foreword - cT's Story

Robert Wishart and Janet Wishart
Mary Lynn Smith's maternal great grandparents, Robert James Young Wishart and Janet McLeod Johnston Wishart (nee Hierlihy). Read her "lovely sentiments" below.

Charlotte Taylor lived almost ninety years, during a most turbulent period of history.  Her life can best be appreciated through study of the events that unfolded around her.  This realization came after I discovered many fascinating records that chronicled her time.  My investigative work, conducted over many years, enabled me to author the five unique chapters of The Charlotte Taylor Story (CT’s Story).  In so doing I’ve created a fact-based and balanced account, with information and opinions from many sources, along with a set of cited research topics that are both varied and relevant.  At the same time, I recognize that no project of this sort is ever finished.  Inevitably, new historical information will add fresh insights.

I must give thanks to the people who over the years collected the information that I accessed during my research.  Dr. W. F. Ganong and other historians (both professional and non-professional) have left us an important legacy of early New Brunswick history that we can all learn from.  Each of the many and varied local histories that I have read has contributed to improving my understanding of the times.  These valuable contributions helped me to build a mental picture of those years long past.

The decision to share this information on-line came about because my husband and I felt that others might enjoy reading my Story and the associated cited narratives.  For his work in creating this website I would like to thank Ron.  Without his technical expertise and patience this site would not exist.  He gave up evenings and weekends for the cause, and to my amazement, shares my enthusiasm for the topic.  His encouragement during phases of the project when I felt overwhelmed was deeply appreciated.  I also owe a debt of gratitude to my children and to my little grandson.  They have been patient and supportive while I have been consumed with this project, and for a time, not as attentive to them as I like to be.  I also want to thank my parents and my siblings for prodding me, in a nice way.  They suggested that I get on with the task, and not let everything that I’d discovered lie hidden away in cardboard boxes.  This is for all of them – it is their story too!

This website touches most aspects of Charlotte Taylor’s life.  At the same time, it must be understood  that Charlotte is difficult to categorize.  She is considered by Canadian historians to be a pre-Loyalist, an ‘old and ancient’ settler in a part of Nova Scotia that was destined to become New Brunswick.  When she married a disbanded soldier after the American Revolution, she re-invented herself as a ‘new settler’.  The two groups were very much at odds with each other for a time and she probably felt hostility from both ‘old’ and ‘new’ camps.  Irrespective of this, her focus and lifetime occupation was facilitating the survival and prosperity of her family.  To this end she was chameleon-like, adapting quickly to her ever-changing environment.  Without modern social safety nets she and her contemporaries acted impulsively and decisively in hopes of improving their situations.  It would be inappropriate to judge their actions in terms of today’s standards.

The exact moment when I first became truly aware of my ancestor Charlotte Taylor escapes me.  I believe that I read a paragraph or a footnote about her, buried within some historic publication.  Affected by the meagre yet intriguing facts of her life, I needed to know more.  Years later I began to seriously research her story, subsequent to completing an anthropology course that changed my way of looking at the past.  Much of my spare time was spent at archives, museums and libraries in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Ottawa.  I found letters, land petitions, maps, etc., but many questions went unanswered and the whole exercise, though hugely enjoyable, was a little frustrating.  My queries to England and Scotland failed to shed light on Charlotte’s origin.  I filled a huge box with clippings, excerpts of published and unpublished material, histories, facts and figures.  I read hundreds of books in order to try and build an interpretation of Charlotte’s life that would be my own.  I was, and continue to be, obsessed with discovering the missing pieces in the puzzle of her life.

Charlotte Taylor, it is believed, was born in London, England between 1752 and 1755.  She died in Tabusintac, a small village in northeastern New Brunswick, Canada, in 1841.  Her obituaries stated her age as 89 or in her 89th year, but some believe she lived 85 years.  Two of her marriages are documented and two are not.  Four men, the fathers of her children, were significant figures in her life, or should I say, she in theirs.  As I looked at their backgrounds, her image became better focused.  Sadly, the historic record for women in those days, with very few exceptions, is almost non-existent.  I realized, however, that I had been overly concerned with tiny facts and genealogical details.  The big picture of her life was all there.  In uncovering the history of her partners, and in researching the everyday life of her fellow settlers, I knew that I could tell her story in its rich historic context.  It was a daunting task, for the history of the period in which she lived was almost too rich and too eventful!  Her times included the days of the great sailing ships plying the trade and slave routes between Great Britain, the Mediterranean, Africa, North America, and both the East and West Indies.  Her history spanned the Seven Years’ War, which included the following significant actions: the Acadian Expulsion, the two conquests of Louisbourg, the destruction of French settlements around the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and the British defeat of the French at Quebec in 1759.  It also encompassed the American Revolution and the War of 1812-1814.  The interesting cast of characters included: Pre-Loyalists; Loyalists and disbanded soldiers; pirates and privateers; Mi’kmaq; Acadians; fishermen; shipbuilders; lumber barons; and emigrants from England, Scotland, Ireland, and the Americas.  A complex tapestry was woven.

