Charlotte Taylor     Her Life and Times

William Davidson ]

 


Post Loyalist Life on Miramichi

From Travels by Peter Campbell
Travels in New Brunswick in 1791 and 1792
Explanatory notes by the Ven. Archdeacon, W. O. Raymond

From Frederick Town to the Foot of the Merimashee River and Back Again

'… we proceeded up the River Nashwaak, through the settlement of the Forty-Second Regiment … I found them happily situated, each on his own property, and glad to see one come so lately from their native country.  Their greatest want and what they complained about most of, was women for their young men.  They begged me to recommend some hundreds of them to come, and that they would engage that they should all get husbands or masters before they should be three weeks in the country, proportional to their rank and age. … We called at several places as we went along, and dined at Mr. Angus Mackintosh's, the highest settler on this river.  He is a very decent man, originally from the county of Inverness, and was a sergeant in the seventy-first regiment.  His wife told me they had every necessary of life in abundance on their own property, but there was one thing which she much wished to have, that was heather.  And as she had heard there was an island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, opposite to the mouth of the Merimashee River where it grew, and as she understood that I was going that way, she earnestly entreated I would bring her two or three stalks, or cows as she called it, which she would plant on a barren brae behind her house, where she supposed it would grow …

Between 9 and 10 o'clock a. m. we arrived on the banks of the Merimashee put up a fire and breakfasted … After breakfast we returned our horses and embarked on board two canoes made of birch bark, which is a very common practice in this country, and proceeded down the river on our voyage …

The river as we went along is broad shoal and of a clear gravelly bottom … passed many fine islands and large links (that is undulating flats with grass etc.) of deep rich interval land ... We made a considerable way this day and encamped at night on an island … From this place we set out very early the next morning … We landed upon a point to take breakfast. Whilst the kettle was at boiling.  Captain Lyman, having hooks and lines in his pocket, lopped a branch off a tree, with which he fished and caught more fine trouts than we could use …

All along the banks of this river are seen great quantities of hops growing spontaneously, and as luxuriant as those cultivated in the most fertile part of England, and small onions with which we use to season our fish.  In the evening we arrived at a house built by a set of wood cutters, employed by a Mr. Fraser, merchant on this river, where the small river falls into the Merimashie.  The two brothers, John and George McGregor, whom I employed to accompany me in the expedition were well acquainted with the navigation and fisheries on this river … Then setting out pretty early we set up sails in both canoes, and alternately sailed and poled, and paddled till we came to a place some miles below, where there were several vessels, hogsheads, tubs etc., for curing salmon still unremoved.  Here we stopt, boiled our kettles and breakfasted.  Thereafter we proceeded on our voyage down the river whose banks on each side are covered with woods, mostly evergreens, and some hard-wood intermixed … we arrived at the point where the river Renow (Renous) falls into the Merimashie on the north side.  Here we saw an Indian and his squa making some small but very neat baskets of porcupine quills of various colors … Here we put up sails and joined both canoes together for our greater security, and that there might be no danger of oversetting.  From this place down to the island of Barnaby (now called Beanbear's Island) several miles below, the river is navigable for small craft, and from thence to its entrance into the Gulph of St. Lawrence, for thirty miles, for ships of any burden …

The late Mr. Davidson, … William Davidson, … alias John Goodsman … was the first settler in this place, and to him it was owing that many of the settlements there afterwards took place.  He was a man of genius and great abilities, and though his views, as a schemer, were said to be too extensive, yet he was held in such high esteem, and so well beloved, that he was made a member of the House of Assembly and deemed one of the ablest and cleverest in it … In the evening we arrived at the house of Messrs. James Fraser and John Tom (Thom), merchants of the island of Barnaby (now called Beanbear's Island),where they kept stores and different kinds of merchandise proper for the country, ship masts and spars for government, deals and all other kind of wood for foreign market.  The ship Cochran, Robert Burn, master, and a brig from Shelburne were just then taking in their lading.  Mr. Fraser is judge of the inferior court of the common pleas, and this being a court day, several of the neighboring gentlemen were assembled, and after the court business was over, dine at his house.  Though dinner was over with them before we arrived, yet as they had not broke up, we had the good fortune of falling into their company, and conversing with them on the state of that part of the province, respecting improvements in agriculture, fisheries, game, etc.

