The Chignecto Isthmus and its First Settlers/Chapter 3

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Yorkshire is grouped as one of the six northern counties of England. Jackson Wray calls it "one of the bonniest of English shires." It has an area of 6,076 square miles, making it the largest county in England. Its present population is a trifle over three millions. A coast-line of one hundred miles gives its people a fine chance to look out on the North Sea. The old town of Hull is the largest shipping port. Scarboro, on the coast, is the great watering-place for the north of England. Leeds, Sheffield, Hull and Bradford are the largest towns. It is the principal seat of the woollen manufacture in Great Britain. The people are self-reliant and progressive. In Yorkshire to-day are to be found the oldest co-operative corn-mills and the oldest co-operative stores in England. The practice of dividing profits among purchasers in proportion to their trade at the store was first adopted by a Yorkshire society. This is just what might be expected from the people who, in 1793, passed the following resolution: "Resolved, that monopolies are inconsistent with the true principles of commerce, because they restrain at once the spirit of enterprise and the freedom of competition, and are injurious to the country where they exist, because the monopolist, by fixing the rate of both sale and purchase, can oppress the public at discretion."

Another resolution passed by the same corporation, but earlier in the century, shows our ancestors in a somewhat different light. A day of thanksgiving was appointed for the success of the British forces. The corporation attended divine service in the parish church, after which it was agreed to meet at Mrs. Owen's, "at five of the clock, to drink to His Majesty's health and further good success," the expense of the evening to be at the corporation's charge.

The old Yorkshire men liked a good, honest horse-race, and fox-hunting was a favorite sport with them. It is told of a Mr. Kirkton that he followed the hounds on horseback until he was eighty, and from that period to one hundred he regularly attended the unkennelling of the fox in his single chair. Scott's "Dandy Dinmont" could scarcely overtop that. No one can read the "Annals of Yorkshire" without being struck with the number of persons who at their death left bequests to the poor, widows getting a large share of this bounty.

John Wesley, very soon after he began his life-work, found his way to Yorkshire, and nowhere had he more sincere or devoted followers, many of whom were among the first emigrants to Nova Scotia. To the England of the eighteenth century America must have presented great attraction, especially to the tenant-farmer and the day-laborer. The farmer in that country could never hope to own his farm, and the wages of the agricultural laborer were so small that it was only by the strictest economy and the best of health that he could hope to escape the workhouse in his old age. In America land could be had for the asking. The continent was simply waiting for the hands of willing workers to make it the happy home of millions. The reaction in trade after the Seven Years' War made the prospect just starting in life gloomier than ever, and many a father and mother who expected to end their days in the Old Land, decided, for the sake of their children, to face the dangers of the western ocean and the trials of pioneer life.

Charles Dixon, one of the first of the Yorkshire emigrants, writes of England before he left: "I saw the troubles that were befalling my native country. Oppressions of every kind abounded, and it was very difficult to earn bread and keep a conscience void of offence." Under these circumstances, Mr. Dixon and a number of others decided to emigrate. It is not surprising then, that when Governor Franklin, at the invitation of the Duke of Rutland, went down to Yorkshire in 1771, to seek emigrants for Nova Scotia, he found a goodly number of persons ready to try their fortunes in the new land.

Governor Franklin did not stay long in the northern district, but left agents who, judging by the number that came to Nova Scotia during the few ensuing years, must have done their work well.

Among the first of the Yorkshire emigrants to sail for Nova Scotia was a party that left Liverpool in the good ship "DUKE OF YORK," on the 16th of March, 1772. The voyage lasted forty-six days, and at the end of that time the sixty-two passengers were all landed safely at Halifax. From that port they went by schooner to Chignecto, landing at Fort Cumberland on the 21st of May.

Charles Dixon, with his wife and four children, were passengers on the "DUKE OF YORK." Mr. Dixon's is the only record I have seen of this voyage, and it is very concise indeed. He writes: "We had a rough passage. None of us having been to sea before, much sea-sickness prevailed. At Halifax we were received with much joy by the gentlemen in general, but were much discouraged by others, and the account given us of Cumberland was enough to make the stoutest give way."

Mr. Dixon does not seem to have allowed these discouraging reports to influence him greatly, for by the 8th of June he had made a purchase of 2,500 acres of land in Sackville, and moved his family there.

Other vessels followed the "DUKE OF YORK" during 1773 and the two following years, the largest number coming in 1774. By May of that year, two brigantines moored at Halifax with 280 passengers, and three more vessels were expected. By the last of June nine passenger vessels had arrived. The ship ADAMANT at this time was the regular packet between Halifax and Great Britain.

As one of the passenger vessels was from Aberdeen, it is not likely that all the immigrants this year were from Yorkshire. At Halifax, the women and children going to Cumberland were put on board a schooner bound for Chignecto, and the younger man started to make the journey on foot. The latter took the usual road to Fort Edward; from there they went by boat to Parrsboro', and then followed the high ridge of land called the "Boar's Back," to River Hebert. At Minudie they found boats to carry them to Fort Cumberland, where they were given a right royal Yorkshire welcome by their wives and children, who had reached the fort before them. From Fort Cumberland the immigrants quickly began to look around the country for suitable locations.

