The first election of members to serve in our provincial legislature was held in November 1785, a little more than a year after the formation of the province. Curiously enough there has never since been an election with so broad and democratic a franchise as the first, for Governor Carleton decided that all male persons twenty-one years of age and upwards, resident for three months in the province should be entitled to vote in the elections held in their respective counties. In writing to Lord Sidney, the Secretary of State, the governor stated that he had decided upon this broad franchise in order that a large number of industrious new settlers, who had in many cases not yet secured a proper title to their lands, might not be deprived of their votes.
The first two sessions of the House of Assembly were held in Saint John but in July 1788 the House met at Fredericton and has continued to meet there ever since. The following is a list of the representatives of the old County of York up to the time of its division, and the formation of the upper section into the County of Carleton, in the year 1832.
Election of 1785. Major Daniel Murray, Capt. Isaac Atwood, Capt. Daniel Lyman, Lieut. Edward Stelle. In consequence of Edward Stelle having left the province, a bye election was held in 1791, and Judge Saunders returned in his room.
Election of 1792. Major Daniel Murray, Capt. Archibald McLean, Capt. Stair Agnew, Capt. Daniel Lyman.
Election of 1795. Major Daniel Murray, Capt. Jacob Ellegood, Capt. Archibald McLean, Capt. James French. The last named gentleman was unseated on a recount and the seat awarded to Capt. Stair Agnew.
Election of 1802. Capt. John Davidson, Capt. Archibald McLean, Rev. Walter Price, Capt. Stair Agnew.
Election of 1809. Peter Fraser, John Allen, Stair Agnew, Duncan McLeod. The last named died in 1813 and was succeeded by John Murray Bliss.
Election of 1816. Peter Fraser, Stair Agnew, John Allen, John Dow.
Election of 1819. Peter Fraser, Stair Agnew, John Dow, John Allen. The demise of King George III dissolved this house and a new election was held nine months afterwards.
Election of 1820. Peter Fraser, Stair Agnew, John Dow, John Allen. In 1822 Capt. Agnew died and Jedediah Slason was elected in his place.
Election of 1827. William Taylor, John Allen, John Dow, Richard Ketchum. A new election was held after the decease of George the fourth.
Election of 1830. John Allen, John Dow, Jedediah Slason, Wm. Taylor.
A vacancy was created by the death of Hon. John Dow in 1832 and Jeremiah M. Connell was returned as his successor but at the close of the session in March following, the seat was awarded to James Taylor, jr., on recount.
The first representatives of the old County of York were all half-pay officers of the disbanded Loyalist regiments. Capt. Isaac Atwood, already mentioned in No. 79 of this series of articles, was captain of a cavalry company in the Kings American Regiment and served with distinction during the revolutionary war. He resided for a time within the old parish of Woodstock probably at the mouth of Eel river where he owned an estate of 700 acres. He also owned what is known as Brown's Island opposite the mouth of Sullivan's Creek. The last reference the writer has been able to obtain as regards this old officer is contained in the following advertisement in an old newspaper:
"For sale at public auction, Monday 1st October 1810, at Gabriel Van Horne's tavern in Fredericton the mortgage title to the late Captain Isaac Atwood's property in the County of York consisting of Belviso Fall Island and his estate at Meductic."
The name Belviso still survives in the well known Belviso bar. Fall Island, now Brown's Island, was formerly "Isle Oanwells" but why so called it is impossible to say. Major Daniel Murray was perhaps a neighbor of Capt. Atwood's (though not a very near one) when they were elected members of our first local parliament. He was an officer in the Kings American Dragoons and owned an estate at the mouth of the Pokiok, part of which he cleared and cultivated, and where he built at considerable expense "a very valuable set of mills" which were unfortunately destroyed by fire about 1798. The property of both Major Murray and Captain Atwood seems to have passed into the hands of William Garden, merchant of Fredericton. It was the fate of many of the loyalists, who engaged in building mills and lumbering without sufficient capital, to see their property pass into the hands of the merchants who furnished the supplies, several of them became so embarrassed that despairing of making a living in New Brunswick they eventually returned to their old homes in the States.