Besides Mr. Fraser and his partner, Mr. Tom, here were present on this occasion Mr. Nicholson, an Irishman, collector and deputy surveyor; Mr. Reid, a Scotchman; Mr. Robeshot, a Frenchman; Squire Taylor and Squire Wilson, Americans; Mr. Lawrence; Mr. Andrew, an Englishman, a liner of masts and timber, for which he has 200 a year from the company besides bed and board; Captain Collick (Kollock), a hearty, jolly fat Pennsylvanian; and Mr. LeDernier, the sheriff, a Swiss, a smart, lively, sensible little man, once superintendent of Indian affairs' …

"… After the death of William Davidson on June 17, 1790, part of the business he had established fell into the hands of, and was conducted by, the Hon. James Fraser and his partner, James Thom, who continued it for many years at Beanbear's Island under the style of Fraser and Thom. Hon. James Fraser represented the county of Northumberland in the House of Assembly from 1795 to 1819 … Lieutenant Arthur Nicholson, was born in Sligo, in the county of Leitrim, Ireland, in 1746. He served as cornet and adjutant in the Seventh Light Dragoons in the American Revolution and fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill and other campaigns … He came to New Brunswick at the peace in 1783 and settled with the regiment in Prince William, York County … in 1790 we find him at Miramichi, as collector of customs and land surveyor … Robert Reid was a Scotchman and had a store at Miramichi in 1785.  He was the first coroner in the community and was sworn into office by Sheriff Marston on the 24th of September, 1785.  He succeeded De Lesderniers as Sheriff … The gentleman mentioned by our author as 'Mr. Robeshot, a Frenchman', was in all probability Otho Robichaud … he was evidently a gentleman of education and considerable political influence with the Acadians … Alexander Taylor was elected a member of the House of Assembly for the county of Northumberland in 1802 and again in 1809.  He had many relatives at Miramichi, who, like himself, had emigrated from Scotland … Alexander Taylor was one of the early magistrates of Northumberland County … John Wilson was sworn in, the first Justice of the Peace for the County of Northumberland, on July 18, 1785.  Wilson was a leading man in the settlement and kept an inn or house of entertainment at Wilson's Point … Public notices were always posted at Wilson's Tavern, and it was after him that Wilson's Point, opposite Beanbear's Island at the junction of the Northwest and Southwest branches of the Miramichi river, took its name … George Andrew, an Englishman, who was a lumber surveyor, or liner of mast timber, yards and bowsprits, etc.  He had been in the employ of William Davidson as the 'king's purveyor' of mast timber.  Captain Simon Kollock served through the Revolutionary war as a Captain in Colonel Beverley Robinson's Loyal American Regiment and after his regiment was disbanded on the St. John River, found his way across the country to Miramichi. … Campbell gives quite a picture of Sheriff Le Dernier … Marston writes his name in more full form. John Mark Crank Des Les Dernier … Les Dernier was concerned in trade with Marston … when Marston left the province, at the close of 1876, he resigned his office in favour of Les Dernier.  The latter was succeeded a little later by Robert Reid.

We now resume the narrative of Mr. Peter P. Campbell, whom we left at Judge Fraser's hospitable home."

