‘A hierarchical world of Scottish military settlers’: the diaries of Jacobina Campbell and Hector MacLean

By Bonnie Huskins

Murray Young and Gail G. Campbell eds., A Calendar of Life in a Narrow Valley: Jacobina Campbell’s Diary, Taymouth, New Brunswick, 1825-1843 (Fredericton: Acadiensis Press, 2015).

Jo Currie, Keith Mercer, and John G. Reid eds., Hector Maclean: The Writings Of A Loyalist Era Military Settler (Kentville: Gaspereau Press, 2015).

When we think of American Revolutionary War loyalists, we usually think of civilian refugees. However, the loyalists who resettled in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia were also comprised of `Provincials’. Provincials were members of the corps raised in British North America to fight for the British Crown. Many of these regiments eventually disbanded in the Maritimes. Robert Dallison, in his book Hope Restored, discusses the challenges faced by disbanded soldiers in settling their land grants in New Brunswick, as well as the upward mobility of the “favoured Provincials” who were selected for government posts and militia appointments.[1] Despite Dallison’s analysis, we still know very little about the daily experiences of these military settlers. Two recent published diaries help us to fill in this gap. A Calendar of Life in a Narrow Valley: Jacobina Campbell’s Diary, Taymouth, New Brunswick, 1825-1843  and Hector Maclean: The Writings Of A Loyalist Era Military Settler examine the formation of a Scottish “rural squirocracy” in Taymouth, New Brunswick  and Hants County, Nova Scotia.[2] They also provide insight into the rhythms of pioneer life in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.


Murray Young and Gail G. Campbell eds., A Calendar of Life in a Narrow Valley: Jacobina Campbell’s Diary, Taymouth, New Brunswick, 1825-1843 (Fredericton: Acadiensis Press, 2015).

Hector Maclean was a Lieutenant in the 2nd Battalion of the 84th Regiment (Royal Highland Emigrants), which was charged with the defense of Atlantic Canada during the revolution. At the conclusion of the war, Maclean settled in Hants County, near present-day Kenetcook. Dugald Campbell, a Lieutenant in the 42nd Highland Regiment, was charged with arranging the settlement of a detachment of his regiment along the Nashwaak River in New Brunswick. Like a Scottish clan chief, he assigned very small lots to the rank and file, choosing the “most desirable location in the Highland grant” for his own family. His daughter Jacobina kept a daily account of life on this land grant.[3]

Both diaries illustrate the formation of a “hierarchical world of military settlers.”[4] Dugald was clearly one of the “favoured Provincials.” He became a prominent surveyor, judge, and office holder. Originally the family belonged to Fredericton’s loyalist gentry, but when Dugald died in 1810, the family members were forced to move to their land grant in Taymouth. Jacobina’s brothers continued to exhibit the family’s respectability by serving as justices of the peace and as militia officers. Jacobina would eventually move to Fredericton and probably ended her days with her brother’s family in Upper Canada. Hector Maclean acquired a 2000 acre farm lot in Hants County, his own town lot, and acquired other lots as they were vacated, probably by members of the 84th Regiment. Like the Campbell brothers, he also served as a justice of the peace for Hants County and a justice for the Inferior Court of Common Pleas. Although his letters and diaries stop in 1787, we know that he married in 1788 and had one son and eight daughters. He spent more time in Halifax, probably because he was elected to the House of Assembly. And, like Jacobina’s brothers, he became involved in militia affairs, specifically recruitment efforts for the Royal Nova Scotia Regiment.

Networking with polite society was significant for both Jacobina and Hector. When Jacobina’s family lived in Fredericton as genteel elites, they would have partaken of the usual round of balls and assemblies. Even after she moved to Taymouth, Jacobina maintained connections with her friends in Fredericton, which was made easier by improved roads in the late 1830s and early 1840s.  Her Fredericton friends also came to visit her more regularly, since one could now travel between Fredericton and Taymouth in one day. Hector was a “self-professed gentleman” and “gregarious by nature.” While stationed at Fort Edward, he and the other officers “cut a prominent figure” amongst the local elite in Windsor. When he settled on his land grant, Hector still frequently made his way to Windsor for business purposes, to maintain close ties with prominent families and individuals, and to participate in the town’s polite entertainments. He confessed in his diary that “My Soul delights in society, particularly that of the Fair, and abhors solitude.”[5]


Jo Currie, Keith Mercer, and John G. Reid eds., Hector Maclean: The Writings Of A Loyalist Era Military Settler (Kentville: Gaspereau Press, 2015).