The election of Judge Saunders as a member is not more singular than that of the Rev. Walter Price. In olden days it seems that neither judges nor clergymen were excluded from the legislature. Rev. Dr. John Agnew was one of the first members for the County of Sunbury and the Rev. Jonathan Odell was our first provincial secretary. In early days, moreover, some of the clergymen were active magistrates, as for example Rev. Geo. Pidgeon of Fredericton and Rev. Oliver Arnold of Sussex. Rev. Walter Price lived on his property at the Nashwaak. Rev. John Agnew lived with his son Capt. Stair Agnew at Monckton point just above the Nashwaak where the village of Gibson is now built. Colonel Jacob Ellegood, who was elected a member for York in 1795, served in one of the loyalist regiments during the revolution, but held his commission as a Lieut. Col. in the militia. He appears to have ben a man of property and good position in the old colonies, as is indicated by his bringing with him to New Brunswick one or two slaves. The old Woodstock church records show this by the following entry in Rev. F. Dibblee's hand writing:
"July 28, 1798; Baptised 2 Black children the property of Col. Ellegood, their names Sally and Adam Wise."
The descendants of Adam Wise afterwards moved to Woodstock.
Colonel Ellegood was very active in the promotion of the welfare of the settlers on the river. Under his supervision the first roads and bridges were made in the parishes of Prince William and Dumfries. He died at the old homestead on the bank of the St. John which is still in the possession of his descendants; among these may be mentioned Rev. Canon Ellegood of Montreal and Mrs. J. T. Allan Dibblee of Woodstock.
Captain John Davidson, elected a member of the Assembly in 1802, was a lieutenant in the King's American Dragoons at the time of the revolutionary war. He was one of the first county magistrates and took an acitve interest in the cause of education at a time when schools were yet in their infancy. He was also an active churchman and a warm friend of old Parson Dibblee who makes frequent mention of him in his diary.
Peter Fraser, who eas elected to the House of Assembly in 1809, was a very useful and influential member of the legislature. His extensive business relations and large interest in property on the Upper St. John made him a particularly representative man, and there were few that had so good a knowledge of the circumstances of the people of all sections from Fredericton to Madawaska.
John Allen, son of Judge Isaac Allen, was a man greatly respected; he held a seat as a representative for nearly forty consecutive years. His son, Sir John C. Allen, was also a very popular representative of the county.
John Dow has already been referred to at some length in this series of articles. As a resident of the old parish of Woodstock he always received a good vote in the upper portion of the county, and was very attentive to its interests.
Col. Richard Ketchum, who was elected in 1827, was the first actual resident within the limits of what is now Carleton county, and Jeremiah M. Connell was the second.
In olden days the poll usually opened at the shire town and was removed from parish to parish during the succeeding days, the last day's polling being at the shire town where any who had neglected to vote in their respective parishes still had the opportunity of voting. The poll was never open in two places at the same time, and the election lasted more than a fortnight. The system was that of open voting. Scenes of disorder far greater than any that now prevail were seen at these old time elections, although the franchise was then limited and the number of votes cast comparatively small. The drinking habits of the day may have had something to do with the disorder but it was the system that was largely at fault. The state of the poll fluctuated according to the locality where the poll was held. For example at an election in York which began on Monday June 12, 1820, the poll at the end of the first week stood as follows: Peter Fraser 206, John Allen 188, Henry Smith 169, Stair Agnew 167, Stephen Cameron 257 [157?], John Dow 149, Jedediah Slason 131, Jarvis Ring 112. At the close of the next week it stood thus: Peter Fraser 357, John Allen 335, John Dow 328, Stair Agnew 297, Stephen Cameron 257, Henry Smith 228, Jedediah Slason 199, Jarvis Ring 160. The first four were declared elected at the close of the poll a few days later.
W. O. Raymond