The setting for Chapter 2 of The Charlotte Taylor Story is Black Brook (Loggieville, New Brunswick) on the Miramichi River. Historians believe that the original name was Blake’s Brook, as the first British settler there was said to have been Captain John Blake. When I visited Black Brook to satisfy my curiosity about the place, I noticed that the waters of the stream were inky black. Perhaps the name originally bestowed on it was Black Brook, for its colour. More likely, Blake gave it his name, as this was a customary practice. Captain John Blake brought Charlotte Taylor and her infant Elizabeth Williams (Williamson) to Black Brook around 1776 or 1777. John and Charlotte Blake were newly married, or would be married soon after their arrival in the Miramichi area. They may have married earlier at the Alston Point (Bathurst, New Brunswick) trading establishment managed by that area’s local magistrate Commodore George Walker. Walker had gained fame as “the greatest privateer in British history.” It is believed that he was instrumental in transporting Charlotte Taylor to the area from the West Indies as early as 1775.
By 1777 Charlotte and John Blake were residents at Black Brook on a large grant of land. That year Captain Boyle, of HMS Hunter, called the ‘old settlers’ of the area together and had them properly qualified to be registered in Nova Scotia for Licenses of land. He took into account “the barrenness and obscurity of the place” and allowed each of them to take up an extra large river frontage of half a mile. This would lead to trouble in later years when ‘new settlers’ arrived to limited standard grants of 200 acres. About a dozen male ‘principal old settlers’ were qualified by Captain Boyle to receive their Nova Scotia Land Licenses, among them John Blake. John and Charlotte Blake’s property was located where the Miramichi River narrows from the openness of Miramichi Bay. It was an exceptional location for the mariner Blake to observe ships starting up the River. Captain John Blake has been occasionally called ‘the Master’ or ‘the Pilot’ Blake. If he did pilot ships up the Miramichi, he was ideally situated at Black Brook to commence that short and treacherous voyage.
Captain Blake had been to the area years before, in 1758, during the Seven Years’ War. He is often described as the first British settler on the ‘banks’ of the Miramichi, and his wife Charlotte, the third. Alexander Henderson is said to have been the first settler on ‘His Majesty’s land below the Davidson and Cort Grant” in 1776. He was one of those ‘old settlers’ qualified by Captain Boyle. This should have accorded him the rank of first British settler on the ‘banks’ but that distinction has historically been bestowed on Captain John Blake. If this is the case then Blake was settled in some rudimentary fashion previous to 1776 in Black Brook.
William Davidson, a Scotsman, is known as the first English-speaking settler on the Miramichi River. He and his partner John Cort received a large Miramichi land grant of 100,000 acres on October 31, 1765 at Halifax, Nova Scotia. Miramichi, Nepisiguit (Bathurst) and Restigouche, three great seigneuries, had been purchased by a Quebec man named Bondfield. In 1764 he attempted to claim the lands from the Nova Scotia government but this was denied. A provincial law, passed in 1759, had revoked all French titles. The Davidson and Cort Grant of 1765 included a large part of the seigneury of Miramichi, including the Fort and habitation of Nicolas Denys and his son. The seigneuries of Restigouche and Nepisiguit were similarly granted out a few years later. Davidson and Cort never intended to found a settlement there; their primary goal was the establishment of a salmon fishery. Their Grant would be escheated (revoked) years later for failure to comply with its original terms of settlement and land clearance. The terms of the Grant had been unrealistic, but the officials who set the conditions were far removed from the reality and the geography of the region. Davidson, like the other early settlers, was concerned first and foremost, with the fishery, and later with shipbuilding. His partner John Cort did not join him until 1772; and the two had settled only a handful of people on their Grant by 1773. The first ship built on the Miramichi River was one of Davidson’s in 1773. It was used to export fish to the European markets and to import sugar and rum from the West Indies. In 1775 Davidson contracted to export timber to Britain. The Davidson and Cort Grant lines began near the forks of the north west and south west branches of the Miramichi River, where the city of Miramichi, New Brunswick is situated today. Apparently that area was considered to be completely above the ‘banks’ of the Miramichi.
