Provincial Archives of New Brunswick

Pioneers, Ploughs, and Politics: New Brunswick Planned Settlements

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During the 19th century people were on the move. Farmers, tradesmen, mechanics, labourers, and domestic servants from Great Britain, Ireland, and northern Europe, looked for new opportunities in North America, Australia, New Zealand, and other parts of the globe. Although the United States was a popular destination, thousands chose or ended up in Central Canada, the West, and the Maritimes. Cheap passage, available land, and government incentives factored into the decisions of those who decided to make New Brunswick their permanent home.
These immigrants, including English, Scots, Irish, and Danes, came as individuals and families or in large groups. Some made their own transoceanic travelling arrangements, while others relied on immigrant agents who were under the watchful eye of the Dominion or colonial governments. Those who came in large cultural or religious groups often were part of a planned settlement scheme. In New Brunswick, such schemes were undertaken by the New Brunswick and Nova Scotia Land Company at Stanley, in the 1830s, and by William Brown and Søren S. Heller at Kincardine and New Denmark respectively, in the 1870s.
Yet colonization schemes did not always involve a transatlantic voyage. For example, in the 1860s several hundred Irish immigrants from Saint John and elsewhere in the Maritimes migrated to a large tract of wilderness land in Carleton County. Here they created the settlement of Johnville, named for its promoter, Bishop John Sweeny, of Saint John. Likewise, in the 1930s, about 40 families from Gloucester County, led by Father J.-A. Allard, of Bathurst, created the pioneer community of Allardville during the darkest days of the Great Depression. In the 1930s, other such settlements were established in the province by unemployed New Brunswickers who, out of desperation, upheld the motto "back to the land".
The men, women, and children who founded pioneer settlements, such as Stanley, Johnville, Kincardine, New Denmark, and Allardville, toiled long hours and faced similar hardships, as they struggled to recreate their lives in the wilderness. They proved equal to the challenge and left a permanent mark on the provincial landscape. Their stories of strength and endurance, success and disappointment are a legacy for all New Brunswickers.