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Introduction - Census Data Information

From Acadiensis Volume X, Number 2 - Population Patterns in Pre-Confederation New Brunswick  by Graeme Wynn

Excerpt From Page 124

"… pre-Confederation New Brunswick … the enumerations of 1785 and 1803 … were described verbally in the most general terms; for the censuses of 1824, 1834, 1840, 1851, and 1861, civil parishes were the bases of data collection, but their number increased from 59 in 1824 to 117 in 1861, and their boundaries and areas were often adjusted. Moreover, information about the distribution of population within parishes (or districts) is uneven in quantity and quality. … Traveller's descriptions offer a more qualitative but revealing record of settlement patterns. For 1851 and 1861, manuscript census schedules allow more precise analyses of settler locations."

Excerpt From Page 125

"… Our most detailed information about population numbers and distributions at the turn of the century comes from the series of reports collected from important individuals in each district of the province by the prominent Loyalist Edward Winslow. Not all of these returns survive; the quality and accuracy of those that do varies greatly. Delay, confusion and administrative inadequacies rendered the 1861 New Brunswick return inconsistent and inaccurate; there is no reason to suspect that the province's four earlier censuses of 1824, 1834, 1840 and 1851 were any more precise. Nonetheless, for all their inadequacies, these … chart the expansion of settlement during seventy-five years in which the New Brunswick landscape was transformed.

In 1780, New Brunswick was a forested land little altered by the hand of man. The region's indigenous people were primarily migratory hunters and fishermen and their numbers were small. In Passamaquoddy Bay and on the north shore, there were few signs of human occupance, but the 500 or so Acadians and twice as many English-speaking settlers at the head of the Bay of Fundy had had a greater impact upon the landscape."

Excerpt From Pages 126 and 127

"… With the arrival of some 15,000 Loyalists in 1783, the populaton of the area more than quadrupled. In the ensuing months, many of the newly arrived departed; approximately 11,000 remained in 1785, most of them in the Saint John Valley. In 1787, Surveyor General George Sproule's survey of the river between Fredericton and Madawaska traced a thin, broken ribbon of settlement along both its banks as far as Pine Island, a little above the present Woodstock. But occupation of these lands, originally reserved for disbanded regiments, was slow, and the majority of Loyalists remained downriver from Fredericton. Of the 1940 persons recorded in the 1785 return for Passamaquoddy more than half settled in the vicinity of present day St. Stephen and St. Andrews, where the Port Matoon, Penobscot, and Seventy Fourth Associations took up land. The short-lived Quaker settlement of Bellevue on Beaver Harbour had over 350 settlers in 1784, but declined in size thereafter. On the Magaguadavic River, the Royal Fencible Americans numbered approximately 200; the Cape Ann Association settlement north and east of the Port Matoon group was considerably smaller. A further two or three hundred refugees and disbanded troops were scattered along the banks of the lower St. Croix, Magaguadavic, and Digdequash Rivers. Eslewhere, the Loyalist impact was comparatively slight. Many of those awarded grants on the Miramichi left almost immediately; possible a hundred Loyalists (20-25 families) remained among a larger population of Acadians and English-speaking fishermen in 1785. The great majority of the 800 and more Loyalists mustered at Fort Cumberland in 1784 received lands in Nova Scotia; the hundred or so who settled in New Brunswick clustered in Sackville, and along the Petitcodiac and Memramcook Rivers, particularly at Dorchester. Generally, the Loyalists settled along the province's larger rivers and it would not seem unreasonable to estimate an average of two cleared acres per Loyalist family for New Brunswick as a whole in 1785. Yet individual circumstances varied enormously. Several members of families prominent in the former colonies acquired large acreages in the lower and mid-St. John valley, and a few esablished moderately successful tenant farms, but most Loyalists lived on single-family farms.

At the turn of the century, the distribution of New Brunswick's 25,000 people was much the same as in 1785, although farms were more numerous and clearing had proceeded. By 1803, a million acres of Crown Land were under grant, and perhaps a thousand families occupied land without title to it. When General Martin Hunter came to the province in 1804, his wife recalled with pleasure the "many little well-cultivated spots on the river" between St. John and Fredericton, including "some with merely the wood burnt and not yet fallen down", and some that had just begun to be cleared."

Excerpt From Page 128

"… At the census of 1824 New Brunswick was home to 74,176 people. Settlement had spread up the St. John Valley to the Grand falls and beyond. Below Woodstock numbers had also increased. Extensive Northumberland was the most populous county in the province, although overall population densities in the area remained low. Settlement was largely confined to the banks of the rivers and larger streams, and farms varied enormously in size …

By 1834, the provincial population was 119,457. New counties and parishes had been created; settlers had moved to unoccupied land in the older areas of settlement, and taken up new lands beyond the former limits."

Excerpt From Page 129

"… According to the third provincial census, in 1840, a population of 156,162 had cleared approximately 436,000 acres. … In 1840, Saint John and Portland together accounted for almost an eighth of the provincial population. Fredericton, with 4002 residents in 1840, was the only othe urban area distinguished in the censuses of 1834 and 1840. Early in the 1830s, however, Newcastle had perhaps 150-200 houses (1000-1500 people) and nearby Douglastown was approximately a third as large. Chatham, with some 200 houses, included several mercantile establishments, a printing office, post office, reading room, and market hall; St. Andrews was a flourishing town of 2200; and St. Stephen had some 600 residents.

At mid-century, 193,800 people lived in New Brunswick. Saint John and Portland accounted for almost a sixth of the total. Fredericton had grown by 10 per cent and remained the province's second city, but St. Andrews with upwards of 3,000 inhabitants and slightly smaller Chatham were important commercial centres of the second rank."

Excerpts From Pages 130 and 131

"… Along the Gulf shore and in the northeast, settlement was generally confined to the coast and the tidal reaches of the rivers; on the Bay Chaleur, Bathurst with perhaps five or six hundred people was the major town.

Reporting on the census of 1861, the compilers noticed the evidence of 'material progress' it provided. The provincial population of 252,047 was 30 per cent greater than that of 1851. There was 37 per cent more land cleared and improved than a decade earlier; the hay cut was up 44 per cent; wheat, barley, and oat yields were 35, 27, and 88 per cent greater; livestock numbers were larger by 27 to 66 per cent and so the litany continued. … All counties were more populous than in 1851 … The fringe of the forest had been pushed back, older settled districts were more densely occupied, but the essential lineaments of the settlement pattern resembled those of twenty-five and fifty years before; the distribution was basically peripheral, with fingers of settlement following the major valleys - especially the Miramichi, the Petitcodiac, the Kennebecasis and, most strikingly, the St. John - inland.

Indeed, the contrast between the New Brunswick of 1780 and that of 1860 was striking. Despite the setbacks of natural disasters and periodic downturns in the market for New Brunswick's wood staple, a wilderness had been colonized. A sizeable population had found independence, and more had found homes, in the province. The vast majority were rural dwellers. In 1860 as in 1800, occupational pluralism was common, but almost everywhere in New Brunswick farms provided the bases of subsistence for provincial settlers. The overland movement of goods remained expensive; rivers and he sea were the main arteries of long distance communication; lives were lived within familiar local horizons in this essentially pre-industrial environment. After 1861, the underpinnings of this pattern were fractured."

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Last Revised: October 09, 2000