|The modern population of New Brunswick owes its existence to the phenomenon of migration. Successive demographic waves from France, the British Isles and what is now the United States deposited tens of thousands of individual settlers upon provincial shores. Yet while New Brunswick owes its existence to a steady Stream of migrants, the province has also suffered periodic economic downturns that have had the effect of driving large segments of its population into the North American heartland. One such period commenced in the 1860s and did not end until the turn of the century. Alan A. Brookes has studied this migratory period extensively.1 He concluded that migrants (particularly during the period's early stages) tended to be young, unmarried adults, native to older settled parts of the province and generally bound for New England. A more subtle shift of population from the rural sector to the cities and towns of the province also caught Brookes' attention, but, in his opinion, this movement was blunted due to a failure of the towns to develop the attributes of a viable hub. As detailed as Brookes' study of out-migration is, it did not detect a shift of the rural populace from those portions of the province where traditional economies of "wood, wind and sail" had worn thin, to sparsely populated districts where timber stands and agricultural land were still plentiful. The dramatic growth of the populations of Madawaska and Restigouche during the most intense period of out-migration hints at the importance of this rural-rural demographic movement and presents the possibility of the existence of a wider range of alternatives available to the troubled inhabitants of the province in the latter half of the nineteenth century.|
The purpose of this thesis is to explain one particular rural-rural migration that occurred at the outset of the period Brookes identified as a major epoch of out-migration. This particular migration began in the winter of 1868-69, and was undertaken by a group of predominately third generation Sunbury county settlers from the Oromocto River. Their destination was the scantily settled district of North Lake, in the County of York, on the eastern bank of the upper reaches of the St. Croix. The migrants were primarily lumbermen, most were married, all but one were Free Christian Baptist and all seem to have anticipated the probability that they Would be able to find both land and work in the region into which they were moving. Internal migration of this sort was, hardly unique. It had been a common occurrence in New Brunswick since the earliest days of European settlement. Authors such as Esther Clark Wright, Terrence Kilbride, Beatrice Craig and William McKinnon have each provided examples of it, and, though he emphasizes the urban orientation of internal migration, so too has Alan Brookes.2 But while some authors have acknowledged the existence of internal rural migration, none have fully examined the context and origin of the phenomenon. Wright, for instance, was mainly concerned with analyzing the establishment of the Loyalists in New Brunswick and thus only briefly touched upon the subsequent incidence of migration by pre-Loyalist settlers into previously unsettled portions of the province. Kilbride was equally sketchy on the issue of internal rural migration. Though he supplied some information retarding the movements of peoples from specific points throughout the province to Carleton County, he failed to demonstrate any substantial connections between migrants who originated in the same county or parish. Nor did he offer any comprehensive evidence or analyses contributing to an understanding of the reasons that might have induced migration in the first place. Craig, for all her detail in examining the movement of Acadians into Madawaska, provided an example of what can only be classified as an aberrant migration, motivated less by the natural outcome of trends in the rural economy than by politics and the dictates of a dominant Anglophone, Protestant culture. For this reason her paradigm is not particularly representative of the internal migratory process. Though his treatment is cursory, William McKinnon came closer than any of his colleagues to providing a comprehensive account of internal rural migration in New Brunswick. In examining the first fifty years of the history of Ludlow Parish, Northumberland County, New Brunswick, MacKinnon discerned a process of out-migration originating in domestic economic uncertainty and the existence of brighter prospects elsewhere (particularly in northern, Maine), yet gaining secondary impetus from such things as the outbreak of ethnic violence. MacKinnon observed the high instance of fraternity among the migrants, a phenomenon often contributing to the decision on the part of some migrants to resettle in the same communities.
As promising as MacKinnon's work is as an expository piece on the roots of out-migration, or even of internal rural-rural migration in New Brunswick, he fails to analyse the parameters of the problem, thus leaving the reader with an incomplete sense of why individuals, long settled in one community, opt to take up residence in another. This is a particularly vexing failure considering his reliance early on in his book upon the work of Philip Greven. While Greven provided MacKinnon with a useful model in analysing the economic and demographic relationship between man and earth and man and man, his detailed analyses of the cycle of early rural or community history could have been appropriated by the latter to flush out more thoroughly the resort so many of his Ludlow settlers had to rural-rural migration; internal and external. In his landmark book, Four Generations: Population. Land and Families in Colonial Andover. Massachusetts, Greven delineated the relationship between man and resources and demonstrated the inevitability of crises when a continuously procreative humanity outpaced and exceeded the plentitude and productivity of the land.3 For Greven, the grandchildren of the original settlers represented the crucial generation. It was they who were the first to experience the discomfort resulting from the natural limitations of the environment. Late marriage, increasing duration of paternal authority and tenancy characterized the fate of many members of this third generation, as did an accelerating rate of out- migration.
Though the inhabitants of the Oromocto River were governed by an economy of timber, rather than one of agriculture, and though the relationship between man and geography here was thus somewhat different from the relationship between man and geography in colonial Andover, Greven's argument for a three generation cycle is applicable to the problem represented by the migration from the Oromocto to the St. Croix. Initially settled by a mixture of Loyalists and pre-Loyalists, the Oromocto steadily became host to a number of inter-connected and inter-related communities strung out along the river's banks for a distance of thirty miles. As the population grew and the timber industry expanded, the superfluous sons of the original settlers (in addition to a stream of primarily Irish immigrants) moved onto new homesteads in the upland regions of the watershed. By 1830, as the crucial third generation waddled through its infancy, the greater community of the Oromocto had developed into a relatively well-defined, stable and even prosperous society. After 1830, the declining lushness of the remaining stands of timber began to affect the orderliness of life, and, as the 1840s progressed, a full-scale conflict over control of the river's dwindling resources ensued. By the 1850s, as the third generation entered into its majority, a new wave of land settlement commenced. Sadly, this new movement into the interior failed in its intent, as the much coveted timber in the vicinity of the new interior communities was quickly exhausted and the poorer quality of the upland soil onto which the settlers had moved proved unsuitable for long-term agricultural occupation. In the 1860s, the natural retreat of opportunities was compounded by external factors related to the disruption of trade resulting from the American Civil War. Foiled by the limitations of their environment, and discouraged by the remorseless unfolding of greater Forces originating beyond their own narrow world, a select group of Oromocto residents collectively moved to another part of the province, where land, employment and resources such as timber still abounded.
By examining the experience of the Oromocto migrants in light of Greven's paradigm, it is possible to observe a real pattern that harmonizes with the general conclusion of others who have dealt with the problem of migration. Philip Taylor, for instance, noted the basic economic reality of demographic increase, and the historic choice men, in such circumstances, have to make "between resigning themselves to great hardship, working against heavy odds toward social change, and uprooting themselves to seek improvement abroad.4 In a similar vein Hal Barron, writing about rural Chelsea, New Hampshire, remarked that, over time, the rural community "comes to consist predominantly of only those individuals who had or could expect to have" an economic foothold in the community.5 And though he was not primarily concerned with demography, Graeme Wynn, in discussing the provincial forest industry, struck upon an important trend in nineteenth century New Brunswick that directly bears upon the problem of population mobility-- the narrowing of opportunities for individuals involved in the timber trade.6 As the century progressed into its second half and the remaining forests became more subject to the rationalized control of large operators, this same narrowing of opportunities contributed (in many older lumbering settlements) to a climate favouring out-migration. The individuals who left the Oromocto could not, despite the possession of a history on the river extending backward into the previous century, maintain an economic foothold of the kind referred to by Barron, Taylor, Greven and MacKinnon. Bad luck and the indominatable tectonic-like force of the economy made the ground underneath the feet of the individuals who ultimately migrated increasingly unstable. It was this very instability that forced these individuals, by the late 1860s, to resort to migration.
In attempting to combine the Greven model with a demonstration of the unique and specific developments along the Oromocto it has been necessary to divide the thesis into four chapters. Chapter One introduces the several families that would eventually migrate to North Lake, giving a brief historical account of their fortunes up to the 1830s, and demonstrating conclusively just how dependent they all were on the local timber economy. Chapter Two, covering the decade of the 18405, is primarily the story of the great timber barons who, as the amount of timber on the river declined, intensified their fight for control of the dwindling resource. As the decade came to a close, a dominant lumberman had emerged, much of the disputed timber had been harvested and the conflict, so divisive to the peoples and settlements of the Oromocto, had largely subsided. Chapter Three concentrates on the period from 1850 to roughly 1870, during which the long-term process of economic decline, following the tapping of the last substantial timber stand in the watershed, slowly unfolded. The negative results of this decline on the families that eventually migrated to North Lake did not take immediate effect, for a degree of prosperity, stemming from the shift from white pine to tamarack in ship building, the enactment of the Reciprocity Treaty with the United States and such novel developments as the establishment in Geary of a cotton manufactory, substantially slowed the downward slide. Nevertheless, the pinch resulting from the decline, compounded by population growth, forced a number of migrant families to stake out land on the periphery as a hedge against the incremental recession of the economy. By the mid-1860s, it was clear that the economic base of the watershed-shipbuilding and timbering-was shrinking. When the United States revoked the Reciprocity Treaty in 1866, depriving New Brunswick timber of free access to American markets, prospects for a tolerable life were even more drastically reduced. Divested of their capacity to provide for themselves and their families, the migrants were compelled to consider other options. The option they chose is the subject of the fourth and final chapter. This chapter begins with a very detailed overview of the development of North Lake, the purpose of which is to outline the origin and nature of the attractions the region would eventually have for the migrants. The chapter climaxes with the arrival in North Lake of the Oromocto born Hugh McMinn, whose presence there would ultimately provide a vital link between the new community on the Maine border and the older one on the Oromocto, thus allowing many of his former friends and family to acquire intimate knowledge of the possibilities to be found on the St. Croix.
In the end, the picture that emerges is one of the seeming inevitability of out-migration of the sort that corresponds with the findings of Philip Greven in his study of the agricultural settlement of Andover, Massachusetts. Men and women, struggling desperately to hold their own in an increasingly unfriendly environment seem helpless against the greater movement of history, and are forced, ultimately to submit to it. Yet despite the oft-times overwhelming power of larger economic and demographic forces, the individual, throughout the present narrative, can be seen making decisions to harmonize himself with the things he could not control so as to maximize his own chances for survival. Sometimes the choices made may have been wrong. But ultimately, as in the decision to leave the watershed for North Lake, the choice can also be satisfactory, if not correct. The historian Fernand Braudel defined the free individual as "he who can measure most nearly the constraints upon him, who chooses to remain within them and even to take advantage of the weight of the inevitable, exerting his own pressure in the same direction.7 The migrants who left the Oromocto for North Lake were just such individuals-those who properly gauged the weight of the inevitable, acted in accordance with it, and thus salvaged lives which otherwise may well have been, to use Braudel's terminology, "doomed to failure."
* Chapter One *During the 1830s the families of the individuals who migrated from the Oromocto to North Lake were living in several settlements situated in different parts of the watershed. These families, bearing the surnames Anderson, Boone, Buckingham, Carr, DeWitt, Frost, Howe, McMinn, Till, Tucker and Wood, were not remarkable in any real sense. Some paid slightly higher assessments, some lower. Several were engaged in small-scale timber enterprises, others were mere labourers. Generally speaking, they were all of the lower strata of rural New Brunswick society. Most possessed land, sometimes up to several hundred acres. All were Free Christian Baptists. All were dependent socially, politically and economically on a local entrepreneurial and administrative elite. In short, these families were not unlike their neighbours, most of whom opted to remain within the watershed when the migrating individuals chose, beginning in 1869, to depart for North Lake. What distinguishes, then, the migrants from the non-migrants? The question, perhaps, cannot properly be answered, since many of the reasons for the migration, perhaps, the most important reasons of all, lie within the realm of the personal, and thus are beyond the capacity of the historian to adduce from the surviving documentary evidence. Even the data that does exist provides a somewhat muddled ground on which to arrive at an answer. For instance, younger sons, as well as older sons, migrated, as did both land owners and non- land owners. One generally universal factor (one that conforms with the model established by Greven) that distinguishes the migrants from their more sedentary neighbours, is the fact that most of the migrants lived either on rented lots fronting the river, or in newer settlements, on poorer land, more distant from the institutional heart of the older community, where easier recourse could be made to the various sources of patronage. In addition, and perhaps, more significantly, most of the families seem to have attached their fortunes to the timber industry. Examining the status of the families of the migrants in the 1830s reveals that both these factors-peripheral settlement and dependence on timber-had already come into play. And though it cannot be said definitively that the status of these families in the 1830s led inevitably to out-migration three decades later, certainly, the advent of those forces that ultimately did directly influence and necessitate out-migration could not have been more auspiciously presaged.
The Migrants and Their Families:
The Oromocto had been only marginally settled in the days prior to the coming of the white man. Native peoples of the Malecite Tribe were the river's earliest known occupants.1 The Acadians settled somewhat more substantially, both at the river's mouth and at French Lake, taking over parcels originally cleared by their aboriginal predecessors.2 They were routed by the British in the 1750s, and the lands they had occupied were subsequently granted to several speculators fortunate enough to have possessed connection with the relevant Crown authorities. As the pre-Loyalist community of Maugerville grew, some of its inhabitants began to cross the St. John River, where they took up lots rented from an absentee landlord by the name of John Porteaus at the Oromocto's mouth. The presence of a small British fort, requiring ancillary labour from a civilian populace, and the establishment by the New England mercantile firm of Simonds, Hazen and White of a saw mill on the Rusagonis Stream soon provided additional impetus for Oromocto settlement.3 Settlement continued up to the time of the arrival of the Loyalists, who, beginning in 1784, began to take up residence in close proximity to the older inhabitants. Despite the generosity of the crown in allowing the Oromocto's pre-Loyalists terms for retention of their rented lots, many of them opted to leave in order try their hand at settlement elsewhere in the province.4 Yet despite the pressures felt by the river's older
The Oromocto Watershed
settlers, the Oromocto remained relatively neglected by the newcomers, as the more advantageous sites along the St. John and several of its more substantial tributaries, such as the Nashwaak, the Kennebecasis, Bellisle Bay and Grand Lake, generated more favourable interest as potential sites of permanent settlement. As the land in these primary areas of Loyalist concentration became scarcer, those unlucky enough not to have gained title to property began to move into previously overlooked portions of the province, including the Oromocto. As the initial wave of Loyalists had already acquired possession of the best land in the watershed, close to the river's mouth, the second wave of Loyalist settlers were forced to repair further up stream. Fanning out along the river's two main tributaries, the second wave Loyalists staked out claims on land that was certainly less arable than that found at the river's mouth, but which was clearly capable of sustaining their marginal needs.5
Following the final settlement of the Loyalists, farming became the prime means of subsistence for the Oromocto's people. A modest shipbuilding concern at the river's mouth, as well as a small trafficking in masts and shingles by Simonds, Hazen and White, provided some secondary means of support for the river's inhabitants.6 In the early 1800s Thomas Hartt, a native of Maugerville, constructed a saw mill on the North West Branch of the river to cater to the increasing domestic and external demands for timber, but the level of involvement by the river's people in this new enterprise could not have been particularly substantial.7 When the great boom in timber and lumber occurred, however, the lives of the people of the Oromocto were dramatically altered No longer was farming so necessary to sustain life. The remaining timber on one's own property represented a new source of personal and family income. And when private stores became exhausted, employment for wages could be found with local entrepreneurs who usually had access, through licence from the government, to large tracts of exploitable crown land. As the large combines and regional monopolies that would characterize the industry in later decades had yet to appear, competition on the Oronocto in these early days was dispersed among yeoman-farmers possessing small amounts of capital. Indeed, so evenly were profits distributed that Simonds, Hazen and White were driven out of the timber business by the large numbers of smaller competitors and forced (by necessity) to reorient their investment priorities toward shipbuilding and retail sales, until, at last, by the lens, they were deprived of profits from these activities as well.8
Subject to the frenetic power emanating from and infusing that odd symbiosis of man and axe, whole tributaries gave up their timber. The Rusagonis was the site of the most furious cutting in the early days of the local timber trade. By the end of the 1820s, its best timber was gone and the two saw-mills that up to that time had fed upon a continuous fare of pine largely succumbed to the enervating effects of starvation.9 In the 1830s relative scarcity of the resource heralded the advent of larger operators, whose larger capital stores allowed them to out-bid the smaller interests, who were finding it increasingly expensive to attempt to harvest smaller amounts of timber.10 Strangely enough, control of the industry by several major entrepreneurs, while barring many men of middling economic stature from participation, allowed for a greater degree of stability. Fewer relevant parties, each with conflicting interests, facilitated the establishment of private and public conventions governing the manner in which business would be prosecuted.11 Yet as the volume of timber in the watershed continued to decrease in availability and as new prospects for profits appeared, this stability would, in the subsequent decade, give way to the bitterest of conflicts.
As timber was still viable enough to provide wages to a large number of the river's populace, farming remained a secondary endeavour, particularly on the river's extremities. The North West Branch, where a second saw mill was built in 1821, remained primarily a timber settlement, as did upland communities on the lower Oromocto, such as Geary and, to a lesser extent, but increasingly so in the 1830s, South Branch. The vicinity of Oromocto village remained largely agricultural, but several timber related industries, such as ship building, provided alternatives to the agricultural paradigm. It is a peculiar fact that almost all of the families who migrated to North Lake were, by the 1830s, deeply dependent on the Oromocto's timber based economy. They had opted in the decades previous to 1830 to abide by its dictates, alienating their original prerogatives as farmers and linking their fortunes with a form of employment that provided them with the wages that could be used for the purchase of the food and clothing they no longer, at least exclusively, needed to grow and manufacture themselves in order to survive. Examination of the migrants, and their families, as they were in the 1830s, demonstrates just how dependent they were on the timber economy, and just how susceptible they would become, if they persisted in this dependence (and persist they did), once the foundations for this particular type of economy began to erode.