The order of English-speaking or British settlement on the ‘banks’ was an important distinction at that time. In the May 5, 1841 Royal Gazette obituary of Charlotte Hierlihey (nee Taylor), she was proudly identified as ‘an old and much respected inhabitant . . . the third British settler on the banks of the Miramichi.’ This distinction is important in establishing exactly when she arrived at Black Brook. It suggests that she came to the area ahead of all but two settlers qualified for Nova Scotia Land Licenses in 1777 by Captain Boyle, and of course one of them was her husband Captain Blake. Alexander Henderson, probably the second settler on the ‘banks’, arrived in 1776. None of the others arrived until 1777 at the earliest. If the ‘banks’ listing is correct then Captain Blake had arrived and settled previous to Alexander Henderson in 1776. Charlotte, on the other hand, could not have arrived until after the settlement of Henderson. The statement that John and Charlotte Blake were the first and third settlers on the ‘banks’ conjured up a somewhat distorted picture of their lives at that time. It implied that they were very much alone and in isolation. In fact others were settled up the River even earlier, on or just outside the Davidson and Cort Grant. The surname Wishart, which would be significant later in the life of Charlotte Taylor, appeared in the Miramichi area records for the first time in 1775. Alexander Wishart and his brother, both of Scotland, had settled on the north side of the Miramichi in 1775. The settlers who lived at that time in Nova Scotia, including the part that would become New Brunswick, are most often referred to as Pre-Loyalists. Many referred to themselves as ‘old and ancient inhabitants.’ They had settled in the area before or during the early years of the American Revolution. When the tidal wave of Loyalists and disbanded soldiers arrived at the peace in 1783 there would be great conflict between these two groups.
Trade flourished for a time on the Miramichi, but the American Revolution created a devastating interruption to settlement there. The supply lines of the fledgling settlement were often cut. Davidson could not export fish or lumber for fear it would fall into the hands of American privateers from the rebellious colonies. Operations by these privateers began as early as 1775, when the American Revolution began, and they inflicted a swath of brutal destruction on settlements and business establishments around the northeastern coast of North America. The privateers enlisted the aid of the native Indians, and the result was a violent and murderous campaign. These actions so deeply angered the settlers of Nova Scotia that it strengthened their resolve to remain loyal to Great Britain. Any coastal dweller was a target and people lived in constant fear. In 1776 or 1777, Commodore George Walker’s elaborate trading establishment at Alston Point (Bathurst, New Brunswick) was completely destroyed. William Davidson reacted by relocating in 1777 with most of his settlers to the Maugerville area, near Fredericton. His caravan-style journey from Miramichi was the largest mass migration in the history of the region that would become the Province of New Brunswick.
The destruction of property by the American privateers was comparable to the destruction of Acadian settlements during the Seven Years’ (French and Indian) War. The British were uncomfortable governing a French majority in the parts of Nova Scotia and present day New Brunswick that had been ceded to them. The Acadian people, having lived on their lands under French rule for many years, refused to swear allegiance to the Crown. They also incited the Indians against the British. The English dispersed some 8,000 of them to colonies as far away as South Carolina in their 1755 solution to the problem, the Acadian Expulsion. Homes, barns and fields were burned, and land was confiscated. Families were fragmented as women and children were herded onto ships destined for other colonies. They were separated from their husbands and fathers who were deported elsewhere. Half of their number did not survive. Some others hid in the woods or escaped and made their way north to the Miramichi and Bay of Chaleur. In 1758 the British would take action against them in those locations.
At the dawn of the American Revolution, the Blakes and a few other settlers made the difficult decision to remain on their Miramichi lands. I will leave them there for a short time while I digress a little about the early years of Captain John Blake. Some of his descendants believe that he was a relative of the famous Admiral Robert Blake. Admiral Blake (1599-1657) had been a British parliamentarian. He began his naval career at the age of 50 when he was selected by Cromwell to reorganize the British Navy. He never married but had many brothers who he helped raise and support after the death of his father. He died at sea within sight of Plymouth, England and was interred with honour in Westminster Abbey. Later, on the orders of Charles II, his body was exhumed, along with those of his mother and the daughter of Oliver Cromwell. Their remains were reburied in St. Margaret’s Churchyard.
