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Pioneer Settlers of the Bay Chaleur

I assured Cliff, there was no reason to be afraid of the dark, but he didn't seem to believe me.

Ordinarily we had a drive from Gramp's to home but this evening Gramp and Dad had gone to a Political Meeting - whatever that was. Mum had told us to be home before dark but we were having such a good time up in the attic going through trunks we forgot. Gram had a habit of nodding off when she did her handiwork and she didn't see the darkness creeping over the valley.

We told her we were fine and headed home. All went okay until we came to the covered bridge. It certainly looked dark in there.

We were about half way through when we saw something coming running through the darkness straight toward us.

I couldn't make out the shape but my first thought was an Indian Devil was going to attack us. In those few seconds my mind raced and convinced me there  was also a person. We were so scared that we stopped in our tracks. I think I even closed my eyes for the next thing I knew something jumped up on me and licked my face. Then I heard Mum's voice, who was coming to meet us and Cliff's dog Pal was with her.

I wonder if the children along the Chaleur Bay were frightened when they saw a woman walking on the shore or a ship burning out in the Bay? No one seems to know when these apparitions first appeared but it is known that Jacques Cartier named the Bay in 1534, and that  the Jesuit missionaries built a house at "Port of Nipiqigwi" to be near the natives, and the first land granted was 2,438 acres in 1789.

In 1972, a Senior Citizen Group downshore, named "The Chaleur Evening Stars" was formed.

The Seniors were concerned over the lack of a recorded history of the area and set about gathering information for a book that was written and edited by Margaret M. Hunter, titled,  Pioneer Settlers of the Bay Chaleur - In the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, in which many historical details were made available for future generations.

Some of the first settlers landed on the shores of Bay Chaleur at Bass River, Pokeshaw and Caraquet, others walked from Chatham, Saint John and as far away as Halifax. 

Their first tasks were to clear the land and construct a cabin. Potatoes and wheat were usually the first crops planted.

One of the first settlers in Janeville was Richard Ellis. His wife Anne taught school in 1838. By 1844 a schoolhouse had been built and she continued as the school Marm and on occasions it was necessary to take her babies with her.

Quarrying stone was one of the first industries in Clifton.

James Knowles made axe handles, peavey handles, and potato baskets. His father, Richard Knowles of Turkeytown made barrels. Jack Knowles was a blacksmith who made horse shoes, shod horse, repaired wagon wheels and plough coulters.

Stonehaven sits on the high cliffs overlooking the Bay.  This community grew around the cape known in early days as Grindstone Cape. Stonehaven became famous far and wide for the grindstones produced there. In fact it was said to be the largest grindstone quarry in the world.

In 1886 the railroad arrived, which changed the way of life for many. Supplies were brought in - even to a carload of horses. Hay, pulp, farm produce, grindstones etc. were shipped to Montreal and other places.

Benjamin Hagar, a trader who made frequent voyages to the West Indies applied for land in the Pokeshaw Harbour to establish a fishery. By 1812 he had 30 acres and built four houses. In 1840 there were twenty families who were considering hiring a school teacher. A new Pokeshaw Bridge that was 450 feet in length and 20 feet high was built in 1864.

Schooling was not considered a priority in the early years as extra hands were always needed on the farm. The first school in Salmon Beach was in the home of Mrs. Margaret Glendenning in 1838. Mary Anne Henry taught in Clifton in 1842.

In 1900 Smallpox broke out. Dr. Meahan placed guards at Big River Bridge and at Caraquet Bridge to keep anyone suspected of having the disease from entering Bathurst or Caraquet.

Included is a record of license of Teachers 1842 to 1899 giving date and place of license issued.

My mother bought yeast cakes - the ladies of yesteryear grew hops on a vine, dried them, then when yeast was needed, the hops were boiled and the liquid strained. To this was added flour and sugar to make a sponge to start the dough. A little sponge was always saved to start the next batch of bread.

From ‘Pioneer Settlers of the Bay Chaleur', I learned  many interesting things about necessity being the mother of invention for the early settlers and how everyday tasks were performed before everything needed could be purchased at the local malls.

Ruby M. Cusack is a genealogy buff living in New Brunswick, Canada.

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