The migrant George Ozias Carr was not born until 1845, but his family had been long established on the river. His great grandfather, William Carr, had been a loyal refugee from Massachusetts who had settled at the mouth of the river on a lot formerly cleared by earlier Acadian and pre-Loyalist inhabitants. Here, he married into the family of the pre-Loyalist Alexander Tapley and raised a considerable number of children. The size of his family, as well as an unfortunate fire that destroyed the family home and, presumably, many of the family's assets,I2 forced him to sell his valuable river-mouth property and venture out into the unclaimed and unsettled highlands in the district that would become known as Geary.13 The beginning of the timber boom made the location in the rear of the older river settlements much more feasible than it previously would have been, as did the generosity of the government, which allowed Carr and the heads of other families who moved with him, lots as large as 300 acres. As Carr's sons matured, they applied for land as well, married, spawned children, and thus swelled the ranks of the new settlement's inhabitants. By the 1830s a third generation of Carrs was coming of age, nurtured by the success their fathers had achieved as minor lumbermen along the several Oromocto tributaries that flowed through Geary, and by the sustaining fruit of their fathers expanding farms. One member of the third generation of the Carr family was George Ozias' father, William Carr. In the 1830s, William was but a young man, no doubt already aware (at least vaguely) of the tightening of constraints upon him as he and his many siblings and young cousins and neighbours matured. What new opportunities awaited him in the near and long term future as the timber industry apparently declined and farming remained all too inadequate to provide for the mass of humanity that had grown up in a settlement the viability of which had been made possible by the once expanding perimeter of the economy.Close to the site of the Loyalist William Carr's original grant there lived, in 1830, a man by the name of James Scovil Frost. He was not a native of the Oromocto, but rather had been born in Kingston, King's County, the son of the notorious Loyalist raider William Frost and his equally noteworthy wife, Abigail Schoffield.14 Following his father's death in 1810, Frost wandered up the St. John River, until he came to Oromocto, where he seems to have found work as a ship's carpenter. By design or by chance he met and married here Abigail Jones, who had, since her departure from Kingston following a premarital pregnancy, been living with the Carr family.15 Abigail Jones' Carr benefactors provided her with land in Geary on which to live, but as soon as she married she and her husband seem to have taken up in a house not far from Frost's place of employment. They had one daughter, Margaret, with they would go to live. Thus, when their son-in-law chose to migrate, they had little choice but to follow.
The person whom Margaret Frost married was George McMinn, a member of a family that played one of the most central roles in the migration to North Lake. His brother Hugh would become the first Oromoctoan to migrate to that place, and it would be Hugh who would return home with news of the developments there that held out the promise of a future much more pleasant than that which seemed likely on the Oromocto. George's father, Thomas McMinn, was not a native of the river, nor even of New Brunswick. He had been born in the American colonies, either in the Carolinas or in Georgia, where his father had spent seven years as a Loyalist volunteer engaged in some of the bitterest fighting of the American Revolution.16 Following the war, the McMinns went by way of Florida to Nova Scotia, where Thomas McMinn lived until his father's death in 1803. For unknown reasons Thomas McMinn made his way to the Oromocto, where he settled as a tenant not far from the river's mouth. Here he worked, most likely, as an agricultural labourer and ship's carpenter.17 He married the daughter of an older Loyalist settler by the name of Jacob Grass, and raised with her a fairly large family.
In addition to George and Hugh, Thomas McMinn's children included a daughter by the name of Mary Jane, who would also migrate to North Lake. Though still a girl in the 1830s, she would, in 1840, marry the man who would migrate with her. Like James Frost and his own father-in-law, this man, Daniel James Wood, was not a native of the Oromocto. He had been born to parents of Loyalist origin in Waterborough, Queen's County, and he had lived there until the late 1830s, when he seems to have followed an uncle to Carleton County.18 It was here, in Carleton, that he met and married Mary Jane McMinn, who was then apparently visiting relatives in Wakefield.19 In the 1840s they would return to the Oromocto, where their fate was to be not unlike that of Mary Jane's brothers: non-land owning labourers, whose livelihood in the region was dependent upon the continuing stability and health of the local timber based economy.
Further upstream, away from the banks of the Oromocto more familiar to William Carr, James Frost and Thomas McMinn, is the area known as French Lake. It was here that another set of families whose descendants would eventually migrate to North Lake made their initial settlement in the watershed. The migrants Alexander Boone, Joseph Albert Boone and William Joseph Boone were born in Geary, but their grandfather, William Boone, had initially settled on the shores of French Lake. William Boone was the son of a Rhode Island farmer, who had come to New Brunswick as a Loyalist.20 As part of the second wave of settlement of the Oromocto, William's father attempted to acquire land on the North West Branch of the river before retreating to the Keswick. William himself remained, finding favour with a local magnate, who not only gave him his daughter's hand in marriage but also deeded over to him a large French Lake estate.21 Personal exegesis forced him to sell the land and remove to Geary, where his expanding family increasingly taxed his personal resources22. By the 1830s William Boone's sons were living on sub-divided lots, some of which they owned outright, some of which they held as leaseholds. Alexander and Joseph Albert Boone's father, George Boone, was one of these. He was a skilled carpenter who, on account of the continuing viability of the forest industry, seems to have found it more expedient to rent a portion of ground from a neighbour than to invest the time, capital and energy in clearing and improving land yet owned by the government somewhere else within the watershed.23 William Joseph Boone's father, John Boone, similarly occupied a rented lot.
During the youth of Alexander, Joseph Albert and William Joseph Boone, one of three kinsman's closest neighbours in Geary was their uncle, James Till. Till was a native of St. John who, while not a migrant to North Lake himself, would become the progenitor of several individuals who eventually did migrate there. Like James Frost and Thomas McMinn, Till had found his way to the Oromocto sometime between 1800 and 1810 After a failed bid to gain land from the crown on the North West Branch.24 Till settled in French Lake, and then Geary, where he married a daughter of William Boone, resided on a leased parcel and undoubtedly found work with one or more of the river's principle lumbermen.
The most significant of the families, if only for the number of North Lake migrants it would provide, who were settled around French Lake were the Howes. By 1830 most of them had dispersed throughout Sunbury County, but their presence in French Lake during the first decades following the Loyalist settlement certainly identifies them strongly with that place. The founder of the family was Nathaniel Howe. He had served in the King's American Regiment during the American Revolution. He came to New Brunswick as a single man, joined with two disbanded German mercenaries in a search for land and received, as a result, a large grant on the southern side of French Lake.25 Nathaniel Howe steadily expanded his farm and his wealth,26 and by the 1820s was engaged as a minor player in the local timber trade. Unfortunately, the speculative nature of the industry, and his own lack of caution, eventually brought him ruin. His extensive land holdings were sold and he himself was forced to find shelter in the home of one of his sons- in-law.27
Deprived of their father's legacy, three of his four sons departed. Nathaniel Howe Jr. moved to the upper Oromocto, where he died before making good on a lot he was then in the process of improving.28 George Henry Howe went to work as a labourer in Oromocto village, where he eventually fell into the orbit of a local entrepreneur by the name of Archibald McLean.29John Howe left the Oromocto altogether. By the early 1840s he was working as a kind of personal retainer for Assemblyman Thomas Obder Miles in Maugerville.30 Of all the Howe sons, only William Howe remained in French Lake, at least for the time being. He married a women of the South Branch-a Buckingham, whose relations would also take part in the migration to North Lake-and worked for a time as a paid labourer and tenant farmer not far from his father's old homestead.31 Another Howe-the so-called "Yankee" John Howe-is of consequence here as well. Though not a son of Nathaniel Howe Sr, he seems to have been a relation of some kind, who sometime around 1830 had travelled from the United States and joined his Loyalist kinsmen.32 He settled in French Lake, where he remained through the 1830s with his wife (a daughter of John Boone) and his growing family.
Further to the south, beyond the largely uninhabited pasture lands immediately above French Lake, lies the confluence of the North West and South Branches of the Oromocto, upon the banks of which tributaries reposed several significant settlements. Lumbering had come to the North West Branch early with the construction by Thomas Hartt of a saw mill not far from the stream's juncture with the main Oromocto. The lumber industry received an additional boost, after the advent of the timber boom, with the erection, by Jeremiah Tracy in 1821, of a second mill further upstream.33 Several attempts at land settlement prior this period failed,34 in large part due to the inhospitableness of the wilderness and the penurious quality of the soil,35 yet once the incentive of timber appeared in the form of several working saw mills, and large untouched stands watered by the stream's many rivulets, settlers began to converge upon the North West Branch.
Unlike the people of the North West Branch, a marked failure of enterprise and capital to develop facilities for the more complete exploitation of the woods in their locale had forced the people of South Branch to become more dependent upon the virtues of agriculture.36 The more even balance struck between farming and timbering that had consequently arisen, however, began to change in the 1830s. By the middle of the decade, two Oromocto entrepreneurs by the names of William Scoullar and Henry Thomas Partelow (of whom more will be said in the succeeding chapter) began to construct a mill on the upper end of the South Branch Settlement in preparation for a broadening of the timber industry in that locale.37 Four of the families that provided migrants to North Lake lived on the South Branch at this time. All were involved in the timber industry, and all but one had extricated themselves almost completely from dependence on farming.
The one family that did sustain an active interest in agriculture was that of Charles DeWitt, the father and grandfather of several North Lake migrants. Charles DeWitt was the grandson of a second wave Loyalist who had come to the South Branch in 1785.38 He drowned in the river with Charles' father in 1803, leaving Charles, his mother and his several siblings in the care of his mother's parents.39 In time, Charles inherited properties from both his deceased father's estate and his maternal grandfather,40 and was able, through the proceeds of his own successful cultivations and sporadic timbering, to invest more substantially in the timber industry.41
BOONE-CARR-TILL FAMILY NETWORK
In 1827 he married the niece of North Branch miller Jeremiah Tracy, a marriage that could not have been without some financial benefits in the form, at the very least, of credit to fuel his own advancing business interests.42
The three other migrant families that were living on the South Branch in the 1830s were the Tuckers, Andersons and Buckinghams. The first of these was represented by William Tucker. He was the grandson of a Loyalist by the name of Solomon Tucker who had received land on the South Branch with several of his Loyalist comrades in the King's American Regiment.43 William Tucker's father had sold the family homestead in 1813 after the advent of the timber trade. The attraction of profits to be had in the woods prompted him to attempt to gain land on both the South and North West Branches, but wage labour, eventually, seemed a much easier way of making a living.44 By 1832 he was living quietly on a portion of the old Buckingham estate, possession of which he acquired through the inheritance of his Buckingham wife. William Tucker grew up here, and married, in 1836, Lydia Mills, the widow of Nathaniel Howe Jr.45 Like his father before him, William Tucker satisfied his material cravings through wage labour, and lived, more than likely, first in French Lake on a rented lot,46 and later on the South Branch, on a portion of the land that his mother's siblings had moved onto in the middle or late 1830s. It would be William Tucker's son, William Tucker Jr., just an infant in the 1830s, who would migrate to North Lake.
Further south of the place where the DeWitt and Tucker families had originally received land, were the newly cleared, but small and sparsely cultivated, lots owned by John Anderson and the Buckingham clan. Both families had moved beyond the periphery of the original South Branch settlement in response to the imminent opening of new country by the enterprise of William Scoullar and Henry Partelow. John Anderson was the son of an old Loyalist of the same name (who may well have served with Solomon Tucker-and with Stephen Buckingham-in the King's American Regiment) and Abigail Durose, who was the sister of Charles DeWitt's mother.47 He was still an adolescent when his father died, leaving him possession of the family homestead.48 The Buckinghams were a large, tight-knit clan, made up, in the 1830s, of mother Sarah, daughters Mary (who had already married Robert Tucker) and Deborah (who had already married William Howe), and sons William, Stephen, Richard and Solomon. The patriarch of the family, Stephen Buckingham Sr., had been a soldier with the King's Americans before coming with his comrades to the South Branch and marrying the daughter of his- former sergeant.49 He had died sometime in the 1820s, and his sons except for William, who had the singular good fortune to inherit his maternal grandfather's 200 acre estate), as well, perhaps, as his daughter Mary and her husband Robert Tucker, had continued to live on the family homestead. It was Stephen's son Solomon who seems to have been the one who conceived the idea of moving upstream when construction of the Scoullar saw mill began.50 As farming on their father's now sub-divided lot was hardly productive, as the new investment in the timber industry offered opportunities of a different sort, and as there was crown land available further upstream in closer proximity to the land that was reserved for future exploitation, removal in this direction was a very attractive option. By 1838 the clan had sold the old Buckingham estate, and the majority of its members, along with neighbour John Anderson, had relocated on several small lots not far south of the new mill site.51
Taking the families of the migrants as a whole it becomes relatively easy to formulate a general conclusion. Almost all the families were descended from Loyalists who had succeeded in gaining title to acreage on the river and its main tributaries. The exceptions-the Frosts, Tills, McMinns and Woods-though also of Loyalist heritage, came to the river much later, during a period ranging from 1803 to around 1840.
But like the families into which they soon married and whose fate their descendants were eventually to share, these latecomers, by the 1830s (with the exception of the Woods, who were not yet settled in the watershed), were, economically speaking, roughly on par with their adopted peers. With the exception of Charles DeWitt, none of the heads of the migrant families possessed the land originally granted to their forbears. Instead, the majority had been inclined to link their fortunes with the timber industry, which had, by 1810, begun to emerge as the most viable, or at least dominant, basis for the local economy. By 1830, most of the families occupied small lots owned by friends, relatives, or landlords. Instead of earning their earning their daily break through the efficacy of farming, the family heads provided for their dependants primarily through the wages and payment in kind they received from the lumbermen for whom they worked. Thomas McMinn (and, later, his sons) and James Frost represented slight modifications in this pattern, as they seem to have found work as labourers in timber's subsidiary ship-building industry.
Clearly, the pattern that emerges here is one of dependence on the timber industry and a rejection of agriculture as the most sufficient means of making a living. The prosperity arising from timber made this dependence possible. As W.S. MacNutt and Graeme Wynn have pointed out, this state of affairs was hardly viewed as the most desirable one at the time, but its existence unarguably made settlement throughout the province more feasible despite the argument to the contrary offered by the provincial elite that agriculture was the most viable basis for an expanding population)? Yet while the provincial opinion makers were not necessarily correct in their claim that agriculture was the surest possible route to improving the province and increasing its human resources, their essential claim about the instability and fragility of a prosperity based so squarely on the nineteenth century timber industry was essentially valid.
Even if the industry was free of the kinds of booms and busts that had sparked the concern and negative feelings of the elite, there would still be the inevitable decline resulting from the steady extraction of timber. Indeed, the resource on which the industry was dependent was a limited one. Tree planting and forest replenishment programs had yet to be devised; thus the forest inevitably was subject to a retraction that would slowly remove from the people who had staked their own fortunes upon its continuing bounty the very basis of their existence.
* Chapter Two *The lives of the families which eventually migrated to North Lake were disrupted in the 1840s. After decades of relatively consistent lumbering in the immediate vicinity of the river's main tributaries, much of the watershed's most accessible timber had been removed. As the migrant families were largely dependent on the timber industry, their long-term prospects in the watershed were poor. If they were to prolong their stay on the Oromocto, new stands of timber would have to be found. Immediately prior to the beginning of the 1840s, the search for new sources of timber had proceeded apace, climaxing in the discovery, in the vicinity of South Branch Lake, of a relatively large, previously untapped, stretch of marketable timber. The settlers themselves did not take the initiative that led to this new and fortunate discovery. Rather, the lead was taken by several prominent lumbermen who, for many years, had employed a large segment of the river's population in their various timber and timber-related operations. The timber at South Branch Lake, however, was hardly inexhaustible. Indeed, it would only require several years of sustained labour for the newly discovered timber to be extracted. In the midst of a long-term recession of opportunities, ameliorated slightly by a short-term solution in the form of a wholly new source of timber within easy hauling distance of the main stream, it is hardly surprising that conflict over control of South Branch Lake's timber arose. Waged by competing interests headed by William Scoullar of Oromocto Village, George Morrow of French Lake and William E. Perley of South Branch Settlement, this conflict clearly demonstrated just how constrained the economic environment of the river was becoming. When the timber was gone, the conflict would, of course, somewhat abate but the problem of long-term survival on the river would only become more troubling. This problem of survival was compounded by a series of debilitating depressions and crop failures that limited capital, lowered employment levels, deteriorated wages, and, thus, forced the more exposed segment of the river populace, particularly those engaged in wage labour in the woods, to search for alternatives to lumbering to safeguard themselves from any recurrence of the desultory effects of hard economic times. And though timber's prominence as a staple industry would remain and the traditional economy based upon it would subsequently flourish, the stage would, by the end of the 1840s, be set for the advent of a period of renewed land settlement.