It is clear from the timeline that Captain John Blake was not, as has been suggested, the brother of Admiral Blake. But the Captain may well have been connected to the Admiral through one of his brothers. It was common for the naval tradition to be encouraged and continued in families. There are two interesting accounts of a possible connection between the two. One account attributed to descendants of Captain John Blake, stated that the Captain perished at sea. Papers which would have proved the relationship and allowed a claim to be made against the Admiral’s estate were supposedly lost with him. It seems unlikely that Captain Blake was pursuing a claim against the Admiral’s estate some 125 years after the Admiral’s death. The other account is more bizarre. Louise Manny, a respected librarian in the Newcastle area, wrote years ago to Lord Beaverbrook about a strange story that she had heard. A descendant of Captain John Blake had supposedly come to the Miramichi area and removed his tombstone from the old burial ground at Wilson’s Point. Apparently he took it to Chicago in order to prove the relationship between the Captain and Admiral Blake. As many of the early settlers were buried at Wilson’s Point it is probable that Blake was buried there. Unfortunately very few stones have survived. Louise Manny and Lord Beaverbrook, involved in the restoration of the old burial ground at the Enclosure in Newcastle, were so concerned about this matter that they considered investigating customs records. On January 4, 1902 an interesting announcement was published in The Daily Sun of St. John, N.B. Mr. And Mrs. Robert C. Blake of Everett had just celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary. The article went on to say that Mr. Blake had been born in Alnwick, Northumberland County in 1825. He resided there many years engaging in lumbering and fishing before “following the sea”. Later he took up shipbuilding in Westmorland County and in 1892 he was residing in Boston, engaged there in the manufacture of artificial limbs. The article states that Robert C. Blake had traced his ancestry back to the famous English Admiral, for whom he was named. This man was a grandson of John and Charlotte Blake. Robert Charles Blake’s obituary provides additional information.
One of the most recited stories about Captain John Blake concerned his involvement in the burning of a church. There are muddled versions of this story, whereby several historic episodes from different time periods were telescoped into one. The verified and factual account of the destruction of Burnt Church is Burnt Church, Colonel Murray’s own account of the event, described in his report to James Wolfe. Dr. Ganong was provided with a copy by the Public Record Office in London, England. This incident was part of the campaign by the British to destroy French settlements around the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The action took place during the lull between the taking of Louisbourg, Nova Scotia in 1758, and the fall of Quebec in 1759. General Wolfe sent Colonel Murray, with several hundred men, to destroy the French settlements at Miramichi. At that time Wolfe was in the Gaspe area, eradicating French settlements there. The treacherous shoals in the Inner Bay of the Miramichi River were a big impediment to Murray and his men that September of 1758. Personnel on the Artillery Sloop and Boats of the Fleet proceeded nervously up the River, mindful of the situation of the main fleet anchored in the open waters of Miramichi Bay. At that time of year the good weather could quickly be replaced by gales that would render the fleet lost as it lay anchored and unmanned there. After a long wait for the tide to rise, the men were able to get over “the bar.” In the darkness they approached to within musket shot of the settlement near present day Neguac, New Brunswick. They found it deserted with the exception of the King’s Surgeon and his family, who informed them that there were several more French settlements further up the River. The position of the fleet was so precarious, however, that immediate action was taken. The wigwams, provisions, houses and a stone church were destroyed. It is said that the church was set fire with “red hot cannon balls.” The area is today known as Burnt Church; the name a constant reminder of what took place there over two centuries ago.
