Article extracted from the New Brunswick Reporter
NBR – 1845.03.06 – Reminiscences of New Brunswick - #2
[For the Reporter.]
REMINISCENCES OF NEW BRUNSWICK.
As the route from Halifax to Quebec for nearly three hundred miles followed the course of the river St. John, two military posts were established on that river. The first at the Pres’qu Isle eighty miles above Fredericton, and the other at the Grand Falls fifty miles farther up, near the Madawaska settlement where a few French families from Canada had established themselves a short time before. These posts facilitated the settlements of the interior and served as connecting links between New Brunswick and Canada. For at this period and for some years later, the travellers would sometimes have to go twenty miles without finding a settler, and from Madawaska to the banks of the St. Lawrence a distance of more than eighty miles, the country was a solitary wilderness through which the courier had to urge his way sometimes in his canoe and then over mountains and through morasses with no other shelter from the inclemency of the seasons by day or by night, than his flit and steel could procure.
While this was the state of the settlers on the river St. John the northeastern part of the Province had made considerable progress in husbandry particularly in grazing for which that part of the country from its extensive marshes in peculiarly adapted. But as this had formed a part of the old county of Cumberland and had been settled at an earlier period, but few of the loyalists had found their way to it. What is now the county of Westmorland was partly settled as early as the year 1749 by some families from Yorkshire and other parts of England; many of whom when the loyalists first came to the country had accumulated considerable wealth and large stocks of cattle, the French were also numerous in these parts, being scattered from the Memramcook, to the Bay Chaleur. These were the remnants and descendants of the French neutrals who had returned to the country after the expulsion of their fathers in 1755 and whose descendants now form a numerous class of the inhabitants in the north-eastern parts of the Province.
It must also be remembered that shortly after the peace of 1763 A number of families from New England had obtained a grant of a Township on the river St. John and had made a settlement along both sides of the river from Oromocto to Grimross Island. These settlers were [formerly] distinguished by the application of the old inhabitants, but have now amalgamated with the newcomers. In the mean time the loyalists who remained had scattered through the country. – Most of the small rivers and streams were selected by them, while those on the river St. John made numerous improvements along its banks. A considerable number however who had a turn for traffic remained at the seaboard particularly at St. John and Passamaquoddy Bay; where they commenced the now pleasant town of St. Andrews.
But St. John was the place of greatest attraction; for it long had been an old Indian trading station, and as it was situated on a good harbour, and at the estuary of the great River of that name, in whose majestic stream and numerous tributaries, the majority of the loyalists had sought a home.
At this place therefore the first great settlement was made as before stated. A trade soon sprang up and the town soon exhibited a considerable share of wealth and enterprise. Here the two first Sessions of the General Assembly were held in 1786 and 1787. From that time St. John has gone on progressing and after suffering several severe disasters and losses by fire is at present a thriving City, having a population of over 30000 souls and a trade inferior to no place of its size on the continent of America.
Fredericton as has been before stated having been selected as the chief Military Station in New Brunswick, was garrisoned shortly after the peace of 1783, with part of two Regiments of Infantry; the 6th and 65th and a large detachment of Artillery, and has remained the Head Quarters of the troops stationed in this Province.
As this town is situated on the right bank of the River St. John at the head of Sloop Navigation, and as it is in the direct route to Canada, and likewise holds nearly a central position to the other parts of the Province, with a direct and easy communication with the seaboard: forming a connecting link between Quebec, the key of the British Possessions in Canada and Halifax, the great connecting point between England and her North American Colonies, it was deemed the most eligible place for the permanent Seat of Government. According after the two first Sessions of the General Assembly had been held in St. John. Arrangements were made to remove the Provincial Parliament to Fredericton in 1788, which has since that time remained the Seat of Government – provision having been made during several successive Sessions for constructing suitable buildings for the accommodation of the Legislature and other public functionaries.
From that period to the present, a spirit of jealousy has always existed among many of the citizens of St. John against this selection. Much blame was cast on the first Governor and Council for establishing the Seat of Government so far in the wilderness. Not considering that their object was to forward the general interest of the Province, by promoting settlements on the upper part of the river and in the adjacent country. As the first Members of the Government were men of enlarged views and were convinced that if the interior was settled, the seaboard towns would also grow up; but that there could be no very great advance in trade at the seaboard except the majority of the settlers turned their energies to the cultivation of the soil. To encourage agriculture therefore most of the leading Members of the Government of that time exerted themselves to forward rural occupations, by improving land and introducing stock of various kinds. Among these was the Governor himself, who from the great interest he took in the early agriculture of the Province, was designated by some of the solomons of that time, as the old farmer, not considering that he was taking the very wisest course that could be adopted in a new country to lead it to independence by the cultivation of the soil. The advancement of agriculture in the interior being the only sure guarantee for the permanent support of the trade of the seaboard. This jealousy however remained unabated and was at times carried so far as in some years to occasion the loss of the Revenue. Of late we find this feeling has been revived. Late writers have ascribed all the embarrassment and difficulties with which our country has lately been visited to the influence of the locality of the Provincial Parliament on the measures of the Legislature, and have not failed to hurl their censures on the wisdom of the early Members of the Government for this most obnoxious selection. According to their notions they were men devoid of the smallest portion of wisdom or [penitration]. Now without entering into a defence of those former rulers, I would advise such [cavillers] to look over some of the old Almanacks and see if the Members of the first Government both Counsellors and Assemblymen were not persons entitled to some credit for ability, and whether they would suffer much on a comparison with the individuals who compose those bodies in the present day.
If indeed by removing the Seat of Government the future Members of our Legislature could be transformed into solons, why then every person in the Province should rejoice in the change if it should even be to the bank of the Petitcodiac or to Chatham or Bathurst or St. Martin’s: in short to any part of the country. As no sacrifice would be too great for such a desirable improvement. – To be continued.