Archives provinciales du Nouveau-Brunswick

Dictionary of Miramichi Biography

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MARSTON, BENJAMIN, first high sheriff of Northumberland County, 1785-86; b. Salem, Mass., 22 Sep 1730, s/o Benjamin Marston Sr and Elizabeth Winslow; m. 1755, Sarah Swett; d. Bolama, Portuguese Guinea, 10 Aug 1792.

A cousin of the prominent New Brunswick Loyalist Edward Winslow, Benjamin Marston graduated from Harvard College (BA 1749) and became a successful businessman in Marblehead, Mass. Having been an outspoken Loyalist at the start of the Revolution, his home was attacked by the Patriots, and he was proscribed and banished. He fled to Boston and came from there to Halifax in the spring of 1776. His wife, Sarah Swett, stayed behind to look after their property and died not long afterwards.

Marston became a trader in Halifax but did not prosper. In 1783 he was engaged to survey the new town of Port Roseway (Shelburne) and in 1784 was chosen by Sir John Wentworth to be deputy surveyor of the King's woods in the new province of New Brunswick. In 1785 he was appointed as the first sheriff of Northumberland County, where there were still not more than a few hundred settlers residing.

Marston arrived on the Miramichi in July 1785. He boarded for two months at the Point with the family of John Willson and then moved to the home of J. Mark C. Delesdernier. One of his first official acts was to publish the charter of Northumberland County. "The notification which I put up that I would publish the charter of the County," he wrote in his diary, "brought considerable of the inhabitants together, the greater part of whom were drunk at my expense." In this and other entries, his diary shows that his feelings about the settlers were not positive. He also spoke disparagingly to his diary about persons whose political perspective differed from his own.

In November 1785 Marston organized the first provincial election to be held on the Miramichi. For the two available seats, he openly supported Stanton Hazard and George Leonard of Saint John. When William Davidson and his legal advisor, Elias Hardy, won the election, Marston expressed his contempt by describing Davidson as "an ignorant cunning fellow" and Hardy as "an attorney of no great reputation."

During his brief stay on the Miramichi, Marston cruised the woods, conducted land surveys, and in collaboration with Delesdernier, traded with the Indians and the settlers. In the spring of 1786 he and Delesdernier were trying to get a sawmill erected at Douglastown, but he was not sufficiently satisfied with his situation to remain on the river. He was absent during much of the spring and summer, and by fall had returned to Saint John.

In 1787 Marston went to Boston and then to London to seek compensation for his war losses. He was embittered when only a fraction of his claim was paid but remained in London for the next five years and managed a modest existence. In 1792 he was appointed surveyor with a company set up to establish a settlement on the west African island of Bolama. Unfortunately, he and most of the settlers who went to the island died of a fever a few days after their arrival.

Marston's contribution to the development of the Miramichi was not great, but his diary, which he kept from 1776 to1787, is an important source of information on events in the mid 1780s.


[b/m/d] DCB / Davidson; Fraser (D