Involved in that action, part of the Gulf of St. Lawrence Campaign, was Captain Hervey Smyth (see Selected Topical Images, Abbreviated Hervey Family Tree), later Sir Hervey Smythe. He was a respected Topographical Artist and an aide-de-camp of General James Wolfe. His “Raid on Miramichi – Burnt Church Village” sketch or ‘View’ was the inspiration for an oil painting, attributed to Francis Swaine circa 1760, entitled “A View of Miramichi,” (see image above). The original is held by the National Gallery of Canada. Benjamin West, in his 1770 iconic and romanticized painting “The Death of General Wolfe,” placed Captain Hervey Smyth beside a prostrate Wolfe, supporting his right arm. Interestingly, there is no proof that any of the individuals surrounding Wolfe were actually present at the time of his death. Some twenty-one years after the 1758 Burnt Church action, a close relative of the Topographical Artist became a central figure in another Miramichi River military event, referred to as the ‘Kidnapping of the Indians,’ during July of 1779. His name was John Augustus Hervey, Captain of HMS Viper. He and Captain Hervey Smyth were cousins.
The pilot/master/captain John Blake may have first visited the Miramichi area during the Burnt Church event of the Seven Years War. Economic interests drew him back to the area several years before the 1779 HMS Viper (American Revolutionary War) incident, for in that fateful summer he was a resident on the Miramichi with his wife Charlotte and family.
Blake was part of a big military exercise on the Miramichi under Colonel Murray. However this was really an intermission between two main acts. If Blake had indeed participated in the destruction of Burnt Church, then he was almost certainly at the others as well. The first act was the fall of Louisbourg on the northern coast of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia in 1758. The land forces of this exercise were commanded by General Jeffrey Amherst and his subordinate Lieutenant James Wolfe. The fleet, under Admiral Boscawen, had 23 ships of the line and 18 frigates. The full fleet including transports, a total of 157 sail, left Halifax on May 28, 1758. It arrived at Gabarus Bay on the 2nd of June. Fog and surf prevented any sort of landing until the June the 8th, when Wolfe’s forces broke through the French line and seized control of the Light House Battery opposite Louisbourg. Wolfe, with 1,200 men, mounted guns from which he was able to destroy shipping in the harbour. The city became encircled by fire and the fortifications slowly crumbled. Three of five war vessels in the harbour were destroyed. On July 25th a detachment of the fleet, under Captains Laforey and Balfour, entered Louisbourg harbour. They destroyed one of the remaining ships and towed the other one out. The next day the articles of capitulation were signed for the Island of Cape Breton and the Island of St. John’s (Prince Edward Island). On July 27, 1758 Louisbourg surrendered. Captain Laforey commanded the Hunter Sloop-of-War, a ship that would be significant presence in the Miramichi area for years to come.
We have now reached the momentous year of 1759 and the second act, the Fall of Quebec. In perfect weather, with almost every ship in clear sight of Vice Admiral Saunder’s flagship, a fleet of 49 sail made its way up the St. Lawrence River. Together they carried 1,944 guns and a force of 9,000 men. Monckton, Murray and Townshend were the three Brigadiers.
The Hunter hung back to check for stragglers around Gaspe. She signaled from Forillon that all was well. General Wolfe, aboard the Neptune was writing his will, glancing now and then at a miniature portrait of the woman he planned to marry. The French thought it next to impossible for an English armada to navigate the St. Lawrence River, but by June 26, 1759 the fleet was anchored off the Isle of Orleans. On the 18th of July several ships passed into the upper River.
The Hunter remained stationed in the upper River with four other ships. Off Point Levi lay 15 ships, and at Isle Madame between Cape Torrent and the Isle of Orleans, 11 others were anchored. The rest patrolled the outer waters. Each day the English ships went up and down the river, serving up cannon fire, and enticing the French to come down from the cliffs and do battle. In the end the English mounted the cliffs to the Plains of Abraham. They made the climb from Anse au Foulon in the darkness of the early morning hours of September 13, 1759. Early in the battle, after the main charge began, Wolfe died. The next morning his adversary Montcalm died also. The body of Wolfe was embalmed and placed below the deck of HMS Royal William. On September 18th Quebec surrendered. As curious crowds looked down from the ramparts of Quebec, Vice Admiral Saunders set sail for England on October 18, 1759. He led a sombre procession up the St. Lawrence and the onlookers did not move from their vantage points until the ships had disappeared behind the Isle of Orleans.
