Eastern Restigouche in 1847
What was Restigouche like in
1847? Abraham Gesner, one of New Brunswick's early
"'renaissance men", gives us some idea.
Gesner (1797 - 1864) is best known as the
inventor of the process for producing kerosene, but he seemed to be able
to do almost anything. He was the provincial geologist and in the
middle of the 19th century, he wrote "New Brunswick with notes for
Emigrants." Admittedly, this book was intended to persuade
Britain's " surplus population" to seek opportunities in New
Brunswick, and most of these books tended to make things sound good;
perhaps a bit better than they were. Gesner is probably more honest
Here, at any rate, is his description of the
country, taken from a copy of the book held by the Restigouche Regional
Museum (initial preamble above courtesy of The Tribune).
Still advancing along the coast, we enter the
District of Restigouche. The county is bounded on the south-east by
Gloucester, south-west by wilderness lands and north by the Bay Chaleurs
and Restigouche, or the boundary between New Brunswick and Canada. It
contains 1,266560 acres.
Jacquet River, about nine miles from Belle Dune,
descends from the mountains to the south. It is a rapid stream,
scarcely navigable for canoes. The lands near its mouth are of good
quality, and may be rendered very fertile by the application of lime and
marl, of which there is an abundant supply on the shore. At a short
distance from the seaboard they are still ungranted. This part of
the Bay-side is sheltered by Heron Island and Black Point, which form a
safe harbour. The population is scattered.
is very desirable that the new road between Bathurst and Dalhousie should
be completed, and the erection of a bridge over Jacquet River is necessary
to safe and comfortable conveyance between those towns. In 1842 the
road was a series of swamps, partially filled by short logs, or projecting
masses of rocks, ever threatening to capsize passengers. The
traveler is sometimes relieved of these obstacles by being driven along a
narrow path to the very brink of the sea-wall - or among the soft sand,
and slippery kelp, and driftwood of the shore, where both horse and driver
are sometimes greeted with a shower of spray from every wave. The
bridges across the gullies are like those built by children, after a heavy
shower, except that some of them are upon a larger scale, and more
deserving of the appellation of horse-traps. To add to these
impediments, the inhabitants, where the ground is level, have encroached
upon the pathways, leaving only the length of cart-axel between the fences
for the accommodation of the voyageur, who at almost every step is saluted
by the kind "Prenez-garde" of the watchful Acadians.
Nash Creek, there is a small settlement a mile and a half inland; from it
to Dalhousie the distance is nineteen miles. Benjamin River, North
and South Rivers Charlo, are small rapid streams.
Mills, formerly called Merloguish, was first occupied by a Mr. Rumpoft, a
Dutch merchant, who for many years was engaged in ship-building and
fishing at the place. The establishment was since occupied by Wm
Flemming, Esq., who erected grist and sawmills upon the stream.
Heron and a cluster of smaller islands afford good shelter for vessels,
and the inshore fishery is still valuable.
margin of this part of the Bay is very thinly settled. The
population consists of Provincials, Scotch, Irish, and Acadian French, who
appear to live together in great harmony. Some fine fields have been
cleared; and since the attention of the inhabitants has been directed to
husbandry, their labour has been rewarded by substantial crops.
Wheat, although late n ripening, often yields twenty to thirty bushels per
acre; oats produce a certain crop; and all kinds of vegetables may be
Across the mouth
of Eel River the sea has thrown up a bank of sand a mile in length, and
the site thus offered for a road has been improved. A bridge has
been erected to connect the sand-bar with the opposite side of the
stream. The remainder of the distance to Dalhousie is four miles,
and the road passes over three sharp ridges of trap rock.
River is a long, narrow stream: it commences near the Upsalquitch,
and traverses a fine level district of fertile land almost surrounded by
mountains. An opening has been made upon a tract recently surveyed,
called the Colebrooke Settlement, in honour of Sir William Colebrook [Tribune
Ed note: Geographical Names of New Brunswick says this was five
miles south of Campbellton, and was settled in 1843 by Acadians. It
was also known as "Coldbrook", after a tributary of Walter
Brook, and as Dube Settlement, for Baptiste and Audilon Dube, grantees
there.] There are also settlements on each side of the river
near its debouchement. Still, a great quantity of these lands are
ungranted, and there are few localities where a respectable class of
settlers would meet greater encouragement.
