Nova Scotia Readers and Boston Booksellers in the Early Nineteenth Century

By Keith Grant

In the early decades of the nineteenth century, the circulation of books was a highly localized activity.[1] Although advances in steam, stereotyping, and stamps were taking place, before about 1840 in most places outside the metropole the book trade remained regional. To be sure, an extension of print culture was taking place, and books were available in the 1820s and 30s on a scale unimaginable only a few decades earlier. But this “reading revolution” was as much about hustle as technology, as publishers working with fairly traditional presses found new ways to get books into the hands of readers.

In locales like Cornwallis, Nova Scotia, it took creative effort to participate in the burgeoning world of print. Edward Manning (1766-1851) of Nova Scotia, provides an example of how, motivated by a religiously-informed sense of urgency, some people living in rural communities took the circulation of books and ideas into their own hands, inserting themselves into and extending the reach of the book trade of the Northeast. In the early decades of the nineteenth century, Manning developed a network throughout the Northeast of authors, publishers, booksellers, shippers, and readers. Colonial Nova Scotians were cosmopolitan in their reading, but to cultivate a local culture of ideas and debate they had to acquire their books by creating personal networks.

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Edward Manning Portrait, Acadia University

It is possible to reconstruct some of Manning’s book trade connections primarily through his extant correspondence (about 800 letters) and a daily journal, kept from about 1810-1846, a period that coincides with the explosion of religious print. These sources give us glimpses of commercial and religious transactions with authors in New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, Boston and PEI publishers, and magazine editors on both sides of the border. As a largely self-educated dissenting preacher in a small rural community, Manning was a bit reluctant to describe himself as “a man of abilities, and great reading,” but still he continued to cultivate his bookish network, considering it a “singular mercy to have so many valuable correspondents, and some of high standing in the literary and religious world.”[2] This post will trace the movement of books between Manning and one node in his network.

For most of two decades, to the early 1830s, Manning was a kind of part-time colporteur for the Boston publisher and bookseller, Lincoln and Edmands, a commercial relationship that extended the reach of the urban firm into an under-served rural market and that provided Manning with a reliable source of the kind of religious books he wanted to circulate in his region.

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Lincoln and Edmands trade card, ca. 1815-1820. American Antiquarian Society.

Located in Boston’s Cornhill book trades district from 1805 to 1833, Lincoln and Edmands specialized in religious books and tracts, children’s literature, and school textbooks.[3] They were in many ways typical of the localized book trade in the early decades of the nineteenth century: creatively serving niche markets in a competitive urban environment, with limited reach into the rural areas. Not until mid-century would publishing be centralized and distribution extended on a national scale. Acting as a kind of middleman, Manning was willing to take the distribution of Lincoln and Edmands titles into his own hands to ensure that evangelical books circulated in his locale, even if Nova Scotia was outside the firm’s normal orbit.[4] In 1816 the booksellers began sending multiple copies of religious titles for Manning to sell in Nova Scotia.[5] He was billed retail prices for the books, on the assumption that he had latitude to charge his buyers a small premium to cover shipping costs and his commission (though he often distributed the books at cost).[6] For the next twenty years, Manning’s diary, correspondence, and memorandum book are sprinkled with references to his book circulation on their behalf. To be sure, as a sometime colporteur, Manning’s commission bookselling was not nearly as extensive as that of the well-known Reverend Mason Weems, whom James Green described as a “one-man peripatetic distribution system.”[7] Yet for Manning, book distribution was integral to his ministry, as he attempted to create a local culture of reading.

The relationship between Manning and Lincoln and Edmands also illustrates how the distribution of free religious tracts was accomplished before the consolidation of such efforts under the umbrella of the American Tract Society.[8] In this period, the distribution of tracts was accomplished through a collaboration between booksellers and printers, voluntary societies, and individuals motivated by evangelical fervour and optimism about the power of print

Lincoln and Edmands played a significant role in the circulation of tracts in the Northeast. As early as 1811, partner Ensign Lincoln was a founding officer of Boston’s Evangelical Tract Society, annual reports of which describe tens of thousands of tracts circulating through its efforts.[9] As a firm, Lincoln and Edmands was soon putting its own presses into the cause; their catalogue for 1812 features a section headed “Boston Series of Cheap Religious Tracts,” with more than 80 titles in the series, priced cheaply and by the dozen.[10] Lincoln and Edmands sent Manning “a small assortment of Tracts for charitable distribution.”[11] In words that echoed Manning’s own sentiments on the religious significance of the distribution of print, Lincoln predicted that efforts like this would “usher in this long desired period” when “the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the earth as the waters cover the sea.”[12] Though Manning’s book distribution for Lincoln and Edmands was certainly a commercial exchange, it was not irreducibly so.

Especially in these early decades of the nineteenth century, the “reading revolution” from scarcity to abundance was not an automatic process. Indeed, book historians have noted that many of the expansions of the book business in the Anglo-American world were due to new entrepreneurial hustle, rather than the technological changes that were more widespread in application after 1840. If there was a reading revolution in places or among people for whom books remained scarce at the beginning of the nineteenth century, it was often due to the agency of people like Edward Manning, who became nodes in wider networks, taking distribution into their own hands because of what such circulation meant for them—whether a chance to participate in transatlantic debates, or to create a local reading culture, or to hasten the “general illumination” of a coming millennium, or all of the above.

