooner belonging to Capt. Sheffield, laden with goods for St. John, but she was retaken by a volunteer force from Cornwallis. In 1782 the cutting of spars on the River St. John went on without interruption, and the settlements continued to grow in population. In this year St. John had become a port of entry, James White being the first collector of customs. The tonnage which entered St. John during that year amounted to 144 tons, and the vessels which cleared amounted to 166 tons.

A tolerably correct idea of the state of the settlements on the St. John River at the close of this year, may be gathered from a letter written by Amos Botsford, an agent for the Loyalists, who had been examining the country with a view to settlement. He says the inhabitants of the St. John River are “computed to be near a thousand men able to bear arms.” He says also “the settlers are chiefly poor people who come here and get their living easily. They cut down the trees, burn the tops, put in a crop of wheat or Indian corn, which yields a plentiful increase. These intervals would make the finest meadows. The uplands produce both wheat of the summer and winter kinds, as well as Indian corn. Here are some wealthy farmers, having flocks of cattle, The greater part of the people, excepting the township of Maugerville, are tenants, or seated on the bank without leave or license, merely to get their living.”

Written by johnwood1946

January 17, 2018 at 8:30 AM

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Education in New Brunswick in 1837

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From the blog at

This description of the state of education in New Brunswick in 1837 is from Notitia of New Brunswick for 1836 and Extending Into 1837, printed in Saint John in 1838 and attributed to Peter Fisher. King’s College, The Baptist Seminary, Grammar Schools, Parish Schools, Madras Schools, and Sunday Schools are all described.

 Kings College

King’s College in Fredericton (The Old Arts Building)

Education in New Brunswick in 1837

Great efforts have been made in this Province to place learning on a respectable footing, and to provide such institutions for the diffusion of knowledge as shall enable candidates for the learned professions to obtain the required branches of education without leaving their homes. Every requisite of classical and scientific knowledge that may be necessary for the student to fit him for the different avocations of life can now be obtained at the different seminaries of learning that are in active operation.

At the head of those institutions must be placed the College of New Brunswick, or King’s College;—this was established on its present foundation by Royal Charter, bearing date the 18th day November, 1823. A grant of £1000 was made to this College out of the Royal revenues of the Province; this sum, with its former endowment in lands, and a liberal annual grant from the Legislature, enabled the Corporation to erect a spacious building, and to provide books and other requisites to illustrate the different branches of science taught in the institution.

The object of the College as expressly declared in the charter by which his late Majesty endowed it with the privileges of an University, is, “the education of youth in the principles of the Christian religion, and their instruction in the various branches of literature and science. In pursuance of this object, the plan adopted by the Council has been to receive such students as had acquired the elements of a liberal education at the Grammar Schools of the Province, or elsewhere, and to afford them the means of those mature attainments which experience has proved to be the fittest qualifications for the higher stations and offices of society.

“Nothing further, therefore, is required of candidates for matriculation, than that they be sufficiently acquainted with the grammatical structure of the Latin and Greek languages, and be capable of expressing their thoughts in writing in Latin as well as English. No restriction is imposed as regards age, religion, place of birth, or education, of any person presenting himself for admission.

“The instruction of students is conducted by the Vice President and two Professors.”

The day begins and concludes with divine worship.

“The time actually spent by the student on daily lectures extends in general from ten in the morning to two in the afternoon.”

“The junior students begin with such classical authors as Homer, Xenophon, Livy, and Cicero; they afterwards advance to Euripides and Demosthenes. The senior enters on the study of Herodotus and Sophocles, and proceed to Thucydides, Aristotle, Pindar, and Tacitus.

“The Oxford system of Logic and the Cambridge course of Mathematics are adopted by the respective Professors.

“The Professors deliver Lectures on History, commencing with the Mosaic records—Metaphysics or Mental Philosophy— Moral Philosophy and Divinity.

“Various questions and subjects for more private exercises in writing are proposed by the several Professors, as they may find occasion in connection with their several Lectures; and on every Saturday the Vice-President affixes in the Hall a subject for a general theme or essay, which at the end of the following week every student is required to present. — Such is the provision actually made for students. But the Council hope to find themselves enabled at no very distant period to establish distinct Professorships in Natural Philosophy, Law, Anatomy and Medicine, by which the circle of Collegiate Education would be almost completed.

