Sketches of the Restigouche

By Irene Doyle

The Daily Sun, St John, N.B.
Wednesday Morning
February 5, 1883

Rev. J. C. Herdman, B.D., of Campbellton, N.B.

(Written as I have found it, grammatical errors and all)

        We come now to the time of BRITISH occupation.

        1. Sketch of the prograss of settlement.

        The earliest dweller in Restigouche, other than of French descent, appears to have been a man named Henry, who took up his abode at a sudden bent of the river, known now as "Lefurgey's", a little above Head of Tide, on the south side. But where he came from, how long he remained, and what became of him, are, except by conjectures, unknown; all that appears being that he traded with the Indians and must have come up here very shortly after the battle of 1760.

        In 1764, a claim as to ownership of property in Restigouche came up before Governor Wilmot and the Council in Halifax. What is now New Brunswick was of course at that time and for twenty years more included in Nova Scotia and under the jurisdiction of the Council. The case stood thus: Frontenac had, in 1690, made a large grant, (confirmed by the King of France next year), in Restigouche to M. d'Iberville a son of the seigneur of Longueil, brother of M. de Villebon, Governor of Acadia and himself a captain in the Frensh navy. This grant, along with similar ones in Nepisiquit, to Gobin, and in Miramichi to Denis, became subsequently the property of a Mademoiselle Reygaillard, whose fealty and homage belonged by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 to Britain, her possessions being within the limits of the original Gaspesia; by that treaty ceded to Britain. But the French had paid little heed to the terms of this treaty: the boundary lines were in dispute; the region in question was in actual occupation by the French; and it is not surprising to find Mademoiselle Reygaillard in 1753 at Quebec, before the Intendant of Canada, acknowledging the suzerainty of the King of France. Some time afterwards, she disposed of these tracts of land to a Mr. John Bondfield, of Quebec, the deed of disposition being registered also at Quebec. Of course the conquest of Canada by the British and the recognition of Restigouche as part of Nova Scotia, put Mr. Bondfield's ownership in a precarious position. He was holding lands by foreign title deeds, and besides a provincial statute had been passed in 1759 making it impossible to recover land in Nova Scotia on the strength of "French titles." So when in 1764 Mr. Bondfield pressed his claim upon the Council and produced official copies of the original warrants from the registry at Quebec, their answer was that the claims could not be admitted.

        First to carry on a systematic business in Restigouche was the celebrated London firm of Shoolbred & Smith. In 1764, William Davidson settled in Miramichi; 1766, Charles Robin reached Paspebiac; 1767 or '68, Commodore Walker landed at Bathurst, and somewhere between these dates and 1770 Shoolbred & Smith began business in Restigouche. Though the exact date is (so far as local knowledge goes) uncertain, it may be approximately inferred from the fact that in 1775 Shoolbred asked and obtained from the Council in Halifax a grant of three thousand acres in Restigouche, "where he had for many years", so ... his petition, "carried on a salmon trade." It may be noted also that 1770 was the year in which applications were made to the Council, by some company probably who thought to do an exclusive trade, for large grants on the south side of Bay Chaleur, to include rivers also suitable for fishery. It was further contemplated to bring out 150 families from the Orkneys; but the scheme came to nothing. Of the personal history of Shoolbred and Smith little is known now in the place. There was a Captain Shoolbred , one of Wolfe's men, and who took part in the siege of Quebec, who had a grant of land in Bay Chaleur: it is thought to have been a son, or other relative of his, that was one of the firm. The name has descended to the present day, in the shape of the Township of Shoolbred, on the north side of the Restigouche. So too there is a Smith's Island, called from Smith. Where the Township of Shoolbred now lies and upwards, which is on the Quebec side of the river and so was not subject to the Council at Halifax, the firm held extensive lands, granted them for a business in fishing and furs, and it was to his position there that Shoolbred no doubt refers in his application of 1776. It was not long before they dissolved partnership; and later on, there is a Smith spoken of as agent in Restigouche for Walker, of Bathurst, then doing the main business of the Bay in fur walrus tusks codfishm etc. Meanwhile, and not later than the year 1775, Shoolbred and Smith brought out the first old-country emigrants to Restigouche. They were from Aberdeen and came to prosecute the salmon fishery. Just as the early French traders along this "North Shore" were from the north of France, so the first British settlers (though not Orkneymen exactly as intended in 1770) were from the north of Scotland, fruitful mother of hardy men.

        During the course of the Revolutionary War, Restigouche was acourged by American privateers. About 1778 Walker's property, mainly in Bathurst, but including also what he had in Restigouche under Smith care, was ravaged mercilessly. Down the Bay, however, the marauders were intercepted by British gunboats, the "Wolf" and the "Diligence," and an engagement took place off the Perce coast in which the Americans were worsted. During the same war, also by New England privateers, Robin's property was plundered; but the plunderers were chased up the Restigouche and captured there by the British warships "Hunter" and "Piper." Still another privateer came up this river for spoils, of which mention will be made shortly.

