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Pioneers, Ploughs, and Politics: New Brunswick Planned Settlements

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Perseverance Growth and Development

Although the colonists were busy reestablishing their homes, they remembered the promises made to them that remained unfulfilled. Some settlers blamed Captain Brown, claiming that he had misled them in his prospectus; others criticized the New Brunswick government, maintaining that officials had not lived up to their obligations. John Morrison, one of the New Kincardineshire colonists, set out his thoughts on the matter in a letter to his father in Scotland. Morrison held both parties responsible for the problems:

In the first place Captain Brown has made a mistake by getting too many people out at once, but he is not to be blamed so much as some parties out here. The Government is as much to blame as him by taking too much on hand. Owing to the bad winter they were not ready for us but everything is doing to right their mistake. Captain Brown was informed by telegram just the day before we left Glasgow that 77 houses were ready, and when we got here only 50 were built, but all got in, some in tents, some in houses, so that no one was without a place.****

Morrison seemed somewhat forgiving of both parties. Over time, however, other colonists wished to have the perceived wrongs redressed, and they took action. These settlers petitioned the Lieutenant-Governor requesting compensation and also voiced their complaints to the Hon. John J. Fraser, the provincial secretary. Initially, the government ignored their concerns. Captain Brown also pressed the issue, stating that numerous provisions of the original agreement had not been fulfilled. He demanded a meeting with government to resolve the issue and sent a list of 21 grievances to government leaders.
The provincial government was slow in responding to his requests. Annoyed that the settlers' complaints were being ignored, Brown contacted the land commissioner in Kansas, who offered land to 100 families, if anyone wished to settle there. Brown suggested that the New Kincardineshire settlers move to Kansas, and this proposal was discussed with the Scottish settlers at a public meeting held in late 1876.
Fearful that a number of Brown's colonists would accept free land in the United States, government officials decided to act. All settlers who had suffered hardships immediately following their arrival were asked to submit a report. The matter was finally resolved when over 30 claimants received financial compensation from the government or had the repayment of a government loan forgiven.
**** Quoted in 'A Family Affair': Colonising New Kincardineshire by Marjory Harper, published in History Today, October 1967, p. 46.