“The Academical year begins on the first Thursday in September, and continues with a vacation of three weeks at Christmas, and a few days at Easter and Whitsuntide, to the beginning of July. Four of these years are required for the first degree of Bachelor of Arts. But the actual residence will seldom much exceed three years. For higher degrees residence is not absolutely necessary, except during the two Terms in the case of Candidates for the degree of Master of Arts. No religious test is imposed on admission to any Degrees except in Divinity.”

Necessary expenses of a Collegiate Course

Fees on Matriculation,




Four annual payments of £8 each, for Tuition,




Payments for boarding, lodging, and attendance, at l2s. 6d. per week, according to the actual residence, between £75, and …




Four annual payments of 7s. 6d. towards the Library and Plate,




Fees on the Degree of Bachelor of Arts,




Aggregate expense according to the actual residence, between £113 10 2, and




From the above it will appear that the whole expense of a Collegiate Course for the whole four years, including the first degree, need not much exceed one hundred and thirteen pounds. The fees payable on admission to the Degree of Master of Arts, or Bachelor in Civil Law, are under seven pounds; and those on admission to a Doctor’s Degree in any Faculty, very little exceed ten pounds.

Funds of King’s College

The College is endowed with a block of land, comprising nearly six thousand acres, adjoining Fredericton; the yearly income of which I have no data to ascertain.

A Grant from the King of £1000 sterling, annually.

A Grant from the Provincial Legislature, £1000 sterling, annually.

The next Institution for promoting Literature is the Baptist Seminary. This may be denominated what the Americans call a High Classical School. It is a Provincial Baptist Institution, founded by that Body, and under the general superintendence of the Baptist Association of New Brunswick. It is located at Fredericton where there is a Managing Committee to watch its progress and provide for its maintenance. This Institution promises to be of the greatest utility in diffusing useful knowledge. It has been well filled since its commencement, and has for more than a year past given the greatest satisfaction to all who have made themselves acquainted with its operations. This Seminary was first opened on the 4th January, 1836. Its course of instruction comprises the higher branches of English education, together with the classics.

The rate of tuition varies from 15s. to 25s. per quarter. The present charge for board, owing to the advanced price of provisions, is 10s. per week: the price formerly was 7s. 6d. About fifty pupils can be accommodated in the boarding establishment.

The male class room in this Seminary is calculated to accommodate 100 pupils, and the female 140.

There were in attendance during the term ending in June, 1837, Males, 45; Females, 35—total, 80.

This Institution is open to persons of every religious denomination.

There are two vacations—the first commences early in July, after the yearly examination, and continues six weeks; the second in January, and continues two weeks.

This Institution has no permanent revenue; neither has it ever yet received anything from the public funds. It depends solely on the exertions of its conductors and the aid of the Baptist connection generally, who are pledged for its support.

The debt due by the Society on the erection of the buildings belonging to the above Institution, and other expenses incurred in bringing it to its present state of efficiency, is £1000 8s. 11d.

The next Institutions for education are the Grammar Schools, which are established in the several Counties, and which receive a yearly grant from the Legislature. In these schools a good useful education may be obtained and a foundation laid for admission into the College.

The most beneficial institutions for the general good of the whole population are the Parish or Common Schools, which enable the scattered settlements to obtain the blessings of early instruction for their children, by establishing schools within their neighbourhood. By the bounty of the Legislature, twenty pounds per annum is allowed to be drawn out of the Province Treasury, for every parish where a schoolhouse is provided, and the sum of thirty pounds raised by the inhabitants to enable them to employ good and sufficient teachers, which extends to three or more schools in a parish. This is bringing schooling to the doors of all such as will exert themselves to partake of the benefit, and it is no doubt among the very best methods in which the public funds could be expended, and it is only to be wished that the system may be perpetuated, improved and extended.

The Madras School also furnishes the means of useful learning to a great number of children, particularly of the poorer classes, many of whom are taught gratis, as well as furnished with books and sometimes with clothing. This school is managed by an incorporated body, styled The Governor and Trustees of the Madras School in New-Brunswick. Besides the above there are a number of other Schools in the principal towns, particularly St. John, where almost every branch of useful and liberal education can be obtained from persons well qualified for the task, who occasionally visit those places, and teach for a limited period, according as pupils offer.

Before dismissing this article it will be proper to notice an Institution of the first importance to the Province at large, and this is the Sunday School system.

