Capt. Francis Peabody and the Maugerville Colony. Their Petition to the Lords of Trade and Plantations. Joshua Mauger. The County of Sunbury Formed.
Although there was no English settlement on the river as far north as Woodstock prior to the close of the revolutionary war, the coming of the first English settlers is of interest to us, since many of the descendants of the old Maugerville colony of 1763 are now to be found in the up-river counties. Mr. James Hannay's article on the Maugerville settlements, just published in the collections of the New Brunswick historical society, deals quite fully with the subject, and to it the reader desirous of further information is referred.
The policy of the governor and council of Nova Scotia at this time was to procure English settlers for the lands from which the Acadians had been banished. Accordingly proclamations were circulated throughout the more populous centres of New England offering considerable inducements to those who would settle upon the vacant lands. The St. John river was mentioned amongst the eligible locations. In consequence of the inducements held out, a number of the officers and soldiers of the New England corps, who had served with credit against the French in the late war, agreed to form a settlement on the river St. John. For this purpose Captain Francis Peabody went to Halifax and obtained an order for laying out a township on any part of the river St. John. This township was surveyed in the year 1762 , and included the present parishes of Maugerville and Sheffield in the County of Sunbury.
It was at first intended to begin the survey on the west side of the river so as to take in the old French village of St. Annes, but as the surveyors were about commencing operations on the bank where government house now stands, a formidable band of Maliseet warriors bedecked with war-paint and feathers appeared on the scene and remonstrated so forcibly that the party deemed it wiser to make another selection, and accordingly began their survey some miles further down the river and on the opposite side. The following year some four hundred settlers arrived in four vessels to effect a settlement; nearly all the new comers were descendants of the puritans and members of the Congregational church, and they were guranteed their civil and religious privileges by the governor's proclamation. Israel Perley, who was by profession a land surveyor, had been active in the location of the township and was a leading spirit in the undertaking.
The little colony now applied for their grant, but were astounded to learn that an order had been issued by His Majesty's government that the lands on the St. John river were to be reserved for disbanded officers and men of the Imperial army. They at once drew up a petition to the lords of trade and plantations setting forth the services they had rendered in the late war, the encouragement they had received for settling on the river, the great expense that they had incurred, and praying that they might receive a grant of the land they had settled. Fortunately for them they had a warm friend at court in the person of Joshua Mauger, agent at that time for the Province of Nova Scotia. This gentleman was an English merchant, who came out to Nova Scotia about 1750, and after spending some 10 years there, in which he was engaged in trade and commerce, returned to England, where soon after he obtained a seat in parliament. The petition of the Maugerville settlers was sent under cover to Mr. Mauger, earnestly soliciting his influence. He worked energetically in their behalf and in a short time obtained an order that the grant should be issued. As a mark of their gratitude and esteem the settlers gave to their township the name of Mauger-ville.
The following is the minute of the King in Council establishing the township of Maugerville. It has in all probability never before appeared in print.
"At the Court of St. James the 10th day of February 1764. Whereas the Lords Commissioners for Trade and Plantation have represented to his Majesty at this Board that a memorial has been presented to him on behalf of several disbanded officers of his Majesty's provincial forces in North America, setting forth that induced by several encouragements they have sold their lands in New England and settled themselves and families upon the St. John River in his Majesty's province of Nova Scotia, at the distance of 200 miles from any other settlement belonging to his Majesty's subjects, and praying that the possessions of the lands upon which they have settled themselves at a very great expence may be confirmed to them by his Majesty.
The Governor of Nova Scotia is ordered to cause the land upon which they are settled to be laid out in a Township consisting of 100,000 acres 12 miles square, one side to front the river. Also to reserve a site for a town with a sufficient number of lots with reservations for a church, town house, public quays and wharves and other public uses; the grants to be made in proportion to their ability and the number of persons in their families, but not to exceed 1,000 acres to one person.
That a competent quantity of land be alloted for the maintenance of a minister and school master and also one town lot to each of them in perpetuity."
Murdoch in his history of Nova Scotia briefly refers to the establishment of the township of Maugerville in the year 1763, and says that "a Mr. Peabody was the principal inhabitant and agent for the English settlers." Mr. Hannay's researches have led him to express a similar opinion in these words "The township of Maugerville had been surveyed in 1762 at the instance of Capt. Francis Peabody. This man from his age and character as well as from the active part he took in the work of settling the River St. John, must be justly regarded as the founder of Maugerville and Gagetown, and the most prominenet and influential person on the river while he lived."
