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Dictionary of Miramichi Biography

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DAVIDSON, JAMES (1798-1872)

DAVIDSON, JAMES, land surveyor and MLC; b. Oak Point, 9 Dec 1798, s/o James Davidson Sr and Annabella McDonald; unmarried; d. Oak Point, 26 Aug 1872.

James Davidson's father was a Catholic native of Banffshire, Scotland, who settled at Oak Point in the 1780s. There he cultivated one of the best of the earlier farms on the Miramichi and served as an officer in the militia. According to tradition his wife was a sister of Alexander McDonald, who built the stone house at Bartibog, but no record of this relationship is known to exist.

The facts concerning Davidson's schooling are not on record, but he was among the most literate Miramichi residents of his generation. He was a land surveyor by 1828 and a deputy commissioner of crown lands in 1832. In 1850, responsibility for the sale of crown lands in Northumberland County was assigned by discrete districts to him, Charles J. Peters, and James L. Price.

Davidson was appointed lieutenant and quartermaster in the 1st Battalion of militia in 1823, and he was later a captain with the battalion for many years. In the 1820s and 30s he was a school trustee for Alnwick parish. In 1847 he was chosen to succeed George Kerr as secretary of the Northumberland and Gloucester Board of Health. This was a special body created in 1844 to ensure that persons afflicted with leprosy were admitted to the lazaretto on Sheldrake Island, voluntarily or otherwise, and cared and provided for while incarcerated. After 1849 the board oversaw the operation of the lazaretto at Tracadie, which took the place of the Sheldrake facility.

In 1849 Davidson was called to a seat in the Legislative Council of New Brunswick, and for the rest of his life he enjoyed a position of influence and respect among the governing elite of the province. When Lieut. Gov. Arthur Hamilton Gordon visited the Miramichi in 1862, one of his two luncheon engagements was at Davidson's home at Oak Point.

Throughout the years, Davidson retained the secretaryship of the Northumberland and Gloucester Board of Health and had the largest part to play in the work of the board. In 1866 he asked the provincial House of Assembly for permission to find a religious order to take over operation of the leprosy lazaretto. This set in motion a chain of events which resulted in the Congregation of Notre Dame assuming responsibility for the Tracadie institution in 1868.

Due to failing health, Davidson resigned his council seat in 1871. After his death in 1872, at age seventy-three, the family farm at Oak Point and certain of his public responsibilities passed to his nephew Alexander K. McDougall.

Sources

[b/d] Graves / Advocate 22 Apr 1869, 4 Sep 1872; Facey-Crowther; Gleaner 21 Aug 1832, 2 Mar 1847, 20 Feb 1849, 27 May 1850, 9 Aug 1862, 16 Aug 1862; Losier/Pinet; Mercury 29 Apr 1828; NB Almanac & Reg.; will of James Davidson Sr (copy at St Michael's Museum)


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