The means of useful knowledge are greatly increased in this Province, by the very beneficial and laudable exertions that are made in most of the settlements to educate the rising generation by the general introduction of Sunday Schools. There are but few settlements without them. In the towns many influential individuals are engaged as teachers, trustees or otherwise. Books are provided gratis at most schools, so that the most indigent have an opportunity of having their children instructed in the knowledge of the sacred scriptures and principles of Christianity. Indeed every attention is paid in those schools, and every encouragement is held out by giving prizes, books, &c. to stimulate exertion, and to win the attention of the young mind to sacred knowledge. In the principal towns after the yearly examination, prizes are awarded to the most deserving, and a feast is provided, of which all may partake.

Written by johnwood1946

January 10, 2018 at 8:19 AM

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The Babcock Tragedy, a Story of Madness and Murder

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From the blog at

This is the story of the murder of Mercy Babcock in Shediac, in 1806, by her brother Amasa. It is a gruesome tale but is factual. Amasa was hanged at Dorchester and buried under the gallows. It was only the third hanging in New Brunswick. The story is presented here from the New Brunswick Magazine, Volume 1, 1898.

JW Lawrence

J.W. Lawrence

Lawrence compiled this story, which was later rewritten by W.O. Raymond. The image is from Lawrence’s Footprints; or, Incidents in the Early History of New Brunswick, St. John, 1883

The Babcock Tragedy, a Story of Madness and Murder

In August, 1884, Mr. J.W. Lawrence read a paper before the New Brunswick Historical Society, dealing with the Babcock tragedy at Shediac, in the year 1805. This paper did not become the property of the Society, and is not now available for publication. Through the aid of Rev. W.O. Raymond, however, the information upon which Mr. Lawrence based his paper has been secured, and with some additional facts the story is now told in more complete form than on the occasion in question.

In the year 1805 there were but a few English families in the parish of Shediac, among whom were those of Amasa Babcock and his brother Jonathan. The principal man of the place was William Hanington, the ancestor of the now numerous family of that name in this province. Mr. Hanington was an Englishman who had, a number of years before, secured a large grant of land described as “adjoining the city of Halifax.” Coming to the latter city, about 1784, to take possession of his estate, he was amazed to find that to get from the capital to his “adjoining” property meant a journey of about one hundred and seventy miles. This journey he accomplished on foot, in the dead of winter, going over the Cobequid Mountains and hauling a handsled containing a peck of salt and other necessaries. Mr. Hanington made a later journey to Halifax on horseback, to procure a frying pan and some other essentials of housekeeping, for though there were stores at St. John at that time he probably knew little of the Loyalist arrivals, and chose Halifax as his most convenient base of supplies. His most remarkable journey, however, was when he went to Prince Edward Island in a canoe to get his wife, whom he brought back and installed in his home at Shediac. In 1805, Mr. Hanington had reached the age of 47, was the father of a family and was in prosperous circumstances. He was then, as he was all through his life, a very zealous member of the Church of England. There was at that time no Protestant place of worship in that part of the country, but the French had a small church at Grand Digue. On Sundays, Mr. Hanington used to read the Church of England service in his house, for the benefit of his own family and such of the other English speaking people as choose to attend. The service would be supplemented by the reading of one of the sermons of Bishop Wilson, of Soder and Man. In addition to the Babcocks, the chief neighbors were Samuel Cornwall, Simeon Jenks and Amasa Killam, all of whom were adherents of the Baptist denomination.

The home of Amasa Babcock was on the road to Cocagne, about three miles from the present church of St. Martin’s in the Woods. It was a small block house, built by one Peter Casey, and by him sold to a Mr. Atkinson, who mortgaged it to a Mr. Barry of Halifax. The Babcocks appear to have been hard working men, of little education, and of the type easily moved to go to extremes on occasions of excitement. They worked at farming and fishing, and were in humble circumstances. Amasa Babcock was a man in middle life. His family consisted of a wife and nine children, (the eldest about twenty and the youngest an infant) and his sister Mercy, who had been married to one Hall, but was not then living with her husband. She was of a melancholy disposition and was not allowed to eat with the others of the family.

Mr. Hanington had taken a liking to Babcock, and had purchased for him the place on which he lived. Babcock was to repay him by catching gaspereau, but had so far paid nothing of any consequence, and Mr. Hanington had sent some young cattle to his place to be fed and cared for during the winter, as a means of securing some of the amount due.

