Start My Family Tree Welcome to Geni, home of the world's largest family tree.
Join Geni to explore your genealogy and family history in the World's Largest Family Tree.

Pioneers of Canada - New Brunswick

« Back to Projects Dashboard

Pioneers of Canada - New Brunswick

Exploration

When the French attempted settlement, first at the mouth of the St Croix River in 1604 and later at Port-Royal, they were welcomed by the Micmac, who taught them how to survive. After the French had shifted their interest to Québec, the native people helped a few young men who remained, including Charles de Saint-Étienne de La Tour, to establish a fur trade on the Saint John River. The death of Isaac de Razilly in 1635, leader of a revived settlement at Port-Royal, occasioned a feudalistic struggle over trade and territory between La Tour, Charles de Menou d'Aulnay and Nicolas Denys. On d'Aulnay's death in 1650, La Tour regained control of the Saint John and Denys recovered a fishing and trading post at Miscou harbour and built another at Nepisiguit (Bathurst). After an extensive career in trade and fisheries along the coast of Acadia, Denys returned to Nepisiguit in 1668 to write an historically important description of Acadia before returning to France in 1671 to have the volume published. The Saint John River valley remained native territory from which the French launched raids against New England in the 1690s, helping to create a deep-seated and persistent hostility to the French presence in Acadia. Settlement Meanwhile the tiny settlement begun at Port-Royal flourished, spreading around the Bay of Fundy to include the Chignecto Isthmus and Shepody on the north shore. The Acadians developed a unique society characterized by a diking technology which enabled them to farm the marshes left by the Bay of Fundy's tides. Their society was also characterized by neglect from the French authorities, and this encouraged the development of a tightly knit and independent community. Caught in imperial struggle between British and French, most were expelled by the British in 1755 or later and scattered throughout the Thirteen Colonies or were returned to France. Those who returned after the Treaty of Paris(1763), found their lands occupied by several thousand immigrants, largely from New England. Some received grants of land in the Memramcook area, some squatted along the Saint John River and some found employment with the Robin brothers of Jersey in the Channel Islands, who in 1764 began to establish fishing stations along the coast from Gaspé to Cape Breton Island. After the American Revolution, approximately 14 000 Loyalist refugees came to the north shore of the Bay of Fundy, established the city of Saint John and settled the Saint John and St Croix river valleys. A few penetrated other parts of the province. Hungry for jobs and conscious of their isolation from Halifax, they petitioned for separate colonial status, which was granted in 1784.

Development

Napoleon's continental blockade, which in 1807 cut Britain off from traditional timber supplies from the Baltic region, led to a deliberate effort through protective timber tariffs to foster the colonial industry as a dependable source. Blessed with rivers which made accessible rich stands of spruce and pine, New Brunswick's squared-timber trade boomed for half a century. Timber became a source of development leading to new settlement and giving its own peculiar cast to the economy and to politics and society. Population grew from perhaps 25 000 to almost 200 000 by mid-century. Indeed governments and historians have been critical of the province's excessive reliance on this single, highly volatile staple. Booms and slumps tended to bankrupt the settler reliant on timber, and many settlers were reduced to wage labour status, dependent on a few influential entrepreneurs in each region. Associated with the timber industry was wooden shipbuilding, for which production sites dotted the coast and rivers of the province and by mid-century turned out over 100 vessels a year, both for export and for the use of the merchants of Saint John. New Brunswick industries, helped by the Crimean War and American Civil War, and by a reciprocity treaty with the US in natural products, weathered the crisis of the British abandonment of the timber tariffs and Navigation Acts in the late 1840s. But the conjunction of blows which afflicted New Brunswick's economy after Confederation, of which the National Policy of protective tariffs was but one, proved more permanently damaging. The reciprocity treaty was cancelled, timber resources became less merchantable and the wooden vessels lost in their competition with steam-driven, iron-hulled ships. New Brunswickers by the thousand left the declining ports and timber towns to find employment in the US. Some New Brunswick entrepreneurs were quick to make the transition to a national continental economy. Confederation brought the Intercolonial Railway to New Brunswick by 1876 and the CPR reached Saint John in 1889. Merchants, lumbermen and shipbuilders tended to transfer their capital to iron foundries, textile mills, sugar refineries and other secondary industries whose growth was fostered by the tariff. But eventually many of the new industries, scattered through the province, were taken over by the larger and better capitalized industries of central Canada. The classic pattern emerged of takeover, failure to modernize, closure and the exploitation of the market from expanding plants in central Canada. The postwar recession of the 1920s saw the continued decline of traditional industries, and the virtual collapse of a manufacturing sector further undercut by adverse federal policies in tariffs and transportation. Investigation of Maritime problems by a federal royal commission and attempted remedial action were largely negated as New Brunswick plunged with the rest of the world into the Depression of the 1930s. Several decades of economic stagnation reduced New Brunswick to a standard of living much lower than the national average. National policies served to increase the disparity, as the tariff (or, during WWII, federal investment) created and maintained a manufacturing sector in central Canada. Meanwhile, Maritime governments lacked the money to maintain essential services. By 1940 New Brunswick's expenditures on education and health services were slightly over half of the national average; its illiteracy and infant mortality rates were the highest in the country. Despite the recognition of the Rowell-Sirois Report on Dominion-Provincial Relations (1940) stating the need for a fairer distribution of the tax revenues from a national economy, the adjustment grants which the commissioners recommended for the poorer provinces were not adopted until the early 1960s. The nature of New Brunswick's disparity was 2-fold: the extreme disparity of standards of living compared with other provinces; and the internal disparity between the urban sections of the largely English south and the rural sections of the largely French north. The attack on both proceeded simultaneously. Within the province, the government moved behind a slogan of "equal opportunity" to provide greater equality in services. Acting on the recommendations of the 1963 Byrne Commission, the Robichaud administration proceeded with more than 125 pieces of legislation to alter radically the division in responsibilities between provincial and county or municipal units of government. Acting on the principle that the provincial government should maintain services to people, the government took responsibility for educational, medical, judicial and social assistance services. To the municipalities it left services to property such as water, sewer, fire protection and local police services. Taxes were to be assessed province-wide on the actual market value of property. Along with the rationalization in services went a determined effort at economic development. The optimism of the 1960s persuaded both federal and provincial governments that the chronic disparity of province and region could be overcome through industrialization. Federal-provincial attempts at rural development, government investments in electricity generation, mining, forestry, fishery and secondary manufacturing, the building of major highways through the north of the province, and the use of transportation subsidies to help New Brunswick products reach national markets were all part of a federal-provincial effort to push the province's standard of living closer to the national average. To a large degree, such efforts have been successful. Social and educational services are now on a par with the rest of the country. A well-trained civil service has helped primary industries modernize in a transitional period when the failure to do so would have meant collapse. A favourable infrastructure and direct assistance reversed a pattern of decline in secondary industry. Nevertheless the province's improved standard of living rests upon a fragile base. The enthusiasm for industrial development by federal governments slowed in the 1970s amid spectacular failures and the jealousies of other regions. Governments have found the maintenance of fiscal transfers less controversial - transfers which in any case return to the centre in the purchase of consumer goods. Of critical importance are the indirect transfers which accompany such traditional welfare state programs as old age pensions and unemployment insurance. No less important are the direct equalization payments and grants for established programs. As past victims and beneficiaries, New Brunswickers have a vital interest in the continuing evolution of the Canadian Constitution.