Keith Grant is an Assistant Professor of History at Crandall University, and a Co-Editor of Borealia: Early Canadian History.


[1] A version of this essay was presented at a joint session of the Canadian Historical Association and the Bibliographical Society of Canada in Vancouver, June 2019.

[2] Edward Manning Journal, June 5, 1823, Esther Clark Wright Archives, Acadia University.

[3] On Lincoln and Edmands, see Martha Bartter, “Lincoln and Edmands,” in American Literary Publishing Houses, 1638-1899, ed. Peter  Dzwonkoski, Dictionary of Literary Biography (Detroit: Gale Research, 1986), 259.

[4] On publishers in cities like Boston, New York, and Philadelphia relying on “middlemen” to extend the scope of their distribution before the rise of the “mass market,” see James N. Green, “The Rise of Book Publishing,” in An Extensive Republic: Print, Culture, and Society in the New Nation, 1790-1840, ed. Robert A. Gross and Mary Kelley, History of the Book in America, vol. 2 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press / American Antiquarian Society, 2010), 127.

[5] Lincoln and Edmands, Boston, Letters to Edward Manning, Sept. 22, 1814 and April 13, 1816, Esther Clark Wright Archives, Acadia University.

[6] See David Benedict, Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Letter to Edward Manning, [1816?]. Esther Clark Wright Archives, Acadia University.

[7] Green, “Rise of Book Publishing,” 87; see 86-88.

[8] The story of tract societies in America is masterfully told in David Paul Nord, Faith in Reading: Religious Publishing and the Birth of Mass Media in America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

[9] “Articles of the Evangelical Tract Society, Organized in Boston, Nov. 13, 1811,” Massachusetts Baptist Missionary Magazine, vol 3, No. 4 (Dec 1811), 128.

[10] Lincoln & Edmands Catalogue of Books for sale at No. 53, Cornhill, Boston (Boston: Lincoln and Edmands, 1812), 11-13. I am grateful for the American Antiquarian Society for providing a copy of this catalogue.

[11] Lincoln & Edmands, Boston, Letter to Edward Manning, November 5, 1817, Esther Clark Wright Archives, Acadia University.

[12] Ensign Lincoln, “Evangelical Tract Society” [Annual Report], Massachusetts Baptist Missionary Magazine 4.8 (December 1815), 251.

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CFP: Critical Perspectives on Cannabis in Canada


Special Issue of Journal of Canadian Studies
“Critical Perspectives on Cannabis in Canada”
Guest Editors: Michael Boudreau and Sarah Hamill
Deadline: December 1, 2019

For much of the twentieth century, recreational drugs, notably cannabis, have been seen as a serious social, legal, and moral problem. However, the negative connotations associated with cannabis have subsided, culminating in the introduction in 2018 of government-regulated sales of legal cannabis. Canada is the latest country to legalize cannabis use and it joins a growing list of jurisdictions that have done so. In 2013, Uruguay became the first country to enact legislation to legalize and regulate cannabis for non-medical purposes. To date, over twenty countries, and multiple U.S. states, have implemented some form of decriminalization.

In Canada, cannabis is the second most used recreational drug after alcohol. An estimated 2.3 million Canadians consume cannabis in various forms, including “edibles”, which will be legally available in December 2019. Cannabis is becoming more socially acceptable and support for its legalization continues to grow. It is important to note that support for legalization comes in part from non-users. Their support is predicated on the belief that cannabis was a problem only because it was illegal and thus unregulated. Besides lifting many of the criminal sanctions against the use of cannabis, legalization may result in the removal of the moral stigma surrounding marijuana. And it signals the end of one phase of Canada’s beleaguered war on drugs.

This special issue of the Journal of Canadian Studies is intended to examine cannabis from a variety of disciplinary and critical perspectives; notably historical, sociological, socio-legal, cultural, and criminological. Moreover, this issue especially welcomes contributions from scholars who can offer a comparative analysis of how cannabis is viewed and regulated in multiple jurisdictions. Continue reading

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“Be … In this Place”: Conceptions of Atlantic Canadian Citizenship

By Sarah King

The Atlantic Canadian perspective is often glaringly absent from national narratives on politics and history – including CBC documentaries like 2000’s Canada: A People’s History (for a thorough discussion of this, see Margaret Conrad’s (2001b) article in Social History, “My Canada Includes the Atlantic Provinces”). Apparently, CBC producers did not consult this source and 2017’s Canada: The Story of Us repeats many of the errors of its predecessor. What is not absent, however, is Atlantic Canadians’ vocal and vociferous dissent at these conspicuous omissions. These contrasting themes of omission and opposition are central to a discussion of Atlantic Canada’s place in national conversation.