In the spring of 1804 a revival took place in the settlement, among the Baptist people. The meetings were held on Sunday evenings at first, but as the interest became greater they were held on Thursday night of each week as well. Towards autumn, the enthusiasm in the revival became more and more intense, and the people were wrought up to a high pitch of excitement. Many of them believed the world was coming to an end, and all kinds of interpretations were attached to the prophetic portions of the Old and New Testaments. Among those who came among the people was Joseph Crandall, a Baptist preacher, and later one of the members for Westmorland in the House of Assembly. Following him came two young men who were on their way to Prince Edward Island. They stayed one night at Shediac and held a revival meeting, which lasted until the next morning and was attended by the most extraordinary scenes of religious excitement.

In January, 1805, one Jacob Peck, another revivalist, came through to Shediac from Shepody, and he appears to have exceeded his predecessors in the extravagance of his appeals to the excitable nature of his hearers. Indeed, his lurid declamation seems to have been all that was needed to drive a number of the people out of their minds. As a result of his work, Sarah Babcock, (daughter of Amasa Babcock) and Sarah Cornwall fell into a species of trance, and began to prophesy that the end of the world was at hand. The infatuated people believed that these unbalanced minds were inspired, and were anxious to have the prophecies preserved. As there was no one able to take down their words, a message was sent to Mr. Hanington, one evening, asking him to come and take their depositions, as they were supposed to be dying. Mr. Hanington, not being in sympathy with the methods adopted in the revival services, refused to go, saying, “It is all a delusion. They want mad-houses rather than meeting-houses.” The people were persistent, however, and the messenger was again sent to Mr. Hanington, after he had gone to bed, with the word that the girls had something to say before they died, and that they wanted it written down. Thereupon Mr. Hanington got up, remarking to his wife that he had better go, as perhaps he could convince them of their error.

It was then the middle of the night. Mr. Hanington found the girls lying on a bed and Jacob Peck walking to and fro in the room. “There is my epistle,” said Peck. Mr. Hanington proceeded to inquire what the girls had to say, and to commit it to writing. The alleged prophecy was to the purport that Mr. Hanington was to be converted, and that Jacob Peck and the girls who were prophesying were to convert the French.

The excitement among the people continued during January, and in February the revival services were kept up, night and day, for a week. By this time Amasa Babcock and his household appear to have been wholly out of their minds and utterly indifferent to their temporal affairs. One Poirier, a Frenchman, brought Mr. Hanington word that the cattle which he had put in Babcock’s care were suffering for the want of food. When Mr. Hanington questioned Babcock as to this, the reply was, “The Lord will provide.” Mr. Hanington then threatened to take the cattle away from him unless he attended to their wants. This was on the 13th February.

When Amasa Babcock went home that night, he took his brother Jonathan with him to grind some grain in a hand mill. Jonathan began to grind, and as the flour came out of the mill Amasa sprinkled it on the floor, saying, “This is the bread of Heaven!” According to his wife’s statement, Amasa then stripped off his shoes and socks, and though the night was bitterly cold, he went out into the snow, crying aloud, “The world is to end! The world is to end! The stars are falling!” After shouting in this way for a short time, he returned to the house.

The man had gone stark mad, and the others must have been out of their minds for the time being, as they assented to everything he did without appearing to think it at all strange. Then followed a most extraordinary scene.

Amasa Babcock, his eyes flashing with the frenzy of insanity, arranged his family in order on a long bench against the wall, the eldest girl being at one end near the fire and his wife and youngest child at the other end. He then took a clasp knife and began to sharpen it on a whetstone. Going over to his sister, Mercy, he commanded her to remove her dress, go on her knees and prepare for death, for her hour was come. She obeyed without hesitation. He next ordered his brother Jonathan to take off his clothes, and the infatuated man did so. Nothing appeared surprising to that strange household of deluded beings.

Amasa now acted as one possessed of a devil. He went to the window several times and looked out, as though expecting something to happen. Then he laid his knife down on the floor, on top of the whetstone, the two making the shape of a cross. Stamping on the whetstone, he broke it, calling out that it was the cross of Christ. Then he picked up the knife, went to where his sister was still kneeling and stabbed her with savage strength. She fell to the floor, the blood gushing from the wound, and died in a few moments.

This fearful act seems to have brought the family to their senses. As soon as Jonathan saw the blood flow, he rushed to the door and fled, naked as he was, in the darkness of that winter night, to the house of Joseph Poirier, a quarter of a mile distant. There he was supplied with clothing and went to Mr. Hanington’s house, where he aroused the inmates by crying and shouting that his brother Amasa had stabbed his sister.