Entrepreneurialism and Exploitation
To best understand the conflict that would so sharply define the decade, it is necessary to focus on the several men whose ambitions would go so far to sustain it. These men were William Scoullar, George Morrow and William E Perley. The first of the three, William Scoullar, had come to the Oromocto in 1829 with the intention of starting a ship-building enterprise at the river's mouth, apparently with the backing of several prominent St. John merchants.1 To ship-building he soon added lumbering. And in 1834, with the assistance of his partner, Henry Thomas Partelow, he constructed the first of two mills on South Branch Stream.2 His desire at this early date was to tap the stands around South Branch Lake, but confusion at the Crown Land Office prevented him from fulfilling it.3
Like William Scoullar, George Morrow had come to the river from abroad, though at an earlier date. He had married the daughter of a minor French Lake lumberman, and entered, at first on a very minimal scale, into the local timber trade.4 In the early 1830s he was operating a small store and lumbering on licenced crown reserves. By the end of the decade he had gained either full or partial possession of mills on the Rockwell Stream, not far from his French Lake home, and on the North West Branch.5
The last of the three lumbermen whose ambitions would help shape the great conflict of the 1840s was William E. Perley. Unlike both Scoullar and Morrow, William E. Perley was a native of Sunbury County. His grandfather was Israel Perley, the famous surveyor of Maugerville, and through him he was connected to several very prominent Sunbury County families.6 He had grown up on the South Branch, where his mother had moved following the death of his father. In the 1830s he was still a young man, possessing only several valuable farm properties, but harbouring great aspirations for advancement in business and public affairs. By 1840, after marrying a daughter of North West Branch mill-owner Thomas Hartt, Perley seems to have begun contemplating his entry into the timber business.
In 1840 the interests of the three men, though not exactly compatible, could hardly have been classified as mutually antagonistic. While Scoullar concentrated on ship-building at Oromocto village and harvested timber for his mill on South Branch Stream, Morrow tended to his several lumbering operations on Rockwell Stream and the North West Branch. Perley, for his part, had not yet even entered into the timber business. Thus, for the time being, peace prevailed among them. The turning point came in the 1841, when the British government announced the termination of the preference it had traditionally given the importation of colonial timber. New Brunswick had long benefited from the preference, and when word came that it was to be removed the provincial economy suffered an enormous shock.7 On the Oromocto the effects were grave. Among those most severely injured by the economic disruption was William Scoullar. He had long made a practice of financing his operations by loans procured from St. John merchants, but now, with a fall in the price of timber, there was little prospect of his generating the income necessary to pay off his creditors. His only hope was to hold out as long he could, continue on with his ship-building and timbering, all the time praying for a quick recovery. Additional investment, however, was necessary if this strategy was to work; thus he solicited the requisite funds from his brother, George Scoullar, a resident of Moncton, who subsequently became his business partner.8
Scoullar's financial health was temporarily sustained by his brother's timely investment. A more long-term solution to his problems, however, he sought in the arena of politics. Scoullar realized that immediate and direct access to political influence would provide him with some leverage to protect himself from ravenous creditors and would make available to him special privileges and high-level patronage that would bode well for his ambitions on South Branch Lake. His partner, Henry Thomas Partelow, had provided him with this direct political influence, most recently as a member of the provincial legislature, but Partelow had lately embarrassed himself by his position on the issue of the large provincial debt and had generated concerted opposition throughout Sunbury County to his re-election.9 Thus when Partelow expressed his reluctance to pursue re-election following the Lieutenant Governor's dissolution of the House of Assembly in the spring of 1842, Scoullar decided to take his place on the ballot. Fully exploiting his appeal among the electorate as a long-standing employer and a man of high social rank in the community, Scoullar dominated the subsequent election campaign, far out-pacing his rivals and winning, with the overwhelming support of the people of the Oromocto, election to the House of Assembly.10
When Scoullar took his seat in Fredericton in January of 1843, the situation of both the local and provincial economy remained dismal. Scoullar's own personal exigencies were equally bleak. His greatest creditor was none other than his partner's brother, Assemblyman John R. Partelow Early in 1843, Partelow filed a lawsuit demanding repayment of loans in excess of 2,000 pounds.11 Additional suits were filed by a disgruntled employee and a group of St. John merchants too impatient to await any longer the upturn in business that would surely have been Scoullar's salvation.12 The upturn came, but all too late for Scoullar, as each of the plaintiffs lined up against him found their claims upheld in the courts.
With the onset of recovery and a likely restoration of the price of timber, the despair accumulated over the past year and a half was swept away.13 The British government proved instrumental in this regard through its resolution to reduce the preference only gradually. Encouraged by this positive sign of general economic rehabilitation, William E. Perley saw a perfect opportunity to enter into the river's very promising timber industry. He perceived correctly that the completely unexploited forest around South Branch Lake was the most advantageous site for commencing operations. Yet, if the recovery continued, it most assuredly would not remain unexploited for long Other lumbermen would most definitely move in, particularly as it was clear that it behoved anyone anxious for profit to transport as much timber to market as possible before the preference was finally eliminated for good. Thus Perley acted with great haste. Forming a partnership with his brother, Duncan Wellington Perley, and his uncle, a former assemblyman by the name of George Hayward, Perley hired a crew of men to begin opening a route to South Branch Lake. Throughout the summer and early fall of 1843 the men tirelessly worked, clearing the main stream of obstructions, blasting over a hundred rocks and boulders, building dams and camps and driving a road twelve miles deep into the forest.14 By August much of the work was complete, and Perley and his partners felt justified in submitting an application at the Crown Land Office for a timber berth on the Lake's shores.15 Soon, Perley prepared to offer on a second portion of Crown land; choosing a fine tract where the river exits the Lake originally surveyed for, but never granted to, a St. Stephen lumberman by the name of Samuel Abbott.16 There were unresolved problems surrounding Abbott's claim on the land; thus Perley was instructed by the Crown Land Office to wait until the matter was settled. Yet while Perley waited patiently, so too did William Scoullar. Despite his many legal problems, Scoullar had not yet given up hope of acquiring possession of the land around the Lake. To overcome the obstacle to acquisition posed by his own immediate financial destitution, Scoullar again enlisted the assistance of his brother George, whose affairs were in somewhat better order. When the Abbot tract finally came up for sale in October, George Scoullar's agent was there. And when the Perley placed his bid, Scoullar's agent topped it, thus gaining for his master, and his master's brother, possession of the much coveted reserve.17
Scoullar's successful acquisition of a reserve on the shores of South Branch Lake suddenly threatened William Perley's enterprise with utter annihilation. Having expended hundreds of pounds in making the upper South Branch navigable, he now faced potential bankruptcy. For while Perley did possess at least one berth in the area, Scoullar's hostility to him and his partners gave rise to fears that Scoullar would use his influence in Fredericton to altogether exclude them from participating in the river's timber trade.18 The fortuitous seizure by order of the court of Scoullar's two mills, along with a large number of mortgaged properties, presented Perley and his partners with the means to combat Scoullar's challenge. As Scoullar no longer possessed legal title to his mill, he could not, they argued, lawfully retain his reserve.19 The whole question seemed to become a moot point when Scoullar's brother failed to honour the reserve's full price.20 Anxious to rebid on the forfeited tract, Perley met only frustration as Surveyor General Thomas Baillie refused to allow its sale until a more thorough investigation of the matter could be made.21 The delay was all the more agonizing once it became evident that William and George Scoullar were sending gangs of trespassers into the disputed area.22
William Scoullar's underhanded actions near South Branch Lake clearly underscored the level of his own desperation, not only to recoup the losses stemming from his recent financial embarrassments, but to move as much timber to market as possible before the preference was cut off. With his saw-mill and shipyard in the possession of the court, his finances in disarray and the greatest hope of financial restoration and profit-the timber around south Branch Lake-denied him, Scoullar's desperation is, of course, understandable. Some degree of relief from his troubles came after the sale of his former saw mill and shipyard at auction at the County Court House in Burton, when he was able to secure leases to both from the new owners.23 Yet so long as Perley remained a major player in the region around the Lake, and as long as he himself was barred legal entry there, Scoullar could not feel confident in his ability to procure the wood necessary to maintain his shipbuilding and his saw mill enterprises. Nor could he reap the profits in a market-place that would in all likelihood disappear following the final termination of the timber preference. Perley himself denied that his own dislike for Scoullar would prevent him from having his timber cut at Scoullar's mill, though the denial hardly soothed Scoullar's fears of eventual ruin at Perley's hands.24 The only viable alternative thus was to attempt to drive Perley out of the countryside around South Branch Lake by gaining legal control of the region's best timber. Perley hardly welcomed the news that Scoullar was considering such a plan of action, and seems to have reacted by spreading word throughout the upper Oromocto that Scoullar aspired to bar everyone save himself from enjoying the benefits of the local timber trade. As Perley was a prominent man in the area, his word was generally believed, and thus George Hayward was able to honestly declare, in a petition to the Crown Land Office, the universal antipathy with which the public held the Scoullar name.25 Hayward's declaration was confirmed by a formal statement signed by a large number of the river's inhabitants protesting Scoullar's anticipated actions.26 The formidableness of their protest was greatly enhanced, not only by the blessing of Perley and Hayward, but by the timely endorsement of none other than George Morrow, who, after watching silently the beginnings of the ongoing conflict over control of South Branch Lake, had become convinced that the woods surrounding the Lake offered him opportunities for gain not to be missed.
The growing popular clamour against them certainly gave George and William Scoullar and their more reticent partner, Henry Partelow, grave cause for concern over the question of their short and long-term economic viability on the river, but the appearance of Morrow proved even more disquieting to them. He alone of the river's major lumbermen seems to have avoided the more catastrophic effects of the late depression, and while the Scoullars and Perleys fought with one another over access to South Branch Lake, he had quietly managed to position himself on several reserves on a tributary flowing into South Branch Stream. As the recovery gave way to a full-scale boom, Morrow was able to reap the greatest benefits. His prudent finances enabled him to acquire nearly half of the more than 200 square miles of licensed timber berths up for sale at auction, including several small ones on Shin Creek not far from Scoullar's mills.27 The threat posed by Morrow and the general hostility of the river's inhabitants prompted Scoullar to go ahead with his plan to firmly and irrevocably cement his interests at South Branch Lake. Having apparently cultivated a close relationship with the Surveyor General and a number of influential members of the House of Assembly since his election to the legislature, Scoullar took his case directly to the Executive Council, and proved so persuasive before them as to win the astounding concession of a mill reserve on the shores of the Lake in excess of twenty-six square miles.28
Prematurity characterized any celebration Scoullar may have been inclined to hold on the occasion of his triumph. The economy that had made his rapid reversal of fortune possible now turned against him, depriving his victory of the potency he might otherwise have hoped it would enjoy. In reaction to the long awaited incremental reduction of the timber preference, the entire forest industry of New Brunswick slipped into another of its periodic phases of depression.29 For the Oromocto, the plunge in profits hastened a tremendous decline in productivity. George Scoullar, having taken over the lease to his brother's former mills, and having borrowed heavily to sustain their operation in anticipation of great profits from a trade that was now withering, faced an overwhelming dilemma.30 The unfriendliness of the elements compounded his problems, as the spring freshet tore away at his mill-dam and threatened it with total destruction.31 Sluicing the last of his dwindling timber, Scoullar haphazardly repaired the dam, but its weak and inefficient state made its continued durability subject to doubt. So poor were his finances that when one of the two mill-frames broke down he was unable to summon the cash needed to mend it. Capitalizing on George Scoullar's troubles, George Morrow negotiated with the mills' owner a new lease for the still functioning portion of the establishment, which he put to use manufacturing exportable larch sleepers for railroads then under construction in England.32
The partial inanition of the South Branch Mill and the evaporation of George Scoullar's financial resources did not necessarily mean an end to William Scoullar's own career as a lumberman. Even in the gloomy spring of 1846 one group of Scoullar's employees laboured upon his great reserve about South Branch Lake, while another ferried white pine downstream to the city of St. John.33 The presence of rivals jealous of his renewed success and eager to dispossess him from his reserve prompted Scoullar to embark upon a campaign to further shore up his control of the vast South Branch Lake. He requested an extension of the land under licence to him, cleverly including in his proposal the country presently reserved for Perley and his partners.34 Threatened with complete divesture of his interests, Hayward forwarded to Fredericton a curt protest, which was followed a day later by a more vitriolic assertion by Perley that since the portion of the mill Scoullar's brother still retained lease to was completely unoperational, any extension of the reserve could not be justified. Hayward's and Perley's protests proved vain, as Scoullar received his desired land and inherited the six dams, nine camps and various hovels the industry of his unlucky competitors had brought into being over the course of the past three years. Accepting his defeat, Perley resigned himself to refocusing his operations onto berths he still controlled and undertook a program to acquire additional territory by outright purchase. His partners, however, were less inclined to tolerate the loss. His brother altogether abandoned the river for the United States,35 while his uncle, desiring to end Scoullar's ability to effectively lobby in Fredericton for privileges and preference, as well as to subject him to his own brand of vengeance, opted to oppose Scoullar as a candidate in the legislative election of 1846.
In the legislative elections scheduled for October of 1846 William Scoullar faced difficulties stemming in part from the recent recurrence of economic confusion. Scoullar's active involvement in the lumber business and his long-standing patronage of a good many of the people living on the river placed him in relatively good standing with the voters, but his recent obsession with the pursuit of his own interests, as attested to by the formal complaints filed against him, had given rise to doubt among his constituents over his continued fitness for office. Displeasure with Scoullar only deepened with the increasing amount of agitation at the Court of Sessions by the Sheffield Total Abstinence Society for a county-wide ban on the sale of alcohol.36 Indeed, Scoullar's retention of a virtually perpetual license to retail liquor at a small store he operated at the Oromocto's mouth put him squarely at odds with the growing number of teetotallers on either side of the St. John River. Heedless of the divisiveness of the question of Temperance, Scoullar seemingly skirted the precipice of ignorance, busied himself in agitation for a railroad to run through the St. John River valley37 and contemplated the imminent difficulties posed to his business on the river by the thickening shoals at the mouth of the Oromocto.38 His apparent complacency, however, soon gave way to a frantic, whirlwind tour of the entire county, whereby he attempted to shore up support for an increasingly improbable incumbency with gratuitous dispensation of liquor and food.39 In the end his re-election effort failed, and George Hayward, an old county favourite, was returned to the Assembly.40
For all the hopes that may have abounded for a return to happier days, the election of George Hayward did little to alleviate the dormant condition of the economy. Plagued by unemployment and shortages in relief available to the poor, the people of the Oromocto now began to suffer transient visitation by starved, diseased and desperate refugees from Ireland's dreaded potato famine. In days past Irish emigrants came to the Oromocto with the full blessing and support of provincial officials. George Hayward, then between terms in the Assembly, had once even arranged to provide employment and lodging for a number of emigrants sent upstream on the steamer "New Brunswick" by his nephew, Emigrant Agent Moses Perley .41 Hayward's personal sympathies for the hapless Irish represented but a fraction of a greater spirit of Christian charity and common humanity endemic to the people of the Oromocto. So great was this humane spirit that it not only induced a general tolerance for the presence for these and other emigrants, but even managed to push the fractious struggle for control of the river economy into the background while donations were solicited on behalf of the survivors of the tragic fire that destroyed the city of St. John's, Newfoundland in the summer of 1846.42 In the impoverished days of 1847, though, hospitality for a now unwelcome set of guests proved wanting, not so much as a result of a sparseness of basic compassion as a scarcity of parish funds. A pervading consciousness of legal obligation and the fervent hopes for provincial reimbursement helped fuel the wavering capacity for humane concern on the part of the agents of local benevolence. At least six emigrants were saved by hospitalization in the homes of the generous folk of the river,43 but the ills the convalescent carried with them now seemed to descend into the earth. When the harvest came, the potato crop was discovered to have been stricken by a ravaging blight that presented the entire countryside bounding the river with the dire threat of starvation.44 In reaction to the enormity of the crises the great men of the county forgot the differences that had divided so many of them and made a united effort to secure aid in the form of provincial grants and a loan from the Central Bank of New Brunswick. To this end George Morrow and William Scoullar laboured side-by-side, and when the aid was granted, they took joint initiative in calling for a meeting of local magistrates to determine its most equitable distribution.45
Recovery from famine did not mean the return of a more bearable mode of existence. The local economy remained in its retarded condition throughout the rest of the decade. Lumbering continued, but its vitality paled beside the statistics of earlier years. William Scoullar continued his operations, though his brother's dismal management of his former mill had led to its total alienation by its owner to a brother-in-law of William Perley.46 The loss of the lease to the mill ended Scoullar's hopes to retain his mill reserve, though the relatively rapid diminution of its timber made its retention somewhat superfluous. In any event it was lost, and George Morrow and a host of minor lumbermen divided it up amongst themselves. Scoullar's brother left the river for St. John,47 while his original partner, Henry Partelow, soon died.48 Scoullar's competitor, William Perley, continued on modestly in the timber trade, though his profits, like Scoullar's own, were miniscule in comparison to those enjoyed by George Morrow. Emerging victorious in the decade long battle for hegemony on the river, Morrow made the most of his newly secured pre-eminence. New vistas awaited him on the Musquash in King's County, where partnership in a milling venture with Lincoln-based lumberman John Glazier would give way to new profits and renewed conflicts,49 but the old familiar ground of the Oromocto remained his primary domain. As the South Branch relinquished its timber, new grounds to pursue his industry were eagerly sought, and the country in the rear of Morrow's French Lake home soon beckoned to him. Feeling confident in his strength, he turned a portion of his Geary mill over to a man by the name of William Smith,50 and pursued the clearing of the uppermost reaches of Brizley Brook.51
Despite the energy with which Morrow set out to open new avenues for his enterprise, and thus (if only incidentally) create new opportunities for the wage earning, lumbering element of the population, it was eminently clear that no one man could ever hope to resuscitate the arrested pace of economic life. Even as Morrow recommenced his plans for the expansion of his enterprise, patronage in the form of employment remained minimal. A decade of upheaval, competition and meandering fortune had left the entire community of the Oromocto weak and fragile. Dependence on timber brought prosperity, but it also brought despair. Out-migration was a real alternative for many on the river, and no doubt some resorted to this option; joining a steady and increasing stream of men and women flowing out of New Brunswick into such places as Australia, New Zealand and the American States.52 Yet, still, most people in the province resisted emigration, and certainly the aversion to it was strong on the Oromocto. But without the traditional support of timber, a new source of livelihood was necessary if the most vulnerable members of the community were to survive within it.