Capt. Francis Peabody was a native of Boxford, Massachusetts. [The original column, as published, stated Francis Peabody was a native of Rowley, but Rev. Raymond corrected his 'Scrapbook' copy.] He served with distinction in the old French war and his name receives honorable mention in Parkman's "Wolfe and Montcalm" (Vol i. p. 428). His three daughters married respectively James White, James Simonds and Jonathan Leavitt the pioneer settlers at the city of St. John. One of his sons Samuel was a magistrate for the County of Sunbury and a man much respected in the community. He was a land surveyor and farmer. Another son Francis Peabody went to Miramichi where he became a prosperous merchant. Two other sons Stephen and Oliver survived their father who died in 1773. The will of Capt. Francis Peabody is a quaint old document showing that he possessed considerable property for those days. In it he makes special provision for all the members of his family leaving his sword to his eldest son Samuel. The youngest son Oliver was the ancestor of the Peabodys of Woodstock.
British jurisdiction on the River St. John assumed a more regular form in the year 1765 when the country bordering on the river with the settlements of Passamaquoddy were included in the newly formed County of Sunbury with resident magistrates and other county officers and two representatives in the legislature of Nova Scotia.
James White was appointed Sheriff, Francis Peabody Collector of Customs, Benjamin Atherton Registrar of deeds and wills, James Simonds Judge of Probates. These officers were probably appointed about the 11th of August 1766 which was the date on which the first commission of the peace for the County of Sunbury was issued. The magistrates appointed under the commission were Wm. Nesbitt, Francis Peabody, Beamsley Glazier, Chas. Morris jr., John Anderson and James Simonds. Of these, two at least, Nesbitt and Morris, were residents of Halifax but their official position may perhaps account for their being qualified as magistrates of Sunbury. Wm. Nesbit was Attorney General of the province and speaker of the House of Assembly, and Charles Morris jr., was Surveyor General of the province in which capacity he frequently visited the river St. John and indeed at one [time] represented the county in the House of Assembly. He owned a large tract of land opposite Upper Gagetown which he called Morrisania.
The first election writ for the County of Sunbury bears date February 2nd 1765 when Capt. Beamsley Perkins Glazier and Capt. Thomas Falconer were duly elected. Both these gentlemen were army officers and large land owners on the river St. John. They were active agents of a company organized to settle certain townships on the river granted about this time by the government of Nova Scotia.
The old Sunbury magistrates soon found opportunity to exercise their authority and the record of their transactions is yet extant. On the 20th August, 1768, the provincial secretary wrote from Halifax as follows:
"To John Anderson and Francis Peabody, esquires, justices of the peace for the County of Sunbury, River St. John:-- Gentlemen, the lieut. governor desires that you will give notice to all Acadians except about six families whom Mr. Bailly (the priest) shall name, to remove themselves from St. John's river, it not being the intention of the government that they should settle there, but to acquaint them that on their application here they shall have lands in other parts of the province.["]
In July, 1769, the Rev. Thomas Wood, the Church of England missionary to the Micmacs in Nova Scotia, visited the Indian village at Aukpaque (or as he write it, Okpaak). He was accompanied by Capt. Spry, who is termed the head engineer of the party. Mr. Wood in his account of the visit writes, "The chief of the Indians (probably Pierre Tomah) came down to the landing place and handed us out of our boats and immediately several of the Indians, who were drawn out on the occasion discharged a volley of musketry, turned from us, a signal of receiving their friends; the chief then welcomed us and introduced us to the other chiefs." The party were then conducted to the council chamber where all the Indians assembled. Mr. Wood continues, "After some discourses relative to Monsieur Baille, the French priest, whom the government have thought proper at present to allow them, finding them unesy that they had no priest among them for some time past, I told them that the governor had employed him to go to the Indians to the eastward of Halifax. . . . . At their desire I began prayers with them in Mickmack, they all kneeling down and behaving very devotedly; the service concluded with an anthem and the blessing." Mr. Wood says that at that time most of the St. John river Indians understood the Micmac language.
W. O. Raymond