At that time there was no magistrate at Shediac, and Mr. Hanington at first refused to go to arrest Babcock, but on second thought he decided to act in the matter. Putting on snowshoes, he started for the house of Joseph Poirier, senior, but in his excitement he found himself at the house of young Joseph Poirier, there being no public roads to follow in that part of the country in those days. He was after Pascal and Chrysostom Poirier, whose assistance he might require in making the arrest, and when he eventually found them at the elder Poirier’s house they consented to go with him. It was then about two o’clock in the morning.

On entering the house where the tragedy had been committed, they found Amasa Babcock walking about with his hands clasped. Mr. Hanington told the Poirier brothers to seize him. Babcock resisted and asked what they were going to do. Their reply was that they intended to hold him a prisoner, whereupon he cried out, “Gideon’s men, arise!”

On hearing these words, his two young sons, Caleb and Henry, jumped up as if to assist him, but were compelled to sit down again, and the prisoner was secured.

The body of Mercy Hall was not in the house, nor was it then known where it had been placed. When Mrs. Babcock was asked if her sister-in-law was dead she simply said “yes.” When some of the English neighbors reached the house about sunrise, search was made for the body, which was found in a snow drift where Amasa had hauled it. He had first disembowelled it, and having buried it in the snow he had walked backward to the house, sweeping the snow from side to side with a broom as he went, in order to cover up his tracks.

The prisoner, with his arms securely strapped, was taken to Mr. Hanington’s house. While there he kept repeating, “Aha! Aha! Aha! It was permitted. It was permitted!” The statement of Jonathan Babcock was written down, and the necessary papers were prepared to authorize a commitment to prison. On seeing the papers, Amasa shouted, “There are letters to Damascus! Send them to Damascus!” It was evident that he was thinking of Saul’s persecution of the Christians. Babcock was then taken to the house of Amasa Killam, who had been one of those prominent in the revival. There the prisoner became more violent in his insanity, and to restrain him he was placed upon a bed with his arms pinioned and fastened down to the floor.

The weather was then very stormy, and travelling, in the primitive condition of the roads of those days, was out of the question. By the third day after the tragedy, however, the storm had abated, and several of the men of the neighborhood started out to take Babcock to prison. Putting straps around his arms, they placed him on a light one-horse sled, and putting on their snowshoes they hauled him by hand through the woods to the county jail at Dorchester, a distance of some twenty-six miles. Truly, one of the strangest winter journeys ever made in the wilderness of this country.

The slowness with which news traveled and found its way into print in those days is illustrated by the fact that the St. John newspapers contained no notice of this remarkable tragedy until after the trial took place, some four months later. The following appeared in the St. John Gazette of June 24, 1805:—

“On Saturday the 15th inst., at a Court of Oyer and Terminer and Gaol delivery, holden at Dorchester, for the County of Westmorland, at which his Honor Judge Upham presided, came on the trial of Amos Babcock, for the murder of his sister Mercy Hall, at Chediac in that County on the 13th day of February last. The trial lasted about six hours, when the jury after retiring half an hour, returned with a verdict of guilty against the prisoner. He was thereupon sentenced for execution on Friday the 28th instant.

“It appeared in evidence that for some time before the trial, the prisoner with several of his neighbors, had been in the habit of meeting under a pretense of religious exercises at each others houses, at which one Jacob Peck was a principal performer; That they were under strong delusion and conducted themselves in a very frantic, irregular, and even impious manner, and that in consequence of some pretended prophecies by some of the company in some of their pretended religious phrenzies against the unfortunate deceased: the prisoner was probably induced to commit the horrid, barbarous and cruel murder of which he was convicted. The concourse of the people at the trial was very great, who all appeared to be satisfied of the justice of the verdict and sentence.

“The above named Jacob Peck was on the same day indicted for blasphemous, profane and seditious language at the meetings above mentioned, and recognized with good securities to appear at the next Court of Oyer and Terminer in that County, to prosecute his traverse to the said indictment with effect,

“It is hoped and expected that these legal proceedings will have a good effect in putting an end to the strange and lamentable delusion, which made them necessary, and brought the unhappy culprit to such an ignominious death.”

