Saint Croix Courier, St. Stephen, NB
October 6, 1892
GLIMPSES OF THE PAST
Contributions to the History of Charlotte County and the Border Towns.
XXXVII EARLY FISHERS AND TRADERS.
Fishermen from the coast towns of Massachusetts Bay, had long known the value of the Passamaquoddy fisheries, and made annual voyages to the place. Much of our information concerning these voyages and the earliest settlers along our coasts is derived from the manuscripts of the Boundary Commission.1
From these documents we learn that Alexander Nickels, Robert McKown and Thomas Fletcher, fishers and Indian traders, came from Pemaquid to Passamaquoddy on a fishing voyage about 1760, and ascended the Schoodiac river in search of fish. Fletcher appears to have understood the language of the natives; McKown could speak French.2 The following is an extract from Nickels testimony:
Our business then also was after the fishery of Alewives, & I believe, as we understood, that we were the first Englishmen that had gone up the river. I for four or five years made a trip each season, & tarried there two months or longer each trip, & had views of settling there under proposals made me from Governor Bernard.3 . . . One James Boyd came there about our second or third season, pretending right from the governor at Halifax, and as I had before that time taken possession up Scudiac River, built me a camp, & made roads for our accommodation, we disregarded his claim; and I should have settled there if my family had consented.
His son, James Nickels, referring to the later voyages in which he accompanied his father, and corroborating his fathers testimony, says:-
There might have been 30 or 40 people there in the codfishery from the westward who cured their fish on Indian Island, but there were no settlements that I remember, other than Prebble on the West of Scudiac river, at a place called Pleasant Point; Chaffey, on Indian Island; and Wilson, on Campobello.
In the deposition of James Boyd,4 (taken for use before the commission, but, for some reason, not included in the copies of documents submitted,) it appears that he arrived at Passamaquoddy in May, 1763. He states that there were no white inhabitants on the shores or islands at that time, and no houses but the bark huts of the Indians.
In the same year John Frost came from Machias to Pleasant Point, where he afterwards made his home. He states in his deposition4 that his sole object in coming to this part of the country was to trade with the Indians; and that he was constantly engaged in trade with them during the first ten years of his residence.
Alexander Hodges testified that he came to Passamaquoddy with Joseph Parsons from Old York, in the employ of Robert Gould and Francis Shaw, of Boston, in the Indian trade, and landed at Pleasant Point the tenth day of August in the year one thousand seven hundred and sixty-three. At the time of his arrival the country was a mere wilderness; no families were settled in it. They erected a hut on Pleasant Point, which was the first one at Passamaquoddy, one at Indian Island excepted. Hodges seems to have remained about Passamaquoddy for some years as a hunter, and finally settled at Pleasant Point. Boyd calls him a very illiterate man,5 and states that he first came as a servant to Frost.
In 1764 the governor of Massachusetts sent John Mitchell to survey the river St. Croix. His attempt to find in the Magaguadavic the true river St. Croix has been already noticed,6 and will again be referred to later. In the detailed accounts of the expedition given by Mitchell and several members of his company, Boyd, who is described as a Scotch gentleman, is the only resident mentioned. Fletcher came with them as interpreter; Frost was in command of the vessel; McKown, Nickels and others were at Schoodiac falls catching fish.
James Simonds, (who settled at the mouth of the St. John in 1762,) was connected in business with Messrs. Blodgett & Hazen, of Newburyport. Under date Dec. 16, 1764, he wrote this firm, and mentioned:-
I have not heard from Passamaquoddy for six weeks, but fear they have little or no provision, and I am sure they have no hay for a cow that is there. She being exceedingly good, shall endeavor to save her life, till you can send hay for her. I shall go there as soon as the weather moderates, (it has been intensely cold lately,) and employ the two men there as well as I can, as they are confined there contrary to intention for the winter, and return here as soon as possible.
From this it appears that Simonds and his colleagues had established a fishing and probably trading post at Passamaquoddy, as early as 1764. In the following May, Simonds writes again:-
There is such a number of traders at Passamaquada that I dont expect much trade there this spring.
A year or two later, Frost, in company with Capt. Tucker, in a sloop of 75 tons, joined McKown and Nickels, who were at Schoodiac falls with two smaller vessels; and together they took from 800 to 1000 barrels, chiefly alewives, with some salmon, shad and bass.
About this time, probably, Prebble, Chaffey and Wilson, the three named as settlers by Nickels and his son, first came to Passamaquoddy. It is easy to imagine why the names of Frost and Hodges should have been omitted from this list, as they were probably regarded as only temporary residents. It is not so easy to account for the omission of two or three others, to be mentioned later, (including Boyd, who had claimed the fishing privilege at Schoodiac falls and warned them off,) unless we suppose that they regarded as settlers only those who were cultivating the soil.
1For access to the MSS. and helps in their use, as well as for constant advice and assistance in everything connected with this series, the writer is indebted to Rev. W. O. Raymond, of St. John.
2A marginal note in the MS. reads thus:-McCowns Father was Killed at Sheepscott in 1714, and he was carried to Canada and sold to a frenchman and brought up in a french family.
3Sir Francis Bernard, governor of Massachusetts Bay.
4Given in full in Kilbys Eastport and Passamaquoddy.
5This is confirmed by the fact that he made his mark in signing his deposition.
Addition: Article LXXX contains the following addition to this one: "By further research among the voluminous documents relating to the Hazen and Simonds business at the mouth of the St. John in early days, Rev. W. O. Raymond has found the original memorandum of co-partnership in 1764 between Samuel Blodget, William Hazen, James Simonds, James White, Robert Peaslie and Richard Simonds, for the purpose of carrying on the business of the Cod-fishery, Seine-fishery, the Fur trade, burning of Lime and every other trading business that shall be thought advantageous to the parties and Company at Passamaquoddy, Saint John, Canso and elsewhere in or near the province of Nova Scotia and parts adjacent. James Simonds had visited the coasts with a view to establishing a fishing and trading post as early as 1759, and had been engaged in trade to some extent before 1764."
Correction: Article CX contains the following correction to this one: 'Paragraph ten. For Messrs Blodgett and Hazen of Newburyport read Samuel Blodget of Boston and William Hazen of Newburyport.'