For years the ideology of agrarianism had rung futilely in the ears of a lumbering populace thought too ignorant and irresponsible ever to appreciate the inherent virtues and stability of a more sedate rural existence, but now, in the agonizing malaise of the late 18405, the tired old call suddenly began to entertain the collective fancy of the populace.53 A Maugerville magnate by the name of Calvin Hatheway, however, decried any expression of optimism for the advance of agriculture and land settlement within the Oromocto watershed, and pronounced harsh judgment on the backward farming practices to be found along Sunbury County's major stream 54 His harsh opinion was reiterated by Professor Johnston, who discovered that the lumbermen-farmers living between the mouth of the Oromocto and Gagetown were hopelessly given over to those very same deluded and stupid habits that had contributed to making the entire province a veritable laughing stock throughout the British Empire.55 Removed from the intensity of desperation felt by formerly prosperous lumberman, men like Hatheway and Johnston failed to appreciate the new resolve that was soon to propel men and women out into the limits of the watershed, not simply to cut timber, but to settle permanently as farmers. The families of Anderson, Boone, Buckingham, Carr, DeWitt, Frost, Howe, McMinn, Till, Tucker and Wood nearly all partook in this movement in the coming decade, carving out new homes in the wilderness in response to the diminishing rewards of life on the river that had become too much a part of their experience to completely renounce.
* Chapter Three *
An Economy in Decline
Through the efforts of the Oromocto's major lumbermen, the watershed's last virgin stand of timber had been effectively tapped out by the end of the 1840s. In the absence of any remaining old growth forest, a return to previously culled tracts would, as Graeme Wynn has pointed out, naturally follow.1 If this was to be the case, however, it would not be possible for the local timber trade to sustain itself at levels attained during an earlier era, when the watershed's forests were comparatively more lush. In truth there was still adequate timber growing along the Oromocto. In the last years of the 1840s, George Morrow had begun to turn his attention toward minor tributaries such as Rockwell Stream, where he anticipated and, in time experienced, steady, sustained profits arising from his enterprise. Yet, as the watershed's population had grown by roughly 25% from 1840 to 1851,2 and as the population would continue to grow over the course of the forthcoming twenty years, the per capita degree of benefit stemming from new industry would decline. Restoration of the economy in the 1850s, in part as a result of the negotiation of the Reciprocity Treaty with the United States, ameliorated the immediate effects of the downturn, granting new life to old industries such as ship-building, and sparking new initiative for diversification in the form of textile manufacturing. The relative upward trend would continue through the 1850s, but as the watershed's timber thinned, and the population grew, the opportunities within the watershed available to its inhabitants visibly eroded. The families who, at the end of the period, migrated to North Lake were among those most profoundly affected by the fortunes of the economy; for they had staked their futures on the long-term integrity of the economy's predominant staple. As smaller tributaries became subject to lumbering activity, and as older settlements became more crowded, many of them had moved into the hinterland, hoping not only to cash in on marketable timber, but also to gain title to farm land as a ledge against the long-term effects of economic decline. When the watershed's forests became hopelessly marginalized, and the land on which many of the migrant families had moved proved practically worthless for agricultural purposes, the families in question would, by the late 1860s, be poised for migration to another locale.At the beginning of the twenty year period commencing in 1850, the families living on the Oromocto who would eventually migrate to North Lake had, from a geographic perspective, changed very little. The periodic booms in the timber industry in the previous decade, centred on the lucrative exploitation of the region around South Branch Lake, had provided them with the means to carry on with their lives at relatively the same pace experienced in the 1830s. At the mouth of the river, James Frost and Thomas McMinn retained their house-lots-- the former continuing to work in the shipyards, the latter apparently making his living as a farm labourer. McMinn's son, George, however, had more fully entered into the nonagricultural work force and may have even gone to work with his father-in-law, James Frost, in the local shipyards.3 At Geary, the Boones, represented by the families of George Boone and his brother John, continued, like their kinsmen, the Tills, to rent parcels from their neighbours. Further upstream, at South Branch, the status of the families of John Anderson, Stephen Buckingham and Charles DeWitt likewise, had not changed. John Anderson and the heirs of Stephen Buckingham retained their small freeholds not far from Scoullar's Mills, while Charles DeWitt, after a near ruinous decade of timber speculation, had managed to survive with his real estate assets largely intact.4 For these families, thus, the 1840s, had been, despite its great upheavals, one characterized by the status quo.
Yet while the material fortunes of the families of Frost, McMinn, Boone, Till, Anderson, Buckingham and DeWitt seem not to have changed in the least, the lives of the other families that would eventually join them in their migration out of the Oromocto watershed had begun to undergo qualitative changes indicative of the larger forces at work in the local economy. Periodic depression, diminution of large patches of timber, demographic expansion, however modest, had already begun to affect the lives of many of the Oromocto's inhabitants, dislodging them in some instances from more familiar ground and prompting them to search the entire river for new homes. William Carr, a grandson of the Loyalist of the same name, had been among the first to respond to the stimulus of change. When the first great depression of the 1840s hit the region in the winter of 1841-42, Carr had moved from Geary further into the hinterland. In a place that would eventually take the name Victoria Settlement, Carr made a small clearing and built a log house.5 There is no doubt that once the economy recovered Carr resumed, like the majority of the river's inhabitants, wage labour in the woods, but it is probably equally true that his resort to land settlement and cultivation had been intended as a supplement to an increasingly unstable and unreliable traditional form of employment.
For reasons similar to Carr's, William Howe, the son of the Loyalist Nathaniel Howe (and a son-in-law of Stephen Buckingham), began to search for alternatives to the negative effects of his dependence on an essentially single staple economy. At the beginning of the 1840s, Howe had been situated at French Lake, but after the first great depression of 1841-42, and the subsequent recovery of 1843, Howe rushed upstream to South Branch Settlement, primarily to find solace from apparently benevolent relatives, secondly to seek employment in the new ventures being organized in that locale by William Scoullar and William Edward Perley.6 Yet after the second great depression and the famine that accompanied it, Howe's confidence in the wage labour on which his subsistence depended waned. Thus, in the late 1840s, Howe moved back downstream, but instead of returning to his old home in French Lake, where his only resort would have been to the very sort of dependent condition from which he was seeking escape, Howe trekked into the so-called Victoria woods, where he joined William Carr as an early pioneer in that locale.7
Howe's kinsman, William Tucker, exhibited similar uneasiness throughout the 1840s, but while he too moved back and forth between French Lake and South Branch, he did not, on account of his premature death, around 1849, have recourse to an agricultural solution to their common dilemma. His heirs were taken in by friends, relations and neighbours,8 but they too, in time, would be faced with the troubles that had faced their father.
Finally, there is the case of Daniel James Wood, the Washedemoak born son-in-law of Thomas McMinn. He did not come to the Oromocto until sometime in the early 1840s. His initial settlement seems to have been with his McMinn relations at the mouth of the river, and it is likely that he found employment here in the local shipyards.9 Yet as production here fell toward the end of the decade, employment opportunities were curtailed, and thus Wood, like William Carr, William Howe and, to a lesser extent, William Tucker, began to search for options to his dependence on the timber and timber-related industries. Unlike the intrepid pioneers of the Victoria woods, Wood was more inclined to seek an easier route away from dependence, and while he did gain possession of a farm on the Rusagonis, he did so as a tenant, not a freeholder.10 Dependence in some form remained a burden for him to labour under, but certainly a step away from the peculiar indenturements of lumbering had been taken.
Though it is clear that land settlement proceeded largely as a result of the instabilities of the timber economy, it is also clear that land settlement among the old timber-dependent families of the Oromocto was minimal. Carr, Howe and Wood may have had recourse to this solution, but Anderson, Boone, Buckingham, DeWitt, Frost, McMinn, Tucker and Till did not. And while three of the eleven families that did eventually leave the watershed did, in the 1840s, resort to the land settlement, they did not by any means desist from their traditional employment in the woods. With the exception of Daniel Wood, who rented a lot in the Oromocto's Rusagonis farm belt, these families moved onto uncleared, unclaimed land, and thus would have been forced to make their living exclusively in the woods until a sufficient amount of land had been improved for cultivation. The process of improvement was in itself a task the difficulty of which undoubtedly made many shrink from undertaking it. Clearing wilderness land of its enshrouding cover was exceedingly arduous work, and the rewards to be gained once the labour was complete, particularly in upland areas such as the Victoria woods, were barely worth the effort. Unlike the St. John River Valley and the lowlands surrounding the Oromocto and its several major tributaries, the upland portions of the watershed were poor in nutritive qualities, and would, once put under the plow, yield only a marginal crop. Hoping to encourage an expansion of New Brunswick's narrow and unstable economic foundations, many in the province had held out for the possibility of extensive upland settlement,11 and men such as Provincial Geologist Abraham Gesner and Deputy Surveyor John Coiling had, in the 1840s, promoted such places as Victoria, Geary and that part of the watershed in Queen's County as favourable places for the encouragement of agricultural development.12 These men were, of course, somewhat unrealistic in their expectations,13 and, of course, they had their critics among their peers, many of whom were convinced that timber exploitation was the best possible use of the crown estate.14 Certainly the actions of the settlers of the Oromocto since the Loyalist era attest to this view. Even as late as the 18405, with the exception of the Irish settlements on Back Creek in Blissville, Hainey Town near Geary and Shirley and Greenfield in central Burton, the upland regions had been almost completely shunned by prospective settlers.
Yet, still, several old timbering clans had moved onto this very same second and third rate upland soil in the 1840s. And if the economy had not periodically prospered in that decade and then more or less fully recovered in the early 1850s many more may well have joined them. But the economy did recover, and the status quo was largely restored. Indeed, by 1850 it had finally dawned upon the majority of the province's lumbermen that the removal of the timber preference in the previous decade was not the end of the industry.15 British demand for timber had not abated. New Brunswick, with a still vast supply of the resource, an adequate labour pool to employ in its extraction and a large fleet of domestically produced ships to ensure its transport overseas, could expect to be competitive in the new preference-less market. Lumbermen such as William Scoullar, William Perley and George Morrow continued their operations, and began, as the decade commenced, to experience new windfalls. St. John merchants, anxious to promote the recovering industry, began pumping money into the watershed's moribund economy, not only advancing cash to the several older established operators, but sponsoring the activities of new entrepreneurs such as John Wallace Craig and Thomas Small Hicks. The shipyards that had been essentially dormant since the depression of the 1846-48, also experienced renewed life.16 Several new shipbuilders, fresh from St. John and Nova Scotia, now plied their trade, employing larger numbers of labourers and creating a greater demand for ships timber.17 As local supplies of pine and spruce had already been tapped, previously overlooked tamarack, found in vast quantities throughout the watershed, was soon determined to be a more than adequate substitute.18 With the renewal of the shipbuilding trade there arose an additional demand for deals and specially hewn logs, and the once bankrupt Scoullar mills, now under the proprietorship of one David Kelley, who had purchased the site from the Central Bank of New Brunswick around 1847, as well as the older establishments on Rockwell Stream and the North West Branch, stepped up the pace to meet it.
At the beginning of the decade the recovery was in full swing. At the timber berth sales in the summer of 1850, the total square mileage of land let on the Oromocto was the highest since the boom of 1843-1846.19 George Morrow, of course, emerged with the largest percentage of the totals, while Perley and Scoullar fell into the middling range. South Branch Stream and South Branch Lake were no longer the centre of the fiercest competition. Perley, himself, for reasons having to do with convenience, confined his enterprise on that stream, but Morrow and Scoullar, seeking to take advantage of the lush tamarack stands in the vicinity of Geary and the Victoria woods, appropriately redirected their competitive inclinations. Morrow came out on top in the subsequent struggle for control of the woods in the rear of Geary, but not to the total exclusion of Scoullar, who managed to gain leases to several berths in the area. Several additional competitors also appeared, the most substantial being one Archibald McLean. A native of Kintyre, Scotland who had initially settled on Grand Lake in Queen's County before coming to the Oromocto in the middle of the 1840s,20 McLean was less a legitimate competitor than a gross violator of the law. Indeed, so lucrative was the trade in tamarack on the upper south west side of the watershed that McLean could not restrain himself from entering that countryside illegally.21 His competitors were generally unconcerned with his indiscretions, as the boundaries of their own berths were generally respected.
The boom occurring in the early 1850s continued unabated throughout the decade, with the exception of a brief dip in prosperity in consequence of the fears initially, and irrationally, provoked by the enactment of the Reciprocity Treaty. The thriving state of the timber trade, the steady growth of the local population and the increased demands of consumers represented clear incentives for local suppliers, who began, in this period, to compete for steam boat traffic with Sheffield. Construction of a wharf at the mouth of the Oromocto greatly facilitated this trade, and certainly it bolstered external access to the thriving little village and its flourishing hinterland.22 Improved overland communications, resulting in part from a sturdy bridge built in the early days of the last decade, also contributed to the growth and prosperity of the region.23 As early as 1849 steamboats had begun to move up and down the Oromocto, servicing the river nearly as far as Hartt's Mills.24 As such traffic increased, and the local shipbuilders grew more ambitious and began constructing larger ships than ever before, the bridge proved more a hindrance to commerce than a help.25 Thus, in 1857, a new, more striking and sophisticated bridge was built, complete with four bays, a complex removable draw and impressive stone approaches.26 So prosperous did the region become that by 1854 one entrepreneur, whose name was not recorded for posterity, had begun entertaining thoughts of a steam powered saw-mill to be built on the lower reaches of the river.27 The mill was never built, for the expense seemed hardly justified by the amount of timber that passed through the river's mouth on its way to St. John, and certainly the river's several water driven mills seemed more than adequate to satisfy internal and external demand.
The most startling development during the period, and the one that attests most definitively to the prosperity of the era, was the construction of a steam driven cotton manufactory on the Rockwell Stream in the heart of Geary Settlement. Since the 1830s and 40s, members of the Provincial government and an odd assortment of elite commentators on provincial affairs, had advocated on behalf of what might be called industrial expansion. As early as 1850 there had been talk among the privileged circles of society of encouraging the erection of a cotton mill on provincial soil. In that year the New Brunswick Society for the Encouragement of Agriculture, Home Manufactures and Commerce had been formed and among its first resolves was the appointment of agents to search the countryside for an acceptable place where such an establishment could be built.28 Sunbury County, of course, had its own chapter of the Society, and its members, led by the Maugerville agriculturalist Calvin L. Hatheway, undoubtedly helped in this endeavour.29 It is likely that it came to the attention of some members of the local Society that a lumberman-farmer by the name of George Kingston, living on the South Branch, had a brother in England who had had wide experience in the British textile trade.30 When the Provincial Society sent a delegation to attend the London Exhibition of 1851,31 it is likely that Kingston's brother, Joseph, was contacted. By the winter of 1853-54, Kingston was in New Brunswick, and not only did he bring with him the capital and equipment needed to put a steam driven cotton manufactory into operation, but he had every intention of building his establishment within the very watershed where his brother had previously chosen to settle. That a number of local entrepreneurs looked with high favour upon his enterprise undoubtedly contributed to his decision to establish himself on the Oromocto.32 That they expressed confidence in his enterprise most likely convinced him that loans to float his operations in their difficult early years would be easily obtainable, and certainly this conviction was bolstered when George Morrow and his partner at his Rockwell saw mill, William Smith, offered Kingston a small parcel several yards distant from the mill for the purpose of building the facilities his manufactory required. William Scoullar, who, in 1850, had managed to win re election to the House of Assembly, also took an avid interest in Kingston's enterprise, and he proved invaluable in lobbying for a large grant to help Kingston procure additional machinery needed to place his establishment in full working order,33 ready, in Kingston's own words, "to manufacture cotton and woolen cloths and homespuns in a superior style suitable to the wants of the country."34
The construction of the Kingston Manufactory was a promising development, holding out the possibility not only of an additional local source of wealth, labour and wages, but of the further expansion of the non-timber sectors of the local economy. Timber, however, still reigned supreme, and its fortunes still controlled the fate of the region's inhabitants. Indeed, the restoration of the confidence of the market-place that had rekindled the depressed industry had given rise to a general belief in the possibility that others beside the river's timber barons could take advantage of the potential for financial gain. While Morrow, Scoullar and McLean moved up the tributaries on the east bank of the river, so too did a host of lesser men, each operating more or less independently and each seeking to extract a small portion of the forest's seemingly resurgent wealth. As most of these smaller operators did not possess the capital to compete with men such as Morrow at the timber berths sales in Fredericton, much of their activity was illegal. Morrow himself was infuriated by their movements through his own berths, and, after numerous and futile personal confrontations with the trespassers, he sought redress against them before the Executive Council and the Surveyor General.35 Any subsequent law passed or order sent out to local Deputy Surveyors to control the abuses of trespassers, however, was virtually unenforceable against the smaller operators Large-scale operations such as those headed by Archibald. McLean were, of course, easily detectable, but a single Deputy Surveyor or Seizing Officer would find it a virtually impossible task to track down the depredations of a single man. To quash the illegal operations Morrow took matters into his own hands by closing the sluice-way at his Rockwell Stream mill, thus preventing anyone from moving timber through it to the market place. As he Was virtually the only one with a legal interest in the woods in the rear of his mill, the inconvenience his action caused to the community at large should have been minimal. But at the County Court of the General Sessions the voice of the trespassers was surpassingly loud, and it was heard, approvingly by Morrow's old competitor William Scoullar, who, as a member of both the Court and the Provincial Legislature, possessed the authority required to force Morrow to remove the obstructions.36 As great as was the instance of trespass in the Oromocto woods, it was soon complicated by a more subtle form of piracy. For decades New Brunswick settlers, native-born and immigrant alike, had engaged in a practice of transient habitation of crown lands for the purpose of extracting their marketable timber. Once the timber was cut, the settler would move on to another lot. A veil of legitimacy obscured this activity, as very often the settler formally requested permission to settle upon the land for the purpose of permanent residence. Punishment for breach of contract, too, was easily avoided, since the settler could, often with much justification, claim that the land in question was totally unfit for cultivation. On the Oromocto the practice of what might be called pseudo-settlement, had been common, and certainly now, in the midst of a new timber boom, the temptation to do so was great. William Howe and William Carr, of course, had already ventured into the prime tamarack country on the south-east side of the Oromocto, but they had done so with every intention of permanently settling. Others would not be so scrupulous, at least not at first. As has been said earlier, the movement onto the land was a major trend during the period from 1850 to 1870, and many more of the families who eventually moved to North Lake would have resort to this option. But before it dawned on them that agriculture and land ownership were means of overcoming the strictures that eventually developed in the local economy, many of them would go through the motions of requesting land grants merely for the purpose of cutting timber.