On the trial of Babcock, Ward Chipman, solicitor general, appeared for the Crown, and his brief is believed to be still in existence. The prisoner was undefended. The court room was crowded during the trial, and it is said the verdict and sentence met with general approval. The unfortunate lunatic was hanged on the date appointed, and his body was buried under the gallows on what are still the jail premises at Dorchester. There is nothing available to show what became of Jacob Peck.”

That a crazy man should be arraigned, tried and condemned without counsel for his defence seems incredible in the light of modern jurisprudence, as does the fact that he was hanged for a crime for which he was not morally responsible. In these days such a man would be sent to an asylum for the insane, but in those times not only were such institutions unknown in this part of the world but there was a wholly different spirit in the administration of criminal law. In the case of Babcock there was the undoubted fact that a person had been slain without provocation, and the court took the most simple method of dealing with the slayer, which was to hang him.

Written by johnwood1946

January 3, 2018 at 8:26 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

Cape Breton, from about 1000 AD to the Mid-1600’s

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Cape Breton, from about 1000 AD to the Mid-1600’s

1000 AD to the mid-1600’s is an ambitious timespan for an historical review, but Charles Vernon attempted it in his, Cape Breton, Canada …, Toronto, 1903. The following is from his book, in a heavily edited and condensed form.

West Bay, Cape Breton, N.S., in about 1914

From the McCord Museum


Cape Breton was home to the Mi’kmaq people from time immemorial, but too little of this history was known to our author, or to the present editor, to provide commentary here. Consequently this blog posting can reach no further back than to the vague and ancient stories of the Northmen.

According to legend, the coast of North America was visited by Norse voyagers sometime during the tenth century, when Biarne set sail for Greenland and lost his way in the fog. He sailed on for many days, at last reaching an unknown shore, a land without mountains, but covered with small hills in the interior. Remaining at sea for three days and three nights, with a fine breeze “they saw a third land which was high and mountainous, and with snowy mountains.” Keeping along the coast, they perceived that it was an island. It has been conjectured, though on slight foundation, that this third land was Cape Breton.

While the honor of the first voyage over the western seas belongs to Biarne, the honor of being the first to land must be awarded to Leif, a son of Eric the Red. His voyage was made in A.D. 1,000. He came first to the land Biarne had discovered and found it to be “a country of advantages.” This land Leif called Helluland (the land of flat stones). Finding another land, flat and overgrown with wood, he called it Markland (woodland). A third land he designated Vinland. Authorities differ as to where these lands were. Helluland has been said to be Newfoundland, Labrador, or northern Cape Breton. The description of Markland would suit any portion of the Atlantic coast of Cape Breton or Nova Scotia. Vinland has been located in Rhode Island, and in western Nova Scotia, whilst an authority on Norse antiquities has maintained that the northern extremity of Vinland, corresponds with northern Cape Breton. While the whole subject will probably ever remain uncertain, Cape Breton’s claims are at least as satisfactory as those of other places.

Passing over an interval of well-nigh five hundred years we learn that in all probability, even before the coming of the Cabots, Basque and Breton fishermen visited the shores of Cape Breton. Certain it is that the name Biccalaos, applied in the earliest maps to this island was the Basque word for cod, while the name Cape Breton is said to be in memory of the Breton and Norman fishermen who visited these waters.

The next great names to be identified with the island are those of the Cabots. The discovery of the West Indies by Columbus had fired many adventurous souls with the desire of still greater achievements, and the monarchs of Europe were anxious to add these lands to their own dominions. [So indicates our author. Initially, however, and for some time, adventurers sought to find a way around the encumbrance of the Americas and to sail onward to the Far East.] England was eager that the glory should not fall only to Spain, while the merchants of Bristol dreamt of an enormous trade in fish. Besides this there was the ambition to convert the Indians to Christianity.

It was in 1494 that John Cabot, a Venetian merchant living at Bristol, applied for leave to make a northwestern voyage, with a view to the discovery of a shorter route to India or Cathay. Two years later Henry granted to Cabot and his three sons “full and free authority, leave and power, to sayle to all parts, countreys and seas of the east, of the west, and of the north, under our banner and ensignes … to seeke out, discover and finde whatsoever isles, countreys, regions, or provinces, of the heathen and infidelles, whatsoever they bee, and in what part of the world soever they bee, whiche before this time have been unknown to christians.” Accompanied by his son Sebastian, John Cabot sailed from Bristol in the Matthew in 1497, and made the discovery which has made his name famous, and upon which the claims of England to North America were subsequently based.

