Sketches of the Restigouche

By Irene Doyle

Campbellton's History According to John T. Reid

        Early History

        The history of Campbellton is so interwoven with that of Restigouche County generally, and particularly Atholville, I cannot do better than quote largely from an article written by Mrs. W. D. Duncan some time before her marriage. This article first appeared in the Campbellton Pioneer, a weekly paper published some few years before the town was incorporated, and later reprinted in the Tribune in December of 1927. The events so well coved in this article will certainly be of interest and serve as a background for the history of Campbellton proper.

        The following is the article referred to, with certain portions of minor importance omitted:

        "The war cloud having disappeared from the Restigouche and the Baie des Chaleurs, Messrs. Shoolbred and Smith acquired from the British Government control as Seigneurs of the Restigouche and Bay from Pabos on the north to Smith's Island at Tide Head - Pointe a la Garde alone being reserved by the Imperial Government - and from thence to Nipisiguit on the south side of the bay. They were aware of the magnificent salmon fishing and intended to develop a trade to Great Britain.

        They engaged Robert Adams, David Duncan and his son, then a lad of 16, natives of Aberdeen, Scotland, to come out and take charge of their territory and prosecute the salmon industry for them. They came out accordingly in 1773 and at once commenced operations. They established stations at various points, making Old Church Point, (Atholville) their headquarters, and thus became the first British Settlers on the Restigouche. The only inhabitants on the river were the Micmac Indians…Their burying ground was then at Old Church Point and in later days the tides creeping into the bank had unearthed several skeletons of extraordinary size…

        David Duncan, going to visit a fishing station at New Richmond, found the ship in which he intended sailing to Scotland in the fall just ready to sail, so he was compelled to leave without bidding his son good-bye. They never saw each other again. The mother learning that her son was left in Restigouche would not believe but that he had been killed by Indians and shortly afterwards died heartbroken.

        For a time the trade flourished under the superintendence of the two young men, Adams and Duncan. Then the American War of Independence broke out. Twice the American privateers sailed up the river and plundered the little company's stores at Old Church Point. The second time they had been warned of their coming and had hidden their stores in pits in the woods, but they were betrayed by the French in their employ. The plunderers took everything - even the hat off Robert Adams' head and the watch out of his pocket. His partner, Duncan, was absent at the time at New Richmond. They immediately set to work to build a boat to go to Quebec for fresh supplies. While engaged in building the boat they had to subsist on berries and fish. When making their way up to Quebec, at Green Island, a short distance below Quebec, they fell in with a British man-of-war and were very kindly treated.

        On another occasion the little band narrowly escaped being massacred. One of the men had given an Indian a beating and his people were plotting to the pale faces, but their plans were disclosed by a friendly squaw and the massacre was averted. But on the whole the Indians were friendly and a kindly feeling has always existed between them.

        The trade in salted salmon, fur and feathers was a profitable one. Messrs. Shoolbred and Smith had a store at Old Church Point sixty feet long.

        A few more intrepid souls from across the water landed in Restigouche about the time. Among the first to arrive were the brothers William and Thomas Busteed, both married men. The latter had a family of four children. Mrs. Thomas Busteed was a French lady whose maiden name was Anne Bonne. Her parents had both lost their lives in the French revolution. A band of loyalist found a resting place farther down the bay at New Carlisle and Paspebiac.

        John Duncan, at the age of 38, wisely decided that it was not good for man to live alone. He had met, courted and won Elizabeth Morrison of Nipisiguit, now Bathurst. There was no Protestant minister nearer than Miramichi to perform the wedding ceremony. Nothing daunted, with true Scottish fortitude, the intrepid lady agreed to walk to Miramichi on snowshoes. They set out, following the coast all the way, and spent the nights with Indian families in their camps. They were duly married on Tuesday March 20, 1790, at Miramichi By John Fraser, V. O. M. Missionary. At that time moose were plentiful, and it is told of Elizabeth that she was a capital shot, bringing down many of these noble animals near her home in Nipisiguit. She and her husband took up their adobe at Old Church Point.

        Robert Adams was shortly married to Elizabeth Busteed by Rev. Mr. Dripps, a Church of England clergyman, the first Protestant minister to visit Restigouche. John Duncan's son David was the first male child born of British parents in Restigouche, and Robert Adams daughter Mary was the first female child-the latter being a few months' older than David. She afterwards became the wife of Robert Ferguson. Both children were born at Old Church Point.

        Subsequent marriages give the names of the original families. Adam Gerrard, first collector of Customs, married Sarah Busteed. The Gerrard family was of Huguenot extraction.

        John Adams, (great grandfather of Miss Minnie Adams) brother of David, married Mary Busteed. This marriage took place in a most romantic spot-on an open boat in the middle of the river. This was done to avoid a technical legal difficulty. Robert Adams died when a comparatively young man, and his window married William Pratt, an Englishman…

        Samuel Lee, Esq., about this time discovered that Shoolbred and Smith, as Seigneurs, had not fulfilled their contracts, as no roads were built, not school etc., established. This was represented to the Imperial Government and in consequence their estates reverted to the Crown. Robert Adams and John Duncan applied for a grant of Old Church Point but for some unexplained reason did not receive it. A journey to Fredericton was a tedious matter in those days, and land was held in esteem principally for the fishing privileges attached. Samuel Lee obtained a grant of 750 x 1000 acres adjoining Old Church Point. The names of the other original grantees are as follows: Thomas Busteed, Sr., Alex Bean, John McGregor, George McGregor, John Haliburton, Robert Inness, Issaac Barnes, John Somerville.

        A brisk trade was carried on by Alex Ferguson and Samuel Lee with Quebec, Halifax, and other parts. The salmon were first thoroughly cured in immense vats, then packed into barrels of 200 lbs. Weight - ten and twelve salmon filling a barrel. The trade of coopering was then much in demand. Fur was plentiful and there were myriads of wild fowl in their season. The ruthless slaughter of moose caused these noble animals to leave the country.

        Lee and Ferguson had a dispute over fishing grounds, a lawsuit ensued, which of course entailed a trip to Fredericton. Lee died on his way home and Ferguson a few months afterwards, probably from the effects of the arduous journey. Robert Ferguson, who had been a clerk for his brother Alex then took up his brother's business and bought the Lee Estate. He was a man of forceful and determined character and afterwards conducted a large business - trading, shipbuilding and lumbering.

        When the war of 1812 broke out Restigouche had to furnish her quota of young sons for the country's defense. Several whose names were drawn obtained substitutes. Among those who went were David Duncan, Sam Christopher and Harquail. They were on garrison duty at Fredericton to take the place of those sent to the front. Sam Christopher was afterwards promoted Captain and David Duncan Ensign. The latter received a fine sword in recognition of his services. Later a fine volunteer company of Restigouche men were organized. They were remarkable for their uniform fine appearance.

        To be continued...

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