I discovered many obscure and largely forgotten stories about life during Charlotte Taylor’s time on the north shore of New Brunswick.  The court proceedings, land grant battles, and business ventures in shipbuilding, fishing, and lumbering, all provided descriptive insights into the daily lives of the early settlers.  Vignettes of everyday activities brought the little settlements back to life.  From these historic dramas the story of Charlotte Taylor emerged: stark, fascinating, ribald, romantic, dramatic, and never dull.  Struggles for food and shelter, and from enemies and disease, were constant and unrelenting; as were efforts to improve personal situations and fortunes.  Many, like Charlotte, had left settled and more civilized environments only to face hard and lonely lives in a primitive wilderness.  The great wonder is that they persevered.  Again and again they rebuilt what had been torn or burned down, and started over.  Had years of wars hardened them to the point where they simply accepted political realities over which they had no control?  Perhaps even the harshness of early life along the Miramichi River, with its frontier freedoms, was preferable to the over-governed places they had left behind.  They demonstrated strength and unbreakable spirit.

During the Seven Years’ War the people of Acadia were dispersed and expelled throughout the Colonies and their settlements destroyed by the British. Years later the American Revolution gave the British settlers some of the same medicine, as their settlements were burned and plundered by American privateers.  Many were forced to flee the northeastern coastal areas until the end of the War.  The aboriginal Mi’kmaq, reluctant to adopt an unfamiliar, restrictive European lifestyle, were pushed aside.  Their numbers were reduced, almost to extinction, during the ensuing development of their former lands.  Too often, histories of ‘peoples’ are written in isolation: British history, French history, Acadian history, Mi’kmaq history, American history, and so on, and so forth.  To fully comprehend the world of Charlotte Taylor, determining how those histories inter-connected is critical.  What went around, came around.  And to this day ‘peoples’ have much to forgive and to be forgiven for.

My great grandmother, Mrs. Janet McLeod Johnston Wishart (nee Hierlihy), was an amateur historian in her own right (see image above).  Her prolific and wonderfully descriptive letters were preserved in our family as treasured heirlooms.  She was a great granddaughter of Charlotte Taylor, and she wrote some lovely sentiments on August 9, 1936, in an article commemorating the one hundredth anniversary of the founding of St. Andrew’s Church in Tabusintac, New Brunswick.  I would like to quote her words here, as they express much of why I undertook this project:

‘”Sometimes we are warned against looking back upon life, and told that the forward look is best; but looking back does serve many useful purposes.  Looking back brings us a deep sense of gratitude and appreciation.  Life has had its shadows as well as its sunshine; and as we look over its story, we can see many beautiful pages in it.  The past reminds us that we are not alone …”.

I would also like to quote from an article entitled, The Original Siblings, written by Nicholas Wade and published in the National Post on May 3, 2000:

” … geneticists, by tracing the DNA patterns found in people throughout the world, have now identified lineages descended from ten sons of a genetic Adam and 18 daughters of Eve … Population geneticists believe the ancestral human population was very small …The tree is rooted in a single individual, the mitochondrial Eve, because all other lineages fell extinct … Mitochondria, which live inside human cells but outside the nucleus, escape the shuffling of genes that occurs between generations and are passed unchanged from mothers to children.  In principle, all people should have the same string of DNA letters in their mitochondria.  In practice, mitochondrial DNA has steadily accumulated changes over the centuries because of copying errors and radiation damage.  Because women were steadily spreading across the globe when many of these changes occurred, some changes are found only in particular regions and continents …The tree is rooted in a single Y chromosomal Adam … Almost all Europeans belong to only seven of the nine mitochondrial lineages found in Europe …”

When I read the excerpts quoted above, I became convinced that an understanding of our past would enable us to step more confidently and tolerantly into our future.  We come from a genetic Adam and Eve, and we are all connected.  We are the sons and daughters of those who preceded us from the beginning of humankind.  It is important to remember the sacrifices and achievements of our ancestors, along with their mis-steps and failures.  My Story of Charlotte Taylor is similar, outside of the personal details, to the histories of many early settlers.  By understanding and remembering, we pay homage to many of them.

There is a Memorial/Historic Plaque in Miramichi, New Brunswick that was erected to commemorate and honour the Founders of that area.  The ultimate decision about who would be included on the Memorial was made by Lord Beaverbrook.  Letters were written back and forth between Louise Manny, a respected librarian, and Lord Beaverbrook (Max Aitken) during the years 1949 and 1950.  Naturally, although it has been strenuously denied, politics and religion were factors in the final decision.  Lists were compiled and edited.  Louise Manny, in her letter dated 25 November 1949, sent in her list of choices, all male; but she added the following comment:

“… I have a sneaking feeling for Charlotte Blake, who afterwards married a Wishart and Hierlihy … and became literally the Mother of Tabusintac.  Everyone down there is descended from her.  Miramichi would have been the poorer if we hadn’t the descendants of Charlotte’s sons by her three husbands.”

The maiden name of Charlotte Blake, later Hierlihy, was Charlotte Taylor.  It is not too late to add her name to the Memorial.  It is an egregious oversight that not one woman is listed.  There were, of course, many deserving women and a balanced list of male and female Founders would be the ideal.  The women of those early days on the Miramichi were as much responsible for the success or failure of the settlements as were the men.  But the record of their contributions is largely ignored and unrecorded.  In fact, Charlotte Taylor had as many daughters as she had sons, and the Miramichi would have been equally the poorer if not for their descendants as well.  Dr. W.F. Ganong, botanist and historian, considered Charlotte Taylor to be one of the “remarkable women of New Brunswick.”  The dictionary defines remarkable as: Worthy of Notice; Extraordinary; Unusual; Conspicuous and Distinguished.

Mary Lynn Smith


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