Indians have a grant at this place of 400 acres, and they resort to it
during fishing and shooting seasons. Their land, however, is very
low and swampy, scarcely fit for tillage.
sea-wall thrown up across the estuary has formed a large shallow basin,
with a muddy bottom, which affords one of the best fisheries for eels in
the Province. The eels are taken by the Indians at all seasons of
the year, and supply them with an important part of their food. When
they are skinned and dried, they are by no means unpalatable; and
when fresh, they are considered by many to be very delicious.
is rather singular, that cod-fish in quest of food enter this and other
shallow estuaries along the coast during the winter season. The
Indians cut holes in the ice, and strike them with spears. Eels are
taken in the same manner. Trout, smelts, and flatfish are also
numerous; and in spring and autumn, the little bay is the resort of
wild geese and other kinds of water-fowl.
shores, bays, and inlets between Bathurst and Dalhousie afford excellent
fisheries for cod, Pollock haddock, halibut, herring, sea-trout, smelts,
eels and other varieties of fish. Caplin are so numerous, that they
are often applied to the soil for manure. The destruction of small
fish reduces the quantity of food intended by nature for the larger ones
and, if continued, will greatly injure the fisheries. Providence
never intended that any of her gifts should be abused; and in a
district where limestone and marl are abundant, the practice is
inexcusable, and should be prevented by law.
of different kinds are frequently seen in considerable numbers in the
Bay. They were taken by the first inhabitants of this part of the
Province, who carried on a considerable trade in sealskins and oil.
At present the seal-fishery is not attended to.
of the humpback variety frequent the coasts, and are taken at the mouth of
the St. Lawrence and in the Gulf. They also visit the Bay Chaleurs;
but the inhabitants are not prepared to encounter them, although they are
readily captured by expert whalers.
waters abound in wild geese and ducks of various kinds. Of the
former, flocks containing thousands feed upon the shores during the
autumn, until the season for their migration arrives, when they depart for
The County of Restigouche
is divided into five parishes, - namely, Dalhousie, Addington, Durham,
Colborne, and Eldon. The population in 1840 was 3,161, exclusive of
about 1,200 persons who were supposed to be engaged in the woods,
lumbering, at the time the census was taken. At that period, the
Parish of Eldon contained only eight dwelling-houses and twenty-seven
acres of cleared land. The whole quantity of cleared land in the
country at present time will not exceed 6,500 square acres (sic), and
therefore a particular account of each parish is unnecessary.
Restigouche is a majestic and very beautiful river, falling into the
spacious harbour at the head of the Bay Chaleurs; and its
tributaries irrigate more than five thousand square miles of
territory. The main river springs from a lake in Lower Canada, and
through branches that approach Lake Temiscouta and Metis. Sixty
miles from its debouchement into the bay, the river turns from a
south-west to a north-west course, and receives a large branch that nearly
approaches the St. John. A large tributary, called the Upsalquitch,
also enters from the south-east, about forth miles from the head of the
bay. The whole length of the main stream is about two hundred miles.
river and its tributaries descend through a tract of country varied
resources and beautiful scenery. They drain a part of that spur of
the Alleghany Mountain that crosses the St. John, and occupies the central
parts of the District of Gaspe. Its appended tributaries rush from
the mountain ravines with great impetuosity, and throw themselves into
frightful rapids, or over falls, until they reach the narrow valley of the
main stream, whence they are sufficiently tranquil to admit of being
navigated in safety. Upon the borders, and remote from these water
courses, red pine, white pine, and other kinds of valuable wood are
abundant; and, by the skill of the lumberman, the timber is launched
down the steep declivities and perpendicular cliffs, through the falls,
until it floats in the tide.
This part of
the Province has been spared from those devouring fires which have been so
destructive to the timber in the District of Miramichi and other parts of
New Brunswick; and a century will elapse before the forests of Gaspe
and Restigouche will be exhausted of their timber resources. The
valuable fisheries of the Bay, under proper management, would supply the
elements of a very extensive trade; and the valleys, slopes, and
tablelands of the interior wilderness are capable of being advantageously
cultivated. In the centre of this great theatre of offered industry
and employment, is the splendid Harbour of the Restigouche, which is
sufficiently spacious to contain the whole navy of Great Britain, and
rivers upon which the first produce of the country can be cheaply
The entrance of the River or
Harbour of Restigouche is between Miguasha Point on the north, and Mon
Amie's Rock [Tribune Ed note: sic, Bonamy Rocks] on the
south. The distance between these two headlands is three miles; and
here are nine fathoms of water, without a bar or shoal to interrupt the
navigation of the port's mouth.
the shire town of the county, stands at the base of a high ridge of trap
rock on the south side of the river, a little above its mouth. It
contains about one hundred and thirty buildings; among which are the usual
number devoted to religious worship [Tribune Ed note: actually, at the
time there was only a Presbyterian church, somewhere near or in Riverside
Cemetery, and even that didn't have its own minister in 1847 but was
serviced out of Campbellton], a Court-house, Gaol and
Grammar-school. The principal mercantile establishments front the
river, which is lined by wharves, ship-yard, and timber-booms. The
site of the town is on an inclined plane; but the entrance to it from the
eastward, by land, is over a steep hill, which might be avoided by giving
the road another direction.