Those by the name of Black, Freeze, Robinson, Lusby, Oxley and Forster bought farms at Amherst and Amherst Point. Keilor, Siddall, Wells, Lowerson, Trueman, Chapman, Donkin, Read, Carter, King, Trenholm, Dobson and Smith were the names of those who settled at Westmoreland Point, Point de Bute and Fort Lawrence. The names of the Sackville contingent were Dixon, Bowser, Atkinson, Anderson, Bulmer, Harper, Patterson, Fawcett, Richardson, Humphrey, Cornforth and Wry. Brown, Lodge, Ripley, Shepley, Pipes, Coates, Harrison, Fenwick and others settled at Nappan, Maccan and River Hebert.

Hants and King's County, in Nova Scotia, got a part of this immigration. Those who came to Cumberland were too late to secure any of the vacated Acadian farms before others had got possession, these lands having been pre-empted by the New Englanders and the traders who followed the army. Those who had the means, however, seem to have found no difficulty in purchasing from the owners, and very quickly set to work to adjust themselves to the new conditions. So effectually did they do this, that almost every man of them succeeded in making a comfortable home for his family.

The local historians of those times claim that these English settlers, arriving as they did just before the Revolutionary war, saved Nova Scotia to the British Crown. If that is the correct opinion, and we are more disposed to believe it is true than to question its accuracy, then the British Empire is more indebted to these loyal Yorkshire immigrants than history has ever given them credit for. The Eddy Rebellion proved that the New Englanders, who constituted a large part of the inhabitants of Chignecto previous to the arrival of the English, sympathized very generally with the revolutionists, and were ready to help their cause to the extent of taking up arms, if necessary, on its behalf. These English immigrants were not soldiers; most of them were farmers and mechanics who had taken little part in the discussions of public questions, but they were loyal subjects of the King of Great Britain. They always had been, and they always expected to be, loyal. The headquarters of the rebellion was in Cumberland, and it was in Cumberland that the largest number of these Englishmen settled.

In 1776, Mr. Arbuthnot writes, "There is an absolute necessity for troops to be sent to Fort Cumberland, Annapolis Royal, and a few to Fort Edward and Windsor for protection, with the help of His Majesty's loyal subjects who consist of English farmers. A sober, religious people, though ignorant of the use of arms, will afford every assistance." He says the others are from New England and will join in any rebellion. Murdock thinks that Arburthnot did not judge the New England men fairly; that many of them were loyal subjects of Great Britain, and did not want to be mixed up in the trouble and discussion between Great Britain and her older colonies.

Whether this English immigration did for Nova Scotia what is claimed for it or not, their success in the new country as farmers and settlers forever removed from the English mind the belief that Nova Scotia was a cold, barren and inhospitable country, "fit only as a home for convicts and Indians." And thus it opened the way for future settlers. It is not claiming too much to say these northern Englishmen were a superior class of men. Industrious, hardy, resourceful and God-fearing, they were made of the right material to form the groundwork of prosperous communities, and wherever this element predominated it was a guarantee that justice and order would be maintained. They were not all saints-- perhaps none of them were--but there was a homely honesty and a fixedness of principle about the majority of them that "made for righteousness" wherever they were found.

The most considerable addition to the population of Nova Scotia after the Yorkshire immigration was in 1783 and 1784, when the United Empire Loyalists came to the Province. They left New England as the French left Acadia, without the choice of remaining. The story of their removal and bitter experiences has been told by more than one historian. They were the right stamp of men, and have left their impress on the provinces by the sea. Among the names of those who settled at the old Chignecto were: Fowler, Knapp, Palmer, Purdy, Pugsley. After the Loyalists there was no marked emigration to the Maritime Provinces till after the battle of Waterloo. The hard times in England following the war turned the attention of the people of Great Britain again to America, and from 1815 to 1830 there was a steady stream of emigrants, particularly from Scotland to the Provinces. Northern New Brunswick received a large share of these Scotch settlers. The Mains, Grahams, Girvins, McElmons, and the Braits of Galloway and Richibucto, in Kent County, and the Scotts, Murrays, Grants, and Blacklocks of Botsford, Westmoreland County, came at this time.

An account of the wreck of a ship in 1826, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, is yet told by the descendants of some of those who were coming as settlers to Richibucto.

In the spring of 1826 a lumber vessel bound for Richibucto, N.B., carried a number of passengers for that part. When off the Magdalen Islands the vessel was stove in with the ice, and the crew and passengers had to take to the boats. There was no time to secure any provisions, and a little package of potato starch that a lady passenger had been using at the time of the accident, and carried with her, was the only thing eatable in the boats. Among the passengers was James Johnstone, of Dumfries, Scotland, and his daughter Jean, sixteen years old. For three days and nights the boats drifted. Mr. Johnstone, who was an old man, died from the cold and exposure, and at the time of his death his daughter was lying apparently unconscious in the bottom of one of the boats. On the morning of the fourth day a vessel bound for Miramichi discovered them and took all on board. After landing safely at Miramichi they took passage for Richibucto. Miss Johnstone married John Main of Richibucto, and was the mother of a large family. Mrs. Main was never able to overcome her dread of the sea after this dreadful experience.

The last immigrants who came to the vicinity of the Isthmus were from Ireland. They arrived in the decade between 1830 and 1840, and settled in a district now called Melrose. Until recently their settlement was known as the Emigrant Road. Some of the names of this immigration were: Lane, Carroll, Sweeney, Barry, Noonen, Mahoney and Hennessy. They proved good settlers, industrious and saving, and many of the second generation are filling prominent positions in the country. Ex-Warden Mahoney, of Melrose, and lawyers Sweeney and Riley, of Moncton, and Dr. Hennessy, of Bangor, Maine, are descended from this stock.