The exclusion of the Atlantic Canadian region from national narratives perpetuates unfair stereotypes of the region as backwards and unimportant, and lead to constructions of the region’s citizens as lazy, backwards, and apathetic. These misunderstandings often lead to the dismissive attitudes of politicians like Underhill, and even Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau who, when challenged by Atlantic Canadians about rising unemployment rates in the region remarked “why don’t you just get off your asses” (in Corbett, 2007, p. 14). In response, Savoie (2006) argues that historical “accidents” like these, and events perpetuated by “national political and administrative institutions” can be blamed for the region’s underdevelopment (p. 14).

While focusing on the ways in which the Atlantic Canadian region is unlike the rest of the country, scholars continue to perpetuate negative understandings of the region and its peoples, instead of a more appreciative understanding of the region’s uniqueness (White & King, 2017). Continue reading

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Christo Aivalis reviews Cecil Foster. They Call Me George: The Untold Story of Black Train Porters and the Birth of Modern Canada (Windsor, Ontario: Biblioasis, 2019).

By Christo Aivalis

Cecil Foster in They Call Me George offers readers an excellent piece of accessible writing and analysis that skillfully melds together the multifaceted histories of labour, diplomacy, politics, gender, race, empire, and culture. In so doing, Foster puts forward—and convincingly defends—the thesis that Black train porters transformed the nature of Canadian society, especially in how it related to questions of race and immigration. Foster gives much of the credit to the porters, who not only fought for their own liberation and amelioration, but did so for all Black Canadians, and indeed all racialized people, against a white-supremacist understanding of Canada.  Ultimately, “the train porters battled to make normal what is now socially routine, and even taken for granted” (12).


Cecil Foster. They Call Me George: The Untold Story of Black Train Porters and the Birth of Modern Canada

This book is at its very best when it draws the meaningful connection between the realities of the porters’ working experiences and their indispensable role in perpetuating black culture and fighting against white supremacy. As Foster notes, the Black porters, despite being marginalized relative to white workers on the railways, were nonetheless respected within the Black community, often because their long-distance travels helped to link disparate and small Black communities strewn across a vast nation. It was they who inspired trends in Black fashion, who patronized Black-owned businesses, who helped to spread vital news and literature, who built crucial personal relationships with travelling political figures, and who helped to build a shared-political consciousness aiming to win genuine equality and opportunity within and beyond the workplace. In more ways than one, Foster suggests that the generations of activism by Blacks in Canada culminated in the efforts of the porters. Continue reading

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A “backwoods tragedy”: The Bannister Brothers and Capital Punishment in New Brunswick, 1936

By Michael Boudreau

In September of 1936 Arthur and Daniel Bannister were executed, standing back-to-back, for the “callous” murders of Philip Lake, his wife Bertha, and one of their children (Jackie) in Pacific Junction, Westmorland County. The Halifax Herald called this crime one of the “most brutal mass slayings in [New Brunswick’s] history”.[1]  This was the first double execution in Canada since 1924.  The hangman reported that the Bannisters died “bravely”, thus providing society with some form of closure, if not justification, for the use of capital punishment in this case.[2]

This “backwoods tragedy” raised concerns about executing the young, especially two “half-witted boys” such as the Bannister brothers.  At the time of the murders, Arthur was 17 and Daniel was 20.  An undercurrent of this case was the role that Arthur and Daniel’s mother, May Bannister, played.  It was alleged that May Bannister was the “arch conspirator” behind the crime. She wanted her sons to kidnap the Lake’s “baby-in-arms” (five-month old Betty) so that she could blackmail a prominent businessman in nearby Moncton.  As one reporter asserted, May Bannister had turned her sons into kidnappers and triple murderers. Public opinion in Westmorland County, and throughout much of the province, was decidedly against May Bannister, to the point where some had called for her sons to be spared and for May Bannister to be executed. For her role in the crime, May Bannister was sentenced to three and a half years in the Kingston Prison for Women.[3]

Halifax Herald January 7A glimmer of hope appeared for Daniel Bannister when he was awarded a new trial after it was determined by the New Brunswick Court of Appeal that the trial judge had erred in his address to the jury.  In essence, rather than letting the jury decide if Daniel Bannister “knew or ought to have known that murder was a possible consequence of any design which may have existed…with reference to the Lake baby”, the judge had inferred to the jury that Daniel did in fact know that murder would be the likely outcome of his actions that fateful night.[4] Continue reading

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Public schools and ratepayers in late 19th century New Brunswick: a linguistic divide?

By Elisa Sance

On January 18th, 1899, Patrick Swift from District #7, Parish of Harcourt, New Brunswick wrote a letter [1] to James R. Inch, Chief Superintendent of Education to protest the hiring of a third-class [2] French teacher in an English district. In his letter, the plaintiff explained that the trustees of the district turned down several good English-speaking candidates with a second-class license, including one individual who was bilingual but whose first language was English, to accommodate an influential “Frenchman”.