The greatest onrush into the hinterland in the early 1850s emanated from Geary and French Lake. That these were settlements that had been settled very early on indicates that they had, by 1850, nearly maximized their demographic potential. In addition, the settlements were very near to the choicest sources of tamarack in the watershed. George Morrow, who controlled much of the countryside through leases held from the government, was an obstacle to unrestrained movement here, and he had shown a willingness to confront those who were damaging his interests, but so long as they possessed sanction from the crown as settlers, Morrow could do nothing to stop them. Thus, in 1851, not long after George Morrow repaired to his sluice-way, a significant exodus from Geary and French Lake into the county watered by the Rockwell stream got underway. In the forefront of this migration were three grandsons of William Carr-Gilderoy, Samuel and Alexander.37 Their brother, William Carr, who had established himself permanently on a lot in the area, likewise attempted to take advantage of the land settlement regulations to thwart the laws barring easy public access to the crown estate. William Carr had not yet improved more than 10 acres of his 100 acre parcel,38 thus the fact that he was now applying for more, albeit in the name of his two juvenile sons, was a thin veil indeed obscuring his true objectives.39 "Yankee" John Howe, the kinsman of the Nathaniel Howe clan who had moved to the Oromocto from the United States around 1830 and subsequently married a member of the Boone family, also moved into the area, and after fighting for a lot adjoining his cousin William's that was already occupied by an immigrant settler, accepted a second location not far away, atop a rise known as Geary knoll.40 Finally, there came James Till Jr. Having married one of his Boone cousins in 1847 and started a family, Till, like Carr and Howe, was pressed to find a means to support his dependents. Thus, in 1853, Till moved into the Victoria woods, where he laid claim to a lot next to that settled by William Carr.41
The immediate reaction of George Morrow to the intrusion of these dubious settlers was to begin buying settlement lots from the government. By applying for settlement lots from the government, or entrusting purchase to his sons or other relations, Morrow hoped to discourage the invasion of his rented berths by limiting the amount of land within them available for settlement.42 The strategy, however, did not work, mainly on account of the near prohibitive cost of acquiring the thousands of square acres of territory within the bounds of his berths that was potential settlement land. It would take years to accumulate so vast a swath of country, and by then the remaining timber upon it would make the land relatively worthless. Thus Morrow soon gave up his plan, and accepted as a fact of life the prerogatives of self-styled settlers on parcels that they were entitled, by the laws of the province, to improve and exploit so long as the most meagre of formalities were dispensed with at the Crown Land Office.
In 1855, the nature of exploitation of the land on the east side of the lower Oromocto underwent a change. During the healthy economic years immediately following 1850, there had been no overwhelming compulsion on the part of the small-time lumbermen of the various settlements of the river to abandon the older settlements in favour of wilderness lots in the hinterland. As has been argued, any resort to the land, with few exceptions, had been a pretence aimed at acquiring timber. Early in 1855, however, the local economic situation worsened considerably on account of the recent implementation of the Reciprocity Treaty. MacNutt has argued that no adverse effects followed the enactment of the Treaty, and though this may have been true for the province as a whole, it certainly was not true on the Oromocto.43 Timber production dropped, timber operations were curtailed and employment in the woods and shipyards decreased.44 Most people on the river survived the resulting depression without great incident, but others, more dependent on the industry on account of their lack of any additional resources-such as land-on which to fall back were forced to begin searching for some form of security in these hard times The ungranted crown lands of the watershed had potential as a hedge against the difficulties spawned by the economy. Land was a real, exchangeable commodity, and even if one did not wish to remain on it once the economy recovered, the land, if improved, could be sold at a higher price than originally obtained at, thus representing a considerable gain for the settler concerned. It was, in essence, a form of speculation best suited to the peculiar skills and resources of the poor man. Yet, as land settlement was an attractive solution to the problem of receding opportunities in the job market, it was not one that could be embraced without a certain amount of initial capital investment.45 The land itself, if bought from the government, could be paid for through labour, usually on local roads, but the land would have to be surveyed, requiring the payment of fees for services not only of a surveyor, but of the surveyor's assistants (the chain men) as well. For this reason many settlers had recourse to lots already surveyed. In the vicinity of Geary, where tamarack grew in abundance, the government had begun a program of block surveys. The program was initiated in 1841, when the government introduced the short lived Association system of land settlement.46 When the system failed, the original tract, called Victoria Settlement, was left vacant. Over the years a few settlers had come and gone; thus the land generally lay in the firm grasp of timber barons such as George Morrow, who leased much of it for timbering purposes. By the mid-1850s, however, competition for these lots was fierce. Some had been purchased by Morrow and his competitors, while others, particularly those near the Queen's County line, had recently been occupied by Irish immigrants. For the sons and grandsons of the Loyalist settlers of the Oromocto, the land available thus was limited If any was to be had, it could only come after hasty and perhaps even desperate struggle.
Among the many settlers who moved into the so-called Victoria woods from the older settlements of the Oromocto, only a few are of relevance to this study. Edward Carr, a brother of the other Carrs who had earlier moved into the region for the purpose of cutting timber, was among the first of the new wave of settlers.47 The scarcity of lots led him to a parcel claimed originally by his brother Gilderoy, culled by him and finally abandoned. Professing real intentions to settle it, Carr soon ran afoul of several other would-be settlers, each of whom claimed the lot as their own.48 John Boone, now an elderly man followed closely behind Carr, as did several of Boone's sons, including William Joseph Boone, who eventually moved on to North Lake.49 More surprising than the examples of Carr and Boone, who had merely to walk a few short miles from their homes in Geary to reach their claimed parcels, was the example of Daniel James Wood. Having lived for the last several years as a tenant farmer on the Rusagonis, Wood forsook his rented Lincoln Parish property and travelled to the opposite side of the Oromocto to take up residence on an unclaimed lot in the original Association System settlement block.50 He had come, apparently, at the urging of a Lincoln Parish neighbour,51 an Irish immigrant by the name of Robert Touchburn, who had briefly attempted to settle the Victoria woods in the middle of the previous decade.52 When Touchburn left his own lease-hold and returned to Victoria, Wood followed.
The downturn in the economy that had prompted this latest wave of land settlement in the locale known alternatively as Lauvina, Farnham and Victoria Settlement, ultimately proved to be short- lived. The economy recovered within a year's time, and the bustle of life so recently experienced throughout the watershed by its growing population during the early years of the decade returned.
The traditional staple of timber began to approximate pre- depression levels of production,53 while activity in the shipyards, after a somewhat longer period of suspension, resumed. These two related industries, timber and shipbuilding, alone held out the prospect for continued economic stability, and several other enterprises, such as cotton manufacturing and an as yet only contemplated steam mill offered new possibilities for a broadening of the region's economic base. Yet this optimistic forecast was marred by the increased instance of land settlement emanating from the older settlements. Obviously opportunities in the older settlements were poorer than they had been before, otherwise no movement onto less fertile, more remote wilderness land would have proceeded. Begun initially as a low level form of speculation, it had, since the depression of 1855, taken on the characteristics of a survival strategy. Yet its virtues as a long-term solution to a very imminent problem sure to worsen in its effects on the poorest, most dependent and most exposed portion of the population, were highly questionable. Agriculture and land settlement had never been a completely serious venture, and none of the settlers of the area near Victoria, many of whom probably worked and continued to work for men such as George Morrow, ever really seem to have aspired to a life-style completely free of the familiar ordeals characteristic of a primarily lumbering vocation. Sunbury County Justice of the Peace Nathaniel Hubbard knew as much when he reported on the lack of progress made by the County Agricultural Society in the vicinity of his Burton home in spreading the religion of agronomy and converting the restless lumberman of the region away from their allegiance to the tenets of timbering.54 When the provincial government, inspired perhaps by the success in finally generating interest in land settlement in the region around Victoria, attempted to undertake a similar experiment not far from Great Oromocto Lake at a place called Peltoma,55 none of the old families of the river paid much heed. With no marketable timber to be found there, and no capital in the form of wages paid by entrepreneurs for labour on licensed berths, no man would forsake better known, more thickly settled latitudes for an uncertain, isolated existence in an essentially desolate wilderness. In the early 1860s Deputy Surveyor James Kerr would have greater success in populating the region around South Branch Lake, but the settlers who followed him would be St. John mechanics and poor emigrants attracted by the perceived stability of the farming life, not the old lumbering kindreds of the Oromocto.56 For families such as the Howes, Boones, Woods, Tills and Carrs of the Victoria area, and the Andersons, Buckinghams and DeWitts of the South Branch, the life of the woods lost none of its timeless enchantment, but while they continued on according to the patterns of their ancient habits, the steadily vanishing stands held out the imminent prospect of a crisis. Once exhausted to the most marginal level, the traditional forest economy could no longer support them, and as their land was poorer than the interval lands of the main stream, and as their own meagre prosperity had already forced them to migrate into the interior, the only direction left to move when the fateful day of reckoning came would be away from the formerly life-sustaining waters of the Oromocto. Even a total disavowal of lumbering and a whole-hearted embrace of husbandry could not salvage them from the inevitable fate of the unfortunate settler of the periphery. No interest existed in such a transition, and even if it did, the land itself on which a new agricultural foundation could be laid exhibited so sparse a bounty that no amount of precipitation, fertilizers or nutritive freshets could instill lasting life into its acidic strata.
So long as timber, the basis of the local economy, could be found in profitable quantities, the marginal results of land settlement on poor quality soil would be negligible. The men who resorted to this option could still find work in the woods, either cutting timber and selling it to the river's larger operators, or as employees of other men engaged in similar labour. That a slow downturn in the local forest industry, causing the permanent diminution of local timbering and the curtailment and eventual termination of shipbuilding at the river's mouth, was soon to come could not be discerned in the last years of the 1850s, at least not by the majority of the watershed's people. Indeed, in 1859-60 nearly 150 square miles of vacant crown land was under license from the government for timbering purposes.57 But despite the economy's apparent health, signs were beginning to appear that it was on the brink of a perilous situation. Ship construction was definitely in the throws of a gradual, long-term recession. Anyone comparing the total tonnage of ships built during the 1850s with that of ships built in the 1840s could not fail to notice this sad truth.58 Declining ship's timber in the watershed meant higher costs, thus outside backers of the industry had an incentive to find a more suitable, more economical, place to sponsor it. Centralization of the provincial shipbuilding industry in St. John also contributed to the reduction of the scale of local shipbuilding operations.59
The falling off of shipbuilding operations on the Oromocto was but one of several indicators at the beginning of the 18605 of the unstable, declining local economy. The ruination of the Kingston Cotton manufactory was certainly another. High deficits, brought on by high overhead and an inability to keep pace with foreign competitors, had forced Kingston to mortgage his establishment, along with several pieces of real estate.60 During the late 1850s he made repeated requests to the Legislature and the Executive Council for additional subsidies, but these were repeatedly rejected.61 Thus, by 1860, he was forced to sell off the bulk of his machinery and discontinue his operations.62 A final sign of trouble in the local economy was the disruption of Morrow's old Rockwell Stream milling operation. In 1849 Morrow had turned the mill, or a portion of it, over to William Smith of Geary.63 Smith, a member of a family of millers from the Rusagonis, was a man of ability, well known in the community as an inn-keeper and member of the local Orange Lodge. Like most small-time mill proprietors, Smith undoubtedly relied on cash advances from merchant wholesalers in order to proceed forward with the task of acquiring and cutting raw timber.64 For the average mill-owner, the arrangement was a risky one. If he could not deliver the full amount of timber specified at the time the advance was made, he would find himself in debt to his lender. At times the difference could be quite substantial, thus leading to default and bankruptcy. In Smith's case, he seems to have had no choice but to sell a portion of his mill to cover his debts.65 If timber was still relatively plentiful, it is not likely that Smith, in an otherwise stable economy, would have had recourse to such a measure: the timber would have been cut, the finished product delivered to the market and the terms of the advance fulfilled.
The shakiness of the river's economic prosperity was more fully substantiated in the winter 1861-2. When the American Civil War began, orderly economic relations with its trading partners were subject to severe disruption. New Brunswick had, since the advent of Reciprocity, enjoyed extensive intercourse with the United States; thus when the disruption occurred, it had an immediate impact upon the province.66 Timbering in particular was hard hit-so hard, in fact, that when timber berths were auctioned off at Fredericton in the summer of 1862, a mere 106 square acres of Oromocto land was subsequently released into private hands.67 George Morrow, who had been the river's pre-eminent lumbermen since the early 1840s, now found himself lagging behind at least one competitor in total acreage of rented berths. Morrow himself had already begun to turn his attention toward other, more promising fields of enterprise, particularly on the upper St. John, so his apparent degradation in status was less startling than might at first glance seem to be the case. Still, it was a significant benchmark. If Morrow, the smartest, most aggressive and successful lumberman in the watershed's history was losing interest in Oromocto timber, it could only have meant that there was less timber to be legitimately interested in. That Morrow did not resume his ascendancy at the timber auctions of 1863,68 by which time the initial shock of the Civil War had worn off and the belligerent factions of America had begun to demand large supplies of goods and resources to fuel their divergent war efforts, is further testament to the growing penury of the woods. The amount of land under licence was nearly the same as in 1861-2, but it could not have accrued its various proprietors profits comparable to the relatively higher figures from the 1850s, the 1840s, or any other earlier period of time.