On the spot where he landed Cabot planted a large cross, carrying two flags, one bearing the St. George’s Cross of England, the other being that of St. Mark, the patron of Venice. Pages of argument have been written as to which land was the first seen by Cabot, some claiming it was the coast of Labrador, while others argued for Cape Bonavista, Newfoundland, and or Cape North or some other point in Cape Breton. The claims of Cape Breton are mainly based on what is known as the Sebastian Cabot Mappe Monde, which was discovered in Germany in 1843, and is dated 1544. On this map the northeast point of the mainland of North America, which coincides with Cape North, is designated prima terra vista, the first land seen. The map describes it as follows: “This land was discovered by John Cabot, a Venetian, and Sebastian Cabot, his son, in the year of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, MCCCCXCIIII [sic] on the 24th of June in the morning, which country they called prima terra vista … The inhabitants wear skins of animals, use in their battles bows, arrows, lances, darts, wooden clubs and slings. The soil is very barren, and there are many white bears and stags as large as horses, and many other beasts; likewise great quantities of fish [of all] sorts, besides a great abundance of the kind called baccalaos.” [The map was dated 1544, forty-seven years after the voyage, and some people say that the description must have been compiled from later observations.] This description suits the northern part of Cape Breton.

To sum up, Cape Breton has at least as good a right to be considered Cabot’s Prima Terra Vista as the other claimants. However, if neither of the Cabots actually landed in Cape Breton, it can be safely affirmed that in 1497 and 1498 they sailed along our coasts.

After the Cabots, a number of voyagers are recorded as having either visited the shores of Cape Breton or at least sailed along its coast. In 1524 Verrazano, a Florentine, who sailed from France, reached the coast of Carolina, and then sailed north till he reached Cape Breton. Here he took in a supply of wood and water and returned to France. In 1536 the famous Jacques Cartier, on his return from Canada, discovered the passage to the Atlantic between Cape Breton and Newfoundland. He gave the name of Loreine to what is now (probably) Cape North. In 1536 Master Hore, of London, with divers other gentlemen, made a voyage to Newfoundland and Cape Breton. In 1593 Richard Strong in the Marigold, a little vessel of seventy tons, visited Cape Breton. Many of his crew landed and encountered Mi’kmaq. Captain Leigh in the Hopewell visited Cape Breton in 1597. He called at the harbor named by the natives, Cibou, now Sydney. “In this place,” he writes, “are the greatest multitude of lobsters that ever were heard of, for we caught at one hawle with a little draw-net above 140.” Captain Leigh was the first navigator to call Cape Breton an island.

Soon after discovery, Cape Breton was regularly visited by fishermen from France, Spain and Portugal, chiefly those from Normandy and Brittany. The English were slow to profit from the industry, apparently because of lucrative fisheries off the coast of Iceland. However, in the time of Edward VI, they turned their attention to Newfoundland and Cape Breton, for in the second year of that monarch’s reign an act was passed imposing penalties on officers of the Admiralty for “exacting sums of money, doles or shares of fish, for licenses to traffic in Newfoundland, to the great discouragement and hindrance of the merchants and fishermen.”

England, France and Spain were often at war, but the fishermen treated the fishing grounds as neutral territory, and with few exceptions pursued their labors without fear of molestation. Sydney Harbor, then known as Baie des Espagnols, was the chief resort of the Spanish, St. Ann’s of the French, and Louisburg, then styled English Harbor, of the English. By the close of the reign of Elizabeth over two hundred English vessels were engaged in these fisheries.

Meanwhile another lucrative business was building up in Canada. The fishermen came to realize that the Indians were ready to barter furs, and thus the great fur trade began. Cape Breton, from its nearness to Europe, soon became a favorite resort of the traders and, as early as 1594, the Mi’kmaq were selling furs to a variety of nations.

Quite a number of settlements seem to have been attempted during this period, though for a long time none were successful. Champlain states that the Portuguese formed a settlement and spent a winter here, but that the rigor of the climate made them abandon it. This settlement is said to have been at Ingonish, though others have maintained that it was at St. Peter’s.