Captain John Blake certainly had a memorable life before he met Charlotte Taylor. He had been a participant in the many dramas of the Seven Years War and of course he brought all of his experiences to the table of their relationship. He was probably attracted to Charlotte’s discernable strength of character. He understood that the responsibilities of the wife of a mariner would be considerable and not for the faint-hearted. We have returned to pick up the Story at Black Brook and the year is 1777. William Davidson had just departed the Miramichi River with the majority of his settlers for Maugerville. During his time there he would set up a significant and successful business providing masting timber to the British navy. Others also left the area around that same time. Some made an attempt to remain but the “depredations” got the best of them and they were forced to flee. Alexander Wishart and his brother, their fishing establishment burned and plundered, left for Quebec and later saw military action at Lake Champlain.
A few hardy settlers remained, most of them grantees qualified by Captain Boyle in 1777. Among them were Alexander Henderson and his family. His petitions described the robbery of his possessions by the Indians. William Atkinson, Martin Lyons, Thomas Yeomans and Robert Beck also stayed. William and Agnes Brown remained with their family. Agnes was the sister of Alexander Taylor who would follow her to the Miramichi from Scotland in 1784, and become a Justice of the Peace. John Tushie or Toshen stayed too. He had been a pilot on the Miramichi since 1775 and master on the HMS Viper. The Blakes remained as did their neighbours the Murdochs. John Murdoch and his family had a large Grant down river from the Blakes. It was whispered that he had been a coachman for a well-to-do Scottish family and had eloped with the daughter of the house. The story has often been told that Charlotte Taylor ran off from London, England with a black stableboy or butler in her father’s employ. Charlotte subsequently had a child by this man, so some version of her event really did take place. But could something so similar have happened with the Murdoch’s? Is it a coincidence or have the stories become confused? At any rate the Murdoch’s first settled on the Island of St. John (go to Selected Topical Images – Shipwrecks of Prince Edward Island) and operated a store there. They moved to the Miramichi River in 1777. After his arrival, John Murdoch experienced dreadful problems with the Indians who had a campsite nearby at Murdoch’s Point. They slaughtered his livestock, raided his house, and set fire to clothes and linens that they had flung on trees outside his dwelling. They wanted his family out within 24 hours.
In the early summer of 1779 the inhabitants of the Miramichi were at their wits end and badly needed relief. The Indians held a Grand Council at Bartibog Island and resolved to put to death every settler. But as luck and good fortune would have it, a river pilot named Ross of Perce on the Gaspe coast, came to the Miramichi area on business. On his way home he encountered the cruising Viper Sloop-of-War and advised her Captain John Augustus Hervey (see Selected Topical Images, Abbreviated Hervey Family Tree) about the desperate situation of the Miramichi settlers. The Captain should not be confused with his famous ‘lothario’ uncle, Admiral of the Blue, Augustus John Hervey). Captain Hervey had the captured American privateer Lafayette in tow, and he put Ross and a crew on board. They raised the American flag on her as a ruse and Ross piloted her up the river to Napan Bay, near Black Brook. The Viper retreated off the coast. The Lafayette was immediately boarded by Indians from the north east bank. The crew feigned friendship with the Indians and treated them to rum and victuals. They sent them back to their camps with invitations to their Chiefs to visit the next day. In the interim reinforcements came to the Lafayette. The beleaguered English settlers from the south side of the river came aboard to help; John Murdoch, Peter Brown, Alexander Henderson and his five sons.
The next day 30 to 35 chiefs in full war-paint boarded the Lafayette. They were taken to the hold for refreshments but before the latches could be secured they sighted Ross and grew suspicious. The Micmac Indians of the area were a strong and powerful people. From the times of Cartier and Lescarbot there have been illuminating descriptions of their physical appearance and size. Their strength and stamina were legendary. This was certainly borne out by what happened next. An Indian named Martin could not be subdued. He grabbed two marines and strangled them as he was being attacked. Wounded and covered with blood he went down. But a short time later he sprang to his feet and upbraided one of his companions for inaction and cowardice. Robert Beck, an early grantee, delivered the death blow to Martin. It is said that the other settlers acquitted themselves well in the bloody fracas. The Indian chiefs almost broke out of the hold before the hatches could be secured. The Lafayette rejoined the waiting Viper and they proceeded together to Quebec where the Indians were kept prisoner. Some were later removed to Halifax and only six ever returned to the Miramichi. The remainder of the tribe, leaderless and fearing a repetition of the action in 1758 when their church was destroyed (Burnt Church), set off for their encampments and left the harassed settlers in peace. It has been stated in certain accounts that Blake served on the Viper. The stories told about Captain Blake ‘burning the stone church’ were always intermingled with a story about the ‘kidnapping of Indians’ as if it was all one event. Burnt Church was of course documented by Colonel Murray in 1758. The kidnapping of the Indians was a separate event; most probably this one in 1779. Blake was somehow involved in both. He is probably the reason why the two incidents became entangled, as his descendants related the episodes through generations.