The development of the public school system in New Brunswick in the mid to late nineteenth century created a growing need for trained teachers, and letters such as this one were not uncommon as school districts were staffing their schools with, at times, professionals that eluded concensus. The level of qualification needed for teachers to work in a given district was directly correlated to the ratepayers: the most qualified teachers were to work in the highest valued districts. Yet, at times, districts that qualified for a second-class teacher would choose to hire third-class teachers, often for reasons that pertained to the language(s) they spoke. Continue reading

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Decorous Dispossession: Legally Extinguishing Acadian Landholding Rights

By Elizabeth Mancke

In August 1759, the Nova Scotia assembly passed “An Act for the Quieting of Possessions to the Protestant Grantees of the Lands, formerly occupied by the French Inhabitants, and for preventing vexatious Actions relating to the same.”  The legislation prohibited “any troublesome or vexatious Suits of Law” by Acadians trying to recover their lands and made it illegal for any courts in the province to hear cases brought “for the Recovery of any Lands” by “the former French Inhabitants.”  The text of the legislation indicated that “some Doubts have arisen . . .  concerning the Title of the said French Inhabitants to any of the said Lands,” and some New Englanders were wary of moving hundreds of kilometers north to settle on lands to which Acadians might have legal recourse to recover.[1]

Ten months earlier, in its first sitting, the assembly passed “An Act for confirming Titles to Lands and Quieting Possessions” with an explicit provision “That no Papist hereafter, shall have any Right or Title to hold, possess, or enjoy any Lands or Tenements, other than by virtue of a Grant or Grants from the Crown.”  Anyone convicted of assisting a Catholic to acquire land would see it revert to the Crown. To register a land deed, a person had to swear “the Oaths of Supremacy and Allegiance” before the province would register the deed.  But that 1758 act left loopholes for Acadians. It included a fairly standard clause that protected “the Title of any . . . Person non compos mentis, imprisoned or in Captivity, who shall be intitled to sue for and recover any such Lands or Tenements to which they are intitled within one year after such Impediment shall be removed.” The act’s last section also allowed “That if any Original Deed shall be lost, and Proof thereof in Court be made,” it would be accepted and entered in the registry.” Either of these provisions could have been construed by Acadians to argue for the restoration of their lands.  Deported Acadians might reasonably have argued they had been imprisoned or held in captivity, and upon returning to Nova Scotia, take the oath and  ask for the lands back.  As well, some Acadians were Protestants and related to New Englanders, and thus the restrictions against Catholic landholding would not cover them.[2] Continue reading

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Wide Angles, Close Quarters: A Human History of the Grand Dérangement

By Christopher Hodson

Nearly two decades ago, I stumbled out of my small hometown (beautiful Logan, Utah, USA) into a PhD program in history at Northwestern University near Chicago. I arrived with the intention of studying and writing about revolutionary France, but after a few months of work, I began an innocent flirtation with colonial America – a field about which I then knew basically nothing, but whose lines of argument I found appealing. It got serious fast. By the end of that first hectic year, it was clear to me that my interests had shifted, and that if by some miracle I managed to write a dissertation and earn a doctorate, it would be as an early Americanist.

This personal revelation notwithstanding, I was still missing one all-important thing: a subject to write about. As a graduate student in the early stages, dissertation topics are everything. In addition to providing light at the end of a tunnel littered with potential failure and drudgery, they function as a kind of currency – something you could distill into a couple of sexy-ish sentences at the department mixer marked you as a “serious young scholar” and not the twenty-something joker you in fact were. After jumping ship from French history, however, I was dead broke.

That all changed, however, during a conversation with one of my professors, an eminent early American historian with a roguish streak. “You know, if I were a young guy in your position,” he said, “and I really wanted to write a career-making dissertation, I’d have a good look at the Acadians.” By that point, I’d had quite a bit of practice at giving a knowing, chin-stroking nod to mask my interior cluelessness, so I executed one: “Ah, yes. The Acadians. Mmm. Indeed. So interesting.” I then ran off to perform the 1999 equivalent of a Google search (Ask Jeeves?) to confirm what I suspected, but didn’t rightly know: that the Acadians had been the original French settlers of what are now the Canadian Maritimes, that Anglo-Americans had done something terrible to them in the eighteenth century, and that their descendants were the Cajuns of Louisiana. Continue reading

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Reconciling Chignecto: The many stories of Siknikt

By Anne Marie Lane Jonah

Although many residents of and visitors to Atlantic Canada have seen, even at a glance, the National Historic Sites (NHS) of Beaubassin and Fort Lawrence, many fewer have visited, or have an inkling of the dramatic and tragic history of that place. Beaubassin, an Acadian village destroyed in 1750, and Fort Lawrence, built on the ruins of the village, occupy a ridge to the south east of the Missaguash River that today forms the border between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. (They’re behind the Nova Scotia visitor centre.) In the past few years, Parks Canada staff have been working to better understand and present the history of these places. As the work progressed, the idea took shape of creating a linked and coherent presentation of these sites and two others in the Chignecto region, Fort Beauséjour-Fort Cumberland NHS and Fort Gaspareaux NHS; making the landscape of the Isthmus of Chignecto central to the story.

AnneMarie photo1

Parks Canada/2019. A view of the Tantramar Marsh form Beaubassin ridge, with the hard to make out Missaguash River.