In the harbour
are two small islands, surrounded by deep water; and affording shelter for
vessels of the largest class. The opposite side of the river, which
is uninhabited, expands into a beautiful bay, bordered by high cliffs of
red sandstone. A very extensive timber trade is carried on from this
port to Great Britain, and the Agricultural Society of Restigouche has
given an encouragement to husbandry which will not lose its effect now
that the commerce has again revived. The scenery of the town, within
its harbour and islands, is very interesting; but it is tame compared with
a more extended view. The whole District of Gaspe presents bold and
precipitous eminences, flanked along the shore by perpendicular cliffs of
brick-red sandstone and other rocks, which are cut through where the
streams make their exit into the bay. Upon these cliffs there is a
long track of table land, which skirts the shore, while in the rear it
rises into mountains of the most striking and picturesque character.
From the hill in the rear of Dalhousie, the Tracadegash and other
mountains of the Gaspe are seen rising in great grandeur; and the whole
country northward is covered with majestic cones, which are wooded to
their very summits. Between the sharp alpine ridges, walled in by
cliffs, there are narrow valleys, washed by the collected mountain
torrents in their rapid descent towards the sea. This, the
north-eastern extremity of the Alleghany chain, maintains its bold
features to its termination near the mouth of the St. Lawrence, and offers
to the eye a view of an unknown mountain wilderness.
Restigouche is navigable for large ships eighteen miles; in that distance
its average breadth is nearly two miles. Its southern bank is
occupied by a scattered population. The soil is of medium quality;
and the surface, a little remote from the river, is broken by
closely-wooded hills and ravines.
Aninipk, eight miles and Point Le Garde, twelve miles above Dalhousie, on
the Gaspe side, are bold prominences, and were military stations during
the struggles of France to regain the Colony. Battery Point, two
miles higher up, was also occupied by a French fort. Several pieces
of cannon have been found in the sand; and muskets, pistols, swords, and
culinary utensils have been dug up from the remains of this
fortification. A few years ago, a bottle of molasses and a small
case of wine were also recovered from among its ruins. [Tribune Ed
note: Gesner attributes this statement to Cooney's history printed in
1832.] This fort was destroyed by Captain Byron in 1760.
It is now covered by a growth of forest trees. The Gaspe side of the
river at this place is also uninhabited.
is situated sixteen miles above Dalhousie. It is a compact village,
with several trading-houses, docks, and timber-ponds. A number of
ships are annually loaded at this place, and it maintains a brisk trade
with the lumbering parties in the forests. The lands on each side of
the river are rather broken and rocky. There is, nevertheless, a
narrow flat of good soil along the edges of the stream, which continues
wide and navigable for ships.
In the read
of the town is a conspicuous eminence called Sugar-loaf Mountain. It
is 844 feet high, and nearly three miles in circumference at its
base. The side fronting the river is a perpendicular cliff, from
which a collection of enormous boulders extend around the eminence.
It can only be ascended in safety on the east side. [Tribune Ed
note: Gesner adds the following footnote "We reached the summit of
the Sugar-loaf in 1842 by its western side; but on returning it was
necessary to descend over some of the cliffs on the decayed and partially
fallen trees - by no means a safe expedient."] At other
places, boulders weighing several tons are easily put in motion, when they
roll down the side of the mountain, crushing the trees at its foot.
From its top, it appears to rise from a valley like a lofty tower.
The view from the summit of this hill is extremely grand and beautiful.
chain of mountains, with lofty peaks, running through Gaspe, indents the
horizon to the north-east. The Bay Chaleurs and Restigouche, with
their infant towns and villages, fill up scenery below. To the
north, there is a wide area of tableland, covered by a living mantle of
Three miles above Campbellton ,
there is the large estate of Robert Ferguson, Esq., one of the first
British settlers on the Restigouche. His establishment is situated
upon a tract containing two hundred acres of intervale, part of which is
under cultivation. Mrs. Ferguson was the first English child born in
this part of the Province. The sons of the above gentleman are still
engaged in the timber trade of the county. The example and industry
of this family, and a few others, have mainly contributed to the
improvement of this part of the Restigouche.