I think that the kidnapping and removal of the Indian chiefs was a pivotal moment in the lives of the early settlers. If this had not happened precisely when it did, it is difficult to imagine how the ‘old settlers’ could have remained in the area or indeed if they could have survived. The Micmac, superbly conditioned and adapted to their environment, were more than a match for the English settlers, but not without direction from their chiefs. The history of the Micmac people is a proud and dignified one. They were not a warlike tribe and their social structure was highly developed, as was their most complicated language.
Mtaoegenatgoigtog is the original Micmac name of Black Brook and certainly gives a hint as to the complexity of their communication. They shared everything they had; no member went hungry. The children were taught to respect their elders. The elderly, sick or handicapped among them were treated reverently. They believed that a spirit lived on after death and they carried their dead, sometimes for many miles, to bury them in sacred grounds beside their families. It shocked them to see the Europeans strike their own children. I feel quite certain that for the rest of the Revolutionary War period, some of the early settlers made a serious attempt to befriend them. On August 13, 1783 John Julien and the Micmacs of Miramichi were given a license to occupy a tract of 20,000 acres. This was granted to them by his Excellency John Parr, Governor in Chief in and over His Majesty’s Province of Nova Scotia and its Dependencies. John Julien was recognized as chief in the Miramichi area. Alexander Taylor, a Justice of the Peace, who came to the area after the conflict in 1784, took the side of the Indians in some of their on-going fishing and land disputes with the English settlers. His sister Agnes Brown and her family had stayed on through the “commotions”. She had advised him of the help that they had received from the Juliens and the Renews, two resident Micmac Indian families.
Towards the end of 1779 life may have been a little easier for the Blake family in the Black Brook area. Charlotte and John’s family included son John and perhaps daughter Jane or Mary Jane, who was born around that time. It is debatable whether she was their child or a girl that Charlotte brought up. Historically the Blake daughter, born circa 1780, has been identified as Mary ‘Polly’ Blake. I believe there is compelling evidence (her marriage to Duncan McRae – 42nd Regiment Black Watch Regiment) that their daughter was Jane or perhaps Mary Jane. At this time Charlotte’s daughter Elizabeth Williams (Williamson) would have been about four years old. Charlotte and Captain Blake had three children together in Black Brook. One of the three, their son Robert Blake, died August 24, 1853, at the age of 71 according to his obituary, published in the September 7, 1853 edition of The Gleaner. If this is correct information then Robert was born between August 25, 1781 and August 24,1782. His siblings were John and Jane (perhaps Mary Jane). The practice of naming the first born son for his father was something that was very common during this period, and it appears that Charlotte followed this tradition within three of her unions. Blake was probably away a lot, and of course domestic concerns were left to Charlotte. I will refer once more to the Diary of Simeon Perkins, a resident of Liverpool, Nova Scotia. On Sunday July 12, 1778, he related that Captain McCarthy and Mr. Blake, the Master, attended worship. Captain McCarthy had arrived in the harbour of Liverpool the previous day on HM Frigate Ambuscade. Simeon Perkins went on to say that he dined with them and that they all had tea at Mr. Cheevers. Liverpool had been an intermittent port of call for this mariner Blake since 1772. He was presumably in the thick of the Revolutionary War military action. Liverpool must have been a nervous little town in 1778, its trade periodically threatened and interrupted by enemy privateers.