Beaubassin, an Acadian community somewhat distant in its day from the alternately French and British capital at Port Royal/Annapolis Royal, had prospered for generations based on its agriculture and trade before its destruction.  Knowledge of the site of the village had endured in local oral history, cherished by Acadians, some descendants of the villagers. In the early 20th century, the curious had gone searching for artefacts in the fields, and studies of the place were undertaken: history, archaeology, and genealogy. In 1991 a farmer grading a large section of his field to build a barn turned up archaeological objects by the thousands, bringing the site to greater attention. Still, it was not until 2005 that it was designated as being a site of national historic significance by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board and acquired by Parks Canada. From 2007 to 2010, Parks Canada archaeologist Charles Burke led public archaeology programs to study the remains of fort and village, bringing to light a large collection of artefacts, and inspiring tremendous attachment to and interest in the site, still essentially a field.

Communicating the complex, truly tangled, history of Beaubassin/ Fort Lawrence remains a challenge. The military story of colonial wars has dominated the landscape and the narrative. The entire Chignecto region, one of the flashpoints for the tensions that resulted in the Seven Years’ War, was much more important in the colonial era than its current modest appearance indicates.[1] Early heritage protection efforts, beginning in 1902, focussed on Fort Beauséjour/Fort Cumberland NHS, a stone fortification that occupies a ridge across the Missaguash River from Beaubassin/Fort Lawrence. (Doubtless you are noticing the pattern of double names.) As the pet project of one the first and longest serving members of the HSMB, John Clarence Webster, the Chignecto region received some of its first designations.[2] Nonetheless, more than a century later, as we began to piece the story together for Beaubassin/Fort Lawrence, what struck me was the unknown. The primary records contained ample evidence of an Indigenous role in this story that received scant mention in secondary sources or in the existing HSMB designations. Why, it had to be asked, were the Mi’kmaq and the Wolastukqiyik so invested in preventing this particular British incursion? This led me to the idea that this place wasn’t important because Europeans fought over it; but, they ended up fighting over it because it was important. What we as researchers need to address are the real reasons that this unusual landscape was important, and to whom. Continue reading

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Pointe Sainte-Anne: the Continuity of a destroyed eighteenth-century Acadian village

Today’s post is the first in a mulit-part collaboration between the Acadiensis Blog, Unwritten Histories, and Borealia. To see the introduction to this series please click here.

By Stephanie Pettigrew

As I mentioned in the last blog post, today we will be starting with general overview with the history of Pointe Sainte-Anne, the events of 1759, and what we are attempting to achieve with the exhibit at the FRM.

But first, we need to emphasize that the history of Pointe Sainte-Anne obviously does not begin with the French at all, but with the Wəlastəkwiyik. Sainte-Anne (and thereby Fredericton) is located on Wəlastəkwiyik territory, which was never ceded. The first thing we aim to do with our exhibit is disabuse ourselves of the notion that the Acadians always peacefully co-existed with the local indigenous people. They did not. Although Acadians mostly managed to avoid outright war with the indigenous communities nearest to them, that doesn’t mean they didn’t outright displace them, and it certainly doesn’t mean that the local indigenous communities benefited from their presence.[1]

The first French settlements were small, and consisted mostly of the seigneurial family and their servants. The grants were held by the D’amours family, who held massive amounts of land they were meant to populate with French settlers. Governor Villebon, the Governor of Acadia from 1691 to 1700, established Fort Nashwaak, turning the Fredericton region into Acadia’s capitol for a brief 9 year period – a foreshadowing of its future as provincial capitol, perhaps. After Villebon’s death, the capitol moved back to Port Royal, despite its proven insecurity; Port Royal had fallen numerous times by 1700.

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Fort Nashwaak

A matter of Record

The records for Pointe Sainte-Anne between the end of the seventeenth century and the beginning of the deportation are pretty sparse. A few censuses were taken before the settlement was destroyed; the first was recorded in 1698, and showed a population of 38 French settlers, made up mostly of the seigneurial families and their households. Having received their grant from the colonial government of New France in Québec in 1692, they had managed to clear 118 acres of land by the time the census was taken. Other French families had also begun to populate the area, in particular the Godin family, which would play a prominent role in the events of 1759. The last census before the destruction of the settlement was taken in 1739, and indicated a population of about 100. It is much less detailed in nature than the 1698 census, however. While the 1698 census listed each individual family member, including children, the 1739 census lists only the head of each family and the number of people included in each individual family. No listings are given for cleared acreage, livestock, servants, or guns. An idea of the total population is about the most we can get from this census, along with the fact that the settlement is located about seven leagues (38 kilometers) downriver from Ekwpahak, the Wəlastəkwiyik village. Mostly everything else we know about Sainte-Anne, we know from the documentation created by its destruction.[2]

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Extract from the 1698 census (Source: LAC)