        The grant of land to Shoolbred on the south side of the Restigouche. in 1776, included the district where Cambellton now stands and upward. On account of his not fulfilling the conditions of the grant, such as opening up roads, promoting rapid settlement and developing the resources of the country, it came in the possission soon afterwards of a Mr. Lee. This Lee was an American and came to Restigouche, it is thought, about 1781. He did a very large business in the way of curing salmon, which he exported to Spain and the Miditerranean in cargoes not always too carefully packed according to accounts, and sent also heavy shipments of fur to Boston. It was in his day, and in connection largely with his own business, that the country began to open up for settlement. He sent to Aberdeen for coopers to barrel salmon, and for men to prosecute different department of the fishery business; and in this way came out representatives of the sturdiest strength of Scotland, men accustomed to honest hard toil. The two or three of this class who had come out formerly under Shoolbred and Smith, at a time when the only other English settlers were Walker's Men at Bathurst, had indicated their race so well, that it was to the Don and the Dee that Restigouche was to look for reinforcements for years to come. Under Lee came out the grandfathers and great-grandfathers of the present generation, and the predominating names to-day in several localities are of Aberdonian origin.

        About this time flourished Robin Gray, of local celebrity, and after whom the stream now called Christopher's Brook was first named. This man lived at the point known as "Lefurgeys", at Head of Tide, and was probably employed by Lee. There is a steep rock there, overlooking the river,(Morissy Rock) but now partially cut away by the railroad track, the summit of which was Gray's post of observation; from it he used, in the prosecution of his trade, to swoop down upon the Indians to secure from them their salmon as they passed and repassed with their canoes, and in this way earned for himself the familiar soubriquet of the "Eagle".

        in 1783 and '84, U.E. Loyalists, some of whom had been in comfortable positions in the States and had made considerable sacrifices for their allegience to Britain, came to Bay Chaleur. For the most part, they were settled down the coast on the north side. Of those who came to Restigouche may be mentioned Mr. William Busteed, an Irish officer, who occupied Battery Point down the river. Other accessions of strength also were coming now from different parts of Scotland. From Perth came Mr. Alexander Ferguson, who settled on the north side at the head of the tide, and between whom and Mr. Lee there was constant competition; and in 1796 came out his brother, Mr. Robert Ferguson, a man of superior energy and acknowledged ability. Mr. Lee some time after became involved with his London crediters, and got into business difficulties; there was some litigation over his valuable estate in Restigouche, and upon his death, Mr. R. Ferguson procured by purchase from the widow 1,600 acres of land, including the marshes and fertile intervale, constituting the most fabored soil in Restigouche, originally the site of the old Athol House property. This property soon became the center of activity and trade.

        Of the few first emigrants who came to Restigouche from Aberdeen under Shoolbred and Smith, about 1775, was one Duncan, whose name, now the property of several families, has been a prominent one in the community ever since. The first child born in Restigouche, of British parentage was a David Duncan; the first female child was born to another early emigrant, Adams, and became afterwards the wife of R. Freguson, Esq. Among early incidents connected with theses names, this one may be noted . Besides the marauding incursions on the part of American vessels up the Restigouche, as mentioned above, a privateer came up on another occasion during the years of war. The two families, Duncan and Adams, were living at the time in a house at Big Point, at the water's edge. They were most inhumanly robbed of everything they had, even to their provisions and small household articles. This was late in the fall, too; starvation stared them in the face. Not to be daunted, Duncan, and the men with him, went energetically to work; built a boat, in which all embarked and leavin Restigouche went round to the St. Lawrence and up to Quebec. What length of round that was, a glance at the Gaspe peninsula on the map may serve to show: and this was done in a open boat, following round the coast. They stayed at Quebec all winter: received some Governement aid and returned, some of them at all events, the following spring. Duncan's mother dying, he thought of leaving Restigouche entirely: but finally made up his mind to marry instead. And the marriage was on this wise: the bride was at Bathurst, some 60 miles away; and further there was no minister or other authority of any kind to marry them on this side of Miramichi. It was winter time too: and the only track was round the intermediate and circuitous Caraquet and Tracadie coast. Round this coast, and on snowshoes, went the intrepid pair, were united in holy wedlock, and returned to Restigouche. Considering the length of the journey, the scarcity of horses, and the severity of the winter weather in these parts, this may well rank as an unprecedented feat in the history of honeymoons. And that same bride was skilful enough in the use of the gun to be able to provide for the larder on occasion, and one winter killed a moose.

        To be continued...

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