'We staid here all night and next day took a view of the company's mast-yard, stores and everything to be seen about the place.  Judge Lyman, after satisfying his curiosity, went to visit Mrs. Davidson and to see the saw mills … The settlements thereon are but few, and none as yet above twelve miles from the forks.  Everyone has a right to fish on his own property to a certain extent of nets, and a few or none exercise this right without vast advantage and profit.  Mr. Les Dernier told me he had seventy tierces of salmon caught on his lot, with only one set net of about thirty fathoms to the back, and many others were nearly in that proportion, but that his was among the best stations on the river.  Sweep nets have been tried but did not, as they say, repay them for the expense and trouble; so they gave them up and continued that kind of nets which gave no other trouble than setting them at night and taking the fish out in the morning.  These are set on poles, which are fixed in the bottom, standing upright … Mr. LeDernier, the Sheriff, who is an indefatigable and expert sportsman as can be met with in any country, told me that he himself annually lays up for winter store two tierce of Brant and wild geese, as many of salmon, and as many of herring, besides other fish, moose, keraboo and other venison …

Having set out on our way home from Mr. Fraser's, who furnished us very hospitably with some provisions and necessaries, we arrived in the evening at a deserted house at the foot of the Renow where it empties into the Merimashie.  We put up there that night, and as it rained a great deal we deemed ourselves lucky to be under a dry roof'.

"… There is an interesting paragraph in a letter written by Alexander Taylor to Edward Winslow from Miramichi, January 28, 1802, in which he says, 'Upon my first arrival in Miramichi the Indians were a great terror to the inhabitants … I was told by a brother-in-law and a sister that the Julian family had done a great deal for the government.  Had it not been for them and a family called Renews the other Indians would have murdered every English settler that was the there'.  Observe, my sister and her husband, was here before me. 'I came here in 1784. They came in 1777'.  The Renous (or Renow) river is believed to take its name from the Indian family just mentioned."

From The History of Chatham by William Godfrey

Excerpt from Pages 22 and 23

"… The first protestant minister, Reverend Mr. Urquhart, came to Miramichi 1802.  Two years later church was built at Moorfields across river from Chatham at what is now Millbank.  Services were held alternately at Wilson's Point and Moorfields.  Life of people was very primitive … Families came up and down river to service, bringing picnic baskets and containers cheese and jugs of West India rum.  Canoes were hauled up on shore and people sat on shore or in church yard till service began.  Then worshippers filed into benches to hear sermon of several hours.  Next came intermission when baskets were opened and so were jugs of rum. Contents supplied sufficient spirit for similar service in afternoon.  The silver communion cup belonging to congregation with date 1805 engraved on it is in possession of Mrs. D. Henderson, Chatham, now.

Excerpt from Page 36

Dr. William Bell was only doctor on river from 1804 - 1816.  Travelled from Fredericton to Miscou and was always on road either on horseback or in canoe.  Dr. Key arrived in 1816 and was there to 1832 when Dr. Thomson and Dr. Stafford Benson settled here to practice … The year after Fire (1825) first newspaper on North Shore was published in Chatham by James A. Pierce called 'The Mercury'.  In 1828 moved to new building and changed name to the 'Gleaner'. … First Post Office in Chatham built and first postmaster was James Caie 7th October 1825 … Principal store in Chatham about 1830 was owned by Richard Blackstock and occupied land west of Tweedie's Foundry."

From Markham Scrapbooks New Brunswick Museum

Extracts from the Journal of General Sir Martin Hunter, Colonel Commanding the 104th N. B. Regiment

Government House, F'ton, Sept. 26th (1809)

"… September, 1809.  Sir Martin journeys to the mouth of the Miramichi River … the general has just returned from a long and fatiguing journey to the mouth of the Miramichi River, about 200 miles from this.  The Miramichi empties into Gulf of St. Lawrence.  They slept on the floors of the hovels they went into for shelter at night, and describe the fleas and bugs in these places to have been of a size and number beyond anything they had ever before met with.  They followed the course of the Nashwaak on horseback, a beautiful ride of 50 miles.  They had two ponies with panniers carrying provisions.  From the head of the Nashwaak to the portage there is a portage of 35 miles, merely what is called a blazed road, the trees on each side of a narrow track being marked with a hatchet. On this portage not a human inhabitant was to be seen.  On their arrival at the source of the Miramichi they met the Indians they had appointed, who paddled them most dexterously down some very fine gentle falls called the Black and the White Rapids.  The whole of the banks are inhabited by people employed in the mast and lumber trade, and bordered by the most magnificent pines the General says he ever beheld.  At the mouth of the river they visited several respectable inhabitants and merchants employed in the fish and wood trade; saw some fine vessels loading for Scotland, and were very hospitably received in the house of Mr. Home from Berwick.  Here they heard their clergyman, Mr. Urquhart, preach.  Their return was more tedious against the rapids. The Miramichi is a beautiful river, abounding in fine salmon, indeed, the general says, salted salmon and potatoes is the only food of the inhabitants, no bread anywhere, their last year's corn had long been done, and this year's they had not yet begun, so you may believe it was rather a treat to come to their ponies and panniers which were still well stocked with rusks and biscuits.

