Provincial Archives of New Brunswick

Fort Havoc (Wallace Hale)

Info The language of the text is the original used by Wallace Hale. Records acquired by the Provincial Archives are not translated from the language in which they originate.

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The Old Garrisons at Presquisle and Grand Falls


In the course of these articles on the early history of the upper St. John it has been already shown that the first English settlements from Fredericton to Woodstock were founded by the men of the Loyalist corps disbanded at the close of the Revolutionary war. The military element was destined to be equally conspicuous in the formation of the first settlements along the river from Woodstock to Grand Falls.

Early in the year 1791 military posts were established by Governor Carleton at Presquisle and Grand Falls and garrisoned by the 6th regiment, then stationed in the province. The design of the governor was to facilitate land communication with Quebec and to afford security to the white settlers towards whom the Indians had lately assumed a threatening attitude. During the previous autumn Governor Carleton had been obliged to write to his brother, Lord Dorchester, (better known as Sir Guy Carleton) then governor general at Quebec, that considerable disorders were being caused amongst the Madawaska Indians in consequence of the sale of spirits by Canadian traders, of whom one Robideau was the chief offender.

Three companies of the 6th regiment were ordered to be stationed in garrison at Presquisle and Grand Falls. The expense of establishing and maintaining these two military posts was very considerable. In addition to the erection of barracks, the sum of £2,000 was spent in the course of the first summer in transporting provisions, supplies, etc.

Long before the period of English occupation the French had kept up communication between Quebec and their settlements in Acadia by way of the river St. John, and following their example, the British government used the same route during the Revolutionary war in forwarding dispatches from Halifax to Quebec. Efforts were now made to improve the communication by this route; a new chain of post houses was built and special inducements offered to settlers who would establish themselves at convenient intervals for the accommodation of travellers. The weekly mail and governmental dispatches were conveyed by couriers via the upper St. John and Madawaska rivers to the St. Lawrence for many years. The military posts at Presquisle and Grand Falls were important links in the chain of communication thus established.

At the time of the breaking out of the war with France in 1793 a provincial corps was organized called the King's New Brunswick regiment. It was intended solely for the purpose of home protection and the officers and men were nearly all old veterans of the Revolutionary war. A very interesting account of the corps will be found in the collections of the New Brunswick Historical Society Vol. 1, written by Mr. Jonas Howe.

During the war with France the 6th regiment was ordered from the province for service elsewhere and the garrisons at Presquisle and Grand Falls were furnished by the King's New Brunswick regiment.

The establishment of the military posts naturally encouraged settlers to take up land in their vicinity. At Grand Falls the plateau or neck of land on which the village now stands was first cleared up by the soldiers of the garrison. The Presquisle garrison may be said to have formed a nucleus round which there gathered the pioneer settlers of the upper portion of Carleton County. Doubtless the settlers found a ready market for their surplus produce at the garrison. The latter however had to depend for the most part upon the supplies furnished by government which were transported with much labor and expense from Fredericton in the old fashioned Durham boats. The following advertisement in an old St. John paper is of interest in this connection:—



St. John, New Brunswick,                      
30th November, 1798,                      

To such Person or Persons as are desirous to enter into a contract for the transporting of Provisions from Fredericton to the Posts of Presque Isle and Great Falls, for the use of His Majesty's Troops, (that is to say about ninety-six barrels bulk to each Post,) one half to be delivered by the first of June and the remainder by the 15th day of October every year.

Sealed proposals will be received immediately by Mr. William Garden, Assistant Commissary at Fredericton, or, by me, at this place, where the lowest tender will be accepted.

William Robertson,
Commissary of Provisions and Stores of War.

At the time this advertisement appeared, the post at Grand Falls was commanded by Lieut. Adam Allen, formerly of the Queens Rangers, of whom we have already spoken in a previous article.

Lieut. Allan's signature (the cut for which has been kindly supplied by Mr. Howe) shows him to have been an accomplished penman; the plans of his surveys in the Crown Land office at Fredericton are also beautifully drawn. It was while Adam Allen was in charge of the Grand Falls garrison he wrote the poem descriptive of the Falls to which reference has been made in an earlier number of these articles.

It is probable that after a few years had passed the strength of the garrisons at Presquisle and Grand Falls was greatly diminished as appears by him [them?] having been put in charge of a subaltern officer. At Presquisle Lieut. Arthur Nicholson was in command in 1797, Lieut. Adam Allen in 1800, and Lieut. William Turner in 1804; these officers all held commissions in the Kings New Brunswick regiment.

The old church records of the parish of Woodstock, now in possession of Archdeacon Neales, show that Rev. Frederick Dibblee frequently officiated at the Presquisle garrison. As early as the 13th July 1792, he baptized three children of Lieut. Nicholson, Commissary of the garrison, viz.; Arthur, born 28 August 1793; William Patrick, born 17 March 1795; and Margaret Tilton born 6th March 1797. [Possibly a sentence was inadvertently dropped during the writing or typesetting of this article. The earliest record of Rev. Dibblee's officiating at the Prequisle garrison seems to have been 13 July 1792, as Dr. Raymond states, but that was the baptism of the daughter of an unnamed soldier. The three children of Arthur and Elizabeth Nicholson named here were baptised on 14 Oct. 1798. RWH]

On the 9th Aug., 1800, he baptized two children of Lieut. Adam Allan, then commanding the post, and a few years later he baptized Lieut. Wm. Turner, the Commissary of the garrison, and several of his children. In his diary Mr. Dibblee mentions occasional visits paid by the officers of the garrison and others as they passed up and down the river between Presquisle and Fredericton. See the following:—

"Nov. 25, 1803: Lieut. Bradley staid with us on his way to Presque Isle."

