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MIGRATIONS NORTH

In a move to strengthen the British position in Nova Scotia against an attempt by the French to recapture Acadia following; the defeat of the French stronghold at Louisburg, Governor Laurence in 1758 issued a proclamation intended to attract New England settlers to the region. The main attraction to the New Englanders was the availability of large Grants of land, however, the proclamation failed to promise the one thing that meant most to the early New England settlers, a guarantee of political and religious freedom. This above all was most important to the Puritans who had left England a hundred years earlier for those very reasons.

Accordingly, Governor Charles Lawrence, issued a second proclamation in the following year. It promised;

.... full liberty of Conscience ....is secured to persons of all persuasions, Papists excepted, as may more fully appear by the following abstract of the said act, viz: 'Protestants, dissenting from the Church of England, whether they be Calvinists, Lutherans, Quakers, or under what denomination so ever, shall have free liberty of conscience and may erect and build meeting houses for public worship and may choose and elect ministers for the carrying on divine service, and administration of the sacrament, according to their several opinions; and all controls made between the ministers and congregations for the support of their ministry are hereby declared valid and shall have their full force and effect according to the tenor and conditions thereof; and all such Dissenters shall be excused from any rates or taxes to be made or levied for the support of the Established Church of England."

In 1760 capture of Montreal by the British saw the end of the French Empire in America and loosened the tie of mutual defence that bound America to Britain. The French and Indian war had been won but Britain was in the process of losing the greater part of its empire in the New World. Those veterans of the French and Indian wars who settled in the lower St. John River Valley were the true English pioneers of New Brunswick.

In the winter of 1761, twelve men under the leadership of land surveyor Israel Perley sailed to Machias (now in Maine). These men, who were in the pay of the government of Massachusetts, snowshoed to the head waters of the Oromocto River and thence down that river to its mouth. They then turned up the St. John River to visit St. Ann's Point (the place which later became Fredericton) but were met by hostile Indians, they returned down river which they found totally empty of Europeans. The Snow Shoe Expedition was a necessary prelude to settlement of the lower St. John River Valley. They judged this land opposite the mouth of the Oromocto River a good site for settlement. There they surveyed a township which is in present-day Maugerville and Sheffield.

Governor Lawrence's proclamation promised a freedom of religion. It was this point more than any other offer of land that appealed to the new settlers along the St. John River.

The spark caught fire, particularly in Essex Co. Mass., where the townspeople of Rowley, Newbury, Ipswich and others were agog with the prospect of becoming pioneer settlers in a new land. They were almost to a man of Puritan stock Congregationalists and Dissenters, hard working and God fearing men.

In 1763 the first group of settlers from Massachusetts found their way up the St. John River and established a township which they named Maugerville, after Joshua Manger, an English land agent through who they had obtained the land. The township was on the east side of the river and began at a point about five miles below Fredericton. Its northerly boundary ran at right angles to the river and its depth was sixteen miles along the river. It included the present parishes of Maugerville and Sheffield. The names of those early settlers include those of Barker, Burpee, Estey, Pickard Stickney, Saunders and Daniel Jewett who left Rowley to establish a life in the new community.

Moses Coburn had friends among the Essex families who emigrated to the Saint John in 1763. Following his wife's death he left his young son Stephen and the town of Dracut, arriving in Saint John on the schooner 'Eunice' from Marblehead on April 26 1767. He had purchased one half of lot 22 in Maugerville from William Saunders. Later that year he married Hannah Burpee the daughter of Deacon Jonathan Burpee formerly of Rowley and his wife Mehitable (Jewett). By 1769 Moses Coburn had purchased the entire lot on which he lived and made improvements. In 1785, having lived in the settlement for 18 years he petitioned the government for another lot which he was granted. Moses and Hannah had three sons: Moses born 12 Nov. 1768; David born 23 Feb. 1772; and Jonathan born 21 Sept. 1779; and two daughters Hannah and Betty.

The new township was grew rapidly. In a census taken in 1767 the colony consisted of 77 men, 46 women, 72 boys, 66 girls, a total of 261 persons of whom 17 were new settlers. Fourteen children were born while the number of deaths was three. They possessed 10 horses, 78 oxen and bulls, 145 cows, 156 young cattle, 376 sheep, and 181 swine. Their crop for the year included 599 bushels of wheat, 1,866 bushel Rye, 145 bushels Beans, 57 bushels of Oats, 91 bushels Peas, and 7 bushels of flaxseed. A grist and sawmill had also been built and two sloops were owned by the settlers.

Daniel Jewett, now firmly established in the new settlement married in 1767 the widow Abigail (Thurston) Saunders. It is said that before her marriage William Saunders, Daniel Jewett fell in love with Abigail and asked her to marry him. She refused on the grounds that she was to marry Mr. Saunders. He replied Never mind Abbie I will have you yet. Soon after their arrival in the settlement at Maugerville Mr. Saunders drowned. After waiting a reasonable time Daniel again proposed to her and this time was accepted.

A pioneer settlement
A pioneer settlement

The early settlers were faced with the formidable task of making a home for themselves in the frontier wilderness. Before any serious attempts at agriculture could begin the land had to be cleared of trees and stumps. The trees were cut and converted into building material for log houses, and the first crops were then sown among the stumps. Later the stumps were removed by cutting the roots and hauling them out with teams of oxen or by digging or burning.

The early homes were small. Sometimes they were built from the logs just as they were cut, overtimes they were squared using an adz or broad axe giving a flat wall. By notching the ends of the loss the cracks between them could be kept to a minimum. The cracks were then filled with moss and clay which hardened when dry. Smaller poles were used for the rafters and the roof was made from bark bound with small poles.

Stones were collected for the fireplace and chimney. A large flat stone was the floor of the fireplace, on this stood the chimney made form smaller stones cemented together with a mixture of straw and yellow clay and supported by a wooden framework. The early houses had only a dirt floor. in the middle of the floor was a "root cellar" dug into the ground for winter storage of potatoes and vegetables. This was covered with a trap door of logs. Later when time and money permitted windows and a floor were added.

Life in the pioneer communities of New Brunswick was hard and lacking in organized amusement and entertainment. Social meetings were few, gatherings were usually for religious services or to discuss matters of vital importance to the community. The building of a church and a school were usually the first priority of these early settlements. It is from the church records of Maugerville that we learn most about the community and the Coburn and Jewett families.