How different Charlotte’s life must have been from what she had been accustomed to in London. She probably visited the neighbouring women but the struggle for survival would have taken up much of her time. There was a baby at her breast pretty regularly over the next several years. It is often told that she had a good relationship with the Micmac Indians. They would have had much to teach her and I’m sure she was an eager student. Her life and that of her children depended on it. With Blake away she probably grew to depend on them to some extent. It is told that she tended to them when they developed illnesses for which they had no immunity. Mrs. Murdoch who lived very close by their encampment at Murdoch’s Point is said to have left her own family from time to time to attend to their medical needs. Her husband, John Murdoch, eventually died of cancer of the gums after a long and painful illness and was buried at the Indian burial grounds in Burnt Church.
And so we near the end of The Blake Years. In March of 1785 a group of Pre-Loyalist ‘old settlers’ sent John Mark Crank Delesdernier to Fredericton to present a case for them. A Swiss, he first arrived on the Miramichi in 1777 and later became the second Sheriff of Northumberland County. He spoke fluently with the Indians and was an expert in their ways. Frequently he acted as Agent for ‘old settlers’ on the River when they sent in Petitions about their Land Grants to the government in Fredericton. In the 1785 Petition the ‘old settlers’ stated that they were the only “Principal and old settlers” on the Miramichi River who had Licenses for their land from the Government in Halifax. They reiterated that in 1777 Captain Boil, of HMS Hunter, had called them all together and “properly qualified them to Government by Government advice and order”. At that time he nominated each of them to take up one half mile of front, and to keep and hold the same till further orders from Government. They requested that their names be kept in the Land Register. The ‘old settlers’ who signed this petition were: Alexander Henderson, John Murdoch, Martin Lyons, John Toshen and John Fishgerral, John Malcolm , and Widdow Blake.
For some important and informative background information in this matter, I would like to refer to a Northumberland County Land Petition dated April 16, 1785. In it Martin Lyons and Alexander Henderson mentioned their previous Memorial of July 19, 1782. They had petitioned for lots that they had improved on the Miramichi River; obtained by Nova Scotia Licenses of occupation from Sir Andrew Snape Hammond. They were still waiting for their answer almost three years later in 1785. Included with the Petition was information copied from the original Licenses: Alex Henderson 250 acres north side and 250 acres south side; Thomas Yeoman 200 acres north side; Martin Lyons 300 acres north side; John Malcolm 100 acres north side; John Farseau 100 acres north side; John Pearsons 300 acres south side, John Murdosch 500 acres south side and John Blake 350 acres south side. Due to the creation of the Province of New Brunswick in 1784 these lands that were originally licensed in Halifax, Nova Scotia had to be registered under the new governing body in New Brunswick. This was obviously a lengthy and nerve-wracking process for those original Nova Scotia grantees.
It is interesting to note here that, John Blake Junior, eldest son of Captain John and Charlotte Blake, wrote an informative Memorial on the matter to the Hon. Martin Hunter years later on February 19, 1812. At that time Hunter was President of His Majesty’s Council and Commander in Chief of the Province of New Brunswick. In his letter John Blake Junior stated that his father John Blake “on account of his having been the first settler on the River of Miramichi, was allowed to hold lands on said River, and in particular in 1782 a quantity of land to the extent of 550 acres, on the southside thereof, and on the lower side of the lot belonging to William Wishart”. This 550 acre figure differs greatly from the 350 acres listed on the License from Hammond (Nova Scotia) for John Blake. The original Grant for Captain Blake would not be resolved under New Brunswick law until May 4, 1798. John Blake Junior received 161 acres on Lot No. 8; Philip Hierlihy, at that time married to Charlotte, received 160 acres on Lot No. 9; and Charlotte Hierlihy, widow of Captain John Blake, received 154 acres on Lot No. 10. The combined acreage for Lots 8, 9, and 10 totaled 475 acres. Philip Hierlihy’s Lot 9, however was his original Grant and entitlement for his service in the Prince of Wales American Regiment during the American Revolutionary War. The 1785 Daniel Micheau Survey (see Imagery/Maps Map 3. Daniel Micheau – Miramichi -1785 Survey) clearly showed that the Widow Blake had possession of Lots 8 and 9. The exact acreage of the original Nova Scotia License to Captain Blake is unverified. Consequently it is difficult to assess whether the three 1798 New Brunswick Grants were allotted according to the land and inheritance laws of that time.