The principal settlement was at Port Royal on the mainland of Nova Scotia and, for a while, it looked as if France was to rule the whole area. However, in 1613 Captain Argall, an English adventurer, captured Port Royal, and Acadia remained in the possession of England until the treaty of St. Germain-en-Laye. Eight years later James I granted to Sir William Alexander all the vacant territory from Cape Sable northward, including “the Isle of Baccalaos or Cape Breton,” This whole area was called Nova Scotia including the modern provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and part of Quebec. Alexander was “to divide [his grant] into one hundred parcels, and to dispose of them, with the title of Baronet, to purchasers for their encouragement to improve the colony.”

Among the few who accepted Sir William Alexander’s offer of vast estates in Nova Scotia for £200 each was Lord Ochiltree, son of the Earl of Arran and, in 1629, with some sixty emigrants, he set out to form a colony in this island. On July 1st he entered the small harbor of Baleine, a little to the east of Louisburg, cleared some land and erected a fort. But the little colony was short lived since, in September of the same year, Captain Daniel landed at Port Baleine with about sixty men, and captured the fort. The next day he razed the fort to the ground and set out for the Grand Cibou, probably St. Ann’s Bay, and forced the unfortunate colonists to erect a French fort. Then men, women and children were crowded into the hold of his ship and carried back across the Atlantic. Most of them were set ashore near Falmouth, but eighteen, including Lord Ochiltree himself, were carried prisoners to France. The source of the trouble seems to have been an attempt by Lord Ochiltree to collect tribute from the fishermen of other nations.

Captain Daniel, having erected a house, a chapel and a magazine, left the little settlement under the command of Sieur Claude de Beauvais, with two Jesuit priests, and forty men. The two Jesuits were soon ordered to Quebec, and many of the others were lost to scurvy. Additional supplies were received and Captain Daniel visited the settlement and found it distressed over the assassination of a Lieutenant by the commandant, Captain Gaude. Soon after Daniel’s arrival, Gaude escaped from confinement, and nothing more is known of the little settlement.

The next, and by far the most successful, of these early attempts at settlement, was made by Nicholas Denys, Sieur de Fronsac. Upon the restoration of Acadia to France by the Treaty of St. Germain, Isaac de Razilly was sent out as Lieutenant-Governor. He was accompanied by Sieur d’Aulnay de Charnisay, by Charles Etienne la Tour and by Denys. Denys first engaged in the shore fisheries at Port Rossignol (Liverpool, N.S.), but as a result of endless disputes with Charnisay he abandoned that place and made Chedabuctou, now Guysboro, his headquarters. He also established stations at St. Peter’s and at St. Ann’s in this island. At St. Peter’s he carried on an extensive trade with the Indians, cleared considerable land, and erected a fort near the narrow isthmus which then separated the Bras d’Or Lake from the sea. He is said to have had eighty acres of arable land in cultivation. Across the isthmus, now cut through by St. Peter’s canal, he constructed an excellent road, over which boats could be hauled from the sea to the lake. At St. Ann’s his settlement was equally flourishing. Writing to the French Colonial Minister, his grandson said: “My devoted grandfather had a fort there, the remains of which are yet to be seen, and the Indians tell us that he raised the finest grain there, and we have likewise seen the fields which he used to till, and there are to be seen in the place very fine apple trees, from which we have eaten very good fruit for the season.”

Denys’ career was not free from misfortune. Charnisay died in 1650, leaving a large debt with La Borgne, a merchant of Rochelle. La Borgne was awarded Charnisay’s property in Acadia in liquidation of the debt and he set out to take possession of it. He razed the fort at St. Peters and made prisoners of all the inhabitants. Denys himself, who was on his way home from St. Ann’s, was seized and sent with all his people as a prisoner to Port Royal. Denys then returned to France and obtained a new grant, allowing him to take back his property at St. Peter’s, and to rebuild the fort and other facilities.

Denys was still not allowed any peace. Giraudière, who had lived for some years at St. Mary’s River, laid claim to Denys’ settlement at Chedabuctou, and captured St. Peter’s, which he offered to exchange for his former place. Finally, Denys and Giraudière went to France to press their respective claims and Denys was reinstated in his rights. Shortly after his return to St. Peter’s all his buildings, wares, furniture, ammunition and stores were destroyed by a fire, at which point he abandoned Cape Breton and retired to his one remaining settlement, that at Bay Chaleur.

When a census of Acadia was taken in 1686, there was not a single family of European descent on Cape Breton, and there appear to have been no further attempts at settlement until after the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.

Written by johnwood1946

December 27, 2017 at 8:19 AM

Posted in Uncategorized