It would, however, be untrue to suggest that the timber economy of the Oromocto was in absolute recession. Morrow's tamarack business on the Rockwell Stream and his growing interest in shipbuilding are testimony to the gains still to be experienced in the traditional business of the river.69 The proliferation of settlement within the bounds of his Victoria berths and the relative scarcity of forest products did have a tendency to prolong his search for usable timber, and at times Morrow's crews, now overseen by his son, George Daniel Morrow, did have recourse to trespass onto parcels granted to individual settlers.70 Other entrepreneurs, such as Archibald McLean, and even some of the settlers themselves, had similar resort to illegal means of obtaining timber, but the overall volume of sticks harvested does not seem to have diminished too substantially, despite the obvious signs of scarcity and the clear retraction of the land under license by the government for timbering purposes. So active, still, was the river trade, that the Sunbury County Municipal Council, in reaction to the enduring fury of the annual Oromocto timber drive, enacted regulations to safeguard the structural integrity of several bridges which had recently been subject to damage by passing logs.71
Real and substantial evidence of a more profound weakness in the local economy came early in 1866 when a reconstituted United States, angry with the British government for its sympathy for the late rebellion, revoked the Reciprocity Treaty.72 With access to the American timber market cut off, the entire New Brunswick economy entered into yet another period of depression. Berth sales in the summer of 1866 fell from 154 square miles in the previous year, to a mere 94.73 In the following year a degree of recovery restored the square mileage under license to roughly 115, at which point it roughly stabilized for the rest of the decade.74 Still, 115 square miles was well below pre-depression levels, and certainly it lagged far behind those observed for the much healthier economic years of the early 1850s. Timbering would remain a profitable enterprise, but the profits to be gained from its prosecution were so marginal that men with only limited stores of capital became increasingly less willing to mount operations in a depressed economy in search of increasingly scarce timber. The risk of deficits and bankruptcy was just too great. Lumbermen like George Morrow, and, after his death in 1868, his son George D. Morrow, would survive as players in the local economy, but only as relatively minor figures. For the time being, it would be outsiders such as Alfred Robinson and Assemblyman William Todd of St. Stephen who would provide the necessary initiative and investment to float the Oromocto's timber trade. The proprietors of large enterprises on the St. Croix and in southern York County, Todd and Robinson leased (and eventually bought) the old Hartt and Scoullar mill works on the North West and South Branches and won concessions for a large number of Oromocto chances.75 Realizing the needs for greater cooperation among the river's more significant lumbermen if expenses were to be controlled and diminishing profits maximized, Robinson formed the Sunbury River Driving company, with himself as its chairman 'and Todd, as well as George D. Morrow, as members of its Board of Directors.76
For the poor man, dependent for his livelihood on the vitality of the shipyards and the lumbercamps, agriculture was an obvious solution to the quandary resulting from the current economic malaise, which, in fact, was now less a temporary condition than a symptom of a long-term problem of receding opportunities. But on the Oromocto, the agricultural solution was not a really viable one. Since the days immediately following the arrival of the Loyalists, the sons of first-comers, as well as new immigrants, had been moving into the hinterland to militate against the effects of overcrowding and overcompetition in the older settlements close to the river's banks. So long as the woods held out and the land onto which the new settlers moved was arable or semi-arable, this movement was a viable alternative to remaining in the older settlements. In the 1840s, yet more so in the 1850s, the sons and daughters of many of the river's original Loyalist settlers availed themselves of the settlement solution, but the land onto which many of them moved was less than adequate to provide them with a secondary source of income to supplement the declining primary one. By the middle and late 1860s, much of the more suitable second rate soil of the hinterland had already been taken up, some by descendants of the river's older settlers, but most of it by less discriminating immigrants from the British Isles. The truth was that individuals whose families had, over the course of several generations, been conditioned by the basic parameters of local life and thus become economically dependent upon lumbering, simply were not interested in a primarily agricultural vocation. The invasion by Geary and French Lake residents of the Victoria woods was initially aimed less at expanding cultivation than at procuring a resource which was then fetching a high price in the market place. Even in the late 18505, when land settlement became a more attractive option, it was done so not so much in keeping with a sincere lifestyle conversion but simply as a means of justifying timber extraction, yet possibly, too, with a mind to selling any improvements coincidentally accomplished during what, in most cases, may well have been intended to be a transient habitation. Indeed, so disinterested were the old lumbering kindreds in the prospects for a sincere application of the plough and spade that when the government laid out tracts in various parts of the watershed for immediate settlement, virtually no native-born resident of the river responded. Victoria, Peltoma and, more significantly, a number of settlements surveyed in the early 1860s around South Branch Lake, were essentially ignored by all save the teeming, unemployed masses of St. John.77
Even if there had been a desire on the part of the river's native-born settlers for a shift from timber to farming, and even if there had been arable land on which to move, land settlement at present would have been extremely difficult. The state of the economy made it next to impossible to find credit from local entrepreneurs, while the local agricultural society, the purpose of which was to promote land settlement and scientific farming techniques, was wholly unconcerned with anything save the more marginal interests of its elite members. Since the early 1840s, there had been regular calls for a system of incentives to lure people onto the land. Travelling through the countryside in the late 1830s, Provincial Geologist Abraham Gesner had noted the land's productive potential and had advocated the extension of credit in the form of seeds, tools and other sorts of supplies to individual settlers. At a latter date, Deputy Surveyor John Coiling had called for an improved network of roads, thereby allowing easy access to otherwise unclaimed, unimproved land, while Deputy Surveyor Stephen Burpee had noted that if land settlement was to make any substantial progress, particularly on the Oromocto, premiums would have to be awarded to new settlers.78 Much of the onus for the implementation of any and all of these innovations fell on the provincial government, but some of the responsibility lay with the local agricultural society. Dominated by a clique of prosperous planters from Maugerville and Sheffield, the society had almost wholly neglected the concerns of the inhabitants of the parishes bounded by the Oromocto River. One-time president Thomas 0. Miles spent much time negotiating the purchase of stud animals, of little use to fledgling farmers,79 while his successor, Henry P. Bridges, thought more of bashing the livestock samples offered for public showing at various provincial fairs by rival societies, than of addressing the county's real agricultural needs.80 That the Burton and Lincoln Parish elements of the Society's members would, at the end of the 1860s, actually secede and form a competing organization, for the purpose of correcting the "malpractices and corruption of...past years" certainly attests to the Society's failure to providing leadership and guidance for the would-be farmers of the Oromocto.81
Thus, by the end of the decade of the 1860s, a clear narrowing of opportunities emerged, stripping many of the Oromocto's inhabitants of their past ability to find the work so necessary to provide for needs of both themselves and their families. For those individuals living on the fringe of Oromocto society, either in the geographic periphery of the watershed, or on small rented lots closer to the heart of the old community, the recession proved most extreme. At the mouth of the river, George McMinn and his father-in-law James Frost, who was now an old man utterly dependent upon his daughter's family for his upkeep, could no longer count on shipbuilding and the ancillary service enterprises in that locale that had formerly arisen to cater to the needs of the once large number of resident ship's carpenters. In Geary, the sons of George Boone (who had died in 1860) could hardly rely solely on farming to supplement their incomes. Joseph A. Boone had once worked at the Kingston Cotton Manufactory, but since its closure, opportunities for employment in industry, replacing opportunities lost for employment in the woods, were obviously gone. Joseph, however, remained to eke out a living as best he could, though his brother Alexander wholly abandoned the river, travelling with his wife and children to Fredericton where he looked for work as a carpenter.82 Their neighbour, Stephen Howe, , son of William Howe, who had moved to Geary from Victoria in 1855 and settled on a small lot purchased from an older resident, was similarly pinched by the decline of alternatives to farming.83 His marriage to a daughter of Daniel James Wood in 1863, and the subsequent births of several children, only intensified the severity of Howe's economic discomfort.
In the Victoria woods, an inability to salvage a living from the land similar to that which existed in Geary, also plagued the local population. Here, a fragment of Stephen Howe's father's family remained confined on the family homestead. When old William Howe died in the middle 1860s, it had passed to his eldest son, William Howe Jr. Deprived of the benefit of their father's legacy, the families of brothers George H. (who had died earlier in the decade) and John Howe dispersed into the surrounding woods. The dispersal of his brothers' families eased the process of dilution of the old Howe estate's resources, yet the steady increase of the new master's own progeny was likely to eventuate a replay of history. Alexander Boone's cousin, William Joseph Boone (who had married the daughter of William Howe around 1860), languished on a small, surveyed, but ungranted lot, his dismal prospects here mitigated slightly by the childless condition of his household. James Till Jr. and Yankee John Howe lived not far from Boone (who was their brother-in-law), but unlike their childless kinsman, they both had substantial families charged to their care. They each had two sons, and a larger collection of daughters, and even if their land was productive or otherwise valuable, it was still far too small to provide for the long term needs of their fast-maturing progeny. More tenuous was the situation of George Ozias Carr, who, after the death of his father, the pioneer William Carr around 1864, had been passed over in favour his sister and her husband for inheritance of the family homestead. Thus Carr moved onto an unclaimed, uncleared lot nearby, but the efforts he expended in improving it were to prove hardly proportionate to the return he would receive. Deeper in the Victoria hinterland, George McMinn's brother-in-law Daniel James Wood had his own peculiar dilemma, for as he had resorted to the land to seek a means of supplementing his diminishing potential for wage employment, he found that the land he had chosen, due to the errors of successive Deputy Surveyors, was in fact much smaller than the 100 acres which he had originally thought the parcel had contained.84
Further south, on the South Branch, William Tucker Jr., after a failed attempt to improve a worthless piece of land on the Rusagonis85 and a period of odd jobbery in the employ of the elite farmers of Lincoln Parish,86 desperately searched for alternative employment. His kinsmen, the Buckinghams, were similarly distressed. Though family patriarch, Solomon Buckingham, had died in 1852, the Buckinghams still had possession of their land on South Branch Stream, but the fact that the clan's third generation was fast maturing, and had already begun to reproduce, boded ill for the possibility that all of them would be able to remain within the watershed.87 Their neighbours, the Andersons, suffered a like predicament. John Anderson had a narrow strip of farm land that could not possibly provide his four sons with an adequate legacy. One of his sons, Joseph, had already attempted, on several occasions, to improve vacant crown land in the interior, but in each case had returned home in defeat.88 Charles Dewitt, however, had managed to preserve a degree of prosperity. He had several improved farm properties and he continued to indulge in the timber industry.89 Yet his family was large, and growing. His son Gideon had married a daughter of a Blissville neighbour and was living in a domicile on the main DeWitt homestead,90 while his daughter Clara was betrothed to Obediah, the son of Solomon Buckingham.
With the economy in a state of short-term disruption and long term decline, the prospects open to these individuals and their families for maintaining any semblance of a comfortable, or merely bearable, standard of living within the watershed were poor. Few of the families could have failed to realize that a fateful decision was upon them. The question was whether to stay in the Oromocto and settle for less in the way of return for their labour, competing with their friends, neighbours and relations for increasingly scarce jobs and timber, or to leave the watershed altogether and start anew someplace where the opportunities for sustaining health and happiness could be better facilitated. For a group of related families, represented by members of the larger clans of Anderson, Boone, Buckingham, Carr, DeWitt, Frost, Howe, McMinn, Till, Tucker and Wood, all or most of whom lived on the fringe of Oromocto society, the decision would be to leave. But they would not simply leave. They would unite under the common banner of their mutual kinship and depart for a place already scouted out, and the fruits of which were well known to be bountiful. The place in question was the District of North Lake.
* Chapter Four *
The Origins of North Lake and the AbandonmentOf the Oromocto
When the migration from the Oromocto to North Lake commenced, the individuals who participated in it did not do so in total ignorance of the place into which they were moving. Nor was North Lake an uninhabited, untamed locale, bereft of history and dependent upon the native sons of the Oromocto for its initiation into the ken of civilization. In the late 1860s, when a select group of Oromocto inhabitants began to make their way to the upper St. Croix, the region had already undergone three formative decades of sustained human activity, during which the objectives of government, entrepreneur and settler tended to mutually reinforce one another, creating a matrix of settlement that allowed for the development of a series of related communities that one day would form the parish of North Lake. The rise of these communities over a thirty year period was likewise assisted by the outbreak of the American Civil War.
While the competing American factions battled one another, new opportunities arose throughout the North Lake district, attracting investment and additional labour, sparking the local economy and expanding the region's demographic potential. It was this boom, resulting in part from the Civil War, that made it possible for the people of the Oromocto to consider relocation to North Lake a viable alternative to continued residence in Sunbury County. Their decision to move, however, required a pore intimate stimulus. Arriving in the 1850s, Oromocto native Hugh McMinn represented the necessary link between North Lake and the older Oromocto community, providing the people of his former residence with tangible evidence of their own probable compatibility with their prospective new home. Without McMinn, North Lake would likely have been unappealing as a destination and the movement of Oromocto natives into the district would never have occurred. In order to understand fully the eventual movement of Oromocto peoples into North Lake, it is, thus, necessary to examine North Lake's history, the economic and social trends at work within it, and, finally, the appearance there of Hugh McMinn, whose own prosperity would ultimately persuade many of his kinsman and former neighbours of the advantages to be gained by transferring themselves to the St. Croix. Once this is done, the full genesis of the Oromocto migration, both the economic forces driving the migrants outward, as well as the factors at work drawing the migrants onward toward a new abode, will be fully comprehensible.
The North Lake district lies on the New Brunswick-Maine border, approximately 25 miles south of Moulton, on the eastern shore of Grand Chiputneticook Lake, at the extreme upper limit of the St. Croix watershed. As late as 1830 the great advancement in human affairs that had already made the towns of St. Andrew's, St. Stephen and Calais minor hubs of international trade had yet to penetrate the interior of a country that, while laying outside the immediate political jurisdiction of the aforementioned places, exhibited a peculiar geography that naturally inclined to link North Lake's fortune with that of the river below. In 1830 this natural inclination proved less real than theoretical, as a series of rapid and treacherous falls, cedar swamps and a confusing labyrinth of deceptive channels and inlets confounded any speculative impulses exciting the imaginations of St. Croix entrepreneurs and prevented them from venturing much further than the forks between the east and west branches of the river, a mere twenty miles from the main centres of civilization to the south. Beyond the transforming ambience of industry, then, lay a wilderness wherein human beings were not, with any certainty, known to have lived, and where shiner and toque, eagle, wolf, bear and caribou roamed with little fear of violent destruction by man. Only the indigenous peoples of the continent moved with any confidence or regularity through the district, travelling across paths well worn by centuries of use in search for oft-times elusive game. Theirs was a tranquil, ageless existence, little changed since that time, before the European reconnaissance, when the new world was not yet new. Cut off from the main haunts of the white man and, as of yet, beyond the limits of the latter's confidence to easily Subjugate, the North Lake district, from its lower limits at the Palfrey Brook, to its upper reaches at the source of the Monument Stream, represented a strange and anachronistic relic of an earlier day, but one which could not, if only for the reason of its still inaccessible stands of timber, forever remain outside the influence of a certain covetousness inspired by an awkward alliance of curiosity and need.
The first intrusion of the white man into the blissful country around North Lake came in the early 1830s. Obsessed by an indefatigable quest for profit, a coterie of Woodstock lumbermen began to ascend Eel River and delve into North Lake's north-eastern quarter. Assemblyman Jeremiah Connell erected a camp on the western shore of First Eel River Lake, granting nocturnal haven to his employees, who, by day, toiled to extract what could only have been, for reason of mere remoteness from the market-place, a meagre and inconsequential harvest1 On the American side of the St. Croix, small groups of settlers congregated to take advantage of the bounty of a luxuriant yet still largely unknown fishery, wherein a host of rare and mysterious species, unadapted by the peculiarities of natural selection to the hungry wiles of man, became inevitably ensnared in the nets strung across the narrow portions of the waterway. 2 Less concerned with the niceties of international law than with the immediate demands of sustenance (as well as the distant promise of trade abroad) these settlers, Americans all, illegally crossed the border with impunity-a violation that offended no one, save, of course, the fish themselves, who, though born perhaps in New Brunswick waters, were as yet unable to lay claim to the privileges and protections entailed by British citizenship. Of greater consequence for the development of the North Lake district was the interest shown in the region by a tight-knit, incestuous group of St. Stephen businessmen, the most significant of whom were the assorted members of the Hill family. The family's fortunes had been established by Abner Hill, an American born emigrant, who built a mill, operated a merchant vessel and rose to a prominent place in the social and economic hierarchy of the lower St. Croix.3 In time his several sons entered into the family business, cutting timber, crafting lumber and selling it at home and abroad. In 1832, the brothers Abner Jr. and Stephen Hill explored the upper St. Croix in search of new stands of timber. At the narrows between Grand and Spednick Lakes, the Hills discovered a suitable place to harvest wild grass.4 Anticipating the eventual movement of teams into the woods of the upper St. Croix, the Hills submitted a petition requesting a grant be made to them of the land. Possibly with the help of their brother, Assemblyman George Stillman Hill, the request was fulfilled. Not long afterward, the brothers constructed a rude dam on the site, the purpose of which was, obviously, to facilitate the conveyance of timber.5
The scarcity of labour in North Lake and its absolute seclusion from virtually all connection with the more settled state of mankind excluded the immediate prospect that the Hills, and others like them, could soon overcome the impositions of nature and transform the country into a substantial producer of a much demanded resource. The Hill brothers' vague intimations of the potential the region had for permanent settlement did manage to persuade the responsible agents in the government to refrain from disposing of lands thought most fit for cultivation, though a certain ignorance of the rocky terrain of the district led to the apparent creation of settlement reserves much more suited to the prerogatives of the quarryman than to the steady application of the plough. The Hills' activity also attracted the attention of Moses Henry Perley, who shortly began to contemplate a foray of his own into the shadowy world of large-scale land speculation. A native of Maugerville and a resident of St. John, the young barrister had found no little advantage in hovering about the corridors of power in pursuit of the fruits of his own exorbitant ambition.6 Fully condoning the unpopular Baillie's determination to favour the holders of large sums of capital with the sale of blocks of land of unprecedented size, Perley submitted an application for an enormous tract of country beginning at the Digudegash Stream and extending northward along the eastern shore of the St. Croix watershed.7 Admitting the obstacle to his own plans for developing the region represented by the existence of several blocks previously alienated to others (including, apparently, the Hills), Perley proposed the transfer of the intervening territories to himself, thus allowing him to subsume a contiguous eighty thousand acre piece of country under the name of the "Barony of St. Croix." The ultimate concern of Lieutenant Governor Campbell that so large an alienation of crown land could only serve to fuel the growing discontent with the privilege of the executive and lead to charges of aiding and abetting the agents of monopoly disposed the responsible functionaries in the government to reject Perley's scheme.8 Pleading breach of faith, as well as of law, and professing his personal discontent and imminent financial ruin if the nullification of the application was allowed to stand, Perley presumed the privilege of a personal interview with the Colonial Secretary,9 but was saved from the humiliation of repudiation from this quarter by the generous grant of a more modest parcel in the vicinity of St. John.10