The March 1785 Petition conveyed to Fredericton by John Mark Crank Delesdernier, on behalf of the ‘old settlers’, confirms that Charlotte was definitely widowed by that date. However the date of Captain Blake’s death is unknown. The Petition verified that Charlotte had 4 children and 1 servant living with her, for a total of six in the household. Her eldest daughter Elizabeth was around 10 years of age. The Blake children; John Junior, Jane (perhaps Mary Jane) and Robert, were all under seven or eight. Blake had been considerably older than Charlotte. His involvement in the Seven Years’ War meant that he was at least 20 years her senior and presumably 50 years of age or more when he died. Charlotte was in her early thirties in 1785, with four fatherless children to care for.
Like most of Charlotte’s Story, the death of Captain John Blake has more than one version. Some descendants said that he died at sea. Others said that he died in winter, and that Charlotte kept his body in the snow until the ground thawed for burial at Wilson’s Point. It is interesting to note that the March 1785 Petition she signed as Widdow Blake was near the end of winter. Perhaps he actually died that year.
Wilson’s Point is one of the oldest burial grounds on the north shore. It was the site of the first Protestant Church on the Miramichi and was originally a part of Davidson and Cort’s Grant of 1765. Later it was granted to the Presbyterian Congregation of Miramichi. I have recently been to this burial ground which is located at the site of the Enclosure in the newly amalgamated city of Miramichi, New Brunswick. It is a place where time stands still and has for 200 years. The atmosphere is claustrophobic and dark. Old trees stand tall and block out the sun. The ground is covered in moss. It is completely and eerily silent. I found it to be a most beautiful and spiritual place. I pictured Charlotte standing there, head bowed, as Captain John Blake was laid to rest. Only a few tombstones remain there today. The most prominent and beautifully etched one, William Davidson’s, was carved by an old settler named John Biggs who had settled in the area in 1784. It is large, lays flat on the ground and is still in good condition. Biggs also ground gristmills and was particularly proud of his artistry. Another stone that remains is the much smaller one of Donald Monro who was settled on the Miramichi by William Davidson in 1775. In 1804 he died “by the fall of a tree”, reads the simple inscription. He left behind his widow Elizabeth Monro who died at the age of 96 in 1805. It was recorded sometime in 1785 that he had cleared one and a half acres. Louise Manny believed that the descendants of Donald and Elizabeth Munro were “of Tabusintac” (New Brunswick). My maiden name is Munroe and I wonder if these individuals were relatives.
Louise Manny was a librarian and a gatherer of local historic material. We are all indebted to her for compiling so much of what is available to us today. She was involved in a project with Lord Beaverbrook in the late 1940s to restore and maintain the Wilson’s Point burial ground and its old tombstones. In 1947 she found the base of a stone there herself. She discovered that they were always set deep in the earth, banked with loose stones and filled in with soil. In winter the loose stones heaved and the tombstones canted over at an angle until they finally broke off. Over time they became buried themselves in the earth at the Point, or covered with sand at the shore. Louise Manny found traces of many graves. In 1948 she reported to Lord Beaverbrook that there were at least several hundred unmarked graves, or graves whose tombstones had been lost. She advised him that there was a record of some 600 Acadians buried on that Point about 1758 or 1759. During the expulsion years a French officer, Charles des Champs de Boishebert had led a group of Acadian exiles to Beaubear’s (Wilson’s) Point from Cocagne. These refugees remained there from 1756-1758. During two winters hundreds starved waiting for Fench provision ships that did not arrive. Beaubear’s Island, at the confluence of the Miramich River, is the corrupted modern version of the name Boisehebert.
And so we bid farewell to Captain John Blake. His life has been revealed by his deeds and exploits. The Charlotte Taylor Story will be continued in the next exciting installment, the Wishart Period – Chapter 3 (CT’s Story).