This is where things start to get really, really messy. I’m just going to go ahead and assume that you, the reader, are at least somewhat familiar with the history of the Deportation of the Acadians, which is how destruction of Saint-Anne’s came to pass.[3] I’m also going to assume you’re at least somewhat familiar with the area’s complex relationship with nineteenth-century archival integrity, and how its complicated historiography makes any study of events which occurred in the mid-eighteenth century…. unpleasant. In short, almost all of the history covering the Acadian deportation has been done with an eye towards proving someone right. Entire archival collections have been carefully manicured, curated, and published with the goal of making British officers from this era look better. Twentieth-and twenty-first-century historians aren’t blameless in this historiography, either; primary source material has been shamelessly cherry-picked to prove a particular point, specifically searching for quotes that specifically disregards the contextual body of the source. In order to avoid this problem as much as possible, for the Pointe Sainte-Anne exhibit, I have insisted on using primary sources only to develop the narrative. If it has been transcribed or published, we are returning to the original, untranscribed source. And we are not taking any of these sources for granted; if the information presented cannot be verified with the other source material we have on hand, if it doesn’t make sense, or if it seems widely off-base, then we are not assuming it is correct, just because it is a primary source (see: eighteenth-century newspapers.) Because when it comes to the Deportation, and the Saint John River campaign in particular, everybody seems to have something to prove. We’re not interested in proving anything. What we ARE interested in, is telling the story of the Acadians who lived here, what happened to them, and their continued presence on the river despite the multiple attempts to disperse them.

The Saint John River Campaign

The Saint John River Campaign was a part of the Acadian Deportation, and started after the fall of the Fortress of Louisbourg. Once the British and New England troops (referred to as the New England Rangers) successfully managed to seize and capture the Fortress, they were ordered to move on to the mouth of the Saint John River, in order to capture the Acadians who had been using it as a refuge to escape deportation. General Robert Monckton was in charge of this expedition, was ordered to destroy the villages, capture any “French Neutrals” he found, and take them prisoners to Fort Cumberland – not kill them, take them as prisoners. They arrived at the mouth of the river (what would today be known as Saint John) in early September 1758, and began building a fort they called Fort Frederick. Monckton began writing and sending dispatches to Lord Abercrombie about his mission in mid-October, reporting on the information he had already acquired by that point. One of the most important things portrayed in this initial dispatch, was that the river was already virtually deserted.

Monckton had led his troops upriver in an attempt to flush out the Acadians from the villages they had settled in since fleeing up the river from the Bay of Fundy in 1755. Jemseg, Grimross, and Saint-Anne had all grown significantly in population thanks to refugees fleeing the deportation, but thanks to the lack of parish or census documentation, it is unclear how large this population growth actually was. Monckton’s October 15th letter includes an account of Captain Morris, one of the officers under his command, who had captured a priest and about sixty Acadian men, women, and children, but it is unclear where exactly these prisoners came from. The priest did inform Morris that the inhabitants of the river had begun leaving for regions further north as soon as they had learned that the British had arrived at the mouth of the river. And the priests’ words proved to be the case, as Monckton found very few people as he moved upriver.[4]

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Saint John River Campaign Locations

The first settlement they came across was Grimross, where they destroyed forty to fifty homes, the livestock, the fields, and the barns. Next came Jemseg, where approximately twenty buildings were destroyed, along with all livestock and any stores found. But no prisoners were taken, nor was anybody seen. The soldiers began experiencing significant difficulties; they lost a few ships to the shallow depts of the river, losing a significant amount of stores, and decided to turn back at this point.[5] Writing on October 15th, 1758, to Lord Abercrombie, Monckton stated that “…but that I am hurrying every thing that I may get up river, I am apt to think that (the french) have deserted the river further than we can possibly go, if not quite retreated to Canada.” Later, in mid-November, Monckton expresses his concerns regarding the upcoming winter, which, much like the winter of 2018, started early in 1758. Although Monckton is fairly confident in the strength of Fort Frederick, stating that it “would withstand all the musketry of France,” he is somewhat concerned over the fact that the river has frozen so early in the season. While he is clear after the destruction of Jemseg that there is not enough of a presence upriver to constitute a risk to Fort Frederick before deciding to turn back, the frozen river changes things considerably in terms of risk and strategy. Navigation becomes much easier; what was once impossible to do on foot is now easily achievable without much planning, or without the effort of building or finding available ships which are capable of navigating the shallow waters, and without the hassle of finding suitable landing spots.[6] There was now an easy, direct path between the unknown northern parts of the river and Fort Frederick. So Monckton began sending scouting parties, to make reports about the security of their surroundings.