Perley's bid to assume control of so vast a block of New Brunswick wilderness may have failed, but it apparently had the unintended effect of convincing the Hill family of the expeditiousness of a more concerted and serious consideration of the means by which the upper St. Croix in the vicinity of North Lake could become a secure and accessible component of their enterprise. Cognizant of the utter futility of any attempt to open the country without sustained occupation thereon, the Hills conceived the notion of establishing settlers at the Narrows as a way around the otherwise insoluble problem of the transportation and purveyance of labour. Solicitations among the people of St. Stephen produced an adequate number of individuals who were more than willing to accept all the tribulations incumbent upon settlement in the wilderness in return for both tenant lots on the presently idle Hill estate and employment at the saw and grist mills the Hills aspired to erect. So enthusiastic for the plan did the brothers become that little could be done to restrain their imaginative faculties. Two of the youngest of the siblings, Daniel and Horatio, even envisioned the day, not long in coming, when the entire circumference of the upper lakes would be populated by a myriad of industrious settlers. Having purchased their brothers' interest in the Narrows, Daniel and Horatio petitioned the provincial government for an interest-free loan of an unspecified amount for the purpose of forwarding the family's plans.11 Less convinced of the utility of the reclamation of the as of yet undeveloped provincial lands than of the political expediency of investing crown revenues in those regions where the electorate abounded, the House of Assembly rejected the petition, choosing instead to grant the prayer of the people of the Rusagonis for assistance in the novel construction of a windmill.12
Though the Hills experienced the most daunting of barriers to the fulfillment of their hopes to found a great city in the woods, their positive assessment of the practicality of opening the upper St. Croix for business and settlement was soon confirmed by a man of reputed expertise in such matters. Employed since 1837 as Provincial Geologist, Dr. Abraham Gesner had, by the end of 1840, explored much of New Brunswick in an effort to thoroughly map its terrain and assess its prospects for future development. Gesner's edifying lectures to the public (free of charge to the members of the House of Assembly, as well as to employees in the various bureaus of government in the capital) attracted the attentive interest of none other than George S. Hill.13 Blessed with a piercing intuition into the motives and character of others, Hill took an immediate liking to Gesner, whose knowledge and integrity he admired. When Gesner announced his intention to survey the St. Croix following the legislative session of 1841, Hill undoubtedly greeted the news with pleasure, as it offered him not only the opportunity to entertain the good doctor, but to ascertain the veracity of his brothers' own somewhat wild pronouncements on the possibilities for more thoroughly developing the district of North Lake. Hiring three expert Indian guides for the purpose, Gesner, his son Henry, his friend and assistant Charles Ketchem, and all their provisions and equipment, were ferried by canoe for several days through the various cataracts of the lower river, until reaching the waters bounding the western limits of the North Lake district. At the so-called Thoroughfare, connecting Grand Lake with North Lake, the way was blocked by the nets of the Americans. Despite the discovery of their depredations on British territory by an agent of the Crown, the Yankee fishermen offered Gesner and his party hospitality and directed them to nearby Baskegan Settlement where a new supply of provisions could be procured. The hum of industry at the rising town, soon to be renamed Danforth, did not go unnoticed by the perceptive doctor, who, when back on the waters of the St. Croix, could only recreate, in his own particularly vivid and somewhat wistful way, the very vision of rural advancement that had so recently animated the aspirations of the Hills. Crossing the portage to the St. John watershed, Gesner had little difficulty transferring his vision for the progressive settlement of the upper St. Croix to the more fertile banks of Eel River. A softness for scenic wonders and a peculiar romantic temperament allowed him to overlook several of the more awkward characteristics of the country, most notable of which were the lack of any means of easy communication with even the most primitive outposts of civilization and the steep, uneven terrain that made even the construction of the most simple of paths an exercise worthy of the most gifted of engineers.14
Upon his return to the city of St. John, Gesner, by the incalculable workings of invisible Providence, suddenly found himself with the means to test his assessment of the settlement potential of the North Lake district. In the midst of a scandalous debate with the Assembly over the question of the proper allocation of money grants and desperate to ameliorate the effects of the depression wracking the entire province, Lieutenant Governor William Colebrooke turned to Gesner to help implement his recently devised Association System of land settlement. Having already proven his public spiritedness through involvement in the St. John Agricultural Society, Gesner was approached by Colebrooke with a position as a volunteer land agent, upon the acceptance of which he was instructed to seek out persons amenable to immediate wilderness settlement. Transforming his own private quarters into a smaller replica of the Crown Land Office, Gesner received a deluge of inquiries from distressed residents of the city, all anxious to try their luck at farming as a means of escaping the most extreme ravages of the present financial panic. By December of 1841 Gesner convened a public meeting, at the end of which two dozen reputably sober and industrious heads of households agreed to form an association and repay any monetary assistance they would henceforth receive from the government for the purpose of forwarding their objectives.15
As most of the associates were emigrant Irish Protestants, native mainly of the Irish counties of Derry and Coleraine, and lately resident of the fire scorched parish of Portland, the problem of fostering a spirit of community did not present itself. The prospect of settlement in the midst of the notorious New Brunswick winter, however, did pose something of a dilemma. Motivated as much by the previous example of winter settlement performed by a group of Irish Settlers at Cork (news of whose exploits was touted by their self appointed guardian, Lemuel Allen Wilmot) as by an utter lack of any viable alternative available in St. John, Gesner led the twenty men to their appointed destination. Avoiding the several surveyed tracts already prepared by the government to accommodate associate settlers, Gesner instead proceeded directly to North Lake, the very district where his aesthetic fancy had of late been so decisively entertained. As the upper St. Croix lay too far from the reassuring proximity of roads and humanity, Gesner opted for the western bank of Eel River, the interval of which offered the settlers a better opportunity for rapid cultivation upon the imminent arrival of spring. Despite Gesner's own glowing reports of the virtues of the country, the initial reaction the settlers upon discovering the true nature of their new home was one of dismay and disaffection. Less impressed by the land's scenic qualities than by the threat of early frosts and the wolves who prowled with incessant ferocity about the outskirts of their camp, the settlers asserted their reservations, only to accede, in the end, to the will of their benefactor by provisions paid for out of the latter's own pocket and the promise of additional aid to be procured, in the near future, from the government.16 Gesner's continued advocacy for the settlers at Eel River secured the deliverance of the much needed assistance,17 though his own growing preoccupation with the demands of increasing numbers of prospective settlers still residing in the city somewhat diluted the full force of his subsequent solicitations. Additional allocations for the fledgling community at Eel River stalled as the House of Assembly refused to surrender the power of the exchequer to more responsible hands, thus forcing the Lieutenant Governor into refusing to accede to the spending of any provincial funds for public improvements.18 An emergency compromise allowed several thousand pounds to proceed to the most devastated regions of the province,19 while a smaller benefice, procured through the advocacy of Wilmot, was confirmed for the purpose of supplying additional provisions20 and employing the settlers of Eel River in the construction of a much needed road to the St. John.21 Following an old and barely passable bridle path, Deputy Surveyor Henry Garden laid out the line of the proposed highway, while a more ambitious survey was also undertaken, not only of the lots in the settlement soon dubbed Maxwell, but for another settlement to be called Monument near the ultimate source of the St. Croix.22
The early success achieved by Gesner in the nurturing of his new Eel River settlement soon gave way to a more distressing situation, as Gesner himself was drawn away from assisting his various associations by his seasonal responsibilities to prosecute the geological survey of the province. The intransigent spirit of the House of Assembly had predisposed its members against acquiescing in the granting of provincial monies for the payment of Gesner's salary, but a discrete commission as an agent to gather information vital to the negotiation of the boundary question, as well as his own enthusiasm for the completion of the geological survey, convinced Gesner of the propriety of resuming his provincial duties.23 In his place as commissioner of the Eel River settlement, the Lieutenant Governor selected Walter Hay24 a Woodstock gentleman who had been carrying on in the lumber business along Eel River since 1837.25 Making his way to the spot some fifteen miles above Meductic where Gesner, only a few short months before, had deposited his people, Hay was shocked by what he found. Having been apprised (no doubt by Gesner) of the great triumphs of the noble settlers of the bush, Hay discovered a scene of pathetic destitution. In a vacuum of effective supervision proper rationing of provisions had quickly succumbed to gluttonous consumption, following which a number of the associates simply abandoned the collective enterprise in search of employment elsewhere. Those who remained managed to convince the compliant Hay to accede to a set of extremely loose terms for the repayment of the sums expended upon them by the government, at the same time refusing to remit the price of those provisions consumed by their more faithless and lately absconded companions. Touched by the real instances of penury, but unable to distinguish the truly profligate, Hay listened to the settlers' professions of willingness to continue on in their present endeavour and hastily handed over the recently procured provisions paid for out of his own pocket.26 When Colebrooke heard of the manipulations suffered upon his agent by the shifty settlers of Eel River, he expressed deep annoyance, demanding of Hay a fuller account of his activities, even accusing him of gross mismanagement and improper and tardy response to his several requests for further information.27 Amidst Hay's protests that the remaining settlers were in fact presently engaged in fulfilling their obligations, as well as awaiting the harvest of their "considerable crop,"28 the Lieutenant Governor's own reprimand of the besieged Hay ended with an unfavourable comparison to the more successful Wilmot and the triumphs achieved by settlers under the latter's more strict supervision.29 For his own part, Hay, after professing his own good intentions, presumably returned to Eel River to press for the full repayment of grants for provisions and the completion of the road the construction of which the settlers had already begun to undertake.
Despite the difficulties involved and the sometimes disgraceful behaviour of the Eel River settlers, the settlement in the North Lake district had been established. Unable to stomach the first, difficult days of foundation, a number of the original party had, as Hay discovered, fled in search of a more amenable situation, while others, eager to return home to jobs made viable again by the resumption of economic normalcy, sold their improvements to later comers directed to the region by officials at the Crown Land Office. Of those who abandoned the settlement, some eventually returned,30 while others, having slowly developed a love for the forsaken country, sent word to friends and relatives in Ireland and Saint John to join them in the heroic enterprise of building a new home.31 Within the first several years of the Eel River settlement's existence, its residents managed to clear modest farms whereon they grew indian corn and a variety of grains and garden vegetables.32 Following in the wake of Gesner's party, Patrick Dinnin, a Catholic Irishman, most likely from County Cork, managed to make his way to the banks of the Eel, where he took up upon one of the original lots in the Garden Survey and built a small saw and grist mill.33 This auspicious construction only hastened the arrival of additional individuals and families eager to occupy many of the remaining parcels in the vicinity, including those surveyed at the remote extremity of the Monument Stream. Somewhat less enthusiastic over the prospect of these new developments were the Hills, whose own designs upon the region had undoubtably been aided by Gesner's evaluation, but who, in a state of paralysing ambiguity, did little to act in a way that might harness the new influx of settlers to the wagon of Hill enterprise. The men of Eel River may have been too far from the centre of the Hills' still unripened North Lake operations, but only the slightest of encouragements were needed to bring additional settlers to the Hills' upper st. Croix domain. Already, by 1844, several men had mysteriously begun to clear farms near the so- called Deadwater, but their presence seems to have struck more fear than hope in the breasts of the Hills, as two of the newcomers, James A. Huson and William Russell, had no apparent connection with them, and certainly were not living as tenants on the Hill estate.34 Fear of trespass upon their unprotected lands soon began to inform the business decisions of the brothers, and when lumberman James Murchie approached them with a request to haul lumber from their North Lake holdings, the Hills required him, in addition to abiding by set limits on the numbers of men and beasts to be used in his operation, to actively guard against the wiles of the clandestine wielders of the axe.35
As great as the fear of trespass may have been, the practice of this particular brand of criminality remained doubtful. The extent of timber operations so far within the interior, both legal and illegal, continued to be minor, as the demands of the marketplace further downstream were met by the still lush stands lying on tributaries situated at latitudes of lower inclination. At these more southerly locales, and still further downstream in the various towns strung out along the tidewaters of the St. Croix, a great boom now overcame and banished the lethargy so recently holding sway over the entire region.36 The magnitude of this new prosperity removed even the most innocent necessity for competition, giving rise to cooperative ventures among the already mutually congenial timber magnates of St. Stephen.37 The Hills, in particular, prospered under these conditions, and none more so than Daniel and the fortune seeking Horatio. Expanding their operations onto the American side of the river, the two brothers translated a twenty-five thousand dollar investment into a voracious set of saw mills known as "True Blue" and the more aptly named "Blood Thirsty" that together accounted for over three million board feet of lumber annually.38 In the throes of optimism, the Hills' waning concern over the immediate fate of North Lake produced little anxiety, but, toward the end of the decade, when a new group of settlers appeared beneath the prominence known as Lake End Mountain at a place soon named Fosterville, distress of mind surely found more fertile ground in which to germinate. These new settlers were a generally homogeneous lot, drawn from the Parish of Wickham, Queen's County and the surrounding countryside, where a growing population occasioned constraints on opportunities available to many of its native-born sons and daughters Led to North Lake by Josiah and David Foster, the settlers set about the slow process of land clearance-preparing the way for others waiting hopefully back home as the initial trials of homesteading were endured and overcome. For the sake of their early initiative, as well as for the fact that the settlement was soon graced with the presence of the families of three more of their siblings, Josiah and David Foster seem to have accepted the honour of eponymous founders. But the nascent little community named for them soon divided, as several of the newcomers found it more advantageous to establish themselves atop nearby Lake End Mountain. In respect to the lushness of its vegetation, the rise, following the completion of a survey by Deputy Surveyor James Davidson in 1854, was appropriately rechristened Green Mountain. Not surprisingly, the scattered cabins atop it, perched in blustery isolation, were soon dubbed Green Mountain Settlement.39
Awakened to the new threat to the integrity of their business, the lumbermen of St. Stephen conceived of a new scheme to safeguard their interests. The threat did not stem solely from the new settlers in Fosterville either. Even before the Wickhamites could turn away from the immediate demands of settlement and contemplate outrageous acts of piracy in the surrounding woods, groups of Americans had begun crossing the border and making off with timber on the large granted parcels held by the Hills and others of their kind.40 To protect themselves, as well as bring some semblance of order to one of the district's more extensive tributaries, William Porter, the Hills and several other St. Stephen entrepreneurs proposed the formation of the Pirate Brook River Driving Company.41 The company would collect tolls upon the use of the stream to convey timber into the Chiputneticook Lakes. The construction of dams and other appropriate measures could then be paid for out of the general fund into which the tolls would be deposited. Convinced of the efficacy of the measure, and perhaps spurred on by the advocacy of George S. Hill (who was now a member of the Executive Council), both houses of the legislature assented to the company's proposal to incorporate under the sanction of the law.42 A series of apparent misunderstandings between the members of the company's board and, perhaps, difficulties in summoning adequate capital, prevented the fulfillment of the specifications of the act, and thus occasioned the dissolution of the venture. Without the power to coordinate and control lumbering on the upper St. Croix properly, the major operators had no choice but to continue to struggle to meet the ever growing menace of illegal and legal competition. Successful settlement had set in motion a chain reaction, as new settlers and new entrepreneurs, attracted by the emerging prospects for profits in the region, entered into the hunt for the remaining tracts of ungranted land. Stimulated by the demands of the market, land prices in the vicinity rose.43 Fearful of losing the opportunity to expand their dominion, the Hills and their allies turned to their influential kinsman, George S. Hill, for assistance. The greater improvement of the region along lines first conceived by his brothers, and never completely given up by them for lost, required sustained investment of a degree still not forthcoming from even the most enterprising and wealthy of St. Croix magnates. Though recognizing his own responsibility, not only to his family, but to the province as a whole, Hill was also aware of the conflict of interest involved in any attempt on his part to lobby for privileges in Fredericton; thus he opted instead to promote throughout New England the extensive opportunities for profit from investment in the exploitation of the resources of the upper reaches of the river.44
Two years following George S. Hill's appeal for the intensifying of foreign investment, he was dead. His family, deprived of their patriarch, as well as their voice in the secret chambers of government, pondered the alternatives before them. The steady pace of settlement of the North Lake district had inspired great confidence at the Crown Land Office for the progressive expansion of agriculture. In 1852, the Surveyor General authorized John Davidson to survey several tracts on either side of the Eel River Lakes, in addition to a line of road connecting Fosterville with the so-called Howard Settlement in the heart of Canterbury Parish.45 Previous to Davidson's commission, all communication with the various settlements to the east had been accomplished either by following ill-marked and oft-times perilous trails through the New Brunswick forest, or by embarking upon long circuitous journeys through American territory. The occasional resort to river navigation brought some North Lake settlers to the older settlements of the lower St. Croix, where the vital work of purchasing provisions and securing patronage could be properly conducted. As trespass continued and American lumbermen threatened to extend their own sway over the district, the magnates of St. Stephen sought new means of exerting more firm control over the upper portion of the St. Croix watershed. It soon became clear that only the thorough annexation of the region to Charlotte County could accomplish that design, and those occasional visitations by North Lake settlers to the heart of old Charlotte County seem to have presented the very grounds on which such a move could be justified.46 The proposition to annex a very sizable portion of the county of York could never have been acceptable to certain individuals, most notably the political leaders of the York Municipality, who naturally registered their protest with the Legislature when William Porter, the Hills and their colleagues presented a bill to expedite the matter.47 When faced with additional petitions, filed by groups of settlers fearful of the great inconveniences to arise if the hub of county affairs were shifted from nearby Fredericton to distant St. Stephen, the Assembly had no reasonable choice other than to reject the proposed annexation.
As happy as the defeat of the annexation measure proved for the greater number of the inhabitants of Canterbury Parish and York County, defeat of annexation did not in any way solve the more immediate problems of North Lake's residents. Still cut off from the more expansive centres of civilization to the south and east, the people of North Lake cultivated a brand of self-reliance familiar to pioneers of the wilderness Their virtuous autonomy was only slightly modified by the success achieved by the lumbermen of St. Stephen, following the defeat of the annexation bill, in winning a second approval for the incorporation of the Pirate Brook River Driving Company.48 Stream drivers in the employ of the new corporation now appeared in the locale and an orderly series of dams and sluices were rapidly constructed to permit the free flow of timber past the shallow places of the tributary. Labour presumably was plentiful, despite the obstacle posed by Green Mountain to the ready access by the district's settlers to the site of the Company's operations.
As the operations of the new Corporation got underway, the desultory effect of the American Civil War had begun to be felt throughout the entire St. Croix watershed. Seizing the opportunity to meet the seemingly endless requirements of the belligerents, the proprietors of the various manufactories of St. Stephen intensified the pace of their operations, while a horde of American citizens, finding the peace in New England disturbed by a conflict of distasteful origin and loathsome expression, took shelter in border towns and wilderness hideaways, waiting for the day when the spirit of accord might allow their inconspicuous return home 49 An accident of political geography made North Lake a convenient terminus for this new American immigration. Once here, some of the emigres purchased improvements from older settlers for the purpose of temporary occupation,50 while the vast majority squatted on seemingly ungranted lands a few miles north of the Narrows. Hardly offended by the arrival of uninvited guests so close to their own properties, the surviving Hill brothers contemplated the new vistas the unfortunate struggle of their American neighbours now opened to them. Demand for leather goods, in particular, had risen on account of the war, and recent innovations involving the bark of hemlock in the curing of hides made the establishment of tanneries close to the source of the vital resource economically prudent.51 North Lake, with its ample supply of hemlock and accessibility by water to the major entrepots downstream, represented an ideal place for such an establishment, and as the labour needed to construct the required facilities and see to the tannery's various functions was already present, Daniel and Horatio Nelson Hill decided finally to fulfill their long dormant dream for a great settlement in the woods.