"April 19, 1806: Samuel Kearney came down from Presque Isle on the river" (a late season for travelling on the ice.)

"June 9, 1814: Capt. Turner came from Fredericton and brought the good news that Bonaparte was dethroned."

Lieutenant Arthur Nicholson who was commissary to the Presquisle garrison was quite a prominent man in the early days of the parish of Wakefield. Before the outbreak of the American revolution he was a cornet in the Seventh Light Dragoons, then serving in Ireland. He arrived with his regiment at Boston in time to take part in the battle of Bunkers Hill and afterwards was engaged in military operations with the troops under General Howe at New York. In 1781 he was transferred to the Kings American Dragoons of which corps he became the adjutant. At the peace he came to New Brunswick and settled with others of his regiment at Prince William, which parish derived its name from the royal patron of the regiment, afterwards King William IV. Lieut Nicholson married his first wife, Ellen Henry, at Long Island in 1779; she died in 1786 and he then married Elizabeth Lawrence. He became adjutant of the Kings New Brunswick regiment on the organization of that corps, but after a few years service again retired to half pay. He settled in the neighborhood of the Presquisle garrison of which he was at one time commissary. Being a man of good education and having a large family to provide for he began teaching school in the parish of Northampton in 1805, receiving a government allowance of £10 per annum. In the year 1809 he taught the first school in the parish of Wakefield, the trustees being William Turner Esq. and William Simpson. The government grant to each parish at this time was £25. Mr. Nicholson taught here till 1812 when he was succeeded by James York, the same man who in 1795 opened the first school at Woodstock. William Simpson just mentioned as one of the first trustees, like James York came from Maugerville, where he had been an old S. P. G. school master under the Rev. John Beardsley.

Shortly after the disbanding of the Royal West Indian Rangers in 1819 and the settlement of some of their number on the St. John river between Tobique and Grand Falls there occurred one of those happy events which are always wont to cause a flutter in society, namely the marriage of Lieut. Arthur Bliny Walsh, late of the Royal West India Rangers, and Margaret, fourth daughter of Arthur Nicholson, Esq., of Wakefield. The ceremony was performed by the Rev. F. Dibblee, Oct. 1st, 1819, at the residence of Lieut. Nicholson, the witnesses being J. N. McLaughlin and Henry G. Clopper. Mr. Nicholson was himself quite an old man at this time having been born at Sligo, Ireland, in 1746. His signature which is appended is taken from the Muster Roll of the Kings American Dragoons.

Lady Ritchie, widow of the late Sir Wm. Ritchie, Chief Justice of Canada, is a granddaughter of Lt. Nicholson.

On the 16th March 1803, an act was passed by the provincial legislature by which all the territory on both sides of the river St. John extending from the upper boundaries of the parish of Woodstock and Northampton "to the White Marsh three miles above the garrison of Presque Isle" was erected into the "town and parish of Wakefield." A glance at the map will show that the original parish of Wakefield included the present parishes of Wakefield, Wilmot, Simonds, Peel and Brighton. The parish continued to include both sides of the river until the year 1830 when that part east of the St. John became the parish of Brighton.

On the 20th June 1809 a grant of 29,965 acres of land was made in the vicinity of the military post at Presquisle to William Turner and eighty-seven other residents of the parish of Wakefield. There was a reservation of 615 acres at the mouth of the Presquisle for military purposes. The island opposite with two lots a little below it on the east side of the river was assigned to Mr. Turner whose estate comprised about 1000 acres. Here he built himself a house and settled down to quiet life, retaining his position as commissary of the garrison which at that time consisted of a few soldiers under the command of sergeant Samuel Bishop. In the winter of the year 1815 Sir George Head spent a few days at Mr. Turner's on his way to Canada. He gives a striking description of the loveliness of the Presquisle post in midwinter and a very amusing account of Mr. Turner which we must reserve for our next article. In addition to the ordinary duties of a parish magistrate William Turner was frequently called upon to solemnize marriages. It was certainly much more convenient for the young people of the neighborhood to call on him than to proceed some twenty odd miles to the residence of the Rev. Frederick Dibblee, the only minister north of Fredericton.

The following will serve as specimens of the marriage certificates issued by Squire Turner; a good many others are on record in journals of the sessions of the peace for the old county of York now in possession of H. B. Rainsford Esq. at Fredericton.

"I do hereby certify that John Giberson, jr. and Lyda Orser both of the Parish of Wakefield in the County of York and Province of New Brunswick, was married on the 23rd day of March 1811, according to the order of the Church of England by license from His Honor the President and Commander-in-Chief.

Given under my hand at Wakefield this 23rd of March 1811.

Wm. Turner, J. P."

"I do hereby certify that William Bates and Mary Bubar, both of the Parish of Wakefield, County of York, was this day married according to the order of the Church of England, having a certificate from the Rev. Mr. Dibblee that they had been lawfully published.

Given under my hand at Presquisle this 31st day of July 1809.

William Turner, J. P."
While he lived Mr. Turner was the leading man of the small community in which his lot was cast. He was probably the last commissioned officer at the Presquisle garrison. He left several children whose descendants still reside in the vicinity. The date of his death will be found in the following entry in Rev. Mr. Dibblee's diary which indicates that he was a man widely known and much respected.

"January 17, 1817: Went to Presque Isle to bury Mr. Turner at the Garrison; Capt. Ketchum, Capt. Upham and Mr. Bedell went with me."
After Lieut. Turner's decease a sergeant remained in charge of the barracks at Presquisle until the year 1812 when the place was abandoned as a military post.


W. O. Raymond


[The cuts of signatures mentioned in the above article, have arrived from Mr. Raymond, but unfortunately they do not fit our columns.]


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[Published 13 May 1896]