These scouting parties were led by the New England Rangers, and it is worthwhile to take a moment to acknowledge the difference between the New Englanders and the British regulars. I mention in passing above that Port Royal and Acadie were treated as an imperial chess piece, passed back and forth numerous times with absolutely no regard to the actual inhabitants of the area. This frequent back-and-forth contributed to the continuing insecurity for those inhabitants throughout the colonial period, regardless of what treaties were enacted. While many histories regard the period of 1713 to 1750 as a “golden age” for Acadia, it was in fact a turbulent era, defined by disputes over how borders were defined, and which imperial power owned what. The frequent battles over Canso are a perfect example of this, and Jeffers Lennox’s book Homelands and Empires is a great source on how the European failure to actually understand this region’s geography and population dynamics led to its spectacular insecurity. But what often gets overlooked is how the residents of New England were subject to this same dynamic of insecurity. What happened to Acadia had an impact on them as well; when the French were in control of Acadia, that meant the French imperial foe was literally at their doorstep whenever war was declared overseas. Yet they depended on cooperation between Acadia and New England for a successful fishery, as use of the shores of Nova Scotia was essential for Massachusetts fishermen.[7] Trade between Boston, Louisbourg, and Port Royal was thick, and imperial conflict had a huge impact on the residents of these regions – from family ties to access to food. Yet despite these colonial ties, Geoffrey Plank writes extensively on how the New England Rangers differed from the British Regulars, and how they viewed Acadia, stating that the Rangers were essentially a militia force, as opposed to the British regulars, who were trained military, and for many of them, this was their first time away from home. Acadie was a foreign land, an alien space, and the French-speaking Acadians were entirely “other”: their fear of the unknown can be paralleled to the fear expressed today, of “otherness.” They spoke a different language, were of a different religion, and were at war with their country; this was enough to breed hatred.[8] But there is enough of a significant difference in attitudes, both in attitudes expressed in primary source documents, as well as in actions taken by individuals, to differentiate between “New Englanders” and “British” at this point. Motivations of individuals are important, and it is unfair to attribute everything that happened during the deportation as simply “the English did x y z.”[9]

The Rangers who initially scouted up river from Fort Frederick were led by Captain MacMurdy. These missions initially passed without incident, until MacMurdy was killed by a falling tree in January 1759. In order to replace him, Moses Hazen was promoted to Captain, and took over the scouting missions. This led him to Sainte-Anne in mid-February, 1759, where he came across the Godin family. Hazen’s destruction of the settlement, as well as his murder of members of the Godin family, are described in two sources: one is contemporaneous, a journal written by an unnamed English officer who was stationed at Fort Frederick, and who described Hazen’s return from his scouting mission with clear disgust. While Hazen had a clear mission to return with information, he had taken it upon himself to not only destroy the village, but to return with six prisoners, as well as four scalps, which had been taken from the women and children of the Godin family.[10] The second written account is from Joseph Godin himself, who wrote an account of the event in 1785 after being deported to France. Despite the long interval between the massacre of 1759 and his retelling in 1785, his account to the French government lines up with the account given in the British officer’s journal: his grandchildren and their mothers were tied to trees and brutally beaten by Hazen’s men before being scalped and killed.[11]

Godin also confirmed the intelligence that Monckton had been in possession of since early autumn of 1758 – the Acadians had begun deserting the river the moment they received word of the British establishing a military presence at the mouth of the Saint John. According to Godin, before the English landed at the mouth of the Saint John River, there were about ninety families established in the area of Pointe Sainte Anne; many of whom had fled there after the deportation had begun. This is backed up by various other sources; Hazen himself says he burned about 147 buildings, while other sources note that the Acadians were capable of building a winter dwelling in two to three days. There were also approximately 300 indigenous people in the area, whose numbers had been greatly depleted by war and disease. When the English arrived at the mouth of the river, and began constructing a fort, they fled en masse towards Canada. Those who remained behind did so because they couldn’t flee; either due to health reasons, or domestic reasons, or because they could not immediately flee and then were caught by winter. So instead, they abandoned the houses near the river, as they were too exposed and vulnerable, and instead made themselves huts in the woods to survive the winter until they could flee to Quebec.  They learn that Godin himself is a major in the French militia, that while the river can in fact be used to travel all the way to Québec, there are obstacles which make portage routes necessary and so it is impractical for the object that the British had in mind (military and supply transport).

Image 4

Moses Hazen, a digital recreation by Alan Edwards/Reallusion, NBCCD

To those who would justify the actions of the Rangers, or the displacement of the Acadians from the Saint John River, the fact that Godin was a major in the French militia has often been pointed at as significant. This fact, however, and the importance placed on it, seems anachronistic. Most Acadians of the era had a role to play in the militia. As head of his community, and as chief representative of Saint-Anne, Godin was naturally the head of the local militia. He actually inherited the role from his father. Acadie was constantly in conflict, but without much formal military support; the maintenance of a militia was a natural development of these circumstances. But most importantly, the officers at Fort Frederick clearly had no idea that Godin was in any way affiliated with the militia. Nothing is mentioned about it in any of the dispatches or journals prior to February 1759, Godin himself brings it up in his debrief. The events which led to the sacking of Saint-Anne were incidental; Hazen happened upon the Godin family, he was not deliberately seeking Joseph Godin. And, finally, the Boston newspapers which spoke of Hazen’s actions said nothing about having captured a militia major, only that some French prisoners had been taken and some killed, with a number of livestock and buildings burned.[12] If it had been an important contemporary capture, surely someone would have made a big deal about it?