Having purchased their elder brothers' North Lake properties, in addition to a vast contiguous tract on the American side of the watershed, the Hills led a party of men to the designated site of their establishment in July of 1863. Upon clearing trees on either side of the Narrows, the Hills laid out a town site on British soil, while a similar series of surveys were completed on the American side for the placement of the tannery itself. Almost immediately a saw mill was built, not far from the old dam, and once completed it was employed in the manufacture of the lumber needed for the construction of the sheds and various apartments to house the men and machinery necessary for the tannery's proper operation. At the cost of $25,000 the Hills created a company town, complete with a store, three boarding houses, a blacksmith shop, a school for the edification of the young and no less than two bridges to allow for the easy transit from one side of the border to the other Projections for untold riches prevailed, and within a year of the day when construction had commenced, the Hill brothers' tannery was turning out its first finished hides. An energetic population quickly appeared, most of them Americans drawn from the surrounding hills in search of a more stable existence, and the shouts of joy and frolic emanating from amongst the attendants of the periodic balls held at the home of one Jackson Calkin soon rose above the sylvan wilderness where only a short time before nothing was ever heard, save the occasional howl of the wolf and the quiet patter of moccasined feet.52 So delighted was Horatio Hill with the products of family enterprise that he abandoned his comfortable home on the lower St. Croix and retreated to his new town, which, in recognition of its distinctly arboreal setting, he soon named Forest City.
The immediate expectations the Hills had for a return on their investment were not disappointed by the temperamental workings of the invisible hand of fate. The modesty of the tannery's production at the end of its first full year of operation was more than amply offset by the contribution of the Forest City saw mill to a new Hill record of six million feet of sawn lumber.53 And as the residents of the entire district were quickly enlisted in the hunt for hemlock, Horatio Hill sent samples of his industry to Fredericton as evidence of his intention to make a more complete showing of his wares at the annual Provincial Exhibition.54 The outbreak of a fire temporarily stalled operations, but, in the end, this setback did little to hamper the exuberance of a settlement praised by a wandering correspondent of The Reporter as owing its existence solely to the business energies of the pertinacious brothers.55 On nearby Pemberton Ridge, the fortunes of the expatriate Americans likewise flourished, as their thrifty habits helped inaugurate a dozen cleared fields, each subject to regular cultivation, in addition to a completed line of road stretching northward over Green Mountain and into the heart of Fosterville. In the northern portion of the district, where hay was becoming a major agricultural staple, the formerly proposed line of road to Canterbury had finally been prosecuted, though the inexplicable destruction by fire of a costly new bridge spanning a small stream along the way briefly hindered more voluminous communication abroad.56
Long deprived of adequate facilities for the reception of the mails, the link now established between North Lake and the main settlements of Canterbury Parish justified the establishment of a local postal way office.57 But while the people of North Lake suddenly found themselves no longer dependent upon the services of the town clerk of the nearby American settlement at Orient for the processing of their correspondence, the growing needs of the growing population demanded special attentiveness that could only be fulfilled by resident magistrates. When first one local man, and then another, were appointed to be Justices of the Peace, the convenience of the people was markedly improved,58 though a scarcity of polling places, even in the more settled parts of the parish, continued to offer them little opportunity to express their own political inclinations. Proximity to the American border and the activity of lumbermen such as Ephraim Gates, who relished the present ease by which his Calais based business gained access to the rich timber lands of New Brunswick, made local enthusiasm for the shocking novelty of the recently proposed British North American Union somewhat ambiguous. The antipathy of the Hills, who relied to a near fatal degree on American capital, and the gratuitous largess of American operatives eager to sway the loyalties of the people, essentially killed any local support for Confederation. Rumours of widespread disdain for Union in the vicinity of North Lake spread to the capital. These rumours were only given greater credence when York County Assemblyman John Allen stumped throughout the region in an effort to bolster the confidence of all those apprehensive of the enchantment for British North American Union that had already overcome the parochial sentiments of the Honourable Mr. Tilly.59 When the opponents of Confederation gained control of the House of Assembly in 1865, they quickly established a polling place in North Lake, thus ending the inconvenience that presumably had prevented so many of the settlement's eligible voters from traveling to Canterbury to cast their ballots and, alas vainly, attempting to extend their own political longevity if and when the forces favouring Union recovered from defeat and again began lobbying for its implementation.60
Amidst the furor of local development, provoked in large part by the establishment of the tannery at Forest City, the quiet, unassuming progress of individual settlers proceeded on course. Among the ranks of these largely inconspicuous men and women was Hugh McMinn. Born on the Oromocto River in 1822, McMinn suffered at an early age bodily possession by a wayward and restless spirit. In keeping with the dictates of the commoving spectre within him, McMinn left the haunts of his childhood sometime after 1839 and set out on a series of aimless and secret wanderings that finally, in the middle years of the 1850s, brought him to the very northern edges of the St. Croix watershed. A certain sense of design had, in the intervening years, apparently given him a degree of control over the seemingly purposeless compulsions of his inner demon, end thus it was with some relief that he was able to make contact with a family undoubtably known to him many years before during his more complacent days near the mouth of the Oromocto. This family was the Winship family. Of New England origin, the Winships had settled in at the Oromocto's mouth in Lincoln Parish around 1810, having been drawn there, apparently, by the boom in timber and shipbuilding. For unknown reasons, the family, made up of nuclear units headed by the brothers Thomas and Benjamin Winship, moved to the township of Amity, Maine, a few miles distant from North Lake.
McMinn's marriage to one of Benjamin Winship's daughters seems to have exercised his roving inclinations and inspired within him a resolution to return to New Brunswick. But rather than remove himself back to the place of his birth, where good land and opportunities were increasingly scarce, McMinn established himself on the south side of the thoroughfare connecting Grand Lake with North Lake, and separating American soil from British, on a parcel owned by St. Stephen lumberman William E. McAllister. McAllister's enthusiasm for proprietorship did not long withstand the imaginable difficulties of collecting rent-; thus it was not long before McMinn was deeded the property.61 The opening of the tannery gave added encouragement to any lumbering McMinn previously engaged in, and the periodic trips he seems to have made home to the Oromocto for the purpose of visiting family soon spread tales of the prospects open to the industrious man on the frontier. His younger brother Andrew became enthralled by his tales. In 1864, Andrew left the banks of the Oromocto to seek his own fortune on the shores of the Chiputneticook Lakes.62 The lingering inhospitable character of the land, despite the evidence of human advancement occurring all around him, dissuaded the younger McMinn from persevering in his newly chosen vocation as pioneer, and thus he returned to his home on the Oromocto.
Hugh McMinn's brother's disinclination to abide permanently in North Lake did little to deter Hugh's own strivings. The tannery's operations created new avenues for his private fortune, and, as he accumulated the profits of his labour, he invested in local real estate. The purchase of an improved lot on Green Mountain was soon followed by the expansion of his homestead through the acquisition of his neighbour's farm.63 His new affluence likewise allowed a more competitive stance in the harvesting of hemlock. When the annual auction of timber berths was held in Fredericton in the summer of 1866, McMinn was able to outwit the conniving Gates and win possession of a two and a half square mile chance at the head of North Lake that the later man had held the previous year.64 Gates' annoyance was all the greater due to the inability of his crew to clear the tract of all the timber they had cut during Gates' tenure on the land. When McMinn apparently attempted to bar Gates access to the tract for the purpose of removing his logs, so embittered an antagonism arose between the two men that only the intervention of the Surveyor General could avert the escalation of hostilities.65 With the integrity of the still uncut ground guaranteed by the promises of the Crown Land Office,66 McMinn ignored the invisible bounds marking Gates' remaining reserves, and when Deputy Surveyor Patrick Curran came to examine the progress of the various operations in the vicinity, the presence of timber laying at the mouth of Hay Brook clearly cut on Gates' property became the subject of immediate seizure. McMinn's efforts to win release of the impounded timber soon became complicated by the competing claims of one Washington Weatherbe, who, for the sake of the rising price of hemlock, was more than willing to brave the wrath of the agents of the Crown. Confused by the disputations of the two men, Curran appealed to the wisdom of Surveyor General Charles Connell to solve the matter before retreating down the St. Croix to the familiar hearth of his Milltown home.67
Provoked by a strange mingling of personal animus and the perception of ever larger profits to be gained on the emerging frontier of North Lake, Hugh McMinn's aggressive and sometimes unscrupulous practice of business would only grow in proportion to the success it helped secure. At the dawn of Confederation, McMinn was one (a minor one at that) of a number of lumbermen competing with one another throughout North Lake for the preference of crown and market. It had been an unusual set of circumstances that had introduced the North Lake district to the peculiar economic habits of man. Alternatively entertained by the extremes of optimism and nagging anxiety over the future of their business, yet convinced of the utility to themselves of sponsoring the introduction of more widespread human activity into a then uninhabited region, the Hill family of St. Stephen and their allies provided the first impetus for North Lake's development. Dr. Abraham Gesner, expressing unhesitatingly the potential the region had for advancement and empowered with the authority to see to the fulfillment of his own pronouncements, managed to do what the Hills, with all their capital, had yet tailed to do in the establishment of the district's first settlement. And though Gesner's community at Eel River proved vexatious not only to himself personally68 but to the entire provincial administration, it formed the basis for all later settlement in North Lake. The Hills' own undying desire to subdue North Lake and place it firmly in the constellation of their commercial dominion eventually allowed for the greatest encouragement of all to local aggrandizement, the tannery. With it came the means by which a poor man of limited means and constrained opportunity, such as Hugh McMinn, could conceive of rising from the anonymous mass of the rural proletariat to assert himself as an individual of financial acumen able to gain possession of a certain degree of prosperity. For his friends and relations back on the Oromocto, the success achieved by McMinn occasioned a pause for consideration of what the frontier district of North Lake might have to offer them.
That Hugh McMinn returned periodically to the Oromocto there can be little doubt. Survivors of the days during which McMinn spent his old age attest to his journeys to the countryside of his birth. Successful in his own humble way as a lumberman-farmer, bringing word of new prospects elsewhere for employment in the traditional business of the river, Hugh McMinn, on these journeys, undoubtably took on the proportions of some minor prophet, relegated to the dingier pages of the book of life, yet possessing the keys to the locked door behind which reposed a trove of precious mysteries. With fewer opportunities for employment as local shipbuilding and lumbering declined and a wife, children and aged in-laws to provide for, McMinn's brother George certainly had reason to look upon the prospect of re-settlement with favour. The same was true of George Ozias Carr, Enoch Buckingham, Stephen Howe, Daniel Wood and William Joseph Boone, and the maturing children of James Till and Yankee John Howe in Geary and the Victoria woods. Further south, on the South Branch, the rest of the Buckingham clan, the Andersons, William Tucker and several members of the DeWitt family also contemplated the advantages of migration. As most of them either possessed no land of their own, or subsisted on marginally productive lots which had been cleared within the last twenty years, and as prospects for employment on the Oromocto had so markedly diminished, the attractiveness of Hugh McMinn's North Lake home and the reputed opportunities to be found there were extremely compelling.
So it was that in the fall or winter of 1868-69, McMinn's brother-in-law Daniel James Wood, McMinn's brother George, George's father-in-law James Frost, Wood's son-in-law Stephen Howe, Stephen's cousin Andrew Howe (Andrew seems to have been a son of John Howe of Maugerville) and three sons of John Anderson-Joseph, James Frederick and David-took temporary leave of their dependents and journeyed to the St. Croix, where they apparently took up residence in the Hills' Forest City boarding house until private lots could be staked out, trees cleared and permanent homes erected.69 Obediah Buckingham, who was intimately connected with this initial group of migrants (being a brother-in-law of Andrew Howe and a cousin of Stephen Howe), momentarily refrained from going with them, though it seems clear that, had it not been for the timing of his marriage to a daughter of Charles DeWitt, and perhaps the shadowy dictates of his mother, who seems to have controlled the family finances, Obadiah certainly would have joined them in the first difficult days of settlement.
The arrival of the Oromocto contingent in North Lake could not have been more auspiciously timed. Having just purchased the tannery from the Hill brothers for $30,000, Thaxter Shaw was in the midst of planning a series of renovations intended to enhance its current level of production.70 Constrained by the terms of his purchase from marketing alcohol or promoting any other variety of immorality normally associated with large groups of men unencumbered by the responsibilities of family life, Shaw fostered the habits of sobriety among his employees. Still retaining the New Brunswick portion of the Forest City Township, where they were already preparing to erect a new store and install new machinery in their saw mill, the Hills likewise contributed to the cultivation of clean living-opening up the top floor of a new meeting hall to the newly organized Society of Templars, building a Methodist chapel and encouraging the establishment of a parochial school for the edification of the young. The completion of the Western Extension put rail traffic to within ten miles of the thriving little community at the Narrows, and though overland travel in general in and out of Forest City was still somewhat difficult, Shaw's intention to sponsor a steamer between Vanceboro and the outlet at the base of Grand Lake offered the real potential for more quick and easy connection with the outside world.71
Forest City, however, for all its many conveniences, was not the ultimate destination of the wayward tribe from the Oromocto. Undoubtedly with McMinn's assistance, lots were located at Green Mountain and its environs, overlooking, and in some cases fronting, the various bays and inlets that accentuated Grand Lake's eastern flank. Once the immediate needs for shelter were met, a larger stream of dependents from the Oromocto commenced, creating a current that finally dislodged the dawdling members of the Buckingham family from their moorings on the river. Obediah and his brother James came first, charged by their mother with the task of purchasing suitable land for the entire clan to settle upon with money resulting from the sale, in 1870, of a portion of the family's South Branch estate.72 Once done, mother Buckingham made her way out, followed by her son Enoch, who was accompanied by his kinsman William Tucker.73 Yet they were not the last to make their way to North Lake. Having observed the progress of their fellow Oromoctoans, others, not initially involved in the first phase of the migration, began streaming into North Lake. John Boone's son, William Joseph, abandoned Victoria around 1870. His cousin Alexander, who had left Geary for Fredericton some years before and found work there as a carpenter, followed in 1872, bringing with him his brother, Joseph Albert Boone, his wife and a large brood of children. Alexander Boone's brother-in-law, George Ozias Carr, having inherited nothing from his father except a second-rate parcel of land, sold his property in the same year and made the journey westward with his wife and several small children.74 Not long afterward, Eliza Howe, the widow of George H. Howe, unable to take care of her two young children properly, sent one of them, her son Abner, off to live with her former neighbour, Daniel James Wood, whose daughter Abner would later marry. Several members of the family of James Till; Joseph, son of "Yankee" John Howe; Gideon Hamilton, son of Charles DeWitt; Gideon's blind cousin, Salome; and even Charles Tapley of Sheffield, a distant relation of the Geary Carrs, rounded out the migration, so that by 1881 there were over a hundred former residents of the Oromocto, representing most of the river's main settlements, congregated around that great geological prominence at the centre of the North Lake district known as Green Mountain. Contacts between the new residents of North Lake and their old homes on the Oromocto continued for years to come. Indeed, the inestimable power of a thousand seen and unseen bonds existing between the migrants and the river could not help but compel many of them to make occasional sojourns into the countryside of their birth. Intermarriage between members of the two distant communities naturally occurred, as did periodic shifts in residence-shifts that would continue well into the middle decades of the twentieth century.75
The former residents of the Oromocto who migrated to Green Mountain constituted in essence, a colony (one existing within an older community), the members of which had been drawn from their place of nativity by the existence in their new home of opportunities no longer available to them in their place of origin. Unable to place much confidence in any future prospects for subsistence on the river, the migrants had taken heart upon learning of the success of one of their own. The Oromocto-born Hugh McMinn nevertheless represented the promise of life on the frontier. It was he who conveyed to his people a sense of reward to be found in North Lake, away from an increasingly stultifying, unattractive existence on the banks of the Oromocto, and it was he who led them, in a fashion less heroic than Moses, into a land flowing, if not with milk and honey, then with waters polluted by the organic and inorganic by-products of the tanning process. What McMinn did, while interesting, was not profoundly remarkable. Nor was the choice on the part of a group of his friends and relations to follow him to a new home particularly exceptional, though their decision to resort to so necessary (yet somewhat radical) a solution to their troubles can certainly be said, in the spirit of Braudel, to be clearly within the limits of the human capacity for free will. In truth, it is the reasons for a choice, not the choice itself, that are of the greatest import in understanding the past.
In regard to the choice by a number of Oromocto residents to migrate to North Lake, the reasons for it were the essentially economic forces at work in the Oromocto watershed over a period of thirty or forty years. It is these forces that are the dominant protagonists in this protracted story, just as were similar ones in the stories of Andover, Massachusetts, Chelsea, New Hampshire, Ludlow, New Brunswick and, it is supposed, a host of other communities throughout North America and throughout the world. Indeed, it is the irresistible progress of time, the limitations of a pre-industrial staple economy and the dictates of the market, not the willful exploits of a single individual, or group of individuals, that must, in conclusion, be recognized as the major causes of the changes studied here. Time, timber and the market had all conspired to create the Oromocto community. And, as far as one particular segment of the river's population was concerned, time, timber and the market dissolved it.