Both diaries are also valuable sources in illustrating the rhythms of rural life, seasonality, and agrarian labour. Much of Maclean’s diary is devoted to recording the weather, as well as the work involved in running a farm. While his entries sometimes leave the impression that he was engaged in much of the heavy lifting, in reality he was a “farmer of the gentlemanly sort,” who relied on hired help.[6] The Campbells also paid workers to do the threshing on their farm. The use of hired labour on both farms is an indication of the owners’ privilege.

Jacobina Campbell’s diary is useful in describing the gendered division of labour in a mixed agricultural and lumbering economy. The men engaged in physical labour in the fields and in the woods, while the women took care of farm animals, and engaged in spinning, carding, and weaving. Nonetheless, before his death, Dugald wrote to Jacobina with instructions on how to manage affairs in his absence. He clearly recognized that she was best suited to be the family’s household manager.[7]

The significance of the Scottish connection is teased out in the interpretive essays included in both publications. D. Murray Young traces the Campbells’ connections to the Highland clans in Scotland. The Campbells maintained a connection to the laird of the estate of Balhaldie in Perthshire, who sent parcels to the Campbells as his nearest relatives. In Maclean’s case, the Scottish connection is most evident in his association with Captain Murdoch Maclaine, from the Isle of Mull, who was a senior officer in the 84th, and a close friend, patron, confidant, and correspondent.

Although these diaries have much in common, they also offer distinctive enticements to the reader. Jacobina’s Campbell’s diary reveals the existence of an active Methodist network. She records chapel services, prayer meetings, and the 59 itinerant preachers who visited Taymouth between 1825-43. Hector Maclean’s diary was written in the blank pages of an orderly book of the 84th detachment. In these entries we learn about the nature and significance of the Battle of Eutaw Springs in South Carolina in September 1781, in which Hector participated, which was only one month before the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown.

Both publications are the products of fruitful collaboration. A Calendar of Life emerges from intergenerational teamwork between two historians at the University of New Brunswick. Fortuitously, about a decade ago, Young and Campbell discovered their mutual interest and began to work together. While Campbell has edited and annotated the diary, Young has contributed interpretive essays on pioneer life in Taymouth, Jacobina’s family history, and the connections between Jacobina’s family and Young’s own ancestors. The Hector Maclean book is a product of inter-institutional collaboration between Jo Currie, former Special Collections librarian and archivist at Edinburgh University Library;  Keith Mercer of Parks Canada at the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site; and John G. Reid of the History Department at St. Mary’s University. It was Currie who initially read Maclean’s letters in the Maclaine of Lochbuie papers at the National Archives of Scotland and contacted the West Hants Historical Society. The project was rounded out by the discovery of the diary and orderly book in Clements Library at the University of Michigan.

Both of these publications are welcome additions to the increasing number of historical diaries and correspondences being printed in Canada by academic and popular publishers. Such publications are valuable: they not only allow the editors and annotators to interpret the texts, but they also allow the general reader to assess the significance of the entries. These two volumes would appeal to academic and general readers interested in loyalist history, military history, social history, labour history, and the use of diaries as historical sources. These two diaries would also work well in the classroom as primary sources for students interested in the colonial period in the Maritimes.

Bonnie Huskins teaches history at St. Thomas University


[1] Robert L. Dallison, Hope Restored: the American Revolution and the Founding of New Brunswick, Vol 2 (Fredericton: Goose Lane & the NB Military History Project, 2003), Chapters 3 & 4.

[2] D. Murray Young and Gail G. Campbell, Life in a Narrow Valley: Jacobina Campbell’s Diary, Taymouth, New Brunswick, 1825-1843 (Fredericton: Acadiensis Press, 2015),21

[3] Young & Campbell, 29.

[4] Young & Campbell, 19.

[5] Jo Currie, Keith Mercer, and John G. Reid eds., Hector Maclean: The Writings Of A Loyalist Era Military Settler (Kentville: Gaspereau Press, 2015), 35, 41.

[6] Currie, Mercer, & Reid, 38.

[7] Young & Campbell, 20, 23, 32.

About The Acadiensis Blog

The Acadiensis Blog is a place for Atlantic Canadian historians to share their research with both a scholarly and general audience. We welcome submissions on all topics Atlantic Canadian. If you are interested in contributing to the blog, please contact Acadiensis Digital Communications Editor Corey Slumkoski at corey.slumkoski@msvu.ca.
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