Note: One J. Home was ? surrogate for Northumberland in 1812.  Mr. Home, a native of Berwick, Scotland (England?).  Rev. John Urquhart, Scottish clergyman, was first Presbyterian pastor at Miramichi.  He died in 1814 and was buried in Moorefield Cemetery below Douglastown, where a monument was erected to his memory and that of his children and grandchildren in 1907.  Hon. W. S. Loggie, of Chatham is a descendant. Rev. Mr. Urquhart received a grant of Lot 18, north side Miramichi, between Newcastle and French Fort Cove, just above the Mill Lot of Benjamin Marston and John Mark Crank Delesdernier."

From An Intimate History of New Brunswick by Stuart Trueman

Excerpt from Pages 115 to 118

"… Joe Cunard was the master-key to the economy of the Miramichi and the North Shore and the east coast.  He was the king of a huge domain and he personified the role to the hilt.  No one in New Brunswick ever wielded more regional power, nor lived more opulently and ostentatiously.  In Chatham he and his family occupied an expansive home amid a beautifully manicured landscape, where peacocks strutted proudly among shade trees.  They drove to church like a state procession in a coach-and-four, attended by liveried footmen and coachmen.

In 1820 Samuel Cunard, a man destined for enduring fame on the world's oceans, sent his brothers Joseph, Henry, and John to the Miramichi to found a branch of the shipbuilding firm.  Many a good citizen kept a weapon handy in those lusty, brawling days on the Miramichi, because it was more like a western frontier community than the circumspect East.  You never knew when there might be a sudden violent incursion from north of the Miramichi where Cunard's business rivals Gilmour, Rankin and Co. of Douglastown, held sway.  The rivalry exploded in the provincial election of 1843 - the 'fighting election' as it is still known.  A Chatham member of the provincial House had been unseated by Alexander Rankin.  In the subsequent contest, Rankin recruited 500 men to intimidate Cunard cohorts and prevent them from voting.  Cunard characteristically recruited 1,000 to do the same job on Rankin's followers.  As the election proceeded more bricks and stones were cast than ballots as voters dodged in and out of the polls …

Joe Cunard reached the zenith of his prestige when he came back from England after his brother, later Sir Samuel Cunard, had succeeded in negotiating contracts with the British government to carry the trans-Atlantic mail on two steamships he promised to build.  The Miramichi greeted Joe Cunard as ecstatically as if he had done it himself.

To the common people, the Cunard dynasty was an aristocracy on the demi-god level. … Everything it touched turned to gold.  But abruptly and stunningly, the golden touch was lost … Joseph Cunard had failed.  He couldn't borrow any more to keep his ubiquitous enterprises going, and to keep selling more timber than Alexander Rankin. Human nature, being what it is, the town's streets filled with alarmed people demanding to know about their jobs.  Some shouted 'Shoot Him'! Amidst them, slowly, with dignity and aplomb, rode the erect old man, oblivious of the threats … old Joe Cunard gripped one in each hand - the pistols that were once meant to slay him.  In a clear ringing voice he called out: 'Now show me the man who would shoot Cunard'!  A long silence … and then, slowly the crowd began to disperse.  In defeat, Joe Cunard had won."

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