Storying an Exhibit

Either way, the story we are telling at the Fredericton Region Museum is not a military one. The story we are trying to tell is the story of the village of Pointe Sainte-Anne, the people who lived there, the families who spent their lives there, who died there, and who came back after being driven away. After the turmoil of the Seven Years War died down, many Acadians returned to the maritime region to try and rebuild, and Point Sainte-Anne was no exception. When the Loyalists who are termed the “founders of Fredericton” arrived in this area in the 1780s, they found over 200 Acadians already settled here. The Acadians were again displaced by New Englanders, and many of them made their way upriver again, settling in the Madawaska area.

Fredericton has been built, torn down, built, and rebuilt, flooded, and then built over again so many times, that the tangible heritage of its eighteen-century Acadians is almost nil. What is left to us is a few nails, some pipes, a few foundations which could have been houses. So how are we going to show people what was once here?

Well, we are rebuilding it, virtually. Thanks to the excellent work of Alan Edwards and his team at the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design, we are actually building a virtual exhibit which will show not only Pointe Sainte-Anne as it once was, but also allow visitors to interact with some of the key players in the story of Pointe Sainte-Anne – Moses Hazen (pictured above), Robert Monckton, François Saint-Aubin, a Wəlastəkwiyik man who frequently interacted with Joseph Godin, who will also be represented, along with Jeanne Dugas, who was likely also present around the time of 1759, as her son, Eustache Paré, was married to the daughter of Godin. Her grandchildren were killed by Hazen, along with Paré’s wife. We’re hoping that, by creating an atmosphere in which people can immerse themselves, can interact with characters, and can get a feel for the history, we can jolt them out of the mindset of justifying one side versus the other, and remember that history is made up of actual people.

Our primary goal is to have people walk away from this exhibit, remembering that the people of Pointe Sainte-Anne, and those who came into conflict with them, were people, human beings with anxieties and motivations which came down to protecting their families and themselves from dangers, both real and perceived. And if people can carry that message into the present-day world, and be a little more compassionate towards those they were once afraid of, then all the better.

Stephanie Pettigrew is a PhD Candidate at the University of New Brunswick, and the Editorial Assistant here at Unwritten Histories. Her primary research focus is New France and Acadia, and her dissertation is all about witchcraft and blasphemy in Montreal. Along with being the Research Director for the Pointe Sainte-Anne exhibit, she also manages the British North America Legislative Database, and consults on various other digital history projects. You can generally find her trying to digitize things, or on Twitter @steph_pettigrew.


[1] See Andrea Bear Nicholas, “Settler Imperialism and the Dispossession of the Maliseet, 1758-1765” in John G. Reid & Donald Savoie’s Shaping an Agenda for Atlantic Canada (Black Point: Fernway Publishing, 2011) p. 21-57. Anne Marie’s blog will also cover more on this topic next week.

[2] “Recensement des habitans de la rivière Saint-Jean” 1698. LAC R11577-28-5-F (MIKAN no. 2319374); “”Etat actuel de la nouvelle Collonie françoise de la Rivière Saint-Jean,” P. Danielou 1739. LAC R11577-28-5-F (MIKAN no. 319383).

[3] At the very least, I’m going to assume you can consult the handy resources I’ve provided in the links.

[4] Letter from General Monckton to Lord Abercrombie, October 15th 1758. From LAC: “Nova Scotia: Documents relating to the Expedition to the St. John’s River in 1758, with the holograph drafts of Colonel Monckton’s Reports of the Proceedings of the Expedition.” MG18-MSérie1 (MIKAN no. 2809856)

[5] “Seven Years’ War journal of the proceedings of the 35th Regiment of Foot”, (1757). John Carter Brown Library. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.

[6] Because Monckton’s letter of October 15th is his first to Abercrombie since arriving on the Saint John River, it is both long and detailed. There are many references to the difficulties of navigating the river, including a really interesting description of the reversing falls, the impossibility of navigating the shores due to the thickness of the trees, how few the bays and landing sites are for their ships, and the trouble he had to go through to find ships with a shallow enough depth to move upriver. Letter from General Monckton to Lord Abercrombie, October 15th 1758. (LAC)

[7] This is how the seigneur of Beaubassin, Michel de la Vallière lost his governorship of Acadia, by allowing fishermen from Massachusetts to dry their cod on the shores of Acadie. Clerbaud Bergier, who had acquired a monopoly on the fishery in Acadia in the 1680s, did not appreciate this intrusion on what he saw as his territory, and pulled some royal strings to see La Vallière replaced by Perrot.

[8] See also Geoffrey Plank, “ New England Soldiers in the St John River Valley, 1758-I760,” in Stephen Hornsby & John G. Reid, New England and the Maritime Provinces: Connections and Comparisons (Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2005) p. 59-73.

[9] I realize that there is currently a debate happening regarding whether or not the deportation constitutes an act of genocide. Much like the issue of Neutrality, that constitutes another blog post entirely. This blog post is about Point Sainte-Anne.

[10] “Seven Years War Journal” (JCB).

[11] “Memoire pour le sieur Joseph Bellefontaine dit Beau-Sejour Major de toutes les milices de la Rivière St-Jean en Accadie” 15 january 1774. LAC, MG6-A15 (MIKAN no. 3084622).

[12] The Boston Evening Post, Monday March 26 1759.

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