Saint Croix Courier, St. Stephen, NB
October 20, 1892
GLIMPSES OF THE PAST
Contributions to the History of Charlotte County and the Border Towns.
XXXVIII THE FIRST ENGLISH SPEAKING SETTLERS.
It is somewhat difficult, as shown in the last article, to distinguish between traders who frequented our coasts and islands, residing here much of their time and having more or less property here, and actual settlers who made this their home.
As we have learned by the deposition of James Nickels, the only three whom he regarded as settlers at the time of his visits, if we can trust to his memory some thirty years later, were Prebble, of Pleasant Point, Chaffey, of Indian Island, and Wilson, of Passamaquoddy island, afterwards called Campobello.1
Prebble, the first of the three mentioned, was probably John Preble, a son of Gen. Jedediah Preble, commander of the fort at Penobscot until 1764, and afterwards prominent as a leader in the revolution. This John Preble married a daughter of Capt. John Frost, who was engaged in the Indian trade at Pleasant Point and afterwards settled there. He may have been at this time in charge of Frosts stores at that place. He built a two-storey log house at Bowens Point; where he lived and died. His daughter married John Mahar, and two of her daughters by this marriage are now living at Eastport.2 Preble is mentioned as an interpreter at Campobello in 1770; and took part in an exploration of the Schoodiac in 1771.
The descendants of James Chaffey claim that he came to Passamaquoddy to settle in 1760, and was the first Englishman that ever wintered among the islands of Passamaquoddy bay. There is probably an error of four or five years in this date, if it is intended to mark the beginning of his permanent settlement. Chaffey was a native of Somersetshire, England, and a goldsmith by trade. Emigrating from London to Philadelphia, he shortly afterwards came to Indian Island, where he built a house and engaged in the fur trade, and where he died in 1796, leaving a widow and a large family.3
Robert Wilson, from whom Wilsons Beach, the oldest settlement on Campobello, takes its name, came to that place to settle in 1766.4 He bought the improvements of an earlier settler, a Bostonian named John Brown, who had cleared about two acres of land. Wilson was an Irishman by birth, and had emigrated to America and settled near Boston some fifteen years before. Having served as an officer in the old French war, he claimed an officers allowance of 500 acres under the kings proclamation, Browns improvements being considered as making a part thereof. His claim was strengthened by occupation, and though no grant was ever issued, it may be regarded as the oldest under which a title to land is held in Charlotte county to-day. Wilson was drowned at Cobscook Falls in 1782. Brown probably left Passamaquoddy after the sale of his improvements to Wilson.
Wilson, if not preceded, was probably accompanied or soon followed by several other men, among whom were William Clark, Edmund Mahar and Luke Kelley, afterwards among the first settlers on the Cobscook. Clark was Wilsons constant friend and companion, and soon after coming to the island married a younger sister of Wilsons wife. He removed to the site of the present town of Pembroke, in 1773, (where a man named Leighton had already settled,) and was drowned with Wilson in the Cobscook in 1782.5
In 1767 the island was granted to Captain William Owen and his cousins, who formed a company, called the Campobello company, for the purpose of founding a settlement. There are said to have been at this time on the island two families named Hunt and Flagg. Possibly they and Wilsons family are the three referred to in the following extract6 from Captain Owens journal:-
On the 4th June, 1770, we moored in the N.E. cove of Havre de Loutre, in the Island of Passamaquoddy . . . . I found three New England families settled there without legal authority, who cheerfully acquiesced in coming under my jurisdiction. I fixed on a spot for building a town to be called New Warrington, and formally named the harbor Port Owen and the island Campobello.
John Fountain, (or LaFontaine,) of Port Royal, came to Indian Island in 1768, and was afterwards, so far as is known, the earliest settler on Deer Island. His daughter, who accompanied him, became the wife of James Chaffey7; and thus both the Chaffeys and the Fountains of West Isles are his descendants.
Returning to the records of the Boundary Commission, we find the following in the testimony of James Brown, carpenter, who had lived in Passamaquoddy since 1769:-
He together with Jeremiah Frost erected a Hut near to where the Public Landing in Saint Andrews now is, which was the first building of any kind ever put up by any English subject that he knows of at or near that place.
This was probably in 1770, as in that year Jeremiah Frost, a farmer, who afterward settled in St. Stephen, came to Passamaquoddy.
William Ricker, of Moose Island, (Eastport,) deposed that he came from Bobtick in Nova Scotia, and began his first settlement at Scoodiac Falls where Jacob Libbie now lives.8 This was in 1771. Ricker remained here but a short time, and then removed to Campobello, and thence to Moose Island. His settlement at Schoodiac was made under James Boyd, who claimed the land; and was probably the first attempt of the new comers to settle on the site of the present town of St. Stephen. Libbys house, (and therefore Rickers,) was at the Cove-probably on the spot from which Chartier had been driven in 1704.
Others who represent themselves as having lived in this district since 1770 are Thomas Farrell, Deer Island (of whom more to follow); William Elwell, Deer Island; Henry Bowen, Moose Island; William Crow, Moose Island; Hibbard Hunt, Campobello; Joseph Cormock, Deer Island; Andrew Loyd, Campobello; John Lawless, Deer Island.9
In 1770, the Campobello company brought out from England a considerable number of settlers, some of whom, however, seem to have abandoned the island at the outbreak of the war between Great Britain and her colonies. Many families now living at Welshpool are descended from these English settlers.
The coming of the Campobello colony, and the establishment of a court of sessions on the island, mark a distinct epoch in the early English period of our history.
1The same names are mentioned in the deposition of the elder Nickels; but the document seems to bear internal evidence of his having been prompted by his son. Both were magistrates, and each took the others deposition-a rather remarkable proceeding.
2Facts kindly communicated by S. A. Wilder, of Pembroke.
3Lorimers History of the Islands-a valuable little work now out of print.
4This date and the following statements relating to Wilson are on the authority of an anonymous pamphlet printed in 1822 and circulated in the interest of his descendants.
5Historical articles by S. A. Wilder, in Eastport Sentinel. Much interesting matter concerning Clark, Mahar, Kelley, Leighton, and other early residents of Pembroke and vicinity, is found in Mr. Wilders series.
6As quoted by Mr. Wilder in Eastport Sentinel.
8Document given in full in Kilbys Eastport.
9Loyd and Lawless were the grandfather and great-grandfather of William Loyd Garrison, the anti-slavery reformer.-Kilbys Eastport.
Correction: Article XLIV contains the following correction to this one: 'In eighth line of third paragraph, for Eastport, read West Pembroke.'